Simple Tips (& Why) to Green Your Holidays!

Stores staying open all day on Thanksgiving, Black Friday hype, Christmas ads already blaring… enough! It’s STRESSING me out! And that is not healthy.

I want to relax and enjoy quality time with my family and friends. And I want the experiences to be healthy for me, them and light on environmental impact.

Two things I like to consider to help me be less stressed & promote health for my peeps and my (our) planet: 1. Greening Gifts
2. Greening the Menu

1. On Gifts (and avoiding the crazy, stressful shopping wars!) I’m steering clear of all that hub bub and instead will be home, warm and cozy, preparing my craft room to make my gifts. I love making things! It helps me unwind, plus I know I’m pouring love into the gift and so does the recipient. Win-win!

Not everyone is crafty or inclined to make gifts. But if you are! Here’s a blog with a few ideas I really like and maybe you will, too. 38 DIY Gifts People Actually Want

If you’re not crafty, no problem. You can of course still pour love into bought items, too. And there are plenty of resources out there to help you find the perfect gift for that special someone. It’s perfect because not only do they need the item, it is helpful to them, won’t make them sick and is also created in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. Perfect!

I realize some of us will still want to get out and shop for some great deals… have you heard of Small Business Saturday? A lot of Chicagoland businesses are participating and shopping local is really a great way to encourage local economic recovery!

2. On the Menu: Eating lower on the food chain is a great way to make a difference for your health and the planet. It’s easier than you think, too. Do you have to give up the Turkey? No!! But treating it more like a condiment and enjoying more of your favorite vegetable based sides is a great start. Also, everything doesn’t have to be organic, but I do look out for certain food additives to avoid as well as where and how the veggies or fruit are grown for health concerns.

[On meat: If I did eat meat I would want to buy it from a local farmer where I know the animal was cared for, ate the right foods and slaughtered in a manner that was ethical.]

What’s on my menu? Well, I’m not hosting….but this is what I am bringing
Roasted Brussels Sprouts in a Balsamic Reduction
Kale, Pumpkin Seed, Cranberry Salad
Apple, Turnip, Sweet Potato Saute

Final Greening Holidays tip from me to you… When making your list to give people this holiday season, it helps to consider the following:

  • WHAT will be the impact on the person I’m giving this gift to? Will it improve their live in a meaningful way?
  • WHERE does this gift come from? Is it locally crafted and supporting local economies?
  • WHO made it? Are they paid a living wage and have safe working conditions? WHO profits from me buying this gift? Does it enrich some corporation whose values I do/don’t support?
  • HOW was it made? How does the resource and manufacturing impact on the environment?
  • WHY? Why should I give this gift? What NEED does it fill?

It’s important to consider these questions so that not just at a personal level, but at a global level you are fully aware of the impacts of your gift-giving decisions.

Happy Holidays!

2 World Leaders #ActOnClimate

Woke up to hopeful news this morning!

U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping coming to agreement to #ActOnClimate Change. Under this new deal, the U.S. would cut its 2005 CO2 emissions by 26-28% before 2025 and China will aim to get 20% of its energy from clean (zero-emission) sources by 2030.

The U.S. and China are two of the world’s top CO2 emissions polluters so this deal is quite significant; it sets a precedent and calls for other countries to also address their emissions in a global commitment to mitigate the most severe impacts of climate change. Perhaps there is hope for the Climate Summit in Paris next year!!

Still have questions about climate change? The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions has a series of podcasts and simple to understand articles that help explain what is climate change; what changes can we expect regionally and globally; what is being done to address these changes (policy and innovations); what else can be done and how can we, individually, act?

Or, Check out Bill Nye the Science Guy explain climate change in less than 5 minutes…

then dig deeper to get wise on the topic. The more we know, the more we can do to make positive change for today and tomorrow.

Nature is Speaking: Are You Listening?

One of the world’s leading organizations driving conservation efforts across the globe, Conservation International, has launched a new series of short films called, “Nature Is Speaking”. Watching them, words like: beautiful, poignant, true and powerful come to mind.

NATURE DOESN’T NEED PEOPLE. PEOPLE NEED NATURE. ~natureisspeaking.org

Here’s one featuring Kevin Spacey. Wonderful.

Kevin Spacey is The Rainforest

See them all here.

#natureisspeaking … are You listening?

White House Delivers LOUD Msg: Create Jobs- Cut Pollution!

Commitments and Executive Actions Illustrate Federal, State, and Local Leadership to Create Jobs and Cut Carbon Pollution

“The Obama Administration is committed to taking action to combat climate change. As part of that effort, today, the White House is announcing a series of public and private sector commitments and executive actions to advance solar deployment and promote energy efficiency.”

HOORAY!

Last night, I attended a presentation and panel on Climate Change and why our brains tend to ignore it. It was fascinating. I’m looking forward to reading this book by George Marshall, who was leading last night’s conversation: Don’t Even Think About It: How our brains ignore climate change

The presentation was a really terrific conversation, but definitely still left me feeling a bit nervous and like I need way more tools to help others understand the importance of discussing topics of climate change!

My nerves were quieted and my hope, for a near future in which we call stop ignoring this

Major-Global-Will-Affect-Every-Single-One-Of-Us-Issue,

has been reinforced by today’s news from the White House. Here’s more:

“The executive announcements today altogether will cut carbon pollution by nearly 300 million metric tons through 2030 – equivalent to taking more than 60 million cars off the road for one year – and will save homes and businesses more than $10 billion on their energy bills. Those executive actions are:

  • Partnering with up to three military bases to create a veterans solar job training pilot;
  • Investing $68 million in 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in rural areas across the country, including 240 solar projects;
  • Proposing an energy conservation standard for commercial unit air conditioners that has the potential to save more energy than any previously issued standard;
  • Supporting funding for clean energy and energy efficiency for affordable housing;
  • Strengthening commercial and residential buildings codes; and
  • Harmonizing the power of national service and volunteerism to tackle climate change and its effects.”

Last night, George Marshall who goes by the twitter handle @climategeorge, said something to the affect:

Climate change is like the big elephant in the room… and right now, we’re INSIDE the elephant. It’s time to get out of the elephant and start talking about it!

So, are you ready to climb out of the elephant, the “let’s all ignore climate change elephant”, and look it square in the eye? YES! Begin to talk about climate change and help lead the discussion for solutions!

Read more about these new climate change addressing actions from the Obama Administration here.

 

Sustainability Tips for Teachers

Being a teacher myself, I know that none of us have the summer off. We spend the summers planning for the next year. If you have been toying with bringing more sustainability into your classroom, check out these helpful tips http://www.treehugger.com/htgg/how-to-go-green-school-teachers.html. I might also suggest thinking about a service learning project as well. That will bring in the social justice/equity pillar of sustainability. Don’t forget that sustainability is the intersection of social equity/justice, ecological stability/green, and economic vitality. Happy planning!

Obama takes a big stand on climate change

U.S. EPA Releases Clean Power Plan Proposal
On June 2, the U.S. EPA released a proposed rule to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. The Clean Power Plan proposal sets state-specific goals to be met by 2030 and provides guidelines for states to develop plans, building on the work states are already doing to reduce carbon pollution.  By 2030, the EPA expects to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector by 30% nationwide below 2005 levels.  In order to meet that target, this proposal allows states to work individually or in regional groups to meet their respective goals while including flexibility in compliance options.

The proposal includes a timeline for states to follow to meet their respective goals:

  • June 30, 2016:  All states submit initial or complete plans
  • June 20, 2017:  Deadline to submit individual state plans eligible for one-year extension, and progress report for multi-state plans
  • June 30, 2018:  Deadline to submit multi-state plans

The EPA is accepting public comment for 120 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold four public hearings the week of July 28 in Denver, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. To learn more or to submit a comment, click here.

So MUCH To Do, APRIL 2014

Happy Earth Month, Y’all!

Everyday is Earth Day, of course, but this is the month we take extra time to celebrate all that is wonderful on this big blue planet, how we can behave to support its health and ultimately our health as communities and individuals.

Check out all the great events happening this Earth Month here at MVCC.

Also, there’s a really cool energy reduction challenge happening in Crawley Hall! You can watch real time energy demand and see how the building users are doing as they attempt to reduce their energy demands!

And here’s a bit from the US EPA on how to stay involved nationally and digitally. They have some pretty cool campaigns this month; definitely worth checking out.

Happy Earth Month from EPA!

April 22 is Earth Day, but we’re celebrating all month, sharing a new tip each day to help you act on climate change.

Below, we’ve listed many ways you can take action yourself and spread the word to your friends and family. Try one or many, but either way, let’s all #ActOnClimate!

Help us get the message out
Please help us share a message at noon on Earth Day, along with the link to a page full of things everyone can do to act on climate. We’re using a new system called Thunderclap to coordinate, so a message will go out from everyone at noon on Earth Day. Here’s the catch: we need 500 people to sign up or the message won’t go.

The message is: “For Earth Day, I commit to protect the climate. Take small actions that add up! #ActOnClimate http://epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/

We need your help, both to send the message and to invite your friends to send it, too. Join the effort or if you want more information about how it works, see our blog post.

Share daily tips through our website and social media
We’ve created 30 daily tips to act on climate, and we’ll post one each day. Help us get them out there:

Join a Twitter chat about climate issues
We’re going to have EPA experts available to discuss various climate issues on our @EPAlive account every Tuesday in April:

  • April 8, 2:00pm EDT – What can I do to act on climate?
  • April 15, 2:00pm EDT – What is EPA doing to act on climate?
  • April 22, 2:00pm EDT – EPA Research and Climate: What does the research show about climate change and what we can do about it.
  • April 29, 2:00pm EDT – Why is climate action important for our water?

How can you join the conversation? Just follow @EPAlive and the #ActOnClimate hashtag on Twitter. Ask us a question or share your ideas, or just read along with the conversation. In addition to using Twitter, we’ll publish a blog post for each chat, and you can ask your questions or send your thoughts as comments on the post. Here’s the first one: http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2014/04/lets-chat-about-how-to-act-on-climate/

We look forward to working with you to #ActOnClimate!

Happy New Year- Now what to do with that phone book?

With a new year comes a lot of new things- new commitments and goals, maybe even new presents from the holidays, and…new phone books! I know I just found mine last night waiting at my door when I returned home from work. Yours is probably already delivered or will be soon, too.

Maybe you asked the same thing as me: But we have the internet?!?! What do we need a phone book for?

Actually, there are a lot of people still without the convenience of high speed internet at their fingertips. While attempts are being made nation-wide to change this, the phone book providers will still need to make assumptions that everyone still needs or wants a phone book.

But what if you don’t need it or want it?

You can visit the National Yellow Pages website and customize your delivery or opt out altogether. Choosing to eliminate or reduce your delivery means you’re helping to minimize waste, increase smart use of resources and lessen your personal CO2 footprint from the energy used to produce and transport them.

Ok, so it’s too late to stop the 2014 phone book, so then what?

Whatever you do, make sure your phone book doesn’t end up in the landfill. Less than 10% of all phone books printed are recycled, even though they can be recycled into everything from ceiling tiles to cereal boxes. 

Because they are mostly paper, phone books are typically accepted by curbside programs. You can search for the ebst local recycling option using Earth911’s directory, which a great tool for other recycling questions, too!.

Earth911.org reminds us this useful tip: “In the event that your phone book arrives with any additional packaging such as a plastic bag or magnets, be sure to separate those prior to recycling.”

I always try to find a reuse for something before I just put it to the curb for recycling, which is often downcycling. So what am I going to do with my phone book? I’ll take the non-color sheets and shred them to make bedding for my worms! Worms love this kind of paper for mixing with the leftover food scraps I feed them…then they make me dirt for my garden. It’s a win-win.

What else can you do with them?

Here is one blogger’s ideas, including to use the pages instead of paper towels to pick up “icky things”…love it!

And some good crafty and gardening applications using the pages can be found here.

Also, in case you’re interested in trying something else new this year, here are some lovely vermi-composting resources:

http://www.urbanwormgirl.com

http://www.redwormcomposting.com/

A zero-waste holiday!? Yup!

Okay, zero-waste is really, really challenging (at first) so let’s take this one step at a time.

According to GreenAmerica.org, “Americans will spend a total of $586.1 billion dollars in November and December — and an average of $646 per person on gifts alone. The impact on people and planet of all our consumption is staggering. Pledge to shift 20% or more of your holiday spending away from cookie-cutter consumerism and one-use waste—instead supporting local, green, handmade and homegrown businesses!”

There are a lot of really great ways to reduce waste this holiday season. One way is to think about gift giving and all the potential waste involved. Here’s an example from my own holiday story:

My family celebrates Christmas. So we do the traditional gift giving for everyone in the family and special friends. Each year, there seems to be more and more folks for which I need a gift. It’s really hard to keep up! I should put thought and care into the gifts, right? Right. Another important point to make: On January 1st of this year, I pledged with my friends to Buy Nothing New for 1 Year. That includes things for others. So…

…this year I am making my gifts. A great way to reduce waste, indeed, since nearly nothing will have enormous amounts of packaging and nearly everything is coming second-hand or as a found object (except the cheese kit). I am making re-usable produce bags out of old, mismatched pillow cases for the families; washcloth puppets for bath time with the little kids in the family; I’ll be sewing a pair of Minecraft Sweeper Fingerless Gloves for my lil’ gamer nephew tonight; I scored a huge bag of colorful needlework thread at a rummage sale which will go to the eldest niece (she loves to make friendship bracelets and this stuff is perfect for it!); and the ladies will all get a lovely sugar-body scrub (Peppermint for some and Vanilla-Honey for others).

But for me, the men are the harder ones to cover…so, the gift of experience comes into play here. Except for Dad; for him, I’m making him a belt pouch to hold necessities while he works his farmer’s market stands (shallow front shirt pockets are no place for phones or spectacles when you’re in a hurry serving up fine cheese!). For one, I got a pair of movie tickets and a free night of babysitting for date night with the lovely Misses. And the last one is getting a cheese-making kit made with compostable packaging.

“Americans generate an additional five million tons of waste during the holidays. Of that, four million tons come from shopping bags and wrapping paper alone.

Everyone will receive their gifts wrapped in the funny pages or some cool, old map. Old sewing patterns make great wrapping, too! Plenty of resources to think outside the shirt-box for your wrapping needs here! And, of course, the cards will be handmade, too. But that’s really easy! Hard cardstock + fun magazine images + glue stick = viola! Custom cards for each of your loved ones.

What are your plans? Need some crafty ideas? Check out this page- I was so overwhelmed (in a good way) with all the possibilities! Especially the Childhood page. Very cool ideas!

What other ways can we eliminate waste during the holidays (and beyond, of course)? Consider what will be on the dinner table, where you’ll be traveling or who will be traveling to you. I’m sure you can think of several ways to shed a few pounds of waste. Let’s hear about it!

Happy Waste-less Holidays!

Movie Night!

Whenever (and it is rare) I find myself with a night of nothing to do, I always think: well, I should watch a movie! But then I am overwhelmed by my Netflix choices. Sometimes I want to be entertained and sometimes I want to learn something, a lesson, some facts, etc. Actually, this weekend I think I have a night that I’ll be able to watch a movie…so what will it be?

I often turn to a theme I personally love: Sustainability. And there are a lot of sustainability-related movies available today. One of the first times I remember when I made a conscious connection to enjoying  a cartoon and learning an eco-lesson, was FernGully: the last rainforest, in 1992. But it was, according to Karl Burkart of MNN.com, 1973 that the environmental film-making was born. That year, Chinatown and Soylent Green both hit the big screens. From there, we’ve enjoyed (and possibly been frightened by or disgusted by): The Day after Tomorrow, Whale Rider, Avatar, Erin Brockovich, WALL-E, March of the Penquins, and Happy FeetEven Finding Nemo has an sustainability-story as viewers explore the exotic fish trade, diversity issues, and water/ocean pollution.

and then there are the eco-mentaries, more documentary than entertaining and mostly fiction like: Inconvenient Truth, 11th Hour, Who Killed the Electric Car, Food, Inc., Crude, Forks Over Knives, King Corn, and The Cove just to name a few.

Want more? There are repeats of above, but there are some others not yet listed in the following articles and lists.

Here’s a list of the Huffington Post’s top picks for the 2000-2010 decade.

And, Jill from OdeWire, asks “Are These the 11 Most Inspiring Eco Movies Available Online?

Mother Nature Network shares several movies in this entry:  The best of 2010: environmental picks that include documentaries, fiction and even kid movies.

Earth911.org, one of my go-to-favorite sites for a lot of really useful green info, shares this top 11 eco-flicks the kids and adults can enjoy together and then this top 5 eco-documentaries they think are must-sees (I have to agree) that are all available on Netflix!

So what’s your top eco-flick? Have you watched any of these listed here? Have a suggestion for something missing? Head on over to the Moraine Valley Sustainability Facebook page and let us know.