waste reduction

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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Live (and Give) Green This Holiday!

Posted on December 10, 2009. Filed under: green purchasing, living green, waste reduction | Tags: |

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!

Green Decorating

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

Indoor LED (light emitting diode) holiday lights run on about 1/10th of the energy of conventional lights. Since they produce no heat, they don’t present a fire risk, making them green and safe!

  • 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

Post-Holiday Clean-Out

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!

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!!


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