Monday, December 31, 2012

Green in 2013

It's hard to believe in a few hours it will be 2013 already. And of course with a new year comes new resolutions. This year, why not make a resolution to help the environment? A little effort can go a long way in this case, and you're helping more than yourself. Pick one or more of these ideas to add to your list of goals for 2013:

  • Stop using plastic bags. Instead, bring reusable bags when you go shopping. If you haven't already, read my post about the environmental damage caused by plastic bags here
  • Make sure to recycle if you don't already. It is really important and easy... you already take out the trash, so it's not hard to have a separate bin for recyclables.
  • Switch to reusable water bottles and mugs. I also wrote a post about why plastic water bottles are so bad for the environment, which you can read here. If you do this one thing, you could have a major impact on helping the environment.
  • Get healthy and lose weight! This is a typical New Year's resolution, but it can also help the environment. When you eat healthier, it often means cutting out processed foods and junk foods, which are usually produced in factories that use a lot of fossil fuels and put a lot of man-made chemicals into their products. Eating more fruits, vegetables, and natural foods also cuts down on packaging. Apples don't come in any packaging, but chips come in a bag that must be thrown away. Eating a more vegetarian based diet is also better for the environment, because a lot less energy is required to grow fruit and vegetables.
  • Start a compost pile. For those of you that live in rural and suburban areas, you can do this in your yard or woods around your house. For people who live in more urban areas, they do sell indoor compost bins.
  • Make sure to turn off lights, TV, and electronic devices when you are not using them. Being more conscious and making sure to do this can reduce COand SOemissions from the coal burned to provide electricity. This can help slow global warming and prevent acid rain.
  • Educate yourself! Learn about the environmental problems we are facing, what you can do to help, and teach others about them. Ask your friends and family to adopt some eco-friendly practices as well.
I hope you find these ideas helpful and give them a try. If you do, I'd love to hear about it, so send me an email or leave a comment! I hope you have fun celebrating tonight and that the new year is a happy one! AYJ\ü

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The McRib is McNasty

I happened to come across this article on Yahoo by chance and I thought I should share it. Today, McDonald's is bringing back the McRib sandwich nationwide. This may not seem like an environmental issue, but if you have followed my blog, I posted a while ago about why eating a more vegetarian-type diet is better for the environment. You can read that here, but in short; less resources used to raise the food, less pollution, and it's healthier and more ethical. Meat is especially an environmental and ethical problem when it is produced in large-scale, factory farm settings. If that's news to you, you'll really be surprised to find out how disturbing the McRib is in particular.
The article lists 11 "amazing" facts about the McRib. I think "amazing" is being used here to mean "disgusting" and "people actually eat this?" Yes, I'm using that as an adjective. But anyway, lets go over some of the lovely facts...

  • The McRib is made of "restructured meat product." That's a mixture of tripe, heart, and scalded stomach, which is then mixed with salt and water to extract proteins from the muscle. "The proteins bind all the pork trimmings together so that it can be re-molded into any specific shape — in this case, a fake slab of ribs." Not exactly the pork you had in mind. 
  • What's in a McRib? Ok, well there's stomach, heart, tripe, and also pickles, bread, onions, and barbecue sauce. Think that's it? It actually contains over 70 ingredients, including azodicarbonamide, which is used to bleach the flour in the bread, and also in the production of foamed plastics. In the UK, it is recognized as a respiratory sensitizer. 
  • Not really an environmental issue, but the sandwich has 500 calories, 26 grams of fat, 44 grams of carbs, and 980 milligrams of sodium. 
  • An undercover investigation in 2010 revealed that Smithfield Foods, the supplier of pork to McDonald's, was inhumanly treating the pigs. They were crammed into crates, covered in blood, and baby pigs were tossed carelessly onto carts. I didn't watch the video because I don't want to see that, but there is a link to it on the article. 

To read the full article, visit

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Decorating and Gift Ideas

So I know I have mentioned this site before, but if you haven't seen it, I really recommend checking out I'm not really familiar with Pintrest, but I think it's similar to that. They've got lots of environmental art, gift ideas, and so many great craft ideas. If you're on a budget for gifts or just like making crafts like myself, these ideas are great, and they utilize materials you might otherwise throw away, which saves garbage from going into landfills. Here are some things I thought were cool...

Here are some craft ideas that use mason jars. The candles are really cute.

Here are some cool ideas for handmade ornaments.

It may be a little late for some of these fall ideas, but I think some of them could definitely be used for the winter too. I absolutely love the pine cone garland.

Over-the-ear headphones are popular this year. There are the EKOCYCLE headphones from Beats by Dr. Dre, made from at least 31% recycled material, and also these headphones from LSTN, made from reclaimed wood. I think the earbuds are really nice. And when you buy headphones from LSTN, they donate money to help a deaf child receive medical attention and a custom hearing aid.

Check out Roozt to for eco-friendly clothing and accessory gifts.

And beauty and spa products always make good gifts for girls. Stop by any Whole Foods, natural food store, or even a regular supermarket, and pick up some things like Burt's Bees or Dr. Bronner's products, soy or beeswax candles,  or organic tea.

And remember, I make handmade gifts too. Not that I'm shamelessly promoting myself or anything... but yeah, if you want to take a look that'd be cool. You can find them at I make ornaments that would be good Christmas gifts, and also custom pet gifts, among other things.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Don't Be a Litter-bag This Holiday Season

It's almost here... that day of over-consumption. You thought I meant Thanksgiving? No, Black Friday! For those of you brave enough to venture out on Friday and for everyone shopping this holiday season, here is an eco-friendly tip to remember. Bring reusable bags with you when you go shopping. I know, they are sometimes hard to remember. I even forget to bring them sometimes. But leaving them by the door so you see them before you leave or in your car (great for unexpected shopping) can help you remember. You can even buy those little ones that fit in your purse or backpack. If you really make an effort, it becomes like a habit and you won't forget them as much. I promise; I speak from experience. I bring them to the grocery store and I even have a big one for the mall. If you consider the consequences of plastic bag production, you really shouldn't want to use them. Why is it important to stop using plastic bags? Here are some reasons...

Look, here is Rachel Bilson, a celebrity,
with a reusable bag. It's really important to do what they're
doing (ok, well in this case, yes).
You want to be like the celebrities, right?
  • Each year 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide.
  • The U.S. uses 100 billion bags annually, which requires 12 million barrels of oil. This oil costs $500 million. Reducing plastic bag production could reduce our dependence on this non-renewable resource.
  • 100,000 marine animals (dolphins, turtles, whales, etc.) die from plastic bags each year. They usually mistake them for jellyfish, try to eat them, and choke. Even if you throw out your bags and think they are going into a landfill, there is a chance they will fall off the garbage truck. Think about it... how many plastic bags do you see littering the streets? These get picked up by the wind and can easily be blown into the ocean.
  • 60,000 plastic bags are used in the U.S. every five seconds. Disturbing.
  • Plastic bags can take 400-1000 years to degrade and their chemical residues can remain long after that.

So knowing this, try to make an effort to reduce your plastic bag use from here on out, and especially during this holiday shopping season. Some places will even give you a discount for using reusable bags. If you do use plastic bags, make sure to at least bring them to a bag-recycling bin. You can find these bins in most supermarkets, and some stores like Macy's. If nothing else, think about the little seals and dolphins you'll be saving! Yeah, I'm pulling at your conscience.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Go Green, Vote Blue (guest post from Alex Palombo)

This is my first blog post in a while because of Hurricane Sandy. I lost power on Monday, but finally got it back late last night. I hope everyone that's reading this made it through the storm ok. So in light of the hurricane, and the upcoming election, I think this is the perfect time for a discussion about the relationship between politics and global warming. I was very disappointed to see that there really was no talk about the environment in this year's debates, aside from Mitt Romney's declaration of his love for coal and homeland drilling. But with the recent hurricane, global warming has become a topic of discussion and we really need to consider which presidential candidate (cough, cough Obama) will do a better job of slowing it.

A few weeks ago, I asked a good friend of mine, Alex Palombo, to be a guest writer for my blog. Alex is very knowledgeable in politics and is currently the Director of Online Strategies for a political consulting firm. In addition, she is a writer for the Huffington Post, Scholars and Rouges, and Daily Kos. I asked her to write about the presidential candidates from an environmental standpoint (or, in my own, more biased words, why Mitt Romney sucks). If I had written this post, it would have been one long, Romney-bashing novel, but Alex did an excellent job and her insight is fair and truthful, so I urge you to read her post and make a choice for yourself about who will do a better job of protecting the environment.

But frankly, and excuse me if I am pushy about this (and I am), if you don't want more storms of this intensity to occur, I don't see how you could make a conscious choice to vote for Romney.

Alex has cleverly called her post "Go Green, Vote Blue." And I have not-so-cleverly stolen the name for my post to make it catchy. Here is the link to it on Huffington Post: But for convenience, I have also posted it below. Please also click where it says "warrant discussion" and watch the videos about what people are saying about climate change and this storm, especially the one from Chris Matthews. Because I really want you to watch this video, I'm even posting the link right here: Can you tell I really want you to read this? And now, "Go Green, Vote Blue..."

A few weeks ago, my friend Katie Della Terza, who writes an eco-friendly lifestyle blog called Shades of Green, asked me to write a blog entry on why progressive and environmentally-conscious voters should vote for Barack Obama this election, and why people should concern themselves with environmental issues this year.
To be honest, there weren't that many people talking about the environment and our effect on it until Hurricane Sandy ripped through the East Coast this week. In political terms, talking about climate change doesn't win votes -- and it usually gets swept under the rug in favor of more voter-friendly campaign ideas. Every debate series since Jimmy Carter's election has had a question about the environment, and climate change -- until this election cycle.
As a nation, we don't usually talk climate change unless nature does something large enough to warrant it -- and even then, we speak more about recovering from disaster than preventing it.  And for the most part, this presidential campaign hasn't specifically focused on the environment, and measures that we as individuals can take to reduce our consumption. Instead, the campaign has been focused on the economy, on jobs, and how to make the economy create more jobs.
That said, I argue that President Obama has made a more concerted effort to include environmentally friendly policies into his platform than Governor Romney has -- and he's done so by linking the environment to our economy.
In the context of the economy, President Obama has talked about his plans for more renewable sources of energy and his opposition to dangerous fuel discovery practices like frakking, and to increase the manufacturing of more fuel-efficient cars. He hasn't specifically said anything about climate change, but instead focused on the jobs and economic growth that could grow from good climate sense. By tying the environment to the economy, President Obama is trying to show voters that "social issues" like being eco-friendly truly do affect the bottom line, and how we as a nation must strive to be more green-minded to better the planet and better our economy.
A great example of this is the Obama administration's push for higher fuel efficiency standards in new cars. This August, the president announced new regulations on cars requiring that car models in 2025 must be able to drive 54.5 miles to a gallon of gas -- for comparison, the average car on the road gets about 29 miles per gallon, and the last passed regulation would only require 35.5 mpg by 2016.
The move was criticized by Governor Romney, who said the new regulation would make cars too costly for consumers, and would slow down economic growth. But the intent of the new regulations is to cut our nation's dependence on foreign oil -- which will cut costs of gas by $8,000 per vehicle by 2025, as well as hopefully cutting the subsidies to Big Oil -- to make cars use less gas (thus reducing the cost to the consumer), and to reduce fuel emissions. Obama also understands that to have these lean, green machines, there needs to be a large, technologically-advanced workforce to produce them -- he's made it a point to work with community colleges and universities to push science and engineering education to create a strong workforce for the future.
Governor Romney is also concerned with creating jobs, but less concerned with the environment. Where energy is concerned, Romney also wants to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but wants to drill more here in the U.S. -- using whatever means necessary, including frakking, to find oil and natural gas within the country, regardless of consequences. Romney wants desperately to create jobs, as he's been saying his entire campaign, but seems less interested in green energy as a means to create those jobs. In fact, Romney doesn't seem to be too interested in helping curb global warming -- in his RNC speech, Romney actually mocked Obama for trying to "heal the earth."
I hesitate to include Hurricane Sandy too heavily in this blog, because it's such an extreme example of climate change and presidential leadership. But obviously, it has to be included, because a president is not only a president during the best of times, but during the worst as well. Climate change really only pops onto the national when a natural disaster happens -- when nature does something awful enough to warrant discussion.
We are only a few days into recovery from Hurricane Sandy, but President Obama seems to be doing a wonderful job corralling FEMA and local aid agencies into getting people the help that they need quickly. The government made it a point to get ready for the storm and get things working as quickly as possible, and making sure that FEMA worked more effectively and more quickly this time around than its past failures. When asked about FEMA in the past, Governor Romney said he would prefer to give the funding to the states to control their own disaster relief, and cut funding for FEMA.
Most relevant to this discussion, Romney will not admit that people are causing climate change, saying this at a private event:
"My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet, and the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try and reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us."
What Governor Romney is saying here is that we shouldn't be investing money into environmental issues and climate change prevention -- he would rather this money go towards job creation and budget cuts. But what he needs to realize is that the environment is no joke -- if he truly wants to leave a better future for his children and grandchildren, he would think twice about dismissing this investment. For all of these reasons, and many more that I can't fit into this blog post, it's clear. In order to go green, we must vote blue -- Barack Obama is the most eco-friendly and progressive choice this election.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

No-meat soup for you!

A friend asked me if I knew of any good vegetarian recipes the other day, so as promised, I am posting a couple. Eating a vegetarian diet is not only a more ethical choice, it is better for the environment. Raising livestock involves a lot of resources like food, water, and land. To raise one pound of beef takes 2,500 gallons of water. Considering a steer can weigh 1,500 pounds, it could take about 3,750,000 gallons of water to raise one steer. So there's that, and also large, poorly managed livestock farms can produce a lot of chemicals that run off the farm into nearby water bodies. Animals do their business and when it rains, it washes nitrates into the water which causes eutrophication (extreme growth of algae which uses all the oxygen in the water and kills aquatic life).

So now that I've killed your appetite talking about animal business, let's talk about those recipes. I think the perfect food for this time of year is soup. Two of my favorites for fall are butternut squash and pumpkin. They're both pretty easy to make, really good, and vegetarian. You can eat these by themselves, or pair with a salad for a bigger meal. If you have any questions on how to make them, feel free to send me an email.

Pumpkin Spice Soup
2 cans of pumpkin (about 14 ounces each)
4 shallots
2 tsp butter (I use Smart Balance Organic which is made of vegetable oils)
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp ginger
1/2 - 1 tbsp of curry depending how spicy you want it
2 tsp salt
1 tsp chili sauce
3 1/2 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth
1 can unsweetened coconut milk

Saute' shallots in butter until soft. Chop garlic cloves and add to shallots, along with ginger and curry. Stir in water, pumpkin, vegetable broth, coconut milk, chili sauce, and salt. Simmer uncovered over low heat for 30 minutes. Let cool, then put in blender and blend until smooth. Reheat on stove.

Note: I find that too much curry can over-power this soup, so I usually only add about 1/2 a tablespoon.

Butternut Squash Soup
4 lbs butternut squash (about 2 large ones), peeled and cubed - make sure to take out seeds
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic (optional)
3 tbsp butter (see pumpkin soup recipe for vegan substitute)
1/2 tsp salt
nutmeg to taste
8 cups vegetable broth

Melt butter in large pan. Saute' onions until soft. Chop garlic and add if wanted. Add in butternut squash, salt, nutmeg, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, until the butternut squash is soft. Let cool, then put in blender and blend until smooth. Reheat on stove.
This soup is good served with creme fraiche swirled on top.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beach Sweep

Today was Clean Ocean Action's 27th annual Beach Sweep, where people gather all along the Jersey Shore to clean up the beaches. Some of us from Rutgers went to the clean up in Point Pleasant and had a great time. The number one thing we found... cigarette butts. We had to have collected over 200 of them. So if you haven't read this post I made about that very subject back in August, you should... Here are some pictures from today.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Truth About Organic

So I wanted to clear something up... A month or so ago, organic produce took a hit in the news because a study found that organic produce is no more nutritious than conventional produce treated with pesticides. Unfortunately, this story may have deterred people from buying organic fruits and vegetables because the way it was presented made it seem like organic produce is no different from regular produce. Why would you spend the extra money that organic food sometimes costs when it is no more healthy than regular food? Well, actually it is more healthy for you. There is a difference between healthy and nutritious. When you talk about the nutrition of something, you're talking about the beneficial nutrients it can provide you with... vitamins, minerals, etc. So two apples, for example, taken from the same orchard are going to give you the same nutrition whether one was treated with pesticides or not. Healthy, on the other hand, means that you can eat a food without it causing harm to your body. By that definition, eating produce containing pesticide residues is not healthy. Conventional produce, mostly from factory farms and especially produce imported from other countries, is known to contain these residues. (Don't believe me? Just ask and I'll find you a scientific paper that supports my case). So along with the nutrients in a conventional apple, you could be getting doses of pesticides that cause cancer, endocrine disruption, and who knows what else.

Really, when you think about it, this story didn't need to be on the news. It's not some amazing discovery. I could have told you that organic and conventional produces have the same nutritional value without doing any studies. DUH. So instead of presenting both sides to this story, the news stations just confused people and probably stopped some of them from buying organic food.

Now, there is a difference in nutrition between local produce and produce imported from far away places, whether it is organic or not. Imported produce, whether it be organic apples imported to New Jersey from Washington or conventional grapes imported to the United States from Chile, is not as nutritious as local produce. When you buy imported produce, it has usually been stored and shipped for long periods of time. (And now I can mention another environmental problem... How much fuel is used to ship produce?) It loses its nutritional value during this time. Things break down and degrade.When you eat local produce, you are getting the maximum amount of nutrients because there has not been enough time for sufficient nutrient loss. That's why it is better to go to farmers markets, farms, local orchards, etc. for your produce. Sometimes even supermarkets will work with local farms and sell their produce in the store; you just have to find out if this is the case at your supermarket. And local, small farms typically use more organic practices, less amounts of pesticides, and less dangerous pesticides.

Well, I hope that clears that up. In short, buy local, and when you can, buy produce that is both local and organic!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cook Campus Farmer's Market

For anyone at Rutgers... There is now a farmer's market on the Cook/Douglass campus. It is located next to the book store (across the street from Jameson and the Cabaret Theater). It will be held every Thursday in October from 11 am to 3 pm. I went today and bought some stuff. It's worth it to go for the apples alone. They were so good! They also have all kind of veggies, pumpkins, gourds, squash, honey, and apparently meat, although I did not see it. Everything is local and really fairly priced too. Check out the farmer's market Facebook page here: and make sure to go!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Project Green Challenge

I heard about Project Green Challenge through a group I'm involved in at Rutgers, Students for Environmental Awareness (by the way, if you're a Rutgers student and interested in joining, check out the Facebook page, Project Green Challenge is a website that is calling on all high school and college students to learn to live a more eco-friendly life. Once you sign up on the website, you will be emailed a daily challenge (or you can log into the website and view it) during the month of October. These challenges are all based on being environmentally friendly. For example, today's challenge was to watch a video about chemicals in cosmetics and upload a document with 2 things you learned from the video and 2 things it inspired you to change. What's the point of doing that extra work? For all the challenges you complete you earn points that can get you prizes (The grand prize includes a trip to California). The challenges all have different levels... the one I mentioned before was the easiest, while the hardest was planning an entire "green spa day" at your school. And I mean intensively planning. While the harder challenges earn you greater points, I don't know anyone who has the time to do that. I signed up for it with the intention to just learn a few things, commit to being "greener," and maybe earn a few points, and if you're a student, I suggest you do too. You can find out more information at

Monday, September 24, 2012

Help us what?

Don't worry. When the Earth is destroyed, we can join Newt Gingrich on the moon. Well, the 1% anyway.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Hidden Effects of Palm Oil

Well, I am finally getting around to posting something. Rutgers has sole ownership of my life once again. So, my apologies to anyone who reads this (all 3 or 4 of you).

I wanted to share something a friend of mine posted on her Facebook (thanks Kelly). The Philadelphia Zoo has started a campaign to help raise awareness about the effects of the palm oil industry on deforestation and orangutan populations called the UNLESS Campaign. Many people are not aware of just how many products contain palm oil. It's in food of course, but also in things you may not think about like shampoos and cleaning products. And we don't directly see the effects from harvesting it because it occurs in Southeast Asia. However, palm oil, which comes from the oil palm plant, is the most widely produced vegetable oil and in the last decade, 80% of deforestation in Sumatra was caused by expanding non-sustainable palm oil plantations, according to the campaign. You see where this is going... no forests, no place for orangutans to live or find food, no orangutans... not to mention other animals like the Sumatran tiger.
the oil palm plant
Palm oil can be grown in a sustainable manner though. It is already being done, but only 52% of the available supply is being used. The people at the UNLESS Campaign say, "Without an increase in usage, growers could return to non-sustainable practices. By raising awareness of the close connection between palm oil and orangutans, we can help drive the demand for sustainable palm oil in the U.S. that will save habitat in Sumatra and Borneo." Therefore, it's important to know what you are buying. Check the ingredients for palm oil and find out which companies use sustainable palm oil and which don't. Usually the ingredient is not listed as "palm oil," but as a chemical derivative. Some ingredients to be aware of are palmitate, palmate, palm kernal oil (PKO), sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and sodium dodecyl sulfate (the last few are often found in shampoos). Here's a list of just some companies committed to using sustainable palm oil: Avon Products, Inc., Colgate-Palmolive Company, ConAgra Foods, H.J. Heinz Company, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods Inc., L’Oréal, McDonald’s, Nestlé, P&G (Procter & Gamble), PepsiCo Inc., S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., Seventh Generation, The Body Shop, The Hershey Company, Unilever, and Walmart (private label products). For a complete list, go to
To learn more and see what you can do, watch this video and visit the UNLESS Campaign's website at

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fashion Website

eco-friendly fashion from Osklen, a brand
by designer Oskar Metsavaht is a cool website that lists hundreds of eco-friendly clothing and accessory companies. When you click on a company, it brings you to a page with information about the company and provides a link to their website. Some companies tell you where you can buy their clothing and others allow you to order their products online. You can search by brand, country, or type of clothing. It's not just women's clothing either... many brands also have clothing for men, kids, and babies. If anything, it's fun to look at clothes for a little while.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Green Team

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a huge Yankees fan, so I am always happy to go to a game. I hadn't been to one in a while, but I finally made the trip this past Friday. I was really happy to see the green changes that had taken place since my last visit there. Yankee Stadium now has bins for trash, recycling, AND composting. That keeps a lot of food waste out of landfills. They're also using beverage cups made of biodegradable material instead of plastic. All their paper products are recyclable... not wax-coated and such. Their goal is to divert at least 40% of their waste from landfills. They've been taking other green initiatives such as recycling cooking oil into biodiesel, installing water-saving toilets, using energy-saving lighting, and buying carbon offsets. I was almost as excited to learn about this as I was to see Derek Jeter... ok well, not that excited. I have an unhealthy obsession.
waste bins at Yankee Stadium

Monday, August 27, 2012

Farm Aid 2012

An important part of "going green" is being conscious of the food you eat. It's better to eat natural foods than ones made in a factory with artificial chemicals and such. Farmers are the ones who provide us with natural, healthy foods and they should be supported. Farm Aid is a non-profit organization that aims to help farmers when they are in need. They also teach farmers to use sustainable farming practices, help farmers sell their food to local markets, and protest factory farms. Each year, they hold a concert to help raise money. The first Farm Aid concert was organized by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young in 1985. This year, the concert is set for September 22 at Hersheypark Stadium. Besides the musicians I mentioned before, the concert will also include Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews, ALO, and some others... but those are the three I'd be most excited about! Tickets start at $35.75 (plus fees). Definitely worth going to see this great lineup and supporting a good cause. To find out more about the concert, visit

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Plastic Problem

So I will use this post to talk about what I consider one of the biggest environmental problems happening today... bottled water. According to Brita's website, Americans used enough water bottles to stretch around the Earth 190 times in 2008. I got nerdy and did some calculations to find out just how many water bottles that is. Earth's circumference is 24,901 miles and each mile is 5,280 feet. Assuming each water bottle is 1 foot long (they're actually probably a little less), that's 24,980,683,200 water bottles. Another fact on Brita's website states that 69% of those bottles are not recycled and end up in landfills. Which brings me to my first rant... Why would you not recycle?!?! I've seen people throw bottles into the trash when there is a recycling bin right next to it and it drives me crazy. When my eye stops twitching and I come back to the brink of sanity, I wonder, "Are they just lazy?" Even if you don't care about the environment, throwing away bottles is like throwing away money that could help our economy. Bottles put into the recycling are sometimes used to make products right here in America, which saves companies from the cost of having to produce new plastic. More often though, we sell the bottles to China, where they make stuff and send it back to us. So while shipping bottles around the world is not the most environmentally-friendly solution, at least they are being reused and it's making money for the United States. And those bottles in the trash take up lots of landfill space that could be used for our other garbage. If that keeps happening, pretty soon landfills are going to open up closer and closer to your house. Ok rant done... for now.

Producing all those bottles takes a lot of energy, whether they are made from recycled plastic or new plastic. Producing one bottle of water takes about 2,000 times more energy than producing tap water. One of the best and easiest things you can do to help the environment is STOP BUYING BOTTLED WATER. Two must-haves for anyone trying to help the planet are some sort of water filter and a reusable bottle. Brita is a great brand and works really well. You can buy a pitcher or even one that attaches to your faucet... although I have to say, I prefer the pitcher. I had one that attached to the faucet and I found that it was always in the way. Anyway, pitcher water is probably the cleanest water you're going to get. The United States has laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act that ensure contaminants do not exceed set levels. Public water is sometimes chlorinated, but the Brita filter takes almost all of it out. And well water is even cleaner... no chlorine and it is already pre-filtered by the soil. Bottled water is actually sometimes dirtier than tap water. The FDA (a joke of an administration in my opinion) regulates bottled water and does not share it's findings with the EPA or the public. And chances are, if you buy bottled water, you're wasting your money. According to an NBC report, 25% of bottled water comes from the tap at the processing plant, including big brands like Dasani and Aquafina. If the label says "purified" or "drinking water," it came from a tap. So why would you pay for something you can get for free? If you switched to using a filter, you could save a lot of money. Each filter can make an equivalent of about 300 bottles of water before it needs to be replaced and only costs a couple dollars. It doesn't make sense not to use a filter. 

If you're hesitant about giving up bottled water, just give it a try. Get a filter and reusable bottle and use it once in a while. You'll still have your bottled water, but you won't need to use it so much. Slowly switch to just the filter. Maybe keep a case of bottled water around in case the power goes out or something, but make the filter your primary source. Plus, you can buy cool reusable bottles with nice designs or your favorite color. This is one of the most important things you can do to help the environment, so please, please, please do it. And if you already do, you're awesome.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Tank Talk

Here's an interesting way to conserve water... if you have an older toilet, try putting a plastic water bottle full of water or small rocks in the tank. This displaces water in the tank and decreases the amount that is flushed. It can save about half a gallon to a gallon of water each time you flush. This can save money  for people who have to pay for their water too. If you've heard about doing this with a brick, it may not be such a good idea because it can disintegrate and cause problems. Older toilets use about 3.5 gallons each time they are flushed, so using a little less should not affect how it flushes. However, newer toilets only use about 1.6 gallons, so putting a bottle in the tank may not leave enough water to um, get rid of things.  But, give this a try and see how it works in your home. If it doesn't seem to leave enough water to be flushed, then take it out. No big deal.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Don't Leave Your Butt Behind

I've been doing some home renovations so I've been busy but also really lazy, so I haven't posted anything in a while. And on that note, I'm going to let Bill Nye the Science Guy take this one. In this video, he has some interesting information on yet another environmental impact of cigarettes. And it pertains to the beach, so it's a good video for summer. Watch, and if you do smoke, don't leave your cigarette butts on the beach... it takes like one minute to find a trash can.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Green Light

By now everyone's heard about the benefits of using CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) light bulbs. So why would anyone still use regular incandescent light bulbs? CFLs use only a quarter of the energy a regular bulb uses and last about 10 times as long (between 6,000 and 15,000 hours). That can save you $30 to $45 on your electric bill over the lifetime of the CFL. CFL wattage is less than that of regular bulbs, so you can use this conversion chart to find out what you need.
And if you don't like the shape, they now come in all different shapes, including that of a typical light bulb. So you have no excuse! The only thing is that they do contain mercury, so they need to be properly disposed of. Home Depot and IKEA both have nationwide recycling programs, so you can drop them off there. Or check to see where else you can drop them off. My suggestion is just keep a box in the garage or basement where you can store them so you don't have to make a trip every time one burns out. Just make sure they don't break, or you'll be exposing yourself to mercury. So next time you need to change the light bulb, switch to a CFL. And what can you do with the old light bulbs? Obviously turn them into fruit to decorate your home. Check out this DIY project.
In the future, look for LED (light-emitting diode) lights. Right now they're used in things like flashlights, traffic lights, and holiday lights, but they're going to be the next thing in home lighting. They last about 10 times as long as CFLs and they don't contain mercury.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mt. Arlington Farmer's Market

Just got back from another farmer's market I found out about. This one's in Mt. Arlington in the Elk's Club parking lot on Howard Boulevard. It's every Saturday from 9-2. It's pretty small; there's only one farm selling stuff, but they have a lot of different things and it's extremely cheap. They have huge heads of different lettuces and kale for $1 each. And corn for 60 cents each (or 13 for $6), which would be great for anyone planning a barbecue. Definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Composting Bathroom?

This weekend I was in Lake George. I climbed Prospect Mountain and found this sign on the bathrooms at the top. I'm one of the few people I know who thinks this is cool (ok, it's a little gross), but I have to share anyway.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Makeup Makeover

So I have to admit, I'm one of those crazy people who reads the labels on everything. Grocery shopping with me is a nightmare. But I want to know that whatever I'm buying doesn't have weird chemicals in it. That goes especially for makeup and beauty/personal care products. Think about it... you're using most of this stuff every day and if there's some toxic chemical in it, you're getting a daily exposure. And how many products do you use? That could really add up. I like to check this website, run by the Environmental Working Group, before I buy anything I'm not sure about: Just type in the product (or if you don't know the name of it, type in the company and it will give you a list of their products) and it tells you exactly what's in it and possible hazards associated with it. And it gives each product a rating of 0-10 based on toxicity. You can even type in the name of an ingredient and it will tell you about it. In general, you should try to buy products with few ingredients, and ones you can pronounce at that. Does imidazolidinyl urea sound (if you can read it) like something you want to put on your body? Probably not... it comes from animal pee, yet it's used in mouthwashes (yum), lotions, and hair dyes. Try switching to environmentally responsible companies like Burt's Bees, Tom's of Maine, and Nature's Gate, just to name a few. They're being carried in more and more places, so they shouldn't be too hard to find. Use some of these more natural alternatives and take the chemicals, not to mention the pee, out of your beauty routine!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Eco-friendly Art

Dolan Geiman is one of my favorite artists. I absolutely love his work, and what's great is he uses eco-friendly materials. One of my favorites is "I Love Dirty Hippie Music" which was painted on salvaged wood with recycled paints. Props to Dolan for being creative and responsible. Go check out his website,! This guy is awesome.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


View from the top of Blue Mountain
So I haven't posted anything in a few days because I was at an awesome microbiology conference in the Adirondacks. I heard some great presentations, including a couple about biopesticides. Basically, people are researching about how to use natural alternatives like fungus to kill pests instead of spraying crop fields with chemicals. And I got to present my research which was cool but really nerve-racking. So that was the environmental/science part of my trip. The rest of the time I spent hanging out with great people, eating, and raiding the bar in the lodge with new friends. I even climbed Blue Mountain and on the way home I stopped in Lake George. I definitely recommend a trip to the Adirondacks for anyone who hasn't been there.
Lake George
Top of Blue Mountain

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Since we had a warm winter, this summer is going to be big for bugs. And you don't want them in your house. Instead of using toxic repellents and bug killers, try some natural alternatives. Vinegar is a natural ant repellent. Put some white vinegar in a spray bottle and spray it around areas where they might come in, like doors and windows. Just remember, when it rains, it will wash away. You can do it inside your house too, but it may take a little while to stop smelling. Stores are now carrying natural and organic repellents too, made with essential oils like rosemary and peppermint, which bugs don't like.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

For those of you in the area, the Denville Farmer's Market is today and every Sunday until November 18th from 8:30am to 1:00pm in the Bloomfield Ave. parking lot. I've been there and they have really good food and it's usually pretty cheap. Go and support local farmers and businesses!

Friday, June 22, 2012

DIY is a great website for all kinds of recycling information. At the top of the page, just type in what you're trying to recycle and your zip code and it will tell you where you can bring it. It also has eco-friendly DIY projects, like this one I found today. These are adorable and I think I have to make them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Green Clean

I have a tip for you today... try using hydrogen peroxide instead of bleach when washing your clothes. I've found it usually works to get out stains. But if you want to use it on colors, make sure you spot test it first, because it can lighten them, just like bleach. Bleach is not so great for the environment because it's a mix of sodium hydroxide and chlorine. Chlorine is highly reactive, so once it goes down your drain and enters aquatic systems, it can damage wildlife. And the same goes for you... chlorine has been linked to cancer and endocrine disruption (that means it messes with your hormones), so it's not benefitting you to be using it all the time. Hydrogen peroxide just breaks down into water and oxygen. If you really don't want to give up the bleach, try using an oxygen-based one like OxiClean, which is more environmentally friendly.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Surprise Visitor

Just as I was about to post something, this guy from the New Jersey Environmental Federation (NJEF), part of Clean Water Action, knocked on my door. So I thought I'd post about that instead of what I was going to do. He was just asking for us to sign letters to some NJ politicians asking them to support the Safe Playing Fields Act which would protect kids from toxic chemicals sprayed on playing fields. If you have some time to kill, you can send letters too using the instructions on this website But honestly, I probably wouldn't take the time to do that if the guy hadn't come to my door, so if you send them, go you! And if you want, you can check out the NJEF website to learn more about environmental stuff going on in NJ.

The guy also told me about a music and environmental festival that happened this past weekend on the Hudson River called the Clearwater Festival. Martin Sexton and Josh Ritter were playing, so that would have been fun to go to. Too bad I didn't know. I'll try to find and post information for next year if anyone is a tree hugger like me and wants to go.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

So I'm new at blogging and don't really know what I'm doing, but I wanted to make a blog to teach people about "going green" and other environmental stuff. I'll try to post something new everyday. My hope is that people (more likely just my friends who actually follow this) will learn a few things and put them into practice. It won't be all lecturing; I hope it will actually be entertaining too. I'll start with this video I saw a while ago about how bands and singers are doing their part to make their concerts more eco-friendly.