May 30, 2011

A Super Easy, Cheap, Tasty, Green, Summery Change!

For all of you looking for a way to go green without looking like a hippie, spending any extra money, or sacrificing anything, here's a super easy way! When you get ice cream this summer, get it in a cone instead of a dish. Once you finish eating, there's no trash left behind besides a sleeve that comes with them sometimes, which is usually recyclable. With a dish, there's the dish itself (usually styrofoam) and the spoon.

There's an easy change if there ever was one. Now go out and get some ice cream! :)

May 25, 2011

Crazy Crayons

Millions of broken crayons are thrown away every day! Now that we are nearing the end of the school year (yay!), you're probably getting rid of some of your old school supplies. Crazy Crayons, a Wisconsin-based company, recycles your crayons for you. Their website states the importance of crayon recycling:
"More than 12 Million Crayons are made in the US, every day! 100 new crayons equals about one pounds, lets do some math. 12 Million Crayons equals about 120,000 pounds. That's 60 Tons of Crayons made every day with petroleum based wax that eventually ends up in our landfills when they don't have to!"
The crayon recycling program has collected over 62,000 pounds of unwanted crayons since the program started. When the shipments of crayons arrive to be recycled, the boxes of crayons are sorted at a center that employs people with developmental disabilities. Then they get melted down, strained, sterilized, and hand poured into beautiful new crayons!

Set up a recycling collection box in your school, place of worship, or community center and join in this great recycling program. Or if you have a lot of old crayons, pack them all in a box and send them in!

To learn more, visit their website:

May 22, 2011

Change the way you think

How much water does it take to make... slice of bread? 10 gallons hamburger? 4,000 - 18,000 gallons medium sized apple? 18.5 gallons sheet of printer paper? 2.6 gallons cotton t shirt? 400 gallons latte? 50 gallons
Check out this video by the World Wildlife Fund
This video's message is true: We have to change the way we think. Whether you are picking out a car or an afternoon snack, take some time to think about it's impact on the world. 

Water is just the beginning: Were the workers who made it treated fairly? What resources were used in making, processing, packaging, and shipping it? Will it become trash soon or last a long time? Is there a more eco-friendly option? 

We can change our politicians and our lightbulbs, but for real change to happen, we have to change the way we think. 

May 16, 2011

Why Not to buy Bottled Water

Would you buy something if you knew you could get an unlimited amount of it easily for free? Well, you probably have. Think about bottled water. Annual worldwide bottled water sales are estimated to be around $50 too $100 billion a year. But what’s wrong with bottled water? Well, here are 5 reasons:
1. Making the plastic bottles requires up to 47 million gallons of oil each year. 
2. The bottles travel from where they are bottled to you in a truck, plane, or boat - burning fossil fuels along the way. 
3. Less then 1/2 of the Fiji Islanders have a reliable source of safe drinking water. But a factory there produces millions of water bottles and ships them to the US (a country where water comes freely from the tap.)
4. Only a few of the bottles get recycled. Most of them sit in landfills for thousands of years. Or they sit in parks, beaches, forests, or sidewalks as litter.
5. Bottled water costs more per gallon than gas, as this poster shows:

So, why do people buy it if it's so bad? Most people's answers are that they think tap water is gross. Well actually...tap water is much more regulated by the government than bottled water. And if you'd rather be on the safe side, you can easily buy a filter to make sure your water is clean. Also, another argument is that bottled water is convenient. I must agree, it is convenient to have water readily available. But you can solve that problem too, buy taking about five seconds to put a reusable water bottle or two in your car.

So, if you are looking for one thing to do to help the earth, here's one: Don't Buy Bottled Water!

May 14, 2011

Happy World Fair Trade Day!

Today is a day to celebrate Fair Trade. Fair Trade is a system of trading that promotes more equal global trade, mostly to farmers in poorer areas. When you buy fair trade, you ensure that the person who grows and/or makes the product you buy has been paid a fair wage, is not a child, and used environmentally friendly ways of growing. There is fair trade coffee, tea, herbs, chocolate, fruit, vegetables, sugar, beans, grains, flowers, nuts, honey, spices, wine, apparel, sports balls, and more.

You may take for granted those standards (being paid enough to live on and not having child labor), but apparently not everyone consider them the standard. In 2000, a report by the US State Department found that in recent years, approximately 15,000 children aged 9 to 12 have been sold into forced labor on cotton, coffee and cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast (in Africa).
This may sound like something out of a history book, but it really is happening, right now. When you buy Fair Trade, you make sure that nothing you buy is made using child labor or any other unjust practices. Fair Trade certification also has standards which ensure that the farmers are environmentally friendly, by prohibiting some pesticides and encouraging composting and recycling. Many fair trade products are organic.

These are the symbols of the main Fair Trade certification organizations. If you see this on a product, it is fair trade.
This World Fair Trade Day, May 14th, is a day to try out Fair Trade. Start small with a chocolate bar! (They're actually quite good - I had a few for Easter.)  Every Fair Trade purchase you make tells companies that you support fair labor practices. Many Fair Trade stores offer discounts and activities to celebrate this day.

To learn more about Fair Trade, visit:

Happy fair trading! :)

May 10, 2011

Interview with "Get Real" Author Mara Rockliff

I had an opportunity to interview the author of the book that started my interest in this great topic (see my review of her book here). I hope you find it as interesting as I do! 

Q: If you had to describe what Get Real is a sentence or two, what would you say? 
A: It's a book for teens that talks about the stuff we buy and use every day-a chocolate bar, a cell phone, a pair of jeans-and how our buying choices affect the planet, other people, and ourselves. 

Q: What sparked your interest in being good to the earth, fair trade, etc.? 
A: You know, I wish I had a great dramatic story about the one thing that suddenly converted me. But really it was a long, gradual process of learning about what was going on in the world-from talking to friends, from following the news, from reading books and watching documentary films. I think that's how it usually happens. It's not that most of us don't care about the environment or world poverty or our own health. It's that we aren't aware.

Fifteen or twenty years ago, I thought "organic" meant "expensive food for fussy people." Eventually I came to realize that organic food was not just healthier for the person eating it, but also for the people growing it and anyone whose air or water is affected by the toxic chemicals spread on the fields. I also learned that it's expensive not because it is a ripoff, but because our tax money is being handed out to giant agribusiness instead of smaller sustainable farmers. 

Q: What advice do you have for a teenager who wants to leave a positive impact on the world but doesn't know how to start? 
A: Quit drinking bottled water! Studies show it isn't any better than the stuff that comes out of the tap-in fact, many brands such as Aquafina are just filtered tap water, taken from public water sources and then sold back to us at a price higher than soda, juice, or gasoline! 

Bottled water is awful for the environment. To make the plastic for the bottled water that Americans drink every year, it takes a million and a half barrels of oil. That's enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a whole year! And that doesn't even include the oil burned in shipping bottled water all around the world. Plus, there are people in places like India, Fiji, and even here in the United States who lack drinkable water because bottling companies have sucked it all dry.

Switch to a reusable water bottle (and a filter if you don't like your tap water's taste) and fill it up. You'll save money, help people, and cause a lot less wear and tear on the environment.

Q: Are there any companies that are doing good that you would like to spread the word about? 
A: I am a big fan of Better World Books ( This is an online bookstore devoted to recycling books and raising money for libraries and literacy. They sell both new and used books at great prices, and shipping (in eco-packaging, with carbon offsets) is always free. Forget Amazon!

Q: So many of the problems discussed in your book (child labor, sweatshops, etc.) are occurring in faraway countries. What can we do here and now to make a difference? 
A: Well, what we do here and now does make a difference far away. If we buy a fair trade chocolate bar or ask our supermarket to stock fair trade chocolate, that may help a kid in Africa whose family can now afford to buy him a pair of shoes so he can walk the ten miles to school. If we call up Hershey and ask them to stop buying cocoa grown by child slaves, that helps somebody, too. (Check out Or if we write to our elected officials and ask them to change "free trade" policies that hurt the poorest people in the world-all these things make a difference.

But the impact of our buying decisions is all around us here at home as well. Our air and water are polluted by leaking landfills, pesticide-sprayed fields, and toxic runoff from the giant parking lots surrounding big chain stores-and thanks to those stores, lots of people in our towns have crummy jobs or no jobs at all. When we shop at locally owned businesses, buy fresh food from small growers at a farmer's market, or try to cut down on what we throw away, we're voting for a happier and healthier life for ourselves.

Q: What do you think is the main thing keeping people from making better choices? 
A: I think the problem is that we don't see the impact of the things we do, good or bad. Imagine if a pair of jeans we tried on at the mall came with a photo of the teenage girl who made them, along with details about her hourly wage (six cents) and working conditions (eighteen-hour days, meager food, snatching a few hours of sleep on a hard wooden bunk jammed into a tiny room with twelve other girls). Imagine if a cell phone came with a list of all the toxic chemicals inside, along with a description of the damage done to the environment in making it, and the further damage it would do after we threw it out.

We don't get that kind of information, and in fact, it takes a lot of work to learn how to make better choices. It's hard to find a pair of sneakers that isn't made in a sweatshop. It's confusing to hear people argue about whether to buy local or organic. (Either is good! Do both!) I think many people feel overwhelmed, helpless, and guilty. But we shouldn't feel guilty. What we should feel is ANGRY. Why should shoppers have to search for special "sweatshop-free" clothes or "fair trade" chocolate? Why is it even legal to sell anything else? Why are giant corporations allowed to poison our air and water? Buying better is a good start, but we need to act as citizens as well as consumers. We need to change the rules.   

Q:What would you say to convince someone to make changes in their life to help the world? 
A: I guess I would just say, don't wait until you feel ready to totally change your life. Start small and start today. Choose the easiest thing, or the thing you think is most important, or the thing that sounds like the most fun. Stop by the farmer's market for a snack. Call up your favorite sneaker brand and ask questions. (For tips on what to ask, download Clean Clothes? from my website) Go to the library and check out one of the great books or movies I recommend in Get Real. Just choose one thing and do it right away!

Q:Is there anything else you would like to say?
A: If anybody wants to learn more about all these issues, I've got lots of info on my website (, including links to some hilarious and eye-opening video clips.