March 2010

Bag Taxes Work Shockingly Well

For something that has caused so much ecological destruction, locked up so many natural resources into a non-reusable form, and plagued us all with their tendency to be filled by the clerk with either one small apple or six two-liter bottles of soda, it's turning out to be pretty easy to kick the bag habit.  Washington D.C. enacted a five cent per bag tax on plastic grocery bags in January, and plastic bag usage has declined by a whopping 50% at minimum.

It's funny how easy it is to change human behavior with economics.  The older I get, the more I wish I had gotten an Economics degree in college, because it's obviously the key to how the world works.  (English Lit, awesome as it was, clearly has a diminished influence.)  

Watch "Bag It" Documentary Free Online

"Bag It" is a fascinating short, 10-minute documentary about America's plastic grocery bag habit.  The filmmaker has posted it to the internet, so that everyone can watch it for free!  

Every year Americans use 100 BILLION plastic grocery bags once, then discard them.  Once!  All that waste and pollution from something that gets used for between ten minutes to half an hour, from the store to your kitchen.

Ecologically-Responsible Rockhounding

With the gradual shift towards nicer weather, a lot of families are looking to get outside and re-connect with the outdoors.  Rockhounding is a great way to get exercise and fresh air, spark an interest in the natural world, and provide some science learning as well.  As long as you do it right!

Searching for gems and minerals has been a fascination for people since we were people.  The earliest humans and hominids sought outcroppings of chert and other silicate stones in order to create spear points and arrow heads.  Other minerals like soapstone and jade were used to carve decorative items, like the famous Venus of Willendorf.

The Best Shampoo Isn't - Go No 'Poo!

Shampoos certainly don't improve your health (despite what the shampoo commercials would have you believe) or the planet's health, and may well be detrimental to it.  

Toxins: Shampoos and other cosmetics contain a lot of chemicals which can be harmful in long term usage.  The list includes parabens, which emerging studies are linking to increased rates of breast cancer and elevated estrogen levels.  Not to mention sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), an industrial degreaser which is actively toxic.

Heating With Firewood: Zero Carbon Footprint, But…!

I live in the Pacific Northwest, and heat exclusively with a wood stove.  (It is a cozy kind of warmth, although round about February one starts daydreaming of simply turning a dial on a thermostat.)  Several years ago after watching "An Inconvenient Truth" I ran across an interesting fact while calculating my carbon footprint: firewood as a home heating source is considered carbon neutral.

This ruling comes from the numbers of the environmental agency from which Al Gore sourced his carbon footprint statistics.  In other words, they are as reliable and reputable as one could want.  After all, Al Gore said so!

Upcycling Office Paper Into Notepads

Recycling is great, but let's raid the office recycle bin for paper you can turn into notepads!  You can spend a lot of time and money making creative notepads, but let's start simple.  All you will need is paper, scissors or a paper cutter, a bottle of Elmer's glue, cardboard or scrap wood, and either clamps or a weight.

First, you need paper!  Look for paper that has printing on only one side, and isn't crumpled, stained, or torn.  Even if your qualifications are super picky, you will still end up with a pretty good handful of paper!  

If you don't work out of a traditional office (I don't), stop by anywhere that offers copy services.  I guarantee there will be a fat recycle bin nearby, ready for the picking.  (I always ask permission before I dive in.)

Next, cut it into notepad size.  I like to cut an 8.5 x 11 sheet into quarters.