Tag Archives: environment

Five easy ways to reduce grocery store waste – without planning ahead!

Ever found yourself at the grocery store or market completely unprepared? 

“It’s just so hard to remember the reusable bags when I go to the store! And sometimes I have them in my car but leave them out there and don’t remember until I’m almost done!”

I’ve heard this statement a few times. I am not really sure why it’s a big deal to go get the bags in the car, but apparently it is. Probably because the kids are DONE with shopping at that point, and the freezer section items are already in cart (do enlighten me, lazy bunch!)

Let’s leave the car-bags scenario off the table for now and consider if you’ve come to the grocery store completely unprepared: no reusable (shopping and produce) bags to be seen. Maybe you just stopped on your way home from work or an outing. How annoying!

But, are there ways you can reduce your waste output anyway? 

Yes!

Here’s my quick guide to bringing home less packaging, waste and fewer plastic bags, even when you are completely unprepared.

1. Most produce don’t need a bag!

Pineapple, melon, kiwi, carrots, potatoes, oranges, onions, avocados, eggplant; anything protected by a peel does not need a bag, so skip the produce bag altogether. Tomatoes, cucumber and bell peppers (most veggies) actually have a protective layer and the dirt you bring upon them from riding the cart is minimal compared to what they’ve already been through before you picked them up. However, I get that it can seem strange to let them go bare. Start with produce with peels and work up the courage to never bag anything – except tiny things like mushrooms and berries that could literally fall through the bottom of the cart if you don’t. (Reuse any bags you do take!)

While you are in the produce department, ask if you can have the lid of a banana box – you’ll use this to pack in later.

Zero waste plastic free grocery shopping
“We don’t want plastic covers – we want to ride bare!”

2. Go for paper cartons, glass containers or metal cans

Rice, beans, eggs, sugar, flour, baking soda and other items will provide you with the choice between paper cartons and plastic packaging like bags or styrofoam (yuck!). Always go for carton, it’s recyclable (and/or compostable).

So is glass and metal, which makes these two materials good choices as well when selecting items like sauces, oils, PB and jams. Of course, you have to remember to recycle them!

3. Place the things you don’t absolutely need on hold

I’m sure you’ve got a few items on your list (or on your mind) that you planned on buying this time, which you could actually do without another couple of days. Leave them at the store until your next shopping trip, one when you hopefully remember your reusable produce, bread, bulkbin and check out bags. 

4. If all else fails – Skip the dairy

If your cart is filling up with plastic anyway, maybe you need some pre-made foods to get you through the week ( NO judging here!) you might feel bad about all the waste you’re creating. Lessen the blow by skipping the dairy aisle! Yes, dairy is a waste nightmare: a farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people. There are many good alternatives to diary, just a browse away (in the dairy section).

5. Be alert at check out

No time to snooze! Tell the crew to not use any plastic bags, you have a banana box in your cart! Big, bulky items like juice jugs, six packs of beer, paper towels and such, can go straight in the cart since you’ll be driving the cart to your car.

In order to encourage stores to stop printing receipts remember to say “no thank you” to receipts and printed coupons too. Did you know that the material that makes receipts “shiny” to the touch is actually BPA – a dangerous plastic coating PROVEN to be hormone disrupting? Knowing that, you don’t want to touch that receipt anyway, on a waste saving mission or not. 

(If your favorite foods in the whole world come in plastic or simply has too much packing, email the maker. Tell them to rethink their packaging: reduce or switch. If we all reach out when we see bad eco-habits, we can make a change!)

Do you have any other tips and tricks for the unprepared when it comes to avoiding waste at the grocery store? Let me know!

What do you know about methane? (A quick intro and what YOU can do)

A couple of weeks ago in reference to our compost bin, I told you that 20% of human methane emissions come from waste decomposition. I know, I know, you have probably been thinking a lot about that, maybe even stayed awake at night, and wondered, what about the other 80%?

Wonder no more. Here’s the breakdown.

Methane's impact on climate change

Why is methane an important greenhouse gas?

Methane (CH4) is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted from human activities. In 2014, it accounted for about 11 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Methane’s lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide (CO2), but it is much more efficient at trapping radiation than CO2 is. Pound for pound, the comparative impact of methane on climate change is more than 25 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.

The government has an important role to play in reducing our methane emissions, especially when it comes to the fossil fuel piece of the pie (42%). The majority of these emissions are leakages from fracking and processing of oil and natural gas. Fracking is a nasty technology, and no one has exact numbers on how much methane is released every year, as the fossil fuel companies conveniently hide that information from the authorities. Remember the Aliso Canyon leak in California last year? It spewed enough methane into the atmosphere to equal the greenhouse gases emitted by more than 440,000 cars in a year. Scary stuff.

Driving an electrical vehicle, reducing plastic consumption and installing solar panels are actions consumers can take to help reduce emissions from fossil fuel.

Speaking of consumers, I don’t think I need to tell you how to reduce the methane emissions (30%) from ruminants, do I?

Ruminants are the farm animals who eat and digest grass (called enteric fermentation), mainly cows raised for beef or dairy, but also buffalo, sheep and goats. So hey, just to be clear; CUT BACK your consumption. Choose chicken over beef if you insist on meat and replace dairy with plant-based options. (Cattle also contributes large amounts of CO2, through transports, processing and the clearing of forests to make room for more livestock.)

The easiest way to reduce methane emissions from landfill (20%), is to lower your total trash production! Yes, we humans produce trash like never before. Start a compost and stop using one time use items. Like what? Like plastic bags, straws, cutlery, paper plates, napkins, disposable diapers, Starbucks cups, wrapping paper. You know, all the things you only use ONCE but last in landfills forever.

In the “other” piece of the pie we find all the natural sources of methane (6%). Wetlands are the biggest emitter, but also volcanoes, wildfires and sediment play a part. Our wonderful planet is designed for handling the gases from these sources, and we don’t have to do anything about them. Phew!

I read somewhere that a reduction of global emissions by just 22 Million tons per year would result in stabilization of methane concentrations in the atmosphere. I don’t know if that’s still true (the article was several years old), however, such a reduction represents just about 5% of total methane emissions; a small reduction which should be more than doable. The problem is, with the world’s hunger for beef, corrupt governments who favor fossil fuel, and cheap coal becoming available to burn in areas of the developing world (hoping they won’t use it!), we could easily be moving the trend in the opposite (wrong) direction.

Finally, we should all be aware that this beef-loving, fracking-addicted nation, plays a HUGE part in the world’s total methane emissions. There are no exact numbers but it’s estimated that up to 60% of all methane emissions are because of the USA’s activities alone.

It’s HERE that change must take place.

At least we, you and I, can do our part. If we all take small measures to reduce our impact, a significant reduction will be in the bag.

‘Tis the season to be GIVING

And not some random notebook or scented candle.

It’s the season for giving to non-profit organizations. To trustworthy human rights advocates and local community initiatives, but more importantly to the groups and organizations fighting for our planet.

This year, maybe more so than ever, we have to step up and vote with our dollars. With the political climate and the uncertainties 2017 brings, this is the time to look at how and where you can find a few dollars per month to give to non-government organizations fighting for YOUR cause. Be creative; skipping just two take-out lattes per month equals 10 dollars for donations.

Now, how can one incorporate a charity gift into an actual Christmas present?

Below are just a few ideas I have on how to do it. All ways are grand when it comes to supporting a greener planet (or other cause) and giving meaningful gifts.

1. Make an agreement with your family

Instead of purchasing physical gifts to each other, make a pledge that all adults donate for example 100 dollars to an environmental organization of their choice. Don’t know any? Here are some I like.

Stand for Trees

This organization’s focus is to plant, restore and protect forests and forest communities in areas subject to deforestation and big money interests. The cool thing about their site is that you know the amount of carbon you prevent per donation, and you don’t have to give them personal details, like your address. I donate to them every year to offset my carbon footprint. (Link)

Rainforest Action Network

They fight for all types of environmental justice, such as saving rain forests, campaigning against fracking, standing up to the Dakota Access Pipeline. They recently took part in Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie Before The Flood (which I recommend you see if you haven’t). They run a lot of petitions too, where all you donate is your name. Yes, free impact! I suggest you follow them on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss any. (Link)

National Park Foundation

Is there anything more amazing about America than her National Parks? I think not. America without them would be a disaster. Speaking of which, make a plan to go visit some next year, and while there, support the park by shopping for merchandise at the park shops. We like to bring home a refrigerator magnet from each park; made in USA and package free. (Link)

Sierra Club

If anyone can fight Trump it’s them. These guys stand up to corruption, take on big oil, and produce some kick-butt informative videos. They’re the most influential environmental organization we have. (Recently they actually sued the EPA for having too lax regulations in the Ohio valley, causing air pollution in Washington State.) Sierra Club is the organization that all environmental thugs hate (and fear) the most. That’s why we love them. (Link)

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2. Make a personal gift card

Did out that paper, that glue stick and those old stickers you never used. Make a little card of your own and inform the recipient that you’ve donated X amount of dollars to an organization in their name (include the emailed tax receipt of the donation if you feel the need). Pick an organization you feel strongly about and encourage the recipient to make monthly donations to the same. (Monthly, steady donations make the most impact even if low.)

3. Pick something from a gift shop

Now this is my least favorite since it’s bordering on “unnecessary consumption”, but I realize some people prefer to give an actual item (especially to the young Christmas guests). If so, you might as well support a cause with your purchase!

World Wildlife Foundation (WWF)

Adopt a species and get an information kit, or build a bucket of fluffy, endangered animals for a little one. Your symbolic adoption supports WWF’s global efforts to protect wild animals and their habitats. (Link)

Wolf Conservation Center (WCC)

Wolves are cool! Kids think wolves are cool, right? Adopt a wolf and pick something in the gift shop to wrap. WCC’s mission is to promote wolf conservation by teaching about wolves, their relationship to the environment, and the human role in protecting their future. (Link)

Standing Rock T-shirt (#NoDAPL)

Get THE statement t-shirt of the season: supporting the water protectors at Standing Rock! The initiative is started by actress Shailene Woodley and all proceeds benefit the people protesting and fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Tees are made by Bella and Canvas (known for fair and ethical production) and 100% cotton (eco-friendly!). Bernie already got his. Watch out for t-shirt scams on Amazon. (Link)

Not so hard to pick something, is it?! If for some reason, you’re not keen on any of these, search and you shall find!

‘Tis the season to make good choices. Fa la la la la, la la la la.

** Share this post tomorrow on the Global day of Giving 11/29/16 using hashtag GivingTuesday. **

The unthinkable happened. But we, we will never stop fighting for what’s right

I had prepared a completely different blog post for this week. It was about hand me down items for eco-baby since I figured I wouldn’t feel the need to post anything about the election. Hillary would win, all the polls and predictions said so, we’d all be ok. There wouldn’t be anything to write about on an eco-blog like mine.

I was wrong.

And you know I don’t like being wrong.

Around nine pm on Tuesday I had a sudden, uncomforting feeling that she wouldn’t win. I had struggled all day not to cry (maybe pregnancy hormones made it worse) and at that point there was no holding it back anymore. The entire evening became a blur.

Frustrated with the reporting, I went to bed, but woke up in the middle of the night. Someone was honking and screaming “Woooooo!” outside. Living in Texas, I knew what that meant.

The anger and sadness I felt at that moment is hard to describe. I didn’t know it would hit me so hard. Like a punch to the gut. Like an overwhelming wave of grief and loss. He had made America hate again.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Hillary’s. Sure, she’d get the job done, and I agreed with her on most issues but she didn’t have my heart like Bernie did. But this election, for me and for many others, especially women, was never about her. It was about defeating the person who threatened our democracy. The person who offended pretty much everyone (except white middle-aged men). The person who said he doesn’t believe in climate change and that he’d defund the EPA. This person, who so clearly knew that the only people stupid enough to vote for him were the Republicans, that went on to win the election.

Darkness won.

As friends, family and the eco community have posted, tweeted, texted and supported each other throughout this horrible day of 11/9, I am somewhat uplifted by their love and comforted by the fact that Hillary did win the majority of the population’s votes. Yet I am, like so many of us, left wondering; where do we go from here?

I’ve always known the answer to that. I knew it already at nine pm last night.

We keep fighting. We hope and work our hardest to elect a progressive democrat as president in 2020. We support and protect our friends who represent the minorities of this country. We embody equality. And we keep focusing on making the world a better place.

We keep reading up on climate issues. We vote for plastic bag bans. We support the Native Americans standing up against the Dakota Access Pipeline. We sort our trash. We recycle. We eat vegan food. We drive our hybrids and electric cars. We shop small.

No matter how hateful he is, he cannot take our passion away from us. Our passion will not only inspire change, but it is and will fuel the entire economy of this country. We are the future.

Thank you to all who voted against him. Thank you Bernie Sanders – You’re the classiest.

Ending with a quote from Hillary today.

“This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

Five cool(ing) ways to celebrate Earth Day!

Earth day 2016 is just around the corner, Friday April 22nd, and it’s definitely a day worth celebrating! Our lovely and diverse planet certainly deserves some extra attention. (Even though, in theory, every day should be Earth Day.)

Not sure how to celebrate?

Here are five earth-friendly ideas that’ll make a difference and hopefully kickstart some healthy and sustainable habits!

1. Do a “Zero Waste” day

Create awareness about our dependency on single-use-plastic and packaging by attempting to do a “zero waste” day! (That means you shouldn’t create any trash all day.)

Bring your reusable water bottle, coffee mug, a fabric towel and a set of utensils everywhere you go. Say no to the receipt, buy in bulk and bring your own shopping bags, produce bags and containers to the store if you need to go grocery shopping. No need for anything fancy, as long as it’s all reusable!

(If you must buy something packaged, pick metal or cardboard containers which you, of course, must recycle. Plastic is strictly forbidden.)

2. Go Vegan

That’s no dairy, no eggs and no meat for the day. Discover how nutritious and great plant-based foods taste and make you feel!

Keep in mind that butter and milk are in a lot of processed or cooked foods so read all the tags, ask questions at restaurants and dare to be “difficult” if you need to be. Indian, Thai and Mediterranean restaurants often offer good vegan choices.

(Yes, thank goodness wine is vegan, so go ahead and have that glass)

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3. Share transport, bike or walk 

Leave your car at home and take a ride with a colleague, friend or the local bus. Or better yet; walk or bike if distance and bike lanes allow.

4. Skip the shower 

Save some water and lots of chemicals from going down the drain by skipping the shower. I’m sure you can “make it” another day without… You might end up getting a new creative hairdo out of it! ;)

5. Plant a Tree 

If you’re feeling lazy and the four above are daunting – start with something simple like supporting a non-profit that benefits the planet! My favorite is Stand for Trees. For every 10 dollars you spend, you compensate 1 tonne of co2, support a forest community and they won’t offer a tacky gift or ask for your home address – no risk for spammy snail mail.

You can get involved and do good at EarthDay.org as well.

If we all did these thing everyday, imagine the cooling effect it would have on our climate! But for now, I am just challenging you to attempt them all, as well as you can, on Friday – I know y’all like small steps.

Yay! Earth!

How many cows in one burger patty? How many barrels of oil does one EV save? What is FRACKING? (Watch a video and find out)

Ok, this is a cheat post from “Anna the writer”, as this post will have very few words. I just have to share some amazing videos with you that, personally, I can watch over and over.

Yes, they’re all about the environment and our future, so naturally I am super interested. But they are also super easy to watch – good animation does that to a video.

The first one contemplates this: what happens when electrical cars become mainstream? Can the oil industry ever bounce back from a crash created by pure lack of demand? How many barrels of oil per year does one electrical car replace? Hint; it’s more than 10.

The second one is all about them burgers and those sad feedlots. But this video is actually kind of cute, awesome and very informative. Did you know that eating corn makes the cows fart and burp MORE than they do eating grass? And how many different cows are mixed into one hamburger patty? Many more than you think. (Gross.)

The third one, I’ve watched so many times; it’s about fracking. As the people in Porter Ranch, California have left their homes due to the health risks associated with the largest methane leak in history, the energy companies keep doing this, and call it “50% cleaner energy”. Have a watch, there ain’t nothing clean about it. (And only one berning presidential candidate wants to stop it…)

It’s amazing what you can learn from three five-minute animated videos! If only more people would actually listen to the messages. (Be honest; did you watch them?)

Three videos, three important things we need to do to keep planet earth healthy:

  1. Drive electrical cars
  2. Reduce beef and dairy consumption drastically
  3. Stop using fossil fuels for energy*

I’m in – are you?

*Start today by switching to a 100% renewable energy provider, like Green Mountain Energy