Topic: Environmental Tips

How to Green Your Cup of Joe

Posted on October 7, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

In the US, 83% of adults drink coffee, averaging three cups a day, or 587 million cups.

To “green” your coffee drinking, ditch the disposable cups.  Opt for a reusable mug.  Bonus points if you choose a mug made of ceramic or stainless steel instead of plastic.

Next, buy coffee that carries the fair trade certification.  That means in return for providing good working conditions and just wages, producers get paid more, and when farmers get paid more they will produce less and that means more land is preserved.

Choose 100% Arabica beans, which are shade grown.  That means the coffee comes from plantations with the tree canopy and associated biodiversity still intact.

Finally, cheap coffee might be less expensive, but the same can’t be said of its effects on farmers and the environment, which often take the brunt of the cost in the form of exploitation and deforestation. Shoulder some of the financial burden, and avoid buying coffee from inexpensive sources.

Expose Children to Nature

Posted on September 28, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

One of the best ways to teach kids to be responsible stewards of the planet is to expose them to all nature has to offer.  Because of busy schedules, safety concerns, and changing demographics, most children can’t wander around forests and meadows the way they did a generation or two ago.  It may require advance planning, but let kids get a chance to hike on a trail, skip stones in a creek, or hunt for bugs and worms. You don’t need to spend lots of money or travel far; enjoy adventures like a backyard campout or a scavenger hunt whenever the weather warrants.

Jump in and learn a bit more by taking advantage of the many programs McHenry County organizations have to offer, and get ready to explore and learn about the unique natural beauty of our area.  Follow up with discoveries in your own neighborhood and get into the many parks and trails to search out and find the special characteristics and beauty of the prairies, waterways, animals and flora of our county and state.

Have fun, and enjoy the outdoors!

Butterflies: Not Just a Pretty Face

Posted on September 8, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

Butterflies (and moths) are indicators of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems. Areas rich in butterflies are rich in other invertebrates (insects and worms) as well.  These collectively and in a wide variety provide a range of environmental benefits, including pollination and natural pest control.  They are also an important element of the food chain and are prey for birds and bats that help keep the balance in the animal world.

Butterflies are also widely used by ecologists as model organisms to study the impact of habitat loss and fragmentation, including climate change.  Even the smallest of animals can reveal how our habits influence the changes in  environmental world.

Food Waste: What to Do? Composting Still the Best

Posted on September 2, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

The global-warming virtues of composting were confirmed by none other than InSinkErator. They commissioned a study of sewage-treatment and food-waste-disposal methods and found that while some super-efficient sewage treatment plants eliminate greenhouse gas emissions while producing surplus energy, few systems beat composting—even when factoring in the emissions from hauling away and processing curbside compost.

However, if you can’t compost (vegetable, fruit and plant based waste) use the in-sink disposal. The amount of water needed to deal with in-sink disposal is negligible and controllable in the big scheme of things. The worst method is tossing food waste in the garbage.   Landfilling (which includes hauling) releases almost twice as much global-warming gas as treating sewage and six times more than composting.  U.S. residents dump 34.6 million tons of food waste annually into landfills, which accounts for almost one-fifth of all U.S. methane emissions.

Water Deserves Respect

Posted on August 25, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

Droughts aren’t usually supercharged disasters like the monster typhoon that just smashed the Philippines. And they don’t compare with Superstorm Sandy, which unstoppably flooded the East Coast last fall. Droughts are only noticeable in extreme cases such as in California. But think about it. Droughts don’t demolish buildings; they just cremate growing things.
Water is incredibly precious, and the Earth has only a fixed, limited amount of it. We can’t live without it. Literally.
Americans use about 100 gallons of fresh water per day at home. But millions of people in poorer countries survive on less than five gallons, and women in such places walk an average of 3.7 miles to fetch water. To put things in perspective, have that thought in your mind as the water flows from the spigot in your home.

Recycle – YES!

Posted on August 18, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

Recycle – YES! But to make a bigger and healthier impact on our environment, reduce and reuse first which keeps more stuff out of the landfill and reduces waste disposal costs. The challenge then becomes to reduce recycling as much as possible.

When making a purchase, consider how much of the container and packaging could be eliminated by reuse, and resist goods that have lots of extraneous packaging. Use reusable shopping bags, aluminum refillable drinking containers and bring your own container for leftovers.   Say “no” to straws and Styrofoam and say “yes” to composting. Once produced, plastic and Syrofoam stay on the earth forever, so begin by being conscious of how much is used in the first place. Then, FINALLY, it’s time to recycle.

Switch Off for a Day

Posted on August 18, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

For one day or one afternoon or even one hour a week, don’t buy anything, don’t use any machines, don’t switch on anything electric, don’t cook, don’t answer your phone, and, in general, don’t use any resources. In other words, for this regular period, give yourself and the planet a break.

Every hour per week that you live no impact cuts your carbon emissions by 0.6 percent annually. Commit to four hours per week and that’s 2.4 percent.  Do it for a whole day each week to cut your impact by 14.4 percent a year.  See how it feels to switch “off” for a day, and you may just enjoy it, and at the same time, raise your awareness about the impact our actions have on our planet while making a positive contribution.

“Earth Overshoot Day” landed on August 13th in 2015 – “Global overshoot occurs when humanity’s annual demand for the goods and services that our land and seas can provide—fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton for clothing, and carbon dioxide absorption—exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can renew in a year.”

Paper or Plastic? Neither, BYOBag!

Posted on July 8, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

Start a habit you’ll be proud to flaunt: remember your own bags every time you go to the store. It’s one simple way to go green in your daily life. And when people see you’re making the right choice, they’re more likely to do it, too.

Some paper & plastic statistics

  • Each year the United States consumes 30 billion plastic and 10 billion paper grocery bags, requiring 14 million trees and 12 million barrels of oil.
  • The pulp and paper industry is the 2nd largest industrial user of energy in the U.S.
  • More than 46,000 pieces of plastic contaminate each square mile of our oceans.
  • Only 1% of plastic bags are recycled annually nationwide.

So the question is, paper or plastic? And the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County say the answer is neither. Instead – BYOB – bring your own bag.

Coal Tar Sealants are risky for our health and our children’s health, and here’s why.

Posted on May 20, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

Coal Tar Sealants are risky for our health and our children’s health, and here’s why.  They contain up to 35 percent coal tar pitch, partially refined waste from steelmaking that is a known carcinogen.  Among the chemicals of concern in the products are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which not only pose a cancer risk, but can trigger developmental problems and impair fertility, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Consider that most playgrounds and driveways, places where our children play, are paved then sealed on a regular basis.  Acting to make a healthier choice is easy.  Local home good stores sell sealant that does not contain coal tar, and service providers have alternatives as well.  Simply request that a no coal tar sealant be used. Advocate at your school for a healthier alternative, and praise when a safe alternative is chosen.

More Bicycles, Please – And Safe Roads Too

Posted on May 13, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

Switching to a bike can be a rewarding change in the way you travel.  As environmentalists we know that using a bicycle for transport can improve your health and fitness, remove the stress of driving, save you money and reduce fuel use.  So if you already cycle to work, increase the number of times you ride.  Even if you can’t ride everywhere, you can replace some car trips with bicycle rides and still save.  Save money and energy, get where you’re going and exercise at the same time, and reduce pollution.

Can’t ride your bike for travel?   Simply ride for pleasure.  And if having more options in travel, including bicycling, is important to you, learn about “Complete Streets” planning.   Sign the “Complete Streets Petition” which you can find at the McHenry County Bicycle Advocates website  or look for them at fairs and events as well.  If you haven’t signed, put it on your “to do” list.

But most importantly, let you legislatures know you want more options for travel.  Write letters, talk and take action to make transportation planning in our county more than about moving goods and commuters.  Having more options to move about in our world and having safe routes and roadways is important for all people and how they travel.  We’re talking children, seniors, walkers, runners, day workers, night workers, shoppers, commuters, caregivers, train riders, bus riders, and on and on.   There’s a way to plan so all of us can get around, and having a choice with safe travel routes takes advance planning.  Communicate your values to your elected representatives.

http://www.mcbicycleadvocates.org/aboutjoin.html