Tuesday, January 27, 2009

ECO SMART: Quick Clean Your Stove The Easy-Green Way

I've unfortunately scratched and used a fair amount of elbow grease for many a stove top only to discover that I could have saved myself and the stove's finish with 79 cents and a washcloth -- no biceps needed.

The magical way -- and greenest, might I add -- to clean your stove top is with plain, old baking soda. It immediately lifts even the burnt-on grease with merely a few rubs with a damp washcloth.

Easy ... eco.

Check Out Fuel

There's a cool documentary traveling the U.S. -- "Fuel." It's about how big oil has run the economy and how we can change to more earth and human-friendly energy for the future. Here's a calendar of where the documentary is screening in your area.

Monday, January 26, 2009

ECO-EDUCATE: Where Does Your Electronic Waste Go?

Ever thought of what often happens to your electronic waste (phones, TVs, computers, other electronic gadgets) after you get them to a recycler or your municipal waste center? Most likely they get sent to China where health is sacrificed for economic gain. Environmental activists find this practice unacceptable -- and so should you.

We need to urge our electronics manufacturers to make electronic products that are non-toxic and completely recyclable. Some manufacturers are really getting it and leading for change -- others are lagging.

Until non-toxic and zero waste become a reality, the following TIME Magazine pictorial might help you think twice about how quickly you dispose of your current cell phone or TV -- click here for a TIME Magazine pictorial on the problems of e-waste "China's Electronic Waste Village."

Also, the award-winning documentary "Manufactured Landscapes" is an additional visual source of information concerning the e-waste problem.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Eco Wish List

Here's my short list of eco wishes for 2009:

  1. No more coal plants built on U.S. soil.
  2. All States put into place a requirement of getting no less than 40 percent of its electrical power from renewable sources (solar, wind, geothermal) by 2020. More ideas at the Natural Resources Defense Council's campaign "Move America Beyond Oil"
  3. The U.S. government adopts a clean-fuel and higher-fuel-economy policies for new automobiles that would require all cars, trucks, SUV's, and minivans to be at least as efficient as today's Toyota Prius by 2015.
  4. All fish sold in the U.S. would have to meet the Best Choices or Good Alternative choices of Seafood Watch -- or not caught or sold at all.
  5. To save our economy and planet, a serious "cap and trade" system is legislated in the U.S. to limit global warming pollution. Read more about this on the NRDC's "Cap and Invest" easy-to-read fact sheet.
  6. Every able household in the U.S. plants a tree this year. Whether it be on their property, in their community, through a carbon offset program, or some other tree planting campaign. As an idea, the Arbor Day Foundation has a "Give-a-Tree" campaign to plant trees in national forests.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why You Want the U.S. Government to Promote Green Investment -- Secure Your Family's Future

Here's a short CNN interview with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about why we should care about investing in sustainable and eco-friendly technologies and infrastructure. He makes important points vital to our future economy and environment.

(I know his voice sounds stilted. He has a voice disorder called spasmodic dysphonia.)

Get a Free Hybrid School Bus for Your Child's School

This year I'm working with a company called IC Bus to educate the public on the benefits of school bus ridership for safety, health, saving money, and greener transportation. The company has put together a contest and campaign called "America's Greenest School" in which you can write a short essay about the environmentally friendly things your school or your child's school is doing in hopes of winning a free hybrid school bus -- a value of $200,000!

Here's the details --

Nationwide Search for 'America's Greenest School' Kicks Off, Winning School to Receive Hybrid School Bus From IC Bus

Students returning to school from winter break can start the new year off with a resolution for their schools to be more environmentally responsible. The nation's largest school bus manufacturer, IC Bus, is looking for America's Greenest School -- and students can help.

Students can enter by visiting http://www.americasgreenestschool.com/. On the site, they can learn more about making their school more environmentally friendly and submit a 500-word essay that describes what makes their school "green." Activities such as setting up in-school recycling programs, keeping lights turned off when not in use, using environmentally smart landscaping and encouraging students to ride school buses instead of driving to school are all ideal solutions for creating a greener school.

The submission should describe how the school shows its commitment to going green, how it teaches its students the value of green living, how it shows its dedication to green transportation or how it embodies the spirit of a greener planet.

"This program can help students, teachers and parents learn that they do have the power to make greener choices that will positively affect the environment," said Terra Wellington, author of the new book "The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home" and one of the essay contest judges. "Making America's schools greener is a winning lesson plan for everyone."

Here are some of Terra's tips for greening your school:
  • Ride the bus: Riding the school bus is a great way to reduce your school's carbon footprint. The American School Bus Council estimates that each diesel school bus takes 36 cars off the road, which significantly reduces fuel use, emissions and traffic congestion. In fact, 3.1 billion gallons of fuel are saved annually by students who ride school buses instead of riding in cars.

  • Use both sides of the paper: Ask your teacher if you can print reports and other homework assignments "double-sided" to save paper. By printing double sided, your paper consumption is halved, significantly reducing waste.

  • Become a light monitor: Ask your teacher to use the classroom's natural light whenever possible. When the classroom is empty, make sure lights are turned off and computers are in standby mode. A standby setting can reduce power over 90 percent, helping to conserve energy.

  • Pack a litterless lunch: Don't use any disposable containers to pack your lunch from brown bags to plastic baggies. Instead, use containers that can be washed and reused. In a litterless lunch, the only items left over should go to compost, like a banana peel.

  • Recycle: Ask your teacher or principal about setting up a recycling bin for paper, plastic bottles and cans. If your school already has a program, encourage others to participate.

Finalists will be announced after Earth Day and the public will be able to vote for their pick to win the title of America's Greenest School. The winning school will receive a plug-in hybrid school bus from IC Bus, which can increase the fuel efficiency of standard school buses by up to 65 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40 percent. The hybrid school bus has an estimated retail value of $200,000. The student who submits the winning essay will win a $5,000 scholarship. Sponsoring teachers may receive $3,000 to use toward educational materials.

Reuters Report of Ice Shelf Breaking Up

UPDATE: I had to move to a Sky News video on the same story since the Reuters video didn't post.

This report originally was prompted from Reuters news service -- the results of global warming in Antarctica with breaking and melting ice shelves. The reason why you should be concerned about ice shelves breaking and melting is because that 1) raises sea levels which is devastating to coastal areas and 2) can alter sea currents which are vital to our regular weather patterns. Regular weather patterns secure our ability to produce food, continue to obtain fresh water every year, and protect us from weather-related super events (like increasingly devastating hurricanes).


Jan 21 - An Antarctic ice shelf is on the brink of collapse with just a sliver of ice holding it in place, the latest victim of global warming that is altering maps of the frozen continent.
David Vaughan, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey, told Reuters after the first -- and probably last -- plane landing near the narrowest strip of ice that the feature is 'in its death throes.'


Listen carefully to the call to action in the report.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Look for Green Living Project Events

National Geographic, in partnership with several wildlife conservation groups and other sponsors, has put together a fascinating Green Living Project lecture series.

Look for a multi-media event near you in 2009.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Recession Makes For a Better Diet

Most people would not consider a recession being good for you, but of the myriad potential downfalls one upside is that you're probably eating more at home -- instead of eating out. Eating at home and preparing your own meals not only saves you money but is likely the best new diet you could have for the new year -- especially if you're paying more attention to what you eat. A home-cooked meal is empowering and allows you control over the foods you eat.

So, since you're not paying for the labor and overhead to purchase, make, and deliver your meals, take advantage of adding a little more organic to your meals, eating more vegetarian, and upping your veggie content. And, spend some time at your farmer's market -- instead of eating out -- to take advantage of local food.

Here are some cooking and food resources that can help you:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

NEW ECO WORD TO KNOW: Greenwashing

One of the eco-friendly words you'll be hearing more about in 2009 is "greenwashing." Greenwashing is the act of saying that something (such as a product, program, or company) is green or environmentally friendly when it really isn't. Greenwashing deals with unsubstantiated or misleading claims about environmentally related benefits.

There's a lot of money to be made in green because it is hot on the list of current consumer interests. And since many of today's consumers are still relatively uneducated about what really makes a company, product, or product green (or even partially so), some companies are getting away with just using green buzz words that don't have substance behind them -- all in an effort to attract your attention.

Sample buzz words are

  • natural

  • clean

  • pure

  • nature

  • energy efficient

  • hybrid

  • green

  • solar

  • wind

  • carbon footprint

How can you know if there's anything behind a claim? There's no other way than to do a little research.

Here are some easy tips:

  • Look for evidence behind the buzz word -- Marketing will always be necessary to get your attention. So I don't fault companies for doing their job. But it's your job to look beyond the slogans and see if there is evidence to support their marketing claims. You can do this by reading more of a label's fine print, going online at the company's website, and doing a little Google search to see if there is anything else written up about the product -- information has never been easier to get!

  • Find out what the product is really made of -- READ! -- If it is a household product like a cleaner, the product should list ALL the ingredients; you can also look for a Material Safety Data Sheet online at the company's website to further determine a product's safety. For personal care products, you can utilize the Cosmetic Safety Database by Environmental Working Group to learn about ingredients and their safety. You also need to learn about other materials and ingredients to look for -- my upcoming book has a comprehensive list -- including seeking out products with no chlorine, and selecting paper and wood products that have some sort of forest-management certification or recycled content.

  • Subscribe to information that keeps you up to date -- With so much marketing spin, it is nearly impossible to have all the inside information on your own to completely identify greenwashing. So you have to continue educating yourself from trusted outside sources. You can subscribe to the RSS feed of eco-oriented blogs, such as mine and the ones I have listed on the homepage of this blog (see the right-hand column). I also like Plenty magazine.

  • Realize that no company is perfect -- It isn't easy to find a perfect eco-friendly company or product. You can certainly reduce and sometimes eliminate toxics and other safety issues, but waste, carbon footprint, packaging, and other environmental issues are often difficult to change or pinpoint. So, while it is good to keep your standards high, in many cases you're looking for green advantages rather than green perfection -- the more green advantages, the better. Put your attention and your wallet in that direction, and you will have a lot of influence. Eventually, regulation and consumer smarts will push to bring about much better options for you and the planet.

UPDATE: 1/15/09 -- Here is a link to the Federal Trade Commission's "Guide For The Use Of Environmental Marketing Claims." If you click on "Environmental Marketing Claims" you'll be taken to the part in the online document about what is considered truthful and what is deceptive with environmental marketing. A number of helpful examples are given including this one ...

A product wrapper is printed with the claim "Environmentally Friendly." Textual comments on the wrapper explain that the wrapper is "Environmentally Friendly because it was not chlorine bleached, a process that has been shown to create harmful substances." The wrapper was, in fact, not bleached with chlorine. However, the production of the wrapper now creates and releases to the environment significant quantities of other harmful substances. Since consumers are likely to interpret the "Environmentally Friendly" claim, in combination with the textual explanation, to mean that no significant harmful substances are currently released to the environment, the "Environmentally Friendly" claim would be deceptive.