Archive for July, 2008

Keeping It Green on Your Summer Vacation

Everyone deserves a vacation … and now there are more options than ever for Earthkeepers wanting their time away to be restful, relaxing and environmentally-considerate:

Even given the bounty of green travel options and resources, many are still finding it easier – and less expensive – to vacation in their own backyard.  If you’re among those looking to get away from it all without really getting away, check out greenliving‘s rules for a successful “staycation” (rule #3 is our favorite).

Enjoy … and don’t forget your sunscreen.

A Different Kind of Summer Camp

In Chicago, a group of 13-year old kids are spending their summer not singing campfire songs or tying lanyards, but learning about geothermal heating and cooling, greenroofs and other elements of sustainable design.

The best part?  The program has inspired these teenagers to draw up plans and make recommendations for how to green the cultural center building where they meet twice a week, turning their summer learning into sustainable action.

Earthkeeper hero Elizabeth Redmond spent a day with these teens last week to talk alternative energy and share her POWERleap technology, resulting in a great hands-on, active learning experience for everyone.

Elizabeth shares more photos and her thoughts about the day over on Changents.com.  For more coverage of POWERleap, check out this recent blog post on EcoGeek or last week’s alternative energy program as heard on the Boston-based National Public Radio show, Here and Now.

Less is More

Today’s blog entry by Collin Dunn over at Huffington Post reminds us being an eco-conscious consumer isn’t all about buying organic — or hybrid — or energy-efficient “stuff” — it’s also about buying less stuff and making sure the stuff we do buy is more durable than disposable.

Green is good, no doubt about it … but it’s so easy to get caught up in our Earthkeeping desire and responsibility to purchase nothing but the greenest that we sometimes run the risk of buying things we don’t really need.  As Dunn points out, “Recycling is great; buying green is great; but they both take energy and resources that can be saved by having something that will last a lifetime.”

For a sharper, deeper dive into the environmental impact of our production and consumption habits — and how we can change those habits – visit Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff website.  If you haven’t seen it, Leonard’s Story of Stuff video offers a thought-provoking glimpse at how the consumable goods cycle impacts our lives (including the staggering statistic that 99% of the “stuff” we buy gets disposed of after a mere six months):

 

You’ll never look at your iPod the same way again.

How Green is Your Gas Tank?

Once upon a time, fuel-efficient vehicles were the ride of choice only for a subgroup of environmentally-enlightened extremists … but with gas prices topping out at more than $4 a gallon nationwide, “stingy sippers” are increasingly popular with consumers who are interested in saving a buck along with the planet.

If you’re in the market for a new car but unsure how to make heads or tails of all the fuel-efficient hype out there, Car & Driver recently rated the most fuel efficient vehicles in the US … and fueleconomy.gov offers some excellent pointers on how to increase your miles per gallon, no matter what you’re driving.

Finally, for those of you wondering exactly how much of your paycheck you’re pouring into your gas tank, check out CNN.com’s “Hours for Gallons” calculator

Drive safely.

Making Sense of the Green Marketing Madness

It’s not news that the marketplace is awash in green, or that it’s difficult for the average consumer to make sense of one company’s environmental claims over another … but a recent Shelton Group study as highlighted in last week’s issue of Brandweek sheds new light on just how confused – and skeptical — consumers really are.  A few highlights:

  • 49% of survey respondents said a company’s environmental record is important in their purchasing decisions … but that number dropped to 21% when consumers were asked if this had actually driven them to choose one product over another.
  • When asked why most companies that adopt environmentally friendly practices do so, the most common response (47%) was “to make their company look better to the public.”

So how do you separate fact from fiction in today’s green marketing epidemic — and how can you make it work for you?  Courtesy of BusinessWeek.com, here’s environmental marketing expert Scot Case lending insight and suggestions on how to be a more eco-savvy shopper:


 

Think Globally, Eat Locally

In many communities, summer is the time of farm stands, farmers’ markets and pick-your-own everything … which makes buying locally-grown food and supporting local farmers easy (and delicious).  Need another reason to go local?  It helps the environment.  According to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the average fresh food item on our dinner table travels 1,500 miles to get there; buying locally-produced food means less trucking, shipping and packaging … which in turn means less carbon dioxide emissions.

 From the folks at the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, here are a few more reasons to buy local this summer:

  1. Local produce tastes better and it’s better for you.
    Fresh produce loses nutrients quickly; food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two … and tastes like it.
  2. Local food supports local farm families.
    Fewer than one million Americans now claim farming as their primary occupation (less than 1%) – and they make, on average, less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar.  Buying directly from local farmers puts more money in their pocket and helps them stay in business.
  3. Local food preserves open space and supports a clean environment.
    By supporting local agriculture, you help to protect your region’s farmland from urban sprawl and development and help preserve open spaces, natural ecosystems, and biodiversity.

For further inspiration and assistance, the Local Harvest website provides a comprehensive national directory of farmers’ markets, farm stands and other sources of locally grown food … and FoodRoutes provides tools and information for sustainable farming and local food system advocates, including mapping technology to help you find good food near you.

Christmas in July

… At least that’s what it looked like when some of the Big Green Bus team took skis and snowboards to Imogene Pass, Colorado (outside of Telluride) last week.  The bussers took a much-needed break over the July 4th weekend and enjoyed the result of last winter’s record snowfall.

Big Green Bus blogger Andrew Zabel notes, however, that even the simple pleasure of skiing down a snowy slope on a sunny day is not without guilt:    “… the carbon dioxide emissions from lifts, or in the case of our July adventure, an SUV, reduce the likelihood that we’ll get to enjoy a similar experience in the future.  In a warmer world, mountain snowpack in the Rockies will rarely if ever last into July.”

The good news?  The experience left the bussers relaxed, rejuvenated, and all the more committed to their journey in the name of alternative fuel education.

Click here for more breathtaking snow photos and here for the rest of the blog post about the Big Green Bus team’s summer ski adventure.

Do Small Steps Count Toward Saving the World?

We were interested to read this recent post on WorldChanging, which poses a question about the role of green consumerism in creating truly notable environmental change. 

The debate centers around a report issued by WWF which suggests that “marketing” approaches to creating environmentally-responsible behavior change are inadequate, and that the consumer-friendly message that small and painless steps can ultimately lead to larger-scale impact is misguided. 

The WWF report and subsequent blog post led to a healthy debate on whether small steps can actually save the world.  Comments following the WorldChanging blog post ranged from “there’s nothing small about individuals taking personal responsibility” to “the huge problems facing us cannot be solved with the use of ‘greener’ bulbs.”  Following WorldChanging’s post, Treehugger also weighed in, stating, “To deride a small step as useless is to deride a single vote as ineffective, but that is what will make change happen.”

Clearly, a hot topic for Earthkeepers everywhere … and we think that’s a good thing.  The more voices lending insight and opinion to the discussion, the more we collectively learn … and the more ideas we generate about how to solve the problem.  Our thanks to WorldChanging for stirring the pot.

Earthkeeping in Your Own Backyard

Summer brings with it a whole host of unique sensory experiences: the smell of freshly cut grass, the near-constant hum of lawn mowers on a weekend morning … but just how much impact do such rites-of-the-season have on the environment?  Are there greener options?  And what exactly are the drawbacks and benefits, anyway?

Read on to see what some of our favorite green blogs and websites have to say about the opportunities and challenges of greening your green space:

Solar in Seville

A picture’s worth a thousand words.

At least that’s the notion behind The Canary Project – one of our Earthkeeper Heroes – a husband and wife team that use artwork and visual media projects to convey the impact and urgency of climate change.

The Canary Project in Spain

Susannah Sayler and Ed Morris have traveled all over the world (recent trips include Antarctica and Madrid), photographing both landscapes that are being impacted by climate change and those working to either adapt to it or mitigate it.  The result is powerful, thought-provoking images intended to raise environmental awareness and inspire action through a medium that is universally understood.

Ed and Susannah’s most recent excursion took them to southern Spain, where they photographed the Abengoa solar installations and learned first hand about the 300 megawatt platform currently under construction which, when complete, will be the largest in Europe – drawing enough energy from the sun to power the entire city of Seville.

The solar receptor tower at the Abengoa’s solar plant

Learn more about the Canary Project, their climate-inspired journeys and the artwork they create at Changents.com