Posts from the “green” Category

ELECTION DAY 2016 – don’t sit this one out!

courtesy: Patagonia.com

courtesy: Patagonia.com

Whichever side of the partisan fence we sit, it’s our duty and privilege to get out there and vote this Tuesday.

It’s the only way we can keep this democracy of ours chugging. It’s also the only way we can address what I believe is the most pressing threat to the planet: climate change.

 

Patagonia is saying Don’t Sit This One Out — and I couldn’t agree more.

Many issues demand our attention during an election year: foreign policy, immigration, jobs, health care and campaign finance. Yes, they’re important, but we’re missing the point: None of it matters on a dead planet. The health of our planet must be a strong foundation for everything else, not an afterthought.

Patagonia so deeply believes in civil democracy and environmental issues, they’re closing their retail stores, their headquarters in Ventura and their Reno distribution and customer service center this Election Day to encourage customers, employees and all citizens to head to the polls.

I feel honored to be working with a company that supports the environment as well as everyone’s right to exercise their rights – whether it’s voting, gender and racial equality, taking care of our families right, choosing organic and sustainable products, and enjoying the wild places left in nature.

Please mail your ballot today, or plan a hot date with a voting booth for November 8th.

Claim your part in history.

 

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THE DIRT ON SOIL how carbon farming can save our planet

projectfitamerica.org

projectfitamerica.org

Do you ever feel like the planet is going to hell in a handbasket, and there’s nothing we can do about it?
Like you just want to throw in the towel, recycle your recycling bin and hit the drive-thru (in an SUV) for a factory-farmed burger (with a side of pesticide fries) and a hormone-laced milkshake (in a BPA-lined cup)?

I know what you mean.

It’s hard to stay positive in a climate of deniers and doom and gloom.

But before you trade in your Prius, take five minutes to watch The Soil Story. Finally, some good news about reversing climate change!

It turns out the soil—the very skin of our planet—could also be the answer to saving the planet.

That’s right….soil.

It’s not sexy but it’s effective, it’s gaining momentum and it just might give you reason to be optimistic again.

 

The carbon balance

We know carbon is a leading cause of global warming, right?

Well, it’s actually not that simple. The problem is not carbon itself, but too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

There has always been a delicate balance of carbon in our air, our soil…and in ourselves. After all, carbon is essential to life.

The problem starts when that delicate balance gets thrown off, as it has since the industrial revolution.

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 1.47.05 PM

intellectualconservative.com

We humans have upset the balance by extracting too much carbon out of the ground, where it’s been minding its own business for millenia. Burning coal and oil, as well other practices like industrial farming, spews millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every day and speeds up global warming. Conventional farming alone emits a whopping 15-30% of annual global CO2 emissions—yikes!

So do we have to burn fewer fossil fuels? Do we have to change the way we produce our food?

YES and YES

But even if we halted all emissions tomorrow, we’d still have to figure out a way to restore balance to the carbon equation.

 

The dirt on soil

The question is: How do we get excess carbon out of the atmosphere, where it’s polluting our air, killing our oceans, and heating up our planet—and get it back into the ground, where it belongs?

Answer: Carbon farming

Carbon farming —also called regenerative agriculture—is a method of farming that actually sinks carbon back into the soil. Carbon farmers use carefully planned grazing and compost instead of machines and chemicals. They work the land gently to avoid rustling up carbon stores. They increase crop diversity and crop rotation. They plant more trees and cover crops.

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 3.18.27 PMThen all those happy plants do their little photosynthesis dance, capture atmospheric CO2 in their leaves, and pump it back into the ground.

Carbon farming also creates healthier soil that can grow nutrient-rich crops faster and hold more water—a win-win for farmers, the economy and every person who needs to eat. Which is like, um, every human on this planet.

Healthy soil and healthy plants! Mother Nature’s little carbon redistribution system. So simple and natural, we don’t even need to develop any fancy pants new technology. We can do more carbon farming right now.

And we are, on a small scale in local areas. But to make a real impact on CO2 levels, carbon farming needs to go global, stat.

 

Want to give carbon farming a boost? Here’s what you can do right now:

  1. Learn more  If you have four minutes, watch Soil Solutions to Climate Problems narrated by Michael Pollan. Or pick up a copy of The Soil will Save Us for more in-depth scoop.
  2. Buy organic  Organic farming and carbon farming have a lot in common, like composting, crop diversity, and more responsible use of the land.
  3. Start composting  Carbon farms use compost to enrich the soil and increase plant production. If you’re not sure how to start, or what you can toss into the bin, my blog on compost can help.
  4. Go grass-fed  Not only is grass-fed meat and dairy healthier for you, it’s better for the environment than industrial-farmed varieties.
  5. Get grassroots  Support your local carbon farming initiatives. Buy their organic produce and products. Support government policies that help organic and regenerative farming practices.
  6. Spread the word!  Because cooling the earth, creating a climate of hope, and renewing our will to save her….could be a simple as the soil.

The will to act is a renewable resource.

~ Al Gore in The Case for Optimism in Climate Change

gurleenkaur26.blogspot.com

gurleenkaur26.blogspot.com

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THE GREENEST GIFT OF ALL? two words

emilymcdowell.com

emilymcdowell.com

In past holiday blogs, I’ve waxed ecological about the Xmas tree (and whether faux is way to go) and I’ve given you tips for greener gift wrapping.

This year, I’d like to make the case for a simple gift that’s easy on the planet and good for everyone on your list:

A word of thanks.

Every year, we send loads of thank you cards for the loads of holiday presents we receive. (At least those of us, ahem, who are still practicing the antiquated art of the handwritten.)

Now, don’t get me wrong—thank yous are great. But instead of waiting to send thank yous for all the gifts we get, what if we pre-appreciated our friends and family?

Instead of waiting to thank them for all the material stuff, what if we thanked them now for all the other stuff, the intangibles like love, friendship, life (thanks, mom and dad!), a wise perspective, a good laugh, a reason to get up in the morning.

And you don’t need to take pen to paper to do a proper pre-appreciation. A quick call, email or text are good, too. In person is nice because you can seal it with a smile or squeeze.

Here’s why it’s good to gift gratitude:

  • Good for the planet Very few resources and very little waste involved. And because your gratitude is guaranteed to please, think of all the gas saved by reducing those pesky trips to the mall for returns or exchanges.
  • Shortens the shopping list  And the credit card bill.  Also guaranteed to reduce hours spent trolling the internet for elusive “perfect gift”.
  • Makes someone happy  No one doesn’t appreciate some appreciation.
  • Makes you happy, too! You make a deeper connection to someone you care about.

Let me just say that, although I’m fairly competent at expressing thanks when appropriate, I myself rarely take any formal approach to gratitude.

But this year I’m going to take my own advice and start pre-appreciating. (Dare I say ap-PRE-ciating? Get it?)

I’m even thinking about designing and selling pre-thank-you cards. Made locally with soy ink, from renewable corn husks or re-claimed elephant plop, of course.

What do you think—should we start a new holiday tradition? How about a global ap-PRE-ciation revolution?

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ECO-MINDED PARENTS add this website to your resource list!

 

So, if you’ve read my blog, you might have noticed that I’m just a wee bit into the green scene. Pretty much every day – for work and for my family – I do loads of research on eco-lifestyle, sustainability, nature, social responsibility and environmental stewardship.

I collect data and ideas from all over the web, and sometimes in unexpected places. (Did you know, for example, that World Naked Gardening Day is coming up on May 2? I am not making this up. Now that’s some getting back to nature.)

But I also have favorite websites that I return to again and again for reliable, current info on a range of green topics. These sites are more than just collections of random trivia – they are true, bookmark-worthy resources.

Environmental Working Group is my go-to for “clean” shopping (especially grocery and personal products). Mother Nature Network delivers beautiful stories on the Earth, the animal kingdom, and the quirkiest animal of all – the human. And TreeHugger gives me a progressive design, tech, and scientific slant on the world.

Today, I came across a new resource website to add to my list: Healthy Child, Healthy World.

Healthy Child, Healthy World does the legwork for busy parents, wading through the sea of ever-changing scientific consensus. It also supports changes to our laws and our culture so that every kid, regardless of circumstance, can thrive. This site is perfect for both new and seasoned parents interested in a safer home base, greener choices, and healthier children everywhere.

Here is a smorgasbord of their topics and resources:

  • Have you noticed how having a new baby kicks everyone’s nesting instinct into high gear? Those home renovations will be great when they’re finished, but demo’d bathrooms and lead paint particles can expose everyone in the house to nasty chemicals. Do it all the safe way with this Healthy Home Renovations guide.
  • If you have kids, I guarantee you’ll have to wrangle at least a few head lice before they turn 18. Unfortunately, over-the-counter pesticide shampoos have been linked to asthma, allergies, even cancer. Instead, remove lice safely with natural essential oils, a lice comb, and some elbow grease.
  • Raise your hand if you ever use your car keys as an emergency toy and teething ring. Do not do this. Those keys can contain mass amounts lead, a well-known toxin. Get a “fake” (real wood) set of keys if your tot insists on chewing up the contents of your purse.
  • Are fake food dyes, preservatives and other additives really that bad? Yes, they really are. They are implicated in many pediatric behavioral and neurological issues. And you can avoid them by choosing more whole foods and fewer processed foods that harbor heinous food fillers.
  • HealthyChild even has a handy new e-book, Easy Steps to a Safer Pregnancy.  Because, after all, “…your baby’s first home isn’t her nursery or even your house. It’s your body.”

 

Makes you think, right?

Like all the info on this site, the goal is to empower you to make more educated choices.

Which may or may not include grabbing a shovel, polishing off your birthday suit, and getting “back to the garden” for World Naked Gardening Day.

 

 

 

 

SUPERBAD SUPERBUGS why it’s time to rethink antibiotics

 

courtesy wsj.com

courtesy wsj.com

 

“I’m sure glad I wasn’t born in the Stone Age, before antibiotics were discovered!”

That was my grandfather, who lived to be 95 but had his share of heart infections. Antibiotics saved his life….again and again and again.

Chances are you feel the same way, if you’re like four out of five Americans who have used antibiotics at least once this year. Since penicillin first hit the scene in the 40’s, antibiotics have been a godsend, revolutionizing the way we treat infection, save lives, and spare suffering.

But the trouble is, antibiotics just aren’t working anymore.

Bacteria are smart little buggers – they’re much more intelligent than we give them credit for. They are able to multiply rapidly, quickly evolve and adapt to their environment, and pass information on to future generations.

And now, it’s clear that bacteria are on to us. It didn’t take long for them to get wise to our antibacterial ways. They are quickly becoming resistant to our ever-expanding arsenal of targeted antibiotics.

Scientists can’t keep pace with these new uber bacteria, they can’t develop new drugs fast enough, and in the next decade common infections like strep throat could once again be lethal.

Hyperbole aside, most health and public policy experts agree that the world is hurtling head first into a major antibiotics crisis. According to a recent WHO report, “A post-antibiotic era – in which common infections and minor injuries can kill – far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st Century.”

This crisis is complex and multi-faceted, but the simple fact is antibiotics are overused and misused across the globe, which in turn is creating new strains of superbad superbugs.

  • Antibiotics are overused. The more antibiotics you take, the more likely you’ll be to develop a drug-resistant infection. That’s because, while the drugs kill most of the bacteria, the most naturally resistant ones are most likely to survive—and give rise to a whole new superbad generation. Doctors are writing millions of antibiotics prescriptions at the first sign of illness and patients demand them immediately, instead of first giving the body time to fight the infection. And did you know that antibiotics for humans only account for about 20% of the antibiotic use in this country? The other 80% is pumped into to livestock and food animals – mostly to promote growth, not to cure acute infections.
  • Antibiotics are misused. Antibiotics are great for acute cases of dangerous bacterial infections, but at least half of all prescriptions are handed out “just in case” or unnecessarily, as for the flu or other viral infections that don’t respond to antibiotics.  And most people use them the wrong way – taking them too often for the wrong kinds of infections, or taking weak doses for too short a duration.
  • Antibiotics don’t always target “bad” bacteria. In Go Probiotic, I talked about why your body needs certain types of bacteria to stay healthy. Your immune system, your digestion, your brain, your jaunty mood all depend on having adequate levels of “good” bacteria. But antibiotics often kill off the good guys as well as the infectious variety, leaving you seriously compromised.

 

So what can we do about this superbad situation?

Last week, we did get some encouraging news that new soil bacteria discoveries might lead to the development of new classes of antibiotics, and that’s great for the short-term.

But for the long term we must change the way we use antibiotics – both as individuals and as a society – if we want a sustainable answer to bacterial diseases.

 

Take action! Here’s what you can do right now to help turn the tide:

courtesy waleg.com

courtesy waleg.com

 

Ditch the antibacterial products. Don’t buy into the hype sold by Clorox, Purell, and their antibacterial bedfellows. You don’t need to kill every bug within a 5-mile radius of your kid or your kitchen. And you don’t need their chemical products – just a little soap and water will do. Remember that humans evolved surrounded by all kinds of bugs, and your immune system actually relies on stimulation to develop and function properly. Think of bacteria as microscopic personal trainers for your immune system, giving it  practice fighting off garden-variety illness and infection.

Just say no to antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. Did you know that many common infections don’t necessarily need to be treated with antibiotics? Sinus infection, bronchitis, ear infections  – just to name a few. Ask your doctor if you really need drugs for whatever is ailing you, or if it’s safe to wait and see. Be patient, give your body a bit of time to fight on its own. It’s not quick and it’s not sexy, but good old-fashioned rest, fluids – and maybe a little chicken soup – should be the first prescription you fill.

Try Pl-antibiotics. Plants are also a lot smarter than we give them credit for. They are naturally resistant to harmful bacteria, evolving constantly to defend themselves from new bacterial invaders. Herbs and plant alternatives to synthetic antibiotics have been used successfully for centuries all over the world, and with a little research, you can find a good pl-antibiotic. These should get you started:

courtesy science.kqed.org

courtesy science.kqed.org

 

Spread the word. Tell the federal government to limit the use of antibiotics in medicine, industry and farming. Learn more about the issue, sign a petition or two, tell a friend.

If we can slash the amount of antibiotics we all use, maybe – just maybe – we won’t have to say to our grandkids “I remember the good old days, when we had these things called antibiotics….”

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?

 

 

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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