Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Green Goals for 2012

As you create and evaluate your New Year's resolutions for the coming year, remember to take time to set some green goals for yourself, to help do your part to reduce your carbon footprint and to develop environmentally responsible habit. To help you get started, we have created a list of green goals for the coming year. Feel free to add to the list, and if you're already working on some of these goals, consider this positive reinforcement to encourage you to continue these responsible habits.

Eat Local, Whole Foods
Commercially grown and processed foods use a significant amount of natural resources, including land to raise corn and other commodities, diesel and other fossil fuels for production and transportation, and plastic and cardboard for packaging. The production of these foods also results in a significant amount of waste and emissions. Choosing local sources of food helps to reduce the amount of fuels used and emissions created. Choosing whole foods also helps to reduce the resources used in creating processed foods -- and it's healthier for you! Help your body and the environment by shopping at local farmers' markets, co-ops, and shops.

Park Your Car

Cut your mileage this year by choosing alternative methods of transportation. Take advantage of public transportation like the bus or subway to go to work or run errands. If you live close enough, take a bike or walk to work or the grocery store. If you live in a city with unreliable public transportation, or if you live too far from work to ride a bike, create a carpool arrangement. Any of these choices can limit the amount of driving you do in your personal vehicle, cutting down on your personal emissions.

Go Virtual
The online era has created many environmentally friendly options, from education to entertainment. If you are a student or are considering continuing education, look into taking courses online to cut your commute and your need to utilize physical resources such as classroom space and textbooks. If you want to watch a movie or listen to music, consider downloading a version of the movie or CD instead of purchasing a physical copy. If you want to read a new book, consider downloading an electronic version or reading it online. Whatever it is you want to do, look into whether there is a way to do it online so that you can eliminate the need to purchase or produce tangible items.

Choose Organic, Sustainable Goods

If you do have to purchase something tangible, be sure you choose products that are made from organic or sustainable items. For example, you can choose clothes that are made from organic cotton, which does not use chemicals that are harmful for the environment. Better, you can choose clothes made of bamboo, which is a sustainable resource. Look for goods that are made of renewable, sustainable items and that do not use harmful chemicals or non-biodegradable materials.

Cut Out Plastic
Plastic is not biodegradable and its production is responsible for putting tons of harmful chemicals into the ground and water sources. Look for ways to cut out plastic in every area of your life. Choose a reusable metal water bottle instead of purchasing disposable plastic water bottles. Buy toys made of wood for your children instead of cheap, plastic items -- plastic which is also harmful for your children because of its hormone-disrupting properties. Choose glass and metal dishware instead of plastic cups, bowls, or tupperware. The more plastic you can eliminate from your environment, the healthier you will be and the healthier the earth will be.

Recycle Electronics
Technology changes so fast that items purchased a year ago can already be considered obsolete. If you need to update your devices, be sure that you are recycling your old gadgets responsibly. Some retailers offer electronic recycling programs, even offering a discount on new purchases for the trade-in of old models. Other programs accept used computers, cell phones, and other items to refurbish for charitable groups. Look into options for your old electronics instead of throwing them into the landfill, where they can leak hazardous chemicals into the environment.
What other green goals have you set for yourself in the new year? Tell us about them in the comments!

About the author:

Amanda Tradwick is a grant researcher and writer for CollegeGrants.org. She has a Bachelor's degrees from the University of Delaware, and has recently finished research on free college funds and grants and federal grants for nursing students.

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Friday, 17 December 2010

Green Goals for 2011

A new year provides the perfect opportunity to be more green. If you’re new to the eco-world, here are several tips to keep in mind in 2011; for veterans, these serve as friendly reminders, since the best of us forget once in a while that it’s our planet on the line.

Try green cleaning
There’s no need to bring any more chemicals into your home, even in the name of getting rid of bacteria. You can invest in bleach- and chemical-free green cleaning sprays and scrubs (Seventh Generation is a reliable company), or you can make your own with cheap materials you probably already have in your pantry. White or apple cider vinegar, baking soda, Borax, and lemon juice are the key players here. You’ll save tons of money and make your home a safer place for kids and pets. Plus, now that your cleaning materials are safer for kids to be around, maybe you can recruit a few helpers on cleaning day. Check out The Daily Green website for cleaning recipes: http://www.thedailygreen.com/green-homes/latest/green-cleaning-spring-cleaning-460303?click=nav

Install CFLs
One CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulb lasts about 10 times longer and uses 75% less energy than and incandescent bulb, which could mean $30 savings over its lifetime (including the initial $5 cost of the CFL bulb).

Use power strips to eliminate ghost energy
It might be news to some people that even when not in use, electronics like cell phone chargers and computers use power if left in the socket. This can cost you about $200 a year for just one flat-screen plasma TV left plugged in. Plugging it into and turning off a power strip can eliminate this ghost energy.

Take shorter showers
I’m a bit of a clean freak, and I love being doused with boil-a-lobster hot water on cold winter mornings, but in an effort to waste less water, I tried this trick: If you have an iPod dock or an old CD player, listen to your tunes while you shower. Since each song is about 3 to 6 minutes in length, try keeping your shower to a maximum of three songs at first. Three days later, limit your shower to two songs. Work your way toward one song per shower.

Rely less on the A/C
While the winter months last, turn down the heat and put on a sweater. If your ceiling fan runs in reverse, try it, as this will bring the warm air back down since it has a tendency to travel up. In the summer, set your temp for warmer than you’d call ideal but open the windows on breezy days, draw curtains closed around sundown when rooms tend to get really heated up, and use that ceiling fan. Put ice in your water (and drink lots of it) to stay cool. Squeeze a lemon or orange into a pitcher of water for those extra hot summer days.

Buy used books
If you’re a book worm, avoid going to Barnes & Noble and either check out the library or, if you insist on having your own collection like I do, check out a used bookstore or swap books with some friends. If you’ve got your eye on a book on Amazon, try buying used instead of new. Many of the major book publishing companies log rain forests for trees unsustainably and illegally (this includes Harper Collins, and Random House isn’t much better). Check out this pocket guide that lists major book publishers in terms of which companies are doing more (and less) for the environment: http://ran.org/sites/default/files/rankidsbooks_pocketguide_media.pdf

Buy used clothes and household goods
Instead of buying new clothes or things around the house you think you need, go to thrift stores before checking out department stores. Second-hand shopping keeps old items in circulation (and come by a lot cheaper than new items), which means that no more trees need to be cut down or oils melted into poisonous plastics to make what you need. It’s also important to not buy new non-organic cotton; more workers in developing countries die in a year due to the pesticides used in its production than you could ever imagine. Check out this video for more on how you can keep your wardrobe green in 2011: http://www.bbc.co.uk/thread/video/.

Written by Maria Renier
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at Online Schools.

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Friday, 27 August 2010

Cafédirect Container House

Ethical coffee pioneer, Cafédirect has collaborated with cutting-edge UK designer Wayne Hemingway to create an innovative popup eco-home offering a unique flavour experience at festivals and events across the UK.

The Cafédirect Container House has been exclusively created by dynamic eco-design duo Wayne Hemingway and daughter Tilly, providing an original, fun and sustainable environment to taste coffee from different countries. Complimentary coffee from Cafédirect’s gourmet Roast and Ground range; Machu Picchu and Kilimanjaro, will be served to The Cafédirect Container House visitors at summer festivals across the country between May and September.

Shipped from origin in containers, all of Cafédirect’s coffee is direct from the grower. The use of a converted shipping container mirrors the journey made to bring award-winning coffee from the country where it was grown to UK coffee lovers.

See it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before the end of the month!

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Thursday, 27 May 2010


I think I have been lucky enough to finally find the ultimate travel accessory and luckier still to be able to try it on my most recent trip to Asia. We all have personal items that we won’t leave behind when getting ready for a long trip somewhere. We all have our little packing rituals and, from now on, mine definitely includes packing my original Buff. For those of you that are not familiar with this particular item, you may have seen it worn on a number of discovery channel documentaries as well as the more populist TV series ‘Survivor’.

At first glance it has the look of a neck warmer but it does much, much more than that. In the words of its maker, the Buff helps keep its wearer comfortable, guarding against the cold, sun, wind or dust in a wide range of rapidly changing outdoor settings. The item we tested was the Merino Wool Buff which keeps you warm in the cold, wicks moisture and keeps you cool when it’s hot. This natural fabric is super soft, odour resistant, water repellent and offers UV Protection. Ingeniously the Buff can be worn in a multitude of different ways and - as a result – it has become widely known as the definitive multifunctional headwear.

There are officially at least 12 different ways to wear an Original Buff on your head. Some of the most popular uses include a hat, headband, neck gaiter, balaclava, sun, wind or dust screen, bandana, helmet liner, scarf, pirate-style cap and hair band. My personal favourite on this trip was the pirate-style cap… but then again it depends on where you are and what you are doing!

The most intriguing part of the Buff is that it has attained cult status with its wearers, people will notice and other savvy travellers will nod to you in approval. The site has an incredible array of colours available, there are designs and patterns for every occasion and even a custom design and print service for clients interested in promoting their own brand.

Have a look at the Buff website and start choosing yours now, you won’t regret it!

Technical features of our test item
Material: 100% natural Merino Wool (the best eco choice for us)
Weight: 48 grams
Dimensions: 70cm or 27.5” x 24cm or 9.5”
Sizing: Standard fits most adults
Seam Free: No irritating seams, flat hem to ends
Easy Care: Machine washable. Non-iron. Merino Wool Buff® is naturally elastic and will retain its shape
Colours: MERINO WOOL BUFF® is colour fast and won’t fade

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Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Eco Speakers

This is a review that I think will be of some interest to those of you that, like me, have to spend a certain amount of time in front of their computer and for whom the little things that live on the desk are a source of interest and possibly even entertainment.

In a bid to further ‘green up’ my personal life I took an extraordinary amount of time in choosing a pair of desk speakers. I wondered whether anyone had bothered to think ecologically when designing this seemingly unimportant object and, just like that, I came across the people at Merkury Innovations. A short time later I am the proud owner of a pair of Cardboard DIY speakers complete with a set of pencils to really make them my own.

I was pleased with the simple design, the easy set-up and the creative imagination that must have gone into making something as simple as a small cardboard box into a pretty effective rudimentary amplification system for small speakers. I wondered how I would do them justice with my infantile colouring skills and whether I would draw a scene or a person or maybe an animal on them. In the end I liked them so much ‘au naturelle’ that they sit there in the same way they arrived: clean pure natural cardboard with a hint of eco chic. If you are of a more artistic disposition, there are six pencils in the box to get you in the mood.

What about the sound? Ok, they are not going to win competitions, they are not going to compete with B&O or with a set of Harman Kardon speakers, but for a pair of inexpensive, unpowered, computer speakers they do remarkably well. They are much better than any of the free pairs I have so often received with a new computer and even slightly better than a cheap pair of plastic ones people sometimes buy at computer shops. In an office with little surround noise they do really quite well.

I love the unexpected portability aspect, they can easily be clasped down and taken on the road, they can plug into anything with a standard 3.5 mm jack. They do perform best in an office though, where they wouldn’t have to compete with the sounds of the sea or traffic or people in general.

All in all this is a great little desk addition, they do the job they are supposed to do and do it very well indeed and you can rest assured in the knowledge that the components are as ecologically minded as possible. They are reasonably priced at 14.99 USD and are available from the Mercury Innovations website

Some technical specification:
• Made from 70% post consumer recycled material
• Runs off your device power supply
• No batteries required
• Frequency response: 400 Hz
• Speaker: 57mm speaker, 8 Ohms
• Rated impedance: 1 W
• Max power input: 2 W
• Plug: Stereo 3.5 mm

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Friday, 9 April 2010

The Enchanted Islands

I think I have finally found the ultimate natural travel destination and the unexpected result is that my conscience is now fighting a theoretical ‘tug-of-war’ between the little voice that says ‘tell the world about it’ and the other that thinks ‘they’ll only go there and spoil it’. So what to do… part of me is so delighted at finding one of the true final frontiers of natural wonder and the other is worried that over time it might become little more than the latest mass-tourism destination. All things considered I think that if people have made it as far as this blog, they must also be the right ‘sort’ to make this decision by themselves.

This destination is far away, it is undoubtedly expensive to get there as well as physically tasking. Interminable hours spent on planes, days in constant motion, and crossing a whole bunch of time-zones means that reaching these small land spots in the ocean is not going to be for everyone. The name of the islands evoke stories of whalers, explorers, sailors and one of the most famous naturalists to ever live. Their appearance is like nothing else on earth, a jumble of volcanic geology, sharp black rocks and white sandy beaches with areas so lush they could easily be mistaken for the jungles of South America. Yet, none of the above attractions are even close to the real reason why people come here; they come here to see the animals. If you haven’t guessed it yet the islands are the Galapagos, one of the most incredible examples of natural diversity known to man. Hundreds of species seemingly working in unison and carrying no preconception - and therefore no fear - of humans allows for some incredibly close contact with specimens that appear too docile to be described as wild animals.

A trip to Galapagos is a ‘once in a lifetime’ affair, or at least this is what it should be. Already now, the feeling that there are too many visitors is felt from the moment you land and you start to meet groups waiting for transport to their nearby boats. The national park has imposed limits to incoming visitors and immigration is strictly controlled ensuring that the islands are not destroyed by humans, but whether that limit is already a little too high is another matter. Official figures put visitor numbers at 180,000 in 2009 which is a huge increase when compared to the 5000 or so people that would come here in the 70’s. Of course the income produced by visitors is plowed back into the local economy and park conservation efforts, and the array of strict park rules imposed by officials should ensure that a balance is kept. In some respects this is a great place to see tourism and conservation in action together. Despite the fact that there is still a lot more that could be done, there are strong underpinnings to make it work. For some, these islands and their continued protection are a parable for our entire planet and our administration of it.

Anyway, back to the animals… Nowhere else on earth can you sit quietly on the beach and enjoy the playful dance of sea lions, the majestic flight of huge colonies of sea birds and then stroll inland to see some of the most incredible creatures that live here: the giant tortoises. It is the closest you will ever come to being in a National Geographic documentary!

All trips here have to be part of an organized cruise. Each boat is different in size and style but the smaller ones are preferable for environmental as well as qualitative reasons, there are even sailing ships going around the islands. When you pick your provider make sure you carefully research and pick the one you feel has the strongest commitment to the environment and the local population. A full list can be found on the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association website.

Once you are on a cruise the captain will have a detailed plan, imposed by the park rangers. Each boat is told exactly where to go and when. This system is devised to avoid island crowding and to play into the strengths of each vessel, yet another reason why a smaller boat is a good choice (they can get into places larger ones cannot reach).

Each day is filled with organized land excursions lead by expert local naturalists and with some time to snorkel and swim with anything from sharks and manta rays to penguins and sea lions. The time in between is usually spent on a beach walking and thinking about life in general. The meals on board give you a chance to chat about the day’s event with your fellow adventurers and to compare photos – which will inevitably feature hundreds of sea lions and blue-footed boobies!

As a lifetime trip it really checks all the boxes: incredible scenery, wonderful local culture, unforgettable wildlife and a general feeling of seclusion that only islands this far away from civilization can give. My advice though is to always ensure that your trip is making the smallest possible environmental impact, no other destination is so capable of feeling it!

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Monday, 5 April 2010

Eco Libris

Founded in 2007, Eco-Libris is a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. More than 30 Million trees are cut down annually for virgin paper used for the production of books sold in the U.S. alone. Eco-Libris aims to raise awareness to the environmental impacts of using paper for the production of books and provide readers with an affordable and easy way to do something about it: plant one tree for every book they read.

Customers also receive a sticker made of recycled paper for every book they balance out saying “One tree planted for this book” and can later display these stickers on their books' sleeves.

Eco-Libris partners with three highly respected US and UK based non-profit organizations that work in collaboration with local communities in developing countries to plant these trees. These trees are planted in high ecological and sustainable standards in Latin America (Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, Belize, Honduras) and Africa (Malawi), where deforestation is a crucial problem. Planting trees in these places not only helps to fight climate change and conserve soil and water, but also benefits many local people, for whom these trees offer many benefits, such as improvement of crops and additional food and income, and an opportunity for a better future.

So far Eco-Libris balanced out over 130,000 books, which results in more than 143,000 new trees.

And now they have a special giveaway that reward customers with green gifts that promote green reading, from gift cards for Strand Book Store and BookSwim to free “green” books that were printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. They wanted to show their customers their appreciation by providing them a greater value for their actions and they thought it would be a win-win solution to give them gifts that not only are good for the environment, but are actually great examples of “green” reading, from books that are printed responsibly to gift cards at a great independent bookstore and a Netflix-style book rental service.

With the new gifts, greening up your reading with Eco-Libris is more rewarding than ever! More information can be found on the campaign’s webpage – www.ecolibris.net/gifts.asp

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