Monday, August 24, 2009

Steps to Less Waste

Well, it has obviously been far too long since I managed to get my last post, well, posted. Three kids still on summer break, a new puppy and a friend with cancer have sort of consumed every free moment. To top it all off I have received verbal pressure from a certain relative whom I will allow to remain unnamed to get something new posted since she is tired of looking at ways to save the ocean. sheesh! So here it is... my lame attempt to throw a few more nuggets into the blogosphere in hopes that someone might decide to make a change that will actually have a positive impact on the world we live in. My hope is that future posts will be more thought provoking but for now, it's all I got in me...

5 Steps to Less Waste, courtesy of Stonyfield Organic.
  • Get a battery recharger. Americans buy roughly three billion dry-cell (AA, AAA, C, D, 9-volt) batteries a year, the majority for one-time use. Use a rechargeable battery and you can prevent hundreds of single-use ones from entering landfills.
  • Use cloth towels and napkins. If just one family of four switched to cloth napkins at each meal for one year, this green step would prevent 4,380 paper napkins from ending up in the trash.
  • Compost. Food and garden scraps make up 24 percent of the municipal solid waste stream. Put these and other biodegradable materials - newspaper, paper bags, autumn leaves - to better use in the compost bin. [note: I LOVE my countertop compost bin and have found that there is a 30-50 percent reduction in our weekly trash can. Then again, I live in Berkeley and am extremely fortunate to the option of curb side compost collecting.]
  • Avoid excess packaging. Product packaging accounts for one-third of trash thrown away, and 15 percent of that comes from consumer items. Buy items in bulk (as opposed to individually wrapped) whenever possible, since bulk items often use less packaging. Get in the habit of asking yourself, "Is the product I'm about to buy worth the eco costs of the packaging it comes in?"
  • Reject junk mail. Those catalogs, pre-approved credit card letters, and sales announcements that arrive in your mailbox create four million (got that? FOUR MILLION) tons of waste each year. Just a days worth of our collective junk mail could heat 250,000 homes. Take your name off junk mailing lists at [note: there is a $20/year fee for this service].
If you are not able to buy items in bulk or pay a $20/yr. fee to stop the mail you don't need then be sure to use your recycling bin. Many of the catalogs, sales announcements, and excess packing you end up with can be tossed straight into the recycling bin. By practicing a bit of mindfulness in deciding where you toss your trash, what you buy, and how you use your products you can make a large impact overall.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

10 Ways to Help the Oceans

To follow up on my previous post I would like to present the 10 ways to help our oceans and beaches as recommended by the Surfrider Foundation.
  1. Pick up your pet's wastes. Pet waste that reaches the ocean can make both people and marine life sick!
  2. Conserve energy. Switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and other energy saving activities helps to slow climate change. Global warming will have dramatic impacts on our coastlines.
  3. Hold onto your butt. It's best not to smoke, but if you do, make sure you dispose of your used cigarette in a proper waste container. Cigarette butts are the number one litter component found on the beach!
  4. Don't hose down your driveways. Not only does it waste water, but it causes oils and other pollutants to end up in our oceans. Use a broom and dust pan instead.
  5. Use native or climate-adapted plants in your garden. These kinds of plants use less water, which helps reduce runoff and helps keep our beaches clean.
  6. Always dispose of used motor oil properly. Never dump oil in a storm drain or field. Instead, take it to a gas station or approved collection area for recycling.
  7. When you go to the beach, make sure you not only pick up your trash, try and pick up at least one piece of somebody else's. If everyone did this, we'd have our beaches and coastlines looking better in no time!
  8. Cut back on your use of fertilizers. Excess fertilizers that make it into our waterways can cause harmful plankton blooms that can harm fish, marine mammals and other sea life.
  9. Avoid using single-use plastic bottles and bags. These and other types of plastics often end up on our beaches and in our oceans, where they harm birds, sea turtles and other marine life. Instead, use refillable bottles and reusable bags and containers.
  10. Join the Surfrider Foundation! They are a non-profit grassroots environmental organization that works to protect oceans, waves and beaches across the globe. (*note, author is not affiliated with Surfrider Foundation.)
After spending three glorious weeks living on the beach in San Clemente, California, and thoroughly enjoying the ability to so freely take in the views, I can attest to the importance of keeping our oceans clean. There is nothing so relaxing and breathtaking as the meditative influence of the ocean, watching children playing in the sand, surfers gracefully dancing across the waves. Problems seem so minimal within moments of gazing at the open water. Life takes on a different pace.

So make the choice. What environment would you like to leave to future generation? What example do we want to set for our children? We have a choice based on our actions.

Be the Change. The Surfrider Foundation is providing us with an excellent tool set for action. Today!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Island of the Blue Dolphins

When I was a young girl one of my favorite books was Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell. It provided a glimpse into a world very different from my own where animals become equals. A world where the life of an animal is as important as that of a human. It sheds light on the larger environment that exists outside of our "normal" human life.

I recently had the opportunity to go on a whale watching tour outside of Dana Point Harbor in Southern California. After taking a dramamine and arrogantly believing that would be sufficient for any potential nausea I was quickly humbled by the greatness of the ocean. The further we got from land the more my stomach tossed and turned. I shrugged off the majesty I was experiencing by counting the minutes before my feet would be firmly placed on land. I didn't understand all of the oohs and awwws that were coming from people when they thought they saw the hump of a whale or a splash of water that might have been a dolphin. Whatever. Then the dolphins materialized. Beautiful, playful dolphins. My favorite creature. The particular species that we witnessed were Common Dolphins, named as such because they are common in various regions around the world. I realized that despite the constant nausea I was experiencing I could sit and watch these aquatically playful creatures all day long.

Then the whale search began. This is when I really sighed and shrugged off the humps that were surfacing hundreds of yards from the boat. "That is what we came out here for?!" I began to think that whale watching was not at all what I had expected. A shot of water here, a hump surfacing there, all too far for anyone to really understand what we were seeing. And then it happened. A few close feet from the boat this magnificently graceful blue whale surfaced to reveal hundreds of feet of gray-blue blubber. I found the experience to be equally exhilarating and terrifying. The size of this mammal revealed the grandioseness that exists outside of myself and how inconsequential I am within the greater world. The blue whale is the largest mammal, and possibly the largest animal to inhabit the earth, with a length reaching upward of 100 feet. Suddenly my nausea and indifference to the whale watching experience dissipated.
In all their naive bliss these animals, dolphin and whale alike, seemed so incredibly peaceful and playful in their ordinary routines. It made me sadly ponder their potential demise if we continue with the environmental Apocalypse we are creating.

Ocean pollution is becoming an major problem for ocean organisms. Toxic chemicals, plastic, garbage, and oil spills are all making their ways into our water ways while gravely affecting sea life. Due to the food chain these toxins are likely to end up in our systems since one toxic organism eats a smaller toxic organism only to end up in the seafood that ends up on your plate. That is if the seafood doesn't become extinct first due to the plethora of toxins these organisms are facing. And if it isn't toxins that kills the whales and dolphins and their friends it might surely be the plastic bags. According to the World Wildlife Fund Report that thousands of different species of sea life including whales, dolphins, seals and turtles die each year due to plastic bags littering. Additionally, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences reports that "a study in 1975 showed oceangoing vessels together dumped 8 million pounds of plastic annually. The reason that the world's landfills weren't overflowing with plastic was because most of it ended up in an ocean-fill." That report is from 1975 and one can only hope that things have since improved, yet the cruise ship industry shows otherwise.

According to Marcie Keever, director of the Clean Vessels Campaign of Friends of the Earth, a one week voyage on a cruise ship produces 210,000 gallons of sewage, a million gallons of gray water (runoff from sinks, baths, showers, and laundry), 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water, 11,550 gallons of sewage sludge and 130 gallons of hazardous waste. All in the water. All in the home of those beautiful blue whales and playfully innocent dolphins.

As I sign off I am becoming nostalgic. Long before Weeds and Desperate Housewives there was a show that caught my attention like no other. Flipper. How could anyone even consider dumping toxins into the likes of Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve? To kill Flipper? It's unconscionable. We need to think the same way of all ocean life and work to make changes that will preserve our oceans and our earth.

"Eternity begins and ends with the ocean's tides." -unknown

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Be Aware

After a few weeks off I'm starting to ramp back up with The Daily Sprout postings. Here's to a relaxing summer filled with warmth, clean air and open oceans. So today, with a nod to Jane Goodall, let's all be aware of our actions and the ripple effect that occurs from those actions.

"The most important thing is to actually think about what you do. To become aware and actually think about the effect of what you do on the environment and on the society. That's key, and that underlies everything else." - Jane Goodall.

Monday, May 4, 2009

PMS and the Environment

4 out of 5 environmental scientist have found PMS to be harmful to the environment. Okay, so that might not actually be true, but if any of those five scientists saw my behavior yesterday they might come to a unanimous agreement that PMS can, in fact, be quite harmful to our decaying Earth. Point on example:

Scene 1: Mom and daughter walking hand in hand, sunlight shining on their faces, butterflies fluttering about while they skip down the street in search of memorable token for said daughter.

Scene 2: Mom and daughter enter locally owned toy store in hopes of finding daughter treat for being such a delightful child.

Scene 3: Daughter, after much intense deliberation, finds lovely, little horse figurine. Mom pays for lovely, little horse figurine.

Scene 4: Mom and daughter get in car (Prius). Daughter begins protest over selected toy. Crying, screaming, and kicking all take place from daughter after deciding she no longer likes or wants horse. Mom grabs toy from daughter and proceeds to toss new toy (price tag still attached) directly out window onto sidewalk.

Scene 5: Dr. Phil intervenes and awards mom with "Most Insane Parenting Moment of the Year" certificate.

Okay, so maybe scene five didn't actually happen, but I'm sorry to admit that the preceding events actually did play out. It was not one of my finer parenting moments. In fact, it was an all time low. My older daughter, who witness the insanity, pointed out to me in an inquisitive tone "wasn't I littering by throwing the toy out the window?" Well, of course I was but justified my actions by stating that some deserving and appreciative child was bound to come along, find toy and thus experience a random act of kindness. Geez, the whole Toy Story theme is suddenly coming to me as I think about the talking toys and their concern for feeling appreciated and loved. It's a damn good thing that poor horse, so freely tossed out the window, can't talk for it would surely come back to haunt me.

Once I got home and cooled my hormonally crazed mind I shamed myself into thinking of the many alternative ways I could have handled the situation. And, I shamed myself into thinking about the environmentally sound example (or lack of) I had just provided my kids when dealing with unwanted items. Sheesh. I really won't be all that surprised if Dr. Phil shows up at my door afterall.

So, for all of you PMS crazed mothers who feel inclined to dispose of your children's toys when you feel they need a lesson of appreciating what they have, please don't follow my lead. Rather, choose some of the resources listed below.
Remember "cooler heads prevail" and if that doesn't work try locking yourself in the bathroom with a cup of Chamomile tea, or a stiff Martini. This too shall pass, until it happens again next month.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

50 Ways

Just like the 50 ways to leave your lover, there are also 50 ways to save the planet.

#8 supports Michael Pollan's "Meatless Monday" concept, while #17 could lead to some interesting prospects.
Or, you could choose something as simple as #26 or as intensive as #19. Whichever you choose know that you will be making a difference.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Earth Day, founded in 1970, is celebrated in the United States on April 22. Today. As a result of the celebration I have been inundated with retail discounts and offerings from almost every direction, from companies that are not even "green" per se. In this economy businesses are getting creative in their advertising methods to drum up sales.

In celebration of Earth Day I instead encourage you to ignore these offers. Ignore the greenwashing that takes place from retailers trying to sell us more "stuff" that we don't need. Ignore the commercialism that has taken over America. Instead, go on a shopping diet. Buy only what you need. Think about your purchases before giving into to discounted temptations. The Earth will thank you in the end. Every purchase that you makes has to end up somewhere? Eventually, it's likely to end up in a landfill.

An average family of four throws away approximately 600 lbs. of trash every month. Multiply that by 306,000,000 people and see what you come up with. It creates a whole lot of freakin' trash, much of which could actually be recycled instead of getting buried in a landfill.

So, instead of heading out to hit up the green day sales choose to stay home and chill. Even better, chill with a nice, green mojito in your recycled glass tumblers while making a toast to Mother Earth.