28 December 2010

Remember This Time

I came across an interesting article about lessons from the Great Depression. Take a look for yourself by clicking here

A number of points in the article stuck with me. For instance, the idea that advertising creates needs addresses the engine that drives consumerism.

What stood out most, however, was the underlying message of how closely environmental issues are tied to our everyday activities. Of course, the author didn't mention the environment directly, but buying products that last and/or serve multiple functions benefits the planet as well as ourselves by reducing need. Additionally, along with giving people greater satisfaction and fiscal security, improving your house slowly (rather than wanting everything at once) can help lessen the impacts of consumerism; and of course, energy-efficient appliances reduce the consumption of natural resources.

Clearly, we can align our well-being with that of the planet, but doing so means remembering lessons from the past. As the article also shows, we sometimes forget our mistakes and have to relive them.

07 December 2010

Picture This

Searching for a new look from your computer? Quickly naturize your computer desktop by visiting The Nature Conservancy's wallpaper page.

The page contains great photos of animals and natural settings. (See the example below.) That makes it a cool way to experience nature even when you have to sit in front of your computer screen.

Explore the many options. You'll likely find something that fits your interests.

30 November 2010

More from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Today, I wanted to provide more of an indication of what's available on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's YouTube channel.

Below, you will find an informative, straightforward, and totally cool description of the Northern cardinal's song. Also, to learn about the many mimicked calls of the catbird, click here. It really is amazing to hear the sounds of other birds and animals in the catbird's song, and the video helps you find them. Finally, the common nighthawk is one of the most unique birds, so it's worth it to watch the video on that bird as well. Click here for that.

Hopefully, after all that, you'll want to spend a little more time on the channel. It has a great collection of information on the avian world around us.

29 November 2010

From Computer to Nature

My last post talked about projects from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This post looks at another great resource provided by the lab: its YouTube channel. Below, you will find an example of the page's offerings: a video about the Eastern screech owl. In addition, if you want to view the lab's full video collection, which has lately featured white-tailed ptarmigans, frigate birds, and cardinals, click here.

By letting you connect with and learn about nature, tools like these make the World Wide Web useful and cool.

27 November 2010

Let Your Perspective Count

As members of the environmental community known as Earth, we all have a lot to add to the general understanding of it.

Some people work in nature all the time, and the rest of us often wonder how we can increase our interactions with it. If you fall into either of those two categories (and let's face, rhetorically, I didn't leave much chance that you wouldn't), the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has some great opportunities for you.

Citizen Science features a number of projects, including bird counting and bird identification, that let you contribute to science. Remember how much fun we had playing scientists and investigating our world when we were growing up? These projects let have that experience once again, and now, the findings are for keeps.

One of the projects created by the lab is called Project FeederWatch. This involves setting up a feeder during the winter months, counting the types and number of birds that visit, and sharing your information with the scientists at the lab. Those who are educators can turn this into learning opportunities for their students. Along with counting and identifying the birds, students can study writing through journal keeping, physics through bird's flight patterns, history, art inspired by birds, and music influenced by bird songs.

We all have a lot we can bring to science's exploration of our world. If you would like to get more involved with this learning process, check out the links above.

10 November 2010

Green Screen

A couple of environmentalists/actors have teamed up for a new movie, which opens this week. Rachel McAdams, whose Green is Sexy site has already been discussed on this blog, and Harrison Ford, who has worked with Conservation International and EarthShare, are starring with Diane Keaton in Morning Glory.

The film follows the experiences of a young television producer as she tries to breathe new life into a failing morning show.

If you are looking for a movie to see, this might be a good one. It's not about the environment, but McAdams and Ford have championed environmental causes, and it looks funny.

You can watch a preview at Apple iTunes Trailers.

07 November 2010

Click if You Like the Rainforest

Small gestures can have a big impact on the world and on your day.

If you are looking for a way to make a difference and have warm, fuzzy feeling, consider making it a habit to visit The Rainforest Site, which gives you a chance to help preserve rainforest acreage just by clicking a button. The site is part of the GreaterGood Network, and every time you click the button, GreaterGood.org makes a donation to rainforest preservation. Don't abuse the button though: Only click it once a day. However, if one click is not enough for you, visit the tabs at the top of The Rainforest Site to have GreaterGood donate to causes like animal rescue, literacy, hunger, child health, and breast cancer.

After making these little acts part of my Web routine, I have found that they give me a moment of peace and satisfaction in an otherwise hectic schedule. It feels nice to do something to make a difference--even if it's a small difference.

Happy clicking.

21 October 2010


I've talked about reducing the number of things we buy, but sometimes, we need things. When these situations pop up, the best option is finding what has the least impact on the environment. 

Eco-rate can help you determine what products are the most environmentally friendly. Along with showing you the product's environmental impact, the site can rank it by energy consumption, toxicity, price, and cost of ownership over its life cycle. The site rates numerous products, including cars, bathroom faucets, computers, dishwashers, dryers, light bulbs, paint, refrigerators, shower heads, tankless water heaters, televisions, toilets, and washers. 

Finally, after seeing what Eco-rate has to say, remember to keep in mind where the item might end up after you are done with it. Ask yourself what option is most recyclable.

16 October 2010

A True Breath of Fresh Air

I grew up playing and watching sports. Anyone who knows me can attest to my rabid loyalty to National Football League legend Dan Marino. However, the luster of many pro sports, especially the NFL, has faded for me.

For the last decade at least, the NFL has garnered as much infamy as fame through its players. The story of Michael Vick's dogfighting ring nearly broke my heart, and it sickens me to know he is playing again.

Today, though, I found a nice story about an NFL player--in fact, a member of the Atlanta Falcons (the team Vick was playing for when his scandal broke).

Ovie Mughelli, a fullback for the Falcons, has teamed up with the Sierra Club on a campaign to encourage the Environmental Protection Agency to address the air pollution created coal ash.

After watching the ad, I decided to learn a little more about this athlete, and as it turns out, this isn't his only venture into helping the environment. Mughelli has started a football camp for underprivileged children, and part of the camp involves discussions about environmental issues.

It made me quite happy to learn about Mughelli's work. With him as one of its players, the NFL has at least one good story.

08 October 2010

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Green Fish

As we move into fall in earnest, the weather cools but the salmon fishing in the Northwest heats up, and now might be a good time to give that tackle box and environmentally friendly update.

Fishing gives us a great chance to get out and experience the workings of nature. In fact, for many of those who fish, taking advantage of this opportunity represents the true reason for fishing (although it is nice to hook into a big one too).

Because we love this chance to touch nature so strongly, we should make sure it's a mutually positive touch, and that brings me back to our tackle boxes. Many lures and sinkers contain lead, which contaminants the environment and poisons wildlife when the tackle is lost. Additionally, monofilament line and leader can take more than 500 years to break down in the environment.

If you fish and would like to cut back on the amount of tackle that might end up making such a negative impact on the world you love, check out Green Tackle, a Portland, Oregon, company that sells environmentally friendly alternatives, including lead-free sinkers and lures and biodegradable line and leader. The company even has recycled waders.

Finally, fall also brings hunting season. If you hunt, please consider switching to lead-free ammunition. As with lead sinkers and lures, spent ammunition with lead in it can be consumed by animals, especially birds, who mistake it for food or grit. Birds of prey often get lead-poisoning when they eat carcasses of animals that have been shot but never located by the hunter. However the lead is consumed, once it has made its way into the animal's digestive track, the animal is agonizingly poisoned to death unless someone happens to find and save it. As outdoorspeople, this kind of impact is not what we want our interaction with nature to be marked by.

Most major ammunition makers now provide lead-free alternatives. Check them out if you haven't already.

07 October 2010

Going to Bat for Flying Mammals

Our stereotypes of bats are hardly flattering. We associate them with vampires and rabies, and as a result, we hate the idea of them flying around us. However, we might want to rethink our perspective on these night flyers.

After most of the birds have gone to sleep, bats take on the bulk of the bug eating. Therefore, they perform an important role in the natural cycle, and at the same time, they make our lives just a little more pleasant. With this in mind, you might think differently the next time you see a bat over head. Then, if you get to the point where that image actually seems cool, you might consider setting up a bat house to encourage these buginators to live nearby. 

The Organization for Bat Conservation sells bat houses and uses the proceeds to help bats (unfortunately, a number of species are in decline). The organization also makes available free plans for how to build bat houses on your own. Whether you buy or build a bat house, be sure to look at the organization's recommendations for hanging the house properly.

While you are visiting the site, also check out some of the information about bats. Perhaps you'll develop even more new perspectives from which to see these amazing animals.

04 October 2010

Nature in a Pod

For those of you looking for some online information about nature, one interesting way to access it is through podcasts.

Podcasts are recordings you can access on your computer. In particular, if you have Apple iTunes, you can use that application to subscribe to and download different podcasts. However, you don't have to have iTunes to listen. Often, you can just visit the Web page of the organization that has created the podcast.

BirdNote offers a great podcast. Each day, the organization packs a bunch of information about birds into two minutes. It's a quick way to pick up facts about birds and hints for birding and attracting birds to your home.

Also, Nature, the television show on PBS, creates video podcasts of its episodes.

If you prefer to access these podcasts in iTunes, just search for them by name in the podcast section of the iTunes Store. They are free. Also, you might want to look for other environment-related podcasts by doing general searches with words like birds or nature. iTunes has a variety of such podcasts.

01 October 2010

It is (or is Near) a Rock Somewhere

When buying things, it is easy to never connect them with the environment. They have been produced and manufactured to the point that they no longer resemble the materials that came from the earth. This issue represents the heart of the disconnection between the "human world" and the "natural world."

However, despite appearances, these two worlds are really one, and that means, anything produced or consumed by humans has environmental sources, impacts, and ramifications.

When I am thinking about buying something, I try to remind myself of these considerations. Specifically, I think about what went into the product and what will happen to it after I am done with it. That helps me determine whether the cost to the environment is worth it. For example, if I cannot recycle it and/or its packaging, it's probably not something I want.

An interesting consequence of this kind of thinking is that I end up buying a lot less stuff because by the time I am done, I wonder whether I really need it anyway: All those things that seem cool at first glance start to look frivolous.

If you are looking for a way to remind yourself about these considerations, when you are about to buy something, think "It is (or is near) a rock somewhere." Of course, this is taken from "It's five o'clock somewhere," but hopefully, it helps you remember that the product you are thinking about buying came from some place in the environment, is now in the environment in a different form, and, even after it leaves you, will have a place in the world--perhaps as part of one of those trash islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Using this reminder is a surprisingly easy habit to develop because it starts to become just part of how you think about things. In addition, you'll love how good it makes you feel when you can deny that initial impulse to buy.

24 September 2010

Carbon Footprint Calculator - What's My Carbon Footprint ?

A preliminary step to reducing is knowing how much you are currently using (or with regard to carbon emissions, producing). Carbon footprint calculators estimate how much carbon your life produces and sends into the atmosphere per year.

The Nature Conservancy provides one such carbon calculator: Carbon Footprint Calculator - What's My Carbon Footprint ? By using it, you will get an idea of what kinds of activities contribute to carbon emissions, how much each activity adds, what your overall footprint is, and how you might reduce it. Along with providing this information, the carbon calculator gives you a baseline from which to start whittling away at your footprint. Because it gives me something to shoot for, I find knowing my footprint to be energizing and inspiring. As the footprint decreases because of lifestyle changes I make, I feel empowered to address global warming.

19 September 2010

The Environmental Ballot

When I first changed the focus of this blog to environmental issues, I said I wanted to emphasize giving people the chance to act in environmentally friendly ways regardless of what their elected officials did. The focus would be on everyday activities, not on political involvement.

However, the political process has important environmental ramifications, and those of us who would like to see society improve its relationship with the environment often want to know which candidates will be environmentally friendly. Figuring this out isn't always easy given that many candidates throw around the word green and it is not always obvious whether a certain policy or legislative vote really helps the environment.

As election time approaches, if you are looking for an information source that helps you translate your desire for a better environment into votes, check out the following resources. The League of Conservation Voters provides a scorecard that lets you see how current US senators and representatives stack up on environmental issues. You can view the scorecard here. The LCV also offers endorsements of candidates that have been environmental champions. Check in on the endorsements here. In the past, the LCV has both endorsed Republicans (for example, Senator Susan Collins of Maine) and put Democrats (Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas) on its Dirty Dozen, which is a list of lawmakers that have consistently supported environmentally harmful legislation. However, since Republicans in general have not made environmental protections part of their platform, it makes sense that the LCV backs few of them.

For voters in Washington state, the LCV's state affiliate, Washington Conservation Voters, also offers a scorecard and endorsements. By doing so, the WCV gives Washington voters an extra layer of political insight. You can use it to evaluate candidates for the state legislature, governor, the state supreme court, and the US Senate as well as proposed statewide initiatives and referenda.

Having environmentally friendly policy and policy makers makes it easier to live greener lives, so if you are wondering how candidates rate with regard to the environment, check out these resources.

17 September 2010

Wild Child

For those of you who have young children or know someone with young children, you might be interested to know that in the first week of October, PBS will begin airing a new show called Wild Animal Baby Explorers.

The show is based on the National Wildlife Federation's magazine, Wild Animal Baby. Using a mix of animation and real-life footage, the show introduces children to the animal world. Consider it Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom for preschoolers.

Check your local PBS station's schedule for airtimes.

10 September 2010

Web of Green Goodness

In a previous post, I talked about using wise-giving standards to choose a charity. If that entry helped you find a charity or if you already had a favorite charity, you might be interested in a way of harnessing the Web to produce more money for your charity of choice.

GoodSearch (http://www.goodsearch.com/) is a search engine that allows you to turn your online searches and shopping into donations for your charity at no cost to you. All you have to do is verify that GoodSearch has the charity in its databank. Then, when you use GoodSearch to conduct Internet searches, the search engine donates to that charity. You can also use GoodSearch's GoodShop function to earn money for the charity while making online purchases. Many online vendors, including Amazon, iTunes, Overstock, and Barnes and Noble participate, so just start your shopping at GoodSearch. You will find a link to the vendor you want to use, and after you click that, you will be able to support your charity as you shop without paying extra. 

The charities GoodSearch benefits include numerous environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, and the National Wildlife Federation. Additionally, many local environmental groups have signed up for GoodSearch as well, so chances are pretty good that those of you who want to use the service to support a favorite environmental cause will be able to do so.

21 August 2010

News to Me

For most of my posts, I try to focus on things that connect to a broad range of interests. While I realize that environmental news sites like Environment News Service (http://www.ens-newswire.com/) might appeal most to a narrower range of perspectives (for example, environmental super-geeks like myself), I feel like they contain information that almost everyone can use. The trick is becoming aware that sites like these exist, so that is what I am trying to help happen.

If you have a chance, check out ENS. It focuses on and collects news about environmental topics from around the world. You might find information about an environmental issue you were wondering about, and eventually, the site might become part of your usual news collection.

19 August 2010

Leave it to Beavers

Much environmental news has a negative tone. We hear about pollution, endangered species, and the tensions between people and their environment. As a result, sometimes, it's nice to hear a good story.

Well, today's entry has the beginnings of a great story. Scotland is attempting to establish a beaver population for the first time since the animals were hunted to extinction there almost 400 years ago. Those efforts received good news last month when two kits (the first born in the country since the species was wiped out there) emerged from their lodge in the Knapdale Forest on the Kintyre Peninsula.

This news is important because naturalists are hoping to bring the reintroduction program to other parts of the United Kingdom, and success in Scotland would help increase the odds of that happening.

Above all, this is one story that shows positive aspects of people's interaction with the environment.

17 August 2010

The Garbage Afterlife

Recently, a news story broke about a bear cub in Florida that was walking around with a jar on its head after raiding a trash can. Check out the story by clicking here.

The good news is that wildlife biologists have removed the jar. However, the story raises issues about our relationship with nature and our use and disposal of resources. When a piece of trash or recycling leaves our lives, it still has a life of its own, and whether it is recycled, goes to a landfill, or ends up in the ocean or on the ground, that "after" life impacts our world.

Eliminating all waste is difficult, but emphasizing the reduce and reuse principles can help. Recycling is great, but the other two Rs are even better.

11 August 2010

Less Mail, Less Stress, Healthier Planet

If you are overwhelmed with junk mail, you are not alone, and all that mail puts a strain on the planet's resources.

Besides being irritating, junk mail requires a lot of paper and, in the best case scenario, a lot of recycling. What is more, not all of it gets recycled, creating more trash.

Let's get this straight then: We don't want the junk mail, and we would rather not have to dispose of it; plus, it's bad for the planet. Why don't we just get rid of it? Well, perhaps because we don't know how.

Luckily, it can be done. Check out Catalog Choice (click here), a Web site that allows you to opt out of catalogs you don't want, and the Direct Marketing Association's DMAchoice Web site (click here), which helps with multiple types of junk mail, including catalogs, credit card applications, and magazine offers.

Get Out

Earlier, I talked about how the National Wildlife Federation has put together resources designed to help teachers incorporate outside activities in their instruction. It is part of the organization's Be Out There campaign, which seeks to create time for children to be outdoors, experiencing nature.

Be Out There extends beyond the classroom into homes by making parents and guardians aware of the physical, emotional, and psychological benefits being outside has for children. It also promotes the idea that children don't necessarily have to go to a lake or a national park to enjoy these benefits. Nature is everywhere, including the backyard or the local park. The Be Out There Web page contains a parents' guide and tips for helping children begin to enjoy the world of the outside.

As someone who was fortunate enough to grow up with many opportunities to be outdoors, I think the Be Out There campaign is a wonderful thing. I may no longer be a child, but my childhood experiences outside left me with fond memories, and even now, when I need a break, I find the outdoors give me just what I need. The restorative power is indeed special.

Check out the NWF's Be Out There campaign by clicking on the image at the top of this post or by clicking here.

Wise Giving

Most of this post is more information that I have shared with my acquaintances before, but I'll put it on here anyway.

Giving to charity is great, and it's really great when your donations hit the mark. Because so many charities exist, it is easy to find one that connects with your particular interests, an important factor for ensuring you feel good about where your money goes. However, the large number of charities makes it a little more difficult to find the ones that are best at putting donations to work most efficiently and effectively.

While it might seem daunting to wade through the many charities to find those that excel at using their money for its intended purposes, there are resources available to help you make your decision.

The Better Business Bureau evaluates charities based on 20 standards and shows how much of each charity's funds actually go toward the programs the charity promotes. The BBB also provides tips about wise giving. You can access these resources by clicking either here or here. Note: The second link goes to the BBB's main site, at which you can also see ratings of businesses (both online and traditional).

Charity Navigator is another site that rates charities. It provides additional information that is useful for choosing a charity, so if you use it together with the Better Business Bureau's information, you end up with a good idea of what charities make the best use of their money. You can visit Charity Navigator by clicking here.

Environmental note: If, after checking up on various charities, you haven't yet decided where you would like to send your money but have narrowed down your list to a few finalists, hopefully including an environmental organization, may I suggest going with the environmental option? This year's report by Giving USA, an organization that annually analyzes trends in charitable donations, shows that donations to environment/animal-related charities made up only two percent of all donations. That's not to say they didn't receive much money (they actually received $6.15 billion) or that the other types of charities aren't deserving of the money they receive, but it would be nice to see the percentage given to animals and the environment grow a bit.

At any rate, be sure to find a charity that fits you and your interests, and use the BBB's Web site and Charity Navigator to help find a good one.

09 August 2010

All About Stuff

Ever wonder why you want stuff? Sometimes, we need things, and other times, we just want them. Why?

Researcher and organizer Annie Leonard has some thoughts about it, and she has put them together to create The Story of Stuff. It started as a film and expanded into a book, and of course, there is a Web site, on which you can watch the film. The Story of Stuff makes some interesting points about consumerism, happiness, and our relationships with the planet and with each other. The film is 20 minutes long. You can watch it on the Web site by clicking here. Take a look.

Since The Story of Stuff came out, Leonard and her associates have put together additional videos, including The Story of Cosmetics, which ties into my earlier post about the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Web site, The Story of Bottled Water, which connects to my post about reusable water bottles, and The Story of Cap and Trade. Those videos can also be viewed on The Story of Stuff Web site.

Recycle Your Memory

I'll bet a lot of you didn't even know you could do that. Well, when it comes to computers, memory is recyclable.

Upgrading the memory in your computer is great for the machine's performance. However, the memory modules contain materials that are not good for the environment, so the old ones should not just be thrown away after your upgrade.

A great way to get rid of your old memory modules is to send them to 4 All Memory. The company will either recycle the modules or donate them to schools or nonprofit organizations if the modules still have some life left in them. The only cost comes from mailing the modules, which are usually pretty light, so shipping shouldn't be a big deal.

You can send your memory to the following address:

4 All Memory
Memory Recycling Program
655 Leffingwell Ave
St. Louis, MO 63122

Also, you can visit the Web page for the company's recycling program by clicking here.

08 August 2010

The Green Guide

National Geographic has put out a wonderful resource that helps people make their daily lives more environmentally friendly.

The Green Guide organizes tips and information by the types of things we frequently do. For instance, perhaps you would like to reduce the carbon footprint of or the number of chemicals in your food. The Green Guide has a whole section on food. It also has a home-and-garden section, which contains subsections for each room in your house. This type of systematic order is what the dreams of a person with an obsessive-compulsive personality are made of. It also makes things a little easier for everybody else.

In addition, the Green Guide has information about buying and recycling products, travel, transportation, energy efficiency, and a number of other green topics.

Check out the Green Guide by clicking here.

A Cleaner (i.e., Greener) Clean

Sometimes, being environmentally friendly can be frustrating because it seems like we have to rethink even the most basic things we do. For example, when our clothes are dirty, we just want to wash them. Does what we use to wash them have to become an environmental debate? Yes and no.

Using a laundry detergent is an environmental issue because resources are required to produce it and because it mixes with water as it does its dirty work. Therefore, what the detergent is made out of has an impact on the environment. Many detergents are oil-based products, and some contain phosphates that negatively impact water quality.

Yet finding effective alternatives that are better for the environment is easier than you might think. I have been using Seventh Generation laundry detergent for almost three years, and I am very happy with the results and with knowing that I am using a detergent that is not oil-based or full of phosphates.

When I was researching environmentally friendly detergents, I found claims by Seventh Generation that its product was about 90 percent as effective as Tide. For tough jobs, that may be true. However, for general washing, I have found very little difference between the two. For a tough job, I might use Tide, but nearly all of my washing is done with Seventh Generation.

Seventh Generation detergents can be used in both high efficiency and regular washing machines.

You can buy Seventh Generation detergents at Amazon.com. Target also sells them, or you can check your local grocery store. If the store doesn't currently carry them, ask the manager to think about doing so.

Seventh Generation also makes other products such as bathroom cleaners, dishwashing detergents, and toilet paper if you are interested. You can visit the Seventh Generation Web site by clicking here.

06 August 2010

Rachel McAdams Thinks Green is Sexy

People who know me have received this information before, but I decided to post it here as well.

Actress Rachel McAdams (from The Notebook, Wedding Crashers, State of Play, and The Time Traveler's Wife) has teamed up with two of her friends to develop a Web site called Green is Sexy. Rather than asking for your money or political action, this site focuses on providing tips for making your daily lives more environmentally friendly. For instance, want to make your hot water heater more efficient? Try out an insulation blanket.

The site is essentially a blog, consisting of daily posts on various green tips, so check in when you can to find out what's new. Additionally, you can search for topics that have already been covered if you are looking for something in particular. You might not find all of the tips useful, but the site has some good information. Perhaps it can answer some of your questions or give you some ideas for being more efficient or having less of a negative impact on the planet.

Visit Green is Sexy by clicking here.

Pencils, Crayons, Glue, and the Environment

I know more than my fair share of teachers, so this post is for all you molders of young minds.

In recent years, the National Wildlife Federation has promoted legislation, including No Child Left Inside, that keeps nature and outdoor activity on the agenda of schools and allows children to explore and learn about the natural world. To go along with these efforts, the NWF has put together some information, including lesson plans and other resources, for teachers to use when taking their classes through environmental topics. Most of the information applies to K-8 students, but some addresses grades 9-12.

If you are interested, you can check out the NWF's school resources by clicking here.

05 August 2010

Can I Recycle That?...Probably

Sometimes, it is difficult to figure out if and where something can be recycled. People who want to recycle something may not know where to turn, and as a result, many things that could be recycled are just thrown away.

However, some great resources exist for locating places to recycle many different things.

Check out Earth911 here.

Also, if you are a resident of Washington state, you can look for recycling by county and by item at the state's Department of Ecology 1-800-RECYCLE Hotline database. Just click here.

Do you doubt that something can be recycled? Explore these sites first, and you might be surprised about what fits into that little green triangle.

04 August 2010

Badger Me

In the previous post, I talked about Skin Deep, the Environmental Working Group's database of information on the safety of cosmetics. If you visited Skin Deep after reading the post, you probably noticed a special area dedicated to sunscreen; and if you explored that section, you may have noticed one of EWG's recommended sunscreens is Badger.

I switched to Badger sunscreen this summer. The physical barrier provided by its zinc oxide has worked well: no burning or tanning. On top of that, it does not seem to take as much of a toll on my skin as other sunscreens I have used: It has not left my skin itchy or dried out.

One possible drawback of Badger applies to those who don't wish to appear too white. The zinc oxide does leave skin looking whiter than usual. However, because of the importance of keeping both UV rays and hazardous chemicals off my skin, I am willing to rock the white look.

Badger also makes lip balms, moisturizers, and a bug repellant. I have not yet tried any of those products, but most of them are very highly rated by Skin Deep with regard to low chemical content. I did purchase some lip balm but have not yet tried it (perhaps that review will become a later post).

You can visit the Badger Web site by clicking here.

Badger products are also available on Amazon.com, and sometimes, you can find better prices for them there.

01 August 2010

Skin Deep Thoughts

Lately, the chemicals in cosmetics have received a lot of attention. Because most of these chemicals have highly technical names and the science behind them is even more complex, it is hard to know exactly what is in the stuff we put on and in our bodies.

The Environmental Working Group makes understanding the safety of cosmetics a little easier with its Skin Deep database. After reviewing products' ingredients, the EWG rates their safety and explains its analyses. It's a nice tool to have. You can check out the products you currently use as well as the alternatives.

Visit Skin Deep by clicking here.

30 July 2010

It's in the Bag

Hopefully, you are already on the reusable-shopping-bag side of good and evil (well, maybe that's a little dramatic). If you're not, seriously consider making the move.

Besides requiring oil for their production, plastic shopping bags get annoying when they start building up in your home (if you are collecting them to be recycled), go into landfills with the trash, or blow around on the wind. If you buy some reusable bags, you'll get to sidestep these annoyances and, sometimes, receive a discount on your shopping (Safeway gives a three-cent discount per bag). Plus, the planet will feel better knowing it has fewer plastic bags to deal with and less demand for oil.

However, the traditional reusable shopping bag is not really the focus of this post. Whether you use those bags or not, you have likely heard about or seen them. Less known is the reusable produce bag. It may receive less attention, but it will help you earn additional Brownie points with the planet and use even fewer plastic bags.

Even if you are using reusable shopping bags, you might be bringing home some plastic bags that you use to contain fruits and vegetables. The cotton produce bags made by Ecobags are great. Mine are still going strong after two years, and checkers at the store constantly ask where I got them. They are lightweight, so they don't add a lot of extra money to your by-the-pound purchases, and they are thin enough that checkers can look through them to see the little plastic identification stickers on the produce.

Ecobags' produce bags are available at Amazon.com. You can also visit their Web site by clicking here.

Ecobags also makes reusable shopping bags if you are in the market for those as well.

19 May 2010

Bottled Up

One great thing you can do to limit the things you have to buy, cut down on the resources you use, help the planet, and limit your exposure to chemicals is to buy a stainless steel water bottle.

I have used Klean Kanteen water bottles for two years, and I recommend them.
Note: Do not buy the Sport Cap 2.0. The company is recalling them because some have broken apart. If you have purchased one, call Klean Kanteen at (877) 546-9063. They do have other caps from which to choose.

Update: Klean Kanteen now has the High Impact Sport Cap 2.0. This is supposed to address the issue of the previous Sport Cap 2.0 breaking apart. I got my high impact caps as part of Klean Kanteen's recall program.

How they help:

1. Using them instead of buying bottled water cuts down on the amount of plastic we use.
a. This will help prevent more islands of plastic from forming in the ocean. (Indeed, they are out there.)
b. It also cuts down on the resources needed for production and recycling. (Yes, recycling is good when necessary, but not having to use in the first place is even better.)
c. It also cuts down on our need for oil. (That's right, although new resources such as corn are being used to produce plastic bottles, most bottles are still made from plastic derived from oil.)

2. They are better for you.
a. Stainless steel is easy to keep clean.
b. Also, stainless steel does not contain chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA), the reputation of which has been clouded by questions about their impact on human health.

3. They are sturdy, so you will get a great deal of use out of them.

You can visit the Klean Kanteen Web site by clicking here.

You can buy the bottles at Amazon.com.

New Direction

This blog started as an assignment for my rhetoric class. (That is the reason for the previous posts.) Although the class is over, I would still like to make use of the blog. I have decided to make it a resource for people who want to lead more environmentally friendly lives.

I think one of the biggest steps to becoming more environmentally friendly is empowering yourself. Rather than waiting for elected officials to make policy or being held hostage by corporations and the need to consume, people can gain a greater sense of control over their lives and help the planet in the process.

A key point to understand is that everything we do sends a message. Also, the things we buy or don't buy and the resources we use or don't use have power. The companies providing that stuff generate their influence in part based on whether we use their goods. In spending money on anything, we make a statement and we allow those who take our money to make statements with it. So when it seems like corporations have greater influence than the general public, we must ask whether we are enabling such a system to take shape. The nice thing is that our role in the system also holds the possibility that we might return the power to ourselves. To benefit from this potential, we must become more active in our role.

Voting in each election is great. (That's how to be an active member of a democracy.) However, whether we know it or not, we vote in another system--the economic system. This voting occurs with almost every decision we make. Everything we do or want to do (and this includes eating) involves the use of resources and energy; so by making a decision to go somewhere or buy or consume something, we cast a vote.

Chopping away at corporate influence and helping the environment both involve (1) realizing the extent of the resources used to produce or move something; (2) minimizing our need for those resources; and (3) being more purposeful when we have to consume resources.

This isn't easy. Just like being active members of democracy, being active voters in the economic system requires us to inform ourselves and make tough decisions. However, the benefits are nonpartisan. After all, everyone seeks greater control over her or his life, and because environmental problems reach beyond borders, we all benefit from a healthy planet.

From this post onward, I will try to make being an active member of the economic system and the planet's environmental system easier. I will post information about environmental issues, good products, and how to take back a little of our power. Starting small helps, and before you know it, the active role becomes second nature.