Blog Archives

CA Prop 37 The Right To Know

In case you don’t know California has Prop 37 on the ballot in this upcoming election.

Prop 37 will:

  • Require labeling on raw or processed food offered to consumers if it is genetically modified or uses genetically modified food
  • Prohibits labeling of food that is genetically modified as natural

If you want to know more on why I think GMOs should be labeled look at my previous post here

Even if you are okay with GMO foods why not give everyone the right to choose whether to consume it or not?

The campaign against Prop 37 is funded by Monsanto, the largest GMO producing company and has received additional funding by companies who use their product. Agribusiness has spent $35 million in campaigning against Prop 37

Prop 37 was created by the people and is supported  by organic leaders and from small companies amounting to $4,065,135

You will not have any major jump in the cost of your food with this labeling. In the official financial effect summary  it states that the only increased cost will be to the state $1,000-1 million in state administrative costs to make sure companies are labeling correctly. The CA Budget is 92 billion this is minuscule compared to the overall cost of running the state.

Don’t let big business win your vote. Polls have shown that 90% of americans want their food labeled. Don’t let their propaganda sway your original beliefs.

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Valentines Day Doesn’t Love The Environment

Reflection to Elementary School

 Since it is Valentines Day I was remembering back to my youth when I was in elementary  school. In elementary school parents buy cards for everyone in the class and attach candy to them. This is basically a requirement seeing as if you are the only one not giving a valentine you are at high risk of becoming the class outcast. I remember just as every child I loved getting all the candy, but once I looked at the card once it became unnecessary waste.

The Waste in Valentine’s 

According to Hallmark 188 million Valentine’s day cards are exchanged in America every year which doesn’t include the packaged valentines that schoolchildren give. Although this paper waste is not as much as wrapping paper during Christmas it still has a huge negative impact on the environment.

Green Valentines

For an alternative to buying valentines a great blog I found called ecocrazymom found a great way to create up-cycled homemade valentines from envelopes. Another idea is to make recycled valentines from cardboard and used printing paper. The information on this can be found on How to.

Some alternatives when sending cards to your loved ones are use cards that are plantable paper or seed paper. Some websites to check out for cards are botanical paperworks, Eco Party Time, and Green Field Paper Company.

So I hope that some of you consider this for next year and for all the holidays that use cards.

Will you use some of these resources? Do you have any ideas on how to create green valentines?

Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.
~ Kahlil Gibran 

Terracycling

TerraCycle Outsmart Waste

Recently my next door neighbors have started a brigade of terracycling through girl scouts. They collect items that normally will not be recycled or items that are hard-to-recycle through the terracycle program.  I thought this was a great idea and am hoping to be able to start a brigade when I go back to my spring semester at college.

Terracycle

Their purpose is to eliminate waste. They create collection opportunities and solutions for things that are normally sent to the landfill.

They turn these products into new products like backpacks, benches, and bags. They use the Upcycle idea, where they use the old product as is, to create a new product. They do not utilize as much energy as recycling.

In 2010 and 2011 this program has spread to all over the world including France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Spain, and many other countries.

What Can You Do?

Find a location near you that is participating in Terracycle, or start your own brigade. If everyone could get some of their community involved with terracyling we could reduce the amount of waste that goes into the landfill.

Can you get your community to participate? Will you start a brigade in your own community? Any thoughts on Terracycle?

“We are not to throw away those things which can benefit our neighbor. Goods are called good because they can be used for good: they are instruments for good, in the hands of those who use them properly.”

~Clement of Alexandria

My Green Grinch Christmas Tree

Happy New Year Hope Your Holidays Were Happy

Sorry I have not been blogging for a while, I have been super busy with finals, and then the holidays. I got back home and had to do some major decorating. There were no rent a tree companies near me, so I was debating if I should get a real tree. Instead my mom and I decided to be inovative.

A Green Grinch Christmas Tree

Our next door neighbors have a big Sycamore tree and the wind had broken off several large branches. They let us take a couple to play with to see if we could find a way to make them into our Christmas tree.

We took the branches and put it in a pot securing it with bags of kitty litter and a couple of bricks we had laying around. Next we put on a string of clear lights, securing them with small pieces of wire. We had stacked two pots on top of each other to get it high enough and wrapped it in fake snow.  We searched through our ornaments to find a combination of silver and red christmas balls we thought were pleasing. We carefully arranged them onto the tree. We added the Grinch to the bottom of the tree because he seemed appropriate.

All of what was used on and around this tree was found around my house. I did not need to buy anything and it was all reused from previous Christmas decorations. I found it incredibly satisfying to have created it and everyone who visited me during the holiday season enjoyed the holiday spirit it created. I will be taking it down soon the branch will be put into green recycling bin, but I look forward to another Christmas Tree Challenge next year.

I challenge you next year to be creative with your christmas decorating, not only just with the tree but with other things also.  Although I know the majority of people will never change their Christmas trees to this extreme I think it’s important to note that holiday spirit is something you create not something you can purchase.

Do you think you can be creative with holiday decorations? What did you do this holiday to make a difference environmentally?

“I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”

~Dr. Seuss

Lighting Up Holidays the Green Way

Brightening the Holiday Spirit 

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I have started to decorate for Christmas. I love lights, and could never imagine a holiday without them. I know this is not very environmental, so I have researched ways to make it as environmental as possible. This year I have started my own collection of Christmas lights of my own. I decided that on short notice and low budget LED lights are my best option.

Holiday lights have become quite the tradition all over the United States. It goes along with the capitalistic/materialistic view of the holidays, which we have all been trapped into believing, me included. Lights are not only expensive to purchase, but all those lights on at all hours of the night take a toll on your electricity bill, as well as your environment.

LED, Your Gift for the Planet

  • According to the Department of Energy, Holiday lights account for more than 6 terawatt-hours per year, the total electricity consumption of 500,000 homes.  (The majority of lights being incandescent).
  • Incandescent lights burn out quicker than LED lights which last as much as 10 times longer.
  • LED lights have significantly less risk to cause a fire. LEDs also don’t contain mercury.
  • When LED lights started they were often not as bright or attractive as incandescent lights, but with the increase of technology, they are almost identical in my opinion, that is if you find the right brands.
  • LEDs use 80% less energy then incandescent lights.

Throw Away Those Old Lights? 

If you have large incandescence replace them now with LED lights. But if you have mini-incandesent lights you should keep your old lights (if they are still safe to use), until they burn out. Then I recommend switching to LED lights. . If you throw out all your perfectly good christmas lights it creates a huge amount of waste and pollutes the environment.

When you are done with your lights don’t throw them away! Find a local recycling program.

Home Depot offers a trade in where you can get a discount on LED lights. (Although this program has passed for this year watch for it next year). Similar programs can be found with discounts on LED lights such as on Holiday LEDs

Greenest way to Brighten Your Home? 

Solar LED lights have the least environmental impact of all the possible lights that you can use. Solar lights use the solar panel, (photovoltaic cell) which collects sun’s energy and converts it to electric current. The battery is used to store electricity until it is used. LED bulbs turn on when it is dark. Being a new technology they do have some differences in brightness and availability. There are mixed reviews depending on weather, so before buying them make sure your yard would be able to have adequate light.

Pros

  • Easy to setup: don’t have to worry about outlets and cords
  • Convenient: turn on automatically.
  • Safety: No extension cords, lights stay cooler.
  • Free Energy: solar powered

Cons

  • Initial Price: is expensive, but less electrical bills.
  • Sunlight dependent: Without adequate sunlight they won’t shine as long
  • Weather: snow, rain, cold/cloudy can prevent adequate sunlight.

What You Can Do to Keep the Holiday Spirit  

  • Instead of putting up every strand of lights you own, do a smaller presentation of lights.
  • Use LED lights instead of regular lights.
  • Use mini-lights instead of full-sized lights.
  • Turn lights off once you go to sleep.
  • If you live in a place where solar lights are functional use them instead.

What lights will you be using this year? Do you think LED or LED solar is a better option for you?

Those Christmas lights, Light up the street, Down where the sea and city meet, May all your troubles soon be gone, Oh Christmas Lights Keep Shining on

~Coldplay

Wrapping Presents, Not A Gift To The Earth

Gifts Galore!  

  • Every year hundreds and hundreds of presents are given around the holidays.
  • Christmas time has become a consumerist holiday, it’s all about the gifts.
  • Billions of dollars are spent on Christmas.

Deck the Dumpsters with Tons of Waste

  • With gifts being the focus of the holidays all of those presents need to be wrapped.
  • Half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap and decorate products.
  • Gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons annually in the US.
  • Average American uses 2 pounds of wrapping paper a year.
What to wrap gifts in
  • If you want to use wrapping paper use recycled paper (30% recycled paper saves 7.2 trees).
  • Reuse wrapping paper, bags, ribbons and bows, year after year.
  • Wrap with fabric.
  • Use newspapers or paper bags as gift wrap. (You can decorate paper bags with stamps, paint or stickers to make them more festive).
  • Use reusable cloth bags. (There are a wide range of them you can find online if you search for reusable gift bags).
  • You could make your own cloth bag by buying fabric. What is great about these is that they can be reused every year. If you want to be fancy you could make the bags reversible so that you had two patterns on one bag.
  • Wrap your gift in a reusable shopping bag.
  • Instead of using ribbon that has plastic in it use spare yarn, or fabric.
  • Use a small little gift to decorate (a doll, a ornament)
  • Include Towels in your gift and use them to wrap it.
  • Use a scarf as a decoration on your gift.
  • Instead of buying decorations use natural things such as plants or flowers.
How this benefits the Environment
Utilizing alternatives lessens the amount of waste being thrown out every year. Using cloth bags is the most environmental. These can be reused every year and washed if they get dirty. With these they are more affordable, you don’t have to buy new paper every year. They also make for easy wrapping, so will save you time!
What you can do to keep Christmas Time Merry 
Look for alternatives to wrapping paper and what to do with packaging that is used. For society to be able to change, every person has to start by changing what they are doing. If you use the above options you can save the environment and take one step towards a more sustainable Christmas. When giving gifts encourage those who are receiving them to continue the cycle.
Will you take the initiative to start using green ways of wrapping gifts? Do you think if you start it others will too? Do you have any other suggestions for a more environmental way of gift giving?
“Don’t follow trends – start trends.”

Vegetarianism, Saving the Planet

What is Vegetarian? 

Following a vegetarian diet is one in which you do not eat meat (seafood, poultry, or red). There are different types of vegetarian diets. An ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products. Lacto-vegetarians diet includes dairy products but not eggs. Lacto-ovo vegetarians diet includes eggs and dairy products. Also a variation is a vegan diet in which no animal products (meat, eggs, dairy, honey) are eaten. Semi-vegetarian diets can include ingredients that are not vegetarian such as fish.

Protein?

Many people do not know the other methods of achieving protein other than through meats. Some of these include dairy, eggs, soy, hempseed, beans, brown rice, hummus, whole wheats, quinoa, peanut butter, tofu, legumes, and many others. There are many sources of protein that are available.

Environmental Harms of Meat

  • The United Nations has urged the world to move away from meat diets.
  •  Eating meat takes up many resources. All the animals have to eat in to get nutrients.
  • It is estimated that between 13,000-100,000 liters of water is used to produce a kilo of beef. In contrast to wheat which only uses 1,000-2,000 litres.
  • Many greenhouse emissions are produced with meat. Also organic farming has less of a greenhouse effect.
  • Produces 9% of CO2 deriving from human-related activities
  • Livestock produces 37% of all human-induced methane, and 65% of ammonia (which contributes to acid rain).
  • Animals pollute our rivers, streams and oceans because of manure. (It has lead to the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico)
  • 70% of all agricultural land is for farmed animals, either their food or where they are kept. (This has increased deforestation and has endangered habitats)
  • Has increased Endangered Species (such as many fish, and whales)

Health Benefits of Eating Vegetarian

Studies have found that vegetarians live longer. A plant-based diet can prevent diseases. The American Dietetic Association states that vegetarians have reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, colon cancer, adult-onset diabetes, osteoporosis, gout, gallstones, kidney stones, lung cancer, and breast cancer. A healthy vegetarian diet that is low in fat when combined with adequate exercise helps reduce blood pressure and can control or even eliminate non-insulin dependent diabetes.

Being Vegetarian 

Throughout my whole life, I have been vegetarian. Growing up my mother didn’t like meat, and since her family was not big meat eaters it was very easy for her to become vegetarian, my father’s family has been vegetarian, so for me it was the obvious choice. My parents never told me I could not have meat, but I never developed an appetite for it, and do not find it appealing. Whenever I tell people I am vegetarian they always are astonished and exclaim “How can you do it?” But for me it comes naturally, and it is very easy. While I realize this may not be the case with everyone, just cutting meat out of as many meals as possible is beneficial.

Do you think you could become vegetarian? If not could you eat Vegetarian 2-4 days a week?

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

~Albert Einstein

Is City Living Greener?

A City Can Be Green? 

When someone says a “city,” one thinks about dirty, and unhealthy. No one thinks that city living is the way to be more green. David Owen, the author of Green Metropolis proposes that living in the city is greener.

How David Owen thinks Cities are Green

Transportation

    • Everything is condensed so people either take public transportation, walk, or bike.
    • Only half of the population has cars, most are rarely used.

Energy

    • City dwellers use almost half the amount than people who live outside cities..
    • Less big appliances.

Living Space

    • Living space is very small, which does not allow for the accumulation of things.

How not living in the city creates more pollution 

People have sprawled out over a large area, in order to get anything they have to drive there cars. They have more space in their cars. They have more space in their homes so they accumulate more.

Owen Claims that Solar encourages people to consume more energy and that the more green energy and cleaner energy for cars just continues to encourage the environmentally damaging behavior.

How to change?

In order to change the car-dependent lifestyle he claims that driving has to be unpleasant so no one wants to do so. He also says that HOV lanes only allow for a better flow of traffic. In order for them to really work environmentally they need to eliminate regular lanes and charge single-occupant cars. I would have to argue that carpooling is not always a realistic expectation. My mother, for example, is a doctor who has very different shifts than anyone else, she can not realistically carpool with someone, I do not think it’s fair to punish these people when there is no way they can carpool and no public transportation that is available and efficient.

Is it really greener?

While I do agree all these things make city dwellers have less of a direct environmental impact, I do not think that its impact is much less. Cities have a dense population leading to a dense concentration of pollution. Also what about all of the resources it takes to get goods and services to cities? Is that factored into his pollution equation? I think if this is factored in we might find that fossil fueled trucks, trains, and other forms of transportation are being used to supply these resources.

Health Risks

New York has the third highest cancer risk caused by airborne chemicals. Cities concentrate pollution that contributes to many health problems. Cities also have very high amounts of particulate pollution. With such a large population there is a large amount of garbage that needs to be disposed of. Although I realize that they would have a similar amount if they lived in the suburbs, cities do not have adequate plans for their garbage disposal. They often send it to other land fills in other states. Urban air pollution causes around 1.3 million deaths worldwide per year.

Long term exposure to air pollutants:

  • Increase the risk of respiratory illnesses they include: 
    • Allergies
    • Asthma
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
    • Lung Cancer
    • Cardiovascular disease
  • Children and the Elderly are especially susceptible to Health Effects of Ozone, fine particles, and other airborne toxicants.
  • The more polluted cities are with pollutants and smog, the more someone is at risk for hospitalization and early death.

I think that Owen makes good points but, there are many things he does not take into consideration that make the city solution appear less green. I think all communities need to have more self-sustaining practices, rather then relying on outside sources to bring in many of their goods. There will always be a portion of the population that wants to live in the city and a portion that wants to live in a rural setting. Irregardless of where one is living the use of public transportation, biking and walking should be encouraged. Communities should be as self-sustaining as possible utilizing local resources whenever possible. How will we get to a green world? Maybe a combination of ideas that Americans can adapt to and accept.

Should you read Green Metropolis? 

I highly recommend that you read the book, it contains some excellent ideas and is very insightful. Although, I do not think it is the all answer to our environmental problems it does bring up some very good points. I highly recommend the reading to broaden your look at environmental issues and some possible solutions. I find Owen’s writing to be very opinionated and his model for an environmental world to be very unrealistic.

What do you think? Is city living the way towards an environmentally friendly future?

“Cities all over the world are getting bigger as more and more people move from rural to urban sites, but that has created enormous problems with respect to the environmental pollution and  general quality of life.”

~Alan Dundes

Do you know where your e-waste is going?

What is E-waste? 

E-waste is electronic waste that makes up 5% of municipal solid waste worldwide. E-waste includes phones, computers, televisions, audio equipment, printers, DVD players, and any electronic device.Every year 25 million tons of e-waste is produced, and a large percent of it is dumped abroad.

A Consumerist Society 

In American society we have this notion that we need the newest gadget and we need it now! In each new generation there is an increasing need for instant gratification. Our society no longer purchases only their true needs, but over consumes without  considering the environmental impact. American society is materialistic, and consumers only care about their own selfish needs.

Hazards of E-waste 

E-waste being burned to salvage parts in Ghana

There are harmful elements found in electronics like PVC, mercury, solvents, flame retardants, and lead. Lead can be very disastrous to many organs and tissues (heart, bones, intestines, kidneys), as well as cardiovascular, reproductive, and nervous systems. It can cause symptoms from headaches to seizures, coma, or death. Flame retardants can cause abnormal thyroid metabolism, and poor brain development. When burned, plastic and other materials in electronic products release toxic chemicals. Plastics release dioxins such as; PVC or hydrofluoric acid, which can damage the lungs of those exposed to it. Not only are people who are actively participating in this getting exposed, but also the surrounding communities ground water and air is contaminated. The contaminated water leads to contamination of crops, animals and anyone who drinks it.

Check out the video on the right side that is titled “Toxic U.S. E-waste: Third World Problem.”

Shipped off  

The map above shows the known and suspected routes of e-waste dumping (sorry the picture is so small but it was the only one I could find that contained suspected routes). E-waste is shipped overseas to Asia, India, Africa and other developing countries. Because these people are so impoverished they work at ‘recycling facilities.’ At these facilities they do not wear any protection so their health and environment declines rapidly. These people earn about 1 meal a day while damaging their health. Many of these people are not aware of the risks involved with their work.

What can you do to ensure your e-waste does not end up overseas? 

E-waste recycling programs that have been certified by                        e-stewards have to comply with certain standards. These include waste not being disposed of in solid waste landfills or incinerators, prohibits the exports and imports of electronics and specifically prohibits export of hazardous waste to developing countries. In order for this dangerous oversea shipping to stop, it is necessary for the public to be aware of this issue, and make sure that the e-waste recycling program will not ship overseas.

How are you disposing of your e-waste? Is your e-waste recycler certified?

“Shall we surrender to our surroundings or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land and to our water?”

-Richard Nixon

Is biodegradable really better for the environment?

In the past year I have noticed an increase in products that are biodegradable and like me, you may have just assumed that it is so much better for the environment. Take for instance Cutlery, there are now brands making biodegradable forks, knives, and spoons. Unfortunately many people assume that biodegradable is the same as compostable.

Is biodegradable another greenwashing scheme?

If you are unaware of what greenwashing is, it is an organization using supposedly “green” policies or products when their impact is not what it leads the public to believe.

Biodegradable isn’t compostable

Compostable

  •  60-90% of the product breaks down within 180 day period
  • 90% will be 2 mm or less
  • Won’t leave heavy metals (that are toxic to the soil)

Biodegradable

  • Will break down eventually may be 100 days or 100 billion years
  • When broken down can be dangerous to animals, humans, and plant life

Biodegradable Cutlery

Spudware is made from 80% vegetable starch and 20% soy or other vegetable oils. unfortunately the problems that arise are that instead of oil-based product we will use more agricultural land which increases the cost of foods and other agricultural practices. How many pesticides or fertilizers are being used? Is this really more environmental?

Bioplastic

The production of bioplastic relies on oil-derived plastics, and is reliant on petroleum as energy and materials. Biodegradable plastic is made from petroleum byproducts and take centuries, and millions of years to break down.

95% of all disposable cutlery ends up in the landfill

Biodegradable products mainly end up in the landfills. When in the landfills they break down by microorganisms that produce methane. Methane is collected in the first two years but not required in the United States to be collected after. These biodegradable products take longer to break down and then the methane is released into the atmosphere, which accelerates climate change.

Unaware consumers

Again with many things environmental, the public is not aware of the extent of greenwashing that occurs with the majority of the products deemed ‘green.’ Unless the public is aware of the greenwashing of things like ‘biodegradable’ they will continue thinking that they are doing the better thing. My friend said “I thought I was doing a good thing that was beneficial to the environment, and now I find out it’s just another way for companies to benefit from me being uninformed.” She, like the general public believe what the packaging tells them.

Have you fallen for greenwashing before? 

If you want to find out if a product is greenwashed follow this link:

http://www.greenwashingindex.com/

“In the absence of facts, people believe what they want to believe”

-Jeff Butler