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Apr 202010

From Green Right Now Reports

With Earth Day approaching, and summer just around the corner, thinking about getting back to nature is, well…natural.

Image: National Park Foundation

Image: National Park Foundation

The folks at the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation think so, too. In honor of National Parks Week (April 17-25), they have released their list of the “Top 10 Things You Can Do to Celebrate National Parks Week 2010″:

1. Share a park, and shape a life: Introduce a young person to our national parks. Go to nationalparkweek.org and download the brand new free resource for families: Parks for Play: 35 National Park Adventures for Kids of All Ages which features 35 great national parks for families with tykes, teens and everyone in between.

2. Visit a National Park for Free: The National Park Service has waived entrance fees to all 392 national parks through Sunday, April 25, 2010. Need help locating the closest park to you? Visit the NPS webpage on this event. 

3. Plant Native Species: “Everglades National Park was the first national park in America established to preserve, protect, and restore a unique and fragile ecosystem,” said Dan Kimball, superintendent of Everglades National Park. “You can protect the environment in your community by planting native plant species in your home gardens and backyards. Non-native plants can adversely impact native wildlife, wreak havoc on nearby natural areas and waters, and interfere with our efforts to restore imperiled ecosystems like the Everglades.”

4. Help Support the Parks at Macy’s: If you can’t make it to a park, consider a gift of any amount and Macy’s will match your gift up to $1 million through the end of April. Macy’s support of the National Park Foundation is helping bring more than 100,000 youth into parks this spring. You can help by visiting your nearest Macy’s store or going online at to the Macy’s Giveback program.

5. Celebrate Earth Day in the Parks, and Leave Your Car Home: Did you know that there are many options for visiting national parks without driving your car? In Boston, on April 21st and 22nd (Earth Day) park rangers will be picking up visitors at MBTA (“The T”) and offering rides to 12 area parks. Take the train through Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. Or, think about carpooling with friends to the park nearest you.

6. Use Reusable bags: “Replace disposable bags with reusable ones,” said Rich Weideman, Chief of Public Affairs at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. “Everyone has seen old plastic bags stuck in trees, littering our roadsides and in our streams, and that’s just one of the signs of waste we face in an urban national park like Golden Gate.”

7. Volunteer: Help pick up trash, mulch a trail, pull weeds – or whatever else your local park needs. Find out how you can volunteer too by visiting nationalparkweek.org.

8. Buy Locally Grown Produce: “When you buy your fruits and veggies locally, you’re saving on the fuel and energy it takes to transport and store them,” said Joan Anzelmo superintendent of Colorado National Monument, where park rangers participate in the local farmers market in Grand Junction, Colo., each summer.

9. Help turn one of America’s best parks into one of America’s best classrooms: This spring, the National Park Foundation will bring Bryce Canyon National Park into classrooms across the nation through our Electronic Field Trip. It’s free for teachers to register their classes for the live broadcast and interactive curriculum. Click on this link to sign up.

10. Use Water Efficiently: “A whopping 30 % of the city of Seattle’s electricity comes from hydroelectricity generated within North Cascades National Park,” said Chip Jenkins, superintendent of North Cascades National Park. “Every time you conserve your water usage, that’s not only more clean water for drinking and water for wildlife, but potentially creating more water for clean energy.”

For more information about National Park Week, visit the National Park Service webpage on National Parks Week.

Jun 052009

By Sommer Saadi
Green Right Now

As I unloaded my groceries onto the conveyor belt, I realized I was buying more than could fit in my reusable bags.

“Can you try to fit everything in these?” I asked, handing over my assortment of canvas totes.

“I can try,” the cashier answered. “But it’s no big deal, I can just use plastic bags for whatever we can’t fit into  the ones you brought.”

“Oh no,” I said. “No plastic bags. Please.”

She stared back at me. She had already stretched out a plastic bag and was ready to load.

“I have this thing,” I told her. “I just really hate plastic bags.”

I wasn’t lying. I really do hate plastic bags, and I was on the last day of my one-week challenge to only use reusable bags for every purchase I made.  I wasn’t going to let the two gallons of milk, a watermelon and a Gatorade six-pack that wouldn’t fit in my totes stop me.

“Just put the stuff that doesn’t fit right into the cart,” I told her.

I made it to the car and my groceries made it to my home without the help of a plastic bag. I learned after going a week without them, shopping bags were simply unnecessary.

I got used to the idea of refusing plastic bags at the grocery store during the year I studied in London. Some stores would charge you if you needed a plastic bag while others would give you credit if you brought your own. And it made sense to bring a sturdier bag since you’d most likely be walking your groceries back home.

Carrying a reusable bag in London was trendy and cool. The U.K. is the birthplace of the ubiquitous “I’m Not A Plastic Bag” tote created by activist organization We Are What We Do, which encourages people to use small, daily actions to change the world.

Reusablebags.com reports an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to more than one million per minute. And the bags that get dumped pollute soil and water sources and are the cause of death for thousands of animals each year. Plastic bags do not biodegrade. They photodegrade, which means they break down into smaller and smaller pieces that contaminate the environment.

And paper bags aren’t much better. Research shows that more greenhouse gases are emitted during the manufacturing and transporting of paper bags than plastic bags. So the best solution is to use a reusable bag.

So the What We Do organization asked British bag guru Anya Hindmarch to create an affordable and environmentally friendly bag people could use instead of plastic or paper bags. And when 20,000 of them were released at 450 supermarkets across England in 2007, women got in line at 2 a.m. and all were sold by 9 a.m. Women in the States had a similar reaction. Within three hours of it being offered for the first time across the U.S., it had sold out of every Anya Hindmarch boutique across the nation.

Feb 172009

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

It seems just a hop and a skip from a reusable shopping tote to a purse made of recycled goods. Yet so often in the past, the recycled handbag or fashion tote was self-consciously slouchy or worse, fussy and over-designed, not to mention overpriced.

Gypsystyle bags seem to avoid these pitfalls. These bags, constructed of 100 percent recycled plastic (turned into a durable nylon-like fabric), are simply designed and feature a selection of perky stripe patterns. They are practical, made large for the market or the beach, or scaled down for business and day use.

And they’re affordable. The Farmers Market bag is $30; the Sleepover Bag (pictured, in Cabo stripe) is $32. The Yogi, perfectly sized to contain your exercise mat, retails for $34.

Thanks to their origins as plastic bottles and containers, these bags also are water-resistant.

Philadelphia designer Noel Cianci, a former celebrity stylist to stars such as Sting, Diana Ross and Scarlett Johansson, seized the idea for Gypsystyle while traveling in India. There she found that people used many discarded things, turning plastics, wrappers and flip-flops into second generation items. She developed Gypsystyle to reuse recyclable plastics, which clog landfills despite their recyclability. Her plan was to create something that was stylish, eco-friendly and travel-friendly (the bags are nearly weightless and stowable).

Gypsystyle products are sold in boutiques, spas and farmer’s markets. See the spring line online at Gypsystyle.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

Nov 242008

By Barbara Kessler and Julie Bonnin
Green Right Now

Tis’ the season to be…conservative? Afraid so. As the economic downturn and the need to better care for our planet converge into a new aesthetic, we are facing an unusual holiday season. We can show we care with holiday gifts that help us all to consume less.

More from GRN

This might seem the antithesis of consumerism, too bah humbug to be any fun. But we think you’ll see that we’re talking about smarter consuming; buying durable goods that cut out the disposables, forsaking chemical-laden items and making some of your own stuff, whether its soda or energy. Read on:

The Sodastream Penguin – make your own soda, bypass plastic bottles

We admit we were easily sold on the idea of making our own soda because it cuts down on plastic proliferation. Even a family that recycles #1 and #2 beverage bottles, could reduce their carbon imprint by cutting out the purchase of petroleum-based plastic bottles.

So the key question was not whether the Sodastream Penguin was environmentally friendly, but did the thing work? (And would it be a cool gift?)
We eagerly set up the inaugural trial at the kitchen table. The 13-year-old did the honors — and let’s face it, figured it all out quicker than his elders would have. But then as our most avid soda consumer he was the most motivated.

Turns out that making one’s own bubbly is no more difficult than making chocolate chip cookies, and a good bit quicker. After loading the carbonation canister inside the appliance, you fill the glass carafe with tap water and lock it in on the opposite side of Mr. Penguin; a couple pushes on the button, a whistle, and you’ve carbonated the water. Add flavoring and you’ve got soda. We tried several of our sample flavorings over the next two days, finding that we liked Lemon Lime and Root Beer the best.

However – and here was the biggest stumbling block – we didn’t like the extra sweet taste or aftertaste of the sucralose that had been added to even the regular drinks. Perhaps we were a skewed lot because we avoid faux sweeteners such as aspartame and Splenda and are unaccustomed to the taste of sucralose. A spokeswoman for the company told us that the sucralose is less bulky than sugar, and that’s why it’s added. But whatever the reason, we found its inclusion to be not so refreshing.

Happily, the Lemon-Lime, Orange and Berry all-natural flavor essences that Soda Club sells do not have any sucralose baggage. They are not sweetened and add just a hint of flavor to make a fun seltzer. The flavor and the fizz was as good as we’d been buying, and this being our drink of choice anyway, we began churning out carafes of these sparkling waters. The economics of this look pretty sweet, actually: Each small bottle of essence makes 40 liters of flavored seltzer, meaning that a variety three pack (retail $9.99) would make 120 liters, enough to hold our family for months. Add about $25 for the cost of carbonating the water for those 120 liters and you’re talking about 30 cents a carafe, not counting the overhead cost of the machine. (I’m not sure how to amortize that.)

Picture too the environmental savings of 120 plastic bottles subtracted from the waste equation, or about four recycle bins that your family didn’t fill.

Which reminds me. Those carbonation canisters do not go in the trash! You send them in to be refilled at a cost of about $12.50 per canister. (See the Soda Club website for details.) A word about the carbonation: Home soda makers have received mixed reviews on the consistency and durability of their bubbles. Consumer Reports, though, found that homemade soda held its carbonation for 10 days in the refrigerator just as well as the manufactured controls.

And we discovered another healthier drink to make, celebratory sparkling juice. Just mix juice with the seltzer. We’ve found it’s best to use grape juice, which could stand to be diluted anyway, or real juice concentrates, sold in many health food markets. Our kids have come to expect their bubbly at holidays (in wine glasses of course), and now that we have the Penguin, they can make their own varietals!

So if you’re looking for a “conservative” gift that’s also got pizazz, no easy trick, the Penguin should make a splash.The Penguin retails for $199.95 (and includes a starter pack of 2 60-carafe carbonators and two glass carafes). It is available at Williams Sonoma stores, and online at the Sodastream store.
A soda maker called the “Design” is available at Sam’s Club stores for $79.99, with a starter carbonator and two BPA-free reusable bottles.

Jun 232008

But Some Confused About Eco-Choices

By Barbara Kessler

Ever wonder what your neighbors are doing on the green front – what with one fellow dragging four nicely sorted recycling bins to the curb every other week, and another seemingly sitting out the green movement?

So did the Nature Conservancy and the people running the Harris Poll. They collaborated on a poll that found about half of Americans (53 percent) are making green changes, but a significant number (Americans are shopping for local food34 percent) said they’ve not made any changes because they are confused about what to do. Another large group (29 percent) said they are not making changes because it won’t make any difference.

Education seemed to play a role in who was confused, fatalistic or moving toward more sustainable practices. Just under half of high school educated respondents (46 percent) said they had made green changes as compared with college educated adults (65 percent).

Of the total 53 percent who had made changes, the poll elicited these responses: Continue reading »