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.