June 2010 - Our Daily Green

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Parties that Give Back Green

One of the wonders of living in an industrialized nation is the multiple opportunities for shopping. It's a common pastime that we take for granted.  I have written more times about different ways to shop than almost any other topic. The fact remains most folks are consumers who shop as a hobby. In many homes around the nation a typical social evening includes the ubiquitous home party, where friends and family gather to shop in the comfort of a home.

I honestly must confess to mixed feelings about such parties.

When I had my first child, I worked as a direct sales consultant and my little enterprise was a true blessing. I sold cooking gadgets and was able to share some of my favorite recipes and helpful kitchen hints, as well as get an evening out with like-minded friends. The problem was that after a while I just didn't have the aggressive sales personality to keep the business going and also I didn't want socializing to include the condition of shopping.

Now, when I am invited to such an evening, I simultaneously look forward to and dread the time socializing. I have scaled back my life and shopping so much that I rarely have anything I need to purchase. I try to think ahead to gift giving occasions and use the parties to choose gifts for loved ones.

A growing trend in home parties is to shop for a cause. The profits support a charity of the host's choosing or Fair trade merchandise.  Such social events that help fight disease, hunger or poverty give a whole new meaning to voting with our wallets. Sometimes our planet's issues seem insurmountable. It's easy to think one person cannot make a difference. But often, one person, doing something small is exactly how it starts.

In March, I wrote about making the 80/20 choices, starting somewhere and using that as a springboard to truly effect change rather than allow the overwhelming importance of changing habits paralyze me to ineffectiveness. The purist in me wants to shun and ban consumerism, but the realist in me knows that is an ideal. I prefer to think that if I'm going to indulge my shopping habit, I would shop differently. It's about mindful choices. I like to shop Fair trade, thrift, and local stores. I am excited about the trend of shopping for charity. My wish is the next time my readers consider hosting a home shopping party, that we'll research the ways such a party can be a vehicle for change.  

Monday, June 28, 2010

Independence from Trash Green

In honor of the upcoming holiday, Our Daily Green would like to celebrate a company that is taking huge steps to free our nation from trash.

Last summer, we wrote about the company TerraCycle and their unique way of helping organizations raise money with trash. TerraCycle is a New Jersey based company that turns items such as juice bags, candy and chip wrappers, and glue bottles into funky, fun school and office supplies and other novelties.

TerraCycle was founded in 2001 by Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer. Their environmentally responsible vision permeates every aspect of their company, as even their company lunchroom has separate bins for each sort of trash. TerraCycle's mission is to be THE solution for previously non-recyclable garbage. In 2006, the company was featured in Inc. Magazine as the coolest little start up company in America. Last month, Entrepreneur showcased the company in their annual 100 Brilliant ideas issue.

Our Daily Green is thrilled to collaborate with TerraCycle with a giveaway of a fabulous selection of TerraCycle products (over $50.00 retail value) as seen in the photo; including a 3-ring binder, back pack, tote bag, pencil pouches, circuit board frame, and a clipboard -- all made from collected trash.

To be eligible, Our Daily Green readers need to sign up for a Brigade and also post a comment on this blog explaining how they intend to promote the fundraiser and start collecting with their community, school, or organization. We will not share your email address with anyone. To date, there are over 10 million people collecting trash for TerraCycle who have raised over $1 million dollars for different charities.

The winner will be selected on July 6th, following the holiday weekend and their efforts will be showcased on a back to school post in September. Thank you for joining and good luck! Let's keep working for a trash-free tomorrow. Spread the word and invite everyone you know to enter!

Curriculum Series for Teachers

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Shoelace Express Green

Dear Daily Green Readers,

I have linked to another post I wrote about walking instead of driving. This blog is life stories and slices of my personal world, but this post tied in with a lot of the green things I've written about lately. I invite you to read and share any of your own stories.

The Journey Begins with a Single Step

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fair Trade Green

An unfortunate outcome of the global economy often involves the exploitation of Third World workers who make goods or grow crops for industrialized nations. Far too often, the production involves severe safety violations, abysmal wages, and child slaves. The goods are gobbled up by the big box stores and sold at a tremendous profit for the companies, while the overseas workers continue to be exploited.

Fair trade products are grown or made under international agreements that promote equitable and sustainable trading partnerships by creating opportunities that alleviate poverty. Fair trade puts more profit into the worker's hands, empowering the small farmer or crafts person to better their life. Many fair trade goods are hand crafted. Fair trade advocates reasonable prices for goods, versus the oft touted lowest possible price for goods at the cost of working wages and slows the socio-economic race to the bottom.

Fair trade is showing up in more mainstream stores around the nation. Free trade coffee, sugar, chocolate, and tea are frequently found with a fair trade label. Conscientious consumers can seek the fair trade label on the shelves of supermarkets and specialty stores, ensuring sustainable farming practices and fair wages for the people who grew the crops.

Hands Across the Sand Green

from the site:
Hands Across the Sand is a movement made of people of all walks of life and crosses political affiliations. This movement is not about politics; it is about protection of our coastal economies, oceans, marine wildlife, and fishing industry. Let us share our knowledge, energies and passion for protecting all of the above from the devastating effects of oil drilling.

Go to your beach on June 26 at 11 AM in your time zone.

To find a participating beach: Click here.

Form lines in the sand and at 12:00, join hands.

The image is powerful, the message is simple. NO to Offshore Oil Drilling, YES to Clean Energy.
Hands Across the Sand A worldwide gathering opposed to near- and off-shore oil drilling in our waters

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Carbon Offset Green

One of the more controversial topics in environmental movements today is the topic of carbon offsetting. The first controversy is if indeed climate change is a real issue. I want to remove that topic from the table, because it's impossible to really know, as our human experience is just an eyeblink in the age of the planet. I think it's a topic that people rally around and use as justification to continue to be apathetic. More awareness for our planet and its resources is necessary, it doesn't have to be for any other reason than respecting nature.

carbon neutral local offers with kaufDA.deThe other controversy is if continuing to create pollution and offsetting it by planting more trees or supporting wind farms and gas reduction projects is truly addressing the need. Rather than get bogged down in the debate, I think it's a safe assumption that alternative energy and clean fuel is a desirable thing. I also believe it's almost impossible to live in an industrial nation without any sort of carbon footprint. Ideal, absolutely. Possible, not likely. But when I see photos of the animals in the Gulf and even going back to the Exxon Valdez disaster, when I consider our inability to aggressively reduce our use of non-renewable fuel and reconsider the impact, I know that an offset is a step in the right direction towards caring.

(data from begreennow.com)
Airplanes alone emit 2-3% of the world's CO2 emissions, and are one of the most carbon intensive forms of passenger travel.

Offices, retail stores, and other businesses make up the commercial building category, which is responsible for about 3.5% of US CO2 emissions.

Making electricity from fossil fuels is one of the most carbon intensive industries in the United States, responsible for about 39% of the country's CO2 emissions annually.

Industries, like chemicals and manufacturing, operate factories that emit CO2 during their operation - about 14% of our total national carbon footprint.

Burning gasoline in our cars and trucks is a major source of CO2 emissions each year, approximately 18% of the total US carbon footprint.

Our homes create about 5% of US carbon dioxide emissions from using natural gas, heating oil, and other direct sources of energy.
Clearly, we will continue to use airplanes, heat and light our homes, drive cars, and purchase items made in a factory. But with more mindful choices and support of companies that actively work to reduce their footprint and offset the footprint they do create, we can be thoughtful consumers.

We can make a difference.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gulf Coast Oil Leak Black (NOT Green)

I've never titled a post black until today. I hope I never have to again.

The BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is a glaring reminder of our constant consumption of petroleum products. While the blame scatters in different directions, depending which spin doctor or party is trying to explain, the fact remains, if petroleum were not consumed at the current rate, the need for risky methods of retrieval would evaporate.

Today, instead of asking who is to blame and why they aren't acting rapidly enough, let's make a list of ways WE can change our lives that may make a small, yet meaningful impact.

I've listed 25 small changes you can make today or tomorrow, and the day after... changes that will lessen our dependence on oil/petroleum products. The orange links are different ways I've written about "green" living and a deeper explanation of the reasons for making such choices past the bullet point.

  1. Hang a load of laundry outside
  2. Walk to an errand that you'd normally drive
  3. Rinse out and reuse a zipper seal bag
  4. Refill a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water
  5. Open the windows and turn off the air
  6. Eat a salad for dinner (no heat to cook!)
  7. Turn off the shower water when lathering up
  8. Invite someone to carpool
  9. Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent
  10. Unplug an extra refrigerator and condense everything to one. Pack it full. A full refrigerator cools just as much as a half empty one.
  11. Rediscover the old fashioned broom. Sweep instead of hose or blow off the sidewalk
  12. Carry reusable bags to the grocery store
  13. Don't forget them at the pharmacy or mall, either
  14. Look for an item for resale before purchasing new
  15. Borrow infrequently used items instead of buying new
  16. Separate your trash
  17. Invest in rechargeable batteries
  18. Turn off the lights in empty rooms
  19. Combine errands to reduce trips
  20. Add one more meatless meal to your weekly diet
  21. Don't buy single serve foods. Buy in bulk and divide into reusable containers.
  22. Buy locally grown food instead of food shipped from across the nation or world
  23. Buy local merchandise, no gasoline used to ship it to the consumer
  24. Vacuum the coils on your single refrigerator
  25. Promise to start learning about alternative fuels and energy sources.
Please add to this list, how many ways CAN we reduce our use of petroleum products, either directly or indirectly.

This diagram and video are appropriately sobering. Let's stop being victims and take charge of the change we can control. Who's in?

Indoor Air Green

One of the first choice anyone with a roof over their head makes is decorating the space they call home and considering "How will I make this space my own?"  The second question is usually, "How much will it cost?" and an often overlooked question should be,

"Is it safe?"

Indoor air is three times more polluted than outdoor air, and according to the EPA, is considered one of the top 5 hazards to human health. Furniture, paint, and even the fabrics used in decorating release a continual flow of vapors and toxins into the air. Petroleum based fabrics or coatings create fumes in the house and such toxins can cause an array of health problems from insomnia and headaches, to breathing issues. Such toxins already bombard people and are routinely unregulated by the government.

Diligent consumers can prevent such issues with thoughtful purchases.  Consider the fabrics you choose carefully, and make an effort to use natural, earth friendly textiles, such as cotton, linen or silk rather than synthetic chemical or petroleum based fabric.

Paints and finishes are another source if toxic fumes. Paints and finishes release low level emissions into the air for years after application. Consumer demand as well as government regulations have paint companies reformulating their product so that now most companies manufacture a low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint. Such paints are durable, cost-effective and less harmful to human and environmental health.

Furniture is a final consideration when filling indoor space. In short, avoid PVC, other plastics, high-emitting particleboard, polyurethane foam and synthetic fibers for upholstery, toxic finishes and glues.

With diligence, indoor space can be a haven, not a soup of toxic dangers. Choose carefully and do a bit of research before spending any money on unsafe decor.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Healthy Eating Green

Are you worried about caring for your health?
Do you realize that the best way to keep your health care costs in control is to ... BE HEALTHY! Care for you health, not your sickness.
You are what you eat and this documentary could change everything you put into your mouth. Watch the trailer and see what you think.

Buy Food Matters on DVD

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Electric Vehicle Green

Electric TransportationWhile we fret about the oil spill and worry about the mess in the Gulf, let us not forget that our demand for more oil is exactly why offshore drilling existed in the first place.

According to the site Apples from Oranges,
The current BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, originally quoted at 5,000 barrels per day, but now estimated at 19,000 barrels per day is a fairly small when compared to the 21,000,000 barrels per day consumption of the US. It is equivalent to filling up one Olympic swimming pool within 0.83 days (about 20 hours) or 3.14 days (with flow rates of 5,000 barrels per day, or 19,000 barrels per day respectively).
We need to consider the carbon we already put into the air without any disaster but rather our ridiculously high consumption of oil products. The time is now to consider why we go to such lengths to procure the oil. Why do we need so much?

In the video below about alternative energy sources, Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute, plainly asserts,
"We claim to  have an advanced industrial economy, and yet, it is run on primeval swamp goo and dinosaur poop".
Have you considered a different sort of vehicle? I currently drive a hybrid, but it still requires gasoline, it just burns it at a slower rate. This short clip really drives home the idea of a new way to get from point A to point B. If we don't need oil, we never have to worry about the current Gulf disaster again.

Beginning today a few simple choices to make include combining errands, sharing rides, using public transportation, or walking or riding a bike when possible. If you don't know anyone to share a ride with, eRideShare is a great network for facilitation of ride shares, from daily commutes to cross country trips.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What I Did on My Summer Vacation Green

As summer rapidly approaches, people consider how to spend the quintessential summer vacation. Many families shell out enormous dollars to spend time at shopping meccas, designed more as ways to merchandise popular characters and logo smattered t-shirts, hats, bars of soap, even plastic cups.

I've taken several such family trips myself, but I always return home with an emptier wallet and the echo of wasted money and time. Such trips usually leave me feeling a little bit hollow. Consider the multimillion dollar enterprises that grow their bottom line and wonder, is there a better way to rejuvenate and get away?

One of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry centers on responsible and sustainable tourism. Tourism is often the only source of income for many areas of the world. Responsible tourism is the baby step towards completely sustainable tourism.

Tenets of such travel include:
  • informing themselves of the culture, politics, and economy of the communities visited
  • anticipating and respecting local cultures, expectations and assumptions
  • contributing to intercultural understanding and tolerance
  • supporting the integrity of local cultures by favoring businesses which conserve cultural heritage and traditional values
  • supporting local economies by purchasing local goods and participating with small, local businesses
  • conserving resources by seeking out businesses that are environmentally conscious, and by using the least possible amount of non-renewable resources
This sort of vacation allows the consumer the opportunity to not just see a new place and experience a different environment, but to also make a difference in the world.  The opportunity to see places on our beautiful planet unsullied by logos or animated characters, but instead gleaming with breathtaking views and warm local people.

So tell me, what will you be doing on your summer vacation? Have you ever considered this sort of trip as an alternative?

(photo courtesy of: www.billhaneberg.com)