Natural Personal Care Products

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Conventional products for your home and body can be full of unpronounceable chemicals and are usually packaged in plastic containers, which we know is not the most eco-friendly packaging material.  Cleaning supplies can also be harsh on skin and your lungs when they contain chemicals and fumes.  Greener versions of such products are available, made with natural ingredients that are safer for your skin, body, and environment at home.  Or you could take it one step further to green and make your own.

Why use natural products?

Many conventional products contain seriously harmful chemicals.  Check out this handy guide to toxic ingredients, and always check the label of products before you buy, and watch out for the following ingredients.  Some of the worst offenders include the following ingredients.

Benzoyl peroxide: This peroxide is used in medicated acne treatments and facial washes.  However, it is also a toxic product that can irritate eyes, skin, and lungs.  The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Benzoyl peroxide states that the ingredient may be a mutagen and tumor promoter, as well as causing damage to DNA.

DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), and TEA (Triethanolamine): These materials are used to boost foam production and are skin and eye irritants.  They absorb easily through the skin and accumulate in body tissues and organs such as the brain.

Dioxin: Dioxin is an ingredient that has been reported to cause cancer, reduce immune function, and cause nervous system disorders, miscarriages, and birth defects.  This product is not commonly listed in ingredient lists and often is hidden in ingredients such as triclosan, emulsifiers, PEGs, and SLS (below).

DMDM Hydantoin and Urea: These preservative ingredients release formaldehyde, which causes a host of bodily ailments such as joint pain, skin and allergy reactions, depression, head and chest pain, ear infections, fatigue and insomnia, depression, dizziness, and even cancer.

FD&C Colors and Dyes: These synthetic dyes cause skin irritation as they are absorbed into your body through the skin.  Absorbing these products can lead to oxygen depletion and even death, and nearly all of the dyes have been shown to be carcinogenic in animal studies.

Parabens: Look for the prefixes Methyl, Butyl, Ethyl, and Propyl to identify these ingredients.  Parabens are used as preservatives in many products for the skin such as deodorants and lotions.  These chemicals have been discovered in breast cancer tumors and may contribute to male sterility, female hormonal issues, and early puberty.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG): PEG is ubiquitous  found in baby products, sunscreen, and other personal care items.  Dioxin is a by-product of the process used to make PEG.

Phthalates: Phthalates cause birth defects, damage to the liver and kidneys, decreased sperm count, hormonal issues, and early breast development in both girls and boys.  Phthalates are primarily used as a plasticizing agent and can be found in products ranging from pharmaceuticals to personal care items, detergents, food products, lubricants, and more.  Plastic materials release phthlates into food and the atmosphere as they degrade and break down.

Propylene Glycol (PG) and Butylene Glycol: These ingredients are toxic petroleum plastics that can be absorbed by the skin and lead to abnormalities of major organs.

Sodium Laurel Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate: These ingredients are used to make products foam and lather.  They are very common in shampoos, toothpastes, and soaps.  They are also used to degrease engines and clean roads; these ingredients are far too harsh to let into your body.  According to the Material Safety Data Sheet for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, SLS causes irritation on contact with skin, eyes, or mucous membranes, is moderately toxic if ingested, can cause allergic reactions on contact, and may cause “mutagenic effects.”

Sunscreen: Common chemicals used in sunscreen are believed to lead to cancer and damage DNA.  Such chemicals include Avobenzone, benzphenone, ethoxycinnamate, and PABA.

Triclosan: This chemical is a pesticide and is used as an ingredient in antibacterial products.  Triclosan belongs to the chlorophenol classification of chemicals, and chlorophenols are suspected carcinogens.

What can you do to avoid these chemicals?

There are many ways to avoid harsh and toxic ingredients in your personal care items.  Consider the following suggestions.

Instead of… shampoo:

Green option: Buy shampoos without these toxic ingredients, and recycle your plastic bottles when you run out.  Do research on the key ingredients to avoid in shampoo, and read labels carefully.

Greener option: Buy natural shampoo bars, ideally in paper packaging that can be easily recycled.  Shampoo bars can also be used to clean your body or as a lather bar for shaving, so they are a great way to make the most of your shower’s real estate with a multi-purpose and eco-friendly product.

Greenest option: Make your own.  You can try the no ‘poo method of hair care and alternate a baking soda rinse and a vinegar rinse to cleanse and clarify hair and balance the scalp’s pH.  Or you can learn to make your own shampoo bars or hair care products.

Instead of… lotion:

Green option: Buy natural lotions without the toxins listed above, ideally in glass jars for easy re-use or recycling.  If your lotion comes in a plastic bottle, recycle it.

Greener option: Buy natural lotions from a small local business or independent online vendor.

Greenest option: Make your own!  You can make lotions, body butters, and hand salves from just beeswax and oil, or include shea or cocoa butter, essential oils for natural fragrance, or other ingredients.  There are endless recipes available online if you are interested in making your own lotion.  For a very simple, one-ingredient recipe for lotion, just apply coconut oil to your skin – it is a naturally antibacterial substance and absorbs deep into the skin to reduce dry skin and other skin issues.

Instead of… deodorant:

Green option: Do your homework, read your labels, and purchase a natural brand with real ingredients instead of chemicals.

Greener option: Source your natural deodorant purchase from a local or other handmade vendor (check out Etsy for some great homemade products).

Greenest option: Make your own deodorant.  Coconut oil is a natural antibacterial and anti-fungal product and can be used as a deodorant.  Baking soda is also an effective alternative, known for its odor absorption capabilities, and it can be used alone or mixed with coconut oil.  You can get creative with other ingredients like shea butter and essential oils for natural fragrance.  Save an empty deodorant container to mold your deodorant recipe if you want the easiest application.

Instead of… toothpaste:

Green option: Buy natural brands at the store without fluoride (an ingredient not listed above but that has been identified as dangerous and potentially carcinogenic) or any of the other ingredients listed above, such as SLS.

Greener option: Create homemade toothpaste from baking soda and peppermint castile soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s brand), which is safe to consume.  You may still be buying a pre-made ingredient to make this version, but it’s much better than buying a chemical-laden tube of toothpaste.  Recycle your soap bottle!

Greenest option: Try baking soda only, or a mixture of baking soda and fine sea salt – the salt gives a bit of extra scrubbing power. For a familiar taste, add peppermint extract or peppermint oil (or whatever flavor you prefer, just don’t use a sugary flavoring).

As an added bonus, check out this list of BPA-, PVC-, and Phthalate-free toothbrushes.

Instead of… face wash, toner, and moisturizer:

Green option: Purchase natural brands at the store without any toxic ingredients listed above.

Greener option: Replace one or more of your regimen’s ingredients with a homemade natural alternative.

Greenest option: Overhaul your facial regimen and make your own products.  You can make a facial scrub from honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and even oatmeal for more exfoliation.  Or you can rinse your face with a baking soda solution or create a mask from baking soda and orange juice.  Use apple cider vinegar (organic, with the “mother”) as a toner.  Moisturize with coconut oil or other oil such as jojoba or olive oil – steam your face with a warm or hot washcloth and wipe the excess oil away, leaving skin clean and soft.

Honey is naturally antibacterial and is a great natural ingredient for washing your face.

Instead of… sunscreen:

Green option: Try an organic, natural sunscreen without the chemicals listed above that are commonly used in sunscreens.

Greenest option: Use coconut oil as a sunscreen.  Coconut oil blocks the burn but still allows your skin to absorb the UV rays of the sun, which are necessary for Vitamin D absorption.  There are many recipes online for coconut oil sunscreens, some of which contain other oils and ingredients for different purposes.

Enjoy your new beauty products

A simple internet search can bring you thousands of recipes to make your own face care, hair care, and skin care products from all natural ingredients.  Whether you take the green route and make more eco-conscious purchases from natural brands, or you go the greenest way and make all of your own natural products, the less you rely on chemicals in your personal care products, the healthier you will become.  Share this information with your family and friends to encourage them to make healthy, natural choices about what they put on their bodies too. Share your ideas for more natural DIY products in the comments.

Photo credits:
Honey – Showupfitness.com
Coconut – Mindbodygreen.com

The Secret Life of Disposables

Imagine living a typical day in a typical American life.  Perhaps you wake up and take a shower, using shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.  Then you dry your hair and add some styling product.  You empty the container and toss it in the trash.  You eat breakfast, wiping up a spill with a paper towel, and brush your teeth.  You leave and drive to work, and on your way you stop for a coffee from a drive-thru.  At work, you drink a can of soda and throw your can in the recycle bin when you are done.  Your nose gets a little sniffly and you use a few tissues. For lunch, your office orders out Chinese food and you eat from a plastic container using plastic utensils, wipe your mouth with a paper napkin, and discard the plastic and napkin when you are done.

Lunch is over and you have used over twelve disposable items already.

After work, you go to a friend’s house for a cookout.  The table is covered with a plastic tablecloth and everyone uses paper plates, plastic cups and silverware, and paper napkins.  You have a great time and go home after the party with a plastic container full of leftovers.

How many disposable items do you use every day?  How much plastic do you use in your life?

We have been trained to believe more in convenience than environmental impact.  Sure, it seems like no big deal to just use a plastic spoon, but consider the effort of washing a spoon versus the energy consumed to create, package and transport a plastic spoon that will just be thrown away after one use.  And consider that millions of other people are using disposable items that seem like no big deal.  We must consider the global impact of our actions and become more purposeful in our use of everyday items.

From plastic-wrapped single-serving food items to razors to feminine hygiene items to hairbrushes to sandwich bags, Americans use a lot of plastic.

Consider the following facts about plastics from reusethisbag.com:

  • The average American will throw away 600 times their own body weight in waste products over their lifetime
  • Plastics make up approximately 10% of generated waste – that’s 60 times your body weight in a lifetime for a typical American
  • In one year, we create enough plastic wrap and film to cover the state of Texas
  • Eight percent of the world’s oil is used to manufacture plastics, most of which end up in a landfill within a year of being produced
  • All the plastic thrown away in one year is enough to circle the planet four times over
  • Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles per hour – switching to a reusable container eliminates the need for 100 disposable bottles annually
  • Plastic is the largest source of litter in the ocean (60-90% of marine debris), and we add 14 billion pounds of waste to the oceans annually
  • Garbage in the ocean kills over 100,000 mammals and 1 million birds each year
  • In one week, the world goes through 10 billion plastic bags, only 1% of which are recycled
  • The chemical manufacturing of plastics creates pollutants that harm the environment
  • Plastic bags do not biodegrade, but light can dissolve them into toxic particles that pollute the air, and burning plastics releases harmful fumes
  • Plastic bags eventually degrade in a landfill – after 1,000 years
  • It takes 12 million barrels of oil per year to produce plastic bags for average U.S. consumption
  • The petroleum used to produce 13 plastic bags could drive a car for one mile
  • Plastics buried in landfills can leach chemicals into groundwater
  • Chemicals used to produce plastics can be absorbed by the human body, such as Bisphenol A (BPA), which is present in 92% of Americans over the age of six
  • High exposure to BPA correlates with increased rates of heart disease and diabetes
  • One ton of recycled plastic saves 5,774 kilowatt hours of electricity, 685 gallons of oil, 98 million BTUs of energy, and 30 cubic yards of space in landfills
  • Recycling plastic materials takes 88% less energy than making new plastic, yet only 25% of plastic produced in the United States is recycled

And that’s just the plastic.

Considering paper disposables, Americans use facial tissues, napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, paper cups, paper bags, and more.  All of these disposable items take valuable resources from the Earth, like oil, water, and crops like trees and cotton, and give us a moment of convenience before we throw them back where they came from, oftentimes too processed to be broken back down into earth.  Landfills are taking up more and more space on our planet, as we find new places to throw away our garbage.

What can you do to reduce this waste?

Using disposable items is so commonplace, it can be hard to consider some reusable options.  Think about the following replacements for commonly disposable items:

Bath products in plastic bottles: Recycle the containers when you are done, then repurpose a glass jar (no BPA!) to make your own lotions, hair products, and body scrubs. Or consider a shampoo/soap bar without plastic packaging.

Batteries: Get rechargeable ones.  Properly dispose of batteries instead of throwing them out in the garbage where they can leak chemicals.

Dental hygiene items: Try a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush, vegan floss in a recyclable paperboard container, and DIY mouth rinses instead of harsh chemical mouthwash.

Diapers and wipes: Go cloth!  Diapers take hundreds of years to degrade in a landfill, since they are made with plastic.  The 21st century’s cloth diapers have made incredible advances since the days of leaks and giant safety pins.  There are also eco-friendly biodegradable (disposable) diapers on the market.

Disposable cups and takeout containers: Sit down and stay a while.  Most coffee shops have mugs, glass cups, and real dishes for customers eating or drinking in the establishment.  Takeout restaurants often have a dine-in option as well.  Bring a to-go mug from home if you need to grab a drink on the run.

Feminine products: Consider silicone menstrual cups and washable cloth pads.  They can save you thousands of dollars over your lifetime, and they don’t come with the risk of toxic chemical byproducts, genetically modified cotton fibers, or toxic shock syndrome.

Food containers: Skip the plastic containers for leftovers and use glass instead.  It won’t leach chemicals into your food upon reheating and can usually travel between oven, fridge, and freezer with no issue.

Media: Purchasing music and movies digitally reduces plastic used in the production of CDs, DVDs, and their cases.  You can also subscribe to an online service like Netflix to enjoy media digitally.

Napkins: Buy cloth, and simply toss them in the wash when you do laundry.  They will last for years instead of minutes.

Paper towels: For easy cleanup, keep a basket of old dish towels, microfiber cloths, cut up tee shirts, or old socks in the kitchen or bathroom.  Or consider a roll of “unpaper towels.”

Pet supplies: Scooping pet waste?  Try biodegradable bags made from plant plastic.  Eliminate harmful clay cat litter in favor of recycled newspaper litter you can make at home, or purchase commercially available litters made from corn, wheat, pine, or paper.  (Alternatively, train your kitty to use the toilet).  Use glass or steel dishes for pet food and water to reduce the risk of bacteria lurking in scratches on plastic bowls and, of course, to avoid BPA.  Make your own toys or purchase toys made from sustainable or recycled materials.

Razors: Go old school and get a razor with replaceable blades, instead of tossing the whole razor.  Or learn to use a shaving knife – just be careful.  You can also consider an electric razor (that plugs in or uses rechargeable batteries) to eliminate the need to throw away anything but your hair clippings (which are compostable, by the way).

Sandwich bags: Use reusable bags or sandwich boxes instead of one-use sandwich bags.

Shopping bags: Take your canvas bags to the supermarket, and eliminate the need for over 20,000 plastic bags.  If you have a stash of plastic bags, turn them into plastic yarn and knit yourself a new bag.  Many people already take their reusable totes to the grocery store, but you can also keep a stash in the car for department store clothes shopping or shoe shopping too.  Anywhere you would use a plastic bag, take a reusable one instead!  You can buy them cheap or make your own, up-cycling tee shirts or other materials to turn them into bags.

Silverware: Keep a set of silverware in your desk at work, and stash a reusable spork in your purse, car glove compartment, or travel bag for those impromptu lunches on the go when you may be otherwise forced to use plastic cutlery.

Sponges and scrub brushes: Use a washcloth or a natural bamboo brush with bristles made from renewable sources.

Tissues: Use a handkerchief, or invest in an organic cotton HankyBook, an innovative twist on the classic handkerchief.

Toilet paper: For the seriously eco-conscious, consider using cloth wipes in the bathroom instead of flushing all that paper.  If that’s too far over your line, stick to a recycled paper bath tissue to make an eco-friendly decision.

Remember the three Rs of environmentalism: Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Reduce your overall purchases, your dependence on imports, your attachment to the convenience of disposable items, and your waste.

Reuse the items discussed in this post, like glass containers for leftovers, cloth towels, handkerchiefs, canvas grocery bags, and more.

Recycle what you cannot reuse.  Look up the recycling guidelines for your community to see if there is a recycling program and whether or not it has any restrictions on the materials it accepts.  Consider composting your fruit and vegetable scraps instead of throwing them out.  Donate gently worn sheets, towels, and clothing instead of throwing it away.

Spend some time paying attention to the disposable items you use every day.  Make small changes, like taking a kitchen towel to work to dry your hands in the bathroom, or bringing your own cup to a coffee shop for your morning latte.  Keep a few canvas bags in your car for groceries or other shopping trips.  Use a reusable lunchbox (or one of your canvas bags) instead of a paper or plastic bag for lunch.

Switching to reusable materials instead of disposable just makes sense when you consider the environmental impact of creating and throwing out single-use items, the financial impact of having to purchase disposables again and again throughout your lifetime, and the personal impact of knowing you have made a good decision for yourself, your family, and your planet by investing in reusable products.  Though a reusable item may seem more expensive at first, it will quickly pay for itself when you realize it lasts for years and years and only takes a moment to clean or recharge, as opposed to lasting for a moment before it sits in a landfill for years and years.

Green Friday

Green FridayThe holidays are a time of love, peace, helping others, showing gratitude, and giving. Unfortunately, more than ever, our holiday season has become less about giving and more about buying. We are routinely inundated with advertisements – in magazines, television commercials, Internet pop-ups and side-bar ads, and even through product placement and sponsorships in the shows and sporting events we watch. We spend much of our time coveting the latest gadgets and toys.

Black Friday has become a holiday tradition, often beginning as early as the evening of Thanksgiving or in the wee hours of Friday morning. Consumers flock to the stores to grab deals on discounted items, popular holiday gifts, appliances, and more. This may not appeal to the eco-minded among us, however. This year, instead of participating in Black Friday or other consumerist holiday traditions, consider beginning some green traditions instead.

Buy Nothing Day

There are several organized events that take place on the day after Thanksgiving that seek to point out the consumerism that takes over society in a rush for holiday decorations and gifts. Buy Nothing Day, an international day of protest, takes place on Black Friday each year. There are three sub-protests built into this day. You can participate in “Credit Card Cut-Up” by standing in a shopping mall with a sign offering to cut up people’s credit cards. You can try out the “Zombie Walk” and wander aimlessly around a mall amidst other “zombies” who are mindlessly searching for a great bargain. If those aren’t your style, try gathering up some friends to do a “Whirl-Mart” and silently drive empty shopping carts around in a long line without ever putting anything in them. Of course, if you aren’t interested in one of these specific activities, you can always elect to stay home with family and friends and spend time together without spending a cent or leaving the house.

The simple fact is that we buy too much stuff. We use physical (and usually purchased) items to express our gratitude, our love, our respect, our commitment, our friendship, and more. Consumer protests like Buy Nothing Day are a way to refocus on the reason for the holiday season – which is, underneath all the sales ads and doorbusters, to spend time with the people we love and be grateful for them.

Eco Friendly Gift Ideas

There are many ways to have an eco-friendly holiday season. Chances are good you already have reduced your consumption of packaged items, imported items, and plastic items just by being a sustainability-minded, environmentally-conscious consumer. It is still easy to get caught up in the desire to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Instead of shopping all winter for the perfect present, consider the following ideas:

  • Arts and crafts. Do an Internet search for DIY gifts you can create yourself instead of buying something pre-packaged. You can make a salt or sugar scrub instead of buying pricy bath and body products. If you’re an artist, draw or paint something and frame it. Create a mix CD of songs in your musical library. Create a photo collage or a collection of stories or poems. If you have children, involve them in the creation of their gifts for other people.
  • Buy Fair Trade. Find a shop (in person or online) that sells Fair Trade Certified items you can give as gifts. This way, your money goes toward someone who really needs it and who makes a quality item, instead of going to a corporation that mass-produces junk.
  • Buy local. If you can’t make all of your gifts, buy from local merchants to purchase your gifts. Your gift is two-fold: you give someone you care about a nice gift, and you help that merchant stay in business.
  • Buy secondhand. If you can’t find what you’re looking for locally, check secondhand stores to reduce your gift’s environmental impact.
  • Cook a meal together. A holiday dinner is also a big part of our society. Keep it green by preparing local foods like produce, dairy, and meat, or make it even greener by preparing a vegetarian or vegan meal! To cut back on your time in the kitchen, host a pot luck dinner and invite family and friends to prepare a favorite holiday dish. Avoid disposable dishes, cutlery, and even napkins if you can; despite their convenience, disposable items are a terrible drain on environmental resources. Turn cleanup into a family affair and it will go by quickly after the meal has finished.
  • Décor: Make your own decorations. Make paper chains, thread some popcorn onto a string, create clay ornaments, and sew your own stockings from repurposed material. Involve the whole family in making these holiday crafts, and create a new tradition that doesn’t revolve around buying more things.
  • Décor: Use natural decorations. Natural items can be displayed for holiday cheer – such as pinecones displayed in a bowl, or an arrangement of red and green apples or poinsettias – and then eaten or discarded outside to biodegrade back into nature.
  • Donate. Adopt a family for the holidays who cannot afford to buy gifts for their children, and buy a (sensible and eco-friendly if possible) gift for a child in need. Look into the rules of what can be donated to see if you can donate a gently used item instead of buying something new. Do a drive in your home or neighborhood for winter clothing to donate to a homeless shelter.
  • Exempt yourself. Many people will feel compelled to give you gifts because it is the holiday season and there is an expectation to give. Call up everyone you know and tell them they’re exempt from buying you a gift this year. Demand to receive nothing from them. You can be more lax on this with significant others and immediate family members and host a small gift exchange of handmade or eco-friendly gifts.
  • Give a donation. Give the gift of a charity donation to someone you love, such as a wildlife adoption for someone who loves animals, an educational charity for someone in the education field, or any other charity that aligns with your gift recipient’s interests.
  • Give an experience. Consider spending money on an experience, such as concert tickets, horseback riding lessons, a family vacation, or something else that will make memories that last longer than any item will.
  • Give the gift of time. Wash your brother’s car, clean up mom’s kitchen, or pitch in and do the chores at home to give your loved ones the gift of a little free time.
  • Go caroling. Caroling in the neighborhood or at a local nursing home is a great way to spend time with your loved ones without spending anything.
  • Host a buy-nothing swap meet. Organize several friends to bring in gently used items from their homes. Examples include clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, home decorations, children’s toys and clothes, books, movies, CDs, dishes, etc. You and your friends can all get some new-to-you items to give to friends and family as gifts.
  • Limit your purchases. The best way to fight against our consumerist culture of needing more, more, and more is to limit what you buy, give, and ask for during the holiday season. If someone asks you what you’d like as a gift, be thoughtful, practical, and deliberate in your answer. Be very specific about what you do not want – for example, prepackaged bath or beauty products, imported items, excess items you didn’t need or ask for, etc.
  • Make homemade treats. Prepare cookies, cakes, pies, brownies, fudge, or other confections to give as gifts. Buy re-usable glass, metal, or ceramic platters or pie plates from a thrift store (such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army), which can often be purchased for less money than a disposable plastic or aluminum platter. Include a note indicating that the dish is also part of the gift, to keep for use or to give away. You could also make your own vanilla extract or cookies in a jar with instructions for the recipient to just add the wet ingredients and bake.
  • Volunteer. Spend a few hours on Black Friday and throughout the holiday season in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, helping the people in your community who don’t have the luxuries in life many others are accustomed to having. Turn helping others into a family tradition to look forward to every year, and encourage your family members to volunteer year-round if they can.
  • Wrap with the Earth in mind. Wrap gifts in newspaper or plain brown paper bags, and write the recipient’s name on in marker – this wrapping paper can be easily recycled and chances are good that you didn’t have to spend money on something headed immediately to the trash. You could also package gifts in re-usable canvas shopping bags or fabric holiday bags.

Step away from the status quo of consumerism and make some new holiday traditions. Remember the reason for the holidays – spending time with those you love to express peace and gratitude. Do something as a family that will leave more lasting memories than a room full of discarded wrapping paper and toys forgotten each time the next is opened. In ten or twenty years, your family will remember the feelings associated with their holiday traditions; they will forget the toys and gifts and doorbuster sales. Make the holidays a time of togetherness again.

Photo Courtesy of DesignBoom.com

Daylight Saving Time

Environmental Impact of Daylight Saving Time

Does it Really Save Anything?

By: Oriana Turley

This time of year, over 1.6 billion people around the world set their clocks back an hour in an effort to use daylight more efficiently and cut energy costs. But more and more economists are saying that daylight saving time doesn’t save any energy at all. In fact, more recent studies indicate that daylight saving time costs more per household and creates more pollution.

Daylight saving time has been part of U.S. policy since 1918, in various forms, in an effort to conserve energy and use daylight wisely. Could it be that DST is actually bad for the environment?

The latest research suggests that may be the case.

Matthew Kotchen, a professor of environmental economics and policy at Yale University, crunched the numbers on daylight saving time. He found “that ‘saving’ daylight has cost electricity.”

For decades, the state of Indiana was split with regard to DST; some counties observed daylight saving time while other counties did not. In 2006, the entire state began observing daylight saving time. This provided Kotchen and his colleague Laura Grant with what they call a “natural experiment.” In Indiana, they found a prime set of circumstances to scientifically determine whether or not DST actually saves energy.

“Our main finding is that, contrary to the policy’s intent, DST increases electricity demand,” Kotchen said in his analysis.

Over 7 million records of energy bills and watt usage were pored over in their study, entitled: Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Indiana..

“We estimate a cost to Indiana households of $9 million per year in increased electricity,” Kotchen said in his report. “We also estimate the social costs of increased pollution emissions between $1.7 to $5.5 million per year.”

The rise in pollution is attributed to a rise in evening traffic. This increased traffic creates a rise in gas use, which in turn creates higher atmospheric pollution levels from burning that fuel.

And that is only in Indiana.

These effects are likely to be even worse in more extreme environments, where heating and cooling demands are higher. This is due to the fact that much of the data in the Indiana study indicated that the highest energy consumption was a result of heating and cooling costs, not household appliances or lighting.

“Our simulation results show that DST saves on electricity used for illumination but increases electricity used for heating and cooling,” Kotchen says in his report.

Milder locations might experience a lesser effect.

“Studies done in the 1970s by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that we trim the entire counter’s electricity usage by about one percent EACH DAY with Daylight Saving Time,” according to the California Department of Energy.

By making the sun set one hour later, the time period between sunset and bedtime is lessened by one hour, claims the CDE.

“This means that less electricity would be used for lighting and appliances late in the day.”

A California Energy Commission report, The Effects of Daylight Saving Time on California Electricity Use, also says that energy in the morning is cheaper, and DST could still save California households a significant amount of money.

“Summer Double DST would cause a smaller (220MW) and more uncertain drop in
peak, but it could still save hundreds of millions of dollars because it would shift electricity use to low demand (cheaper) morning hours and decrease electricity use during higher demand hours.”

Kotchen and Grant agree that DST could save on electricity and money used for household lighting, but say the savings are more than offset by increases in electricity use for heating and cooling.

This often cited Department of Transportation study from 1975, Kotchen says, only accounts for “consumption at the points of transition in the spring and fall,” not the net energy consumption for a full 365-day cycle.

By studying the year-round data and effects of daylight saving time, the “Indiana study provides the first and only empirical evidence of DST’s effect throughout the entire year, and the results suggest that DST costs, rather than saves, energy,” says Kotchen.

Benjamin Franklin first came up with the idea of DST in 1784. He wrote an essay called An Economical Project in which he detailed his revelation of how many candles could be saved if people realized how early the sun was up.

At the time he was an American delegate to France and thought it impossible that such “sensible a people, under such circumstances, should have lived so long by the smoky, unwholesome, and enormously expensive light of candles, if they had really known, that they might have had as much pure light of the sun for nothing.”

Though Benjamin Franklin was credited with the conceptual invention of daylight saving time, it was William Willet that introduced a bill to the British Parliament in 1909. This was the first time DST was introduced as policy. It was met with widespread opposition and the bill was not passed.

It wasn’t until 1916, a year after Willet’s death, that daylight saving time was introduced officially as a World War I economic measure to conserve fuel. Europe, and then the United States in 1918, wholly observed DST until the war ended when opposition rebounded. At this time the policy was again repealed.

In the decades since, policy concerning DST has bounced back and forth. During times of energy concerns, such as the 1973 oil embargo, DST was usually reinstated to conserve energy, according to a 1998 congressional report.

“Congress then asked the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) to evaluate the DOT report (of 1975). NBS found no significant energy savings.”

Throughout the century of policy changes there was little scientific evidence that daylight saving time actually saved anything. But it wasn’t until the study done by Kotchen and Grant in 2008 that the scientific community had data-driven proof showing that DST not only didn’t save energy, but actually gobbled up more.

There are, however, other factors that affect both positive and negative popular opinion on daylight saving policy.

Clocks all over the world are set forward one hour in the spring and back one hour in the fall but the people who set them don’t readjust as easily, says a 2007 study.

A large survey conducted throughout Europe analyzed the natural sleep patterns of people affected by daylight saving time. The findings indicated that the human internal clock has a hard time adjusting to the sudden switch in waking times. This has shown decreased levels of daytime activity and greater susceptibility to sickness and fatigue.

“When we implement small changes into a biological system which by themselves seem trivial, their effects, when viewed in a broader context, may have a much larger impact than we had thought,” said Till Roenneberg of Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich, Germany. “It is much too early to say whether DST has a serious long-term impact on health, but our results indicate that we should consider this seriously and do a lot more research on the phenomenon.”

Brad Sherman, a representative in Congress from California introduced legislation, H.R. 704, which would allow states in the Pacific time zone to adjust their standard time to help alleviate some of the energy crisis. In a statement in favor of daylight savings time made to Congress in 2001, Sherman said the benefits far outweighed the negative impacts, pertaining to environmental, safety or other concerns.

“Daylight saving time saves lives and prevents traffic injuries, allowing more people to travel home from work and school in the daylight, which is much safer than darkness. And, according to the DOT report, except for the months of November and December, daylight saving time does not increase the morning hazard for those going to school and work,” Sherman said.

When fall drifts into winter, most people appreciate the feeling of getting an ‘extra hour’ of sleep in the morning and the psychological effects of suddenly waking up with light outside can boost morale of those consistent early morning risers.

From spring into summer, the extended hour of evening light has shown to boost local business and gives hardworking families a little more time to spend together participating in leisure activities.

Some psychologists also suggest that by increasing the waking hours of sunlight, daylight savings also naturally increases the opportunity for outdoor activity and exercise, which can lead to overall healthier lifestyles. A healthier lifestyle, and more time spent outside, could also contribute to reducing energy costs by getting people out of their artificially heated or cooled homes and back into nature.

For over a century, policy concerning daylight saving time was created with the assumption that making the most of daylight would by environmentally friendly, while providing extra light for social activities and business.

But in the end, the energy saving benefits of daylight savings time are miniscule at best. And the more extreme the climate, the more it seems that DST is an energy sucker, despite the long-held impression that it is an energy conservation policy. The overall environmental effects of the policy are somewhat dependent on location, lifestyle and culture.

References

Kotchen, M., and L. Grant “Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Indiana” (2008)

U. S. Department of Transportation, The Daylight Saving Time Study:
A Report to Congress from the Secretary of Transportation
(1975).

U. S. Department of Energy, Potential Energy-Saving Impacts of Extending
Daylight Saving Time: A National Assessment (2006).

California Energy Commission, ‘‘The Effects of Daylight Saving Time on
California Electricity Use’’ (Sacramento: California Energy Commission,
2001).

Franklin, B., ‘‘An Economical Project,’’ Journal de Paris (1784)

Kantermann et al.: “The Human Circadian Clock’s Seasonal Adjustment Is Disrupted by Daylight Saving Time.” Publishing in Current Biology 17, 1–5, November 20, 2007. DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2007.10.025

Quotes pertaining to circadian rhythm study were sourced from a Cell Press Release of the research material listed above.

Representative Sherman’s formal statement to Congress, 2001

Image via whimquarterly.com

How To Make Your Own Cat Litter

If you’ve ever had to set up a litter box for a cat, you know that common clay litters produce a lot of dust. What you might not know is that this dust is silica dust, and it can be harmful to your lungs and your pets’ lungs.

Photo form Carbonon.me

Your feline friend also licks the dust and clay particles from her paws, ingesting the litter – this can have serious health consequences for kitty, as the clumping agents in the litter can form a clump in your cat’s digestive tract. Clay litter is also environmentally unfriendly, as it is created via strip-mining and it is not a biodegradable substance. There are many alternative or eco friendly litters on the market, made from newspaper, corn, wheat, and pine – but it’s pretty simple to make your own at home.

Things you’ll need:

  • A storage tote or similarly sized bucket or tub
  • A screen (you can use a discarded window screen)
  • A fine-mesh sieve
  • Gloves (to avoid inky hands)
  • Newspaper
  • Baking soda

Instructions:

  1. Shred the newspaper, using a shredder or ripping by hand. Fill the tub with newspaper shreds.
  2. Fill the newspaper tub with water, soaking the paper strips.
  3. Let soak, mixing occasionally with your (gloved) hands. The newspaper should begin to form a pulpy mass.
  4. Drain the paper pulp with the sieve. Small bits of newspaper can clog a drain, so do your best to avoid dumping the whole tote into the bathtub.
  5. Wring out the paper pulp until you can’t get any more water out, and place it back into the tote/tub.
  6. Sprinkle the pulp with baking soda and knead it into the pulp– this ingredient promotes odor absorption. You can vary the amount depending on how much paper you use and based on experience with odor in the litter box. You can also sprinkle some directly into the litter box for additional odor reduction later.
  7. Crumble the pulp into small pellets over the screen to allow airflow for drying.
  8. Allow up to three days for the litter to dry completely.
  9. Introduce new litter slowly by mixing with old litter a little at a time until the litter box is entirely recycled paper litter.
  10. Scoop the box daily, and clean with a non-ammonia soap and warm water once weekly to maintain a clean litter box.

Tips:

  • The water soak rinses out much of the ink from the newspaper, but if you are still worried about the ink in the litter, you can rinse once with a few drops of biodegradable dish soap and then rinse a second time, following the remaining directions as listed.
  • If you do not have a sieve, situate your screen above your bathtub (or outside where you will dump the water) and pour over the screen to drain the tub or tote.
  • “Slick” paper from advertisements and magazines should be avoided in favor of traditional newspaper.
  • Rip the newspaper along the grain for easy tearing.
  • If you don’t have gloves and you get ink on your hands, scrub your skin and fingernails with baking soda under warm water. This should remove the ink.
  • Wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, in case of ink stains or spilling newspaper water.
  • Keep a designated sieve and tub/tote for making litter, as they will become stained by the ink.
  • Yield: Generally, one “Sunday paper” worth of newspaper makes about a week of litter. You can make it in bulk and store it in an old cat litter container, it won’t expire.
  • Vary the amount of baking soda depending on your odor absorption needs – you can also sprinkle baking soda directly into the litter box to help absorb more odors.

Lead Poisoning

October 21-27, 2012 is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has spent the week promoting posters, flyers, press releases, and information about testing your children and your homes for lead. The CDC states that around half a million children in the United States have blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the threshold level for initiating public health actions. Half a million children in the country have unsafe levels of lead in their bodies – despite lead poisoning being considered “the most preventable environmental disease among young children.”

Since 1999, the last full week of October has been designated a week for lead poisoning awareness and prevention. During this week each year, the CDC strives to raise overall awareness regarding lead poisoning, encourage people to screen children under six for lead content in the blood, promote steps to reduce lead exposure, and affirm their partners’ efforts to reduce lead poisoning in children.

Lead poisoning is a medical condition that can be very detrimental to internal organs and body tissues. It is caused by a buildup of lead, a heavy metal element, in the body. We can absorb lead from contaminated air, water, food, soil, and products like vinyl miniblinds, paint, and pipes. Lead can also be absorbed through meat produced from hunting game; the lead in the bullets can potentially contaminate the meat. Lead is toxic to the heart, kidneys, stomach and intestines, bones, reproductive organs, and the nervous system. This toxicity to the nervous system is what makes lead poisoning especially important to avoid in children, as it can lead to permanent developmental, learning, and behavior disorders as a result of lead’s effects on the developing nervous system in children.

What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?

Medical website WebMD lists the following symptoms of lead poisoning in adults and children:

Symptoms of lead poisoning in adults include…

  • Changes in mood, behavior, personality, and sleeping patterns
  • Memory loss
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Weakness and muscle problems
  • Headaches

Symptoms of lead poisoning in children include…

  • Small size and lower intelligence compared to children of the same age
  • Behavioral issues such as anger, moodiness, or hyperactivity
  • Learning problems, delays, or disabilities
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

According to WebMD, diagnosing lead poisoning can be difficult, because several diseases could cause these symptoms. This is dangerous for children, who often show no signs of lead poisoning until the levels of lead in their blood is very high.

WebMD also points out the populations at high risk for lead poisoning.

Children with high risk of lead poisoning are those who:

  • Live in or spend a lot of time in buildings built before 1978 – such buildings may contain lead-based paint, which can chip off and pollute the air and soil.
  • Are from another country – these children may have been exposed to high levels of lead in their home country
  • Are age six and younger – children under six have a tendency to put objects into their mouth and swallow toys and other non-food items, their brains are developing quickly, and their bodies absorb lead faster than older individuals

Other people at risk of lead poisoning include those who:

  • Drink water from pipes with lead solder
  • Work with lead in their occupation or hobbies
  • Eat food from cans with lead solder (not made in the United States)
  • Cook or store food in ceramic dishes – some ceramic glazes contain lead that may not have been properly cured
  • Eat or breathe folk remedies including herbs and vitamins that may include lead
  • Live in areas with high levels of industrial pollution

Lead isn’t just a risk to humans. Hunting and fishing are huge lead risks to wildlife, as the lead from bullets and fishing tackle travels through the food chain – affecting birds such as the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, loon, crane, and dove, as well as mammals such as wolves, bears, and panthers. Non-toxic materials are available for use in fishing and hunting and many progressive organizations are calling for a ban on toxic lead ammunition and fishing tackle. There have even been lawsuits against the EPA for its failure to protect wildlife (endangered and non-endangered) from lead poisoning.

These risks to animals can also affect your own pets. Anywhere lead can affect you and your family – paint chips and dust, corroded plumbing, etc. – it also affects your pets who drink the same water and sniff around the same paint! Below you will find a list of tips to prevent lead poisoning and protect your family (including pets) from toxic lead risks.

How is lead poisoning treated?

Lead poisoning can usually be treated by removing the source of the lead that is being absorbed, usually paint chips, dust, and dirt. A nutritious diet high in iron and key vitamins and minerals can sometimes be enough to reduce the body’s blood lead levels – indeed, a diet high in these nutrients may absorb less lead than someone eating a poor diet. If removing the source and eating a balanced, nutritious diet are not enough to reduce the lead content in the blood (necessary in cases when blood lead levels are very high), the patient may benefit from chelation therapy, in which chelating medicines bind to the lead in the blood and help to remove it from the body.

Is lead only a risk in buildings and paint?

Unfortunately, no. Lead is also an ingredient in many cosmetics; the FDA detected lead in over 400 lipsticks earlier this year. Though many of the lipsticks contain trace amounts of lead, it is hypothesized that the accumulated buildup over time from repeated exposure can cause negative toxic effects. Lead has also been found in tattoo inks, strings of decorative holiday lights, and even in apple juice. As mentioned before, toys can contain lead in their paint, especially if they are manufactured outside the United States. Keep yourself aware of product recalls, particularly if you are buying used toys from a resale shop or website – they may not know or disclose the lead content of the item for sale.

What can you do to prevent lead poisoning?

The most obvious way to prevent lead poisoning is to reduce your (and your family’s) exposure to lead. If your home is at high risk of lead content, you should have risk assessments performed to identify any sources of lead. If your home has lead plumbing or paint, have it professionally removed. Some ways to prevent ingestion and absorption of lead into the body include:

  • Wash hands frequently, especially before and after meals, playing, and bedtime for kids
  • Wash children’s toys and dishes often
  • Increase intake of iron and calcium in the diet – these nutrients help avoid the absorption of lead in the body’s tissues
  • Read labels and research products before you buy them to make informed choices when shopping and avoid items with lead or other toxic ingredients
  • Pay attention to product recalls, especially if shopping secondhand
  • Eliminate items that contain lead from the home (such as jewelry, mini blinds, plumbing with lead soldering)
  • Screen for blood lead content (blood tests are recommended for children at ages 1 and 2, and children and adults who have been exposed to lead)
  • Test soil for lead content (especially if you have children or pets, or if you regularly garden in the soil)
  • Test tap water for lead content (if your home has lead pipes or your plumbing was installed before 1986)
  • Regularly clean floors, window sills, and other areas that get a lot of use where lead dust may accumulate
  • Clean up paint chips as soon as you notice them, and notify your landlord (if renting) or a professional to examine the peeling or chipping areas for lead
  • Examine the conditions of schools, child care buildings, and homes where your children spend a significant amount of time – check for chipping paint (inside, outside, and on toys and furniture) and old metal playground equipment, and ask if the facility performs routine testing for lead
  • Remove your shoes immediately upon entering the home to avoid tracking any traces of lead (or other harmful particles) through your home
  • Have your home inspected for lead before renovations
  • Enlist the help of a lead abatement professional – do not attempt to remove lead paint or lead-containing items without the help of a professional

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a PDF that discusses lead poisoning risks, symptoms, treatment, prevention and more.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of lead out there that we can potentially stumble across and ingest or inhale. Following these tips for prevention and removal of hazardous lead can reduce your risk significantly. To get more involved in the prevention of lead poisoning, do some research on any local, state, or national bills or laws that relate to lead and other toxic materials and call a representative or sign a petition to take a step in the right direction and express your views on why lead control is important and necessary.

Lead poisoning is a serious medical condition that is very preventable. Participate in local health department screenings during awareness weeks like National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (get screened regularly even if it’s not!), read up on CDC recommendations for lead poisoning prevention, and educate yourself about the ways you can protect yourself and your family from this common toxin.

8 Cool Green Baby Products

You know that plastics and even wood products can contain harmful VOCs and other chemicals that can pollute the air in your home. Unfortunately, babies’ and children’s products are also subject to such risks. Attend any baby shower and you’ll see a seemingly infinite number of baby products, from toys to clothes to furniture to diapers and everything in between. What do you do when you want to keep baby safe from chemicals used in modern manufacturing processes?

We’ll highlight eight (8) green products for your baby you can try for your own babies or take to the next shower you attend.

1. Car Seats and Strollers

Orbit Baby offers car seats and strollers made with fabric certified to be gentle on your baby’s skin and flame retardants that protect without harmful chemicals. The snack trays on Orbit’s products are made of BPA- and PVC-free material that is food- and dishwasher-safe.

2. Teething Rings

These teething rings by Vulli are vanilla flavored and non-toxic, with no BPA, phthalates, or PVC.

3. Stacking Toys

Colorful stacking cups made by Green Toys Inc. offer several opportunities for babies (6 months and older) and toddlers to play – they stack into a tower, nest like bowls, and can be used as scoops for water or sand. They are made in the United States from 100% recycled plastic, and they contain no BPA, PVC, phthalates, or external coatings – they’re even food and dishwasher safe.

4. Rattle

This rattle by Green Sprouts is made of a cornstarch-based plastic and free of synthetic materials, BPA, phthalates, PVC, and lead. Babies (age 3 months and up) can twist the beads to practice coordination and motor skills, and the rattle also features soft teething surfaces on the beads.

5. Baby wrap

Wear your baby with the organic cotton CuddlyWrap from Peapod Creations. The organic cotton material is lightweight, breathable, soft, and has no snaps, buckles, rings, or other hardware – plus it comes in a variety of colors. Baby wraps are good for babies because they keep baby close by and able to hear, feel, and smell mom or dad, which promotes a sense of security and bonding to the parents. Baby wraps are good for parents because they promote extended periods of closeness and bonding with baby. Organic cotton is good for everyone because it has no harsh chemicals, promotes organic farming, and offers better value from a more durable fabric.

6. Blanket

The Halo SleepSack organic cotton wearable blanket allows your baby to stay warm all night for better sleep. Loose blankets in the crib can be kicked off or even become a danger to your baby if they cover the face. The SleepSack’s organic cotton material is free of chemical dyes, softeners, and finishes and provides a safe, eco-friendly alternative to traditional blankets.

7. Diapers

Disposable diapers take hundreds of years to decompose, and think about how many a baby uses! Reusable cloth diapers are not the cumbersome and frustrating diapers of the past – many contemporary cloth diapers feature Velcro or snaps (no pins!) and are made from environmentally-friendly materials like bamboo, hemp, or organic cotton. You can even use a rental service or laundry service.

8. Bottles and Milk

OrganicKidz offers a line of stainless steel bottles for babies and toddlers that are free of BPA, PVC, and phthalates, which are all risks from plastic bottles. They also don’t shatter like glass.

Mom’s breast milk is the best option for babies. It provides valuable antibodies and nutrients that just aren’t available from formulas. From an environmental standpoint, it has no packaging to throw out or recycle, and it doesn’t expire or otherwise go to waste. From your pocketbook’s perspective, it’s hard to beat free milk! Sometimes mothers don’t produce enough milk (or any at all); in this case, look for an organic formula or even consider donor milk.

These are just eight great baby products on the market that can allow you to continue your eco friendly lifestyle when you have children. Remember, too, that buying secondhand items is also a green choice!

Water Footprint

As people who strive to be more eco friendly, we hear the term “carbon footprint” on a regular basis and know that we should recycle, re-use, and reduce consumption, buy locally, and rely less on automobiles. However, we must also consider our water footprint.


Graphic from http://virtualwater.eu

What’s Your Water Footprint?

According to H2O Conserve, the “water footprint is the amount of water you use in and around your home throughout the day including the water you use directly (i.e., from a tap). It also includes the water used indirectly to produce the food you eat, the products you buy, the energy you consume and even the water you save when you recycle. You may not drink, feel or see this virtual water, but it makes up the majority of your water footprint.” The H2O Conserve Water Footprint Calculator provides an estimate of your average water consumption and compares it to the national average. The detailed results page also points out ways to reduce water consumption and make your footprint smaller.

Here are several examples of things you can do to reduce your water footprint:

Upgrade: Install low-flow toilets, faucets, and shower heads to reduce water use without decreasing utility of the appliances. When purchasing new appliances for the kitchen or for laundry, purchase energy- and water-conserving models.

Free alternative - You can place a brick or a plastic bottle of water in your toilet tank to decrease the amount of water used per flush

Turn it off: Turn the water off while you brush your teeth, shave, wash your hands, or wash dishes between rinses.

Set a timer: Take shorter showers to conserve water.

But I relax in the shower! - Instead of taking a long, hot shower to relax, take a short shower to clean and instead practice meditation, yoga, or nature walks to get your relaxation time.

Make repairs: Repair leaky pipes and faucets, which can waste up to 20 gallons of water per day, according to H2O Conserve.

Be efficient: Only run the washing machine or dishwasher when you have a full load, rather than wasting water to do several small loads.

Eat whole foods, and cook at home: Purchasing fast food, eating out, and buying processed packaged foods has a high “invisible” water footprint that goes into all the extra processing.

Literally save water: Use rain barrels and/or greywater systems to save the water that used to go right down the drain. You can also use a bucket to collect shower water to use later for watering plants, or even allow cooking water to cool and use that to water the garden.

These and dozens of other tips are available at the end of the Water Footprint Calculator quiz from H2O Conserve. The average American uses nearly 1,200 gallons of water per day! My personal results estimate my water footprint at 544 gallons per day – what’s yours?

What’s a Green Policy?

GlobalThe Green Products Site is committed to the environment and to providing you with affordable, eco friendly, quality furniture from equally committed manufacturers. That’s why we partner with Global to offer eco friendly furniture including chairs, desks, cabinets, lunchroom furniture and more.

Global’s Green Policy

A visit to Global’s website, Globaltotaloffice.com, will lead you to their environment page, which details the steps they have taken to contribute to their green manufacturing policy. Global has incorporated several green programs, including the following:

  • Reduced consumption of electricity by 18% over the last four years.
  • Eliminated the use of CFCs and HCFCs in manufacturing to protect the ozone layer.
  • Implemented recycling programs:
    • 88% of waste across the organization is recycled
    • Over 100 tons of fabric recycled
    • Cardboard packing uses 80% recycled material
  • Developed wood/polymer molding technology that diverts 7.5 tons of waste daily from landfills (that’s over 2700 tons per year).
  • Added a recycled polyester material to their catalog’s textile offerings.
  • Implemented green shipping procedures – when possible, Global flat-packs shipments to reduce volume and minimize the shipment’s carbon footprint.

Global has a unique “End of Life” program, which is designed to keep discarded furniture out of landfills. There are three possible avenues for used furniture that has been made redundant: reusing, refurbishing, and recycling. Ideally, Global seeks to redistribute the products to resellers and/or programs that outfit schools, charities, and environmental organizations. If redistribution is not possible, the furniture from Global is designed to be easily refurbished with new components instead of discarding the entire piece. Products that cannot be refurbished or redistributed can be recycled.

Global also holds several environmental ratings, such as level™, Green Key, Greenguard, and ISO 14001. Global’s level™ rating of 2 indicates their assessment score over four categories: material use, energy and atmosphere impacts, human and ecosystem health, and social responsibility.  Ratings for  level™ range from 1 to 3, with 3 being the highest ranking score. The Green Key Eco-Rating Program is a system for recognizing hotels, motels, and resorts that have green programs to reduce their environmental impact; Global is the only furniture manufacturer to be certified in this program, giving hotel owners reason to think green and think Global when they outfit their hotels. Greenguard certifications pertain to indoor air quality, and Global’s products have been certified as low emitting to provide clean, breathable air in an indoor environment. Finally, ISO 14001 certifications indicate that Global is committed to being environmentally and fiscally responsible with their manufacturing processes.

Global is a valuable resource for you to buy reliable eco friendly green furniture from a manufacturer who cares about the environment as much as you do. Learn more about Global office products today.

Made in North America

The farther something travels, the bigger its carbon footprint becomes. Whether you are shopping for furniture, food, clothing, toys, or home decorations, buying local is a sure way to make a more eco friendly choice. Consider the environmental impact of planes and boats that ship goods internationally, using tons of fuel, producing harmful polluting emissions, and regularly affecting ecosystems and wildlife habitats. Buying domestic is a great way to be green.

A key method to keep your imports in check is to read the label. Check to see where a product was manufactured before you buy it. Items made domestically or in neighboring countries have a much lower carbon footprint than something imported from the other side of the globe.

Another important way to reduce your environmental impact when you shop is to shop locally. Visit craft shows for home décor, jewelry, and other small goods. Find a local marketplace or farmer’s market for locally grown fruits and vegetables and locally produced breads, pastas, jellies, baked goods, candies, dairy, meat, and more. Many grocery stores and restaurants feature produce, dairy, and meat from local farms. Whenever possible, eat and buy local.

The holiday season can be a danger to green shopping, so watch out! Consider giving local treasures (locally produced honey, maple syrup, jams, pies, jewelry, wallets, bird feeders, toys, photographs, etc.) as holiday gifts. Encourage others in your family to do the same and consider the environment when they do their holiday shopping. When you purchase items in stores, be sure to inspect the labels to make sure they are manufactured nearby and not overseas. Imported furniture, toys, and other products may be less expensive than their domestic counterparts, but they have a higher environmental cost.

The Green Products Site offers many products manufactured in the United States and North America, such as these products from Global and Balt. Look for these graphics, which indicate if a product is made domestically:

Whether you want a sustainably harvested rug, a desk with low VOCs, or a chair made in North America with a smaller carbon footprint from the manufacturer’s site to your office, we’ve got you covered for all of your green furniture needs.