Monday, April 4, 2016

Wasting Water - A Guide to Conservation and Innovation

Every year on March 22 we celebrate World Water Day. According to the official World Water Day website, this international observance is an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. It has been around since 1992 when the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development recommended an international observance. Here is why you should be mindful of your water usage every day and how you can easily conserve water.

Water Usage in the US

The US Geological Survey released a study which reports that the total freshwater and saline-water withdrawals for 2010 (the latest year it surveyed water use) were estimated to be 355,000 million gallons per day. The average American used 88 gallons of water per day – an amount that quickly adds up around the house for things like preparing food, washing clothes, flushing toilets, and watering lawns. 

Water Innovation around the World

In recent years there have been many new innovative technologies which aid people around the world in gaining clean water access and assist them in conserving water. 
Here are some examples that will leave you wondering why no one has thought of this before:
LifeStraw is the award-winning personal water filter, designed to provide you with safe, clean drinking water. The device makes most contaminated or suspect water safe to drink.  LifeStraws are shipped throughout the world to countries in need including Haiti, Pakistan, and Africa but are also be used for camping or hiking trips.
The EcoVolt uses a bioelectric process to treat water and generate biogas energy at the same time! Each reactor unit handles about 20,000 gallons of waste water daily and leverages electrically active microbes.
Lastly, WaterFX offers a HydroRevolution project which uses solar panels to remove the salt from drainage water from farms in California. The excess salt and minerals are turned into usable by-products.

For more revolutionary water technologies read this great water innovation blog from GreenBiz.

Water Saving Tips

So how can YOU help to conserve water? Sure, there are pricey gadgets such as drip irrigation or on demand water heaters, but saving water is mostly easy and cheap. Here are some great tips we have compiled from our parent company Advanced Energy and the EPA:

Fixing Leaks 
On average, an American home can waste more than 11,000 gallons of water every year due to running toilets, dripping faucets, and other household leaks. Nationwide, more than one trillion gallons of water leak from U.S. homes each year. A faucet that drips once every second wastes more than 3,000 gallons of water per year!
Image courtesy of

Every time you take a shower, you also use energy to heat and deliver the water to your showerhead. But you can Shower Better by replacing you old showerhead with a WaterSense labeled model and save water, energy and money.

Only wash full loads of laundry. Use the cold water setting for all general laundry. Only use the hot water setting for bedding, soiled or stained clothes, and diapers.

If you wash one load of laundry each day, an ENERGY STAR® labeled washing machine will save between $65 and $175 in energy costs and up to $100 in water each year.

Did you know? Pre-rinsing dishes may be unnecessary. Most modern dishwashers only need you to remove large bits of food, making it easier on you and your wallet. 

Water Bill
Monitor your water bill for unusually high use. Your bill and water meter are tools that can help you discover leaks and determine your water footprint

Be aware of your water consumption, prioritize water conservation and after a while it will come naturally. Set an example and make every day World Water Day.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

How to reduce your Carbon PawPrint - Green Pet Ownership

Have you considered adding a new furry friend to your family this year? In the U.S. alone, the number of owned pets is estimated to be 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats. In addition to being sweet, cuddly companions, your pets can also be hard on the environment.

If you love your pets and the environment, here are some resources to help you be good to both.

Don't Shop…Adopt!

The concept of recycling doesn't only apply to cans or newspaper. Just like going to the thrift store to get a good deal on a used item, consider rescuing and rehoming an adoptable dog or cat from your local shelter. Give them a second chance by "recycling" them. Each year 3 million cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters. An estimated 80% of these animals are healthy or treatable so why not give the cats and dogs already available a home instead of buying from a breeder? For more facts about pet ownership in the U.S. go to the Humane Society's website.

Are you hesitant to adopt because you prefer a certain breed? There are so many breed rescues out there that you may have options other than getting puppy from a breeder.

The next step to being a “green” pet owner is to spay or neuter your pet. Take an active role in helping to control the pet population and reducing the number of pets needing a home.

Green Pet Gear

Pest Control
Toxic chemicals may kill fleas and ticks but they also harm your beloved pet and the environment. Mother Earth News has a great article about natural flea control and why those chemicals are so harmful to your pets.

Natural pet-care and shampoo products are the way to go. Brands like Earthbath are totally natural, non-toxic, paraben and sulfate free. If your fluffy companion makes a mess, use environemntal friendly household cleaners.

Get creative! Grow your own catnip, make cat toys out of yarn and fabric or use recycled plastic bottles as a chew toy for your dog. Repurpose that old cardboard box as a cat toy or check out these 33 Dog Toys You Can Make From Things Around the House. Invest into toys made from recycled or sustainable materials. These six dog toy companies put their emphasis on durability and the environment. Also, hemp products such as collars, leashes and pet beds are eco-friendly and durable.

According to Treehugger, most conventional pet-food brands you find at the supermarket consist of reconstituted animal by-products, otherwise known as low-grade wastes from the beef and poultry industries. Make sure your pets eat healthy by making your own treats - here are 4 DIY easy dog treat recipes to also help you save on packaging and processing. Provide them with healthy, environmental conscious brands. The Honest Kitchen is good for pets and the planet with green ingredients, production and packaging and business standards.

Pet Waste

Bringing biodegradable bags with you when you walk your dog so you can pick up its waste is important to keep the waste from being washed into the sewer, rivers and beaches where it can contaminate the water and the ground. Looking for a way to take waste management to the next level? Try composting your dog's waste with innovative systems such as Doggie Dooley pet waste disposal.

Image courtesy of Earth Rated®
But it’s not just your dog's waste that can be a dangerous contaminant if not properly disposed of. Your cat's litter can be just as harmful. Cat owners should avoid clumping clay litter no matter what. Scientific American states that when cats (and especially small kittens) ingest this material it can cause gastrointestinal distress that in some cases can lead to death. Also, the clay commonly used can be derived from environmentally destructive strip mining. Be sure to choose cat litter from biodegradable materials will not sit in the landfill for years. Some litters can be flushed or used in yard mulch.

Dog Sitting at Home

Planning on traveling without your pet? Hire an in-home sitter who will use all your environmentally friendly pet supplies. If you do decide to use a pet boarding service, make sure you ask the boarding facility about their environmental policy or steps they have taken to be more sustainable. San Francisco's Pet Camp is the only pet boarding place in the country to go green - they have solar panels, a greenhouse, a tankless water heater and many other innovative, green initiatives.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

7 Tips to make your next Cup of Coffee More Sustainable

Who doesn’t like to start off their day with a steaming hot, freshly brewed cup of coffee? Drinking coffee while getting ready, driving to work or having breakfast is a part of many people’s daily routine all over the world.

On average, Americans consume more than three cups of coffee per day - which makes us the biggest coffee consumer in the world. We spend a whopping 40 billion dollars on coffee each year as reported by Harvard School of Public Health.

Did you know that you can help the environment by making the right choices when it comes to your favorite drink? This post will break down some of the most important factors to consider when it comes to coffee and its impact on the environment.

1. Buy organic

Chemical pesticides are a big issue when it comes to coffee beans. Organic, non-treated plants are better for your health (who wants to drink pesticides?) and for the health of the people who grow it, as they are exposed to the harmful chemicals on a daily basis. Organic beans are also cultivated and harvested in ways that protect eco systems. Coffee farms or groups of smallholder farmers can earn the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal if they meet the sustainable standards set by the Alliance.

2. Look for shade grown and bird friendly

Have you ever heard of shade grown coffee? Most of the time large parts of the forest are cut down in order to grow coffee fast and cheap. Shade grown coffee is cultivated underneath trees and preserves habitats for migratory birds on coffee farms, also letting beans mature more slowly and creating richer flavors.

Some shade-growers even attempt to earn the Bird Friendly® seal of approval. It plays a key role in the conservation of our global environment and of migratory birds that find sanctuary in their forest-like environments. Soil, water and natural wildlife habits are conserved.

In Colorado, Solar Roast Coffee has the world's only commercial, solar powered coffee roaster. Since they use solar power, their roasting process is a gentle heat resulting in a lower temperature roast.

3. Buy fair trade

So in addition to consider if your coffee is organic and shade grown why should you care about it being fair trade?

Fair Trade USA defines Fair Trade for consumers as: “a powerful way to reduce poverty through their everyday shopping.” For farmers and workers in developing countries, Fair Trade offers better prices, improved terms of trade, and the business skills necessary to produce high-quality products that can compete in the global marketplace. Organizations such as TransFair and Rainforest Alliance both include rigorous environmental standards in their certification criteria.

See if you can find double certified coffee. According to Treehugger, about 80% of the fair trade certified coffee coming into the US is also organic.

You might even look for triple-certification, like Caffe Ibis in Utah (organic, fair trade, and shade grown), but those are rather hard to find.

4. Bring a reusable mug

In order to make your coffee break more green consider using a reusable cup. Not only will you save the paper cup from going into the trash but also the plastic lid and the cardboard cozy. Big stores often even offer a discount if you bring your own mug or tumbler. Starbucks has rewarded their customers with a discount when they bring in personal tumblers since 1985.

The following infographic by MyEnergy offers a great summary of the benefits of the reusable cup.

While you're at it try to avoid individually wrapped packaged coffee shots, creamers, throwaway stirrers and sugars.

5. Make your own home brew

Your own kitchen is full of resources to save you money, energy and the environment. Try a new coffee maker that doesn’t require electricity such as a French Press or a Chemex. There is a surprising amount of ways to make your own perfect cup of coffee

If you choose to make your coffee at home every morning, you’ll be able to use your own reusable mug and choose your own additives for your coffee such as organic milk or fair trade sugar (In the US, TransFair also certifies sugar).

6. Recycle coffee grounds

Coffee Grounds don’t just have to go into the garbage. Use them as fertilizer for your plants (it gives them a nitrogen boost), absorb household and stale cigarette odors or use them as an eco-friendly kitchen cleaner to scrub off grease from pots and pans. The possibilities are endless!

Also, ditch your coffee filters. Use a reusable filter and replace a large amount of paper filters.

Finally, you may have heard by now that Keurig Cups are very bad for the environment. Even the inventor of K-Cups regrets that he ever invented them because they are disposable and not recyclable. If you do use a Keurig machine replace the one time brewing cups and switch to a reusable K- cup.

7. Support local brewers and coffee shops

Are any of these Top 10 North Carolina Coffee Shops close to you? Support small businesses in your community and keep your dollars local. Also, make sure to check out some of our local favorites below:

Bean Werks Coffee Company in Asheville
Carrboro Coffee in Chapel Hill
Counter Culture Coffee in Durham
Beansboro in Greensboro
Larry’s Coffee in Raleigh
Island Roast Coffee in Wilmington

Ultimately, there is no "perfect" cup of coffee. Organic, fair trade, coffee shop or home brew, milk and sugar - enjoy your coffee as eco-friendly as you'd like.
Just remember, life is too short for bad coffee. Stay caffeinated.