Dump the K-Cup

In today's society, we are moving at such a fast pace that we want everything given to us fast and easy. It seemed only right when the Keurig coffee machine offered us all a quick cup of coffee in less than a minute. We no longer had to wait for an entire pot of coffee to be brewed, we no longer had to take the time to scoop coffee from a large tin container and we definitely didn't need to take the time to clean our coffee makers anymore.

The first time I was introduced to the Keurig machine, I was amazed. I was no barista so my life became a lot more simple when all I had to do was fill the machine with water, put in a K-Cup pod, and press the brew button. It was like magic and in the end, all I had to do was throw that K-Cup right in the trash and go about my busy day.

It wasn't long before I realized the Keurig's were in every hotel I stayed at but it was long however until I realized the horrendous environmental impact these small k-cups caused. Being made of many different plastics, some even unidentifiable and definitely not recyclable, I was shocked I hadn't noticed it before. It wasn't until I read an article by the BBC discussing the issue and the fact that cities in Germany began to ban them due to environmental reasons.

With hazardous materials that end up landfills, it's only worse to find out that a survey by the national coffee association found 1 in 5 adults use a single-cup-brewed coffee a day. According to BBC, the inventor of the K-Cup stated in an interview that sometimes he regrets having ever created the K-Cup and wants to begin creating more recyclable options. However, there are already competitors that have done this. If you're someone who uses K-Cups every day and doesn't want to drop the single-serve quick and easy coffee option, there are other alternatives. One alternative is Nespresso. Nespresso claims to want to highlight the growing recognition of the vital importance of being sustainable in everything they do. They create their coffee pods out of 100% aluminum and no plastic. They also pick up used pods from their customers and re-use them. Also, if you're in a hotel and they have a Keurig, it might be best to get coffee somewhere else. But if you go to a coffee shop, be sure to bring your reusable mug/cup and stray far away from the plastic straws!

Use Less and Save More: A Guide to Simple Sustainable Living

Did you know that 95% of the water that enters our homes goes down the drain? Not to mention that American’s today use 127% more water than we did in 1950…where water is the scarcest resource worldwide. 

Scarce {adjective}
*Scarcer, Scarcest
1. Insufficient to satisfy the need or demand; not abundant 
2. Seldom met; Rare

In order to create a sustainable living lifestyle we must collectively work together to reduce the amount of waste we produce in our households. Here are some helpful tips and interesting facts about the waste we produce and how we can strive toward sustainability:

Sustainable Living: Facts and Quick Tips Around the Home

Fact 1. The average American household takes home nearly 1,500 plastic shopping bags home each year… That equates to 100 billion plastic shopping bags thrown away nationally. These bags end up in landfills and often pollute our rivers and oceans – leading to loss of sea life and polluted water sources.

Quick Tip 1. In order to reduce the amount of plastic shopping bags each household uses, try investing in these reusable-shopping totes to not only save the planet but benefit a charity: 7 Reusable Bags that Benefit Charity

Fact 2. Buy an older home with older toilets? Struggling to part with what’s comfortable? What if you knew that your old porcelain throne was costing you 3 gallons of water per flush? Yeah, you heard it right… 3 gallons per flush… That’s roughly three pennies per flush at an average of five flushes per person, times four persons per household equals fifty cents per day. That would mean your toilet is costing you $219 per year… 

Quick Tip 2. What if you could cut that cost in half and save the planets scarcest recourse? Click the link to find some of the most efficient thrones: Water Efficient Toilets that Conserve Water and Save You Hundreds

Fact 3. Each year, one person produces one million pounds of material waste that end up in landfills. The truth about landfills is that no one is paying attention to the problem and instead we are creating more waste. American’s will produce approximately 400 million tons of garbage THIS year… See the quick tip below to see what you can do.

Quick Tip 3. A Zero Waste Home seems impossible and unachievable, but with Bea Johnson’s tips on how she and her family stay waste free, you could be on your way to a more sustainable lifestyle.

The Great Debate: Paper or Plastic? Or Possibly Reusable?

     The great debate: paper or plastic?  Which option is the most environmentally friendly or should both options be nixed in favor of reusable bags?  Plastic bags first came into use in the 1970s.  They were supposed to be a better ecological alternative to paper bags thinking that the use of plastic over paper would save trees as well as reduce the use of the fossil fuel guzzling machines used to harvest trees, reduce the use of chemicals used to make paper products, and reduce water usage, since making tree pulp into paper requires about 400 parts water to 1 part tree pulp.  A big con to plastic bags is recycling.  Many plastic bags end up in landfills and take up to 20 years to decompose compared to the month it takes for a paper bag to decompose.  But, like paper bags, plastic bags can be recycled as well.  When properly recycled plastic bags can be made into products like TREX Decking, which is made of 95% recycled materials. Another con is the materials used to make plastic which includes crude oil.
     So what about reusable bags?  In the long run this is the most environmentally sustainable option.  The only cons with reusable bags that I could find were that people sometimes forget them at home and the major issue, bacteria.  The issue of bacteria growth can be easily solved by making sure that reusable bags are cleaned frequently. 
     So the answer to the question paper or plastic?  Well neither. In the long run neither paper nor plastic bags are particularly environmentally friendly.  Reusable bags are by far the most environmentally friendly.


We Can Save Up To 60% Water!

Water conservation plays an imperative role in developing and rural countries. Learning to save water in our homes would not only lower those water bills, but it will preserve our environment and improve our understanding of the importance of conservation worldwide.

Hygiene is essential in maintaining one’s cleanliness and health; but are we using more water than we should use? All of us had those days where we just need the 30 minutes to one hour soak in the bath. Looking back, maybe using that bath wasn’t worth the bath bombs, bubble bar or the absurd 50 gallons of water. On average, a full bathtub would take about 36 gallons of water. Should you stop taking baths?

Not exactly. Industrial and product designers, Seung Hyung Lee, Il Woong Jwa, Bom Yi Lee and Jiwon Moon took bathtubs to a whole new dimension. To conserve water, the designers came up with an innovative way to allow varying levels of bathing and to eliminate the struggles that tall people have with bath sizes. In their Multifunctional Bathtub, it has a unique convex shape that allows the individual to sit comfortably. The tub also tilts backwards at three angles to adjust to the individual’s bathing desire.

If you want just a foot bath, the first angle will conserve 60% of water. By tilting back at another angle, it enables a full body bath that will save 40% of water!  Then at its last angle, it will cover the individual’s upper half, which will save 20% of water. The curved insides ensure comfort during the adjusting period.

Even if this is just a concept design, the idea shows that we can save water in new and creative ways! Despite not being able to actually use this kind of bathtub, we can observe how other countries conserve water, such as Japan.

Unlike the American culture, Japanese families are used to taking daily baths. Baths take up a lot of water as previously mentioned, therefore families would usually take turns utilizing the same bath water. To keep the bath clean, family members would usually rinse and clean themselves with a small shower or wash basin. Some bathrooms would come with panels that can be placed on top of the bathtub to maintain the heat in the water for the next person’s use. 

Want to help out more ways to conserve water?

Take 5-10 minute showers
Every minute you save during showering will conserve 17 liters of water per person a day! 

Turn off the water when you brush your teeth
While this may seem obvious, we have to consider that we brush our teeth 2-3 times a day. When you wash your face, you can use a cup of water and slowly pour the amount needed to rinse!

Collect shower water with a bucket
When you’re busy shampooing your hair, you can have a bucket where the shower head will spray down. The collected water can be used later to water your plants! Or you can simply just stop the shower when you lather yourself or treating your hair. 

Learn more ways to conserve water through GreenEmpowerment here.

These suggestions are easy ways to save water while still maintaining your hygiene. Even if you cannot get that Multifunctional Tub, you can conserve water in various ways!

The Ram Pump Revolution

Many of us who live in a first-world country often take our access to clean water for granted. For example, a typical morning for an American involves using the toilet, showering, brushing teeth, and making coffee. Each of these tasks increases our health and well-being but requires water to be accomplished, which we can access simply by turning a knob. As we go about living our first-world lives it can be easy to forget that not everyone has easy access to clean, potable water.

There are many remote villages that have a local water source but it is too difficult to access. Many villages still use manual labor as a means to retrieve water from such a source. This often means they have to hand-carry water in containers for several miles to their village. This process is strenuous and consumes a lot of time which could be spent doing other things. Could you imagine spending the bulk of your day hauling heavy water jugs several miles to your house, just so you can have clean water? Luckily, there are a number of ways such a situation can be improved. One solution is the use of a device called a ram  pump.

A ram pump is a hydraulic system used to transport water from a local water source, such as a river, to a new location. This is a great option for remote villages that do not have easy access to water or electricity. Ram pumps use the energy from water and gravity to power the pump, so electricity is not required for the pump to work. It is a relatively simple system but it is incredibly effective at pumping water, even up hill. If a ram pump is installed at an appropriate water source it can provide more than enough water to meet the needs of a small village.

One of the drawbacks of a ram pump is that it requires a source of water that is flowing downward since it relies on the force of gravity to operate. If a water source does not fit the requirements for a ram pump then a different solution would be required. But the simplicity and easy maintenance of a ram pump make it one of the best options available for a remote village to increase their access to water.

Below is a video from Green Empowerment that describes a real life deployment of a ram pump and the benefits it has brought to a remote community. This is just one of the many villages that have received ram pumps to improve their access to water. One of the things I like about this project that the responsibility is shared between the village community, local government, and the organization that installed the ram pump (AIDFI). This is a very cooperative approach to improving the lives of the villagers without placing the burden all on one group. It also maintains a high level of self-reliance for the village while having a very low impact on the environment. Click below to see the ram pump revolution for yourself:

If you see value in a project like this then you may consider donating to Green Empowerment. They work with organization like AIDFI to realize their vision for "an equitable and sustainable world where everyone has clean water, renewable energy and a healthy environment in which to grow and thrive." Even a small contribution can have a big impact.

You can view their mission description and annual reports here:

You can donate here:

Earth Day 2017

Today is Earth Day, a global event recognized by over 192 countries. It marks the anniversary of the birth of the environmental movement in 1970. Earth Day was created to celebrate the planet's environment and raise public awareness. On March 21, 1971, the UN Secretary General signed a proclamation establishing Earth Day as an official international holiday. Now over a billion people around the globe are learning about environmental issues in their communities.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you may already be familiar with Earth Day and the many things you can do to contribute to the environment. This year consider other ways we can give back to the planet today and every day. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

1% for the Planet: Created in 2002 by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and Craig Mathews. 1% for the Planet connects companies and individuals who want to give back to the planet everyday. Look for their logo on the products and services you buy and know that a portion of your purchase will go back into the planet. 

Green Empowerment: A non profit organization that works with local partners around the world to strengthen communities by delivering renewable energy and safe clean water. Visit their website and learn about the many opportunities to help create a world where everyone has clean water and renewable energy.

Shop Smart: Buy from companies that practice sustainability. Every year many websites rank the worlds most sustainable companies. Newsweek has an excellent list here: http://www.newsweek.com/green-2016/top-green-companies-us-2016

Reduce E-Waste: Millions of consumer electronics are thrown out each year and the result is catastrophic to the environment. Find a local recycling center that specializes in electronic waste and dispose of your old gear responsibly. For more information visit http://www.electronicstakeback.com

For more information about Earth Day visit:  http://www.earthday.org