Friday, July 26, 2013

Four Ways to Increase Sustainability in Every Day Life

Often, our perceptions of ecological and environmental issues makes sustainability seem like an overwhelming burden that can only be solved with large, systemic changes. However, if we look at sustainability from an individual perspective, we can find many ways that sustainable action can be taken in our daily lives. The fact is that little changes by many people make a big difference, even when it may seem like minuscule contributions aren't doing much. Keeping this in mind, here are some ways we can practice sustainability in our daily lives in order to help reverse environmental degradation and resource depletion.

1. Compost



Composting food scrapes is one of the biggest sustainable actions that we can take in the home, and it is an idea that has been growing in popularity for quite some time. You can actually compost quite a lot of things other than fruit and vegetable scraps, such as newspapers and used tea bags. Not only will your garbage be less full (and less stinky!), but according to the US Composting Council, composting can reduce water pollution, and reduce the need for pesticides and herbicides that harm the planet. To get started on your own compost project, you can visit StopWaste.org for ideas and instructions.

2. Reduce Waste


Another step towards personal sustainability is to stop using throwaway products like paper plates, napkins and coffee cups. Invest in some fun cloth napkins, use plastic or regular plates when camping or on picnics, and use a wash cloth in place of paper towels. By replacing these items with reusable ones can save precious natural resources, as well as reducing the amount of garbage in our landfills and dumps. Other ways to reduce in the home include using low flow shower heads and fluorescent light bulbs. This reduces your overall electrical footprint, and saves water. Energy efficient household appliances are also great ways to save money on your electrical bill, while also helping the planet.

3. Use Non-Toxic Cleaners

Have you ever thought about the household cleaner that you buy? It may be great for cleaning the bathtub, but is it toxic? If so, these chemicals may be bad for you and your family, not to mention the earth. Instead, consider making your own cleaning solutions, or even using simple products like baking soda.

Websites like eartheasy.com have many solutions for replacing those harmful toxic cleaners in your home with safer options.



4. Vote!

If you still feel like the only real change will make a difference will have to come from the government or big corporations, then do your part by voting. Read up on the federal government policies regarding sustainability, and critically asses the practices in place. Learn about the voting opportunities for sustainable measures in your local government, as well as federally. Voting with your dollar can also encourage businesses to adopt cleaner, more sustainable practices. This means not shopping at companies that you know are harming the planet, and supporting the ones that are working toward sustainability. Choosing local is always great too, because you know that your products aren't being shipped in from across the globe.



These are only a few actions that we can take in our daily lives towards sustainability. Please consider sharing your own ideas in the comments section, and start a dialog about individual sustainable action today!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Urban Farming For - and By - Everyone!

Of the many different aspects of (and opportunities for) sustainability, one of the most rewarding outlets sits within some of the most densely populated urban areas all over our planet. At some point this century half of the global population will dwell in urban areas, and - unlike many agrarian civilizations throughout history - our urban areas have and will continue to encroach and tax upon already damaged and diminished hinterland ecosystems. This presents a sizable conundrum: how do we feed the billions of urban dwellers while sustaining the surrounding ecosystems and ensuring a steady and reliable food source? The answer is, increasingly, through urban farming practices and initiatives. It starts with awareness!

Even with the advent and adoption of 'up not out' urban growth limitations a vast wasteland of opportunities and ample outlets for agricultural space exists within urban areas; roof tops, vacant lots, and even underutilized stretches of pavement may contribute to the requisite space needed for an urban farming 'plot.' Like our historical ancestors, cities of today can have their food systems closer to home, providing a sustainable and steady source of food for large urban populations while also honing agricultural practices on both a community and individual level for the betterment of society as a whole.

Greenthumbs and costly equipment need not apply to the 21st century urban farmer, either. 'Container gardens,' produced using materials ranging from wood, clay, and even discarded buckets and childrens' swimming pools, can be suitable for urban farming, while the requisite soil and nutrients required for agricultural purposes to be found at very modest and affordable prices. This beginner type of urban farming is quick, easy, and offers a multitude of benefits. 'Container gardens' teach intensive farming methods through restricted available space (something most city dwellers can relate to) which in turn educates first-time farmers on utility maximization. Confined spaces promote healthier yields through inter-cropping and the diversification of crops. As such containers prevent runoff and waste, container gardens work to teach water conservation by default. And of great importance are the inherent social benefits of urban farming which include providing agricultural education, experience, employment, and community action and empowerment to all of those involved.

As space becomes scarce, people more abundant, and ecosystems fragile, urban farming is always a viable opportunity to reward those who participate with good, quality grown food, educated empowerment, and a strong sense of what a sustainable community may look like in this sometimes hectic modern age.

*Photo Credit: www.inhabitat.com*

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Conscious Consumerism, you can do it!



Efforts such as making good choices when it comes to choosing the products you will purchase and where you go to purchase those products are important when trying to move in a more sustainable direction. Ethical consumerism is a key component to helping reduce your impact on the environment.

Everyone spends money in order to survive and when we spend our money to purchase products manufactured by companies that do not value the environment and do not take our planet nor our health into consideration when creating the things they sell, we are contributing to the destruction of our world. When shopping for good there are many different things to consider but when you pay attention to those things you are equipping yourself with the tools to live a more sustainable life, which is simply a healthier life for you and everyone and everything else. 

Becoming a conscious consumer is not so difficult in the world we live in but it does take some knowledge and initiative to get going. Things that I'm sure you've heard over and over such as "reduce, reuse, recycle"can be applied to your new and old purchases; reduce the excess purchases and put that extra money toward reducing your carbon foot print, reuse old clothes and products that are still in working condition, reuse food containers for tupperware or for miscellaneous things around the house, and recycle things that you have that can be recycled and used for something else, if you can't sell it then give it away!
 
When it comes to sustainability, it is not always easy to wrap our heads around what we can do to help. Making quality choices about the products that we purchase can make a world of difference and will eventually become second nature. I will leave you with this perfectly simple quote by Herve Kempf; "Consume less; share better."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Environment vs. Economy - Friends or Foes



Environment vs. Economy – Friends or Foes

Job-killing regulations.  We are all familiar with this common phrase, most often spoken by various political leaders in regards to policies that often come to light without any resources devoted to their actual implementation or management. The intent is good, but the result is usually bureaucracy, hurdles, frustration, and seeming economic loss for businesses.  So what if it didn’t have to be one or the other?  What if the Environment and the Economy could make up and live in harmony?  Or, what if sustaining the environment was actually a vital component to a successful business model?  What if practicing good environmental leadership was a money maker instead of an obstacle?  Maybe if we could get beyond the rhetoric, we would be able to see that it can be this way (or that it always has).  Ray Anderson presents a compelling case study in his 2009 TED talk about how he has not only made sustainability work for his business, but that it is actually a logical business model. Take a minute to listen to what he has to say about this.  

Rethink Tried and True!



Most of us equate sustainability with environmental earthly kinds of issues. I never thought of sustaining myself quit like the natural cycle of a perennial or a tree, have you? 

Rethinking sustainability, as it relates to human beings, is becoming more and more widely shared and encouraged by sustainability experts. Experts who are inspiring many and suggesting that human beings can truly embrace nature’s principles of sustainability and make them their own.

A natural cycle gives and takes in a balanced way that includes taking only what is needed. While it consumes what it needs to be thoughtfully productive it also seamlessly gives back to the place it began and even beyond. Natures cycle is thoughtful and deliberate.

Remarkably the cycle keeps on giving in a way that empowers the cycle to sustain itself. This includes multiple entities and a variety of natural systems. The image below illustrates it well.


If we continue to neglect embracing a cycle like this in our own lives we will continue to embrace a model of consumption and waste, burdening the planet rather than taking care of it. Our current ‘take and waste’ model takes more than necessary (consumes) and throws out most of its byproduct (waste), this hurts us but it hurts many others along the way.

If we focus on consuming what we need to sustain ourselves in a way that ensures most, if not all, of the byproduct is something that naturally sustains the world around us and if we encourage others to do the same we can reduce the planet’s environmental burden.

If you don’t already do it please rethink home composting, it is an easy way to start to make a difference and giving back along the way. It’s true, in many circles home composting is common knowledge, tried and true, but other circles haven’t even embraced the easy to do recycling of garden and kitchen waste. Resistance can be because people don’t know how; they can’t find the motivation to make a change or feel hassled by an additional step composting will add to an already hectic life. Folks in down town New York City have found answers to these challenges and are making it happen. If they can do it you can too! Check it out!


NYC Composting 
Click the link below...





Friday, July 19, 2013

Knowledge is the first step!

Sustainability is a concept that affects us all and yet it is often very difficult to understand. What is even more difficult is knowing what to do in order to make a difference. This is the point where the work begins, knowledge in terms of sustainability is extremely important for a variety of factors. The 'Ted talk' that is presented below was given by Alex Steffen and it discusses "The route to a sustainable future" and provides us with many pieces of valuable information that can help when trying to grasp the idea that is sustainability.


Steffen closes with a quote from H.G. Wells:
"All of the past is but the beginning of a beginning; 
all that the human mind has accomplished is but the dream before the awakening." 

We can do a lot when it comes to contributing to a sustainable future, from the electronics that you use and the places that you purchase products from to the way that you think about the bigger picture that is our society as a whole unit. Even though we may not all see extreme poverty very often, if ever, one key to sustainability is being aware that there are places where clean drinking water is not readily available and that should be a problem for us all that requires help from everyone capable.

Before you can "Re-think sustainability" you must be informed. Here are a few links to sites that provide a lot of valuable information about the topic:

http://www.sustainablenorthwest.org/

http://www.epa.gov/sustainability/basicinfo.htm

http://eartheasy.com/sustainability

Happy Learning!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

At All Cost Sustain!



I see the word sustain and my mind floods with questions.
What does it mean to sustain? What kinds of things do I sustain?
How do I sustain, am I thoughtful, am I wasteful?
Should one thing be sustained over another?
Am I sustaining the environment or myself or is it both? 
If I sustain one can I sustain the other?
If I sustain one will I naturally sustain the other?

At first thought it almost feels exhausting. It feels like running a long distance race and I must sustain my endurance mile after exhausting mile. It feels like staying awake, sustaining my alertness and all I want to do is sleep. Sustaining my patience when all I want to do is scream. It sounds daunting, overwhelming, unachievable, a mystery – why

Do we sustain what we love? Relationships, marriage, gardens...sometimes even the things we love feel too hard to sustain day after day.

Synonyms for the word sustain are words like withstand, bear, tolerate, endure, weather, support, maintain. To tolerate something? That doesn’t sound inviting or comforting or even worth doing. To tolerate is just to put up with, over look the negative, and over look the annoyance. It feels arduous, grueling and draining. Am I spending too much time sustaining things that are not natural to me and therefore draining, grueling and arduous? I don’t know where to begin, how to see it differently, and how to change my mind.

It is common to equate sustainability with environmental issues. I had never thought of sustaining myself quite like the natural cycle of a perennial. Yet it is becoming more and more widely shared, by sustainability experts, that human beings can also embrace nature’s principles of sustainability and make many of them their very own. I am intrigued even further after I read an article that suggests it is well worth our time and effort to look at how nature sustains itself. Beautiful examples of sustainability are all around us and being confirmed in article after article and website after website. 

I feel my perspective shift. I decide to see for myself and only have time to venture out in my own little postage stamp of nature. I sit quietly in my back yard garden; shaded by a ten-year-old peach tree and I look around and take it in. My mantra is "find sustain, find sustain, find sustain". I notice a dahlia just coming to life.



I wonder if the dahlia I see feels like the sustaining journey it so devotedly takes summer after summer is arduous, grueling effort filled?

Does it start it's new year in the early summer growing and stretching and reaching toward the warmth and the light feeling drained, exhausted, overwhelmed?

After a cold winter hidden under the ground, carefully wrapped in the earth’s soft fragrant soil so gently and tenderly, does this fine dahlia simply tolerate the passage from one season to the next?

I cannot image that this perfect dahlia, golden with a hint of orange, dripping with morning dew, petals still tight from it's days held so close in bud form, feels anything but effortless, energy filled, excitement. I feel my perspective shift even more.

Slowly it opens, one fine petal after one fine delicate petal, attending the garden show and embracing the new season with not one negative impact. It is not taking anything it doesn’t need or use completely, therefore it doesn’t waste or mess things up. It’s time is not useless but productive. And when it is done it gives back completely.

What would life be like for human beings if we cycled through it just like the dahlia? 
What if our health, happiness and well being were so naturally sustainable and with effortless perfection - using only what we need and giving back completely?  What might you or I do differently today to embrace nature’s fine example tomorrow?

Friday, July 12, 2013

What is Sustainability?


Hello summer! With the change of season brings a new class and a new topic.  This summer we are going to be dealing with a word I am sure many of you have herd tossed around a great deal, sustainability.

What is sustainability? Basically it is a broad term for the capacity for a system to endure.  Ecologically speaking it is the ability of a biological system to remain diverse and productive over time.  A little more universally speaking, this is the ability for the human population to endure over time – BIG stuff, to say the least!

Our Mission: To inspire our reader to consider new or alternative forms of sustainability and recycling. Through collaboration we put forth information that stimulates thinking and broaden awareness on the long term benefits of these sustainable practices.

This is a topic that goes beyond gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs and political affiliation – it is a question that allows us all to come together to help build a brighter tomorrow. 

Like many large topics such as this, it all starts with small individual actions.  In an effort to uncover the truth behind our current sustainability practices we are going to be digging deep, exploring the intersection of economic value versus environmental/ecological costs, looking at how we live on this planet, how we manufacture and use goods, what resource we are placing the most demand on, how we can alter our daily activities to become more efficient and build an increasingly sustainable future and last but not least how we can make our living practices better.  We will be re-thinking sustainability and recycling process as we know it today. 

With that being said please know that we are going to give you some facts and information that some might find to be a little uncomfortable: we will attempt  to research the facts and find solutions; we are going to inspire you through stewardship highlights; we are going to talk about our ecological footprint (See Below); we are going to talk about sustainable design; we are going to talk about basic resource needs and how we are currently using them; we are going to talk about how we use and reuse materials; we will remind you how much of an important member of this community you are, and remind ourselves to REDUSE, reduce, and then recycle.   

This is an exciting summer and an exciting topic.  It is a chance to take a closer look at ourselves, our values, our actions and the world around us!

Best,
EcoMerge Team

What is your ecological footprint? Take this quick and easy test to learn more, http://www.myfootprint.org/ You might be surprised by the results!
 
 

Let's Do Mushrooms!

The mushroom approach

Taking a multi-faceted approach to how we think of sustainability is leading innovators to look to nature for solutions. Imagine being able to compost everyday things like packaging materials, furniture, and even your car! Perhaps not your entire car but Ecovative Design is hoping car manufacturers will be turned on to their mycelium based car parts to replace various components within the vehicles they manufacture.


Mycelium, the root system of mushrooms, can grow in any size, can be molded into countless shapes, and it is fireproof. Used in combination with feedstock and agricultural waste, the end product is fully compostable. The company aims to challenge the polystyrene and Styrofoam industry by introducing earth friendly alternatives. They already have clients in the automotive, computer manufacturing, furniture making, and various other industries. Check out Eben Bayer’s interesting TED talk for more information on his company’s philosophy and practices. 





An informed consumer

The approach to developing earth-friendly alternatives to products that otherwise continue to pile up in landfills, release toxins into the air and water sources, and that aren’t easily broken down by nature will undoubtedly address various sustainability concerns. Innovators like Eben Bayer are making great strides in addressing these issues with their products but how can companies be encouraged to switch over to these alternative technologies?


While we may think that corporations have all the power, and they may to an extent, we know that informed consumers can drive change. Corporations listen and they know a bad rap will hurt their bottom line. They also know they need to be competitive to get ahead and to stay at the top. We the consumers have the ability to force corporations to re-think their manufacturing processes by hurting them where it counts, their reputation and ultimately their profit. After all, it really does come down to us, the consumers, who sustain manufacturers and therefore support their manufacturing practices with our hard earned cash.