banning the bags

Members of the Portland Chapter of Surfrider Foundation and Leave No Plastic Behind have requested that the Portland City Council pass a ban on plastic bags. They presented a petition signed by 43 businesses, collecting over 2,700 signatures.

I love that Portland is one of the most environmentally progressive cities in the country and I think if they make serious progress with this ban, it could lead lots of other cities to following suit. 

Part of the article mentions the plastic bag as something that will last thousands of years but only be used once. I think, even if some cities don't want to impose actual bans or fees on bags, there should be a serious incentive to REuse the bags – at least the ones that didn't rip. How many people take all their plastic bags, wad them up and shove them in a cabinet? They'll survive another trip to the store (unless they were forced to hold cans the first time around.)

I can just imagine, in my so-behind-we're-going-backwards city, the people in slippers and glorified pajamas at Wal-Mart complaining about having to bring their own plastic or cloth bags. I can hear the "unfair" cries already. But with the fact that there are probably 5 plastic bags for every 1 person on the planet, I would gladly set up some sort of donation system.

Anyway, I hope Portland can set a precedent and influence more cities to follow suit in some sort of plastic bag ban. 

sustainable product index

So Wal-Mart has announced that it plans to implement a sustainable product index for every product it carries. I am by no means a fan of Wal-Mart, even if I practically live in the parking lot of one. And fine, their groceries are less expensive. But if they are serious about this product index and see it through, it might bring me around. Unless, of course, it proves that the products they carry are harmful to the environment.

I will be interested in following this plan, because if it works, it will be an influence to other major national retailers. And it would be nice for retailers to be honest with its customers on what impact their products have on the environment. It's certainly not easy now, 1. to find items that are earth-friendly, and 2. to discern them from the items jumping on the earth-friendly bandwagon.

wanting to make a change

This week one of my coworkers proposed an idea to me and asked my advice on how to start it. He wants to eliminate the sometimes unnecessary waste of receipts. I told him it was great idea that could make a huge effect on the amount of paper thrown away and that I would support him in his quest. My suggestion to him is to start with our state representatives and to compose a letter stating why stores should ask customers if they would like a receipt before printing them. In this day and age, records are kept online, in my opinion, eliminating the need for printed receipts on the store's end. And many times, especially when paying cash, customers immediately throw them away or worse, litter the parking lot. 

This coworker spent some time in the Midwest this year and said it was standard for store clerks to ask before handing over a receipt. Just today, I was at a store and I didn't need a receipt for my two soft drinks and bag of candy, so after the clerk asked and I said no, she just balled up the receipt and threw it away.

It's not that he's looking to ban receipts, he's just looking for clerks to ask before printing, in order to save the paper if you don't need it. I think it's a very realistic goal and offered my support in storming the capital steps if necessary. I would love to see him follow through with this and see if he makes any sort of effect on this practice. 

At the very least, it will get him involved in our state government to make a change, which is incredibly respectable.

It's also gotten me thinking about one specific area I want to make a change in - restaurant to-go containers. Around here, the standard is leftover portions in a styrofoam container that is put into a plastic bag. Non-biodegradable packaging in more non-biodegradable packaging. When I first set out to make a personal change, I asked for at least some recyclable plastic packaging, which one restaurant had. Then I went out and bought a couple reusable containers and was doing well at remembering to bring them with me. I have fallen off the wagon a little with this (although I eat out way less now that I'm on my own), but my next goal is to get restaurants to look into better options. I want to start with figuring out why restaurants will put one styrofoam container into a plastic bag. Is it because of the handles, for easy(-ier) transporting? If so, why not create a to-go box that HAS handles?

I think, now inspired by my coworker, I would like to pursue this to-go box issue more and see if I can't at least get restaurants thinking about making a switch (but really, getting restaurants to actually make a switch.) 

going solar

Is it ironically appropriate that today's post is about solar energy when it's the anniversary of the moon landing? I think it is, so humor me.

While I am still a bit skeptical about the chance of actual implementation, I have been given the task of finding solar panel options for my company. This, of course, is more enticing than my day-to-day work. Now is an excellent time for Louisiana residents and businesses to look into and invest in solar panels because of the availability of both state and federal tax credits. The state reimburses 50% of your purchase up to $25,000 and the federal government reimburses 30% with no cap. Businesses also receive a 30% no cap credit. (And how to actually go about getting those credits is beyond me, but I guess it would make me a better person to learn.)

I found a crop of solar panel companies in southern Louisiana that I will begin contacting to see about quotes. Louisiana Solar Solutions is based in Lafayette, South Coast Solar is located in New Orleans, and Gulf South Solar and Louisiana Solar Works are located in Baton Rouge. I also learned through my excellent Googling skills that there is a Louisiana Solar Energy Society. They should be a great resource for anything I would need while I go about finding a solar panel system for my office.

Another thing I'm looking forward to researching is solar tubes. These tubes simply take in light through a diffuser and spread it around whichever room it's placed in. That way, we would be able to use the abundant sunlight Louisiana has instead of using energy to light the warehouse lamps that are currently just off. I think a combination of solar tubes and solar panels would be a great solution to our energy conservation needs.

I was told today about a woman in Lafayette who outfitted her home with $26,000 worth of solar panels. After all the tax credits, the total was $6,000. And her electricity bill was $4.12. Simply amazing and what I dream for my own home one day. I may take a ride soon to check out the panels with my own eyes (I am a geek like that.) I think the most inspiring part of this story is that the woman is in her 80s. Even at her age, she understands the need to be environmental, especially in the importance for future generations. It's a point I wish I could drive home stronger to people in my own life.

"I believe ... we should make choices that benefit our descendants, our country and our planet," she said.

"And if these choices require sacrifices, then we should be willing to make them."

making an impact?

Environmentalism is obviously my passion. What I want to feel like is that I'm inspiring others to make small changes to better the environment. One of the places I would love to see change is my office. This week I thought I had actually made progress with some people, only to basically find I had not. Energy conservation was being compromised for aesthetics.

It frustrates me, but it mostly makes me wonder what I'm doing wrong. How can I actually influence people to realize the greater need for being greener? I feel like all of the tactics I use just fall on deaf ears. I have had problems recently with people scoffing at me anytime I make a remotely "environmental" statement (up to and including directions to use paper towels in the bathroom instead of a cloth towel. I said absolutely not.) I end up feeling like I'm just dismissed as the crazy treehugger, and I'm not actually listened to.

And even if people hear what I'm saying, I feel like it doesn't help because I haven't actually inspired change in actions. Does it mean all is lost and I'm alone in my crazy bid to recycle and turn off lights when I'm not using them?

What's the best tactic to take with people who don't realize the need for change? I've tried city-wide conservation mandates, I've tried the future generation angle, I've tried the non-sacrificial angle, and I've tried the money-saving angle. Maybe it's where I live. Louisiana is not exactly the most environmentally progressive state.

I think it's time to sit back, collect my thoughts and figure out a new way to approach this with others. Even with all the changes I've made in my life, I won't feel like I've made an impact until I can inspire others to change.

today's link roundup

I recently read about the Carteret islanders, whose lives are all disrupted due to global warming. They are being relocated to another group of islands, but they are essentially losing a lot of their culture due to the effects of the climate change. There is a documentary being made about them called Sun Come Up, but the filmmakers are having a tough time finishing, due to funding.

Some pizza boxes have been tweaked just slightly to become a lot more green. They are being made of recycled material and are scored in order to create plates and a storage container, making them completely multi-purposed.

A McDonald's in Cary, North Carolina, will be the first of the chain to have an electric vehicle charging station. The restaurant is also LEED-certified. It's great to see elements like solartubes and renewable materials being used for such a cookie-cutter store, especially one that creates so much waste.

A Danish music festival has gone green. It happened the first weekend of July, six months before the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. Elements included bikes that charge iPods and cell phones, LED lighting at campsites, a wind turbine and carbon offsets.

organic milk

Horizon Milk is probably the most popular organic brand on the market and will now be selling "natural" milk, which really means nothing, except that it's not organic. The company producing the natural milk will sell it cheaper than organic milk, essentially undercutting its original product.

Horizon has been the only brand of milk I've gotten in the past few months, because of its availability and it being organic. I am not sure if they will stop producing organic milk, but either way I will be more attentive when I'm at the store. I know there are other, not as popular, organic brands, but it won't take much to switch if Horizon does get out of the organic business.

one of my favorite places

Part of the success of my transition to organic beauty products is due to a store in town, Drug Emporium. It's been around for ages and has one of the best selections of organic products that I know of. I believe it's also locally owned, which benefits our economy.
While it's only the back corner of the store, there are about six aisle that contain organic/vegan food (fresh and frozen), drinks, beauty products, cleaning products and (maybe not all organic) vitamins.
I always think of Drug Emporium first when I'm looking for something organic, knowing they are my best shot at finding what I need. It was there when I made the switch to organic shampoo and conditioner about nine months ago (which I am very happy with and can't go back to conventional.)
I think the sad thing is I never actually noticed the fruit stand before I was sneaking around taking pictures the last time I was there.

Stop by this Lafayette staple whenever you need, or just want to browse, organic products.
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