Students Heading Back To School Go Green

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Students Heading Back To School Go Green- Click This Link to See a Recent Channel 10 Interview with Ian and Maria

Its wonderful to see so many ‘green’ back-to-school products this year out in stores. All companies want to be green  and some are greener than others, so make sure you do your homework before making those purchases. Look for products made from post-consumer recycled materials and products bearing the Forest Stewardship Council logo. Products bearing the FSC logo guarantee that the wood is from a certified well-managed forest.

Remember the first R is Reduce, so don’t buy more than you need. According to the Story of Stuff.com, 99% of the stuff we purchase (in North America) is trashed within 6 months of buying it. “How can we run a planet on that level of materials throughput?”, asks Annie Leonard.

The average American generates 4.5 pounds of garbage everyday! Floridians make twice the national average at 9 pounds of waste a day. And that is just a small portion of the trash created upstream to make the things we buy. From the Story of Stuff, for every one garbage can of waste you put out on the curb, 70 garbage cans of waste were made upstream (in production of the products we purchase) to create that one garbage can of junk.

There are a  few additional things you can do to make your child’s school year more sustainable. Find out if your school has a recycling program, and not just for paper. Plastic water and juice bottles, cans and glass are a major source of waste. Lunches are a big source of waste also. It’s estimated that on average, schoolchildren generate 67 pounds of waste every year thanks to the plastic baggies, brown bags, and other waste used to pack lunches. Buy your child a reusable drink bottle, get rid of the brown paper bag lunch and try a laptop lunch box with reusable containers. Pack a cloth napkin rather than a paper napkin.

Many schools are adopting edible schoolyard garden projects. Find out if your child’s school has one. These projects are excellent ways to connect children to the natural world around them as well as their food supply. They serve as hands-on science laboratories. Children can also learn about vermiculture as a means to compost their lunch scraps.

Everyone taking small steps together leads to big change.

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Global Warning, Our Oil Addiction and Living on a New Planet

Narrated by Leo DiCaprio, this clip is based on the book by Thom Hartmann, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It’s Too Late.

“Picture this, a blue planet protected by a thin layer of atmosphere that keeps temperature, air and water in perfect balance to maintain life. In the cold depths of space, this planet is a virtual paradise, the only one know of its kind. And, it is our planet, Earth. But something is wrong…human civilization and our relentless consumption has brought this planet to the brink. But specifically, our addiction to one single resource may push us over the edge. And, that resource is Oil.”

“So get educated, stay educated, so we can think for ourselves and join the fight to save this unique blue planet for future generations,” DiCaprio closes. But, this problem of climate change is not really just a problem for future generations. As author Bill McKibben argues in his new book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, we no longer live on the planet Earth where the climate has allowed human civilization to flourish over the past 10,000 years, but on a new planet with more erratic and extreme weather. McKibben calls the planet Eaarth. We are now living with human-induced climate change. While  hoping we can still return the concentration  of CO2 in our atmosphere to 350ppm (someday because even if we cut emissions to zero, we’ve already committed the planet to further warming), we must focus our efforts to adapt to that change. McKibben suggests lightly, carefully, gracefully with a focus on local systems.

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We also must engage our political system. We’ve seen no seriousness or urgency out of the Senate as the Clean Energy and Climate Change bill languished. As McKibben writes in the Huffington Post (linked below), “Political time is in short supply, too. So far, of course, Washington has done nothing—the Senate is currently considering a watered-down version of a watered-down bill, one that would only apply to electric utilities and only cause the slowest of changes, and even that has not persuaded President Obama to knock heads. He’ll go after BP, but not the GOP—the bill’s great champion, John Kerry, summed up the prevailing strategy for winning votes: “We believe we have compromised significantly, and we’re prepared to compromise further.” “

We can still bring change through grassroots efforts, like those of 350.org, 1Sky and Repower America (links below) and also through the efforts of many individuals calling their Senators to tell them that we need a bill that addresses climate change, carbon pollution and clean energy now. Get educated, stay educated and get active. Your future is now.

Links to Help You Get Active on this Issue:

Where to Find my U.S. Senators Contact Info

Repower America: Together, We Can Solve It

350.org

1Sky

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Living Beyond Earth’s Budget & Happiness

Thanksgiving is a recognizable holiday to most Americans but can anyone remember the event that fell on September 25th of this year?

September 25th was Earth Overshoot Day and marked the day when humanity begins living beyond its ecological means.

According to the Global Footprint Network, collectively at the present time, humanity is using 1.4 planets worth of resources. Many people in western countries like the US  are using four to five planets worth of resources. Since we only have one planet, I want to pause here for a moment because living beyond our means in this context doesn’t mean just paying some interest on a credit card. It is, quite literally, taking more than our fair share. In order to be sustainable, civilization must meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

But even today, we have over a billion people on the planet whose basic needs are not being met. While those people need to consume more, others are literally drowning in ‘stuff’. Annie Leonard used the term “stuff-saturated”  to describe this phenomenon in her presentation to the Bioneers Conference this year.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports the United States produces approximately 220 million tons of garbage each year. That’s an average of five pounds of garbage for every man woman and child in the USA. But, guess what?  Studies show Floridians generate almost double the national average of garbage – creating nine pounds of municipal solid waste each day.

What you throw out is only part of the story. In order to get one can of garbage, approximately 70 garbage cans of waste were created upstream in manufacturing the products we throw away. Looking at this system, it becomes painfully obvious that we are trashing the planet.

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So does having all this stuff make us happy? The studies show a resounding no!  The Happy Planet Index measures happiness over resource consumption or the efficiency that a country converts natural resources into human well-being. In 2009, out of 143 countries, the US ranked 114th, ahead of just a few African nations. The happiest country on the planet this year was Costa Rica, which is a country that notably has no standing army.

Another Happiness Index was just published this month by Mainstreet.com. It found Florida ranked dead last in happiness of Americans by state. Is it a coincidence that Florida showed up as both the top producer of waste and the bottom of the Happiness Index?

Next time we will explore some alternatives to going crazy at the mall this holiday season as I pack for my holiday in Costa Rica.

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