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5 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint in 2013

By Green Diva Meg thegreendivas.com
January 3, 2013
File under: Eco-Friendly Activities, Environmental Concerns, Family, Holidays, Home, Lifestyle, Products, Recycling, Sustainable Practices, Waste Reduction

I had a an exceptionally fun morning Christmas Day on the set of Good Day NY on FOX 5. I talked with Dave Price and Anna about keeping it green in 2013 . . .

Watch GD Meg on FOX Good Day NY

1. Remember those reusable bags . . . because . . .

  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1 million sea creatures a year
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of Texas and it’s floating somewhere between San Francisco and Hawaii. It weighs 3.5 million tons and is 80% plastic
  • If everyone in the United States tied their annual consumption of plastic bags together in a giant chain, the chain would reach around the Earth’s equator 776 times!

2. Get rid of vampires and phantoms . . . no, not Edward the dreamy teenage vampire . . .

An energy vampire or phantom load is the electricity consumed by an electronic appliance when it is turned off or on standby

  • According to the Environmental Defense Fund, 65% of pollution attributed to global warming (or climate change) comes from generation of energy and its use
  • 5 – 20% of our home electric bill comes from vampire or phantom energy use

Shed light on those vampires and expel them!

3. Just say NO to bottled water

  • National Geographic estimates that 17 million gallons of crude oil is used on an annual basis to produce plastic bottles.
  • If you fill a water bottle ¼ of the way with oil, this is about how much oil is used to manufacture that one bottle!
  • It is estimated by the Container Recycling Institute and ReusableBags.com that 22 billion water bottles end up in landfills every year.
  • Although many plastic bottles are being recycled for good re-use as a variety of materials, National Geographic Kids states that only 1 in 6 plastic bottles makes it to the recycling bin!
  • According to Environmental Working Group’s scientific study on bottled water vs. tap water, bottled water contains distinfection byproducts, fertilizer residue and pain medication

Check out Green Diva Mizar’s water purification systems, Pur2o!

4. Buy less, Recycle more

In general, I really want to just be more mindful about buying ‘stuff’ I may not really need – I’ve been on this kick for a couple of years and it saves money and reduces the amount of junk I need to throw out from packaging, etc. I always ask myself now, do I really need this or do I just want it . . . or, do I have something at home I can use instead.

  • About 80% of what Americans throw away is recyclable, yet our recycling rate is only 28%!
  • Recycle as much as you can
  • Avoid buying things are excessively packaged
  • Buy in bulk (food, cleaning products)

5. Get local/Eat Local

  • Reduce carbon footprint by reducing “food miles”
    • A typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table
  • Support local farmers – enjoy farmer’s markets
  • Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) – find a CSA, farmer’s market or food coop near you - LocalHarvest.org
  • Stimulate local economy
  • patronize restaurants that buy from local farmers
 
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7 Ways to Become a Water Conservation Hero

By Green Diva Meg thegreendivas.com
December 5, 2012
File under: Eco-Friendly Activities, Environmental Concerns, Health, Home, Public Safety, Waste Reduction

We had a fun show last week. Thanks for some kind of satanic tech vortex we were unable to record the show and get the podcast out (but we do have some good notes, including a fun and easy DIY gift idea from GD Mizar - check out the show post for deets.). . . but by some miracle, we had an excellent show! Our Green Dude Segment was with Green Dude Antonio, who is a water purification expert with Pur2o. I’m always surprised by how much I actually don’t know and probably don’t want to know! Anyway, that segment inspired this post about water and water conservation.

Step 1 – Admit there is a problem

  • According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Water use has been growing at more than the rate twice of population increase in the last century
  • By 2025, 1 800 million people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions
  • According to the World Water Assessment Programme (of the UN), half of the world’s wetlands have been lost since 1900
  • In developing countries, 70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters where they pollute the usable water supply
  • Projected increases in fertilizer use for food production and in wastewater effluents over the next three decades suggest there will be a 10-20 per cent global increase in river nitrogen flows to coastal ecosystems (not exactly sure what this means, but it doesn’t sound good!)

Step 2 – Educate yourself

One of our favorite regular guests on the Green Divas Radio Show is Jessica Arinella from the What You Can Do video series. She is also a water hero. She has produced several very educational short videos that help us understand not only why, but how to help conserve and create healthier water suppliesHere’s a link to a Green Divas Radio Show featuringJessica Arinella talking about water conservation.

I would also recommend the UN page on water statistics.

Step 3 – Don’t be part of the problem

Once we acknowledge that there is indeed a problem not only with water resources diminishing, but also in terms of contaminants and the need for safe, clean, accessible drinking water for everyone; then we need to be more aware of how we interact with water and start making changes.

Step 4 – No more bottled water

  • According to MSNBC, the use of water bottles increased dramatically from 3.3 billion sold in 1997 to 15 billion in 2002
  • National Geographic estimates that 17 million gallons of crude oil is used on an annual basis to produce plastic bottles
  • According to Environmental Working Group’s scientific study on bottled water vs. tap water, bottled water contains distinfection byproducts, fertilizer residue and pain medication . . . ahhhhh! Seriously – read this article.
  • Get a water filtration system and make your own bottled water using glass bottles! Check out our Green Dude Antonio’s excellent system, Pur2o and learn about the differences in systems and what you should be looking for.

Please check out my post on 7 good reasons to give up bottled water with all kinds of details.

Listen to the Green Divas Sleeping Naked is Green 5-minute segment about No More Bottled Water.

Step 5 – Conservation starts at home

  • Turn off the faucet! This seems like a no-brainer, but it takes a while for some of us to remember to shut off the water during times like brushing teeth or washing dishes or food preparation.
  • Flush less - If everyone in the United States flushed the toilet just one time less per day, we could save the equivalent of a lake full of water about one square mile and four feet deep every day
  • Check laundry water levels - First, be sure to wash only full loads; second, make sure that you set the machine to the appropriate water level needed
  • Power shower - Some of us love to linger in a lovely hot shower, but please take only 5 minutes in the shower and if you need to run water for a time to get the temperature right, consider capturing that water with a bucket and using it to water plants or something else.
  • Update water appliances – consider getting more efficient toilets and shower heads or at least when it is time to get new ones make sure to get the most water-efficient kind!
  • Use biodegradable cleaning products – I did some research on this and it is scary what toxins lurk in our cleaning products and how bad they are for us AND our environment, particularly our water systems. My post on non-toxic cleaning.

Step 6 – Help those that do not have clean, safe water

  • The UN suggests that each person needs 20-50 litres of water a day to ensure their basic needs for drinking, cooking and cleaning
  • More than one in six people worldwide – 894 million – don’t have access to improved water sources
  • Today 2.5 billion people, including almost one billion children, live without even basic sanitation. Every 20 seconds, a child dies as a result of poor sanitation. That’s 1.5 million preventable deaths each year
  • According to the UN, in developing countries, 70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters where they pollute the usable water supply
  • One way to help is join Matt Damon and others in finding solutions and making safe water accessible to millions through the efforts of Water.org.

Step 7 – Educate others

As you educate yourself and change your water habits, you can help others by the power of example. You can be like my sister, Green Diva Lisa, who is the water police and has been known to lunge at sinks to turn off water in other people’s kitchens. Talk about it. Write about it. Don’t be shy about it. But, please try to be diplomatic and friendly to those that are still on the learning curve – lecturing and making people feel guilty isn’t very effective.

 

 
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Detox Your Home: Reconsidering Household Cleaners

By Green Diva Meg thegreendivas.com
October 5, 2012
File under: Cleaning, Eco-Friendly Activities, Environmental Concerns, Family, Health, Home

Had a great time on Ebru Today talking about how to detox our homes as we prepare to seal ourselves in for the colder months. I focused primarily on cleaning products because I think so many folks don’t realize just how toxic they can be and how important it is, especially when our homes are closed up during the colder season, to try to reduce our exposure to toxic chemicals.

Here are a couple of things to consider when thinking about the kinds of cleaning products you want to use in your house:

  • The EPA ranks indoor air pollution among the top 5 environmental dangers
  • The average household has 3 – 25 gallons of toxic materials in the house, most of which are cleaning products
  • A European study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found that regular use of common household cleaning sprays was linked to a 30 – 50% increased risk of asthma – YIKES!
  • There are approximately 17,000 chemicals used in the array of common household cleaners found in most homes, only 30% of these are tested for side effects on human health and the environment! ahhhhhhhh

Here are a few toxic chemicals found in many household cleaners and their effects on human health:

  • Chlorinated Phenols – found in toilet bowl cleaners, are toxic to the respiratory and circulatory systems
  • Diethylene Glycol – found in window cleaners, depresses the nervous system
  • Phenols – found in disinfectants, are toxic to respiratory and circulatory systems
  • Nonylphenol Ethoxylate – a common surfactant (detergent) found in laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners – BANNED IN EUROPE – has been shown to biodegrade slowly and when it does, it biodegrades into more toxic compounds. nice
  • Formaldehyde – found in spray and wick deodorizers, is a respiratory irritant and suspected carcinogen
  • Petroleum Solvents – in floor cleaners, damage mucous membranes
  • Perchloroethylene – a spot remover, causes liver and kidney damage
  • Butyl Cellosolve – common in all-purpose, window and other cleaners, damages bone marrow, nervous system, kidneys and liver
The list goes on. Have you cleaned up your cleaning products yet? Are you running for your cleaning product cabinet? Please do – get rid of the stuff, then check back in. We’ll still be here and we have some solutions, so don’t despair. You CAN be green AND clean!
Meanwhile, the GoodGuide did a pretty good comparison and rating chart for cleaning products that is worth taking a look at. You can always go to Environmental Working Group’s website and look through their chemical index . . . It’s a little scary, but offers a lot of information.

or Make Your Own!

Get some of my favorite, effective and simple DIY cleaning product recipes . . .

 

 
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Why Organic Food Rocks

By Green Diva Meg thegreendivas.com
September 19, 2012
File under: Environmental Concerns, Food, Health, Public Safety, Sustainable Practices

This green diva has to weigh in on all the buzz and banter about the latest study from Stanford about the lack of nutritional benefit from eating organic food. There is a lot of evidence that I wasn’t the only one irritated and quite surprised to see how this study was spun into a pro-chemical pesticide and fertilizer piece. Clearly an anti-organic slant, the article about the study on Stamford’s website states, “Organic foods are not necessarily 100 percent free of pesticides. What’s more, as the researchers noted, the pesticide levels of all foods generally fell within the allowable safety limits.”

Here’s where I see the fly in their ointment and question the premise of their spin. Do I really trust the FDA or whoever is setting “safe limits” for pesticide residue in my food? My answer is a quick and resounding NO. There are a thousand reasons for my feelings on this, not the least of which is my conspiracy theory that chemical and biotech lobbies have a strong foothold in the FDA and can manipulate standards to suit their needs rather than the true safety of the people they are designed to protect. For those who have an unlimited amount of time and energy and the inclination to root them out, here’s a list of lobbyists that are lobbying the FDA.

Further muddying the waters of this study is evidence that Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute, which conducted the study has accepted funding from companies like . . . wait for it . . . Monsanto! Not really shocking and it pretty much makes sense that a company looking to thwart Proposition 37, which is all about GMO labeling in California, might find it helpful to have this study come out right about now. NOTE: Monsanto is the single largest financial donor in the fight AGAINST labeling food with GMOs in CA under Prop 37. The Cornucopia Institute did a great article about the biotech funding that may have tainted this Stanford study.

If I’m going to put any emphasis on a study regarding organic food, I’m going with the University of Barcelona’s study published in June of this year, that proves how and why organic tomatoes have higher antioxidant levels.

Two Good Reasons Why Green Divas & Dudes
Prefer Organic Food

1. Sustainable Agriculture Rocks

. . . and I mean REAL sustainable agriculture, not biotech companies like Monsanto that say they are (their tagline is, A Sustainable Agriculture Company) (?) . . . In my humble opinion, sustainable agriculture is all about creating smaller regional farming systems and communities that grow food responsibly without harming farm workers, soil, water, food or the people who eat it. I know people will argue that we can’t feed the world on small farms, and perhaps that would be true today, but I dream of a world where we are nourished by local farms and regional farming systems, which do a lot less damage to the environment (and perhaps people) than giant factory farms. The more we support our local farmers, the closer we come to this reality.

To see more about why Sustainable Agriculture Rocks go to GD Meg’s original post on Why Green Divas & Dudes Prefer Organic Food

2. Pesticides Suck

No matter what this Stanford or any other study says about acceptable amounts of pesticides and chemical fertilizers or GMOs in my food, I just don’t want to eat them. Our awesome new intern, Jamie Bachar, did a bunch of research this week on pesticides and their effects on humans and the environment – ahhhhhhhhhh. I feel fully justified in wanting to minimize these in my diet even more now!
In response to this Stanford organic food study, Charlotte Vallaeys, Director of Farm and Food Policy with the The Cornucopia Institute said, “Consumers should not lose sight of the important impacts of organic agriculture, which produces foods without the use of toxic pesticides that have been linked to an array of health problems, including cancer and ADHD in children. This study confirmed once again that organic foods contain significantly lower levels of pesticide residues, and that alone should be enough reason for every family to consider exclusively purchasing organic foods.” Yea, what she said!

To see more about why Pesticides Suck, including definition of pesticides, health reasons to avoid them, what pesticides the USDA found in ground water, and more, go to GD Meg’s original post on Why Green Divas & Dudes Prefer Organic Food

Organic agriculture includes non-food crops like cotton.
Listen to the Green Divas 5-min Sleeping Naked is Green segment about why we should buy organic cotton.

eat. blog. be merry!

 

 
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Obomney: Obama v Romney on Environment & Energy

By Green Diva Meg thegreendivas.com
September 12, 2012
File under: Culture, Environmental Concerns

 

WARNING: this is an opinion piece. I will try to present facts, but I’m not an unbiased news source.

Oh boy. Whether you are rooting for the guy who got Clint Eastwood to babble to an empty chair (Mitt Romney), or the guy who is tap dancing as fast as he can in the White House to the “be patient. hope is on the way” song (President Barack Obama), you know this is a critical crossroad in our country’s history. The ideologies of the two main political parties have gotten so strange that by 50-year-old standards Obama would be considered conservative and Romney wouldn’t be taken seriously at all.

I was always a Hillary gal, but in 2008, I rallied behind the man of hope and was surprisingly inspired when he indeed took office. The country was hitting some harsh realities and the mere whiff of hope and change created a magical sense that we could suck it up and go through our growing pains and band together to become a stronger nation again. Lots of airy rhetoric and it worked . . . for like 5 minutes. Then the backlash of opposition turned the beltway into crazy town with all kinds of crazy talk about demolishing access to women’s healthcare; getting rid of the EPA; and giving personal rights to corporations. Ok. I’m probably exaggerating on these things, but that’s how it felt.

The Tea Party faction became cement in the intestines of our federal government to the point of painful and dangerous legislative constipation. Seems to me it is a miracle ANYTHING happened these last 3.5 years!

Obama proved to be less effective at Presidential governing than he was at campaigning. Most liberals feel that he compromised too much; the conservatives never enough. It’s been a tenuous and rough go for Obama’s first term (and possibly only) inthe oval office.

While lacking luster, did his policies keep us from going deeper into economic disaster? Hard to tell, but I’ve been trying to pay attention to his policies regarding the environment, energy and agriculture (GMOs specifically). He’s got a bit of a track-record regarding these things, where Romney has none. Although if you look to the RNC platform, it is easy to see where Romney draws his environmental and energy planks from.

In my opinion, as a Green Diva, Obama has better environmental and energy plans than Romney overall (and as I stated earlier somewhat of a track-record). It’s an imperfect plan that involves steps towards energy independence via homeland/offshore drilling and tapping into natural gas reserves presumably via fracking. This concerned me deeply and I decided to run a GD poll on the GD Facebook page. Here’s what we got so far (please feel free to weigh in!):

How do you feel about the DNC plank on energy, which includes steps towards greater oil independence, but also includes new drilling and tapping natural gas reserves (which presumably means fracking)?

  • A step in the right direction – I’m voting for Obama: 65%
  • Not acceptable – I’m voting for Romney: 4%
  • Need to learn more about both party’s stance on drilling & fracking: 4%
  • This issue doesn’t affect my decision – I’m for Obama: 17%
  • This issue doesn’t affect my decision – I’m for Romney: 5%
  • This issue doesn’t affect my decision – I’m not voting for either of them: 5%

Here are a few great comments from green divas & dudes that took this GD poll:

“Obama is still the better choice, but he needs to be more informed about fracking and frac-sand mining. A least I know Obama will listen.”
________________________
Obama doesn’t go far enough and Romney is clueless. We need to kick oil and coal decades ago. I’m voting Green, I’m voting for Jill Stein.”
________________________
I’m voting for Obama regardless. BUT, coal is not clean ,and fracking is horrible. More renewable energy sources are necessary.”
_____________________
I don’t care, I’m Canadian hahahahah. We have our own idiots.”

To see details, including specific energy and environmental plans and policies, direct quotes from each candidate, Obama’s surprising track-record on GMOs, and of course more green diva analysis, please visit Green Diva Meg’s full Obomney on Energy & Environment post
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