Monday, August 31, 2009

Check out the Green Grades Report for Paper Products

ForestEthics, a non-profit organization that protects endangered forests and wild places, has issued a Green Grades Report outlining retailers who are using their purchasing power to benefit the environment, selecting FSC-certified paper products, and phasing out paper products that come from endangered forests.

Surprisingly, FedEx Office (aka Kinko's) has the best grade: A-. They avoid using paper from caribou habitat, endangered Indonesian forests, and US South tree plantations. They prefer FSC paper. And they have been encouraging their suppliers to be more responsible.

Other top grades:
- Office Depot: B
- Staples: B-
- Officemax: C

Other retailers:
- Target: D+ (scores above Walmart due to recent policy-making changes that next year will probably improve their ranking)
- Walmart: D+ (has sustainable wood and packaging purchasing but not for paper, including sourcing from endangered international forests)
- F (no known policies to protect endangered forests or purchase from responsible suppliers; no transparency in their practices)
- Costco: F (no known policies to protect endangered forests or purchase from responsible suppliers; no transparency in their practices)

You can find out more about the destruction in Indonesian Forests at this link from Greenpeace.

And Scholastic has been increasing its use of FSC and recycled paper -- see this story here.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bat Cave Pest Management at its Finest

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sign the "Real Food in Schools" Petition -- for your kids, for the nation

Slow Food USA is asking you to sign this petition by September 7. You would be asking the federal government to provide your children with real food during the school lunchtime.

Real food is "good at every link in the chain. It tastes good, it’s good for us, it’s good for the people who grow it, it’s good for our country and it’s good for the planet," say the Slow Food USA organizers.

Saving Your Own Seeds -- Promoting Diverse Crops

If you saw the documentary Food Inc., then you've been introduced to the importance of seeds and how allowing farmers to capture seeds, store them, and nurture their own varieties is critical to our economics and sustainability of crops.

Yesterday, NPR's Marketplace program aired a story about the necessity of native seeds and how through industrialization of crops we have lost so many seed varieties -- all of which are becoming critical to sa
ve, plant, and nurture as we go into climate change. I encourage you to listen to the story and write your government leaders about your support of regional and family farming to promote native agriculture, and your discontent and dislike of genetically modified seeds as a threat to your family's current and future health and well-being.

Native Seeds is a non-profit organization that sells seeds for the Southwest and Mexico. These seeds are for plants that are unique to growing in low-water areas. If you have a family garden and live in these areas, I encourage you to buy seeds from them and learn how to save your own seeds after the harvest. Here's how.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Food Crisis Hits Center Stage

Time Magazine's August 31, 2009 issue focuses on food issues, similar to what was covered in the documentary Food, Inc. And on the heels of this issue is a KCRW radio segment on this very issue, with the Time Magazine article staff writer, Bryan Walsh, and Rancher Joel Salatin offering the most truthful accounts of the issues at stake. You can listen to the podcast version below (it's the first segment of the show's podcast).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Update to Greener Tissue Products

I wrote about the Greenpeace guide to greener tissue products several months ago. Now there is a new development in that the activist organization has been able to put enough pressure on one of the largest producers of tissue products to really make a difference.

The Kimberly-Clark company will now be using more recycled content in its paper products and also require FSC certification. You can write the Kimberly-Clark company here to show your support of these efforts.

And you can read more about this story here. And more about Greenpeace's successful efforts here.

Post Consumer Waste: A growing trend

With all that recycling (also called recycled post consumer waste, or PCW) we're doing, it's got to go somewhere ... and hopefully somewhere useful. In fact, more and more products are popping up with PCW content listed.

I was in Walmart yesterday and saw a whole section devoted to 100% post consumer waste cards -- "100% post consumer waste" was the headlining sign to get your attention. They could have
chosen 100% recycled, but instead they are using PCW. Why?

Post consumer waste is better than simply saying recycled. Recycled can come from two sources: 1) recycled waste from consumers who have already used the material once (PCW) and 2) pre consumer waste, which is the virgin material leftover on the factory floor and is picked up and "recycled" into products. PCW is best because you are not using up virgin material -- you are truly reusing material.

So, when you see that a product is made from recycled materials, see if they are also labeling the amount of PCW -- the closer to 100% PCW the better.

Other recent examples of companies promoting and supplying PCW product options ...

Barnes and Noble just announced they will be carrying 100% PCW planners -- a sought-after back-to-school item.

Staples has long been a supporter of PCW products, along with inventories of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified and Rainforest Alliance endorsed paper products.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"BioPreferred" Label Coming Your Way -- Your Voice Counts!

The USDA has announced a public comment period for the new consumer label of BioPreferred. The label is meant to help better identify products that "are composed wholly or significantly of biological (biobased) ingredients - renewable plant, animal, marine or forestry materials."

While there are significant benefits, there are also some concerns. And you as a consumer have the chance, until September 29, 2009 to let the USDA know what you think.

  • Less petroleum and fossil fuels used in making products
  • An incentive for creating non-synthetic products that may be more biodegradable
  • Less toxic chemicals in products because many non-synthetic alternatives, especially plant-based, tend to be more safe and less polluting
  • Reduction in dependence of foreign oil and nonrenewable fossil fuels
  • A focus on using renewable materials
  • This may spawn economic opportunities in agriculture
  • The word renewable needs to be better defined -- the USDA needs to have renewable include that the bio material is 1) grown or caught in a sustainable manner, including in relation to soils, waterways, forests, and animals, 2) does not take away from the natural biodiversity of the material in the wild, organic, and farmed environments, 3) does not pollute or degrade soils and waterways as materials are grown and managed
  • Genetically modified plants are not acceptable as renewable.
You can submit your comments about BioPreferred directly to the USDA here. Since so few people take the few minutes it takes to voice their opinion productively, your voice counts!

Monday, August 3, 2009

"The Cove" -- another witness to the destruction of oceans

Yet another horrifying documentary has come out -- The Cove -- that chronicles the hidden destruction and captivity of wild dolphins ... all for greed and profit.

While a couple of months ago, I talked about the more broad-based ocean problems featured in the excellent documentary The End of the Line, this documentary is focused on a more specific problem in Japan that has reverberating effects across the oceans and on land -- but again, it is more specifically about disrespecting our planet and our future for the short-lived love of money.

Because of the apparent immensity of ocean problems and, in this case, the problem being in Japan, it would be easy to toss aside this documentary and its issues and say there is nothing you can do. But that is not true.

The filmmakers have pointed us to ways we really can make a difference re: this issue -- on this site there is more info. Here are points I would like to highlight:
  1. Understand the dolphin captivity issue and what choices you can make -- a great deal of planet protection comes about through simple education. Here's a brochure to help you.
  2. Don't eat dolphin -- simple enough. For other more safe and sustainable fish to eat, use the Seafood Watch Guide.
  3. Make your voice known by writing -- here are a list of ideas on how to express your opinion by writing
The Cove opened in New York and Los Angeles July 31st, and will screen in additional select cities starting August 7th. Here's a trailer --