Practice What You Preach

walk the talkOr in other words, walk the talk.  That is the phrase we use in the sustainability world.  What does that mean?  If you are going to give advice to others on what to do, you’d better be doing it yourself or holding yourself to the same standard.

So what am I personally doing to hold myself to the same standard?  Recycling yes but it is not as easy at home.  We don’t have single stream in our community (single stream means you don’t have to sort plastics, paper, metal, glass). We must separate paper from plastic, glass and metal.  I did notice that my waste hauler will not take cardboard which I find ridiculous.  There is a value to cardboard and at work we earn money for recycling it.  So now when I have cardboard boxes or the like, I haul them into work to recycle.

Energy efficiency, I try.  I have changed light bulbs to the newer CFLs.  I have a programmable thermostat that is set at 61 degrees during the day when I am not at home.  My electric costs each month seem outrageous for one person especially considering I have a natural gas furnace, hot water heater, and stove/oven.  I receive a home energy report from my utility company each month and it shows higher usage when comparing to other homes of similar size.  I think the dogs maybe turn every light on in the house when I’m not here.  I do have a spare refrigerator in the garage and I have a feeling it is not very energy efficient and a hot tub.  Even when the hot tub is shut down, it doesn’t reduce my usage that much.  I recently scheduled an in-depth energy audit and am well down the road for a PV solar panels installation on my roof.  I will share this installation experience as I press forward.

I believe one of my missions in life is to share my experience and findings as I journey towards a more sustainable life at home and work to teach others.  I share that knowledge through social media and am connected to over 1000 on both LinkedIn and Facebook. I often receive thank-you messages for sharing or passing along a link to an article.  I am hoping that creating this blog is another way of sharing.  I will categorize my blogs to create easy ways to search on specific topics like energy efficiency, recycling and waste reduction or general sustainability to name a few.

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Halloween and Sustainability – Can It Go Together?

happy halloween

Is there anything sustainable about feeding children and adults mounds of candy filled with sugar and corn syrup or running out to the store to purchase a new costume every year?  There are plenty of options that can help you have a more sustainable holiday and here are four tips to help:

  • Repurpose:  Got any old suits around the house?  Create a zombie costume by repurposing an old suit that you need to discard of anyway.  No old clothing around the house to work with?  Visit a Goodwill retail store to find treasurers.  Check out some examples on Goodwill West Michigan’s Pinterest
  • Healthier Candy Choices: If you are treating hundreds of kids coming to your door this might be costly however there are healthier, organic and fair trade options.  This is by no means an endorsement for this brand, just an option, check out Angell Dark Organic Chocolate bars.
  • Safer to Use Make Up: Halloween make-up that is available on most store shelves is full of dyes and toxins and come may contain lead.  Choose make-up that is free from all of those toxins.
  • Energy Efficient Lighting for Decorations: if you decorate your house inside or out with lighting – choose LED or solar powered strings of lights.

You can have a more sustainable Halloween.  Just plan ahead and look for alternatives to what your tradition has been in the past.

Do It For Our Children

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Twenty five percent of America goes to school everyday.  That translates to just under 8 million children, teachers and staff that are exposed to the indoor air quality in our schools.  Many school buildings are in disrepair and outdated, contain unhealthy toxins, and operate with outdated resources.  Schools should be a safe place where students have the best resources and a healthy learning environment.

Children are not miniature adults.  They cannot process toxins through their bodies like an adult can.  An epidemic perhaps? According to the CDC in 2011 over 7 million children have asthma or nearly 10% of the children in the U.S.  More than 14 million school days are missed annually because of asthma .  We may not be able to cure asthma but we certainly can perhaps prevent an attack by creating a healthier environment by adopting green building practices.

So what does that mean: adopting green building practices?  Think about everything that happens in a school building each day and it starts when it is built or renovated with the construction materials, furnishings such as wall coverings or paint, floor coverings and the adhesives used to glue it down. Then we maintain our buildings with cleaning products (toilet bowl cleaners, glass cleaners, floor stripper and finish for example) and use materials in the maintenance department like WD-40 – non-green chemicals contain VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds  that off gas and continue to off gas for years in most cases.  All of this may contribute to triggering asthma attacks or cause other health related problems.  Kids are a vulnerable population which should be treated with care.

So here is your call to action:

  • Educate yourself – there are so many resource but the Center for Green Schools is a great place to start
  • Contact the school district you live in and ask what they are doing to adopt green building practices
  • Offer to help them journey down that path
  • Share your findings with others and ask them to do the same.

Please, do this for our children.  They deserve a safe healthy place to learn and they spend many hours in a day in our school buildings.

Can We Really Save The World?

Upper Peninsula of Michigan in October

Upper Peninsula of Michigan in October

I have been inspired to write about my work after many comments from friends and people that I am connected with through social media that they enjoy my posts, act upon some of the ideas that I’ve shared in my posts, and they have shared with others which I hope has also lead to action.  Fall is the perfect time to start this blog as it is my favorite time of year – and fall in Michigan is so beautiful and inspiring and a perfect reason to do what I do everyday, work towards a more sustainable world.

In order to accomplish a more sustainable world I believe we must understand that sustainability is a continuous improvement journey and there is not an end point.  One day we are not going to wake up and be able to claim that we have reached our goal and our work is complete.  Accept that thought please.  So I will offer this definition of sustainability from the Brundtland Commission Report “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Pretty broad definition isn’t it?  What does this mean to you?

I also want to offer this, sustainability is a balancing act and let’s use a three-legged stool as an analogy.  The three legs of this stool are: economics, social, and environment or in other words the Triple Bottom Line (some may know as people, planet and profit).  We can give credit to John Elkington for this framework.  He created in the mid-1990s as a way to measure performance in corporate America.

Also known as People, Planet and Profit

Also known as People, Planet and Profit

There is so much involved in becoming a more sustainable person, business, organization all leading to a more sustainable world. For many years we have ignored so much and have focused on convenience, having more stuff and faster production which have lead to waste, environmental issues, social issues and an unstable economy.  Can we change that at this point in the game?

Welcome

Hello, welcome to my blog.  I am creating this blog to share my experiences that I gain through my work in sustainability which began about 10 years ago.  I am fortunate to work with many organizations across the state of Michigan and learn many things that may help others reduce waste, reduce cost, reduce environmental footprints and be more efficient.  I am passionate about creating a better  balanced world.   So this blog is for anyone wanting to learn about sustainability and helping me make an IMPACT.