Read all about it in this excellent article in Smithsonian magazine.
Read all about it in this excellent article in Smithsonian magazine.
This "One in a Million" grandmother of two has found that shifting her spending to products and services that offer the greatest environmental benefit actually saves her money - especially when it comes to energy.
The One in a Million campaign inspires consumers to shift at least $1,000 of their existing household budgets to greener goods. The idea isn't to spend more money, just to make "green" a priority when you do shop. In many cases, the new purchases are not only better for the planet. They're great for your pocketbook, too.
Here's how Sue shifted her spending:
04/'07: Bought an '07 Honda Civic $17,500
04/'07 Bought a front loading washer $ 1,000
'06 thru '08: cfl bulbs, 50 $ 200
01/'07: Installed water htr blanket $ 20
01/'08: Put up weather stripping $ 10
01/'08: Hung 8 pr. thermal drapes $ 500
05/'08: Bamboo flooring in bathroom $ 400
Sue says she's "pretty much a typical 60ish woman" with three grown children, two grown step-children, and seven grandchildren. Retired, she sews, does some crafting, reads and gardens. When I asked Sue what inspired her, here's what she said.
"The green thing? It really began for me in the 70's when we planted our first garden. I started getting "Organic Gardening" and that got me even more interested. Then there were a number of years when I really let stuff slide. I was divorced in 1979, with two kids, and working for the first time in my life.
I've gotten more interested and active in our environment over the years since I had to retire. It began with supporting various charities that espouse what I think is important. I've browbeaten most of my family about it. My mother, who lives with my older sister, began recycling about 3 months ago. Same deal with my daughter and her family. My husband has been hard to persuade, too, and I frequently go through the "trash" can in the kitchen to fish out stuff that goes in the recycle can. But, we're getting there. In the last few years, I've even convinced him to give up the 10-10-10 fertilizer we'd been using on the garden. We've gone organic with that, as well as using Neem oil for the bad bugs instead of Sevin spray.
The hardest part for me has been to actually DO it instead of just bitching about how Earth is changing, and placing blame with politicos and big business and the oil companies. Oh, they are culprits, but so am I. The easiest was the cfl bulbs. That's something that anyone can do. Do it one at the time or one room at the time. By the way, my monthly budget electric bill has come down from $152 to $116. That's over $400 a year. For some people, that's the final shot in the arm. That money thing will get people nearly every time.
I know I can't do much, but I truly believe if everyone would do just ONE thing, the world we live in would get better pdq!
P.S. I've gotten my two four & 1/2 year old granddaughters each a copy of "Michael Recycle" for Christmas this year."
If Sue can do it, so can you! Shifting your spending not only saves you money - it gives manufacturers an incentive to reduce pollution, keep air and water clean, and protect our world for our kids and grandkids. Why don't you join us today? It couldn't be easier!
Barack is talking about putting in a basketball court. Michelle is picking out china. And their daughters have plans to redecorate their rooms. When the Obamas move into the White House on January 20, they'll immediately start putting their mark on the nation's most historic residence. Environmentalists are hoping that mark will be a bright shade of green.
The new first family would hardly be starting a revolution. As far back as June, 1979, Jimmy Carter attempted to increase the energy efficiency of the 132-room building when he had installed a $28,000 solar water heater on the roof of the West Wing. In 1993, President Clinton commissioned a report from the Rocky Mountain Institute that identified a number of improvements that could reduce the White House's environmental impact, such as upgrading the HVAC system and improving the energy-efficiency of the windows. In 2002, solar photovoltaic panels were installed on the roof. By 2007, the White House also sported compact fluorescent light bulbs, "smart" lawn sprinklers and energy-efficient mini-vans.
But the Obamas could make greening the White House even more meaningful - by taking steps that reflect their willingness to change their lifestyle as well as the building itself.
Here are my top ten recommendations for what they should do, inside and out.
1. Secure LEED certification for the White House. This standard offers meaningful guidelines to help buildings and, increasingly, homes reduce the amount of energy they consume.
2. Change all lighting fixtures to LED lights. Many bulbs in the White House have already been replaced with compact fluorescents. But LEDs save even more energy, and because they contain no mercury, pose no health concerns to consumers.
3. Maximize energy efficiency. Plug computers and other office equipment into power strips that turn on and off automatically. Install light sensors in offices to do the same thing. Use programmable thermostats to turn the heat down in the evening and up (but just to 68 degrees in winter) during the day.
4. Make cleaning green, too. Choose cleansers that are free of phthalates (synthetic fragrances), antibacterial agents, phosphates (especially for dishwashers) and other toxic ingredients. Green Seal can provide a list of environmentally-friendly products certified "green" for buildings the size of the White House.
5. Favor organic towels, bedding, and fabric for the reupholstering that will go on as the Obamas update the decor. Every president gets a new rug for the Oval Office. Pres.-Elect Obama could have his woven from fibers made from 100% recycled soda bottles.
6. Repainting? Use paints free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are known to contribute to respiratory illness, headaches and air pollution.
7. Institute a no bottled water policy. Every member of the first family, and all cabinent members should regularly use their own BPA-free reusable water bottles. This should be true not only at cabinet and staff meetings, but when Mr. Obama takes to the basketball court, too.
8. Adopt a green diet. Eat less meat, and serve organic, locally-grown food - for the White House mess and state dinners as well as the residence.
9. Reduce water use. Retrofit faucets, showerheads, toilets to use water as efficiently as possible.
10. Whatever they buy, choose certified products and services. The Obamas can show Americans how to avoid "greenwashing" by buying products whose environmental claims meet independent third-party standards. While they're at it, they can join the One in a Million campaign and intentionally shift the White House operating budget to green goods.
1. Eliminate use of pesticides and herbicides. The White House perches smack-dab in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, where the main source of pollution is chemical runoff. Eliminating toxic landscape chemicals would help protect the quality of one of America's most productive estuaries.
3. Plant an organic vegetable garden. EatTheView.com is encouraging the First Eaters to plant a "Victory Garden," with produce going to the White House kitchen and local shelters.
4. Compost. Kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and yard waste can be composted on-site, with the resulting natural fertilizer applied anywhere on the White House's 18 acres.
5. Install green roofs. Roof space not taken up by solar hot water heaters or photovoltaic cells could be planted in greenery that provides added insulation to the White House and helps offset its carbon footprint.
6. Put up an outside clothesline. I don't necessarily want to see the First Underwear waving in the breeze. But how about using solar energy to dry towels, sheets, and t-shirts?
7. Use electric lawn mowers, hedge trimmers and chain saws. Electric gardening tools reduce noise and air pollution; they'll be easier to use if the farthest reaches of the White House grounds don't require as much maintenance because they're planted in native grasses and groundcovers.
8. Set up carpools and vanpools for White House employees. Encourage use of mass transit. The White House is no more than a 15-minute walk from subway lines that serve most of the city and many of the suburbs.
9. Install rain barrels. The White House grounds already feature a sprinkler system. How about taking wate conservation a step further, and collect roof water into rain barrels that can irrigate flower beds, bushes, and that Victory Garden the Obamas are going to grow?
10. Turn part of the grounds into a kids' playground. Many children today suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder, a lack of relationship to nature because they spend so much time indoors. Build the Obama girls a playground that includes tree houses, a pond, birdfeeders, and someplace they can play hopscotch without worrying about getting chalk on the floor.
I love the fizzing freshness of seltzer. But I hate buying water, especially if it's in a plastic bottle but even if it's bottled in glass.
Hence my delight at using the Soda Stream, a counter-top sized carbonator made by Soda-Club whose handy CO2 cartridge infuses my water with all the fizziness I want - but none of the throwaway mess.
The fizzer I have comes with a CO2 cartridge and two refillable liter-sized plastic water bottles (other models come with glass carafes). It couldn't be easier to use, and it takes up very little room in my kitchen.
I'm also impressed with the statistics the company offers on the environmental benefits of the product:
Says Soda Club, Americans drink more than 55 billion liters of soda and seltzer each year. That's almost 200 liters — about 600 cans! — for every adult and child in the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, that adds 10 1/2 cubic feet of packaging per American — over 3 billion cubic feet! — to our landfills and recycling facilities every year.
A family of four could slash their home soft-drink-related packaging usage by over 90% by using a Soda-Club soda maker. Soda-Club's plastic carbonating bottles are reusable for up to three years, and their Penguin glass carbonating carafes will last even longer than that with proper care. A typical American will toss away over 1500 aluminum cans (and/or hundreds of plastic 2-liter bottles) over three years — while a Soda Stream owner will use just one or two reusable carbonating bottles or carafes that come with the home soda maker.
The Soda Stream offers concentrated sodamix syrups that also reduce waste. The company claims a single bottle of sodamix will make 12 liters of soda, the equivalent of 34 cans or six 2-liter bottles. Personally, my family found the sodamixes way too sweet in some cases and medicine-y tasting in others. We prefer to carbonate the water, then add a squeeze of fresh lemon, lime or orange juice.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was put off by the Soda Stream's $99 price tag and probably would not have bought it had the company not sent me a model to try. I'm a complete convert now. Many different Soda Stream combos are on sale through the holidays, with prices for the simplest option (the one I have) starting at $79.99. If you don't need to buy this nifty product for anyone else, get it for yourself.
Whether you're wrapping up your holiday shopping or browsing for general household goods, take advantage of online coupons to save you big bucks on green gear for yourself, family and friends.
These three blogs specialize in linking to coupons for green products and services. NOTE: not every item on every site will be "green." Read product descriptions before you buy to avoid greenwashing (yes, it even happens with coupons! See "organiccoupons.com," below).
GreenCouponCodes - This site is very easy to use. Every entry offers the same practical information: an overview of the product, the discount offered (highlighted in bright red ink), shipping information, and an easy click through to the product itself. You'll find a wide variety of items in categories that include health and beauty, organic garden, personal finance, batteries, and light bulbs. The only coupon category that didn't make sense to me was "auto." The promo promises coupons for "green auto parts at Juiced Hybrid," but I could never access that particular site.
Pristine Planet - Whether you're looking for divine organic chocolates, organic cotton baby gear, holiday candles or gourmet gift baskets, you should be able to find a discount coupon at Pristine Planet. Many merchants listed here - like Gifts for the Garden and EcoHomeGear, offer discounts as high as 20%.
EcoBunga - EcoBunga calls itself the guide to "green giveaways and deals," so look not just for discounts but freebies, too. Sweepstakes and contests offer everything from EMX Race Bikes (hmm... I guess that's "green" - better than racing a car?!), to adventures to exotic natural habitats, to things more mundane but perhaps more essential: BPA-free baby bottles. On the coupon side, recent promotions included a $10 discount on Seventh Generation chlorine-free diapers, and 40% off Pangea Organics Holiday Gift Boxes.
Mambo Sprouts is another online coupon resource, offering printable coupons from the web as well as coupon books. Recent offerings included $1 off a package of Equal Exchange Fair Trade Coffee and $1 off Bio-Kleen eco-friendly cleaning products.
NOTE: Beware a site called OrganicCoupons. Despite the name, it doesn't seem to focus much on organics. Recent promotions included a trip to NBC's Universal Studios, discounts for Omaha Steaks, and a price break on "a fantastic mid-size SUV." Those sure don't sound like organic options to me.
When it comes to protecting the environment, it seems like we’re always playing “catch up.”
We’re trying to catch up on shutting down toxic waste sites. Catch up on eliminating dangerous chemicals from our personal care products. Catch up on – and this is a really big one – removing all the climate-changing carbon dioxide we’re emitting into the atmosphere.
It’s a frustrating game, since we never really manage to get caught up. America’s environmental legislators and regulators are mostly focused on clean up – trying to solve a problem after it’s occurred. No one, it seems, remembers the sensible adage, “First, do no harm.”
So… what would happen if the game changed? What transformations could occur if, instead of focusing on cleaning up problems after the fact, we made it a priority to prevent them in the first place?
That’s the topic Green Moms Carnival grapples with this month. Understanding the importance of preventing problems before they occur, and enthusiastic about the presidential election of “change” candidate Barack Obama, we are urging the President-Elect to adopt a prevention agenda as the guiding principle for his environmental policies.
How? Beth Terry at Fake Plastic Fish urges the President-Elect to “change the fundamental basis on which prosperity is measured. Is the American Dream the pursuit of newer and bigger houses and cars and the latest gadgets? Higher consumption of the earth's resources? Is that what healing the economy means?”
Beth thinks a better approach is to encourage deeper American values, like voluntary simplicity, sustainable living, and connections among people over material wealth. “The world cannot afford for us to continue trashing the planet as we have been,” she notes, reminding Obama that he is in a unique position to “change the course of our imaginations and help us redefine how we measure prosperity.”
Over at The Not Quite Crunchy Parent, MC Milker reminds Mr. Obama of the need for standards to make it easier for consumers and manufacturers alike to raise the environmental bar. Says MC, “It just requires someone in authority … to stand up and say, “Hey, let’s get some clarity around this issue.” Mary Hunt at In Women We Trust urges the next president to “Please put Accountability and Transparency into the green market by invoking sustainable product standards - consumers demand it, investors need it and manufacturers will take the easy way out if you leave it up to them (which is what they are doing right now).”
Mary also reminds us all that “An ounce of preventative education is worth a pound of bail out cure when it comes to creating a stable economy and green jobs.” Her informative post about the efforts of the L.A. Community College District to save energy on nine campuses could help instruct the president-to-be on effective ways to build or retrofit thousands of energy-efficient buildings to prevent additional CO2 build-up, help companies save money, and protect natural resources.
The Crunchy Chicken also encourages Mr. Obama to focus on “investing in green and renewable energy, the accompanying jobs that would be created and the resulting impact on climate change, air quality and environmental health. It's a one-two-three punch that is low-hanging fruit to some really tough problems.”
Alline Anderson muses at Ecovillage Musings about the need to keep the trains running – Amtrak trains, in particular. “Remember that our country is vast, and that ecologically-sound, dependable, economical transportation is needed beyond the Northeast Corridor… America needs our train service back.” Urges Alline: “Please do not follow the pathetic example of your predecessor George W. Bush, who in his final budget sought to cut Amtrak's subsidy by more than a third, or $500 million. Please be the change that we all seek. We are counting on you.”
When you talk about prevention, you have to talk about preventing danger to children. Says Anna Hackman at Green Talk, "Mr. President-Elect, we need to stop the exposure of toxic chemicals by updating the 1976 Toxic Substance Chemical Act (TSCA). A law that grandfathered 62,000 chemicals presumed to be safe... It is a re-run not worth watching.”
Asks Anna, “Please explain to me why manufacturing companies are not required to provide health and safety studies prior to chemicals coming onto the market? 20,000 new chemicals have come onto the market since TSCA was enacted.” Enacting the Kid-Safe Chemical Act would “put the burden of proof on the chemical companies to prove that a chemical is safe before it is allowed on the market.
Green and Clean Mom's Sommer Poquette also argues in favor of the Kid Safe Chemical Act, noting in a letter addressed to President Obana, "You have children. I have children. We have that common bond and wanting to keep them safe and healthy is certainly your priority and mine. When your wife was pregnant did you ever test her umbilical cord for toxins after either of your daughters were born? We didn’t for my two children but if we had, we might have been surprised to find that there could have been over 300 industrial chemicals that were pre-polluting our babies in their safe wombs. Really who would think that a child is not safe inside their mother’s womb?"
Talking about food is the issue nearest and dearest to Karen Hanrahan. At Best of Mother Earth, she writes, "Our nation needs to shift the way we eat. To me, this begins with the seeds we plant and the way we farm them. It continues into priistine manufacturing practices and with policies that supports and reeducates families about getting back to eating locally and seasonally."
Michelle ("Green Bean") of Green Phone Booth agrees. "If the world switched to an organic agricultural system that relied on compost and cover crop, we could sequester up to 40% of current carbon emissions. But that is just the tip of the quickly melting ice berg. Rebuilding our food system would preserve open space, reduce toxins in the air, ground and water, nurture biodiversity, secure our food from terrorism, reduce obesity, and create tens of millions of green jobs," she writes.
Jennifer Taggart at The Smart Mama encourages President-Elect Obama to lead by example – starting with the White House. How about cleaning the residence with non-toxic chemicals? Drinking from reusable water bottles? Serving locally grown and organic food?
Heather at EnviroMom also volunteers to give the White House a green mansion makeover. While you’re thinking about scrubbing down the Lincoln bedroom with baking soda and vinegar, Heather encourages you to answer two interesting questions: 1)” What are some things you would be willing to change if our President-elect requested it (assuming that you respect him and believe in his reasoning)? 2) “If our government did issue 'environmental guidelines' -- you know, kind of like the food pyramid -- would you follow them?”
Micaela at Mindful Momma wraps it all up with a comprehensive list of "hopes and dreams" that would go a long way towards helping the Obama Administration think preventively about protecting the planet, including a reminder to uphold and strenghten organic agriculture standards, make food safety a top priority, and ensure the safety of children's toys, drinking bottles and personal care products.
Do you have your own questions to pose? We invite you to comment on any or all of these blogs; then head on over to The Prevention Agenda forum and add your ideas to the list. We'll be pulling together some recommendations prior to Obama's inauguration, and welcome your suggestions.