By Ketura Persellin
Gift-giving is filled with minefields, but the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) got your back, so you don't need to worry about inadvertently giving family members presents laden with toxic chemicals. With that in mind, here are our suggestions for gifts to give your family this season.
For Babies<p><strong>Safer Toys</strong></p><p>Grandma may be surprised to find out that cherished heirlooms from her childhood may be covered with lead-based paint, and this year's plastic "It" toy may contain PVC or other harmful chemicals. Steer well-meaning friends and family toward safer options, like toys made of natural materials like untreated wood, bamboo, hemp or organic cotton.</p><p><strong>Healthy Bath Time</strong></p><p>Babies' developing brains, organs and hormonal systems are especially sensitive to chemicals of concern hidden in bath products like shampoo, lotion and diaper cream. However, there are an increasing number of EWG VERIFIED™ <a href="https://www.ewg.org/ewgverified/products.php?type=baby+kids" target="_blank">baby care products</a>, which meet our scientists' strictest ingredient and transparency standards.</p>
For Kids and Teens<p><strong>Environmental Activism on Trend</strong></p><p>Believe it or not, you may see <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/eco-friendly-drinking-straw-alternatives-2571689759.html">reusable straws</a> on your kids' holiday wish list this year, as teens and tweens are rejecting single-use plastic, pushed by the <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/14/cnn-underscored/what-is-a-vsco-girl/index.html" target="_blank">VSCO girl</a> trend and images of sea turtles killed by plastic waste ubiquitous on social media. Choose from one of the many metal or silicone straws available this season, now in a rainbow of colors, some even sporting their own little carrying case.</p><p>Your teen may also appreciate a reusable coffee tumbler to go with that straw.</p><p>This way they'll be avoiding the PFAS chemical coating used on paper coffee cups and the side-eye from their friends for using single-use cups and plastic lids. Look for one made of ceramic or stainless steel.</p><p><strong>Safer Clothing</strong></p><p>Many types of clothing come with chemicals that can be harmful to children's health, like children's pajamas treated with flame retardants and winter coats coated with PFAS chemicals for waterproofing. To avoid this, choose children's pajamas made out of cotton and/or marked as not flame resistant on the tag. To make sure what you're giving doesn't contain toxic fluorinated chemicals, check out this list of companies making <a href="https://pfascentral.org/pfas-basics/pfas-free-products/" target="_blank">PFAS-free clothing and shoes</a>.</p><p><strong>Clean Beauty</strong></p><p>Clean beauty and elaborate skin care routines are also trending this year. Children are the most susceptible to the health harms associated with endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and other chemicals of concern in personal care products. Use EWG's Skin Deep® and EWG VERIFIED™ databases to find gift ideas for the kids on your list – without dangerous chemicals. These include:</p><ul> <li>Stuff stockings with green-rated <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/lip_balm" target="_blank">lip balm</a>.</li></ul><ul> <li>Clean makeup options – like <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/Eye_shadow" target="_blank">eye shadow</a>, <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/Bronzer__Highlighter" target="_blank">highlighter</a> and <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/Mascara" target="_blank">mascara</a> – that will let them keep up with the latest makeup tutorial while still protecting their health.</li></ul><ul> <li><a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/Mask" target="_blank">Face masks</a> – trendy among the teenage set – but who knows what ingredients they typically contain? Steer clear of harmful chemicals by finding one that's Skin Deep® green-rated or EWG VERIFIED, like one of <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/Mask" target="_blank">these</a>. (Keep in mind that single-use products have more of an impact on the environment.)</li></ul><ul><li>The gift of an after-shave <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/After_shave?marketed_for=men&page=1&per_page=12" target="_blank">lotion or balm</a> made with safer chemicals. Kids who have just started to shave will be pleased to have that milestone acknowledged.</li></ul>
For your Partner or Spouse<p>If you're lucky enough to have another adult along for the ride during your childrearing years, thank them with a holiday gift that's free from chemicals of concern.</p><p><strong>Detox Their Coffee Routine</strong></p><p>There are many beautiful and plastic-free options for the sleep-deprived adults on your list – pour-over coffee makers are simple for making a single cup and come in many glass and ceramic styles. You can even find a reusable stainless steel filter. For multiple cup operations, choose a double-wall glass French press (the double wall keeps coffee warmer, longer) or a stainless steel percolator.</p><p><strong>Grown-Ups Love Clean Beauty, Too</strong></p><ul> <li>A splurge for a special man or woman on your list is Henry Rose, the fragrance created by EWG board member Michelle Pfeiffer. It's EWG's first fine fragrance that's 100 percent transparent – made without EWG's chemicals of concern, with full ingredient disclosure on the label and to EWG.</li></ul><ul> <li>A luxurious beard oil and brush kit makes a great gift. Look for <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/Beard_oil?marketed_for=men" target="_blank">beard oils</a> with a green rating in the Skin Deep® database and brushes with wood or bamboo handles.</li></ul><ul><li>Makeup wipes are hot right now, but their disposable nature and questionable ingredients are not as fun. Look for reusable cotton wipes in undyed organic cotton.</li></ul><p><strong>Green Kitchens Are More Than a Design Trend</strong></p><p>If you're like most parents, you try to feed your family without exposing them to harmful chemicals. So it's a disappointment to discover that the cookware and food storage you've been using might be toxic. Surprise the chef on your list with a few cleaner, greener product swaps:</p><ul> <li>Cast iron or carbon steel sauté pans and griddles are beautiful, long-lasting alternatives to nonstick cookware, which is often made with toxic PFAS, the notorious Teflon chemical.</li></ul><ul> <li>Enamel-coated pots and Dutch ovens in bright, beautiful colors that any chef would be happy to add to their collection.</li></ul><ul><li>Waffle makers and crepe pans are a gift everyone can enjoy – but they're typically coated with nonstick chemicals. Instead, choose a waffle maker made of cast iron or coated with enamel, or a crepe pan made of lightweight carbon steel.</li></ul>
Support EWG<p>You want to feed your family more vegetables, but getting your kids' buy-in is no small challenge. One approach: Your purchase of the <a href="https://act.ewg.org/onlineactions/xpK5DUDfFE-PM8bYOYd8sA2?sourceid=1018019&_gl=1*wayh0y*_gcl_aw*R0NMLjE1Njg2NDUwMjEuRUFJYUlRb2JDaE1JeGEtNmlNclY1QUlWaDR6SUNoMXVSZ0YzRUFBWUFTQUFFZ0piaGZEX0J3RQ..&_ga=2.129134415.290585068.1574696568-757456667.1543852855" target="_blank">2019 EWG Holiday Gift Box</a> includes the new cookbook by noted chef Abra Behrens, <em>Ruffage</em>, lauded as a both an homage to vegetables and a practical guide. Bonus: Proceeds support EWG's ongoing research and advocacy work.</p>
- EcoWatch's Favorite Green Gifts for the Holidays - EcoWatch ›
- How to Shop Sustainably - EcoWatch ›
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By Marlene Cimons
When Morgan Poor gave birth to her son, she and her husband shopped around for the perfect diaper, hoping to find one that was both effective and environmentally friendly. They tried a few so-called "niche" brands, like Seventh Generation and Honest Company, which tout their green bona fides, but the diapers Poor liked best came from Pampers, a mainstream manufacturer with a line of more environmentally-friendly diapers.
The target audience for diapers.
Pexels<p>At the same time, the study also suggests that there still are many shoppers — increasingly aware of the dangers of climate change and pollution — who want to buy greener products.</p><p>"It's wonderful that consumers are starting to care about and demand that companies develop and sell more environmentally-friendly products," Poor said. "If we want the mainstream brands to continue to do this though, it's important that they understand how to enter the space successfully. Our research suggests that the best strategy for these mainstream brands may be to avoid too loudly showcasing the green quality of their product lines and instead let that be a bonus that consumers learn about post-purchase."</p><p>Sonya Grier, professor of marketing at American University's Kogod School of Business, who did not take part in this study, agreed that big companies should tamp down the green branding, at least at first.</p><p>"Often, green products will lead up with the focus on sustainability and that it is green, but that says nothing about the effectiveness of the product, which is what people really want," she said. "It's like saying buy my food because it's sustainable, without saying anything about the taste."</p>
Planet laundry detergent is marketed to consumers who worry about the environment.
Planet Inc.<p>To conduct their study, the researchers surveyed 565 consumers nationwide, asking them about three home pesticide brands currently on the market. These included a standard pesticide from a mainstream brand, a green product from a mainstream brand, and a totally green niche competitor. The results also showed that consumers geared toward buying green preferred the niche brand over the mainstream brand with the environmentally-friendly features. The brands were not identified in the study.</p><p>Another factor to take into account is price, the scientists said. Green products often cost more than mainstream products, so "it may not always be feasible to buy everything green that consumers may ideally want," Robinson said.</p><p>Poor pointed out, however, that many people also believe that "higher price equates to higher quality, so in that regard, one would think that higher priced green products might be perceived as more effective," Poor said.</p><p>For Poor and her husband, moving to California — and then having a baby — prompted them to make a more concerted effort to go green. "It seems like you see organic, sustainable and environmentally-friendly products being talked about a lot more here," she said.</p><p>"They also seem to be more easily accessible," she added. "Then, when my husband and I began talking about starting a family, we made a major move to clean up the products we were using, including cleaning supplies, beauty products, and even our pest services."</p><p>Poor says that in her experience, green products tend to work just as well as the standard non-green mainstream equivalents — which means manufacturers could have an opportunity to improve their bottom lines and the environment by fine-tuning how they present green products to consumers.</p>
Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.
Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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By Emily Deanne
Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.
Conserve Heating and Cooling<p><a href="https://www.energystar.gov/sites/default/files/tools/DataTrends_Dormitory_20150129.pdf" target="_blank">Air-conditioning</a> packs the biggest punch for dorm power usage, and if your room has individual temperature control, you can set it a few degrees higher to help cut back on how much energy the cooling system uses. Never leave a window open when an air conditioner (or heater) is running, and on hot, sunny days, keeping the blinds or curtains closed will block many of the sun's warming rays. In the winter, this will help keep the cold out, too. Year round, report broken windows, cracks in doorways, or any damaged thermostat controls to the university maintenance department. </p>
Light Efficiently<p><br>Switch off your overhead light, desk lamp, and any other lights every time you leave the dorm. To take your environmentalism a step further, if the bulbs provided aren't LEDs, <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-shop-energy-efficient-light-bulbs" target="_blank">consider swapping some in</a>. LEDs are 85 percent more efficient than old-fashioned incandescents and last much, much longer. If you decide to decorate with that dorm room staple, a string of holiday lights, make sure those are LEDs too. (Find tips on how to shop for energy-efficient bulbs <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-shop-energy-efficient-light-bulbs" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p>
Unplug Everything<p>The average dorm room consumes 30.2 percent of its electrical energy while you and your roomies aren't there, according to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378778814010299" target="_blank">one study</a>. That's because appliances <a href="https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/energy-vampires-are-attacking-your-home-here-s-how-stop-them" target="_blank">continue to draw power from electrical outlets even when turned off or idle</a>. A power strip or surge protector helps avoid this: You can plug all your appliances and devices into it, then easily stop them from drawing power with one switch.</p>
Don’t Make Your Screens Work Too Hard<p>If you have a television, look for an energy-saving feature called Automatic Brightness Control. It automatically adjusts the picture brightness level to the amount of light in the room. Game consoles can be huge energy drainers if used to stream videos or if constantly left on. Instead, stream with apps already on your TV or with a streaming device (like Roku or Apple TV), which require <a href="https://www.energystar.gov/products/configuring_todays_game_consoles_use_less_energy_0" target="_blank">one-fifteenth the energy</a>. Keep the auto-power-down feature enabled so your game console doesn't consume power when you aren't using it.</p><p>Desk computers and laptops are college necessities, and as with your gaming console, you can typically program your computer to go into a low-power standby mode when you're taking a break. Look for an energy-saving or eco-mode.</p><p>Shopping for a new computer? <a href="https://www.energystar.gov/products/office_equipment/computers" target="_blank">Check out this website</a> to find one that is certified by Energy Star to be energy efficient. (Any printer or mini-fridge you buy should be similarly certified.)</p>
Reduce Water Use<p>If you have a dishwasher in your room or suite, run it only with a full load; the same goes for doing laundry. Wash clothes in cold water and consider using a drying rack instead of an electric clothes dryer, which <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/easy-ways-save-energy-home" target="_blank">often uses as much energy as a new refrigerator, dishwasher, and clothes washer combined</a>.</p><p>If you live in an apartment-style dorm, more bonus points to you if you add a faucet aerator to your sinks. Aerators can reduce water flow <a href="https://www.epa.gov/watersense/bathroom-faucets" target="_blank">to 1.5 gallons per minute or less</a> from the standard flow of 2.2 gallons per minute. They are inexpensive and easy to screw onto the nozzle of your faucet, and they <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/energy-efficient-home-makeover" target="_blank">save energy by reducing your hot water use.</a></p>
Save the Food<p><a href="https://www.nrdc.org/resources/wasted-how-america-losing-40-percent-its-food-farm-fork-landfill" target="_blank">An NRDC study</a> found that about 40 percent of food is wasted in the U.S., which leads to a lot of emissions from food rotting in landfills. (One such gas is methane, a greenhouse gas that is up to <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/natural-gas-industry-has-methane-problem" target="_blank">80 times as effective at trapping heat as carbon dioxide)</a>. Do your part to help keep food scraps out of the landfill. Don't pile a tray with more food than you can possibly eat at the dining hall and keep a set of reusable containers on hand, in case you find yourself with extra slices from your late-night pizza delivery. With leftovers you can't store, it's best to toss them into a compost bin if there's one on-site or nearby; some cities host farmers markets where you can drop off composted food for free. You could even start a composting club or, if your roommate agrees, make your <a href="https://nrdc.tumblr.com/post/118984184239/how-to-build-a-worm-bin" target="_blank">own composting worm bin</a>.</p>
Create a Movement<p>With communal spaces and shared amenities, it can be hard to regulate every part of your energy use. Talking with your resident advisor (RA) about ways to increase dorm energy efficiency is a great way to make meaningful change. You could also join—or even start—an environmental club or energy efficiency council on your campus. When you join together with other student activists standing up against climate change, your impact on greening college life will go well beyond those dorm room walls.</p>
By Jillian Mackenzie
Spraying chemicals in the yard is a tempting shortcut for many a home gardener looking to protect a tasty crop or a bed of flowers. But weed killers aren't necessary, and they may be linked to health risks.
Embrace a Shaggy Lawn.<p>Want to make your weekend chores a little less burdensome? Learn to appreciate longer grass. Mow less frequently, and with your mower on the highest setting — at least two inches, said <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/jennifer-sass" target="_blank">Jennifer Sass</a>, a senior scientist with NRDC's Health program. (Sass sometimes lets hers grow even longer, with benign neglect.) "A longer lawn will crowd out weeds," she said, since the taller blades of grass <a href="https://homeguides.sfgate.com/control-kill-weeds-mowing-52579.html" target="_blank">block the light</a> weeds need to grow. "It will also ensure that you don't harm the clover, which attracts pollinators. Longer grass also holds soil moisture better and can even reseed itself."</p>
Make Peace with (Some) Weeds.<p>Along with a little benign neglect, Sass doled out some tough love: "Get used to how your lawn looks with weeds," she said. "A lawn that's dotted with some clover and dandelions is a safe, nontoxic place for pets and people to play." In addition to providing some nourishment for the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/8-ways-attract-bees-and-butterflies" target="_blank">pollinators we all depend on</a>, some of the most common and vexing weeds can have upsides. "Even dandelions are quite beneficial," said <a href="http://www.barbarapleasant.com/" target="_blank">Barbara Pleasant</a>, an expert on organic gardening and author of <em>Homegrown Pantry. </em>"They can have roots 18 inches deep that act as biodrills" to loosen compacted soil.</p>
Try Hand-to-Hand Combat.<p>If weeds are stealing too many nutrients from your lawn, vegetable garden or flower bed, start by hand-picking them. You don't need to dig into the dirt; just lop them off at the surface, Pleasant said. You'll need to be more aggressive if you find yourself with an invasive species issue — as when a plant that's not native to your area starts to dominate the landscape, with no natural control on its growth. Pull those plants out by the root, but don't toss them into your compost pile if you plan to sprinkle that mix back onto your lawn.</p><p>Bill Hlubik, a professor of agriculture and natural resources at Rutgers University, recommends chopping the invasive plants up into tiny bits with gardening shears so they don't reroot or germinate. Sass said she leaves them on a paved pathway to fully dry up in the sun before throwing them into her yard waste bin for curbside pickup. Either method should do the trick.</p>
Spread Some Mulch.<p>Shovel mulch on vegetable or flower beds. The extra layer not only helps the soil retain moisture but also blocks the sunlight that weeds need to start sprouting. "Mulches also look better than bare ground, and any mulch made of natural materials will improve soil as it rots," said Pleasant. "Grass clippings are great when applied in thin layers, especially in veggie beds." Pleasant likes to place a layer of damp newspapers under the clippings for even more light-blocking weed prevention. As for flower beds, she said, they "are all about looks, so there, you want to use a long-lasting woody mulch like wood chips, spread two to three inches deep. Any weeds that manage to establish themselves are easy to pull out, and the wood chips give beds a tailored look while maintaining soil moisture."</p>
Carpet the Ground with Cover Plants.<p>Ground cover plants will also choke out weeds, and they're especially great "for areas where grass, flowers, or veggies won't grow because of summer shade [or] shallow roots from big trees, or [on] slopes that are difficult to mow," said Pleasant. But ground cover plants are picky — they'll only grow if you find just the right plant for the right site, and they will take a few years to fill in properly. Some flourish in shade, others need full sun; gardeners working in hot climates should consider planting drought-tolerant varieties, such as <a href="https://www.bhg.com/gardening/plant-dictionary/perennial/sedum/" target="_blank">a creeping sedum</a>. The commonly used <a href="https://www.bhg.com/gardening/plant-dictionary/perennial/betony/" target="_blank">lamb's ear</a> may even help you repel another garden nuisance: deer. In addition to these animals finding the plant distasteful, "it's attractive, a draw for butterflies and hummingbirds, self-propagating, and needs almost no care," Sass said. "Make that the front border of your garden."</p><p>"Local nurseries can advise you on the best ground covers for your area, but the best way to explore possibilities is to look in other people's yards," Pleasant said, and see what's thriving there. Seeking out local native ferns may be a good place to start.</p>
Get Goats! (Stay with Us Here ...)<p>Perhaps the most adorable nontoxic weed solution, goats will happily munch your weeds away — and there are companies that <a href="https://www.beyondpesticides.org/assets/media/documents/alternatives/factsheets/Least%20toxic%20control%20of%20weeds.pdf" target="_blank">rent the animals out</a> for just that purpose. Goats' least favorite food is grass, so they will eat everything else first. They're otherwise not too selective, so you need to protect anything you don't want them to chomp. Of course, renting a herd is practical only if you have a lot of land or, said Sass, "if you have poison ivy, kudzu, and other noxious weeds."</p>
If You Must Spray, Use Natural Products.<p>Skip the herbicides. <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/what-would-monsanto-bayer-merger-really-grow" target="_blank">Glyphosate</a> (better known as Roundup) is the most commonly used one — primarily a tool of farmers growing genetically engineered crops of corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton but available for home use as well. Recent studies confirm it <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/jennifer-sass/atsdr-report-confirms-glyphosate-cancer-risks" target="_blank">carries a risk of cancer</a> and may be linked to other adverse health effects on reproduction, child development, and internal organs.</p><p>Instead, Sass recommended applying vinegar, which can be effective in eradicating <a href="https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2015/06/lawn-care-without-the-chemicals/index.htm" target="_blank">dandelions, kudzu or fig buttercups</a><a href="https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2015/06/lawn-care-without-the-chemicals/index.htm" target="_blank">.</a> Some <a href="https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/planting-and-maintenance/make-your-own-natural-weed-killer" target="_blank">DIY weed-killing recipes</a> contain regular household vinegar, others the much stronger horticulture vinegar. If you're using the latter, we recommend wearing heavy-duty gloves and goggles due to potential skin and eye irritation. (And always follow the safety instructions on the label.) Pleasant notes that vinegar works best on young weeds and may damage nearby plants, so spray precisely — or try her preferred weed killer, plain old boiling water.</p>
There's nothing like firing up the grill, playing some lawn games and enjoying the long days of summer with some of your best friends or closest family. But, let's face it; burning charcoal, sipping out of Solo cups and noshing on disposable plates isn't the most eco-friendly way to enjoy summer. In fact, here's a mind blowing set of stats from the Department of Energy, July 4th cookouts release 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, burn the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest, and use enough charcoal, lighter fuel and gas to power 20,000 households for one year.
1. Green Your Gear<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYyODE3OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MTAzOTMyN30.qRWmQSiZAPEELt6sYTAK-H2CxlPatj-XivEZsX2pYvQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="14c42" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fb04b0b1a365285059eb1967b9aa48dc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Pexels<p>Ditch the charcoal grill to reduce your carbon footprint. Propane, natural gas and electric grills all burn cleaner than charcoal. Remember, propane and natural gas are not renewable energy sources. So, if you really want to up your eco-grilling game, opt for a <a href="https://www.oneearthdesigns.com/" target="_blank">solar powered grill</a>. The technology has advanced so far that your grill is ready five times faster than charcoal.</p><p>If solar isn't happening for you this summer, <a href="https://greenerideal.com/food/0405-summer-is-coming-how-to-have-an-eco-friendly-bbq/" target="_blank">Greener Ideal</a> suggests a <a href="https://www.bbqguys.com/grill-dome/infinity-series-large-kamado-grill-black" target="_blank">dome grill</a> as an elegant and durable option. It traps and recirculates heat so effectively it will drastically reduce how much fuel is needed to cook your food.</p><p>If your motto is charcoal or nothing, shoot for a <a href="https://biggreenegg.com/product/100-natural-lump-charcoal/" target="_blank">sustainably sourced natural briquette</a> without chemicals that are made from local plants instead of wood from tropical forests. And, use a <a href="https://www.virtualweberbullet.com/using-chimney-starter.html" target="_blank">starter chimney</a> to eliminate the need for chemical-heavy lighter fluid.</p>
2. Ditch the Disposables<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYyODIwMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDgyMjIyMX0.TYajLeUePsS1MoMd8gfsarfoTUn7mkMsC4DHBnRU1MU/img.jpg?width=980" id="ecb98" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bac8eaffcbe0364c7cc3054820a67a34" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
PxHere<p>Make sure you've <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/sustainably-sourced-products-2617388522.html">got the right reusable</a> grilling tools like this <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Extremely-Practical-Grill-Set-Waterproof/dp/B06XZCMVJH/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&qid=1523795403&sr=8-5&keywords=bbq+grill+set&linkCode=sl1&tag=greeidea0b-20&linkId=d9583d33fc64d890c30105a57b85f620" target="_blank">eco-friendly kit</a> that <a href="https://greenerideal.com/food/0405-summer-is-coming-how-to-have-an-eco-friendly-bbq/" target="_blank">Greener Ideal</a> suggests. It's got all your essentials — including a multipurpose flipper, basting brush, knife and hot mitt. Plus, a nifty carrying case means you're less likely to lose any parts.</p><p>Before setting up those Hefty bags to hold all those plastic plates and forks headed to a landfill, consider reusable plates, cups and cutlery. If you're thinking of using paper plates, don't. It's a waste of water. A single paper plate takes eight gallons of water to make. That's a lot of water when you consider how many plates you'll run through. By contrast, a dishwasher uses six to 10 gallons of water to clean a full load, <a href="https://joe.org/joe/2003february/rb3.php" target="_blank">research shows</a>. </p><p>Yet, if disposable is necessary, go for a <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Pure-Palm-All-Natural-Eco-Friendly-Compostable/dp/B073WKSL33/ref=asc_df_B073WKSL33/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=241948599983&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=6571221719747402981&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1022219&hvtargid=pla-420328568874&psc=1" target="_blank">green alternative</a> to paper and plastic. Plates made from bamboo, palm or <a href="https://greenpaperproducts.com/biodegradable-compostable-fiber-plates-p005n.aspx?var=100ik=1760&gclid=CjwKCAjw0tHoBRBhEiwAvP1GFUWW3XhLpFtR7zo6ad7V-AoIc8c1jlqpivC1knW8lubTJfC7IChbCxoCHs4QAvD_BwE" target="_blank">plant fibers</a> are fully compostable. It's easy to go green with drinking straws. Try reusable <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Reusable-Stainless-Steel-Friendly-Straws/dp/B07MTPCN3J/ref=asc_df_B07MTPCN3J/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=344058097101&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=1539416287603245502&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1022219&hvtargid=pla-644890852222&psc=1&tag=&ref=&adgrpid=68456165999&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvadid=344058097101&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=1539416287603245502&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1022219&hvtargid=pla-644890852222" target="_blank">metal</a> and <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Reusable-Ecological-Alternative-multi-usage-Bambaw/dp/B079LCSBBN/ref=asc_df_B079LCSBBN/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=242032081623&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4474977336390236256&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1022219&hvtargid=pla-454587319629&psc=1" target="_blank">bamboo</a> straws, or disposable straws made from <a href="https://www.haystraws.com/products/hay-straws-100-pack?variant=12335821881378&campaign=1643218284&content=315503607763&keyword=&gclid=CjwKCAjw0tHoBRBhEiwAvP1GFeG7f1m71OVQMmOdOMCPR-Je6n1lvODywy2vIZFI9IgGbVgv-Y1syRoCdRIQAvD_BwE" target="_blank">hay</a> or <a href="https://www.loliware.com/" target="_blank">seaweed</a>. And <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Stainless-Barbecue-Skewers-Ring-Tip-Handle/dp/B000FQBJWW" target="_blank">reusable kebab sticks</a> are an elegant way to serve up all those local, grilled veggies. </p>
3. Think Local<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYyODIzNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTIzNDk0MH0.Znje15xwJdV2b_6Dwmn7Ya4qayX-XDTKdcL4Lwb70dQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="789b5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bb99a9b69b3b152c7c03a488d08f8b6d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Pexels<p>The bulk of any barbecue's greenhouse gas emissions is in food choices. The <a href="https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2015-4-july-august/green-life/5-ways-green-your-4th-july" target="_blank">Sierra Club</a> suggests shrinking your BBQs carbon footprint by buying local fruits, veggies and meat. Your local farmers market may even have a homemade potato chip stand. Buying locally grown foods cuts down on the energy required to store, transport and package food across long distances.</p><p>Buying at your farmers market will support your local economy and help build a relationship with the person who grew your food. Plus, as <a href="https://www.goodshop.com/blog/2016/05/27/green-your-bbq-10-tips-for-an-eco-friendly-cookout/" target="_blank">GoodShop</a> points out, during summer, local fruits and veggies are usually at their peak, so your BBQ will have that much more flavor. </p><p>Have fun serving up a sample of local wines and craft beers. </p>
4. More Veggies. Sustainably Sourced Meat<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYyODE0MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NTU2OTQwOH0.8efwCxWEkNA1Qbbw9n9Dgt-aFqSJpJsFpU1VtaxK1yY/img.jpg?width=980" id="3689f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="18ea251899b1e0a3319202abfe3e8303" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A veggie burger.
Max Pixel<p>While burgers and dogs usually take center-stage at a summer barbecue, an eco-friendly picnic should restructure that paradigm. Every pound of beef you eliminate from your barbecue makes a big difference in your carbon footprint. British chefs told the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/may/26/how-to-have-ethical-barbecue" target="_blank">Guardian</a> to reduce beef, pork and chicken and going for sustainable seafood like Arctic char, tilapia and squid. And, if red meat is necessary, go for lamb, which is almost always raised on grass pastures.</p><p>And, there are no shortages of meat replacements these days. <a href="https://www.treehugger.com/htgg/how-to-go-green-barbecues.html" target="_blank">Treehugger</a> suggests using portobello mushrooms or chickpea burgers. The <a href="https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2015-3-may-june/green-life/4th-july-throw-vegan-barbecue-even-meat-eaters-will-love" target="_blank">Sierra Club</a> has a recipe for a sweet potato black bean burger. And <a href="https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/the-beyond-burger/" target="_blank">Beyond Meat</a> burgers are available at most major grocery stores. </p>
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By Maria Saxton
Interest is surging in tiny homes — livable dwelling units that typically measure under 400 square feet. Much of this interest is driven by media coverage that claims that living in tiny homes is good for the planet.
The Unsustainable U.S. Housing Model<p>In recent decades, the building trend has been to "go big." Newly constructed homes in the U.S. generally have a larger average square footage <a href="https://www.slideshare.net/ORDEQ/deq-building-lca-forwebsite-16minfinal1" target="_blank">than in any other country in the world</a>.</p><p>In 1973 the average newly constructed U.S. home measured 1,660 square feet. By 2017 that average had increased to <a href="https://www.census.gov/construction/chars/pdf/squarefeet.pdf" target="_blank">2,631 square feet</a> — a 63 percent increase. This growth has harmed the environment in many ways, including loss of green space, increased air pollution and energy consumption, and ecosystem fragmentation, which can <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/habitat-fragmentation" target="_blank">reduce biodiversity</a>.</p><p>The concept of minimalist living has existed for centuries, but the modern tiny house movement became a trend only in the early 2000s, when <a href="https://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/" target="_blank">one of the first tiny home building companies</a> was founded. Tiny homes are an innovative housing approach that can reduce building material waste and excessive consumption. There is no universal definition for a tiny home, but they generally are small, efficient spaces that value quality over quantity.</p><p>People choose to downsize to tiny homes for many reasons. They may include living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, simplifying their lives and possessions, becoming more mobile or achieving financial freedom, since tiny homes <a href="https://www.rd.com/advice/saving-money/costs-owning-tiny-home/" target="_blank">typically cost significantly less</a> than the average American home.</p>
Understanding Footprint Changes After Downsizing<p>This study examined tiny home downsizers' environmental impacts by measuring their individual ecological footprints. This metric calculates human demand on nature by providing a measurement of land needed to sustain current consumption behaviors.</p><p>To do this, I calculated their <a href="https://www.footprintnetwork.org/faq/" target="_blank">spatial footprints</a> in terms of global hectares, considering housing, transportation, food, goods and services. For reference, one global hectare is equivalent to about 2.5 acres, or about the size of a single soccer field.</p><p>I found that among 80 tiny home downsizers located across the U.S., the average ecological footprint was 3.87 global hectares, or about 9.5 acres. This means that it would require 9.5 acres to support that person's lifestyle for one year. Before moving into tiny homes, these respondents' average footprint was 7.01 global hectares (17.3 acres). For comparison, the average American's footprint is <a href="http://data.footprintnetwork.org/#/" target="_blank">8.4 global hectares</a>, or 20.8 acres.</p><p>My most interesting finding was that housing was not the only component of participants' ecological footprints that changed. On average, every major component of downsizers' lifestyles, including food, transportation and consumption of goods and services, was positively influenced.</p><p>As a whole, I found that after downsizing people were more likely to eat less energy-intensive food products and adopt more environmentally conscious eating habits, such as eating more locally and growing more of their own food. Participants traveled less by car, motorcycle, bus, train and airplane, and drove more fuel-efficient cars than they did before downsizing.</p><p>They also purchased substantially fewer items, recycled more plastic and paper, and generated less trash. In sum, I found that downsizing was an important step toward reducing ecological footprints and encouraging pro-environmental behaviors.</p><p>To take these findings a step farther, I was able to use footprint data to calculate how many resources could potentially be saved if a small portion of Americans downsized. I found that about 366 million acres of biologically productive land could be saved if just 10 percent of Americans downsized to a tiny home.</p>
Maria Saxton / CC BY-ND
Fine-tuning footprint analyses<p>My research identified more than 100 behaviors that changed after downsizing to a tiny home. Approximately 86 percent had a positive impact, while the rest were negative.</p><p>Some choices, such as harvesting rainwater, adopting a capsule wardrobe approach and carpooling, reduced individual environmental impacts. Others could potentially expand people's footprints — for example, traveling more and eating out more often.</p><p>A handful of negative behaviors were not representative of all participants in the study, but still are important to discuss. For instance, some participants drove longer distances after moving to rural areas where their tiny homes could be parked. Others ate out more often because they had smaller kitchens, or recycled less because they lacked space to store recyclables and had less access to curbside recycling services.</p><p>It is important to identify these behaviors in order to understand potential negative implications of tiny home living and enable designers to address them. It is also important to note that some behaviors I recorded could have been influenced by factors other than downsizing to a tiny home. For instance, some people might have reduced their car travel because they had recently retired.</p><p>Nonetheless, all participants in this study reduced their footprints by downsizing to tiny homes, even if they did not downsize for environmental reasons. This indicates that downsizing leads people to adopt behaviors that are better for the environment. These findings provide important insights for the sustainable housing industry and implications for future research on tiny homes.</p><p>For instance, someone may be able to present this study to a planning commission office in their town to show how and why tiny homes are a sustainable housing approach. These results have the potential to also support tiny home builders and designers, people who want to create tiny home communities and others trying to change zoning ordinances in their towns to support tiny homes. I hope this work will spur additional research that produces more affordable and sustainable housing choices for more Americans.</p>
By Jeff Turrentine
If you think this is going to be yet another column admonishing you for not doing enough to curb the amount of single-use plastic in our waste stream, you can relax. You don't need a lecture at this point.
By Denise Baden
When you hear about businesses with a high environmental impact or activities with a high carbon footprint, you are probably more likely to imagine heavy machinery, engines and oil rather than hairdressing. Yet hairdressing, both as a sector and as an individual activity, can have a massive carbon footprint.
By Brian Barth
Do the planet a favor and skip the roses this year.
Trace the path of a rose back from your local florist to the pesticide-drenched greenhouse in South America from whence it likely came, and you will quickly realize that beautiful red bud has had an outsize role in destroying the planet.
In Mexico, a startup has found an innovative way to deal with the tons of avocado pits that producers discard every day.
Michoacan-based Biofase, located in the heart of Mexico's avocado industry, is transforming the dense seeds into disposable drinking straws and cutlery that are said to be 100 percent biodegradable.
Supermarkets around the world should be commended for banning plastic bags, but there's another single-use foe on the environmental radar: produce packaging.
For eco-conscious shoppers, one of the most frustrating things about the grocery store is seeing things like a lone potato spud shrink-wrapped in plastic.