Thursday, August 28, 2008

Challenge #15: Filtering your water

Filter water to avoid buying bottled waterWe live in an old house that still has a few lead pipes carrying the incoming domestic water (like the one coming from the street), and thus consider filtering our water a necessity. We have been using a Brita system for several years. The last time our filter timed out, we decided to try one that mounts directly on the kitchen faucet.

Our first faucet-mounted filter (the one on the left in the accompanying photo) was quite bulky, and occupied too much space under the tap, making it hard to wash pots and pans. It is also a completely disposable, one-time-use model. The whole thing needs to go to the landfill after it's ~one year of service.

When this filter ran out, I went to buy another and saw this new model at the store. The filter is housed to the left of the tap, instead of beneath. The biggest advantage is that the white part, the mount and the two taps, is reusable, and only the silver filter part needs to be disposed of. This filter is also superior to the old model in that our water pressure is still strong coming out of either the unfiltered or the filtered side. It also has two spray styles for the unfiltered water, one is more like the spray hose.

I drink water from this filter not only at home but also whenever I leave the house - I fill up a reusable water container and take it with me. So, even though I am using a filter that is not recyclable, I am not buying bottled water when I am out and about.

When this filter was expiring, I briefly looked into other filtering systems, but cost or space requirements proved to be the limiting factor for us. I do feel, however, that I made the greenest choice that will work for us.

Minimize wasteChoose household items on factors such as REusable parts and component REcyclability.

Green water filtersto anyone who gets a ceramic filtering system - I wish I could!


Monday, August 25, 2008

Challenge 14: Rechargeable Batteries

Almost 2 years ago, I bought my first digital camera, right before going abroad.

Now that you have stopped laughing at me, let me tell you about the batteries.

My camera uses two double A batteries at a time. I invested in a package of rechargeable batteries that came with a charger. Through my three weeks in Taiwan, I didn’t have to buy any batteries (always marked up at the touristy places).

Now I have about 10 batteries. I’ve noticed that a few of the sets don’t last in the camera as long as they used to, particularly when using the flash.

Last week, my wireless mouse started acting a little sluggish, and I figured it was the batteries dying. I took out the old non-reusable heavy metal waste-containing batteries, and stuck in that rechargeable pair that is too old for flash photography.

REcycle used batteriesThe mouse is working fine, and when it starts to get tired, I can just charge up the batteries.

One thing I have to remember is to unplug the charger when the batteries are all charged up, so I don’t waste any electricity.

Once my batteries don’t hold a charge, I will find a place to recycle them properly, along with the collection of non-reusable dead batteries that I have.

Rechargeable batteries are REUSABLERechargeable batteries help to reduce the use of heavy metals.

REcycle worn-out batteriesRecycle all used batteries.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Challenge 13: Buy Used

Secondhand Reading NookAs the summer heat starts to break, I am looking forward to an increase in local yard and estate sales. These kind of sales are great places to pick up used home goods. I like to buy solid things such as furniture, glassware and dishes, and books.

I love the retro look that you can easily and inexpensively achieve through buying second-hand.

The best thing about buying glassware at an estate sale is that people often stored their best stemware or dishes in a china cabinet and rarely used it because it was "too nice". These finds are in perfect shape and a true steal for someone in the secondary market, like me.

I look for local sales in the newspaper, on craigslist, and by just biking between the advertised sales and following street signs. I bike to sales for several reasons: it's fun and exercise for me, saves gas, and it keeps me from buying too much!

Buy UsedReusing second-hand materials decreases the use of primary resources (often mined from the earth or cut from a forest) and saves the energy that would otherwise be used in the manufacturing process.

hand-me-downsFor anyone who holds a yard sale or donates items that they no longer want and keeps their old 'stuff' out of the landfill!


Monday, August 18, 2008

Challenge 12: Make Sun Tea

Sun Tea uses Solar Energy
I hope to enjoy the remaining summer days with an endless supply of sun tea. While the days are still long and the sun is still intense, I set out a glass jar with water and a few tea bags right before mid-day. The sun can make tea in a few hours with zero carbon emissions.

My favorite sun tea uses fresh mint leaves from my garden. After less than half day in the sun, I have minty-fresh water that tastes great when I add a bit of sugar and stick it in the fridge.

This costs me nothing and uses no energy, save for putting it in the fridge. I pre-cool my tea by adding a few ice cubes, so that the fridge doesn’t need to work so hard.

Harness the Power of the SunThis REDUCES my overall use of electricity or gas, since the sun is heating the water. That little glass jug is a great way to harness solar power without any fancy equipment.

Use the sun to cookFor other adventures in sun-cooking.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Challenge 11: Drink Milk - From Reusable Jugs

I grew up in the rural part of Pennsylvania. Near our borough, there was a dairy that milked their cows, and pasteurized and bottled their milk on site. We drove to ‘the milk store’ once every other week, with a cooler in the car, to pick up our milk. Needless to say, with milk like that, I was a big milk-drinker.

I went away to college, and poured some watery white stuff on my cereal, and didn’t drink too many glasses of the stuff. On one trip home, anticipating a nice glass of milk, I found a plastic jug in my parent’s fridge. Sadly, the dairy couldn’t make it anymore, and stopped bottling their own milk and started selling to another company. If only they had been able to hold on another few years.

Reusable glass milk jugsThe use of re-fillable glass bottles in the dairy industry is seeing a resurgence. In the St Louis area, there are two local dairies that supply not only stores such as Whole Foods, but also the local ‘regular’ grocery stores, and my favorite locavore depot, Local Harvest Grocery. Basically, at any store from which I buy groceries, I can buy milk in a re-fillable glass bottle.

The store charges me a bottle deposit fee. This helps to ensure the return and reuse of the bottle. My husband and I joke that it’s our saving account, as we often forget to take the bottles back with us. Our last trip to return bottles, to one of the dairy’s stores, resulted in us paying 47 cents for two ice cream sundaes, because our bottle return was so ‘profitable’. See, savings account.

Buying milk in glass bottles also helps keep farms smaller, and accountable. The milk is labeled with their family name, not a generic store label. The dairy is also directly selling to the store, eliminating the middleman.

Glass bottles also do not leach chemicals into the milk and produce no off-flavors (think milk in wax cartons). The dairy collects them when they make a delivery to the store, wash and sterilize them and re-fill them at the dairy, likely very close to where the cows are milked. Yes, this takes energy, but reusing is better than recycling.

Hopefully, there is a dairy near you producing and selling milk in glass bottles. Make sure to buy re-fillable glass bottles, as that is more environmentally friendly than bottles that are only recyclable. If it’s not available in your area, be sure to let the store manager know.

Now if only the soda industry would return to this practice, as they still do in foreign countries.

Dairies Using Glass Bottles for Milk in US

REduce Packaging and Reuse materialsSelecting the most environmentally friendly packaging should be part of my criteria for purchasing food, to REDUCE waste and to select containers that are REUSABLE.

Environmental decisions in everyday lifeTo anyone who helps to bring milk to their area stores in re-usable glass milk jugs.
I hope to get a few green bonus points for myself by visiting the one dairy soon to see their operation.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Challenge #10: Take-Out and Delivery

About once every two weeks or so, we don't feel like cooking and we don't feel like going "out." We opt for take-out or delivery. I've noticed that the restaurant often includes plastic silverware and paper napkins. If we are getting delivery to our own house, don't ya think we have utensils and napkins?

Make food delivery greenI prefer to use real "silverware" and my "good" cloth napkins, so we usually don't use their disposable items anyway. Next time I order take out, I will request no plastic utensils or napkins.

I will also ask Chinese restaurants not to include soy or mustard sauce, as the soy sauce we have at home is much better and less salty, and we never use theirs. We save all this stuff in a drawer, just in case we ever need it. Well, I did need it for this photo...

I am aware that the biggest problem with take-out is often the packaging. A few of the places we order from have recyclable containers, such as a #1 for the soup. I think I will also try to ask the restaurants to use recyclable containers if they have them. I will note, and keep ordering from, those take-out places that use the most environmentally-sound packaging. Maybe the restaurants will also respond to these questions from customers like me and start their own shift to recyclable packaging. This is change at the grassroots level!

Along these lines, may I suggest that any of my readers who regularly buy take-out coffee purchase a refillable travel mug and keep those coffee cups out of the landfill!

Green Mantra I will save the planetSelecting restaurants based not only on their food but also on their packaging will help increase the amount of recycling that I do!

environmentally friendly decisionsto anyone who can help get restaurants to change their packaging.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Challenge #9: Paying Bills Online

A few years ago I started a bank account at a bank that has an online feature to pay bills. I have found this service to be convenient, secure and timely. The best thing, I save money and paper: on checks, stamps, return address labels and envelopes. Every bill I have gets paid online.

About 8 years ago, I had tried receiving and paying bills online. At this time, I had to go out to each company’s website, download the statement, and pay the bill on their site. It was a terrible system to try to use that was stressful and time-consuming, and I messed up or missed quite a few payments. I gave up and went back to paper bills for everything, although I still paid many bills online.

With the current system, you can actually get the bills downloaded into your bank account. I am going to try this with my utility bills, as I don't worry about unknown charges on these bills.

I am not ready to try this yet with my credit cards, as I like to look at each charge to be sure it is legitimate. But, I will start with the bills that I can and start reducing the amount of paper I receive in my mailbox.

Be green reduce you mail By receiving and paying my bills through the exchange of bytes instead of mail, I will REDUCE the amount of paper that is used by my household.

Save paper and petition for Do Not Mail to anyone who can decrease teh amount fo junk mail that they receive. Try to find some tips and to sign a petition to instate a nation "Do Not Mail" registry.


Friday, August 1, 2008

A Tour Around the GreenUP Challenge Blog

If you visit this blog at the main site (as opposed to reading feeds), you may have noticed that I recently adding some new features. I wanted to point out some of these, both for those of you who are new to "web 2.0" and to entice those who use a feed reader to come visit the site!

Leave Comments

I have changed the settings to allow anonymous comments, at the risk of getting slammed by spammers. If I see an increase in comments from my readers, I will continue to allow anon. comments, which means you won't have to login to Blogger or have an account. So, if you want to leave comments, here's your chance- and do it so that I know you want the service!

The Side Bar
On the left, under the "Archives" and "About me" are three links that help to promote this blog. I want people to read this blog so that I can share ideas on easy things they can do (heck- even I can do them) to bring a little green into their life. And, it helps my ego!
  1. Plurk is a social media site that allows real-time conversations to take place with other users from around the world. It is a cross between the more-famous twitter and the old discussion forums. It is certainly not for everyone, but check out my page to see if you like it.
  2. Stumble Upon is a site that allows you to recommend pages to other users. It requires you to have an account, but I really like it for true take-me-anywhere web surfing, but with filters for your interests (like "environment" or "science"). If you like my pages, be sure to "Stumble" them! Here's a link to pages that I have enjoyed or learned from and then Stumbled!
  3. This link is the social bookmarkers best friend: Social Media It gives you quick access to the most common website bookmarking and sharing pages, like FaceBook.
The next set of buttons are there to make your consumption of the GreenUP Challenge blog easier: they give you an easy way to subscribe to the blog and to stay up-to-date with the comments to blog posts, so that you can follow along in the conversation. The conversation that happens in the comments following a post is one of the really great things about blogging - for both me, the writer, and you, the reader.

Under Links and Blogs are webpages that I have found that do a better job than I at explaining green issues and advising you on how to be green. I will add more as I find them.

That little merit badge is from a site that offset 350 lbs of carbon just by me putting it on my blog! How easy is that? Go check out their page when you've got a second.

At the very bottom of the sidebar is a box labeled "Site Sponsors." These are advertisers that I select because I think they offer products that may offer green alternatives to an item or service.

The companies I have on there now include a book and audio book rental company and a camping equipment rental company. I could see the book rental company being good for anyone who lives in a rural area that does not have a library. For myself, I love to buy books, even though I know it is not the greenest choice. Would renting books that aren't available at my library be a greener choice? As for the camping and outdoor equipment, I think this is a great idea! We bought a tent a few years ago, and I think we've used it once (I can't really count the practice set-ups in the yard, right?). They also rent GPS units, so now I can take part in geocaching, if I ever get the chance!

Please keep you eye on this box, and hopefully I've picked green ideas for you to check out. If anyone knows of an affiliate program that offers green companies, please let me know. The program I am using now has limited choices. I am also trying to get a company that sells fair trade coffee. Check back here in a few days and the ad should be up.

Within each Post
Within each post are several useful buttons or links, after the "content" of the post.

  1. The bookmarking link is here again, if you want to specifically bookmark or share the individual post.
  2. The "## comments" link is where you can talk back to me. Yes, I do want your 2 cents worth. Just click here for a pop-up window that allows you to join in on the GreenUP Conversation.
  3. The next button is for sharing the post with your friends via email. Don't worry, I won't get their address or anything, so share if you like.
  4. The "Links to the Post" will show you any comments and any references of my post on another blog.
  5. The Labels are descriptors that I add to each post. If you wanted to find similar topics within my blog, these labels allow you to easily sort my posts by topic.
That's all folks!
I hope that you have enjoyed the tour around the GreenUP Challenge blog. Blogging is fun and easy, and I hope any hesitation you've had in participating more has gone the way of x-ray machines in shoe stores or radium on watch faces. Those were bad, everyday choices that caused unnecessary harm. This blog is here to help you!

I will post later this week on another simple change that you can adopt in your own life to get that much closer to being green. I am not trying to completely remake my life over night, but to slowly add habits that I can keep up and that my family will participate in too. Comment on this post with any topics you'd like to suggest or just to introduce yourself.