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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What we can do...(for lazy people)

I keep wondering what more we can do to go green everyday.  I really feel like I am not doing enough.  (and after getting rid of my car, I am having a hard time getting the recycling done at all)....

So I started thinking that I do more than most of my friends and family in the recycling area.....until I started to bug them all the time about why they talk like they agree with not ruining our planet and jump on the bandwagon and off the soap box!  So at least my best friend, Jen is following through..(but Californians are very eco-wise) and I believe my mom has started to recycle at least to some degree at home and always while at school.  She is also trying to boycott the cafeteria and have them use sustainable and recyclable materials and provide the facilities to do so.

So I believe the first thing you can do that is very easy is to talk about recycling, and reusing some of our existing resources.  The more you talk about it, the more important it will become and the more you will feel responsible in your part of it all.
So I am still gonna save a lot of trash, even if I have to schedule my ride to the drop-off center.  And I am going to talk about it all the time, because the more people hear me, the more they are going to pay attention to what they do.  Even if I become a bit fruity, and nag a lot!  :)

Next, obviously, would be to minimize what you consume that is not renewable.  You have to keep in mind that even just using products marked for recycling, is not enough.  The fact is that it takes WAY more energy to recycle plastic, and other wastes, than it does to create it in the first place.  Also, it has been found that plastic is very bad for you.  I have heard that plastics #7 are the worst, but in my opinion, they are all gross.  I am sure in the future that we will find that all plastics are not so great for your food and beverage needs.  So I plan to slowly phase out plastics in my life, as much as possible.  I am not going to throw out all the plastics that I have because they are evil, but I do plan to start recycling anything used for food as soon as it shows even a small amount of wear, and when replacing them, use something better for the environment that lasts longer, like glass or stainless steel, instead or using water bottles, etc.
 I also recommend bringing your own bag at the grocery store.  Even if you don't buy the store bags (which are actually made with plastics), bring in a few canvas book bags, beach bags or some sturdy used plastic handled bags, like from barnes and knoble and old navy.  Why not? Most people save the sturdy bags anyway (probably to store all the grocery bags) so why not reuse them at the grocery store?  I actually bought a whole bunch of them at dillons, where they give you 5 cents off per bag, and they tend to pack them very full, so you actually can carry more.  The shoulder straps are great for carrying the load in, and (at dillons) the black bags have a zipper pocket, so I can throw my atm card and keys in there while I shop.  It is another one of those things that makes me feel good, like recycling.  When I leave the store, I know people are looking at me saying, that young girl uses those bags I saw that they sell here, maybe I should do that, too.
It is getting pretty trendy to be eco friendly....so get it together.  It doesn't  really matter what kind of bag you use, as long as it isn't paper or plastic!!! HA HA!

    Next, try turning off the lights!!!  And the water.  I know you are saying, I do that...but I bet you run the water when you brush your teeth, or while prewashing your dishes.  So turn it off.  And while you are at it, turn the light off when you walk away.  There are a lot of experts saying to unplug.  And you probably should.
Especially things like cell phone chargers, and other open ended things that are left plugged in when not in use (like my laptop charger! plugged in right now!)
Those little things will save you money and save power. 
Speaking of power, one way you can support green power is paying $5 a month for green power.  I know it is kinda ridiculous, but the reason why it is so important is it creates a demand.  We are lucky that we are able to use what those windmills on highway 65 are producing, and the more people that are willing to pay $5 extra a month on their bill to "pay for" renewable power, the more that they will need to produce to meet that demand.  The more farmers that will be willing to put them on their land, the more that will be happening for renewable resources when our kids are grown and in charge.  (it is the right thing to do).  At first I thought it was a rip off, because essentially, the wind is free, but I think paying for it enables them to buy more windmills.  Like I said, we have to CREATE A DEMAND AS CONSUMERS!!!

Ok, enough about that....I haven't signed up for it yet, so I can't soap box preach, but I have made up my mind...If I can't live "off the grid" then I am going to support heading that direction for my community. I think the midwest will be a leader in renewable energy someday. We can make that sooner than later.

I am not done with this rant....to be continued!!!!
Blogged with the Flock Browser


P.S. I downloaded a new browser called "Flock" made by Mozilla....check it out, it keeps you up to date on "green" news and it also has a lot of really cool features for blogging and social networking (no my space, yet) but it includes You Tube and anything google related. Check it out! Google "flock" and download it, it is pretty neat!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Kids and Nature

I wanted to talk a little bit about why I like to recycle even though it only makes a tiny dent in the waste stream.
I have always wanted to recycle. For a long time I collected and saved aluminum cans to get money, for cigarettes usually.
After I had my daughter,Audrey, I was at my mom's telling her my system of double wrapping diapers so they wouldn't stink up the trash. My mom gave me a guilt trip about how awful disposable diapers are, and how I was only ensuring that the diapers I throw out won't decompose in my lifetime.She said she thought there were more disposable diapers in landfills than anything else. The over use of them in my generation only compounded the problem of waste. At first I thought, "aren't we high on our horse, for someone who doesn't even recycle?" Then I thought, "well, I don't recycle either! Who am I to defend it?"
So, to offset my disposable diaper use, I began to recycle. It has been two years, and I have to admit, I let it pile up sometimes but I refuse to throw it out. And, every time I drop off the recycling, I feel good. I feel like I did something that day, and maybe I am making some tiny difference. I saw the difference in the way we can't fill up our curbside dumpster every week, we only fill about 2 garbage bags. Before, we had to leave the lid open to fit it all in. And it just makes me feel like we are a little less wasteful than we were.
What I love most about recycling is that it is contagious! My mom is starting to recycle, and my closest friend, Jen, from California also does. Jen also switched to CFL's and is making strides every day to find new ways to reduce waste and be more green. My son, Chas, won't throw his "pack lunch" trash away, because he knows that it is recyclable. He brings home sticky juice bottles and his plastic spoon, so I can wash it and use it again! It is really cute to see a seven year old pick up on recycling so easily, and never even think that throwing his trash away at school would be more convenient. I never asked him to bring it back home...he just knows it is the right thing to do.
It doesn't hurt to teach your children values that they will constantly remind you of if you slip up. (like wearing your seat belt) Children very easily adapt to what you teach them is right, and they hold on to the values for life. You have to lead by example. Like my mom, who didn't begin to recycle until I started to complain that she taught me that it is good to be good to Mother Nature (and your mother!)

In a way I can say that I have made a difference already, not because I take huge bags of garbage and sort them in their appropriate receptacles at the recycling center but because I am fostering a new generation of recyclers in hopes there will still be an earth to save, when my kids are at my age, and perhaps they will teach their children these values as well. As for friends and family, I just ask that they recycle at my house and hopefully they will take the initiative to start at home.

I enjoy teaching kids that we don't have to throw away everything we are done using, we can reuse it. That so many things in this world are renewable, if we take the time to renew them. Things that can't be used again should be recycled and their material used. Kids sometimes have an instinct for making good sense. So I can at least take comfort in the thought that my kids will already have the good habit of taking care of the planet and reducing their negative impact.

California

On the news last night they were talking about California's public transportation system. The said that they are trying to convert their buses to 6 million dollar Hydrogen powered and Hybrid Hydro-Electric Buses.
They said that the upfront cost is worth it for zero emissions, and the more the public demands it, the more accessible and economical the technology will become. I would like to see Springfield use a few of these, although the city budget would not allow for it.
It seems like only the largest cities make the largest effort. It would be nice to see ALL cities making that kind of effort and realizing the goal of zero emissions.

More later

Friday, June 6, 2008

I wonder

After reading other environmental blogs, I wonder what difference can be made at all.
If they say by 2030 what has been done cannot be undone, then how can hybrids and compact florescence help at all? Recycling may cause more CO2 emissions and all our hopes crash.
Exactly what are we to change that will actually help? In what ways does the individual matter in such a global issue?
SO I recycle, I compost, I drive rarely (although I can't afford a hybrid), I bought the reusable grocery bags and intend to recycle the old plastic ones, I turn off the water when I brush my teeth and the light when I don't need them....I should have a very small carbon footprint. But in the bigger picture, I still consume over packaged goods, I still have a natural gas heat system, I still have to use the modern conveniences as we all do. What more can be done? What will it take for ALL people to make the small changes, then ALL people decide what the larger changes to be made are?
We need more direction and adaptability. We have to continue to do what we can, as little as that is and continue to try to figure out what more can be done. What is the final solution? I don't think anyone can say...no statistics cover the "everything will be just fine if we all walked to work and recycled" scenario....probably because that won't happen.
Maybe we will never change. Maybe we will all fry in greenhouse gases by 2030.
As a parent, I certainly hope that isn't true. As an environmentally minded person, i hope for the sake of hope that we get our act together and work on a plan to improve. But how can we tell if it helps? I think that it really doesn't help at all. But that is not going to stop me from feebly trying to do my own part to not leave my mark as a consumer driven by my own wastefulness.
What more can I say?

Links of interest

A few links to environmental blogs by people who write a bit better and are more informed than myself.

http://www.ecobusinesslinks.com/environmental-blogs.htm


http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/top_35_environmental_blogs.php


http://www.sej.org/resource/blogs.htm

Misty Skye

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Planet Green

Yesterday the Discovery Channel released it's first "all green channel" Planet Green.
The first show that I caught was "Stuff Happens" with Bill Nye (the science guy). Which I thought was actually pretty cool. It does seem like the kind of show that will be used in elementary school "library days" but it was good enough that I still wanted to watch. The episode had information about coffee and drinking only "shade grown" coffees to prevent further damage to the rain forests (and the animals that help to digest the coffee cherries and produce the finest coffees.)
But the best part was the small segment about where our fresh produce is grown.
It is funny how New Yorkers in "The Big Apple" eat Washington apples, even though New York produces more apples than they consume. There were several more examples of fruits grown in all states that are only imported from other states instead of being eaten locally. Plenty of things grown in our country, but the fruit we actually end up consuming came from another country.
Maybe I just don't have the business sense that these guys do, because obviously shipping Florida oranges to California pays a lot of truckers bills each month, but if they knew that their job was that backwards, would they still haul it? The answer is probably yes, because they need the money. And so do the rest of us and that is why we keep paying the truckers to haul ridiculous loads to places that already produce the produce they haul. A bit of an oxymoron isn't it?
That is something I have put a lot of thought into, and Bill Nye made a valid point: it is up to the consumers. If we decide to literally quit purchasing things that are not local, then the market will show that. But how many people are really willing to eat seasonally and locally all the time??? I am.
Here in Springfield, Price Cutter offers a selection of locally grown produce in addition to their shipped in produce. If more of our local consumers preferred the local to the shipped, they would carry more local produce. The same is true for all other commodities, it is up to the consumer to make the choice what they are willing to pay for and why and to continue to make that choice, until the buyers at those stores decide it is more profitable to offer seasonal local foods. It goes well beyond just supporting the local farmer, but also your community in general.
Increasing local sales is good for the local economy, and probably better for you, too. A lot of farmer's markets are organic producers, and you have the opportunity to meet the guy that grew your food and ask about the methods in which it was grown. Shaking the hand of the guy that produces your produce should make you feel much safer with what you eat..


More soon!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Compost

My newest addition to my recycling endeavor is my sweet pallet compost bin. I have been using it for well over a month with great success. I now have usable compost for my garden and can truly call it organic gardening. I have also used the municipal waste department's compost, which is better than nothing, but you can't beat what you make at home. I think that it is a great service to my garbage disposal to not have so much to chew up and spit down the drain in our water supply.
I really just wanted to take my recycling to the next level and composting was a given because I love gardening. Maybe it isn't right for everyone, but I think it is right for anyone who has a backyard! Even apartment dwellers have options, with vermiculture (worm composting). There are many ways to reuse your waste, but none as perfect as compost.

Just as a simple (overly simple) guide to composting, here is what I have done.
I asked neighbors and businesses for their unused pallets and screwed them together in a square with no bottom, right next to my garden. I then began to mow my yard with a bagger and dump loads of grass trimmings in. Because the books say to use less nitrogen than carbon, I used a lot of fall leaves that I rescued from neighbors. A lot of people bag their leaves and then pile them up beside their houses, and that is the perfect opportunity for me to get them easily and locally. A lot of experienced gardeners use only garden refuse and straw, which makes a superior compost, but I am simple and I like to do things my way. I dump the leaves and layer it with grass and dirt, wetting the layers as I go. This last pile was made with a piece of metal pipe down the center, so I can easily check the temperature of the pile, since I don't have a four foot long compost thermometer. I live on a half acre lot in the city, so there is no end to my grass clippings in spring and fall. I also have a lot of wood chips sitting around from the ice storm of 2006, when we rented an industrial sized chipper. The pile has heated through and been turned twice, an is now ready to roll. I then added a second pile so I can simply turn one pile into the next bin, instead of stirring and fluffing. It has worked out very nicely and improved the health of my plants dramatically.

I think that in life we should all try to follow nature's cue and do as little to leave a mark as possible. I have taught my children and my friend's and their children the importance of the compost bin at my house. And even though they don't recycle at home, here they do and they get to see it in action in the compost pile. It is really neat to see it steaming in the morning and teach the kids about how and why it decomposes, and how every little step to reduce trash is a little step in the right direction.
I feel like we can never do enough to teach our children to be more wise than we are and do the right thing, even when no one is looking!!!
Leave only footprints!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Recycling Rant

I have a lot of opinions relating to waste and recycling. I really don't feel like everyone is willing to do their part. I have been trying to convince my friends and family that it isn't that hard to recycle and reduce their waste, but it seems that my attempts are futile. Even my mother, who taught me the importance of caring for the planet, still has a hard time driving up to drop off her wastes, because it is just so much easier to just let the haulers take it away each Thursday, and shove it into the dump with their front end loaders.

There has got to be a point where everyone realizes the impact that just one household can make on landfills, pollution and just wastefulness in general. I sometimes wonder what people are thinking in a consumer oriented world, where everything is disposable. We have a hard time looking past our what is just our laziness stopping us from taking cans to recycle. And most people that do recycle only recycle what will give them money in return. It is funny that they don't feel responsible to recycle glass and plastic when there is no return deposit.

It also dismays me that most trash haulers, (here in Missouri they are required to) offer recycling curbside, but only allow certain recyclables, even though many are very easy to auto sort. In my locale, they allow only plastics #1 and #2. two colors of glass, which they did not specify the colors, and paper products. Specifically newspaper and corrugated cardboard. No mixed textiles, no paper board.

So I haul my own items to recycle, so that more of my waste is able to be reused, and I avoid Styrofoam, which cannot be recycled at all, outside of the UPS store will allow you to bring in packing peanuts. It is rather ridiculous. You would think that the income that recycling produces for refuse companies that they might want to allow more items to be taken curbside and avoid the landfill for a while longer. It is a disgusting proposition that humans have resorted to bury their trash. Who thought that up? And since DuPont and whomever else turns such a lovely profit, plastic and non bio-degradable materials are more common in packaging than anything organic, or earth friendly. Everything is for our laziness and it is all buried for future generations to uncover how unsafe and unsanitary it is to live life in such lazy ways.

A while back I stopped to think about plastics, and what they really mean to me. If I were to give up using plastic altogether, how would that affect my life? Well, for one, I wouldn't be writing this now, because the majority of my laptop is made of plastic. (thanks HP!) My gallon of milk in the fridge, my tub of butter, my bottle of shampoo...everything I use daily is contained in plastic. So for me, the only option is to recycle every bit of it that comes through my house, because living without it does not seem possible in today's world. But what about the rest of my community? When I visit the recycling center, I usually see only older people. People who probably are too old to use a computer, and read this blog. Too old fashioned to realize that the rest of the world quit caring about "saving" and not wasting long ago. But I would be willing to bet that they are likely a product of the Great Depression and it is ingrained in them to be frugal. Waste not, Want not. Where is my generation and my parent's generation. Shouldn't all those Baby Boomers feel the pressure to be green?

Here is what I think...you tell me how you feel if you like. I think that Recycling should be law. I think that it should be free, and accessible. I think that the county should recycle anything that is marked for recycling and the trash haulers should have to pick it all up, not just the easiest and most useful types for their industry. I think that all packaging should be recyclable, and marked as such, and the law should mandate that. I think that all schools, and businesses should have to recycle, because they contribute to the waste stream in huge amounts. ( I know SPS recycles paper and cardboard and possibly aluminum). But I think that we should take the initiative and EVERYONE IN THE US SHOULD BE REQUIRED BY LAW TO REDUCE THEIR WASTE AND RECYCLE!!!!!