9 tips for eco-friendly Black Friday, Cyber Monday shopping

November 27, 2019 by  
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Shopping is an ubiquitous part of American culture that peaks during the holiday season in spurts of deal-hunting and gift-giving. Anyone who has made efforts to go zero-waste or plastic-free knows how difficult it can be to maintain those goals while finding meaningful presents for loved ones. So when Black Friday and Cyber Monday roll around, you might experience the internal conflict of responsibility to the planet with the desire to give gifts. We love that you love the planet, so we’ve put together some ideas of ways to enjoy the season without leaving behind a Sasquatch-sized carbon footprint. Watch packaging  When it comes to gifting, watch out for extra packaging, especially plastic foam and molded, unrecyclable plastic . Consider buying items in bulk, as long as they have less packaging and won’t go to waste. You can also bring your own containers for bulk products like bath salts, pet treats and food. As always, bring your own reusable shopping bags, and decline the offer of plastic bags from the store. Related: Avoid the crowds with these 10 alternatives to Black Friday shopping Support sustainable companies More and more companies are working to source natural materials and manufacture products in a sustainable way. Reward their efforts by supporting them as your first choice in gift-giving. For example, select bracelets made from ocean plastic, shoes or sunglasses made from coffee grounds or indoor gardens sourced from recycled plastic. Look for companies that ship using recyclable materials, too. While smaller, sustainably minded companies may not have a flashy ads online or on the TV, they are out there and will often offer discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday just like the giant box retailers. You just have to do a little bit of searching. Make your own gifts The most sustainable way to enjoy Black Friday is to be in complete control of the materials used in your gifts. Instead of heading out for pre-packaged and wasteful options, take a trip into the local pottery studio and make some plates, a popcorn bowl or a mug to give as a gift. Upcycle by gathering up special T-shirts and other clothing to have a company make them into a memory quilt (if you have sewing skills, you can also DIY !). Set another date on the calendar for a craft party, and invite friends, family and neighbors to gather and make gifts. Use the Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts to score some deals at the craft store. Just be sure to look for products that don’t include plastic and emphasize natural materials like hemp, grapevine and organic fabrics. Choose green technology A quick glance through most holiday catalogs will highlight deals on electronics. If TVs and other modern gadgets are on your list, research models that consume less energy and purchase solar-powered items when they are an option. Go for durability While it is likely that not every item you purchase throughout the season will fully fit the sustainability bill, one way you can help the planet is in waste reduction. To meet this goal, keep in mind that a long-lasting product will create less waste than one that is quickly disposed of. Research your purchases and go for items made with real wood instead of pressboard, strong metals instead of flimsy ones and natural materials instead of plastic (think wooden picnic tables and rocking horses for toddlers). The same goes for jewelry, clothing, furniture, kitchen items and decor. Quality counts, both for the gift recipient and for the planet. Look for eco-friendly materials Especially when it comes to textiles , the materials used in production can make a huge difference in the amount of pollutants that end up in waterways and landfills. Select natural fibers for sheets, towels, blankets and clothing. The most obvious example is organic cotton , which eliminates the toxic chemicals such as insecticides, pesticides and fungicides used in traditional cotton production. Minimize driving and stops Stop-and-go city traffic is guilty for contributing to air pollution , so do your part by limiting the number of stores at which you shop. Pick one store for your purchases, or select stores near each other. Even better than driving is to take public transit, bike or walk from shop to shop. Shop local Depending on where you live, shopping local is likely the best thing you can do for the environment. You get bonus points if you can shop at a nearby craft mall or import store with a focus on eco-friendly and/or locally made products. If you do hit up the online deals for Cyber Monday, follow the suggestions above in regards to buying from sustainably minded companies and observing packaging and shipping practices. Gift wrap naturally Once you’ve made or purchased your gifts, continue the eco-friendly trend with thoughtful gift wrapping. Use natural fabric or paper, and accessorize with leaves, flowers, small branches, nuts or fruit. Alternately, recycle greeting cards into gift tags, upcycle tablecloths and pillow cases, put gifts inside gorgeous reusable bags or organize a gift basket with no wrap at all. Images via Shutterstock

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9 tips for eco-friendly Black Friday, Cyber Monday shopping

A guide to zero-waste holiday travel

November 19, 2019 by  
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It’s the year that the Swedish concept of flygskam, or flying shame, hit headlines around the world. Now, it’s November and time for holiday travel. Unfortunately, you might feel like you’re choosing between hurting the environment and hurting Grandma’s feelings. If you find yourself traveling this time of year, here are some zero-waste tips to take the edge off your travel shame. Planning for zero-waste travel A green trip starts with good planning. If you’re traveling by plane and/or staying in hotels, check out their sustainability policies. Airplanes use a staggering amount of plastic, which they mostly don’t recycle, but some carriers are striving to improve. Air France pledged to switch out 210 million single-use plastic items with sustainable alternatives by the end of this year. Qantas is ditching single-use plastic by the end of 2020. Alaska Airlines traded plastic stirrers for ones made of bamboo or white birch. Related: Designers aim to reduce the waste and impact of airlines Consider buying carbon offsets. Because flights were responsible for 2.4 percent of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2018, carbon offset programs aim to balance human destructiveness by investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gases, such as planting trees or improving forest management. Several airlines offer this option. Most hotels post info about their sustainability efforts on their websites. You can also opt to stay in an Airbnb or similar, where you’ll be able to cook your own food and eat on reusable plates. Learn more about sustainable hotel resources at Green Key , Green Traveler Guides or Kind Traveler. Don’t forget to prepare your house for travel. Eat, freeze or give away perishables. Unplug lamps and other small appliances. If it’s plugged in, it’s sucking energy . Turn the thermostat down — but not so low that the pipes will burst if you live somewhere cold. Packing for zero-waste travel In a world of disposability and access to cheap stuff, it’s easy to throw something away when it is only slightly damaged. I was going through security in Canada when the agent wanted to look in my backpack. The zipper stuck because of loose threads around a rip. I said, “Oh, I have to get a new one … or maybe sew it.” I truthfully had no intentions to do so. She looked at the tear and said, “It’s a good backpack. You should fix it.” Of course I should! I’ve sewn that tear a couple of times now (I’m obviously not that good at sewing), and the backpack is still traveling with me. Aim to repair, not discard. Most travel experts advise packing lightly, both for ease of travel and to keep weight down on airplanes. I’m more of a medium packer, because I know from experience that if I travel too light, I’ll buy more stuff while traveling. Capsule wardrobes have garnered a lot of press lately as a light packing strategy. This is a set of clothes like tops, pants, skirts and sweaters that can be endlessly mixed and matched together, often in a neutral palette like tan, gray, black and white. If you go neutral, consider including some bright scarves or big necklaces to rev up your look. Related: The sustainable wardrobe — it’s more accessible than you think Pack reusable versions of things that get trashed the most while traveling. Freelance travel writer and animal advocate Lavanya Sunkara said, “I always bring my S’well water bottle, so I never have to purchase a plastic water bottle, plus it keeps the water cold for a long time. I just decided to bring my own coffee mug as well as some non-disposable forks/spoons for the road. I also bring my own soap, shampoo and conditioner in reusable bottles.” For even lighter packing, consider shampoo bars. Don’t forget to pack a reusable bag for grocery shopping or souvenirs, too. Greener transportation Some countries have great train service. In most regions of the U.S., trains are infrequent and cost-prohibitive. However, if you have the time, live in a busy train corridor or are traveling a short enough distance overland, look into trains and buses. People in the Northeast have more trains to choose from. New bus services like Flix Bus, Bolt and Megabus are trying to make bus travel more pleasant; even Greyhound has on-board Wi-Fi now. Consider whether you’ll need a car at your destination. If you’re going to a city with decent public transportation , a bike share program, walkable areas and/or plenty of cabs and ride-share services, maybe you can forego a rental car. Related: How to make American cities bike-friendly If you find yourself soaring through the skies in an airplane, avoid the so-called “service items” — i.e., trash. You brought your own water bottle , right? Well, fill it up at the airport (after you’ve made it through security) so you won’t have to waste cups on the plane. Bring your own snacks and say no to straws, napkins and ice. Minimizing waste at your destination Think how you can be most environmentally conscious at your destination. If you’re snorkeling in the tropics, use reef-safe sunscreen . If you’re strolling the streets of Paris, sit at a sidewalk cafe and drink out of a real cup, rather than getting a disposable cup to go. Travelers doing their own cooking in an Airbnb kitchen can shop for ingredients at farmers markets or in the bulk sections of grocery stores to minimize packaging waste. One of my biggest sources of eco-shame has been using plastic bottles while visiting countries where waterborne diseases are prevalent. But Terry Gardner , an inspiring sustainability warrior who writes for the LA Times and other publications, has convinced me to try a SteriPen next time. “I’ve used a SteriPen in China , Mexico and twice in Peru,” she told me. “I’ve also used it to purify water from lakes in the U.S. I like the USB one that is rechargeable. In China, where we were encouraged to drink bottled water from single-use plastic, I refused and used my SteriPen. I felt good about avoiding the plastic and remained healthy. In Peru, the SteriPen worked great in Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu, but I couldn’t use it in some places in the Amazon where the water was polluted by hazardous waste (I think it was uranium or some mining byproduct).” In keeping with the zero-waste ideal, Gardner advises, “One of my most important sustainable travel tips is focused on trying to treat every place like a national park — do your best to Leave No Trace.” Depending on your destination and the length of time you’re staying, considering volunteering in some capacity. Maybe instead of trashing a place, we can learn to leave it just a little bit better. Images via Shutterstock and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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A guide to zero-waste holiday travel

Earth911 Inspiration: Jared Diamond on Poor Human Choices

November 15, 2019 by  
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We can learn and change in response to our environment, … The post Earth911 Inspiration: Jared Diamond on Poor Human Choices appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Inspiration: Jared Diamond on Poor Human Choices

Earth911 Podcast: eevie Offers Sustainable Living Coaching in the Palm of Your Hand

November 15, 2019 by  
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eevie is a new mobile app for the iPhone and … The post Earth911 Podcast: eevie Offers Sustainable Living Coaching in the Palm of Your Hand appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Podcast: eevie Offers Sustainable Living Coaching in the Palm of Your Hand

Integrating Sustainability Into Your Business’ Supply Chain

November 15, 2019 by  
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Integrating Sustainability Into Your Business’ Supply Chain

Excessive road salt threatens public health and wildlife

November 13, 2019 by  
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Many people and municipalities turn to road salt to de-ice wintry streets and sidewalks. Unfortunately, road salt poses serious environmental and water contamination risks. Just one teaspoon is enough to contaminate 5 gallons of water, making removal via reverse osmosis extremely expensive. Moreover, the health of humans, pets, wildlife , aquatic organisms, vegetation, soil and infrastructure are heavily impacted as road salts enter the environment, seeping into groundwater and draining via runoff into freshwater estuaries. At the forefront of advocating for better practices on road salt use is the Izaak Walton League’s Winter Salt Watch program. Just last winter, the League dispensed 500 chloride test kits to volunteers across 17 states. Tests showed consistently high levels of chloride ions in waterways surrounding eight major metropolitan areas, signaling excessive misuse of road salts. This year, the League has sent out a batch of chloride test kits to more than 200 new volunteers. Related: The Ocean Cleanup reveals the Interceptor to remove plastic pollution from rivers “Our goal is to not only make residents aware of the impact road salt has on local streams but also give them the tools to advocate for changes to road salt practices that will decrease salt impacts while keeping roads safe for drivers,” explained Samantha Briggs, the League’s Clean Water Program Director. Road salts are mainly comprised of sodium chloride, ferrocyanide (an anti-caking substance) and impurities like aluminum, cadmium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, nickel, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. All of these components are contaminants in water and exacerbate salinity levels. What risks do they pose? The sodium chloride, for instance, breaks down into sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl-) ions. Sodium in drinking water is unhealthy for individuals suffering from hypertension, or high blood pressure, which explains the EPA’s measure of monitoring sodium content in public water supplies. Meanwhile, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has issued warnings regarding road salt ingestion and dangers to paw health of pets. Paw exposure to road salt exposure begets irritation, inflammation and cracking that leads to infection. When road salt is licked off paws or eaten, pets can exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, depression, disorientation, cardiac abnormalities, seizures, coma and even premature death. As for wildlife impacts, once road salt enters a body of water, it is nearly impossible to remove. This adversely affects bird, amphibian, mammal, fish and aquatic plant populations. Road salt in the environment elevates both salinity stress and osmotic stress, which are associated with aberrant development, nutrient uptake degradation, toxicosis, weakened immune systems, low reproductive levels, population decline and mortality. When road salt damages vegetation, that creates losses in food resources, shelter and breeding sites. Similarly, road salt’s presence accelerates infrastructure corrosion and structural integrity. Streets, highways and bridges are all subject to damage as road salt impairs asphalt and creates potholes. The corrosion extends to vehicles, as repeated salt exposure increases rusting and damage to critical vehicle components, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA) . Even more worrisome, road salts damage water pipes, causing toxic metals, like lead or copper, to leach into drinking water. To promote awareness and best practices regarding the hazards of de-icing, the Izaak Walton League has been pushing for “smarter ways” of using road salt, especially with “alternative approaches that include brine or sand application.” For those interested in volunteering as a stream monitor with the League’s Winter Salt Watch program to help gauge water quality and road salt risks, a free chloride test kit can be ordered here . + Izaak Walton League of America Image via Eddie Welker

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Excessive road salt threatens public health and wildlife

Tacoma’s Dune Peninsula: from slag heap to beloved park

November 13, 2019 by  
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On a gorgeous fall day, people jog and walk dogs along Tacoma’s waterfront in the new Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park . Locals appreciate the almost miraculous transformation of this land. The human-made peninsula, named for the science-fiction book by Tacoma author Frank Herbert, was built over an accumulation of slag a manufacturer dumped into Puget Sound for 70 years. As Tacoma Park Board Commissioner Erik Hanberg said in a news release, “The theme in ‘Dune’ of a world destroyed by environmental catastrophe drew in part from Frank Herbert’s life experiences in Tacoma, which in the 1950s was one of the nation’s most polluted cities. The characters in the novel have a goal to ‘terraform’ their planet back to its inhabitable origins. That’s what we’ve done here. We have terraformed a polluted wasteland into a beautiful environment for all to enjoy.” Related: Recycled botanical garden in Seattle brings visitors decades of joy The 11-acre addition to Point Defiance Park opened in July. The new Wilson Way bridge also opened, connecting Point Defiance Park to Ruston Way. Bicyclists , runners and walkers have long bemoaned the lack of connection between trails at this point, now solved by the new bridge. The most fun part of the design is a series of six slides connecting the park with the marina below. Stairs nearby offer another way to get down the slope, or a way to get back up, for those who want to repeat the slide experience — sometimes over and over. Concerts and other outdoor events have a new venue in the park’s Cambia Legacy Lawn. The paved Frank Herbert Trail provides a pedestrian path. Developers had a complex job of building this project around so many active uses, competing interests and different jurisdictions, according to Clayton Beaudoin, the principal of landscape architecture firm Site Workshop . This Seattle -based landscape architecture firm worked with Metro Parks Tacoma on designing the cleanup and layout of Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance. Metro Parks commissioned Adam Kuby and Nichole Rathburn to create site-specific artworks. Kuby’s work, Alluvion, uses steel pipes to suggest the smelter smokestack of the former ASARCO plant, long infamous for wafting “the Tacoma aroma” over the city. Rathburn’s Little Makers, a series of bronze forms, are based on the novel Dune, drawing parallels between the book’s plot and the transformation of a slag pile into a park. Beaudoin talked to Inhabitat about the transformation from slag heap to beloved new park. Inhabitat: What was this site like before you started building the park? Beaudoin: A portion of the site was occupied by the Tacoma Yacht Club, including their clubhouse, access road and parking. The other portion of the site was generally flat and covered with yard soils from the North Tacoma remediation project. There was no vegetation or infrastructure. Inhabitat: Tell us about the toxic slag — what were its risks to people? Beaudoin: The contaminants of concern (COCs) were lead and arsenic . When a new fracture face opened up, which happened as the slag weathered, small amounts of lead and arsenic would make their way into Commencement Bay, which caused heavy metal loading. The shoreline armoring and capping of the peninsula, which is located beneath the park, eliminates the metal loading to Commencement Bay. In addition, the slag could be ingested either by inhalation or eating it. The cap allows people to be on the peninsula and keeps them from having contact with the slag. Lead ingestion can cause severe mental impairment, and arsenic is a carcinogen. Inhabitat: How did you move it and where did the toxic slag go? Beaudoin: As part of the shoreline armoring, the slag was excavated to a 2:1 slope, so the shoreline armoring would be stable over time. The slag was moved using conventional construction equipment (excavator, articulated dump trucks and dozers). The excavated slag was placed on the peninsula (in the Yacht Club parking lot and under the park). The elevation of the peninsula was raised 10 to 20 feet to accommodate the slag and contaminated soil. This lowered the carbon footprint of the project by keeping the contamination onsite and not hauling it offsite. The capping system was then placed on top of the contaminated slag and soil. Inhabitat: Describe the woven geotextile cap. What is it? How big is it? What does it do? Beaudoin: There are three kinds of caps on the peninsula: low perm asphalt, low perm concrete and a multilayer cap composed of a geocomposite clay layer, 40 mil HDPE and a geonet. Each cap type prevents water from infiltrating the contaminants and then getting into Commencement Bay, and it also prevents people from coming in contact with the contaminants. The cap system is required to have a permeability less than 1 x 10-7 cm/sec. The cap covers all of the peninsula, which is about 13 acres. It also ties into the adjacent Point Ruston site, which is also a Superfund site and has a cap underneath it. This is the largest Superfund Redevelopment Project in Region 10 of the EPA . Inhabitat: What inspired you to build the slides? Beaudoin: Together with Metro Parks, Site Workshop has designed a lot of parks and public spaces, and we’ve learned to anticipate how people use space. At the very top of the slope is an overflow parking lo,t which we imagined would be used by boaters. After launching their boats, they would have to drive their trucks to the top and race back down some 90 feet of elevation to their boats. Slides seemed like the fastest — and most fun — way to do it. We’ve been working hillside slides into many of sloped projects, and since the Dune Peninsula was never intended to host a traditional playground, this seemed like a nice way to work something playful into the trail portion of project. Inhabitat: What do you like best about the resulting park? Beaudoin: The most gratifying and inspiring result is how the citizens of Tacoma have embraced the park in all of its rustic, rough and less-manicured edges. We think Dune Peninsula resonates with people because of how it celebrates Tacoma’s cultural and natural history without beating you over the head with it. There’s plenty of mystery to discover and beauty to inhale, and people (and the wildlife !) are responding in ways that should make everyone involved feel proud. Also, for such a large site, we were able to utilize several creative features, which were constructed in especially cost-effective but impactful ways. For example, the Moment Bridge, which has become a bit of an icon for the city, is constructed from off-the-shelf concrete girders akin to what you might see over a highway. However, the design team was able to craft those basic materials in a way that make it feel special, including the “moment” at the center, the railings and the unusually shaped piers. The planting scheme was developed to utilize site soils and be delivered in a way that minimizes maintenance compared to traditional landscapes (which import topsoil and bark mulch and require persistent maintenance). Early in the project, we created test plots to evaluate how the site soils responded to various amendments, which helped minimize cost and improve the success of the plantings. + Site Workshop Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Tacoma’s Dune Peninsula: from slag heap to beloved park

Consumers need more affordable access to healthy and sustainable living

November 13, 2019 by  
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New research shows that Americans are increasingly concerned about the environment, but don’t currently have lifestyles that reflect that.

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Consumers need more affordable access to healthy and sustainable living

Does water stewardship lead to brand value?

November 13, 2019 by  
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Performance can be transparently communicated through certification, helping build intangible value.

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Does water stewardship lead to brand value?

The great EV infrastructure challenge

November 13, 2019 by  
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And 10 things you need to know about the future of electrified transportation.

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The great EV infrastructure challenge

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