Blog Posts by Diane MacEachern

  • If you can't help the Gulf in person, send money

    Pelican-Bath-LA-06-21-10Pelican-Bath-LA-06-21-10Cleaning up the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico takes lots of hands -- and lots of money. Volunteers are needed to scrub oil off turtles and birds, scoop oil off beaches, and monitor wetlands for damage. Groups managing clean-up efforts need more financial support so they can try to minimize the terrible consequences of 60,000 gallons of oil a day being pumped into the region from the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded two months ago.

    Here's a list of groups that need your help. If you're already volunteering in person, please let us know where you're working and what you're doing.

    If you can send money, these groups sure could use it:

    Gulf Restoration Network - Sign up to volunteer or donate, and send a message to BP.

    Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund - 100 percent of all donations to the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund will be granted to organizations working tirelessly in the effected areas. Their specific focus is to help fishermen and their families in the following Louisiana

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  • Top Ten Ways to Responsibly Invest

    Green InvestingGreen InvestingWhat you buy isn't the only way to use your purse to change the world. Where you invest your money counts for a lot, and there are plenty of ways to invest that will pay social and environmental dividends on top of your earnings. Here are the top ten ways to invest your money in a socially responsible way.

    • 1. Make socially responsible investing, or SRI, a key criterion for your portfolio. Evaluate companies based on the efforts they make to reduce pollution, stop global warming, and watch over parks, wilderness and wildlife. These "socially responsible" companies will also demonstrate respect for human rights and a strong commitment to their community. You can learn more about social investing from Green America.
    • 2. Earmark a percentage of your investments for SRI. If you're hesitant to make your entire portfolio 100% "SRI," commit to a percentage you feel comfortable with each quarter and gradually increase it as you watch its performance over time.
    • 3.
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  • Eco-Friendly Paint Keeps You & the Planet Healthy

    Woman house paint

    Conventional paint contains many volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that "outgas" and escape into the air after they are applied. Indoors, these VOCs cause headaches, nausea, achey bones, and general discomfort. Outdoors, they contribute to smog and air pollution.

    Whether for indoors or out, your best bet is to buy low- or no-VOC paint. You'll find it offered by more than a dozen companies in thousands of colors and in standard eggshell, glossy, and semigloss finishes. You can also select no-VOC water-based stains, finishes, and paint stripper.

    For specific recommendations, check out the brands that have been independently certified for health and sustainabilityby Green Seal or EcoLogo.

    To get the most out of the paint you use:

    Buy only what you need. Measure carefully. It's better to go back for more than to be stuck with too much leftover paint you can't use.

    Prevent paint from drying out. Cover the paint can with plastic wrap, hammer the lid securely

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  • Mad at BP? Skip the Boycott. Stop Driving.

    Oil soaked birdOil soaked birdThe harsh reality is that BP and the rest of the oil companies drill for oil because we are willing and able to pay for it. There is no supply without demand. And Americans, who produce only 2 or 3 percent of the world's oil but consume over 20% of it, have been the demanders in chief.

    It will do absolutely no good to boycott BP if you keep buying oil and gas from someone else. BP's oil, along with everyone else's, is sold on the world market, not just to BP stations. Local gas stations are usually owned by entrepreneurs in your community, not by BP. They sell gas that comes from a variety of sources, not just their namesake. So as a consumer, even if you boycott a BP station, you're not necessarily boycotting gas produced by BP. Likewise, if you buy gas from a different station, you could be buying BP gas.

    Plus: is there any "good" gas? Are there any "good" oil companies? Is Exxon, responsible for what was previously the largest oil spill in U.S. history, better than BP? What

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  • New York Woman Shifts to Green, Saves More Than $10,000

    Our latest One in a Million member is Nancy, an Episcopal priest and practicing psychologist who lives in central New York state. The One in a Million campaign encourages people to shift $1,000 of their household budget to greener products and services. I was amazed to learn that Nancy shifted so much she actually saved more than $10,000 without feeling deprived. Here's her story.

    What inspired you to make so many "green" changes in your life? My doctoral studies were in MindBody medicine and holistic healing...which led directly to my first change: become a vegetarian(1991)-which reversed bone loss. In the intervening years I continued to study, teach courses, and give lectures and workshops on holistic healing and spirituality. My studies and workshop presentations expanded in 2005 after I learned about the known health risks associated with land fills at a meeting of the local chapter for the League of Women Voters. The local land fill had expanded despite opposition and was (and is

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  • What Do You Have in Common with Your Daughter...or Your Own Mother?

    SusanSusan The words, "You look just like your mother!" have taken on new meaning in the chemical age in which we live. According to the nonprofit research institute Environmental Working Group (EWG), we mothers pass the pollutants that have built up in our bodies along to our daughters while they are still in the womb. Consequently, our daughters begin life with a "body burden" of potentially cancer-causing chemicals that continue to accumulate throughout life.

    Chances are great that our daughters will pass on to our grandchildren some of the same chemical molecules they inherited from us. The estimated age by which a daughter will purge 99 percent of the inherited chemical varies depending on the chemical. It will take a day to excrete the phthalate plasticizers that soften up cosmetics, paint and plastics, but a year to dump mercury. Our daughters will be at least teenagers but perhaps senior citizens before they're rid of the common flame retardants and stain-proofing chemicals we

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  • Cheapest, Fastest Oil Fix? Pump Up Your Tires!

    If you have a car, stop whatever you're doing and go check the air pressure of your vehicle's tires.

    Tire_gaugeTire_gauge Apart from keeping your car in park, pumping up your tires to their proper "PSI" - pounds per square inch - is the fastest, cheapest way to reduce the amount of gasoline you use. Tires have a tendency to lose pressure over time or when the weather changes substantially; a car driving on underinflated tires needs more gas to move. You can gain 3.3% in fuel efficiency by inflating your tires. And with gasoline costing over $3/per gallon, every 3.3% gain means money in your pocket.

    That gain also affords an immediate way to increase our supply of oil. As President Obama noted in his vision for an energy independent America, i if we all pumped up our tires to their proper PSI, the U.S. could easily gain from conservation (i.e., using less fuel) three times as much oil as we could reap from far more costly and environmentally dangerous off-shore oil drilling. And that oil is

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  • How to Separate "Green" from "Greenwashing" When You Shop

    In their eagerness to cash in on consumer demand for eco-friendly products and services, many companies are calling their goods "green" despite their decidedly un-environmental qualities. When you shop, these 5 steps can help you distinguish what's green from what's being greenwashed.

    1) Read the label. Look for meaningful claims, not words like "natural" or "planet friendly" that aren't backed up by standards or third-party verification (see below). When it comes to cleansers and other household goods, avoid products labeled "caution," "warning," "danger," and "poison," all of which indicate the item is hazardous to you and the environment. Ignore products that are inherently contradictory, like "organic cigarettes," or "most energy-efficient Hummer." Leave goods boasting irrelevant claims - like something is "CFC-free," true but misleading since CFCs have been banned since the 1980s.

    FSC logo ES_Logo Usda_seal

    2) Look for third-party verification. In the absence of universal sustainable

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  • Save $20-$50 Per Month on Gasoline This Summer

    When it comes to global warming, burning less gas has always made sense. And the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has reminded us all why we need to use less oil. Now that gasoline costs almost $3.00 a gallon, reducing our consumption at the pump makes "cents," too. These ten tips offer the fastest, easiest ways you can save gas -- and money.

    1. Drive smart - Avoid quick starts and stops, use cruise control on the highway, and don't idle.

    2. Drive the speed limit - Remember - every 5 mph you drive above 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.10 per gallon for gas.

    3. Drive less - Walk, bicycle, use a scooter or moped, combine trips, and telecommute.

    4. Drive a more fuel-efficient car - Consider one of the new hybrids; at the very least, choose from among the EPA's "Fuel Economy Leaders" in the class vehicle you're considering.

    5. Keep your engine tuned up - Improve gas mileage by an average of 4.1 percent by maintaining your vehicle in top condition.

    6. Carpool -

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  • Why You Should Recycle Those Beverage Cans This Weekend

    Still wondering why you should bother recycling your aluminum cans from this weekend's Memorial Day party? Just ask Greg Wittbecker. He's the director of Corporate Metal Recycling for Alcoa and a big proponent of boosting the paltry amount the U.S. recycles (52% of cans) to 75%.

    Can_pile_2Can_pile_2 What's the big deal? Greg says it's all about energy and waste disposal. "If we could recover and recycle 75% of the aluminum cans being currently tossed into landfills - 600,000 metric tons of aluminum - we could save 1286 megawatts of generated electricity. That's the amount produced by two coal fired power plants, and consumed by two aluminum plants," says Greg. "Replacing this production with recycling would keep 11.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being generated and released into the atmosphere." It would also reduce the amount of mercury going into the environment, since power plants emit polluting mercury when they burn coal.

    Why is recycling so efficient? According to Alcoa,

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