I once got into a fight with the CEO of the company where I work over the question if the industry or the consumers are responsible for the current environmental destruction in this world. He said consumers like me (and I quote) are and I told him he was dead wrong; industry leaders like him are. (No, didn’t get fired, though some colleagues feared for my survival, and I’m pretty sure I’m on the black list.)
If I had to put a number on it I’d say the industry carries 75% of the responsibility and we only 25. At best, I’d accept a 50/50. Here’s why.
Heading home from work, super late and hungry, I might stop at a coffee shop or gas station for human fuel. Pretty fast, I will discover that there is 1. No tasty vegan food (and no, kale chips don’t count) and 2. Everything is wrapped in or packed in plastic. Not minimalistic style plastic either – huge boxes, double wrap. Should conscious consumers skip the snack because the industry only provides us with bad eco-choices?
There are countless situations like this, where consumers “have no choice” but to swallow the plastic wrap. Like, for example, when
The grocery store automatically prints a BPA-coated receipt and hands it to you like you want it.
The airline serves you and millions of other travelers factory farmed beef on a one-time-use plastic plate. (I’m pretty sure that what isn’t consumed on the flight is thrown out, so there’s no point in “zero wasting” this one, unless you emailed before and told them not to make a meal for you.)
The municipality where you live decide not to invest in safe bike lanes, side walks and public transport so you can safely skip the car.
The oil companies work full time to make legislation that prevents solar power and electrical vehicles from taking off.
There are no organic strawberries at the store, but you promised to make strawberry cake so you have to buy conventional ones (in a plastic container).
Tell me CEO, how are these eco-disasters my responsibility?
A few years ago we didn’t know we wanted tablets. Apple invented the I-pad, and suddenly consumers decided they needed one. Industry took the lead, consumers blindly followed suddenly not even remembering how life was before there were I-pads.
If only the industry would be as inventive when it comes to environmentally sustainable practices as it is when it comes to launching new products, the world would look quite different (excluding you Elon Musk!). Consumers all over would automatically buy the eco-friendly choice that was presented to them.
Since I doubt that the industry will start acting all “eco” on their own (I just saw that Snapple now comes in a plastic bottle instead of glass! Snapple!!!) we, the conscious consumers, must again act and invest our enthusiasm and energy. This time into generating emails, tweets, posts and making calls. We must
Urge our favorite brands to manufacture HERE.
Tell our local grocer that we need more bulk bins.
Convince clothing stores that receipts and printed coupons are so 1990.
Ask our local eateries to ditch the straws and disposable kids’ cups.
Go to the town hall meeting, demand better infrastructure.
Etcetera, etcetera. AND, of course, we must continue to vote with our dollars, by buying everything made right (here). Our 25% (or 50, whatever) does make a difference – I’ve blogged about us taking charge and changing the market, the industry (and the world) for three years.
It’s time for the industry to wake up, take responsibility and act.
For starters, India and China are investing billions in renewable energy – wind, solar, hydro – more than any other nations. In addition to this, China is shutting down its last coal plant in Beijing in an effort to clear the air (switching to natural gas) for millions of Chinese living in the region. Developing countries all over the world are going from no electricity to solar powered life – skipping the burning of fuels all together. Good news.
Meanwhile Donald (aka the worst president ever) is leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and talking about bringing jobs back in the coal industry as part of his plan to “put America first”. Although coal is never going to happen (sorry Donny boy!), the fact that he’s pro the most polluting technology we have and doesn’t believe in climate change, is bad news.
So, does it still make sense, as a sustainable shopper, to be on a Not Made in China Challenge?
Of course I would say that – hello blog – but there are great reasons for it too. Here’s why I am on this challenge, and keeping at it in 2017 and beyond.
The President is all talk
We know by now that all the campaign promises made by the Republican candidate were just false. He is not doing anything to bring jobs back here, he is not even ensuring that his beloved pipelines are to be made with American steel. He may have come up with the “Made in America Week” which is a great initiative, but so far, NOTHING has been done to ensure more items are, or remain “made right here”. (Also leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and not investing in renewables would most likely create fewer jobs for Americans down the line.) He talked the talk, but as usual, it’s still up to us consumers to walk the walk. And as far as that goes, no policies have been put in place that would make it easier or more affordable for Americans to choose “Made in USA”.
The core of my Not Made in China Challenge is to support small businesses that use sustainable production practices and eco-friendly materials. That effort supports our local communities; the tax-paying entrepreneurs, makers, builders and artisans living here. (Supporting a small business might mean a family can afford health insurance when/if GOP takes it away!) Basically this challenge is about “Main Street not Wall Street”.
Environmental questions remain
Even though China is switching things up in the energy market, honoring the Paris Climate Agreement and talking about implementing a carbon tax (YES!), small rural factories are still powered by burning coal. Not only by pulling electricity from the coal fired grid, but many actually run their own, tiny furnaces which have no filters, no air cleaning catalyst (NOx being an issue) and low efficiency.
There’s also more to a healthy planet than a low carbon air. China, India and several other countries are still polluting their groundwater and surrounding oceans by uncontrolled wastewater from manufacturing. (So is America, I know, I know, but I find it easier to spot the businesses here who do that, like Georgia Pacific.)
The force is not with the workforce
I have yet to see a certified fair-trade item come out of China. What’s going on with decent wages and healthy workplaces? Not much, I’m afraid.
This is of course also true for many other places; India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, Mexico, neighboring Latin American countries and even, dare I say it, we’ve got some sketchy California sweatshops too. Best to stay away from them all unless we’re talking about certified fair-trade, organic and/or small business/artisan style items we can trust. If it’s too cheap to be true (aka in the West as “A GREAT deal”) – someone suffered to make it.
The trade deficit
Our ginormous trade deficit with China isn’t shrinking. In fact, what we export most to the Chinese is AIR. Yep, empty containers are constantly heading across the ocean to pick up more “stuff” for bored Americans. How much are we talking? The trade deficit with China was almost FOUR BILLION DOLLARS in 2015, and it grows every year.
The issue here is that Chinese business men (and women!) are investing more than ever in the USA, buying land, real estate and factories as we speak. Basically China could soon “own the USA” thanks to you shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Transport hasn’t gone “clean”
There has not been any breakthroughs when it comes to shipping transport. Large container ships are still burning through barrel after barrel of fossil fuel shipping the above mentioned “stuff” and empty containers back and forth. Container ships remain a threat to marine mammals by interruption of sound waves and migration paths as well.
Honestly, it’s the easy way to shop less
Since most everything is imported, reading labels and tags so I can avoid “Made in China” means I can’t buy anything. I feel like this issue is so often forgotten when we talk about Climate Change and the environment. We can elect all the climate friendly politicians for Congress we want, but it won’t matter if we continue down this path of OVER-CONSUMPTION.
I’m not saying that a Not Made in China Challenge fits all, different rules work for different people. This works for me, and I am sure it would work for most suburban Americans with access to Target.
So I’m staying on the challenge – I am thriving at it actually. Sure as hell doesn’t mean I don’t respect China and their efforts to act on climate change.
Buy less, buy local.
Main Street, not Wall Street.
PS: To find out more about what this challenge means to me, read my entire blog! (it’s fun I promise!) Or maybe start with reading my “About” page :)
It’s been a bit quiet on the blog lately because 1. Vacation in Europe with baby and 2. Vacation in Europe without wifi. Yes, there are still places without it! (I did manage to publish one blog post about my new eco-friendly bag which I photographed i Denmark. Check it out here if you missed it :) )
Windbreaker needed. It’s cold, and I love it.
Now, when it comes to vacationing, or traveling if you will, dealing with the guilt of flying is always hard. This activity, which I always try to undertake responsibly (have a great reason to go, travel zero waste) and rarely, is certainly the most unsustainable thing I do. One return trip to Sweden in economy class adds 1.28 metric tons of carbon to my yearly carbon footprint which is a lot. So what to do?
The easy and obvious thing to do is to carbon compensate, which I can do directly thru KLM’s website when buying the ticket (more on that in this post from last year) and/or by planting trees at Stand for Trees. This trip I realized that I could actually “compensate more” by collecting items abroad for baby August to bring home with me. That’s only previously used items – otherwise no point!
You’d be amazed what friends and family are hiding away in closets and are dying to get rid of. Because the people “donating” to me are my closest friends, not only do they have things I want, like and need, but also aren’t offended when I say no (aka “why’d you buy that?”). Most importantly they feel great about giving, they don’t have to spend money to spoil our baby, and together we prevent waste and reduce new material being purchased.
In addition to friends’ used (perfectly awesome) stuff, I also got my hands on a few of my own childhood items (sorting boxes at dad’s) which thrills me so.
The CO footprint of each and every thing I collected probably can’t be found on google, however I know it takes lots of energy, oil, resources and chemicals to produce just one new plastic cup.
I like lists, so here is one of everything we brought home with us for baby August’s current and future endeavors!
Lots of clothes
A pair of shoes
A teether that goes in the freezer
Three reusable squeeze pouches for baby food
Two baby bottles (not pictured – in the sink!)
Two cans of baby food (my friend’s baby never got to!)
Mini flounder for bath time (mine from 1989!)
20+ Children’s books in Swedish and Danish
Eight baby books
13 Mini (pixi) books
Five puzzles (one not pictured)
Bib that catches food
Pear-shaped mold for playing in sand
Soft toy reindeer (which baby loves!)
Long list right? All of these things aren’t need-to-haves perhaps, but most are! How much carbon would I emit if I were to buy all of these items new?
I’m not sure, but not having to do so makes me feel better about those long fossil fuel burning flights we took. And, it IS more fun to have previously loved things :)
Now, vacation is over, I’m back to blogging (some fun posts coming up!), enjoying my last few weeks of maternity leave and, of course, living it green in Texas.
One I asked myself before we had our baby and one I am still thinking about. Hardcore environmentalists actually argue that having a baby is so bad for the environment that none of us should have any. Articles promoting not having kids have circulated the green community for a while, been enthusiastically shared and, of course, I see their point; an average American’s carbon footprint exceeds 20 tonnes each year so don’t add another one. That number is calculated with today’s consumption behavior and technology – it can most certainly decrease as these improve.
So, a baby is bad for the environment. But what if he’s the new Elon Musk or Bernie Sanders? What if he invents the best carbon trapping technology ever, one that solves our climate issues forever? Yes, this is how we (and other green parents) are justifying our actions.
On that note meet baby August, our little love bug, who turns two months today.
Now, despite the carbon footprint of a new (western) life – Is it possible to make mindful, eco-friendly, low carbon choices to soften the blow? All amidst intense emotions, new routines and a strange little person to keep alive?
For us, yes and no. We’re trying our best. Let me start by confessing some of our less successful undertakings.
Failure # 1: Trash, trash, trash
I will admit that there was not much cooking going on during the first month of baby’s life. Yes, we ate pre-made food, ordered take out (some of it packaged in Styrofoam!) and lived off of Cliff energy bars. We even had Starbucks (twice!) in their disposable cups. Honestly, I think we created more waste in that first month than we had in the previous six! I felt bad about it, but at the same time I knew it wasn’t a big deal to live like most Americans do all year, since it would be for a very short time. Either way, a green living fail.
Failure # 2: Baby gifts
Baby August has been spoiled with gifts from neighbors and colleagues, people we know but aren’t aware of our lifestyle, thus these gifts have included quite a few sweatshop-made, Asian imports. We took a few things back but kept many of them as they were usable (and we didn’t have gift receipts). Our close friends and family have been super thoughtful and only given us baby gear made in USA, second hand items, handmade crafts or brought us food. I’d say we’ve managed to stay as minimalist as one can hope, having a new baby and being surrounded by kind, generous people who want to congratulate us (and how lucky are we that people feel that way!). All in all, I wouldn’t call it a complete failure, despite some “Made in China” tags sneaking into our home.
Now on to the greener side if things.
Success story # 1: Baby’s food
Going back to the topic of food; we have continued to shop local, vegan, bulk and organic to the same extent we were before, and we have kept up with the compost. August is eating (or should I say “drinking”?) the most eco-friendly, zero waste and natural food possible: mama’s milk! I am thankful that after some practice, baby and I got the hang of breastfeeding. Green living win (and all around nutritiously awesome!)
Success story # 2: Cloth diapers
Though trash was initially piling up in the kitchen, we were (and are) mastering almost zero waste in the bathroom! I was determined to cloth diaper the baby from the very beginning and I am happy to say we started doing so after only one week. We were sent home from the hospital with a packet of Huggies newborn diapers, but about five days in, both my husband and I were ready to switch to cloth – Huggies don’t hold shit (literally) and that gets tired very fast. I definitely have to do a blog post on cloth diapers, the environment and our routine when I have more experience with it! I will tell you now that it is not hard to do if you own a washer and dryer. Cloth diapers and wipes: another green living win.
Now that we’ve settled in and things are becoming less chaotic, we’re back to old habits of me cooking (from scratch) and the gifts have stopped coming (phew!).
My conclusion is that living green with a brand new baby can certainly be done with a little help and superman/woman type motivation. We needed about five weeks before we could get back to being “green” and each week it gets easier to maintain healthy, eco-friendly, low carbon habits. That said, no matter how much we try, August cannot produce zero carbon, just like we, you and I, are contributing to climate change every day.
I am sure there’ll be more eco-compromises as we go along, finding ourselves in new and unexpected “we have a kid” situations! But, I am ok with that, as long as I feel we are doing our very best – for us, the baby and the environment.
Some readers will see this gorgeous bag and think “Oh, look at that FABULOUS, made in USA leather bag!” while, others will say, or more like grunt, “Why is a self-proclaimed environmentalist showing a leather bag on an eco-blog? Yuck!!”
Leather is not exactly an eco-friendly material (more on that later), so why am I blogging about a bag made of just that?
Easy. Because I hate seeing individual and stylish women go to Coach, Michael Kors, Fossil or Cole Haan and end up with the same Chinese-made bag everyone else has. This blog is a space of options, and when I say that I mean a space where I am trying to help consumers make better choices. Is an American-made, small business, handcrafted, locally grown leather bag a better choice than an imported Coach bag is? Absolutely!
This one is my friend Mary Beth’s and made by Satchel: three female artisans in a small Savannah, Georgia design studio, handcrafting leather goods and custom handbags. If you’re interested, you’ll have to call and place an order. Though there are some styles in their studio for sale, nothing is “ready to buy” online.
It’s always good to have an excuse to talk about leather too, isn’t it? Ever thought about what the word actually means? Us humans are good at coming up with words that distance us from what we’re actually dealing with. Kind of like how we eat “beef” not cows and “pork” not pigs. Current generations are farther removed from nature than ever before, so it makes sense that when we talk about animal skins or hides, we just call it “leather”.
Leather is the processed and polished version of the skin of the animal, the end result if you will. It’s important to remember that as a conscious consumer.
You may have run into companies that handcraft their goods in USA of Italian leather? Italian leather is known to be good quality and it has a nice ring to it, so businesses like to flaunt it, however the animal that became that “Italian leather” may have emigrated after death; it could have come from any other country, but it was processed in Italy. So, in other words, we have no idea where the hide came from (China? India?).
What we are looking for as conscious consumers in the USA, are key words like “native” or “domestic” hides. Some small businesses will be open about their sources and proudly promise to only use domestics. Cattle is not slaughtered for hides in USA but for cow-meat (see what I did there?), so essentially with current demand, domestic hides are a byproduct of the beef and dairy industry.
It’s hard to argue about or measure a byproduct’s impact on the environment. “Since beef is bad for the environment and its production contributes excessively to climate change, then cow skin must be also” sounds like too easy of a conclusion. Do the fashionistas consume more skin than the steak eaters left behind? No way! But, what about when animals (other than cows or cows in other countries) are raised for their skin or fur alone? Well, then we have a whole new set of ethics and environmental impact to consider. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that.
The processing or “tanning” (what turns “skin” into “leather”) on the other hand is extremely toxic and for that reason alone; leather is indeed a bad eco-choice. No matter where it’s from.
Vegetable tanning is probably the least environmentally damaging process and you’ll see some brands promise that their leather has been tanned that way (it’s expensive though, not stable in water and can discolor over time), however 90% of hides are tanned using chrome (think Erin Brockovich!). That’s what leads to toxic rivers and polluted lands, as well as serious birth defects and cancers in countries with lax regulations, like India and China. (Make no mistake, chrome tanning is used everywhere, here too, it just pollutes a little bit less where laws are stricter!) Processing one ton of skin produces up to 80 cubic meters of waste water, with high levels of chromium, sulfides, fat and other solid wastes, and notable pathogen contamination. Producers often add pesticides to protect hides during transport as well.
Leather bags and shoes last a long time, and despite the fact that leather biodegrades faster than plastic, which is good, I don’t see either product group disappearing anytime soon. That’s why I love to take the opportunity to talk about this, present some facts that might help a reader out who is looking for a new leather bag. There are small businesses out there offering small batch, American-made styles. A bag like this one from Satchel can be yours for around $250 to $300, pretty much the same price as the imported bags sell for. (I’ll have to blog about vegan handbags soon!)
Personally my leather bag shopping days are over. I have a black one (bought in ’07), a brown one (’09) and a blue one (’13) that I am sure will last forever. New boots or leather seats in a new car? Very likely to happen in my life still. It’s a journey. We’re on our way to having mainstream plant-based, “just-as-nice” alternatives to animal leather, but the market is not quite there yet. In the meantime, I will shop locally grown, well-chosen and only when absolutely necessary.
The sweater Mary Beth is wearing, if you are wondering, is by Tea N’ Rose, from its boho-chic Orange Creek premium line. (I LOVE the elbow patches!) Tea N’ Rose is not committed to American-made clothing, though the style we are showing off is, of course, made in USA.
This is the second post in a four post series focusing on American-made style featuring the beautiful Mary Beth in her own locally made clothes, photographed in some neat Houston locations by our friend Ashley. Check out last week’s post on a cool t-shirt HERE.
Hey you. You, who like me, sat at home and cried elephant tears watching Donald be elected president of The United States on November 8.
You, who like me are now helplessly watching him fill his cabinet with racists, billionaires, establishment hot shots and climate change deniers.
You, who like me, want to do something. This post is for you.
The inauguration is this Friday and our new government is threatening many rights we hold dear. Same sex marriage, the right to safe abortions and health care (congress already started working on that!), freedom of speech and a free press. Being an environmentalist, what I fear the most is that the serious measures needed to combat climate change will not take place with a republican majority congress (wow, they scare me!) and a billionaire president.
However, I know that as an environmentalist I must always remain an optimist!
Despair never helped anyone win the war, right? So let’s not start thinking that the politicians (we didn’t elect) control everything that happens to us. They don’t!
On another note, anyone else feel like just tuning off from social media? The celebrity videos with serious faces talking about “fighting” this or that, the memes, the petitions, the “breaking news” that lead nowhere?
Personally, I’ve been thinking of ways to really fight. OFFLINE. In silence. Live my values. Stab them from behind (insert evil grin here). I know that no matter how clever my tweets are, congress is not going to stop their agenda because Anna got five re-tweets.
I came up with FOUR ways I can fight for myself, my values, my family and against climate change.
So, I am sharing them with you now, so you can do the same and make a difference too. (You could also just read my entire blog for inspiration! Ha!).
Here we go.
1. Go solar, take a stand
This is an easy way to fight back: change electricity providers! I’ve said it before, it’s not that big of a hassle, I promise. Search for providers in your area that offer green energy, and they will help you move over to one of their 100% renewable plans. Billionaire investors only care about good business, and a change like this one shows them that we demand clean energy and want to pay for it. My husband just joined our Home Owners Association’s architectural board to help push the board to eliminate the bylaw that says no homes can install solar panels on their roofs. The fight for clean energy starts locally, folks.
(Believe me though, no one can “make coal great again”. Building a solar plant is cheaper, faster and safer. Investing and reviving the old coal plants of this country is never going to happen large scale; there is no money to be made, no matter what Donald promised his supporters.)
2. Donate and support
Support organizations that fight your battles while you’re in your cubicle. Yes, donate! Monthly contributions make the biggest impact so be creative when it comes to finding room in your budget. Maybe you can cut back on lattes, fashion, cocktails or change cable providers (more money savings tips here!). Donating to causes that matter to you will make you feel great. Planned Parenthood could use your help, the people of Flint still don’t have clean water, DAPL is not completely stopped yet, and a number of environmental organizations are in desperate need of strong support right now. (More inspiration here.) Pick some players and place your bets.
3. Get organized
Remember that time the tea party freaked out about Obama’s Affordable Care Act and started working like crazy to obtain congress republican majority so they could block all of his ideas? Take note – reverse. You may not be able to convert die-hard republicans (and they do have the Koch Brothers’ millions of dollars to back them) but you may still be able to inspire a few couch-potatoes to go vote blue in the 2018 mid-term elections. Few republican senator seats are up for grabs, but we should still aim for balancing the playing field there and flip the house. I’m not really clear yet on how I will play a part, however I am reading Bernie’s book right now, hoping to get some good ideas. Also, I found this list on how to put together a local activist group – it might be a good start!
Bernie’s book “Our Revolution” is out now and printed in USA!
The Economist had this cover art on their November 26 issue, and I like it a lot.
4. Never eat beef. Yes, that’s a “never”.
No joke, the single most effective way to combat climate change without any government support, carbon taxes or legislation, is to eliminate beef, dairy and other animal products from our diets! (Beef being enemy number 1.)
The evidence is in, there are no counter arguments, our addiction to meat is a major contributor to climate change. The leading cause of deforestation. Major methane emitter. Leading cause for species extinction. Responsible for ocean dead zones. Oh, it’s a long list.
Here’s the cool thing, no matter how much we fear Donald, his cabinet and the republican sell-outs in congress, they cannot come to our houses and force-feed us burgers. Nor can they sneak up on us in the supermarket and make us buy a gallon of ice-cream for dessert.
For me, eating a plant-based diet means just that: it’s based on plants. I don’t call myself a vegan because I honestly eat a bit of everything when occasion demands. For our family, some flexibility is needed in order to maintain a low-carbon diet long term. We started our transition after watching Cowspiracy, about a year and a half ago. Before that no one had ever looked me in the eye and told me about the devastating effects the meat and dairy industries have on our environment. As soon as I knew, over night, I changed my diet. (I will admit I am a very strong-willed person ;))
Take a minute and make a list of obstacles you have in your life that might hinder your transition to a plant-based diet. Be honest, be open-minded, but don’t let “my husband/wife loves meat” be the reason holding you back, especially not if you are the one cooking at home!
Find out where you can make changes, and make them. When you do, you’ll find that vegan and low-carbon meals are available in a wider range than you imagined. Hello Indian food! And how great is Chili’s black bean burger? Ever tried to use Beyond Meat pea-protein in your bolognese instead of beef? Options are endless. You’ll feel so good making better choices. And every time you eat, you get to pat yourself on the back for fighting for your values and our future.
Republicans can NOT force-feed us. Yay!
This will be my last post about this awful election.
When midterm elections approach in 2018 I plan on bringing politics back into the blog again. This is an optimistic space I use to spread awareness and inspire change, and I can’t do much else but watch this republican spectacle unfold (while living true to my values). Please, if you have serious ideas on how we can organize ourselves and make sure we are never in this situation again, shoot me an email at made.right.here @ outlook.com.
To read more on plant-based diets, I recommend these made right (here) posts:
Today is my three-year anniversary of the Not Made in China Challenge!
For three years I’ve been shopping less, shopping better, reading tags and investigating brands and products to a T. I was hoping that 2016 would be the year I bought zero made in China items, and it was looking promising, but in the end, I did buy ONE thing made in China.
See, while I was in Sweden this fall to meet my nephew, I saw, and fell in love with a Swedish-made stroller. Think all recyclable materials sourced from sustainable European companies, linen fabric, Oeko-Tex certified mattress, great quality and beyond stylish. (Maybe eco-baby and I can model it for the blog this spring!)
When I bought it, I asked in the store how people transport strollers on airplanes (I had no idea) and I was told they either ship it in the box, buy a stroller bag or rent a case at the airport. I LOVE renting since it’s a great way to reuse and reduce, however I soon found out that the airport rental company doesn’t allow their cases on cross-Atlantic flights.
Buying a stroller bag became my only option, and yes, the top rated one (from Stokke) is made of polyester and plastic in China. I wanted to protect my eco-stroller so I ended up getting that bag. (Hoping that it wasn’t made in a sweat-shop factory fueled by a coal plant!)
As I was drafting my blog post about this “felony” of mine and coming up with all sorts of excuses, Trump was elected president of the United States of America. It was a rough week for me, and I figured y’all probably didn’t need more bad news, so I decided to keep it to myself at the time. Trump won and Anna went China-shopping?
Anyway, I decided way back when I started the challenge that for every China purchase made, I’d donate the same amount to charity and with that, I got to give a nice chunk of cash to the Sierra Club.
Other than that ONE felony and Donald winning the election, it’s been a good eco-year. Is it just me, or are people talking more than ever about climate change, solar power (it’s now the cheapest form of energy!), trash in the ocean and reduced meat consumption?! Are people finally waking up?!
Personally, I’ve managed to reduce my foot-print further in 2016 by shopping less (thanks to the 12 months 12 pieces challenge), eating mostly vegan food, starting a compost, leasing an electric vehicle and buying the things I needed second hand.
On another three-year anniversary note; I love blogging! How lucky am I that people are reading?
Nothing is more awesome than when you tell me that I’ve inspired you to bring bags to the store, shop all your fashion made in USA or that I helped you discover the awesomeness of Bernie Sanders.
Hearing things like that makes me feel like I am doing something to help combat climate change, spread awareness and help the environment. Hubby has been spreading his own eco-message this year by giving rides in the Tesla (while he talks about solar power and Elon Musk) and we’ve actually noticed that colleagues and friends are opening up to the idea of an electric vehicle because of it. This is oil-fueled Texas so it takes time, but we’re in it for the long-haul. After all, we can make all the sustainable changes in the world in our own life, but if we don’t inspire others to do the same, our impact is very small.
So, thank you all for following along and reading made right (here) this year! I’m hoping you will stick around for 2017, where I’ll continue blogging, fighting climate change, reducing my waste and shopping eco-friendly and MADE IN USA for our home, for our new tiny addition (coming soon), and most importantly, for myself.
Remember,The Not Made in China Challenge is not only about China. It’s about knowing where your possessions come from, how they were produced and how they affect our planet. We all need to process that knowledge and take it seriously.
What you choose to buy or not to buy is your vote and your impact on the world market.
Ever heard someone say “green living is expensive” or “not everyone can afford to be eco-friendly”?
Yeah, me too! But let’s face it – it’s just another excuse.
I can’t think of a better time than now, as Christmas is finally over and many credit cards are exhausted from holiday spending, to talk about all the ways one can actually SAVE money by going green.
First, let me get the expensive, green habits out of the way and out of our minds so we can focus on where we can save. I won’t argue that A. A locally made product costs more than an imported one, B. Organic food cost more than generic food, and C. An electric long-range car costs more to buy than a gasoline driven one*.
Phew, that’s done. Now, let those go and dig into these ten tips for how YOU can save money while doing good for the planet!
Start a Not Made in China Challenge.
Ask me – I know all about it! Start reading labels, say no to made in China and watch your spending go down. Significantly. No more impulse buying. No more gimmicks. THIS measure alone will save you so much money. Let’s be honest, the reason you have credit card debt is that you buy too much crap. Oops. I meant to write “unnecessary things”.
Buy second hand.
A previously owned item will save you 50% to 80%. Take a baby-onesie from Carters for example; $15 at the store, $2 from the second hand shop. I find that nicely organized consignment stores work best for me, while the thrill of amazing deals at the thrift store excites others. Many of my friends in the eco-community use and swear by online stores like Threadup.com.
Invest in a smart thermostat.
Reducing your electricity use by heating and cooling only when you’re home and it’s needed will save most households $130-$145 per year.
Stop buying bottled water.
This eco-habit does not apply to Flint residents (May 2017 be the year your water crisis is finally solved!) and other communities with questionable water supply, but to the rest of us, with access to fine tap water. Just because you’re going on an outing doesn’t mean you need bottled water either. Just fill up containers you have at home! My husband and I took a nine-day road trip this fall and did not buy a single bottle of water. Bring, refill, reuse. Americans spend 13 billion dollars per year on bottled water.**
Go for salad, not steak.
The filet mignon or bone-in-ribeye will be among the most expensive choices on any menu. At a steakhouse, you might be paying $35 for steak and only $15 for the chicken salad. Depending on your restaurant habits, you can save more or less money per outing by going green.
Buy groceries in bulk, but know when not to.
The larger the packaging, the lower the cost per pound. You know you’ll finish that peanut butter, that mayo and that ketchup anyway, so buy the huge jars. This applies to pretty much all dry goods and body lotion too. Veggies, fruits, baked goods and meats on the other hand (foods that go bad!), should be bought with the utmost of care. You want to limit food waste as much as possible. The Natural Resources Defense Council has reported that Americans discard 40 percent of their purchased food every year, with the average family of four throwing away an equivalent of $2,275 annually. Yikes!
If you happen to live close to a friend or colleague, i.e. if the opportunity is there, ride together! Of course if you live close to your work, and it’s safe to do so, biking would save you lots of money as well. (This one is tricky for me because Houston is dangerous for biking, and public transport is pretty much nonexistent, hence why we got an EV to reduce our impact from driving, but I still want to mention it.)
Become a library member.
Read lots of books for free! It’s a pretty amazing service if you think about it. You can also get in the habit of borrowing books from friends, maybe start a book club where the only membership term is letting each other borrow books.
Invest in a set of cloth towels and linen napkins.
Use every day, wash, repeat. You’ll save on paper towels and these items will add no extra laundry loads at all, just wash them along with the weekly wash. (Guests find linen napkins so festive too! They’re always impressed and the table setting looks much nicer than with paper napkins.) I’ve blogged before about how reusable make-up wipes save you money as well.
Explore local areas.
Instead of hopping on a plane to see another city, stay close to home and explore your own area. Travel does wonders for our souls, I agree, but a three-day-weekend getaway to Hawaii will be more stressful than rewarding. Fly with purpose and explore locally if your weekends are open. Camping will save you money too, versus checking in at a hotel.
That’s my list! How do you save money by being eco-friendly? Or how do you plan to do it in 2017? Let me know!
With that, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year!
Let’s make it a green one.
* Since the market is still limited, there are way more “cheap” gasoline cars available to buy than electric ones. An EV will however, save you “gas money” over time.
** The average water pitcher filters 240 gallons of water a year for about 19 cents a day. Put in perspective, to get the same amount of water from bottled water would require 1,818 16.9-ounce water bottles a year – at an average cost of a dollar a bottle, that’s $4.98 a day. https://www.banthebottle.net/bottled-water-facts/
First, let me just get the obvious, in your face Tesla fact out of the way. Yes, by the time I’m halfway to my house, your growling V8 is still revving up to get you out of the parking lot. Hang in there buddy!
Now, let’s get down to Tesla Model S owning business. We get lots of questions about our car from people we know, but also from strangers in parking lots. Based on the questions we get most, I decided to compile a list of information and answers in this post!
Of course, I’m an eco-blogger and this is all written from my point of view based on personal experiences with this beautiful machine.
It’s not zero emissions, but it sure can be
On paper, our Tesla is zero emissions because all the money we spend on electricity goes to a 100% renewable energy provider, but in real life our carbon footprint per mile is around 50% of that of a comparable midsize gas-driven sedan.
See, In Texas the energy is made up by several different sectors; nuclear, coal, natural gas and about 10% wind power is pumped into the grid. Since we use the grid for power, a mix of those technologies fuels our car. That combined with the higher efficiency of the electric engine, adds up to us emitting about half the pollution that a single gasoline engine emits. As Texas moves more towards wind and away from coal, that number of course will improve (there’s hoping!).
In states like Oregon, Idaho and Washington which are mainly powered by hydropower, driving an EV (electric vehicle) is actually very close to zero emissions, so owning one there boosts the eco benefits. If you have your own solar panels, of course you’re emitting zero carbon per mile for real. (We are looking into it!)
Flipping off the oil companies feels SO good (every day)
Let’s face it. Filling up the car with gas is not an enjoyable moment. Not having to do so at all is amazing (and less germy).
Each time I drive by a gas station I feel pretty darn good about the fact that my car was fully loaded by the time I jumped into it in the morning. People seem worried about the 4-5 hour duration it takes to charge the car at home (from completely empty to full), but honestly, don’t most of us spend at least 7-8 hours in our homes at night? I know I do. And for the charge to take that long, the car must be running on empty. If you drive 40-50 miles in a day, the charge time is more like an hour.
Not giving my money to ExxonMobil or Chevron is also wondrous (every day). Like I wrote above, our electricity provider is 100% green, so that’s where our money goes now instead of going to oil giants.
Savings? About 30 dollars per month with our driving habits and electricity provider (and current low gas prices!).
You can charge your Tesla in a regular 110V/10A outlet, but in order to charge as fast as we do, you must have your house, or garage, wired with at least a 240V/40A outlet, a $700-$1000 one time cost. The higher the power, the faster the charge. (A certified electrician can tell you what is possible in your home.)
Do we ever forget to charge? Nah. Plugging in became habit right away. Do we forget to pull the charger out before a trip? No, the car won’t let us go.
Range anxiety is (pretty much) uncalled for
The furthest we’ve taken the Tesla so far is Waco, TX. A good 215 mile trip (one way) from Houston, ending in a town with six Tesla superchargers waiting for us. And with a 270 mile battery life, a trip like that isn’t an issue.
Here’s the thing. The Google maps system in the car is programmed to guide your travel so you stop and charge when you need to. Type in that you’re going to New York and the car will make a plan for your trip including which chargers you should stop at, and for how long to “fuel”. There is no risk of you running out of power, as long as you have half a brain and listen to the car’s needs.
Of course charging at the Tesla superchargers is free, so no need to save up for road trip gas money (just coffee money, unless you happen to find a café that offers that for free as well for Tesla owners, like the Collin Street Bakery chain in Texas).
Sure, charging may take 20 minutes instead of a gas stop that takes five, but on a road trip, it’s not that big of a deal. Take a break, have a snack (the chargers are often walking distance from other amenities) and frankly, we’ve been on one little road trip in six months. 99% of the time we stay in the Houston area, and 270 miles is more than enough to get us anywhere we want to go (or we could just charge at the superchargers here in Houston!)
No, we don’t miss the sound of a gas guzzling engine when we start the car, or accelerate. It does make a swishing sound, like a turbine starting, when you hit the pedal hard and it is quite awesome (and addictive). The silent cabin makes listening to music pure joy.
Speaking of which, it comes with internet radio (Slacker) and most of the radio stations in the world are accessible for live streaming, anytime, anywhere. There’s no extra charge for this radio awesomeness.
Service is not a problem and the software is constantly updating
At least it has not been for us. Living in a large city with several Tesla showrooms and service locations of course helps us feel confident and relaxed, if something was to happen the car would be picked up or serviced at the location as soon as a Tesla Ranger could make it there.
And what other car actually gets better with time? As you drive the Tesla it can learn your patterns in order to use energy more efficiently, share road knowledge with other Teslas and the software is automatically updated with the latest improvements as well (via wi-fi).
I don’t care what the news say, the Autopilot works and it rocks
Every time there’s a car accident involving a Tesla, news agencies are having a field day. Imagine if CNN reported each time a Ford or Chevy was involved in an accident! Of course corporate media have ties to oil industries and large car makers, and will report negatively on Tesla whenever they get a chance. They’re hating on Tesla like they were hating on Bernie Sanders. So be it. New ideas and inventions are a little scary for the conservative crowd.
The truth is the Tesla Model S and X are the safest cars on the road today, exceeding the five star crash ratings in every aspect and the AutoPilot (the car’s ability to steer and control speed itself) really works. It is super convenient, especially when I have to peel a banana. Like, who can do that with one hand?
Keep your hand on the wheel (as soon as you’re done with the banana!) and be observant of traffic and when the car beeps and tells you to take control, don’t ignore it and continue watching Harry Potter on your phone (the 17″ awesome touchscreen will not let you watch movies!). Again, listen to the car’s needs.
Needless to say, having a long-range electrical car is just like having any other car, just way more convenient with less pollution, gas pumping and noise. Even if I keep saying that electrical vehicles are the future, I admit our car doesn’t feel futuristic at all, it feels contemporary. And why wouldn’t it? Why should a car in 2016 look, drive and function like a car did ten years ago (or make that a hundred years ago)?
I believe in and passionately promote a future where all our cars are electric! That’s why our family made it a priority to lease one. It matters to us. A lot.
Not everyone will or can have a Tesla, but other than the much longer range and free charging, several benefits above apply to other electrical cars as well. As the Tesla Model 3 is released in 2017, with a $35,000 price tag, we’re one step closer to making long range, beautiful EVs accessible for the masses.
(Ps. Tesla is made right here in the States, boosting American ingenuity and providing thousands of jobs out west and in motor city. Thanks Elon Musk!)
As the kids are gearing up for school, adults are gearing up for going back to work after our summer vacations. Oh wait, some of us never left. Either way, it’s 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).
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 use 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.
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 :)