Monthly Archives: March 2010

Is It a Good Thing That Eco Friendly is Trendy?

Lots of people are hopping on the green bandwagon these days. Eco friendly products are appearing all over store shelves, even at Walmart. You can buy cheap, environmentally friendly good and you can buy designer eco friendly products. It’s quite a change from just a few years ago.

But is it a good change?

It is and it isn’t, in a lot of ways.

It is good because it means more people are thinking about the environment as they shop. It’s good that more goods are being made from renewable resources. It’s good that more goods made from recycled materials are available.

It’s bad in that it is nothing more than a way to show trendiness for a lot of people. Being eco chic is just another kind of consumerism in many cases. The thoughts are heading in the right direction, but they just haven’t gone far enough.

It’s bad that as a trendy lifestyle some people aren’t as committed to the environment as they want others to think. They’re talking about it, but they aren’t doing. Aren’t cutting back. Aren’t planting gardens. Aren’t enjoying simplicity.

It will be interesting to see how things go over the next many years. Will eco friendly products be more or less popular? Will more people understand that you need to consume less, not just change the types of things they consume.

It is good that the current popularity of being eco friendly means more interest in things that can make a big difference. The trendiness of finding alternative energy sources gives us the chance that they will become more affordable and practical in years to come. That’s wonderful.

It’s good that businesses are realizing how much more environmentally friendly practices can save them in some areas. Not in all areas sadly, which is why products will continue for some time to be made in ways that have a high environmental and human cost.

It’s good that with the introduction to being eco friendly as a trend more people will recognize in time that there’s more to it than buying a dozen organic cotton sheets. That they need to reign in their habits as consumers.

But it’s bad that so many figure that because they’re buying eco friendly, they can keep on shopping. Keep on consuming because, darn it, they’re doing something good for the environment, right?

It takes time to get the lesson across that even eco friendly has an environmental cost. That the cost is less than conventionally produced products, bu that it isn’t zero. It’s not a happy lesson. But it’s vital.

Would a Kitchen Compost Pail Help Your Composting Efforts?

For some people, composting is something that just comes naturally. For others, it’s quite a challenge. Somehow it just doesn’t click into their kitchen routine.

How can you make it easier?

A simple way to make composting something you don’t have to go out of your way for is to keep a composting pail in your kitchen. It’s just a container where the food scraps go until you can take them all out to the compost pile.

You can keep this very simple if you like. My mother uses old coffee containers as compost pails. She keeps three or so under the sink. They seal tightly enough that smell is not a problem so long as the lid remains shut. They work great and she didn’t have to buy anything.

Other people may prefer to buy a compost pail. There can be advantages to buying something made for the job. Many come with carbon filters to help ensure that the smell is kept under control, for example. They can also look better so that you don’t have to keep them out of sight if you will do better having them in sight.

Some pails are designed to do the entire job of composting. This is handy if you don’t have the space outside for a compost pile. They use an anaerobic fermentation to break down the compost without a major stink. The product that helps with this process is called Bokashi.

In either case, you’re going to have to make some effort. Basic kitchen composters need their contents added to your main compost pile regularly. Anerobic containers need to be closed up for about two weeks after being filled before you can move the compost out, and so you may need more than one container.

One fear many people have about composting indoors is that flies or other insects will be attracted. This should not be a problem with a properly cared for compost pail. Keep the lid sealed tight when you aren’t putting scraps into it. Wash it inside and out periodically. With the proper care you aren’t likely to develop any problems.

Composting is a simple way to improve your garden and decrease the waste you throw in the trash. It’s one thing you can do for the environment that takes a fairly basic change in your routine and a low cost to get started. You’re going to have to do something with those veggie scraps anyhow, even if it’s just throwing them in the trash. Makes more sense to throw them into a compost pail.

Build Healthy Habits for Yourself, Your Family and the Environment

How active are you? Are you trying to get more active? And what about your eating habits? Ready to improve them?

Your own health should be a great motivator for having healthy habits. But if you need a little more motivation, think about how healthy habits will impact your family and benefit the environment as well.

Healthy Eating Habits

Here in the United States, most of us eat way too much meat for our health. Average meat consumption has gone up significantly in recent decades.

This doesn’t just effect your health. It effects your family and the environment.

The effect on you can be in terms of increased weight, high cholesterol and other health problems. As you probably mostly eat together as a family, these problems can potentially effect your children down the line as well.

Meat has a high environmental cost too. It takes land, water and food to raise meat animals. Their food must be grown, which means still land and water use, and most often pesticides and chemical fertilizers as well.

Eating less meat or cutting it out entirely means that the impact of your eating habits on the environment is less. It often means you’re eating healthier foods as well. That means you’re probably also teaching your family better eating habits.

Certainly there are ways to have unhealthy eating habits without meat, but if you are conscious about what you’re eating in general you’ll develop good habits.

Try growing a garden or buying your produce from a co-op, CSA or at the farmer’s market. Get lots of fresh produce into your diet. Fresh produce is very different from produce that was picked too early to make it to the supermarket.

Eco Friendly Fitness Habits

Getting fit doesn’t have to take place just in the gym. It’s a lot more fun to do some exercises outdoors.

Most gyms aren’t precisely environmentally friendly. There’s a benefit to using gear that is used by others rather than having a home gym certainly, but gyms use other resources as well, such as water and electricity. Most don’t have a focus on keeping things at all green. It’s about exercise.

Find a good place in your area to walk, ride a bike, go hiking and so forth. Some communities even have fitness routes set up with stations to help you with basic exercises.

Exercising outside has a lot of advantages. It’s essentially free. You can take the kids along if you like for no extra charge. You don’t have to feel as though you’re the least fit in the area. You probably won’t have to wait in line to do any part of your workout. And of course you can find a truly beautiful place to exercise. There’s nothing like building an appreciation for nature as you get fit.

How to Use Less Plastic in Your Kitchen

There are many good reasons to use less plastic in your life. It comes from petroleum, a limited resource. Plastic itself is not good for the environment, and does not degrade well. Some types have BPA, which is a potential endocrine disruptor.

Yet it makes many appearances in most kitchens. How do you avoid it?

At the Grocery Store

When you’re buying food at the grocery store you’re likely to see quite a bit of plastic being used. Wouldn’t you like to avoid it?

In the meat department, rather than buying prepackaged meats you can go to the butcher counter and get the amount you want wrapped in butcher paper in many stores. Some will still use plastic bags to help prevent dripping with certain meats.

When selecting fresh produce, your best bet is to bring your own bags. You can buy inexpensive reusable bags made from lightweight materials very easily. Some even have their tare weight on a tag so the clerk can subtract that from your total.

Milk and juice often come in plastic bottles, but you have options. You can often find them in paper cartons, and sometimes even in glass bottles.

I’m not even going to get into bottled water here. There’s rarely a good reason to buy bottled water from the grocery store. Fill up a reusable bottle at home, using a filter if you really feel the need.

Food Storage

You don’t need to store your food in plastic containers either. Before plastic got so popular, glass containers were used. You can still buy them new or find them at thrift stores, garage sales and so forth.

The main risk with glass is of course that it will be dropped and broken. You do need to be a little careful. But it’s not at bad as you may think. Most glass storage containers are made with fairly thick, good quality glass. They’re not made to break all that easily.

If you’re preparing snacks or meals for on the go, have reusable supplies ready. A good quality lunch bag, small reusable cloth bags, drink bottles and stainless steel containers can all help you to avoid plastic use when you’re taking food with you.

Heating Food in the Microwave

It’s just a habit for many people to use plastic in the microwave. Plastic doesn’t get so darn hot as glass or other containers in the microwave.

The trouble is that heating plastic leads to leeching of BPA and such if present.

Once again, think about your glass containers. Check to be sure they’re microwave safe first, and use a hot pad to take your food out of the microwave.

You don’t need to cover food with plastic wrap to prevent splatters either. An appropriately sized plate on top will do the job quite nicely. You could also use a lid from a plastic container if you like, so long as it’s not touching the food.

How Many Children Can You Have and Still Be Green?

Like it or not, family size greatly impacts your environmental footprint. You can hand down clothes and toys, buy used, eat organic food and so forth, but there’s still an impact when you have more children.

Is that something to feel bad about when you’re trying to be environmentally friendly?

It’s easy to feel a bit of green guilt when you have more than one or two children. I say this as a mother of three. I don’t regret any of my kids, but I’m well aware of the fact that they’re an additional impact on the environment. I can limit the impact now, but it’s going to increase as they get older no matter what I do.

I’m not about to tell anyone how big their family should be. That’s a personal decision. But I do strongly recommend being as environmentally friendly with them as they grow up, and hope that they continue the practices as adults. Not all do, you know.

This is a tangled issue. On the one hand, a growing population overall is hard on the environment. We only have so many resources.

On the other hand, a shrinking population is brutal on the economy. Just how do you support an aging population without a lot of younger people?

In many developed countries, the population is shrinking anyhow. Parents on average are having fewer children than the population replacement rate. Is it then a problem to have more children when the population overall is shrinking, or is it a social good?

I have all these questions. But there aren’t easy answers.

But there are some answers for when your children are growing up and living in your home. You can consume fewer resources as a family. Delight in thrift stores and hand me downs. Enjoy regular vegetarian meals, and if you eat meat, serve smaller portions of it.

Take steps to be more environmentally friendly in your family’s lifestyle. How many televisions does your home really need? How many computers? Do you really need to upgrade before a complete breakdown? Is repair practical?

Start a family garden. Go hiking. Clean up trash. Volunteer for a good cause.

These are things you can do no matter your family size that can make a positive difference in the world. Talk to your children about why you do the things you do. Teach them to make good lifestyle decisions in all aspects of their lives. Teach them that happiness does not depend on having “things.”

The average consumption of resources in the United States is such that it would take 5 Earths to support humanity if everyone lived as the average American does. Think about that as you raise your family and teach them to consume fewer resources as best you can.

But no matter how many children you have, or how many you think are the limit for an eco friendly family, don’t judge those who have more children or fewer. There’s a lot more to the question than just “is it green?” sometimes.