carbon footprint

A Green(ish) Destination Wedding in Costa Rica

Posted on March 28, 2010. Filed under: carbon footprint, living green, waste reduction | Tags: , , , , |

My husband and I just returned from our destination  wedding in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. It was incredible and a forever memorable trip. Because we wanted to keep it affordable and started planning only about 3 months ahead of time we didn’t have a ton of options. Luckily we narrowed down our location to Costa Rica and fairly quickly found a resort that would work.

Here is what I did to be as green as possible within our short time frame and budget:

1) Paperless Post invites. Paperless Post lets you select and customize stationary and envelopes that you send via email. There is a small cost for the “stamps” but the cost is minimal compared to the cost of customizing, printing, and mailing paper invitations. And there is no waste!

2) Beef-free Buffet.  We selected a resort that, while it didn’t have an eco-friendly rating despite the booming eco-tourism of Costa Rica (those we found that were eco-rated cost much more than our budget could afford and were all-inclusive, which wasn’t what we were going for). We were able to get a buffet menu and negotiated only to offer the amount of food per person rather than the minimum of 40 people (we only had 30). We also selected a menu of chicken and fish so we didn’t have the added carbon footprint of beef.

3) Local flowers. Our table decorations were very minimal and designed of only local tropical flowers, as were the flowers that decorated our cake.

4) Paper free. Despite having a reception in the garden right next to the beach, all of our serving ware was reusable with real plates, glasses, napkins and silver ware provided by the resort. We also went without programs. Some people may like the keepsakes, but we provided a very memorable experience for our guests without producing any additional waste, much of which would have likely blown into the ocean.

5) Walkable location. None of our guests needed a car. They were able to take shuttles from the Liberia Airport to the resort and Tamarindo and walk around town or take group shuttles to nearby activities.

6) BYO-Water Bottle. People may think this is just one more thing to remember on a trip, but on recent plane travel I have been bringing my own reusable water bottle. I keep it empty through security so it is not confiscated, and then on the plane have them fill it up with water so that I don’t waste a plastic cup and ensure I get more H20 to keep hydrated.

We had a perfect wedding, with the ocean in the background, all for under $4000 ($3000 more for total travel, hotel, meals, and transportation to and from airport, so about $7000 all said and done). A few green practices and some thrifty planning helped us have a wedding that had minimal environmental impact (airplane travel was the biggest impact for which we purchased carbon offsets for our travel) all for an incredibly affordable price by U.S. standards (I recently read that the average U.S. weddings costs $25,000 and D.C. – where we live – averages $45,000).

Adopting a few eco-practices can help you be green and save green, while still having a wedding celebration that is every bit as memorable for you and your guests as one that costs thousands more.

be well. live green.

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Show Some Love to the Planet

Posted on February 14, 2010. Filed under: carbon footprint, green business, green home, green purchasing, living green, waste reduction | Tags: , , , , , , , |

It’s Valentine’s Day. If you are embracing a loving spirit today and sending some love to those important people in your life, why not throw Mother Earth into that mix. I have to admit that after more than a week of battling record snowfall in Washington D.C. I’m not loving Mama Earth so much and may have even muttered a “so much for global warming” under my breathe after the 20th time of shoveling my way out of my house – BUT – a day of sunshine and glistening snow had me feeling a little less bitter, and reflecting more about weather, climate change, and our environmental responsibilities regardless of how hot or cold it is on any given day or week.

A Sunday opinion article in today’s Washington Post, “Global Warming’s Snowball Fight,” shed some light on the climate change challenge and raised some questions about whether the recent weather patterns have officially shoved climate change legislation to the backburner. A few comments I’d like to share from the article:

  • Christine Todd Whitman, who since leaving the EPA is President of the Whitman Strategy Group: “Calling what is happening simply “global warming” is misleading. There will be many changes along the way, including colder temperatures. (…) Let’s not forget that 10 of the past 11 years were the warmest on record.”
  • David G. Hawkins, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate change programs: “Just as a group of cancer-free, cigarette-smoking 75 year-olds does not disprove that smoking causes cancer, a handful of snowstorms does not counter massive evidence that we are changing the Earth’s climate.”
  • Ed Rogers, White House staffer to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; chairman of the BGR group: “There is global climate science and then there is the Global Warming Movement. (…) The movement was already dead in Congress in 2010, but Snowmageddon buried it. At least for a while, the left will have to think up a new way to dictate a lifestyle for the rest of us. Maybe now the science can continue without the clumsy overreaching of the movement’s priestly class.”

Quite different perspectives from different sides of the aisle. And this debate will likely continue for as long as I am still alive. In another article in the Washington Post today, writer Bill McKibben shed some interesting light on the cold weather effect of global warming: “…Rising temperature is only one effect of climate change. Probably more crucially, warmer air holds more water vapor than cold air does. The increased evaporation from land and sea leads to more drought but also to more precipitation, since what goes up eventually comes down. (…) global warming has added 4% more moisture to the atmosphere since 1970 [which] means the number of ‘extreme events’ such as downpours and floods has grown steadily.”

While we continue to examine the scientific evidence of climate change, shuffle legislation from the House to Senate and back to the review files, hold meetings in Copenhagen or other cities around the globe, why not take a few simple actions in the meantime. It may not prevent another historic snowfall in Washington DC this winter, but certainly won’t hurt any of us to show a little love to the planet!

A few ideas to live greener, showing some love to Mother Earth and your Valentine(s):

  • Reuse: Get creative with things collecting dust in your junk drawer. Courtesy of treehugger.com, design your own necklace out of old keys.
  • Be an Eco-traveler: Check out these sites for ways to support businesses making a commitment to green while you enjoy a little R&R.
  • Recreate: Got roses from your sweetheart? Turn them into a natural skin enhancer.
  • Improvise: Skip the restaurant. Hit the farmer’s market. Have nice candlelit dinner at home, probably saving money and CO2 emissions.

None of these green actions are destined to have a significant impact on reducing carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases, but every little step helps. Less waste, less travel, supporting a green supply chain – all these efforts add up. So don’t be afraid to show some love to your planet by saying and doing more with less. Your loved ones might also appreciate your thought and creativity!

be well. live green.

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Green Cleaning- Good For the Health of You and the Planet

Posted on January 18, 2010. Filed under: air quality, carbon footprint, green home, living green | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

While there are many green practices worth adopting, switching to green cleaning products is one of those actions I advocate for both as a way of helping the environment but also of protecting our own health.

Why Switch to Green Cleaning Products?

A Safer Home

Each day, families are put to risk by household cleaning products found throughout their homes, most of which are unregulated and untested, and many whose toxic ingredients are not disclosed on labels. According to National Geographic, only about 30% of the roughly 17,000 chemicals found in household products, including those used for cleaning, have been sufficiently tested for their effects on human health. Healthier and safer cleaning products offer natural, non-toxic, and biodegradable alternatives that are just as effective as synthetic chemical cleaners.

A Safer Environment

The use of synthetic cleaners has adverse effects on air and water quality, as well as land-based environmental concerns. Many of the chemicals in household cleaners are harmful not only in their use, but also in their manufacturing process. For example, the first step in bleach production produces dioxin as a byproduct—a chemical that has been identified as a carcinogen and has been linked to birth defects and genetic changes. Natural cleaners are manufactured in a way to leave the smallest impact possible on the environment and the healthiest atmosphere in our homes.

How to be Green and Clean

Don’t Be Green-Washed

The search for truly green products may not be as easy as reading “organic” on a label.  Many companies engage in greenwashing practices, including words such as “organic,” “eco-friendly,” “biodegradable,” and “non-toxic” on their labels to make products more appealing to consumers. Unfortunately, these claims are often unverifiable and meaningless.  Look for products with full ingredient disclosure or third party certifications to ensure that product claims are substantiated.  Independent groups such as Green Seal, Cradle To Cradle, the Leaping Bunny and the EPA’s Design for the Environment program analyze product ingredients and certify that those chemicals don’t pose harm to your health or to the environment. My rule of thumb is to buy products with less than 5 ingredients and with names that I can pronounce and recognize. I also look for products packaged in post-consumer recycled materials or that offer refills to  further reduce environmental impact.

The Bleach Debate

It has been argued that because bleach breaks down into salt and water, it can be considered biodegradable and does not necessarily pose an environmental hazard. Bleach is a popular cleaning product because it is effective on a wide range of bacteria and viruses and has the added benefit of being cheap. However, despite the fact that bleach breaks down when released into the environment, it is an eye and lung irritant and mixing bleach with other acids (such as vinegar) can produce dangerous and potentially lethal fumes. Furthermore, the manufacturing process of bleach creates the known carcinogen dioxin as a toxic byproduct. It is best to find alternatives to bleach to ensure both a healthier planet and home.

Some Good Green Cleaners

  • Better Life. This company was started by two dads, one a chemist, the other a greenie. This is the most effective green cleaning line I have used to-date and one that I use in my home for every surface.  Buy in DC: ACE Hardware locations, Green Living Consulting. Online: Walgreens.com, Drugstore.com. Delight.com.
  • BioKleen. Family-owned, with all products receiving a third party review. Order through Greenshops.com
  • Ecover. Belgian company that started making eco-friendly products in 1980. In DC: Whole Foods, Yes Organic Market, Nora, Java Green, Brookville Supermarket. Online: HerbTrader.com
  • Mrs. Meyers. Biodegradbale, phosphate free and made with essential oils. In DC: Ace Hardware, Bed Bath & Beyond, Container Store, Dean and Deluca, Greater Goods, Whole Foods, Frager’s Hardware.

National Geographic’s Green Guide also reviews and sells products that meet their environmental criteria.

Green Cleaning Recipes and Tips

Vinegar

Vinegar naturally cleans like an all-purpose cleaner. Mix a solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar in a new spray bottle and you have a solution that will clean most areas of your home. Vinegar is a great natural cleaning product as well as a disinfectant and deodorizer. Always test on an inconspicuous area. It is safe to use on most surfaces and has the added bonus of being incredibly cheap. Improperly diluted vinegar is acidic and can eat away at tile grout. Never use vinegar on marble surfaces. Don’t worry about your home smelling like vinegar. The smell disappears when it dries.

Here are some uses for vinegar in the rooms of your house:

Bathroom – Clean the bathtub, toilet, sink, and countertops. Use pure vinegar in the toilet bowl to get rid of rings. Flush the toilet to allow the water level to go down. Pour the undiluted vinegar around the inside of the rim. Scrub down the bowl. Mop the floor in the bathroom with a vinegar/water solution. The substance will also eat away the soap scum and hard water stains on your fixtures and tile. Make sure it is safe to use with your tile.

Kitchen- Clean the stovetop, appliances, countertops, and floor.

Laundry Room- Use vinegar as a natural fabric softener. This can be especially helpful for families who have sensitive skin. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle in place of store bought fabric softener. Vinegar has the added benefit of breaking down laundry detergent more effectively. (A plus when you have a family member whose skin detects every trace of detergent.)

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is another natural substance that can be used to clean your home. Lemon juice can be used to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits. Lemon is a great substance to clean and shine brass and copper. Lemon juice can be mixed with vinegar and or baking soda to make cleaning pastes. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on the cut section. Use the lemon to scrub dishes, surfaces, and stains. You can also put a whole lemon peel through the garbage disposal. It freshens the drain and the kitchen. Orange peels can be used with the same results.

Baking Soda

Baking soda can be used to scrub surfaces in much the same way as commercial abrasive cleansers. Baking soda is great as a deodorizer. Place a box in the refrigerator and freezer to absorb odors. Put it anywhere you need deodorizing action.

Olive Oil/Lemon Juice

Mix together 1 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup lemon juice to create a homemade furniture polish. Mix together in a clean new spray bottle. To use, remember to shake before each application. Apply a small portion to your cleaning cloth. Spread the polish over the furniture, trying to polish evenly. Use another clean cloth to polish the surface dry.

be well. live green.

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GLC Green Tips: How to Reduce Junk Mail

Posted on November 9, 2009. Filed under: carbon footprint, waste reduction |

Did you know that approximately 4 million tons of junk mail are sent every year? The U.S. spends 340 million dollars to dispose of that junk mail, often with it going straight from the mailbox to the trash. That’s a true waste on a lot of different levels.

Here are some simple steps you can take to reduce junk mail:

1) Catalogs – call number on catalog and ask to remove your name. This can be time consuming, especially when you account for holding times and navigating the automated voice messaging systems of most businesses today. But it’s a start and if you don’t have that many then an easy fix.

2) For first class mail – cross out your name and address, circle and write Refuse, Return to Sender.

3) Credit offers – call 1-888-5 OPTOUT  (1-888-567-8688) or go to https://www.optoutprescreen.com

4) Coupons – Val-Pak or Velassis, call and ask to be taken off list. There is usually a number on the packet (you may have to hunt a bit).

5) Hire someone to do the dirty work for you! There are various organizations/companies that you can pay to remove you from lists and help you manage unwanted mail. One we recommend is Precycle. Formerly Green Dimes, Planet Green and Tonic.com partnered to form Precycle (better than recycle because you stop it before it hits the bin). There is a one-time fee of $36 + shipping and handling. You receive a kit for stopping unwanted mail. They plant 5 trees. Sign up at http://precycle.tonic.com.  You might also check out DMA Choice – an organization that will also help you manage which marketing lists you want to be on versus those you don’t. It also helps you with email subscriptions.  Call  888-567-8688 or visit www.dmachoice.org

Check out Green Living Consulting’s West Coast Partners on Bakersfield news giving Junk Mail tips!!

http://www.bakersfieldnow.com/mornings/64015477.html?video=YHI&t=a

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Plastic vs. Paper: Which is the Eco-Friendly Choice?

Posted on October 15, 2009. Filed under: carbon footprint, energy efficiency, living green |

The Plastic vs. Paper has been an on-going debate in the environmental world, and one that Everyday Health recently decided to talk to us about. Find out which one we said is the more eco-friendly choice in Diana Rodriguez’s article:

Paper vs. Plastic: Making an Environmentally Friendly Choice

One of our favorite analyses of this issue was done by the Washington Post. Click on image below to link to the original source so you can actually read the report – you might be surprised by what you find out! I also find this to be one of those  debates where you really have to get to the bottom of both sides of the issue, and even consider something you didn’t think of before to make the choice that is best for the environment.

~ be well. live green.

Adrienne

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Achieving Nirvana through Vegetarian Indian Food and Green Operations

Posted on October 1, 2009. Filed under: carbon footprint, green business, living green |

Nirvana Indian restaurant, one of Green Living Consulting’s newest clients, recently achieved a SILVER certification for its green operations. As a lunch and dinner service in the heart of DC’s downtown area, Nirvana’s vegetarian-only menu is the perfect option for lowering your carbon footprint (see below for how going veggie one day a week can reduce your environmental impact). Combining a wide range of Indian flavors that change daily, the Shah family owners present their take on the eight-fold path to Nirvana through their delicious food.

Nirvana will be participating in the Washington DC Green Festival, October 10-11, as one of the select food vendors at the event.

Stay tuned for more information about Nirvana and their green efforts!

Now, here are some stats I recently read in article posted by a Huffington Post writer on the Startling Effects of Going Vegetarian for One Day:

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:

● 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;

● 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;

● 70 million gallons of gas — enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;

● 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;

● 33 tons of antibiotics.

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent:

● Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;

● 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;

● 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;

● Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.

be well. live green.

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