What is Your Carbon Footprint?

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I’m resurrecting some of my earlier posts which I want to call attention to.  “What is your carbon footprint?” is one of them. 

Relating to that topic, I have another perspective as the price of oil continues to drop and gasoline prices become so much cheaper.  My concern is that we will be more complacent and less careful about our energy usage with such low prices. The news rarely if ever talks about the the environmental impact of oil.   No matter the price of gasoline, driving and flying still are major culprits of climate change and the resulting intensifying storms and droughts.  I drive an electric car and only occasionally have to fill up with gasoline, but I too am enjoying lower prices.  I’m afraid we have to be hit in the pocketbook for necessary change to happen.

Carbon Footprint is a measurement of greenhouse gas emissions an individual produces from energy consumed in their day to day activities, emissions that cause pollution and climate change.  The US accounts for 26% of the world’s energy use despite that we are less than 5% of the human population. Driving, flying, heating, air conditioning, electricity, the size of your home, the type foods you eat, and the products you buy all require the use of fossil fuels and make up your carbon footprint.  It’s important to be aware of how much energy you use, a first step in reducing your carbon footprint.   To find out yours, click here.

Below are simple changes you can make to lessen your footprint.

  • walk or bike more
  • combine errands
  • take public transportation when possible
  • carpool
  • drive more slowly
  • keep your tires inflated
  • consider buying a hybrid or electric car when you need a new one
  • turn off lights when not in use
  • unplug appliances when not in use
  • run your dishwasher and washing machine only when full
  • turn down the heat
  • check for air leaks
  • eat meat less often
  • eat local foods
  • compost
  • reduce consumption
  • recycle paper, cans, bottles, newspapers and buy recycled products

While you enjoy lower gasoline prices, continue to be mindful of your energy usage.  Each little step will reduce your carbon footprint, lower your energy costs and make you a bit healthier!  Calculate your footprint, you will be surprised at how much energy you consume.

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Is There Still A Quandary Over Plastic Bags?

As I finished up a telephone call in my car in the Stop and Shop parking lot the other day, I observed a young woman unload her cart, filled to the brim with groceries, all bagged, maybe even double bagged, in plastic.  I was really taken aback! With that many groceries, wouldn’t larger paper ones be better if you didn’t have reusable ones?

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I mistakenly think everyone is aware of the problems with plastic bags.  Change in attitude is happening for sure, but we are clearly not there yet.  Below are some startling facts about plastic bags compiled from a previous post.

  • The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store, just one of many stores we frequent.
  • According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil or natural gas, both non-renewable resources, are used to make these bags.
  • Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. At this time roughly only 5 or 6% of them are recycled.  Millions end up in the litter stream outside of the landfills, either in the oceans or on land where aquatic life and animals, mistaking them for food, are poisoned. The rest end up in landfills. It can take centuries for them to decompose.

Though they are inexpensive to produce (therein lies the problem), easily reused as trashcan liners or lunch bags, and can be recycled, there are still too many plastic (and paper) bags. They seem to multiply – a direct correlation to the amount of stuff we consume!

Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime. Fortunately, the movement to bring reusable bags to the grocery store is catching on and many stores now give a $.05/bag rebate. Whole Foods stores no longer carry plastic bags -100% biodegradable bags are now available.

Alternatives are there.  It’s time for all companies and consumers to get on board!

List of towns in the US that banned plastic bags:

  • San Francisco
  • Portland, OR
  • Falmouth, MA
  • Provincetown, MA
  • a few other towns in MA
  • Austin, TX
  • towns in the outer banks of North Carolina

List of countries with cities that banned plastic bags:

  • England
  • Mexico (Mexico City)
  • India
  • Burma
  • Bangladesh
  • Rwanda (reputed to be one of the cleanest nations in the world)
  • Australia

Countries where plastic bags are taxed, but not banned:

  • Italy
  • Belgium
  • Ireland (where plastic bag use dropped by 94 percent within weeks of the 2002 ban.)

Countries where plastic bags come with a fee:

  • Switzerland
  • Germany
  • Holland

Check out these other posts I wrote on plastics and ideas for reducing plastic usage

Some information compiled from: http://people.howstuffworks.com/how-many-cities-have-a-ban-on-plastic-bags.htm

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

MASS SAVE OFFERS $100 FOR RECYCLING REFRIGERATORS OR FREEZERS BYFEBRUARY 15

For Massachusetts readers -

Special New Year’s promotion offers Massachusetts residents double incentive to recycle secondary refrigerators and freezers.

Boston, Mass (January 6, 2015) — For a limited time, the Sponsors of Mass Save® – Cape Light Compact, National Grid, NSTAR Electric, Unitil and Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECo) – are offering $100 to residential electric customers who recycle their outdated, second refrigerators or freezers through the Mass Save appliance recycling program.

The program encourages customers to reduce their energy use by recycling old, second refrigerators and freezers.  Oftentimes, these ‘extra’ refrigerators and freezers are plugged in, but barely used. People may not realize that older units consume as much as four times more energy than newer, more efficient models. Removing an old refrigerator or freezer can help you save up to $150 a year on your utility bill by decreasing household energy use.

The Mass Save appliance recycling program runs year-round, offering free pickup of refrigerators and freezers and a $50 reward. Keep in mind, this special $100 offer is only available through February 15, 2015.

“Any time is a good time to recycle your old refrigerator or freezer, and now customers can start the year off with an extra $100,” said Tilak Subrahmanian, Vice President of Energy Efficiency at Northeast Utilities, parent company of NSTAR and WMECo. “Customers can save up to $150 a year on their electric bills by removing these inefficient units from their homes, and we make it easy by picking up the old units for free and delivering them to a recycling facility.”

Customers can schedule a free home pickup by calling 1-877-545-4113 or visiting www.MassSave.com/Recycle. To qualify for the $100 incentive, customers must call or go online to schedule their recycling appointment byFebruary 15, 2015, and the unit must be picked up by March 15, 2015.

Refrigerators and freezers must be in working order, clean and empty, with an inside measurement of between 10 and 30 cubic feet (standard size for most units). A maximum of two units per household per calendar year will be accepted.

After pickup, the old, second refrigerators and freezers are transported to an appliance recycling facility in Franklin, MA. Harmful materials such as capacitors and mercury-containing switches and thermostats are removed and properly disposed.  95% of the refrigerator’s components (including metal, plastic, glass and oil) are reclaimed for reuse in manufacturing new products. Even the foam insulation is safely incinerated to generate electricity.

Visit www.MassSave.com/Recycle or call 1-877-545-4113 for more information and to schedule your pickup appointment.

About Mass Save: Mass Save® is an initiative sponsored by Massachusetts’ gas and electric utilities and energy efficiency service provider. The Sponsors of Mass Save work closely with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to provide a wide range of services, incentives, trainings, and information promoting energy efficiency that help residents and businesses manage energy use and related costs.

The Safety of Plastic Dental Appliances

A reader asked me about the safety of the plastic used in mouth guards, retainers and other dental appliances.

It seems like dentists tell everyone to wear a mouth guard, even my 25-year-old son, because they grind their teeth, which is either a testament to our high stress society or a dentist up sell. I use one because I clench my teeth and it was affecting my bottom teeth. It helps, but I too get concerned about the safety of the material used.

A wide variety of materials is used to manufacture dental devices and it’s hard to find information about the exact materials and their safety. According to the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center, or PPRC, a nonprofit organization that is a leading source of high quality, unbiased pollution prevention, “Sealants, fillings, mouth guards and other dental appliances can and may contain bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates and other chemicals of concern.”

The BPA chemical is a synthetic hormone and endocrine disruptor used in plastics, and has been linked to everything from breast and others cancers to reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease. It has been under scrutiny and has now been removed from many plastic products including baby bottles, water bottles, and plastic toys. The FDA does not require testing for BPA exposure however, for dental materials. New federal regulations have required that manufacturers also stop using phthalates (Chemicals used in plastic household and personal care products linked to hormone changes, lower sperm count, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities) in children’s toys, but again, it is unclear whether these new regulations pertain to mouth guards. The PPRC states “ The ADA (American Dental Association) and other authorities suggest that the risk of contamination from dental materials is low compared with other sources of BPA in the environment and food supply.” I hope so!

I did read that the store-bought boil and bite guards like the ones used for sports protection are problematic since BPA is more likely to leach from plastic when it is heated.  Amazon FYI, sells a BPA-free, FDA-approved soft material tooth grinding and athletic mouth guard.

The solution?  Ask your dentist about the materials used in his/her dental appliances, about the effectiveness of store-bought guards, and request BPA-free ones. As with anything, you have to outweigh the risks vs. the benefits.

Information compiled from: http://pprc.org/research/rapidresDocs/Dental_Guard_BPA_RR_FINAL.pdf and ewg.org.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,900 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Have You Made Any Eco-Friendly New Year’s Resolutions?

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 or better yet, eliminate them whenever possible. If you are not already bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, 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.  Incorporate “meatless Mondays” into your week and try some new vegetarian recipes. Go technology-free for a day and read a book instead.

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 weight and exercise more simply by being more green!

Happy 2015!!!

Benefits of Buying in Bulk

Bulk food buying is the hallmark of eco-conscious consumers.  Buying in bulk doesn’t just mean buying huge quantities of items to save money, which makes sense for staples like toilet paper and paper towels if you have the space.  It also means buying from those bulk bins you see in the grocery store.  There are several advantages to doing so.

Bulk items are usually cheaper.  With no packaging, companies are able to keep costs down. According to the Bulk is Green Council, “organic bulk foods on average cost 89% less than their packaged counterparts”.  Wow!

You can buy only what you need.  If a new recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of a specialty item that you don’t have on hand, you simply buy what is called for.  Buying this way also allows you to experiment with certain spices, grains or flours that you don’t usually buy without committing to a whole bag or box.  You significantly reduce food waste and save space in your pantry by buying only what you need. How many unused spices are in your spice drawer that have been there for years?  To insure freshness and for peak flavor, spices and most food items are better bought in smaller quantities anyway.

Bulk buying also keeps tons of packaging out of the landfills. A study from Portland State University found that if Americans switched to bulk bin buying for common items, it would “it would save tens of millions of pounds of trash from entering landfills each year.”  Specifically, the Bulk is Green Council states, “If all Americans purchased coffee beans from bulk food bins, 260 millions pounds of foil packaging would be diverted from the landfills per year.”  Or, “If all American families bought peanut butter from bulk food bins, about 749 million pounds of waste would be diverted from landfills per year.”

When buying from the bulk bin, you can either bring your own glass container or use the plastic or paper bags provided. Calculate the price per ounce, pound, etc. A scale is usually right there beside the bins.  If you bring your own container, make sure to weigh the container first before adding the item, then subtract that weight to determine the cost of the item you are buying.  If you are concerned about bin freshness or cleanliness, feel free to ask the store manager.  And, don’t forget to recycle or reuse the plastic bag after transferring your bulk items to a glass container at home.  Store them in the pantry or dark place.  I love the way the pantry looks with attractive glass containers or reused mason jars, which is all the rage today.

Items You Can Find In Bulk Bins:

  • Dry beans
  • Flours (including GF options)
  • Seeds (including flax and chia)
  • Nuts
  • Grains
  • Spices and herbs
  • Ground and whole bean coffee
  • Powders (such as baking powder)
  • Cereal and granola
  • Trail mix and dried fruits
  • Dry pasta
  • Nutritional yeast and other odds and ends

During the holiday season when we are baking, cooking and trying new recipes more than usual, buying from bulk bins makes even more sense.  Try it and enjoy saving money and waste!

Information compiled from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-15918/the-benefits-of-buying-in-bulk.html and http://www.bulkisgreen.org/.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

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