Tuesday, November 30, 2010

End of the Quarter Ecological Footprint

I re-took the EF quiz and I now only take up 3.5 earths compared to when I first took the quiz I took up 3.8 earths. So my EF only went down .3 earths.

To help my EF go down, I have been really good about unplugging my phone and computer charger when I'm not using them. I also take showers in 4-10 minutes. And with my newest goal of using reusable bags, I've done pretty good with that. There have only been a couple times that I forgot to bring them with me shopping.

I think that I will be able keep up with these changes. After a while, I'll probably make new goals for myself and see if I can achieve those. It will take me a while buy items with less packaging. Every time I by something and it can't be recycled, I kind of feel guilty for buying it.

All in all, I think this quarter was great for achieving my EF reduction goals.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Black Friday

Just thought I would blog about all the sales and shopping that went on on Friday for this week. I do have to admit that I participated in Black Friday. My mom and I got up 2 AM to go shopping at 3AM. After a long morning of shopping (I didn't get home til around 8 AM), I ate some breakfast and listened to the news.

It was crazy about how many people they predicted to participate in the chaos shopping. They predicted 4 million more people would be shopping that day. And their reasoning for going shopping was to spend less for Christmas. Many stores decided to open up before early Friday morning and opening Thanksgiving night, ie Toys R Us.

The National Retail Federation came up with outstanding numbers for Black Friday and its weekend. For both online and store shoppers, there were over 212 million people after those Day After Thanksgiving sales. There's an estimated $45 billion spending. People spent an average of $365.34, which is up from last years number, $343.31. The number of people shopping at midnight tripled from last year, 3.3% in 2009 to 9.5% in 2010. By 4 AM, almost a quarter of the Black Friday shoppers were already at stores shopping.

I wonder how much of the packaging these items come in will be recycled and how much will end up in the landfill in the next six months.
Now that I've shown you the insane numbers. I wanted to show you some insane pictures from Black Friday.

Here is Toys R Us Thanksgiving night, which opened at 10 PM. One article said that Toys R Us' new game is Black Thursday.

This is a store in Canada.

This is Old Navy in Hunington, West Virgina.

This last one is a video and I'm so shocked at how much people don't care about others and only care about getting what they want. In this video, as people are pushing and shoving to get into this Target, a man gets trampled on and no one stops. They just keep going and stepping over him until after about 10 seconds go by, people finally start helping him. Even then, people still step over and don't care.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Drink more and save the Earth? Awesome!

I actually got this article from Anna (click on her name to see her blog). I thought it was pretty cool. The Scotts are hitting two birds with one stone here.

The Scottish are taking what is leftover from the distillation phase and making it into a biofuel for cars. Apparently they have a very big whiskey habit each year, a $6.2 billion habit. Researcher at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland are using the pot ale and draff, the bi-products of distilling whiskey,  to make a new biofuel. Vehicles now would not have to adjust or adapt to the new fuel. They are also saying that it is possible that planes will be able to run off this new fuel called butanol.

So far research has shown that butanol is 30% more efficient than ethanol. The European Union is setting some standards by 2020, 10% of fuel sales will be from biofuels. Professor Martin Tangney said that using waste was more environmentally sustainable than growing crops just for biofuel.

This also means that crops don't have to be grown to have this kind of fuel. It's just using what wasn't being used before. I think this is a great idea instead of using ethanol. Crops can be saved and used for our consumption and animal feed. It's a lot that won't be taken away. It would be pretty cool to be able to use this biofuel in America whenever it gets on the market. I'd be up to filling my gas tank with whiskey waste.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Recycle or Upcycle?

Yesterday I bought a bag of M&Ms. I know that sounds exciting, right? Well, when I got home, I noticed that on the back of the bag there was an infinity sign and the name Terracycle.  Next to that it says, "Mars is turning used candy wrappers into eco-friendly products," and gives the website terracycle.net. I proceeded and checked out the website.

I first watched this pretty awesome video about garbage or at least I thought it was a pretty awesome video.

What Terracycle does is have schools (elementary to university) collect non-recyclable items and send them in to Terracycle. These non-recyclables are then made into usable products, like backpacks, pencil pouches, bags, stuff for your pets and gardens, etc.

It all started in 2001, by Tom Szaky, a Princeton University freshman. He first started it as an organic feritilzer company and it's grown to what it is today. He wanted to create a way of doing business that is good for the environment, good for the people and is good for the triple bottom line. Terracycle has won many awards for its environment business model. A few awards won were from Home Depot, The Environmental Business Journal, and Zerofootprint.

To join in on this fun, you can join a brigade, which is a specific collection of waste stream. Each brigade is different in what they collect. There are brigades that collect candy wrappers by Mars and Cadbury, collect chip wrappers, yogurt cups, plastic cereal bags, and lots more. Once the minimum of 500 items is collected, you send it in and Terracycle will donate $0.02 per item to a charity or non-profit organization of your choice, or if it's your school collecting, you get to keep it. The companies that are supporting the brigades, pay for shipping.

Interesting fact: In July, they changed the minimum items sent in from 100 to 500 to help cut done even more on people's environmental impact. So instead of having 10 shipments of 100 waste items, there's only 2 shipments of 500.
There are about 30 different brigades. They range from candy and chip wrappers to Scotch tape dispensers to the plastic paper towels come in to corks and the plastic bag of diapers. Like I said before, after the collection, these non-recyclable products are made into new ones. These products will be available to buy in stores like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target, and K-mart (in selected cities). We won't see them for a while because Terracycle has to build up their inventory. Currently, they have made 186 items out of waste and have collected 1,853,931,933 pieces of waste.

This is a great idea to recycle those items that are non-recyclable. They arecreated into something usable and trendy. I think that we should do this here at WWU to help reduce our garbage even more. It's so easy to get involved and there are so many brigades to choose from.

Monday, November 1, 2010


"With your powers combined, I am Captain Planet!"

(This is the second part of the first episode of Captain Planet and it reminds of the BP oil spill.)

"Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Heart! Go Planet! With your powers combined, I am Captain Planet! Captain Planet, he's our hero. Taking pollution down to zero."

Why isnt' this cartoon played anymore? I loved Captain Planet when I was younger. To be honest, this show would probably get a lot of kids into being more pro-environment. I watched the first episode and at the end they give tips on how to be nice to the environment like: conserving energy and carpooling. It's a lot more educating than I thought or remember.

In actuality,  the Planeteers are real. All around the world there are groups of Planeteers helping better the environment. You can visit their Facebook page here or their website. They have several different chapters around the world. There are 7 chapters, 5 of which are in the US. The other two are in Jamaica and Ghana.
Here's a nice little tid bit here, Captain Planet turned 20 this year and he's still going strong. Ted Turner, the creater of Captain Planet, received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Environmental Media Awards October 16, 2010. He's been interested in the environment ever since he was a little kid.

The Power is Yours!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Biomimcry: Using Fireflies to Improve

If you don't know what biomimcry is, it's a way of learning from nature and using it's biological forms and ideas to solve our human problems.

It's kind of hard to think up a new or improved product using biomimcry. I've thought of  a couple different things, but they don't seem realistic or they've already been done. The first thought that came to mind when thinking about this assignment was using the flight and aerodynamics of bumblebees or humming birds to help make planes  more sufficient way of traveling. Of course, I started thinking more about it and it seemed that the aerodynamics of the bumblebee and that kind of nature have been incorporated into the structure of planes already.

I have another thought that may seem a little out there right now. But I got to thinking, what if we were able to use fireflies as a source of light? And I mean not capturing them and putting them in a jar for light bulbs. Seriously, what if we could generate and use the same chemical reactions that fireflies do to make light?

Not too long ago, I heard on the news that our energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs are actually "poisoning" us. Scientists call it "dirty electricity." The more energy efficient light bulbs in the house, the more you are in danger of worsening your health problems you may currently have. It's the CFL's that are making the electricity "dirty." And only especially when the light bulbs are done have reached their life span and are possibly broken. The CFL's are exposed and cause more harm.

To get away from all the bad talk, I was thinking of a new light bulb that would be just as energy efficient, but use the same technology or science as lightning bugs. This light bulb would be generating "clean electricity." If it comes from nature, I would sure hope it wouldn't hurt nature in return.

FireflyThe way that fireflies create their little light is by a chemical called luciferin, which makes an enzyme, luciferase. When oxygen comes into the picture and combines with the luciferin, it speeds up the reaction process, which happens in 2 steps:

1. Luciferin + ATP -------------> luciferin adenylate + PPi (pyrophosphate)
   (What happens here is that luciferin and ATP combine and create the luciferin adenylate and  pyrophosphate, which attaches to the luciferase enzyme)

2. Luciferyl adenylate +oxygen ----------------------> oxyluciferin + AMP + light
   (Here, the luciferyl adenylate combine with oxygen to make oxyluciferin and AMP and light is given off. Then the oxyluciferin and AMP are released from the enzyme.)

I was thinking that if we take these same chemical reactions from the firefly, we might be able to make a pretty sweet light bulb. We would have to adjust the wavelength of light though to see properly.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

UPDATE: Eco Footprint

It's now the middle of the quarter. Don't really want to be thinking about that right now, but it's time for an update one how well I'm doing on reducing my ecological footprint.

I've been doing well and keeping up with a couple of my goals. Every time I take a shower, I time myself. My showers now only take between 4 and 10 minutes, compared to before they were 10 to 15 minutes. For the other part of my water conservation goal, when I wash the dishes I make sure the water isn't blasting out the faucet while I'm rinsing them. I feel like I pay more attention to this goal because it's easier for me to remember and sometimes there isn't enough hot water, so my showers are a little cold and it makes me take shorter ones.

Remembering to turn off the lights and unplug my cell phone charger has also been a success. I've been really conscious about this. Once my phone is done charging, I unplug it from the charger and then unplug my charger right away. I'm trying to do the same for my laptop charger. Most of them time, I leave it plugged in. Now when it's done charging, I remember to unplug it also. Thinking about all the unplugging I've been doing, I started to leave my TV and DVD player unplugged, since I don't use them that much. To save a little more electricity, I'm remembering to turn the fan off when I'm done taking a shower. A lot of the time I forget to turn it off when I'm done in the bathroom.

My other goal of buying products with less packaging is... going. I could be doing better. The last few times I've gone grocery shopping, I've tried to buy items can be mostly recycled. It's hard trying to find some products that are all recyclable. When I'm on campus and I buy lunch, I make sure almost everything can be recycled or composted. There are usually one or two items that go in the "landfill" bin. The other part of my goal, buying local fresh food, is not going so well. This part needs improvement. I have not gone to buy local foods from the farmer's market or from the Food Co-op.

Alright, I'm going to make a new goal and hopefully achieve it and stick with it. My new goal is to remember to bring my resuable bags with me to the grocery store. I have them and I always forget to bring them with me. There are 3 big bags full of bags in my closet. More bags do not need to be added to that.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

We Could Learn a Few From Denmark

This week for my blog, I was inspired by a video I watched in my Social Psychology class last week by the PBS NOW Series: Electric Dreams. It's about Denmark and how sustainability has become a part of their culture and daily lives. They follow a family and talk about how they keep their carbon footprint low. The video also talks about how electric cars are going to become more popular and take over their cities.

The people of Denmark are used to riding their bikes to work. Ramps are placed on stairs to make it easier to walk their bikes up them. They also have huge bicycle parking lots. A family of four seems to get by most of the year without using their car. The husband rides his bike to work from April to October. The wife walks her son to school every day. It takes them 45 minutes each way. Even when they go visit grandma, they take a bus to a train and then ride the train for 3 hours and then walk another 20 minutes to her house.

Keeping their carbon footprint low outside, they keep it pretty low inside their house. They monitor their energy use every week. To make sure they aren't using too much, they write it down and compare it to the week before. They want to keep their consumption at 50 kilowatts hours per week. That's a quarter of what Americans normally use. The family tries to reduce it even more, if they are using a little more than their goal.

For the second ingredient to Denmark's sustainability, they had to figure out how to use their stored wind energy. The answer, Danes are putting more electric cars on the road. They're hoping that in the next year or so, their roads are going to be filled with them. I found this interesting  while watching the video, a way to get more Danes to buy the electric cars, the government is putting ridiculous taxes on the cars that are still gas powered. One gentleman that filled up his gas car, paid $88 for 13 gallons of gas! That's just for a mid-sized car. If a Dane still wants to buy a gas car, there's a 25% government tax and an additional 180% tax just because it uses fuel. So a $20,000 car, turns out to cost $70,000 in the end. I don't know about you, but I'd rather pay for the electric car that costs less and is more friendly to the environment.

Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Better Place, came up with a technology to store the wind energy in lithium ion batteries. A GPS system in the vehicle will let the driver know where an "electric filling station" is on the way to their destination. These "filling" stations will remove the current battery and replace it with a full charged battery and the people are good to go back on the road to grandma's house. They would pay Agassi a fee for every kilometer they drive and he would pay DONG Energy for the energy used. By storing the energy in these rechargeable batteries, Denmark is able to put 750 windmills in the sea, that's if all the cars in Denmark are electric powered.

Nissan Electric Concept CarAgassi leaned on the auto industry to develop an electric car that can be mass produced and that's affordable. Nissan wanted to take on the challenge. Charging stations would be available at the owners home, work, and leisure destinations. The cars could all be charged at night, which is important for the environment because they can use the stored energy. DONG Energy said it would be expensive to do this and aren't sure how many people are going to want to invest in this purchase quite yet.
 I think if America wants to become more sustainable, we need to be looking at countries like Denmark as an example to change they way we live and to reduce our footprints.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Is My Conditioner Really Organic?

My favorite shampoo and conditioner I use are so called "organic." After reading all the ingredients on the bottle, I'm a little skeptical about it now. I'm going to take a closer look at how "organic" they really are.

I use Organix Cherry Blossom Ginseng conditioner. Here is the list of all the ingredients on the bottle:

Cetyl Alcohol
Cetearyl alcohol
Cetearyl glucoside
Glyceryl stearate
Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) Seed oil
Silk amino acid
Cherry blossom extract
Organic ginseng extract
Hydrolyzed rice milk protein
Bamboo extract
Tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E)
Tetrasodium edta
Hexyl cinnamal

Those are a lot of big words I can't even pronounce. Because the print was so small, I almost didn't even want to read it. They had about 6 or 7 lines of ingredients, as you can tell. As I read it, I read it aloud to one of my roommates. I told her that these did not sound organic to me. She told me that there's probably one ingredient that is organic and that's exactly what I found, the organic ginseng extract. I'm starting to rethink this stuff now.

The website, Skin Deep: Cosmetic Sagety Reviews (http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/), didn't have the same fragrented conditioner I use, but they had a similar one that scored a 5. The fragrence and the organic compound, DMDM Hydantion, scored an 8 and a 7, respectively. I decided to do further research on Methylchloroisothiazolinone, which scored a 6 on the website. The site states that risks are based on the level of exposure and will vary.This chemical is linked to cancer in government and/or academic studies or assessments. It's also linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity. The site also states that the chemical is linked to immunotoxicity.

Methylchloroisothiazolinone is in everything. I looked at list of other products that have this in them, and it seems that it's in pretty much everything for cleansing your body. It's in hand soap, lubricant, moisturizers, facial cleansers, shampoo, conditioner, make up remover, gel, baby wipes, etc.

I don't know if I can get away from this! Doesn't look like my conditioner really is organic. I'm going to see if I can find some other shampoo and conditioner that are actually certified organic, like Burt's Bees.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ecological Footprint

I could not believe my results for the Ecological Footprint quiz. If everyone lived like me, we would need 3.8 Earths. It takes 17 global acres of the Earth's productive area to live my lifestyle. The majority comes from services, 52%. Next comes Food, 21%, then Goods, 17%. Shelter is 6% and Mobility is 5%.
Three ways that I'm going to reduce this number is by:

1. Buy products with less packaging. A lot of the items I buy have too much packaging. Of what I buy, I end up throwing half or it away because it's packaging. I want to go to farmer's markets to buy more fresh produce from the local area.

2. Use less electricity. I don't always remember to turn off the lights or unplug my cell phone charger when I'm not using them. Remembering to do this, I hope it can cut down some of my electricity use.

3. Use less water. I'm take shorter showers to save water. I'm also going to use less water when washing the dishes and making sure the dishwasher is completely full when it gets run.

After taking this quiz, it's made me realize that I'm not as environmentally friendly as I thought I was. I'm going to try my hardest to reduce my ecological footprint this quarter.

Do you use reusable bags when you go grocery shopping?