Friday, December 31, 2010

This Week I Will Make a Resolution

My plan for starting this blog was to be more environmentally aware, break issues down into small manageable bites and, hopefully, to lead by example. So far, the process has definitely made me change my behavior for the better. Before I get to resolutions, I’ll use this New Year’s post to tell you how I fared with some of the previous weeks’ commitments.

This Week I Will Start a Blog
Done, whew!

This Week I Will Read One Book on Sustainable Living
Still reading. Cradle to Cradle is really interesting, but way dense for bedtime reading. The two authors have some incredible ideas on how to save the world without giving up the stuff we love. I both wish everyone would read this book to help change our mindsets about manufacturing, building and energy and wish it was just a little bit lighter. I do find myself talking to people about the ideas in the book and that’s probably the most important thing.

This Week I Will Eat No Meat
This was a really easy week until we went out for Indian food. Yes, there are wonderful vegetarian Indian dishes, but I have a terrible weakness for tandori chicken. Anyway, I ate almost no meat and the kids were fine with lots of pasta. I wound up cooking more than usual and they were good with that, too.

This Week I Will Use Freecycle
This was probably my favorite change so far. I love Freecycle. It’s very friendly, easy to get rid of things I don’t need and easy to ask for things I do need. My kids have started asking me to “Freecycle” things for them. I have a big issue with tossing useful stuff in the landfill and buying new things that use up resources, so it’s really a perfect solution for me.

This Week I Will Make a Donation
Done. I sent $50 to the Union of Concerned Scientists. (I sent my donation by December 31st, so it would be matched and doubled.)

This Week I Will Stop My Junk Mail
I think it’s getting better, but it’s really hard to tell yet. I continue to stop new junk mail by calling companies as the junk comes in.

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Hmm, I guess I’m trying to avoid making a resolution. I’m thinking of two things; either reading more scientific literature on environmental issues (living with a physicist should make getting materials pretty straightforward) or getting more readers for my blog. Though, marketing for readers feels overwhelming to me. Can’t it just spontaneously go viral? Anyway, after sleeping on it, I decided go for the reading. So, my environmental New Year’s resolution is to read more scientific articles and papers on environmental issues.

Happy New Year!
Rhonda


“Tikkun Olam” means, in its most basic form, repairing the world. It is an ancient term from long before we worried about carbon emissions or mercury in our fish. It promotes the idea that we are the stewards of our planet and we that must be constant and vigilant in our responsibility. And not only must we take care of the Earth and seas and creatures, but we have to fix what is broken. And this is our job for as long as we are on this planet.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

This Week I Will Make a Donation

For the last week and a half, I haven’t left the house without an armload of gifts. Family, teachers, friends, parties: gifts for everyone. So, while I’m doling out the presents, how about a little something for our planet? I could give the earth some nice compost or a homemade “Please Recycle!” poster. I could promise to be a better steward this year and get my family and friends to improve with me. But I’d like to shop for something that can be used right away, so I will check out environmental organizations on the internet and make a donation. In the past I’ve made contributions through the kid’s schools and activities. I’ve purchased rainforest acres through The Nature Conservancy (I love this program) and trees to be planted in Israel through the JNF. I’ve contributed to other programs as well over the years, but always when a cause comes to me, or in some cases, is forced on me. I’ve never sat back and thought about giving a gift to the earth and where it should go. I will think about it some more, but I will probably end up buying a membership to the Union of Concerned Scientists. I’ve been getting updates from a number of environmental organizations since starting this blog and I really like what I’ve been seeing come in from the UCS. Their emails include concrete things you can do to improve environmental legislation and realistic advice on changing your own habits. They send information on what you can do along with templates for letters, stickers to print out and addresses to send things. And their information comes mostly from the scientific community. I’m a sucker for good research data.

If you decide to spend a little money on the earth this year,
here are a few good gift ideas:

Environmental Defense Fund



Jewish National Fund

National Wildlife Federation

Natural Resources Defense Council

The Nature Conservancy

Union of Concerned Scientists

These websites are worth checking out regardless of whether or not you want to donate. As I was getting the site addresses it took lots of restraint not to get lost in all the interesting information and projects.


Happy Holidays!!
Rhonda



“Tikkun Olam” means, in its most basic form, repairing the world. It is an ancient term from long before we worried about carbon emissions or mercury in our fish. It promotes the idea that we are the stewards of our planet and we that must be constant and vigilant in our responsibility. And not only must we take care of the Earth and seas and creatures, but we have to fix what is broken. And this is our job for as long as we are on this planet.

Friday, December 17, 2010

This Week I Will Write an Environmental Christmas Song


Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I love the holiday spirit that fills every shop, classroom and home I go to. So, I figured what better in this season of giving than to make sure we give to each other without taking from the planet. Here, wishing you a very Happy Holiday, with no cost to the environment, Adam sings:
The Twelve Days of Environmentally
Conscious Christmas

video

The Twelve Days of Environmentally Conscious Christmas 
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me
a Christmas tree that still has its roots
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me 2 popcorn garlands
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me 3 e-subscriptions
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 4 bicycles
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 5 Chevy Volts
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 6 low flow faucets
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me 7 cleaning lemons
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 8 veggie dinners
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 9 gifts wrapped in comics
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 10 canvas bags
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me 11 LED lights
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 12 rainforest acres

Day 1
You can buy a Christmas tree with roots which can be replanted into the ground so that you can reuse the tree next year. Friends of the Urban Forest of San Francisco (Fuf.net) rents nontraditional trees, such as Southern Magnolia and Strawberry, for $150, and replants them on city streets once Christmas is over.

Day 2
Try some old-fashioned, environmentally friendly garland like popcorn, cranberries and paper chains made from old magazines or junk mail.

Day 7
Lemons are one of the best natural cleaners around. They clean, disinfect, look pretty and smell fabulous.

Day 9
Try wrapping gifts in unusual choices like comics or magazine pages. Or scarves and dish cloths that become part of the gift.

Day 10
Take your own bags to do your shopping so you don’t wind up throwing away a pile of plastic.

Day 11
LED lights use 80-90% less energy compared to old light bulbs.

Day 12
Adopt an acre or more of rainforest through the Nature Conservancy. You can choose what region. http://adopt.nature.org/


Tikkun olam means, in its most basic form, repairing the world. It is an ancient term from long before we worried about carbon emissions or mercury in our fish. It promotes the idea that we are the stewards of our planet and we that must be constant and vigilant in our responsibility. And not only must we take care of the earth and seas and creatures, but we have to fix what is broken. And this is our job for as long as we are on this planet.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

This Week I Will Turn My Garden Over

 Every year that I plan on planting I need to add nutrients back into the soil. One of the oldest and best ways to do this is to turn over the soil and let the remains of last year’s crop decompose to nourish next season’s vegetables. This is free, fairly easy when the soil is moist, smells really good and is great exercise.

Well, this was my plan for this week, but, Dang! The gardener apparently didn’t know my plans to be more eco efficient and threw away all my rotting vegetation while I was out. Now I’ll have to call the city (again!) to see if the compost program is running yet. They’ve been collecting green waste for years now, and we’re supposed to be able to get the compost to use at home. That was the original plan, anyway. I called the first two years of the program to find out about obtaining some of that great garden compost, but they weren’t distributing it yet. That was quite a while ago, so I guess it’s time to check in on the program again.

Planting some of your own food is good on so many counts. There’s nothing like fresh picked vegetables for both taste and nutrition. And you can decide how many chemicals you want, or don’t want, to use. I’m constantly surprised at how beautifully everything grows with barely anything more than water. Flowering gardens of all kinds encourage visits from bees and provide them with food. As far as global warming goes, eating what I grow at home means I didn’t drive to get it, I didn’t put it in a plastic bag (or my favorite, the bag within a bag), no one else flew it, trucked it or shipped it anywhere. And plants suck up CO2 we want to get rid of. I’ve had a veggie garden since I was a kid and I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, growing food is all good.

I’m not going to plan what to grow this year quite yet. I’m just assuring that when the spring comes, I’ll be ready and so will my soil. I also have some composting/soil questions I’ll look into this week. Like, why can’t I just toss my green waste straight into the garden area – or can I?



Here are some articles that give more detail about gardens and the environment:



The President's garden:




“Tikkun Olam” means, in its most basic form, repairing the world. It is an ancient term from long before we worried about carbon emissions or mercury in our fish. It promotes the idea that we are the stewards of our planet and we that must be constant and vigilant in our responsibility. And not only must we take care of the Earth and seas and creatures, but we have to fix what is broken. And this is our job for as long as we are on this planet.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

This Week I Will Not Eat Meat


Back in the day when people ate their own chickens and cattle ranchers drove cattle hundreds of miles on foot to where they could be sold, meat was an accompaniment to a meal. It wasn’t exactly a luxury, but it was harder to get – more work, more money. People ate livestock more sparingly, filling their plates mostly with seasonal vegetables and cooked grains. Of course we now know that this is not only the most economical way to eat, it’s the healthiest.

But something happened in between. Meat became a symbol for prosperity. Providing for your family meant “putting meat on the table”. By the time I was growing up, a dinner plate had a large portion of beef, poultry or pork, a starch and a sad little pile of watery cooked frozen vegetables.

What does this have to do with the environment?
A lot. As the demand for meat grows the livestock industry is wreaking havoc on our environment, being a major contributor to land degradation, climate change, water shortage/pollution and loss of biodiversity. The following points are based on excerpts from Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options, a 416 page report from The Livestock, Environment and Development (LEAD) Initiative.

  • Livestock grazing and feedcrop production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land use and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet.
  • Due to enteric fermentation, manure and deforestation for pastures, the livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than transport.
  • The livestock sector emits 37 percent of the world’s anthropogenic methane, which has 23 times more global warming potential than CO2.
  • Livestock are responsible for 64 percent anthropogenic ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and ecosystem acidification.
  • The livestock sector is responsible for 8 percent of global human water use.
  • Pollution from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, feedcrop chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and pasture sediments are a major ecological problem.
  • Livestock production is expected to double by 2050.

I should point out that the Livestock’s Long Shadow report isn’t all doom and gloom. It details ways in which livestock producers can manage their operations to mitigate the impact and damage of meat production. It also recommends sensible regulations to achieve this.  

So, that’s the industry’s problem, right?
In large part, yes. But we’re the ones stuck breathing cow farts. Which brings me to the wisdom of reducing the demand for meat. The less meat we eat, the fewer livestock animals are needed to support us. So, this week I will not buy or eat meat. I will have nice vegetarian meals with my family and see how it goes. (I have to admit upfront, that I’m not a big meat eater to start with and I’m expecting it to be pretty easy, except for listening to my kids whine.)

I planned to include more sources, but nearly everything I read was based on the same extensive report, Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options. You can download all 19 megabytes or just the executive summary.

Here are both links:

Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options
Full text:
Summary:



“Tikkun Olam” means, in its most basic form, repairing the world. It is an ancient term from long before we worried about carbon emissions or mercury in our fish. It promotes the idea that we are the stewards of our planet and we that must be constant and vigilant in our responsibility. And not only must we take care of the Earth and seas and creatures, but we have to fix what is broken. And this is our job for as long as we are on this planet.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Freecycle Update

Earlier this week I signed up for my local Freecycle group, through Yahoo Groups. I was happy to find there is one in Pleasanton with over 3000 members, so no worries about extra driving. The interface was very straight forward and listing was easy. I listed my display easels and waited. I waited to write my update until I got any responses, but nothing showed up. Then, just before writing, I checked my new Yahoo mail and realized I wasn’t forwarding to my main account. I had 186 messages in my inbox, 10 of them requesting the easels! And no spam. Pretty cool.

I also requested a kiln, but so far no offers.

I listed with Exchango as well, which has a slightly different format, but there was nothing local and there weren’t many listings. Exchango seems like it will be good when it catches on. Or maybe it’s better on the East coast, that’s where most of the listings were.

Anyway, big thumbs up on Freecycle. At least for my little sampling of it. It’s a great way to send your stuff off to neighbors who want it. There were even a couple of people I knew in my inbox, which felt really nice.