Category Archives: Green Living

Plastic. Conveniently horrible.

Plastic in our oceans.  Plastic swirls, double the size of Texas, in our oceans.  My husband and I do not have TV at our house, (we just watch Netflix!) so I am going to attribute that to the reason why I had no idea this was such a huge issue.  However, I think what has me the most unsettled is that we are not doing anything dramatic to fix this devastating problem.  Please educate me if I am mistaken, but I have heard nothing of large-scale attempts to fix this catastrophe.  To me, it seems silly that the government is not devoting funding to an issue of this magnitude.  When birds, fish, and other  organisms are ingesting plastic toxins, they are entering the food chain that we happen to be at the top of.  Therefore, these plastic toxins will eventually make their way into our digestive track.  I think that alone, warrants our attention.  Not to mention the countless deaths and deformations of wildlife in the surrounding areas.  My main quest with this post is to get you inspired to help be a part of the solution to this problem, rather than be overwhelmed by it, causing you to become apathetic.  Ok, so let’s break this up into three easy parts to keep you on track.  Where is all this plastic coming from?  How much is there in the Oceans?  What can I do about it?

Plastic Types and Origins

Bottled water definitely seems to receive the most flack in terms of being wasteful, but there are many other types of plastics that are making their way into the oceans.  According to Eco-activist David de Rothschild, there are four main pollutants; plastic bags, Styrofoam cups, Styrofoam containers and soda bottle lids.  Other pollutants include, toys, product packaging, cheap holiday decorations, beverage cans, chemical containers, milk jugs, and basically any other plastic items you can think of.  Where does all this plastic come from?  US!  This is an entirely man-made problem, which also means that it can be an entirely man-made solution.

How much is there in the Oceans?

Get ready because this number may shock you.  While some assumptions had to be made to come to this number, “Stiv Wilson of the ocean conservation group 5 Gyres has made a first attempt to tally how much plastic is in the global ocean. The number he comes up with is staggering: he conservatively estimates there are 315 billion pounds of plastic in the oceans right now.”(1)  That number is huge, despairingly huge.  Let’s take a look at the world map to see where many of the plastic swirls are currently.

Most experts agree that there are 5 main swirls in the ocean.  The Pacific ocean garbage swirl, or gyre, is the largest, but the others will continue to grow if our consumption of plastic does not decline.

What can I do about it?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and REFUSE to buy single use plastic items as often as possible.  In the market today, there are other options available.  If we begin to refuse buying single use plastic containers, the market will respond to the demands and offer more environmentally friendly options.  You can also check out the below links to see how you can get involved.  The main task is to get more visibility to this issue.  Make sure you share some of the information you learned from this post, or from one of the organizations posted below, with a friend or family member.  This is a problem we created, but it is one we can most certainly fix.

Until Next Time,

Be Well!

Check it Out!

Oprah: http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Plastic-Boats-Pacific-Adventure

Discovery News: http://news.discovery.com/earth/how-much-plastic-is-in-the-ocean.html

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/26/plastic-ocean-pacific-conservation_n_1032897.html

Stop Ocean Plastics: http://www.stopoceanplastics.org/

References

1. Discovery News: http://news.discovery.com/earth/how-much-plastic-is-in-the-ocean.html

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326 Million Trillion Gallons of Water on The Planet, And We Need to Conserve?

Earth is known as the blue planet for a reason.  Salt water oceans make up 71% of our planet’s surface and 97.5% of all Earths water, so it is no surprise why people seem to struggle with the concept that we may be at the beginning of water shortages around the globe.  However, that only leaves us with about 2.5% fresh water, most of which is locked up in glaciers and snow cover.  I decided to write a blog post about water issues because I think that everyone can very easily incorporate ways to conserve water in their day-to-day activities.  If you search the web I am sure you will find hundreds of articles discussing water scarcity and water shortage issues.  So the real question is then, why don’t we care?  Without water life would not exist, so this should be making our eyeballs pop and our jaws drop.  Or maybe, we do care and the real problem is that we think that we can’t make a difference.  If you have read any of my other blog posts you will clearly know that I believe each and everyone of you do matter, make a difference, and are the key to answering many of the world’s current problems.  Without one person making a change, nothing will change.  And while climate change may still seem to be the largest environmental issue, Christie Matheson, author of Green Chic, believes that water may be the new hot button issue.

“Water shortages may become the new global warming (by which I mean the next hot environmental topic).  Though there is quite a bit of water on the planet, only about 1% of it is usable for humans.  This isn’t a problem just for people living in the middle of the desert.  In the United States, where water use has tripled in the past 50 years, 36 states are predicting water shortages by 2013″(1).

Hmm… 2013.  That sounds a little too close for comfort.  When Christie Matheson was writing her book it was 2008, so what was once a little farther off is now only a year away.  The unfortunate truth is that those predictions are sounding to be about dead on.  Several major rivers are already beginning to run dry including the Colorado River, Ganges, Indus, Rio Grande, and Yellow (2).  Rivers running dry can be a very scary scenario, as they tend to provide water for famers, and local economies.

The interesting point to note is that the water we drink has been circling around our planet in the water cycle for millions of years. Meaning, that the water we drink today is the same water that was here when the dinosaurs were roaming the planet.  So, if we have always had the same amount of water to be using what has changed?  The three main contributors to water shortage and scarcity seem to be population growth, climate change and industrialization

As usual, the United States is the largest consumer of water on the planet.  The average European uses 200 liters of water everyday, while North Americans use 400 liters.  An even larger gap emerges when you look at individuals in developing countries, who use only 10 liters of water a day for all of their needs (3).  It is easy to see that even if we make small changes to lower our water consumption, a huge difference can be made.  Don’t get me wrong, water is amazing and is essential to a healthy and happy life.  This is the easiest to see when you witness what is happening in countries where water is not easily accessible or affordable.  “More than 3.5 million people die each year from water-related disease, 84% are children.  Nearly all deaths, 98%, occur in the developing world”(4).  I beg of you to sit and read those sentences over just once more and realize how unnecessary those deaths are.  If we can just get our fellow human beings the water they so desperately need, millions of lives will continue on to follow their dreams, to fall in love, to build families, and to enjoy life.

Now that I have your attention let’s talk about what steps you can take to make a difference!  Your response to water scarcity and shortages can be small and it will still make a large difference.  Check out the tips below to see what you can do!

1.  Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.

2.  Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Compost vegetable food waste instead and save gallons every time.

3.  Water your lawn and garden in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation.

4.  Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap.

5.  If your shower fills a one-gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds, replace the showerhead with a water-efficient model.

6.  Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you’ll save up to 150 gallons per month.

7.  When cleaning out fish tanks, give the nutrient-rich water to your plants.

8.  When running a bath, plug the tub before turning the water on, then adjust the temperature as the tub fills up.

9.  Designate one glass for your drinking water each day or refill a water bottle. This will cut down on the number of glasses to wash.

10.  Don’t use running water to thaw food. Defrost food in the refrigerator for water efficiency and food safety.

11.  Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.

12.  Use a commercial car wash that recycles water.

13.  Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons a month.

14.  Direct water from rain gutters and HVAC systems toward water-loving plants in the landscape for automatic water savings.

15.  If your toilet was installed before 1992, reduce the amount of water used for each flush by inserting a displacement device in the tank. (We talked about this in an earlier post!)

16.  Washing dark clothes in cold water saves both on water and energy while it helps your clothes to keep their colors.

17.  To save water and time, consider washing your face or brushing your teeth while in the shower.

18.  While staying in a hotel or even at home, consider reusing your towels. (I haven’t been able to make this change yet, but it makes sense!)

19.  When you are washing your hands, don’t let the water run while you lather.

20.  Look for products bearing the EPA WaterSense Label for items that been certified to save 20% or more without sacrificing performance (5).

That is only 20 ways to save water, visit http://www.wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/index.php for many more ways to conserve water!  A great organization to check out is The Water Project.  Visit the website http://thewaterproject.org/ to find additional ways to get involved with providing water to those that need it most.  The changes you make create an impact that you cannot even imagine.  You have the power and ability to save people’s lives.  Take on the challenge, because I know you can do it!

Unit next time,

Be Well!

Sources

1. Matheson, Christie Green Chic: Saving the Earth in Style  (18-19)

2.  www.pwf.co.im/watershortage.htm

3.  Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)

4.  www.water.org/water-crisis/one-billion-affected/

5.  http://www.wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/index.php

Photos:

1. http://brumbaugh.blogspot.com/2012/01/water-water-everywhere.html

2. http://thewaterproject.org/water_scarcity.asp

3. http://ashfaqueshah-photography.blogspot.com/2011/06/save-water-save-life.html

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Energy Tax Credit

It’s that time of year again, and I know everyone is so looking forward to doing their taxes!  Well, maybe not actually doing our taxes, but we sure are excited for that big check to come in the mail!

If you have been adopting a greener lifestyle, get ready to reap the benefits!  There are several different energy tax credits that you may be eligible for!  I am going to lay them out for you in a “nutshell,” but please click on the link below to find out more details!  And if you are not eligible this year, check them out so you can find out what you can do in 2012 to get in on this cashbox!

Products Eligible for Tax Credits Through 2011

Biomass Stoves

HVAC

Insulation

Roofing

Water Heaters (Non Solar)

Windows, Doors, and Skylights

Products Eligible for Tax Credits Through 2016

Geothermal Heat Pump

Solar Energy Systems

Wind Energy Systems

Fuel Cells

Vehicle Tax Credits

Plug-In Electric Vehicles

The credits I have listed below are only the federal tax credits.  To learn more about state specific incentives, check out the link below!

http://www.energysavers.gov/financial/70010.html

Happy Tax Filing!

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Why Go Green?

Alright, so this probably should have been my first post under Green Living.  But, better late than never!  In this post I will show you the vast number of environmental issues happening right now that should intrigue you to want to figure out you how you can go green. The following posts in Green Living will look further into these issues and explain what you can do to make choices that are more environmentally friendly in the future.

Why go green you ask?  There are three main reasons to consider living a more “green” lifestyle.

1. To preserve biodiversity/species.

2. To protect our environment.

3. To ensure generations to follow will have a place to call home.

Going green has been getting a lot of attention lately, but unfortunately we are still doing much more to hurt our Earth than to help her.  Species are going extinct and natural habitats are being destroyed because of the lifestyles that we choose to live.  The word cloud below just shows a few of the serious issues that we are facing in regards to the environment.

While the problems may seem too big to tackle, that is definitely not the case. Don’t get me wrong, they are BIG problems, but small changes made by a large group of people can help to solve those problems.  I think the key to solving the issues is really going to be looking outside of yourself.  We need to look at how our actions are effecting the world as a whole. The small changes are easier to make when you can see the impact they will have.

Nature really is just absolutely fabulous when you take the time to look closer and drink in all the lovely details that make up Earth.  Please join me on this journey to explore the issues and find ways we can help.

Happy Tree Hugging!

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Most Creative LEED Certified Buildings

There is only one thing you need to know for this post, and that is the definition of LEED certified.

“LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.” (8)

So, basically a building that is great for the environment and usually saves you money too!

Enjoy the photos!

Bank of America Tower

Manhattan, New York

LEED Certified – Platinum

The first LEED Platinum skyscraper.  The building features many energy enhancements, but its onsite 4.6-megawatt cogeneration plant is the main attraction. The system provides a clean and efficient power source for the building’s energy requirements, significantly reducing its reliance on the NYC grid. (1)

BMW – Welt

Munich, Germany

This gorgeous showroom featuires, solar rooftops, steel panels on the rooftop that heat the building via solar gain.  This saves the building 30% in energy costs.  It also has a natural ventilation system. Ok, and this one actually is not LEED certified, but it was too sweet not to put on this list.(2)

William J Clinton Presidential Library

Little Rock, Arkansas

LEED Certified – EB Platinum

This library was the first presidential library to become LEED certified.(3)

Meera House

Sentosa Island, Singapore

The main feature of this house is the green roof.  The house is wrapped in a special grass that helps to prevent flooding and promote proper drainage.  Gorgeous. (4)

Dallas Audobon Center

Dallas, TX

LEED Certified

The beautiful Audobon Center is an outdoor educational building.  Features include: recycled cotton ceilings, rubber tire floors, and poured concrete that has the appearance of wood. All which makes for one beautiful building! (5)

Hearst Tower

Manhattan, New York

LEED-Certified GOLD

The Hearst Towers features include, low-E glass in the building envelope, light sensors to control the amount of artificial light on each floor, activity level sensors that control both lights and computers, high efficiency HVAC systems, and use of outside makeup air for cooling and ventilation for 75 percent of the year.(6)

The Santa Monica Civic Center – Parking Garage

Santa Monica, CA

LEED Certified

This parking garage is the first LEED-certified parking garage in the United States.  The features include, a rooftop solar array, low-VOC paints, free bike storage, and a gray-water harvesting system that uses storm runoff for landscaping and Civic Center facilities.  Plus, it just looks sweet. (7)

Sources

1. http://inhabitat.com/photos-worlds-greenest-skyscraper-nycs-one-bryant-park/

2. http://www.experientia.com/blog/bmws-car-dealership-cathedral/

3. http://continuingeducation.construction.com/article.php?L=5&C=465

4. http://www.8bier.com/green-roof-house-meera-house/

5. http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/leedcertified-dallas-audubon-c-126311

6.  http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/hearst-tower-leed-certified-in-agolda.html

7. http://inhabitat.com/first-leed-certified-parking-garage/attachment/9714/

8. http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=1988

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Recycle Your Water Bottle… In the Toilet?

One of the most simple tips I have received to become a more “green” citizen, is to recycle a water bottle in the tank of your toilet.  This simple step will turn your boring and outdated John into a fabulous and earth conscious, low flow toilet.  Of course, if you would like to save even more money on your water bill, you can also place a half-gallon jug in the tank.  However, proceed with caution.  If you displace too much water, your toilet will most likely clog more often, if you are the type of person who flushes an entire tree of toilet paper down the drain. Hint: Sometimes less is more folks! 

The reason this simple step will make such a difference is because toilets are the largest consumer of water in the entire household.  Americans flush a whopping 4.8 billion gallons of water down the toilet, every day.(1)  It is easy to see how such a small change will make a large difference very quickly.  The installation is quite simple, and I will outline the steps below.

1. Finish drinking that delicious spring water from your water bottle and then remove the label.  You don’t want soggy pieces of paper floating around in there!

2. Fill the water bottle halfway with pebbles or sand and the rest with water.  Then, twist the cap back on.  The reason you fill the water bottle with sand is because you don’t want it sliding around in there, causing a raucous.

3. Place the water bottle in the tank gently, and away from moving parts.

4.  Place the lid back on the tank and voila! You have created an instant upgrade for the environment and to your pocket-book!

The reason I chose this topic to start off my blog is because in places all around the world, water is quickly becoming an extremely precious commodity.  Over the last century alone, the use of water has grown at more than twice the rate of population increase.  And, while there is enough freshwater on the planet for the current population, people go without water because it is wasted and distributed unevenly.(2)

Please do the environment, yourself, and thirsty people everywhere a favor, and either recycle that water bottle in your toilet, or use that tax refund to buy a shiny new low flow toilet!  If you try out this fantastic tip, please comment on how much it saved you on your water bill and if it is as easy to do as I claim!

Happy Flushing!

1. http://www.idealbite.com/tiplibrary/archives/toilet_talk Ideal Bite, Toilet Talk

2. http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/scarcity.shtml United Nations, Water Scarcity

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