Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

Happy almost 2009 everyone! Is everyone making their resolutions for the new year? Many people make resolutions about finances, organization, family, friends, and exercise, but what about the environment?

Here I've compiled some of my old posts that are easy changes you can use as a simple resolution to better the environment. Some of them are so easy, you could probably pick two or three! Maybe choose one from each category, or challenge a friend to accomplish one of these tasks for a year!


What other resolutions have you made for next year?
Have a safe and happy New Year, everyone! I will see you next year!

This image is from GPS magazine.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Choose Bamboo

Bamboo is fast becoming the hip and environmentally-friendly type of wood. Here are some of the benefits of this plant, according to Natural Environment:

  • Bamboo plants can grow successfully without any fertilisers or pesticides. Here's my post about the harms of these substances.
  • Bamboo grows extremely fast - it’s the fastest growing plant on the planet. Bamboo has been known to grow 3 - 4 feet per day! So, there's an abundance.
  • Bamboo doesn’t require a lot of water to grow. We all know the importance of water conservation!
  • Bamboo is a very hardy plant - it can survive drought conditions and flood conditions.
  • Bamboo plants release lots of oxygen into the air. A grove of bamboo release 35% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees.
  • Bamboo is a very earth friendly plant. It can reduce soil erosion and desertification. It can actually improve soil quality in degraded and eroded areas. Great for sustainable farming!

So, what are some products that utilize this bamboo? There's bamboo cutting boards (image from Nature Moms)...Bamboo blinds (from Window Visions)...

Bamboo rugs (from Bamboo Rugs Store)...(30% off as of right now!)

...even Bamboo clothes (from Lotus Life)! I hear it's actually quite comfortable.

Oh, and don't worry about the panda bears - like I did when I first heard of bamboo products. They actually consume a different type of bamboo, so they'll be all right!

I couldn't help putting in this adorable picture! (from China Odyssey Tours). It's your reward for reading through this post. Oh, and the picture at the top is from Bamboo Revolution.

Wow, I used a lot of pictures and links in this post! Do you like to use a lot of images in your blog? If you don't have one, do you like to read blogs with lots of pictures?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Environmental Tips for the Workplace

I think I want to start highlighting some online videos each week dealing with some basic environmental tips. This one is pretty informative and helpful, since I don't know too much about workplaces, obviously. It's only two minutes long, and while some of the situations it displays are pretty simple, it could help job your memory on such occasions.

Oh, I just realized I still don't know how to load an online video from Youtube onto a post. Is there a possible way, any of your tech-savvy people? Or I am resigned to just post links?

Well, here it is ...Green Office Project: Environmental Tips from the Workplace.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reasons for Eating Less Meat

I was just perusing through my newest copy of Reader's Digest this morning, and I came this little excerpt titled "Animal Planet." It gave out some astounding facts, which, though probably weren't news, still amazed me.

1. 60 billion animals a year are raised for food, meaning 10 animals per person. If you think about it, Americans probably have more than 10 animals, because billions of people live in poverty and do not always have access to fresh meat.

2. Growing corn and eating is expends 2.2 calories for every 1 calorie of protein yielded. But take that corn through the manufacturing process to produce feed for livestock, and take into account everything else that the livestock consume throughout their life (electricity, water, transportation), and it takes 40 calories to get the same 1 calorie of protein.

3. Steak dinner for 4 people = driving in a SUV for four hours and at the same time leaving all the lights on at your house.

4. Average American meat eater produces per year 1.5 tons of greenhouse gas than a non-meat eater. Yikes!

So does everyone have to become a vegetarian? I don't believe so - it's all based on your beliefs and values. However, there are some changes we all can make to ease the above statistics. Maybe try eating one non-meat meal a day, or one non-meat day a week. Cut back on portions a little bit - 3 oz. is a serving according to the FDA, not that 20 0z. steak the restaurant served. Try out some substitutes such as tofu and bean burgers. When you eat meat, try to find local sources or companies that don't use added hormones and use humane practices.

The above image, from MSN, is of a steak that is 72 oz.! Craziness.

So, is anyone a vegetarian? What is your reason?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wrapping Paper

Yep, another seasonal post...dealing with wrapping paper! How much wrapping paper do we really use in the holiday season? No doubt the number is up there. Here are a few suggestions to make the tradition a little more environmentally friendly.

1. This is the easiest! Recycle! All that lovely wrapping paper doesn't need to be bunched up and thrown into the trash, where it eventually will end up clogging a landfill. With the same amount of effort, the paper can be placed into a recycling bin.

2. Reuse! This might be a little tricky, depending on whether you are a patient or inpatient gift-opener. If you grab your gifts eagerly and tear right through the paper, it might be a little tough to put back together. However, I know a lot of people who like to unwrap their gifts slowly, without tearing the paper. Therefore, if you are one of the latter, you can reuse the gift wrap later. Usually the patterns, prints, and colors are so nice anyways, so I always feel bad just tossing it away.

Some of my friends have this wacky tradition of giving each other back the same square of wrapping paper. It's crazy - it's already changed hands several times.

3. Get some recycled gift wrap. Here's a website with some pretty cute designs. Another website has some plainer colors, if you like those. No doubt there are some stores around you with plenty of selection.

4. Be creative! Transform the comic page of the newspaper into gift wrap...maybe personalize smaller items such as gift cards with old letters. The possibilities are really endless.

This image is from Asia Ru.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Switch Your Holiday Lights

In keeping with the holiday theme, I wanted to share with you what I learned in an article in the magazine Better Homes and Gardens. Basically, conventional string lights use a lot of electricity, especially when you keep them on all night and use a lot of them, like this crazy decked-out house from Decorated Houses.

So, this fun holiday tradition consumes both a lot of your electricity bill, and fossil fuels to produce the brightly-shining lights. Well, the magazine introduced me to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) which use 80% to 90% less electricity than traditional models, and also can last up to 20,000 hours. They are also very safe, because they are cool to the touch. This year's lights have a lot of improvements over past models. There are many difference choices of color, size, and shape.

The article tells you not to wait for a sale because, "Stores report that they're one of the first holiday items to fly off the shelves, even when they're stocked way before Thanksgiving."

It's really strange that in my neighborhood, people are already starting to put up their lights! Well, I guess it is December now, and the holiday spirit is starting to come out. However, it was not even cold this past weekend - up to 60 degrees on Saturday, so it does feel a bit out of place.

I have a bunch of neighborhoods around me that have competitions to see whose home will be the most outrageously decorated. The homeowners do such a good job that people are lining up in the cars and causing traffic jams just to tour their streets. There are even bus tours arranged to view all these houses. Any wacky holiday traditions in your locale?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas Trees: Fake or Real?

Yes, the holiday season is arriving, and pretty soon people that celebrate Christmas are going to go out and get their trees, whether they be chopped from the ground or in a store. Time Magazine's latest issue has an article about which type of tree is better for the environment, and here is a summary.

Artificial Trees:

1. Cause lower carbon emissions compared to buying a real tree 10 years in a row (because of gasoline used to get a cut tree home).
2. However, these emissions basically cancel out because most artificial trees are shipped in from China.
3. Not biodegradable.
4. Older models may have high levels of lead.

Cut Trees:

1. When a tree is cut down, farms will plant another one in its place, making the process carbon neutral.
2. If the tree is thrown away, there isn't really much of a benefit.
3. Can be recycled in many areas that have programs.
4. Can be replanted if the root-ball is left intact.

I guess it all depends on how long you plan on keeping your tree and what you plan to do with it when you get rid of it. So, what kind of tree do you use? Any special family traditions or favorite ornaments? It was pretty funny because when I volunteered at this local senior assisted living center this past Friday they were putting up decorations, and they had this huge artificial tree. The activities director kept telling me to "fluff" up the tree branches. I've actually never heard of this expression before.

This image is from eHow.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Minimize Cooking Time

This tip is so simple, it almost seems silly, but if you get into the habit, it could really work.

Remember when you learned about surface area vs. area in elementary school? My class did an "experiment" with sugar cubes, seeing which size dissolved first in the glass of water. To minimize cooking time, use the same principle - maximize the surface area.

For example, if you make mashed potatoes and you first boil the potatoes, it really doesn't matter how big you chop the potatoes, right? However, I see some recipes that call for boiling whole potatoes. That takes a lot of time! If you just take a few minutes to cut the potato into cubes, you can drastically cut down on the boiling, saving you on time and energy bill.

The same idea works with cake mixes. If you look on the back cover, you see that if you use a cupcake tin instead of a 9x12 pan, you can shave off a few minutes of your baking time. Ovens do require a lot of energy, whether you are on gas or electricity, so make cupcakes instead of cake next time!

So if you want to save a bit of energy, make flatter cookies instead of dense, thin crust pizzas as opposed to thick crust, use thin spaghetti pasta instead of penne, etc. Barbeque thinner cuts of meat instead of a huge steak. Squish down beef patties when making hamburgers. It may seem silly but in the long run it will save energy, and I think the Earth right now will appreciate any little bit of help it can get.
This image is from dkimages.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Early Thanksgiving!

Hey everyone, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends! I really can't believe it's this time of year again...the months just seem to fly by, even though some days really drag on forever. How is that possible?

Well, I'm thankful this year for having access to clean water and fresh air on the environmental note. I did take them for granted for too long, but after traveling to China I now know how wonderful they are! I mean, clean, already purified water flows from a turn of the faucet, and when I step outside I can smell the crisp fall air. I don't have to boil my water down or wear a mask when I go outdoors.

Have an earth-friendly holiday! If you can, cook several things in the oven at once, watch your water usage, and chose local produce But most of all, enjoy your time off from school/work and have fun!

This image is from Hillel at Brandeis.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

So busy!

Hey everyone,

I've been so busy with school, extracurriculars, and college applications that I haven't had too much time to post lately! Don't worry, I'll be back before you know it :). Meanwhile, I just wanted to keep the blog interaction going. If everyone who reads this could reply, it would be great! How about everyone just answer the following questions:

1. What is the easiest change you have made in your lifestyle that has helped the environment?

2. What is the hardest?

3. Where are you from? (Random, but it's always fun to see where readers actually are!)

4. Is there anything you would like to be different on this blog? (Just some feedback for me)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Use Free "Passive" Solar Power

With the winter months coming, heating bills are probably going to rise. Solar power may help mitigate your increasing costs - even if you don't have solar panels! "Active" solar power utilizes sunlight to generate electricity, but "passive" solar power just creates heat directly from sunlight.

Short term solutions include just drawing back your curtains when the sun is facing the window. The sunlight entering will slowly warm up your room. Likewise, lower the blinds and shut the curtains when it's dark, to insulate your home.

Long term, you may be able to do some planning to further utilize passive solar power. Plant deciduous trees in front of windows. With these trees in place, in the summer, the leaves will block out sunlight, keeping your home cooler, and in the winter, sunlight can stream through the branches into your home.

There are all kinds of complex designs and engineering, involving water walls, insulation, and air circulation, that I don't quite understand and wouldn't feel comfortable explaining by myself, so I found a bunch of really good resources in case you are more interesting in passive solar heating.

At the Sound Home Research Center, there is some pretty good basic information, such as the costs and benefits, what works and what doesn't work.

The Arizona Solar Center has a very informative and detailed page on passive solar energy. This definitely is not for the amateur.

Here's a pretty basic YouTube video about passive heating. It's called Passive Solar Heating - Glass is All You Need. It's not the most dramatic or interesting video I've ever watched, but it does a good job of explaining.

This website shows some really cool solar home plans. Just in case you ever feel like building an home in the future.

So, there is something you can do to help lower your energy bills. Passive solar energy can be utilized by just drawing back your curtains, to building additions to your home, but you certainly don't need a fancy house and design like the one above, courtesy of

How cold does it get where you live? I used to live in Wisconsin, and it would always get to below zero every winter, with tons of snow! Now that I live in the South, I haven't really seen temperatures drop below ten degrees, and we haven't had much snow except for a few flurries each year.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Some Shocking Environmental Facts

I was looking up some statistics to share with the Ecology Club at my school, and I found some really saddening and shocking realities of our society today.

1. One year's worth of the New York Times paper weighs 520 pounds. That really struck me, but the more I think about it, the more I realize it really shouldn't be that surprising. There are so many pages of ads and the classified section. Most people only get the newspaper to read the headlines or their favorite page anyways. I think we should all take advantage of the online New York Times.

2. 40% of the solid mass in landfills is made of paper and cardboard. Recycle, recycle!

3. The office paper we waste each year could build a wall from New York to California.

These above facts were found at Top Ten Shocking Facts You Didn't Know About Office Paper Waste.

4. Four to five trillion plastic bags are made each year. Some reusable bags could cut this down...and some ideas here for reusing plastic bags...

5. Americans through away 100 billion of these bags each year, and only 1% are recycled. I know my local supermarket chains all have bins outside for plastic bag recycling, so check to see if your's does.

6. One billion seabirds and mammals die each year from ingesting plastic bags.

The above facts are credited to Say No the Plastic Bags.

These statistics seem so immense, and sometimes I feel a little helpless, like what can one person like me really do? But then I think, every time I recycle, every time I reduce or reuse, I am keeping that one piece of paper or waste away from a landfill - and that's my part. That's all I'm capable of controlling, but I can always hope to influence others to do their part too.

This image is from Knight Science Journalism Tracker.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Subscribe to a Local CSA

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. According to the United States Department of Agriculture,
It is a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community's farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, members or "share-holders" of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer's salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm's bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production. Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.

From Local Harvest:

Many farms offer produce subscriptions, where buyers receive a weekly or monthly basket of produce, flowers, fruits, eggs, milk, meats, or any sort of different farm products.

A CSA, (for Community Supported Agriculture) is a way for the food buying public to create a relationship with a farm and to receive a weekly basket of produce. By making a financial commitment to a farm, people become "members" (or "shareholders," or "subscribers") of the CSA. Most CSA farmers prefer that members pay for the season up-front, but some farmers will accept weekly or monthly payments. Some CSAs also require that members work a small number of hours on the farm during the growing season.

A CSA season typically runs from late spring through early fall. The number of CSAs in the United States was estimated at 50 in 1990, and has since grown to over 2000

This is great for the environment because it supports local farmers and allows you to eat local, seasonal foods. By purchasing your groceries from a CSA instead of a huge corporation, you are decreasing the amount of pesticides, fertilizer, packaging, transportation, fossil fuels, and all that jazz that is required for conventional produce. Supporting local farmers also helps sustain and conserve the local biodiversity of the area.

Additionally, the overall cost usually is easier on your wallet too, and you are able to experience a wide variety of nutritious produce that you otherwise might not take the time to pick up.

Have you had any experiences with CSA? Do you find it a convenient and healthy way to get produce?

These images are from Eggs on a Sunday.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pros and Cons: Nuclear Power

Some people hail nuclear power as the answer to all of our energy problems - others think it will cause the destruction of the earth. McCain fully endorses this source of energy, while Obama has now seemed to reluctantly accept it. What are the real facts and real dangers?


1. Compared to coal and oil, nuclear energy produces a negligible amount of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases.

2. Nuclear power plants can be built almost anywhere in our country, unlike oil which is mostly imported.

3. It's cheaper to obtain. More people can afford to have and use energy, hopefully giving a boost to our economy.

4. The waste produced is small and compact.

5. There has not been an accident since Chernobyl in the 1980s.


1. There is no safe way to dispose of radioactive waste. The material takes thousands of years to break down and outlasts the steel containers it is put into, meaning it could contaminate its surroundings.

2. Yucca Mountain, the proposed nuclear waste dumpster, is not only a sacred Native American land, but is also on top of a earthquake fault line.

3. Nuclear power plants produce thermal pollution - they require an incredible amount of water to cool down the interior. The water is then let out back into a body of water. The warmed water is harmful to marine wildlife. I have read that one power plant requires the same amount of water as the city of Chicago in one day.

4. Disasters and near melt-downs have occurred in the past.

5. Using more radioactive material could make it easier for terrorists to get a hold of dangerous substances.

6. No one wants to live near a power plant. When they are built, the people who cannot afford to move away are the ones disproportionately harmed.

7. The unknown. Do we really know all the effects and consequences?

So, do the pros outweigh the cons? Are the benefits worth the risks? I'm more well-versed on the cons of nuclear power, so if anyone has any opinions, please comment. What are your thoughts?

This image is from Current Word.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Plant Some Beans

Okay, finally a follow-up to my last post! What can you do to lessen your fertilizer use? Well, fertilizers mostly provide nitrogen in a form plants can use, and the element nitrogen is an essential compound in living things. Even though the atmosphere is 78% nitrogen gas, plants cannot utilize in that form.

Enter into the picture nitrogen-fixing bacteria! These bacteria are able to transform nitrogen gas into various compounds such as ammonium ions and nitrate, which plants are then able to intake. Well, where can you find these special little critters? It turns out, they like living in the roots of the legume family. Therefore, if you plant lots of beans in your garden along with your veggies, or alternate beans with the other plants, your soil will probably have more nitrogen and you won't need as much fertilizer.

However, beans are great in their own right. So many varieties exist- black, navy, soy, chickpeas, kidney, etc. They are so nutritious - with high protein and fiber, vitamins and minerals. You can definitely find lots of recipes - not just good old baked beans.

Here's a great website, The Gardener's Network, that has a special page about beans.

I was also perusing the Internet for some bean recipes and ideas to show you guys, and here's what I found- The Bean Bible! I never knew there was such a thing. Well, I guess you can find anything online these days.

Here's a great looking black bean burger recipe. Healthy and easy!

The image at the top is from the Latino Nutrition Coalition. What's your favorite bean or bean recipe? Have you ever grown beans?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Use Less Fertilizer

This post is for all of you that have a nice little vegetable garden but find you need to use lots of fertilizer to keep that little garden going.

What's wrong with fertilizer? Well, a little bit won't hurt anyone, but usually if you use fertilizer, some of it will wash off with the rains. Eventually, all these nutrients from everyone's lawns, gardens, and fields, flow into a large body water. Then a phenomenon called eutrophication occurs. All this excess organic chemicals such as nitrogen and phosphorous causes huge algal blooms to occur.

Definitely not the prettiest sight. Well, this ugly mess does more than just disgust everyone! When the algae die, a lot of dissolved oxygen in the water is used up by bacteria that are decomposing the bloom. And when the level of oxygen is too low, all kinds of marine life can be harmed, including fish. The Chesapeake Bay is the major body of water near where I live, and I know it is going through a major crisis of algal blooms.

So you ask, Molly, what I am supposed to do if I don't want to use that much fertilizer? I can't just let my vegetables and plants die? Don't worry... a post is coming up soon that might be able to help you.

This image is from Plant Management in Florida Waters.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Eat the Right Fish

We've all heard the news over and over again- fish contains omega-3's that help brain function, fish is low in saturated fat, fish are high in protein, people who eat a diet with fish live longer, fish is low in cholesterol...but what kind of fish? There's salmon, tuna, mackerel, tilapia, mahi mahi, cod, flounder, sardines, anchovies, swordfish, and a whole ocean of other kinds! Which do you eat and which picks are best for the environment?

One major concern is overfishing. The stocks in the oceans are being depleted at a far faster rate than they can recover. If you buy and consume the species that are in abundance, you won't only being helping biodiversity - you might be saving a few bucks too.

Here are the best fish to eat:

1. Atlantic Herring
2. Pollock
3. Crawfish (farmed)
4. Tilapia (farmed)
5. Alaska Salmon
6. Atlantic Mackerel
7. Mahi Mahi (poll and troll caught)
8. Dover Sole
9. Catfish (farmed)
10. Black Sea Bass

This Seared Pollock Fillet with Carmelized Onions recipe from the Washington Post looks delicious and is healthy!

Here are the worst:

1. Caviar
2. Shark
3. Atlantic Salmon
4. Snapper
5. Halibut
6. Orange Roughy
7. Chilean Sea Bass
8. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
9. Grouper
10. Atlantic Cod

The above info was taken from The Blue Ocean Institute.
Also, you should watch out for mercury and PCB levels. These dangerous chemicals bioaccumulate and biomagnificate up the food chain, meaning usually that bigger fish have higher levels.

Highest levels of mercury
1. Shark
2. Swordfish
3. King Mackerel
4. Tuna steaks
5. Canned tuna

Lowest levels of mercury

1. Flounder
2. Haddock
3. Trout (farmed)
4. Salmon (wild Pacific)

So it seems like shark is a bad option, not that I know of anyone who eats shark on a daily basis. People who eat a lot of tuna should be cautious though. The main idea is that fish is a great nutrional choice but some kinds are better than others. The top image is courtesy of Simple Healthy Recipes.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Visit a Farmers Market!

This time of year is great for visiting Farmers Markets! Do you have one near you? Here are some fabulous reasons for dropping in and getting great food!

1. Support for local farmers: small farmers really are suffering these days. I read somewhere that a huge percentage (like 80%) of our food is grown by big corporations, and the little guys are getting pushed out. Some of these people have been on their farms for generations. Supporting the local economy really helps cut down on the massive transportation and packaging energy costs of big corporations.

2. Cost: usually the produce and homemade goodies found at farmers markets cost way less than at a conventional grocery store. The reason most likely is because large companies have to pay a lot for shipping and transportation, plus there are middlemen involved (ex. Kroger has to buy the oranges from a company in Florida and still has to make a profit).

3. Health: a lot of the produce sold by local farmers are grown organically, without any pesticides. According to WebMD, these foods should be bought organic as often as possible, since they usually have the highest level of pesticides:

Organic items worth buying as often as possible: Apples, baby food, bell peppers, celery, cherries, dairy, eggs, imported grapes, meat, nectarines, peaches, pears, poultry, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach, and strawberries.

4. Taste: I find that locally grown produce tastes so much better and fresher. I mean, it probably was just in the ground a day or two ago, right? Conventionally grown produce has to be packed, transported, stored, etc., before it makes it to your kitchen. Plus, sometimes chemicals are added to delay the ripening, or the fruit is covered in waxy layer. At a farmers market, the produce may not be standard size and shape, but the taste is much sharper and fresher.

This image is from Active Rain.
What are your favorite finds at your nearby farmers market?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reuse Plastic Bags

My parents always get plastic when they grocery shop, so my pantry is full of wads of these plastic bags. I've found lots of good ways to reuse them, so I thought I'd share some with you.

1. Pack your lunch in them. Instead of buying and using those little brown paper bags, it's better to use something you already have. I find that plastic grocery bags work fine when packing a sandwich and a few sides. It doesn't keep the food from being squashed and its not a great insulator, but it works. Of course, an even better container to pack a lunch in is a reusable bag that I blogged about it this post.

2. Use them to line trash cans. Of course, they won't really work in your kitchen (I know my trash can needs those 30 gallon sturdy black bags to work), but they are really handy for those little trash bins in my bedroom and bathroom.

3. Bring them back to the store. Plastic bags take up no space at all and are pretty convenient to stuff in your purse and use again. Of course, too many uses may result in tearing, so you might be better of with one of these reusable bags.

4. Recycle them! Supermarkets in my town now have containers that let you recycle plastic bags, so there might be some where you live as well (Richmond isn't exactly known for being environmentally progressive).

5. Use them as "packing peanuts." I've actually never tried this, but I'm sure it could work! Stuff them in a package to cushion the item.

Anyone else have some great ideas for using plastic blags?
This image is from Captain Pao. Sorry if the "idiots" part offends anyone - I would substitute "silly" in if I could photoshop well.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Clean Organically

Conventional cleaning products are stringent and harsh on the environment. I found this great video about how to make your own organic cleaning supplies - check it out! It seems pretty simple and doable. Most of the ingredients can be found in any home, such as distilled vinegar.

How to Make Organic Cleaning Supplies.

Does any computer savvy person know how to upload online videos directly onto a blog? I would really appreciate any help!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Don't Waste

Remember how your mother always told you clean your plate, because children elsewhere are starving of hunger? The better strategy, I have learned, is to take less in the first place. This starts way before you serving yourself a meal - back to the grocery store.

Always check for expiration dates and serving sizes. Once I bought a huge bag of flaxseed because it was on sale and I needed a tablespoon of it for a recipe. Well, I forgot one detail- nobody in my family uses flax and nothing else I make requires flax! That sad bag sat on my fridge shelf for three months until it was past the "best used by" date and was tossed into the trash. Really, what a waste of food and money.

Remember how you learned in elementary school that the Native Americans were in tune with nature and respectful of everything, meaning they used the whole animal/plant whenever they killed anything? Well, I'm not suggesting that you demand the bones with your deli meat and carve jewelry, but there are so many things that we throw away without realizing its uses! For example, peels on veggies and fruits can be made into compost, as explained in this previous post.

Another thing many people throw away is the stem of broccoli! That is my favorite part of the vegetable - it's crispy and crunchy when made in a stir-fry. Just peel away the hard outer layer, chop up, and throw into a stir-fry. Most parts of vegetables can be eaten in some form- just today, I learned that the leaves of a pumpkin plant are delicious and nutritious after a quick turn in the pan with some olive oil and salt. Eggshells are good for plants if you crush them around the surface of the dirt.

Some people even eat the shells of shrimp and crabs! I'm definitely not to that step yet- eugh! The point being, a lot of the things people think of as trash and throw away can be used in some way or another. This image is from Innovate Infinitely.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Take Cold(er) Showers

I love steaming hot showers, especially on a cold winter night. I don't even realize how hot they are until I step out of the tub and see the bathroom mirror completely fogged up. However, this is definitely a habit I need to cut back on, for the good of the environment, our family's budget, and even my hair and skin.

According to the Consumer Energy Center, 25% of our energy costs goes to the water heater! You can bet a large chunk of that is for baths and showers. I had no idea the percentage was that high, but it makes sense when you think of the high specific heat of water. I'm learning this in AP Bio right now. Basically, water just needs a lot of energy to heat up! When you think of a swimming pool, it's a lot colder in June than in August! It takes a long time for the sun's rays to be able to warm up the water.

With using colder water, I would probably save a bunch on my energy bill, as well as the fossil fuel usage that is contributing to global warming and pollution.

Hot water can also remove necessary oils from your skin, leaving it dry and less than optimal (MSN). It can damage your hair and irritate your scalp. Hmmmm...maybe if I don't use so much hot water, I can skip buying all those expensive moisturizers and conditioners!

Well, I don't think I will ever be one of those people that can just hop out of bed and into a freezing cold shower, but who knows? I'll just adjust my water a little colder and colder each day, and maybe I'll get used to it! This image is from

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Play FreeRice

This online game/quiz is quite addicting. When I first began, FreeRice quizzed you on English vocabulary. For each word you answered correctly, a certain amount of rice grains would be donated to help end world hunger. The difficulty level moved up according to your level of accuracy.

Well, I just got back on today, and boy has the site changed! There are more categories to be quizzed on, including geography, Spanish, chemistry, and math! This really is an ingenious way to learn and help out at the same time. It's quite a good study aid too. I definitely would have used it last year to memorize the chemistry symbols I needed to know. Now I can use it to increase my Spanish vocabulary (currently in my fourth year of Spanish). The ads are really unobtrusive, too. I barely notice them.

There are some arguments that giving aid to Third World Countries is actually making them dependent and less self-sufficient. I agree to an extent - we shouldn't just be sending in food and undermining their local economy. However, donating the basics while bolstering the agricultural production and distribution is necessary. People who literally are starving can't possible be as productive. I really don't think donating some rice will hurt.

An alternate version of this game is available on Facebook, if any of you use it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Find a Better Search Engine

Did you know that there are search engines that you can use that donate to your favorite charities? Every time you use that site, you are increasing the money going to the organization, mainly generated from the ads on the page. These search engines are mostly convenient to use and donate to pretty good causes. Here are some that I have found.

1. SearchKindly- this search engine has raised over $13,000. Different charities are featured each week, and you get to vote on who gets the money. This week features an environmental group called Climate Cycle, that works to raise awareness in communities.

2. Everyclick- the UK based site has a pretty snazzy and clean page. They provide over 200,000 charities with fundraising options. You can register as a supporter of a particular organization, or the revenue will just go into a general pot.

3. GoodSearch- you chose a charity, and every search you make on this search engine increases contributions to the charity. A LOT of non profits participate in this, so you will be sure to find one to support.

4. MagicTaxi- cute name. Gives 50% of revenue to a selected charity of the week. Pretty cool in that in has a tab to search Wikipedia.

5. GoodTree- kind of looks like the Google homepage, only personalized. It has different features such as bookmarks and news.

And this last one, not as much charity related, but one of my favorites

6. Blackle- basically a Google with a black page. This saves energy - "864,680.675 Watt hours saved."

It is a hard habit to break, just opening up Internet Explorer or Firefox and mindlessly typing in Google. You might want to set one of the above as a homepage so you don't forget. A few clicks can make a difference. The image is from Core77.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Milk Ice Cream

I saw this in Time magazine and just had to say something about it.

So PETA says to Ben and Jerry's (the ice cream maker) that they should use human breast milk to make ice cream instead of cow milk. Their argument is that it is even more absurd to drink the milk of another animal than our own species, and milking cows is cruel, etc. Yeah...I don't think this is going to happen any time soon.

However, the response of Ben and Jerry's was even more ridiculous. They replied, word for word, "We believe a mother's milk is best used for her child." Hello? They're not giving their ice cream to baby cows, are they? The company is directly contradicting itself. If a mother's milk is best used for her child, why is the ice cream company stealing it to manufacture a product for another species?

I don't have a problem with them using cow milk, but I do have a problem with their view of animals. Yes, cows are mothers too. They are not machines. I don't care about the argument whether people are animals etc, but the biological fact is that cows are mothers and they have babies. The end.

This image is from Will Work For Food.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Vice Presidential Debate

Did any one watch the "Global warming" section of the debates on Thursday night?

I thought it was pretty ridiculous how Palin's response to global warming was domestic oil. No matter where we get our oil from, it still comes out the same way from the exhaust pipe our our cars! Oil doesn't magically become less polluting because it is American oil. So what if America has more regulations than other countries? As long as we are using the same amount of oil, we will create the same amount of greenhouse gases. She focused too much on the effects of global warming and not the causes. I know she's from Alaska and all - didn't she see the Exxon Valdez disaster and the tremendous damage of the oil spill? She seems pretty eager to drill her land up.

Biden's focus on alternative energy was much more realistic. He did talk about the causes of global warming, and how our reliance on oil was detrimental. Alternative energy would create more jobs in the job market, maybe even better than producing domestic oil would. After all, the oil supply isn't infinite. Eventually people would have to be laid off as our oil dwindled away. Why not just start with alternative energy? There is always more to research, more to develop, to further enhance solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal energy.

So what did you think about the debates?

This image is from CNews.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Organize Your Fridge

Did you know refrigerators are the largest consumers of energy in your home? At first when I heard this fact, I was surprised, but then I thought about it. They have to keep their temperature freezing cold all day and all night long, no matter what the surrounding temperature is. Not only that, but many times a day people open the doors and stare at the innards, wondering what to eat (I know I'm guilty of this.) Lastly, hot food is sometimes placed into the fridge, which consumes even more energy in order to cool down the food.

Here are some tips I have found all over the web, including from Helium, Associated Content, and Consumer Energy.

1. Don't put hot food directly into the fridge. This not only uses up more energy, but also is an unsafe practice for foods such as chicken and fish.

2. Keep your fridge full! This helps it keep a cool temperature. You can place ice packs or water-filled containers inside too. But don't completely stuff it, because this may interfere with air flow.

3. Switch off features such as ice makers when not in use. These add-ons can increase your energy usage by 20%.

4. Check door seals to make sure they shut tightly. You can easily test this by sliding in a dollar bill between the door and shutting it. If the dollar slides out smoothly, the seal is not closing tight enough.

5. Think about what you want to grab out and on what shelf it is located before opening the fridge door, instead of standing mindlessly at the open fridge. Hopefully this will make the process faster.

6. Label leftovers if you keep them in Tupperware so you can easily grab and shut.

7. Keep the coils clean. This practice can improve efficiency by up to 30%.

8. The fridge should be between 36 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Any colder and you are probably just wasting energy. The freezer should be around 3 degrees.

9. Brush off dust around the condenser under the fridge to encourage air flow.

10. Consider removing the refrigerator lights if there is already plenty of light in the room.

I know this is an area that I can definitely improve on, and I hope you all will find some of these tips helpful as well! This image is from Corbis.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Find a Carpool Buddy!

Seriously, carpooling is one of the easiest ways to save money and reduce air pollution from car exhaust. I carpool with friend(s) to school every day. Once you get a schedule set, it's really quite easy and becomes routine. The difficult part is actually finding someone who lives near you, travels where you are going, and has the same schedule. Well, some websites are here to help!

This website,, claims to be the "top" site of its kind in the world. It has worldwide coverage and a large user base. So if you don't live in the U.S., maybe this should be the link you check out.

Carpool Connect seems a very simple. All you do is enter in your address and destination. The site brings up a list of people that have descriptions matching some of the keywords of your search. It's not the most effective - I typed in Richmond to DC and got someone pretty close (Richmond to Arlington) but they were last updated two years ago. Well, its pretty simple, so there's no harm in giving it a try.

Carpool World has a large database with over 70,000 registered trips.

RideSearch is another similar website that also has a gas calculator to see how much you save.

Of course, always take precautions when contacting someone over the internet. Check up on the person, arrange a meeting beforehand with a third party, let someone know where you are going and when you will be there, etc. Better safe than sorry.

And another advantage? You can take those special carpool only lanes on highways and avoid some traffic! This image is from Commuter Connections. So, have any of you ever tried carpooling?

Beware of Exotic Species

Do you have a parrot in your home? How about some sort of tropical plant, or a flower not native to the area? If you do, please keep track of them!

Introduced species are one of the main reasons for decreasing biodiversity. When organisms that are not native to an area are let out into the environment, they have no natural predators and may quickly spread. Of course, not all species can be established in an area. On average, out of every 10 introduced species, 1 will become established. Out of 10 established species, 1 will become a "pest." This is known as the Tens Rule.

These "pests" can out-compete native animals and plants, and completely change the structure of an ecosystem. Examples of introduced species include the African Honey Bee, which preys on North American bees and has really destroyed a great part of the honey-making industry, and Kudzu, which has really taken over a lot of plant communities. Zebra Mussels too, have threatened the biodiversity in the Great Lakes.

So, don't just let your pets or plants out into the wild if you don't feel like keeping them any more! You never know what may happen.

This image is from The Hedonistic Imperative.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Do you have lots of old items that could be useful to someone else? I know I do- pieces of furniture that don't match, electronic equipment I don't want, outgrown clothing- but sometimes it's too much work to have a yard sale that probably won't make too much money anyways. Besides, my goal isn't to make money, just to get rid of some stuff.
I could donate to the Salvation Army, but I never know when their pick-up times are, and the Goodwill is too far for me to lug my stuff to. I could recycle, but as I went over in this post, it isn't always the best thing to do.

Well, put into the picture! Your junk could really become someone's treasure (and vice versa). Here's a website that let's you post up items you don't want, so other individuals/businesses/charities can pick them up.

There's a section to "throw into" - where you list items you have and don't want, and a section to "take from" - where you can look for something you might need. You never know what you may find, and it's good to know that your unneeded possessions are put to good use by someone who does need them.

This unique website allows items to be continually reused, which reduces cost and consumption, qualities we all need right now.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sad but True

As I was working today, I saw this bumper sticker on a car.

"At least we are winning the war on the environment."

It made me sad :(

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dispose of Medicine Properly

Apparently, some people flush their leftover prescriptions down the toilet. I was totally not aware of this until I saw the recent news article stating that low levels of prescription medicines were tested in our water supply!

There were all sorts of chemicals found in the water, including low doses of hormones and mood-stabilizers. The doses were said to be too low to cause any effects, but who knows what can happen if we keep tossing our drugs down into the water?

The U.S. water treatment system is very extensive. From our drains and the storm water drains the dirty water flows into primary treatment. Primary treatment is mostly designed to remove the "nasty" stuff from our water- for example, big pieces of debris and waste, dead animals, etc. Then water is put into a tank where all the dirt and particulate matter settles down to the bottom and becomes sludge, which either goes to a landfill or is used in agriculture. The water goes through other steps, including aeration by bacteria and chlorination.

Some places have secondary treatment, where the water goes through more specialized treatment. Then the water is let out into a body of water or reservoir.

Well, there is no step that removes all of these drugs from the water! I know it is in low doses, especially dissolved in all of that water, but the one thing we should have learned is that it is best not to test the environment. Bad effects may not happen until further down the road. Who knows what these man-made chemicals can do to ecosystems?

This is an easy problem to ease. Just properly dispose of all your medicines (but I heard that you absolutely should use the entire prescription on certain substances like antibiotics, depending on your doctor's orders.)

So, now I will open the floor to my readers (if I have any). What are your thoughts on this strange and unsettling phenomenon?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Create a Compost Pile

Maybe I'm just a little strange, but sometimes I feel bad just throwing out fresh vegetable and fruit scraps into the garbage. I mean, that stuff is natural and decomposable! However, there is no way those bits will break down in a landfill, where it will be pressed down without oxygen and bacteria.

I could get a pig and feed it all my peelings and scraps...but I think I could run into some problems. An easier way to "recycle" your veggie bits and ends is to create a compost pile! If you have a garden, then the compost later can be used as organic fertilizer for your plants. I'm no authority on the ins and outs of composting, so I have compiled a list of sites I have found really helpful below.

How to Compost- this is a extremely comprehensive website for beginners and experts alike. There are lots of general tips, and also some specialized information. For those that love science, the site includes a section about the the scientific details, such as carbon-to-nitrogen ratios.

Tree Hugger
has a fairly basic but straightforward guide to composting.

An interesting site, Journey to Forever, that has articles on composting, as well as "humanure?" I'd say no to the latter part.

If you live an apartment, or have no backyard, visit Mahalo, for a guide on how to compost indoors (without the smell)!

More indoor composting at Tiny Choices.

As you can see, there are various ways to compost, suitable for every lifestyle. Don't limit yourself! This image is from Denver Recycles. It looks so earthy, doesn't it? I wish my soil looked like that.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Save the Birds

Do you ever have birds crashing into your sliding glass doors or windows? If not, this post may be irrelevant to you, but if you do, keep reading for a fun way to help the birds and recycle at the same time!

According to the Audubon Society, millions of birds each year die from flying into glass surfaces. Some may only see the reflection of trees and grass, while others may not see the glass at all.

From the Journal of Field Ornithology in 1990, Daniel Klem estimated that glass kills 5% of the total number of birds living in the United States, more than pollution, poisons, and cars.

So, what can you do? Of course, you could rebuild your windows and make them smaller, but nobody would be willing to undertake that project, both for aesthetic reasons and cost. Fortunately, there are easier methods. Simply taking a piece of black construction paper, cutting it into the shape of a falcon, and hanging it somewhere on your glass/door should do the trick. Birds recognize the ominous shadow of the predator.

Another creative strategy comes from, the Scare Owl. This fun design of an owl's face recycles two old compact disks, used as the owl's eyes. The sunlight that reflects off the disks will warn birds of the glass surface. Click on the above link for more detailed instructions.

And if you've watched any funny home videos, you will know that this tip may save more than just birds from bumping to sliding glass doors...

This image is from Birding in British Columbia.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Use a Real Lunch Bag/Box

Remember that unpopular kid in middle school who always lugged around a big, bulky lunchbox? Well, reusable lunchboxes and bags have since made a comeback!

Bringing lunches in small brown paper sacks and plastic bags may seem convenient and appealing, but those flimsy things can really do some damage to the environment! Think of all the trees and oil needed to create the materials in the first place, and then the fossil fuels used to manufacture the raw goods into the picture perfect squares. Then there's the fact that rarely do school cafeterias or workplace lunchrooms have recycling bins. Sadness.

Say you bring in a bag each day for lunch. That's obviously 365 bags a year, and 3650 bags for each decade. Over the course of your lifetime, you may discard over 300,000! Quite literally, a ton. Even paper, usually biodegradable, will probably not be able to decompose in a landfill environment, where it is compressed tightly and buried under all sorts of garbage.

Luckily, there are many new and fashionable alternatives to the boring and destructive brown paper bag. Seriously, look at this adorable one from Green Home.
It's made out of certified organic cotton. Here's the Savvy Snack Bag from Etsy.

This Next also has a bunch of stylish designs, for adults and children alike.

Unbearably cute! I want one of those!

There are so many options to chose from. If you don't really fancy any of these examples, I am sure there will be one to your liking somewhere on the internet.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cloth or Disposable Diapers?

Diapers are the things that people need (at certain points of their lives) but hate to think about. Well, I believe that it is time to give one of mankind's most practical inventions a little thought. Cloth or disposable, which is better for the environment?

At first glance, it seems obvious that disposable diapers cause more harm. After all, don't we toss millions and billions of those bad boys into the landfill each year, knowing that the plastic is not biodegradable? And non-biodegradable items will overflow the landfills, desecrating nature, and eventually conquer us all? (Background sound effect: Mwahahahaha!)

Yep, disposable diapers are not the Earth's soft pillowly bandages. But don't despair, you millions of new moms and dads- cloth diapers may not be any better, and here's why.

Diapers made of cloth need to be washed (duh), meaning lots of water and electricity to heat the water are needed. Plus, unless you hang the diapers out on a clothesline to dry, the dryer will take additional energy to run. The cotton used to make the diapers also needed fertilizers, pesticides, water, and fossil fuels to create.

In the end, there really is no conclusive evidence to make. Various studies have been made supporting each type of diaper, and (surprise) many of them were funded by the companies that manufacture the product. I think there might be a slight edge to the cloth diapers, depending on how many times you reuse each diaper and the type of washer and dryer you own, but in the end, both types make a similar environmental impact.

So what should you do? Just be a little more aware of what your impact on the environment is, and be grateful that we have not reached the day when disposable diapers have buried our civilization.

This image is from Being Green and Seeing Red.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Unplug Electronics

It turns out, simply turning off your TV just isn't enough any more.

Many appliances and electronics such as TVs, computers, stereos, washers/dryers, and power tools use energy even when they are turned off. This energy drain is commonly referred to as "vampire energy."

According to the Energy Information Administration, these suckers add up to around 20% of your monthly energy bill- and you are not even aware of it! On the website, it states, "that a TV with a remote could use more energy during the 20 hours it is turned off waiting for you to turn it on than it does while you are watching it for 4 hours in the evening." Crazy!

Consumers are paying more than 3 billion dollars a year for power that they are not using.

So, what can you do? Unplug electronics after you are finished using them. If you want an even simpler solution, just plug everything into power strips- it will be an easy one time switch off.

Remember, less energy use --> less fossil fuel use --> less pollution into our earth. Obviously, less money out of your pockets is a big bonus! So, unplug to stop the vampire drain!

This image is from TVA Kids.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ditch the Bottle

We live in a nation with one of the safest and most thorough water treatment systems. City tap water is checked regularly for to make sure it meets the safety standards. Fluoride is added to tap water (it's good for your teeth!).

Concerning the amount of water you normally drink and cook with, tap water is basically free. Now, how expensive is bottled water? One bottle from a vending machine can easily cost over a dollar. Bulk packages are a little easier on the wallet but by no means cheap. I recently bought a 24 pack of water for a road trip and even on sale, it was over 5 dollars with tax.

Sure, the bottled water companies try to dazzle you with their products. They design the bottle to be all slim and appealing and use catch phrases such as "spring water" and "pure and fresh." Did you know that a lot of bottled water really just comes from tap? It's really important to read the source on the side. A Dasani bottle says it is produced by the Coca-Cola company in Atlanta, Georgia. Hmmmm....don't remember any mountain springs located down there.

There's a new bottle design out, one that curves inward in the middle. It's supposed to use 1/3 less plastic and calls itself eco-friendly. This is one of them. Though it may be better than the old kind, its far removed from just plain old tap. Remember, not only does plastic require oil, but also the entire process of manufacturing the bottles requires energy. These bottles could end up in landfills, or use more energy in the recycling process. Energy= fossil fuels and fossil fuels= bad for the environment.

So, suck it up (literally) and try your tap water. I promise it isn't as bad as you might think.

This image is from Living Small.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reduce > Reuse > Recycle

Recycling is all the rage these days! Companies proudly label their containers with statements such as "Made of 100% recycled paper," while some people obsessively put away every scrap of plastic and paper into the green bins. However, there are strategies even better than recycling for the environment.

Many people do not think of it, but recycling does require additional energy to process. Fossil fuels are needed to break down the old material, remix, and reshape the final product. The reason why recycling is better than throwing away is because first of all, there is no need to extract more of the material (paper from trees, etc.), and second, landfills don't get further clogged.
Reusing is a strategy that eliminates one step from the process. Of course, you have the initial manufacturing of the product, but you don't have the whole extra processes related to recycling. Items easy to reuse:
  • Small plastic snack baggies

  • Paper bags

  • Glass jars

  • Cans (Be creative! Pencil holders, anyone?

  • Paper (Use the back of that scrap piece as your shopping list)

Reducing and reusing go hand in hand. If you reuse certain items, you obviously will reduce the amount you buy. Reducing is the best strategy environmentally, because since you cut down on the amount you consume, you skip both the recycling process and the intial manufacturing process. So, do you really need two paper towels for that little spill? Can you use two sides of the paper when writing? Little changes like those really can reduce the amount you buy.

You can't reduce everything, but what you can't reduce, you most of the time can reuse, and what you can't reuse, hopefully you can recycle. A combination of these strategies will lead to a more sustainable lifestyle.

This image is from the Penwith District Council.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Turn Down That Air Conditioning

I know it is summer and it is hot, but remember- people a hundred years ago didn't even have air conditioning units! They didn't even have electrical fans! And guess what? They led happy, productive lives. Of course, I'm not asking anyone to not turn on their AC for the summer. All I think is necessary is to use common sense. For most people, 80 degrees indoors when it is over 100 outside isn't too bad. No need to crank down the thermostat to below 70.

There are various ways to cool down. Obviously, wearing lighter, thinner clothes helps, such as shorts and tanktops. Taking colder showers will help cool you off. Drinking ice cold water definitely will chill your system.

Other strategies: remember to turn off the AC whenever you leave home, or at night when it is cooler and less humid. If you have different units for different rooms or floors, it is most effective to only turn on the unit of the area in which you will be staying. If you can control the air flow into rooms, turn off the AC in rooms you rarely use, such as a spare bedroom or a formal dining room.

You can save a lot on your utility bills with these simple changes. I know people who spend several hundred dollars a month just because of the AC! Now, doesn't it seem better to endure a few degrees higher temperature in return for that money? Not to mention the benefits of using less fossil fuel!

This image is from General Heating.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Avoid Individually-packaged Products

Individual packages are all the craze these days. Hello, 100-calorie packs, fruit snacks, oatmeal packets, mini-bags of pretzels, ice cream cups, ketchup, sugar, etc.? I've even seen cute little packets of peanut butter and saran-wrapped microwavable potatoes.

Of course, these little packages of joy are very convenient and portion-controlled. However, they do take a toll on the environment and on your wallet.

More plastic and other materials are needed to create the excess packaging. Because of this, more oil is used to create the plastic, and more fossil fuels/energy is used for the production. Also, ultimately more trash ends up in our landfills and sidewalks. These items also cost a lot more per unit. For example, a large bag of Cheetos is cheaper than a pack of several smaller bags.

In the end, I believe that portion-controlled packaging actually encourages an unhealthy lifestyle. Why, you ask? Well, most of these goods are processed and relatively nutrient-poor. However, because of the portion control, people believe that they are eating healthy.

Steer clear of these convenience foods! If you need portion control, buy a larger bag and divide it up yourself. You can reuse your own little plastic baggies and save some money. It's the lesser of two evils. However, the best thing for the environment would be to avoid most processed and packaged foods and eat naturally and locally.

This image is from ABC News.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Choose the Real White Meat

Though a vegetarian or vegan diet is best in terms of the impact it has on the environment, many people do not have the time, money, or desire for the huge lifestyle change. Therefore, the next best thing to do is to compare the different types of meat we commonly eat. Remember, unlike men, all meat are not created equal.

Let's think in terms of the amount of grain an animal must consume vs. the amount of meat the animal produces. According to BBC News, one cow requires at least 13 pounds of grain in order to make one pound of beef. Pigs need 6 pounds of grain to make one pound of pork. Chickens consume about 2 pounds of feed for each pound of meat. Fish, I believe, need a little less.

Let's say the standard serving of meat is 4 oz. per person (of course, nowadays the perception of portion sizes in blown out of proportion, with half-pound burgers and 12 oz. steaks). A family of four eats meat at two meals out of the day, meaning 28 meals a week. That's over 1400 pounds a year. Now, if the family chose chicken over beef each time, they would be saving over 16,000 pounds of grain annually!

Now multiply this number by the number of meat-consuming families in the world. It's an astronomical figure! We could do so much with this amount of food, including easing third world hunger.
Of course, this is the basic outline, but there are many other benefits.

Less water used (beef requires the most, then pork, etc.)
Less fossil fuels used (again, cattle require the most equipment/trucks/shelter)
Less land degradation

Generally speaking, beef is the most expensive, then pork, then chicken (fish is the exception)

Again, on average beef has the most saturated fat and cholesterol. Chicken and fish have many more health benefits.

If you just can't give up your meat, remember, fish> chicken > pork > beef. Obviously, there are many problems with the chicken and fish market (overfishing, anyone?), but this is a general guide you should use.

This image comes from

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Use Sprinklers Wisely

I don't know where you live, but here in Virginia it gets hot in the summer. The sweltering weather means...well, plants are thirsty! Sometimes the seasonal thunderstorms and cloud bursts just aren't enough to maintain a green yard.

People in my neighborhood always turn on their sprinklers during the hottest part of day, the early afternoon. Their reasoning? "Well, plants need to cool down too, don't they?"

This strategy not only may harm the plants, but is also extremely wasteful. With such high temperatures, a lot of the water from the sprinkler evaporates away before it can even reach the plant roots. Having a pivot system makes this even worse, because the water droplets have further to go before falling to the ground.

The best time to irrigate is during early morning or early evening, when the sun's rays aren't so strong and overhead. More water actually is able to reach the plants, so therefore you can conserve more water.

An even better idea would be to buy a different type of sprinkler that drips water directly into the ground, eliminating a lot of evaporation. If you don't want to go out and buy it, and you have an old hose, you can also poke little holes on the side of the tubing and lay it out where your plants/grass are. Simple solution for a big change!

This image is courtesy of CmsGardens.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Universities and Being Green

Yes, I know, this isn't a post with a tip, but I just wanted to mention the trend of colleges and universities going green. I'm visiting campuses right now, and just about every place I've been to has some sort of environmental initiative going on.

The University of Richmond has the one building called Weinstein, and in all of the bathrooms the lights are sensor-activated. When you walk into them they light up. It's really nice and saves them a lot on their electricity bill, but it can be a bit scary if you aren't used to it.

At Duke, they built this Smart Home Dorm that has various features such as solar power systems and rainwater collection systems. I personally did not tour the dorm but it seems very interesting so I encourage you to go visit in case you are ever in Durham.

William and Mary also recently had a dorm building built that was certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

It's a great trend, especially with engineering/science students helping with the construction in some of the buildings and other students experiencing living and learning in them. I hope other campuses follow soon and spread awareness!