March 2011 - Our Daily Green

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Doing the Green Thing

I had originally planned to do a week of reviews of different skin care/cosmetic products. After my post about the caution we need to exercise, I was contacted by a number of folks who sell products that are more responsible. I have a handful of samples, and I've been researching and reading up on the ingredients and the companies' mission. It's time consuming and my time has been slim lately. So anyway, I have more reviews in store, I've been honored to test many safe and wonderful product lines which reiterates for me the whole 80% thing. Try to choose safely and wisely. And if it slips, hope the slip is small.

Meanwhile, a dear friend of mine, sent me this email he received.  In the day we hung and went to concerts together. After college, we lost touch, but caught up again on FB. Our lives went in divergent directions and we learned we don't always agree on stuff. BUT... our friendship superseded that. He sent me a note with the following email that in his own words, he read and immediately thought of me.

Guess what? I immediately thought of him, too. Thank you, D. How poignant it is to travel in time...

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.” 
That’s right, they didn’t have the green thing in her day. Back then, they returned their milk bottles, Coke bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled But they didn’t have the green thing back her day In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks.
But she’s right. They didn’t have the green thing in her day. 
Back then, they washed the baby’s diapers because they didn’t have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts – wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. 

But that old lady is right, they didn’t have the green thing back in her day. 
Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house – not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a pizza dish, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn’t have electric machines to do everything for you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, they didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. 
But she’s right, they didn’t have the green thing back then 
They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty, instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled pens with ink, instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But they didn’t have the green thing back then. Back then, people took the streetcar and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus, instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.
But they didn't have the green thing back then!

Is the green thing really why you do or don't choose to make different choices? Do you think the green thing is a free pass to disregard our stewardship for the planet? Do you think that the green thing is keeping you from truly caring?

Maybe it's time to return to the days prior to... the green thing!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Garden Compost Green

Now that Spring has officially sprung, many gardeners are chomping at the bit to get their hands dirty. Soil preparation is one of the most important ways to get your garden off to a good start. Composting is one of the easiest ways to feed your soil and get it ready to grow good plants.

Our Daily Green has composted avidly for about 10 years. We don't use fertilizer in our beds, but instead feed the soil with the food it produced in the first place. Throughout the year, we keep a compost bucket in our kitchen for all compostable kitchen scraps, such as apple cores, carrot peels, eggshells, coffee grounds.

Don't fret if you've not started a compost pile yet. In as few as two weeks, with a worm farm, your kitchen scraps can be ready to work into the soil.Worms assist the process by breaking down food scraps and other organic matter faster. Composting truly is addictive. Your plants flourish from the amazing nutrients the compost gives back to the soil and then of course there is the added surprise of volunteer plants from the seeds that were in the compost.

The past few years, Our Daily Green has gotten extra tomato seedlings, pumpkins, and mini gourds. It really brings an element of joyful surprise to the garden plot. The volunteer plants can be transplanted while still seedlings so they don't take over the intended garden space.

Some amazing advances have been made with different composters. Believe it or not, pet waste as well as human waste can also be composted and used in a garden. As a caveat, pet waste should always be composted in a separate dedicated compost bin of its own, as it breaks down at a different rate than plant material. Composting pet waste is an excellent solution in many communities where local ordinances forbid pet waste to be mixed with household garbage.

Composting toilets are available for any outdoor area such as a pool house, a camper, a boat, or cabana where perhaps it is not practical to run plumbing. They can also be used in cabins without the fear of frozen pipes during unoccupied months. Composting toilets protect local ground water from contamination and recycle nutrients to plants. They evaporate liquids, and break down solids and waste molecules until all that remains are oxidized salts. These oxidized salts collect with the compost in the finishing drawer of each composting toilet, and are excellent mulch for the plants in your garden. Toilets use approximately 40% of the water in a household, so this is an excellent product to cut your water consumption. 

Do you do any composting in your home? Do you have any compost questions? Post them here and we will answer them as soon as possible. Happy Spring!

disclaimer: This post has been sponsored by Outdora  outdoor living products. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Caring for Our Blessings: Guest Post: We Are a Part of Creation by FreshGree...

Caring for Our Blessings: Guest Post

Our Daily Green had the opportunity to write for another site today, and want to thank Krista at Caring for Our Blessings for the fabulous opportunity.

Have a wonderful first day of Spring!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Litter Green?

Of the three environmental R's, reduce, reuse and recycle; recycling is listed last for a reason. While it's a valiant effort by many to feel better about the earth and consumer impact, in fact, recycling should be the last step, not the first. Listed in order of importance, reduction is simply about using less, which means there is no waste if the stuff isn't used in the first place. Reusing is about using something more than once while recycling often still involves the addition of virgin resources. We've addressed this before with discussions about plastic recycling. Plastic bottles or bags, for example, are not turned back into plastic bottles or bag, but rather entirely new products with the addition of new petroleum.

from the website: Learning Historical Research
The anti-littering campaign, Keep America Beautiful, was founded in 1956 by the very industries that were part the litter problem, including Phillip Morris, the American Can Company, and other manufacturers of the items most likely to be found as litter. In order to encourage consumers to buy disposable items, they encouraged them to dispose of them properly. Probably the most iconic image from that campaign was The Crying Indian. Today Keep America Beautiful is funded by over 75 corporations, including the major beverage companies (who lobby heavily against bottle deposit bills) as well as tobacco companies. Encouraging people not to litter is fine, but it does nothing to address the disposable world we live in.

In other words, waste, whether tossed on a roadside or buried in a landfill is still garbage. And we can do better.

Our Daily Green originally found this documentary on our friend ECOSiZE Me's blog. ECOSiZE Me is a fabulous Michigan-based company that educates school children about environmental issues. 

Thank you for the poignant reminder. It really is worth the 20 minutes of time to watch it. 
The Hidden Life of Garbage

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Green Beer

Our Daily Green would be remiss if we didn't mention Green Beer on St. Patrick's Day. But we're not talking about coloring ales and lagers with food coloring. Instead, we're going to discuss locally produced microbrews.

from Hops Aficionado, the site for connoisseurs of craft beer,

The greenest option for beer is to drink the one that is brewed closest to your current location and is served on tap. Draft beer is packaged and shipped in re-usable kegs, plus it's served in glasses that are re-used, rather than bottles that typically end up in a landfill. Locally brewed beer dramatically cuts down on the amount of fuel consumption and pollution created by shipping beer across the country. An average beer travels over 1,000 miles from the brewery to your mug. 

In Northeast Ohio, the Great Lakes Brewing Company leads the way in sustainable manufacturing and brewing. In 2010, owners Patrick and Daniel Conway were awarded the Northeast Ohio Champion of Sustainability award for the decade. From the company sustainability statement:

Great Lakes Brewing Company is an environmentally and socially conscious brewer of award-winning, all natural beer. The care that goes into the beer resonates from a commitment to the community and environment, otherwise known as the "Triple Bottom Line". We believe the Triple Bottom Line is going to become increasingly important as people focus more on responsible purchasing. This commitment to sustainability is present in almost every aspect of our business including:
  • Reducing, reusing and recycling
  • Changing natural resource use from "Take, Make, Waste" to "Take, Make, Remake"
  • Implementing efficient energy practices
  • Investing in the community through non-profit organizations
  • Supporting sustainable urban renewal projects
The three waves in the company logo not only reflect this Triple Bottom Line philosophy, they represent a concerted effort to the respectful use of beer's most valuable ingredient - water. Since beer is over 90% water, GLBC understands that quality water translates into a great beer drinking experience, so only the best water from the Great Lakes region is used.

GLBC has been recognized by the Sierra Club for their trucks that run on vegetable oil as well as their recycled packaging. Breweries around the nation are taking initiatives to run sustainable businesses and give back to their communities. For a list of several other green breweries, refer to Triple Pundit's compilation of similar companies.  Seems like green is an apt theme with the three leafed clover business practices of People, Planet and Profit.

When you tip your glass today to celebrate the greenest holiday of the year, enjoy a brew from a local brewery. What is your favorite locally brewed beer?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Biking Green

Every time gasoline prices start to climb, emails start circulating about one day gasoline boycotts. In short, the premise is to organize a single day that consumers don't buy any gasoline. This always hit me as rather faulty logic, because what would stop someone from filling up last thing the day before or first thing the next day. In fact, that is precisely why such boycotts have no impact. They do nothing to address the actual use of gasoline, only the day it is purchased.  Such actions have also been dismissed by Snopes as ineffective.

photo courtesy of: Bikes Belong
The best way to get serious about the amount we spend on gasoline, the most effective choice a consumer can make is to commit to using less gasoline. We are less than a year after the horrific BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and yet it seems like we've done little to actually address our consumption of petroleum. One day boycotts of gasoline purchases are a far cry from action.

With Spring just around the corner, there's no better time to commit to more bike riding and less driving. It's very easy to make a lot of excuses why not to ride a bike, but there are so many better ones that it's time to make a commitment instead of an excuse. Begin with a pledge to ride your bike more often. Bicycling in America has some issues, so advocates such as Bikes Belong and the League of American Bicyclists know that if  they want to make it easier and safer to ride a bike, they must participate in the political process. Last week, in Washington D.C., hundreds of bicycle advocates and industry leaders convened for the National Bike Summit.  to share lessons and best practices in advocating for bicycling, but, more importantly, to make bicycling better through the only way possible: by asking.

Some bicycling stats from Bikes Belong:

Bicycling is for everyone
Bicycling is the second most popular outdoor activity in the United States.
47% of Americans say they would like more bike facilities in their communities.
Bicycling is the ideal way to take short trips
Most trips Americans make are short: 49% are less than 3 miles, 39% are less
      than 2 miles, and 24% are less than 1 mile.
Bicycling can help you live longer and better
3 hours of biking per week reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke by 50%.
Women who bike 30+ minutes a day have a lower risk of breast cancer.
Adolescents who bicycle are 48% less likely to be overweight as adults.
Bicycling boosts the economy
The U.S. bicycle industry sold $5.9 billion in bicycles and equipment in 2008.
Twice as many bicycles are sold in the U.S. each year than cars.
Studies have shown that homes closer to bike paths are more valuable.
Bicycling is less expensive than driving a car
The average American househould spends over $8,000 per year on owning and
     driving their cars – more than they spend on food.
On a round-trip commute of 10 miles, bicyclists save around $10 daily.
Bicycling reduces road congestion and air pollution
Traffic congestion wastes nearly 3 billion gallons of gas per year in the U.S.
For every 1 mile pedaled rather than driven, about 1 pound of CO² is saved.
Bicycling is safe, and together we can make it safer
The average commuter cyclist has just 1 accident every 8.7 years.
There is safety in numbers: the more cyclists there are, the safer bicycling is.

The International Bicycle Fund has compiled a list of 60+ fun benefits to bike riding. Can you add to this list?

There's a reason the expression "it's like riding a bike" is popular. Bike riding something most people have done their entire lives. Pick it back up and make a difference. Our Daily Green encourages you to share a favorite bike story, trail, or adventure you've had. A personal favorite was buying the "Wicked Witch basket" for the front of my bike. It allows me to use my bike for quick trips to the store when I just need milk or bread and not trying to juggle items while I ride. I try to embarrass my children by singing the Wizard of Oz music when I ride with my basket intact. I also usually threaten to "get you my pretty, and your little dog, too".  It amuses me while I'm saving gasoline. Plus then when we take longer rides, I can carry a picnic lunch for the pretties.

Guide to bike trails by state.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Smoke, Mirrors and Lightbulb Green

Nero fiddled while Rome burned is a historical reference, meaning to occupy oneself with unimportant matters and neglect priorities during a crisis. While we think we learn from history, more often than not, it seems to repeat itself over with different leaders and different issues. Right now an inordinate amount of time, anger and protest is being made about lightbulbs. Yes. That wonderful invention by Thomas Edison from over 100 years ago.

Beginning next year, a law from 2007 regarding more efficient lightbulbs will finally be enacted. The mandate calls for bulbs to be 25% more efficient. The trace amount of mercury in compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) is concerning to some, but there are other options, including halogen bulbs or LEDs, for those who are not comfortable using compact fluorescent bulbs. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency:
CFLs present an opportunity to prevent mercury from entering our air, where it most affects our health.  The highest source of mercury in our air comes from burning fossil fuels such as coal, the most common fuel used in the U.S. to produce electricity.  A CFL uses 75% less energy than an incandescent light bulb and lasts at least 6 times longer.  A power plant will emit 10mg of mercury to produce the electricity to run an incandescent bulb compared to only 2.4mg of mercury to run a CFL for the same time.
From the GovTrack site, an independent civic project to track Congress:
In 2007, an act to move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers, to increase the efficiency of products, buildings, and vehicles, to promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options, and to improve the energy performance of the Federal Government, and for other purposes. 
H.R. 6:
Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007
110th Congress
Occurred: IntroducedJan 12, 2007
Occurred: Referred to CommitteeView Committee Assignments
Occurred: Reported by CommitteeJan 22, 2007
Occurred: Amendments (331 proposed)View Amendments
Occurred: Passed HouseJan 18, 2007
Occurred: Passed SenateJun 21, 2007
Occurred: Signed by PresidentDec 19, 2007

This bill became law. It was signed by George Bush.
The full text of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, with a specific notation to Title III, subtitle B, sections 321-325.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Guided Office Products

Responsible, American Made Products - GuidedOur Daily Green recently was offered an opportunity to review sustainable office and school supplies from ReBinder. ReBinder is a Seattle, Washington based company leading the way as as a zero waste office supply manufacturer of quality paper supplies. Their products are assembled by AbilityOne, a local certified disabled workforce and their product materials are responsibly sourced.

The company is doing wonderful things, but the question remains, how is the quality of their products?

We opened our sample shipment from ReBinder and immediately were impressed to see no superfluous packaging or waste. We once received a small sea sponge for painting from a "green" type of company and the sponge was wrapped in plastic bubble wrap, inside a box wrapped in more bubble wrap and shipped in another box. To Our Daily Green, how something is shipped is an indicator of how sincere and committed a company is to true green living. ReBinder measures up.

So do their products. Included in our package were cd sleeves to replace the broken plastic ones for several of our CDs, recycled notebooks with tab dividers,  a report presentation folder with a plant based clear plastic-like sheet that is certified compostable, as well as name badges for lanyards. The mini Daily Greens already have pressed the binders and notebooks into service and really love that they can be customized. The binders are durable recycled cardboard and chipboard and look like they will take the abuse of teenagers' lockers and backpacks quite well.

ReBinder prices are competitive with other similar non sustainable products, which is a fabulous way to encourage green consumer spending.

Our Daily Green received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will be good for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Tomoson Product review giveaway disclosure.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Local Savings Green

One of the most environmentally and socially responsible choices we can make as consumers is to commit to the choice to shop locally. According to the 3/50 project, if every consumer chose 3 locally owned businesses and spent $50 there monthly, we keep our money in our communities. We make a difference with our wallets.

We've discussed this before, and with lots of statistics. Today, I just want to share a few slices of personal experience. I do a lot of volunteer work in our community. Without fail, when we need a donation, it's our local businesses who ante up. When we need an expert from the business community, it's the local guys who step up to the plate. In short, I know first hand it's one hand washing the other. When so much noise is made about helping the little guy, I will testify, that in my community, it's the little guy helping the little guy. The big corporations help nationally, but not locally.

Additionally, employees are going to be folks in the community. Additionally, a small business does not qualify for huge tax abatements, so they are funneling money back to the community that way as well. Additionally, a small business does not attract a big crime element. Take a look at where shoplifting happens. Big stores, which are abated taxes, and then rely on the community services to protect them. A big box business that comes to your community costs more than generates, in general.

eversave online
Today, Our Daily Green wants to shout out to the little guys. The small businesses that keep our communities vibrant. We have a few opportunities for you to find small businesses, via daily email deals and we encourage you to sign up. Our Daily Green is affiliated with companies that gather deals from local businesses to pass on savings in bulk.  If you haven't signed up for Groupon or Eversave, we encourage you to do so. There is no obligation, but each day you will receive an email for a deal at a local business. I've tried out new restaurants and stores this way at a seriously discounted rate. It's worth checking out.

As a disclosure, if you sign up through Our Daily Green and subsequently make a purchase of any of these deals, we will receive a small commission. As we've stated previously, we try to choose only affiliates that align with our mission and that we think are beneficial to our readers.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Recycled Paper Products Green

One of the standing "ewww" factors and jokes in Our Daily Green's house is that we will do away with toilet paper. Remember, Our Daily Green aims for 80%. As much as No Impact Man inspired us, we're not foregoing toilet paper. The next suggestion was recycled toilet paper. This also elicited an "ewww" from the Mini Greens as they assumed we'd be reusing toilet paper.

Naturally, once toilet paper is flushed, it is literally down the drain. It is not a material one recycles, but rather it composts naturally back to the earth where it originated to eventually become paper again. The problem of course is the amount of time between chopping down the tree to make the paper to flush the paper, etc... and the time a new tree grows.  Last week when Mama Green (me) decided to indulge the Mini Greens with paper napkins for their lunchboxes, I did seek the recycled paper napkins. Mama Green also thought to do a bit of research whether using recycled paper products really is even that meaningful. The results are astounding.

Municipal Solid Waste Generation, 2009
As the pie chart indicates, paper the primary source of municipal solid waste generated each year in the United States. Therefore it stands to reason that it is also the most recycled type of waste.

Paper can be recycled 4-6 times before the fibers become too short to make into paper.  Recycled paper can be made into a wide range of everyday products including: newspapers, magazines, printing paper,  cardboard, tissue, and loft insulation.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council,  if every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper (500 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees. 

From that statistic alone, recycled paper products are worth investigating. If not for toilet paper, perhaps for tissues, napkins, or paper towels. NRDC has a great comparison chart of different recycled products for consumer research.

Kimberly-Clark continues to primarily use freshly cut trees to make their paper products, versus recycled fiber. If this concerns you, the NRDC has a petition and letter for their president, to send a letter to Kimberly-Clark follow the embedded hyperlink to send a letter and voice your concern.

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