Monthly Archives: March 2012

More Info on Plastic Bag Bans

For those of you more interested in the plastic bag problem, the BBC just published a recent article explaining the different approaches countries are taking to respond to this issue. While some countries (and US cities) have gone the complete ban route, others (like Ireland) have opted for a heavy levy that is adjusted on per capita plastic bag use, and has raised $99 million for their Environmental Fund. I think both paths have merit and it’s a good study to see the different results.

It’s also worth mentioning that if you’ve switched to ‘compostable bags’ make sure you live in an area that has municipal composting, otherwise the bags won’t break down! If you’re using them to send to landfills or in your own backyard, pick ones that say biodegradable so that they will break down with simple exposure to air and time.

There is also a lifecycle assessment at the end of the report (but be wary, you can often get an LCA to say whatever you want it to), that notes paper bags are often just as damaging if they aren’t reused and recycled (we use ours as recycling bags 4-5 times before sending them with the recycling). I mentioned this in my last post, but make sure you don’t buy more reusable bags than you need, as everything has a footprint!

Happy learning!


My Ultimate Challenge: Going Fashionably Green

Buying clothes is where my sustainability quest falls seriously short. I get overwhelmed – should I read CSR reports and check out supply chain practices before walking in a store? My brain also doesn’t go directly to thoughts of organic cotton when I twirl a shirt around, rather if it’ll go with my new jeans (that I also bought without thinking about organic anything). But, the toll of ignoring sustainability, pushing it off because it’s hard, feels hypocritical. So, it’s time to try.

My 'new' purchases

I believe simple attainable steps are the path to real change. Instead of starting with store eco-research, I started with my favorite green go-to, the art of reuse. Today was my second time buying ‘recycled clothing’. Unlike pricey vintage or often smelly GoodWill clothes, recycled clothing stores (like Crossroads in the Haight, LA, NY, Chicago, Portland, & Seattle), carry interesting, clean, clothing. And while you may be hung up on the thought of wearing someone else’s shirt, just throw it in the wash and get over it (hot water kills everything). Though I had to dig, I scored three awesome new shirts for $25 total (one has elbow pads, I’m thrilled). This seems like the easiest way to get my shopping fix in and make sure I’m at least not adding any extra eco-torment to the world.

If you really can’t get on board with hand-me-downs (and it’s ok if you can’t, no judging here!), one of my FAVORITE start-up stores, that just opened online, is SustainU. Talk about cradle to cradle, this company ONLY uses recycled materials in their clothing. Right now their shop consists of t-shirts, hoodies, and the like, but as they expand, I know this will be where I shop. Recycled NEW clothes. Yes!

If you don’t live near a Crossroads or if you google ‘recycled clothing stores’ and nothing comes up in your hood, think about organizing a clothing swap with some friends or at work. Often things I’m ‘over’ are in great shape and perfect for someone else. You can also try your local GoodWill (who knows it may not smell!), or, come visit me in SF and bring an empty suitcase.

San Francisco is the coolest.

In addition to municipal composting, vegan options on many a menu, and bike lanes gallore, SF is home to incredible for-good start-ups like Bicycle Coffee Co. They not only serve delicious organic, hand picked (more sustainable than machine ruined), fair-trade coffee from farmers they have met and visited, BCC also only delivers this coffee to grocery stores and retailers by bike! And, because of their super low-overhead / efficient business model, the prices of their coffee bags are the same as the non-organics sitting next to them. Woah, serious changemaker on our hands here.

This is pretty much my dream, and I continue to allow SF to inspire me to find my for-good venture.

If you live in the bay area, consider switching out your regular cup of joe and instantly make a difference. What a wonderful world we live in, where drinking a cup of coffee can truly make change; in the lives of the Central American farmers, in the air as no-CO2 is added, and as a vote towards making all coffee organic, fair-trade, and sustainable.

Back to the Start

For those of you that haven’t seen this gem of a video from Chipotle, I think it’s awesome. It’s one of the first big-brand ads that shows consumers what their food actually looks like and where it comes from. I know that meat is often rubbed with chemicals to kill bacteria, pork producers in the U.S. alone use over 10 million pounds of antibiotics per year (Union of Concerned Scientists), many pigs, cows, and chickens are raised on factory farms with limited mobility and in unsanitary conditions, and animals are pumped with hormones to grow more quickly, but only after doing my own research. I’m pretty sure main-stream America does not know. And the efforts so far to spread this message have largely come from the NGO and activist community, which often falls on deaf ears (unfortunately).

Although advertising irks me in a serious way, I do love that Chipotle is taking a stand in this video and showing a lot of unknowing Americans what their food system actually looks like (in a not as graphically horrifying way). Check it out and let me know what you think. Of course it’s a pro-Chipotle ad and they have their own motivations, but I think they are passing an important message to a community that needs it.

Chipotle also walks the talk:

  • Since 2001 they source 100% of their pork from ranchers whose pigs are raised outside or in bedded pens, antibiotic-free, and fed a vegetarian diet.
  • Commitment to continue to use their size to increase demand for pasture-raised cows (for meat and dairy)
  • Striving towards 100% of chickens raised without antibiotics and with no additives (like arsenic, a common one, seriously).
  • 40% organically grown beans
  • Family farm-preferred (includes crop rotation, multiple crops one one service, no pesticides)
  • Increasingly using local sources
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