Joining the Climate Change Dots and an Awesome How To Win Any Climate Change Argument Flow Chart!

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At least once or twice a week I end up having to explain, discuss, or argue my view on climate change. Often the discussion, (civilised or not so civilised) results in a stand-off. Leaving me thinking that; either some people are just not able to join the climate change dots or I am terrible explaining simple concepts.

Fortunatetly, a friend of mine (thanks, you know who you are) came across an awesome “How To Win Any Climate Change Argument Flow Chart” and sent it through to me. Because we all know that it is all about winning and helping others I thought I would share the awesome flow chart with your guys! So… below you will find the flow chart that was created as part of the Climate Desk collaboration by James West.

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A Bottled Water Resolution for a More Sustainable 2013!

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Many of us are lucky enough to live in an area where the municipal water is safe and potable. Despite this many people living in such areas prefer to consume bottled water. Maybe they think it’s a sign of wealth, or its healthier or its cooler. In reality bottled water is really just unsustainable and not necessarily healthy, and definitely not “cool”.

The town of Concord in the USA, has started the year with the promulgation of a law, making single-serving bottles of water illegal. The law aims to discourage the use of bottled water and encourage the use of tap water and help in combating the worldwide problem of plastic pollution. Ten ecocred points to the town of Concord!

I thought this was a great way for the town start 2013 as the law is significant in more ways than one, as its impacts go beyond the reduction of plastic pollution. The bottled water industry, like most things in life, has impacts that we often don’t see and therefore do not consider. The consumption of bottled water is also associated with carbon emissions, inequitable water use, and inefficient energy use, commoditization of nature and a natural process, inequity and a lack of sustainability. Thus the impact of bottled water goes further than discarded plastic bottles often seen littering roadsides, rural areas, rivers and beaches.

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The bottled water industry may be seen as an indicator of a larger unsustainable consumption pattern or problem that many people are not fully aware of. I could go on and on about why bottled water is so very very bad and you would probably get very tired and bored while I list all the reasons. So I thought it easier for all concerned if I provide a little information on the key reasons that I believe bottled water consumption is unsustainable. I am not going into the issues in detail, but you can always find more detailed information on the topic as there are tons of articles etc out there. In addition I will also leave some links behind that you could follow should you be keen.  

The key reasons for dropping your bottled water habit are;

  • Toxicity and health: Most plastic water bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) that is associated with ill health and toxicity. In addition plastic bottles are known to leach harmful chemicals into water that could have health impacts.  

The World Health Organization states that chemical contaminants, such as lead, arsenic and benzene, may be present in bottled water.

(nowastewednesdays.com 2011)

  • Quality: Municipal water is regularly tested and the quality is regulated, not all bottled water suppliers and processing plants are regulated and tested.

“in the industrial world bottled water is often no healthier than tap water, it can cost up to 10,000 times more.” (www.treehuger.com,2006)

  • Energy use: the bottled water industry is energy intensive and has a large carbon footprint. Energy is used to transport water to the bottling plant and to transport bottles from the bottling plant to consumers. This results in unnecessary energy use and carbon emissions.

municipal water requires only a little energy to pump the water through pipes to our homes”

  • Oil use: many billions of barrels of oil are used to manufacture plastic bottles. This may be seen as unnecessary use of oil. Oil mining, processing and combustion are associated with environmental degradation; reduction of oil use would benefit us all. One way of reducing your oil use would be to stop the unnecessary consumption of bottled water. 
  • Equity and Commoditization of water: Bottled water companies are using water, a natural resource, as a private commodity. In order to secure profits such companies are trying to and have often succeeded in securing access to water resources such as aquifers and wetlands. In the long term this could have dire consequences for food security, environmental health and the economy, as many people may not be able to afford water due to rising water costs, profits and the commodification of water.   

“Multinational corporations are stepping in to purchase groundwater and distribution rights wherever they can, and the bottled water industry is an important component in their drive to commoditize what many feel is a basic human right: the access to safe and affordable water.”

http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/5-reasons-not-to-drink-bottled-water

  • Pollution and waste: a great deal of the plastic used for water bottles does not get recycled and ends up in landfills or littering out urban and natural environments. The management and landfill of waste especially plastic is costly and this cost could be avoided by not consuming bottled water. A lot of the plastic bottles that don’t get landfilled and or recycled end up in nature where they cause litter and harm to nature and natural processes.  

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So if you want to start of 2013 with a quick, easy to keep and sustainable resolution all you have to do is quit you bottled water habit! This would simply entail:

  • Always asking or non-bottled water, unless you are in an area where there is no safe potable water.
  • Carrying your own water bottle (not plastic) with you and fill up at water fountains, taps etc.
  • Choosing non-bottled water whenever you have to option to do so. E.g. if you are at a meeting or conference or workshop and bottled water is provided ask for non-bottled water.
  • Asking for tap water when dining out and the waiter suggests bottled water for the table.

The multiplier effect of reducing your bottled water consumption also will include the following “good and green’ actions;

  • Reducing your carbon footprint
  • Reducing the amount of plastic waste that has to be landfilled or becomes litter landfilled
  • Ensures that access to water remains a basic right for all, not just for those that can afford it.
  • Support your municipality
  • Prevents the privatization of water
  • Prevents the unsustainable use of aquifers and water resources.
  • Prevents unnecessary energy use.
  • Prevents environmental degradation.
  • Saves you money.

 

 

References and more information:

http://news.iafrica.com/quirky/834862.html

http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/5-reasons-not-to-drink-bottled-water

http://www.sierraclub.org/committees/cac/water/bottled_water/bottled_water.pdf

http://nowastewednesdays.com/2011/03/09/bottled-water-a-bigger-enemy-that-you-think/

http://www.responsiblepurchasing.org/purchasing_guides/bottled_water_university_edition/social_environ/

http://www.treehugger.com/culture/bottled-water-what-a-waste.html

http://www.responsiblepurchasing.org/purchasing_guides/bottled_water_university_edition/social_environ/

My Latest Green Fail….

…. another post about green that isn’t really green and how we all need to change our thinking and consumption patterns…and yes I am not perfect …..

My previous post on rare earth minerals got me thinking about the fact that transitioning towards a greener and more sustainable economy by focusing on technology, resource and innovation may not necessarily be the best option, especially when:

  • The new and innovative technologies end up increasing our dependence on resources, albeit, new or different ones.
  • The new and innovative technologies result in dependence or impact that is merely dressed up in different possibly green-washed and even organic new swag.
  • The new and innovative technologies result in an increase in unnecessary consumption often due to green wash and unsustainable trends.

Keep in mind that not all new and greener technologies are unsustainable. What is important is the manner in which we make the change to newer technologies, and the quantity and quality of the new technologies that we buy. Merely buying the newest and greenest technology will not make you greener and in fact may make you guilty of unsustainable and unethical consumption patterns.

It is very important that when we make our “green” choices we consider the entire impact and not merely the superficial impact that we would like to see?  Unfortunately, and much to my dismay I am guilty of this in many respects. So I thought as my good deed for the day…..I would share some of my green fails with the hope that I could prevent someone else from going down the same route.

My most recent “goody two-shoes green delusion fails” are;

  • Falling for a new high-tech gadget and upgrading my iPad to the latest version, that isn’t really that different from my previous one? From a functionality perspective I use the new one for exactly the same purpose as the previous one.  The question is did I really need the new one? and was the overall cost of the upgrade really worth it?

Green Pros:

  1. Less paper use and waste by reading eBooks, magazines and online news,
  2. Note taking, report editing and emails on the tablet = less printing of emails and reports and having an easily transportable and accessible library of documents that I need during the day.

Green Cons:

  1. Unnecessary use of resources and rare earth metals used to produce, package and transport my new tablet: think ecological footprint etc
  2. The iPad 3 has a higher carbon footprint that the iPad 2. (http://ecolibris.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-green-is-new-ipad-part-6-comparing.html#)
  3. Waste: landfill / recycling and disposal costs associated with the previous tablet. (though, I did try to offset this cost by up-cycling  the old tablet)

  • Green Retail Therapy: I recently bought a whole new batch of solar fairy lights and garden lights. The new solar fairy and garden lights were marketed as being greener than the previous generation of solar lights etc.  … so despite that fact that I already have a few pretty solar fairy lights twinkling away in my little garden and the fact that I don’t need more lights in my garden, I bought some more.

Green Pros:

  1. At least I didn’t buy conventional fairy lights that would increase my use of electricity generated from coal.

Green Cons:

  1. Unnecessary use and waste of resources that were used to produce, package and transport my new ”green” lighting.

Ultimately, these two examples are a large-scale green fail on my part that has sent my ecocred plummeting, despite the fact that I didn’t send the old iPad or fairy lights to a landfill.

I didn’t really need a new tablet to do exactly the same things that my previous tablet did. Neither did I need additional fairy lights., …even if they were solar-powered and therefore greener than conventional lights.

I was just a greedy little wannabe wanting to have the newest and shiniest gadgets. Gadgets, that are being marketed as green, that maybe a bit faster, prettier etc , yet barely have enough new features to outweigh the environmental and social costs of the new gadget or technology.

Not everything that is green is sustainable!

Additional reading to up your ecocred!

Five things you should know before buying apples iPad.

How green is the new iPad?

Another How To Green Your Valentines Day Post!

You either: love Valentine ’s Day, hate it or are completely ambivalent about it! Which ever it is you clearly think something about it if you ended up here reading this post! *smirk*

I have already seen articles and blog posts about “how to green” your Valentines Day blah blah… so being the dutiful or not so dutiful green-band-wagon-blogger that I am, I contemplated doing a similar article. The thing is that I don’t actually believe in Valentines Day, well at least not in the manner in which we tend to celebrate it anyway….. No, I am not an alien or some weird species of mad tree hugging anti joy and happiness type of person! I actually love the thought of champers, prezzies, and chocolates and being spoilt etc… I just think that picking one day in a year to do so an absolute waste of time, effort, emotion, money and natural resources. I think everyday should be Valentines Day and we should always show our loved ones and Valentines that we love and appreciate them (without being a stalker though… )
Here are a few reasons that Valentines Day needs a bit of a rethink, other than the inherent cheesiness. You should think about:

  • Trees grown in unsustainable monoculture plantations cut down to make cheesy cards. Imagine the waste of resources….
  • Flowers are grown in monoculture plantations, where farmers in all likelihood using GM seeds, too much water in water poor areas of the world and are shipped around the world in refrigerated planes and trucks emitting GHG emissions etc… (see the article on greening tips and flowers)
  • Flowers wrapped in plastic that will be grossly overpriced for the day… what’s the point?
  • Cheesy yucky tasting chocolates and sweets that will be molded into heart and cupid etc shapes that will be sold all over the place and will most probably be thrown away by recipients who don’t like said yucky chocolate which will in any event be on sale two days after Valentines Day …. Rather save the worlds chocolate resources and buy good quality sustainably produced chocolate that actually tastes nice and is good for the planet.
  • Think of all the waste when the valentine hued cards, wrapping and uneaten chocolates, flowers etc that will have to disposed of…
  • Underwear that is supposed to be made from sustainably grown/sourced cotton that is not really that good for the environment or the communities that it was meant to benefit. (see the article on Victoria’s Secret for more info)
  • The stress caused by all the build up to Valentines Day and the possibility of being rejected by the person you choose to be your valentine…. this can be particularly unsustainable to humans….
  • The list just goes on and on ….

So instead my message is celebrate Valentines Day… just don’t be a cheesy eco-douche and fall for all the green wash! You don’t have to spend mad cash on overpriced “pretend” sustainable flowers, organic champers or not so sustainable Victoria’s Secret underwear or whatever it is that you do on Valentines Day. Rather make a Valentines gesture that is sustainable and has a more sustainable impact on the environment:

Some options for those of you trying to be a bit nicer to the planet this Valentines Day are:

  • Do nothing (and risk being ostracized, broken up with etc. This is a good option for those wanting to end a relationship on Valentines Day!) (-1000 points)
  • Make a homemade Valentines Day card … preferably using organic, sustainable sourced paper and ink etc (+20 points) for your loved one.
  • Cook your Valentine an organic home cooked meal. Ideally you would have grown the veggies at home using the worm juice/tea from your wormery, but if not, at east try and source the food from a reliable non-green wash supermarket chain (see article on supermarket refrigeration and GHG emissions) or local farmers market. (+ 50 points if you swopped some organic veggies and worm tea with the vineyard down the road for organic wine or champers to accompany the meal.) Additional information on more sustainable food consumption can be found in this article.)
  • Adopt an endangered species/ donate to worthy cause in the name of your Valentine! Please note that adoption of an orangutan, rhino, gorilla or panda does not mean you are to bring the animal home for your valentine. The aim here is to contribute to helping out the conservation of the species not facilitate increased poaching or removal of species from their natural environments. (Extra points directly linked to the more endangered the species and the larger the donation!) I am not going to tell you what to adopt or which cause to donate to. You should know what the worthy causes in your area are.
  • Plant an indigenous tree/ plant/ flower with your Valentine to symbolize your love …. (be sure to water and look after it ….. don’t let it die as that could be taken as an bad omen for your relationship)… cheesy I know but at least you will hopefully help with carbon reduction and the prevention of biodiversity loss.
  • Pick a flower from your/ a garden and give it to your Valentine. Preferably, an indigenous flower (+10 points) grown in a safe non-pesticide using garden.
  • Spend quality time with you Valentine/ loved one etc. This has particularly low resource consumption, though if you have to travel halfway around the world to do so your carbon miles may actually make this option unsustainable for you, so maybe you should try something else… or public transport.
  • These are just a few options, if you can’t find anything that suits your here do an internet search and you should find a good green Valentines Day option to suit you!

The point is that there are tons of things you can do, to have a greener and more sustainable Valentines Day so please try and stay away from the unnecessary consumption, and resource depleting type of Valentines Day and don’t be an eco-douche!

Touch Lightly This November: Three Easy Things You Can Do To Increase Your ECOCRED

Closet waiting to be recycled!

The following is a list of quick easy and good green things you can do this November that will contribute towards reducing your/our impact on our planet and saving you some money.

1. For the book-worms, you could go paperless and start reading ebooks (if you haven’t already). For those who say that the whole thing about reading a book is holding it and smelling it etc… I say try something new for the planet… I used to be one of those who needed a proper book to read from, however I gave ebooks (kindle iPad app and apple bookshelf app) a shot and found that the benefits are great and include:

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  • Never losing your page. Whenever you reopen the book/file you will automatically find yourself where you left off. No need for bookmarks, dog-eared books and forgetting your spot.
  • The Kindle app has a thesaurus. This is great, even bespectacled book-worm like me (sometimes) need to check the meaning of words
  • You can highlight phrases and sections without permanently damaging the book and you can see what phrases etc that other readers have found interesting and highlighted.
  • You can have all your books with you are the same time without having to lug an entire library around with you. This is particularly great for travel!! And also for reference and when you forgets parts of stories.
  • Ebooks are often cheaper than “real” books.
  • you could also recycle all your old books and donate them to a library, charity or educational facility.

2. Recycle yours and other’s wardrobe’s. You do not always have to buy a new pair of shoes, item of clothing or jewelry. Simple changes in your wardrobe and fashion related buying habits can save a great deal of resources, energy and emissions etc. A few tips are:

Vintage Jewelry

  • Re-sole and re-heel your old pair of favorite shoes. I often get really upset when an old favorite pair of shoes starts to look a little worn or old or needs a new heel etc. Until I found a really good shoe repair place. I have just recently had one of my wardrobe staples re-heeled and re-soled and they are back to perfect and I didn’t have to worry about having them replaced!
  • Old jeans can be cut to make shorts or bermudas.
  • Maxi dresses can be hemmed or cut and turned into shorter summer dresses.
  • Shirts can be taken in or modified to suit the new season trends.
  • T-shirts can be dyed, tailored, and tweaked with the help of lace, glitter and paint (lead free of course) etc
  • Scarves can be used to accessorize outfits and change looks
  • Raid your aunt’s, uncle’s, mother’s, mother in-law’s, granny’s, sister’s wardrobes and jewelry boxes for vintage pieces that can be used to add a bit of flair to your wardrobe. I have found many a gem in my mother’s and mother-in law’s wardrobe!

3. Instead of buying fresh flowers to brighten up your office or home grow your own flowers. Cut flowers even though regarded as “natural” have a significant impact on the environment. One has to look at cut flowers from a holistic perspective and consider things such:

Roses

  • Carbon and ecological footprint of the cut flower industry
  • Water use for growing and storing the flowers
  • Costs and emissions associated with the refrigeration and transport of the flowers.
  • Costs associated with maintaining the optimal temperature for the growth of the flowers (if grown in hothouses)
  • The use of Genetically Modified seed
  • The reduction of biodiversity in areas that grow the flowers often in mono-culture fields or hot houses etc.

However, one should also bear in mind that the cut flower industry does in fact provide employment and economic benefits to the areas in which the flowers are grown. As a result the issue is not the kill the industry but rather to nudge the industry towards greener production methods. So until the cut flower industry is able to reduce its negative impact on the environment you could reduce your consumption of cut flowers by the following:

  • Grow your own indigenous flowers and use the flowers to make your own flower arrangements. The indigenous flowers in your window box or garden will use less water and attract pollinators as well as increase the biodiversity of the area.
  • Grow your own indigenous plants and have statement pot plants placed strategically throughout your home or office. The indigenous plants will also contribute to the biodiversity of the area while creating an aesthetically pleasing focal point.

    Indigenous Austrailian Flowers

Getting you hands dirty by growing plants and gardening is also a great and cost-effective way to de-stress and get/ stay in touch with the nature.

Have a great November!

Green Fashion, Educated Choices and Levi’s Waterless Jeans?!

"Levis Water<less" jeans

I was looking into what makes an item of clothing green/ greener/ good for the environment/ sustainable etc… and came across “Levis Waterless Jeans“. My first thought was “Greenwash.” My greenwash train of thought focused on the following issues;

What about:

  • The water and energy used in the production,packaging, transport and sale of the jeans
  • The monoculture cotton plantations and the impacts on biodiversity and water
  • The (very high) possibility that the denim is produced from Genetically Modified (GM) cotton
  • The dyes that go into the dying of the denim. What dyes do they use, what are they made of etc….
  • The water used to wash and dispose of the jeans….

My list could go on forever……

But then I decided to have a look at what Levi’s said made their jeans waterless and therefore better for the environment… and these are my thoughts:

  • It seems that even though the product is not entirely green or perfectly waterless…. it does at least start to engage with the issue of water and sustainability. Maybe “WATER<LESS” is a bit of an exaggeration in this regard?
  • Hopefully the product will start to get customers asking the right questions about ethical and green fashion and consumption.
  • The campaign provides some facts and figures about the production process and also links the issue of water conservation with people who live in water scarce areas.
  • The campaign did not adequately tackle the issue of monoculture, biodiversity and water. This is a key flaw in the campaign as the production of the cotton for the denim is a very large part of the water use debate as is the impact of monoculture agriculture on water catchements, ecosystems and our water resources. One should however note that Levis has aligned with the Better Cotton Initiative. However, I was unable to determine wether the initiative supports GM Cotton or not. The biodiversity impacts and GM issue are a key issue for me!
  • The Levis Waterless Jeans are one product in the Levis range… what about the other products?
In conclusion, I think that the Levi’s Waterless Jeans are (for me) not the amazing eco-fashion answer to eco-friendly jeans, though they are a step in the right direction and will (hopefully) get consumers asking questions about issues of sustainability, sustainable consumption and how our consumption patterns affect the natural environment.
It is very important that we consider all the aspects related to our consumption patterns and don’t simply buy into every headline and green marketing campaign. We may not be perfect but every informed decision we make is a step in the right direction.

Levis Water<less jeans lifecycle

*Please note that this is my opinion and that I am not endorsing any brand or product.

Food & Environment

We need food to survive. We also need a safe an healthy environment to provide us with food. Without food we would all die and without an healthy environment we would not be able to eat. This is all very simple…. however, we need to be a bit more mindful of the environmental impact of what we eat.  The manner in which our food is produced, harvested, stored, packaged, transported, prepared and eaten all have environmental impacts that are in many instances contributing to the degradation of our environment, which is counter productive considering that we need the environment to provide us with food. 

The fact that we all need food and all eat at least once a day (those of us who are food secure) means that by simply introducing one or two (preferably more, but something is better than nothing) environment friendly habits to your eating habits you could contribute to a healthier environment and also a healthier you!
The quickest way to green your eating habits is by focusing on reducing the food miles, carbon emissions, pesticides, wastes, and packaging associated with the food you eat.  A few simple tips are:
  • Buy and eat seasonal fruit and vegetables that are preferably organic, pesticide free and locally grown.

    Fresh Cherries

  • Stay away from over/ unnecessarily processed foods such as pre-chopped veggies or peeled and sliced oranges? Processing and storage involves energy and emissions so if you don’t really need the processed food don’t buy it!

    Reusable shopping bag

  • Reduce food waste. Only buy and prepare as much as you eat. Less waste less pollution and less costs!
  • Buy your food in packaging that is either recyclable or reusable or try and stay away from unnecessarily packaged food. Individually packaged fruit and vegetables is wasteful and unnecessary. Do we really need individually wrapped oranges/bananas/ onions etc?

    Individually packaged fruit.

  • Reuse your shopping bags.
  • Grow your own fresh fruits, vegetables and or herbs? This will save on production and transportation and storage costs which will in turn result in fewer carbon emissions.
  • Recycle your food waste by having a wormery or composter. You can use the nutrient rich “worm tea” and compost in your garden.
  • Buy local produce. This reduces transport related emissions (food miles) and also supports the local economy.
  • Eat less meat, this reduces your GHG emissions.
Some informative links on the above are:

Example of a Worm Farm

A Few Planet Saving Tips For Those Caught With The Consumer Bug!

There is no excuse to continue being a hopeless consumer infected with a bad case of the “buy me’s”. If you are going to go shopping try and stick to what you actually need as opposed to what you think you need.. its obvious.. you will save money and the planet all at the same time. I found this link and thought it was a good link to share with those of you that happen to stumble upon my blog….

Consumption reduction tips

Please do however bear in mind that simply following the tips will not make you a “greenie”, or a planetsaving super hero or any such thing… belive me we need more than simply changing a few habits to help the planet….. but this is a good start or addition to what you may or may not already be doing towards making the planet healthier … goodluck!