Tag Archives: Tips to go green

Some Tips on How to Pick Organic

I tend to go by the norm look for the label which says USDA Organic certified like the picture below. Natural or non-gmo etc do not mean Organic, mostly if a producer knows his produce is organic and he uses organic farming methods chances are he will write ORGANIC on his produce.

The USDA website says Products certified 95 percent or more organic display this USDA sticker. Do remember this is a voluntary seal which most Organic producers use.

As per the USDA what makes the organic food different from regular produce is the following criteria:

Here are other differences between conventional farming and organic farming:

Conventional farmers Organic farmers
Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth. Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.
Spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease. Use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.
Use chemical herbicides to manage weeds. Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.
Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth. Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

So when setting out to buy organic one way to do it is head to one of the major grocery chains and look for the organic section, or else head to a grocer who stores more organic food. I tend to shop at Trader Joe’s nominal prices, good selection and it still kind of has a small store feel to it which is not overwhelming.

Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don’t use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. For example, rather than using chemical weedkillers, organic farmers conduct sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay.

When it comes to products sometimes it gets kinda tricky- some producers certify their products organic while others say 100% organic, you will need to read the labels to figure out what ingredient in the mix is organic and what is not.USDA guidelines are as follows :

  • 100 percent organic. Products that are completely organic or made of all organic ingredients.
  • Organic. Products that are at least 95 percent organic.
  • Made with organic ingredients. These are products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. The organic seal can’t be used on these packages.

Some simple steps which don’t much affect your wallet and monthly budget are growing your own vegetables during summer (squashes, tomatoes etc flourish and are readily available to buy), Farmers market – you get fresh produce from the source and you help the local economy what can be better?

While deciding on Organic decide which is best for you, considering nutrition, quality, taste, cost and other factors. Each of us have to make decisions based on our circumstances.

  • Nutrition. No conclusive evidence shows that organic food is more nutritious than is conventionally grown food. And the USDA — even though it certifies organic food — doesn’t claim that these products are safer or more nutritious.
  • Quality and appearance. Organic foods meet the same quality and safety standards as conventional foods. You may find that organic fruits and vegetables spoil faster because they aren’t treated with waxes or preservatives.
  • Pesticides. Some people buy organic food to limit their exposure to these residues. Most experts agree, however, that the amount of pesticides found on fruits and vegetables poses a very small health risk.
  • Environment. Some people buy organic food for environmental reasons. Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil.
  • Cost. Most organic food costs more than conventional food products. Higher prices are due to more expensive farming practices, tighter government regulations and lower crop yields. Because organic farmers don’t use herbicides or pesticides, many management tools that control weeds and pests are labor intensive. For example, organic growers may hand weed vegetables to control weeds, and you may end up paying more for these vegetables.
  • Taste. Some people say they can taste the difference between organic and nonorganic food. Others say they find no difference. Taste is a subjective and personal consideration, so decide for yourself. But whether you buy organic or not, finding the freshest foods available may have the biggest impact on taste.Source for the information USDA FDA website

Check out this video on Organic farming from the Boggy Creek farms in Autin Texas.

The following vegetables are the ones with the most pesticide residues there for going organic for those might be a good choice:

  1. Peaches
  2. Apples
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarines
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Lettuce
  9. Grapes – Imported
  10. Pears
  11. Spinach
  12. Potatoes

I had been to the local farmers market yesterday and was amazed to see how fast most of the produce disappeared! It is indeed a pleasure to be able to talk to the person/people who work hard and produce what we consume.

Some Organic farmers markets have been put together here
Live Green!
Check out this link too for more info

a good read –

The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming (New York Review Books Classics)

Awaiting Toxic Strawberries From California Anyone??

I read about the use of Methyl iodide as a pesticide for strawberries in California almost a month ago. I have been reading about it in detail on an ongoing basis. As I learn more, the more it worries me as to what it is that we really know, and how much of it will end up in the strawberries and then in our own body…

I am not an expert but just someone who is alarmed by what I don’t know… It worries me none the less that another chemical makes it into our food chain without any qualms about how it will affect us.

An excerpt from the article in the New York times “I’m not in blanket opposition to the use of pesticides, but methyl iodide alarms me,” said Theodore A. Slotkin, a professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University Medical Center and a member of the scientific review committee. “When we come across a compound that is known to be neurotoxic, as well as developmentally toxic and an endocrine disruptor, it would seem prudent to err on the side of caution, demanding that the appropriate scientific testing be done on animals instead of going ahead and putting it into use, in which case the test animals will be the children of the state of California.”

To reach your own judgment read these articles which I found informative :

USEPA on use of Methyl Iodide

NYTimes

Treehugger

Care2 Initiative to keep Methyl Iodide off California Strawberries

How Green Will the Fifa World Cup Be?

Fifa world cup SA Logo

In 3 days on the 11th of June, the entire world will be descending on South Africa as it hosts the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ for the first time in Africa the poorest of all continents. The event will highlight South Africa in a once-in-a-lifetime way.

Football or Soccer I would say is the most popular game in the world and the game played by most number of people across the world and to many it reaches the heights of religious fervor. Millions herd to watch the matches in stadiums and billions watch it from the comforts of their homes. The good part is that it is a coming together of the world for 30 days to play and celebrate the best players in world football.

There are 32 teams (representing 32 countries from around the world) who will be playing each other and going through 4 rounds until a winning country or the world champion is decided. This is the 19th edition of the world cup which like the Olympics is held once in 4 years. Italy is the defending champions and Spain & Argentina are considered favorites.

Basic things which would affect the Carbon Footprint:

In South Africa the matches are spread over 9 far flung cities; Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit, Polokwane, Rustenburg and Tshwane in Pretoria. The distances to be travelled, the sheer number of visitors, volunteers, organizers, players & support staff etc and of course the brand new stadiums! Simple geography will also be one of the main reasons: foreign visitors will travel a total of 7.1 million kilometers (4.4 million miles) to cheer their teams at the southern tip of Africa, their planes emitting tons of carbon.

The renewal/ new construction of stadiums have a large Carbon footprint resulting from the use of virgin cement. The cement industry is one of the main producers of CO2. For every ton of cement there is one ton of carbon produced.

All these add to the carbon footprint of an event of this magnitude. So what is being done? How Green will the World Cup be?

What is being done to lessen impact?

Natural ventilation, rain water capture, energy efficiency: the new stadiums built for Africa’s first World Cup incorporate top-notch environmental standards. But the reality is carbon offsets albeit good are something which does not make an event carbon-neutral, Carbon produced is carbon produced.

The Green Goal program is aimed at identifying potential impacts, avoid or minimize the impacts where possible and compensate or offset unavoidable adverse impacts.

The cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban have also planted thousands of trees to capture the carbon dioxide blamed for global warming. Durban is the most ambitious of the nine host cities, planning to compensate for local carbon emissions by producing electricity from hydraulic turbines or biogas emitted by landfills.

Other environmental impacts associated with major football events results from activities of football fans can manifest themselves in following ways:

  1. Increase in the use of water;
  2. Increase in the use of energy (liquid fuel and electricity [majority of SA energy is coal generated]);
  3. Increased production of waste; and
  4. Increase in pollution – air, water and land.

For the first time in the history of the World Cup Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth will have all its energy from renewable sources: i.e. Wind energy; courtesy the 1.8MW turbines installed by Vestas. The turbine belongs to Electrawinds, a Belgian renewable energy company whose operating assets up to now have all been in Europe. Managing director Luc Desender says “it is my personal dream to reserve the first green electricity of Electrawinds in South Africa for the 2010 football world championship.”

Under the system of “carbon credits”, these projects will take two and a half years to offset the emissions caused by hosting the tournament in Durban, said Nicci Diederichs, head of the city’s green programs.

Though unhappy with what is being done, some Green activists look at the inadvertent improvements as the positives steps towards a greener future. They believe one of the most positive legacies will probably come about inadvertently in the form of improved public transport and the bus-rapid-transport system specifically. They believe it will offset the greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50%.

Zakumi Mascot of the world cup

 Some Interesting facts and predictions about the 19th World Cup:

  • An estimate puts the expected numbers of visitors for the world cup at 10 million plus!
  • According to the Cape Argus newspaper, 2000 planes will fly over South Africa every day, for the whole of the 2010 World Cup.
  • South Africa’s Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica warned Reuters in 2009 that the 2010 World Cup “will have the largest carbon footprint of any major event with a goal to be climate neutral.
  • The 19th World Cup’s footprint will be six times the carbon footprint of the 2006 FIFA World Cup hosted in Germany and almost twice that of the Beijing Olympics!!
  • Norway and South Africa have joined hands in a partnership that aims to make the 2010 FIFA World Cup—the first one organized on African soil—kind to the environment through the reduction of CO2 emissions.
  • The South African government has invested an estimated $12 billion during the past four years in infrastructure for the Cup.  Critics say the money could have been better spent alleviating poverty.

From June 11th to July 11th it will be football fever worldwide, and I believe if each fan takes one step to help offsetting the carbon footprint of their favorite event our world will be better off.

  • Plant a Tree!
  • Walk/ Bicycle / Carpool / Use public transport to get to work.
  • After work and after watching the world cup match turn off power strips and lights.
  • Increase your plant consumption, buy local produce.
  • Check out this link for more Green tips 🙂

Live Green! Green is a lifestyle for a better tomorrow.

Follow the World cup 2010 here

Watch the World cup live online here 

Sources:

Celebrating The Environment

Happy World Environment Day 2010

 

Happy WED2010! Wondering what WED stands for? June 5th is the day United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Celebrates the World Environment Day – WED! It has been observed on 5th June since 1972, WED is one of the principal mediums through which the UN motivates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.

Why is the Environment on the front page these days? It is not about just the oil spill, or deforestation, or climate change alone… it is about all of these and more, it about the quality of life on our planet, it is about taking small steps and making a difference. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon says Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose, we can make a tremendous difference.”

It is estimated that we share the world with around 5 million plus species of which only around 2 million have been identified. It is also estimated that around 35 species go extinct every day just in the rainforests. Why is there such a rapid deterioration around us? Winters are colder, summers warmer, droughts and floods abound and other natural disasters too…

Scientists have found that in Earth’s history before the Industrial Revolution, Earth’s climate changed due to natural cause’s not related to human activity. These natural causes are still in play today, but their influence is too small or they occur too slowly to explain the rapid warming seen in recent decades. So for something that we have contributed to in creating is it not our responsibility to make amends?

So this WED day take your own small step, does not matter how small you think it is, it will make a difference.

A list of things one can incorporate in everyday life easily:

  1. Plant a tree! Help achieve UNEP’s Billion Tree Campaign target of planting seven billion trees – one for every person on the planet! Let us start one by one…
  2. Use cold water for washing clothes and a laundry line with air drying helps too!
  3. In Summer leaving the windows open is a good way to get some fresh air and also help with your carbon footprint by not using the A/C. When you really feel the need to switch on the A/C use a fan with it to spread the cold air around more effectively.
  4. When cooking match the size of your pan to the heating element and use a lid, lowers energy wastage.
  5. Don’t throw your jeans into the hamper after a day’s use unless it is really dirty, lesser times you use the laundry the more efficient your use of water!
  6. For washing use eco-friendly products, helps the environment and if you have the space plant a tree J
  7. Plants are the best air purifiers, add to the beauty of your room and also help to clean the air! Green at its best!
  8. Turn off all unnecessary lights and remove idle chargers plugged in to the sockets when not in use, will save you up to 25% on your power usage.
  9. All PC’s Laptops, Printers etc have a power saver option (look for the Energy star) and turn them off at the end of the day!
  10. While printing (if you really need to print it out) print on both sides; it helps save trees!
  11. You are a coffee drinker like I am? Take your favorite mug to work, that way you won’t be using non-biodegradable cups. What a way to be Green!
  12. If you get stuck in traffic a lot, consider turning off your engine if you will be idling for long periods of time.
  13. Did you know cruise control on straight roads is fuel efficient!
  14. Keep a few cloth tote bags in your car for use whenever you want to buy something.
  15. Go vegan once a week at least, producing meat releases loads of greenhouse gases.
  16. Using an electric or hand razor with replaceable blades is GREEN, avoid disposable ones as it adds to landfills.
  17. It would seem like the most normal thing to do, but many of us forget that we can save water in simple ways like not letting the tap run while shaving, washing your face, or brushing your teeth you can save up to 200 gallons of water a month.
  18. Drinking tap water when safe is a better choice than bottled water and those plastic water bottles.
  19. Making green food choices also has global consequences. Buying local means supporting the local economy and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions required to get food from its origin to your plate.
  20. Buy things you need not want. Reducing consumption be it of oil or anything else helps in reducing our carbon footprint.

The Earth is like a large breathing and feeling living-being, every small step each of us takes good or not affects one and all. I truly believe we are all connected to each other and to the earth, so what I do every day has to be thoughtful so as to not hurt another.

I start my day by remembering this Native American saying (well it is the first thing I see every day :)) “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

Remember the 3R’s Reduce, Reuse and Recycle! Every Day is Earth Day! Have a Green WED 2010 day!! Live Green! and yeah Don’t forget to plant the TREE 🙂

Green Memorial Day Weekend

 I know am a bit late getting the list out, have been planning to put this in a couple of days back… well better late than never they say. How to have a green break is something I have been trying to figure out and now after reading and sifting through books, magazines and websites I have come to a few things which I believe we all can do pretty easily.

For someone who did not grow up in the United States, Memorial Day was a new holiday. I wanted to know what it was, for all I knew was that it was the first long weekend before summer and fell on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day in remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service, For the ones who gave up their tomorrow’s for our today’s. Memorial Day was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

It is also the day when the family’s all across the country start with the road trips.

This year for Memorial Day weekend we have chosen to check out places in and around our city (Columbus Ohio) or as it is now called a “Staycation“(any trip within a diameter of 300 miles). It is a good way to reduce one’s carbon footprint by a good deal. Also planning to give away things we have not used within the last year. So we are half way there (meaning the planning part is done, now we just have to follow throughJ).

Here is my list of things which will help in making your Green Memorial Day Weekend/Vacation:

  • First thing is reducing the distance one travels, lesser mileage means lesser use of gas (it is lighter on the wallet!) and of course you will get to know your own region better!
  • Live in or around DC area? Go visit the brave soldiers who rest at the Arlington cemetry, what better place to be than there for Memorial day?
  • Alright so you are heading out, check whether all your outlets with plugs are not connected. All electronic items switched off etc… draining connections waste a lot of power even while not being used but just being plugged in.
  • Where ever you are headed off-setting your travel related carbon emissions to have a carbon neutral vacation. Did you know we can buy carbon offsets from STI (sustainable travel international) or carbonfund.org! (Priced between 5-20$ per ton)
  • Before your trip tune up your ride change the air filter, make sure your tires are properly inflated. All this helps with good mileage and a good ride!
  • You get more mileage with lesser luggage! No luggage rack on top and closed windows supposedly improves fuel economy by 5%!
  • With wifi it has become easy to keep tabs on gas prices while travelling check www.gasbuddy.com or www.gaspricewatch to get the best gas prices near where you are.
  • I know driving with the windows down feels good (fresh air in the face etc…) but the drag it creates actually burns more gas than if you use the A/C while driving! So yeah in long distance driving closed windows with A/C is green!
  • Maintain constant speed, keep safe distances and stay safe on the road!
  • Ensure your lodgings are green (check for a list at websites such as Planeta, the International Ecotourism Society,  Sustainable Travel International , gti-home-exchange etc…
  • Conserve water when on vacation (change of sheets like you do at home (not every day I suppose), soaps and shampoos too… (All these things utilize energy to manufacture and when wasted adds to the landfills and pollution).
  • While eating out look for local restaurants and farmers markets.

For those brave souls who sacrificed their lives for the nation, what better way of celebrating them than taking care of the Nation with every small step we take? Plant a tree, a garden, thank the soldiers who have passed on and keep the good work going. Where ever you are on Memorial day Remember 3.00PM and the moment of silence for the fallen soldiers.

Enjoy your vacation where ever it is and leave only footprints behind, just carry memories with you. Happy Memorial Day!

For more info on Memorial Day check here

DIY – Make A Bird Feeder Under 10 Minutes

Finch Feeder

I look forward to spring when I can see the gold finches back in their normal plumage. Always been a fan of backyard  birding so I plant plants which the birds like to eat and keep the feeders filled for  everything from the tiny humming bird to the Blue jays and Squirrels.

I am used to buying a new feeder every year after the squirrels gnaw through them! I buy sock feeders every year and by the end of the year it would have holes in them. Inspite of mending it hardly lasts more than 2 years in Ohio’s winters.

One day as I was emptying out the garlic from its package, it struck me this could work! My feeder for the finches from a plastic mesh cover which would other wise end up some where in a landfill.

5 Steps to making a simple finch feeder.

Things needed:

  • Garlic pack (don’t eat garlic? try using your old panty hose with the feet cut off works as well!)
  • a thread/shoe lace to tie it
  • scissors to trim tag
  • Lyger thistle

Garlic Pack

1. Take out the garlic from the mesh casing.

Trimming Excess

2. Trim the tag , make sure you keep the sealing intact.

Feeder Filled

3. Turn it inside out. Fill it with Thistle (I use Nyjer – buy mine from Wildbirds unlimited).

tie-up 4. Tie a knot at the top, make sure you can open it out to refill it. Use a shoe lace or rope to hang it from a tree branch (birds do prefer to be amongst greenery, makes them feel safer I guess)

feeder with a female gold finch There you have a feeder made under 10 minutes from something one would normally throw away and yeah you can  keep adding more feeders as you buy new garlic! Now all we need to do is wait for the finches to show up.

Male gold-finch

Happy Birding and Green Living!

“Green” Is A New Lifestyle!

Reduce,Reuse, Recycle for a Greener Earth!

Image courtesy Bob Gendorf

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes. –William James

It is one of my favorite quotes and I believe it to be true, whatever the age, creed, race, mindset, belief, prototype etc may be, one thing we all have an option to change is our attitude, and if we were to do that one step at a time towards making this environment better I am sure the effect would be amazing!

I love spring! It is the time for renewal and resurgence. Everything around looks and feels fresh, the grass the flowers the new leaves, the bulbs, the migrating birds on their way back etc… If you ask me spring is as good a time as any to start taking steps towards eco-friendly green living. One can decide to go with reusable bags made of cloth canvas etc or go with the standard plastic bags which mostly end up in a landfill clogging ground water systems or the paper bags (though the better option) still requires trees to produce as we all know.

Spring is also the time when one gets back into beautifying ones yard, working on the garden invariably means getting rid of pests and weeds. This year for a change may be we can all think more about using more benign methods to take care of these nuisances and do a little bit to help mother earth. Buy native plants and seeds – uses less water and are more disease resistant and tolerant to the climate change. Use some mulch to keep the weeds from coming back as strong. Use pest traps to catch those pesky beetles, or even some homemade remedies like soap and water to kill the beetles. Compost works wonders in a vegetable garden and rain water harvesting for gardening has no replacements at all. Remember the coffee tins grandma stored cookies and other goodies in? It still works, reuse all those containers just watch for the food safe marking.

It was a shock to learn that last year alone the number of plastic bottles used in the United States kept connected could circle the earth 190 times!! Just imagine the amount of Plastic which could have been avoided, lets make a start now.

Growing up there are a few things which were used commonly in my home for cleaning and I still use them with the same kind of results. These are a few of the things I use in my home for cleaning:

  • Vinegar mixed with common salt is a very good surface cleaner.
  • Baking soda – makes a very effective cleaner for any surface. All you need to add is water for normal cleaning and vinegar for anything stronger.
  • Borax which can be brought from any drug store is an effective cleaner for toilet bowls. Dust borax on the insides of the toilet bowl, spray vinegar and leave over night. Brush and clean like always for a clean and less toxic toilet.
  • Recycle your favorite teeshirt or shorts to make a tote.
  • Banana peels, coffee grounds and egg shells make excellent food for your rose plants, try them out it has worked for me.
  • Cleaning dirty mirrors or glass panes are a zap with old newspaper.
  • Use your silverware in place of plastic, same goes for those plastic plates and cups too.

Watch this space for more tips in the coming days and do let us know if you have a favorite green tip you found useful. Until next post stay green!