Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Go Green with Lunch Boxes

Many of you people out there may have to eat lunch outside of the house, or may know someone that has to do so. Everyday across the world, millions and millions of plastic bags, paper bags, ziploc bags & other bagging materials are used & thrown away. Every single one of those materials have the potential of never even being used at all-thus resulting in less wastage. If even half the general population switched out their plastic or paper bag in favor of a lunch box, then imagine how much we would be able to save. Apparently in just one day, one store uses & sells up to 4500 plastic bags-most of them ending up in landfills. So you guys, why don't we try, for just one day, using a lunchbox in favor of a plastic bag? One step at a time, we can all help our world.



Monday, August 29, 2011

Get Rid of Your Unwanted Plastic Bags Once and For All

Every year, we use around 100 billion plastic grocery bags in the United States alone. And while some cities across the nation have banned use of the bag, many of us aren’t so lucky.

Despite making an effort to go shopping with a reusable bag, those ever-present plastic shopping bags seem to reappear in every cabinet, drawer, and box in my house.

No matter what the reason, I can never bring myself to get rid of all of that plastic. If you’ve got an ever-growing collection of plastic bags making you feel guilty, don’t despair!

Here are some practical and crafty ways to use those bags over and over and over again!

1. Carry Dirty Clothes – Be sure to include a plastic on your packing list! Use it to tote home your dirty clothes or wet swimsuits while you’re on vacation.

2. Scoop the Litter BoxFlushing cat litter down the toilet can be difficult, especially since cat waste contains toxins that’s harmful to aquatic life, and unfortunately, scooping is a fact of life for cat owners. You’ve got to put that smelly litter somewhere. You’re probably using a plastic bag already, so you may as well RE-use one instead.

3. Stash Some In the Glove Box – If you or someone in your family is prone to car sickness, you can keep a plastic grocery bag in the glove box, in case you’re not able to pull over in time to avert disaster.

4. Take to Concerts – Amphitheater shows and multi-day music festivals come with a lot of waste, and the trash and recycle bins seem to always overflow by the end. Instead of piling your empties on top of an overflowing bin, use a plastic grocery bag to take your recyclables home at the end of the show.

5. Remove Dog Waste – I think that it’s only polite to pick up after your pet, and many areas even provide disposal areas for dog waste. Try reusing plastic bags from the grocery store instead of buying small ones at the pet store.

6. Use Them Again – It may not be as fancy as pulling out a canvas grocery tote, but if you’ve got a bunch of those plastic bags around the house, take them to the store to tote another load of groceries home.

7. Line a Paint Tray – Next time you’re painting a room, use a plastic bag to line the paint pan, rather than a disposable plastic pan liner.

8. Cushion Valuables – Whether you’re packing to move or storing Christmas ornaments in the attic, you can wrap them up in plastic bags to avoid damage.

9. Protect Paint Brushes – If you’re taking a break from painting, you can wrap the brush in a plastic bag to keep it from getting dry and hard. Just stick the wrapped up brushes into the fridge until you’re ready to get back to it!

10. Line Small Trash Cans – Reuse a plastic bag to line small trash cans, like in the bathroom, instead of buying new plastic can liners.

11. Donate Them – Places like libraries and food banks would appreciate your donation.

12. Protect Plants From Frost – Protect your plants from a freeze by wrapping them securely in a plastic bag overnight and removing the bag in the morning.

13. Save Shoes in Your Suitcase – When you’re packing for a trip, stash your shoes in a plastic bag, so they don’t make your clothes dirty.

14. Ship It – Plastic bags are proven to have the same benefits as bubble wrap and packing peanuts.

18. Protect Your Knees – Tie a couple of plastic bags around your knees to add some padding while you’re working in the garden.

What are some of your favorite ways to use plastic bags? Comment below to tell us your ideas!

Until next week, EcoNinja101 :-)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Do You Make These Mistakes in Packing Your Lunch?

Hi there, EcoNinjas!

Now that school has started, I decided to make a resolution to pack a zero waste lunch for every day of the year. Did you know that the average disposable lunch can create anywhere from 4-8 pounds of trash? That can add up to more than 300 pounds of trash per year!
Below are some tips for packing an eco-friendly lunch:
  1. Skip the brown bag, plastic bag, and aluminum foil- An easy way to reduce the amount of trash that goes into landfills every year, think about buying a reusable lunch bag. They have great storage options and are super easy to clean.
  2. Pack reusable silverware- Pack your stainless steel with your lunch to reduce the use of plastic cutlery.
  3. Buy your snacks in bulk- That way, you can still enjoy your favorite treats, but without too much of a cost on our environment.
  4. Pack a reusable water bottle- The Environmental Protection Agency reports that every year, approximately 2,400,000 tons of plastic bottles were thrown away. Contribute to reducing that number by buying a reusable water bottle!
Come on EcoNinjas! The world is in our hands!


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Recycling Together

Recycling. We've all heard this word before, but it doesn't really mean much to us, does it? Don't worry I was in the same category as most of you people out there, I would never really see the point-when the trash is picked up from our homes, I had always assumed that when the trash collectors took it back to where they worked, the trash would be sifted through and the recyclable material would be separated from the plain trash. Recently, I read that not all trash gets separated. Some of our trash does indeed get sifted through and separated into recyclable and non-recyclable piles, but parts of our trash also ends up in landfills and even in the ocean. To make sure none of our trash ends up harming the environment, here are some easy tips on how to recycle:

1. Find a convenient place to collect recyclable items. Most things come from the kitchen, making it a good spot to set up a recycling center.

2. The great thing about recycling is that it lets you put your favorite old containers, bins, or baskets to use. Assign containers for glass, plastic, and aluminum. To avoid messes, choose solid containers for storing items such as glass jars or cans that may have a sticky residue.

3. Take leftover plastic bags back to grocery stores where they are collected and reused to make plastic lumber.

4. Check the bottom of plastic items to identify what type of plastic they are. If the type is not recycled at your local center, consider ways to reuse the container.

5. Save water and time when recycling cans and bottles. You no longer need to rinse them out or remove their labels.

6. Recycle junk mail or reuse it as scratch paper. To opt-out of certain junk-mailing lists, go to opt-out.cdt.org.

7. Newspapers, magazines, and white paper can all be recycled as long as the paper is clean and dry. Plastic wrap, stickers, or rubber bands should be removed, but staples and plastic window envelopes are OK.

8. Recycle worn-out rechargeable batteries like those used in cell phones, computers, or power tools. Go to www.rbrc.org to find a drop-off location in your area.

9. Divvy up recycling duties among family members and sort items on a daily basis

Hopefully using these tips, we can at least do our own little part in helping the environment. Share these tips with your neighbors & friends and we can all work together in doing our parts. By recycling and using these tips, we can help recycle our materials and keep busy during this drought. Have fun!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Saving Water

Recently, for the first time in a long time, we finally got some rain. Yet, the drought is still prominent, the lake water levels are still low, and the water restrictions are piling up everyday. According to the New York Times, Texas has received less than half its normal rainfall: 6.53 inches instead of 16.03, and the drought has greatly hurt Texas's agricultural economy. Even worse, some climatologists say that this drought will last to even next year. So, now is the time to be even more water conversant, in order to save the environment and our sanity. Here are some easy ways to save water:

1. When washing dishes by hand, fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water, rather than letting the water run

2. For cold drinks, keep a pitcher of cold water in the refrigerator, instead of turning on the tap.

3. Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap. The used water can them be used to water houseplants.
4. Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway and sidewalk and save water every time.

5. Check for leaks in toilets, bath tubs, faucets and swimming pools. (An easy way to test a toilet is to put food coloring in the toilet tank. If it seeps into the toilet bowl without flushing, you have a leak. Get it fixed ASAP!)

6. Add "walkways" and patios to your yard so those parts don't have to be watered.

7. Drop your tissue in the trash instead of flushing it down.

8. Dump extra ice on to a plant.

9. Track rainfall, then water your lawn accordingly.

10. Don't water your lawn on windy days when most of the water blows away or evaporates.

Remember, although we all learned in school that water is a inexhaustible resource, it needs to be conserved in order to protect our environment's ability to support future generations. Share water conservation tips with your neighbors and friends and get involved. By working together and saving water, we can shorten this drought and keep ourselves sane.

~Lucy Hao

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Take Action

Like some of you may have heard, yesterday was an Indian holiday called 'Raksha Bandhan.' In this holiday the sisters pray for the long lives of their brothers, and the brothers, in return, promise to always protect the sisters. The custom is that on this day each year, the sisters tie a 'rakhi'-a kind of sacred bracelet around their brothers' wrists.
So when I was online yesterday, I came across a very interesting article about a governor that was tying rakhis around trees. The logic behind his unusual actions was that, he was trying to protect those trees by calling them his brothers & sisters. In an effort to promote going green in at least his home state, he told the public that in the new version of raksha bandhan not only do sisters tie rakhis to brothers, but men and women also take a pledge to protect trees.
Reading this, I thought that if there are people out there that are willing to go to such lengths, and are actually taking action to promote environmental awareness; then why don't we do something? This article isn't here to give you tips on what else you can do, it's here to just, hopefully, inspire you to do more. And if the message really has gotten through to you, then read the other articles in this blog-that's where you'll find how to actually take action.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Start a Summer Project – Container Gardening

Container gardening itself isn’t a new phenomenon, but we’ve got a trendy new take. These work great outdoors hanging from a wall or as a centerpiece on the dinner table. Even local businesses have sprung up offering ready-to-go assorted containers for purchase. With summer coming to a close, it makes a great last project before the kids go back to school or just for you.

The idea is to take any plant container you fancy, select several small plants with the same water requirements and unite them. My personal recommendation is to use succulents. They require little water and are sturdy, making them amenable to occasional droughts suffered when vacations happen or life gets hectic. Note of caution, be sure the soil has good drainage if you plant succulents.

I haven’t finished out my container garden yet, but here’s a great picture for inspiration: http://ktrv.images.worldnow.com/images/10381918_BG1.jpg. Please share your tips, or if you have a container garden, link to your pictures.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Heat Can be Yummy

Like Greengirl said, it's burning outside. It's so hot, I sleep without blankets. It's so hot, I don't even feel like going up the stairs. It's so hot, I lie on the tiles and eat ice cream at the same time (which takes skill). Ice cream and Popsicles may seem like salvation in this heat, but they are not only unhealthy but also horrible for the environment. Popsicles come individually wrapped, which creates a lot of waste, and ice cream is full of heavy cream and high fructose corn syrup. 

Here are a few simple, eco-friendly, healthy recipes that will help you keep cool and save the enviroment:

Grape Pops Recipe

(from Pops! Icy Treats for Everyone by Krystina Castella (Quirk Books, 2008))
(makes eight 6-ounce pops)
1 cups seedless red grapes, cut in half
4 cups white grape juice
8 plastic cups
8 popsicle sticks/chopsticks
8 banana slices

1. Stick a banana slice on each stick and place into the center of the cup, banana-slice-side down.
2. Divide the grape halves among the cups. Pour in the grape juice and reposition the sticks. 
3. Freeze for at least 6 hours.
4. Remove from the freezer;run tap water over the surface of the cup, and let sit for 3 minutes. 
5. Remove from mold and eat!

Citrus Popsicles
(makes eight 6-ounce popsicles)
1 cup of assorted fruit (frozen or fresh. Strawberries, kiwis, peaches, watermelon etc.)
16 ounces of lemon juice
4 cups orange juice
8 plastic cups
8 popsicle sticks/chopsticks
8 kiwi slices

1. Stick a kiwi slice on each stick and place into the center of the cup, kiwi-slice-side down.
2. Pour in 2 ounces of lemon juice per cup over the kiwi
3. Divide the assorted fruit into the cups; pour the orange juice and reposition the sticks.
4. Freeze for 6 hours
5. Remove from the freezer;run tap water over the surface of the cup, and let sit for 3 minutes. 
6. Remove from mold and eat!

Yogurt Parfait

(makes 4 servings)
2 1/2 cups vanilla yogurt
2 cups your favorite granola
2 1/2 cups fresh berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries (hulled and sliced), and/or other fruit such as bananas, peaches or mangos, peeled and sliced
4 tablespoons honey

1. Line up 4 parfait, plastic, or other clear glasses.
2. Spoon 2 tablespoons of yogurt into each glass and smooth surface.
3. Spoon 2 tablespoons of fruit on top.
4. Repeat the process, adding a bit of honey here and there, to taste.
5. Spoon 2 tablespoons of granola on top.
6. Add a small dollop of yogurt on top of the granola in the center.
7. Position some berries on top of the yogurt.
8. Admire the beauty; Enjoy!

Yum! To be even more ecofriendly, use plastic popsicle sticks/chopsticks, so they can be washed and reused. Same goes with the cups.

~Lucy Hao

Staying Green for Back to School

Don't let the frenzy of buying back to school supplies derail your eco-conscious ways. Before even venturing out to a store, take stock of what you already have that didn't get used before. Also take into consideration how much use any new things will actually get before purchasing them. Here are some green ideas for some standard items:

  • backpacks: if a new one is needed, avoid vinyl and look for one made of nylon, hemp or organic cotton. Dsenyo makes cotton knapsacks in bright colors and prints and are handcrafted by women in Africa. A percentage of revenue goes back to their community for youth programs and health education

  • pens/pencils: look for refillable pens and biodegradable pencils. There are pencils like the ones at TreeSmart that are made from newspaper

  • paper/notebooks/binders: most stores sell recycled paper-you just have to look for it. Instead of the conventional plastic binders, look for an alternative like those at Jorgel Binders, which are made from cardboard and have removable and reusable metal rings inside. Ecojot's notebooks are made of recycled paper, and they have a limited edition line whose proceeds benefit the Jane Goodall Institute

  • lunch: a washable and reusable container to create a zero-waste lunch is ideal. The Whimsy Reusable Lunch Kit includes napkins, containers and a recycled lunch sack

  • clothes: the majority of money spent on back to school shopping goes towards new clothes. Thrift stores or clothes swapping with friends is a great way to save. If buying new clothes, look for quality as well as sustainable fabrics like bamboo and organic cotton as opposed to cheap items that will wear out quickly

Take this time as yet another opportunity to share with your kids why these green practices are so important. It is worth planning ahead and going a little out of your way to make sure we take care of our planet whenever and however we can.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Stuck Inside

Some of you may have noticed that we have a slight drought problem going on...actually that's an understatement. We're on our 35th day of 100 plus degree temperatures, and things are definitely not looking up at all. The best we can do is just stay indoors, and hope that this streak will be over tomorrow. And to top it all off, there are energy issues going on because of all the people staying indoors and running their air conditioning 24/7-resulting in rolling blackouts. Well, while I was sitting at home and confined indoors, I decided to do some research on how to save energy-and here are some facts that I found:

-Instead of cooking with your stove, try using your microwave- it uses two-thirds less energy than the stove.

-Use the dishwasher! It uses much less water than washing dishes by hand.

-Set your thermostat to 78 degrees and 85 when your way. Use ceiling fans to keep the cool air circulating around your room.

-Turn off appliances, lights and equipment when not in use. It'll use 2% less energy that way.

With these precautions hopefully we'll be able to at least stop the rolling blackouts and prevent people from being forced into enduring this heat. Keep cool!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Green Your Beauty Routine: A Step by Step Guide to Giving Every Day a Green Start.

Hello Fellow Earth Lovers!

I have always been a fan of homemade beauty products. They are a great way to get creative at home and you have the benefit of knowing exactly what you use as part of your beauty routine. This weekend, I learned some scary facts about my favorite beauty products like: the average woman applies over 160 different chemicals to her face before drinking her morning coffee, and 64% of "natural" beauty products contain chemicals that are harmful to your body and our environment.

Well, EcoNinjas, it's time to take a stand! Below, is one of my favorite recipes to Green Your Beauty Routine. Enjoy!

Orange Yogurt Exfoliating Mask:

1 tablespoon of plain yogurt (I prefer Greek yogurt because it is much thicker)

Juice from about 1/4 of an orange (a splash of orange juice will work just as well)


Mix the yogurt and the orange juice. Spread the mixture evenly on your face. After 10 minutes, rinse. Instant rejuvination!

Why it Works...

Besides being a tasty treat, yogurt aides in digestion and may even help you feel fuller without adding tons of calories. As far as beauty goes, eating yogurt is good for your hair and nails, because of the amount of protein it contains. It also has zinc, lactic acid, and alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) which is great for calming inflamed skin, and boosting collagen production.

Combined with an orange (did you know that Vitamin C reverses aging skin?) you've got a soothing, natural, exfoliating mask that's both easy to make and kind to our environment.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Inspiring Kids

Lately, I've been feeling like all the little things I've been doing all these years to be eco-conscious hasn't added up to much and it sometimes gets difficutlt to keep going. I came across some stories recently about young environmentalists that really inspired me to not only continue with my efforts but to step it up.

  • Felix, a 9 year old in Germany, was so upset by what he was learning about global climate change that he decided to start his own organization called Plant for Planet with the goal being to plant a million trees in as many countries as he can. Thanks to some media attention, so far just over one million trees have been planted with more than a million pledged for planting

  • After the Gulf Coast oil spill, 11 year old Olivia teamed up the the Audubon Society to sell sketches she did and helped raise over $200,000 for relief efforts

  • 8 year old Cole in North Carolina got his entire elementary school to send postcards to fast food companies requesting they use recycled packaging. Success came when McDonald's agreed. Now Cole is working with several other elementary schools in his area to keep up the mission

Not only can these kids inspire everyone to do more, but to be more as well. Be a mentor and get kids into nature. There's no better way to cultivate a love of the outdoors and a desire to preserve it. There are proven health and psychological benefits connected to being outdoors, and in addition, kids may begin to see a future for themselves in the environmental field. At the very least, they are more likely to continue to spend time outdoors as they grow older. There are structured programs that can help guide them, but just spending more and more time outdoors will help. Ultimately, kids do what they see. Be an example everyday to encourage them by doing things like growing your own vegetables, composting, conserving water, carpooling, biking at local parks, etc. Hopefully, by staying with it, we can bring up the next generation of inspiring and eco-minded kids.