Blog Posts by Diane MacEachern

  • Organic Beer Tastes Good!

    Stonemill-organic-beer-lgIf you've been waiting for organics to add some bounce to the beers you drink, wait no longer. Many micro-breweries and even some of the major beer bottlers have jumped on the environmental bandwagon, giving you lots of eco-friendly choices in pubs, restaurants, and local liquor stores (which is where I recently found an organic beer infused with organic, fair trade coffee -- I kid you not).

    Organic beer is made the same way any beer is made, but under USDA standards at least 95 percent of its ingredients - usually barley and hops- must be grown without pesticides. Greenopia recently used a comprehensive set of criteria to rate the environmental impact of 15 of the largest breweries in the world. New Belgium Brewery, which sources its packaging locally and uses only organic ingredients, received the highest rating. Eel River was a close second, thanks not only to the organic ingredients they use in their beer but also the biogas they use to run their company.

    Large breweries

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  • House Cleaning? Use a Fly Swatter, Not a Sledge Hammer

    Sledgehammer The way we're being told to clean our homes these days, you'd think we were all living in breeding grounds for small pox, typhoid fever, leprosy, or some other awful disease that practically kills on contact.

    We're not.

    We ARE living in a world that we share with billions of "germs," most of which are perfectly harmless. In fact, many doctors believe that living with germs keeps us healthier by helping us build up a resistance to their ill effects.

    Wve report This perspective seems to be routinely ignored by the cleaning products industry. A report by Women's Voices for the Earth, a non-profit Montana-based research group, investigates the link between toxic chemicals found in disinfectants and human health. Disinfectant Overkill: How Too Clean May Be Hazardous To Our Health analyzes the impact of "cleansers" that commonly contain chlorine bleach, ammonia, triclosan and other anti-bacterials, ammonium quarternary compounds, and nano-silver. Their conclusion?

    "Some of the most

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  • Recycle Your Clothes? It's Easier Than You Think.

    Patagonia vestYou've probably been recycling your clothes for years, though you may not think of it that way. But every time you donate your worn shoes, outdated dresses, and old blouses to the Salvation Army or Goodwill, each time you sell your used sweaters at a yard sale or give your kids' too-small T-shirts and shorts to the toddlers next door, you're extending the life of your attire and forestalling the need to manufacture anew, saving energy, water, and other resources.

    Your effort is worthwhile. Clothes and shoes take up more space than any other nondurable goods in the solid waste stream because, says the U.S. EPA, only 16% of discarded clothes and shoes are recycled. Despite the best efforts of charities and thrift stores, millions of tons of clothing are wasted every year.

    My rule of thumb? "Never throw clothes away unless they've been reduced to rags" (though that's when I use them to dust the furniture). Charities like Salvation Army, Good Will and Purple Heart will gladly

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  • Can You Recycle Your Car?

    Junked carJunked carRecycling metal cans and plastic bottles may be routine in many households, but what should you do with an old car you can't really re-sell? Before you contact the junk yard, consider this:

    Manufacturing a car creates pollution you probably never thought about. Extracting and transporting the raw materials that go into components like seats and the steering wheel generates twenty-nine tons of solid waste and 1,207 million cubic yards of air emissions. In fact, while the majority of pollution is generated by driving, a third is incurred in car manufacture. Disposing of tires, lead-acid batteries, air conditioners, upholstery, and other materials adds to the trash pile, reports Katie Alvord in "Divorce Your Car: Ending the Love Affair with the Automobile." (Photo credit)

    Manufacturers are taking notice by increasing the amount of recycled materials they weave into new-car production:

    * Ford Motor Company integrated recycled material into the cloth seating of the 2008 Escape.

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  • Is the iPad just more e-waste?


    The Apple iPad has finally hit stores and consumers were snatching them up all weekend. When Apple debuted the much-awaited gadget back in January, one of the first attributes founder Steve Jobs touted was the gadget's eco-friendly specs. But how "green" can an electronic device like this really be?

    Greenpeace recently released its analysis of electronics manufacturers: Nokia and Sony Ericsson came out way ahead of the pack; Apple didn't fare nearly as well. This excellent review from Inhabitat details the plusses and minuses of Apple's overall approach to sustainability.

    As for the iPad, we like that it contains no arsenic, mercury, PVC, or BFR (brominated flame retardant), nasty toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other human health problems. Jobs also claims the iPad is "highly recyclable" and features an energy-saving battery that can run for 10 hours on a single charge. That's all good.

    On the other hand, the gadget plays into a larger environmental problem:

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  • Stay-At-Home Mom Shifts $1,600 of Household Budget to Protect the Environment and Her Family

    Erin Peters knows a thing or two about "green" shopping.

    Erin 2 The stay-at-home mother of three young boys lives with her family in Raleigh, North Carolina. She writes The Conscious Shopper blog, where her motto is "Go Green. Live Better. Save Money." She's also the newest member of our One in a Million campaign, joining almost 5,000 other folks who have shifted at least $1,000 of their household budgets to the greenest products and services available.

    One thousand dollars sounds like a lot of money. But since we're talking about shifting our spending, rather than adding to what we already spend, it's something most of us can afford. Plus, if a million people do it, we could send a message worth a billion dollars to manufacturers that we want them to make our health and the environment a priority. Here's how Erin made the shift:

    Every month I spend about $600 on local and/or organic groceries for my family of five. Over the past year, I've also spent:

    $400 on a winter CSA

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  • Why Climate Change Matters to Women

    Solutions to climate change are usually discussed in terms of what's best for business or politics. But what about what's best for those who have the most to lose as climate change worsens: namely, women, especially those living in the poorest regions of the world?

    Climateconnections_graphic A new report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) says that "women are disproportionately vulnerable to environmental changes." The statistics speak for themselves:

    * Women and children are 14 times more likely to die than men during natural disasters (like heat waves, droughts, and hurricanes -- all of which are direct consequences of climate change).

    * Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in 2005, predominantly affected African-American women, who were already the region's poorest, most disadvantaged community.

    * An estimated 87% of unmarried women and almost 100% of married women lost their livelihoods when a cyclone hit

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  • Eco-Friendly Greeting Cards

    Sending electronic greeting cards is definitely the greenest way to go, but there are times when nothing will do but an "old fashioned" paper card. Fortunately, you have a nice variety of environmentally-friendly choices.

    Recycled Paper:

    When buying paper cards, search out options made from recycled paper printed with soy-based inks. Ideally, the card would be made from 100 percent post-consumer waste. Look for specific recycled content on the back of the card, not just the recycling symbol, which could simply mean the card is recyclable. Also look for cards made from bamboo, elephant dung (no kidding!) and other kinds of paper-free materials.

    Tiny Prints cards are made from 30 percent post consumer waste or paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

    Hallmark's Shoebox line is printed on recycled paper, but only with a minimum of 20 percent recycled fiber - not a standout in the recycled card line, but better than no recycled content if you don't have another

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  • "Practically Green" Offers Simple Steps to an Environmental Lifestyle

    If you still haven't figured out how to live with the environment in mind, pick up a copy of Micaela Preston's cheerful new book, Practically Green: Your Guide to Ecofriendly Decision-Making.

    Practically green book cover Then keep this handy guide on your desk or in your purse, backpack or briefcase -- anywhere you might find yourself in need of some to-the-point guidance on what to do or buy.

    After a short introduction, the book breaks out into six chapters: Eating, Living, Cleaning, Caring, Wearing and Conserving. Each section brims with "how to" tips, product reviews, and suggestions that will save you money. Keeping you and your family healthy is also top of mind for Micaela, who writes the delightful Mindful Momma blog and has two boys to try her many ideas out on!

    You'll particularly like Practically Green if you're the do-it-yourself type. Got any old sweaters lying around? Check out Micaela's "recipe" for felted wool coasters made from recycled sweaters. Want to make your own body care

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  • How "Organic" Is Organic Dry Cleaning?

    Organic drycleaners Are "organic" dry cleaners popping up in your neighborhood?

    Are they legit, or another greenwashing scam? Here's the low-down:

    What Makes A Dry Cleaner Green?

    It's not PERC.

    Just because a dry cleaner claims to be "organic" doesn't mean it's free of toxic chemicals. That's because, scientifically speaking, any chemical is considered to be organic if it contains carbon. So even cleaners that use a solvent like perchloroethylene (PERC), which has been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a probable human carcinogen, can claim to be organic. An ad for "green" dry cleaners doesn't necessarily mean much, either, since there is no standard definition for what makes cleaning green.

    Hydrocarbon solvents are in the same boat. Hydrocarbon solvents are petroleum-based, says Sierra Club, and contribute to greenhouse gases by emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Solvents to avoid are: DF2000, PureDry, EcoSolve, Shell Solution 140 HT and Stoddard.

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