Archive for the ‘water’ Category

you don’t need green to be green

September 6, 2008

The other day, a friend of mine brought up the common misconception that in order to be eco-friendly, one needs money. There’s really just one thing that I practice to live a sustainable lifestyle: mindfulness. And I think mindfulness in this case can be broken down into 3 actions: a) plan ahead, b) consume less, and c) do your research. Here are a few guidelines that I live by…

Plan ahead
(or, be prepared)

1. BYOE: Bring your own everything, everywhere

  • This includes, but isn’t limited to: reusable utensils, reusable drinking containers, shopping bags, and lunch
  • You don’t have to go out and buy special portable utensils, just borrow some from home
  • Buying a $20 reusable water bottle and filling it at home or at a water fountain is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a $1 bottle everyday (or even every week if you’re one of those people who refill disposable bottles).
  • Same goes for coffee and tea — brew it at home or at the office and drink it in a mug
  • Your shopping bags don’t have to be anything fancy, most of our bags were giveaway totes. Even just reusing plastic grocery bags will keep the garbage out of the waste stream for a little longer

2. Plan meals

  • If you know what you’re going to eat ahead of time, you’ll buy only what you need
  • If you go to the supermarket on a full stomach, you’ll be less likely to buy stuff you don’t need
  • Plus you’ll keep food out of the landfill where it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change (according to the EPA, methane is 20 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide)

3. If you can grow it yourself, do

  • You’ll save money, fuel, and carbon output
  • Plus, you’ll know where your food is coming from
  • If you don’t have your own garden, try a community garden

4. Compost if you can

  • You’ll keep food out of the landfill (see item number 2) and create rich food for your vegetable garden
  • Learn how here

5. Keep your car maintained, and hypermile

  • If you have a car, keep it clean and the tires full — both of these simple things can help save gas
  • Hypermiling is a tactic people use to save fuel. Find out more here

Consume less, live more

1. Buy less stuff

  • Especially new stuff, or stuff made overseas
  • I promise, life will be just as fulfilling without that 5th pair of sneakers or giant flatscreen TV or beauty product, or whatever it is you’re thinking of buying. I know, I’m a recovering shoe addict and impulse buyer myself
  • Of course there are times when you need stuff, or maybe you like collecting stuff as a hobby. Just use your judgment and buy used whenever you can. Shop at eBay, craigslist, or FreeCycle (this one’s free!)

2. Eat less meat

  • It’s pricey, has a huge impact on the planet, and isn’t all that healthy in large quantities
  • Greens and grains are healthier and generally cost a lot less (they also taste good once you get used to them — especially the fresh ones)

3. Eat and drink less junk

  • Junk food is highly processed, so a lot of energy and resources go into making it
  • And it’s full of bad stuff
  • Trust me, you’ll feel better in the morning if you don’t reach for that jumbo bag of Doritos and 32 oz Gatorade. It may seem cheap and tasty now, but just wait ’til you get those medical bills in 20 years

4. Think before you…

  • Print or copy: Can you read it on the computer? Can you copy double-sided?
  • Purchase: See number 1
  • Toss: Can that thing you’re about to throw away be reused or recycled? Maybe somebody else could use it if you don’t want it anymore. If it’s toxic, dispose of it properly (find out how at Earth 911)
  • Drive: Can you walk, bike, or take public transportation instead?

5. Use less water and energy

  • You’ll end up saving money if you conserve
  • Find 100 ways to save water, specific to your region, here
  • See my tips for summer energy saving

Do your research
(Find out where stuff comes from and what it’s made of. Here are a few things I’ve learned…)

1. Health and hygiene

  • Ingredients to avoid: parabens (methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, butyl-), synthetic fragrance, petrolatum, diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), sodium laurel sulfate (read more about ingredients to avoid)
  • Not sure if your products are harmful? Check the Cosmetics Database

2. Cleaning products

  • You can make your own non-toxic cleaning supplies with inexpensive household products, like white vinegar, washing soda, hydrogen peroxide, lemon, and oil (learn more at The Green Guide)
  • Use rags (old t-shirts and towels work well) instead of paper towels

3. Food

  • Eat whole, minimally processed foods
  • Read the label — avoid ingredients that you can’t pronounce or that have many qualifiers, like high-fructose corn syrup or enriched bleached white flour

4. Furniture and homegoods

  • Avoid furniture and paint made with off-gassing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals like formaldehyde
  • Skip products made with PVC, like shower curtain liners — opt for cloth instead
  • Choose napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, and tissues made from paper, not from trees. Go with these brands that are both high quality and environmentally friendly (Marcal, Seventh Generation, Green Forest). AVOID: Bounty, Scott, Viva, Kleenex, Puffs, Charmin, Cottonelle (they’re all made from trees!)
  • Buy in bulk to save money and packaging

Keep it simple…

Another simple way to live green is to heed the 3 Rs: reduce consumption, reuse what you can, and recycle what you can’t.

Find more eco on a budget tips at The Budget Ecoist

Why bother?

water, water, everywhere…

August 22, 2008

Maybe not for long. Warning: This may be a downer of a post, but there are things you can do (keep reading).

I’ve been wanting to write about water for a while now. Water conservation is something I think about a lot. As the climate changes there will be fewer and fewer sources of fresh water. Out West, they’re turning to desalination and toilet-to-tap to keep up with water supply demands. We continually pollute our water with agricultural chemicals and waste, pharmaceuticals, and domestic waste. Only in “civilized” nations do we hose down our sidewalks and water our lawns with potable water. I see it everyday. It greatly disturbs me. And now there’s a movie to scare the be-jesus out of you. It’s called “Flow.” Check out the trailer below.

What you can do

Check out water conservation tips here.

Get some water conservation tools, like The Toilet Tank Bank and Shower Coach Timer.

If you’ve got a lawn, get yourself a rain barrel.

water-saving shampoo

August 1, 2008

Maybe you’ve heard of dry shampoos, a way to clean hair or at least fake it in between washings. In the past, women might throw some cornstarch-based product in their hair, comb it out, and call it day. While this method worked for some, it was more like masking the appearance of dirty hair rather than actually cleaning it. Apparently there’s a more effective way to wash hair without water. One such product is Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo — and they’ve just come out with a non-aerosol version. Great for travel, going out after the gym, or when you’re just in a rush, this dry shampoo is one of those secret weapons of stylists at fashion shows or film sets.

Since I’m always looking for ways to save water and wash my hair sans toxins, I’m just going to have to try it. Get yours here.

Eco bonus: Pierre Fabre, creator of the Klorane Institute, has long been a supporter of plant biodiversity, through research of botanicals for cosmetic and therapeutic applications.

don’t flush!

July 30, 2008

Your drugs that is… Since we’re on the topic of medicine and waste, I thought it apropos to issue this reminder. When you want to dispose of expired or unused drugs, don’t send them on their merry way down the toilet into sewageland. That drug-laced sewage ends up in our precious waterways, changing the sex of fish, or in the case of flushed Prozac, making fish too happy they forget to eat. Medical waste does all sorts of fun damage to the environment.

So what do you do with those old drugs? Some suggestions:

  • Contact your pharmacy — they may have a drug recycling program
  • Call your local hazardous waste facility — they may have recommendations for drug disposal [The New York State site here]
  • Smash the pills, put them back in their original container, and put that container in a sealable plastic bag. Throw it out with the trash. The problem here is that plastic doesn’t degrade well, and once it does, that medicine is still finding its way out into the environment

Just remember, whatever you do, don’t flush!

what’s going down your shower drain?

July 9, 2008

Petrochemicals, parabens, chemical surfactants, these are just a few of the things that are washed out of our hair and down the drain when we use conventional shampoo. Most of us don’t think twice about it, bye-bye chemicals! I can’t see you!

I started thinking more about these things a few years ago. What am I washing down the drain? Where is it going? Well it’s not really going away. These toxins end up in our waterways and cycle back to us in our tap water.

Not to mention the direct effects of some of these ingredients when you’re actually using them on a daily basis.

In light of all this, I’m so happy to have found Max Green Alchemy. They make hair care and other beauty products with good stuff in them — no petrochemicals, no sodium laureth/laurel sulfate (skin irritants), and no parabens. I swear by Max’s shampoo and conditioner. I won’t use anything else. They have a nice herbal scent and leave my hair shiny and bouncy. I introduced Max to a friend of mine who does beauty product advertising, and her industry colleagues immediately took notice of her lovely locks. So Max isn’t just eco-conscious, he makes you feel beautiful, too.

why smoking stinks

July 8, 2008
[First I’d like to say to my auntie, if this post upsets you, sorry! I’m only thinking of your health and well being — that’s all.]

(Image: Chris Jordan. Cigarette butts, 2005. 5 x 10 feet)

Ok, now let’s get down to it.

Aside from the obvious: cancer, emphysema, COPD, brittle bones, yellow teeth, yellow nails, stinky breath, smelly hair, and stinky everything-one-owns, there’s the health of the world to consider.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world. What? That shocked even me. (More alarming facts about tobacco from WHO here.) What other evil do cigarettes impose on the planet?

Tobacco poisons land and waterways.
Large amounts of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are used in the farming of tobacco. In the US, one estimate puts yearly use of pesticide on tobacco in the US at over 25 million pounds. Some of these toxic pesticides are linked to birth defects, cancer, and/or nerve damage.[1] Naturally, what’s put into the soil soon runs off into waterways, poisoning lakes, streams, and eventually the ocean.

Today, like many other industries, tobacco production is moving out of the US to developing nations. These countries don’t have the same environmental regulations as the US, so the ecological toll could be greater.

Tobacco production contributes to deforestation.
Trees are cut down to build tobacco curing barns and to fuel the curing process.[2] There’s also the paper the tobacco is rolled in to consider. It’s estimated that one tree is sacrificed for every 300 cigarettes (~10.5 packs) produced. [3] We all know by now that deforestation is a major contributor to climate change.

Tobacco crops also eat into land that would be viable for farming food.

Unextinguished cigarettes cause forest fires.

And the butt…
The most littered trash in America (and some say the planet) are cigarette butts. While estimates vary on how long it takes for them to break down (from 10 months to 12 years), the plastic toxins in the butts never go away. They find there way into waterways and can adversely affect (read: kill) aquatic micro-organisms at the bottom of the food chain. And if we remember anything from grade school science class, what happens to the creatures at the bottom of the food chain affects us all.

So how can you or someone you care about quit smoking?
I know people who’ve quit cold turkey, using the patch, taking Chantix, or reading a book (like this one by Allen Carr, which gets a ton of good reviews). There are several online resources to help kick the habit. Here are a few:

In New York City, dial 311 to get free nicotine patches.


1. US Geological Survey, Pesticide National Synthesis Project. National Totals by Crop and Compound. March 1998. In: Pesticide Action Network.
2. Geist, HJ. Global assessment of deforestation related to tobacco farming. Tobacco Control. 1999;8:18-28.
3. Muller, M. Tobacco in the Third World: Tommorrow’s Epidemic? London: War on Want, 1976.

Additional sources:

plastic pile

July 7, 2008

I have a confession. I have a large collection of plastic that can’t be recycled in NYC. Mostly #6 (PS or polystyrene) and some #5 (polypropylene) objects are piling up in our “office” (aka, second bedroom; aka, junk room). Coffee cup lids, containers that held mushrooms, yogurt containers — I can’t get myself to throw them away. I have a big project in mind for them, but yesterday I was thinking, maybe there’s a place I can send this stuff to be recycled.

And I found out today, there is! Thanks to Ideal Bite, I found out that Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn will be happy to take my #5s and some of my number #4s (although these aren’t as common) to send to Recycline. As I’ve mentioned before, they have a partnership with this maker of Preserve products. So the plastics that were destined to go to the dump (or the ocean) are now the stuff of toothbrushes, razors, and other household goods.

Now what to do with those #6s?

airing the dirty laundry

June 10, 2008

One of the easiest ways to move toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle is by changing the way you do laundry. And one of the first things I did was make the switch to biodegradable, petroleum-free laundry detergent, like Seventh Generation.

Here are some other low-impact laundry tactics:

  • Washing clothes in cold water not only saves energy (in heating the water), it helps preserve the colors and fabrics over time
  • Handwashing with a non-toxic detergent is also a great alternative for your delicates like cashmere and wool
  • Replacing an old washer and/or dryer also saves energy. Be sure to get one with an Energy Star rating

Coming soon to a laundromat near you?
Check out this new washing machine from the UK that uses only 1 cup of water for a load of wash. Though it does require all these little plastic chips to do the cleaning (good for about 100 washes). What would you do with them when they need replacing? Got any ideas?

survive the summer swelter: part 1

June 10, 2008

It’s not even summer yet and it’s in the high 90s along the Eastern Seaboard. What does one need to do to get by in this heat?

block the sun

stay hydrated

  • Make sure you’ve got your water with you in one of these reusable beauties:
    • Klean Kanteen
    • Sigg (they’ve got a new hot/cold version to keep that water cold in the summer heat)

Stay tuned for Part 2 of survive the summer swelter with tips on how to keep your cool, eat well, and fight off the bugs…

afternoon web scan

June 5, 2008

Happy World Environment Day!