Here’s a simple one to start with if you’re a broke college student: headbands are in! And so is up-cycling! So why not combine the two and give a cute and simple gift by re-purposing an old article of clothing and make it into a headband!
It’s that time of year again, and it’s this type of intro again! The type that you’ll be reading for the next four months on every local newspaper article and blog post! Blah blah blah snow and mittens blah blah warm fire and Christmas presents blah.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get down to our sustainable tip for this week: reusable mugs.
Every year when fall comes around, we break out our snow boots and scarves while Starbucks breaks out the Pumpkin Spice Latte’s and pumpkin pound cake and increasingly more pumpkin flavored items.
Our favorite warm drinks from coffee shops tend to come in a “to-go” cup. This cup is usually made of paper with a cardboard “sleeve” to keep you from burning yourself on the piping hot coffee.
Even though paper is recyclable, and there are more recycling bins around every year, recycling is not always the best option. Not all things that are put in bins can be recycled, and resources such as oil and timber, are still being used in production. A reusable mug is a great way to reduce the amount of resources being used when you buy your morning coffee!
Mugs can range from a few dollars to twenty or thirty. I have two myself, here’s one of my favorites:
This is an insulated mug which can keep your drink either hot or cold pretty much all day. YES, ALL DAY. This is one of the many benefits of having your own mug: it’s far more insulated, so it will keep your drinks the right temperature!
In addition to that, you can buy mugs – like mine – with screw on lids, so you don’t spill all your liquids every time you drop them, which happens a lot if you’re me.
I like mine metal like Klean Kanteen because of my clumsiness. I don’t have to worry about breaking it or spilling it almost ever. But, there are many very cool ceramic or plastic personal mugs that you can buy! Starbucks has an entire line of custom plastic mugs and local artists often make ceramic to-go coffee mugs, I have a beautiful one myself!
Not to mention, Mizzou’s own Craft Studio has offered classes on making your own mugs in the past, so you can completely customize your very own mug!
It’s never too late to buy and use a reusable coffee mug! Even if you forget sometimes, this is what it’s all about! Baby Steps to Sustainability.
Hydraulic fracturing – the technical term for fracking – is a method of getting gas and oil from shale rock, that is, a sedimentary rock made of mud and minerals. First, a hole, called a “wellbore” is drilled into the rock. Next, a high-pressure liquid –– usually a mix of water, sand and chemicals –– is injected into the wellbore to help the natural gas escape.
Okay, cool –– natural gas. That’s good, right?
Remember when we said the pressured liquid was a mix of water, sand and chemicals? According to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation estimates, each fracking session can require anywhere from 2.4 to 7.8 million gallons of water. That’s 2,400,000 to 7,800,000 gallons.
Second, those chemicals required to frack? Yeah, not great for the environment (and, by extension, you). The chemicals used vary (fracking was protected under regulations imposed by Congress in the 2005 Safe Water Drinking Act). Those chemicals can easily flow into potable water –– i.e., the water that you consume –– and ultimately, into your body.
Since, again, the specific chemicals aren’t regulated, frackers are technically allowed to use chemicals like methanol (also found in: antifreeze, vehicle fuel), formaldehyde (a carcinogen, once widely used to preserve specimens in laboratories), lead (another carcinogen that can also cause neurological disorders) and naphthalene (yet another carcinogen, most commonly found in mothballs).
But…it’s safer than coal, right?
Again, not quite.
While burning coal isn’t great for the environment, burning natural gas –– that is, the product of fracking –– releases other gases like methane. So while it’s true, burning coal gives off twice as many carbon dioxide emissions as natural gas, methane traps heat more than 100 times better than an equal amount of carbon dioxide. So ultimately, these methane emissions negate any benefits you’d reap from producing and using natural gas.
Oh, and all that drilling required? Surprisingly, not great for the rocks. Fracking has been credited with creating earthquakes, including a 4.0 quake in Youngstown, Ohio on New Year’s Eve 2011.
In short, dear reader, hydraulic fracturing is a bad frackin’ idea.
I traveled with a group of about 80 people from the Kansas- Missouri area on a bus (26 hours one way, blech) to New York about three weeks ago. Though the trip was long, and the time spent in New York City (less than 10 hours) was short, the New York City March on Climate Change showed a myriad of different types of people. 400,000 inspired people showed up, some from as far as the West Coast, all for the same cause: to bring awareness to a growing problem- arguably the growing problem- and inspire others to do the same.
For the most part, I feel that we, the protesters at the largest climate rally in the world to date, did quite a swell job bringing awareness to this issue. It is hard to ignore 400,000 people flooding the streets of downtown New York City, after all.
The awareness was certainly not where we fell short: it was the inspiration portion of the protest that ran into problems.
I think environmentalists are naturally abrasive, controversial and excitable people; otherwise we wouldn’t very well support the things that we support. Unfortunately, this type of personality can be off-putting to others who do not share the same sense of urgency or belief in the cause. This is often where the gap lies: the gap which needs to be bridged.
I encountered first hand the type of problem that I am describing while at the March.
One of the many groups of people who attended the March was a group that I will kindly refer to as The Vegans. They were not Some Vegans, or a Group of Vegans, but The Vegans.
There’s a joke that goes “how do you know if someone is a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.”
This is slightly maddening and only a little true, I had once thought. The only vegans I had ever met were very nice people! I had never personally met those vegans until the New York City March on Climate Change.
These vegans made signs claiming that environmentalist’s had a lack of commitment if they still ate any animal by-product, they yelled out incredible statistics about the amount of CO2 which is emitted by livestock and even argued with fellow protesters while we marched. They were almost comical in their attempt to accost a couple from the group I was marching with: they pranced around us, back and forth, waving their signs and yelling “livestock contributes x amount of tons of CO2 to the atmosphere in their poop alone. YOU don’t produce that much CO2, do you?”
Other than the obvious flaw in comparing an entire population of livestock to a single person, I realized something else very important that day about the environmentalist movement.
Being abrasive will not get someone on the fence to agree with you. Unless The Vegans idea was the exact opposite of what they said, I feel like they failed extraordinarily at converting a group of 400,000 people to veganism. And not just any group of 400,000 people, but a group of relatively radical and young environmentalists.
Reaching out to those who don’t share the same vigor for the cause seems to be where the environmentalist movement has fallen short. We need ambassadors to the people, representatives even, who are able to make the movement accessible and less ideologically intimidating than a bunch of vegans dancing around with signs telling you that you aren’t good enough.
Yet another easy one! Also another water solution.
As stated in a previous tip, about 45% of water use occurs in the bathroom. An easy way to cut down on this use is to shorten your showers, like our mother was always telling us to do. Especially if you were me, living in Colorado in the middle of a decade long drought, as a teenage girl with a lot of hair to wash. (it’s not like washing mattered, I could have washed it with peanut butter and it would have looked better than the god-awful styles I was putting it in.)
But I digress.
Shortening showers is not always easy. Sometimes you just got back from working out, sometimes you need to shave, sometimes you it’s really cold and you’re really tired and the water is just so heavenly that it’s nearly impossible to get out, and sometimes you’re a teenage girl preparing to style her hair in yet another horrible way.
But most shower heads use about 2 gallons of water per minute of showering, and some older ones (once again, like the ancient houses we live in as college students) use up to 5 gallons of water a minute. An easy (and cheap in the long run) solution is the water saving shower head!
They can come as cheap as $5 or have a massaging spray, or even come with an apparatus to control the flow. They typically range between 10 and 15 dollars and can shave a few dollars off your water bill a month, eventually paying for itself.
They tend to be easy to install, only needing the removal of one screw.
So for tip #3, save some money and save some water with a water saving low-flow shower head!
Okay, so you’ve purchased your organic food, but now you have all these banana peels and other random food waste lying around. Ugh. Now what?
Remember when we talked about upcycling?
Did you know you can do that with food waste, too?
No, you can’t exactly make crafts out of food scraps –– or, at least, we don’t endorse it. But you can start a compost heap, which is still pretty cool (we’d venture to say it’s cooler. But who knows, maybe your eggshell jewelry collection is really taking off).
Now, what exactly is compost?
In essence, it’s a mixture of decomposed organic materials that can be used in organic agriculture as a fertilizer and soil conditioner. It can help control erosion and even as a natural pesticide for soil.
Compost has four main components: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and water. The carbon and nitrogen come from things like leaves, food scraps, branches and coffee grounds. When you add water to this mixture and expose it to oxygen (that’s more or less a fancy way of saying “leave it outside”), the water and oxygen break down the contents of your pile and create compost. This creates humus (no, not hummus. Different thing. We’re fans of both), which can help retain moisture in soil and improve the soil so it can be reused.
Sometimes, fun things like earthworms and urine and human waste are added to the mix. If that sounds gross, just picture a landfill overflowing with food waste that could’ve been used to make more organic food –– yeah. Not a great alternative.
Now, why should you care about fermented food scraps?
Picture that landfill again. Pretty nasty, huh? Well, every time we throw things in the garbage that we could’ve recycled (or upcycled) (or composted), we’re adding to that pile of trash and increasing our carbon and methane emissions.
Composting helps to reduce that pile by finding a higher purpose for your food and yard trash. Instead of sending those leaves you so painstakingly raked to go sit in a landfill, why not add them to your compost heap? Add in the inedible pieces of the sustainably and organically grown fruits and veggies you used to cook dinner. With a little water, oxygen, and patience (and maybe even some cool additions, like cockroaches or larvae), you’ll have your very own compost pile.
Look at you, shrinking your carbon footprint and reducing methane emissions from landfills! Now you have some cool compost you can use to grow more things. You go, Footprint Mag reader!
Picture this: a shopper, traversing the aisles of her local grocery store with every intention of purchasing organic food –- how hard can it be? Everything’s labelled so nicely…
But after a few minutes, our plucky shopper’s head is swimming, inundated by “USDA Certified Organic”s, “100% All-Natural”s, “Safeway O Organic”s, and a plethora of other labels. What does it all mean? Which ones are real, what means what, why is buying organic so. hard.?!?
Never fear, Sustainability 101 is here. Go grab some popcorn, kids –– we’re gonna be here for a while.
First off, just what is “organic food?”
According to the US Department of Agriculture, “organic crops” are processed without “irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, [or] genetically modified organisms,” and “organic livestock” is livestock raised in a manner that “met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors.”
Now, in the words of Morrissey, “What difference does it make?”
First, there’s the obvious: it’s grown without harmful chemicals and hasn’t been made into a teenage mutant ninja vegetable –– trust us, you don’t need that in your system. Stick to getting super powers from eating sustainably farmed nutritious foods.
Also, from an environmental standpoint, when we buy foods farmed organically, we’re supporting sustainable agricultural practices. The pesticides used in non-organic agriculture contaminate the soil and water supply, and they can even cause crops to become disease-resistant –– gross, huh?
(We think so, too).
“Okay, Sustainable Godmother, that’s great, but how do I know the foods I’m buy are really organic?”
Foods that meet these criteria feature a green “USDA Certified Organic” logo on their labels:
Now, what about brands with enticingly organic-sounding names like “Safeway O Organic” and Giant’s “Nature’s Promise?” Rule of thumb: guilty until proven innocent. Often, these brands aren’t really organic; brands often use words like “all-natural” to cash in on consumers’ increasing desire for organic food, even when their products aren’t organic in the slightest. Check for the green label to see whether or not they’re legit.
Now that you know the benefits of organic food –– and how to outsmart clever marketing ploys –– go forth and veg(gie) out.
Personal water bottles should be a no-brainer! Personal water bottles are not only durable and customizable, they are also eco-friendly (and cheaper!) , especially compared to their mean cousin, The Disposable Water Bottle.
Not pretty is it? Buying a bottle of water a day, or every other day, or even every two, still adds up to a serious amount of waste, literally and monetarily. You could be spending $120, $200, or even upwards of $300 a year on bottled water. Imagine all the things that could be done with that money instead: music festivals, plane tickets, clothing, football games; the possibilities are endless!
New water fountains around campus make filling up easier too.
Americans drink 50 billion bottles of water every year and it takes more than 25 million barrels of crude oil to create all that plastic.
And companies like Fiji, which really do ship water from across the world, are simply exploiting a poor nation of it’s most important resource at almost three times the price of other bottled waters. Not only that, but shipping your water, across oceans, to get to you, is no sustainable way to live.
Buy a personal water bottle. It doesn’t make sense to do anything else!
At some point in our lives, we have all heard the “if it’s yellow leave it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down,” phrase and subsequently wrinkled our nose in disgust. We know we should but, bottom line, not flushing is gross to many of us.
Also bottom line: toilet flushing wastes a serious amount of water.
45% of water use in the average American home happens in the bathroom, and 27% just by toilets. New toilets can only use 1.6 gallons per flush, but older toilets (think: old houses that college students live in…) can flush 3, 5, even up to 7 gallons of water per flush.
Now, in your head, set out 3-5 gallons of water on a table. That is likely used each time you flush. Not only is that wasteful in terms of water, but also in terms of money.
But alas, we have a super simple tip for you: the home-remedy for hard flushing toilets, and you don’t even need to leave your house. You save a ton of money (and the Earth!) by simply putting heavy jars in your toilet tank.
Step one: obtain a few old jars or tupperware.
Step two: fill old jars with rocks or sand or paper weights or coins.
Step three: place jars in toilet tank.
And viola! Now you can save half a gallon per flush.This doesn’t seem like much, until you multiply it by the amount of people in your household and how often each of you use the toilet a day. If you have 2 roommates, and each of you use the home toilet 3 times a day, that’s 810 gallons a month that you can cut down to 675. The New York Times says that you can save 350 gallons of water a month for a household of 5.
The reason this works is this: every time you flush, your toilet tank is emptied into the bowl, then the tank is refilled until the stopper closes and the water becomes stagnant. If you put something with volume in the tank, the water fills up to the same height in the tank, the stopper closes at the same time, but there is less volume to fill up, and thus less water to flush with.
So there’ s your very first sustainable tip from Footprint!
It’s so easy, and you save money, so why wouldn’t you want to?