Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tips for a Sustainable Holiday Part 2

Tips for a Sustainable Holiday Season Part 2

The Holidays are a time for gift giving, sharing meals with friends and family, and decorating your home in merry holiday splendor. While all of these activates are fun and good for the soul, sometimes this increased consumerism isn’t so good for the environment – according to the EPA the amount of household garbage from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day can increase by 25%, or 5 million tons! NC GreenPower has some suggestions below for ways to decrease your holiday environmental impact while still spreading holiday cheer.

Reduce waste

Food waste reduction is one goal that is relatively easy to accomplish; simple behavioral changes like composting, always using reusable plates, silverware, napkins, etc. (as opposed to disposable), saving leftovers, buying in bulk and buying local can all have profound impacts. Visit NC State University’s Sustainability page to learn more.

Waste reduction can also be accomplished by tweaking the gift-giving process. Recycling favorite wrapping paper and nice ribbons from year to year, or using quirky wrapping paper like newspaper or an out of date map both reduces the amount of paper produced and thrown away, and adds fun character to your gifts.
This Huffington Post article has several more ideas of how to reduce holiday waste, from giving home-made gifts to paying attention to a gift’s packaging.

The Tree

There are several approaches to having an “eco” tree. My favorite is what my family used to do back home in Colorado. We’d buy a $5.00 permit from the USDA National Forest Service and go into the woods to cut down our own tree! Unfortunately, the National Forest Service in North Carolina does not sell permits to cut down your own Christmas tree. Many other states do have this fun option, however, which helps reduce forest fire danger and allows people to have a fun experience searching for their perfect tree in the woods. If you are spending the holidays in a different state, this might be something to consider – you’ll not only be helping our national forests, but you’ll also create a fun memory! States with this opportunity are: WA, OR, CA, ID, WY, CO UT, KS, MT, SD, NB, AZ, NM, VT, FL, and possibly more.  Visit your state’s National Forest Service Website to find out more.

Since that isn’t an option for most North Carolina residents, the decision comes down to real vs. fake. This article from Mother News Network does a good job at laying out the pros and cons of both. Its top suggestion is to get a tree from an organic farm, and a list of NC farms selling organic and low-spray trees can be found here. If that isn’t viable for you, the final decision is still that real trumps fake, all things considered. And following the holidays, be sure to recycle your live tree! (We’ll remind you about this part after Christmas.)

There are other less traditional options as well, as outlined in this Good Housekeeping article. They too recommend organic trees in addition to plantable trees, using a living tree outside (if you live in a mild climate!) or making your own “tree” (think: Charlie Brown-type tree). You can also decorate a small Rosemary tree, usually available at any grocery store.  And Inhabitat shares 6 fabulous faux Christmas tree ideas, such as a 100% recycled cardboard tree from Cascades. Essentially, what it comes down to is how traditional you are and what resources are at your disposal.

Finally, this tip page from the EPA has some good general guidelines to be more environmentally conscious during the holidays (and many tips apply for year round, too!).

We hope you consider implementing some of these easy changes to make your holidays greener – or maybe you already do them! Regardless, we at NC GreenPower send you warm wishes for a happy holiday season!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Let's stay sustainable this holiday season!
Tips for a Sustainable Holiday: 
Take 1 – After Thanksgiving
We've shared our green ideas for Halloween, and Thanksgiving is just a faint memory... It’s finally that time of year when the weather begins to get a little nippy and the leaves are falling, hinting that winter is right around the corner. Here are a few friendly tips to make your December a green one:

1. Plan Ahead:  Feeding America estimates that we throw away over 70 billion pounds of food each year, costing over $100 billion dollars. To help lower this, plan ahead when shopping for your family or for a crowd. Cooking enough to feed an entire village may be a little extreme if you plan on only have a few friends and family members over. Why not lessen the burden and have a potluck? You have less to cook, more time to relax and in the end results in a good food portion to people ratio.
2. Shop Local: Before we all get too close to the holiday rush, take a minute and think about where your food comes from. When preparing your shopping list, think local. Organic is healthy, too, but either of these greener options are sure to guarantee a fresher, more complete meal. Visit the NC Farm Fresh website to find a farmer offering local fruits, vegetables, and even ethically-raised, free range local turkeys! (Plan ahead and order today)

3. Reduce Energy Consumption:   If you must go over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house, make sure to turn down that thermostat, turn off the lights and unplug any unessential electrical appliances before you leave to go out of town. Planning your holiday shopping to combine errands and drive in a loop rather than a zig-zag will also cut down on your fuel use. It's less expensive right now, but that doesn't make it any less of a polluter.

Last but not least, keep it simple by going back to basics:  
4. RECYCLE all packaging and beverage containers which will significantly reduce how much garbage you send off to the landfill. Not sure what to recycle? Check out Recycle More NC for where to take your recyclables.

Have a safe and happy holiday and don’t forget to think sustainably during the season of consumption!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Green Halloween

As Halloween quickly approaches, we thought it might be nice to share some tips about how to have an eco-friendly Halloween. The blog Green Halloween is the perfect resource, dedicated to all things spooky and environmentally-conscious.

Although they are retiring this year, a browse through their archives shows tips for everything from Halloween-themed snacks and meals, to last minute crafts, to resources for lead-free face paint. We encourage you to take a peek and get inspired for a fun, safe, and green Halloween!


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Green up your workout!

You recycle, use your canvas tote bag when you grocery shop and even plant vegetables and herbs in your backyard – but have you ever thought about greening up your workout gear? Whether you enjoy taking a brisk jog, relaxing with yoga or lifting weights, they all need workout clothes that are performance oriented and comfortable.

Thanks to ecofriendly and forward thinking companies, we can now apply green philosophy to our workout gear:

Shoes. Starting at the bottom, shoes serve the most important role our workout. Vibrams FiveFingers shoes are “as close to barefoot while wearing a shoe” you’ll get, with some lines even created from at least 50% of recycled scrap metal. Brooks Green Silence running shoe is as sustainable and recyclable as they come and is the only shoe with a biodegradable midsole! For more mainstream brands, New Balance, Reebok and Adidas all use recycled materials in their shoeboxes and papers. Asics use environmentally safe EVA foam and run a recycling program.

Clothing. REI’s ecoSensitive label identifies products that contain a high percentage of recycled, rapidly renewable and/or organic fibers. Patagonia has a long standing commitment to the environment. They offer an array of eco-sensitive clothes and a program to recycle old Patagonia workout gear. PrAna was built on the philosophy of being good to the planet so it’s no surprise that their clothing is sustainable. Alo, Gaiam and Nau are other great companies to check out next time you consider purchasing new workout clothes!

Water bottles. While water is essential to a workout, the plastic bottle on the other hand isn’t. Plastic water bottles generate significant waste every year with only 27% recycled in the United States. And on top of that, the long-run cost will begin to pile up! Opt for a reusable water bottle. Companies such as Nalgene, Sigg and Klean Kanteen provide top end environmentally friendly options. Nalgene bottles are made from polycarbonate, Sigg from aluminum and Klean Kanteen from stainless steel – so take your pick; you can’t go wrong with any of these choices.

Fitness Products. For the yoga junkies out there, Gaiam and Jade are two leading companies with green yoga mats. Gaiam’s mats don’t contain harmful phalates and their towels are made from bamboo, organic cotton and hemp. Jade makes their mats out of sustainable, natural rubber and for each mat sold a tree is planted!

You may pay a little more upfront but the long-term benefits towards the planet are unmeasurable. So when thinking about nurturing your body, make sure to nurture Mother Earth as well!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ecotourism in North Carolina

As summer approaches and the sun warms us up, people will start planning their summer vacations. Tourism can have a big impact on a region not only financially, but also environmentally, so it is important to be mindful when planning your next vacation. Ecotourism within our state is booming and there are all sorts of options of ways to relax, learn, explore, and have fun, while stimulating the local economy and minimizing negative environmental impacts. The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”

The principles of ecotourism are:

·         Minimize impact

·         Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect

·         Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts

·         Provide direct financial benefits for conservation

·         Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people

·         Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate

North Carolina is unique in that one day you can be hiking in the mountains and the next swimming along the coast. With all of its vacation options, this state provides many ways to take a break while following ecotourism’s principles.

Some great ecotourism locations are:

·         The Outer Banks: The Outer Banks are a beautiful natural wonder, but they also have a very delicate ecosystem that is vulnerable to harmful tourist practices. Sand erosion is particularly an issue in this area and pedestrian activities can exacerbate the problem, so it is important that visitors stay on marked paths and practice “leave no trace”. The local economy is very reliant on the tourist industry – in 2003 tourist spent $600 million in the Outer Banks.

·         Red Wolf Coalition: A more specific option, the Red Wolf Coalition is located in Tyrell County and allows the public to be involved with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Red Wolf Recovery program. In addition to advocating for the long-term survival of red  wolf populations, tourists can hike, bike, paddle, bird watch, join a wolf howling, camp, and fish in this beautiful setting.

·         Appalachian Mountains: A mountain escape is always a great vacation option, and there are a multitude of outdoor activities that support the natural environment while simultaneously allowing you to enjoy it. The National Park Service has a collection of all the National Parks in North Carolina, and supporting National Parks helps make sure we can preserve these national treasures into the future.

NC Green Travel is a great resource to find businesses within the tourism industry that follow sustainable practices. East Carolina University’s Center for Sustainable Tourism also provides lots of information about why sustainable tourism is so important and how you can easily adopt it into your travel plans. Even when we are on vacation, our actions have a big impact – let’s make it a positive one!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

BYOB - Bring your own bag!

We’re all guilty of using plastic and paper bags when checking out at our local grocery store. You forget to put your cloth bags back in your car after your last grocery visit and now have two options: carry everything in your arms or resort to using the plastic or paper bags, it’s only this ONE time right?

The paper or plastic question is an age old debate and our conscience isn’t the only one with a stake in the debate. Grocery stores purchase plastic bags at a cheaper cost with constant pressure from environmental groups to stop offering them.  Worldwide, a trillion single-use plastic bags are used each year with the average American family of four using an overwhelming 1,500 plastic bags a year.

San Francisco made the game changing move in 2007 by being the first city in the U.S. to ban single use plastic bags city wide and requiring stores to charge 10 cents for recyclable or plastic bags with over 50 cities following their steps.

But when given the ultimate choice between paper or plastic --- which is worse?
Plastic is produced from the waste products of oil refining whereas paper is produced from trees. To make all the bags we use annually, it takes 14 million trees for paper and 12 million barrels of oil for plastic. Paper bags create 70% more air pollution than plastic, but plastic create four times the waste. With paper consuming four times the energy and three times the amount of water, it consumes a good amount of fuel. On the other hand, plastic bags are littered nationwide and dangerous to wildlife which sometime mistakes it for food. Plastic is difficult to recycle and can take up to 1000 years to degrade!

In the end, the statistics don’t favor either. Use a reusable canvas bag instead and don’t forget to BYOB – bring your own bag.

Share our blog on social media and tag us in your post to be entered into a drawing for one of our own! Everyone who shares between now and June 2 will be entered to win an NC GreenPower canvas bag!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Make Everyday Earth Day

Earth Day celebrations took place worldwide just last week. And while it’s nice to celebrate the environment one day out of 365, we should try to incorporate these practices into our everyday lives. Whether we’re responding to an urgent email or sending a tweet to our followers, we’re constantly on our phones so why not use mobile apps to help us go green?

The Good Guide: Perfect for helping green shoppers, this app gives ratings to more than 200,000 products just by scanning the barcode. The rating combines health, environment and societal factors on a scale of 1-10. Health covers ingredients, health impacts and certifications. Environment includes resources use, environmental impact and transparency. Society measures the company’s social policy and how they resonate with consumers, workers and the overall community.

PaperKarma: Annoyed with junk mail? This app helps reduce junk mail. It’s simple: snap a picture of any unwanted mail through the app and PaperKarma notifies the publisher to take the user’s name and address off of their list. Easy, right?

JouleBug: A social app, launched by the City of Raleigh, rewards users for reducing energy waste. It helps make your everyday habits more sustainable at home, work and play. By giving you simple tips to increase your sustainability, you earn points and badges while saving money. You can compete with your friends through the LeaderBoard, track your impact and earn trophies. So save money and energy and have a little fun by giving this app a try!

You can get even your kids involved with these environmental educations apps and programs teaching them about sustainable design and renewable energy:

1.     Ansel and Clair: Little Green Island
This app does a good job of introducing ideas – students learn about environmental issues, specifically pollution, and have to find solutions to the problems.

2.     Enercities
An educational computer-game, Enercities emphasizes the importance of sustainable planning. Students have to strike a balance among economy, ecology, population growth and quality of life while learning about resource scarcity and green city planning.

Those bright little screens that tend to keep us indoors and distract us from nature can now be put to good use!