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.