Posts Tagged ‘carbon footprint’

Boxed Water is Better!

photo-2This past weekend I attended a delicious local food truck festival and discovered boxed water!  Not luxury, specialty or flavored water, but plain, purified water in a boldly printed box that says, “Boxed Water is Better”.  What a great idea – in the fast-growing water bottle market, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been boxed before.

Boxed Water is Better, LLC, started in 2009 in Grand Rapids, Michigan with the mission of creating a new water company with simple, sustainable packaging, one that gives back to foundations and one with a lower carbon footprint than traditional bottled water.

About 76% of the box is manufactured from trees grown in certified, well-managed forests where new ones are constantly grown to replace those harvested.  Using this renewable resource, trees, which also sequester carbon dioxide, makes it one of the most sustainable beverage packages available.

The water is carbon-filtered, purified drinking water from the municipal source in each of their major markets.  The boxes are shipped flat to the local filling company, a significantly more energy-efficient way to ship, where they are then filled.  The boxes are easily recycled and can be flattened to take up less space.

photo-1-2 I love the look of the boxed water.   The no-nonsense black and white printing on the box simply says what it is “Boxed Water is Better” with a water drop.  One panel on the box explains their environmentally friendly, sustainable, give back philosophy.  10% of their profits are donated to world water relief foundations and another 10% donated to reforestation foundations.

Boxed Water is Better is working on US and international distribution in both small and large retailers.  In the Boston area, Boxed Water is Better is carried at Bloomingdale’s.  You can also order a carton of 12 or 24 online.  One 500 ml box cost $1.00.  Cheap!!!

While I still think it is better to use a BPA-free, stainless steel water bottle, there are definitely times when you need to buy one.  This is the solution for me! I’d much rather drink out of a water box from a company with a socially responsible mission than a plastic water bottle.   Look for Boxed Water is Better in your area!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Green Moving

My husband and I are selling our house where we have spent 28 happy, important years. We raised our family here, expanding and changing the house as our family grew.  Now that the kids have gone, it’s time for another loving family.  We will move to a smaller place where we can lessen our carbon footprint.

Crystal earth recycle icon

I am sorting through years and years of accumulated “stuff”, making piles for giveaway, piles for recycling, piles for storage, piles for the kids. Vietnam Veterans, Big Brother/Big Sister, the Epilepsy Foundation and other service organizations gladly come to your home for unwanted items still in good shape or you can drop them off in their donation bins. Freecycle.org is another way to get rid of things.  Our town dump recycles electronics, appliances, books, metal, and clothes.  They also have a “dumptique” where you can dispose of discarded items – you barely get out of the car before someone grabs something!

I curse all the technology around the house that is obsolete almost immediately and comes with way too much packaging and the ubiquitous wires, plugs, and chargers that go with only one device.  I can’t believe all the CDs that no one listens to and cameras that no one uses now that we all have smart phones.  It’s shocking how quickly video games, players, and VHS tapes are outdated.   They can be donated thankfully, to thrift stores and freecycle.org.

Then, there are those things that can’t be donated or recycled and that I just can’t throw into the landfill, like dried-up make-up,  partly used personal care products, old partially used paint cans, spent markers and pens, half-burned petroleum-based candles, the countless samples doctors give out that definitely shouldn’t end up in the water table – the list goes on and on.  These items pose a real challenge.   GreenAmerica.org posted a list of where to recycle all sorts of unusual plastics like old yoga mats, Brita pitcher filters, and technotrash, and there are websites that offer ideas for reusing and crafting items like torn blue jeans. Unfortunately however, some items have to be thrown away.

It’s a lot of work to dispose of things properly, but it feels good, it’s cathartic.  I keep coming back to the thought however, that we all have way too much stuff!  Recycle, yes, reuse yes, but let’s reduce too!  Now, in my next phase the key is not to re-accumulate!  Who needs anything anyway?

If you aren’t familiar with Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff”, it’s really worth watching this clever 20-minute animated documentary about the lifecycle of material goods.  Click here to visit her website.

 

Green New Year’s Resolutions

2. New Year's Resolutions

2. New Year’s Resolutions (Photo credit: lism.)

The New Year is a time for starting fresh and making resolutions, some of which we keep and most of which we don’t.  This year go beyond the “lose weight, exercise more” typical resolutions and add some “green” ones.  Think back over the year to your newly acquired green habits and add to them.   For example, add one new item to your recycling that you have previously not recycled, like printer cartridges. (Staples recycles old printer cartridges and you can download mailing labels from HP to send back used ones.)  Recycle plastic bags at Whole Foods.  I keep a bag handy to store plastic bags and take them to Whole foods whenever I shop there.  Simple!  If you are not already bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, then start doing so.  If you are, add reusable produce bags, or bring reusable shopping bags on other errands as well.

Lower your carbon footprint one day a week by walking, biking or taking public transportation instead of driving.  Replace your light bulbs with energy-efficient CFL or LED lights.  One day a week eat vegetarian, a completely local dinner or even a raw meal. Try cutting out processed foods from your diet.  One day a week cut down on your appliance and technology usage or better yet, don’t use them at all.

Replace one of your conventional cleaning products with a non-toxic one.  Check out greenwithbetsy.com for simple recipes to make at home.  They work just as well and you will feel good knowing you are not breathing in toxins!

It only takes three weeks to make or break a habit, so start  your green resolutions now and they will soon become part of your daily routine. You may find you lose that weight and are exercising more simply by being more green!

Happy 2013!!!

Eco-College Choices

My thoughts are with all my East Coast readers as they recover from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. 

As you help your high school child navigate the overwhelming college selection process, you might want to consider commitment to sustainability along with academic excellence, location, affordability, and size. According to the Princeton Review’s latest Hopes and Worries survey, 68% of the sampled 7,445 college-bound students said commitment to sustainability impacts their college choice.

IMG_8292.JPG

LEED-certified Athenaeum – Goucher College  (Photo credit: elemess)

The world is definitely moving that way and colleges are getting on board. In addition to more environmental academic offerings, many schools are incorporating green building and LEED certification in their new buildings, as well as offering organic food choices including organic gardens on campus maintained by students. More schools institute recycling and other programs to lower carbon footprint.  They provide greener transportation, more opportunities for student run sustainability groups and preparation for green jobs.  Colleges and universities are increasingly moving towards greener operations and finance.

The Princeton Review tallied a green rating on 806 colleges based on “1) whether students have a campus quality of life that is both healthy and sustainable; 2) how well a school is preparing students not only for employment in the clean energy economy of the 21st century, but also for citizenship in a world now defined by environmental challenges; and 3) how environmentally responsible a school’s policies are.”  This year’s list of the 21 colleges and universities with the highest rating are:  American University, Arizona State University, California Institute of Technology, California State University – Chico, Catawba College, Chatham University, College of the Atlantic, Columbia University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Goucher College, Green Mountain College, Harvard College, Northeastern University, San Francisco State University, University of California - Santa Cruz, University of South Carolina- Columbia, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, Vanderbilt University, and Warren Wilson University.  I’m thrilled to see that 2 of the 3 schools where my kids went, Goucher College and Vanderbilt University, are listed!

It’s encouraging to not only see change happening, but to see that institutions of higher learning are realizing the necessity of placing emphasis on sustainability as they prepare our next generation of leaders for our rapidly changing world. Of course when it comes right down to it, most kids choose their college based on something totally unexpected, like the fact that Chulula Hot Sauce was on every table in the dining room.  That was the clincher for my son!

Information compiled from Natural Awakenings, September 2012, Cool Schools and Princetonreview.com.

 

 

 

Take The Ecological Footprint Quiz

I consider myself an ardent environmentalist (I ought to be, right?) Even though I recycle and reuse almost everything and have been known to take things out of the trash that my husband threw away to recycle them; even though I always turn off lights when I leave the room and never leave the water running when I brush my teeth;

English: Compact fluorescent light bulb

English: Compact fluorescent light bulb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Even though I have replaced all my light bulbs with energy-efficient CFLs; even though I unplug small appliances when I’m away and use an energy-saving power strip that has made turning the television on even more complicated; even though I rarely eat meat and buy organic and local produce (just to name a few of my eco-habits),  I was shocked when I recently took the Ecological Footprint Quiz and found out that I need 3.5 planets to sustain my current rate of energy consumption!  The quiz, sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Economy, asks 27 questions about your lifestyle and the answers determine how much “nature” your lifestyle requires.  It estimates “the amount of land and ocean area required to sustain your consumption patterns and absorb your wastes on an annual basis” and allows you to compare your ecological footprint to others’.  My footprint was lower than “others”, but 3.5 planets is horrifying!  Naturally, the quiz is not totally customized to your lifestyle.  For instance, there was no place to put that I drive an electric car or that my husband drives a biodiesel one, nor that we have planted over 2000 trees on our farm where we are developing a life off the grid. Surely, this would have at least knocked one planet off my consumption level.  Nevertheless, it was eye-opening and scary to say the least to see how much energy I actually consume and need in my daily life.

Go to myfootprint.org to take the quiz yourself.  Sometimes a dose of reality is exactly what one needs to make positive changes in life.  The quiz offers lots of energy-saving tips.  Let me know what changes you plan to make!

Ecological Footprint Quiz Results

Ecological Footprint Quiz Results (Photo credit: acordova)

Happy Arbor Day!

With Earth Day over (though everyday is really Earth Day), it’s on to Arbor Day. The last Friday in April is Arbor Day, a national holiday dating back to 1874 when J. Sterling Morton, a journalist and editor of an important Nebraska paper, founded it. (Arbor Day does vary in some states based on the best tree planting time.) His idea was to set aside a special day for tree planting; it is estimated that more one million trees were planted that first Arbor Day in Nebraska.  The tradition began nationwide in 1882 and continues today with individuals and groups celebrating trees and nature.

Tree

Tree (Photo credit: Adnan Yahya)

Planting new trees and caring for existing ones is more important than ever as we battle exotic invasive insect pests, air pollution, soil compaction and contamination, limited water and nutrient availability and the overall effects of extreme weather conditions and climate change.  Trees are much more than just a beautiful big plant; their social, communal, and environmental benefits are numerous.

  • They manufacture oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.
  • They provide shade in summer and windbreak in winter.
  • The beauty and serenity of trees have been shown to help hospital patients recover more quickly.
  • Trees reduce crime in low-income urban areas and increase property values.
  • Trees help us save energy, improve air quality, conserve water and provide homes to wildlife.
  • Trees offset our carbon footprints.
  • Large and majestic trees are a major asset to any community.

My photo, taken April 25, 2003 at Student Acti...

This Friday, Arbor Day, plant a tree, learn how to care for a special tree in your yard or neighborhood, read a tree identification book, conduct a big tree search, or simply take a walk and appreciate their beauty, especially this time of year.  For group activity ideas, go to arborday.org.


 

 

GOING GREEN IS NOTHING NEW

English: Seven modern Dairy Crest milk bottles.

Going green is nothing new – it has just been given a name. Below are excerpts from a cute story circulating on the web that exemplifies what I mean.

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing…or didn’t call it green.” “… we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed, sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over…

We walked up stairs because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. ….

… we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine… — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes….

…We had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. The TV had a small screen … not … the size of the state of Montana.  In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything. When we packaged a fragile item to… mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. …we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. …….

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of …a plastic bottle … of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen. …people took the streetcar or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. We didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint…..

You get the gist.  Some of it is progress and some of it isn’t.  It all consumes a lot of energy.   In 2012 make it your goal to use less energy and lower your carbon footprint (another new term).  You and the planet will benefit.


FALLEN LEAVES QUOTE

Yellow leaf from a Silver Maple Acer saccharin...

Image via Wikipedia

How beautifully leaves grow old.  How full of light and color are their last days.  ~John Burroughs

I love this quote.  We can actually learn a lot from nature on how best to live out our life.

This year, though, leaves aren’t full of their usual brilliant color.  It is November 4th and so many leaves are still on the trees, some of which haven’t even started to change! “Peak” time for leaf-peeping used to be Columbus Day!  What difference does it make, we say?  Well – with the most recent Nor’easter, or “Stormtober” as the newscasters coined it, on the East Coast, the heavy wet snow sitting on green leaves was a devastating combination – trees and large limbs are down everywhere, power outages are still going on.  Even though my husband is an arborist and maintains our trees meticulously, we lost several giant limbs from our beautiful, majestic silver maple!  The crack of those limbs falling on our deck was shocking!  This isn’t the natural order of things – the first snowstorm before the first frost, shoveling snow before raking leaves?!  Scary and strange…….  And we need our big trees!

Is this a symptom of climate change?  Do what you can to cut your carbon emissions.  Simple steps do make a difference.  To read more about carbon footprints, click here.

For greener ways to clean up your yard this fall, click here.

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