Guest Post – The Eco-Friendly Backyard: How to Save a Little ‘Green’

It is a pleasure when thinking individuals acknowledge my crusade and want to put in their two cents! I was contacted by Elizabeth Greene of – My Dog Age My Blog, for featuring a guest post, I agreed. Its a pleasure to introduce Joy Paley and her take on American Consumption patterns and her thoughts on Lawn maintenance in particular. I am sure you will love this post…:). Onto Joy


The post
There’s no place near the “normal” American home that doesn’t reek of conspicuous consumption, and the backyard is certainly no exception. As post-WWII suburbs sprawled across the nation, so did the idea that a happy home was one in which the front and back yards were covered in emerald green turf. Not only does keeping a carefully maintained lawn use up an incredible amount of water (and money!), it also keeps rainwater from making its way through the soil to groundwater and causes pesticides and fertilizers to flow into nearby streams and rivers. Here are a few tips to green up your backyard and save a little dough in the process.

1. Get Rid of the Lawn
What is the alternative to a cushiony green pillow extending from your doorstep to the curb? How about a garden of native shrubs, flowers, and trees? It’ll need to be watered and troubled over much less than a lawn, will allow water to percolate through the soil, and it will attract native wildlife.

2. Collect Rainwater
Having the sprinklers or the hose running all the time zaps money from your pocket and uses up precious resources. Consider putting barrels in your yard or under your gutters to catch rainwater to use on your plants, instead.

3. Mulch Those Plants
Even if you get rid of your water-sucking exotic plants and make the switch to native species, you can still preserve energy by mulching around what you do have. Mulching keeps the sun from sucking up water out of the soil.

4. Compost
Composting is a low-cost way to generate nutritious soil for your garden and cut down on the amount of household waste you send to a landfill. A tumbler or regular barrel is a great way to start. Check out this Cornell site for the basics.

5. Use Earth-Friendly Yard Products
Most people maintain their yards to actively enjoy them, by picnicking, letting their kids play outside, etc. But would you really want your kids playing on a lawn that had been cared for with toxic pesticides and fertilizers? Check out organic lawn care options that are safer and easier on mother nature.

6. Upgrade Your Mower
Some old gas lawnmowers emit an incredible amount of pollution. Switching to a push mower is best, as they use less energy than ride-alongs. If you can’t stand the idea of pushing a mower across your lawn, an electric ride-along is your next best bet.

source: Joy Paley
This eco-friendly “no mow” lawn made of native grasses and plants is more attractive than any suburban turf I’ve seen

About the author

Joy Paley is a science and technology writer based in Berkeley, California. Check out her musings as a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog or as a writer for Online Schools.


Advertisements

Go Green with Craigslist and Freecycle

Choosing the right kind of furniture for your home is a major influence on how green you could be…It is no harm in wanting the best for yourself. However, it could be a little considerate on our part to reuse heavy and usable furniture items (among other things) and not let them become landfill before their lifespan.

Readers who are familiar with my Design blog, The Design Enthusiast, know my love for preloved furniture. I have furnished an entire single bed room apartment with finds from local sellers via craigslist. Touch wood, it has been a great experience till date. Although, I am not into upholstered furniture, it is better to avoid beds or heavy cushioned sofas unless you are very sure about the condition. Reason being, loads of bugs and dirt may find their way into your abode. And then, there are odour issues we need to deal with. I dont advocate any particular furnishing style, but defintely would like to see minimal upholstery and cushions (read foam) as possible.

There could be more such collaborating websites I am not aware of yet. Another place to look out for is Freecycle. It is a brilliant way to minimize waste and think about greening your choices without much effort.

quoting the Freecycle website-
The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,864 groups with 7,603,875 members around the world. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer (them’s good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by entering it into the search box above or by clicking on ‘Browse Groups’ above the search box. Have fun!



One very interesting thing about Freeecycle is that people giveaway stuff for free…so take a look, maybe you will find something that may work for you. (I have been a grad student here in the US…so hand me downs dont bother me…however, i dont see a similar vibe among fellow country men who land here with a job and a heavy paypacket. No comments on that though!!)

World Environment day- Green Celebrations at Blogadda

It is The World Environment day on the June 5th. For many, it is just another “DAY” when the green cult goes about asking regular folk to do their bit. hmm…Or is it more than just that? How could you be responsible for a day and feel ok with harassing the planet the rest of the year? A few regular Joes and Janes take it a step further…they dont care …no day in particular matters.

Source: ideareader.com

Blogger forums are a nice way to meet up and get chatty with fellow bloggers. I never participate in contests organized by any of the groups, however, this time around, it is something I can relate to (for a change!!). Blogadda is organizing a contest to mark the World Environment Day on June 5th. Here is the contest page >>Blogadda

We are required to use the sponsor – Pringoo.com in the post.so here is what I could do…frankly I dont need to win, but would love people to get smarter and less harming on the planet, and thats not just for this week or the day. Will it ever turn a reality…I am hopeful..but things need to be sooner than never.

Give my world some air to breathe

Someair
Give my world some air to breathe

A very happy environment day in advance. Be sensible …live better

Greenpeace – Save the whale compaign

I am a part of Greenpeace (not surprising!!) and have been working on a campaign to save the whales from commercial whalers. Yes, a practise which was banned 20 years ago has been termed legal by Mr President. The process of killing whales for commercial purposes is going to throw the marine eco system off balance.

This is a mail I got from our Greenpeace network. Thought I need to share it here…

Hi there!
I’m delivering 1.5 MILLION comments in support of whales to the White House tomorrow.  It’s so exciting!
The banners we’ve made out of your whale cards are so beautiful, and the photos we’ve received are powerful and inspiring.  It’s incredible to see such an outpouring of support.
To make sure that YOUR voice is heard, I need your help – please make a quick phone call to save the whales, and tell all your friends to make a call too!
Here’s the info: 

CALL: White House Comment Line (202) 456-1111

SAY: Hi, my name is _____ and I’m calling from city, state.  I’m calling to ask that you represent Americans at the IWC meeting in June by working to protect the ban on commercial whaling. I’m ashamed that the leader of my country is supporting a cruel pro-whaling position when millions of Americans are deeply against it. Be the leader that you promised by ensuring that the US opposes any deal that legitimizes commercial whaling.

This will REALLY supplement our work tomorrow – we’ve got to make our voices heard.
Thanks so much for all you do.  Let’s hope that Obama gets the message!
Anna
P.S. You don’t need to be nervous, the President won’t be the one answering the phone 🙂  Be sure to take one minute to make that call – and let us know that you called!


I hope my friends who are not a part of Greenpeace will try to pitch in. We need to save the whales for our planet to manage its ecology, for us to survive. Lets do our bit.

Starbucks – Left me alone….and they say – Don’t Do it Alone!!

source: starbucks website
Should we trust corporates when they say – They are on with their Green efforts?…Maybe we should not. Starbucks claims that it allows customers to use their own reusable cups and even encourages green practices. Their punch line – Don’t do it alone, doesn’t seem to work in reality.
Their website carries very fancy content on Green issues.But how many really bother?

source: starbucks website
 I was taken by their reports to promote use of ceramic and re-usable mugs and tried to take my own to one of their outlets. As a rule,  if a customer walks in with a ceramic or re usable cup, starbucks employees are supposed to rinse the mug and pour coffee into it.

However, I was refused to be served in my mug- The lady at the counter said that the sanitation department wouldn’t allow use of any other container other than the one sold at Starbucks!…If this is true, how would their motto to go green ever become a reality. Another report claims that Starbucks intends to reintroduce ceramic mugs and increase use of reusable commuter mugs by 2010. I did not know that they offered a $.10 discount to customers who bring in reusable mugs. If all this was true, why would I be refused when I make a conscious effort to carry my mug for my drink?

I don’t know how people could ignore this garbage pile when they buy their coffee in disposable cups…Does it never occur as to what happens to all this unnecessary garbage
source: triplepundits.com
Statistics:
Starbucks stores use billions of disposable plastic and paper cups, this means an enormous usage of natural resources and energy and then cups land in the landfills and the ocean. The Company claims that their cups contain 10 percent post consumer recycled content. And that, according to the company is estimated to save tens of thousands of trees, half a million gallons of waste water, and several million pounds of garbage. And Starbucks claims to be the pioneer in promoting recycled cups in the beverage retailing industry.
Visit this link on their website to learn more about their programs – Link  
Reality:
Did you know that FDA (Food & Drug administration, USA) does not support use of recycled material in food retailing industry? Another very important aspect in terms of recycling – Paper cups lined with wax /plastic to hold liquids cannot be recycled in most recycling plants/systems. I am really not sure if Starbucks can ever achieve its target of making all of its cups recyclable by 2012. Corporate GREEN team says that the company is requesting its customers to bring in their own reusable cups or tumblers in order to meet their recycling goal set for the year 2012. Frankly, I am yet to see one single customer buying his or her coffee in their own mug! So in which part of the world are they pushing their Green ideas then?
Whatz really happening
With over 16,000 retailing locations, it is difficult to claim consistency in their efforts. It is definitely difficult for a company with so many globally disperse franchisees to efficiently and effectively implement a recycling strategy. The least they could do is to support conscious consumers like myself.
Money matter a lot to people sitting in the Shareholder boards…blind that they are to any crisis around them, it is a disgrace that the company’s shareholders voted down Starbuck’s proposal to increase recycling efforts. ( I am sure Seattle Times would be faking this news ). And why did they make this brilliant decision? Because the finance guys have to create WEALTH for their shareholders!! (really??)
Although the company seems to have started offering discounts to consumers who bring in their own cup since 1985, how come we do not see anything happening on that front? Isn’t the non green population just living to save money or just Enjoy their life?…I am sure if they were given a chance to save a few cents… at least a few of them would oblige to bring their own mugs (for the amount of coffee consumed in the world, specially in the US) It would make a significant difference in terms of number of disposable (plastic and paper) cups used. What amazes me is that the consumer who is aware that he should not buy hot drinks in a plastic cup refuses to think one step beyond and reduce use of paper cups.
Statistics…again!
Starbucks claims that in 2009, over 26 million customers brought their own tumblers for their cup of Joe…(really!!). This means a meager 1.5% shift from use of disposables and that translated to saving a whopping 1.2 million pounds of paper from being consumed. If this was true, imagine the amount which goes into the landfill due to the million of cups still being used…phew!!…Do you really think you cant make your own cup at home or at least carry your own mug to the café. The least you could do is to choose using their ceramic mugs and have your coffee in store and not bother walking around the mall with your fancy disposable cup.
Another very important aspect of this Industry has not even been discussed yet – The coffee Growing /processing industry and its impact on environment. That makes an interesting topic for a new article altogether!
Painful changes in the Indian scene…
What bothers me is India’s growing and booming Cafe culture. Cafe Coffee Day, Barista etc have become a fashion statement of sorts with the Indian Population. I do not have anything any particular brand or product, what pains is the lack of common sense and basic thought towards the impact of every cultural shift
India is going through!
Think before you THINK it is HEP to go to a Cafe and order your coffee in a disposable cup. Think of going green with your choices and let the planet remain habitable!

Organic food in plastic packaging?!!

Organic produce and food products are a nice buy..keeps one thing off your mind – all the pesticide residue. But is it not an oxymoronistic approach to sell organic and other “green” products in a non bio degradable plastic package?

What is the idea behind all the reams of plastic which went into packaging them? I have no clue…I don’t expect things to be clear cut black and white but this packaging issue is stretching things too far!!!!! (Not that its ok for other products to be stuffed in plastic bag/wraps to be shelved in a retail store.)

 Image source: treehugger.com

We cannot justify these pre cut organic fruits being sold in ridiculous individual packs. Even the most popular organic food stores indulge in this kind of mockery of green issues. Are they ignorant or do they just don’t care?…It must be fun to meet all those who are into planning and execution of product packaging decisions in these organic and eco friendly companies. I really need to ask them one thing… how do these aisles in organic food store qualify as eco-friendly?

Most argue about the strain green packaging would put on the environment…but is it necessary to add more indigestible plastic junk for the planet to bear? Another arguement is of the corn plastic – the amount of money, effort and the resources which go into producing a single corn plastic container is not worth the effort.

  Image source:myzerowaste.com

 I don’t know if it is just me or if there are others out there who are bogged down by guilt while buying groceries and other processed food. Its like an anti-thesis when companies which claim to sell organic produce and products, say even cosmetics, don’t think twice before investing in plastic and other non-eco-friendly packaging material. I know I have cribbed and whined about this earlier.

Enormous demand for products and produce results in a significant strain on the environment, and then,  choosing paper or other eco friendly packaging material only adds to the planet’s travails. However, when we weigh the pros and cons of going green and remaining economical, green idea wins- always. It is necessary to understand one base rule – any polymer based synthetic good produced is never going to decompose or biodegrade. However expensive it may be, earth friendly is the way to go (with the packaging as well). Smallest things like the plastic lid cap on glass bottles and jars matter to me. If an item on my grocery list is unavoidable, then I ensure that the jar I buy has a metal cap and not a plastic one….How many of you freak out like I do?

Image source: goldencarla.typepad.com

Any inputs – welcome!!!!

I do not buy these plastic wrapped fruits and vegetables and feel good about not adding some more plastic to the environment.

We need to remember that each product we try, buy and consume is a vote of approval for the company to mark that product as a “success”. So think before you try out a new product, be it consumable or other wise…your vote makes a difference. Simple things like making a choice between –

this jar 

and this

Image source:tradeindia.com


 When the sales go down, these companies are forced to change their strategy and cater to what we consumers demand…Time and again I have been mentioning this – we are at a stage where we are only making trade offs. Living green is a long winding road for the civilized world..the least we could do is to start making a difference…(I make a special mention of this thanks to all the flaky criticism  I put up with due to my green advocacy).

So the next time you are in a super market aisle, make an intelligent choice and Keep the planet happy!

Updates on Seawood lake project

I have been on a mission lately and I am happy. But the fact that things are not moving as I anticipated has me working harder on this. I had done a post on Save Seawood lake a few days ago.I was trying to send out emails and increase awareness about this project apart from scouting for people in the media who could help.

It is depressing to see real estate developers encroaching this lake by dumping debris and wanting to alter the natural landscape of this part of Mumbai.

 Image Source: Save Seawood Lake Group (Facebook)
 

  I have joined the facebook group called : Save Seawood Lake, dedicated for this project. HERE. (I did not have an account on facebook. But I joined in to be a part of this group. So I request you to make an effort and join this group…every vote counts!).

I wanted to share this information about the lake and the project. Inspite of all my research, I am sure I couldn’t written in better than Rajee herself. I quote the information stated on facebook page for the group.

“Seawoods Lake is located in Navi Mumbai … which is the city neighbouring the financial capital of India … Mumbai.The entire creek surrounding this general geographic area is house to the most endangered mangroves … the government of India has today in effect stringent regulations to protect these mangroves.As you come up the Thane creek … please look at Seawoods lake (wikimapia.org) located very near the panvel creek … divided only by a abandoned manmade road … this lake is not considered a part of the mangroves and suddenly dumpers have started to fill this lake with debri from other construction sites … looking at the sudden drop in water levels … it is very obvious the water is being drained out .This lake is the backdrop of a school … and houses many wildlife species … including the migratory pelicans and flamingos at certain times of the year(like right now) … The Navi mumbai authorities are undertaking major projects in collaboration with NGO’s to save and protect the wetlands and the mangroves … also located close by is the office of the Konkan Commissioner … also working towards the protection of the mangroves … but somehow protection of this lake is becoming a case of … ‘slip through the cracks’ … Help us save this lake … it is part of the mangroves … it is the first line of defence for the local geographic area which is anyways a metre below sealevel. Incase of a repeat of a deluge tragedy like 26/7 this area would be a major disaster area in the absence of these mangroves … irrespective of whereyou are located geographically … let us all come together to prevent an ecological and environmental disaster.The authorities concerned need their attention drawn to this issue so that they take the urgent steps needed to save this lake .The mangroves are in danger if this lake is allowed to be drained away.Our belief and faith in our institutions and authorities keeps alive a flicker of hope.
By joining this group you will prove that protection of our environment is of utmost urgency … we don’t need scientist to warn us time and again … deepdown we all know.The polar caps are melting … sea levels are rising … tsunamis are no longer stuff of sci-fi movies…. the rains are diappearing … winters are shorter or lost in many parts … rainforests are diappearing … what more.
Help save this lake its part of our environment …our Earth … lets mend our ways … one step at a time… this may be our only chance … we haven’t yet got another place to go.”


Significant milestones for this Project:

  • Member strength on facebook: As on Dec 20th 2009 – 175 (More the merrier – Its for a cause – Join in)
  • An article in  the Mid Day : HERE:  Cry for me, Copenhagen             
Image source: the article
  • Hindustan Times mentioned the Signature Campaign started to save the lake. (participants- 600 residents)
Image source : Seawood lake Group on Facebook

Group Admin Rajee Sood updates the Facebook wall with the latest for all of us to feel the connection to this project orrespetive of where you live. Please do let me know if you are from the media or know someone in the media (in mumbai or elsewhere) and can help the project.