Monthly Archives: January 2012

Oh we let it mellow.

3 pees already! (I know I struggled with whether to include a visual...)

If it’s yellow…well you know how that one goes. I don’t know why we are so grossed out with a little pee in the toilet. If you’re drinking enough water it isn’t even that yellow and doesn’t smell and you can vastly reduce your water usage by flushing only when you need to (definitely flush #2 and after 5 pees or so- figure out what you can get away with without a clog!)

If you live in an apartment/house/condo that was built before 1992 chances are you have a toilet that uses 3.5 -5 GALLONS of water in each flush! Each person flushes the toilet an average of 7 times a day (thanks google, but count yourself! I go all the time because I’m constantly drinking water), which means you’re consuming 25-35 GALLONS of water a day just in toilet flushing! Luckily in 1992 the U.S. got serious with the Energy Policy & Conservation Act made it mandatory for all toilets to be 1.6 Gallon flushers. Most of the high-efficiency toilets (HETs) are 1.28 gallon flushers now & if you search really hard you can find ones that only use 1 gallon. But here’s the thing, if you’re flushing 7 times a day even in the most efficient toilet you’re still using 7 gallons of water simply for pee; what a ridiculous waste! Just to give you a comparative figure, the average person in a developing country uses 2.6 gallons a day for EVERYTHING (cooking, washing, drinking, & sanitation if they have it).

I hope you join me in the yellow revolution!

A few other quick water saving tips:

  • Taking shorter showers. I now only wash my hair twice a week (and I have BEAUTIFUL healthy hair for the first time ever) so my showers are super short: in, wet, lathered, rinse.
  • Turn off the water while you’re shaving your legs. You won’t freeze to death and you’ll get used to it quickly.
  • When you’re doing the dishes (if you don’t have a dishwasher- dishwashers are more water efficient!) soap them all up while the water is turned off and then rinse. You won’t run the water as much and the continuous flow means it takes less energy than if you start/stop

Apartment Composting :)

I’ve been in bed with a nasty cold for a few days and am happy SF has municipal composting so all of my tissues can go right in there. It’s hard to be ‘green’ when you’re sick- I don’t want to do anything but I can handle bringing my tissues downstairs to the composting bin. If you aren’t lucky enough to live in a city that has municipal composting (it’s incredible- everything can go in, milk cartons, chinese food containers, pizza boxes!), and you don’t have a backyard, you can try apartment composting. In New York We actually kept all of our compost in a bag in the freezer (yes I know it doesn’t break down there), and then once a week I brought it to the union square farmers market where they have a composting bin that anyone can add to and plastic bag recycling. I also sometimes would bring it to whole foods if I was feeling lazier and add it to their compost!

Most people shy away from composting in their apartment because of the worms. I have never had worms so I can’t totally attest to it, but I think an even easier solution might be what my brother (yes the Republican) is trying in LA. He’s following a no-worm plan where the basics are just air, giving it a good stir often, and they’re starting with just veggies before diving into everything. I think its important to start small and see what you can handle – does it smell? Is it leaking? Do you have the time? Starting with some basic veggies that break down quickly can help you ease into the process so you aren’t totally overwhelmed. Here’s the plan they are trying out: Continue reading

Even Fox News is Going Green

Woah. When Fox News is posting articles on ‘How you can go green in 2012’, you know we have reached a turning point in sustainability. Sustainability is no longer just for the hippies and environmentalists, although we are definitely still leading the charge. Although this article lacks in any real substance or innovative thinking (it basically pushes organic farming and better lighting options), it’s good to see a growing trend among the often anti-eco republicans. Sustainability has been pushed in republican circles as being about cost-savings and job creation, things that side of the bench is likely to support. I’m glad that (even though it’s poorly written/not very interesting) this is an article about sustainability for sustainability reasons. Costs aren’t even mentioned! The author writes, ‘Organic products nourish our bodies without also exposing us to the harmful chemicals that pervade traditional farms.’ And this leftish hippie definitely agrees!

Living Social deal makes reusable bags sustainable & cheap!

If you haven’t had time yet to purchase your reusable sandwich & snack bags – you’re now in luck! Living Social has a great deal where for $10 you can get a $22 credit to Re-Pac Bags (they retail for $6-$10 ea). I haven’t used one yet (just bought the deal) but it seems like a cool company- a woman started it after feeling awful that she was making so many lunches a year in plastic bags. She uses polyester/nylon so that mold can’t grow, they’re machine washable, (I’m excited to try out the zipper vs. velcro), and have a lifetime warranty. This would be a really easy way to cut down on waste, save you money & it’s a good deal (I just love a good deal)!

Thanks @jen__hunt for sending this over!!

For some other eco-coupons: http://www.retailmenot.com/coupons/sustainability. There are some great online deals for companies like Mrs. Meyer’s, Klean Kanteen bottles, and more! Happy sustainable shopping!

Eco-friendly reading alternative…The Library!

I am lucky to have a great bunch of girl friends (one of whom is a librarian!) who recently reminded me how fabulous (and sustainable and free!) the library is. I am a new member of Golden Gate Valley Pubic Library in SF and I love it already. My first pick up was Maupin’s Tales of the City, which is supposed to be a good fall-in-love-with-SF read. I also wanted 2 books that weren’t on the GGV shelves, so the helpful librarian found them in another city library and they’ll be arriving right to me in 2 days.!. I’m still having a hard time believing all of this is free; this will save me so much money. Also, my library card is completely compostable! Yes! Continue reading

Easy tool to track your energy footprint

WattzOn is a super simple website designed to help you track your energy and carbon footprint. Enter in the square footage of your apartment/home, any appliances (fridge, toaster, dishwasher (I wish)), your lifestyle (flights, car situation, food choices), synch up with your utility bills, and then it calculates what you’re looking at as far as planet-impact goes. It’ll also show you how you compare to the ‘average American home’ so you get a real grasp on what your choices mean. It offers areas for improvement, including $ saving tips (especially if you own/are ok with putting upgrades in).

Here’s our apartment’s actual use. We have pretty inefficient electric baseboard heat (which is also wildly expensive) but try hard not to turn it on. I’ve invested instead in slippers, flannel PJs, and am considering a snuggy. Due to our thrifty eco-minded attempts, we’re a bit lower than the average home our size, do not have a driving footprint, and are also very low on food due to not eating meat. Of course we completely blow it in the travel department however with our cross-country flights. Can’t wait til planes can run on bio-fuel!

Enter your stats and see where you line up!

My first real biking to work experience

I’ve been biking to work since 2008. This was mainly due to necessity- there was no where to park in Cambridge and the T was super overcrowded, and because I only had to bike about 1.5 miles. I kept this up at my next job, biking a whopping 1.2 miles each way. I never even brought a change of clothes because I didn’t get sweaty, and I often wore a skirt. I also rode through the Boston Common for most of it on a sidewalk, and practiced my serious face whenever I ended up next to a ‘real biker’. Not really a commuter biking phenom.

That all changed this week when I started my new job in SF and really biked to work. I love my pink bike and I was ready to put it to the test. It’s 6 miles (EACH WAY!) to work, so it took some preparation and a bit more willpower than I thought it would, given the SF hills. I wore my work pants because they’re pretty durable and my Tom’s shoes because they’re much lighter than my running shoes and work just as well. Of course I had my Giro helmet on, my front light and a rear light, and an ankle reflector. Gloves for me are also a must. My backpack also has reflectors on it, which I’d recommend. I threw my work shoes in my backpack (but then left them at work so I don’t have to carry again), brought a shirt and sweater in my bag, and wore a dry-fit workout top under my jacket. I was lucky in that I didn’t get too sweaty since it’s cooler in the mornings, but I’ve ordered some biodegradable body wipes to handle that issue when it arrises. Luckily my office is pretty low key so I can wear jeans & two others bike to work. I also started using a cool cycling app (Strava), to track how fast I’m going, how far I make it, my top speeds, etc.

The days of blow drying my hair and putting on a business suit each morning seem like a far away world. I’m much happier getting to rock out in sneakers and feel pretty kick-ass when I’m on my bike. It’s a bit of a rush to be flying down Polk Street and I get a little buzz thinking ‘holy shit I’m actually doing this.’ It’s a bit of a ‘I am woman hear me roar’ moment. It’s also a nice way to start the morning. I’m SUCH a last minute person, but now I can’t really be. It helps me wake up and I get a good think in on the way to work. The only bummer news is that I’m currently getting passed by the ‘real’ SF bikers, but every day I go a little faster and a few less people fly by. It’s also going to rain next week so I’ll have to tackle that for the first time. That update to come but I do know that fenders & serious rain gear are a must! I promise if I can do this, you can do this. Start small, get yourself a bike and start with a mile. Start in a park or on a less busy street and work your way up to biking to work. I know you won’t be disappointed.

To help you make better choices: The Good Guide

The Good Guide is my FAVORITE do-good aid. It’s a website and an app, which I use every time I’m shopping. It is a database of products (I can almost always find what I’m looking for) with sustainability ratings. You just type in the product’s name (like my conditioner – Yes to Carrots), and it pulls up Health, Environment, and Social rankings. In this case, it’s pretty healthy, although all of the ingredients aren’t disclosed (yikes), they have a good environmental management program, and are doing just OK on the social side. You can also see further details at the bottom of the page (to get to this screen click on the red thumbs down or green thumbs up and then click ‘see full rating details‘). AND, you can see a list of similar products with higher ratings, to help you make the best choices.

I’ve been using this app for a while and friends in grad school know the Harvard team who started it. I’m vouching for the science behind it because when I’ve researched the same product, I come up with similar conclusions. It basically does the research for you to make sustainable purchasing EASY! And that’s what it is all about, making sustainability easy and accessible for everyone!

A different sustainability: One Mango Tree products

Sustainability is more than one thing: it’s business, it’s environmental protection, it’s social wellbeing, it’s providing for our generation and the future needs of others (yep Brundtland Commission nod), and it’s about empowerment. I came across One Mango Tree, a shop where you can buy fair trade, organic, female made, and beautiful yoga bags, purses, and women’s clothing. OMT gives women in extremely poor and conflict-ridden communities a way to make money, take care of themselves and their families, feel liberated from their daily horrors, and make products they are proud of that don’t do any environmental harm. To me, that’s sustainability in action.

I just bought a yoga mat carrier (for only $10 with free shipping!), and I love it. It came with a card so I can see the woman who designed and made my bag, and learn more about their 100% organic and fair trade policies. In 2012 I’m going to focus on shifting my clothing purchases to better buys (this is the hardest area for me to go eco in, more on that later). With my OMT bag, I am off to a great start.

Meet my reusable salad bowl

I’m borderline in love with my reusable salad bowl. This thing comes in handy daily and allows me to get takeout without the paper/plastic waste that normally comes with it. When I worked in NYC and had salad almost every day for lunch (Just Salad..yum), I’d leave my bowl at work and grab it before I headed down to the shop. In addition to it only being $1 at Just Salad, I got 2 free items every time I used it!

There isn’t quite the same lunchtime salad craze in SF, but I’ve been using my bowl for all things lunch. I’ll put a wrap in it instead of getting a bag, and I put pad thai in it the other day, which worked out great. It is definitely easiest when you go to a deli/counter and order, because you can hand it to them before they make your meal. Continue reading

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