Tag Archives: sustainability

8 Simple Ways to Green Up Your Picnic

 

Photo: Source

Picnics celebrate sharing, nourishment, warm weather and the abundance of the Earth. Photo: Source

 

Make Your Picnic Sustainable

We’re almost half way through summer.  Released from the confines of the indoors and cooler weather, people seem happier and more relaxed (hey, who doesn’t love wearing less layers of clothing?) Parks, beaches and backyards fill up with people coming together to enjoy the warm air, each other’s company, summer sports and, of course, picnics and barbecues.

Traditionally, picnics and barbecue’s are very wasteful events.   Paper/plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic bowls,  plastic eating utensils and disposable napkins are the norm (click here for reasons to go plastic-free.)  The trash bag can fill up pretty quick.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way.  So, here are 8 simple ways to have an eco-friendly picnic: 

  1. Bring your own cup and/or water bottle.  Check out this lightweight stainless steel cup for picnics and camping.
  2. Bring your own plate, bowl and/or lightweight reusable food container.
  3. Bring your own knife, fork and spoon.  Check out these bamboo eating utensils for eating on the go.
  4. Bring your own cloth napkin.
  5. Sun tea anyone?  Rather, than buying a plastic container of juice or soda, make some herbal iced teas (fresh from your garden or the farmers market, no less)  and/or lemonade. It’s very easy to do and super refreshing!
  6. Encourage others attending to do steps 1-5.  If you’re the organizer (or, perhaps, you can suggest this to the organizer), it should be pretty easy to get in touch with attendees to let them know you’re doing a green picnic theme .  This next bit of information is very important and will make your green picnic a success: Tell attendees to also bring one extra plate, bowl, set of utensils and cup for people who might forget theirs (people often do).  It’s as simple as that!  The added bonus to this method is that no one person is stuck with doing all the dishes. Most importantly, landfills are spared traditional picnic waste.  Not to mention, plastic is pretty darn polluting to produce and does not biodegrade.  Plus, we can help spare some trees from the fate of being paper plates and help save forest habitats. It’s win-win across the board!
  7. Also, invite the celebration of summer and the farmers markets’ bounty.  Encourage guests to bring dishes using local and organic (or sustainably grown and raised) fruits, veggies, eggs, cheeses, etc.
  8. Grill sustainably. Forgo the conventional charcoal (charcoal releases 100 times more carbon dioxide and VOC’s than than propane grills and also comes from a rain forest or some other unsustainable source) and propane grills.  Instead, opt for an electric or FSC certified certified charcoal (if it’s United States sourced, even better).  The best option, however, is a new technology that uses the power of the sun to grill your food. Check out this nifty solar grill.

Careful not to get dubbed the green nazi.  Find the element of fun in having a green, luscious picnic or barbecue.  Think abundance, not policing.  Some people might not follow the suggestions and that’s okay, but you’ll surely inspire others.

Have any other green ideas for a fun picnic?  Share them in the comments section below.  Happy summer everyone!

 

 

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4 Ways Hemp Can Help Save The World

Photo Credit:  Joe Merrill

Photo Credit: Joe Merrill

There are so many uses for hemp that could help save the world.

There are so many solutions out there to save the planet and one of them is hemp.  Yes, you heard that right– hemp.  Not only is hemp a nutritious addition to your diet, but it is chock full of sustainable alternatives to things such as paper made from trees and petroleum fuel.

Hemp, like oppressed people, is an oppressed plant not allowed to flourish in the United States.  It is allowed to be imported, however, which keeps prices higher and does not support local American farmers. Until very recently, it has been treated like a psychoactive drug, even though it cannot get you high like marijuana.

Hemp is technically legal in a very limited capacity in certain states.  Part of the Farm Bill of 2014 addresses hemp.  According to Vote Hemp, the bill “defines industrial hemp as distinct and authorizes institutions of higher education or state departments of agriculture, in states where hemp is legal, to grow hemp for research or agricultural pilot programs.”  For more information on this click here.

That said, there are so many sustainable and empowering reasons to legalize hemp so it can help save the Earth:

1. Hemp makes better, more sustainable paper than paper made from from trees.  

  •  Firstly, 10,000 acres of hemp will provide as much paper as 41,000 acres of forest.  Plus, hemp matures for harvesting in about 90 – 100 days, while trees take 50 – 500 years.
  • Using hemp for paper preserves forests.  Deforestation, for making paper, creates soil erosion, landslides, habitat destruction, the endangering of plant and animal species, plant and animal extinction, pollution of water ways and global warming.
  • It takes less chemicals to make paper out of hemp because it has low lignin content (unlike trees).  Plus, it is naturally whiter than tree pulp, so doesn’t need harsh chlorine compounds to bleach.  Instead, hydrogen peroxide does the trick. This reduction of chemicals protects waterways from the normal contamination brought on by turning trees into paper.
  • Hemp paper can be recycled 10 times as opposed to only 3 times like tree-based paper.
  • Hemp paper is stronger due its long fibers and also acid-free, which gives it a longer life.

2. Hemp is good for farms and the health of the soil:

  • Hemp leaves are naturally high in nitrogen, a nutrient necessary for soil health.  As hemp grows, it sheds leaves, thereby nourishing the soil.  When it is harvested and left in the fields to dry out, more leaves fall onto the soil.  The leaves can also be composted and returned to the soil, since they aren’t the part of the plant that is used.
  • When hemp is grown for fiber, it is grown very close together.  The shade created by this, chokes out weeds.  When hemp is harvested, the soil is ideal for another crop (no weeds), making it an excellent rotation crop and also a great secondary crop and cover crop.  Hemp reduces the need for herbicides (toxic weed killers) that are carcinogens and a major source of land, water and aquaifer pollution. It also repels certain pests.
  • Hemp’s deep root system is excellent for preventing soil erosion after fire and floods. It also mines for nutrients deep below the soil with its long roots.
  • In addition to being weed and pest resistant, it is drought resistant and able to be grown anywhere in the United States.

3.  Hemp is a sustainable alternative to petroleum fuel and can help replace foreign oil dependency 

  • Not only does hemp have a high oil yield (35% oil cotent), but hemp cellulose can be used to create a hemp cellulosic ethanol that burns far cleaner than petroleum ethanol, reducing greenhouse gas emissions over 80 percent. Hemp ethanol and waste from grass clippings for cellulosic ethanol are better options than the starch based ethanols from soy and corn, which only reduce greenhouse gas emissions 12 – 40 percent and also come from a very unsustainable farming practice: monoculture, which relies very heavily on chemicals and wreaks havoc on biodiversity.
  • Hemp fuel is less expensive to produce than drilling, shipping and refining oil.  Using it would support our local farmers and our economy.   The only reason petroleum has financially survived is due to government subsidies paid by our tax dollars.  There have even been tax breaks for people who drive gas-guzzling SUV’s and build large, energy-guzzling houses.  Say what?!
  • Left over plant materials from making hemp biofuels can be made into fiberboard, insulation and food.

4. Hemp is way more sustainable than conventional cotton

  • Conventional cotton farming is a very toxic business, using intense amounts of pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers and defoliants.   In fact, conventional cotton accounts for 25% of the pesticides sprayed on the world’s crops!
  • Hemp, on the other hand, is naturally weed and pest resistant and does not require the chemicals used in intensive cotton farming or processing.
  • Hemp also can be grown in more diverse conditions than cotton, using much less water and producing  more fiber per acre than cotton.
  • Hemp fiber is more durable than cotton and can create everything from strong ropes or can be blended with other sustainable fibers to create soft fabrics such as terry cloth.

That said, hemp and other sustainable plants, hold a lot of potential for cleaning up our unsustainable ways.  For more information in what you can do to help legalize the cultivation of hemp, click here.

Do you know of any other sustainable benefits of hemp?  If so, please share in the comments section below.  I  would also love to hear your thoughts on the legalization of hemp.

 

 

Plastic-Free: A Book Review

Plastic-Free-book-photo

Photo Credit: Kate Bartolotta

When I first got Beth Terry’s book, “Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too,”  I was excited.  It was like celebrating my green journey birthday.  Finally, I would I discover some solutions to those pesky plastic problems I had not yet been able to solve.

Beth’s book, Plastic Free, is a rare gem.  Unlike many green guides, which scratch the surface, Beth dives in boldly where no human has gone before: plastic waste.  Sure, many green tip websites, books and blogs will tell you to stop buying bottled water and  carry your own reusable cloth bag when you shop.  They’ll even tell you to use reusable produce bags for veggies, fruits, nuts, beans, etc.  What they don’t approach is other plastic waste, which is a huge and insidious environmental problem, clogging up our oceans and harming marine life.  Not to mention, the pollution generated by making plastic.  It’s enough to make you want to consider other options.

First, Beth explores what the issues are with plastic in depth.  And I mean IN DEPTH.  I have never come across so thorough of a green guide on the issues with plastic in layman’s terms.  Then, she focuses on solutions– the fun stuff.  Because, who wants to be depressed on what’s wrong.  We want to feel empowered to make it right.

Beth’s plastic-free tips go beyond just telling us how to shop, how to make our own  plastic-free cosmetics (or plastic-free options we can buy) and cleaning products, she goes into activism and what it takes to make a difference.  She is a living example of how one woman can be catalyst for positive change.  As an example, she started the successful campaign to get Brita to take back it’s water filters for recycling.

Feeling overwhelemed at the idea of going Plastic-free?  Don’t.  Plastic-Free is a totally non-judgmental guide to reducing your plastic waste over time.  Beth reminds her readers it took her 7 years to get where she is at.  No guilt required.  She reminds us to be gentle with ourselves and take baby steps that add up to larger changes over time.

In closing, I highly recommend reading Plastic-Free.  I, literally,  couldn’t put the book down sometimes.  Beth’s writing is incredibly engaging. She sprinkles Plastic-Free with autobiographical tales about her own green journey in a humorous, quirky and vulnerable manner, that endears the reader even more to her sage, plastic-free wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Trash Becomes Treasure: The Joy of Repurposing & Upcycling

Lately, I have been on a repurposing kick.  It’s an area of my green journey that I didn’t visit as much before.  Many things I would have thrown out or recycled, have suddenly found a second life, a reincarnation into something new and inspiring.  So, please enjoy this photo essay of upcycling and repurposing by myself and other bloggers.

Turning Old Jars Into Gems

Why recycle when you can reuse? Remove labels from jars by soaking jars in water for an hour or two.  After that, labels will easily come off .

 

Jars for Storage

Nut butter jars now store whole nuts. Spice jars are refilled with bulk spices. A small jar now houses rose petals for tea.

 

Store an avocado, carry your lunch or put homemade nut mylk in repurposed jars.

Store an avocado, carry your lunch or put homemade nut mylk in jars. The possibilities are endless.

Make your own wholesome dressing and put in a mason jar.

Make your own healthy dressing & put in a mason jar.

Other Containers Creatively Reused

An old mug houses a bottle cleaning brush.  A jar is reused to hold veggie scrub brushes.  A tiny clay pot hold steel wool.

An old mug houses a bottle cleaning brush. A jar is reused to hold veggie scrub brushes. A tiny clay pot holds steel wool.

Clockwise:  A spray bottle is reused to contain vinegar and water to condition my hair. A bath salt jar gets a second life holding a homemade body butter.  A silicone lid from a broken travel mug becomes the perfect soap dish.  A protein bar baggie now houses one of my many sample soap bars.

Clockwise: A spray bottle is reused to contain vinegar and water to condition my hair. A bath salt jar gets a second life holding a homemade body butter. A silicone lid from a broken travel mug becomes the perfect soap dish. A protein bar baggie now houses one of my shampoo bar samples.

A jar lid becomes a plant dish.

A jar lid becomes a plant dish.

A strawberry container upcycles into a linen closet organizer.

A strawberry container upcycles into a linen closet organizer.

 

Coming up, here are some of my favorite upcycling ideas from others:    

A chair becomes a towel rack and shelf. Courtesy of the blog, Twisted Sifter.

A chair becomes a towel rack and shelf. Courtesy of the blog, Twisted Sifter.

Incandescent lightbulbs become mini hanging vases.  Courtesy of Red Ship.

Incandescent lightbulbs become mini hanging vases. Courtesy of Red Ship.

Oh, lovely.  A bike is held by old bike handlebars.  Courtesy of Upcycle That.

 A bicycle is held by old bike handlebars. Courtesy of Upcycle That.

Apparently, all you need is a glass cutter and very coarse sand paper.  Courtesy of The Art of the R's.

Apparently, all you need is a glass cutter and very coarse sand paper to transform wine bottles in glasses. Courtesy of The Art of the R’s.

Who wants this beautiful lamp made from a wine bottle?  Courtesy of HGTV.

Who wants this beautiful lamp made from a wine bottle? Courtesy of HGTV.

This mirror is made from collected sticks that are painting white and attached to a mirror.  See HGTV on how to do this.

This mirror is enhanced from twigs that are painted white and attached to it. See HGTV on how to do this.

An old wine box transforms into shoe storage.  Courtesy of Twisted Sifter.

An old wine box transforms into shoe storage. Courtesy of Twisted Sifter.

 

Ever wonder what to do with old, mismatched kitchen utensils?  Courtesy of Twisted Sifter.

Ever wonder what to do with old, mismatched kitchen utensils? Courtesy of Twisted Sifter.

Need to decorate?  How about framing an old piece of wood with character?  Courtesy of HGTV.

Need to decorate? How about framing an old piece of wood with character? Courtesy of HGTV.

Transform your old jars into a decorative herb garden!  Courtesy of Camille Styles.

Transform your old jars into a decorative herb garden! Courtesy of Camille Styles.

 

Have you ever repurposed or upcycled?  What ideas would you like to try? Share the inspiration in the comments section below.

Looking At My Plastic Waste Footprint

RESIZEerinplasticwaste4

Last week I began to take an honest look at the plastic waste I generate.  I have been reading the book, Plastic-Free by Beth Terry (highly recommended), because of my desire to eliminate plastic– something I consider to be a huge environmental hazard.  Her book includes an exercise (Plastic Trash Challenge), which is also on her blog,  to assess and truly get present with the amount of plastic waste we generate, both recyclable and non-recyclable.  Anyone, care to join me?

I have been on my green journey for years and, perhaps, some people would consider me a little hardcore. So, as you can imagine, I was both humbled and surprised to see how much plastic waste I generated this past week– me the super greenie.  To be fair,  half of the plastic waste I generated was from a gift I received  in the mail (those darn plastic packing pillows!) and also snacks that my boyfriend purchased that I couldn’t resist enjoying as well.  You will also notice things that don’t look like plastic in the photo, such as cat food cans (all cans that hold food are plastic-lined), brown paper frozen berry bags (also plastic-lined) and my old, cheap, ruined boots (made from synthetic petroleum-based fibers.)  Now that I have justified my waste to feel less guilty, let’s get to the juicy stuff.

In the book, Beth invites her readers to truly get present with their trash.  Taking sage wisdom from her meditation teacher, she suggests that we feel our feelings as we look at the pile of waste that we have created.  Like any river, emotions (e-motion) need to flow so we can stay unblocked and clear.  With this clarity we can make wiser choices.

Yesterday, before I meditatively sat with my trash, I initially felt overwhelmed and filled with a flurry of anxious questions– did this mysterious wrapper for my butter have plastic in it? What about this cap to my wine bottle? It didn’t seem quite like metal nor plastic- but some strange combination.  Could I recycle, at the grocery store recycling bag drop-off,  the plastic packaging for my veggie burgers and the small plastic baggies that I had accumulated from snack items?  Was I ready to stop buying plastic-packaged foods and start making things, like bread, from scratch, even though I don’t really like cooking or baking?  The last question really overwhelmed me. I imagined hours of my life disappearing to extended kitchen duty as I made several staple items from scratch.  Ugh.  I even feel overwhelmed just writing about it.

Today, however, I meditatively sat before the plastic waste I generated in a week’s time.  I was actually surprised at what arose.  Instead of the overwhelm bubbling to the surface again, a calm clarity came over me.  It actually felt good to witness my waste.  The plastic waste I generated was no longer a vague idea.  Seeing everything before me so clearly, I intuitively felt the next steps I was ready to take. I didn’t worry about what I was not yet ready to deal with.  I knew, in time, my plastic-free journey would flourish like a garden, growing out of the abundance and the joy of living in harmony with the Earth, not deprivation, overwhelm and constriction.

In closing, I’d love to hear your feedback on going plastic-free and also the plastic waste we all generate.  Have any of you ever taken an honest look at your own trash? If so, I’d love to hear your experience.

Go Green 8 Week Challenge

RESIZEgogreen

This is not my usual blog post, but I hope you will join the fun and spread your green wings with me.   The parameter of this challenge is to pick one green goal per week for eight weeks.  Your goals may be things that you have been meaning to do, but keep putting off.   They may be goals that are a little out of your comfort zone.  Or, maybe, you just want an inspiring launching pad to take your green journey to the next level.

Why Do An 8 Week Go Green Challenge?

Sometimes, our personal journeys can get a little stagnant.  This challenge provides an inspiring structure for us to play our edge and create new possibilities in our lives.

Going green also means taking better care of ourselves.  This is an opportunity to nourish our bodies and souls with healthy, sustainable choices.

We all know, somewhere deep inside of us, that we depend on a healthy planet to sustain us.  We also know that are a lot of environmental issues happening now like climate change, species going extinct, pollution driven health problems, habitat destruction and ocean acidification (to name a few).  This 8 Week Challenge is an inspiring chance to empower you too make a difference and realize how much you matter.

Instructions

Choose one green goal per week for eight weeks. After you complete your green goal, blog about it. Then post your blog link in the comments section below with a short synopsis of what your blog post is about.  This weekly challenge starts on Monday, May 26th and ends on Sunday, July 20th.

If you don’t have a blog, no problem!  Share a few sentences about your goal each week in the comments section.  Share with friends and family- maybe, they will even join you in taking the challenge.

Did you find out about this challenge a few weeks after it started?  No problem!  Jump in any time over the next eight weeks.  When the official challenge ends, you can continue on in anyway you see fit.

Types of Green Goals

The sky is the limit, but here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  •  Personal steps to green your life: buy organic and/or sustainable local food,  start a veggie garden, shop with reusable bags and eliminate disposable bags , stop buying bottled water, convert to sustainable personal care products, buy minimally packaged or unpackaged items when possible, buy your next piece or furniture or article of clothing second hand or made with sustainable materials, conserve water, research renewable energy options to implement in your home, watch an environmental documentary, etc.
  • Activism: Volunteer at a local environmental organization, go to an environmental rally, inspire awareness and sustainable action in your community, contact your elected officials about environmental issues, etc.
  • Inner ecology:  We are part of the Earth and its ecosystems. Taking that concept further,  we are each an ecosystem onto ourselves.  We need to allow our inner gardens to flourish. What unnecessary clutter, time-consuming distractions and out-dated perceptions take you away from your well-being and doing the things that matter most, like living in harmony with the Earth?

Want more ideas?  Check out my goals below and click around my blog.  You can also check out other green blogs, books, documentaries and resources.

Tips

  • If a goal seems too large to do in one week,  it can probably be broken down into smaller, more manageable goals that can be accomplished over a few weeks.
  • In a non-judgmental fashion, notice what feelings, thoughts and reactions arise when you embark upon your goal.  This is an opportunity to get to know yourself better and find what flows for you.
  • Remember to not force anything.  Check out my blog post on finding the flow in your green journey.  

My 8 Green Goals

Just in case you’re curious (and also for accountability on my end), here are my green goals.  They will be in the category, “My Green Journey”. They may not happen in this exact order and I may change one or two:

  1. Take the Plastic Trash Challenge to get an honest look at the plastic waste I generate, so I can make better choices.
  2. Set up my green YouTube channel and post my first video.
  3. Go on a electronic diet to reduce unnecessary distractions in my life.
  4. Call or email a one or two food companies I like and suggest more sustainable packaging alternatives.
  5. Talk to the neighbors in my 54 unit building about enrolling in the Organic Waste Collection program.
  6. Start a microgreens and/or herb window garden.
  7. Lighten my load and sustainably get rid of items I no longer use or like.
  8. Go to a rally to stop fracking or some other environmental cause I am moved by.

Last, but not least, tell your friends and spread the green goodness!  And please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions.

 

You Can’t Scare People Into Going Green

Occupy Wall Street

A man paints a sign at Occupy Wall Street: “Give The Earth A Vote.”

How is truly sustainable global change created? 

I used to think that people would adopt a greener lifestyle if they truly knew the staggering and heart-breaking damage caused to our beautiful planet and the well being of the human race by many of our modern habits.  Perhaps, they would even persuade politicians and corporations to follow suite.  I used to feel that people were just unaware of the effects of their day to day habits (after all, we aren’t taught these things in school or via popular media) and if they were aware, they would change.

While I do think awareness is part of the key (it certainly changed me), I sure as heck know that the energy of fear, anger, begging, pleading and the doom and gloom scenarios of the climate change (and other environmental disaster) is not the answer to inspire most people into effective action.

A few days ago, I came across an article that shone to me like a beacon of light. It was like a missing ingredient in a grander dish where all the other flavors can finally begin to pull together into a successful, positive creation.   In this article, the author articulates the need to educate and inspire people, while giving them manageable, life-enhancing and personally rewarding actions that create positive change.  Please enjoy Creating A Culture Of Hope–Not Fear–Around Sustainability.

In closing, here’s a little food for thought.  Sometimes, when we are confronted with the potential of creating deep and meaningful change,  our own fears, frustrations and self perceived limitations can surface.  I truly believe that these larger issues that face us, like climate change, are an opportunity for us to both personally and collectively heal our perceived helplessness, complacency and self-imposed limitations to creating the peaceful and sustainable world we truly want.