In my last post I discussed how certified organic produce often has to travel long distances before it reaches your grocery store, therefore having a large carbon footprint. If this environmental dilemma perplexes you as much as it perplexes me, I have found a solution. The solution is community supported agriculture, or CSA. Local farmers grow food and then directly sell their crops to shareholders in the local community. Many of these farmers are not certified organic, but do in fact use safe, responsible growing techniques that are mostly organic in practice. My friend has been participating in Farmer Dave's CSA for two years and loves it. I finally decided to try it as well, and signed up for the Spring share about 3 minutes ago! Here is the link: http://www.farmerdaves.net/csa. The price of a subscription may seem steep at first, but it is important to remember that farming is expensive and that the shares are over a long period of time (so you will get a lot of good, fresh produce). They also do a lot of greenhouse growing, which cost a lot to build, heat etc. Check out the website's FAQ and other features to learn more. Pretty soon I hope to be enjoying local, organic, healthy produce, even in the middle March! That is unbelievable!
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Many of the environmentally conscience enthuse about buying all organic fruits and vegetables. Their enthusiasm makes sense because organic means that the farmer did not spray tons and tons of pesticides all over the crop and the surrounding area. However, there is another side of the story. If you've ever looked at that sticker that they put on the fruit you might have noticed that it read Peru or some other far away South American country. Nowadays food can come from all over, but organic tends to come from farther away, especially now in the heart of winter. Purchasing fruit from far far away is not necessarily a good environmental choice because that means that fruit has a large environmental footprint! It takes a lot of fuel to fly, drive, or boat a measly little apple from so far away. I am not saying that organic is bad, it is just not wholly good. So if you're caught in the grocery store debating whether it is more environmentally conscience to purchase the organic banana from Argentina or the conventional orange from Florida, perhaps you should chose the conventional one with a smaller carbon footprint. However, there is no clear winner in this situation. The debate between organic and local may be something you have to debate every shopping trip of your life. I think it is just good to be aware of both sides.
Monday, February 25, 2013
You may have thought that having to pick up your pet's waste was just for aesthetic reasons, but it has an environmental reason too. When it rains on a yard full of pet waste, the minerals in the waste, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, runoff into storm drains. Then, the runoff from the storm drains flows into nearby water sources. The nitrogen and phosphorous remove dissolved oxygen in the water and lead to algal growth which also removes dissolved oxygen. Without enough dissolved oxygen in the water much of the natural life dies. So just remember that waterways are all connected and that anything that you put in your yard may end up in local water. This calls for things other than pet waste, such as motor oil, zinc and copper from worn pipes, and lawn fertilizers.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
So I was on vacation with my mom last week, and we got a rental car. I unfortunately did not take a picture of said rental car, so for the sake of this post let us pretend that the car pictured above is our rental car. Why is this rental car significant? Because we drove it from the airport to the hotel, and then back to the airport from the hotel. We did not drive it, idle it, sit in it, or even look at it for the 3 days in between. We went shopping one morning, out to eat one night, and to the grocery store one afternoon. Each of these places was a little bit far away from our hotel, but we made the decision to walk there. We got some exercise, some sun, and we saved ourselves from burning unnecessary gas. One afternoon we wanted to go further, but again instead of driving the car we rented bikes. Every mile driven in a car produces almost a pound of carbon dioxide. So by choosing to walk instead of drive we saved several pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. Plus it was very nice to take a vacation from driving. So when you could either walk or drive, choose to walk. Just because you have a car doesn't mean that you have to use it. Every mile counts.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
My friend and I decided to start a Terracycle Brigade project at our school. Terracycle is a company that specializes in "upcycling" where they take people's trash that gets sent in to them and they turn it into practical, usable products such as tote bags, park benches, umbrellas, and notebooks. They host brigades to get people to collect a lot of one specific kind of trash to send in to Terracycle, and then the collectors get money to donate to a charity or school of choice for sending in their trash.
So at the beginning of the year my friend and I started collecting energy bar wrappers. We planned to set up boxes around our school and collect wrappers that way. However we have been busy and haven't gotten around to doing that yet. Instead, in the mean time we decided to just collect wrappers from ourselves, our friends, and our sports teams. Just from that alone we have probably collected close to 2 pounds of wrappers! If we can get a collection going in our school I can't imagine how many we could collect. So my advice to you is to try and start one of your own collection projects. Whether you want to make it large scale, or just between you and some friends, you will be preventing trash from ever entering a landfill...and I think that that is pretty cool. Log on to www.Terracycle.com and check it out. It is entirely free for you to sign up and ship your collection in, and they provide all kinds of helpful hints and flyers to help you with your brigade. Happy collecting!
Friday, February 22, 2013
When you stay at a hotel it is standard that the room keepers give you fresh towels every day. This means that they are washing your towels every day as well. This may seem like a nice luxury, but think of how long you use your towels at home... At least a week right? However long you use them for in between washes I am sure it is more than a day or two, so why can't you do the same while you're away? Some times I do get a little uncomfortable using hotel towels because they can feel like they've been used by a lot of people, but getting new ones won't change that. If we all used the same towels for the entirety of our stay the towels might feel less used because they wouldn't be getting washed every day! So save some water and energy and put up your "do not disturb" sign or leave a note that you want to keep your towels. Some hotels have already stopped changing the towels every day.
Monday, February 4, 2013
Attention: this is a post intended for female audiences, men may care to look away.
So ladies, here is an environmental issue that you've probably never heard about on the news or read about online: your period. That might sound silly, but think about it. All feminine hygiene products seem to be one time use, completely disposable, and individually packaged. We open up a tampon or a pad and within hours the entire everything is in the trash, and then we start again. To really put this issue in perspective, here is some scary math courtesy of http://divacup.com/community/eco-divas/ : the average woman uses 20 tampons per cycle, 240 tampons per year, and since the average woman menstruates for 40 years, that is 9,600 tampons in a lifetime. Now multiply that by the world's population of women and the result is a whole lot of trash. In addition to all of the trash, producing, packaging, and shipping that many products takes a lot of raw materials and energy as well. And in addition to even that, some of these products may contain traces of nasty things like dioxins (a known carcinogen) from the bleaching process they use on the fibers. Between trash, energy, pollution, and toxins, tampons aren't seeming like such a good idea anymore.
But what else are you supposed to do? Hygiene is essential.
The answer is the Diva Cup. It is a durable silicone cup that you use kind of like a tampon, but not really (I'll let you research the dirty details). It is so durable, in fact, that you can reuse just one cup for up to 10 years! That's right, one feminine product for 10 years! That is significantly less waste than 2,400 tampons would be. (Retailers suggest replacing the product about once a year in order to retain business and to avoid chances of health issues. However it is really up to you, your body, and how you treat your product to decide how often you would like to replace it. No matter what, it's lifetime will be longer than that of a tampon).
It can seem really bizarre at first, and one can be thrown off by it's price ($30-$40), but since you only have to buy it once every few years it saves so much trash and money in the long run. It really is worth a try. Do some research, do some thinking, and then either head over to your local Whole Foods Market (the only store that carries the Diva Cup) or order online (plenty of places!), and feel good about what you're doing for the environment and your wallet each and every month. Tell your girlfriends too! I would never have known about this eco-friendly product if it weren't for my friend telling me about it. I know that it can be taboo to talk about such private things, but when the environment is at stake maybe we should start talking.
Monday, January 28, 2013
I have worn One A Day disposable contacts for 6 or 7 years now, and I've never really thought about it until now. Almost every day I open two new plastic packages of contacts and then throw them out almost immediately. Some weeks I wear glasses, but I only started wearing glasses within the past 2 or 3 years. Before then it was contacts everyday, and even now I still go through a considerable amount of lenses each month and each year. I started feeling really guilty about this and considered switching to something other than the One Days. This would be a huge lifestyle change, but if it reduced my impact I thought it would be worth it. However, when I thought about it I wasn't sure it would make a huge difference. When you use more permanent contact lenses you need to use a lot of chemical solutions that also come in big plastic bottles. In the end I might be using just as much plastic and maybe more chemicals in order to maintain long-wear contacts. I am no expert in this and there probably haven't been any studies on the environmental impact of different kinds of contacts, but it is probably worth looking into. So what am I suggesting you do? Just think about it. Everything in our lives has some kind of environmental impact, and there are always ways to change our habits and reduce our impact. All you have to do is think about it.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
This post may be a little on the grosser side, but it is still important. Many of us are aware that there are certain things we should never flush down the toilet like expired pills, feminine napkins, non-paper items, etc. but do we really know why? Flushing these things can clog pipes and cause plumbing problems which is not good, but they can also cause environmental harm. Things that we flush can actually end up in our waterways and the environment. Many of these objects are non-biodegradable and will pollute the environment. Also, if consumed they can cause harmful side effects in wildlife such as hormonal changes or death. So, even if the sanitary napkin box is missing or dirty, or if throwing something in the toilet simply seems easier or preferable to the trash: don't do it. There is no guarantee that it will be disposed of properly down the line.
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Ladies, I know that it takes a lot of work to look good in the morning, but here is a beauty tip that you might consider. And yes, it involves a fan.
Have you ever thought about how much energy your hair dryer uses? Producing heat takes a lot of electricity. Granted you might not run it for too long, but still it is an underestimated appliance. So what does this picture of this fan have to do with anything? If you're just looking for your hair to be dry, and not necessarily a styled masterpiece, consider using a regular fan to dry your hair. The fan is only spinning, not producing heat, so it requires less electricity. You might feel kind of funny doing this, but give it a try!
Of course, the most eco-friendly way to dry you hair is to simply expose it to elements and let it dry on its own. This method requires no electricity and works great! If you're not so into letting your hair go au natural then simply try to cut down on the amount of time your spend drying your hair each day or the number of days a week that you dry your hair.