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.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Home is Where the Heart Is

Home is where the respiratory system, the kidneys, the livers, and of course, the heart is. It is also where the off-gassing is. Off-gassing being the emission of noxious gases that are frequently emitted inside homes from everyday items. Products such as flooring, paints, furniture, bedding. Items we purchase without a second thought and then sit, sleep, and eat on. Americans spend 90% of their time indoors so it is important that the air we are breathing is clean and healthy. Off-gassing, however, does not constitute clean and healthy, and in fact, can have detrimental affects on the aforementioned organs.

Then there are the elements that make up the production of the home. Those too contribute to off-gassing which then contribute the demise of an environmentally sound structure. Fortunately there are some sustainably designed options available today that are as stylish as they are green. Even if you can't jump into a full blown remodel or brand spankin' new pre-fab you can still look to these designs for inspiration. One action in the right direction can still make a difference.

Michelle Kaufmann Designs: Michelle Kaufmann is a architectural design firm that specializes in sustainable and innovative designs. Having won several awards for her stylist and environmentally-friendly architectural gems her designs are just plain cool.

Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects: This group of talented folks have created Rolling Huts. Yes, rolling huts that you can wheel around and stick the in-laws in. The designers refer to the huts as a step above camping, and remain low-tech and low-impact with their design. I'd say they are a few steps above camping and can think of many times when I'd have loved to escape to my own Rolling Hut.

Taliesin Mod.Fab: This ultra modern structure was created by graduate and undergraduate students at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in Arizona. The Tasliesin exemplifies clean lines, elegance and sustainable living.

Kaplan Thompson Architects BrightBuilt Barn: This project is a collaboration between Kaplan Thompson Architects, Bensonwood Homes, and several Maine engineers and professionals. The structure features renewable materials, water conservation, energy efficiency, sustainable landscape, and renewable power. According to the team the goals from the start have been: livability, sustainability, replicability / affordability, disentaglement / flexibility, and education.

We are in the infancy stage of green building and while these examples stand out for their innovative designs there will soon be a day when sustainable living is the new normal. Hopefully that normality will be accepted sooner rather than later.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

East vs. West

East vs. West

I recently returned from New York City and after getting over my intense appreciation for thecity found myself doing an eco-comparison of East vs. West. The first observation, which is really quite obvious, is that East Coast folk are big on mass transit. How could they not?! No parking and tons of traffic have made mass transit a way of life. It simply becomes part of the equation in getting from point A to point B. After doing my share of BART riding (Bay Area Rapid Transit - for those outer bay area folk) I actually found the NY subways to be quite... clean! I have heard stories of rats mocking the riders but was fortunate enough to have missed such performances. The cabs, on the otherhand, are a whole other story. They are a hit or miss experience. One might have the pungent smell of gasoline being driven by a foreigner with limited language skills while another could potentially be a hybrid driving, recently demoralized, Madoff feeder fund broker.

Two years ago Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a green transportation effort by requiring the city to turn its fleet of yellow, gas consuming taxis into hybrid, earth loving fares. That has since been overturned by a judge who deemed the proposal as violating federal law. Whatever! Federal Law, schmederal law. Good for you Bloomberg for trying to turn the page. Councilman David Yassky says that "with our child asthma rate more than twice the national average, it is our kids who will suffer from dirtier air, and New Yorkers should be upset with that outcome." Yassky is committed to seeing the hybrid taxi legislation through and intends to work with the Mayor and the federal representatives to put New York on a greener path.

So, what is San Francisco doing, I wondered? It turns out that Mayor Gavin Newsom is working toward greening the city, but it just doesn't seem to have the same flair and extravagance as New York's plan. Fair enough. New York is a more extravagant city. And besides, the west coast is probably a tad bit greener anyway so New York has to catch up with us, right? Anyhoo, last year Newsom unveiled several, or at least three, converted electric city vehicles that will be used by city departments in hopes of bringing attention to the technology while raising awareness. "I think this is where change occurs, on a local level," Newsom said. Perfect. Great. I do actually agree with Mr. Perfect Hair, but the price tag on those cars is approximately $60k. Very few San Franciscans recently affected by our currently crappy economy will want to throw $60,000 on a consumer reports gamble of a car. It seems that it might be a better solution to follow Mr. Bloomberg's intentions by requiring greener cabs and buses. Just a thought. Maybe when I'm Mayor of SF I can propose Prius cabs, Biodiesal buses, and peace loving orgies in the streets. Kidding! I'm far too conservative for the latter, but still. It's a thought.

I guess the end result of this rant is that there are pros and cons that exist on each coast. We can certainly learn from each other and take the best that we each have to offer. As far as I'm concerned, East Coast. West Coast. You can't go wrong. But there's a long way to go for us both to be right. (but not in the political sense!)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ode to the Winos

At the ripe old age of forty-something I belong to a "sorority" of sorts. It's a sorority of sisters that began with the commonality of living in the same neighborhood, yet we have evolved to become a group of friends who get together, drink wine and enjoy each others company. We dish about caring for and killing class pets, ailing parents, snoring spouses and the finer points of pole dancing. Ranging in age from 30's to 70's, we are varied characteristically and professionally, have children, pets or neither, are single, married, divorced. Other than being modern, like-minded, liberally thinking women from an urban territory we could potentially come from a slice of life in Any Town, USA. Except maybe Utah. We even have a moniker that we use to introduce our connection. "So, how do you know Mary?" "Oh, she's a Wino." Yes, we are a proud kind.

I assure you folks, my sentimental meandering does have a purpose. The point I'm getting at is that we drink a lot of wine which leaves a lot of bottles and corks at the end of the night. The bottles go straight into the recycling bin, yet the corks often get tossed to the trash. It turns out, however, that you can now recycle your corks. It takes a bit more work, but environmentally speaking, is worth it. Yemm & Hart, a company in Missouri, is collecting wine corks with the goal of turning them into sustainable products, most specifically wine cork tiles. At the end of 2007 they had received 3,000 lbs. of corks! Recork America, a subsidiary of Amorim and located in Larkspur, CA, is working to turn the corks into items such as flooring, ping pong paddles and insulation. Thus far they have collected over 300,000 corks. Convienently, Recork has set up donation drop offs at several Whole Foods within California, as well as many locations throughout Napa, Yountville and St. Helena. You can view a complete list of collection locations here.

Recork's motto is "Making a difference one cork at a time." I'm thinking that might also be a pretty good motto for The Winos to adopt. Now we can enjoy our favorite pastime while doing some good for Mother Earth. So, here, here. I toast to The Winos. My favorite ladies who have my back, as I do theirs. Cheers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Enjoy What You've Got, While You've Got It.

"It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it's still here." - Edward Abbey

There is a list of places to see before they disappear due to climate change. Places that we take for granted in the same manner of thinking that our friends and family will always be by our sides. There is a circle of life that occurs and it now appears that the same cycle applies to many of our beloved historical sites.

According to CNN there are some specific sites that scientists expect to be altered or ruined due to climate change. Those locations are: Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado, Alpine Glaciers, Switzerland, the Amazon Rain Forest in Brazil, and my beloved favorite New Orleans, Louisiana. Others have hinted at the demise of The Pyramids of Giza, the Tower of London, the city of Venice, The Dead Sea, Florida Everglades... the list goes on and on. Heck, Frommer's has created a whole book on the 500 places to see before they disappear.

In my world I cannot imagine the possibility of not visiting the rain forest, alps or heading back to N'awlins. In my world we all dance with flowers in our hair while dreaming of places such as those mentioned above. Instead we are destroying the beauty around us. I suppose this metaphor could be used for many scenarios. [insert favorite noun here]. As a sheltered girl who didn't get on a plane until the age of 16 there is nothing more that I want for my children other than to be happy and travel. Traveling opens our eyes, our hearts and our minds. It is a tragic occurrence that we are losing some of the beauty that makes our planet so incredibly wondrous. What will we be left with once its all gone? Pixar has left an indelible mark on me as my mind usually wanders to the scenes from Wall-E when imagining our future world. It looks nothing like the future I imagined as a kid: can you say, Jetsons?!

So get your travel on and go. Forget the new carpet and paint. Forget the boob job you don't need. Go travel. Learn. Listen. See. Those images you stumble across might be gone tomorrow.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What is Fluffy Laying On?

Once upon a time there was a little kitty named Midnight. Midnight loved to lounge about on the comfy, flame-retardant sofa that her master so lovingly provided for her. Day and night she had her spot, and no one dare invade her spot or think of shooing her off. Years went by as Midnight lounged in the sun while taking in toxic fumes that emanated from the fire-proof perch she called home. Of course, during those last years her master did have to become a bit of a nurse while injecting Midnight with fluids to keep her alive due to a hyperthyroid disease. As you can imagine she didn't like those needles anymore than you or I would like them. In the end, Midnight perished from the toxic chemicals found in his owners couch. That couch belonged to Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute and a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's Department of Chemistry. Blum documented her story in an L.A. Times article titled "Did the State Kill My Cat?" It's a reasonable question considering that Blum's cat was tested by a veterinarian epidemiologist and was found to have among the highest levels of PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers - aka: bad chemicals) ever documented in animal research. This has led Blum to become a leader in defeating proposed standards that would keep PBDEs in our products.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are organobromine compounds that are used as flame retardant and can be found in several products including furnishings, airplanes, textiles and building materials. The problem with PBDEs is the ubiquitous usage in household products that provide low-levels of exposure. Those low-levels add up to significant problems. PBDEs can be inhaled and ingested without an individual even realizing it and then are stored in fat tissue, breast milk, blood... Individuals who are most at risk are those working in the manufacturing plants that use PBDEs in their products. Some of the risks from exposure include asthma, kidney and liver problems, hormone disruption, and brain development disruption in children. It 'aint pretty, folks.

So, here's the biggest problem. California is the worst in the United States for high levels of PBDEs, being ten times higher than other states and 200 times higher than Europe. A law authored by assemblyman Mark Leno would require all seating, bedding, and furniture to comply with requirements that eliminate brominated or chlorinated flame retardants and be adequately labeled by January 1, 2010. One can only hope that we will begin to move in the direction of eliminating toxic and unnecessary chemicals from all household products. Until it is required of companies it is imperative that you do your homework on products and buy organic. Companies such as EcoChoices, Furnature, Lee Industries, and Cisco Brothers all produce lines of organic furnishings that do not contain PBDEs. Until then, keep Fluffy off the couch and work toward eliminating those PBDEs from your life.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Where Do All the Baggies Go?

I hate making school lunches. I hate coming up with clever menus in an attempt to get my kids to eat somewhat healthy meals each day. I mostly get by with pb&j sandwiches, a bit of fruit, and goldfish crackers that are likely loaded with more ingredients than necessary, and every so often I get very savvy and plan ahead with leftovers from the previous nights dinner. So how do I package all of these delicious morsels for my little chicas? Why, with love, of course. I also have utilized products from Kid Konserve and Wrap-N-Mat. Both provide wonderfully reusable products that can be used in kid and adult lunches. The Laptop Lunch just didn't do it for me, but I know many families who rave about it and manage to make the bento style box work amazingly for their food choices.

So, while I was diligently using the reusable sandwich wraps and stainless steel food containers I always felt remiss while grabbing for a plastic ziplock bag for particular items. It was only after stopping in at Kid Dynamo, a great "healthy kid, healthy planet" retail store in Berkeley, that the owners turned me onto natural waxed paper bags. They are unbleached, non-toxic when incinerated, landfill safe, and will not contaminate ground water. You can just toss them in your compost or trash and know that you are not contributing to our growing environmental detriment. Since using them I have found them to hold up great for sliced fruits or veggies, chips, crackers, etc.... pretty much anything you would use plastic bags for except mushy-type items that would be better served in a reusable glass container.

To put the plastic bag usage in perspective Americans throw away close to 100 billion plastic bags each year. Many of those are plastic ziplock baggies. These bags often end up in our bodies of water, which then end up in our fish, and then onto our dinner tables. As described by Katharine Mieszkowski of Salon Magazine, "Plastic bags are killing us." By replacing our plastic bag usage with non-toxic items that we can compost there is a chance of eliminating this epidemic while preventing scenarios such as this...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What Would Dave Do?

Yes, what would Dave do? Dave being none other than the formidable Dave Brower, former founder and executive director of the Sierra Club, founder of Friends of the Earth (FOE), Earth Island Institute, Rainforest Action Network, and several other environment groups. Dave was basically just a kick-ass guy who stood up for what he believed in, and wasn't afraid to back down to those who told him no. Dave also was the guy who, way back in 1970, created the first Earth Day. Heck, Dave was even born in Berkeley which I find pretty cool. Oh, and he was also nominated THREE times for the nobel peace prize. Pretty impressive, hey? So now you can watch this quick little video about Dave and the Brower Youth Awards. Just remember to think about that question they leave you with... what WILL you do

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Story of Stuff

Once upon a time there was a story of stuff. A lovely story, really. Extraction, Production, and Distribution. And then there was Consumption and Disposal, all at play while Mother Earth watched over.

To hear The Story of Stuff, narrated by Annie Leonard, settle in, get comfortable and enjoy the story. I hope that you are able to come away with some reflection on our daily routines and how those habits effect our planet.

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Things Are Not Always as They Seem

What does it mean to be green? There are more and more "green" labels getting slapped onto one product after the next these days. Green has become the new trend and companies are trying every which way possible to be a part of the new movement. Be forewarned, however. Many of these so-called green companies are practicing what has become known as greenwashing. As explained on Wikipedia:
  • Greenwash (a pormanteau of green and whitewash) is a term used to describe the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly, such as by presenting cost cuts as reductions in use of resources. It is a deceptive use of green PR or green marketing. The term green sheen has similarly been used to describe organizations that attempt to show that they are adopting practices beneficial to the environment.
Some of the most blatant examples of green washing is to simply slap a green leaf on the packaging and call it pure, natural or organic. The current Power of Human Energy campaign by Chevron is a prime example. They have spent $15 million coming up with some great diddies that are plastered on buses and billboards touting statements such as "I will carpool to work" and "I will use less energy" while being listed as one of the top ten corporate polluters. Chevron has been fined more than $300 million by the Kazakhstan government for environmental violations and $1.8 million in the United States for their water and air pollution violations at their Richmond, California refinery. One can only hope that there is some truth to their promise of investing in clean and efficient energy options.

Bamboo. Ah, bamboo. Everyone loves bamboo these days. It is the "it" item to have, install, wear. Granted, bamboo is a rapidly renewable resource but there are several additional factors that should be considered. For instance, with wood floors. There is a knee-jerk reaction to install bamboo flooring without looking deeper at the environmental implications that can be at play. Urea-formaldehyde is an incredibly noxious chemical that can be found in adhesives in many wood floor options. It is very important when installing bamboo, or any flooring, that it is a UF-free product. Next, you should inquire as to where your bamboo flooring is coming from. Quite frequently you can find a bamboo product that has travels to five different countries for total assembly. Bamboo in one country. Adhesives in another, assembly in a third. So yes, bamboo is a sustainable choice but not if its travels half way around the world and contains dangerous chemicals that will off gas in your home for the next twenty years. Plyboo is just one of many great flooring option available within the U.S.

So what's the moral of all this blabbering? Ask questions and think about the big picture when looking at "green" products. Things are not always as they seem.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Many Uses of Coffee Filters

There is a spam spewing email inundating the internet that touts the many uses of coffee filters. It's actually a quite useful set of ideas except that a more sustainable practice would be to use a rag, a reusable cleaning cloth, or one of Methods multiple use clothes that are for glass, wood or stainless steel. If you are set on sticking with coffee filters just make sure they are unbleached and natural, and don't forget to follow #15, my added suggestion, to compost those bad boys.

Okay, here goes:
  1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.
  2. Clean windows and mirrors. Coffee filters are lint-free so they'll leave windows sparkling.
  3. Protect China. Separate your good dishes by putting a coffee filter between each dish.
  4. Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a bottle of wine, filter the wine through a coffee filter.
  5. Protect a cast-iron skillet. Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.
  6. Apply shoe polish (who uses shoe polishes anymore?!). Ball up a lint-free coffee filter and use to apply polish.
  7. Recycle frying oil. After frying, strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee filter.
  8. Weigh chopped foods. Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen scale.
  9. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.
  10. Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.
  11. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke a hole or two, as needed, in a coffee filter and drop the popsicle handle in. Drip will fall onto filter and away from little (or big!) hands.
  12. Use strips to wax your eyebrows. (*disclaimer. this is not something I advocate unless you truly know what you're doing!!!)
  13. Put a few filters in a plate and put your fried bacon, french fries, chicken fingers, or other greasy foods on them. They soak out all the grease.
  14. Keep them in the bathroom for "razor nick fixers."
  15. Compost. Compost. Compost.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

In Through The Front Door...

...once around the back, peek through the window, and off jumps Jack! If you are a knitter you will recognize the phrase. As a newbie, just off the turnip truck beginner, I managed to get through a stitch or two with that phrase. I have found knitting quite zen-like. A great way to calm the mind with the meditative practice of working the needles and yarn. Now, with the onset of several sustainable yarns you can feel at peace while also giving a nod to the planet.

At Purl in New York City you can find bamboo and organic cotton fibers, while Mango Moon Yarns, working to change the world one stitch at a time" sells yarn and thread from discarded saris and sarongs. Lana Knits Designs carries a luxurious hemp line that is both durable and nonshrinkable, and vegan knitters can get their groove on with Soysilk hypoallergenic and vegan fibers made out of the remnants from tofu manufacturing!

You can find more information on working with these fibers and knitting tips here. So grab a nice, comforting cup of tea, sit on down and get Jack jumping off the needles.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now?

Have you ever wondered what happens to the 2 billion cell phones that are currently in use worldwide after we've all stopped talking? After we've upgraded the old Nokias for the newest and snazziest, got-to-have model? Gee, that sort of comes out sounding like the 60 year old going through a mid-life crisis while upgrading his older, but stable wife for the younger, and cuter model. But I digress.... cell phones. Yes, they've become the necessary evil, but they do prove to be useful, especially in times of emergency. Which leads me to one of the best uses for recycling your old cell phone. The Wireless Foundation is a non-profit organization that refurbishes old cell phones for survivors of domestic violence. The refurbished phones are sold with 100% of the sales going toward prevention programs and national awareness campaigns. You can go here to find your local drop off location. You can also find drop boxes for Cell Phones for Soldiers at various AT&T stores throughout the United States. AT&T has donated more than $500,000 for pre-paid phone cards allowing our troops to call home.

But what about your small appliances and television, you ask? With MP3 players inundating every ear canal on the planet its a worthy question. Apple will accept your old iPods or cell phones and provide a 10% discount on the purchase of a new iPod. It's not a perfect solution since keeping your old player is better for the environment, but if you've got to toss it than at least toss to those who will recycle. Staples and RadioShack have also implemented in-store recycling programs where you can drop off your smaller, unwanted electronics. Best Buy will haul away and recycle your old television when you purchase a new one from them, and Office Depot provides a Tech Recycling Program by selling boxes for $5, $10, or $15 which you fill with as many approved items as possible and the company will do the recycling for you.

If none of the above options fill your recycling needs you can always turn to the tried, and true, Earth911 for information on recycling virtually anything in your area. Now clear your conscious and your closet and get on with your recycling!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Be The Change

Mahatma Ghandi, ye wise philosopher full of peace, once said "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Okay, so this works if you see that the world needs change, but there are many people who think everything is just hunky-doorey. Well guess what folks, it's not! Again, let me remind you... melting ice caps, polar bear extinction, warming planet.

So here's a little suggestion. Try it for a day. Heck, be daring. Try it for two days. Shift your perspective. In each of your daily routines slow down and think about the consequences of your actions. Stop and think about the life cycle of that next throw away item you're saving for, about your actions as you carelessly toss that wrapper into the wind, as you walk by a person in need. We create the world we live in, through our actions and our perspectives. By slowing down just a bit, putting ourselves in another's place, and even going so far to consider what our world might look like through the eyes of future generations, we have the ability to shift our actions and our perspectives.

And, as I write this my mind drifts to the acceptance speech that Sean Penn so eloquently spoke of at the Academy Awards. While it may not be directly related to our earth it is related to the shifting of perspectives. There is a vast need to open our minds and our hearts. We must shift our perspectives for the sake of removing the ignorance and narrow-mindedness that currently plagues our world. As Penn questions, "to sit and reflect and anticipate the shame and disgrace in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue in this way to support." You might know what this quote is alluding to, but really, it can be applied to many areas. In the end, we simply must be the change that we wish to see.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Sweet Valentine

Ah, the joys of love. One day of the year that we are supposed to lavish our loved one with sweet nothings. Chocolates. Champagne. Silly stuffed bears holding hearts. But isn't all of it kinda silly? Shouldn't we be rewarding our loved ones on a daily basis with little rewards of love, respect, kindness, empathy... It seems that we'd have a lot less bears laying in a landfill after the love is gone.

Of course, I say this as an ever-so-hypocritical-being while sipping champagne and eating chocolates. This wouldn't be such a bad scenario if it weren't for the fact that I'm in Hawaii drinking champagne that traveled roughly the same 2,000 miles that I did to arrive here. The sweets are pure Hawaiian choc covered macadamia nuts, but it seems there might have been a better option for the spirits, though I'm not sure what? Maybe a mai tai with locally made rum? The point I'm trying to get at is "Buy locally grown." We spend an immense amount of fossil fuels shuffling our fares from one locale to another. If we could just make due with the supplies in our near vicinity we'd be doing much better off from an environmental perspective. But what if we are hell bent on jetting off to Hawaii when the smart thing to do would really be to find a local beach within driving distance? What if we could do something to say, off set the large carbon footprint that we're stomping into the earth with a 5,000 mile round trip vacation? Well, maybe there is something we can do.

Enter, Terra Pass. The idea is that we all contribute to global warming and all have our own individual carbon footprint. By becoming a part of the terra pass movement you can help reduce that footprint. They even have a nifty little footprint calculator so that you can figure out just how much you are using, and how much you can throw into "the pot" to offset your extravagent lifestyle, with "the pot" being carbon offset programs. For example, the carbon footprint for flying five people from Oakland, California to Hawaii is 6,040 lbs. of CO2 which calculates to $41.65 toward offset programs.

So, I have digressed. Valentines Day. Don't go out and buy a bunch of stuff that your lovely better half can do without. Instead think outside of the Hallmark box with your expressions of love. Candlelight dinner for two. Chocolates from your local chocolatier (and if you live in the Bay Area I highly recommend Scharffen Berger chocolates while they are still in existence). Bath salts and a massage. You get the point. Non-consumables. Things that will get used up. Not used and then tossed. And forget Hallmark. Given that 370 million tons of paper products are used each year it would be much better to whisper sweet nothings into your lovely's ear.

It's time to get creative. Time to start putting a little effort into our gift giving rather than just buying more and more stuff. Buying love is not doing it any longer. The environment needs more from us than mindless actions. The environment needs us to go a step further and give a little love to Mother Earth. So here's to V-Day. Now off you go. Enjoy that champagne and chocolates, just forego the stuffed bear.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm gonna wash that gray right out of my hair....

I'm gonna wash that gray right out of my hair, and send it on it's way.
Yes, I'm sitting here with a Target bag on my head while threatening my children with the prospect of driving them to school looking like this if they don't behave. Gets 'em every time. Hair dye. It's such a necessary evil. Or at least a necessity in my book of trying to stave off a little bit of the aging process. I could certainly head on down to my overpriced salon and pay my usual $150 for a head full of color, but this time I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands which might turn out to be a major mistake. Thank god my husband loves me. And even better... he likes me with short hair, which is what I will have after I shave my head from this potential fiasco. For now, as the timer ticks away, I will cross my fingers, hope for the best, and chalk it up to my environmental side wrestling with my vanity.

Okay, 40 minutes later and all is good. The gray is minimally erased, and it seems I have been spared the need to shave my head for the time being. I'm not entirely sure that I'm sold on this environmentally friendly hair dye, but it was certainly worth a try. Especially given the data. Chemical hair dye is linked to both environmental pollution, as well as a variety of health problems. The most dangerous of the chemicals, phenylenediamine (PPD, or its derivative names benzenediamine dihydrochloride, or aminoaniline dihydrocholoride) are what allows the color to bond with the hair. Other hair dyes, containing coal tar, consist of toxic metals such as lead or mercury. So, what's a girl to do? Well, you can try a natural dye that does not contain PPDs, as I did. Just don't expect the same results as your toxic laden mixture of yesteryear to produce the same results.

So what are your choices? Well, Aveda touts themselves as "The Art and Science of Pure Flower and Plant Essences" and their hair dyes are actually 97 percent plant based, which seems to be the best option available today for a salon job. For home choices look for brands such as Ecocolors, Naturtint, or Light Mountain Natural Hair Color. Then there is Henna, which as been around since the days of Cleopatra. Made from the powdered leaves of a desert shrub called Lawsonia, henna has been used for thousands of years to color hair. 'Tis a bit of a problem if you're a blonde, but otherwise worth a consideration. In the end, the safest choice of all is to simply accept oneself as they are, but hey, not all of us have embraced our silver fox status. At least not yet. When I'm 100% gray and look as good as Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada, count me in. Until then, I'll just have opt for whatever henna-like, flower powered hair dye I can find.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Octuplets + Six = Crazy

I love my kids. I love my kids more than anything on this warming planet of ours, but that doesn't mean that I need to head out and pop fertility drugs to expand my brood by eight. Apparently I am nothing like the a Fullerton, California woman who recently gave birth to octuplets last week, after already having six (yes, SIX) kids that she also produced from fertility drugs and a sperm donor. Come on already. Who exactly was this dim-witted doctor who decided it was a good idea to impregnate this women with eight embryos. I understand that she didn't actually think she was going to have eight kids, but just seeking out the drugs and the sperm were irresponsible enough given that she is unemployed and living with her parents.

Okay, maybe this is where I should step back from my judgments. I am not opposed to anyone who is unemployed and living with their parents. We are in difficult times and it's not unreasonable to reach out for help when you need it. What is unreasonable is bringing eight more children into the world when you can't support the six that you already have; when our world is suffering from over population and a lack of resources; when there are more than 100,000 children in foster care wishing for a family to call their own. This was not a mere "accident" if you will, but a woman who sought out a medical procedure that would ensure that she would, in fact, find herself pregnant, yet again; she sought out a procedure that is known for producing multi-birth pregnancies, and there is a doctor out in the world who has allowed this to happen. It seems utterly ridiculous to me. Beyond utterly ridiculous. I believe that every woman, should she choose, be entitled to give birth to a child by any possible means, but I don't think that it is a responsible decision to continue to bring more and more children into the world in the midst of an environmental and economic crisis with thousands of available children waiting for homes. Call me crazy, but that's how I see it. Here are the numbers:

1804 - 1 billion people on the planet
1927 - 2 billion people
1960 - 3 billion
1974 - 4 billion
currently, we have approximately 6.75 billion people on the planet.

If you are over 40 years old than the world has more than doubled in size since you were born. The numbers are increasing at a faster rate than ever before. Crazy, no? And during this time the amount of fossil fuels that we are using has increased at a speed breaking pace. It has become a double whammy for our planet. While we have been very fortunate to have the medical breakthroughs that extend our life span, we still have to control ourselves a bit. Go off, kids. Have your fun but protect yourself for God's sake. And protect our country. And, please don't go asking Ms. Fertile Myrtle for overly zealous procreating pills. Enjoy the youngin's that you have, or even better, welcome another youngin' to join your kin. Tap into your inner Angelina. The world will be better off for it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Time Has Come

I think President Kennedy was on to something when he made the profound statement, "ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country." Such words have never been so timely and appropriate despite the almost 50 years that have passed since he spoke them. President Kennedy continued with words that hauntingly describe our world today...

"Finally, whether you are a citizen of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history as the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own."

We, the people, need to act, and we need to act swiftly. Not tomorrow, or the next day. Today. It is not the extinction of polar bears that I am worried about. While I find polar bears to be tremendously adorable, all cuddly out there on their melting ice caps, it is the human race that I am concerned out. It is humans that will become extinct. We do not need to save Planet Earth. We need to save ourselves because in the end the Earth will survive. She will restore and regenerate herself, but we don't have the same means. Once we kill ourselves off, that is it. There is no restoring and regenerating.

I know what you're thinking. Oh, but we're smarter than that. We have technology to make sure that doesn't happen, and besides, nothing bad is really going to happen anyway. Wrong. Just look at what happened during Hurricane Katrina. My guess is that Mother Earth is pretty pissed off and she was just letting off a little steam with that storm. Imagine Katrina 10 fold and you might get a glimmer of what is to come if we throw away our resources without a second thought. We have turned into a world of consumerism that is ruining our planet. We spend, and buy, and drive, and burn, and throw away everything we spend all of our time working to pay off. Life can be so much more simple. And one day, we might end up like the Katrina refugees who were required to live more simply because they had no choices. According to the United Nations, by the middle of the century there could potentially be 150 million environmental refugees. Once we get to that point, your choices are gone, my friend.

If every citizen around the world, however, made it a point to reduce their carbon footprint today we could reduce our oil consumption by 90%. 90%!!! Come 'on already. Even if we can only get half of the world to give it a shot we'd still be a hell of a lot better off.

So think about Kennedy's statement. What can you do for your country? What can you do for your world? A whole lot more than you realize. It's the little steps. The little actions that add up to a very big movement. So today, start. Find one thing to help the Earth, and tomorrow find another. Maybe then you'll have a few more choices down the road. Choices that you are currently taking for granted.

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing- after they've tried everything else." -Winston Churchill

Monday, January 19, 2009

Water on the Brain

I have water on the brain. Most likely due to the Water Resources course that I am taking. Water is something that I'm betting many of you don't give a second thought to. Well, just to get ya thinking, here are some statistics for you, compliments of The International Development Research Centre.

  • daily water usage: 10-20 liters / sub-saharan Africa vs. 700 liters / North America
  • the price of water is 6 - 10 times more expensive than the average price of gasoline
  • humans can survive a month without food but only 5 - 7 days without water
  • 70% of the worlds water goes to agriculture
  • it takes 39,000 gallons of water to produce a new automobile
  • 90% of the diseases in the world are water related with 4 out of 5 deaths in developing countries as a result of water diseases
  • 5,000 children die daily due to diarrheal diseases
  • 6 million people die each year from contaminated water
  • 1 billion people in the world must walk three hours or more for clean drinking water
  • African women spend 40 billion hours a year walking for water
  • 2% of U.S. citizens do not have running water = approximately 6 million people
Think about these numbers the next time you run the water while brushing your teeth, which uses 4 out of your 700 liters, by the way. And for god's sake, take a moment to reflect on the precious commodity of water before you put in that wall to wall grass carpet. Watering your lawn uses up to 180 gallons of water. Thats about equal to what those families in sub-saharan Africa use in 2 months time!

Maybe those Olympia beer commercials were onto something long ago. "It's the Water." Except now that water is in deep jeopardy. Time to sober up. A change is gonna come whether we like it or not. Cheers.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Climate Change, anyone?

It is mid-January. It is mid-January and we are having a heat wave. So much so that I took my daughters swimming for a late afternoon dip at our local pool yesterday while watching the sun set over a carbon layered city. It's amazingly beautiful what sunsets and pollution can create. The lights of the city never sparkled so bright. But it's freakin' mid-January and feels like the middle of summer.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. I am. I enjoy warm weather as much as the next girl, but this is bad. We have not had weather like this since the early 70's, and if we don't get some rain soon it will equate to equally bad statistics. Perhaps we can all gather round for some lovin' rain dances, which could explain all that dancing they did in the 70's if they were having their own heatwave.

So, I'm really serious people. It might be too late, but what if it isn't. What if we could start doing little things everyday that could turn this climate change around. What if we become like the Aunt Becky's of the world by taking little steps in a humble way to change things. Seems like a better solution than good 'ol Uncle Gary who laughs it off with a chuckle and a grin while mumbling something about Al Gore. Just give it a shot. You might end up with a warm, fuzzy feeling rather than an oddly warm January.

Aunt Becky's 10-step program:
  • Make your own coffee at home. Heck, you can even through in the organic, unbleached filters.
  • Find some re-usable water bottles rather than buying bottled water. Sigg has some very durable, and very groovy designs.
  • Recycle those beer cans, soda cans, salad dressing bottles. Heck, just recycle anything your recycle-picker-upper man will take, and in the sake of green awareness, you can also check out what those pesky little numbers on the bottom of the containers mean.
  • Wash and reuse your ziplock bags and then dry them with the handy-dandy plastic bag dryer.
  • Make your own cleaning products which are likely much less toxic and more environmentally friendly than that bottle of 409 under your sink.
  • Reuse your lawn and leaf bags after dumping them into your compost pile, or if your waste management does not provide a composting option you can choose biodegradable lawn, leaf and yard bags.
  • Tshirts! Save those tshirts! Wear them until they have settled into the soft, fashionably worn item that is all the rage these days. Or if you are desperately trying to shed anything older than your youngest child you can donate them to your local shelter or red-cross-like store. Someone out there is bound to appreciate that Pink Floyd concert shirt from 1973 almost as much you.
  • If it's yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down. Yes, it's true. No one likes to think about these things, but do we really need to flush for every little tinkle? No. Every flush uses approximately 4 - 7 gallons. That's enough water to hydrate a small village in some desolate locale for a day. Instead, just keep it mellow, or if you really want to earn your dark green standing, you can install a low-flow toilet or waterless urinal.
  • Reusable grocery bags. You can't find an easier way to go green. Plastic bags have wreaked havoc on our ecosystems from bags floating through the atmosphere and ending up in our water systems. 500 billion plastic bags are used each year, 84 billion in California alone, yet only a small percentage of them are actually recycled. That means the remainder end up in landfills or the stomachs of the millions of sea creatures that you call dinner. In the end, that plastic breaks down in your system after making its way into your body via Van de Kamp and Chicken of the Sea. Paper or plastic? Neither!
  • Just walk. Try to jump into that F-150 a little less frequently, and get out and enjoy this beautiful weather that global warming is currently providing. By walking just a little you are preventing that extra C02 from entering the atmosphere. Multiply that by the 6 billion inhabitants of earth and it might actually add up to something significant.
Now go out there and get your green on!

(*it should be noted that I actually do love my Uncle Gary despite the constant razzing that takes place on this blog.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blue Balls

Yes, children. Today's subject is blue balls, but not the ones that send adult men into a frenzy of adolescent giggles. I'm talking about the blue dryer balls that you can toss in with your laundry for the sake of speeding up drying time while eliminating the need for dryer sheets. Aside from the environmental factors there are significant health benefits, as well.

Dryer Sheets typically have a plethora of chemicals that are considered carcinogens: benzyl acetate, linked to pancreatic cancer; benzyl alcohol, which can cause upper respitory tract irritation; and ethonal, which is on the EPA's list of hazardous waste, and can cause central nervous system disorders; alpha-terpineol, a little respiratory problem causing chem that can lead to fatal edema and more central nervous system damage. There's more. I could go on. But I won't. Too much information could potentially cause more central nervous system damage and I'm hoping that you get the point. Get some blue balls and save your life! Now that's a tag line you don't see everyday.

Of course, there are additional options besides the dryer balls. Hang drying being the most safe and economical, but of course not all of us have Julie Andrew-like fields of green. I came up with the idea of just putting up a tension shower rod across my laundry room for hang drying. 'Tis not too bad, but if you have the space, you could instead choose a folding dryer rack.

Whatever your choice, make it a good one, and if you absolutely cannot part with your beloved dryer sheets, and have no interest in dryer balls bouncing around your dryer, than at least choose an environmentally sound brand, such as Seventh Generation.

"After enlightenment, the laundry." - Zen proverb

Monday, January 5, 2009

I had some dreams. They were clouds in my coffee...

clouds in my coffee, and you're so vein, you probably thought this song was, oh sorry. I got caught up in my inner-Carly Simon.

Coffee. A multi-million dollar industry which is the new gold. Black Gold, as featured in the documentary by Nick and Marc Francis. Its like crack for the upper class. Everyday you can find them out perusing for their fix at the local Starbucks and Peets. I can't help but wonder if the trek is really worth the extra effort and toll its taking on the environment over just waking up a bit earlier and making your own freakin' cup of coffee in a your very own coffee maker. What's that you say? Tastes better? Okay, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you're right. Who knows. I'm a tea drinker myself. Yeah, yeah. Save the machismo for someone else. But here's the thing. Every trip that you make to the local fixer-upper has considerable effects on the environment, assuming that you are opting to get yours in a to-go cup. 22.75 pounds of waste per year, and that's only for the first cup. According to Starbucks, they saved 655,000 pounds of paper from heading to the landfill when they offered their customers a discount for bringing their own mug in. (*Disclosure: I am a Peets fan through and through.) Who knows who counted the saved pounds and whether Starbucks merely threw out the numbers for good marketing, but its a start. If it provides an incentive to get the "bring your own mug" wave going then more power to them.

So, are you feeling the java love? Ready to jump onto the environmental bandwagon? Well guess what? You can actually get a reusable cup that looks like a disposable cup. And, if you're a chick (or a very confident man) who likes to throw a little color into the mix, you can choose to accessorize with my favorite, the Hip Grip sleeves by Allie Walker Designs. Either way you'll be spreading the love to Mother Earth just a little each day.

I had some dreams. They were clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee, and maybe you're not so vein after all... Sing it Carly, baby.