Earth Day: UGH!

16 Apr

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From the department of “You’re Totally Missing the Point” comes this gem:

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Cinemark, a fine paragon of film, but not so much of environmentalism, delivered this to me as my weekly coupon today. Putting aside the fact that $2 off a bottle of water when there are water fountains in the lobby is considered a deal, offering a discount on bottled water for Earth Day is equivalent to free bacon on Passover.  Lots of stores will be running Earth Day promotions this year, but it’s important to judge whether or not they’re really earth friendly.  Is owning another reusable bag all that green when you already have 42 languishing in your back seat?  Probably not.  It’s fine to take advantage of deals that you’re going to use, but before you jump on an Earth Day deal, think about it for a second. That will certainly be longer than Cinemark considered this partnership.

~April

P.S. This coupon is only good once so if you try and use it and it doesn’t work we’ll all know someone else missed the point.

Earth Day: Buying in Bulk

15 Apr

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I have a confession to make: It took me a long time to understand the appeal of buying in bulk. Buying in bulk conjured up memories of shopping with my family at whole sale stores as a child, where the food was highly processed, poor in quality, and didn’t necessarily scale down the packaging. Plus, I usually got sick of eating the food long before we made a dent in our supply of it. Even when I saw more appealing food being sold in bulk I still didn’t get it. If I was still pouring my bulk items into a bag to take home, I wasn’t reducing the amount of plastic packaging in the world, so why bother?

I’m too embarrassed to reveal exactly how long it was before I had this simple revelation that changed my whole outlook. What I finally realized was this: You can bring your own container to the store to buy bulk products. It’s glaringly obvious, but I admit that I felt a bit like Archimedes springing from the bathtub shouting “Eureka!” when I finally got it.

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Now I buy a lot of stuff in bulk. I show up at the store armed with a variety of bags and reusable containers. The only hassle of buying in bulk is that you have to go to the register first to have them tare your containers. They weigh the containers, and when you pay they subtract that weight so you only pay for the actual weight of what you are buying.

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I’m lucky to have a fantastic store near me that carries a lot of bulk items including soap, shampoos, and conditioners. You can also find a number of bulk items at Whole Foods. A simple google search for “bulk grocery” and your location will likely turn up a few options. And of course there’s an app for that.

I like buying in bulk simply because it reduces the amount of plastic packaging floating around in the world, but it can sometimes (not always) be a money saver as well.

Happy shopping!

~Robin

Earth Day: Every Last Drop

14 Apr

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Arthur C Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.  While this usually conjures up images of Google Glass, sophisticated AIs and (in my dreams) teleportation, sometimes I see an amazingly-designed website and think the same thing.  That’s the case for Every Last Drop, a UK website aimed at bringing awareness to water usage.  Not only is it informative, it’s also beautiful, and that makes it effective.  I’m not a coder by any means and so it’s probably not surprising I think this level of computer skill is magical.  I challenge anyone not to be a little impressed at the whimsy this site offers though.

Make sure you check out the website for the full effect, but for a little more info and some simple Earth Day water-saving tips, enjoy their video as well.

Every Last Drop – How to Save Water Film from Nice and Serious on Vimeo.

~April

Earth Day: Weekend Images

13 Apr

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If April can post pictures on the weekends then so can I!

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Especially because this is what the Merced River Canyon looks like right now. I love you all but I have better things to be doing than sitting inside chained to my computer on a day like this. The orange glow that looks (as my roommate Kelsey so eloquently put it) like Cheeto dust, are poppies in bloom!

~Robin

Earth Day: Weekend Images

12 Apr

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Caterpillar (I think it might be a Garden Tiger Moth?) at Irvine Regional Park

~April

Earth Day: T-Shirt Bag

11 Apr

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Several years ago I decided that I wanted to start using reusable grocery bags and bought a bunch of crappy plastic reusable bags at the grocery store. Sadly, it wasn’t until these poorly made bags started falling apart that I realized they were unrecyclable and another piece of plastic that would eventually end up in a landfill. It was then that started understanding the value of cloth grocery bags.

Much later I was given an enormous box of t-shirts and asked to do something useful and creative with them. After a few minutes of puzzling over them I had a flash of genius.

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I sewed the shirt together at it’s bottom hem, cut off the collar and sleeves and within a few minutes I had a reusable cloth grocery bag.

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I was pretty proud of myself until I showed it to a crafty friend who looked only marginally impressed and said “Oh cool. A t-shirt bag.” Sure enough I googled it and found about a billion tutorials.

So I just wanted y’all to know that me and a bunch of people on the internet are all creative geniuses. If you have any unwearable t-shirts floating around this is a quick and easy way to reuse them.

~Robin

Earth Day: AmazonSmile

10 Apr

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If you’ve logged into Amazon lately, you may have seen a little pop up that allows you to link your account to a charity. The program is called AmazonSmile and you can choose from millions of charities to support, everything from the super local to global giants. After you choose a charity, Amazon will donate .5% (I know, a bundle) of your eligible purchases to your charity of choice. You just have to remember to go to smile.amazon.com instead of the regular Amazon start page. Then, you’ll see a note near the price telling you whether an item is eligible or not.  You can change your charity whenever you choose.

To put things in perspective, at .5% you’d have to spend $20,000 to donate $100 to your charity. Even with my thousands of dollars of work purchases every year, I still can’t hit that benchmark. Still, even a little bit can help. It’s probably more impactful to choose a larger charity that a lot of other people will donate to than to give a few bucks to a local charity. You’re better off just donating the money outright.  It’s better to donate something than nothing at all though and if enough people take advantage of the opportunity, a lot of charities will benefit.

In honor of Earth Day, consider a charity that protects our natural resources. Some great ones are NatureBridge, The National Park Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy or The Sierra Club. Thousands of other environmental charities are available, so pick your cause and use your Amazon addiction for good.

~ April

Earth Day: Upcycled Bread Clip Picture Frame

9 Apr

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When we our Earth Day celebration last year I was determined to start doing more upcylcled crafts. I laid out the challenge of the Destash Bash with that in mind, but I kinda slacked on that part. Actually I’ve been slacking in the crafting department for awhile now. Once again, Earth Day gave me the inspiration to give it another go.

I started by asking my friends to collect these things for me.

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Some call them bread tags, others call them bread clips, I call them the bane of my existence. I hate these things. They drive me crazy because I find them on trails in Yosemite all the time. They’re plastic so they aren’t going to decompose during this century, and I have yet to find a place that recycles them. What’s more they seem so stupidly unnecessary. I would prefer to see bread sealed for shipping with a paper based tape. I think we’re all smart enough to figure out how to close our bread bags without a one-time use piece of plastic.

I have come across a few clever ways to reuse them on the internet. Lindsay at Diary of Crafty Lady turned them into a totally adorable Monster Garland. There are a few more ideas here.

I decided to use them to brighten up one of these picture frames I scored off a dumpster.

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A portion of my bread clip collection was found on the ground so I swished the whole jar in soapy water to clean them off. To dry them I spread them out on a towel in the sun.

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I used my dullest pair of craft scissors to cut them into strips and shapes.

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I glued the pieces on mosaic style with School Glue. At first I was a bit worried that the glue wouldn’t hold the plastic, but as long as the pieces were flat they seem to stick to the frame pretty well. I also don’t expect a picture frame to experience a lot of rough handling so I’m not too worried about wear and tear.

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I gave it a few extra coats with Mod Podge just to be sure and added a picture of Grace and I rocking the camouflage at Spring Valley. All in all I only used a small handful from the jar of clips. It may not make much of a dent in the truckloads of these things in our landfills but at least it’s something. I was able to complete the project without having to buy new materials. Score!

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~Robin

Earth Day: Exercise and the Environment

8 Apr

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Since I started blogging again, I’ve really wanted to talk about exercise.  In July last year I had reached my highest weight, went up a size in pants and was just feeling all around blah.  Something inside me woke up and I managed to stop eating bags of chips for dinner and replacing that with whole foods as often as possible.  After I dropped a few pounds, my friends joined a gym and I reluctantly agreed.  I’d never done any sort of exercise program before.  The last physical activity I did regularly was marching band.  When we ran the mile in high school I think I topped 20 minutes.  And I can walk a mile in 20 minutes.  I was intimidated and suspicious, but peer pressure is a great motivator so I went.  When I didn’t throw up or pass out my first visit, I started to think I might be able to do this and here I am a few months later (and 20 pounds lighter), with a regular gym and running routine that isn’t motivated by peer pressure at all.

When our Earth Day month started, I thought that there has to be some way I can connect the environment and living healthfully.  Aside from diet, which is intimately connected to the earth and our food system, I think certain kinds of exercise can inspire and support a love of the earth as well.  Not long after I started strength training, I went for a hike.  I was amazed that unlike previous expeditions, I was able to keep a steady pace without getting too out of breath.  That’s when I first realized that the work I was doing indoors was going to improve my enjoyment outdoors.  Bonus number one!

While I do a lot of my strength training indoors, studies show that working out en plein air is a double dose of endorphins.  Not only do you get the benefits of being active, you also get a little cure for your nature deficit disorder.  I’ve been running outdoors twice a week lately (I’ve come to be a treadmill hater) and there is nothing that can pull me out of a morning funk more than turning a corner and seeing the ocean.    According to the same study listed above, working out outdoors also boosts performance and makes the exercise seem easier.  It doesn’t take a lot either.  Even five minutes of working out in a natural environment has an impact on mood, self-esteem and creativity.

Sure there are tons of personal benefits to getting outdoors and being active, but what about benefits for Mother Earth?  Here are some ways that getting in shape can help the planet.

  • Walking, biking or running to work or to run errands instead of driving saves gas.
  • Running outdoors as opposed to on a treadmill saves two pounds of CO2 per 30 minute workout. (source)
  • A growing number of “green gyms” promote environmental responsibility by generating energy and using refurbished equipment.  My favorite quote from this article is, “If we’re enabling people to be good stewards of their own bodies, it seems like the natural progression of that is to also be good stewards of the environment.”
  • If you do work out indoors, choose the elliptical or stationary bike (or better yet, weights) over the treadmill.  They consume far less energy.  (source)
  • If you’re concerned about your health, you should be concerned about the environment.  Many environmental factors affect our bodies.  By being more environmentally responsible, you’ll be improving your health and the health of those around you.

~April

Earth Day: Recycling Bias

7 Apr

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This Earth Day nugget came from our favorite commenter, Mara.

National Public Radio: How Recycling Bias Affects What You Toss Where

The short version is that Boston University Marketing Professor Remi Trudel found that volunteers were more likely to toss paper into the trash can if it was torn or crumpled up. They also found that cans were more likely to wind up in the garbage if they were dented. He credits the perceived usefulness of the recyclable item as a bias factor when we sort our recycling. Once we become aware of the bias, it takes less than a few seconds to correct the error.

Happy sorting!

~Robin

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