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!
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It’s estimated that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans generate one million tons of waste a week. Holiday gift giving and decorating doesn’t have to sacrifice the environment – with some creative green thinking and action, you can have a festive holiday that is good for the planet, and maybe even your pocketbook! Here are Green Living Consulting’s tips for a Green Holiday:
Keep up the 3 R’s Through the Holidays
More than 8,000 tons of wrapping paper are used for presents – the equivalent of 50,000 trees. Try these eco-practices to reduce waste:
- Wrap gifts with paper that is made from recycled content or recyclable. I often use the off-white paper included in shipments and decorate using colored ribbon or stamps. Comic strips from the newspaper also make great wrapping paper.
- Buy gifts with minimal packaging and wrap in a reusable bag.
- Recycle wrapping and tissue paper, bags, and boxes after the gift unveiling is over.
- Send e-cards instead of buying and mailing holiday cards or buy cards made from recycled paper. Around 744 million holiday cards are sent each holiday season. If all these were made from recycled paper, it would help to save the equivalent of 248,000 trees!
Greener Tree Options
- The majority of Christmas trees are dumped in landfills every year, yet there are many uses for discarded trees. Old Christmas trees can be ground up and used for mulch. Some can be replanted and used for increased stabilization near waterways, preventing beach erosion, or fishing reefs. You can also plant your tree in your winter garden as decoration or as a bird feeder.
- You can buy plastic trees that you can reuse every year, but these trees often end up discarded after about 6 years, ending up in landfills. They also contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which produces cancer-causing dioxins during its manufacture and incineration.
- The ideal choice for a truly green tree is to buy a potted Christmas tree, available at farmer’s markets, garden centers, and some tree farms. After you’ve enjoyed it, you can celebrate the New Year by planting it outdoors or donate it to your local parks department. Visit earth911.org to find out where to recycle your tree!
Energy Efficient Holiday Lights
- Decorating your home with LED lights could reduce holiday lighting energy use by up to 95%. A typical 50-bulb incandescent strand of lights uses 250 watts and an equivalent 70-bulb LED strand uses only three watts. For a house that operates holiday lights for six hours a day through the month of December, with an energy price of 8.27 cents per kilowatt hour, six strands of incandescent holiday lights would cost over $23 to power versus a mere 28 cents for LEDs. By replacing the incandescent strands with LEDs, it would save you $22.79 in energy costs for the month.
- For outdoor decorating, you can buy Solar LED lights that charge by daylight and automatically turn on from dusk until dawn.
Don’t forget to always turn your lights off before going to bed at night!
Eco-friendly Ornament Options
- Buy Fair Trade Federation-certified ornaments that are lead-free and made from materials such as silk, wood, or gourds.
- Make your own ornaments out of gingerbread cookies, prior year’s Christmas cards, origami patterns, ribbons, and the old-time favorites like popcorn-and-cranberry garland.
Electronics and Batteries
If you receive electronic goods this season, don’t throw your old ones away. Dispose of them properly by:
- Returning old cell phones to your cell phone provide (many take them back and donate them to community organizations, battered women’s shelters, etc)
- Sell them at YouRenew.com and make money if they are still working or mail it to them anyway and they will recycle or dispose of properly.
- If you are buying toys or electrical goods that need batteries, buy rechargeable ones, then add a battery charger to your shopping list. Make sure to recycle those old batteries instead of tossing them in the trash (libraries often take old batteries or go to earth911.org for disposal locations near you!).
Shopping and Gift-Buying
Around 125,000 tons of plastic packaging are thrown away over the holiday season.
- Take your own reusable shopping bags when you do your shopping.
Get Green Gifts for Your Family and Friends
for some gifts that give back…
- Alternative Gifts International – support global humanitarian causes that will gladly accept a holiday donation in the name of a loved one. www.altgifts.org
- Tom’s Shoes – for every pair purchased Tom gives a pair of shoes to a child in need. www.tomsshoes.com
- Better World Books – Collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide. www.betterworld.com
New sweaters, scarves, jeans – all the items on your fashion wishlist were delivered by Santa and now you need room in your closet. If you do a clean-out, be sure to donate your old clothes to someone in need through your local church, Goodwill, or shelter. You might even check with a second-hand shop to see if they’ll consign or buy you used clothing. It would be new to someone else and give you a little extra $green$ in your pocket for your good green acts!
Don’t forget to make your New Year’s resolution to live greener in 2010!
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For those of us whose lifestyle and livelihood are focused on educating others about healthy, sustainable choices, it’s a always a feel-good moment to read that consumers are increasingly putting a high value on green products, and willing to spend a little extra $green$ to have them. I’ve been intrigued by the various studies and consumer polls that are showing a preference for green products despite the struggling economy. This may be a testament to the “less is more” philosophy but also “quality over quantity,” with a growing number of Americans committed to purchasing practices that are both socially and environmentally responsible, and also simply better for them.
A study by Miller Zell, Inc. reported that the “majority of shoppers polled indicated they would be most likely to pay a 10¢ premium for household products.” Interestingly, the study also showed that low-income shoppers were more willing to pay a 10¢ premium compared to middle and upper income groups.
Writer Basil Katz’s recent article, “Shoppers going green despite struggling economy” in Reuters said that “despite the worst U.S. recession in decades, sales of organic and sustainable products have continued to grow, with shoppers willing to spend a few more dollars in a bid to become more green.”
The article also reported that U.S. supermarket sales of environmentally sustainable or “ethical” products — from energy-efficient light bulbs to organic produce — will rise about 8.7 percent in 2009 to nearly $38 billion, according to a recent study by Packaged Facts, a market research provider.
Other excerpts from the article state that “President Barack Obama’s commitment to tackle climate change, a string of scandals over tainted food and effective marketing of sustainable products have helped convince more Americans, whose environmental credentials lag behind Europeans, to buy green.” And, that sales of goods specifically labeled organic rose 17 percent to $24.6 billion in 2008, according to the Organic Trade Association.
The Miller Zell study reported that women are more eco-conscious, closely followed by Gen Y. One of the frustrations with both of these groups, however, is the level of communication offered in-store about green products.This is something that I hear often from my household clients, especially when I educate them on pros and cons of certain green products.
For example, many people are willing to spend a little more money upfront on compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to save energy and money long-term, but many people are not aware that you should not throw CFLs in the trash (See Earth911.org for recycling centers), and that there are safety precautions if one should break in your home (See EPA guidance).
With an increasing number of consumers purchasing green products, companies producing them have a responsibility to be transparent about what makes their products green. Consumers also have some due diligence of their own to do in making sure they are not victim to green-washing.
Here are some resources that can help consumers determine what companies and their products have been vetted by a third party and are legitimately green:
Green America – offers a directory of green businesses that have been Green America approved
Green Seal – provides science-based environmental certification standards for products and services
Responsible Purchasing Network – an international network of buyers dedicated to socially responsible and environmentally sustainable purchasing
Green Guide – National Geographic’s buying guide for green products
With the holiday season in full force, there are many ways to be an environmentally responsible shopper and gift giver. Our West Coast sister company, Greenshops.com, has many green products to offer this holiday, and eco-labels to explain exactly what makes their products green. Enter Code GLC2009 for a 10% discount on your first purchase.
be well. live green.