October 17, 2012

How to Check Your Shopping is Eco Friendly

Consumerism and ethical lifestyles do not, for many people, fall under the same umbrella. The two areas, however, are very much entwined and by following guidelines it is easy to make a huge difference to the environment by deciding exactly where the money from your wallet goes. There are two ways of doing this – boycotting brands and positive purchasing.

Boycotting

The first of the two options, boycotting, is the easier of the two to undertake. By researching which brands and products are created in immoral means it is possible to steer clear of purchasing them. Similarly it is easy to look at the materials that products are made of – synthetic products, such as plastics, often require toxins in their creation whilst natural materials do not. By buying natural resource equivalents of goods it is possible to recycle or re-use them at the end of their usefulness. Similarly wood, for example, bio-degrades at a much faster rate than synthetic materials and, as such, provides a much smaller burden to the environment.  Therefore boycotting man made materials can help improve one’s green credentials, particularly if organic products are purchased instead.

Positive consumerism

Positive consumerism is the opposite to boycotting goods – rather than not purchasing items that can cause a negative effect on the environment, positive consumerism recommends buying items that help the green cause. Positive consumerism is in some ways easier to research when the consumer knows what they are looking for; positive companies are likely to be proud of their environmental contributions and, as such, will label their products with badges of honour. This is the opposite of less moral brands; unlike in animations, where toxic goods have large skull and crossbones placed upon them, it is unlikely that negative goods will advertise themselves as such.

What to look for

There are a number of different labels which, when identified, can help a consumer assemble an environmentally friendly and morally just shopping list. The most famous ethical label, of course, is the Fair Trade one. This label represents the fact that every single worker in the process of creating Fair Trade goods will be justly fiscally compensated for their work and will be guaranteed a safe working area too. There are many similar labels which can highlight a good’s green credentials – the Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production and Ethical Trading Initiative labels are two such recognised tags. Various symbols on clothing, including those that denote they are made with organic materials, are worth pursuing also.

Positive goods and brands

Away from looking at labels there are other areas worth considering. When buying food it is possible to decrease a carbon footprint by  purchasing only locally sourced goods – any foodstuff that is purchased in a supermarket will have more than likely have been flown or shipped in, as well as being driven to the market, which will have created a large carbon footprint via transportation. Purchasing food from farmer’s markets can help combat this particularly if the food purchased is organic. Similarly it is worth investing in charitable and philanthropic brands wherever possible. Many good providers user, as consumer incentives, charitable schemes aimed at helping, both nationally and internationally, those in need with regular aid and donations. Many of these are environmentally targeted and, by purchasing from these brands rather than immoral or amoral alternatives, it is possible to make a positive impact on the environment.

Kieron Casey is a BA (Hons) Journalism graduate who blogs regularly on a number of topics including ethical shopping, solar power and the environment.

The Best Green Apps Out There

While our smart phones may get a bad rap for not being the most eco-friendly made products on the market today (not going to argue that), they aren’t entirely all bad.  In fact, with the plethora of “green apps” available for users today, they can enable anyone and everyone to make greener and smarter choices on everything from where to take your recycling to the best recipes for your local and seasonal produce! Here are my Top 6 Favorites.

1)      PedNav

Take PedNav with you wherever you go as your very own super green, super smart travel planner!  Punch in everything you must do: hit up Café Nova, grab groceries downtown, drop off your recycling and catch the late night movie.  Then sit back and relax as PedNav creates an itinerary for you complete with time ordered listings and the best means of transportation to get you there.  It’ll take into consideration your schedule, the most eco-friendly options of transportation (bus/trains/etc.) and get you there without wasting time or covering unnecessary traveling distance.

2)      iRecycle
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Created by Earth911 to give you the most up-to-date information on over 800,000 recycling and disposal centers for over 240 materials.  Check what you want to recycle (automotive, batteries, construction, electronics, garden, glass, hazardous, household, metal, pain, paper, plastic, etc.) and it will tell you where you need to go, when they’re open and if you need to do anything extra.

3)      Farmers Market Finder

While you can find farmers markets on Locavore, the Farmers Market Finder takes it a step further and includes CSAs, open markets and U-Picks (my favorite!).  With over 2,500 entries, you’ll get all the contact info you need and current info on parking, weather cancellations and what’s ready to eat.

4)      Good Guide
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Ready to take your shopping to a whole new level?  The GoodGuide app is one of my all time, no-one-should-live-without recommendations.  It actually scans the barcode of the product in question and provides you with instant ratings for health of the product and the environment and social responsibility of the company!  Over 100,000 products and companies in the database already.  It also lets you make a shopping list for future reference.

5)      Go Green
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Handy-dandy going green tip comes up every time you open this app.  Learn ideas you haven’t thought of/considered before and share them with your friends.

6)      Shop Green
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Find the best deals with personalized promotions from all your local green businesses by entering in data about your lifestyle and green habits.  While we all love getting good deals, it’s that much better when they’re all in line with what our preferences and likes are.

Freelance author Jocelyn Anne writes on a daily basis about the latest trends when it comes to eco-friendly and sustainable living.  She is currently researching the greenest ways to use a portable air conditioner within the office setting.

What’s So Great About Organic Foods?

With so many pros and cons about organics making their way across the airwaves, it’s important to get back to basics. No politics or mental gymnastics required, just good old common sense.

What Makes Organic Better?

  • First, and foremost, organic foods taste better! They are fresher and mostly grown locally, instead of having been picked before ripe and then treated with preservatives.
  • The toxic chemicals in non-organic food build up in the liver, overwhelming our systems and slowing down our metabolism.
  • Organic foods contain more vitamins and minerals than their non-organic counterparts; and contain notably smaller concentrations of toxic metals such as lead, mercury and aluminum.

How To Get The Best Price and Selection

  • Choose locally grown produce that’s in season
  • Check the web for local companies that deliver fresh produce; try sharing the order with another family member or neighbor for maximum values; since these growers don’t have high overhead, you benefit on cost.
  • Most cities have a local farmers’ market
  • Grow your own! Even if a balcony is your only outdoor space, you can grow organic herbs (once you’ve cooked with these you will never go back to packaged), cherry tomatoes and other small produce. Look on the web for organic seeds and you’ll be amazed at the beautiful and delicious varieties available. If you have a large yard, you may want to start with a small section of rows and choose a few of your favorites.

What Does the “Certified Organic Seal” Really Mean?

  • The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, overseen by the US Department of Agriculture, was created in order to promote the healthy interplay between humans, animals and plant life, and the soil in which our foods are farmed.
  • In order to bear the USDA organic seal, a food has to have been grown and produced without pesticides, additives, fertilizers, irradiation or genetic modifications.
  • Realize that products marked “Natural Foods” are grown using the same natural methods as organic. However, they do not meet the same USDA certifications for quality and their shelf life is prolonged with preservatives.

Organics Move Us Toward a More Conscious Planet

  • Support your smaller, local farmers; they must compete with huge corporations and when we buy local we create jobs for our community.
  • Water conservation is practice; farmers grow produce more suited to the climate in which their land is located
  • Soil conservation is inevitable; increased carbon and nitrogen from organic farming create a more naturally weather-and-pest-resistant environment with longer yield per acre than inorganic methods.
  • Fossil fuels are conserved; non-organic farmers use gas to run their equipment and ship their produce further distances than organic growers.

More and more grocery stores are carrying organic foods, with some switching over entirely such as Whole Foods. As with any other saleable product, the more we buy the more competitive the market becomes; with the obvious result being lower prices. In the meantime, what you save on health expenses will be far more beneficial than the few extra dollars that you spend eating organic.

Rosa Scully still secretly believes in Santa and currently works as a content contributor for Santa’s Quarters, a retailer of commercial Christmas decorations artificial Christmas trees and more.

How to Stay Green at the Grocery Store

As the “green” movement continues to gain steam with consumers, environmentally-friendly products are experiencing a great boom in popularity. Customers are beginning to pay attention to products that are full of toxic materials and unnecessary plastics, while making attempts to avoid being “green-washed.”  While such options are all great steps in the right direction, some consumers forget the impact a simple trip to the supermarket can have on the environment. By utilizing some of the following tips and tools, you can easily extend your environmentally-friendly shopping patterns to your entire experience at your local grocery store.

  • Eliminate your dependency on plastic bags. Plastic bags choke waterways, clog landfills, and are rarely recycled. As grocery stores have become aware of customer demands for green alternatives, many have introduced tote bags and reusable plastic bags. Take advantage of these products, to eliminate the unnecessary waste of plastic bags. If your supermarket doesn’t offer plastic alternatives, consider purchasing a few simple tote bags from an apparel retailer. Remember to wash the bags you use on a regular basis, however, as studies have shown these bags can be a breeding ground for different bacteria and germs.
  • Don’t purchase products with bulky packaging. Many products are wrapped in layers upon layers of plastic. Some products also utilize large amounts of paper or cardboard. This packaging only further contributes to the glut of waste thrown out every day, which in turns ends up in a landfill.  Choose items that don’t use such packaging to further lighten your environmental footprint. Many products are made with organic packaging, and others use packaging that can be reused at home for storing other foods.
  • Take advantage of in-store recycling programs. Many supermarkets are now offering recycling facilities in the store, in order to reuse the packaging and bags you may have received on your last visit. Take advantage of these programs, and cut an extra trip to a recycling center from your day’s itinerary. You’ll save money on gas, and won’t forget to recycle your excess plastic and paper waste.
  • Avoid products that are made with toxic materials and pesticides. While avoiding cleaning products that incorporate dangerous and toxic chemicals is a great place to start, many of the other products you purchase from the grocery store have been made with such chemicals. When choosing fruits and vegetables, purchase those which are marked organic. Nonorganic produce is often farmed with toxic fertilizers and pesticides, which later run into the water stream, poisoning the animals and plants that rely on the water. It’s also important to avoid products that are made in factories using techniques and methods that aren’t environmentally sound.

By taking steps to ensure that your trip to your local supermarket is a greener experience, you’ll continue to eliminate harmful behaviors that collectively wreak havoc on our environment. In addition to the environmental benefits, you’ll be contributing to a healthier lifestyle for you and your family. Truly, that’s one scenario in which everybody wins!

Jamie Lusk writes for AdvanceMe, the nation’s leading merchant cash advance provider.

Buying Organic: How Do You Know If You’re Getting Your Money’s Worth?

The shift towards organic eating has gained popularity in recent years.  By all accounts, this is good news.  Americans have begun to realize the effect that food has, not only on their bodies, but on the Earth, as well.  Chemical fertilizers and pesticides not only seep into the soil and the water table, spreading their harmful pollutants to innumerable ecosystems, they also worm their way into our bodies in trace amounts, despite careful washing of produce, to hide away in our fat cells, causing damage unbeknownst to their host.  And then there are the growth hormones and antibiotics that are pumped into meats and transferred to our bodies upon ingestion.  When you start to take a close look at the practices of our food industry, it can be a pretty frightening unveiling.  And this is why many people have started the switch to organics.  However, food consumption in our country is a consumer industry, driven by supply and demand, which means it is a business.  And whenever you’re dealing with business or a nationwide scale, there are bound to be unscrupulous characters willing to promise you one thing but sell you another.

The worst offenders are “natural” foods.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture has strict guidelines for certified organic foods.  In order to bear the USDA certified organic label, food products must meet a number of standards.  First, they must list a minimum of 70% organic material in their products (although in order to sport the USDA organic seal, they must have 95-100% organics material – those with less simply say “Made with Organic Ingredients”).  For those that grow crops, this means at least three years of untreated soil as well as the submission of a comprehensive plan (organic system plan, or OSP) that lays out the practices and substances used in food production as well as the system in place to monitor ongoing compliance to regulations (especially in the area of comingling organic and non-organic foodstuffs).

Further, manufacturers under the umbrella of the USDA organic program must undergo annual inspections.  What that means for consumers is a regulated industry that promises foods that bear the USDA organic label will meet their rigorous standards.  And while there are some exemptions from this system (for example, operations that produce less than $5,000 per year in product), they are still required to adhere to standards set forth by the USDA if they plan to label their wares as organic.  Foods that claim to be “all natural”, on the other hand, actually have no standards.

The term, in itself, is fairly vague and has no legal definition when it comes to food.  It is therefore open to interpretation by both manufacturers and consumers.  To one company, it could mean foodstuffs that exclude hormones and antibiotics, while others may determine it to mean that no artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners were added.  In short, there are absolutely no standards where this label is concerned.  When you buy organic, on the other hand, you are paying for a promise.  You’re buying into a regulated and standardized industry that ensures the foods you purchase deliver exactly what they promote.  Even though they may cost a little more, keep in mind that more people buying equals higher production and lower prices.  So skip the natural foodstuffs and go for certified organic to ensure that you’re getting what you pay for and to help drive down prices.

Kylie Lawrence writes for Spirit Pins, a company that specializes in custom lapel pins and sports team trading pins.

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