November 20, 2010

Dining out and being green

One of my pet peeves when dining out is being given my leftovers in a styrofoam or hard plastic clamshell "doggie bag" that I know I can't recycle. I always forget to bring my reusable food storage container from home. So the green option is to snarf down all that's on my plate and deal with the extra calories later.

There's a Virginia Green Restaurants program through the state's Department of Enviormental Quality that "promises" some green dining options. But the qualifications look very lenient to me. The program merely encourages restaurants to recycle more than glass and reduce waste. I suppose it's a start, even though it provides an easy "greenwashing" opportunity for some restaurants. But check it out to see the restaurants that applied for this label.

Also check out the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) that for 20 years has been  "certifying" restaurants that take more aggressive steps to be green. One of GRA's standards is "Offer smaller portions, at least 25% smaller, for 50% of entrees at a reduced price." Now that's one goal I can applaud--as well as my waistline Read more about GRA by clicking here. I had a hard time finding Virginia restaurants through their database search tool.

The best option of course is to eat at home, entertain friends and family at home, and eat locally grown foods.

November 17, 2010

Santa will create more E-Waste

Santa may try to be green, but . . . 

More of us will get new computers, cell phones, and other electronics this Christmas. What happens to the old stuff? Too much of it ends up in our landfills where it can create health and environmental hazards as chemicals leach out of these discards.

Many folks know that a LOT of our E-Waste is shipped to China, where much of it is not recycled responsibly. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson recently visited the town of Guiyu in Guandong Province, China. This town is noteworthy for its large electronic waste recycling industry. Hopefully, these folks are recycling our "stuff" responsibly and conserving our resources.

What resources? There are a lot of precious metals and rare earth minerals in our electronics. The EPA news release states, "For every 1 million cell phones recycled, 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver, 33 pounds of palladium, and more than 35,000 pounds of copper can be recovered."

To see where you can recycle your E-waste, see the "Recycling Guide" on this blog.

A Virginia law that went into effect on 7-1-09 requires a computer manufacturer that in any calendar year manufactures computer equipment in excess of 500 units which were sold in Virginia under its brand or license to implement a recovery/recycling plan for those computers at no charge to the consumer. Manufacturers must also affix a permanent, readily visible label to all computer equipment with the manufacturer's brand and post all recovery program information on a publically available website.

For a listing of Computer Manufacturers that have a recovery plan in place, Click Here. Many of these manufacturers have mail-in programs available at no cost to the consumer.

There are also many E-Waste vendors currently providing electronics collection services for Virginia: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/ecycling/computer.html .

EVEN BETTER, click on http://earth911.com/iphone/ to download a handy recycling app from Earth911 on your iPhone.

November 7, 2010

More opposition to Dendron, VA coal power plant


Eagles along the James River
 Check out this video from the National Conservation folks at https://secure.npca.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=435  to learn why they oppose the proposed coal-burning power plant in Dendron, VA.

These raptors on the left are a tad concerned about the mercury that will end up in their dinners.

November 3, 2010

Confused by "Green" marketing claims

You are not alone!

Misleading environmental marketing has been out of control for years. What exactly does "eco-friendly" mean?

So the Federal Trade Commission is proposing much-needed revisions to the guidelines it gives marketers to help them avoid confusing consumers. The agency is seeking public comments about changes to the Green Guides on such topics as renewable energy and carbon offset claims.

The FTC notes that general "eco-friendly" claims are difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate. The agency will accept public input until December 10, 2010, after which it will decide what final changes it will make to the guidelines. See the FTC press release, which includes an electronic link for comment submissions, and the summary of proposed Green Guides changes.

LED lights will give you a green Christmas

LED Christmas lights are popular as many Chevy Chase wannabes replace their electricity hogging mini-lights of Christmas past. Kudos to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for using more than 20 miles of LED strands (600,000 lights) in their annual Garden Fest of Lights.

The cost to light your Christmas tree with LEDs is 13 to 17 cents per season, compared to $6 to $10 for incandescent lights, according to the Electric Power Research Institute (ERPI). They also estimate potential annual electricity cost savings in the nation in excess of $250 million if all seasonal mini-lights were switched to LEDs. This translates into a potential carbon emissions reduction of 400,000 tons per year, the equivalent of removing 65,882 automobiles from roads for one year.

I just wish that U.S manufacturers made these dandy little strands of Christmas cheer.

Technical Consumer Products is a leading manufacturer of energy efficient lighting products, some of which will be labeled “Made in the U.S.A.” in 2011. Currently, its factories are overseas, but it plans to begin construction on a CFL factory, at its headquarters in Aurora, Ohio, that would employ as many as 400 people. You can find TCP brand CFL and LED bulbs in many retail stores. Look for them at Home Depot under the "Eco Smart" brand name.

Dominion offers a Holiday Lighting Energy Calculator at http://www.dom.com/about/conservation/holiday-calculator.jsp  that will further inspire you to “go LED” for Christmas future.

Not to be an alarmist, but . . .

YIKES! I've been shampooing with 1,4-dioxane for years and never knew it.

Proctor & Gamble never told me that they were generating a nasty chemical byproduct just to give me more suds in my shampoos. They  recently agreed to reformulate this shampoo to reduce dioxane levels to a "safer level."

The EPA considers 1,4-dioxane a probable human carcinogen, and it’s on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer. Still, the FDA doesn’t require 1,4-dioxane to be listed on the labels of personal care products because it’s considered a contaminant, not an ingredient because it’s produced during manufacturing.

This petrochemical is also showing up in water supplies across the country.

But I'll use this nifty chart from the Environmental Working Group when I go shopping for not only another brand of shampoo, but different laundry detergent as well. It seems that nearly two-thirds of laundry detergents sold in the U.S. have dioxane as well.

In the past year there has been a flurry of activity throughout the United States banning detergents with phosphates. Six states passed legislation that went into effect in July 2010. Canada is following on the same path.

Here's another helpful laundry detergent guide: http://www.safelaundryguide.com/

The FDA website will tell you about dioxane in makeup. The carcinogen 1,4-dioxane contaminates up to 46% of personal care products tested (OCA 2008, EWG 2008). The chemical is an unwanted byproduct of an ingredient processing method called ethoxylation used to reduce the risk of skin irritation for petroleum-based ingredients. Though 1,4-dioxane can easily be removed from products before they are sold, its widespread presence in products indicates that many manufacturers fail to take this simple step.

Tammy Faye wannabes might be at risk! Check out this dandy makeup database at http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient.php?ingred06=726331