31 July 2008

wrap it up

Trying to reduce the presence of disposable plastic things in your kitchen? Ditch the cling wrap and tuck your sandwich or leftovers in one of these:

If You Care Aluminum Foil

  • Made with 100% recycled aluminum
Natural Value Wax Paper Bags
  • Made with unbleached wax paper
  • Non-toxic when incinerated
Chef's Select Soy Wax Paper
  • Made with petroleum-free wax paper
Frigoverre Food Storage Containers
  • Glass container with polypropylene top, safe for food storage
  • Microwave and freezer safe
  • Made in Italy
Pyrex Glass Food Storage Containers
  • Glass container with polypropylene top, safe for food storage
  • Oven, microwave, refrigerator, freezer, and dishwasher safe
  • Made in USA
To-Go Ware Stainless Steel Food Tin

If you really want to have cling wrap and plastic bags, try these bio-friendly products:

Natural Value Clear Plastic Wrap

  • PVC and plasticizer free, this plastic wrap won't leach chemicals onto your food
  • Works just as well, if not better than traditional Saran wrap, I swear!
Natural Value Sealable Sandwich Bags
  • PVC and plasticizer free

30 July 2008

don't flush!

Your drugs that is... Since we're on the topic of medicine and waste, I thought it apropos to issue this reminder. When you want to dispose of expired or unused drugs, don't send them on their merry way down the toilet into sewageland. That drug-laced sewage ends up in our precious waterways, changing the sex of fish, or in the case of flushed Prozac, making fish too happy they forget to eat. Medical waste does all sorts of fun damage to the environment.

So what do you do with those old drugs? Some suggestions:

  • Contact your pharmacy -- they may have a drug recycling program
  • Call your local hazardous waste facility -- they may have recommendations for drug disposal [The New York State site here]
  • Smash the pills, put them back in their original container, and put that container in a sealable plastic bag. Throw it out with the trash. The problem here is that plastic doesn't degrade well, and once it does, that medicine is still finding its way out into the environment
Just remember, whatever you do, don't flush!

toxic gowanus hotbed of medical discovery

Ah, the Gowanus Canal, glowing radioactive green. Reflecting the scrap metal heap and its cranes, reminiscent of brontosaurus eating lunch. How can anyone not appreciate the toxic splendor of thee?

If you're not familiar with the much-discussed (at least in Brooklyn), much-joked-about waterway, here's a taste:
(MMmmm, delish!)

It turns out, surprisingly enough, oil slicks and various toxins aren't the only things swirling around in there. A team of researchers --New York City College of Technology Biology Professors Nasreen and Niloufar Haque -- has determined the Gowanus is a breeding ground for future medical agents, specifically antibiotics.

An excerpt:

"Despite the canal’s toxicity, which includes cancer-causing chemical agents,” explained Nasreen, “microorganisms are surviving by adapting to the harsh environment there that shouldn’t survive at all. Working in synergy, they seem to sense if nutrients are available; they exchange genes and secrete substances — some of which operate like antibiotics. I believe these substances may provide clues that lead to the development of new drugs to combat human disease.
Who knew?
Read the whole story here.

[Newswise via Gowanus Lounge]

summer sale @ kaight

Sorry for the brevity and infrequency of posts this week. The day job is keeping me busy. Just wanted to tell you about a sale at my favorite eco-boutique. Check it out:

29 July 2008

it just takes a dollar

One dollar can buy you a heck of a lot more than a lottery ticket. Through Plant A Billion Trees, a Nature Conservancy initiative, every dollar you donate will plant a tree in the deforested Atlantic Forest of Brazil. It's home to 23 primate species, 1,000 bird species, and over 20,000 plant species. The restored forestland will take 10 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year, the equivalent of taking 2 million cars off the road.

Through this program, The Nature Conservancy is working with local partners to restore 2.5 million acres of land and plant 1 billion trees in 7 years, and you can be a part of it. See below for details.

28 July 2008

little things add up

I try not to use disposable things, but sometimes you need a toothpick or cotton swab. For those times, try these products:

Preserve Toothpicks, Mint tea tree flavor

  • Made from sustainably harvested wood
  • Natural flavoring, also available in Cinnamint
  • Packaged in a pocket-size 100% recycled canister
Organic Essentials Cotton Swabs
  • Made from organic cotton, the sticks are biodegradable and compostable
  • Packaging is recycled and recyclable
Organic Essentials Cotton Balls
  • Made from certified organic cotton
Preserve Triple Blade Razor, with refillable
  • Made with 100% plastic recycled from yogurt cups
  • Titanium coated triple blades with Vitamin E and aloe lubricating strip
  • Replacement blades available in packs of 4
  • Handle also works with Personna® Acti-Flexx® and Gillette® Sensor® blades
Preserve Toothbrush
  • Handle made from 100% recycled plastic
  • Packaging is recyclable and doubles as a travel case
  • Send your toothbrush back to Recycline to spare it from the trash heap
  • Preserve Jr. also available for kids

27 July 2008

sale @ let's go green

Enter coupon code "FRIEND" at checkout to get a 25% discount. Use it stock up on all your eco-friendly summer supplies.

mother knows best...

We sometimes feel that what we do is just a
drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less
because of that missing drop.

~ Mother Theresa

26 July 2008

bags without baggage

From recycled plastic messengers to sustainably harvest rubber duffles, here's a round-up of eco-friendly bags to suit every style.

Click image for larger views and purchasing info.

Hemp and silk slouch bag
(60/40 blend of eco-friendly hemp and silk)
Was $69, Now $48 - save 30%
Designed to fit the shape of your body and hangs with sturdy straps. Includes two convenient outside pockets for cellphone and sunglasses, and a silk-tie trim.
27"L x 16"W x 11"H
Hemp & Silk Slouch Bag - Blue

Vietnamese Market Feed Bag
(Recycled grain bag)
Great looking bag for groceries or anything else you need to cart around. Each bag is a one-of-a-kind and the design will be a surprise.

18"W x 12"H x 6"D, 21" straps
Vietnamese Market Feed Bag

Yes! Straw Tote
(straw and scrap fabric)
Lightweight and adorably colorful tote bag. Deep gusset, zip closure, interior cell phone pocket.
15"L x 12"W, 26" straps
Yes! Straw Tote

Quilted Messenger Bag by Treetap
(rubber texturized fabric)
Was 274.95, Now $192.46
Made from natural latex from rubber trees of the Amazon Rainforest. Treetap works with native people to extract latex, and their bags are made in Rio. The purchase of this bag helps to ensure the preservation of traditional cultures and the conservation and biodiversity of the rainforest.
Features: inside zip pocket, outside zip pocket, quilted front flap, adjustable canvas strap, and two snap closures. Holds up to a 14" laptop. Due to its organic nature, the product reacts to climate variations and looks different according to the humidity of your environment.
NOTE: the black canvas is a dark forest green, not as pictured.
14"L x 10"W
Quilted Messenger Bag Brown

Solar Powered Messenger Bag
(solar panels, recycled PET fabric)
Great for charging your mp3 player, cell phone, or digital camera. The panels generate 4 watts of power for faster charge times. They're lightweight, tough and waterproof.
NOTE: 3.25 lbs.; does not charge laptops.
14.5"L x 11.5"W x 4"D, 5.5" D with outside pocket
(sorry this image is so small, for more detail, please click it)

Daily Grind by Patagonia
(Outer fabric: 64% recycled polyester)
$70.00, Now $56.00
Patagonia is a pioneer in eco-friendly fabrics and manufacturing.
Features: Zippered organizer pocket with internal zippered security pocket; side zippered organizer pocket with detachable key chain; easy access document sleeve; long, adjustable shoulder strap; top-mounted carry handle; fully padded to protect contents; holds 17" laptop or smaller
15" x 12" x 5.5"

Daily Grind

Weekender Duffle Bag by Treetap
(rubber texturized fabric)
Was $288.95, Now $202.21
Features: two outside pockets with snap closures, adjustable canvas shoulder strap, reinforced handles which snap together, and a canvas bottom with metal feet. The exterior is lime green canvas and Treetap rubber.
18" x 10" x 11"
Weekender Duffle Bag Brown/Lime
Yoga Bag
(recycled plastic bags)
Made from plastic bags picked from the trash heaps of a New Delhi slum. Women with no other employment opportunities are paid a fair wage hand pick them in order to repurpose them instead of letting them pile up in the dump.
Yoga Bag

Iris Bag by Helen E. Riegle
(vegan leather)
Was $158.00, Now $126.40
Features a zippered main compartment lined with organic cotton, with internal pocket and an outside pouch.
11" x 6" x 2"
Iris Vegan Leather

Newspaper Clutch by Raw Bags
(100% Chinese newspaper)
Was $75.00, Now $60.00
Adorable woven paper clutch is laminated to protect the paper from
14.5" x 6" x 2"
Newspaper Clutch

Recycled Subway Map Clutch
(recycled subway maps, cellophane)
Recycled NYC subway maps are woven together in a sturdy criss-cross pattern, and then covered in cellophane. Features: detachable plastic wristlet, zip closure, full lining.
8"L x 3.5"H x 2"W
(sorry this image is so small, for more detail, please click it)

Lightwire Pack by Patagonia
Was $105.00, Then $79.99, Now $63.99
From the leaders in environmentally sound gear, a daypack for daily trips to the office or day hikes in the mountains. Features a padded laptop compartment. (Fits laptops 13" x 10.5" x 2")
17.5" x 13.5" x 10"

Lightwire Pack (Closeout)

Solar Bicycle Bag by Eclipse
Was $149.95, Now $119.96
Bag mounts to a standard rear bicycle rack for a universal fit and ease of use. Features: single charge port with 1.5 Watts of power; accessory pockets; removable shoulder strap; front grab handle; top flap includes an integrated solar module designed to trickle charge your hand held electronics or extra batteries using a common 12V cigarette lighter adapter.
15" x 11" x 10"
Solar Bicycle Bag

25 July 2008

eating less: good for more than health

"Eat Less Fatso..."

This is something I've been thinking about lately -- that eating less is good for me and the planet. Now, I love to eat, and while I try to be a responsible eater, I can be a little indulgent sometimes. I don't think there's anything wrong with treating yourself once in a while, but it's neither healthy nor responsible to eat more than your share.

Maybe I'm not like most Americans when it comes to demanding large portions, but I find it off-putting when a restaurant serves a big pile of food that no human should consume in a single sitting. It's just wasteful. And I'm not just talking about the food waste, it goes deeper than that.

For every bite of food we eat, there was soil tilled, water sprayed, and fuel spent. If it was conventionally farmed, there were chemicals used. For meat, all of the aforementioned applies, as the animals were fed farmed and processed grain. Animal waste has to be managed. And their waste pollutes. Pollution control from farming is subsidized, as is the grain for animal feed. Not to mention the gaseous waste from the animals' rears, contributing to climate change. Or the fact that all of this animal farming takes up vast swaths of land, where trees were felled to make way for grazing habitat.

Once the raw products leave the farm, there's processing, and often packaging, involved. So eating minimally processed foods -- whole grains, fruit, vegetables, etc -- also helps reduce waste (and your waist).

As I was thinking about all of this, two articles came my way, reporting on the same study that says eating less is one of the best ways to save the planet. A couple of excerpts:

According to researchers, by just reducing junk food intake and converting to diets lower in meat, the average American could have a massive impact on fuel consumption as well as improving his or her health... They contend that the most dramatic reduction in energy used for food processing would come about if consumers reduced their demand for highly processed foods.

...the consumer is in the strongest position to contribute to a reduction in energy use. [The Economic Times]
A link to the abstract here (you can purchase the full journal article for $32).

24 July 2008

in search of a natural deodorizer

I need a deodorizer that doesn't just mask a smell with a lingering chemical odor. Specifically, I need something to get the stink out of my yoga mat. I've heard plain white vinegar will do the trick. According to the Green Goddess, a spritz of straight vodka will take care of the smell and kill the germs. She also says that 1 cup of water and 20 drops of essential oils like lavendar, tea tree oil, or lemon oil can handle it, but I don't have any of those on hand.

Maybe I'll try the vodka, though it does seem like a waste of good spirit. Spritz for mat, swig for me...
I'll let you know how it goes.

UPDATE: I couldn't bring myself to spill good vodka, so I gave my mat a bath of equal parts white vinegar and water (I happen to have a huge jug of white vinegar around just for cleaning purposes). It may have worked for now, but I fear I'll have to repeat this little process every time I use the mat, which is 3 times a week -- in a hot, sweaty bikram yoga studio. I may be investing in some tea tree oil; the spray solution will be easier and less wasteful of water.

little guardians of the lamp post

Funny what you notice when you actually take the time to listen.

Chirp chirp chirp.
A constant chorus of very demanding voices. Chirp chirp chirp! Where is that coming from?
Look up, in that metal tube perched high atop the pedestrian crossing lamp post. A sparrow feeding her babies.
Even in this bustling urban landscape there lies a tiny treasure trove of wildlife. In the city, the winged ones make do.
It's no anomaly. I've witnessed at least two more avian accommodations like it, on the same busy street.
In New York, we've got our own version of nature.

(Sparrow and Chick on Tube, Gary Roberts)

23 July 2008

take a sunshine break

Ok, granted, it's gloomy today here in NYC, but the intention's the same. When you're feeling the need for something -- a break of some kind -- in the middle of the day, do this:

  • Go outside and get a fresh dose of sunshine
  • Don't have a cigarette
  • Don't buy a coffee
  • Don't go on a 15-minute spending spree at the nearest boutique
Simply soak in the rays of that fiery ball in the sky. After all, that bit of Vitamin D will do you good. Just 10 minutes outside a day without sunscreen will help keep your bones healthy. And of course it's just nice to escape the cubical confines of the climate-controlled office.

22 July 2008

simple ways to reduce paper waste: part 2

Part 2 of 2
Read part 1 here

6. Drink from a reusable coffee cup

Save paper, save the water used to make the paper, and spare the dump another piece of rubbish. Pick your vessel!

"We are happy to serve you" ceramic mug

Sumo Emotions Cup [Uncommon Goods]

Oxo Good Grips Liquiseal Travel Mug

Photo Travel Mug - Silver 14oz

Customizable Photo Travel Mug - Silver 14oz [Kodak Gallery]

7. Use recycled paper products
Choose napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, and tissues made from paper, not from trees. Go with these brands that are both high quality and environmentally friendly:

AVOID: Bounty, Scott, Viva, Kleenex, Puffs, Charmin, Cottonelle (they're all made from trees!)

Better yet, opt for cloth napkins at meals, dish towels to clean up spills, and handkerchiefs to wipe your nose. Keep rags handy to wipe up really nasty spills.

8. Make your own greeting cards and wrapping paper
  • Turn old cards into new cards here
  • Repurpose old magazines before you toss them in the recycling bin. I like to cut out images from magazines and glue them to a piece of card stock or on an old or ugly card I have lying around
  • Use a colorful page of the newspaper to wrap gifts
  • Wrap gifts in a nice piece of fabric like a scarf, furoshiki style
  • Reuse tissue paper from clothing shops or gifts you've received
  • Take care when you open gifts and reuse the paper later on
If you don't have time to make your own, buy recycled. Here are some options:
Not sure if the card you want is recycled? Flip it over and take a look!

9. Use both sides
  • Making copies? Set the copy machine to print double sided. This can be done whether the original is 2-sided or not.
  • Finished with that printout? Flip it over and use it for note taking or doodling
10. Narrow the margins

The default setting for Microsoft Word margins is 1.25". You can make them narrower by selecting "Page Setup" (usually found in the "File" menu) and changing them to .75". Just think of all the paper you'll save when you're printing your novel or latest screenplay.

Join the Change the Margins campaign.

simple ways to reduce paper waste: part 1

Part 1 of 2

Junk mail, catalogs, bills, receipts, packaging, magazines, office paper, newspapers, wrapping paper, greeting cards, paper plates and cups, napkins, paper towel, toilet paper. The amount of paper in our lives is astounding. But there are so many easy ways to cut back on paper waste. You'll not only saves trees, you'll save water, money, and aggravation (especially when it comes to junk mail!).

1. Reduce junk mail and catalogs

  • Green Dimes: Their basic service is free, but you've got to opt out of each sender yourself. A $20 one-time fee gets you auto-opt out (including catalogs) and they'll plant 5 trees, too. $36 gets you all the stuff $20 gets you plus some extra goodies like CFLs.
  • 41 pounds: That's how much junk mail a person receives in a year. And it costs $41 for 5 years, with 1/3 of that going to the nonprofit of your choice. Like Green Dimes, they also let you opt out of catalogs
  • DMA (Direct Marketer's Association): It just takes $1 (sent by snail mail) to get off of mailing lists you don't want to be on. This is the service I used a few years ago and the only unwanted mail I get is from various charities I've given to since signing up.
  • Catalog Choice: It's free to join and you can opt out or opt in to as many catalog mailing lists as you want (as long as they're in their database, of course). You can check the status of your request (whether it's been accepted or not) whenever you sign in.
2. Cancel the paper and read the news online

3. Get your bills delivered via email
Check your bills and you'll probably see the option to have them sent by email, either as a checkbox directly on the bill (that you'll send via snail mail for the last time, see below) or by logging into your account online.

4. Pay bills online
Stop writing checks, save a stamp, an envelope, and the paper it takes to make those checks. It's so easy to set up, all you need is the payees address and your account info. But it varies from bank-to-bank so I won't go into the process here.

5. Plan your online purchases
Reduce cardboard and packing material waste. When buying stuff online from one vendor, make sure you purchase in bulk and choose the option to send the stuff in one shipment.

the joy of almonds

They're very low in cholesterol, a good source of protein and fiber, and tasty to boot. Slivered, sliced, toasted, salted, delicious and good for you. But do you know about the other wonderful ways to enjoy almonds?

almond milk
A good substitute for cow's milk or soy milk, almond milk is sweet, creamy, and lower in calories than its counterparts. It's a good source of vitamin E and a handful of beneficial minerals. It also has a smooth texture, as compared to soy or rice milk.
You can buy it pre-made (chocolate, vanilla, or plain), or make your own (I just love the use of "nut bag" in this recipe).

almond butter
More nutritious than peanut butter with less fat, too. I like it unsweetened, it's just naturally yummy. Again, you can buy it already made, make your own, or get one from one of those fancy grind-it-yourself nut butter machines (there's one at our Fairway in Red Hook, Bklyn).

21 July 2008

big plans

  • Largest solar power plant in US: Florida
  • World's biggest biogas plant: Germany
  • World's largest wind farm: Texas
  • World's largest rooftop solar array: Spain (GM)
  • Most ambitious renewable energy plan: Al Gore