Make Every day Earth Day by Dreaming of a 'Green' Christmas

by Michele McKay

The holiday season is a time of giving and receiving, but not many people think about what they can give back to Mother Earth. This year you can make your holiday celebrations eco-friendly – and in return, you will receive the knowledge that you have helped make your home and the planet a ‘greener’ place.

The holidays can be extra tough on the environment: extra waste is generated from packaging and wrappers, more gas is burned on shopping trips, and many megawatts of energy go into light displays. Celebrate the planet this year with these eco-friendly holiday tips:

  • Enjoy delicious, healthy holiday feasts vegetarian-style… no other single action causes more environmental destruction than raising animals for slaughter. Need recipes? Find them at www.downtoearth.org.
  • Just say “no” to wrapping paper. Decorate and reuse shopping bags, magazine pages, newspaper, tissue paper, boxes, tins, cloth… you name it.
  • Give ‘wrapperless’ and non-consuming gifts. How about a donation to a favorite charity or an ‘adoption’ program that helps endangered species or ecosystems? Or give the gift of an experience – a special meal or a ticket to an attraction/performance/event.
  • Make your own greeting cards from used materials, or go paperless altogether by phoning loved ones or sending electronic greetings.
  • Use canvas or ‘reused’ bags from home when shopping.
  • Save gas by combining shopping trips or by doing your shopping online.
  • Cut energy consumption by reducing the display time of your holiday lights.
  • Buy recycled. Purchase gifts or cards that are made of recycled materials. Look for the green ‘chasing arrows’ on packages, and support the companies that are making waste into new goods.
  • Recharge. If you are giving something that requires batteries, include rechargeable batteries and a charger with the gift.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle in holiday entertaining. Go with reusable dinnerware and cloth napkins, and recycle your beverage and other containers.
  • Have your Christmas tree chipped and composted. On O’ahu call 692-5410 or visit www.opala.org for more information. On Maui call 270-7874.
  • Or… here in the Islands it is easy to find an alternative to a cut tree. Live trees will bring years of enjoyment when planted outside after the holidays. Or get creative and decorate a beautiful tropical plant that can live indoors or outdoors.

Curbing Global Warming - Your Everyday Choices Make a Difference!

by Michele McKay

Burning fossil fuels (oil and petroleum) releases CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Here in Hawaii over 90% of the energy we use for electricity and transportation is produced by burning oil!

Reducing CO2 emissions can seem like an overwhelming challenge, but the choices we make in our everyday lives can help curb global warming. If you think you can’t make a difference, check out the results of taking these seven simple actions:

If all the readers* of this article would..

  • ...eliminate one pound of meat from their diet each week
    we would save 41,184,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...unplug their electronics when not in use
    we would save at least 4,745,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...reduce their driving by one mile every day
    we would save 1,752,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...turn the air conditioner thermostat up by 2 degrees in summer
    we would save 4,745,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...wash their clothes in cold water
    we would save 2,400,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...line-dry one load of laundry once a week
    we would save 836,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...replace one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL)
    we would save 730,000 pounds of CO2 per year

And if every reader took all seven actions we would save 56,392,000 pounds of CO2 per year!

Your actions do make a difference! Get started today… our planet will thank you.

For additional information from Hawaii on global warming visit www.climatecorps.org

Footnotes: 

* Based on 4,800 monthly recipients/readers of Down to Earth’s e-newsletter and website. To sign up for our free e-newsletter, visit www.downtoearth.org

The Great Diaper Debate

by Michele McKay

Cloth diapers vs. disposables... which is the more environmentally responsible choice? We all know that cloth diapers use water, while disposables use landfill space. But when you look a little closer, you will find other factors are involved.

Cloth Diaper Facts:

In the 2 ½ years from birth to toilet training, a baby will need a total of 3-6 dozen cloth diapers and around 25 diaper covers.

Benefits:

  • Cloth diapers use fewer raw materials than disposables
  • They generate much less solid waste
  • Fecal material goes into appropriate sewage systems, rather than into landfills
  • Handing down to other babies or recycling into rags provides many years of use

Negative impacts:

  • Laundering uses water, detergents and sanitizers

Disposable Diaper Facts:

Between birth and toilet training, a baby will use over 6,000 disposable diapers. 18 billion disposable diapers are used in the US each year, making up 30 percent of all our non-biodegradable landfill waste.

Benefits:

  • Disposables use less water than cloth diapers

Negative impacts:

  • Disposables require more raw materials than cloth diapers
  • They generate much more solid waste than cloth diapers
  • Each disposable diaper takes 500 years to decompose
  • Waste from disposable diapers could leach disease organisms into water supply
  • Dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known, is produced by the chlorine gas used in the manufacture of most disposables

Conclusion

There are several factors to consider when trying to make an environmentally responsible choice between cloth and disposable diapers. For many parents, using a combination may be the best option. Here in Hawaii, the best choice can vary from island to island – some areas may have a solid waste and landfill crisis, while others may have water or sewer shortages. One choice is clear: if you purchase disposables, make sure they are not treated with dioxin-producing chlorine. Chlorine-free diapers are available at Down to Earth stores.

Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Green to Go Veggie

by Michele McKay

As we think about Earth Day on April 22nd, many of us might be surprised to learn a very important fact about going veggie. What we choose to eat is one of the most significant factors in the personal impact we have on the environment and the fastest path to climate change. A recent study examining the impact of a typical week’s eating showed that plant-based diets are better for the environment than those based on meat. A vegan, organic diet had the smallest environmental impact while the single most damaging foodstuff was beef. All non-vegetarian diets require significantly greater amounts of environmental resources such as land and water.

It is noteworthy that the United Nations and many leading environmental organizations—including the National Audubon Society, the WorldWatch Institute, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists—have recognized that raising animals for food damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do. Whether it's unchecked air or water pollution, soil erosion, or the overuse of resources, raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth.

By going vegetarian an individual can help to...

  1. Reduce global warming
  2. Avoid excessive CO2 production
  3. Reduce methane/nitrous oxide production
  4. Save large amounts of water
  5. Avoid further pollution of our streams/rivers/oceans
  6. Reduce destruction of topsoil & tropical rainforest
  7. Reduce destruction of wildlife habitats & endangered species
  8. Reduce use of antibiotics, growth hormones, and chemicals
  9. Reduce ecological footprint
  10. Help ensure environmental sustainability

For better health and the sake of the innocent animals

The environmental arguments for adopting a vegetarian diet are strong, but many vegetarians simply believe that it is wrong to kill when there is no need. Others love and respect animals and want to minimize their suffering. Some vegetarians are specifically opposed to intensive farming and choose vegetarianism because it sends a strong signal, guarantees they won’t be eating an animal reared in appalling conditions, and avoids the distress experienced by all animals slaughtered for their meat. Whatever their reasons for giving up meat, vegetarians benefit from much more than a clear conscience, as they have lower rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

Footnotes: 

“Why it’s green to go vegetarian,” The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom: http://www.vegsoc.org/environment/why%20its%20green%20final%20small.pdf

Go Green Save Green

by Michele McKay

Need some good news for a financially challenging time? Here it is: you can help protect our planet and all its inhabitants, conserve energy and water resources, reduce global warming, and save money with everyday Earth-friendly choices! This is how:

Save with eco-friendly choices

  • Go veggie! Adopting a vegetarian diet is the single most important thing you can do for the environment, and your grocery budget will be pleasantly rewarded.
  • Buy organic, bulk, and local to help farmers and the planet, while benefiting from the savings associated with lower packaging, advertising, fuel, and agro-chemical costs.
  • Use earth-friendly, natural alternatives to expensive, toxic cleaners and pesticides.
  • Shop second-hand for clothing and household items. Buy only what you need.
  • Take durable bags when you shop – Down to Earth offers a credit of $.05/bag reused.
  • Reuse containers for food storage, work or school lunches, and take-out meals.
  • Save on paper by printing hard copies only when absolutely necessary.
  • Use rechargeable batteries – each one replaces dozens of throwaways.
  • Keep your parties and other events free of disposable plastic ware and balloons – you’ll cut costs while helping to protect marine mammals, birds, and sea turtles.

Save at the gas pump

  • Cut down on driving – walk, bike, take public transportation, or carpool with others.
  • Keep cars tuned up and tires properly inflated to maximize gas mileage.
  • Purchase only fuel-efficient cars.

Save on your electric and water bills

  • Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs to cut energy use by 75%.
  • Turn off lights and unplug appliances/electronics when they’re not being used.
  • Cut down on computer and TV time.
  • Lower the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees.
  • Select cold water when washing clothes; only wash full loads.
  • Give up the clothes dryer – use a line or rack to dry laundry.
  • Purchase Energy Star® rated appliances to improve energy efficiency by 30%.
  • Replace air conditioning with a fan; clean A/C filters regularly.
  • Take short showers; turn off water while soaping; install water-saving showerheads.
  • Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth or shaving.
  • Fix faucets and toilets that leak or drip.
  • Fill a gallon bottle with water and put it in the toilet tank to displace water.
  • Landscape with low-water plants, use mulch, and properly adjust all sprinklers.
  • Plant shade trees to naturally lower the air temperature of your house.

Leave a light footprint on the Earth as well as on your bank account…start saving today.

Twelve Green Gifts for the Earth

by Michele McKay

The Christmas season can be a challenge to our eco-consciousness: we pour energy into light displays, burn gas on shopping trips, wallow in packaging and wrapping paper, and spend money on gifts that cause more ecological harm than good.

But wait... there is a better way! In the spirit of the season, you can give the following ‘green’ gifts to the Earth. In return, you’ll receive the gift of knowing that you are contributing to an environmentally-healthy home, community, and planet.

  1. Enjoy delicious, wholesome, all-vegetarian holiday meals. No other single action causes more environmental destruction than raising animals for slaughter. Looking for some great vegetarian holiday recipes? Find them at www.downtoearth.org
  2. Reduce pollution and CO2 emissions by buying organic, natural, local products.
  3. Use LED holiday lights, cutting the energy drain of light displays by 80%.
  4. Give non-consuming gifts. Consider a donation to a preferred charity or to one of the ‘adoption’ programs designed to help endangered species or ecosystems. Or give the gift of a memorable experience: a special meal, a ticket to a concert or event, admission to a favorite park, museum or exhibit.
  5. Make your own greeting cards from used materials, or go paperless altogether by phoning loved ones or sending electronic greetings.
  6. Lose the wrapping paper. Instead, wrap gifts in used materials: shopping bags, magazine pages, comic strips, paper art projects, cloth, boxes or tins.
  7. Buy recycled. If purchasing gifts or cards, choose those made from recycled materials to ‘close the loop’ and encourage making waste into new products.
  8. Include rechargeable batteries and a charger with gifts that require batteries.
  9. Reduce, reuse, recycle in all your holiday shopping and entertaining. Take along reusable or pre-used bags when going out to shop. Buy groceries in bulk or in containers that can be recycled in your area. When gathering for meals, choose reusable dishes, cups, utensils, and cloth napkins rather than disposables.
  10. Save gas by combining shopping trips, taking the bus, or shopping online.
  11. Have your Christmas tree composted. On Oahu visit www.opala.org or call 768-3200 for more information. On Maui see www.co.maui.hi.us or call 270-7874.
  12. Buy a locally-grown Christmas tree or use a clever alternative – there’s no need to get a tree that’s been shipped all the way from the mainland! Purchase a Christmas tree from Helemano Farms on Oahu to save transport fuel and protect our islands from invasive organisms (www.helemanofarms.com). Or get creative: decorate a beautiful local plant that will thrive at your home, bringing memories and enjoyment long after the holidays.

Merry "Green" Christmas from Down To Earth!

Heal the Heart of Mother Earth

by Michele McKay

February is the month to express our caring for those we love – the perfect time to give a valentine to Mother Earth. When we give to the Earth from our hearts, we are also giving to ourselves because each of us is intrinsically a part of the Earth. When we make the effort to heal the Earth, we heal ourselves.

Healing valentines for Mother Earth can take many forms. Some involve an increase in our connection to nature, and others are actions to lighten our “footprint” on the planet.

Increasing Connection

There are many ways of taking healing action that will increase our connection to nature, and each person has his or her own preferences. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Consciousness – Observing, studying, listening, reading, and spending time in the natural environment will heighten our awareness of the condition of the Earth.
  • Intention – Directing our focus and intentions to healing the Earth. This can be done anywhere – it is the thought that counts.
  • Reverence – Cultivating reverence for nature through our own observations and through the study of other people’s experiences.

Leaving a Light Footprint

Our ecological “footprint” represents the ecological impact of our lives. Valentines to Mother Earth include treading lightly on her. Actions of highest priority are these:

  • Reduce or eliminate the consumption of animal-based products. (Consult your physician before making abrupt, substantial dietary changes.)
  • Avoid processed and packaged foods, and purchase organic, locally grown products whenever possible.
  • Minimize household waste and the use of electricity, water, and fossil fuels.

Commute or travel by public transportation, by carpools, and by biking or walking as often as possible.

Make Every day Earth Day by Keeping Meat Off Your Plate

by Michele McKay

Surveys indicate that three-quarters of Americans see themselves as having concern for the environment. Many of us make an effort to recycle, to reduce our energy and water consumption, and to protect our air, water, and ecosystems.

et many people who care deeply about the health of our planet do not realize that buying meat means that with every purchase they are supporting an industry that is the single largest contributor to environmental destruction. If we really want to help make the world a better place, we can not do it on a diet of animal flesh. Many environmental organizations – including the National Audubon Society and the Union of Concerned Scientists – now understand how much environmental havoc is being wreaked by raising animals for meat:

  • Pollution: In the United States, 130 times more sewage waste comes from factory farms than from people, causing more water pollution than any other activity. Rivers in 22 states and groundwater in 17 states have been polluted by animal excrement. The livestock industryis responsible for contamination of soils with pesticides and heavy metals, and for acid rain from ammonia emissions.
  • Water: Raising animals for food requires more water than all other uses put together. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat.
  • Soil erosion: Animal farming is responsible for 85 percent of soil erosion in the United States, and has already caused the permanent loss of three-fourths of our topsoil.
  • Fossil fuels, greenhouse gases, and air pollution: One-third of all fossil fuels used in this country go to factory farming, and are responsible for associated emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution.
  • Land use and world hunger: 80 percent of our agricultural land is used to raise farmed animals, and 70 percent of the grains that are grown in the United States are used to feed them. World hunger could be overcome if we fed grains to people, not animals.
  • Deforestation: In the United States and South America, many millions of square acres of forest and rainforest have been stripped in order to raise livestock for slaughter.

Beyond the environmental damage caused by the livestock industry, raising animals for meat inflicts pain and suffering in violent and inhumane slaughter practices.

As individuals, we can reject the environmental damage and the violence of factory farms/slaughterhouses by choosing a vegetarian diet. Truly informed environmentalists have no place for meat on their plate.

Leaving a Light Ecological Footprint

by Michele McKay

Island living naturally makes us aware that land and resources are limited and must be used wisely. This perspective helps us to understand the reality of our planet – an island in space, containing the essentials that we need to survive.

Our “ecological footprint” is our personal impact on this island home and on the planet. It represents all the land, water, and raw materials that go into our food/products/services, measured in terms of the amount of land needed to sustain our day-to-day lives.

According to the Global Footprint Network (www.footprintnetwork.org), calculating ecological footprints will help motivate people to take actions toward “…a world where humanity lives within the means of one planet.” They report that mankind’s collective ecological footprint is currently 23% greater than the Earth’s renewal capacity, causing:

  • Global warming
  • Topsoil depletion
  • Groundwater loss
  • Habitat destruction and species extinction
  • Petroleum, mineral, and ore depletion
  • Deforestation and desertification
  • Marine life/fishery collapse

What you can do:

Treading lightly on our islands and on the planet – leaving a small ecological footprint – will help create a sustainable world where our needs and the Earth’s ability to meet them are in balance. To measure your own ecological footprint, visit www.myfootprint.org or www.earthday.net and take the Ecological Footprint Quiz.

Then take action to reduce your footprint! Cutting greenhouse gas emissions and use of energy, water, and resources are the most important steps you can take toward a sustainable Hawaii, and a healthy, balanced planet:

  • #1 most important and impactful thing to do is reduce & essentially eliminate consumption of animal products by eating a plant-based, vegetarian diet.
  • Purchase locally produced, organic items whenever possible.
  • Walk, bike, carpool, or take public transportation instead of driving a car.
  • Buy only what you need, making Earth-friendly choices. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  • Cut electricity consumption: unplug electronics and turn off lights or A/C when not being used; install compact fluorescent bulbs; support renewable energy.
  • Conserve water by fixing drips and installing water-saving devices.

Surfing Eco-Revolution: Ride Green!

by Michele McKay

Surfing is great for health and fitness. But for the environment, Hawaii’s signature sport has two serious downsides: first, surfboards are made of highly toxic materials; second, the sport generates a vast amount of unusable waste, from production scraps to old, broken boards. The good news is that eco-surf innovators on Oahu and in California are changing all that – and they’re leading a green revolution in the surf industry!

Country Feeling Surfboards, on Oahu’s North Shore, shapes boards from blanks made of soy- and sugar-based foam. They use deck inlays of bamboo fiber, hemp, silk, and organic cotton, and they apply a sun-catalyzed resin that is 70% less toxic than typical resin. Kyle Bernhardt and Jeff Bushman of Country Feeling Surfboards share the belief that “Surfers subscribe to one universal truth: the ocean is where we find magic. We must recognize that if we don’t take care of our planet, the magic will disappear.”

Green Foam Blanks is a California eco-pioneer – the first ever to recycle scraps and discarded boards into surfboard blanks. Top surfers find them equal in performance and durability to boards made with toxic polyurethane foam. Matt "Mayhem" Biolos, Lost Surfboards’ renowned shaper, endorses the recycled blanks, saying, "The specks of stringer and colored glue dust adds character and defines their look. Starting immediately, we will offer Green Foam Blanks to anyone who wishes to get a board made."

How do old, broken boards and production scraps get recycled? A philanthropic Southern California organization, ReSurf Recycling, is ‘paving’ new ground by establishing drop-off collection sites at participating surf shops and factories. Old boards and the shaping waste from board manufacturers are collected, pulverized, and re-made into various products, including street pavement. According to ReSurf.org, “adding surfboard material to the asphalt mix aids the integrity of the asphalt, making it less rigid and more flexible – like a good surfer.” Co-partner Steve Cox says, "ReSurf Recycling has literally invented a system of transforming discarded surfboards and previously unusable waste into asphalt and concrete that can be used to pave city roads. It's our goal to have surfers driving to the beach on roads paved with their old boards and to recycle the estimated 250 tons of neoprene waste that is created from wetsuit scraps each year!" And what product is being made from neoprene wetsuit production scraps? Appropriately... yoga mats!

What you can do:

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