|Eco Gadgets & Innovations
Daylight Saving Time kicked in nearly two weeks ago now, but you wouldn't know it from the clock on my toaster oven: it's still an hour behind. When it comes to resetting clocks in my house, the toaster oven just isn't a high priority. Hey, I love my toaster oven as much as the next gal, but do I really need it to tell me the time of day? No, I just need it to brown my toast.
My toaster oven, of course, is not alone when it comes to electronic devices with an unnecessary clock. The microwave oven, DVD player, fax machine, oven and intercom system are a few
others that come to mind. What's the problem with these innocent little clocks? Annoyance aside, they use precious energy, increase carbon emissions and cost consumers hard-earned cash.
Devices with clocks aren't the only guilty parties where wasted "phantom" power is concerned. Any gadget with a standby mode, remote control, or transformer (think cell phone chargers and laptops) quietly sucks up energy 24/7, whether it's turned on or not.
Working together, these energy vampires use up a surprising amount of energy: as much as 10% of household energy, according to The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. That's costing the average U.S. household about $100 per year, according to estimates from ENERGY STAR.
One obvious way to kill your energy vampires is to unplug them when not in use. While kitchen appliances can easily be dealt with this way, television and computer peripherals, not so much, as their plugs are often hidden away and can be difficult to access. Power to those devices - DVD players, stereos, game consoles, printers, scanners, computer speakers, etc. - can be easily cut with a couple of smart power strips. At less than $30, the Smart Strip from BITS Limited
is a good bet. Buy one for your computer and another for your TV, and you'll be saving energy and money with the flick of a switch.
Here's how it works: just plug your computer or TV into the Smart Strip's "control outlet," any devices you want left on standby (i.e., the fax machine and DVR) into the "constant hot outlets," and any other peripherals into the "automatically switched outlets." Whenever you shut off your computer or TV, power will automatically be cut to those peripherals. It's a snap to install and pays for itself in a year or less. Pretty smart!
Learn more at www.bitsltd.net
| Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow
Erin Carroll is a Senior at Dickinson College studying Environmental Science. Last year she attended the University of Queensland in Brisbane Australia for a semester and the School for Field Studies in Atenas, Costa Rica for a second semester abroad. While traveling to Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, she fell even more in love with our natural environment, and has since decided to take what she learned and apply it to pursuing a career in environmental education. After returning to the United States, Erin has helped to develop a new sustainable summer camp at the Dickinson College Center for Sustainability (CSE) and is excited to be directing the nature program at Camp Wohelo (Raymond, ME) this summer.
Senior, Dickinson College
Pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Science
In pursuit of that career in environmental education, Erin recently contacted TeachingGreen about volunteering and offered to share the experience that lead her to environmental education. Thank you for sharing, Erin!
Environmental Education: Teaching or Inspiring?I'm lying on my bed in our hotel in Nicaragua. My knee is killing me from all our walking during our one-week Nicaragua trip. How did I get to this incredible place? We have only been in Nicaragua for a few days, but the effect is profound. The juxtaposition of the beautiful scenery and the shocking poverty is enough to make me stare out the window and think during all our bus rides.
My roommates for the week come in from exploring Granada and we start to talk. We start to think about sustainability issues and how we can fix them. Is policy the answer? Is it individual choice? Is it targeting big businesses? How does poverty play into these decisions?
I have always been concerned with the environment, but until this semester abroad I was never as passionate about the environment as I was in that hotel room. This conversation with my friends led me to my own personal answer: education. I credit my new found passion for the environment to the education I received in Costa Rica: the professors...
| Bringing Up (Eco) Baby
The Diaper Conundrum
The Cloth vs. Disposable Debate Rages on and Alternatives Remain Limited
No two ways about it: parenting is a wild, emotional roller coaster ride. The highs - oh my! And the lows - well, let's just say there's a reason our kids are the cutest things we've ever laid eyes on. And for eco-minded parents, the stress of new parenthood can be particularly acute as we fret about the impact our new bundle of joy is having on the environment.
Aside from the sheer quantity of clothes, toys and gear that come and go as children grow, there's probably one thing parents worry about most, and that's diapers. And for good reason: it's entirely possible that one child will require upwards of 6,500 diaper changes before graduating from diapers for good (www.thenest.com)
. Picturing all those diapers in a landfill is enough to drive environmentally-aware parents to drink. This is why, in the 1980s, many
parents switched from disposables back to good old-fashioned cloth diapers. But that trend fizzled in the 1990s, after several contradicting studies couldn't conclusively determine which type of diaper, cradle to grave, is worse for the environment.
By the time my daughter was born in November 2009, the debate still raged on. Unsure which way to go, I spent a good deal of time researching and comparing the environmental merits and downfalls of disposable and cloth diapers. We finally settled on gDiapers
because I liked the fact that the chlorine-free absorbent inserts are free of plastic and therefore flushable. But many blowouts later, we realized that the environmental advantages of gDiapers were quickly being compromised by all of the washing of the "gpant" cotton diaper covers we were having to do. So we gave up on gDiapers and switched to - gasp! - Seventh Generation
Believe me, this was no easy decision to make. What convinced me was a book called The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, written by two scientists from the well-respected Union of Concerned Scientists. Siting the studies mentioned above, the authors concluded that "most people should not waste a lot of time or energy trying to decide which type of diapers to use based on environmental considerations" and that "cloth and disposables will remain two relatively equally matched alternatives." So I went with the most eco-friendly disposable I could find and stopped wasting time worrying about it.
Fast forward to January 2012 and the launch of The Honest Company.
Based in Santa Monica CA, the company sells
non-toxic cleaning and body care products, flushable, compostable diaper wipes and diapers made with 85% plant-based materials. Like Seventh Generation's diapers, they are made without chlorine processing, petroleum-based lotions, fragrances, or latex. But Honest diapers have something else that gives them a slight advantage over Seventh Generation's: the inner and outer layers are made with plant-based PLA instead of synthetic materials.
Because they still contain some plastic, neither Seventh Generation nor Honest diapers are biodegradable. But even if they were, it would take dozens, possibly hundreds, of years for them to biodegrade in a landfill anyway. So unless you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the company EarthBaby
will deliver, pick up and compost your diapers for you, you're pretty much stuck with the options mentioned herein.
The moral of this story? If you choose to go the disposable diaper route, choose one of the options mentioned here. But more importantly, don't worry too much about your choice of diaper. Rather, focus on what matters: modeling behaviors and instilling values that will help your children to grow up to be life-long conservationists. As a parent, that is where you can really make a difference.
|Did You Know?
The Environmental Plague That is Plastic Disturbing Video Provides a Harsh Reminder of the Hazards of Plastic
Plastic, the miracle of modern science: lightweight, durable, flexible, water resistant, non-conducting and easily made from an inexpensive feedstock (oil). Perfect for making cheap consumer products and the packaging that contains them. Unfortunately, the very properties that make plastic so great for consumers also make them dangerous if not downright deadly for millions of wild animals around the globe.
Easily carried by the wind, plastics end up stuck in trees and bushes, polluting the land, and in storm drains, eventually polluting our rivers, lakes and oceans. And because plastic is so durable, once it's in the environment, it's there for good: it doesn't biodegrade at all. Instead, it's broken down by sunlight until all that's left is plastic dust, often wreaking havoc on wildlife along the way. It's estimated that more than a million seabirds and marine animals die each year from consuming or becoming entangled in plastic and other debris.
Chances are, you've probably heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where millions of pounds of trash circulate in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Inside that Garbage
Patch, some 1,000 miles from the nearest city, is the Midway Atoll. Home to just a few dozen people, the Midway Atoll is the unfortunate nesting ground of the Laysan Albatross. Each year, roughly 500,000 Laysan Albatross chicks are born here, and of those, approximately 40% die from dehydration and starvation, mostly because their stomachs are full of plastic trash.
Why would Laysan Albatross chicks eat plastic? Because their parents, mistaking it for food, feed it to them. And the Laysan Albatross is not the only species that mistakes plastic for food. According to the Algalita Marine Research Foundation
, about 44% of all seabirds eat plastic, and in all, 267 marine species, including all seven species of sea turtle (six of which are endangered) are negatively effected
one way or another by plastic garbage.
The Internet is rife with photos like the one above, but videos of animals actually in the process of eating plastic are harder to come by. But a parkgoer in Brixham, Devon in the UK recently filmed a seagull doing just that. Some viewers have wondered why the videographer didn't try to stop this poor bird from committing suicide before his or her very eyes. Regardless of the motive behind it, this difficult-to-watch video packs an emotional punch, and if enough people see it, this bird's death may prevent hundreds or even thousands of other innocent animals from meeting the same fate.
|Seagull Eating A Plastic Bag|
What can one consumer do to help stop this kind of death by plastic in the wild? It's true that avoiding plastics altogether would be impossible in our modern society; they're in our cars, toys, electronics, you name it. But if we pay closer attention to the unnecessary plastic in our lives (plastic produce bags, single-use plastic sandwich bags and dry cleaner bags are a few that come to mind) and take action to eliminate that plastic, we will be taking an important step toward keeping plastic out of the food web, saving the lives of countless creatures in the process.
| Readers' Corner
How to Save Energy With a Washcloth
Thanks to John R. (Rod) Jensen of Northrop Grumman in El Segundo, CA for sending this energy-saving tip:
My tip is to use your washcloth in the shower to dry off prior to toweling. This sounds silly but we have two teenage girls in our household with long hair so after my insiste
nce they have started this practice. Previously we had four soaking wet towels on the floor every morning that were too wet to dry by the next morning. Now we only have two damp towels that readily dry when hung up properly. The result is three or four fewer laundry loads every week.
Just think of the savings of water, electricity and natural gas multiplied over lots of households across the US if people started this practice. This has actually made a noticeable decrease in our utility usage.
Got a hot tip for living green? We'd love to hear from you! Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org
| Duty Calls
Saturday, March 23, 8:30pmOn March 23, 2013, pledge to turn out your lights at 8:30pm (your local time) for Earth Hour, a worldwide collective display of commitment to protect the one thing that unites us all--the planet.
Every year, Earth Hour, a program of World Wildlife Fund, asks individuals, businesses and communities around the world to show their commitment to the environment by turning off the lights for one hour.
For more information, to pledge your support, and to start your own Earth Hour event at your home, workplace, school or city, go to www.earthhour.org.
| L.A. Confidential|
Upcoming Events and Other Stuff for Angelinos
Aquarium of the Pacific's Earth Day CelebrationDate:
Earth Day Celebrations for the Whole Family
Celebrate Mother Earth and her protection at an Earth Day celebration near you:
Saturday & Sunday, April 13 & 14Time:
9:00am - 5:00pmLocation:
Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach 90802Cost:
FREE with general admission and for AOP membersCity of Alhambra Earth Day 2013 EventDate:
Saturday, April 13Time:
10:00am - 2:00pmLocation:
Sanitation Districts Parking Lot, 1955 Workman Mill Road, Whittier 90601Cost:
FREEEarth Day Bird FestDate:
Saturday April 20Time:
10:00am - 3:00pm (beach cleanup from 8:00 - 10:00)Location:
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium; 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro 90731Cost:
FREEEarth Day Festival at Santa Monica PierDate:
Saturday April 20Time:
12:00am - 7:00pmLocation:
Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, 1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica 90401Cost: Check the website for
more details coming soon
Earth Day LatinoDate:
Saturday & Sunday, April 20 & 21Time:
Sunrise to SunsetLocation:
Los Angeles State Historic Park, 1245 N Spring St, Los Angeles 90012Cost:
FREESTAR ECO Station's 12th Annual Children's Earth DayDate:
Sunday April 21Time:
10:00am - 4:00pmLocation:
STAR ECO Station, 10101 Jefferson Blvd, Culver City 90232Cost:
FREE (with $5 tours of the ECO Station)VOICE 21st Annual Earth Day Celebration & ConcertDate:
Saturday April 27Time:
11:00am - 4:00pmLocation:
Polliwog Park, Manhattan Beach 90266 (corner of Manhattan Beach Blvd. & Peck Ave.)Cost:
Other Upcoming Events for the Eco-ConsciousDate:
Date: Saturday & Sunday, April 20 & 22
Time: 10:00am - 4:00pm daily
Location: Manhattan Beach Armory, 3601 Bell Avenue, Manhattan Beach 90266
Saturday April 20Time:
10:00am - 4:00pm Location:
Start at 3635 Grand View Blvd, Mar Vista and pick up a mapCost:
This city-wide tour, which attracted over 2,000 attendees in 2012, will showcase drought-resistant landscapes and edible gardens with sustainability features ranging from composting techniques to water capture practices.Second Annual Long Beach Lawn-To-Garden TourDate:
Saturday, May 18Time:
10:00am - 2:00pmLocation: Register
to receive a map via emailCost:
This self-guided tour will showcase 35 beautiful Long Beach Lawn-to-Garden landscapes throughout the city of Long Beach.WorldFest 2013 Earth Day FestivalDate:
Sunday, May 19Time:
10:30am - 7:00pmLocation:
Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Ave. Lake Balboa, CACost:
Presale tickets until May 1st - $5; 12 & Under FREE, Parking $5
Enjoy live music, empowering speakers, environmental, humanitarian and animal welfare non-profits, kids' activities and a delicious food court.Solar Homes Tour of the South BayDate:
Saturday May 11
Time: 9:00am - 5:00pm
Location: South Bay area Cost:
Join Environmental Priorities Network for their annual solar homes tour. For more information and to obtain a tour flyer contact Lillian Light at email@example.com or Diane Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three ways you can help:
1. Make a tax-deductible donation
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Are you a member of a community group, alumni group, Mom's group, church group, or other community group? Have a business you're trying to green and want to get your employees on board? Check out our Green Life presentations for adults.
Visit www.teachinggreen.org to learn more and to request a presentation.
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We are seeking interns and volunteers to help further our mission of helping people reduce the environmental impact of their personal and professional lives. We need help with curriculum development, classroom presentations, fundraising and outreach. Your involvement will help us to grow the organization so that we can reach more people with the message of sustainability. Sign up today!
For more information, contact Kathleen Jacecko at 310-372-7484 or email@example.com.
We hope you find this newsletter helpful and informative. Should you have any suggestions, questions or general comments, we'd love to hear from you.