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.