Posts tagged Sustainability

Times, They are A Changin’

A few days ago I wrote about my experience last Fall trying to find a contractor that could source green materials.  I figured that my experience would be the same while dealing with caterers for my father’s upcoming birthday bash.  I’m glad I was wrong!

My father is turning 80, and we want to celebrate in style.  My mother decided that we should throw him a big party and invite everyone my father cares about and who cares about him.  We’re renting a place and getting outside caterers, which is way more effort than my family has put into any party in a long time!  My job is to work with the caterer to handle all of the logistics.

I called the caterer my mom chose this morning.  We were discussing table linens and dishes and she gave me my options: china or premium plastic.  Hmmm.  China is more fancy than we need for this party, but I just can’t in good conscience order the plastic.  I mentioned this to the caterer, and started talking about other options.  Unlike the contractors I dealt with for my home repairs, her response was “Wait, there is another option. There’s stuff that’s, um, what’s the word that starts with a C?” “Compostable?” I ask.  “Yes!” she says. “We’ve had some vendors come in to talk to us about them.  Let me talk to my boss and see what we can do.”

I can’t tell you how happy I was!  Having a little more time on my hands these days, I was ready to source the plates and cups myself.  (A simple Google search returned several vendors including:  www.ecowise.com, www.MyGreenSupply.com. and www.biodegradablestore.com.) However,  it was a great surprise to find I didn’t have to.  Next time I talk to her, I’m going to bring up using only organic, locally grown produce.  We’ll see how she handles that.  Based on our plate conversation, I’m very optimistic.

Times they are a changin’!

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my approach to greening my life is to start with small changes that will be easy to implement but whose impact can be quite significant.  One of these measures was to place a plastic bottle filled with water into the tank of my toilet to instantly turn it into a lower flow toilet without having to spend money or send the old toilet to the landfill.  Easy, right?

Not so fast.  My first attempt at this failed miserably.  I didn’t have the 2 liter bottle suggested on the video clip I saw on Planet Green, but I did have a 16 oz one.  No problem, I thought.  I’ll just start small.  I filled the bottle with water, placed it in the tank and was very proud of myself.  The first few flushes went just fine, and I was really happy to be saving 16oz of water with each flush. (Little things make me happy).

Just when I was sure that everything was fine, I was proven wrong.  I flushed the toilet, left the room.  A few minutes later it was still flushing.  I opened the tank to find that the bottle had flipped over and wedged itself under the stopper (not sure that is the technical term, but that’s what I will call it).  With that one flush I flushed away enough water to negate everything I had saved by putting the bottle in the tank in the first place. Ughh!

Not being one to give up after one small defeat, I decided to try again. This time it was a 1 liter bottle.  Bigger and more stable, this worked well for several months.  Today, however, I was twarted again!  I was having some plumbing issues elsewhere in the house, and called a plumber in.  I figured that while he was there I should have him take a look at the toilet, which just didn’t seem to be flushing as well as it used to.  The plumber opened the tank, pulled out the bottle of water, and said “The first thing you need to do is get rid of this!”  So much for my effort to be green : (

According to the plumber, each toilet is designed to work with a certain amount of water.  If you place something in the tank to displace the water, the toilet may not perform well because quite simply it doesn’t have enough water moving through the system to effectively do its job (if you know what I mean).  The plumber’s recommendation was to replace the toilet with an actual low-flow system, which I plan to do in the future (i.e. when I can afford it).

So much for saving water.  It feels like one step forward, two steps back!

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The Problem with Wanting More

According to John Sterman,  “As long as every person in the world wants more, there is no solution” to the issue of global warming and the sustainability of our planet.  Check out his interview in the MIT Sloan Management Review: http://sloanreview.mit.edu/beyond-green/a-sober-optimists-guide-to-sustainability/

Topics covered include:

  • how to get people to think for real on sustainability
  • why the conventional wisdom about energy is just a myth, and
  • how to live as if there’s just enough time left to save the world

Professor Sterman is one of the world’s leading experts on system dynamics and is very active in the sustainability initiatives going on at MIT, and MIT Sloan in particular.  He has a brilliant mind and is a fantastic speaker.  If you ever have the opportunity to see one of his lectures, DO IT!

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Down to Earth in Boston

The other day some friends and I headed over to D2E, the sustainability expo now in its second year in Boston.  They had a great range of exhibitors from vendors of solar panels, to green clothing and lots of baby goods.  There were definitely some favorites:

  • Green Depot (www.greendepot.com)- They have a wide range of household goods from LED lights for your chandelier to monitors that let you know how much energy your appliances are using when they are turned off.  I bought a counter-top compost container, which was identical to the ones at Williams-Sonoma, but at a much better price.  They have great customer service (which I will probably talk about in another post) and I definitely plan to shop with them again.
  • Jute & Jackfruit (www.juteandjackfruit.com)- Great selection of designer clothes made from sustainable materials.  They do a great job of finding clothes and accessories that are cute and green.  My favorite were these clutch handbags made from soda can pulls crocheted together by women in Brazil.

In addition to the booths, they had some great workshops and demonstrations, including a green fashion show and a talk from MIT researchers about the future of transportation.  The organizing team did a great job and I’ll definitely go again next year!

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Today’s the day!

While I’ve always been a person who was concerned with the environment and the impact we all have on our planet, over the last year I have become increasingly dedicated to living a more sustainable life.  Sustainability means many things to many people, but to me it is this:

  • Reducing my personal impact on the planet as much as possible, by making small (okay, sometimes not that small) changes to the way I live my life
  • Increasing the positive impact I have on the lives of other people
  • Managing my life so that my personal life gets just as much attention as my career

It’s been a long, windy, and often very funny road and I have learned many valuable lessons along the way.  While I am not a sustainability expert, I think I can make it easier for others to walk down this path by sharing my experiences so they can avoid some of the pitfalls and make more informed choices without having to do all of the research themselves.

I’ve been thinking about starting this blog for a while, I guess today’s the day!

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