please the bees

outside my front door

It’s National Pollinators Week! Unfortunately, honey bees aren’t doing so well– their habitat is shrinking, parasites and disease are rampant, and they’re exposed to harmful pesticides. Two things you can do:

1. Find native, bee-friendly plants for your garden (or a pot). “Old-fashioned” varieties are best–some modern blooms have lost their fragrance and/or the nectar/pollen that attracts and feeds pollinators.

2. Pesticides that are really harmful to bees have special labels on them, so follow the instructions if you have to use them. Or don’t use them at all!

I’m going to celebrate by eating some honey.

carbon offsets 101

photo by jan kopriva

Hearing more about carbon offsets these days and need some background info?

Basically, it means if you create carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas- one way (say you fly a lot), you make up for it another way (you might plant a bunch of trees. A bunch.). Some popular offset projects include:

  • carbon capture: equipment that captures gases before they’re released at places with high emissions, like landfills and mines
  • forestry: planting trees or protecting old ones (I forgot about the oldies!)
  • using more efficient stoves: mostly a focus in developing countries
  • renewable energy: wind turbines and hydroelectric dams, but also individuals’ solar panels and biogas digesters (do you have yours yet?)

national what day?

Did you know that today is National Arbor Day? (Apparently States choose their own days depending on the best planting time- our is in September.)

According to a Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Trees are great windbreaks and soil conservers, air purifiers, wildlife habitats (both dead and alive), and shade providers (aka the foes of urban heat islands). Oh, and the ones in your yard can increase property values and decrease your AC bills.

Evergreen, fruit, nut or just a regular ole tree, the choice is yours. And yes, a miniature lemon tree on your balcony counts!

earth day pick up

Most people walk by trash on streets, athletic fields, in the woods- if they even notice it. Swedish folks actually  have a word for jogging while collecting trash, called plogging (plocka upp means “to pick up” in Swedish, apparently).

Invite friends and family to join you on a trash walk today (or any day- we’re going this weekend). If you gross out at the thought of scooping up disposable masks and food wrappers, start with plastic bottles and aluminum cans, which are also easy to recycle.

It’s easy, and makes an instant difference. Happy Earth Day!

high five, baby!

photo by viktor nikolaienko

April 16  is National High-five Day, so give yourself some skin for all the green steps you’ve taken in the past year. I know someone who is so environmentally conscious that every move she makes is carefully weighed. Her eco-amazingness makes me feel kind of… pathetic. Ever feel like that?

Stop comparing yourself to others (I’m telling myself this too). It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many environmental choices we’re faced with every day. No one is perfect, so focus on progress instead.

Celebrate your accomplishments, both big and small, and remember that you’re not alone in trying to do your best, one step at a time! High five!

when size matters

which of these three do you want in your house?

Are you tired of lugging (and storing) huge plastic bottles of laundry detergent? And then tossing that chunk of plastic when it’s empty? You have options. Pods are smaller, but still contain plastic and can be pricey. We use concentrated detergent- you get the same number of washes from a much smaller bottle. (hint: measure so you don’t use more than you need.) But a friend just introduced me to detergent sheets (where have I been?). They dissolve in the wash and you’re left with a slim cardboard envelope. A quick search shows I can’t buy them locally but they’re available online. I look forward to the extra space in my cabinet!

change three ways

For a quick upgrade replace the bulbs in your 3-way light fixtures with LEDs to reduce energy use by up to 90%. Check out the label to make sure the “brightness” and “light appearance” are what you want. Also- speaking from experience- make sure the bulb fits in your lamp before you buy it. Then sit back and forget about it: LEDs last up to 50,000 hours. Easy peasy!

false consensus

Does your energy bill compare your total use to other homes nearby? Energy companies are correcting for a behavior called the “false consensus effect.”  Basically, it’s when you think your behavior must be what everyone else does, so that makes it ok. An example is keeping the house so warm in the winter that you wear shorts. By showing people that their energy use is higher than others, energy companies have significantly reduced energy consumption.  

photo by colin behrens

This effect applies to other issues too, like water use, poaching, dumping, and even picking up dog poop. So by letting people know about your environmentally friendly behaviors, you can fight false consensus too!

watching paint dry

photo by david waschbuesch

DYK over half the stuff brought to household hazardous waste events could just stay at home? We’re talking latex paint. Dry it out and it can go in your regular trash. (Stir cat litter into the paint until it thickens and won’t pour.) If you have just a little left, open the can and let the paint air dry.

Other options: give the paint to a community center, charity, or school. (Would they take my rotten melon and school bus yellow colors?). Or save it for later. Properly sealed and stored, latex paint can last up to 10 years.  

FYI: Oil-based or spray paint don’t harden and should be taken to that hazardous waste event.

receipt deceit

photo by andrew ilus

DYK that store, hotel & library receipts, airline & movie tickets are technically recyclable? But you might want to think twice. Most are a thermal paper that prints using heat and chemicals (which is why they discolor in a hot car). The paper is currently coated in bisphenol A  (BPA), which is potentially harmful to kids and pregnant women. To test for BPA, scratch the receipt with a fingernail or coin to see if it discolors. The BPA could end up in our recycled paper products. So throw them away and choose an electronic receipt (or none at all) when you can.