It’s a thrill to host this week’s Carnival of the Green — and especially fitting as the world is beginning to turn green again here in my neck o’ the woods in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere. Last night I returned from a trip (with some anxiety about getting the carnival of the Green under control, I must confess), got in my truck and drove home. When I opened the door in the dusk I was greeted for the first time this year by one of my favorite sounds, that telltale music of spring, the chorus of spring peepers from the swampy sloughs and puddles in the nearby woods. And I knew we were turning the corner. I had to close my eyes and just stand and drink it in for a while.
So the COTG turns 170 this week (in weeks, that is). Not sure how many dog years that is, but it’s pretty ripe vintage for a blog carnival. For those irregulars who may not know, the Carnival is organized by Treehugger and you too can enjoy the honor of hosting it — see details here. Slots are going fast for January 2010 so act now. Operators are standing by!
Disclaimer: Any comments of a curmudgeonly, cynical, politically incorrect, or otherwise potentially disagreeable nature are solely the responsibility of the Natural Patriot and should not be construed as representing Treehugger, The Carnival of the Green, my in-laws, or anybody else.
Right. Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s get down to all the green news that’s fit to print. Or perhaps all the green news that fits. Something like that.
News you can use
Jen, from the Clean Bin Project has sussed out The Recyclepedia — a resource where you can find out about what different recyclable materials are are, and where you can recycle them. If you happen to live in British Columbia, that is. For the rest of this there is still some useful generic information on, for example, what polystyrene is. Alas, if only we had such a forward-thinking community in rural Virginia.
In the time-honored tradition of the Carnival of the Green, we have this week a wealth of tips concerning how to avoid waste or turn it into something useful.
Sigrid at A1 How To provides a list of useful information and reading about environmentally safe cleaning products.
Cara at Repurposeful discusses 14 ways to repurpose plastic packaged fruit containers (colloquially known as “clamshells”). Instead of throwing them in the recycle bin, they can be given new life in a variety of way — at least 14. Check it out.
Beth from the Fake Plastic Fish blog considers the dilemma of what to do with those plastic gift cards one encounters everywhere these days. Turns out there is an outfit that collects and recycles them into — you guessed it, new gift cards. Perhaps other products too. They have set up collection centers at stores and will also take cards by mail. This strikes me as an interesting potential case study for a pervasive question in many green ideas, that of life cycle costing — do the benefits of this recycling program outweigh the energy used in accomplishing it?
But what about recycling cars? Lisa at the Greener Pastures: Personal Finance blog reports on the US Federal Government’s program to get old, inefficient, gas-guzzlers off the road, and simultaneously make the ubiquitous and politically popular attempt to stimulate the economy. The program was formerly called by the homey name of “Cash for Clunkers”, but is now referred to with the official title of Voluntary Retirement of Fuel-Inefficient Vehicles, perhaps in order to put people to sleep as they kill the program. Evidently the program is now on hold for reasons detailed by Lisa in her post.
Not sure whether this qualifies under the current heading but we also have a summary on how to get started with conserving electricity in the home (for beginners).
Just when you’d thought you’d heard everything, Paul at Triple Pundit draws our attention to a somewhat unique approach to conservation, a new printer font with holes cut out of the letters (no, I am not making this up). It saves 20% of the ink. So now if we can just get the whole world to use it . . .
But the coolest of all the gadgets I’ve seen this week is so-called solar ivy, discussed by Mack at Green Light Reflections. The concept substitutes traditional fixed solar panels on a building with a flexible covering of small, thin, flexible solar “leaves” that can adapt to most buildings and even turn in the wind to capture wind energy. Whether this could generate significant quantities of electricity is not clear from the post but it sure sounds ingenious.
And, as St. Paddy’s Day approaches, here are some tips on how to make that day greener in the more modern sense, courtesy of Chris at Lighter Footstep.
Some philosophical perspectives
Now where did I put that soapbox? Oh yes, here it is. At the risk of offending some of our contributors, I am reminded in many of these discussions of a talk I recently heard by Tom Friedman, commenting on the swollen torrent of information we are bombarded with daily on “simple steps to go green”. His contention, which resonates very strongly for me, is that this is not a revolution, it’s a party. When, he asks, was the last time you saw a revolution where nobody got hurt? We’ll know the green revolution has come when nobody talks about being green any more — when reducing waste and using resources efficiently has become so important to competition in the marketplace that if your products and services are not truly in harmony with the environment, your company goes under. Sadly, I suspect we are still a long way from that day.
A similar sense comes from Brad at Tri-Freedom, who notes that our environmental problems result from insatiable appetites and are unlikely to be solved by conservation without large new sources of energy. Personally I could find a few bones to pick with Brad — it seems clear that we will need both massive conservation measures and massive new implementation of renewable energy if we have any hope of weathering what’s ahead. But his post highlights one of the fundamental dilemmas of our modern predicament: The relentless increase in our average per-capita use of resources as a global society.
The other side of that coin, which just as desperately needs a frank, objective, and forward-looking discussion from across the political spectrum, is the role of exponentially increasing growth of the human population, and how we can humanely stabilize it before we all are buried. This was the subject of the Natural Patriot‘s most recent post.
A sober reminder of some of the unintended consequences of the waste we generate in daily industrial life comes from Olga at Enviroblog, who discusses a recent report showing that prenatal exposures to environmental pollutants may lead to chronic diseases later in life. Researchers worldwide are working towards understanding the full spectrum of health consequences of the prenatal, transplacental exposure to chemical pollutants. Lots of food for thought there.
Miscellaneous infomercial-type stuff
I got a number of submissions this week that my perhaps hyper-skeptical tendencies red-flagged as advertising (of various quality) disguised rather thinly as green bloggery. Being somewhat new to carnival hosting, I was unsure about the etiquette on this stuff (I did feel comfortable axing a contribution on “how to make fast cash”). I beg your indulgence if I seem irreverent but I think we all know what I’m talking about. At any rate, I include some of the entries here on the chance that the products may be useful to some of our readers. They include:
How to make your own windmill. I find the idea of having a windmill very appealing in a sort of leisurely bucolic way, to go along with the goats that I hope to get one day. But I don’t know if I could handle building one given my rather rudimentary handyman skills. If I lived in a place like North Dakota where there was an ample and reliable source of wind energy I might well consider this. I would certainly need some detailed info to get started. Bottom line: if you want to know how, buy the how-to guide, conveniently offered at the linked site.
Walking the walk
We all talk the talk. But there are lots of people out there who are really making a concerted effort to live by their principles, despite challenges ranging from minor inconveniences to seismic shifts in the fabric of modern life, and are figuring out how to get along with as little impact as possible. Many such intrepid individuals are documenting their pilgrim’s progress in the blogosphere and we have contributions from several this week.
I really dug this post from Jen at the Clean Bin Project. They are trying to go a year without buying material goods (I know it sounds preposterous but I think I got that right) and are documenting it on film. They have posted an entertaining and thought-provoking teaser of the film-to-be on their 235th day of living this dream (?) right here. I look forward to the feature-length version.
Much of the energy in going green involves how to produce and consume food in a healthy and environmentally sensitive way. Alison from the Home Schoolers’ Guide to the Galaxy, has posted a summary of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)– what it is, the pros and cons, and how to find a CSA provider near you.
On a similar note, Sally from Veggie Revolution reports on two cool women and an idyllic farm: Grateful Growers Farm. She has posted a short account, chock full of links, about this pair that’s endeavoring to do everything the sustainable way. The links in the post might help you find a nearby source for the foods you’re looking for.
Then there is Tiffany at NatureMomsBlog reflecting on Jule Dervaes’ idea that “Growing food is one of the most dangerous occupations on this earth because you are in danger of being free.” Free from the ubiquitous strangling tentacles of the industrial octopus that increasingly controls our every move, by dictating for example the very foods that we are able to find and eat.
Mrs. Green at MyZeroWaste and her family are on a similar journey. She reports that, according to the Local Government Association in the UK, around 40% of supermarket food packaging cannot be easily recycled. How should this affect our actions? Will it undermine efforts to recycle, or should it make us more proactive about making better choices and working to influence manufacturers to get them to change their packaging? The post has generated a lot of discussion, with over 40 comments.
Happily, taking control of one’s own food supply has a wide range of benefits, from economic savings in these troubled times, to better health, to the palpable spiritual and psychological advantages of self-determination and the nourishing smell of dirt on your hands. Here in my extended neighborhood of southeastern Virginia, Suffolk is setting up a group of community vegetable gardens, as reported by The Backyard Grower.com. Good work and good luck!
Andy at the Ethical Superstore reports that Cadbury’s decision this week to use Fairtrade cocoa in the manufacture of Dairy Milk has the potential to triple Fairtrade cocoa sales in Ghana, which one assumes will be good for the farmers there, and one hopes also good for the sustainability of their farms.
Eyes on the prize
And let’s not let all the gee-whiz new gadgets and politics and what not distract our attention to the real reason why we are concerned about a greener society: to preserve the only living planet we will ever know and all of the fantastic and astonishing creatures with which we share it. This week 10,000 Birds has interviewed Jim Lawrence of Birdlife Internataional’s “Preventing Extinction Program” about their activities. And 10,000 Birds is also putting their money where their mouths are by making a three-year financial pledge to BLI. Hats off to you guys and may others follow.
See you next week at The Enobling Journey!