Category Archives: sustainable

Top 5 Green Actions

Lately I’ve been noticing that I am easily distracted. I get my mind set on doing something based on what an “expert in the field” is saying only to turn around and hear another “expert” telling me I need to be doing something else. With all the modes of communication available to me it’s easy to be bogged down with excessive information. I feel like they are just throwing bits and pieces of stories at me and hoping something will stick.

This is especially true when it comes to living green. There are about a hundred thousand things everyone could be doing to build a better world but it would be impossible for every person to do each of these things. I’ve narrowed it down to what I believe are the top five things. These are the actions I personally can see myself continuing to do or working toward doing more often.

1. Buying less stuff

We live in a culture where buying and having more stuff and a bigger place to keep it all is marketed as the fastest way to find happiness. I believe this to be wrong. Work on finding happiness within yourself through relationships, hobbies and activities. Collect only things that you actually need, rather than things that are advertised to make you think you want them.

2. Buying products from socially responsible companies

There are certain things you will probably never stop buying and for each person these special items may be different. Be sure that you are purchasing your favorite items from socially and environmentally responsible companies. Follow the links to my guides below for more information:

And be sure that when you do make purchases you bring your reusable bag.

3. Using alternative forms of transportation

The most significant change an individual could make toward reducing their carbon footprint is to cut down on how much they drive. Trains, buses, bikes, carpool. Avoid spending time in a vehicle occupied only by yourself and your imaginary friend. Read more in Getting Around.

4. Eating less meat and more sustainably grown and harvested food

Meat
Recognize the importance of knowing where your food comes from and what is being used to grow or raise it. Find out more, read Buying Food: The Naked Truth about Local and Organic. Decide for yourself whether fish should be on your menu: 

5. Conserving energy and water at home

When it comes to conserving energy and water, small adjustments can have a big impact. Protect the environment by conserving energy and water with these 100+ tips. Additionally, check out The Pros and Cons of Wind Power.

Look Beneath the Surface

This award-winning video was published on April 16th, 2012. It was made by the Environmental Protection Agency. Take a moment to watch it and see what is beneath the surface.

The little things we do or do not do can have the biggest impact on our environment. We produce plastic for the sake of convenience and it becomes garbage. Imagine how much of a difference we could make if we reduced this waste simply by recycling or better yet, used reusable packaging and containers.

We can all make a difference and help protect our environment!

-xoxo-

Earth Angel: Make-Up

I am completely surprised by what I have learned today. The cosmetic industry is shockingly unregulated to the point that consumers are practically being used as test subjects. Cosmetic manufacturers can put just about anything into their products regardless of health or safety concerns. Though there isn’t always definitive evidence that a given chemical can cause adverse health affects, the fact that so few have been studied for safety is of significant concern. Plus, there’s the effect over time of all these chemicals we’re applying to our bodies to consider.

http://fotogrph.com/cosmetics-379547934/

To protect your body and reduce your impact on the environment, make sure to follow these guidelines.

Labels are not to be trusted and are no indicator of safety. 
Words like “natural” and “hypoallergenic” may look appealing but both have practically no meaning in the world of cosmetics. “Natural” includes products which may contain natural ingredients but there are very likely synthetic harmful ingredients. “Hypoallergenic” simply means chemicals, which are irritants have been removed.

Scrutinize ingredients list.
It’s easier than ever to check the safety of over 7,500 products using the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep online database. There’s even an app for that.

Skin Deep App

Check companies that have made a commitment to safe products.
The Compact for Safe Ingredients is a pledge to not use 450 unsafe ingredients. Find out who has signed the compact here. View the Story of Cosmetics video below.

“Best Option” Cosmetics Companies
The following companies have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics and either use organic ingredients or are members of Green America’s Green Business Network™.

-XOXO-

Mission Blue

Have you seen Mission Blue on Netflix yet? Go watch it, immediately. I loved it! Here’s a trailer:

Mission Blue is part oceanic road trip; part biography; part action adventure story. Fisher Stevens is our guide. His lifelong love for the ocean led him to produce the Academy Award winning film, The Cove, which focused on dolphin slaughter in Japan.

This film expands on the theme of The Cove, weaving legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle’s personal history with the bleak truth about what’s happening to our oceans. We follow Sylvia’s incredible and unique journey, from her childhood memories discovering and playing in the ocean as a young girl to her adult life as an ocean scientist and beyond.

Sylvia passionately believes that creating a global parks system for the ocean that she calls “Hope Spots” is the best way to restore the health of the ocean. As she travels to the Gulf of Mexico, the Galapagos Islands and the Coral Sea it becomes clear the challenges we face are truly daunting. As a witness to change over the past 60 years, Sylvia is leading the movement to restore the ocean to health before it’s too late.

The goals and passion for change presented in the film are as beautiful and haunting as the imagery. Mission Blue is an alert for all who are dependent on rainwater, clean air and weather cycles regulated by the ocean (yes, that includes you). As Sylvia says: “No blue; no green. No ocean; no us.”

Find out how you can help by visiting the website. Here’s a synopsis of the list on the Act Now page.

Everyone can make a difference! I’ve decided to stop eating fish. I realize now the hypocrisy of not eating turf meats for environmental reasons but continuing to eat surf meats. This will be a difficult change for me because sushi is my favorite food. But for me personally, I believe it is the right thing to do. What are you going to do?

Upcycled Gift Bags

I inherited some small brown paper bags with handles at a volunteer project this summer. I thought to myself, “These would be perfect for gift bags, if only they didn’t say Xcel energy on them.” Fortunately, I am a very clever person and I have upgraded the ugly plain bags into cute gift bags for Christmas gifts.

It’s very simple to make some of these cute bags for your own use and for any occasion. Find some plain bags. Then check the scrapbooking section of your local craft store for decorations.

Gather some glue and scissors (it’s even easier if you just use stickers), and assemble. Be extra Earth-friendly and reuse your beautiful creations year after year.

Have fun with your creativity! Share a picture of your works of art on my Facebook page.

50 Water Saving Tips

Water is vital to the survival of everything on the planet and is limited in supply. Earth may be known as the “water planet”, but even though about 70% of its surface is covered by water, less than 1% is available for human use. The Earth’s populations and demands for water use increase the water supply remains the same, but we can all do our part to protect this critical and precious resource. When it comes to conserving water, small adjustments can have a big impact. Save water and protect the environment.

Inside Water Savings

Kitchen

  • When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Fill one basin with wash water and the other with rinse water.
  • Dishwashers, especially Energy Star, typically use less water than washing dishes by hand.
  • Look for water efficient dishwashers if you are thinking of buying a new one.
  • Use only one glass or container for your beverage of choice each day to cut back on the dishes you need to wash.
  • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
  • Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Instead, compost vegetable food waste.
  • Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap.
  • Don’t use running water to thaw food. Instead, defrost food in the refrigerator.
  • Install an instant water heater near your kitchen sink so you don’t have to run the water while it heats up. BONUS: This also reduces energy costs.
  • Collect the water you use while rinsing fruit and vegetables. Use it to water house plants.
  • Reuse leftover water from cooked or steamed foods to start a nutritious soup.

Laundry Room

  • When doing laundry, match the water level to the size of the load.
  • Have a plumber re-route your greywater to trees and plants rather than the sewer line. Check with your city and county for codes.
  • If you’re looking to buy a new washing machine look for water efficient models.

Bathroom

Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you’ll save up to 150 gallons per month.

Time your shower to keep it under 5 minutes. You’ll save up to 1,000 gallons per month.
Turn off the water in the shower while shampooing and conditioning your hair, while washing your body and shaving your legs to save 150 gallons a month.
Toilet leaks can be silent! Be sure to test your toilet for leaks at least once a year. (To test for leaks add food coloring to the tank, if you see color in the bowl you have a leak).
  • When running a bath, plug the bathtub before turning on the water. Adjust the temperature as the tub fills.
  • Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and save up to 4 gallons a minute. That’s up to 200 gallons a week for a family of four.
  • If you’re in the market for a new toilet, consider buying a dual-flush toilet. It has two flush options: a half-flush for liquid waste and a full-flush for solid waste.
  • When washing your hands, turn the water off while you lather.
  • One drip every second adds up to five gallons per day! Check your faucets and showerheads for leaks.
  • While you wait for hot water, collect the running water and use it to water plants.
  • Install water efficient faucets and shower heads.

Outside Water Savings

Garden

  • Group plants with the same watering needs together.
  • Reduce the amount of lawn in your yard by planting shrubs and ground covers appropriate to your site and region.
  • Plant species native to your region.
  • Start a compost pile. Using compost in your garden or flower beds adds water-holding organic matter to the soil.
  • Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil around plants.
  • Use sprinkler that deliver water in larger droplets. Mists evaporate before hitting the ground.
  • For hanging baskets, planters and pots, put ice cubes on top of the soil to water without overflow.
  • Water only when necessary. More plants die from over-watering than from under-watering.
  • Apply water only as fast as the soil can absorb it.
  • Minimize evaporation by watering during the early morning hours when temperatures are cooler and winds are lighter.
  • A running hose can discharge up to 10 gallons per minute so time your use.
  • Examine soil moisture depth. If the top two to three inches of soil are dry, it’s time to water.
  • Collect water from your roof by installing gutters and downspouts. Direct the runoff to plants and trees.

Lawn

  • Adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk or street.
  • Mow your lawn to between 1.5 and 2 inches to shade soil and protect roots.
  • If you walk through your grass and you leave footprints it’s time to water.
  • Make sure your grass seed is suitable for your region.
  • Aerate your lawn so water seeps into ground instead of running off.
  • Water your summer lawns once every three days and your winter lawn once every five days.

Other

  • Use porous material for walkways and patios to prevent wasteful runoff and keep water in your yard.
  • Use a broom instead of the hose to clean off the driveway, sidewalks, paths and patios.
  • Let your kids play in the sprinklers over areas of your lawn that need water.
  • Wash your car on the lawn to water it at the same time (use biodegradable soap and a hose head that you can turn off the water).
  • If you see water leaking from public sprinklers or fire hydrants report them to the city.
How do you save water in your home?

50 Energy Saving Tips

Much of the energy consumed in the U.S. each year is wasted through inefficient technology and transmission. This causes families and businesses to pay higher energy bills and results in increased carbon pollution. Energy efficiency is a simple and cost effective solution to combat climate change, prevent further air pollution and reduce the cost of energy for consumers. 

Sometimes there is great need to consider your impact on the planet. Sometimes you can change the way you are living in order to promote cleaner air. Sometimes you set out to write a great blog post describing all the wonderful things you can do to create a better world. Sometimes your blog post is just a list. Sorry, I’m not sorry.

General

  • Consider powering your home with renewable energy. Many companies offer partial or full renewable energy plans.
  • Get off the grid by adding solar panels to your home. You may actually make money by selling energy you don’t use to the power company.
  • Be sure your windows seal properly and are energy efficient.
  • Check for air leaks, fix the ones you find.
  • Make sure your home is completely insulated.

Lighting

  • Switch to low-energy fluorescent lightbulbs. They last up to 10 times as long as regular lightbulbs.
  • Use motion sensing bulbs for your outdoor lights. They are both efficient and convenient.
  • Save energy (and lower your electric bill) by turning off the lights when you leave a room.

Appliances

  • If you’re in the market for new appliances, opt for energy efficient ones to save energy and money on your bill.
  • Clean the lint filter in your dryer regularly. A dirty filter uses up to 30% more energy to dry clothes.
  • Better yet, instead of using the dryer, try a drying rack, especially on sunny days. You will save energy AND your clothes won’t shrink.
  • Do all your laundry in one day so the dryer doesn’t have to heat up again for each load.
  • Set the temperature of your refrigerator to between 30 and 42°F, or use the energy save function if available.
  • Check the coils behind your refrigerator for dust. The refrigerator doesn’t have to work as hard when these are clean.
  • A full freezer full uses less energy than one that is empty.
  • After the rinse cycle, turn off your dishwasher and open the door a crack to let your dishes air dry.
  • Only run your dishwasher when full.
  • Use less energy by heating up leftovers in a microwave or toaster oven instead of the oven.
  • While in use keep your oven closed – every time you open the door the oven loses 25°F of heat.
  • Turn your oven and burners off toward the end of baking and cooking. It will continue cooking using existing heat without using additional energy.
  • Use copper-bottomed pots and pans, which use energy more efficiently.
  • Conserve energy by keeping your pots and pans covered while cooking.
  • Match pots and pans to similar sized burners to prevent energy loss around edges.

Electronics

  • Unplug your chargers and kitchen appliances when not in use – they draw energy just by being plugged into the power outlet.
  • Better yet, plug your electronics into a power strip and turn it off when not in use.
  • Instead of a desktop, purchase a laptop if you are looking to buy a new computer – it will require less electricity to run.
  • Come to that, don’t forget to turn off your computer when you aren’t using it to save power. Or if you prefer to leave it on use the hibernation option instead of a screensaver.
  • Look for energy efficient televisions, if you are looking to buy a new one.

Heating

  • Cover bare floor with area rugs for insulation and comfort.
  • Raise heat gradually by a couple of degrees each time instead of jumping the heat up.
  • In winter, set your heater between 68 and 70°F during the day and 65 to 68°F at night.
  • When not in use close the flue to your fireplace and install glass doors to keep heat in and cold out.
  • Change the filters in your heating system every month.
  • Let the sun help you heat your home by leaving blinds and curtains open during the day and closed at night.
  • Lower your thermostat when you are out. If you go on vacation don’t turn it below 55°F to save energy and to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.

Cooling

  • Consider installing an evaporative cooler instead of air conditioning. How Stuff Works has written an article outlining the pros and cons of each.
  • Keep your exterior doors and windows closed when AC is on. Keep them slightly open if you have a swamp cooler to promote air flow.
  • Keep interior doors open so air flows freely throughout your home.
  • Change your AC filters once a month.
  • Turn your thermostat to the highest possible comfortable temperature and set it to “auto.”
  • Close air vents and doors to rooms you aren’t using.
  • Use ceiling fans to circulate air more efficiently. Additionally, the breeze from ceiling fans can make you feel 3-4° cooler so you can set your thermostat a little higher and still feel cool.
  • Provide shade over your home with trees. Plant a new one every Arbor Day.

Water Heating

  • Always launder with cold water or make sure you only wash a full load if you use hot water.
  • Install low-flow shower head and faucets.
  • Turn off your water heater if you are leaving town. Most heaters can reheat water in a few hours after you return.
  • Set the temperature of your water heater to 120°F.
  • When buying a new water heater, look for one that is energy efficient.
  • Take shorter showers and only allow the water to run while you are wetting your hair and rinsing off.
Check out Energy Savers: Tips on Saving Energy and Money at Home from the U.S. Department of Energy for further, more detailed information about these ideas and quite a few other ideas to help you save money and energy in your home.

Which of these tips are you willing to try?

Getting Around

My first semester of college I took a microeconomics course. I learned a lot from this class but one of the biggest things I took away was the following.

“When traffic is congested, each driver is imposing a cost on all other drivers on the road –he is literally getting in their way (and they are getting in his way.) This cost can be substantial: in major metropolitan areas, each time someone drives to work, as opposed to taking public transportation or working at home, he can easily impose $15 or more in hidden costs on other drivers.” – Microeconomics by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells

In that class I also learned that “You don’t need to know this,” means, “You need to know this,” in professor speak, and that you should never enter a jungle alone (I don’t remember why, but I wrote it down in my notes).

The point is, I had never really thought about the negative economical factors involved with automobiles. The environmental impact is something I’ve always known is terrible. Automobile driving is a major cause of:

  1. Global Warming: Carbon dioxide emissions from autos are the largest contributor to global warming.
  2. Air Pollution: Automobiles produce nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter that contribute to smog and respiratory illnesses.
  3. Water Pollution: Automobile manufacturing, gas and oil production, road runoff of fuel, oil and antifreeze, underground gasoline storage tanks and marine oil spills all pollute our water.
  4. Habitat Destruction: Oil drilling, metals mining and road construction all damage wildlife habitat.
  5. International Conflict: Nations compete over oil reserves. The US currently imports 48% of its oil — the highest levels ever. Many analysts ties this oil dependency to the hundreds of billions we have spent on Persian Gulf wars.
Americans drive an average of 231 miles per week, which comes out to about 12,000 miles per year. For a car with average miles per gallon (21), this is 571 gallows of gasoline annually. Given that every gallon of gasoline used emits 20 pounds of CO2, that means our cars are emitting 11,420 pounds of CO2 each year. The Union of Concerned Scientists stated, “personal use of cars and light trucks (including pickups and SUVs) is the single most damaging consumer behavior.” In fact, the most significant change an individual could make toward reducing their carbon footprint is to cut down on how much they drive. Here’s how:
Lastly, be a considerate and cautious driver. Fast accelerates and decelerations are damaging to your vehicle and the environment. Moral of the story: Be the tortoise, not the hare. In this classic children’s tale, the tortoise proved that slow and steady won the race. The arrogant hare who burst from the gates and slams on his breaks for a rest proves that being a jerk never got anyone anywhere. Or at least that’s what I got out of it.
How do you cut back on your car time?

The Perfect Ten: Mani-Pedi for the Earth Angel

I love going to the nail salon to get pampered, I’m sure I’m not the only one. It’s a little splurge that helps me relax and results in beautiful digits. Unfortunately, mani-pedis are not very Earth-friendly and, with the exception of the relaxed feeling that results, they aren’t very good for your body either. Just like so many other things that I love, I must add them to the bad list and replace them with an Earth-friendly option. (Yes, there is another way!)

Here’s the deal, the process from start to finish is chemical city. The pedicure sinks they soak your feet in must be disinfected using harsh, nonbiodegradable chemicals. Tools are shared between customers. It’s a green goddess’ nightmare (I just learned that green goddess is also a salad dressing, so I do not mean this nightmare to involve withered vegetables or anything like that, but hopefully the context was enough so you new that).

Über Chic is an eco-friendly salon in Edgewater, CO

On top of this the products used specifically for nails (at the salon or at home) go directly to your bloodstream (do not pass the liver, do not collect $200). It turns out that while your nails are hard, they are absorbent and therefore do not form good barriers (you might say they form better windows than doors).

Many nail polishes contain formaldehyde, which as you might remember from Cleanliness is Next to Godliness: Hair, is a carcinogen with many undesirable qualities. Dibutylphthalate is another common ingredients. See the phthalate hiding in that word? It’s another carcinogen and a hormone disruptor. The dibutyl form is a potential reproductive toxin and endocrine disruptor. You may also find the volatile organic carbon toluene, which is a neurotoxin.

Piggy Paint is a harsh-chemical free nail polish marketed for children, with ingredients as natural as mud.

The removers aren’t much better. According to the National Institutes of Health, acetone is a poison which can cause death; coma; unconsciousness; seizure; respiratory distress; kidney damage; nose, throat, lung and eye irritation; intoxication; headaches; fatigue; stupor; light-headedness; dizziness; confusion; increased pulse rate; nausea; vomiting; and shortening of the menstrual cycle in women. Most nail polish now state they are “non-acetone” but what do they replace this nail polish removing miracle poison with? Acetate.

It may be listed as ethyl acetate, amyl acetate or butyl acetate. It’s not as bad as the original stuff (acetone) but the fact that it’s “flammable” and the “vapor may ignite” and warns me to “keep out of eyes” and that it’s “harmful to synthetic fabrics, wood finishes, and plastics, makes me wonder, “If it’s not safe for my table how is it possibly safe for me?”


No Miss Inc. sells  healthy alternatives to beauty products at an affordable price.

What about the Earth? Good point, observant reader, I have not begun to discuss the impact these products have on the Earth. When nail polish and remover go down the drain they seep into and contaminate groundwater. Additionally, while the bottles are technically recyclable, the vast majority of nail polish bottles end up in the landfills where they leach out.

Now what!? Don’t cancel your appointment yet, as always I have solutions for your beauty needs.

  • Check your city and regional magazines for local green salons and spas.
  • Call or stop by some local salons and ask them the following questions:
    • Do you use and carry eco-friendly products? Check ingredients and make sure you would use understand the ingredients.
    • Do you employ water-saving practices, such as reusing rinse water?
    • Do you use energy-efficient equipment?
    • Do you use natural cleaning products and laundry detergents? Refer to greening your home part 3: cleaning supplies for information about what to look for.
    • Do you recycle?
    • Do you offer other eco-friendly services? They may not always use eco-friendly practices but they may offer services to people who ask.
  • Consider skipping color and opting for a simply buff and shine treatment (the unnatural color just chips away in a few days anyway).
  • If you love color, only use polishes which do not contain toluene, phthalates, or formaldehyde. You can find some at:
  • Make sure your remover is acetone- and acetate-free. Try No Miss Vegan Nail Polish Remover (smells like vanilla!). While more and more salons are offering earth-friendly nail polishes, the remover is harder to find so take your color off at home.

What earth-friendly products do you use for a perfect ten?

Feedback Loops: Cynicism and Hope

Colorado is experiencing 1000 year flooding. The damage and destruction is unbelievable. My dad keeps saying that word, “Un—believable,” or, “Un—freaking—believable!” It reminds me of the movie, The Princess Bride, the character Vizzini keeps saying, “Inconceivable!” until finally Inigo Montoya says, “You keep saying this word, I do not think it means what you think it means.” Only in this case, with my dad, he knows what it means and it’s the best word to describe these disasters.

I know one storm cannot be definitively linked to climate change and it will take months of research to determine if climate change caused this storm to be more likely to occur. I can’t help but speculate that it is likely to have catalyzed  this, and all the other monster natural disasters that have occurred recently around the world. Storms of these calibers did not occur so frequently in history.
When things like this disaster happen we look at the world’s problems and have good intentions, we wish the problems will go away but when we see they stubbornly remain we react as if they are happening in a movie. People continue to starve, communities fall apart, violence thrives, families fade, nature disappears, and those unaffected continue in their daily lives.
At this point there are two options: hope and cynicism.

Diagrams adapted from A Better World Handbook by Ellis Jones, Ross Haenfler and Brett Johnson
The cycle of cynicism can be broken and replaced with a cycle of hope. When we find out about a problem that disturbs us, and when we decide we want to help, instead of giving up when we see no options, we should search for more information. We take actions that are in line with our own values, the vision of a better world can become a reality. If we stop blaming others for not doing anything and start taking personal responsibility for being good people. Finally, it’s important to recognize that we can’t do everything, otherwise we may fall back into a cycle of cynicism.

In ecology we talk about feedback loops. A positive feedback loop continues to build on itself. For example, climate change is a positive feedback loop: As temperatures warms, there is less snow and ice, this leads to more sunlight being absorbed by the land and the sea, which leads in turn to further warming. A negative feedback loop is a system that is kept in equilibrium such as the relationship between predator and prey populations: As the predators population increases they catch more and more prey causing the prey population to decline. With fewer prey to catch, predators begin to die off leaving a greater opportunity for the prey to regenerate their population. Now there are again more prey so the predator population increases again, forever and ever.
Both the cycles of hope and cynicism are positive feedback loops; one leads to apathy and the other leads to a better world. Which loop will you pick?

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness – Hair Care

You may have heard that a “green” beauty routine is no beauty routine at all. For extremists this is probably true, but I’m not an extremist: I like my skin to feel soft, I like my hair to shine, I like playing with makeup. If you are like me and want your eco-friendly lifestyle to continue into the bathroom (or wherever your beauty regimen takes place) then read on. If you aren’t like me you can still read on, we don’t discriminate here.

Here at Maggie’s Mind Mumbles, I frequently discuss that what we’re putting IN our bodies should be whole, unprocessed foods. For the products we put ON our bodies can affect us just as much, if not more. While it seems as if the products like lotion and makeup sit on the surface of the skin or products are washed away as with soap and shampoo, the chemicals are actually absorbed directly into the bloodstream without being detoxified in the liver.

With that said, we’ll start at the top and work our way down. Today…

Hair

Your lovely locks are the accessory you wear everyday so it’s understandable that you want your hair to look nice and you want to use products that promote beautiful hair.

Look at the ingredients list on most shampoo bottles. You may find these invading your bottle:

Not only are these, and the other chemicals I haven’t listed here, damaging your body but they are also wrecking havoc on the environment. Additionally, these shampoos are often sold in PVC bottles (I really need to write a blog about why PVC is the worst because it keeps coming up and I keep having to just ask you to take my word for it).

So to help you remember not to buy products with these ingredients I have crafted a downloadable cheat sheet that will fit in your wallet. That way you won’t have to try to remember these scary names.

Aided with your cheat sheet you can find plenty of shampoos that don’t contain offending ingredients but will still leave you with hair that is smooth, strong and shiny. Oh, and smells good too, that’s an important one. You can find healthy shampoos at health food stores, the organic section of most supermarkets and some are even finding their way into drugstores. They range in price from cheap to steep.

Source: http://www.collegefashion.net/

I currently use Alba Botanica body builder mango. I found it in the shampoo aisle at a Safeway (conventional grocery store). The bottle was paid from 100% recyclable materials and it is free of all the harmful ingredients listed above. It also smells like a Hawai’ian rainforest and costs less than $10. I condition with a rare treasure I happened across on a quick bathroom break on my way to work. I remembered I needed conditioner so I picked some up. Ology is a Walgreens brand free of bad guys and loaded with good guys. I grabbed the volumizing and softening grapefruit and eucalyptus (can you tell that my hair needs more volume?) It’s pretty great and for $6 I can’t complain.

Other great brands include:

  • Hugo – try Vanilla & Sweet Orange Shampoo
  • Aubrey Organics – Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner is fabulous
  • Burt’s Bees – Terrific shampoos and conditioners
  • John Masters Organics – Have yet to try these friend recommended shampoos and conditioners
  • Tween Beauty – I know I’m totes not the target demographic but I want all my BFFs to try Orange Sherbet Shampoo and Vanilla Bean Conditioner LOL

Just a few tips – check that the package is made from recycled materials (I will never stop saying this), be sure that the label says certified organic because organic is not a regulated term in the beauty world and make sure you like the scent (that probably goes with out saying but there are some ick smelling healthy shampoos out there).

Which shampoo and conditioner can you not live without?

All that Glitters May Not Be Your Friend

This may surprise Marilyn, but diamonds are not a girl’s best friend and all that glitters is not gold, or green for that matter. Okay, I’ll stop, enough cliches for today.

 
Mining for minerals needed for jewelry is not an environmental practice. In fact, mining for these natural elements consumes huge amounts of energy, releases pollutants and greenhouse gases into the air, allows toxic chemicals to seep into groundwater, damages land, speeds up erosion and generates and unbelievable amount of waste. Metal mining was the number one toxic polluter in the United States in 2008 (as of 2010), responsible for more that 25 percent of all reported toxic releases.

In addition to the environmental hazards, mining is also associated with socially devastating practices. Diamonds fund violence against citizens, especially in African countries such as Angola and Sierra Leone. The United Nations defines conflict diamonds as, “diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.”

http://www.jewellerynetasia.com/en/Blog/345/Conflict_Diamonds_are_only_1__You_Believe_this_.html

    Gold-mining is one of the dirtiest practices in the world. Gold mining conditions are dangerous for workers, it is responsible for three percent of work deaths globally. Additionally, the average gold mine uses enough water to provide the basic water needs for a population equivalent to that of a large U.S. city for a year. The open pits are required to be enormous (the largest is the Bingham Canyon mine in Utah is visible from outer space) destroying beautiful landscapes, wildlife habitat and important ecosystems.

    Are you outraged? You probably should be, otherwise you must not like animals…

    No Dirty Gold is a campaign that is working toward stopping dirty mining practices around the world and to prevent the sale of gold that has been mined in an unsustainable way. 

    But don’t fret, you can still get your bling on and all that. Here’s the part in the blog post where I inform you of where you can buy earth-conscious jewelry:

    • The best option is always to buy used. Find jewelry at antique, consignment and thrift stores or your grandma’s jewelry box.
    • Green Karat – synthetic gems and recycled metals.
    • Brilliant Earth – recycled metals and conflict-free diamonds for engagement and wedding bands.
    • Leber Jeweler – Earthwise line of conflict-free gems and reclaimed metals.
    • Tiffany – conflict-free diamonds and responsible metal mining, oh and those little blue boxes are made from Forest Stewardship Council certified paper.

    Paper or Plastic?

    The other day I watched a white plastic bag lazily float through the air as I was waiting at a stop light. It has an odd sort of beauty in the grace with which it moves. The wind catches in little pockets and it inflates, then as the wind shifts it flattens and picks up speed. Bits of it get caught on fence posts, branches and car antennae causing it to cartwheel as it makes its way to whatever destination it is fated to reach. Then I snapped out of my reverie and realized what a terrible crime this bag represents.

    It’s a mystery to me why people continue to choose plastic bags at the store when they accumulate at home faster than second uses can be developed for them. Not to mention their tendency to blow away, as mentioned, creating litter, or the fact that they hold relatively few items for their size. Whatever the reason, they continue to be used by the general public.

    Did you know that according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), close to a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each years? The United States alone used about one hundred billion of those, which comes out to almost one thousand plastic bags per U.S. household per year. If one household cuts out plastic bags, this could actually make a noticeable dent.

    It takes twelve million barrels of oil to produce the plastic bags the U.S. alone uses each years and fewer than 3 percent are recycled. This means they wind up in landfills where they can take hundreds of years to decompose. Or they end up in rivers and oceans where they choke and poison about one hundred thousand whales, birds, and other aquatic life each year, or act as rafts carrying foreign species to new ecosystems.

    Going Green – Plastic Island in the Pacific

    I once thought paper bags were more environmentally-friendly-ish because they are biodegradable. Nope. Making ten billion paper bags (about the number of grocery bags United Statesians use in a year) requires fourteen million trees to be cut down because they require virgin fibers to hold up to heavy groceries. On top of that, pulp and paper mills are among the worst polluters of air, water and land of any manufacturing industry.

    There is a hidden option, it’s like the elusive third door that no one tells you about but really has the best prizes if you just take a wild stab and guess it. Reusable cloth bags! By far the best solution to the bag crisis in the US.

    Sophie World

    The tough part is remembering to bring them with you. Practice makes perfect so keep trying. Here are some techniques you might want to try:

    • Doorknob – Attach at least one, if not more than one, reusable shopping bag to the doorknob you most often leave through. You have to literally touch them in order to get out of the house.
    • Car – Designate a box in your car to store a few reusable bags. Now you only have to remember to get them into the store.
    • Purse – There are many options of reusable bags which are small enough to stick in your purse or pocket. There’s no excuse for not using it if you’ve been carrying it around with you.
    • Make a note – Stick a note anywhere you’re likely to see it –on the mirror, on your dashboard, on your forehead– to remind yourself.
    • All of the above – If you’re like me then you’ve probably accumulated dozens of reusable bags at festivals, fairs and events. I keep my bags anywhere and everywhere.

    As an added incentive many places across the US either give to a discount for using your own bags or expect you to pay for the store’s plastic or paper bags you use. So if being a Earth-saving superhero isn’t enough, maybe money will convince you.

    How do you remember your reusable bags when shopping?

    Greening Your Home Part 3: Cleaning Supplies

     An unquestionable certainty of life, much like death and taxes, is that your home will always need cleaning. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought to myself, “But I’ve just cleaned this!” And like so many other things that we use without really thinking conventional cleaners are not very good for the environment. They release volatile organic compounds and other toxic chemical’s which remain on surfaces in your home and evaporate into the air.

    Read: Part 1 (Big Purchases) and Part 2 (Decorating)

    Did you know that the air inside your home, if you use conventional cleaners, is two to five times more polluted than the air outside your home? What’s more is that these chemicals are seeping out of our homes — not that we really wanted to keep them inside — and polluting ground water and air. Additionally, these chemicals are related to 10% of the toxic exposures, through contact or ingestion, reported to US poison control centers.

    If every household in America replaced one bottle of conventional cleaner with an ecofriendly product, that would prevent 11 million pounds of VOCs from entering the environment.

    Pinterest is always a great source for homemade cleaners, using various combinations of lemon juice, vinegar, borax etc. for specific household chores (if you do make your own products, NEVER mix with conventional cleaners as this can have fatal results, and be sure to label any leftovers). But if you’re an all-purpose cleaner gal like I am, good news: the market for household cleaners that are both effective and earth-friendly is booming!

    A few brand of cleaners to check out:

    • Method
    • Seventh Generation
    • Planet
    • Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day
    • Greenhome.com is a great place to look for paper products, cleaners, and detergents as well as everything from vacuums to armiores

    Use cleaning products that:

    • list their ingredients
    • contain no chlorine, anything that starts with chlor, or ammonia (hydrogine peroxide can be used in lieu of bleach)
    • are certified biodegradable and free of synthetic chemicals
    • come in recyclable packaging
    • for soaps and detergents – no phosphates or anything derived from petroleum

     
    How are you planning to change your cleaning habits for a healthier body and Earth? 

    Buying Food: The naked truth about organic and local

    Food. It is essential to life and some (ie. me) may say to happiness. But there are a few things you should be thinking about if you want to live sustainably.

    Organic

    Producers earn the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) “organic” label by using no chemical pesticides, growth-enhancing chemicals, or genetic modification on their crops. The USDA “organic” label is assigned to livestock farmers who avoid steroids, hormones and antibiotics; use organically grown feed and treat livestock humanely. It is also common for organic farmers to use renewable resources, conserve water and maintain or improve soil quality.

    Unfortunately, organic food is often (always) more expensive than conventional food. There are, of course, reasons for this: employers may pay workers lower wages in conventional farming operations, chemicals increase crop yield, organic foods are often produced on a smaller scale etc. But if you are unable to switch completely to organic start small buy purchasing organics that are comparable in price to the conventional counterpart. I’ve said it before, but it’s important to remember, you can vote with your money and stores take notice of what you buy.

    Therefore, if you buy organic food you have the potential to:

    • lessen cruelty to animals
    • avoid consuming health-threatening chemicals
    • prevent damaging pesticides from entering the environment
    • help maintain soil fertility for future generations
    • shift the market toward more affordable organic products

    Alternatively, organic foods are not:

    • more flavorful
    • higher in nutrient
    • cures for the common cold
    • the fountain of youth
    • preferred diets of unicorns

    So get off your high horse (insert Umbridge-ian *hem hem*, unicorn).

    On the other hand, organic foods are not always better (side note: I always knew it was time to pay attention in school when a word was emphasized with bold, italic AND underline *hint, hint*). Threw you a curve ball there didn’t I? For the most part, as I’ve described, organic foods are better for the environment. However, if the food has to travel very far to reach it’s destination, we measure this in food miles. In some cases, conventionally grown food that was grown locally can be less detrimental to the environment than organically grown food that has traveled a great distance. Which brings us to the topic of eating locally.

    Local

    Support your local community and economy by shopping at smaller, locally owned markets and farmer’s markets. It’s a little more expensive: big companies can charge less because they sell such a vast quantity, so small grocers have a hard time competing. Local harvest is a website, which helps you locate food co-ops, farmer’s markets, CSA or local farms in your area.

    If you cannot afford to spend more for less, there are sections or products within the large multinational companies labeled locally grown (here in Colorado it say, “Colorado grown” or “Colorado raised”).

    Food Cooperatives (Co-ops) are non-profit business owned by their members. Anyone can shop there, but by becoming a member you receive discounts on purchases and decision making abilities for the future of the business. Find your local food cooperative through Co-op Directory Service.

    Farmer’s Markets are locally run, seasonal, open-air markets that showcase local growers. Farmer’s markets build community through the one-on-one interaction and education of the producer and the consumer. You can find local farmer’s markets through the USDA Marketing Service.

    Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a subscription to fresh fruits and vegetables. On the same day every week you stop by a shop to pick up your box of fresh produce. You can choose the box size based on budget and cooking habits and you dollars go straight the the family farm — no middleman. The Robyn Van En Center for CSA Resources can direct you to the CSA nearest to you.

    You can also grow some, most or all of your own food at your home depending on your space. My mom mentioned in the comments below (Thanks mom!) that Grow Lawns, Not Food is a great resource for people wishing to pursue this option. For the urban agriculturalist (or anyone really, I’m not exclusive), check out my small-space gardening posts: Hanging Gutter Part 1 (my adventure in Home Depot), Hanging Gutter Part 2 (when I actually put the thing together), and Small Space Gardening on a Budget (where I show you my apartment balcony garden).

    And now the moment of truth… Where does your preferred supermarket land on the Better World Shopper rating scale?

    Ranked based on five factors: Human Rights, The Environment, Animal Protection, Community Involvement and Social
    [A Companiesare social and environmental leaders][B Companiestend to be mainstream companies taking social/environmental responsibility seriously][C Companieshave either mixed social and environmental records or insufficient data to rank them][D Companiesengage in practices that have significant negative impact on people and the planet][F Companieshave the worst social and environmental records]

    Green is the New Black: An Info Guide for Fashionistas

    About a week ago I read an article about consumerism. Basically the author was suggesting that in order to be sustainable you should stop purchasing. Anything. My response was that this is an unreasonable request. This may work for some people but it isn’t practical for the majority. Being green should be an attractive lifestyle to all kinds of people. I think the more important lesson for the green fashionista is to be conscience of WHAT your buying and both the quality and quantity of these items.

    In Greening Your Home Part 1 (Big Purchases) and Part 2 (Decorating), I talk about learning your personal style for home decor instead of following every current trend. The same applies to your wardrobe and this an info guide for all you fashionistas because green is the new black (I always love in books or movies when a character says the title).

    Make the cuts

    The first step to a greener wardrobe is to edit it. I don’t mean get rid of everything that isn’t made of sustainable materials and replace these things with pieces that are more environmentally-friendly. That would be the opposite of green. What I mean is find the time to look at every article of clothing that you own. Assign a spot on the floor for YES and a spot for NO.

    Look at each item carefully; try them on if you need to. Ask yourself:

    • Do I like this item?
    • Does it look good on me?
    • Do I feel good while wearing this?
    • Is it torn or have holes?
    • Can I fix it within a week?
    • Do I dread seeing someone while wearing this?
    • Do I only wear it on laundry day?

    If you haven’t worn something for a year, you probably don’t need it anymore. Some things (a wedding or bridesmaids dress, Halloween costumes, etc.) are exceptions. If you can’t think of a good reason to keep something, don’t! Put it in the NO pile and get it out of your life.

    I don’t believe in MAYBE piles. I always end up keeping everything and it’s just a waste of time trying to kid yourself. Give yourself clear guidelines about what stays and what goes, and stick to them. Purging your wardrobe is oddly satisfying.

    Develop a Shopping Strategy

    If you have a game plan before you leave your house about how you plan to shop you will be more likely to keep on the righteous path toward green (I’m officially a green crusader after that statement). Here are a few tips that might help you on your journey.

    • Always keep at least one reusable shopping bag by your front door or in your car. There is so much information about the evils of both plastic and paper bags but this post has neither the time nor the space so in the meantime you’ll have to take my word for it. When asked if you want paper or plastic always respond by saying, “Neither, I care about my planet and have brought my own bag.” Or something along those lines.
    • Make a list and stick to it. If you make a list you will (hopefully) only include the things you really need, and you will resist the urge to go shopping out of boredom. Think of all the things you can do with your time now. Also, by sticking to the list you won’t be caught off guard by those strategically placed items that stores are so good at setting up in order to encourage you to buy on impulse.
    • Opt for organic or sustainable materials. As I mentioned in Greening Your Home Part 2, conventional cotton  farming practices are the most pesticide-intensive in the world. Organic cotton is more expensive but is also more luxurious and used in better quality clothing, which means you won’t have to buy clothes as often. Silk, cashmere, and wool are all sustainable materials, linen and hemp come from plants that even when not grown organically require very little treatment with pesticides.
    • Consider vintage, consignment and thrifting. Now I could go on for pages about how much fun I find thrift stores (and I probably will at some point, so look forward to that). But the main thing you should take away from this post today is that clothes that are used require no additional energy to manufacture, the energy is already used and gone. Also you won’t be wearing the same outfit as a hundred other people.
    Some e-cards is really helping me tell a story today. They just really understand my life.
    • Don’t get suckered by sales. Sales are a clever ploy to get you to buy things you don’t need. There is a sale for every occasion: Father’s Day, Labor Day, After-Christmas, 4th of July. I know when you look at that label for 75% off it can be tempting, but just because you can get a brand-new shower head that also brews coffee for $19.95 doesn’t mean you need it.
    • Treat everyone you come across with respect. No matter where you are shopping or what you are buying, everyone deserves  to be treated with dignity, respect and friendliness. If you are unhappy about a policy or product, the people you come in contact with are not to blame.

    Where to Buy

    Now is the time I give you a list of the places you should be making purchases from. This list comes from A Better World Handbook and is ranked based on five factors: Human Rights, The Environment, Animal Protection, Community Involvement and Social Justice. They also have a Shopping Guide.

    • A Companies – are social and environmental leaders
    • B Companies – tend to be mainstream companies taking social/environmental responsibility seriously
    • C Companies – have either mixed social and environmental records or insufficient data to rank them
    • D Companies – engage in practices that have significant negative impact on people and the planet
    • F Companies – have the worst social and environmental records

    The Pros and Cons of Wind Power (repost)

    I wrote this piece during my internship at the Society for Range Management for the SRM Outreach Blog. It’s about the positive and negative aspects of wind power based on an article I read. I thought it would be appropriate for Monday since I usually write about some environmental topic or other on Mondays… Anyway enjoy! 🙂

    CQ Researcher is a periodical that covers some of the most debated social and political topics of today. I recently read a CQ Researcher article titled, “Wind Power: Is Wind Energy Good for the Environment?” written by David Hosansky, which I found to be especially informative.  

    Photo by Maggie Haseman,
     National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO

    In his article Hosansky outlines the history of how humans have harnessed the power of wind. Between 5,500 B.C.E. and 1,400 A.C.E., wind power was first employed in Southeast Asia to sail boats, and in windmills to pump water and grind grain. In the 18th and early 19th century and during the Industrial Revolution, steam began to replace wind, a well established energy source throughout Europe, as a power source. By the late 19th century, however wind reclaimed its early importance when scientists began developing windmills to bring electricity to rural areas, especially in Scotland, the United States, and Denmark. In the 1900s to 1980s most of the U.S. was reliant on nuclear energy and fossil fuels for electricity, farmers however used small windmills for irrigation pump operation. Between 1990 and present day, interest in alternative energy has increased due to rising oil prices, among other factors. Today, Hosansky cites China as the wind power world leader with a wind-energy capacity of 42 gigawatts, followed closely by the U.S. at 40 gigawatts.

    A wind turbine works by capturing energy when the wind blows past the blade, there is a “lift” effect causing the blades to turn. As the blades turn, a shaft that is connected to the generator spins, creating electricity.

    Wind Turbine Diagram and Parts

    Blades: Every turbine usually has either two or three blades.
    Rotor: The blades and the hub together are called the rotor.
    Pitch: Blades are turned, or pitched, out of the wind to control the rotor speed.
    Brake: A disc brake, which can stop the rotor in emergencies.
    Low-speed shaft: The rotor turns the low-speed shaft at about 30 to 60 rotations per minute.
    Gear box: Gears connect the low-speed shaft to the high-speed shaft and increase speeds from about 30 to 60 rotations per minute (rpm) to 1,000 to 1,800, rpm, the speed required by most generators to produce electricity.
    Generator: Produces 60-cycle AC electricity.
    Controller: The controller starts up the machine at wind speeds of about 8 to 16 miles per hour (mph) and shuts off the machine at about 55 mph.
    Anemometer: Measures the wind speed and transmits wind speed data to the controller.
    Wind vane: Measures wind direction and communicates with the yaw drive to orient the turbine properly with respect to the wind.
    Nacelle: Contains the gear box, low- and high-speed shafts, generator, controller, and brake.
    High-speed shaft: Drives the generator.
    Yaw drive: Keeps the rotor on upwind turbines facing into the wind as the wind direction changes.
    Yaw motor: Powers the yaw drive.
    Tower: Towers are made from tubular steel, concrete, or steel lattice.
    Caption Source:  Department of Energy
    Photo Source: Turbine Zone

    
    Some of the issues I found interesting in Hosansky’s paper include the problem of wind intermittency, the financial constraints involved with wind power, the effect wind energy can have by displacing some emissions and pollutants, concerns about wildlife protection, and the land requirements for a wind farm.

    Photo by Charles Haseman,
    Along I-80 near Des Moines, Iowa

     Living in Colorado, a relatively windy state, I don’t notice a lack of wind but this article reminded me that not every place in the U.S. or the world receives gusts as powerful as those throughout the Great Plains and the west coast. The article discusses that wind power seems to be a perfect fit for the U.S., according to Hosansky, If wind turbines had the ability to operate at 100% of their capacity, wind power has the potential to supply 16 times the electricity needs of the United States; however wind turbines only generate 25-40% of their capacity due to wind intermittency. Another challenge is that the locations with the most persistent wind tend to be in sparsely populated areas away from major population centers and not necessarily when the demand for energy peaks.  As a result, a large network of transmission lines is necessary to deliver the wind energy to the consumers, which could be costly.

    I find the financial controversy outlined by Hosansky particularly fascinating. In order to reach the current U.S. goal of generating 20% of energy by wind power, the estimated cost is $200 billion, likely to be burdened onto ratepayers. This money would be used for turbines, improved transmission line capability and other infrastructure. Wind farms can also lower property value by up to 40%. On the other hand, turbines can result in local governments receiving “higher real estate tax revenue” and landowners leasing their land to build towers for $3,000 to $5,000 a year. The renewable energy standard President Obama presented will protect consumers from unstable fuel prices, save money, boost the economy and create green jobs. In addition the price of wind power is less than other renewable-energy sources.

    Photo by Charles Haseman,
    Along I-80 near Des Moines, Iowa

    To me, Hosansky’s summary of the effect of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, which are often noted as the culprits for climate change, and the way wind power impacts them is enlightening. “The extraction, transport and combustion of… fossil fuels can affect water and air quality, wildlife habitats and the global climate.” Additionally green energy does not necessarily include all renewable energies; cycling fossil fuel plants up and down in response to the intermittent wind is expensive and “can emit excessive pollution” and reduce the “effectiveness of environmental-control equipment.” In order to reduce emissions it would be more efficient to directly address that problem. Conversely, wind energy is a key energy source to reducing air pollution and carbon dioxide and other emissions from coal and natural gas. Besides hydropower, wind energy generates the most amount of electricity compared to every other renewable energy sources, and it is considered safer than nuclear energy. A combination of diverse mixed fuel sources such as wind, solar and a back-up system of newer and more efficient gas-fired plants that can be quickly ramped up or down can reduce emissions significantly because fossil fuel plants won’t be running as often.

    Photo by Charles Haseman,
    Along I-80 near Des Moines, Iowa

    Possibly the most popular argument against wind power that I have heard is about the detrimental effects it can have on wildlife, particularly birds and bats; Hosansky explains this captivating argument. Thousands of birds, including rare raptors such as golden eagles and burrowing owls have been killed by the blades of wind mills, and others have been electrocuted by wind-farm power lines. Additionally, in one year 2,000 bats may have been killed by a single wind farm. However, others suggest that wind farms can be placed far from migratory paths and “major populations of birds and bats” where such effects are less likely. Experts say that many reports of wildlife death were made prior to technological advances; modern wind mills are taller and kill far fewer animals. One report stated that turbines are low on the list of reasons why birds and bats die; pesticides, attacks by domestic and feral cats and collisions with windows kill much greater number of birds.

    Photo by Maggie Haseman,
     National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO

    Another interesting argument discussed by Hosansky concerns land requirements. “Wind farms require far more land… than traditional forms of electricity generation”; estimates say “45 times more than nuclear power and several times more than coal and natural gas plants”. Furthermore, the location of wind farms can damage sensitive ecosystems and destroy beautiful landscapes. Alternatively, ”the turbines take up relatively little space and [the] land around” them can still be utilized for other purposes such as farming, ranching and recreation, thus taking up less space than fossil fuel plants overall. Additionally, improvements in technology continue to allow for larger turbines, meaning fewer are necessary to generate the same amount of electricity. Moreover, between smog and a windmill, one person stated they’d take the windmill.

    This article was eye-opening to me and really gave some insight into benefits of and current issues with wind power. I now believe I have formed an educated opinion around wind energy and based on the issues discussed above I personally support wind power. It seems that the issues with it can be solved and, in my opinion, the issues, when they are compared to the benefits, are minor. I enjoyed reading the story-like writing and the political perspective on wind energy. If you would like to read this article too, here is the citation:


    Hosansky, D. (2011, April 1). Wind Power: Is wind power good for the environment?. CQ Researcher, 21, 289-312.

    Greening Your Home Part 2: Decorating

    Part two in a series about how to green your home (part one can be viewed here) is all about decorating and the little details. Home should be three things: an oasis, which makes you feel safe and healthy, a reflection of your personal style and it should smell wonderful.

    The most important thing to remember when redecorating (or decorating for the first time) is that your style is more sustainable than whatever the current trend is. Focus on what you like and dislike and find furniture (see part one), textiles and decorative objects to fit your niche. Think about your style, do you prefer mid-century modern, girly antique, breezy beach cottage, or something else?

    De-clutter Your Life

    Alright, in my experience the best decorating strategy is to start by cutting out all the clutter in your life. This extremely freeing (when I get on a roll sorting into the trash, recyclable, give-away and sell piles I just feel like the queen of the world), but what’s more is accumulating a bunch of junk you don’t need is an unsustainable habit.

    I know it’s time to clean out when magazines are piling up on the floor, mail on the table, laundry goes undone, clean clothes remain on the floor… I think I’ll stop listing things now since I am beginning to sound like a major slob.

    MAGAZINES
    Only keep subscriptions to those publications, which you read regularly and would miss if they did not arrive each month. Not only do they take up space but if you aren’t reading the magazine it’s a waste of paper. 

    BILLS
    Opt for e-bills to pay online. Saves paper and cuts the clutter.

    JUNK MAIL
    A year’s worth of junk mail slays over one million trees, wastes 28 billion gallons of water and uses as much CO2 as 2.8 million cars. 41 Pounds is a service, which removes you from junk mailing lists for five years.

    Things to keep around

    STORAGE

    Now that you’ve removed the clutter you need a place to store the stuff you DO want to keep. I made a couple of storage containers out of old shoe boxes. I don’t know why but I can’t stand to get rid of shoe boxes, they are so sturdy it just seems a waste. I was using them to store things hidden in my closet (because they aren’t very attractive) but I found a pin on pinterest, which showed me the light. Here are my results:

    I can post a tutorial on how to make these boxes (no sewing). Check out my poor sickly plant: that was a just because gift from boyfriend (aww). I just replanted it from the plastic container it came in into a big boy pot. It’s not adjusting well.

    Toss the things you don’t need, hide the things you don’t want to see, and as for the rest? Continue reading; there’s no need to keep every surface in your home totally barren.

    PLANTS
    Plants are my favorite things in the world; I prefer to live in a jungle home with every surface (including the floor) supporting a pot with a plant of some kind. I think they are so pretty AND they can eliminate toxins from the air. Here is a list of beautiful plants and the toxins which they remove.

    • Gerbera daisies (reduce formaldehyde levels)
    • Chrysanthemums (reduce benzene and trichloroethylene levels)
    • Orchids (reduce xylene and toluene levels)
    • English ivy (reduces benzene levels)
    • Bamboo (reduces formaldehyde levels)
    • Butterfly palm (replaces your humidifier)
    • Rubber plant (reduces formaldehyde levels, can be toxic to pets)
    • Peace lily
    • Heartleaf or elephant ear philodendron

      Just a little plant pun for you: I would have given you flowers, but I never botany. *groan*

      CANDLES
      I love candles. They smell lovely and create ambient light. As long as you use candles made from soy or beeswax they are also eco-friendly.  Make sure to keep these around.

      Soy wax burns cleaner, lasts longer, holds more fragrance, contain no toxic chemicals or carcinogens, and are all-natural (when no non-natural fragrance or color is added). Beeswax candles are naturally scented with honey and smell sensational. Look for sustainable brands because the bees need the wax to lay eggs in and store honey so we don’t want to exploit their homes.

      REFURBISH
      Look at objects in a different light. For example, while shopping at ReSource Yard, a building materials re-purposing company here in Fort Collins, I found an old brick in a pile of other old bricks. Because this particular brick was the only one like it, it was practically useless on its own but check out how I decided to use it.

      My wine selection is lacking, but before I had a place to store wine I couldn’t buy as much. I’ve been looking for a unique wine storage unit for a while now. You never know what you’ll find, if you look with a creative mind. (Haha rhyming, I give you permission to use that as your personal motto).

      WHAT’S IMPORTANT
      Say you have a collection of pig figurines. Find a way to display your collection where it’s viewable, not in the corner gathering dust. Pig figurines may not be trending in the interior design world but if it’s important to you it will make you feel that much more comfortable in your home. Your home should reflect your personal style.

      PICTURES and PAINTINGS
      I love having pictures of my family and friends all over the house. I also have framed artwork from poster stores, Dustin Hawks (my brother-in-law), magazines (Yoga journal always includes a full page image of some scene in nature. I change these out every month), and even a few flea market purchases.
      • Support a local artist to find new art and help your community.
      • Look for art at flea markets, garage sales, antique stores and thrift stores.
      • Recycle pages from books, magazines, newspapers and turn them into art.
      • Frame photographs and hang them artistically, below is a beautifully designed gallery wall:

      FABRICS and TEXTILES
      Unless they’re organic, the cotton sheets on your bed were probably sprayed with 1.25 pounds of pesticides. Conventionally grown cotton uses 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of all pesticides. These carcinogens seep into groundwater and contaminate the habitat for fish and other wildlife. Regular cotton sheets are also treated with formaldehyde and some of the colored dyes may contain heavy metals. Now you know why your mom told you to wash your sheets before sleeping in them.

      As for cotton-polyester blend sheets, they don’t tend to last as long (meaning you have to buy more often… so not green) and are derived from petroleum. So when you’re looking for a new set of sheets, be sure to look for the following:

      • Organic cotton (or linen, or pesticide-free bamboo)
      • Free of harsh chemical dyes
      • Not chlorine bleached

      A few brands to check out:

      • Anna Sova ($130 for a complete set)
      • Coyuchi ($50 – flat and fitted sheets sold separately)
      • Loop ($200 for a complete set)

      and for those not rolling in dough, Target has a line of organic cotton sheets starting at $25 for a set.

      All the statistics above apply to curtains, towels and blankets. Look for organic cotton or wool blankets to snuggle up with this winter so you don’t have to turn up the heat (double green win!)

      Did I miss something? Leave your sustainable decorating tips below in the comments, and come back soon to learn about Earth-friendly cleaning in Part 3 of Greening Your Home.

      Greening Your Home Part 1: Big Purchases

      In my opinion home should be two things: an oasis, which makes you feel safe and healthy and a reflection of your personal style. Okay, three things, it should also smell terrific. Whether your home is a sprawling house in the suburbs or a closet-sized apartment in the city home should make you release a sigh at the thought.

      Greening your home doesn’t require a decorator or another mortgage. In fact, if you went and replaced everything in your home to “greener” products, you would actually be the anti-green (red?). So let’s break this down: we want to reflect our personal style, we want to feel safe and healthy and we want a nice smell. Over the next couple of weeks I will try to address each of these topics.

      Today, let’s talk about the big things for decorating in an Earth-friendly, sustainable way. Furniture, floors, walls and building will be the main focus.

      Furniture

      The most prominent feature in your home (besides the walls and ceiling and stuff) is probably your furniture. If you really need to replace your furniture you should, just keep in mind it take a lot of energy to manufacture new products and processing emits toxins and chemicals. Here are some alternatives to buying new.

      ONE: VINTAGE
      Antiquing is an action for a reason: not only can you find carefully made (things were just made better long ago), GORGEOUS furniture, it is completely ecofriendly because no energy is required to produce it (it’s already been made, and used, and maybe used again). Check out local antique stores, flea markets, garage sales, and furniture consignment store (How to shop garage sales etc. coming soon!).

      And if you think antiques are stuffy, or boring, check out the above image, which is totally chic.
      TWO: REFURBISH
      A little sprucing up can do wonders for furniture, sometimes making it look new and always returning unique results. As an added bonus, upgrading furniture uses 85 to 95 percent less energy than producing a new piece.
      THREE: REPURPOSE
      In Fort Collins and Boulder, CO there is a company called ReSource Yard. They operate by removing usable cabinets, doors, windows, hardware, lumber, etc. from buildings, which are being remodeled or torn down. They then sell these building materials. My dad made an entertainment center entirely from material bought at the location in Boulder. 
      Look for something like this is your area or check before purchasing furniture whether it has been repurposed. Scrapile is a Brooklyn-based company, which uses piano wood scraps to make furniture and home accessories.
      FOUR: ECOFRIENDLY PRODUCTION
      More and more you can find new furniture in furniture stores made from sustainable materials. Check for Forest Stewardship Council certification on wood. Bamboo is a good choice because a forest of bamboo that has been clearcut can regenerate in as little as 3 years (compared to the average conventional wood forest, which can take 30-50 years, or even longer). Fabrics should be organic (for more about organic products check out future post on organic foods).
      FIVE: GIVING
      When you DO need to upgrade your furniture, be sure to donate (or give to a poor college student) the old furniture. If you liked it at some point, chances are someone else will like it too. Also, it can’t hurt to get that karma boost from having such a kind-hearted nature. If you feel that your karma is maxed you can also try selling the furniture in a garage sale or on Craig’s List.

      Building

      FLOORS
      If you deside to replace whatever floors you have, please consider the following…

      Carpet, though soft and confortable, are loaded with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as toluene, formaldehyde and xylene, all of which are bad for your nervous system and the Earth. Carpet is also very difficult to clean, even if you steam it, therefore they accumulate soot, fungus, flea eggs, dust mite poop, arsenic, mercury and pesticides. Yum!

      Instead, opt for either bamboo flooring (for the same reasons mentioned above) or reclaimed/refurbished wood (possibly from a piano factory). Lay out some areas rungs, which are easy to shake out. Look for those made from natural fiber with no nasty glues.

      If you absolutely must buy carpet for whatever reason, Interface is a company that, while not completely guilt free, at least uses some recycled and renewable materials in production.


      PAINT
      Painting is a great way to drastically change the look of a space, but most paints contain high levels of VOCs, which is probably why you get that headache when you paint. The best thing you can do is look for low or no VOCs latex paints or milk-based paints. We don’t want petroleum-based paints (don’t even get me started on petroleum). Check out BioShield paint by Benjamin Moore or Old Fashioned Milk Paint. If you learn nothing else today, learn this: never dump unused paint down the drain! (Also, just covering my bases but please don’t set it on fire… I know you were totally just about to do that.)

      WALLPAPER
      I know, wallpaper brings to mind scenes of interior design nightmares, but there are some very chic patterns available (it’s making a comeback ya’ll). Most wallpapers are made with vinyl, aka PVC. If you have room to learn two things today, I suggest you learn this too: vinyl is literally the worst. Look for the wallpaper that is vinyl free (since ’93).

      That’s all I have today. Leave a comment below if there’s something you’d really like to know more about.

      Can the ocean keep up with the hunt?

      I watched this video in my Wildlife Ecology and Conservation class (FW104) and answer a few questions about it. I found the information to be very important, especially to a fish lover like myself. I also wanted to pass it on because, as anyone who has been following this blog or knows me will have heard me say before, it is critical for everyone to understand where their food is coming from and how it is produced. So here is the video; it’s about 20 minutes:

       In case you don’t have the time to view this video here are the main ideas:

      Commercial Fishing

      • The ocean is what they call a biological desert. For it’s size, diversity is actually very low.
      • The fish population in the open ocean is being exhausted due to over-fishing through commercial fishing operations and pirate ships (ARR!).
      • We aren’t catching the same fish species for consumption as we have in past decades. As larger fish disappear, global fleets target smaller fish, lower on the food chain. This leads to further collapses in the ocean ecosystem.
      • 20 million metric tons of fish are discarded as waste annually. Untargeted fish are called bycatch. This unintended harvest is equal to a catch 4 times that of the US fishing fleet. 
      • Fishing gear that have had considerable impact on bycatch include bottom-trawling nets (nets are run along the bottom of the ocean, capturing everything they come across) and long-line fishing (thousand of lines with hooks are trailed behind ships, with no system to discriminate species). Both forms are meant to catch large amount of fish at once and are prone to catching endangered species like sharks and sea turtles, who die before they can be returned to the water.
      • Hook fisherman leave the habitat intact by one fisherman, fishing with one pole and one hook. They catch one fish, keep it if it’s what they want and throw it back if it’s not. No damage is done to the ecosystem but it is not practical for the vast quantities of fish demanded by the public.
      • In extreme cases, it is very hard for fish stocks to recover, especially if fishing continues at the same rate. The solutions are to either stop fishing all together or…

      Aquaculture

      • The USA is the leader in aquaculture, or the practice of farming fish. The main type of fish that are farmed are tuna and salmon.
      • The problem with aquaculture, especially tuna and salmon, is that these are carnivorous fish. In order to farm these fish, we must feed them. This increases pressures on fishing, but instead of fishing for direct consumption we fish for smaller fish to feed the larger fish for indirect consumption.
      • It takes 17 pounds of fish to produce one pound of tuna; three pounds to produce one pound of salmon.
      • Tilapia, from the Nile River, is an omnivore and can be raised mostly on plant-based proteins.
      • Catfish farming in the Mississippi delta, has experienced great successes. Feeding them has gone from 10-14% fish meal to 1-2% fish meal today. 
      • Shellfish farming is also a good business. They stay quiet, they stay where you put them and they clean up the water. They also produce vast amounts of food in a small area; according to the video shellfish could be the answer to world hunger.
       http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaculture_of_salmon
      • There are a few risks to human health associated with aquaculture due to bioaccumulation: PCBs and dioxins are two examples.
      • Natural salmon are less exposed to bioaccumulation problems because they consume mainly crustaceans whereas farm fish eat fish meal. In fact, natural salmon have pink flesh due to their diet of shrimp and crustaceans (much like flamingos), and farm salmon are dyed pink before they are sold at market. Gross!
      • With farmed fish we are concerned about disease and infection so we use antibiotics in feed as a preventative measure; this could lead to resistant bacteria. 
      • Disease and infection is more of a problem in farms than in the wild. They use this analogy to describe this: if you stood on a football field with someone who has a cold you probably won’t catch it (the wild) but if you stood in an elevator with 11 people who all have colds you will probably also catch cold (fish farm).
      • Large number of escaped farm salmon may impact the integrity of the wild population by messing with thousands of years of natural selection.
      • Tropical areas have many mangrove wetland habitats (mangrove forests) that have been displaced by shrimp farming. This destroys habitat that the people and wildlife depend on (ex. crab production and medicinal plants). A particular example is salt water released from ponds contaminated fresh water aquifers.
      • Deep water aquaculture is where net cages are submerged and anchored to the sea floor. Could be better for ecosystems than near or on land aquaculture depending on implementation.
      • Improvements in vaccines have reduced antibiotic use. Improved nets and anchors have reduced escapes, land-based tanks protect wild populations from farm-waste and disease.

      Want to do something?

      Unfortunately, most people don’t pay attention to where their food comes from. Do you think you’ll pay more attention now that you have this information?

      If yes, there are many resources available to you and I hope you’ll check them out:

       

      • I keep this seafood watch guide in my wallet (mine’s from April 2007, a friend brought it to me when she visited California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium). You can print out your own from the website. 
      • Seafood watch also has and app for Apple and Android.

      Now I love salmon as much as the next person (maybe more depending on who’s next) but I know I’m going to always check where my fish is coming from, what about you?

      10 Myths About "Green" Living

      You may not notice it in everyday life but current trends show a decrease in agricultural lands and wilderness as urban areas spread. Consumerism rules the hearts and minds of U.S. citizens and pollution and species decline are on the rise. Turning these trends around will take action on the individual level. We can’t leave it up to the arguably corrupt political system in this country, which panders to exploitative special interests. We can’t leave it up to the extremist organizations. If the individual learns their own behavior and realizes their own impact and how these contribute to destructive trends we can create opportunities.

      Adopting better habits doesn’t require wealth, unreasonable time commitments or a complete overhaul of your life. These are just a few of the misconceptions about “green” living that many Americans believe. Consider these and the following myths and their corresponding truths in order to take the first steps in your commitment to creating a better world.

      1. “Green” living is a virtuous trait, not an obligation

      While some people do make their commitment to green living a personality trait, we have to remember that it is the obligation of every individual to leave the planet in the same or better condition than how we found it. Since it is now commonly known that human activities are the biggest threat facing the global ecosystem, the only solution is for humans to clean up their mess. Do you expect the hummingbirds to do it? Maybe some rocks will help out.

      2. It will be too disruptive and difficult to change my current lifestyle

      There will probably be a period of adjustment as one makes the commitment to living more simply and reducing their impact, but difficult and disruptive are not necessarily the descriptive words I would choose to describe this period. Especially since it will probably have to be a gradual change, little things over the course of many weeks. This study gives some insight into how to develop new habits including a Japanese technique called Kaizen. Any activity repeated over a period of time can become a habit.

      3. “Green” products are hard to find and expensive

      In some cases, for example energy efficient appliances, this is true however in the long run these products save money in other areas, like your energy bill. On the other hand many earth-friendly products are actually less expensive than their conventional counterparts because they are often made using recycled or reclaimed materials, which require less processing and output less waste. Additionally the sustainable products industry is growing as more and more costumers prefer the earth-friendly alternative. Just remember that every purchase you make is a vote for more of that product, and producers listen.

      4. Earth-friendly preferences and behaviors will make me look cheap and eccentric

      To some, yes, but only those that do not understand the needs of our society and environment. Anyway acute intelligence and enlightenment have always been perceived as eccentric. However, there are ways to be thrifty and chic, something I will elaborate more fully on in a later post. Additionally Dr. Seuss says it best, “Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind, don’t matter.” Remember that.

      5. “Green” living requires a frugality that will deprive me and my family of comforts and conveniences I’ve earned

      Reasonable comforts and conveniences needn’t be sacrificed when making this commitment to a simpler life. The scale or quantity to which you’ve become accustomed to may need to be reduced but you may be surprised to learn that designer home furnishings, state-of-the-art appliances, a fancy schmancy car, fine cuisine and exotic vacations are available in earth-friendly forms. By taking a step away from the consumerism which drives many peoples lives you may just find a more satisfying, healthier, simpler and more balanced life.

      6. The economy will suffer if I stop buying conventionally

      Businesses and companies follow the consumer; if the consumer wants more eco-friendly products available at a lower price, the producer will supply it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, every purchase you make is a vote for what you want to buy.

      7. I don’t have time to support environmental causes

      You can choose how much time, if any, you want to give to support any cause that is important to you. The internet has made it simple to sign a petition or receive timely information at your convenience.

      8. It’s hypocritical to advocate and practice environmentally friendly behaviors in some, but not all, areas of my life

      Living the earth-friendly way is not the end of the road. It’s an evolution of states. No one can do it all because there is no all to do. There’s always something else you can learn, something else you can start practicing, something else you can sign a petition for. This is not meant to sound over-whelming, it’s meant to sound exciting, there are so many options for how you can do your part in a way that fits your lifestyle.

      9. I can’t change anything if some people aren’t doing anything at all

      Your efforts, no matter how small, in reducing your footprint makes a difference in that the collective footprint has been reduced. You must be the change you wish to see in the world. Ghandi said that so it must be true.

      10. There’s only one right answer to climate change

      This is beyond not true. Experts can’t agree on any answer to the problem because there is not one right answer. In my opinion the best answer starts with the individual and that means Y-O-U.

      Now that you know the truth about some of the pressing issues surrounding living sustainably are you ready to make a pledge to be “green”? Comment below if you are.