Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Don't Be a LitterBug ...

The other day while we were hiking, we stopped to admire a waterfall ... just a small waterfall, but beautiful. The surrounding area was serene ... birds were singing ... the sky was blue and ... a soda can sat nestled among the wildflowers. As we walked a little further, we noticed candy wrappers and cigarette buds. And we wondered ... why do some people think that this is OK?

Earlier today, in my car, something red caught my eye. I could see it bouncing across the street but couldn't make it out. As traffic began to move and I got closer, I watched a red plastic cup bounce it's way right into a storm drain. And again I wondered ... why do some people think that this is OK?

Litter is waste disposed of in the wrong place by unlawful human action. Not only is it an eye sore, it actually harms the environment. For example, cigarette buds and filters are a threat to wildlife ... fish, animals, birds, etc., mistake them for food and ingest them. Open containers such as cans and plastic cups can hold rainwater, providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes and insects. Small critters often crawl into bottles and get stuck, starving to death when they can't escape. Litter that ends up in a storm drain may end up in our waterways, polluting plant and animal life.

Here are a few interesting litter facts:

  • Cigarettes are the most littered item in the world. Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate tow, a plastic, and they can take decades to degrade. Not only is the toxic residue damaging to the environment, tossed cigarettes are responsible for numerous fires every year.

  • Among the most common items found during litter cleanups are fast-food wrappers and aluminum cans (beer and soda cans).

  • The annual cost of roadside litter control, in the U.S., is $115 million.

  • According to Keep America Beautiful there are seven primary sources of litter:

  1. Household trash at the curbside
  2. Dumpsters used by businesses
  3. Loading docks
  4. Construction and demolition sites
  5. Uncovered trucks
  6. Motorists
  7. Pedestrians

OK ... litter is bad! It's ugly, it's destructive, it's environmentally hazardous. So today's tip is real easy ... DON'T LITTER. Here's are some things we can do:


  • DISPOSE OF TRASH PROPERLY!! If you don't see a trash bin, carry your trash home.

  • Use an ashtray for cigarette disposal or a receptacle designed for that purpose.

  • Carry a litter bag in your car, boat and on your bicycle.

  • Securely cover trash containers to prevent wind or animals from spreading litter.

  • Cover and secure any vehicle, truck or trailer carrying a load. Tarps can prevent litter from falling or blowing onto the roadside.

  • When visiting parks and recreation areas make sure to leave the area clean.

  • Follow the golden rule of hiking ... carry out what you carry in.


As with most green living ideas, this one is about awareness. We need to think about our actions and choose to do the right thing. The earth, and all of it's inhabitants, will thank you!


As always ... I would love to hear from you!


Monday, April 27, 2009

ASBESTOS – IS IT REALLY THAT BAD?

I recently found out that my "bloggy" friend Brian, from The New Author, is not only a brilliant author but ... an expert on Asbestos as well. Today, he is graciously sharing his knowledge with us.

The New Author is a wonderful site. It is a valuable resource for anyone who writes ... for those penning the "Great American Novel" as well as those writing a blog. For new authors, it teaches everything from crafting chapters to getting published. I recommend this site to ... well, to everyone.

A big THANK YOU to Brian for this informative article on Asbestos.



We, as a whole, fear what we do not understand. How many times have we been told not to use a particular item because it is hazardous to us and the environment only to discover that we based that decision on a misconception? It does happen; however, if we educate ourselves to the things around us we can make knowledgeable decisions and not rely on what others are telling us.

Asbestos is in this category. I know many of you have seen all the commercials on television about the lawsuits and how asbestos can be fatal. You may even know someone who has been exposed to Asbestos at some point in time. Actually, I can guarantee that you have; you just may not know it. Asbestos is everywhere. That’s right, Asbestos is everywhere. With that said, what is Asbestos? Where does it come from? Why is it bad for us? These are important questions to ask and answer.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a natural silicate mineral that comes from the earth. Asbestos, when translated from its Greek origin, means miracle mineral. The Greek and Roman Empire discovered and used Asbestos for generations before they noted the health affects it had on the slaves. Asbestos was named the “miracle mineral” because it will not burn or freeze and has a tensile strength stronger then steel. The Greeks and Romans used Asbestos for everything such as: clothes, tablecloths, building materials, toys, and the cistern that housed and delivered their drinking water. There are seven types of Asbestos with two being predominately found in building materials and one being the most hazardous.

Chrysotile is a white fluffy mineral that is serpentine in make up. This form of Asbestos was found in a vast majority of building materials.


Amosite is brown Asbestos that was predominantly used as insulation of water boilers and steam lines. This form of Asbestos can be found at shipyards and steam plants.


Crocidolite is blue Asbestos and although it is rare to find in use this Asbestos is the most hazardous to humans due to its formula. The blue color comes from that amount of iron within the Asbestos.

Why is Asbestos bad for us?

Asbestos is only a hazard when it is airborne and can be inhaled.

As seen in this picture of Chrysotile there are many strands hanging off this piece of limestone. Each of those strands is made up of millions of asbestos fibers that look like little spears. What we breathe in are those tiny little fibers that pass through our lungs to the point where our cells transfer the oxygen to our blood. Once there these fibers literally spear the cells at which time our body begins to fight it much like we fight a virus. This is where the trouble begins because the fibers are so small that our body cannot expel them so our body makes mucus to bind the bad cells to the wall of our lungs. This is how Asbestosis, lung cancer, and Mesothelioma begin. The more Asbestos fibers we inhale the more mucus and scar tissue are made. After a length of time of exposure our lungs will simply fail because the scar tissue will not allow it to expand and contract properly or we can literally drown in our own mucus.

How much exposure to Asbestos is too much?

This is a difficult question to answer because doctors and scientist alike cannot determine the amount of exposure before symptoms begin. We are all different and respond differently to Asbestos. There have been reports that some people develop lung cancer from a very limited amount of exposure and other people have worked around or with Asbestos for years and never developed symptoms. However, what is known is that a smoker who is exposed to Asbestos is 40 times more likely to get Asbestosis, Mesothelioma, or lung cancer as compared to a non-smoker. The fact that this question cannot be answered is one reason why Asbestos was banned in the United States and why Asbestos has more laws and regulations then any other hazardous material.

How do I identify Asbestos and keep my family safe?

From a legal standpoint Asbestos can only be identified through a sample analyzed by a certified laboratory. If you suspect that you have Asbestos in your home you can have it sampled. If you have Asbestos around you or in your home you can have it removed; however, this can be expensive. There are other ways to protect you from Asbestos exposure. You can apply a covering on it or cover it with an adhesive. For example, if you have Asbestos in your linoleum you can simply place another sheet of linoleum over it or cover it with another flooring material. If you have Asbestos exposed in your basement you could build a case around it or spray it with adhesive. The point is to NOT disturb it. If you think you will disturb it while working around it then spray it down with water first. The water will prevent it from becoming airborne. Do not cut, sand, break or pulverize Asbestos as this will release fibers into the air. Once the Asbestos it protected simply leave it alone. Again, you so not want to disturb it.

Is Asbestos really that bad? In my opinion we should not fear Asbestos. However, it demands respect and so we should respect it. Remember, Asbestos is harmful when it is airborne and that happens when it is disturbed. Are these terrible diseases we can get from Asbestos? Absolutely, my heart goes out to those who contracted any of the diseases caused by Asbestos exposure and their families. Be mindful of your surroundings and be safe.

I hope this article shed some light on Asbestos and you found it informative. Knowledge is power and perhaps this knowledge will help you keep your friends and family safe from the danger of Asbestos.



I'd like to, once again, thank Brian for sharing his knowledge with us.

As always ... I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Comments of Note

This has been quite a month ... we had the wonderful opportunity to hear from three fabulous guests who taught us and inspired us ... we've talked about the rainforest, roadblocks to living green, earth day, Eco-friendly printing fonts and vegan recipes ... and we took a field trip. We also heard from many of our Reduce Footprints "family" ... in fact, choosing ten comments for this monthly post was difficult.

I'd like to thank everyone who left a comment this month. Here are our Comments of Note:


From: Vegan Recipe - Black Bean and Quinoa Salad

gbenton789 said...

What a great salad. In addition to delicious, you Quinoa and White Corn are native to North America and have tremendous benefits to the environment as well as being delicious and great for us. Add heirloom bell peppers, jalepenos and tomatoes and you've got a salad that is especially healthy and great for the planet and sustainability! Five Stars*****


From: This Idea is Full of Holes

Every Photo Tells A Story said...

Voted! What a Great and Innovative idea. This is one of those inventions that comes around too frequently.

P.S. If I may vent. There is another issue that drives me crazy and wastes paper like crazy. Many people don't realize that there is a way to manually select the page they need to print out. Sometimes we search for an article, and many only need page 2 of 25 for our research, etc. So, what most people do is just automatically print "all". When they can simply print page 2 of 25. Doing so can reduce so much waste. You may have already touched on this issue. If so, thank you for letting me vent:)


From: Rainforests - Part One

Argentum Vulgaris said...

SF, as usual you touch the wick. I look forward to the rest of the series. It is, without doubt, the most important of all the issues we face at the moment.

I your list of rainforest products, don't forget rubber which came originally from the Amazon until stolen by the British and propagated in Kew gardens from where it was exported to Malaya. For some great info read a book called One River(can't think of the auhtor's name offhand). He was an ethno-biolgist who spent 50 years in the Amazon and surrounding areas.
AV

Ysabet said...

Recently I posted on a related topic, how forests (especially rainforests) generate wind and rain:
http://gaiatribe.geekuniversalis.com/2009/04/08/how-forests-generate-wind-and-rain/
So destroying the forests can disrupt weather patterns to the point of drying out an entire continent. It is hypothesized that this may explain Australia's condition.

Project Savior said...

You touched on it in post but maybe the most important reason (for humans) to save the rainforests is the scientific research into the properties of various exotic plants hold the keys to all sorts of new medicines.
If the rainforests are destroyed those cures are destroyed as well.

Lesley said...

Excellent post Sf. I hate to see those photos of vast areas of the rainforest that's been cut down...... miles of barren land with the remains of tree stumps.... and then compare it to the lush growth and the infinite number of species that once lived there. It's heartbreaking.

The thing is though that local people make their living from the palm oil plantations, etc. They're poor people and want to enjoy the pleasures that people from other countries enjoy, so they're going to take what work is on offer. I think one of the most important aspects is to try to develop alternative means of income for those people, so they can enjoy a good standard of living without harming the environment.

I look forward to reading your future posts on this subject. :)


From: Rainforests - Part Two

harri pao said...

I'm agree with choosing wood products that don't contribute to destruction of the rain forest is not easy...one of opportunities, in Indonesia, especially in Java where is huge population and scarcity of forest wood...we've been used village-wood from trees planted surrounded the village. But restoring the rain forest have to take action...Your articles, part one and two, are comprehensive enough, keep working!


From: Earth Day

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Thanks for the heads up on these events. FOr Earth Day, a friend of mine is having a clothes swapping party. We bring all the clothes we clean out of our closets and have a potluck. We leave with clothes that feel "new" to each of us without buying anything.


From: Guest Blogger - Kimberly B. Keilbach

Afternoon Tea Break said...

Well said! Thank you for posting this article about the need to be green and the need for companies to actually live up to their "corporate social responsibilities" rather than just having it as a meaningless catchphrase spicing up the annual reports. Is that Barack Obama letter at the bottom real by the way?

Recently in the UK I try to support the local community by buying as much food as possible from local farmers' markets rather than big supermarket stores, and I'd advocate everyone to do the same: not only is it better on the wallet, it tastes far better and lasts a few days longer than supermarket-bought food too. I'm glad your blog encourages others to do the same.

Feel free to follow me on http://creditcrunchcareerchange.blogspot.com

Ron said...

Before commiting myself to the corporation I currently shoot for, I never knew such companies cared so much about the world outside of their boardrooms. It's truly amazing. I think what these companies should do is all come together and work together to solve some of the worlds most daunting problems--only then can we see MORE change. Just my opinion...

Great tips from Kimberly! Thank you!



Again, I'd like to thank everyone who commented this month.

"See" you on Monday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Field Trip ...



HAPPY EARTH DAY!!




I thought it might be fun to take another Field Trip ... to get out of these four walls and see something new. Are you with me?

Our trip, today, is to a warmer climate (they've had some pretty toasty weather lately) so ... you won't need a jacket ... but maybe sun glasses. OK ... gather up your things because we won't be coming back here. When you're ready, click on the bus below and climb aboard. Oh ... and after our field trip ... go out and hug a tree for Earth Day!



Monday, April 20, 2009

Guest Blogger - Kimberly B. Keilbach

Today we have a real treat. Kimberly B. Keilbach, of Global Warming is Good for Business, has kindly agreed to share some thoughts with us. If you've never been to Kimberly's blog, I suggest you check it out ... she, very beautifully, writes about the connection between global warming and business ... and how helping one can actually help the other.

A big THANK YOU to Kimberly for this wonderful article.


Corporate Social Responsibility is a buzz phrase these days that is often used hand-in-hand with “green” business practices. The words conjure up images of the CEO of some Fortune 500 company climbing up a tree to rescue a kitty or helping a little, old lady across the street.

Obviously, the criteria are a bit more involved than that. Corporate Responsibility Officer magazine recently released its 10th annual list of Best 100 Corporate Citizens, which ranked Russell 1000 Index companies according to their performance in: environment, climate change, human rights, employee relations, philanthropy, financial, and governance (including executive compensation).

However, corporate social responsibility is not a new concept. Back in the day, when most people worked on family farms or ran local mom-and-pop businesses, folks called it “doing the right thing.” They knew that if they didn’t play fair, people would stop coming to their shops, stop buying their produce, stop lending them money, stop hiring them. People behaved themselves because they knew they would be held accountable by their neighbors if they didn’t. It was just that simple.

Fortunately or not, we no longer live in small farming communities. We live in suburbs and cities and in greater, global social networks. We blog and twitter with people we have never met, who may live on continents far away. The good news is we can keep up with what’s going on almost instantaneously. The bad news is we often feel too insignificant to make a positive change. But, as Anita Roddick, entrepreneur and environmental activist, once said, "If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room."

So, what can we do?

According to Green America , a national non-profit organization, “If you own mutual funds, or you are a direct shareholder in a corporation, then you are part-owner of that company – someone with the right and responsibility of helping determine the direction that company will take.”

Green America offers strategies for people like you and me to invest in socially responsible ways, including tips for screening our investment portfolio for environmental sustainability, community involvement, employment equality, and other criteria in addition to monetary profits. I don’t agree with all of Green America’s screening criteria, but I do appreciate how the non-profit organization walks members step-by-step through the process of writing proxy letters to our 401K mutual funds, urging them to invest in corporations that meet those criteria which are important to us.

This free market approach to guiding corporations with our pocket books instead of with regulations is a win-win; it allows companies to be competitive and to meet their “triple bottom line” of economic profitability, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility. And, apparently, it’s working. Companies that are voluntarily enacting socially responsible policies are making profits. According to Corporate Responsibility Officer , “100 Best companies have out-paced the rest of their Russell 1000 brethren in three-year total return by 26 percent.” I wish my 401K had done so well.

Today, we expect corporations to be more responsible, to pollute less, to give back to the community more, to pay their employees fairly...and, oh yes, to make a profit for us. But we have to be willing to do our part too; we have to be informed and to invest in those companies that share our values. We don’t need to wait for the government to intervene. We can step up to the plate right now and remind our neighbors to “do the right thing.”

Kimberly B. Keilbach is professional writer and freelance journalist. She learned first-hand about the business of sustainability when she lived on her husband’s family farm. Since then, she has moved to Orange County, California, where she has had a chance to observe one of the most dynamic and entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world. Kimberly’s interest in innovation, creativity and people’s responses to change has prompted her to write her book Global Warming is Good for Business (www.globalwarmingisgoodforbusiness.com).

Again, I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to Kimberly for that interesting post.

As always ... I would love to hear from you.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Earth Day ...

Wednesday, April 22nd, is EARTH DAY ... a day intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment.

There are many celebrations and activities planned ... in towns and cities throughout the world. It's an excellent opportunity to have some fun while appreciating the Earth.

One of the many activities taking place is a CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) giveaway at Home Depot stores. Beginning on Sunday, April 19th, selected stores will give away one million free CFLs ... one to a customer (as supplies last, of course). The best news ... no purchase necessary. This is a great opportunity to try them out, if you haven't before and, as I mentioned in an earlier post (which you can read HERE), Home Depot will take any old CFLs back for recycling. They have a few other Earth Day specials and "freebies" so ... check them out!

Another activity taking place this Earth Day is a television program on the National Geographic Channel about a fabulous, new company called TerraCycle. This is a company that produces products entirely made of waste. Since its inception, it has saved over 70 million drink pouches, 10.5 million cookie wrappers, and 3.1 million plastic bottles from ending up in a landfill.

I first learned about TerraCycle awhile back and was truly impressed. Not only have they created an entire business model based on ... well ... garbage, they have also taken their "green" message to schools, teaching children that walking gently on the earth is a good thing. They are an example of creativity and enthusiasm ... and they give me hope for the future. Here is a brief video that will give you a little idea about them:



Wasn't that great? So ... for something fun to do on Earth Day ... tune in to the National Geographic Channel, on Wednesday, April 22nd, at 9PM ET/PT, to watch GARBAGE MOGULS. Then ... get inspired to find new ways that you can help protect the Earth.

These are just a couple of the activities planned for Earth Day ... there are so many more. All of them hope to accomplish the same thing ... to raise awareness and get everyone interested in saving our planet. I encourage you to take part ... and pass the word!

As always ... I would love to hear from you.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Rainforests - Part Four

This is part four, and the final article, of our rainforest discussion. You can read earlier discussions here: Part One, Part Two and Part Three. Today we'll continue talking about products that hurt the rainforest and how we can help.

Bananas

One of the biggest causes of deforestation of rainforests is clearing for export agriculture. Bananas are the world’s most popular fruit -- and with a market of nearly $5 billion a year, the most important food crop after rice, wheat and maize. They are an economic pillar in many tropical countries, providing millions of jobs for rural residents. But for much of its history, the banana business was known for widespread deforestation, poor waste disposal, the pollution of coral reefs and nearby watersheds and the excessive use of toxic agrochemicals. To read an earlier article on Bananas, please click HERE).

When buying bananas, opt for organic and fair trade varieties. Since finding them in most grocery stores is difficult, I suggest writing letters to grocery chains, asking them for organic, fair trade bananas. If you do this, be prepared to hear back from both grocery stores and companies such as Del Monte, who recently wrote to me, saying that their policies ensure sustainable practices and fair treatment of farmers and workers. I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt, however ... I have yet to see the fair trade label on bananas in my local market. Consequently, I have stopped buying bananas and instead opt for fruits that are sustainably grown and produced with fair labor practices.

Aluminum

Aluminum products start out as mined ore, mainly bauxite, which is mined, mostly in tropical and sub-tropical areas – Africa, West Indies, South America and Australia. As we've already learned, roads constructed for mining purposes contribute heavily to deforestation. Once the Bauxite is extracted, it is refined into aluminum oxide trihydrate (alumina) and then electrolytically reduced into metallic aluminum. This process uses primary aluminum production facilities located all over the world, often in areas where there are abundant supplies of inexpensive energy, such as hydro-electric power. In the Amazon, massive hydroelectric plants (dams) have been built on the rivers. These dams are responsible for the flooding of vast areas of pristine rainforests.

How can we make a difference? Avoid disposable containers whenever possible. Recycle all aluminum. If you have the choice between glass and aluminum ... choose glass ... it takes less energy to create.

Gold

Gold is found in the rainforests of Brazil, Ghana, Columbia and Peru (among others). Extracting it is frequently a destructive activity that damages the ecosystem and causes problems for people living nearby and downstream from mining operations. In the Amazon rainforest most mining today revolves around alluvial gold deposits. Due to the meandering nature of Amazon rivers, gold is found both in river channels and on the floodplains where rivers once ran. These deposits are actively mined by large-scale operators and informal, small-scale miners. Both operators rely heavily on hydraulic mining techniques, blasting away at river banks, clearing floodplain forests, and using heavy machinery to expose potential gold-yielding gravel deposits. Unfortunately, rainforests that can, provide either gold or forest benefits, but not both ... and gold is big business.

Here are a few things that we can do ... instead of buying gold jewelry, look for platinum or titanium ... both make lovely pieces. If you have broken or unused items of gold, recycle them (most jewelers will buy them for reuse in new pieces).


Coffee and Chocolate

Who doesn't enjoy a wonderful cup of coffee ... or a decadent piece of chocolate. Both coffee and cocoa beans grow on tropical trees. The problem is that large commercial growers cut down sections of the rainforest to grow coffee and cocoa ... in the sun. Ironically, these trees actually prefer the shade offered by the canopy of the forest. When industrial methods are used, not only does deforestation happen, but a great deal of pollution happens ... sun grown cocoa and coffee need a lot of fertilizer and pesticides to grow.

When buying coffee and chocolate, choose shade grown or fair trade varieties. Again ... fair trade varieties will be labeled as such.

We've talked a great deal about various products which affect the rainforests of the world. These are not the only ones. Still others include rayon, flowers, palm oil and soy. Some of these items destroy forest trees for their hidden treasures ... others precipitate deforestation for farms.

It is clear that our purchases have power and along with that power comes a responsibility to know where products come from and avoid those that hurt any environment, especially the rainforest.

For additional reading on rainforests, I suggest the following two sites:

Rainforest Relief
Mongabay - Tropical Rainforest Conservation

That wraps up our series on Rainforests. As I said in the beginning, it's an expansive subject and these four posts, by no means, cover the topic completely. But they do give us a few things to think about. I learned a lot this week ... I hope you did, as well!

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Rainforests - Part Three

This is the third article in our Rainforest discussion (you can read earlier discussions here: Part One and Part Two). Today we'll talk about a few more products from these precious forests and how our actions can help.

Petroleum

In 1960, oil was discovered in the Ecuadorean Amazon (called the Oriente). During the 1970s, drilling began and over the next 28 years, over 17 million gallons of crude oil were spilled from the main pipeline ... toxic spills killing plant and animal life. Drilling has, and is, occurring in the rainforests of Columbia, Thailand and Nigeria, as well. It generates toxic pollutants, hurting the land and indigenous people ... and it creates new roads. We learned in our last post that new roads enable farmers and illegal logging operations to venture deeper into the forest resulting in deforestation. In addition, oil drilling operations create airstrips and developments ... both of which pose a threat.

All petroleum products are bad for the earth ... and they are everywhere. There are the obvious products ... gasoline and home heating oil. And there are the not so obvious ... cosmetics, candles, plastic bags, paint and even some foods. There are alternatives ... paraffin free candles, natural cosmetics and reusable shopping bags, to name a few. The list of petroleum based products is huge ... therefore, read labels and know what's in your products. If a petroleum derived ingredient is included, look for something else.

Paper

Simply put, paper comes from trees ... and as previously discussed, deforestation due to logging is a real problem. The US is the largest per-capita consumer of pulp and paper products in the world. While the US is also a major producer, more and more of the pulp and paper products used in the US are imported.

We can make a difference by reducing our use of paper. Whenever possible, choose electronic versions of receipts, documents, bills, etc. rather than paper versions. When paper is necessary, use both the front and back of each sheet. Remove your name from junk mail lists. Ask companies not to send catalogs your way. Share books and magazines ... or opt for digital versions. For more ways to reduce paper, just type in the word "paper" in our search bar (upper left part of the side bar) for earlier articles on the subject.

Steel

The largest iron mine in the world, the Las Carajas mine in Brazil, is using up nearby forests to process iron into steel. It's estimated that the mine will be active for 50 years and in that time will consume 16% of the Amazon for charcoal to fuel the processing of iron.

Whenever possible, avoid steel. If you can't avoid it, be sure to recycle it.

Beef

Nearly 80 percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon results from cattle ranching. Consider this ... more than 38,600 square miles has been cleared for pasture since 1996, bringing the total area occupied by cattle ranches in the Brazilian Amazon to 214,000 square miles, an area larger than France. Brazilian beef is mostly exported to Europe ... however, it has characteristics that some U.S. markets see as favorable. Amazon cattle are effectively "free-range", "grass-fed", and possibly "organic", depending on the definition.

What can we do? Eat less meat. Regardless of where one lives, eating less meat is good for the planet. And, since Brazilian Beef has attractive characteristics ... it's possible that eating less meat will also be good for the rainforest.

We continue to see how our purchases matter ... and how vitally important it is to be informed consumers. In our fourth and final article, we'll talk about bananas, aluminum, gold, coffee and chocolate.

As always, I would love to hear from you!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rainforests - Part Two

In our last post (which you can read HERE), we talked about why the rainforest is so important to our lives and how it's survival is in jeopardy. Today we're going to talk about how we can help.

If you've watched the news lately, you've probably seen reports on the drug wars in Mexico. Authorities say that as long as there is a market for drugs, the situation will continue to escalate. Not long ago I watched a program about car manufacturers and how, typically, they haven't been too concerned about environmentally efficient cars. The message was the same ... as long as there is a market for large, gas guzzling cars ... they will produce them. The point, here, is not to blame the consumer, but rather to show that we have a powerful voice ... one that, through our purchases, is loud and clear.

Here is an alarming fact: The greatest factor in the loss of tropical forests is logging for timber. 70-90% of that timber is logged for export with the U.S. being the number one destination.

Here's another alarming fact: 70% of tropical deforestation due to agricultural clearing is precipitated by logging and mining roads. This is how it works ... roads are bulldozed by loggers (mostly illegal), who intend to sell the highly valued rainforest wood. This begins the chain of destruction. Next, people who otherwise wouldn't have access to the interior portions of the forest, can now move in to clear land ... usually for farming activities. Thus, the deforestation process is completed.

If there were no market for tropical hardwoods, then logging wouldn't be profitable ... which means there wouldn't be logging roads ... which means that farmers wouldn't be able to clear as much land ... which means less deforestation. So, if you are like me ... you're probably thinking ... no problem ... I won't buy Mahogany. And, like me, you might be surprised to find out that we're talking about many varieties of wood which are used for many, surprising things.

From the Rainforest Relief site, here are just a few woods which should be avoided:

  • Mahogany (South American and Africa), used for furniture and decorative pieces.

  • IpĂȘ ("Brazilian walnut"), used for boardwalks (NY is one of the largest importers), truck flooring, decking and benches.

  • Jatoba ("Brazilian cherry"), used for furniture and cabinets.

  • Ramin and Nyatoh, used for furniture, doors, coffins, boardwalks, decking, plywood, and flooring.

  • Lauan, an inexpensive plywood, imported in volume from southeast Asia and used for paneling, cabinets, and furniture.

  • OkoumĂ© and African Mahogany, used in a marine grade plywood for use in boat building and for the flooring of trucks and shipping containers.

  • Spanish Cedar (Cedro) used for outdoor furniture, musical instruments and cigar boxes.

  • African Teak (Iroko) used for veneer and furniture.

  • Jelutong, from Indonesia and Malaysia, used for pencils and picture frames.

The above list shows just a few types of wood ... tropical wood. There are other types which come from the Temperate and Boreal rainforests located in Canada, Russia, the Northwestern part of the U.S, etc. While most people focus on the tropical forests, both the temperate and boreal rainforests are in trouble, as well. For a more complete list of all rainforest wood to avoid, including the name of the wood, it's origin, it's appearance and common use, click HERE.

When I started this article, I was first shocked to find out how many types of trees are in danger. Then, I was shocked to find out how many products we use, every day, which are made with these woods. So, with firm resolve, I marched off to the local hardware store to see where wood products come from. And guess what ... finding out where wood comes from is not easy. There isn't a label that says "Imported from Brazil" or "Made in the Amazon". So, what can we do? Read on:

  • Whenever possible, buy reclaimed or salvaged wood for building. This is wood that has been salvaged from existing structures, submerged logs or mill scraps.

  • Shopping for furniture? Consider used pieces or antiques instead of new. If you decide to buy new, consider pieces made out of second growth woods such as walnut, maple or Douglas Fir ... or consider furniture made out of metal.

  • Looking for patio furniture? Consider recycled plastic lumber or metal. For wood furniture, look for second growth varieties such as northern cedar, second growth redwood or juniper.

  • For that special artwork, use frames made of metal or second growth wood such as birch or maple.

  • Instead of teak wooden spoons and salad bowls, choose varieties made out of these beautiful woods: olive, almond or beech.

  • For new building materials, look for woods carrying independent certification by an organization accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council. They'll be tagged like this:



I've read that, according to some scientists and experts, the rainforest is beyond saving ... that it's destruction is now on an unalterable course. This may be true. But I would hate to think that we lost these precious forests because we didn't try or because we simply didn't know what to do. Admittedly, choosing wood products that don't contribute to the destruction of the rainforest isn't easy ... but we have to try.

Next up ... we'll continue the discussion of products to avoid and some alternative choices.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rainforests - Part One

This is the first in a series of posts on the Rainforest, an expansive subject. Most of us know that rainforests are important and they are in serious trouble. But perhaps we don't know exactly why they are important or how we, especially those of us who live no where near them, can help. Let's start with why they are important ... here are a few facts:

  • Tropical rainforests are the single greatest terrestrial source of air that we breathe (they generate over 20% of the world's oxygen). They take in vast quantities of carbon dioxide and, through the process of photosynthesis, convert it into clean, breathable air. This also helps prevent global warming.

  • They are home to between 50 and 70 million different life forms ... two-thirds of all the living species on the planet.

  • Nearly half the medicinal compounds we use every day come from plants endemic to the tropical rainforest. That means that if we are to find a cure for such diseases as AIDS or cancer, it'll probably come from the tropical rainforests.

  • Almost half of all the world's rain falls on these forests. Vegetation traps the water in the soil and slowly releases it back into the air where it evaporates. This causes clouds to form and rain to fall ... filling rivers and streams ... and supporting life. One-fifth of the world's fresh water is in the Amazon Basin.

  • Rainforests regulate world temperatures and weather patterns. Trees are like big air conditioners. They lower the temperature, filter air, remove carbon dioxide, and absorb storm water. Fewer trees equate to higher temperatures everywhere.

  • Indigenous people live in the rainforest. From a moral standpoint, it is wrong to destroy their home ... and in the process their lives. With the loss of indigenous people, we lose valuable information on sustainable practices ... practices that, we are now realizing, will ultimately save our lives and the earth.

OK ... so the air we breathe, the food we eat, the clean water we enjoy, the medicine we need, the knowledge on sustainable practices that we require and our weather all have origins and/or links to the rainforest. They are important and their survival affects every single one of us. Their survival, however, is in serious jeopardy. Read on:

  • Worldwide, rainforests are being lost at the rate of an acre-and-a-half every second.

  • It is estimated that accessible rainforests will be completely wiped out in 45 years.

  • The earth is losing more than 400 species to extinction each day. This is a greater rate of species extinction than occurred 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit earth. When the rainforests are gone, 90% of earth's unique life forms (the majority of which have not yet been identified) will be lost forever.

What will happen to humans if the rainforests are lost? Some say that it is unlikely that we will survive because life is entirely dependent upon the integrity of the world’s biological fabric. Not everyone agrees with this analysis ... but all agree that life, as we know it, will drastically change for the worse.

There are many reasons why rainforests are disappearing ... agriculture, logging, mining ... to name just a few. Solutions are hard to find and, quite frankly, need to come from government leaders and policy makers to have the kind of impact required to save these precious resources. But we can help. Once again, there is power in our choices and our purchases. As long as we, the consumer, continue to buy and use products which negatively affect the rainforest ... and as long as those products continue to be big business ... we will continue to see the current rate of demise. Here is a list of products that, in coming posts, we'll take a look at:

  • Rainforest wood
  • Petroleum
  • Bananas
  • Aluminum
  • Paper
  • Gold
  • Steel
  • Beef
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Rayon
  • Flowers
  • Palm Oil
  • Soy

Saving rainforests, throughout the world, is crucial to our lives. We can help by knowing where products come from and refusing to purchase products that contribute to deforestation and destruction of, possibly, our most valuable resource.


Stay tuned for our next post ... Rainforest Wood.


As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This idea is full of holes ...

As people who love the earth, we try to reduce our use of everything. Whenever possible, we try to use electronic versions of documents rather than print them out. If printing a document is required, we use recycled paper and print on both the front and back. In terms of the printed page, I thought that was about all we could do. But ... I was wrong!

I recently learned about something fabulous. It is simple, easy to use, and saves ink. Yes, ink.

Introducing the Ecofont.


The Ecofont is developed by SPRANQ, a creative communications company located in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Basically, it's a font full of holes:



Tiny little holes run through each letter, reducing the amount of ink required by up to 20%. And ... the best news ... the Ecofont is free to download and free to use.

I've downloaded the font and tried it out ... it looks great and the "holes" don't compromise the print quality when using a standard font size (in my case ... font size 12). At larger sizes, the holes do become visible. But, imagine the savings if every standard letter ... every standard document ... most of our printing ... was done using 20% less ink. We'd use less ink, save money ... and walk a little gentler on the earth.

So ... today's green living tip is easy ... click over to Ecofont and download it. Then, whenever it becomes necessary to print something out ... use it instead of other, standard fonts.

Wow ... wasn't that fabulous?


Before you go, I'd like to ask a favor ... I've entered Reduce Footprints into a contest. Basically, the blog with the most votes at the end of the month wins. So, if you like this site ... I'd really appreciate your vote. Just click on the following picture which will take you to the "voting booth" ... and thanks:




As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Asbestos


Recently, I received a letter from Joe Lederman, Awareness Coordinator at the
Mesothelioma Cancer Center. In his letter he states, "As you may know, homes built before 1980 likely have asbestos insulation in them. When homeowners remodel, they may expose themselves to asbestos, which could lead to a fatal cancer known as mesothelioma. There are many environmentally sustainable, healthy and GREEN ways to insulate your home and this is among the topics we like to discuss."

I invited Mr. Lederman to submit an article on the subject which he graciously agreed to do. His article is interesting and informative ... and offers us one more reason to live a greener life. A big
THANK YOU, to Mr. Lederman and the Mesothelioma Cancer Center.




In the modern world, the need for sustainable technologies and green living has become an essential part of our daily lives. Due to expanding technology and long term cost efficiency evolving at a large rate, the need for environmentally sustainable and healthy building materials is growing as well. Building green is a method to utilize our natural resources while establishing healthier homes that produce a better environment, improve health, lower annual energy costs and reduction of your carbon footprint.

Used in homes as a form of piping and insulation throughout the 20th century, asbestos exposure can potentially cause many health concerns. There are many green, eco-friendly materials in the home that replace the need for asbestos and can reduce energy costs annually. The implementation of Eco-construction and alternative energy solutions will play an important role in the transformation to a healthier and sustainable world.

Asbestos was used in industrial applications such as insulation, piping, roofing and automobiles. Many homes, buildings and public facilities may still contain asbestos and other hazardous materials. Asbestos still regularly appears in roof shingles, dry wall, attic insulation, popcorn ceilings, joint compounds and electrical wires.

In many instances, the best action is no action at all. Disturbing asbestos in good condition may cause its fibers to be released into the air. The inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to the development of lung ailments such as pleural mesothelioma and asbestosis. Controversy has been associated with asbestos incidents due to manufacturers covering up evidence of its toxic qualities for decades. Recently, this has lead to mesothelioma lawyer firms protecting and advocating the rights of victims. The negligence involved with asbestos exposure has become known as one of the more formidable cover-ups by manufacturers in the 20th century. Thousands of civilians, workers and military personnel were wrongfully exposed for corporate financial gains.

Exposure to asbestos can be easily avoided by taking simple precautions. If you find asbestos in the home, you shouldn’t panic. Most experts suggest leaving it un-disturbed until an inspector can determine the legitimacy of concerns. In many cases, removal may be necessary and must be undertaken by a licensed abatement contractor who is trained in handling hazardous materials.
GREENER Lifestyle

Many cities and states in the U.S. are pushing for green sustainable technologies to be utilized in the public and private sectors. Everyone strives for clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. Unfortunately, many modern conveniences increase pollution and health problems.

The U.S. Green Building Council conducted a study which estimated a new savings of $50-$65 per square foot for positively constructed green buildings. As education and technology of green sustainable practices increase, the numbers will continue to rise.

The implementation of recycled building materials such as cotton fiber, lcynene foam and cellulose can reduce annual energy costs by 25 percent. Cotton fiber is becoming a favorite insulation method. Made from recycled batted material, it is then treated to be fireproof. Water based spray polyurethane foam, lcynene, is a healthy insulation which contains no toxic components.

Currently, many cities in the U.S. have created lumberyards which re-store where you can purchase recycled building materials that are authentically strong and inexpensive. Rather than expensive and Mal-treated wood, interior walls can be made from steel and concrete, avoiding many of the problems associated with asbestos and other insulation methods. These new environmentally-sustainable alternatives create healthier, quieter and more energy efficient homes in the 21st century.



I'd like to again thank Mr. Lederman for making us aware of this important subject. For more information, please visit the Mesothelioma Cancer Center. As always, I would love to hear from you.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Vegan Recipe - Black Bean and Quinoa Salad

Today is the first Friday of the month and that means ... a vegan recipe. If you are a new visitor to Reduce Footprints, you might be asking yourself how a vegan recipe is in keeping with living a greener life. Well, simply put ... it takes less resources to produce plant based foods than it does animal products. So ... eating meatless meals is one of the easiest (and tastiest) ways to walk a little gentler on the earth. If you'd care to read a little more on the subject, you can read one of my earlier posts entitled "Eat your Veggies".

This next recipe reminds me of spring with it's beautiful colors. It's a flavorful dish, perfect for a picnic or potluck dinner. It can be made ahead of time for a quick meal and just gets better as it sits. In my house, we enjoy it as a main dish with small Arepas (Venezuelan corn cakes) on the side.

The star of this dish is Quinoa ... a pseudocereal (like buckwheat or amaranth) which is a nutritional powerhouse. It has a high protein content (12-18%) and contains a balanced set of essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. It's full of fiber and is high in magnesium and iron. It is gluten-free and easy to digest. Do
n't let the nutrition of this dish scare you (or your kids), though ... it's delicious! I hope you enjoy it!

Black Bean and Quinoa Salad


SERVES 4-6

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  • 1 cup white corn
  • 2 scallions chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed well
  • Cilantro or Parsley to your taste
  • 1 finely diced jalapeno (optional)
Dressing
  • 3-4 tablespoons oil... not a heavy olive
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

METHOD

Soak quinoa for five minutes then drain (use a mesh strainer ... quinoa are very small and will fall through most strainers). Cook either in vegetable stock or water for 15 minutes. In the last five minutes put in the corn if using frozen. If any liquid remains in the pot at the end of the cooking time, remove the lid and continue cooking until it is absorbed. Cool the mixture.

Mix the quinoa and remaining ingredients in a bowl. Pour the dressing in and mix well. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Enjoy!

Note: This is a versatile recipe and can be modified to your taste. For example, try cucumbers and carrots for added flavor and color. In addition to corn, try peas. Experiment with different kinds of beans ... black eyed peas will give you an entirely different taste.


I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe. And ... as always ... I would love to hear from you!



Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I want to ... but (Part do ... I mean deux)

Yesterday we talked about green living road blocks ... those things that seem to prevent us from living a greener life. If you didn't get a chance to read that post, you can do so HERE. A few people wrote in with their "I want to ... buts", so today we're going to try to come up with solutions. Here we go:

ROAD BLOCK:

Mary said, "I do all these things except the short shower, and that is my own fault, since I ADORE long showers."

SOLUTION:

Sober White Woman said, "I love my tub! I have a huge garden tub and I love to soak in it. So on those days I try to cut back on using water else where. Just take baby steps and they WILL help trust me!"

How about this ... rather than take long showers every day, make them a special treat. Bargain with yourself ... for example ... tell yourself that if you take short showers for a week, you're allowed one indulgent shower. Another thing that will make showers (of any length) greener is to turn down the temperature of the water ... you'll save a lot of energy.

ROAD BLOCK:

I want to begin living greener ... but don't know where to start.

SOLUTION:

Brian said, "I would suggest doing little things first like changing light bulbs to the more energy efficient bulbs. Locate your nearest recycling location and plan your trips to town so that you drive past it on a regular basis. This will remind you to recycle and it will change from out of your way to "we can stop on the way to town."

ROAD BLOCK:

I want to live green ... but need a good reason.

SOLUTION:

Ilhami Uyar said, "We have to take care to environment, we must prevent our old world, if we shouldn't prevent some damages, what will leave our children. We haven't another different world to live, so we have to guard our world."

ROAD BLOCK:

Nina E J said, "... how about cutting down meat? doesn't that pollute the earth a lot?!"

Kathryn Magendie said, "I want to always eat vegetarian, but it's more difficult than it seems at times- when you visit people, it's hard to say "I can't eat your food..." so I just eat it (so far I've avoided eating the stuff I NEVER want to eat: pork, veal, lamb...). Unless the host asks ahead of time if anyone doesn't eat meat, meat is usually served, and unless it is a "serve yourself" buffet kind of dinner, then the meat is placed on the plate! I consider myself a "flexitarian' - since I do sometimes eat meat...."

SOLUTION:

Meatless meals are good for the earth (if you'd like to read a previous post on the subject, click HERE). Since any effort is good, perhaps incorporate a few meatless meals into the week's menu. Even the most devout carnivore probably wouldn't object to a delicious spaghetti made with marinara sauce or a hearty bowl of vegetarian chili with corn bread.

If you're goal is to become vegetarian/vegan full time, there are basically two ways to get there ... one is to just do it and the other is to gradually reduce the meat in your diet until it's gone. My choice was to just do it ... after watching a program on the health issues attributed to animal products, I decided to go vegan ... for a month. I need an "out" so I told myself that if, after a month, I really wanted some meat ... I could do it. But ... after a month I was hooked on vegetarian food. I felt better and enjoyed the food. Some people find it easier to slowly ease into a vegetarian life style. That works, too. There are marvelous resources on the Internet for ways to go veggie. I suggest checking them out and experimenting a little to see what works best for you.

As for dining out with friends ... when I became vegan, I told everyone ... my friends and family. They have all been wonderful and have taken on the challenge of cooking "veg" for us when we visit. When our hosts don't know that we're vegan, we call ahead to tell them and offer to bring some food ... helps them and helps us. We've even attended wedding receptions where the couple kindly arranged, ahead of time, for our meals to be vegan ... and everyone at our table was jealous. I believe the key is letting people know. Most of the time, they want to accommodate vegetarians. The one thing that, I believe, is a big mistake is not saying anything ... it's awkward once you're there ... you either have to compromise your diet and eat foods you'd rather not eat or say "no thanks" to the meat items and risk hurting the chef's feelings. Full disclosure, ahead of time, is always best.

ROAD BLOCK:

Cesia said, "My biggest issue is remembering the grocery bags."

SOLUTION:

s engelmohr said, "I, like you had trouble with the re-usable bags for awhile. Seems like we have about 6-8 for each vehicle now and if some get left in the house there are still some left in the car. Funny thing I leave them there on occasion too and walk out with a cart full of loose groceries. "

Annie said, "I'm going to get those reusable shopping bags this week!"


ROAD BLOCK:

Frisky Librarian said, "I need to frequent farmers markets, but as I don't have a car, it's an "I want to...but" scenario."

SOLUTION:

One solution might be to organize a farmer's market "car pool" with others (hopefully with someone who has a car). This could be a fun outing with friends and perhaps, after the shopping trip, everyone could contribute to a fabulous, farm fresh meal. If no one has a car, perhaps the bus will work. This could be a weekly trip or even bi-weekly.

Does your area have Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)? Some CSAs will actually deliver shares to members who can't drive to the pick up location.

Another idea ... check on community gardens in your area. They are cropping up all over the place and are great ways to get some fresh fruits and veggies. Some gardens offer small plots of land so that you can grow your own ... others sell to the surrounding community and still others, like one in my area, offer free fruits and veggies to anyone who cares to pick their own (they only ask that you only pick enough for your immediate use).

Here's a great, brand new, resource. It's called Veggie Trader (http://www.veggietrader.com/index.php) and it's a brilliant concept. Basically, it's a site where people can buy/trade/sell their extra produce. A quick search by zip code will tell you what's available in your area. It's a new site, and it's early in the season, so there aren't many entries yet ... but as more people hear about it, it'll grow and should become a wonderful resource for those who want local, fresh produce.

Want one more idea? How about exchanging a little of your time, volunteering on an organic farm, in exchange for food, etc.? There is a very cool website called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (http://www.wwoof.org/index.asp) which acts as a meeting place for those who own organic farms and those who would like to volunteer in exchange for food, accommodation, etc.

ROAD BLOCK:

Ron said, "I live in an apartment building, which has no composting facility. I was thinking of starting one up in the area beside the parking lot, but sadly, I haven't had the time, nor any idea on how I can get others to participate--except for the few that I actually talk to while going up and down the elevator every day. Any thoughts?"

SOLUTION:

I would contact the apartment management to see if they are willing to participate in composting. If they are, perhaps a flier could be handed out to all residents informing them of the bin and giving them some pointers on how to use it. Composting bins do require a "stir" once in awhile and, as mentioned in my article, a layer of dirt on top keeps the odor down ... so someone would need to step up and manage the bin. I, personally, haven't found apartment managers to be overly receptive to green ideas but ... I'm a firm believer that we should keep asking. That being said, if they aren't willing, I'd try composting on a small scale. There are commercial bins which work nicely on patios or, as I do, one can use any available container.

ROAD BLOCK

I want to recycle ... but don't know how to get started.

SOLUTION

SweetPeaSurry said, "When I lived in NYC we had recycling bins for the 'house' apartments that we lived it, they were shared. So in the kitchen we used one of those three drawer plastic towers that you can pick up at any store, Target or Kmart or Walmart. It worked great ... and as it filled up ... we'd just toss stuff into the recycle 'house' bins. Worked great! "


Thanks to everyone who shared their "I want to ... buts" as well as to those who offered solutions and encouragement. See ... I told you this was a great group!

As always ... I'd love to hear from you!

I want to ... but

Last July, when Reduce Footprints was born, I felt I was doing a pretty good job at living a green life, but felt there were more things I could be doing. So ... I started blogging, hoping that I would find many new and unusual ideas for walking a little gentler on the earth. And ... I did ... lots of them. The only problem was that some of the tips and ideas seemed inconvenient and I found myself saying, "I want to, but ...".

Lately, I've heard others saying the same thing. Perhaps we're just making excuses ... but maybe (and I choose to believe that this is the more probable reason), we just haven't figured out the solutions. So ... today's post is all about the road blocks on the path to living green and how we can remove them. Here are a few of mine and how we've solved the problem:


I want to buy organic ... but it's too expensive.

"Organic" is good for the earth and good for us. But, one trip down the grocery isle will tell you that these products aren't cheap ... and with the economic times as they are, stretching a dollar is important. Some organic items have become competitive, priced similar to their non-organic counterparts ... but the majority are still rather costly. To solve this dilemma, I decided to prioritize my purchases. The Environmental Working Group has put together a handy little list of the fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide load (items to definitely buy organic) and the lowest pesticide load (items which are OK if non-organic). The list can be found here: http://www.foodnews.org/walletguide.php.


I want to recycle ... but don't have the room.

We try to reuse as many things as possible. Still ... there are times that a can, paper, etc. has served it's purpose and is ready to be recycled. Living in an apartment, I don't have the luxury of a lot of space or an outside area for recycle containers. The neighborhood doesn't have curbside recycling or even large bins for residents. So ... I headed to the local grocery store and picked up a few cardboard boxes. After rearranging our laundry room a bit, we stacked them up and started tossing our recyclables into the appropriate box. They aren't huge boxes and fill up fast, which means frequent trips to the center. It's near our favorite whole foods store, however, so we don't make special trips ... we just grab a box every time we shop. Since I can't accommodate too many boxes, we aren't able to pre-sort everything and do a fair amount of sorting at the center. The entire process isn't perfect ... but it works.


I want to use a reusable shopping bag ... but can't remember to take it into the store.

We all know how bad plastic bags are for the environment. Reusable bags are so much kinder to the earth. I have four of them, which is enough for anything I'm liable to purchase on any given shopping trip. My first challenge was to remember to put them in the car. I hung them on the coat rack ... and looked past them. I put them on top of my shoes and actually picked them up and moved them so that I could finish getting dressed. Finally, I set them under my car keys ... and that worked. By the time I grab for the keys, I'm ready to go so ... grabbing the bags and returning them to the car (where they live) is no problem. But then, once in the car, I'd forget to take them into the store. Ugh! I'd get into the checkout lane and remember that I didn't have my bag. Then ... I had an "aha" moment ... I simply told the cashier that I wasn't going to use a bag ... that I'd take everything, in the basket, to my car and put it in my reusable bags out there. This has actually become so convenient that I do it on a regular basis now. When one brings a reusable bag into the store, they are typically required to load it themselves ... which seems to slow up the line. So, having the cashier simply leave everything in the basket is quick and efficient. One warning ... when uttering "no bags", you might get a "deer in the headlights" look from the bag "boy" and render him inactive for awhile ... but never fear ... he'll get used to it.


I want to take shorter showers ... but lose track of time.

This one is easy ... a simple kitchen timer, which I keep in the bathroom, reminds me to hurry it up. Awareness is everything!


I want to compost ... but I'm afraid of the smell.

Composting is a fabulous activity. Rather than dumping fruits and veggies into a landfill where, because of a lack of oxygen, it takes years and years to decompose, one can create their own compost bin where tossed items will decompose rapidly. Once nature has taken it's course, the rich dirt can be used in the garden. It's a great idea ... but compost systems take up a lot of room and ... I thought they would smell. I quickly learned that compost bins don't have to be big ... we use an old planter for our bin. And, by keeping a layer of dirt on top, there is minimal smell.


Now it's your turn ... when it comes to green living, what are your "I want to ... but" problems. Share them here and we'll try to come up with solutions. If you're saying to yourself ... "I want to share, but I'm afraid I'll look foolish" ... don't worry. We are all trying to do the same thing ... live greener.

As always ... I would love to hear from you.