Do you have to reuse that plastic carrier bag or always stick to energy efficient products? Eco-Friendly is not merely what products we use but rather a way of living that does not fracture the ecosystem. Once we integrate it into our daily routines, then the ‘sick’ planet should be a better place to live in for our present and future generations. I’ll be lying if I told you that switching to greener habits is a sweet ride down the park. I, for instance, had to reduce my long sweet showers (trust me I still miss them) and buy locally grown produce over imported merchandise. But hey, look at the bigger picture. It is all worth it in the end.
What is Eco-Friendly?
Environmentally Friendly, Green, Nature-Friendly are all words that refer to lifestyles or products that are not detrimental whatsoever to the environment.
Is it Necessary?
What is the point of going eco-friendly? Shouldn’t everyone just mind themselves instead? We all need to acknowledge the fact that being eco-friendly is not an option but rather a necessity that we can’t assume. Not anymore. Nature is a self-sustaining ecosystem. Therefore, if we do not act right, the system will either wipe us out of existence into oblivion or just make it hard for us to cope. Besides, the changes are nothing we can’t adjust to. It is just a matter of deciding to live and act right.
Ways to Become More Eco-Friendly
How then do you switch to eco-friendly methods? What practices consist being environmentally friendly? I live by the following “rules”:
Conserve Water. Taking short showers for instance or even a bath in the tub (halfway filled) can conserve several gallons of water in a month. You also need to fix leaking taps and pipes to reduce water loss. Additionally, water your garden by collecting rainwater. And finally, close the tap while doing the dishes or brushing your teeth.
Replace or Reduce Fossil Fuels. Find out those sources of energy that are fossil-based such as natural gas or coal and reduce their usage or even replace them completely. Burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming besides formation of acid rain among other devastating effects.
Use Energy Efficient Products. Buy home appliances which are rated low in energy. You can identify such products by looking out for the energy star or asking the seller for the energy specifications. Similarly, turn off the lights when not in use and use energy saving bulbs.
Buy Local. I came to realize that there is no big difference between local and foreign products. You just have to identify a good brand and stick to it. Besides, local produce is affordable most of the times and it doesn’t compromise on quality.
Recycle and Reuse. There are those items that you don’t have to dispose of right after using them. You can use chocolate tins to store spices and salt for example. It might seem like a small effort, but imagine how significant it is if every household did it.
Practice Responsible Waste Management. Where and how do you dispose of your waste? Do you litter past the candy shop once you un-wrap your goodies? If we could all practice sound methods of getting rid of waste, then the environment would be cleaner and healthier.
Plant Trees. The forest cover is always under constant threat by uncontrolled logging activities. If each household had just about three trees within their compounds then restoring the forest cover will not be quite as tough. If trees are such a tall order, then you could as well settle for a garden which should not be hard to maintain.
Educate Others. Do not keep these important nuggets to yourself. Let your neighbors and fellow associates see and appreciate the need for being environmentally conscious. Take them through a couple of environmentally friendly techniques without necessarily rushing or compelling them. However, bear in mind that not everyone will respond positively. I have been turned away on several occasions so be ready and avoid unnecessary frustrations.
Drive Less; Walk Often. You don’t always have to use your car on every errand. Try walking. If not, you can pool cars with your partner or even a neighbor if both of you are headed the same way. Alternatively use public means of transport more often where possible.
The Benefits of Being Eco-Friendly
- It is good for the planet. If we are to save the planet from self-destruction then being environmentally friendly is an option we have to live with.
- Reduced pollution. It is an irrefutable presumption that no one wants to live in an untidy environment. If waste is disposed of soundly, then, a clean pure environment will no longer be a fantasy.
- Healthier lifestyle. Eco-friendly products are in more ways than one beneficial to the body. For instance, using natural detox methods instead of chemicals is a healthier choice.
- This is a good call considering that the planet is already filled with endless consuming creatures.
- It is not impossible to affect development in a system that is largely polluted. Aligning our goals with the environment will further enhance quality ideas for development.
- Quality of Life. Who wants to live in a degraded polluted environment? Chances of an outbreak of diseases in a clean ecosystem are very infinitesimal. We have a better shot at eradicating diseases such as cholera in a cleaner green ecosystem.
Call to Action
We found this world as we did but it is every person’s responsibility to leave it a better place. Play your part and let your neighbor next door play theirs. Do not let any frustrations or negative energy draw you back. We all want a safer greener planet for our children’s children and the infinite generations to come. Whether or not your efforts are acknowledged does not matter. Live knowing that because of the little efforts you made the world is a better place to live. It might seem as if you are alone in this noble cause but remember, “If it is to be, it is up to me”.
No one can claim to be blameless in as far as environmental pollution is concerned. We are all guilty of a few delinquencies, and such is a fact of life. However, we should now focus on answering this question: “What are we doing to change things or make up for our mistakes?” It is these little things that will build up to the bigger change that we want so badly.
Eco-Friendly Christmas Trees: How Sustainable Is Your Christmas This Year?
Ho Ho Ho! Christmas is around the corner. Is your eco-friendly Christmas tree ready? Don’t panic. In this article, I will discuss a variety of options available for you. I will also share with you several practical tips for choosing eco-friendly Christmas trees.
But first things first:
Artificial Vs. Natural Christmas Trees
To understand the sustainability of our Christmas trees, we have to answer three important questions:
- What are the inputs in your Christmas tree?
- How long will those inputs last? In other words, for how long can you use that Christmas tree?
- How will you dispose of your Christmas tree eventually?
Artificial Christmas trees are made of plastics, metal, petroleum products, and other similar inputs. Natural Christmas trees are made of water and nutrients for the soil. However, the big issue is in the manufacture of these inputs. Petroleum products are one of the biggest threats to our environment. The processing plants continually pollute our atmosphere while the tankers have multiple oil spills in the ocean that pose a threat to aquatic life.
Natural Christmas trees also consume a lot of water. Luckily, if they grow tall, without being cut down, they give back to the environment by attracting more rainfall, creating a natural habitat for our wildlife, and giving us clean oxygen to breathe.
The problem with the rising demand in natural Christmas trees is that farmers are now using chemical nutrients to hasten the growth process. With time, these chemicals sip into the rivers, lakes, and oceans, and cause serious pollution issues and dead zones. They also use herbicides and pesticides that pollute the environment.
How long do these trees last?
People use artificial Christmas trees for years whereas you can only use the natural ones for just a year. Does that make artificial Christmas trees eco-friendly? Not necessarily!
The third question ascertains this.
Imagine thousands of homes disposing of their artificial Christmas trees at once. That would severely affect our environment, right? But that doesn’t make the natural ones less concerning. It takes 8 to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree naturally. And if you only get to use it for one year, then that is a waste of the soil’s potential. Even if ideally these trees will decompose and release their nutrients back to the soil eventually, they leave reasonable carbon footprint and traces of methane gas after decomposing.
So what options do you have?
Sustainable Options When Buying an Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree
Natural Christmas trees
In my city, there is a guy that sells potted Christmas trees. Once you order, he delivers and sets them up in your home with a tree skirt. That makes it easier for you to keep watering the tree until January when he picks them up for planting. Larger organizations such as The Living Christmas Tree Company and many others that rent eco-friendly Christmas trees have borrowed the same idea.
In my opinion, this is the best option for an eco-friendly Christmas tree. You enjoy nourishing a living tree as you teach the young ones about responsibilities. You also inspire them to become conscious of our environment for the sake of their future generations.
Besides, once these people plant the trees in January, they don’t have to use artificial chemicals to hasten growth. They let them grow naturally since they don’t need them anymore. Instead, they plant young seedlings and water them naturally awaiting the next December to rent them. So it’s a win-win situation for both you (the buyer) and the environment.
Designated Natural Christmas Trees
Have you ever driven along loop 360 in Austin, Texas? There is an entire farm full of Christmas trees open to the public for decoration. Each year, people decorate these trees as their own. It is more like rent a Christmas tree only that you don’t get to carry the tree home.
If your city offers such reserved Christmas trees, it’s only fair that you decorate the tree with eco-friendly materials.
However, if your last resort is a real Christmas tree (a branch of pine trees), ensure it has the FSC-certification logo. This proves the pine tree was grown ethically and hence promoting sustainability.
Artificial eco-friendly Christmas trees
If you live away from cities that offer “rent-a-Christmas tree-service”, you can still enjoy Christmas with an artificial tree that is sensitive to our environment. So how do you choose an artificial eco-friendly Christmas tree?
- Buy a Christmas tree made from polyethylene plastic (PE). This is a newer technology, and the tree branches look more realistic. Polyethylene degrades naturally, but over a long period. If you dispose them to a recycling center, they have artificial ways to hasten the biodegradation process.
- To ease the burden on your end, just make sure you re-use your PE eco-friendly Christmas tree for several years (20-plus years). In addition to preserving our environment, you will save quite a bit of money.
- Keep off PVC trees. These contain the harmful petroleum inputs we discussed above.
- Avoid the glossy types. These are usually coated with lead – which acts as a PVC stabilizer. The lead-laced dust sheds over time, and some might land on your kid’s gifts or on the pet’s carpet. Lead is a toxic metal, especially when inhaled or swallowed.
If you already own an artificial Christmas tree, don’t throw it away. Just stick to the basics of “eco-friendly”: Reduce, reuse, and recycle.
The DIY Option
YouTube is full of tutorials on how you can design a Christmas tree using locally available materials such as fabric, plywood, cardboard, and crates.
And if you have a bigger garden space, it’s about time you plant your own pine tree. Just make sure you water it economically and grow it organically.
The Bottom Line
Investing in an eco-friendly Christmas tree would go a long way in preserving our environment for the sake of our future generations. You don’t have to give up the entire Christmas tree idea. Just find a solution that works well for you and enjoy a guilt-free festive season.
What’s With The Plastic Straw Ban Controversy? The Facts vs. Myths
Did you know that in America only we use over 500 million plastic straws each day? This translates to 182.5 billion straws annually. How many times do you take your straws for recycling? You probably dump them in the nearest bin and forget about them. Do you know what impact such plastics have on our environment? Let me shed some light.
Why are Plastics a Problem?
Previously, items that we are currently making from plastics were made from coal or byproducts of natural gas. Things changed in 1907 when we made the first plastic polymer from Bakelite (fossil fuels). The process of polymerization (making plastics) involves heating and curing of the products. This changes the true form of Bakelite, which makes it hard to recycle them 100%.
It is also impossible to achieve the original quality and, therefore, they are only recycled to make less inferior products. After a few recycling processes, that piece of plastic is beyond reform, and it is eventually thrown away.
Plastics can stay for over 100 years in landfills without decomposing. This means they occupy potential garbage space and they pollute the waters. Some forms of plastics slowly release their chemical composition into the environment. These chemicals can cause our ozone layer to deplete or even pollute the waters, and there is nothing much we can do at this stage. For this reason, prevention is better than cure when it comes to plastics.
Straws are made from polypropylene, which we can recycle in theory. However, most of them end up in dumpsites. If they don’t find their way to a landfill, the straws will be on a big boat en route to China for a controversial plastic trade. Most of them drift out to sea because of their minute nature, and they join the rest of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In fact, the reason we have the plastic straw ban today is because of a viral video showing a sea turtle with a straw blocking his nostril.
In my opinion, the battle shouldn’t end with straws. We need to ban all forms of plastics and go back to the good old glass and porcelain. Our environment needs us, and the creatures in it (human beings included) can only survive for as long as the environment supports them.
The Concerns versus the Facts
While big franchise like Starbucks is in support of the ban, there are several organizations and individuals fighting the ban.
- The associations of persons living with disability are on the forefront opposing the plastic straw ban. Their case is arguably reasonable. People without hands need to feel comfortable dining in public and straws play a significant role. However, the straws they use don’t have to be plastic. They can use recyclable bamboo straws or the other alternatives below.
- Another concern is that closing down the manufacturing factories means we lose more jobs. Our nation has enough job burdens with several unemployed citizens living from hand to mouth. This concern is equally valid. However, if we close down the plastic straw factories and open recyclable straw factories, we can shift this labor in that direction. The factories will incur losses in the machinery and equipment but this is a loss that can be mitigated by the government and if possible find a new use for the equipment.
- The opposition also argues that the recyclable straw companies might not be able to meet the demand. While it takes lesser time to manufacture plastic straws, the recyclable options are worth the wait. After all, we don’t always need straws, to be honest, do we?
- A ban on plastic straws means we spend more money buying safer alternatives. We can look at this as a possible solution to discourage people from buying straws eventually. Whether plastic or recyclable, most of us don’t need them anyway.
You might be wondering, why not encourage people to recycle instead of banning these plastic straws? Well, did you know that only 9 % of trash gets recycled? Don’t take my word for it. The statistics are according to this 2017 report. So you can imagine the 91% of plastic trash you slid in the “recycling” bin is releasing toxins somewhere in a landfill. Maybe if you had used glass instead of plastic, we would have different statistics.
Alternatives to Plastic Straws
Now that you see the need for Plastic Straw Ban let’s discuss the alternatives we have.
Multi-use straws – This is one of the best alternatives. We can reuse and easily clean straws made from metal with ease. The major drawback with this option is the cost compared to the plastic straws currently in use.
Decomposable straws – Straws made from plant material like bamboo can decompose safely even when disposed of in landfills. However, some need further crushing to facilitate the decomposition. Looking at the trend, we might do more harm than good to our plants if we choose this route. We cannot sustain the number of straws manufactured in a day.
Recyclable straws – This option may seem viable to most people. However, the municipal recycling system has failed us. And maybe we shouldn’t blame them as much, because we end up trashing more waste than they can handle, right?
Life without straws – If you can use your two hands comfortably, you can as well sip from a glass. Does the drink taste different? Not really! The straws are just mental barriers we have created over time. Our forefathers didn’t use plastics, and that’s why we found a clean world to live in. Will our future generations say the same?
Several states within the USA have already effected The Plastic Straw Ban. In some states like Seattle and Oakland, they have passed “a straw-upon-request” ordinance. Other cities are still drafting similar legislation, but the negative public reception with demonstration against the ban is making it almost impossible.
I believe with or without legislative laws, we can all support the ban individually. When you order a drink, choose to sip from the glass or use the above alternatives for the sake of our environment. If we all unite against plastic straws, the manufacturers will soon join in the plastic straw ban, and together we will make our environment safer for our future generations.
A Guide to Ethical Fashion and Why You Should be Part of It
For most of us, shopping for clothes is a normal process, and we do not take the time to find out the nitty-gritty details about the clothes we purchase. Fashion houses are always competing on the latest fashion trends. And the best part is that most of these trendy clothes are affordable. It is now possible to look good without breaking the bank.
However, do you know what goes on behind the scenes in the fashion industry? Have you ever heard of sustainable fashion or Eco fashion? All these terms refer to ethical fashion; a term that is yet to be embraced by many “fashionistas”, but it is gradually gaining popularity. Most people think that ethical fashion is expensive. It’s not. In this article, I will explain this concept.
What is Ethical fashion?
Ethical fashion is more of a movement that aims to stop the production of high street items on a low-cost budget. In simple terms, ethical fashion is a call to all fashion designers to be ethical. It addresses all aspects of the fashion industry including fashion design, manufacturing, and retail and purchasing.
What do I mean?
Ethical fashion guarantees that in the next century, our environment will not be highly polluted by decomposing fashion waste products. Additionally, the designers will not continue cutting trees, killing animals, and other similar degrading social activities in an effort to find raw materials to sustain their industry. By embracing sustainable fashion, we embrace positive social responsibility and preserve our environment.
Why is Ethical Fashion Important?
As I mentioned above, for the trendy clothes to be affordable for many people, several sacrifices have to be made. Some of these sacrifices are detrimental to other human beings, animals, and the environment itself. Ethical fashion sheds light on the bad practices that take place behind the scenes that you and I, as consumers, are not aware of when buying the finished product. The critical areas that ethical fashion scrutinizes include:
- The working conditions of the laborers’
In over-populated countries like China, labor is widely available and cheap. Research shows that the laborers are exploited by working overtime, skipping meals, while being paid peanuts. Similarly, there are also cases of child labor and the worst part is the congested and unhygienic working environments with an aim to cut down on production costs. Ethical fashion fights against these poor working conditions.
- Chemicals used in the textile industries
Polyester is a product of petroleum, and it is one of the most used fabrics. Its production requires a lot of crude oil, and in the process, harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere, which causes respiratory diseases. Eco fashion aims to protect our environment.
Animal cruelty continues to be a controversial topic in the fashion industry. Many people are quick to argue that we cannot be comfortable eating meat yet we are uncomfortable wearing fur or leather from the same animals. However, the bone of contention is the intentional killing of these animals for the sake of their skin other than for food purposes. Either way, we can let our furry friends live in peace if we chose to embrace ethical fashion.
- Environmental degrading
There is a lot of competition among the numerous fashion houses. All of them want to outdo each other. Consequently, they keep coming up with new fashion trends that are affordable, and they aim to sell many pieces so they can continue being relevant. However, the problem comes in the manufacturing bit. Cotton is one of the most used fabric, and some of the pesticides and insecticides used in the cotton plantations are harmful to the environment. When we, as consumers, damp the torn and worn out garments, these pesticides find their way back into rivers and soil. As a result, we contribute to degrading our environment.
- Sustainable production
Fashion trends keep changing every single day. This is not a bad thing. However, the rapid change of the fashion trends is what fuels the bad practices addressed by ethical fashion. Renowned companies like H&M have embraced eco-fashion, and they are now using eco-friendly materials and sustainable manufacturing practices.
Why should you practice Ethical Fashion?
The most important reason why you and I need to be part of the ethical fashion movement is to put to an end the bad practices that are never talked about by fashion designers. We need to be assertive and take time to scrutinize every detail of the clothes we are buying. It is the high time we put an end to the animal cruelty, exploitation of labor in the developing countries, and the damage to our environment.
There are two ways you can know whether a particular clothing line is ethical;
- Manufacturers always list the materials used. The list builds confidence in the consumers, and you will be able to know what the clothes are made of before purchasing them.
- Go through the company website. A fashion line that is serious about ethical fashion will always state this fact to the public. If the designer does not mention anything, send them an email and ask them.
We should wholeheartedly welcome any movement that seeks to protect our environment and buying eco-friendly clothes is only the beginning. There are numerous ways we can protect our environment and put an end to its degradation.
Are there affordable Vegan brands that promote ethical fashion?
Yes, many fashion lines have embraced sustainable fashion or Eco-fashion. Some of them include:
- PACT Apparel
- Krochet Kids Intl
- Threads for Thought
- Friday’s project
- Jan n June
You can also use the Good on You App. The App will help you find ethical clothing lines that match your taste. In addition, it has tons of information on different ethical brands in the market. The App makes it easy for you to find out which of these stores have discounts.
In addition to the clothing lines, some cosmetic companies have also embraced the manufacturing of products without harming animals. The cruelty-free brands safeguard animal rights, and they are against the testing of cosmetics on animals. Therefore, you can have eco-friendly clothes and cosmetics too. How cool is that!
Ethical fashion has gone a long way in creating awareness in the fashion industry. It is refreshing to find more eco-friendly products slowly filling up our shelves, and there is absolutely no reason to continue damaging the environment. There are even coral safe sunscreens to ensure that we don’t damage our marine environment.
Ethical Fashion also encourages slow fashion which aims to curb the massive production of high fashion items on a low-cost budget. Slow fashion emphasizes the need to buy vintage clothes instead of dashing for the latest trendy designs, making your clothes or accessories at home, and repairing or redesigning old clothes. This factor will help to break the never-ending production cycle.
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