HUG A TREE for the holidays!

courtesy shutterstock

courtesy shutterstock

In many of my blog posts, I like to address some of my readers’ most burning green questions. This one from Katie is very timely for the holidays:

Which is better for the environment – a fake tree or a real one? I’ve heard that fake is better because it’s reusable and takes fewer resources to produce. But isn’t all that plastic bad for the planet?

Well Katie, don’t get me started about trees – how much we need them, how important it is to appreciate them, plant them and save them.
But the quick answer to your question is this:

courtesy livinggreenmag

courtesy livinggreenmag

It’s better to get real.
In theory, fake trees might seem greener because they are “reusable” and don’t require water to grow or maintain. They can also save on gas if you would have driven long distances to fetch a real tree.
But in reality, faux ain’t the way to go. Artificial trees are made with polyvinyl chloride (aka PVC or vinyl), one of the most hazardous forms of non-renewable, petroleum-derived plastic. They can’t be recycled, and most are only used for four years before they land in the landfill, where they promptly begin languishing for centuries. In addition, the ladies at Celebrate Green will tell you that “…artificial trees off-gas while they’re in your home, and many contain lead, a powerful neurotoxin that can flake off onto the floor, gifts, or hands that touch it. Not healthy for your family or for the Earth… “

Real trees, on the other hand, can be composted or recycled into mulch. They don’t pollute the air, groundwater or earth like their artificial twins. And they do lots of other really nice things like:

  • Make oxygen, which is, um, kinda important for most of us. They also clean the air by absorbing pollutants and filtering particulates.
  • Combat the greenhouse effect by absorbing and locking away CO2.
  • Save water by slowing lawn and groundwater evaporation and increasing atmospheric moisture. They also help prevent water pollution by filtering rain runoff and groundwater.
  • Make food. Nuts, seeds, fruits, berries…yum!
  • Tame anxiety, depression, ADD, hypertension, and other ills of modern society. Just the sight of a little ol’ tree helps hospital patients heal and schoolchildren chill out. (See my post on Nature Deficit Disorder)
courtesy hidden travel place

courtesy hidden travel place

Basically trees are a one-stop natural solution to climate change, air pollution and human health and happiness!

We literally cannot live without them, but trees are quickly disappearing – dying from disease and being replaced by mono-crops, factory farms, and condo complexes.

If you like having trees around, too, and want to see more of them in the future, here are four things you can do right now:

Screen shot 2014-12-03 at 10.56.49 AM

 

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HEALTHY CHOCOLATE CHOICES continued

courtesy mevoholland.nl

courtesy mevoholland.nl

In my last post, I fessed up to my chocolate fancy and shared my two favorite chocolate makers.

Besides being crazy yummy, both Pure7 and Righteously Raw feature ingredients that are minimally-processed, organic, fair trade and sustainable. Raw dark chocolate like this is actually good for you, improving your mood, cholesterol, and blood pressure and reducing your chances of developing chronic disease.

I got such an enthusiastic response from my fellow chocaholics, today I’m thinking outside the bar and adding a bonus “Part Two”….

Chocolate Fixes Beyond the Bar

Here are a few other delicious ways to get your daily cocoa:

lilys

 

Lily’s Baking Chips are slightly sweetened with stevia and erythritol instead of sugar, so their deep chocolate flavor really shines through. Add them to cookies, fudge, even to pancakes or your morning oatmeal.

 

Amazing Grass Kidz Superfood Chocolate  is a cocoa powder blended with fruits, veggies, and green superfoods. Added to your Kidzfavorite milk-ish beverage, it might not fool a die-hard Nesquik kid in a blind taste-test, but it sure is delicious. Make a cup for an afternoon snack, or toss it in the blender with a banana, some frozen blueberries, and a spoonful of almond butter.

 

 

courtesy bejustgood.com

courtesy bejustgood.com

Easy, home-made raw cacao “hot chocolate” This is my own personal recipe: mix 1 tbsp raw cacao powder, 1 tsp granulated coconut sugar and ½ tsp vanilla powder. Add to hot milk for a healthy alternative to store-bought cocoa mixes. Also tasty in a smoothie or added to coffee to make a mocha.

 

 

 

Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 4.27.03 PM

Roasted cacao nibs. These are exactly what they sound like – lovely little niblets of cocoa beans. Their earthy, unadulterated flavor is great in cereals, muffins, and snack mixes. Add a handful to peanuts and dried blueberries, and – voila – instant energizing trail mix! Navitas Naturals is easy to find in most natural food stores.

 

What is your favorite chocolate delivery system?

 

 

RAW CHOCOLATE a square a day keeps the doctor away

courtesy butlerschocolates.com

courtesy butlerschocolates.com

If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only bring one item with me for all of eternity, chances are pretty good it would be chocolate.

My obsession with chocolate began when I was very young, with my first kiss.

My first Hershey’s Kiss, to be exact.

It was the early 70s – the apex of Betty Crocker nation – so the chocolate of my youth was overly-processed, mass-produced and chemically engineered. Most cocoa confections from that era were waxy, artificially colored, falsely flavored and enjoyed a shelf life of approximately three centuries.

But oh the clink of my grandpa’s glass candy jar as he reached in to grab me that Kiss. The crinkle of the wispy foil. The bite-size lump of loveliness. The melty lingering sweetness and joy.

That was love.

But I’m grown up now, and my palette isn’t the only thing that has become more discerning. I really care about everything that I eat, that my family eats…even the treats. We try to favor organic cookies and small-batch local gelato whenever possible.

And these days, we can even have our chocolate and eat it too!

Because chocolate is finally having a rebirth, a karmic retribution, a homecoming party. Everywhere you turn, the health benefits of dark chocolate are being regaled left and right.

Chocolate can:

  • Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Improve your cardiovascular health
  • Increase your insulin resistance, making you less likely to develop diabetes
  • Reduce your chance of many chronic diseases with its antioxidants
  • Boost your mood by increasing serotonin levels.

How sweet is that?

In the last few years there’s been a veritable explosion of artisan chocolatiers on the scene. But a taste test (or two, or ten) and a closer look at ingredients reveals that they’re not all created equal.

A lot of bars out there might taste delicious, but they aren’t all that healthy. Some of them are “all-natural” which sounds nice, but doesn’t mean much. Almost all of them are high in sugar and low in naturally-occurring nutrients that get lost in the processing. Dark chocolate is good, but raw, unrefined dark chocolate is even better. The only trick is that it can be hard to find.

A few months ago, I made it my mission to find a chocolate bar that is raw, organic, responsible, sustainable, minimally refined and criminally delicious.

So I sampled upwards of thirty of these new-fangled chocolate bars on the market.  In most cases, it was necessary to consume the entire bar to really confirm or deny my initial suspicions about the quality of the chocolate in question. I took it for the team, so to speak – sacrificing myself for the sake of science. It was painful and arduous, but after careful investigation and taste-bud saturation, I have found two bars that fit all of my criteria:

Screen shot 2014-09-11 at 9.56.16 PMPure7 Chocolate

What it is Smooth, elegant, rich. You’ll be an instant fan.
The truly inspiring backstory – Two foodie moms with a passion for healthy, gourmet, raw foods experiment in their kitchen to cook up a chocolate recipe that satisfies their sky-high standards of flavor, texture, healthiness, and sustainability. Pure7’s fan base grows so quickly, they can barely produce fast enough to meet demand. But they do…all while maintaining the quality and integrity of their core values and their chocolate.
Distinguishing features – Honey-sweetened, subtle and beautiful ingredients like Himalayan Pink Salt and cinnamon.
Go to When you crave a sweet but healthy treat.
My favorite flavors – Peppermint and Salty Almond.

Right now they have a tasty special – buy five bars of any flavor and get one free. That’s sweet too!

 

Screen shot 2014-09-11 at 9.57.26 PMRighteously Raw

What it is – Not your ordinary chocolate bar experience. But if you can suspend your expectations, you’ll find these bars righteously amazing. They have an array of textures and a distinct cacao flavor.
The truly inspiring backstory Breast cancer survivor passes along everything she knows about about high-frequency foods and how whole foods, consumed close to their natural state, can be healing. Her mission is to make superfoods accessible and delicious, educate the public, and collaborate with sustainable organizations across the globe.
Go to – When you’re in the mood for something a little sweet and a little snackier. When you want the sensation of eating food, not just candy.
My favorite flavors – Acai and Caramel

I could write a book about all the health benefits of chocolate, but really it comes down to this:

It just tastes so freaking good.

And since pleasure is healthy, I think chocolate should be re-classified as a medicine. Couldn’t we all use that sweet prescription?

Take two squares and call me in the morning.

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A MEMOIR of WAR and REMEMBRANCE the perfect summer read

ChangTsen

Last summer, lazing about on the beach kept me from keeping to my rigorous (ok, monthly) blogging schedule.

This year, I have a much more legitimate excuse.

It is the remarkable life story of Annabel Liu.

Annabel is a wonderful writer whose second memoir, Under the Towering Tree, is currently being subjected to my editorial review before it hits the “shelves” of Amazon. Trouble is, with this memoir Annabel has so totally drawn me in to her incredible life story, I’m having a hard time keeping my objective editor’s hat on.

Annabel Liu is a former journalist and an acclaimed writer whose first memoir was published in 2012.

My Years as Chang Tsen: Two Wars, One Childhood is a “…haunting memoir of the most tumultuous time of her life, her childhood in war-torn China… a rare and riveting first-person account of a child caught in two consecutive major wars that killed a total of 22.5 million Chinese: the Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War.”

In both memoirs, Annabel consciously avoids embellishing the events of her life. And that’s just as it should be – her un-retouched life story is dramatic enough.

Annabel has a journalist’s keen eye for detail and storytelling. She reveals her family – and herself – stroke by stroke, much as a painter fills a canvas. Through these family stories, we also learn about pre- and post-Communist Chinese culture and the rich historical backdrop that affected each family in very different ways.

You can grab a sample of Chang Tsen here  and then add it to your summer reading list.

I won’t give away any details here, but I will tell you that Under the Towering Tree is the often heartbreaking and always profound story of an extended family and its patriarch – a charismatic and tyrannical head-of-the-house father – as seen through the eyes of his eldest daughter.

Under the Towering Tree is slated to hit Amazon by the end of the year. I’ll keep you posted!

What are some of your favorite summer reads?

WHY ORGANICS COST MORE Hint: they don’t have to!

westernfarmpress.com

westernfarmpress.com

Organic food is more expensive than conventional food, right?

After all, the evidence is right there in your local produce aisle. Those organic strawberries could set you back almost twice as much as conventional ones.

But did you know that organic food doesn’t need to cost more?

And that there are hidden costs to those conventional berries?

The Farm Bill

There are many factors that raise the price of organic food,  and one of the biggest is unfair government farm subsidies.

The first Farm Bill program was introduced over 80 years ago as part of FDR’s Agricultural Adjustment Act to help Depression-era farmers. Times have changed since 1933, but the Farm Bill hasn’t changed much with the times – even with the passage of the 2014 iteration this past February.

Modern-day subsidies proponents argue that farmers need a government safety net because agriculture is a tough, unpredictable industry and the nation’s food supply is dependent on family farms staying in business.

But critics say too much of the money goes to wealthy farmers and corporate agribusinesses.

There are two major issues at play when it comes to farm subsidies and organic and healthy foods.

1 – Organic farmers only get about 1% of the Farm Bill subsidies. The allocation of Farm Bill funds doesn’t come close to reflecting what the American people want. Retail sales of organic food rose from around $3 billion in 1997 to a whopping $21.1 billion in 2008, according to the USDA. And 58 percent of Americans claim they prefer to eat organic over non-organic.

The demand for organics keeps rising as the public becomes more educated about the health risks of conventional food and farming. If organic farmers received a bigger slice of the subsidies pie, and more conventional farms began organic practices, together they could meet these rising demands. Organic food prices would drop, and more people would have access to foods free of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals.

2 – Conventional farms that produce “junk food” or non-food crops get the largest government handouts of all. Such “commodity crops” as wheat, GMO soybeans, cotton and corn are energy, water, and fertilizer intensive. And they’re are used mostly to produce meat, processed foods and ethanol.

According to CalPIRG’s “Apples to Twinkies” report, from 1995 to 2010 almost $17 billion tax dollars subsidized four common food additives: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, and hydrogenated soy oils. So our tax dollars are directly subsidizing junk food ingredients instead of nutritious fruits and vegetables, which get a tiny fraction of farm bill dollars.

Giving Organics a Boost

Demand for organics has never been higher, but our government continues to subsidize conventional crops.

The good news is that organic farmers, fruit growers and hemp producers all saw modest improvements with the 2014 Farm Bill.

It’s time to keep the momentum going. Time to bring the Farm Bill into the 21st century and give organic farming a bigger boost! Farm subsidies reform is a win-win for people and the Earth – healthier food and a healthier environment.

Take Action!  Two things you can do right now to boost the organic scene:

1 – Buy organic whenever possible. The higher the demand, the bigger the support for organic farming.

2 – Stay informed about farm subsidies and organics. Sign up for updates from the Organic Consumers Association and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Listen to EarthScope Radio for timely environmental news. Watch some of the latest critically-acclaimed food documentaries. The next Farm Bill won’t get passed for a few years, but your local government has probably already started weighing in on it. If you know your stuff, you can contact your state rep, let your voice be heard…and be part of the change!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOING ZERO WASTE how low can you go?

Zero Waste Home US ORIGINAL

Bea Johnson knows a thing or two about vinegar.

She uses it as a window cleaner, laundry freshener, drain opener, weed killer, insect repellant, and stain remover. She even used it instead of conditioner until her husband got a tad tired of her smelling like vinaigrette.

You see, Bea is one of the leading proponents of the Zero Waste movement.

The Queen Bea of Zero Waste, you might say.

bea johnson

bea johnson

When her inspiring story started in 2006, she was living the American suburban dream in a 3,000-square-foot home filled with trinkets and trivia, driving (a big SUV) everywhere yet getting nowhere, consuming a lot…yet not quite fulfilled.

Now she lives in a small cottage with just the basics, gets around town on two wheels instead of four, has time for simple pleasures with her family, and has never been happier. Her story unfolds like a fable, as a Sleeping Beauty gradually wakes up to the toll the American Dream takes on our relationships, ourselves and our planet.

On Bea’s blog  and in her new book, Zero Waste Home, she chronicles her trials and tribulations of reducing waste and simplifying her life. She talks about her almost obsessive efforts to eliminate waste, and eventually finding her way back to reasonable and sustainable solutions for her family.

Her blog and book are amazing collections of all the things that worked for her, and we learn so much about creative solutions for the home, office, garden, personal care, even while traveling. Here we can find ideas for fresh and timeless home decor, creative alternatives to traditional products, the best places to buy bulk (there’s even an app for that), and the art of refusing freebies and other un-necessities.

Bea does an amazing job of keeping Zero Waste approachable. Notice I didn’t say ‘attainable’. Because she is the first to point out that Zero Waste is not an absolute – “shit happens” and to make waste is to be human. The great thing is this book passionately reminds us that we get to decide how much each of us makes.

Bea’s lifestyle might seem rash to some readers (charred almonds for eyeliner!) but not extreme enough to others (yes, folks, she does use toilet paper, albeit the recycled, unbleached kind). But there are hundreds of simple and creative tips in this book that anyone can use – the harried mom, the hardcore environmentalist, and everyone in between.

Try a few of Bea’s tips this week. You might discover for yourself that ‘less’ is truly ‘more’….

What is Zero Waste?  A philosophy based on a set of practices aimed at avoiding as much waste as possible. In the manufacturing world it inspires cradle-to-cradle design, in the home it engages the consumer to act responsibly.” { (c) Zero Waste Home}

Why you should consider it.

  • Less garbage in landfills.
  • Fewer toxins in the air, soil and water.
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Less time spent cleaning and curating your material stuff.
  • More time spent with friends, family and experiencing stuff.

A random sampling of Bea’s Zero Waste tips:

  • Welcome alternatives to disposables. Swap paper towels for reusable rags, swap sandwich baggies for kitchen towels or stainless containers, drop garbage liners all together (wet waste is mostly compostable anyway).
  • Buy in bulk or at the counter, bring reusable bags (for dry goods), jars (for wet items such as meat, deli, cheese, peanut butter) and bottles (for liquids: oil, soy sauce, shampoo).
  • Refill your bottles with bulk shampoo and conditioner, or use a shampoo bar. Instead of hairspray, switch to lemon water in a spray bottle. To go longer between washes, substitute dry shampoo for cornstarch (in bulk).
  • Use 100% recycled and unbleached toilet paper individually wrapped in paper,
  • Do laundry once a week using a bulk laundry detergent, full loads, and cold water cycles as much as possible. Savon de Marseille, dishwasher detergent, lemon or vinegar work great on stains.
  • Use bulk liquid castille soap as a dish/hand cleaner, baking soda as a scrubber (in a stainless Parmesan dispenser) with a compostable cleaning brush (a wooden one with natural hair). Purchase dishwasher detergent in bulk.
  • Use refillable pens, piston fountain pens, mechanical pencils, refillable white board markers and donate extra office material (paper, pencils) to your public school’s art program.
  • Start your personal junk mail war, cancel your phone directories, and sign up for electronic bills and statements.
  • Only shop for clothes a couple times a year to avoid compulsive buys.
  • Buy second-hand clothing.
  • Find creative ways to decorate your table with few napkin folding tricks, discarded leaves/branches from the yard, or just seasonal fruit.
  • Hostess gift: Bring a jar of a homemade consumable, or your favorite bulk item wrapped in Furoshiki.
  • Give the gift of an experience as a birthday present.

 

What are your tips for Going Zero?

 

WHY SHOULD I COMPOST? And what the heck can go into my bin?

courtesy: anneassimmons.com

courtesy: anneassimmons.com

 

In my next few blog posts, I’ll be addressing some of my readers’ most burning green questions.

Susan asks:

Do I really need to start composting? I feel like I should be doing it, but I don’t really know what is safe to throw in the bin. So I’m just avoiding the whole thing.

I hear you, Susan and you’re in good company. Lots of people who are going green haven’t made the leap to the compost pile.

There’s a reason why composting is the last of 4R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and ROT). It has a bad rap of being intimidating, way too much effort, and, well…kinda gross. Very few people would say they dig the scent or sight of freshly decomposing organic matter.

But I assure you these are merely psychological barriers. If you compost right (and right away) it can be easy and pretty much odor-free.

So Susan, my answer is YES! Composting really does make a huge dent in the amount of garbage we humans create. YES! It’ll be easy for you to start. And YES! You won’t believe the stuff you can compost – like egg shells, dryer lint, even your morning coffee grounds.

Just read on…

WHY COMPOST?

  • It’s easy. You have to throw your garbage somewhere. Why not toss it into the compost pail instead of the garbage can? Just keep both bins right next to each other in the kitchen.

    courtesy: yellowknife.ca

    courtesy: yellowknife.ca

  • It’s the ultimate form of recycling. As your food scraps and other cast-offs break down, they make a really rich soup that can go back into the soil, nourishing the earth and the next generations of plants, animals and people.
  • It keeps your garbage lean and mean. The average person tosses 4-5 pounds of waste into the garbage every day, and at least a third is stuff that could be composted. Our landfills are overfull, and we’re running out of places to stash all that trash. You can make less garbage by composting!
  • It helps the Earth keep its cool. When you toss into the compost instead of the trash, all that organic matter breaks down aerobically (with oxygen). If it went to the landfill and got buried under piles of other garbage, it would decompose slowly and anaerobically (without oxygen). This creates tons of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which contributes to global warming. So by composting you’re reducing the amount of methane in the atmosphere, and keeping the planet cooler.

HOW DO I COMPOST? It’s as easy as 1-2-3

Screen shot 2014-04-08 at 11.45.45 AM1. Get a kitchen bin. You don’t need fancy bags and deodorizers or any bells and whistles if you empty and rinse it every day. This here’s my compost pail – just a step-open mini garbage can from the hardware store.

2. Fill with compostables. (see WHAT CAN I COMPOST? below)

3. Empty daily. If your town collects compost, just dump it into your “yard waste” bin.  Cities and towns all over, from San Francisco to New York City are starting municipal compost collection programs. If you’re not sure about your town policy, call your refuse company and find out. If they don’t collect compost yet, start a petition and get them on the bandwagon!

WHAT CAN I COMPOST?

A lot more than you think.

Kitchen food scraps, of course, but here are other compostables that may surprise you:

  • pizza boxes
  • dust bunnies
  • paper towels and Kleenex
  • abandoned Halloween candy
  • egg cartons (the paperboard kind)
  • Q-tips (the ones with a paper stick)
  • balloons (the latex kind)
  • plants and flowers that are past their prime
  • newspaper

For an entertaining and exhaustive list,  check out Care2.

WHAT IF I CAN’T COMPOST RIGHT NOW?

If you’re still not ready to make the leap to composting, but you want to make a move in the green direction, try buying kitchen trash bags that are biodegradable. That way, your compostables that go to landfill can get a fighting chance at breaking down faster. Green Legacy is my personal fave, because they’re strong, and they wait to break down at the dump, not in your kitchen.

What are some of your composting trials and tribulations?

 

 

 

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EARTHSCOPE RADIO environmental news you can use

Screen shot 2014-02-07 at 1.10.29 PMSince 1999, EarthScope Media  has been producing weekly radio stories on the environment, biotechnology, health and sustainability in the San Francisco Bay Area and all over the world.

Aired after the nationally-syndicated show Living on Earth by KALW 91.7 and other national stations, EarthScope news is unbiased and uncompromised by political or commercial interests – hard to come by this age of opinion journalism and dwindling free press.

EarthScope Radio takes a refreshingly positive approach to the issues, highlighting a broad range of topics, from green energy, global warming and habitat preservation to personal health, green entrepreneurship, and local farmer’s markets.

They nab interviews with such environmental VIPs as:

…and other local and global leaders working for a more sustainable world.

Take two minutes to hear one of these informational, inspirational stories and get some green news you can use.

Cheryl Jennings BEST 2013EarthScope also has comprehensive educational/vocational programs for high school students as well as PR campaign consulting to help environmental organizations spread their messages.

EarthScope was founded on the principle that education can change lives – and change the world. They know that if we understand what’s happening in the environment and what’s at stake, we are better equipped to make choices that are better for the Earth, and every living thing on it.

Check out www.earthscopemedia.com to hear more news stories and sign up for critical news updates.

How do you get your green news? What websites, magazines and journals keep you in the know?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GREEN WHEELS how eco is your electric / hybrid car?

vincent kessler/reuters

vincent kessler/reuters

In my next few blog posts, I’m addressing some of my readers’ most burning green questions.

Jess asks:

“I’ve read conflicting reports on the true environmental impact of hybrid cars. Some of my greenest friends insist that the impact of buying a new Prius (resources used to build and ship parts, fabrication, battery disposal, etc.) is actually greater than simply keeping an older car that gets decent gas mileage.

Their premise is that the greeny guilt over our American desire to drive a newer car is mitigated by driving a Prius, but that the truer path to being green would be simply not to buy a new car every 4-5 years.”

So are all the shiny new hybrids and electric cars really greener than the gas-powered deal in your garage?

The answer is…it depends.

On the surface, electrics and hybrids do seem greener since they use significantly less or virtually no fossil fuels to run. Less gas consumed plus fewer pollutant emissions equals better for the planet, no?

Well, no. It’s more complicated than that.

Here are just a few of the variables affecting the eco-friendliness of your vehicle:

  • Where your electricity comes from – What percentage comes from clean, renewable sources?
  • The manufacturing practices of the car company – Do they have a cradle-to-grave product policy? Do they have responsible materials recycling/reuse and battery disposal?
  • The energy used to make the vehicle – How much energy is used in the manufacturing process? Where was that energy sourced? How efficient is the factory?
  • What kind of driving you do – off-road, in-town, highway, pedal-to-the-metal or joy ride?
  • The efficiency of your current vehicle – Is your daily commute in a tricked-out Winnebago, or a modest sedan with decent gas mileage?

There are two primary reasons for going electric/hybrid:

  1. If you live in a state with a grid that gets most of its energy from clean, renewable sources like wind and solar, getting an electric/hybrid might be a good option. (See this analysis of where the majority of each state’s energy comes from.)
  2. Buying electric/hybrid is a consumer vote for greener alternatives. The more people demand greener products, the bigger the drive towards innovation, mass awareness, and better choices in the future.

If you’d like in-depth details, here are two of the better articles I could drum up on the subject:

Earthtechling’s Are Hybrids or Electric Cars Better for the Environment?

The Chicago Tribune’s Are Electric Vehicles the Most Environmental Option?

In the meantime, here’s my final verdict:

  •  Do your homework  Check out this state-by-state analysis  of which cars are better, factoring manufacturing practices and energy use, and energy sources. It will help you determine whether a hybrid or electric is better for you.
  • Buy used  Getting a used hybrid/electric can help offset the environmental impact of the manufacture of a new vehicle.
  • Hang back  If you don’t really need a new car, wait a bit. Greener energy sources and vehicle options are evolving constantly. Unless it’s that Winnebago, you’re probably better off driving your current vehicle into the ground.

And now we circle back nicely to the second part of Jess’s question.

“The truer path to being green would be simply not to buy a new car every 4-5 years.”

…which in turn begs some philosophical questions, if you care to go there.

  • Why do we think we need so much stuff anyway?
  • Is it all just a thinly-veiled distraction from our existential angst?
  • A convenient way to rationalize the short-lived serotonin boost of shopping therapy?
  • What’s more important: the economy or the environment?
  • What are the ultimate costs of participation in the Cult of Consumerism?

Whoa. My head is kinda spinning.

And I just can’t do this stuff justice in my 400-700 word blog post.

But I bet Jess could. His blog is full of deep thoughts and brilliant prose about life, modern fatherhood, and the pursuit of contentedness.

Check it out: The Final Nine

 

What are you driving?

GREEN NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS the tinier the better

4vector.com

4vector.com

It’s so tempting to set really lofty New Year’s Resolutions.

Every year, we get a new shot at overhauling our lifestyles, our relationships, our waistlines.

But the most successful long-term changes are almost always the little ones, the baby steps.

Sustainable changes are those that don’t leave you feeling deprived, pining for your old life, your old boyfriend, your old….well, maybe you won’t miss your old waistline, but you get the picture.

It’s a bit like the Butterfly Effect, that tenet of chaos theory, where the slightest fluttering of a butterfly wing sets into motion the most monumental events. Change your toothpaste today, and who knows what greener trajectory you may find yourself on tomorrow?

In celebration of small shifts that make big differences, I have a new resolution for your consideration:

Resolve to be just a tiny bit greener.

Don’t feel overwhelmed, don’t dwell on all the things you think you “should” be doing, don’t be paralyzed by the idea that one person can’t change the world. (What if all these people  had decided to sit around eating bonbons all day?)

Here are a few of my favorite tiny green bits.

Pick one thing. Just one.

One a day, one a week, or one for the new year.

But, in the wise words of that painfully cliché yet eternally true Nike tag line…Just Do It.

  • Change your toothpaste. The chemicals in your personal care products can be absorbed into your body and our groundwater. Choose healthier alternatives when you can.
  • Compost. If your town collects compost, toss food scraps and other compostables into your yard waste bin. If not, call your garbage company and ask if they can start!
  • Ditch your anti-bacterial products. Bacteria is important for your immune system, and anti-bacterial products are bad news for public and personal health.
  • Take a hike. Regular time spent in nature makes you happier, healthier, chillax-ier, and skinnier. Wow!
  • Pull a sunscreen switcheroo. Many chemical sunscreens don’t work, and they can harm you and delicate ocean eco-systems. Keep an eye out for smarter sun protection options.
  • Stash a reusable shopping bag in your purse or glove compartment. Learn new ways to reduce plastic usage.
  • Use rags instead of paper towels. Cut up old T-shirts and towels to re-purpose them, and keep them under the kitchen sink.
  • Teach your children well (hum to Crosby Stills and Nash tune). Give your kids tiny green things to do, too.

 

What are your favorite easy ways to go green?