Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year everyone!

This year I am setting some "SMART" goals, that is goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible.

Assess my starting point:

  1. Calculate my ecological footprint for 2006 (using calculators here, here and here.)
  2. Measure the killowatts my appliances consume using the Kill-a-Watt meter.

Set targets for reducing my footprint in 2007:

  1. Honor my pledge to reduce my fossil fuel consumptions by 2.6% based on the recommendations of the Oil Depletion Protocol.
  2. Find out what the recommendations are for reducing my carbon footprint to prevent global warming.
  3. Meet that goal with a combination of emissions reduction and offsets.

Set up a way to track my progress:

  1. Make a spreadsheet with all the variables.
  2. Set up a timetable for when to measure my results.
  3. Track cumulative numbers and percentages to see if I am on target.

Be accountable:

  1. Post my goals (in terms of percentages).
  2. Post my progress (in terms of percentages).
  3. Network with other people who are doing the same and offer my support.

I invite you to join me! Together we can make a difference.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gifts for the adults on your list (Cross posted on Groovy Green)

Groovy Green's 12 Days of Christmas
"Green Gifts for the Adults on Your List"
by Liz Logan

Okay. It's December 17th. Hanukkah has started, Christmas is in eight days, which puts the Solstice at four days from now and Kwanza at nine. No matter how you slice it, you are running out of shopping time.

Of course your ideal would be to buy local and not spend precious fuel to ship to loved ones far away. All the better if you can take public transit to shop!

But if you have to ship, you can ease your conscious by shopping on line with green vendors. But where to start? Never fear! Your intrepid Groovy Green personal shopper, Liz Logan, has done a bit of surfing and has rounded up some green selections for you. As Bo Derek put it: "Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping."
Let's get right to the point:

For Him—always the hardest on the list, right? But I've got you covered.

Does he travel? Live in a dorm? Or does he spend the night at his girlfriend/boyfriend's apartment? Then check out BTC Elements' men's toiletries kit, made out of recycled billboards.

You know that vague disappointed feeling when you open up a "container" gift and there is nothing in it but tissue paper? So to avoid that, fill it with this: Grass Roots organic Druide Travel Kit .

Want to keep him stylishly warm and cozy? Then check out the totally cool fleece hats made out of recycled plastic from Cagoule Fleece.

And for the party animal in him, how about a organic beer sampler from Eco Express? Cheers!

But If he's a teetotaler, then check out the organic tea at Diamond Organics.

For Her—we'll start with the jewelry, as that is my personal favorite:

If you're going in circles you're on the right track. Circles are THE fashion motif this year! Add Chakra gemstones plus a 15% discount and you can't go wrong! At Shanti Boutique.

Romance on your mind? Maybe even planning to pop the question? How about gemstones with a conscious: Leber Jeweler, Inc.

Does she keep that beautiful body in shape with yoga? Show your appreciation with this colorful batiked yoga bag from Global Mamas to carry her mat in.

Nurture your special woman with the "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" holiday gift pack, available through Hope for Women until December 20th.

For the Couple—two birds with one stone!

Everybody can use compact fluorescent light bulbs; and don't just look for them at your big box stores, lots of local businesses are starting to carry them as well. On your card, tell the recipients that they will be saving 10 to 15 times the energy of an incandescent bulb. As "light" is the theme for both Hanukkah and Christmas, you have a great excuse to increase the energy efficiency in their homes!

For rechargeable batteries of all types, check out Green Batteries.

You're the practical type? Give them green household necessities. Check out this option at Green Home.

Everybody could use these economical grocery bags form Abundant Earth. Get some for yourself while you are at it!

Have they recently combined households? Gotten hitched? Looking for a hostess gift? Consider this selection of recycled Holiday glassware at Green Glass.

Do you know their taste, and want to get them the perfect object d'art? Check out National Geographic's Novica site. It might take a couple of weeks to get your item, however.

Haven't a clue about what they'd like? Here are some sure fire winners:

· Romantic Dinner for Two from Eco Express
· Organic Wine from the Organic Wine Company.
· Rainforest Munch from Eco Express.
· Organic Herbal Wreath from Eco Express.

For Anybody:

For the person who has everything: give him or her their own private ecosystem! The EcoSphere from Abundant Earth.

Hip & Zen has a lot of cool stuff, but check out this organic neck hugger that warms you neck and smells good.

And there is a great selection of Organic Gift Baskets from Diamond Organics.

And if all else fails, you can't go wrong with organic flowers from Organic Bouquet, or California Organic Flowers, Great sites to bookmark for year-round giving!

Okay, if you STILL haven't found something, then check out these gift guides and directories:

· Green Gift Guide has lots of ideas.
· The Green Guide has several free articles.
· Novica gift guide for beautiful Fair Trade items.
· Local Harvest store has lots of goodies.
· Greenpeople Directory which allows you to search different categories by your location.

Thanks for helping to make this a Green Holiday Season!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

How can we assess "sustainability?"

On Friday, December 1st I went to Southface's monthly breakfast roundtable and learned how organizations are designing and implementing sustainability principles.

So what do I mean when I say something is "sustainable?" I like the definition which says it is a practice which could be continued indefinitely without any degradation to the environment or future generations. In Native American tradition, for example, every decision would be weighed based on its impact on the next seven generations.

The first speaker, Susan Garrett, told us about The Natural Step. She has studied it extensively in Sweden, where it originated. The Natural Step is a methodology for assessing the sustainability of something. The criteria were developed over a period of 15 years by scientists who kept refining what they call the "system conditions"--the conditions that are necessary for a society to be sustainable.

She gave an example of how she was applying the principles to an upcoming conference. It is being held at a major hotel. She focused on how they were going to feed everybody. Ideally, it would be with local, organic, and affordable food. So the first thing that she did was call Georgia Organics. The farmers told here that there wasn't a lot of surplus crops available in March--but she could have all the kale she wanted. So that was the first "aha." Gatherings mean mouths to feed, and so there is a reason to pay attention to the seasons. The second aha came when she explained what the farmers said about the animals. 100 pork loins means slaughtering 50 pigs. Couldn't they use the whole animal? But of course the kitchen wasn't set up for that.

One of the goals of doing this assessment is to figure out how to "build capacity" for the future when you come up against such systemic blocks. So in this case, it would mean rethinking the scheduling and the food processing. What would it take for the chefs to create a menu that used the whole animal? And to change the expectations of the diners, as well?

The second speaker, Paula Vaughn, shared what her architectural firm, Perkins + Will have done towards their goal of becoming the greenest design firm on the planet. She gave us a brief tour of their Green Operations Plan, which covers:
  • transportation (both commute and company fleet)
  • office water use
  • office energy use
  • office consumables
  • indoor air quality
  • office renovations and new construction

They did away with most of their fleet, and have mandated buying hybrids in the future. They are replacing all of their plumbing fixtures with low-flow models, and have made substantial savings. Energy use starts with educating people--for example, turn of the computers, turn off the overhead lights, turn on the task lights.

Office consumables has been their biggest challenge. They still use a lot of paper, but now print everything they can on both sides, and make that a criteria for any new printers and plotters. They bought a tester for indoor air quality, and the results of that will drive their decisions in the future. And finally, the same principles they apply to their clients' projects, they will apply to their own.

In the Q&A afterwards, somebody said that when they compared the impact of a ceramic cup to a consumable cup, they discovered that you would have to use the cup over a thousand times before it "broke even." Vaughn said that they had many points of view in this category, but that they did do things like include the dishwasher, detergent and hot water in their calculations. Garrett pointed out that if you used the Natural Step criteria, anything that put pollutants out (like manufacturing Styrofoam) would be automatically discarded.

So my understanding of "what is sustainable?" has gotten bigger and more complex. I am starting to understand that there are no absolutes, that each choice has to be weighed. And this of course includes the human systems, both external and internal.

I am grateful for this opportunity to hear what others are doing, and am excited about learning how to apply these principles to my own life.