Make Every Day Earth Day - And Put the Brakes on Global Warming

by Michele McKay

Global warming - the rising of temperatures across the planet - is caused by human activities associated with industrialization, economic development, and deforestation. The carbon dioxide emissions that result are thinning our earth's ozone layer and trapping heat inside the atmosphere. Global warming has accelerated in the past two decades, and increasing temperatures will gradually cause devastating changes on our planet. Here in the Pacific region, these impacts can be observed in the rising of sea levels and the degradation of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.

It is possible for each of us to make a difference in the global warming process by helping to reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. You can do your part by following these Every Day = Earth Day practices:

  • Instead of driving alone in your car, join a carpool, take mass transit, walk, or ride a bike – anything that reduces the amount of gasoline you use. For every single gallon of gasoline burned, 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are shot into the atmosphere.
  • When you do drive, keep your car tuned up and its tires properly inflated to save on fuel costs as well as to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
  • The next time you buy a car, choose one that is highly fuel-efficient.
  • Replace inefficient incandescent light bulbs with new compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • Turn off your TV, video player, stereo, computer, lights and fans when you aren't using them.
  • Develop a plan to reduce daily electricity use around your home. Ask each member of your household to take responsibility for a different electricity-saving action.
  • Make an effort to cut down on meat consumption and to buy organic produce.
  • The next time you buy an appliance, purchase an energy-efficient model. Look for the Energy Star rating, awarded by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Install solar rooftop water heating and photovoltaic systems if possible.
  • Move closer to work if feasable. Reducing or eliminating your commute will save time, money, and energy.

Practice the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle to lower overall energy consumption.

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 Veggie for the Environment

by Michele McKay

Many readers care deeply about the health of our planet – you make an effort to recycle, to cut energy and water use, and to protect the Earth’s air, water, and ecosystems. But are you aware that your choice of food is the single most important decision you make for the Earth? Eating meat supports the very industry that is causing the greatest environmental destruction worldwide! In choosing a plant-based, vegetarian diet you can elect to:

Help reduce global warming

Raising animals for food generates more ‘greenhouse gas’ than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.1 In addition to CO2, the livestock industry produces other greenhouse gases with even higher global warming potentials: methane (23 times that of CO2), nitrous oxide (300 times that of CO2), and ammonia. And, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just 8 years, as opposed to 100 years for CO2. Reducing the demand for meat would rapidly lower atmospheric methane, a key contributor to global warming.2

Save vast amounts of water

Producing one pound of beef requires approximately 2,500 gallons of water, whereas a pound of soy requires 250 gallons of water, and a pound of wheat only 25 gallons.

Avoid pollution of waterways

Farmed animals produce about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the US, yet factory farms don't have sewage treatment systems. Manure, antibiotics, growth hormones, fertilizers, pesticides, and other livestock-related pollutants foul our rivers and streams, and enter the human food chain through water supplies.3

Reduce the loss of biodiversity and wildlife habitat

30% of the earth’s entire land surface (or, put another way, 70% of all agricultural land) is used for livestock.4 In the Amazon region, rainforests are being cut and burned to create pastures, thus releasing CO2 and causing incalculable loss of plant and animal species.5

Ensure environmental sustainability

Demand for meat is expected to double by the year 2050. Producing animal flesh requires up to three times as many resources as producing plant-based food.6 Do the math! Pollution, global warming, habitat destruction, species loss, demand for water, and strain on land use will only get catastrophically worse. A vegetarian diet is our best step toward environmental sustainability.

What you can do

Shrink your ecological footprint by going veggie! You will be doing something nice for the planet – and the animals that share it with us – every time you eat.

Footnotes: 
  1. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
  2. EarthSave, “EarthSave Report: “A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes,” Noam Mohr, Aug. 2005: http://earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm
  3. Ed Ayres, "Will We Still Eat Meat?" Time, 8 Nov. 1999: http://www.time.com/time/reports/v21/health/meat_mag.html
  4. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options. Rome. http://www.virtualcentre.org/en/library/key_pub/longshad/A0701E00.htm
  5. White, T. 2000. Diet and the distribution of environmental impact. Ecological Economics. 34, 145-153.
  6. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options. Rome: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e00.pdf

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.

A Recyclers’ Guide to Oahu and Maui

by Michele McKay

Approximately 800 million beverage containers are sold in Hawaii each year – that’s a lot of plastic, aluminum, and glass! The HI-5 program is helping to keep these materials out of landfills through a 5-cent deposit redemption, and the City & County of Honolulu is evaluating options for curbside recycling following a voter-approved charter amendment.

Recycling saves energy and water, lowers pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, improves air and water quality, reduces waste, and protects the land and its resources. To encourage recycling, Down to Earth offers this how-to guide for Oahu and Maui:

Where to recycle

On Oahu

  • HI-5 beverage containers can be recycled for 5 cents each at the RRR Recycling Services mobile “reverse vending machine” trucks, and at the Reynolds Recycling redemption centers.
  • Recyclables can be dropped-off in the bins located at 76 schools and shopping centers around the island. These take glass, aluminum cans, plastic, newspaper, cardboard, and white or colored office paper. Some neighborhoods have curbside recycling (we may see more in the future), and many have green waste pickup.
  • For redemption center and drop-off bin locations or other recycling information, visit www.opala.org, or contact info@opala.org or 692-5410.

On Maui

How to recycle

  • Glass, aluminum cans, plastic beverage bottles: Rinse, remove lids. Labels are OK.
  • NO plastic bags, food tubs, hard plastic, styrofoam, shrink wrap, foam rubber, ceramics, light bulbs, window glass, steel/tin cans, scrap metals, lawn furniture, building materials.
  • Newspaper, cardboard, office paper: Includes newspapers, corrugated cardboard, boxboard (cereal boxes), brown paper bags, office paper (boxed or paper-bagged).
  • NO magazines, telephone books, milk/juice cartons, wax-coated cardboard, food residue, plastic bags, rubber bands, string. Do not tie in bundles. Boxes must be flattened.
  • Tin cans, scrap metal: Oahu H-Power reclaims metals such as tin cans from trash. Steel, aluminum, copper, brass, and other metals can be recycled through scrap dealers on both Oahu and Maui. They can be found in the yellow pages under “Scrap Metals.”

Recycling... More Than Just a Good Idea!

by Michele McKay

Recycling is one of the easiest, most tangible ways of taking action for the planet. It’s a visible demonstration of caring and conservation, and it sets a positive example for children, families and communities. Recycling is a feel-good activity… but does it actually help the environment? You bet it does!

How recycling benefits the planet

Recycling saves energy and water, lowers pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, improves air and water quality, preserves landfill space and conserves natural resources. It doesn’t make sense to use paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, steel, and petroleum products once and then throw them away! We can benefit from the raw materials and energy that have already gone into their production. Recycling is cleaner and more energy-efficient than mining, refining, and processing new items from raw resources.

Did you know?

  • Recycling a 4’ stack of newspaper yields as much paper pulp as a 40’ pine tree.
  • Recycled paper makes 55% less air and water pollution than wood-pulp paper.
  • Recycled paper can be made by using just a few non-hazardous chemicals, while virgin paper is produced with hundreds of hazardous and highly toxic chemicals.
  • Recycling 16 aluminum cans saves the energy equivalent of 1 gallon of gasoline.
  • Recycling aluminum generates 96% less air/water pollution than refining raw ore.
  • Recycled aluminum cans may be back on the shelf in as little as 60 days.
  • Recycling plastic and motor oil reduces pollution and the need to drill for new oil.
  • Recycling motor oil protects clean water – 1 quart will pollute 250,000 gallons of water.
  • Recycling protects the land from the ravages of mining, oil drilling, and logging.

Complete the cycle

Take the next step and Buy Recycled in order to close the loop. When we purchase items that display the green “chasing arrows” we support companies that make waste into new products, we support community recycling efforts, and we support a clean, healthy environment.

Celebrate Earth Day - Veggie Style

by Tracy Rohland

With more than 6 billion people living on planet earth using her water, her oil, her plants and her air, she is very overwhelmed. She is desperately hoping that we, the people who traverse her soil on a daily basis, will be more courteous and careful.

April 22 is Earth Day, a perfect opportunity to salute Mother Earth and remember how vital it is that we take care of her.

In 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson founded the first annual Earth Day, kicking off the grassroots environmental movement in America and around the world. Since the founding of Earth Day, environmental issues have been brought to the forefront of politics and the media. People around the world have become more aware of the human impact on the environment and more conscientious about their individual roles in maintaining the health of the environment. Vehicle emission restrictions have become stricter, recycling has become a household activity, sewage treatment has drastically improved, and hundreds of thousands of people have eliminated meat products from their diet. The transition to a vegetarian diet is a practical way that every person can work to make a brighter future for the planet.

In recent years, many studies have been done comparing the environmental impact of a meat-based diet to a vegetarian diet. All of these studies conclude that raising animals for slaughter is a deplorable waste of resources. According to Professor David Pimentel of Cornell University's Ecology Department, it takes 500 liters of water to produce 1kg of potatoes, 900 liters per kg of wheat, 3,500 liters per kg of digestible chicken flesh and an incredible 100,000 liters for 1kg of beef. The pollution of water sources is also a huge problem with meat companies. Furthermore, the amount of grain that is grown to feed livestock could solve the famine problem of the world.

In her book, The State of the Environment Atlas, Joni Seager states, 'In cycling our grain through livestock, we waste 90 percent of its protein and 96 percent of its calories. An acre of cereal can produce five times more protein than an acre devoted to meat production; and legumes (beans, lentils, peas) can produce ten times as much. Thus the greater the human consumption of animal products, the fewer people can be fed.

Raising animals for slaughter also affects the air we breathe. An estimated 100 million tons of methane (12 percent – 15 percent of all methane emissions) are released into the atmosphere each year by cattle, contributing significantly to global warming. All over the world, ranchers will cut down expanses of forest for cattle ranching, let the animals graze for a few years, then leave the once fruitful land, barren and worthless. When hamburgers are two for a dollar, it is easy to ignore the actual cost to our planet and future generations, but it is critical that we consider this before it is too late.

A vegetarian diet is the healthiest and most efficient means of producing food. Since 1977, Down To Earth has been committed to promoting vegetarianism, healthy living, respect for the environment, and sustainable organic farming. This Earth Day, make a choice that will better your own health, the health of Mother Earth, and the health of generations to come – go veggie.

6 Simple Tips for Sustainable Living

Photo: Older Woman Smiling in the Kitchen

by Manjari Fergusson

What is sustainability? The point of living in a sustainable manner is to make sure resources we rely on can continue to exist… such as water, land, trees and energy, not to mention your own health, time and money. Here are some tips that can help you be a more conscientious consumer.

Eat Plant-Based and Superfoods

Eating a plant-based diet is not only better for your health but it’s better for the environment, as livestock production is one of the largest contributors to pollution1. Plant-based superfoods are nutrient-rich and are especially beneficial for health and well-being. Foods such as berries, pomegranates, leafy green vegetables, nuts, chia seeds, raw cacao or unrefined dark chocolate (at least 70%2), sweet potatoes and coconut oil are some examples of superfoods that will keep you healthy and energized. A healthy diet means you’ll spend less time being sick and spending money and resources on medical expenses.

Buy Local

Down to Earth works hard to provide you with as many local products as possible. This is better for you and the environment, cutting down on transportation costs and carbon emissions, and it helps the local economy. Local food is also fresher and supports local farmers.

Use Environmentally Friendly Body and Cleaning Products

Using products that are full of chemicals is harmful to the water supply, air, and most importantly, humans. Seek out cleaning products with natural, non-toxic ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar, coconut oil, lavender, and beeswax. These are safe to use around your kids and pets, and they don’t harm the environment.

Buy Organic

By eating organic foods you won’t be consuming the chemicals and pesticides that are used to grow conventional fruits and veggies. In addition, organically grown foods are better for the environment as the chemicals contaminate ground water and the soil.

Avoid GMOs

Much like eating organically, it’s important to avoid GMOs too. While, for many reasons, it is impossible to know whether everything you eat contains GMOs or not, and even the organic label does not necessarily mean the food you’re eating is completely GMO-free, avoiding them when possible is something to keep in mind. Genetic engineering results in high amounts of herbicide being used to kill the weeds in crops. This results in high amounts of residue in our food.

Transportation

You don’t have to give up your car, but as a society it’s important to make more conscientious decisions about the mode you want to use for that trip down the road. Honolulu will be implementing a bike-sharing program by next year, which will mean you don’t need to own a bike to use one, much like renting a car by the hour. In addition, walking, taking the bus, biking and carpooling are all ways you can lower your carbon footprint.

Footnotes: 
  1. Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
  2. Conley, Mikaela. "Dark Chocolate for a Healthier Heart." ABC News. ABC News Medical Unit, 06 21 2012. Web. 24 Mar. 2014. .retrieved March 24, 2014

Saving Our Mother

by Tracy Rohland

Mother Earth has taken a beating when it comes to her health and appearance. The destruction of woodlands, the pollution of beaches and oceans, and the depletion of the ozone layer are making it increasingly difficult for her. People often take for granted the abundance of resources that are reaped from the earth and forget that it is everyone’s responsibility to take care of the world in which we live. Though many may feel powerless to halt the destruction of the earth, there are small contributions that can help maintain the health of the planet. This Earth Day, everyone should remember the three "Rs": Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. You may have heard this catchy phrase before, but few people actually apply to their everyday lives, although it is a much easier accomplishment than one might think.

Reduce

The first "R" is the basic concept of conservation. Producing less waste in the first place can make a huge difference in the amount of reusing and recycling that happens later on. Try to be mindful of the ways that you can reduce your waste production throughout the day. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Make double-sided copies and prints.
  • Try to format your documents in such a way as to fit more text on one piece of paper.
  • Buy or make your own cloth napkins instead of using paper ones.
  • Pack lunches in Tupperware containers rather than baggies.
  • Clean your floor the old-fashioned way – with a broom and a mop. Resist the urge to use convenient disposable wipes that are popular these days. They create a huge amount of unnecessary waste.
  • Use only the amount of paper towels or toilet paper that you need – people tend to get a little carried away with this and cutting back here and there will go a long way.

Don’t forget about reducing water and gas usage also:

  • Shortening the time of a shower by even one minute can save many gallons of water in the long run.
  • Invest in a low flow toilet.
  • Don’t be a gutter-flooder. If it rains the night before, remember to turn your sprinklers off the next day, or get a rain gauge to regulate when the sprinklers come on.
  • Walk, ride a bike, or use public transportation whenever possible to reduce the amount of gas your car consumes and pollutants it emits.

Reuse

Many of the things included in "Reduce," like the cloth napkins and Tupperware containers, can in turn be "Reused." Below are a few more suggestions:

  • At Down to Earth, customers are encouraged to reuse plastic bags or bring their own reusable canvas bags. For every bag that customers reuse, Down To Earth rewards them with 5 cents off their purchase.
  • Down to Earth also encourages customers to reuse plastic containers, like those for nut butters, syrup, and honey.
  • Refill water and juice bottles.
  • Cut up junk mail or paper that would otherwise be thrown out and use it as scratch paper to leave notes and phone messages on.

Recycle

The final step in closing the loop. Often confused with reusing, recycling is the act of reprocessing things like paper, glass, and aluminum into new products. If your community does not have a recycling program, take action to start one up. Contact your city councilman to find out about implementing a program or find out where you can take your recyclables. Finally, respect the appearance of Mother Earth. DO NOT throw trash on the ground. If there is not a trash can convenient, just hold it or put it in your pocket until you find one. Litter is a huge problem for wildlife. Birds, fish, and other animals get caught in plastic bags and soda can rings and can choke on small pieces of trash. Plus, trash makes parks and beaches less appealing. Do not let your carelessness destroy living creatures and habitats.

Reducing Waste For Our Mother

by Michele McKay

It is no surprise that the United States is the leading consumer society in the world. Most Americans have become accustomed to living by the motto, “Out with the old, and in with the new.” But wastefulness definitely takes a toll on the health of the earth, as well as the health of its inhabitants. So, we invite you to celebrate Earth Day with Down to Earth by taking action to reduce waste, reduce water and energy consumption, and help protect our planet. Curbing Waste: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle The United States produces half of the world’s garbage, but has only 6 percent of the world’s population. We can make improvements by using the three R’s:

Reduce

  • Bring your own bags to the store.
  • Buy food in bulk, not individual servings.
  • Put leftovers and bag lunches in reusable containers.
  • Cut back on fast-food meals – they pollute more than your arteries!
  • Use mugs rather than styrofoam cups for hot drinks.
  • Use cloth towels and napkins, washable utensils, etc.
  • Get off junk mail lists – 100 million trees are cut each year for junk mail. Contact the Direct Marketing Assn: www.dmaconsumers.org/offmailinglist.html

Reuse

  • Buy reusable personal and household items.
  • Shop for second hand clothing, furniture, and other items.
  • Donate used goods to charities, day-care centers, or thrift shops.

Recycle

  • Take newspapers, cardboard, bottles, cans, and plastic containers to recycling drop-off locations.
  • Get a nickel back for deposit bottles and cans at statewide redemption centers.

Saving Energy

  • When you leave a room, turn out the lights.
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescents.
  • Turn the A/C down or off, clean filters regularly, and use a fan to keep cool.
  • Keep computer and TV time to a minimum.
  • Keep the fridge door open for as short a time as possible.
  • Cut down on driving – carpool, walk, bike, or take public transportation.
  • Consider a gas-electric hybrid when making your next vehicle purchase.

Cutting Water Use

  • Take shorter showers and install water-saving showerheads.
  • Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth or shaving.
  • Fix dripping faucets and silent toilet leaks.
  • Fill a gallon plastic bottle with water and place it in the toilet tank – this can save 5,000 gallons of water a year!
  • Only run the dishwasher when it is full.
  • Landscape with drought-tolerant plants, use mulch, and adjust sprinklers.

Making Eco-friendly Choices

  • Go veggie! A vegetarian diet is one of the single best ways to help the planet.
  • Support locally grown, organic products.
  • Use non-toxic cleaners – avoid products containing phosphates and chlorine.
  • Dispose of hazardous waste properly – this includes motor oil, coolant, transmission fluid, paint products, insecticides, and herbicides.
  • Don’t use poisonous pesticides and herbicides – choose natural alternatives.
  • Spay and neuter pets – one female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens in only 7 years.
  • Invest in socially and environmentally responsible mutual funds or companies.
  • Learn about the ecosystems in your area to help make informed decisions.

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