Five ways to eco-boost your day at the office (every day!)

As the kids are gearing up for school, adults are gearing up for going in back to work after our summer vacations. Oh wait, some of us never left. Either way, fall is a great time to kick start some new, sustainable habits along with that new, hopefully better, fall wardrobe you’re about to show off.

Most of us spend just as much time at the office (or other workplace) as we do at home. Therefore, what environmentally friendly choices we make during working hours certainly matters!

Here are five easy ways to eco-boost your day at the office. EVERY day!

1. Ditch the disposables

Using disposable cups for office coffee and water is a nasty habit. There is absolutely no reason to add cups to landfill every day, because you’re too lazy to wash up. If your office has a dishwasher, all the better, if not, there is no shame in taking your cups home now and then to give them a deep clean. If you’re a stir stick fan, use that plastic piece of nonsense multiple times (or how does over 500 years in landfill before it degrades sound?).

Disposable water bottles don’t belong in the office either, since most offices have a water cooler you can use. And if not, ask your employer to invest in one (or maybe water filters for all kitchen faucets).

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Scarf + coffee mug = match made in office

2. Be eco-smart about lunch

Lunch is the one meal a day that you get to control 100%. No boyfriend, wife, family or friends cooking for you or suggesting what’s for dinner. Use this opportunity to eat vegan meals, or at least put beef and dairy on the “forever forbidden lunch food” list. Avoid places that uses disposable dishes and cups.

Pack your lunch now and then too (in reusable containers) to save the car trip, napkins, unwanted straws, receipts and cash.

3. Trash belongs in the common area (not your office!)

If you have a personal trash can in your office or cubicle, ever notice how the trash bag is changed almost every night? Throw a banana peel in there and I guarantee you the cleaning crew will change the bag. This behavior wastes so much plastic! 100 employees, 220 workdays, that’s 22,000 (half empty) plastic bags going to landfill every year! Take your trash to a common area, like the kitchen. Bonus! You’re less likely to sit on your butt all day.

4. Turn that light off

Just because you aren’t footing the electricity bill doesn’t mean Mother Nature isn’t. Unless you’re working in a building powered 100% by solar panels – a turbine, coal plant or nuclear reactor somewhere is making energy for you. Turn off your office lights, bathroom lights, fans, heaters and electronics when you leave a space. Help your forgetful colleagues by turning off their lights too (hey, only when they’re not there!).

If you have access to the A/C thermostat, great, set it to a comfortable (higher) level to save the building electricity! Plus you and your colleagues don’t have to use personal space heaters (to warm those cold feet). [Reader tip!]

5. Reduce, reuse and recycle

80% of office waste is paper, so being mindful about paper use is key. Only print when you need to, use both sides of the paper and collect all paper for recycling. I bet your office has a secure shredder bin or recycle collection bin, and if not, encourage (hmm, more like demand) that your employer gets one. Help your colleagues remember to recycle by setting up local paper collection trays in your specific work area. If you see a piece of paper in a personal office trash can (see point 3) give the person the evil eye. It’s effective.

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Three people at work use my collection bin :)

That’s my list! I do these things every day and I promise it’s so easy! We can all make a difference while we’re on the clock. Quite the win-win.

Do you have more ideas on how to maximize our eco-friendliness at work?! Leave me a comment :)

Mystical cats and mystical printing methods: What I bought this month

I’ve had this nagging feeling lately that I spend way too much time in front of or looking down at a screen. My eyes are tired and honestly, I’m a bit tired of endless updates (and Trump’s ugly mug).

Now, I’m not sure if it’s super nerdy or quite trendy, but I’ve wanted a so called “adult” coloring book ever since they first came out, and now seemed like the perfect time to get one to help me spend more time being creative and less time screen surfing.

“Mystical Cats in Secret Places”. That’s my new coloring book because yes, I love cats. Since I’ve spent many days drawing in the past, I already have lots of colored pencils I can use. (Digging them out at home I was happy to see they are all plastic free, made in Europe and non toxic.)

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Speaking of books, have you ever flipped a book over at Barnes and Noble to see where it was actually printed?

Funny thing, or sad rather, many of them are made in China. You’ll find that being true for the majority of coloring books as well (kids and adult ones). Yes, we import English books written by American authors from China. It’s a mad world!

When it comes to printing, “made in China” is not only concerning due to the long transport and the outsourcing of jobs, the biggest issue is the environmental impact this business has on local eco systems.

See, it’s actually common for Chinese (and Indian) printers to do all their printing offshore. That means the books are made onboard ships that conveniently release all the excess tint and chemicals straight into the open sea*. It’s a great way for them to escape watchful eyes, avoid regulation and stay super competitive on pricing.  In other words an eco disaster. So take a second and check the origin next time you’re book browsing.

Anyway, less screen time and plenty more mystical cats for me! I’m excited.

As far as the 12 months  – 12 items challenge, this coloring book is my one purchase for August. I spent $13.95 and it is made (onshore) in Canada.

*I first found out about Chinese offshore printing thru _Wastelandrebel_’s instagram account.

 

A four step guide to choosing the eco-friendly fabrics of your life!

My sister suggested a long time ago that I write something about fabrics. She asked: When it comes to shopping planet-friendly, which fabrics should I go for?

Here’s what I’ve come up with, based on internet research, articles I’ve read and some personal eco ideas that make sense to me :)

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Step 1: Go for natural fibers

Local is the new black (pair of shoes)

Yes. I bought myself another pair. A black pair for upcoming fall fashion.

In my defense, I did go through the entire list of Made in USA shoe brands on The USA Love List and did a google search before I committed to a yet another pair of Oka-bs.

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Made in USA “Janey” flats from Oka-b. Love.

The truth is there is just no beating the price ($45), the origin (made in Georgia, USA) and the comfort of these ballet flats!

The fact that they’ll recycle the shoes for me when (or if!) I’m ever done with them, just makes me feel so much better too.

This beautiful pair of flats are the Janey style in licorice (with grey pendant) and I am proud to say they were my one and only purchase in July. I’m rocking the 12 months – 12 items challenge.

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New ballet flats with my LuLaRoe (made in USA of imported fabric) skirt. Oh, and a plant.

To learn more about this company, read my other Oka-B posts: The first one. The second one.

Escape the heat: Six must watch eco-awesome documentaries (on Netflix!)

Houston is getting hotter by the minute with frizzy-is-my-style percent humidity. Most weekend afternoons are just better spent inside. Contrary to many places where summer brings people out of hiding, Texas Summer makes you beg for air conditioning.

What better time to catch up on some well made and important documentaries?

Here’s my ultimate summer watch list to boost your awareness and kick start some eco living habits for fall. (Woop – they’re all on Netflix)

Diet is everything

1. Cowspiracy
This movie finally explained all the environmental impacts of animal agriculture and how devastating meat, especially beef, production is. I’m lucky I have a simple relationship with food and stopped eating beef and most meats cold turkey the same day I saw it. From what I’ve heard, it has had the same effect on many people.

2. Forks over Knives*
And here came the health side of a plant-based whole-foods lifestyle that I needed to complete my lose-the-meat-education. It also gave me the final inspiration to try and cut all dairy products out of my life. Now that’s harder, as it hides in a lot of things but it’s a work in progress. No more cheese, lattes and ice creams for me! Though yes, the veggies I’m eating at restaurants are probably sautéed in butter and the occasional tsatsiki does happen.

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Cowspiracy fact.

Consumption and corruption (go hand in hand)

3. True Cost
This movie has been out for a while and most people know the damaging consequences of fast fashion by now, but it’s still an enlightening watch. It’ll open your eyes to some of the corruption behind cotton production (how Monsanto plays a part) and you’ll never buy Asian-made leather goods again (I hope).

4. Poverty Inc.
Just because you think charity is good, doesn’t mean it does good. Who profits the most from aid? Why is the western world so determined to keep Africa “poor”? This is a great and eye opening watch that made me take yet another look at my consumption behavior. You’ll most likely unfollow TOMS shoes on Instagram immediately.

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True Cost Fact.

The power that fuels our car and our plastic addiction

5. Pump
They’re pushing the agenda a bit for ethanol as the optimal fuel, which is highly debatable, but the big topic of the movie is this: why are we as a society completely controlled by the oil industry? It goes all the way back to the beginning of the oil-era and exposes the men who made the decisions that changed our world forever and caused unimaginable environmental destruction.

6. Trashed or Plastic Paradise
I wanted to include one on waste but I haven’t watched one in particular that really got me going “yes!”. I’ll mention two. Plastic Paradise: The great pacific garbage patch, which mostly focuses on the mythical garbage island in the pacific and trash in the ocean. The second one is Trashed in which Jeremy Irons investigates our wasteful ways as a society and the impact all our trash has on our health and planet.

Let me know what you all think of these films! And leave comments with more eco documentaries below, if you have the time :)

*There’s also a great Forks over Knives app ($5) packed with whole food, vegan recipes you’ll love.

Eco Nuts! All natural laundry detergent (my review)

It’s been quite a while since we picked up our first box of Eco Nuts at a Whole Foods Market here in Houston. I knew about the product after seeing it on Shark Tank, but had actually never run into it before. Immediately I knew we had to try it.

Eco Nuts. Despite the funny name, there are some serious benefits hiding within this little paper box of laundry detergent.

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We’re talking about a detergent that is certified organic, biodegradable, non toxic, non-GMO, contains no dyes, chemicals or perfume, and is all natural.

See, the Eco Nuts are actually dried berries from wild trees that grow in the Himalayas. These trees are amazing! They love poor uncultivated soil and the soap (saponin) produced inside the berries are a natural pesticide.

So that’s all grand! But, how about the stain fighting and freshness power? And how do they work?

Using Eco Nuts is easy. The box comes with two small fabric bags, in which you put about five nuts, and throw in the washer with the load. The soap is inside the shell of the dried berries and the same ones can be used for up to ten loads. Once they become paper thin they’re “done” and can be composted.

Now to the important part; the effectiveness! Well, we’ve found that Eco Nuts are great for all our normal loads. That’s our cold and eco warm washes of office wear, undershirts, bras, jeans, sweats, linen napkins and blankets. The nuts provide a general freshness and the clothes feel clean.

For more serious stains, or hot (sanitizing) cycles of towels, sheets and cleaning rags, we still use Seventh Generation or other eco-friendly, biodegradable detergent. I’m a sucker for flower scented towels and the Eco Nuts honestly don’t pack the punch for deep cleaning and tough stains.

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That said, we buy the gallon sized “regular”detergent and I don’t even know how long we’ve had the same one at this point! By using Eco Nuts for the majority of our washing, I estimate we’ll go thru less than one bottle per year, and with that we are saving a generous amount of plastic packaging (which was one of the most important reasons I wanted to test and use Eco Nuts.)

On a side note, ever since we switched to eco-friendly, biodegradable detergents over four years ago, our front-loaded washer never smells. I honestly believe that Tide (and other famous brands) make your washer smelly on purpose, so they can sell you their washer cleaning packets. Yup.

Try Eco Nuts and let me know your experiences!

More info at EcoNuts.com.

Another trade agreement, another fight

The current political climate is draining me. Stealing away my creativity to write. Making me doubt my belief in the power of good people. A belief this blog is heavily based upon. I always write an Independence Day post, but this year I just couldn’t.

After a painful spring of primaries it seems we are left with two less than desirable candidates. Two candidates without climate change on the agenda. One simply calls it a hoax, the other one endorsed by the Koch brothers, wants to continue fracking her way to poisoned water and methane leaks.

Of course it is not just that. There’s his racism, stupidity and the fact that he is completely unqualified. There’s her big bank sponsors, changing of opinions and lies.

All I hear people say is “they’re both so scary.” Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and foreigners say it. Friends, co-workers, people at dinner parties and in elevators say it. So, I keep thinking; how did we get here?

Mainstream media has been calling the Berniecrats “sore losers”. That’s fine, because I am.

Sore from hearing about the missing ballots, how the polling places were closing early and how there were long lines of people waiting to vote (but never getting to). And I must say I’m sore from being punched by statistics reporting that for every 80 minutes that corporate media talked about Trump in 2015, Bernie got 20 seconds.

Yet, Bernie keeps fighting. He’s going to the convention. You don’t have to agree with his politics to admire that commitment. I do though (agree and admire), and I want to fight like that for what I believe in too.

We the people might not be able to change who the presidential hopefuls are at this point, but right now we have a chance to speak out against the proposed TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership).

The TPP follows in the footsteps of other unfettered free trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA and the Permanent Normalized Trade Agreement with China (PNTR). These treaties have forced American workers to compete against desperate and low-wage labor around the world. The result has been massive job losses in the United States (3,5 million jobs) and the shutting down of tens of thousands of factories.

Yes, I know, I always say our money is our vote and by buying American-made we can bring jobs back (and that’s true). However taking a stand and opposing the TPP, is an excellent opportunity to really fight for our beliefs.  We have to end trade agreements that encourage outsourcing, threaten environmental laws, increase shipping transport, ruin the middle class and only make the business owners richer.

Read more about the TPP here, and take a stand here. Share the information and get more people involved.

Make me believe in the power of good people again.

(If you have a Trump sign in your yard or a Hillary bumper sticker, don’t bother leaving me a comment.)

Recycled aluminum? That (bottle) works for me!

It’s been a busy month and although I haven’t had time to blog as much as I would have like too, I’ve still found the time to buy one new item for myself. Amazing how that happens!

Actually, it was Hubs who discovered these amazingly artsy water bottles, we simply had to have, while reading an outdoors magazine. We could definitely use a few more bottles too, since we always bring water from home on the go. Why we bring? Because single use plastic sucks and it takes minimum effort to fill a bottle at home. The total volume of bottled-water sales exceeded 11.7 billion gallons in 2015, a statistic we will be no part of (and neither should you!)

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Liberty BottleWorks is the brand and Washington State is the manufacturing place. Each bottle is made from recycled aluminum and is therefore lightweight and super durable. (It’s very important to support products made from recycled materials to show the industry that recycling makes sense, pays off and we want it!) In fact, it’s the only American made 100% recycled metal bottle in the market.

The formed plastic mouthpiece seals with only a quarter turn and is spill free (even when purse riding) and BPA-free. We are actually really impressed with how easily the water comes up (with the sports version cap and straw). Quenching!

Liberty BottleWorks take pride in having a zero waste factory and I can confirm the packaging was completely plastic free as well. We bought our bottles over the phone and they came in the smallest box possible with no “extra stuffing”. The straws and caps we had selected shipped loose.

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Liberty BottleWorks Earth Day 2016 Bottle :)

They give back by allocating a portion of their sales to environmental organizations and community services and their policy of hiring US veterans first is what they call “positive discrimination” – I am ok with that!

Talk about following all my 2016 eco-friendly shopping rules!

Last but not least, our bottles hold 24 ounces of water and still fit in our cars’ cup holders. It doesn’t get any better than that.

16oz bottles start at $20, 24oz at $23.

No more Crocs, it’s time for Clogs (American made ones!)

My husband doesn’t get enough credit on the blog for his environmental efforts and his participation in the not made in China challenge. We make a good eco team, as I’m all about planting trees, reducing waste, eating plants, shopping local and buying less, while he’s all about electric vehicles (read Tesla) and ending the empire of fossil fuels once and for all.

Funny enough, we’re almost half way through 2016 and the only clothes he has bought since 2014, are two pairs of jeans and some motorcycle gear, while I have bought what feels like tons of outfits. Hmmm. Finally he needed something new.

Yard clogs!

We bought his previous (made in China) Crocs in 2012, long before the challenge started, and they’ve lasted almost four years, which is not bad actually. As for the replacement, naturally we wanted made in USA, and I suggested trying a pair from Okabashi.

With a zero waste production line, their clogs are recyclable, vegan-friendly, latex-free, dishwasher safe and come with a two year warranty.

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Made in USA Okabashi Brown Copenhagen Clogs

I will admit, they’re not the sexiest pair of shoes I have seen, but when are clogs ever awesomely hot looking anyway? Fortunately, these “Copenhagen Clogs” have proven to be much more comfortable than the Crocs, with a massaging insole, ergonomic foot-bed, good arch support and anti-slip sole. That’s the important stuff.

All for the price of 19 American dollars. Makes it kind of hard to justify importing a pair, doesn’t it?

Ocean Noise: What’s causing it (and what you can do about it)

The amount of noise in the ocean has doubled each decade since the 1950s.

Why? Because of us (of course).

Noise from human activities is blasting through the ocean constantly. A sound signal created in the Indian Ocean can travel all the way to the coast of Washington State, as sound travels much farther in salt water than it does on land. So whenever there is noise under water, there is no getting away from it (unless you want to jump ashore).

Marine mammals depend on their hearing for many of life’s most basic functions like foraging, finding a mate, avoiding predators, communicating, and navigating their way through the vast waters. All these activities are affected when we introduce noise into the ocean. When their own sound waves used for communicating are disrupted, whales, dolphins and orcas go silent, which can cause, among other issues, young mammals to get separated from the heard as they can no longer hear their mom’s call. Although, this is happening in virtually every ocean basin on the planet, it’s especially serious in the northern hemisphere where most human activities occur.

There are three major contributors to ocean noise.

1. Commercial shipping transport

Commercial shipping is the leading contributor to low-frequency ocean noise worldwide. The noise from engines, propellers and breaking of waves is constant as there are thousands of container ships at any given time on our oceans. Did you know that for example 97% of all clothing we buy in the US is imported? We import so many things from China that container ships often go back there empty.

2. Oil exploration using seismic surveys

Oil and gas explorers use seismic surveys (shock waves initiated by an air-gun blast) to produce detailed images of the various rock types and their location beneath the ocean floor. This information is used to determine the location and size of oil and gas reservoirs. These high-powered air guns blast compressed air about every 12 seconds for weeks to months at a time. (Of course the oil industry denies the serious impact of their methods. As with all oil activities, it’s perfectly safe and great.)

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Picture from ChampionsforCetaceans.com

3. US Navy high-intensity sonar-training exercises

It works pretty much the same way as the seismic surveys, except the Navy is looking for foreign threats under the surface, not oil reservoirs. A low frequency active sonar device sends a pulse of energy through the water (a sound wave) that reflects off of objects so they are detected. They’re also testing weapons and explosives under water.

Whenever I blog about environmental threats, I always try to share some ideas on how we as citizens of the world can better the situation. Sure, awareness is key, but actions are what changes things. We can’t rely on the industries to change their behavior, they’ll always put dollars before the environment, and that’s that.

Isn’t it kind of obvious how we can reduce shipping transport? Exactly, we need to stop importing everything. The threat to marine life caused by shipping was actually one of my biggest reasons for starting the not made in China challenge in 2014. We can all do our part by focusing on buying locally made products and locally grown food (all you have to do is read the tag). We can also simply buy less. If something is imported from far away, and you don’t need it, leave it.

The shipping and transport industry has a huge responsibility too, naturally. Other than redesigning the ships to create less noise, simply traveling at lower speeds would reduce the noise level significantly.

If ships traveled slower and we reduced our imports from far away, we would use less heavy fuels to power shipping too, which brings me to our next action item.

Oil.

I am of the opinion that we need to keep it all in the ground, and that most certainly applies to off-shore reserves as well. We need to use less, and with that search less.

Now you might think of your gasoline usage and argue that you can’t get an electrical car or improve your car situation in any way. All right, I hear you (you’ve told me a thousand times). There are still many things you can do to reduce oil use, like carpooling, using the car with the best mileage when both cars are available (most American households have two), using public transport, biking or walking.

Changing your electricity provider to one providing only renewable energy also makes a huge difference. Many eco systems, not just under water, suffer from the consequences of oil and gas exploration (spills, seismic surveys, pollution, pipelines) while, contrary to popular belief, wind power turbines aren’t really a threat to anything in nature.  In fact, wind turbines are only responsible for 0.01% of bird fatalities (the main killers are buildings and power lines).

Then there’s plastic. Plastic is made from fossil fuel, you know. Every straw, every cup, every wrapper, every bag, every utensil, every net is made from either crude oil or natural gas byproducts, resources we’ve pumped out of the ground. And although plastic never degrades naturally (that means it lasts forever), the majority of Americans treat it like it is a disposable item. Since scientists predict there’ll be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050, reducing plastic use also helps marine life in that they don’t swallow it (leading to hormone disturbances or death) or get entangled in it (leading to suffocation or serious handicaps).

Lastly, it’s not easy for us normal folks to stop the Navy from doing high-intensity sonar-training exercises under water. That said, we can sign petitions that forces the Navy to use more whale-friendly technologies (like magnetic sensors and passive sonar) and we can support organizations fighting to regulate the Navy’s activities and what areas they’re allowed to operate in.

If only one person decides to take action, sure it’s just a drop in the ocean. However, if we all take responsibility, imagine the difference we can make! And the amazing thing about noise pollution is that the second we stop making it, all the pollution is GONE.

I recommend watching the documentary Sonic Sea (trailer below) that inspired this post and learning more about our oceans at NRDC.org (Natural Resources Defense Council). You can stand up to ocean noise by signing up here.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a new roadmap last week for addressing ocean noise, under which NOAA would finally begin to manage it, though there are no concrete plans. Read the roadmap here. (The public has until July 1 to comment on it.)