Friday, November 28, 2008

Bring Your Own Chopsticks (B.Y.O.C)

There is a lot of misinformation regarding chopsticks. They are not all made from bamboo. They are no longer made solely from scrap wood. Most chop sticks are made from birch and poplar trees. Razing "fast growing forests" of birch and poplar trees has ecological impact because these types of forests are an early step in the reforestation process.

China produces approximately 63 billion pair of chopsticks annually while Japan uses 25 billion pair. Taiwan takes up another five or six billion pair. Disposable chopsticks are part of deforestation. The environmental impact led to the the Bring Your Own Chopsticks movement (B.Y.O.C.) as an easy way to reduce the number of disposable chopsticks used.

Trophy Bikes is selling great reusable chopsticks from Snow Peak. The chopsticks unscrew to fit into a nylon carrying case. The eating end is white ash, sourced from recycled baseball bats from Japan. The end that you hold in your hands is stainless steel. At $29.95, they probably aren't an economical budget item but if you live on the go and eat a lot of Asian food, these chopsticks could save some trees. Plus they are a beautiful novelty Christmas gift for the type of people who adore folding bikes or who include chopsticks with their dining utensils. Maybe a folding bike is out of the budget this year but folding, reusable chopsticks are still affordable.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Used Electronics Drive - Toxtour

What is Toxtour? Many electronics recyclers don’t actually recycle a single thing. Many electronics end up overseas, dumped wholly intact into a landfill or an incinerator, leaking heavy metals and toxic chemicals into the soil and the water. Even if you just leave your old electronics in the attic or a closet, they will still leak toxic chemicals into your home.

Chris Swain, an environmental educator developed Toxtour as an education tool, fund raiser, and way to stop electronics from polluting the earth. Recyclers pay a dollar per pound to recycle, while the host organization receives 15 cents for every pound collected. All downstream electronics recyclers have signed the Basel Action Network’s Electronic Recycler’s Pledge of True Stewardship. Nothing is incinerated, dumped into landfills, or shunted to developing countries. So get those dangerous old electronics out of your house and recycle them!

Date: Saturday, December 6 (rain or shine)
Time: 11am – 2pm
Place: Cedarbrook Middle School, 300 Longfellow Road, Wyncote, PA
Cost: $1.00 per pound (ethical recycling fee)
Contacts: sarah {at} ttfwatershed {dot} org, 215.208.1613 or
Accepts: Televisions, Computers, Monitors, Keyboards, Drives, Cables, Cords, Peripherals, Fax Machines, Scanners, Laptops, Stereo Equipment, Speakers, CD & DVD Players, Telephones, Remote Controls, VCR's, Projectors, Digital Cameras, PDAs, Speakers, Radios, Answering Machines, Camcorders, Electric Typewriters, Video Game Systems, Pagers, Microwaves, Toasters, USB Media, Magnetic Media, Zip Disks, Audio Tapes, Floppy Diskettes, etc.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Scrub Your Pans With Loofah

Loofah works well on your pots too! It's tough, made from a gourd (so it's biodegradable), and gentle enough for non-stick surfaces. While loofah scrub pads are available commercially, it's more economical to make your own by simply slicing off the top of a loofah scrubber from the grocery store or drug store.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mushrooms Increase Your Locavore Quotient

The most green diet includes lots of organic, local food. How do you do that in the fifth largest city? MsPhillyOrganic fully intends to explore "really local food" in many posts and acknowledges that eating green will require ongoing discussion. It is possible to eat more local food without destroying your budget (if it is still intact).

Locavores eat food grown within 100 miles of their home. Local food is generally considered as hailing from a source within 50 to 150 miles. As we all know, Kennet Square in Chester County is the Mushroom Capital of the world. Kennet Square is approximately 30 miles from Philadelphia, so it meets the mileage requirement for locavores and the broader definition of "local food." It's hard in any city to find food grown within 30 miles.

Mushrooms are cheap, starting $3.99 per pound while 90% lean ground beef costs 4.99 per pound. Steak costs even more, depending on the cut, fat percentage, and other factors. Mushrooms save dough! As an added bonus, mushrooms are a dietary superstar. They're low fat (how you cook them is your business), full of micronutrients that are hard to find, and low calorie (a full serving has 20 calories.) They're an important source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Mushrooms are also low-carb. Plus they're loaded with umami, the fifth taste!
Eating vegetarian is one of the best ways to green your diet. Factory raised meat dumps a lot of unprocessed waste directly into the water systems, not to mention that animals and meat are trucked all over the nation to be butchered and stocked in the store. Mushrooms grow in compost that growers reuse. When it is "spent" for their purposes, growers make it available for little or no cost to the public, for whom it's still viable garden compost.

Replacing just a few meat meals per week with mushrooms makes your food source more local, more environmentally friendly, healthier, cheaper, and more green! This is a sure bet with no way to lose. Tomorrow's dinner could be only 30 miles away and not in Topeka.

How Does Single Stream Work?

The Recycle Bank produced an informative, digestable video series that covers the single stream recycling process from your curbside pick up to new products. It includes a few small facts concerning how quickly aluminum soda cans can return to the grocery shelf and water amounts used to manufacture a water bottle...before it's filled. Watch and learn!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Plastics above 2

This is a late notice but tomorrow you can recycle plastics labeled from 3 to 7. On November 15th between 8 and 9 AM, volunteers will collect plastics numbered three through seven. Plastics with these numbers are typically yogurt and take out containers. Containers must be rinsed out.

To contribute your plastics. go to Lanoce Park (on Rochelle between Kalos and Osborne). Volunteers to assist with collection are welcome. If the event is successful, it may happen monthly monthly basis. Check back for updates!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Green$ense from Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank now offers the Green$ense program, which earns account owners 10 cents per transaction without paper, to a maximum of $120 per year. Paperless transactions include using your debit card, online bill payment, and automatic payments (like your gym membership). Citizens deposits your green rewards monthly and sends an email notification that includes green living tips.

The debit card that accompanies the account is made of recycled plastic. According to the Citizen's Bank web site, any personal checking account can be enrolled in the Green$ense program. It would be best if they didn't send a new plastic debit card but continued to use the customer's current card, whenever a customer is not new to Citizen's Bank.

The also site will calculate the number of trees and pounds of paper that you save by switching to electronic billing and payment. If you're already a Citizen's customer, this is a great way to get paid to modernize your life and reduce your impact. If you're not a Citizen's customer and you don't use electronic billing, this might be the enticement you need to start. It definitely makes economic sense while it earns a little money for you.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vote No on Parks

On Tuesday, Philadelphians decide a ballot questions concerning the merger of the Department of Parks with the Department of Recreation. The merger would end the Fairmount Park Commission, replacing it with a commissioner who is appointed by the mayor and who reports to the mayor. There would also be a new commssion that would be advisory only and would lack any authority.

The appointment of commissioners is problematic and secretive, to be sure but what are the ramifications of the proposed charter change? Change supporters have failed to provide any projections or to disclose any information about what is to come. The campaign has also included misleading information. The best assurance is that it can't hurt to try and that we should trust those making the proposal. Is this good enough for Philadelphia and our parks? Change is fine but it should accompany concrete information and quantifiable projections.

Ten of the sixteen Commission seats now are filled by nomination and interview behind closed doors by the Board of Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of the First Judicial District. They can select new commissioners based on any or no criteria. However, the ballot initiative replaces this process with appointment by the Mayor. Which might be fine under the current administration but it's not good when another Goode or Street is elected. For those who think appointment is better, how did you feel about the Bush Supreme Court nominees? Supporters say that changing the nomination process from the current system to appointments will increase accountability. When has a mayor ever lost an election because of an unpopular appointment? At any rate, under the current system, six seats are ex-officio seats filled by the mayor and five other officials appointed by the mayor. It seems that we already can hold the mayor accountable for Commission decisions.

Much of the conflict lies in park funding. Fairmount Park was founded by an endowment until 1975. It's been underfunded since 1975. Proponents of the change say that only the new system allows fund raising and that currently all funds must be dumped into the General Fund, where they disappear. In other words, “We can't raise money now but all money we raise must go into the general fund.”

Nothing prohibits the Fairmount Park Commission from leasing land or concessions. Nothing prohibits the Commission from raising funds or creating public-private partnerships. In fact, there already is a Fairmount Park Conservancy. Although the charter does require funds raised to be deposited in the general fund, they are to be earmarked for the Parks. They aren't supposed to be used for police, fire, streets, etc... Any use of park funds for other purposes violates the charter as it is currently written. If this is happening, as Mayor Nutter and others allege, it violates the charter.

Councilman Bill Green is the only city council member who voted against this ballot initiative. He wanted to require a two-thirds majority vote of council to approve land acquisition and disposal. When Clark and Blondell refused to include that provision, he refused to support it. Proponents of the merger say that the new department will create guidelines for land acquisition and disposal, guidelines that don't currently exist. Guidelines are merely suggestions and guidelines may not cover all of the nuances in a proposal. Guidelines are not mandatory and binding but are mere suggestions. Guidelines may not take into account all of the subtle nuances in individual land deals. The charter change allows land deals to take place following a simple majority vote of city council.

Mayor Nutter has promised to increase park funding by dedicating a portion of the parking revenue to the parks. Some people say that Nutter can only give parking revenues to the park with the charter change. Currently nothing prohibits the city from giving additional funds to the parks system. The city currently budgets money for the parks. There are no guarantees of better funding with this change. In fact, the proposed city budget cuts will be far worse than we've been told so far. Most likely park funding will not improve in the next few years.

I will say that I think appointment to the Fairmount Park Commission needs to change and needs to be more apparent. The Commissioners must have better qualifications. The Commission needs to do a better job raising funds and caring for the park. However, the Commission has existed since approximately 1860 and operated the park on an endowment until 1975. During that time, the park holdings increased and the Commission has kept the system together. To present an agency that has existed for 150 years on an endowment as a failure seems like a wrong assessment. Improve the Commission by all means but this change to the charter seems to do little to improve the Commission or funding.