Turning The Tide on Convenience – statewide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags

Great news! California Governor Jerry Brown just passed the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags. Starting in July 2015, large grocery stores in California will no longer ask “paper or plastic,” because they won’t have plastic! Are paper bags the best option compared to reusable? Nay. But I’d like to hear more conversation about what’s going into those bags.

Convenience is a pill offering instant gratification, but can leave one with feelings of regret and dissatisfaction. Three words from my mom two decades ago, like a prophet’s counsel – “don’t cut corners” – ring through my mind ironically as a remedy for complexity and chaos. The idea is that you expend a little more energy now to save you later. This idea has saved me bundles of time and money over the years, has spared me from buying items that were cheaply made, and reminds me to evaluate whether I really needed certain items in the first place.

Landfill

Speaking of complexity and chaos, have you seen the news lately? It’s really hard to look at humans and animals suffering, effects of global warming, Ebola outbreaks, and plastic and toxic chemicals in everything, everywhere, without wanting to fix it. What I like to focus on is what I can personally do today to help change the world for the better. Knowledge is my leverage. The more I learn about which chemicals are where and why, for example, the easier it becomes to change my ways. One good habit builds upon another. That’s convenient. Since I’m bringing my own cloth grocery bags shopping, for example, I automatically have a place for reusable produce bags and bottles to refill with bulk liquids. Pop it in the trunk of my car and I conveniently have them when I go to the store.

Check out this one-minute National Geographic Video:

Other examples of toxic convenience in the average American’s life are: fast food, driving when you can walk, dollar store and GiantMart shopping, microwaves, spraying chemical herbicides to kill weeds, using chemicals in your home to “clean” it, and buying cheap clothes to fill a closet. Just say no! Or at least start saying no to more of these things. Don’t wait until there’s a universal bag ban. Ban the bag on your own.

grocery_bags

I realize everyone has different circumstances and most people can’t afford organic food and goods all the time, but reevaluating what we really need and how it gets to us is something we all can do. Imagine if EVERYONE was willing to carry their own clean, cloth grocery bags into stores! With a little effort and forethought we can all make a huge difference.

Image of landfill:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landfill#mediaviewer/File:Wysypisko.jpg

If Textiles Could Talk: “Those colors are to dye for!”

Have you ever wondered about textile dyes and the effect they have on the environment? The purpose of this blog is to shed a neon light on the subject. Be forewarned: the beautiful colors in your closet may look different after reading… The textile dyeing and finishing industry has a very dirty past, and due to environmental concerns, is finally facing pressure to clean up its act. The industry uses huge amounts of chemicals and vast amounts of water (100-150 liters of water to process 1 kg of textile material) and is known for poisoning rivers by dumping mega amounts of toxic, untreated wastewater (effluent) directly into waterways. Pigments in India Azo dyes and pigments are used to color most textiles and leathers. They are dangerous to work with, giving off carcinogenic amines. The name Azo is derived from the Greek a (not) + zoe (to live). With a name like that, it’s no wonder these dyes have an adverse affect on water resources, soil fertility, and eco-system integrity. The industry also uses significant amounts of bleaches, acids, alkalis, salts, stabilizers, surfactants, fire retardants, softeners, starches, heavy metals, and an assortment of dyes (acid, basic, disperse, mordant, reactive, sulphur dye, pigment, and vat). Most of these chemicals are applied using water as a medium. With the price of water consumption and effluent disposal increasing, some companies are beginning to look at ways to reduce water usage and find viable ways to treat effluent, while many dye houses will continue to use up local water supplies and dump untreated toxic wastewater into streams and rivers until the cows come floating home. dumpnowaste Air-dyeing is a waterless dyeing system, which uses less energy and no auxiliary chemicals and is twice as fast. Nike and IKEA have invested in DyeCoo, a waterless dyeing company, and Adidas’ DryDye shirts are made using this system. Currently air-dyeing industrial machines only work on polyester and are very expensive, but carbon dioxide, the substance used, is inexpensive and is also re-used in the process, saving money and resources. While waterless dyeing may be more environmentally friendly, synthetic dyes are still used, however. Low-impact dyes have been classified as eco-friendly by the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 (an international certification process). These dyes generally do not contain toxic chemicals or mordants (used to fix dye to fiber), require less rinsing, and have a high absorption rate, saving energy and creating less wastewater than conventional methods. Fiber-reactive dyes are low-impact synthetic dyes that bond directly with fibers and don’t require mordants or use heavy metals or known toxic substances. They use lower temperatures and shorter cycles, saving water and energy, and are now available in brighter and richer colors as well as having excellent colorfast propertiesclothe Low-impact, fiber-reactive dyes are the dyes of choice in eco-fashion, and Oeko-Tex 100 certified dyes are used on organic textiles to qualify for the GOTS certification. The Global Organic Textile Standard is in place to cover all of the post-harvest production and processing of fibers. Stay tuned for If Textiles Could Talk part 2, about “natural” dyes.

Home improvement projects can be a lot of fun, yet also costly. Using recycled materials is not only cost effective, it’s also good for the environment!

In a recent act of bravery, I launched into yet another “home improvement” project, which we all know usually turns out to be much more expensive and time consuming than first imagined. My friends joke that I’m becoming like the Winchester Mystery House woman who kept adding on to her home
(http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com). Of course, I’m not quite that extreme, although I do have a deep-seated need to continually improve my surroundings. This time it entailed enclosing the front porch.

For over 10 years I have patiently endured winters with a front porch that provides little refuge from pelting rain, winds, and severe snowstorms. With my old dog, Bella, growing older, and concerned for her comfort, I decided it was now or never to enclose the porch. When I began pricing materials for the project it quickly became clear that I was going to have to shop around to find the best prices. I spent countless hours researching efficient porch designs and price-matching everything from French doors to concrete sealant. I phoned multiple hardware & lumber stores, asking every question I could imagine. After weeks of preparation and research I mentioned to a friend my concern that the prices were much higher than I’d anticipated, and he recommended I check out our local Habitat For Humanity “ReStore.” The next day, equipped with measuring tape, clipboard and my old dog, who loves to ride along, I arrived at the ReStore not really knowing what to expect. I was overjoyed when I found almost all the materials I was searching for to complete my dream porch, available at bargain prices!

Habitat ReStores offer quality used and surplus building materials at a fraction of normal prices while helping to fund Habitat for Humanity house construction. They are outlets that accept donated goods for resale. While every ReStore is a little different, most focus on home-improvement goods—furniture, home accessories, building materials, and appliances. These donated goods are sold to the general public at a fraction of retail price to help local affiliates fund construction of Habitat homes within their communities.

Materials sold by Habitat ReStores are usually donated by local retailers, contractors, and individuals. ReStores provide an environmentally and socially responsible way to keep good, reusable materials out of the waste stream and simultaneously provide funding for Habitat’s community-improvement work.

For more information about Habitat For Humanity, go to http://www.habitat.org.

To find a Habitat For Humanity ReStore in your area, or if you or your company has materials to donate, go to http://www.habitat.org/cd/env/restore.aspx.