Sunday, May 30, 2010

52 eco-friendly things we can all do...and counting!

This was originally only going to be 11 things, but then I realized there are so many good things out there that needed mentioning. The list will keep growing as I find new and interesting ways to conserve!
  1. Don't have a lawn. A lawn generally needs about 1.5 inches of water per week to maintain. Some places on earth don't even get that much water in a year! Not having a lawn will save water, reduce your bill, and keep you from having to mow a lawn!
  2. Do your watering at night. If you must have a lawn, only water it in the early mornings or very late evenings to reduce water waste due to evaporation.
  3. Start a xeriscape. Xeriscapes rarely need water and are perfect for dry hot climates. However, they can be maintained pretty much anywhere! They have less negative impact on the environment, require less care, and are simply beautiful.
  4. Don't use pesticides. Chemical pesticides are bad for the environment and your health if not washed off of vegetables properly. Use organic alternative pesticides or no pesticides at all. Not using pesticides will attract insect-eating birds.
  5. Compost. Composting reduces your waste while providing good nutrients to your garden.
  6. Water your garden with drip irrigation. Drip irrigation keeps your plants at an ideal moisture level while less water goes to waste.
  7. Strategically plant trees to cool off your home. They can block the sun from coming through the windows and increase the value of your home.
  8. Replace old single-paned windows with double-paned ones. Your house will heat up and cool off much quicker, therefore using less energy.
  9. Repair leaks. A leaky faucet can waste about a gallon of water per hour. Also caulk your old windows so that they don't let air out.
  10. Use space heaters in the winter and fans in the summer instead of your HVAC system. If you live in especially cold or hot areas, blankets and public swimming pools reduce energy usage as well!
  11. Invest in solar panels or a windmill. They cost about $10k to start up, but pay for themselves over time. More often then not, you can sell the energy you produce to your local energy company.
  12. Replace old lightbulbs with energy-saving Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs (CFL's).
  13. Turn off unused lights and appliances. Also invest in dimmers and motion-censored security lights at night.
  14. When you use the dishwasher, let your dishes airdry or hand-dry them.
  15. Use tupperware instead of plastic wrap and aluminum foil. This means less trash at home and less trash winding up in landfills.
  16. If you're still using an old TV or other appliances, replace them! New ones use significantly less energy.
  17. Use hand sanitizer instead of soap and water. This will kill germs while also reducing paper towel waste and water usage.
  18. Wash your clothes cold water instead of hot water. If you think you need hot water, try warm water and see if you notice a difference.
  19. Dry your clothes on a clothes line. Not using a clothes dryer will keep your energy usage down.
  20. If you want to buy a new car, consider hybrid, electric, or more fuel efficient vehicles.
  21. If you have a really old car that still has a diesel engine, have it converted to run on vegetable oil!
  22. Drive less. If your work or the store is just around the corner, pick up a new hobby and jog or bike there. Or if that isn't your thing, walk there and start photographing things along the way! Either way, you'll have a new hobby and get more exercise while helping reduce gas consumption and traffic.
  23. Carpool to work and school. Less cars = less traffic = less gas = less pollution!
  24. When you do drive, do the speed limit. It's safer, cleaner, and you'll improve your MPG's. Also don't slam on the brakes or "peel out." Starting or stopping quickly lowers your fuel economy.
  25. Do not buy products tested on animals. Check the backs of bottles to see if it says "Not tested on animals." (You can usually find it by the company name.) If you can't find it or it's not there, you can always call the company and ask. You can also research online what companies are known for sure to test on animals. For example, Proctor & Gamble--who makes many different products--are known to test on animals.

  26. Go vegetarian. Vegetarian and vegan diets are incredibly healthy when done right. As long as you maintain protein intake from other sources such as soy products or protein shakes, you will stay happy and healthy.
  27. If you must eat animal products, only eat organically. If you enjoy fast food, only eat at fast food chains that raise their animals ethically. Many fast food joints now regulate the treatment of their animals and even provide them with veterinary care.
  28. Adopt unwanted pets instead of buying pure breeds. Also remember to get your pets spayed or neutered to prevent more unwanted animals from winding up homeless.
  29. Cut up 6-pack holders. Another thing I learned from my grandma. Often when these are thrown out, small animals can get caught and end up choking on them. Birds that get caught in them and fly away can get hung up on trees and buildings.
  30. Give your stuff away or sell it. Instead of throwing all that old stuff away, ask your friends if they want it. If they don't, and you don't want to try to sell it on eBay or in a boutique, give it away to the Salvation Army, The Goodwill, or other local thrift stores.
  31. Drink tap water instead of bottled water. Use a filtration system directly on your tap, or buy a pitcher filter and store fresh filtered water in your fridge.
  32. Buy an aluminum or stainless steel water bottle. These bottles can typically hold any fluid and will reduce the amount of plastic bottles ending up in landfills. Make sure if you buy an aluminum water bottle that it is has a non-leeching internal coating. Stainless steel bottles do not need coating!
  33. "Paper or plastic?" Neither! Use cloth bags when you're going grocery shopping.
  34. Don't throw plastic bags away. I learned this from my grandma who would keep them in cupboard. We never had to buy bags for our small trash bins again!
  35. Use cloth diapers instead of disposable. I know what you're thinking...but you can always bleach them!
  36. Stop using disposable chopsticks. 20% of the oxygen we breathe comes from the Amazon Rainforest. However, the Amazon is dying, mostly in part due to deforestation from companies using the trees to produce chopsticks that are only used once. They may make you feel cultured, but is it worth it?
  37. Only flush when there's "#2." ...Or after too much of "#1."
  38. Put a brick in the toilet tank. This will displace the water so that you use less with every flush. You can also fill up an old bleach bottle if you don't have any old bricks laying aroung.
  39. Take showers instead of baths. Believe it or not, bathing wastes significantly more water than showering does (unless you take half-hour showers). Also, cutting your shower down by 2-minutes can save you five gallons of water!
  40. Shower every other day. Unless you do construction or work in a mud house, you probably don't need to shower every day. People used to only bathe once a month, you know...though keep away from me if you do.
  41. Don't litter! Littering makes you and your community look trashy.
  42. Recycle! Not only do you help the environment, you make money from it! Set up recycling bins at home and at work for plastic, glass, aluminum, paper, cardboard, and e-waste. This also teaches your kids and coworkers to also recycle.
  43. Upcycle! Instead of throwing your stuff away, upcycle it. If you like the graphic on an old t-shirt, cut it out and turn it into a patch. Then use the rest of it as a cloth rag for around the house. If you have ripped up old jeans, rip them up more! Designers these day charge hundreds of dollars for pre-ripped jeans. Or just save your old clothes for those days you have to do house work or remodeling so you don't mess up the clothes you do like. You can also upcycle old furniture, fixtures, shoes, accessories, etc.

    Mosaics are a great way to upcycle.

  44. Pay bills online. Most companies these days offer paperless billing. This will significantly cut down on paper usage--not only from mailing supplies and invoices, but your check or money order back to them!
  45. Don't throw away unused fast food napkins. I also got this from my grandma who would keep them in her purse and in a kitchen drawer. Whenever I had to blow my nose, she would have a tissue ready! Now you don't have to buy paper towels or tissues.
  46. Only buy recycled paper products including computer paper, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.
  47. Print on both sides of the paper. You'll cut down on your paper costs while helping the environment.
  48. Make your own scratch paper. Cut up old prints or misprints into quarters and staple together to use as a scratch paper pad.
  49. Recycle printer ink and toner. Most office supply stores also give you a discount when you bring back your old cartridges!
  50. Buy products with less packaging and buy in bulk. The less packaging there is, the less stuff is going to waste. Thank you, Christophe!
  51. Download online! Most of the time whenever you see a program or CD available in stores, it's going to be available to buy online. Again, the less packaging there is, the less stuff is going to waste! Thanks again, Christophe!
  52. Share this page! Getting the word out so more people can change their ways may be the best thing you can do.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

the 36-day anniversary since BP was caught "black-handed"

The British Petroleum oil spill has officially marked its 36th day of continuous oil plaguing the Gulf of Mexico. New estimates confirm that at least 6 million gallons of oil have already spread throughout the gulf, and with no new successful attempts at plugging the leak, BP is on its way to defeating the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 in which 11 million gallons of oil were spilled off the Alaskan coast.

While BP remains in charge of the cleanup, protesters and critics continue to pressure the Obama administration to take over the operation. BP Chief Officer Doug Settles defended their efforts on Monday, "I don't think anyone else could do better than we are. I know that that's frustrating to hear and our performance, to this point, I wish was better...I don't actually believe anyone could do any better, unfortunately." Many government officials tend to agree, saying that they simply do not have the technology BP has to stop the leak. "They can fire BP and take it over but the truth is, the federal government probably doesn't have the capacity to do that," Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee included last Sunday.

Some of the attempts that have been or are being made to stop the spill.

In Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal grows impatient, and prepares to go to prison if federal authorities interfere with their private attempts to stop the oil from reaching inland marshes. Currently, they are attempting to create sand berms, or manmade islands to protect their coast from further damage. However, environmentalists criticize that these berms can do more bad than good and will create additional ecological problems in the future, such as coastal erosion and changes in currents.

In the meantime, local fishermen sit idle unsure of what to do. They wonder if they are allowed to or even can continue with their livelihood, whether they are going to be asked to assist with the implementation of protective booms (as BP said they were going to do), or how long they are going to live off of BP's assistant checks which do not even count for a third of what a normal fishing trip brings in.

As tensions rise, the heat towards BP is even felt on the popular social networking website Twitter. A satirical user account named @BPGlobalPR continues to "tweet" political mockery such as, "The good news: Mermaids are real. The bad news: They are now extinct," and “If we had a dollar for every complaint about this oil spill, it wouldn’t compare to our current fortune. Oil is a lucrative industry!” The fake account now has nearly four times as many followers as the actual BP account @BP_America which posts updates on procedures, video clips, and photos.

BP's next trial to plug the leak is called "top kill" and involves pumping a thick fluid called "drilling mud" directly at the leak. This has never been attempted for underwater leaks before and at 5000 feet below the surface, officials can only hope that this will diminish the flow enough to pump cement into the seal. If this doesn't successfully stop the flow, the next step is to try a "junk shot" which is literally plugging the leak with garbage like ropes and tires in addition to the drilling mud.

Meanwhile, veterinarians provide care to local wildlife and volunteers continue to try to clean up the oil that washes up onto the beaches. But the oil just keeps on coming.>

Saturday, May 1, 2010

drowning in oil

There are a lot of risks when it comes to offshore drilling. From endangering people in a high risk job to endangering the environment if a serious accident occurs, offshore drilling is still legal and on the rise since the Obama administration opened up more shores for drilling two weeks ago.

In this incident specifically, the British Petroleum Company was drilling in the Gulf of Mexico when an improperly capped oil well exploded and killed 11 people last week. Since that day on April 20th, the well continues to feed the ocean roughly 5000 gallons of toxic oil per day. Not only did they lack proper safety precautions but they also don't have a clue how to stop the oil in case of an emergency. As of yesterday the spill has covered nearly 4000 square miles of the ocean's surface.

Offshore drilling would increase domestic production and supporters argue that this would significantly lower the price at the pumps. But at what cost? This could just be another case of one step forward, two steps back. We'd have more gasoline at better prices, but would we be hindering the technological development of hydrogen and electric vehicles while increasing the impact on the environment with carbon emissions and oil spills? There is also no saying how much lower the gas prices would be, if they would change at all.

Perhaps if people had more of an emotional connection to marine life this debate wouldn't be happening. Unfortunately the image of a Gannet drenched in oil doesn't have nearly same poignancy of a puppy or kitten drenched in oil. And certainly it's not poignant enough to turn back time on this issue by disallowing offshore drilling in the first place.