Archive for the 'Reduce' Category

Holiday (re)Gifting Tips from the Greenies

Friday, November 17th, 2006

I’d like to pass along some holiday tips from the the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and New American Dream. Though consumerism can run rampant during the holidays, there are a number of ways to ensure that your gifts are as sustainable as possible.

The NRDC’s November ’06 issue of This Green Life is packed full of suggestions for a ‘green’ holiday. Though they do urge readers to buy less, don’t despair! The NRDC reassures us, “But enough of this grinchiness. No one wants to give up on the holidays or the sense of abundance that the season bestows. The only question is how to be generous without bankrupting the earth.”

Some of their ideas include:

Give things people need and can use, rather than products plucked from the shelves simply because they look good.

Choose gifts made of sustainable materials — bamboo rather than wood, hemp, organic cotton and wool, fleece made from recycled soda bottles, post-consumer recycled paper, natural cosmetics and organic, fair-trade chocolates and coffees.

Buy locally made products, as the energy used to transport goods to the stores is one of the huge, hidden environmental costs of the holidays.

Look for used things with a provenance. Old books and maps, retro clothing, antique jewelry and the like are one-of-a-kind gifts that collectors and aficionados will appreciate.

Give things that reduce energy usage, such as commuter bicycles, solar-powered products, battery rechargers and carbon offsets.

Avoid excessively packaged products. The packaging wastes resources without adding value and, if made from plastic, can release toxins after being discarded.

Give tickets for concerts, shows, museums, sporting events, outdoor activities or parks.

Give a party rather than presents — and tell your guests that the party’s gift-free.

Give of yourself. Promise a shift of babysitting or dog-walking or a service that uses your special talents or skills, such as a webpage, a bridge lesson or home improvement help.

Swap contributions. Set up a registry listing your favorite non-profits at http://www.whatgoesaround.org and suggest to your friends that they register, too, so you can give to their causes while they give to yours.

Do be sure to check out the latest issue of This Green Life (available here) for more eco-friendly holiday advice.

Also of interest: the NRDC’s Green Gift Giving Guide, which features a number of green presents and vendors.

The New American Dream’s most recent newsletter also focuses on environmentally conscious holiday tips.

Visit their website, and

* Download a free Simplify the Holidays Organizer Kit (The bad news: registration is required. The good news: totally free!)

* Celebrate Buy Local Day (Hint: It’s tomorrow!)

* Find an Alternative Gift Fair

Happy holidays!

How big is YOUR footprint?

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

The following is an excerpt from the most recent edition of the World Wildlife Fund’s eNewsletter:

Human footprint too big for nature

The world’s natural ecosystems are being degraded at a rate unprecedented in human history according to WWF’s 2006 Living Planet Report. It shows that on current projections we will be using two planets’ worth of natural resources by 2050 – if those resources have not run out by then.

The Living Planet Report is WWF’s periodic update on the state of the world’s ecosystems. It describes the changing state of global biodiversity and the pressure on the biosphere arising from human consumption of natural resources.

The Living Planet Report includes information on both the “Living Planet Index” (“the health of the planet’s ecosystems”) and the “Ecological Footprint” (“the extent of human demand on these ecosystems”).

While the report is certainly grim, the good news is that there are a number of ways that we can reduce our demands on the ecosystem – that is, reduce the size of our footprints. Many of these focus on the “3 R’s”: reduce, reuse, and recycle. In addition to regifting your unwanted stuff via Freecycle, the WWF recommends sending eCards versus paper greeting cards, using rechargeable batteries, and buying products with less packaging, to name but a few examples.

You can view the WWF’s complete list, “How you can help the environment in your daily life,” here.

Also, if you’d like to calculate the size of YOUR ecological footprint, check out http://myfootprint.org.

“Is it better to turn a light on or leave it off?”

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Environmental Defense’s Dr. Bill tackles this reader question in a recent ED column:

This is a great question and one that each of us confronts every day. To some extent, the answer depends on the type of bulbs you’re using.

Traditional incandescent bulbs are so inefficient, that it really is better to turn them off when they are not needed, even if you’re leaving the room for only a few minutes.

However, with compact fluorescent blubs (CFLs) you can be a little more flexible. The amount of energy used to turn lights off and on again – the “inrush” – is typically equal to only a few seconds of normal light operation. So, technically, you’re saving energy by turning off CFLs.

But, CFLs are so energy efficient that you’re not wasting too much energy by leaving them on if you’re only stepping away for just a few minutes.

A common misperception is that it takes a lot of extra energy to turn on a CFL. This may seem true since some CFLs take a few minutes to “warm up” before they reach full brightness. Turning on a light does require additional energy; however, the bulb’s “warm up” period does not draw extra electricity.

Rule of thumb: If you know you’ll be away for more than a few minutes, you should make a habit of turning off your lights. And, regardless of your habits, you should buy CFLs and install them everywhere. The savings are enormous.

Voila! – a quick, easy way to REDUCE the amount of energy – not to mention the number of light bulbs – you burn through!

By the by, you can submit your own question to Dr. Bill here.

‘Reduce’ – The least popular of the 3 R’s?

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Although we focus on recycling and reusing items on KC Freecycle ™, reducing our consumption of stuff in the first place is the most effective means of helping the environment. That’s not to say that recycling and reusing aren’t important; rather, they shouldn’t necessarily be the only tools in our green toolkits.

Umbra Fisk breaks it down for her readers:

Cutting back on our consumption is central to the creation of anything close to a sustainable, closed-loop waste cycle. In the words of the U.S. EPA, “reduction actually prevents the generation of waste in the first place, so it is the most preferred method of waste management and goes a long way toward protecting the environment.” […]

In fact, the EPA and Environment Canada agree that “reduce” is the most important of the Three R’s — even though recycle usually hogs the spotlight. Note to naysayers: that doesn’t mean recycling is unimportant. It means reduce, reuse, and recycle are all vital, because no matter how much we cut our consumption, we will still consume some things — and then have to figure out how to handle our waste. […]

Sadly, in this world of Nifty mops and Zippy sandwich containers and things that are made to break, it’s hard to convince people to buy — and therefore throw away — less stuff. But according to the EPA, more than 6,000 communities have “pay as you throw” programs that charge residents for each unit of trash they toss. And some industries have made progress. Remember those silly big cardboard boxes that CDs used to come in? And it seems that two-liter plastic bottles are 25 percent lighter today than they were 30 years ago. Small steps, but we’ll take them.

So what can you do? Write to companies whose products you admire but whose packaging gives you shivers. Buy in bulk. Buy products with little or no packaging. Make thoughtful shopping lists, based on need, to avoid snatching things up spontaneously at the store. Shun anything that’s marketed as handy, disposable, or one-time use in favor of more permanent solutions. And above all, don’t get caught up in the Stuff Race. In this case, less is truly more.

There you have it.

The next time your ‘wanted’ goes unanswered, and you start contemplating whether you should buy that new hot tub or exercise doodad, ask yourself if it’s really something you need. Or…will you just end up listing it on KC Freecycle in six months?