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X Environmental Documentaries Everyone Should Watch

March 22, 2018
Environmental Documentaries Everyone Should Watch

We live in an age of denial. Global climate change, a documented and proven process, is still openly debated in both public and political forums. The few unbiased scientific reports which are released are immediately politicized, making it impossible for the public to determine what is reality. Further, most of us aren’t willing or able to read long and complex reports on the subtle environmental shifts around us, before sculpting them into our understanding. In these cases, documentaries can do wonders.

Documentaries have the amazing benefit of adding video to topics that are otherwise difficult to demonstrate or explain. In the case of environmental matters, documentaries serve two major purposes. First, they can explain the complexities of environmental science through interviews and videos of the environment. Better than trying to explain the science of global warming through written word, documentaries can use animated graphics or experts to weave a narrative the viewer can more easily pick up.

The other major benefit is the ability to show the environment for its beauty and importance. While many people accept the science of climate change and the abstract importance of the greater environment which is at risk, they do not fully grasp the beauty and seismic importance of protecting it. By showing viewers exactly what is at risk, documentaries can inspire a whole new wave of advocates.

Here are a few of the best examples of projects that embody one — or both — of these qualities. The following are five environmental documentaries everyone should watch.

An Inconvenient Truth/Sequel

Al Gore set the standard with his 2006 An Inconvenient Truth, which he followed up this past year with An Inconvenient Sequel. Both have been praised for their clarity and ability to introduce the topic of climate change and human impacts to new audiences. While some critics have complained that the films oversimplified certain concepts, this decision adds to the accessibility of the material. These are great films for those otherwise unaware of global climate change.


This film was created in 2010 as a personal investigation into the impact of drilling and fracking and opens viewers’ eyes to the impact such actions have on the greater environment. Whereas docs like An Inconvenient Truth focus on the macro of humanity’s environmental impact, Gasland creates a much smaller focus, going in-depth on the specifics of the drilling industry. This makes it somewhat less approachable but also lends the entire film a laser focus.

Further, the documentary does a great job at showing the consequence of drilling for communities and individuals, something a larger-scale project couldn’t hope to accomplish.

Before the Flood

Leonardo DiCaprio headlines this 2016 project, touring to various locations and speaking with world leaders on the topic of global climate change. It is a bit of a hybrid, including beautifully shot helicopter video, a journey of self-discovery by DiCaprio, and the opening of a dialogue on the global stage. The film’s tone is one of deep concern and tentative hope, as our guide chats with politicians, green energy factory owners, and the Pope.

The viewers will become intimately involved with the issue even as DiCaprio does himself, aided by wonderful cinematography and an array of famous figures across the continents.

Plastic China

Also released in 2016, this documentary narrows to follow the story of an 11-year-old Chinese girl who works in one of China’s many plastic waste processing towns. The film plunges the viewer into the squalor caused abroad by consumption at home, as the young girl works through an unceasing mound of MacDonald’s napkins, granola bar wrappers and broken toys. It is impossible not to pick up on the larger statement of the story: a consumption culture impacts those both near and far.

The film, through its depressing and brutal surroundings, has a strong impact on anyone watching for the first time. Documentaries like this function in the same way as those of giant ice sheets cracking: we watch something delicate and beautiful destroyed before us, and we cannot help but shudder at the sense of undeniable loss. It carries with it the slice-of-life reality of any good documentary, not trying to spin a narrative, but simply portray a situation as it truly is.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

This 2016 documentary covers the lesser-known factors of greenhouse gas: the beef industry. Consumption of beef results in a massive daily release of methane from, well, cow farts. While this might seem negligible next to the massive factories and shipping ports of the world, the fast food industry has caused cheap beef production to skyrocket, and ethane is one of the largest global contributors to atmospheric warming.

This documentary presents an interesting side of the problem and will keep the viewers invested throughout by giving a tour of force into the machinations of the cheap beef industry and the problems it is causing the rest of the earth.

Staying Aware

A good environmental documentary should be used to spread awareness, inform the public of something interesting and potentially impactful, and instigate action. All of the above do this and are some environmental documentaries everyone should watch.


What Are the Stats of Water Waste Around the World?

March 9, 2018
water waste around the world

Water is one of the most important substances on the planet. Every living being needs it to survive. We drink it, use it to produce food and use it for hygiene purposes. Sadly, though, one-sixth of the people in the world don’t have adequate access to clean water.

The reason for this isn’t so much that there isn’t enough water as it is an issue of management and distribution. While people in some areas struggle to find enough, other regions end up wasting substantial amounts of water.

Which Countries Use the Most Water?

Many of the countries with the largest populations also top the list of nations that use the most water. China, India, the United States and Brazil used the most, and they’re the first, second, third and fifth most populous countries.

The amount of water used per person in each country, though, varies significantly. Per capita, the United States used the most water at 2,842 cubic meters per annum. People in India use about 1,089 cubic meters, while the global average is 1,385.

Countries that have abundant water supplies tend to use more than others. Most parts of the United States, for example, have reliable resources of fresh water. The United Kingdom, however, has a much smaller supply, causing them conserve more. In the UK, the average person uses 39 gallons per day compared to the American’s 110 gallons.

Across Europe, water use varies rather widely. Iceland, Macedonia and Greece have some of the highest residential water use, while Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland use large amounts for industrial purposes.

In Africa, water supply conditions vary from country to country. Some have plentiful supplies, while others do not. Even in nations that have freshwater sources, ineffective distribution of that water is a problem. Three-fourths of people in Africa do not have reliable access to clean water.

Much of Australia is sparsely populated desert. So while waters use in much of the country is minimal, people have relatively high levels of water use along the coast where populations are higher. Consumption has been falling, though, as drought conditions and other environmental pressures push the nation to better conserve its water resources.

What Do We Use Water For?

People use a lot of water at home, but much more water use goes toward agricultural, industrial and other processes. These indirect water uses make up the largest portion of our water footprints. Globally, irrigation for agricultural use is the biggest reason for water withdrawals, accounting for 70 percent. Industry accounts for 20 percent and municipal use for 15 percent.

Lifestyle choices also play a part in shaping someone’s water footprint. Part of the reason that the United States uses so much water per capita is our diet. Meat consumption is responsible for 30 percent of an average American’s per capita water footprint, and sugar represents 15 percent.

More direct at-home uses of water include drinking, cooking, showering and flushing the toilet, which accounts for 24 percent of water use in the average American home. Showering uses 20 percent, running the faucet uses 19 percent and washing clothes makes up 17 percent. Leaks are another significant contributor, accounting for 12 percent of household water use on average.

How Can We Conserve Water?

While these are all legitimate uses of water, the way in which we use water for these purposes can result in waste.

In the agricultural and industrial sectors, we need to look for more efficient ways to use water. Many farms, for instance, have switched to drip irrigation, which supplies water directly to the root of the plant, rather than the entire area around the plant. Other ways that farms can reduce their water use include planting more native plant species, switching to crops that require less water and raising less livestock. Consumers can support these efforts by purchasing these native foods and eating less meat.

Turning off the water in your home, even for short periods can result in substantial water savings. Turning off the tap while you brush your teeth, for instance, can save eight gallons of water every day. Only running the dishwasher when it’s full can reduce the average U.S. family’s water consumption by 320 gallons per year. Fixing leaks in a home can prevent 180 gallons of water waste every week. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances can cut water consumption by 20 percent.

In countries that have a consistent source of freshwater, it’s easy to take the resource for granted. In many parts of the world, though, water is a scarce commodity. To help solve the water crisis, we need to keep in mind the reality that many people face every day and push for more efficient water usage at home and in society overall.


How Much is Your Diet Contributing to Climate Change?

March 2, 2018
diet contributing to climate change

Since 1880, the average temperature of the globe has increased 1.8° Fahrenheit. The amount of Arctic ice has dropped by 13.2 percent each decade. The sea level has increased by 3.2 millimeters every year. These startling statistics from NASA indicate that climate change is not only real, but that it’s happening at a rapid pace. In fact, the earth probably looks a lot different than it did when you were born — so imagine how different it could look when your grandchildren are born.

Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is: how can climate change be stopped? There are many complex answers to this question. However, there’s also a stunningly simple one: the global population needs to stop eating meat. A global shift to eating less meat could save the planet from an 80 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions — and that’s just with less meat. Consider what would happen if the entire planet went vegan or vegetarian!

While it might not be practical to demand that every person on earth suddenly stop eating steak, deciding to cut back on meat would definitely be a positive step for your planet and your health. Keep reading to learn how your diet affects Mother Earth and, by extension, the people who inhabit her.


The most detrimental aspect of being a dedicated carnivore is that the production of meat causes an extreme amount of greenhouse gas emissions compared to the cultivation of plant foods. Greenhouse gases are such a problem because they trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere and raise the global temperature, when wreaks all types of havoc across the planet (e.g., those rising oceans and melting ice caps).

When you compare beef and lamb to beans and other legumes, gram for gram of protein, the meat results in 250 times more greenhouse gas emissions than the plants. Compare pork and poultry to legumes, and the statistic is still shocking: their production results in 40 times more greenhouse gas emissions. A large portion of these gases results from the energy it requires to process and transport meats. However, some of the gases come from the animals themselves. The three major offenders are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

Carbon dioxide fills the air whenever fossil fuels are burned in order to power processing plants or delivery trucks — about 11 times as much per calorie of animal protein compared to a calorie of plant protein. Methane, on the other hand, emanates from the animals as they digest their food and from the copious amounts of manure they produce. Nitrous oxide, meanwhile, is largely produced by the dairy industry, and it’s 300 times more destructive to the environment than carbon dioxide.

Although vegan and vegetarian diets have been projected to have the greatest positive impact on the state of the earth going forward, it wouldn’t necessarily take a total moratorium on meat to keep the earth healthier. A more subtle shift to a largely Mediterranean and pescatarian diet would make major waves in the progression of climate change, especially if you’re being mindful to only eat fish farmed sustainably, and it would be much more feasible for the majority of the earth’s population.


The problem of greenhouse gases emitted by meat production is compounded by the fact that some of the earth’s safeguards against global warming must be removed in order to raise livestock. Perhaps most importantly, trees are cut down in order to make room for pastureland where cattle and other animals can graze. In fact, roughly 80 percent of the deforestation that occurs in the Amazon Rainforest can be directly contributed to the raising of cattle.

When forests thrive, they serve as types of sponges that can soak up carbon dioxide and return it to the atmosphere as clean, breathable oxygen. However, when humans decimate forests in order to make way for grazing cows, Mother Nature loses a bit of her ability to protect herself. So, essentially, every hamburger comes with a small but significant tax on the earth. So if you wonder if you’re eating a diet contributing to climate change, simply ask yourself: does it contain meat?


Beyond the direct issues of climate change, eating meat also has other negative effects on the earth, although they’re not all directly aimed at the environment. When the globe continues to consume meat, portions of its population suffer. Approximately 35 percent of the world’s grains are used to fatten up livestock. Meanwhile, nearly 800 million people go underfed. If everyone is ever to move toward a happier and healthier earth, the reallocation of this food to people in need is an obvious step.


Even worse, those people who are eating meat on a regular basis are at a much higher risk for diet-related diseases. So as they contribute to climate change in drastic ways, they also may unknowingly push the globe in an unhealthy direction. According to research, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer can all be linked to a high intake of red meat.

If the entire planet switched to a vegetarian diet, approximately 7.3 million lives would be saved by the year 2050, according to a study by Oxford University. The shift could also save the globe from 63 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from farming. It everyone could commit to strict veganism, the statistics are even more promising: 8.1 million lives saved and pollution cut by 70 percent. Consider what the earth would look like for your grandchildren if this was the scenario that unfolded, as opposed to the alternative?


With these facts in mind, it’s hard to ignore the obvious: eating meat regularly is bad for people and it’s bad for the environment. If everyone on earth even promised to eat just one meatless meal per week — or an entire day’s worth of meatless meals — consider how much this tiny change in routine could impact the course of global warming and climate change! It’s time to ask yourself how much is your diet contributing to climate change. If a shift to veganism isn’t in the cards, cut meat from one day each week and enjoy the results.


Eco-Friendly Tips I’ve Learned From Traveling

February 19, 2018
eco-friendly lessons from traveling

Traveling expands our horizons, broadens our outlook and allows our creativity to soar. However, the benefits of travel often mean creating a substantial negative impact on the environment. Luckily, traveling can also help us learn how to minimize our environmental impact. Here’s how.

Choose Your Destination Wisely

When planning a vacation, most travelers give little thought to matters such as whether their destination will have cleaner public transportation or recycling bins readily available. However, for the green traveler, such considerations are a must.

Think about your last road trip, for example. Chances are, when you stopped for gas or a bathroom break, you disposed of the trash that accumulated in your vehicle during the long drive. Did the gas station have recycling bins on hand? In most areas of the U.S., they do not, and as a result, plastic bottles and the like end up in the trash, rather than the recycling bin.

If you must drive through an area that is not eco-friendly, consider storing recyclable goods in your car until you reach a destination with recycling bins. I’ve started always carrying reusable bags in my car so that I can store trash in them until I reach an area where I can recycle everything.

How to Get to Your Destination in the Most Eco-Friendly Manner

Deciding how to get to your destination is as important as the destination itself. In general, driving is more environmentally friendly than flying. To make your trip even greener, consider offering to share the ride with others, if possible. Keep an eye on your speed, as an increase of 10 mph means, on average, an extra 15 percent in fuel expenditure. If driving a rental vehicle, choose a hybrid or one that runs on alternative fuel if possible.

If you must fly, do your best to stick to nonstop flights, as layovers along the way use much more fuel when the planes land and take off. Also, try to pack as lightly as possible, depending on the length of your trip, as each pound of luggage equates to higher fuel costs. If you can get it all into a carry-on, you have the bonus of knowing your bag will not get lost.

Making Your Hotel Stay More Earth-Friendly

As most of us who have stayed at a hotel over the past several years know, many lodging destinations request guests ask for fresh sheets and towels only when necessary. But even if the hotel where you stay does not offer signage to remind you, make a mental note to hang up your wet towels to dry and to leave a note for the cleaning staff to refrain from changing your sheets until you ask them to.

If you’re camping, in lieu of the RV, try to get a true taste of peaceful outdoor living by bringing a tent instead for shorter trips. Just be sure to pack out everything you bring in.

Choosing Eco-Friendly Activities

Where you go on your travels is not nearly as important as the fun you have while there, right? While activities are important to a memorable vacation, be conscious of the environmental impact of your activities. If touring in a group, strive to find activities with a smaller carbon footprint. For example, if your trip involves off-roading over rocky terrain, choose a Jeep tour that accommodates a group of four to eight people, instead of renting an ATV that can only carry one or two.

You can also gear your getaway toward making a positive impact on the planet. If you’re planning a tropical getaway, why not participate in an Adopt-a-Beach cleanup crew? You’ll make great new friends at your travel destination, and make sure it remains clean for future travelers as well. Another option is to volunteer for vacations specially geared toward helping local people plant trees or other activities that will increase the beauty and magic of your favorite getaway destination.

Think Carefully When Dining Out

Like activities, dining out is one of the most exciting parts of traveling. Exploring local cuisine can be a blast, especially for the foodies among us. The best way to savor the true local flavor? Seek out dining establishments that get their food from local fishermen and farmers. Not only will the foods be fresher and richer in flavor, you won’t be contributing to pollution that comes from shipping foods a long distance away.

If you’re enjoying a seaside stay, indulge in the local seafood. If traveling in a more metropolitan area, eschew chain restaurants and instead seek out smaller boutique restaurants that cater to the locals. Not only will you likely spend less on your meal, you’ll walk away knowing you’ve kept your travel carbon footprint small.

Skip the To-Go Bag Extras

Portion sizes at many restaurants have skyrocketed in recent years, and the eco-friendly among us know taking leftovers to go cuts down on food waste. However, many restaurant to-go options are far from green. To minimize the environmental impact of your leftovers, resolve to skip the extras many restaurants provide.

Your hotel may provide silverware, so just say no to plastic utensils. If you’re staying at an Airbnb or similar vacation rental property, utensils will definitely be included, and washing them takes only moments. Ditto for plastic straws — you can buy glass or metal straws to use instead of plastic.

Finally, many restaurants will offer you a plastic bag to carry your leftovers, but politely decline this and just hold the container. Who wants mushy food that’s been swung around, after all?

Avoid Bottled Water

“Don’t drink the water” is common advice many overseas travelers hear. But that doesn’t mean increasing your carbon footprint by buying one bottle of water after another. Americans throw away 35 billion plastic bottles every year! Instead, invest in water purification tablets and reuse the same bottle to reduce plastic waste.

Travel can be rewarding, but it shouldn’t be environmentally damaging. By following the tips above, you can roam free without putting undue pressure on the planet we all share.


My Go-To Green Cleaning Products

February 16, 2018
Go-to green cleaning products

I absolutely love having a tidy house. There’s no better feeling than having  a clean and calm environment after a long, busy day at work. What I don’t love is filling my house with all the harsh chemicals and fumes that come with traditional cleaning products.

When I decided to switch to green cleaning products, I didn’t have a clue where to start — and if you’re here, you’re probably in the same place. With that in mind, I’ve decided to share some of my favorite go-to green cleaning products to help make your transition from traditional cleaning products to green alternatives a lot easier than mine was!

What Do You Already Have?

Your first stop for green cleaning materials doesn’t have to be the grocery store — in fact, it should be your kitchen. You probably already have many of the ingredients you need for green cleaning, including baking soda, white vinegar and lemons.

If you’ve ever made a volcano, you know what happens when you mix vinegar and baking soda — it creates a volatile reaction that has fueled elementary school experiments for decades. That same reaction can also clean your house. If you’ve got baked-on food in your oven, sprinkle it with baking soda and spray on some white vinegar — let it sit for a few minutes, and most of your work is already done.

If you can’t stand the smell of vinegar, peel a few lemons and put the peels into a mason jar. Pour vinegar over the peels and let them sit for a few weeks. Once it’s done, decant it into a spray bottle, and you’ve made a beautifully lemon-scented cleaner with all the power of both the lemons and the vinegar. You can strain out the peels, or leave them in for extra cleaning power.

I know you didn’t come here for the cleaning products you can make in your kitchen, though, so here are some of my favorite green cleaning products for around the house.

Seventh Generation — All Products

If you’re looking for a company that offers green cleaning solutions for basically everything in your house, look no further than Seventh Generation. I stumbled upon their products while looking for new dish soap at the grocery store. I try to avoid soaps with a heavy artificial scent as a general rule, but it’s often hard to find soaps that will get the job done. Seventh Generation is probably one of the best green dish soaps I’ve ever used — I’ve never had any trouble getting even the greasiest stuck-on food to come off, and it’s super-gentle on my skin, too.

Seventh Generation makes a full range of environmentally friendly cleaning products, and as a bonus, they also make sanitary supplies such as diapers and tampons. They even have paper towels and toilet paper, made with 100 percent recycled paper and packaging, so if you’re looking to reduce your family’s carbon footprint and go a little greener by recycling, this company is a good place to start.

Nature Zway Bamboo Perforated Towels

One of my biggest waste sources was paper towels. I’ll be honest — I love the convenience of being able to just pull off a towel whenever I need it, without having to do laundry every time I run out. I tried to offset it by buying towels made from recycled materials, but even that only goes so far. These bamboo towels totally replaced my paper towel supply.

A roll of 25 sheets costs $11, which might seem a little excessive until you realize you can rinse and reuse each sheet up to 100 times. They’re more absorbent than regular paper towels, so you don’t need as many of them, and once they’re worn out, you can just toss them, because they’re 100 percent biodegradable.

EcoEgg Laundry Egg

This might sound a little off-the-wall, but I don’t use laundry detergent anymore — not since I discovered the EcoEgg Laundry Egg. This little plastic egg lives in my washing machine and has replaced even the best eco-friendly detergent. It works by using pellets that help break down the bond between the dirt and your clothes, and to lift the dirt away from the fabric.

It has no chemicals, and all I have to do is add some new pellets every 72 washes. Even if I do laundry twice a week, that’s still more than six months’ worth of laundry before I have to do anything to it! The EcoEgg comes in two scent options — spring blast or fresh linen — as well as an unscented version, which I prefer.

Better Life — Simply Floored Hardwood Cleaner

When it comes to flooring, I much prefer hardwood or tile to carpet — it’s easier to keep clean, and doesn’t harbor nearly as many allergens — but these floors can be a nightmare to clean. I dreaded mopping day until I discovered Simply Floored. This green cleaner is an all-natural alternative that helps me keep my floors clean and polished — no small feat with kids and pets — without loading up the floor or the air with chemicals.

It’s naturally scented, too — a light citrus scent formulated with grapefruit extract — which makes my house smell amazing on cleaning days.

Cleaning is still my least favorite chore, but n

ow I have the peace of mind that comes with knowing my cleaning supplies aren’t harming my family or the environment. I can even get the kids involved with the cleaning, since I don’t need to worry our cleaning supplies will make them sick.

Hopefully, this advice helps make your transition to green cleaning products a little simpler. Going green isn’t easy — but it’s definitely worth it.


My Favorite Inspirational Go Green Sayings

February 2, 2018
Inspirational go green sayings

Like most people, I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes that get me motivated to change my current state of thinking. “Go green sayings” are no exception.

Nothing is more enriching than a feel-good saying that stress the importance of the world we live in. While watching a nature documentary or taking a stroll outside can provide a source of inspiration, I find taking in the words of wisdom from other notorious figures and activists can offer a new method of reflection.

Not sure how to find the inspiration to start a greener living? Here’s a collection of my top seven go-to green sayings.

1. “When the soil disappears, the soul disappears.”

Chinese author Ymber Delecto highlights the importance of environmental conservation perfectly when he mentions the interconnectedness of the human soul to the natural world. A stroll in the natural world always puts me in my element, and I’m often at my happiest when I completely immerse myself in my environmental surroundings.

Because my sense of happiness is so tied to the preservation of nature, I am motivated to pay closer attention to my own environmental footprint, too.

2. “Look deeper into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

World-renown scientist and philosopher Albert Einstein once said nature is the pathway to a heightened sense of understanding. But how exactly does a look at the natural world result in a more thoughtful mindset?

In my experience, the environment grants me a sense of mindfulness. When the world seems tumultuous or uncertain, nature provides a sense of reflection on the true meaning of existence.

3. “The future will either be green or not at all.”

You can’t expect to have a future without a thriving set of surroundings to establish your existence on.

Australian politician Bob Brown stressed the importance of preservation and caring for the natural world in stating that the very future of our existence depends on it. If that isn’t enough to motivate you to live a greener life, then I’m not entirely sure what will.

4. “The poetry of the Earth is never dead.”

John Keats, one of the world’s most notorious poets, drew his inspiration for literary pieces directly from the environment. In his poem “On the Grasshopper and Cricket,” Keats states how the natural world is one of the most significant sources of stimulation and beauty.

Whether it’s the sound of birds chirping outside my window or the sight of clouds gently passing by, I find myself agreeing that there never ceases to be a sight of admiration in the environment — which makes going green increasingly intriguing.

5. “Where the quality of life goes down for the environment, the quality of life goes down for humans.”

It’s no secret that our quality of life seems irrevocably connected to the set of surroundings we live in. English-American stage actor George Holland voiced these sentiments in a way that speaks volumes. A fruitful, happy life depends upon the high quality of the environment, so why not put a little-added effort into keeping it clean and thriving?

6. “He that plants trees loves others beside himself.”

Is it enough to just love the planet, or should you be leaving a positive impact on the environment you encounter, too?

I think that English churchman and historian Thomas Fuller wonderfully voices the importance of not only thinking green but acting green, too. Taking steps to beautify the world — like gardening or maintaining your land — can provide a much better tomorrow for future generations and inhabitants.

7. “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

Our internal world consists of our own bodies and individualistic set of needs, but what about the external world that surrounds us?

One of my favorite go-green quotes by naturalist and author John Muir perfectly sums up why valuing the natural world is so important. It’s simple to place a high level of importance on caring for ourselves, but it’s even easier to forget the environment plays an essential role in who we are. In the end, there is not a single part of the world that cannot be tied back to nature.

Whether you’re looking for the motivation to improve your current lifestyle or want another reason to go green, there’s nothing a pro-nature quote can’t fix. After all, sometimes all it takes is words of wisdom from another individual to change your own thinking. Turn those thoughts into actions, and you’ll create waves of impact for the entire planet.


Eco-Friendly Home Buying Facts

January 26, 2018

If you’re in the market to buy a home, think green. An environmentally friendly house will use less energy and be healthier to live in. It is also likely to have a greater resale value when you come to sell it, as people become more aware of the need to conserve energy for a healthy planet.

Currently, people in the United States spend about $160 billion for home heating, cooling and lighting, more than 20 percent of total energy consumed in the country. Energy often relies on fossil fuels like oil, coal or natural gas. These emit carbon into the air, which contributes to global warming. Yet energy-efficient appliances, for example, can cut energy consumption by 15 percent to 30 percent, according to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). So making a commitment to these and other energy-reduction strategies is doing your part to reduce global warming.

To buy a home that’s as green as possible, you need to know some eco-friendly home buying facts as you look. Here are six.

1. Some sites can be greener than others

Look carefully at the site itself when you look for homes. Western-facing windows, for example, let in more heat and light than windows that face in other directions. As a result, they will require more energy to cool them.

Landscaping is also a great way to minimize the energy that needs to be consumed. If shade trees can be planted (or currently exist!) close to windows, for example, they will cool the house in the summer and reduce the need for heat in the winter.

The size of your home is also a consideration. The larger the home, the more energy it will require to heat and cool and provide with light.

Also, don’t neglect eco-conscious considerations that have nothing to do with your home itself, but matter to energy consumption overall. Is the house close to public transportation or bike paths, for example? If so, you can reduce your use of fossil fuels when you commute.

2. Look at the roof for energy-saving methods

Solar energy is one of the best ways to reduce energy consumption from fossil fuels. Not every single home, though, has a roof suitable for solar panels. Roofs must be flat. There can’t be any neighboring tall buildings or trees that substantially block sunlight. If you have a suitable roof or area, consult with a contractor about whether solar panels are feasible for the home.

Another roof-top idea for energy conservation is the installation of roof-top gardens or ground cover. If you have a garden, you are living sustainably with your own harvest! Ground cover is easier to grow, and can insulate the roof while eliminating rainwater run-off.

3. Perform an energy audit

To have the most energy-efficient home possible, it’s best to perform an energy audit. The audit will let you know where in the home energy consumption can be improved.

If your attic or windows let in drafts, for example, an energy audit will let you know. You can then insulate the attic and purchase energy-efficient windows to reduce your energy use. This will not only cut down on energy consumed, it will reduce your energy costs.

4. Paint with environmentally conscious materials

Many new homebuyers paint at least part of their new home. Be sure to check that the paint you’re choosing is either free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or uses a low amount. VOCs are harmful chemicals that affect your family’s health and the environment negatively. They can easily be avoided or minimized by being mindful of the products purchased.

5. Use sustainable flooring

If you’re looking for new flooring for your home, be aware of the many sustainable choices. Choosing a new wood floor, for example, causes trees to be cut down. Trees are important to environmental balance. An organization called the Forest Stewardship Council certifies wood flooring to be sustainable, meaning that it comes from forests where harvesting is regulated. Recycled and reclaimed wood also gets made into attractive flooring. When materials are recycled, no new trees are harvested at all.

There are many environmentally friendly materials for flooring that is not wood. Floors made of plant products are renewable and do not use synthetic materials, which may contain oil. Bamboo, sisal and linoleum are all sustainable materials.

6. Buy Energy Star™ products

Energy Star™ products are certified by the EPA to save at least 15 percent in energy consumption. The savings can be as much as 30 percent. If you need to purchase new appliances or large-ticket items for your house, check to see whether an Energy Star™ model is available.

A very large number of household appliances are available as Energy Star™ models, including dishwashers, refrigerators, air purifiers, hot water heaters and more. If you need new windows, buy an Energy Star™ type.

Eco-friendly homes need to be planned for. These six tips will help you choose an eco-friendly home site and maximize its green and sustainable qualities.


Eco-Friendly Composting Methods That Will Transform Your Garden

January 12, 2018
Eco-Friendly Composting Methods

What if I said you could reduce landfills and improve your land while spending no money in the process of fulfilling these two crucial tasks? Anyone can contribute to the environment while transforming their yard into a thriving space with crops and floral life. All that’s required is a little knowledge on composting.

Composting grants you the power to take your garden to the next level. You can transform ordinary dirt into soil that properly nourishes your greens. Best of all, you don’t have to rely on the synthetic chemicals emitted from commercial fertilizers. Choosing organic is as simple as organizing your waste and setting it aside.

If you haven’t started composting yet, you’re missing out on the valuable benefits this simple act has to offer.

Reducing Your Ecological Footprint

Did you know in the United States alone, families generate a cumulative amount of roughly 250 million tons of trash per year? The average car only weighs approximately one half of a ton, so imagine 500 million vehicles stacked into one unbelievably huge lot. Pretty unfathomable, right?

You can play your part in reducing waste by transforming trash into a valuable resource. Virtually any organic, non-animal-based material will work. Instead of tossing your coffee beans, fruit peels and paper products into the dumpster, use them in your yard instead!

One man’s trash is the soil’s treasure.

How Composting Improves Your Land

Composting takes ordinary waste and transforms it into a crucial element that strengthens your soil.
When you place all of your organic materials in composting containers, the components decompose into an eclectic mixture of mineral-rich soil. That’s because insects and worms consume all of the waste. This matter then expels from the insects through waste in the form of a nutrient and vitamin-rich mixture.

Nothing beats the natural process of composting. While synthetic fertilizers provide nutrients to your land, their impact is often short-lived. Composting provides a natural fertilizer that nourishes your ground with a more significant influence.

Start with Organizational Measures

Creating the perfect composting pile requires a bit of preparation. When you dispose of waste, you may find yourself separating your trash into various categories. Plastic goes into one bin and paper goes into another. But when you choose which waste goes into your compost pile, you have to use caution.

Tossing all of your waste into one large trash can is easy. But when you want to transform your scraps into valuable soil, you have to eliminate unnecessary materials that will ruin your fertilizer.

Keep a separate container for waste which you will not place into your composting bin. You should discard diapers, recycled magazines and meat scraps separately to keep your waste divisions organized.

Know Which Materials to Throw Aside

Composting is a science. With the right know-how and knowledge, you can produce the fertile soil and land you’ve always dreamed of achieving.

No two materials are the same, especially when it comes to their ability to decompose. Not sure which products to include in your composting pile? Check out the list materials to avoid throwing in your compost pile:

  • Plastic materials
  • Cat and dog excrements
  • Poisonous or diseased plants
  • Fish and meats
  • Colored or glossy papers
  • Bones
  • Ashes from charcoal or coal

Scan the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for a greater understanding of which materials to withhold from your composting pile to get the most out of your effort.

Consider Root Growth Hormones for Added Growth

By composting your waste, you’ve already taken the first step necessary to provide your plants and crops with the nutrients they need. The next step involves acquiring the proper root growth hormone.

If you’re unfamiliar with this process, rooting hormones are a synthetic mixture of plant growth hormones that assist in the plant’s natural formation of roots. Using this compound will help your plants grow thicker, healthier roots which grant your greens a stronger life potential. You can make your own rooting hormone using apple cider vinegar, honey or willow water.

When you use root growth hormones in combination with composting soil, you aid your plants’ growth process immensely. Once you find the right rooting hormone for your greenery, applying the compound is relatively simple. After you drip powder onto a cutting, you will plant the mixture into a hole in your soil. Nutrient-rich soil produced from composting ensures your growth hormones perform to their maximum potential.

Turn Composting Into a Family-Friendly Activity

You don’t have to exhaust yourself in the process of building a better future for the environment. Take gardening, for instance. Planting and sowing seeds in your garden allow you to spend time outdoors with your family in a bonding experience that gets all family members involved.

Making fertilizer through composting offers an incredible learning experience children can engage in through hands-on learning. You’ll enlighten them on the benefits of recycling while they play an active part in bringing your garden to life.

Once your compost pile transforms into good soil, you can plant flowers and crops together as a family. Picky-eaters might even try new tastes knowing they helped create the foods lining your kitchen.

Save the Environment and Lessen Your Expenses

Did you know composting can save you hundreds of dollars on your monthly food expenses? Making your own organically grown fertilizer provides you with a fresh heaping of soil you can use to sow vegetables and fruits. If you’ve ever shopped organic before, you know the price of crops can be quite pricey, especially during the cold winter season. Why not grow your own produce instead?

Compost-friendly waste products grant you the power to harvest food from the comforts of your own home. When your fruits or vegetables spoil, you can recycle them with the satisfaction of knowing they will one day help new crops thrive.


Unfortunately, Yes the President Can Legally Reduce National Monuments

January 5, 2018
President Can Legally Reduce National Monuments

You read that right. The president can cut national monuments at his discretion, as evidenced by Donald Trump’s recent decision to reduce Utah’s two national monuments by considerable proportions. If you thought the Antiquities Act granted landmarks such as Bears Ear and the Grand Staircase Monument special protection against governmental interference, think again.

Although public outcries from groups including the Native American community proclaim Trump’s decision an act of illegality, the president is moving forward in his decision to slash Utah’s landmarks by a remarkable two million acres — the most extensive monumental cutback in the United States’ history.

A Brief History of Bears Ear and the Grand Staircase Monument

If you’re unfamiliar with Utah’s two infamous monuments, a brief understanding of their history will help you realize what sparked this recent debate.

Both the Bears Ear and Grand Staircase monument grant the general public access to the plants and wildlife within the surrounding area. The Bears Ear National Monument also provides tribal access to a sacred land that various tribes from the Native American community access daily.

In 2016, former President Obama declared Bears Ear a national monument to further preserve and guarantee Native American access to the Utah terrain. The Grand Staircase was similarly established as a protected site in 1996 to protect the land from unwanted damage and pollution. However, much of the controversy surrounding this monument states that the 1.3 million acres of size prevent the poverty-stricken area from accessing the land for more productive measures.

With Trump’s recent decision to slash Utah’s monuments by nearly two million acres, the future of Bears Ear and the Grand Stair Monument remains uncertain.

What You Need to Know About the Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act dates back over nearly a century to when President Teddy Roosevelt first passed the bill in 1906. When Roosevelt first signed this bill, his priority centered on protecting the Native Americans from losing the land they hold sacred to their culture.

This act grants the president power to mark designated natural areas and monuments into conservation units. As a result, the act aims to extend the protection of the land for public interest and protected use.

Many claim Trump’s decision to cut Utah’s preserved land as an unreasonable breach of power based on the details outlined in the Antiquities Act which warrant conservation. However, President Trump’s decision to cut Bear Ears aligns with the Antiquities Act declaration that the President should protect national monuments while utilizing the least expanse of land.

The Antiquities Act leaves a gray area that does not explicitly state Trump cannot cut these significant sites into smaller proportions. In fact, various presidents who preceded Trump decreased the amount of land allotted to these landmarks, too. However, prior presidents made minor cuts to the nation’s protected areas. Trump’s decision to reduce Utah’s monuments by several million acres is the most substantial cut the country has yet to experience.

Understanding the Acts Set by Predecessor Presidents

Even if the Antiquities Act explicitly stated that future presidents could not legally reduce national monuments or alter protected land such as Bears Ear and the Grand Staircase Movement, Trump’s decision may still have held some ground.

Current and future presidents are permitted to override specific acts established by prior officials. Even though Teddy Roosevelt passed this bill in the early twentieth century, that doesn’t mean all of his successors must abide by his every decree.

If every individual following Roosevelt had to adhere to the principles he established during his presidency, this sense of authority would forever grant Roosevelt power ever after his time in office. No policy is guaranteed a lifetime of use because laws must alter and change to accommodate the nation’s ever-changing societal demands and needs.

While many may protest and disagree with Trump’s recent decisions, his choice to cut Utah’s land still falls within the realm of legal abidance. Political choices that were once upheld by those in office before him can change at any point in time. The same rule of thumb applies to Trump’s future successors, who may have the power to follow — or undo — several of the policies he himself establishes during his time in office.

How Trump Claims to Improve Utah’s Community

Rather than harming the Native American community’s access to these national lands, Trump believes his decision will assist them. When making remarks on the Antiquities Act Designations, President Trump voiced that the new overturn of this bill will allow Natives to have a newfound voice in the land.

Although the president claims to have made his decision with the indigenous population in mind, various Native American tribes took the initiative in suing Trump to voice their discontent.

What Trump’s Cut Means for the Future of Archaeological and National Sites

Parks and environmental displays, such as Utah’s highly debated monuments, offer everyday citizens the ability to explore their natural surroundings in a protected environment. As the number of archaeological sites shrinks, what will become of our ability to connect to the natural environment?

Unfortunately, the president’s decision to cut back Utah’s monuments by drastic proportions may be the first warning of what’s still to come. The possibility that other states will experience monumental reduction is an increasing probability. This equates to not only less monumental access in Utah but in the nation as a whole.

The Dangers of Making National Monuments into Public Land

Once areas such as Bears Ear National and the Grand Staircase monuments become federally owned, their protection seems to falter.

One of the major threats toward formerly protected lands is the change in legal ownership. The ownership shifts toward the federal government, who could easily decide to place these lands under potentially dangerous acts ruining the natural wildlife and plants.

Protestors who disagree with Trump’s decision fear Bear Ears and the Grand Staircase monument are now open to prospective mining, oil drilling and building establishments. As federal property, these lands lose their protection against environmental damage that they formally possessed.

While Trump proclaims to have the people of Utah in mind, the future of these two historically significant areas remains up in the air.


Obama’s Environmental Legacy Versus the Legacy Trump Is Leaving

December 29, 2017
Obama's environmental legacy

Since the primordial cook fires of our ancestors first released carbon into the atmosphere, humans have made changes to their environment. Our surroundings, after all, are our vehicle for advancement: We learned breeding and farming to supply a steady food supply, cut trees from the forests for shelter, and burned whatever we could for heat and light. The Earth provides what we consume, fueling our collective forward motion.

Consumption and modification of the environment seat us at the forefront of all other species and allows us the luxury of meteoric advancement — often at the cost of our surroundings. Our progress has finally reached a terminal point where we, as a species, become aware of our unsustainable lifestyles. We may still use the Earth as elastic for the evolutionary slingshot of the human race, but our future seeks better propulsion by sustainable means.

Reasons for Current and Continued Fossil Fuel Reliance

Both politics and economics play into our entrenched use of fossil fuels.

What is good for the short-term economy is seldom good for the environment. Fossil fuels are an excellent example of this: They are plentiful, simple to use, and reasonably cheap to extract and refine. Oil and natural gas are also used in primary life functions, from transportation to heating, making them a cornerstone of modern life and a significant portion of many national economies. A country can grow massively wealthy from the discovery and sale of oil or natural gas reserves.

Likewise, many jobs stay tied to extraction, refinement and sale of these fuels. When jobs are at stake, people tend to vote. Thus, the right’s alignment with traditional energy industries — and its opposition to green energy — makes some sense. President Trump carried most regions reliant on jobs tied to mining, drilling and fracking. When votes are cast along these lines, it is no surprise Republican candidates advocate for the continued reliance on carbon-emitting energy sources.

Obama’s Environmental Legacy

Where Trump’s campaign leaned on expanding the existing coal, oil and natural gas industries, his predecessor trod clearly in the opposite direction. President Obama aided legislation intended to preserve the environment: laws and orders ranging from the high-profile rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline to the long-term official goal of increasing fuel efficiency for personal vehicles. He also expanded existing wildlife refuges and national monuments and established new ones.

He also advocated for the expansion of renewable energy sources. In his infamous bailout bill, signed into law during the height of the economic recession, provisions included some $90 million earmarked for green energy subsidies.

In separate legislation, Obama also established massive tax credits for individual households interested in pursuing renewable energy. Individuals claimed these by contributing solar power to the grid, driving an electric car or even insulating their homes better, so as to decrease carbon wastefulness. Thousands of Americans felt incentivized to hop on board. Obama also funded continued research into the science behind renewable energy, rendering facilitators like turbines and panels more efficient.

Trump’s Environmental Legacy

It is hard to imagine a sharper about-face from the Obama-era legislation than the claims and tangible movement of the Trump team. During his campaign, Trump promised to entirely eradicate the EPA, a claim he since stepped back from, but whose specter continues to loom in the White House. He has settled for a 31 percent decrease in the agency’s budget and laying off several thousand associated jobs.

His pick for the agency head — Scott Pruitt — is a public climate change denier, and the EPA removed its climate change page in April. Trump has himself claimed climate science is a hoax and that any related action will cost America jobs and worsen economic suffering. Indeed, he recently signed an executive order in the midst of a team of miners, an act that would loosen mining restrictions on federal lands.

Lesser Trump legislation includes abolishing restrictions on big-game trophy hunting and tossing out the Clean Water Rule — a dangerous move that will open loopholes and ambiguity within the law. These are only two examples of a wide-ranging pattern of attacks on conservation norms.

The Facts

For all the political maneuvering and supposed protection of jobs in traditional energy sectors, the numbers tell a different story. The U.S. employs roughly 200,000 workers across all fossil fuel industries — which include oil, natural gas and coal. These numbers pale in comparison to the budding renewable energy industry, which claimed over 1 million workers in 2016. Further, job opportunities for renewable applications are on the rise. Wind energy boasted a 32 percent growth in employment between 2015 and 2016.

Conversely, oil and gas jobs have dwindled in recent years. Logic dictates that when one industry grows, the other will shrink, and there seems to be a bleak future for those involved in fossil fuels around the world. While some have proposed legislation allowing traditional fuel workers the chance to train for renewable energy jobs, little tangible action has been taken by the Trump administration.

The Future

Renewable energy marches on, in spite of the best efforts from the current administration. Thus, we find ourselves in a strange time: a government in denial of basic scientific fact, and a flourishing new industry replacing the wasteful and traditional energy sources. History cannot look kindly on this president.