Archive for the ‘Tips & Resources’ category

7 Ugly Truths of Bottled Water

July 24th, 2014

Left-right, top-down: Brian J Matis, flickr, Aristocrats-hat, Flickr, Reto Fetz, Flickr, Horia Varlan, Flickr

 

This July, how are you quenching your thirst? At Global Green USA, we want to ensure that you hydrate in the healthiest way possible for your body, for the community, and for the planet.

Many people understand that single-use, plastic water bottles harm the environment in some vague way. However, most do not realize the true cost of bottled water– a price that includes a toll on human health, ecological systems, and economic security. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of seven ugly truths behind the face of elegant marketing:

 

1. Corporations pump water from local communities, even in times of drought.

Nestlé Brand, Pure Life (Wilson Hui, flickr)

Pure Life, another Nestlé Brand (Wilson Hui, flickr)

Bottled Water industries often extract local, public water free of charge, then reap a profit from customers around the nation. Problems with this process only increase in the face of climate change and worsening drought. Right now, Nestlé continues to bottle water for its Arrowhead label in the California Desert, amidst  the state’s worst drought in history (see the Desert Sun’s report on the controversy). Award-winning documentary Tapped offers other examples. For instance, the residents of Fryeburg, Maine went a day-and-a-half without water while Nestlé (acting under label Poland Springs) continued to pump their dwindling water supply. This exploitation of resources has occurred around the nation in such places as the Arkansas River Valley, Colorado, Florida, California, and Michigan, to name a few.

 

2. Bottled water actually wastes water.

In a study on the resource requirements for bottled water, researchers found that every liter of water sold requires three liters of water to produce. That means you’re tripling your drinking water footprint every time you choose bottled versus tap water.

 

3. Bottled water is virtually unregulated.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water with fewer requirements than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency that regulates municipal tap water. The FDA only suggests an annual testing of bottled water and does not require the results to be posted to the public. The FDA does not test for E. Coli, while the EPA does. In addition, only one worker in the FDA oversees all of the bottled water industries in the U.S. Finally, plastic water bottles that are bottled and sold within the same state are exempt from any FDA standards. Unfortunately, this means that 60-70% of all single-use, plastic water bottles in the U.S. are not even regulated by the FDA.

Municipal drinking water (tap water) falls subject to stringent regulations. Tap water is regulated at least 400 times per month in government-certified labs. The results of the tests are made available to the public online. To find the results of your municipal tap water, click here!

 

4. Bottled water is no cleaner, safer, or healthier than tap water.

About half of the time, bottled water is merely tap water re-sold in plastic bottles. In 2009, 47.8% of all bottled water was derived from the tap.

Unfortunately, bottled water’s regulatory gaps result in the sale of water that may be contaminated. As documented in Tapped, 38 contaminants were found in ten different brands of bottled water during an independent test. They found traces of arsenic, bacterial contaminants, leaching from plastic bottles, and toluene, a constituent of gasoline and paint thinners. Another study tested water that was left in the trunk of a car for a week; they found styrene and thalates, chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects.

 

Drake D'Ambra

Water bottle filled 25% with oil, to represent oil consumption in the production and transport of plastic water bottles.

5. That plastic bottle is made from oil and natural gas.

The stages of a single-use plastic water bottle’s “life” require massive amounts of energy and fossil fuel. Here’s a rough overview:

  • Creating the PET plastic bottle (requires petroleum or natural gas)
  • Filling the bottles with water at the factory (requires water and petroleum/natural gas)
  • Transporting the water by truck, train, ship, or air freight (requires petroleum)
  • Cooling bottles in grocery stores and at home (requires petroleum or coal)
  • Recycling and/or throwing away the bottles (requires petroleum and/or coal)

In 2006, a research study concluded that the US used roughly 17 million barrels of oil (or 714 million gallons) to make the PET for single-use, plastic water bottles. As a result, 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide were emitted. Unfortunately, our consumption and emission rates are even higher now, since the global consumption of bottled water increases about 10% per year.

 

6. 70-80% of single-use plastic water bottles aren’t recycled.

Bottled water industries enjoy advertising that their bottles are “highly recyclable.” Unfortunately, however, most Americans do not recycle these bottles – only about 20-30% do, mostly thanks to state cash refunds. As a result, these bottles contribute to landfills or worse, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. PET Plastic never biodegrades – it only breaks into smaller components that end up in the food chain, which can end up in our bodies.

 

7. The manufacturing of bottled water harms disadvantaged, low-income communities.

Tapped also reveals that residential communities located near PET factories suffer from unusually high levels of chronic illness and birth defects. Members of Corpus Christi, Texas live close to the nation’s largest PET manufacturing facility; the birth defects in this town are also 84% higher than the state average.

The PET in plastic bottles fall within the Benzene chemical family, a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) agent. During the manufacturing process of PET, carcinogens leak into the local air, groundwater, and soil. This pollution causes nearby property values to decrease so only low-income families inhabit the area. Tragically, these economically disadvantaged communities struggle to pay their health care costs at the same time that they are outnumbered by powerful factories.

 

Go re-usable!

Re-Usable Water Bottle, photo cred: xlrider, flickr

Re-Usable Water Bottle (Xlrider, flickr)

So, now you know: single-use, plastic bottles not only harm the environment, but they also deteriorate public health and negatively impact low-income communities. Luckily, your individual habits can make a difference. Using a reusable water bottle might seem like a small decision, but it truly does make an impact–especially when you lead others by example. Help your family, friends, and others understand the realities of single-use water bottles by spreading the word, carrying your own re-usable, and avoiding bottled water purchases at grocery stores and gas stations.

To learn more about the importance of drinking tap water, watch Tapped on Netflix or for free online here!

Water Wise Tip: Disconnecting Your Downspout

July 23rd, 2014

Global Green Downspout Header

Rainwater management tips from Global Green’s New Orleans Water Wise program*

One fairly simple water wise measure is to disconnect your downspouts from existing standpipes and let the water flow over landscaped areas or lawns.  Disconnection can be a low-maintenance option to help move water away from building foundations and allow it to soak into the ground.  By disconnecting your downspouts from pipes that take the water into a constructed stormwater system, your property will reduce demand on the stormwater pumping system and create opportunity for filtration.

Tools needed:

  1. Tape measure
  2. Hacksaw
  3. Drill
  4. Needle-nose pliers or crimpers
  5. Screwdriver

Overview of steps:Downspout 1

  1. Measuring and cutting the downspout
  2. Plugging any existing standpipe
  3. Attaching elbows over the downspout
  4. Measuring and attaching extensions and splash blocks to direct water to flow away from the house
  5. Securing the materials to existing structures

Step 1:

  • Measure the existing downspout from the top of the standpipe and mark it at about 9 inches above the standpipe. You may need to cut the downspout higher depending on the length of your extension.
  • Cut the existing downspout with a hacksaw at the mark. Remove the cut piece.

Downspout 2Step 2:

  • Plug or cap the standpipe using an in-pipe test plug or an over-the-pipe cap secured by a hose clamp.
  • DO NOT use concrete to seal your standpipe.

Step 3:

  • Attach the elbow. Be sure to attach the elbow OVER the downspout.
  • DO NOT insert the elbow up inside the downspout, or it will leak.
  • If the elbow does not fit over the downspout, use crimpers or needle-nose pliers to crimp the end of the cut downspout so it slides INSIDE the elbow.

Step 4:

  • Measure and cut the downspout extension to the desired length.
  • Attach the extension to the elbow by slipping the extension OVER the end of the elbow.
  • DO NOT install the extension inside the elbow, or it will leak.
  • The length of the extension will depend on site conditions and where you want to downspout to drain.
  • Downspouts must drain at least two feet from crawl spaces and concrete slabs.
  • The end of the downspout must be at least 5 feet from your property line, and possibly more if your yard slopes toward your neighbor’s house.

Downspout 3 Step 5:

  • Secure the pieces with sheet metal screws at each joint where the downspout, elbow, and extension connect. It helps to pre-drill holes for the screws.
  • Using a splash block at the end of the extension is optional, but it will help prevent soil erosion.

For additional steps and considerations when disconnecting downspouts, consult the full Joy of Water cookbook here.

*Information excerpted from Joy of Water: A Homeowner’s Cookbook to Becoming Water Wise, created by Water Works, in collaboration with Global Green USA, Dana Brown & Associates, Bayou Land RC&D, Longue Vue House & Gardens, and Louisiana Urban Stormwater Coalition, and was funded by the Greater New Orleans Foundation.

For more tips and info, follow @globalgreen on Twitter and check out our ongoing #WaterWise tweets! 

Getting to Know Green Infrastructure

July 15th, 2014


global green green infrastructure

Excerpt from “The Joy of Water: A Homeowner’s Cookbook to Becoming Water Wise”*

The Holy Trinity of Rainwater Management

Green infrastructure is the use of plants and trees to manage rainwater and reduce flooding.  By including plants in urban landscape design and directing rainwater to flow through them, homeowners can balance the negative effects of concrete and other impervious surfaces.  Green infrastructure reduces flooding and helps filter out pollutants in three ways:

  1. Infiltration: By allowing water to infiltrate or soak into the soil, we help balance the water table. A balanced water table reduces the constant expanding/shrinking of our clay soils and the shrinking of our rich organic soil, which in turn helps to stop the ground from sinking – a process called subsidence.
  1. Filtration: As rainwater flows through plants, the roots absorb the dirty water and filter pollutants before they can reach the pipes and drains. This means cleaner water flows into our lakes and bayous, benefitting recreation and fishing.
  1. Detention: Large planted areas can be used to detain or temporarily store rainwater, allowing water to be absorbed by plants and the soils rather than run directly into the storm drains. This decreases flooding by preventing the drainage system from being overloaded with rainwater.

Want to see how it’s done? Check out a few of the ways green infrastructure is being used to infiltrate, filter, and detain rainwater at our Holy Cross Project here.

Next up, we’ll give you a complete how-to on disconnecting your downspout to create another opportunity for stormwater filtration. For more tips and info, follow @globalgreen and check out our ongoing #WaterWise tweets!

*The Joy of Water was created by Water Works, in collaboration with Global Green USA, Dana Brown & Associates, Bayou Land RC&D, Longue Vue House & Gardens, and Louisiana Urban Stormwater Coalition, and was funded by the Greater New Orleans Foundation.

Learning to Live in Your Microclimate

June 24th, 2014

Global Green Microclimates

A microclimate can be as small as a few square feet—or as large as a few square miles. From your neighborhood to your living room, pay attention to trends in temperature, sunshine, and airflow throughout the day.

When does it heat up and cool down?

Tightly close doors and windows as soon as it starts to heat up (could be as early as 5 or 6am). Open them up again for cool air and ventilation when the heat breaks or the breeze picks up.

Do your windows get direct sunlight?

If so, keep them closed and covered during the day. Blinds, shutters, trees, and awnings, especially to the south and west, can significantly reduce heat gain in your home. If you live in a hot, desert area, consider landscaping for more shade cover or installing solar screens.

Which rooms get hottest?

Heat rises, so you’ll feel it upstairs. Plus, rooms packed with heat-generating appliances – like ovens and dishwashers – can also become uncomfortable. Try to use these appliances minimally during the day, and wait to do dishes, laundry, or take hot showers until the sun goes down.

Where do you spend most of your time?

Ceiling or standing fans can keep you cool and comfortable in your office, bedroom, or living room – and you won’t need to air condition the whole house.

Other Tips & Quick Fixes to Stay Cool

  • Switch from incandescent bulbs to CFLs:  They not only use ¼ of the energy and last up to 10x longer, but CFLs also emit 75% less heat.
  • Still, make sure to turn off lights – and appliances – when not in use.
  • Install a smart or programmable thermostat so you’re not cooling an empty house.
  • Make your bed with lightweight and breathable organic cotton sheets.
  • Stay hydrated!

 For more green tips and info, follow us on Twitter @globalgreen.

7 Topics to Tackle This Earth Day – And Every Day

April 22nd, 2014

1. Food Access

Global Green USA Food Access Food Deserts(click image to enlarge)

The big picture: 

Food Desert: A low-income census tract where a significant number of residents live more than one mile from the nearest supermarket.

23.5 million Americans live in food deserts—areas that are often inundated with liquor stores and fast food restaurants, but offer little or no access to fresh produce.

Urban agriculture presents an opportunity to take food access issues into the hands of residents. From home gardens to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), urban farming can be an effective method of bringing fresh and healthy produce into food deserts.

Global Green’s role:

Ever noticed those barren patches of land in the planter strips in front of houses? Our Green Urbanism team saw them all over urban areas, and reimagined the dead space as productive areas for growing fresh food. This Saturday, we’ll be out in Elmhurst, a neighborhood in East Oakland, building planter boxes in these spaces.

The planter boxes are all designed to fit in these spaces and be low-cost and easy to assemble. This pilot project is part of a larger effort to develop a series of pre-cut planter kits that can be quickly installed by residents of food deserts.

Take action:

Take matters into your own hands and build your own planter boxes! The designs presented here are all made with 2x4s, 4x4s and untreated plywood, and they can easily be customized to fit your location’s constraints. Be sure that the structure does not encroach on the sidewalk or impede pedestrian access. The square foot gardening method is a proven, effective method of food production in urban situations.

PlanterBox Global Green(click image to englarge)

2. Food Waste

Global Green Food Waste Infographic(click image to enlarge)

The big picture: 

Food Scrap Emissions: Every year, Americans send 34 million tons of food scraps to the landfill – 95% of all the food scraps produced. According to EPA data, diverting those food scraps from the landfill would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to shutting down seven coal-fired power plants with no loss of energy.

After construction and demolition debris, food scraps are the largest municipal waste stream in the country, typically accounting for 30-50% of a city’s landfilled waste. When food scraps go to the landfill, they release methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than CO2.

Composting not only diverts food scraps from landfills, but also returns nutrients to soil and helps soils, especially sandy soils, retain water.

Global Green’s role:

To help increase food scrap recovery, Global Green USA assisted the NYC Mayor’s Office with the Mayor’s Food Waste Challenge and hosted an influential workshop session with several NYC city officials to discuss the nearby Massachusetts DEP and the Connecticut DEQ food scrap landfill bans, which require major generators of food scraps to implement recovery programs.  Less than a year later, NYC passed a citywide food scrap landfill ban.

Currently, we’re working with city agencies to implement composting in multi-unit residences in the San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles areas. Get in touch if you live in any of these cities, and you would like your residential building to be included in the pilot!

Take action:

Beginner:

  • Start composting your food scraps at your home or business!
  • If your city provides curbside food scrap collection, review what is accepted and make sure you are composting as much as possible (and not putting anything in that doesn’t belong).
  • If you aren’t sure if composting is available in your town, call your waste hauler and find out if they can offer it to your home or business.
  • If you live in a multi-family building, tell your building managers you would like them to implement composting.
  • When you go out to your favorite restaurants and grocery stores, ask them if they are composting. Customer feedback can make a huge difference!

Intermediate

  • Wherever you work, it’s likely that you are generating some waste. Explore ways to increase waste diversion at your workplace, or ways to purchase more recyclable or compostable materials for use by your customers.
  • If you have a yard, consider composting in your backyard or with a worm bin.
  • Ask at your kids’ schools and find out if they compost in the cafeteria, and if they are using compostable/recyclable lunch trays.

Advanced

  • If you live in a multi-unit building, volunteer to be the composting coordinator and help your fellow residents divert their food scraps.
  • If your city doesn’t have composting now, call your local policymakers and tell them that you want to see your food scraps turned into energy and soil.

3. Bike Share

Global Green USA Bike Share For All (click image to enlarge)

The big picture: 

Bike share programs encourage more bicycling and promote a healthy lifestyle by engaging users in an enjoyable, low-impact and active form of physical activity. 

Bike share is an innovative transportation option that enhances urban mobility through the shared use of bikes. It’s a concept that has been deployed in over 500 cities across the world, and has been a successful way to get people out of their cars and address the problems of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Global Green’s role:

Global Green has been working closely with the City of Santa Monica over the past two years to develop a bike share program. In the past year, there has been a growing interest in creating a regional bike share system that is integrated throughout Los Angeles County.  Metro Los Angeles (MTA) is currently undertaking a feasibility study to better understand how a regional system could be implemented in a sprawling county with 88 municipalities.

We will continue to work with the City of Santa Monica, and with the County and City of Los Angeles and MTA, to help create an integrated, equitable, and successful program for Southern California. Follow fun news and updates on Twitter #BikeShareForAll.

Take Action:

Find out where bike share programs exist. If your city has one, go use it! If you’ve got a bike at home, pull it out of the garage and use it to replace one car trip today.

Ready to take it step further? Commit to going car-free at least one day per week, and explore what alternative transportation options your city has to offer!

4. Clean Energy & Energy Efficiency

Global Green Renewable Energy Efficiency(click image to enlarge)

The big picture:

Shifting to a cleaner, more efficient energy economy is crucial in the fight against climate change.

Climate change is no longer a distant threat – we are already feeling its impacts across the country and the world. Last year alone, there were 11 different weather and climate disaster events with estimated losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. Taken together, these 11 events resulted in over $110 billion in estimated damages, which would make it the second-costliest year on record.

Global Green’s role:

Global Green is working across the county to support programs and policy that promote clean energy and energy efficiency.

In New Orleans, we developed the NOLA Wise energy efficiency program as a method of helping homeowners finance home energy efficiency retrofits, and our Holy Cross Project serves as a practical demonstration of the benefits of utilizing clean energy (solar and geothermal) and energy efficiency.

In California, we’re working to implement the first statewide energy efficiency upgrade program in existing buildings through AB 758. In Los Angeles, we’re pushing the city to support a comprehensive clean energy policy. So far, we’ve helped the city implement the nation’s largest feed-in-tariff program at 100 MW, which is on track to displace 2.7 million tons of GHG emissions from the environment annually.

Take action:

  • Install Energy Star appliances in your home; they use 10-50% less energy and water than normal appliances.
  • Consider switching to renewable energy. See which tax credits/incentives you qualify for that may make renewables such as solar PV more affordable for you.
  • Change your behavior:  Reprogram your thermostat, turn off your lights when you leave the room, unplug electronics that aren’t being used and more.

5. Outdoor Water Use

Global Green Water wise (click image to enlarge)

The big picture:

30% of water consumption in households is devoted to outdoor water use, and as much as 50% is wasted due to poor watering methods.

Shortening showers and installing low-flow fixtures definitely helps conserve water, but shifting your focus outdoors can also make a big difference! Upgrading watering and irrigation systems or installing water catchments is a great place to start.

Global Green’s role:

Global Green has developed the Water Wise program in New Orleans as a means to address water management. Our team hosts community Water Wise workshops to showcase ‘do-it-yourself’ rainwater management practices. The Holy Cross Project model sustainable village also uses serves as a practical example by employing native vegetation as a means to reduce water needed for irrigation and collecting rainwater in a rain barrel to be used for outdoor watering.

Take action:

Irrigation

  • Detect and repair all leaks in irrigation systems and other watering methods.
  • Water the lawn or garden during the coolest part of the day (early morning is best).
  • Set sprinklers to water only the lawn or garden – not the street, house, or sidewalk.
  • Use soaker hoses or trickle irrigation systems for trees and shrubs.
  • Collect rain water and use it to water your garden.

Vegetation

  • Next time you add or replace any vegetation in your yard, choose a native plant that 
thrives with the area’s natural water cycles.
  • Keep shrubs, trees, and garden plants mulched to reduce evapotranspiration from soil surface and reduce pests and weeks. Pine straw mulch is best; avoid cypress mulch.

Miscellaneous

  • Sweep driveways, sidewalks, and steps rather than hosing them off.
  • Cover your spa or pool to reduce evapotranspiration.
  • Never leave hoses or faucets running.

6. Food Choices

Global Green Food Choices Infographic(click image to enlarge)

The big picture: 

Livestock contributes 14.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Food Emissions: A “high consumption diet” (33% animal products) can be responsible for about 3x more greenhouse gas emissions than a “low consumption diet” (10% animal products).  Learn more.

Food Water Footprint: Fruits, veggies, and grains have a relatively low water footprint when compared to meat. Check out these numbers – as reported by Treehugger:

  • Beef: 2,500-5,000 gallons
  • Pork: 1,630 gallons
  • Chicken: 815 gallons
  • Rice: 403 gallons
  • Tofu: 244 gallons
  • Avocado: 220 gallons
  • Wheat Bread: 154 gallons
  • Corn: 107 gallons
  • Bananas: 102 gallons
  • Apples: 83 gallons
  • Cucumber: 28 gallons
  • Tomatoes: 22 gallons
  • Lettuce: 15 gallons

Global Green’s role:

To help spread awareness about the environmental benefits of vegetarian and plant-based eating, Global Green served organic, vegetarian cuisine at our high-profile Pre-Oscar Party and featured renown artist and vegan Moby.

Take action:

Eat local and vegetarian on Earth Day, and make a concerted effort to reduce your meat consumption throughout the year. One great way to stay on track is by choosing one – or more – days a week to go meat-free! Meatless Monday is a popular one, but here’s a bigger challenge: Try a “flextarian diet” and only eat meat on the weekends or special occasions!

7. Green Schools & Education

Green Schools Infographic Global Green(click image to enlarge)

The big picture:

We spend more money on energy costs for schools in the United States than we do on textbooks and computers combined. 

Green schools offer natural daylightling, better ventilation, improved acoustics, and healthier building and cleaning materials. They also reduce utility costs by 20% on average—and that means a big reduction in carbon emissions as well. What’s more, green schools help students learn first-hand the value of living in a sustainable environment.

Global Green’s role:

We have been working on greening schools for more than a decade, helping more than 55,000 students and teachers thrive in high-performance schools that save money and improve test scores. In California and New Orleans, we have created model green schools, and our annual Green School Makeover Competition is helping more schools make green upgrades.

In addition, we partnered with EnergySmart to pilot an in-class education program that provides a kit with energy efficient fixtures for practical demonstrations on saving energy. As part of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Schools Challenge, Global Green also partnered with Hynes Charter School in New Orleans to teach a class of third graders to become ‘Recycling Rangers’ and help their school improve its recycling program.

Take action:

Get to work greening your school and incorporating green living fundamentals into your day-to-day home routines.

Check out our checklists:

 

Want more? Check out our new Pinterest boards for ideas and inspiration.  Join the Earth Day conversation online and tell us how you #domoregreen!

Help us continue to tackle these issues year-round: Give to Global Green.

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Showtime Gets Real: Years of Living Dangerously

April 4th, 2014

Years of Living Dangerously

On Sunday, April 13, Showtime will premiere a new documentary series that promises to bring climate change to life like we’ve never seen before.

In short, Years of Living Dangerously will chronicle how human activities impact global climate change, and in turn, how climate change impacts all of humanity. From deforestation to extreme droughts, superstorms to civil war, correspondents such as Harrison Ford and Matt Damon investigate the human stories behind a changing climate—demanding the truth and exposing the harsh realities that have come to bare.

Powered by a passionate team of executive producers—including James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, and Arnold Schwarzenegger—the show deems climate change “the biggest story of our time” and reminds us that it’s not just about melting ice and polar bears: climate change is a people story.

With the recent release of a new report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the current and future effects of climate change have never been clearer: human-caused warming is impacting lives and livelihoods.

We also know that poor and underrepresented populations will be hit hardest by these impacts, and Global Green continues to engage these communities in the fight against climate change through inclusive policy, green building for low-income housing, and resiliency initiatives in disaster-stricken neighborhoods.

After 20 years of working to implement and advance smart, scalable solutions to climate change, we applaud Showtime for sparking the conversation through this powerful medium.

Climate change is about people—and it’s time for people everywhere to step up and take action. Join us on Twitter and Facebook and support our work here.

Watch the first full episode free starting Monday, April 7 on yearsoflivingdangerously.com.

 

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This Valentine’s Day, #ItsTheLittleThings

February 14th, 2014

#tisthelittlethings

Global Green USA supports smart, scalable solutions to climate change. From sustainable neighborhood development to green schools to forward-thinking legislation, we champion the projects and policies that will help ensure a more sustainable and secure future.

But today—on Valentine’s Day—it’s all about the little things. It’s the small smile you share with a stranger, helping someone cross the street, or surprising a friend with a favor that shows others that we care. And while Valentine’s Day is dedicated to celebrating the people we love, we’re taking some time to celebrate the little things that show our love for something we all share—our planet.

Here are a few little things you can do—today and everyday:

  • Recycle and compost
  • Plant a garden and learn—or teach someone—about growing food
  • Bring reusable bags to the super market
  • Ride a bike to work
  • Walk instead of hailing a cab or driving
  • Take public transportation whenever possible
  • Turn off or adjust the thermostat when you leave the house
  • Switch to more energy efficient light bulbs
  • Buy products with recycled content
  • Take shorter showers (or start taking showers if you currently take baths)
  • Buy organic and local produce
  • Switch to reusable water bottles
  • Minimize disposables
  • Unplug your phone and laptop chargers when they’re not in use
  • Get outdoors!
  • Give to Global Green USA

Each little thing you do makes a difference.  Thanks for being part of the global value shift we need to create a more sustainable and secure future.

Tell us what little things you do! #ItsTheLittleThings

School Garden Design Charrette with The Captain Planet Foundation

January 31st, 2014

green team 2

Over 450 schools entered our Green School Makeover Competition last year, with an exceptional list of finalists! Northwest Collegiate Academy, a top 10 finalist, has been awarded a school garden thanks to the generous donation of a “learning garden” from the Captain Planet Foundation.

Global Green staff is now working to facilitate the planning and building process with Northwest Collegiate Academy’s student Green Team and Captain Planet Foundation’s Kyla Zaro-Moore. Last week, we hosted a cyber design charrette to help the Green Team brainstorm potential partners, outline goals for the garden project, and learn about garden design specific to their school site.

Madeline Ruzak 2Kyla helped guide the Green Team students through this process, including her “steps to creating a school garden”:

  • Seek admin approval
  • Create a support network
  • Identify goals and curriculum links
  • Design the garden
  • Identify supplies and funding needs
  • Obtain supplies and funding
  • Plant the garden
  • Maintain the garden
  • Sustain the garden

Here are a few tips we picked up for our Global Green followers:

current potted plants1. Sunlight is an important resource to keep in mind when planning the location of your garden. Kyla suggests tracking sunlight in a potential location using chalk lines every hour. This will help to estimate how much sunlight and shade the plants will receive.

2. Raised beds are a great option for many schools because they can be installed directly over pavement. The beds must be at least 18” deep and can utilize recycled or reclaimed materials to build walls.

3. Rain barrels can help capture and store rain water for watering your plants. Schools can often find low-cost or free barrels from local manufacturing facilities; however, you will want to ensure the barrel is “food grade” (no harmful chemicals stored in them previously). If you capture rainwater off of a tar roof, you’ll want to make sure you use a “first flush” device that will prevent contamination of your stored rainwater.

4. You can create a low-cost temporary/movable garden by clustering several 5 gallon buckets with a variety of plants. This process will help you determine which plants will thrive in your location, and serves as a good “test” method before garden installation.

5. Northwest Academy’s Green Team will engage their elementary school partners to create a peer education program using the Captain Planet Foundation resources. The Captain Planet Foundation features lesson plans for elementary age students on their website here and a great list of resources here.

Recycling Rangers: Global Green Serves as Mentor in USGBC Louisiana Green Schools Challenge

January 9th, 2014

Global Green Recycling Ranger starAs part of USGBC Louisiana’s Green Schools Challenge, Global Green USA’s New Orleans office is serving as a mentor for Hynes Charter School.  Each school participating in the challenge selects an environmental issue (i.e. energy usage, waste reduction) and receives help from a mentor organization to develop a project that addresses the issue while involving students and educating them about environmental stewardship.

For third grade French immersion teacher Alex Lelarge, high paper usage has been a key concern in his classroom. So, we partnered with the Hynes Charter School teacher and his students to promote reusing and recycling paper, as well as other recyclable materials the school normally sends to landfill.

Step 1: Train Our First Class of Recycling Rangers

During our first visit to Mr. Lelarge’s classroom, we gave an introductory lesson about waste and recycling by explaining what can and cannot be recycled, and why we should care – emphasizing the “4 R’s”: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Respect. (Or, since these students speak French, en francais: Réduis, Réutilise, Recycle, Respecte.) Next, we asked the students to create rough draft posters showing what they learned.

Global Green Recycling Rangers

The lesson culminated with the entire class pledging to serve as Hynes Charter School Recycling Rangers:

“I pledge to do my part to recycle at home and at school.

I also pledge to reduce waste and reuse items.

I know that the Earth’s resources are limited, and that by recycling, we make sure there will be a future where there will be trees, clean air, and clean water.

I also pledge to help my family and friends recycle as much as they can and to tell people about how important it is to recycle.” 

Global Green Recycling Rangers 2

Step 2: Check In With Our Recycling Ranger Recruits!

Two weeks later, Global Green returned to Mr. Lelarge’s classroom to sort through the recycling and trash bins and to answer any questions the students came up with. Overall, they did pretty well!

After this refresher, the Recycling Rangers broke into groups to create final drafts of their posters – making large, colorful versions that will be posted throughout the school to remind other students (and teachers!) how to recycle.

While we were working with the students, Mr. Lelarge worked with administration to negotiate a recycling contract with their current waste haulers. As a result, Hynes now has school-wide recycling pick up twice per week, plus a waste contract that costs less than their original landfill-only contract!

Step 3: Recruit more Rangers!

Now trained Recycling Rangers, Mr. Lelarge’s class took a leadership role and trained the other two third grade classes about the “4 R’s” and the environment.  After presenting their posters and answering their peers’ questions, the Rangers helped the other third graders make additional “how-to” recycling posters that will go up around the school.

These two classes then took the Recycling Ranger pledge and were given their badges. Hynes Charter School is now home to 75 Recycling Rangers ready to train the rest of the school on how to recycle!

Global Green Recycling Rangers 3

Global Green’s New Orleans office will continue to work with Hynes and the Recycling Rangers throughout the USGBC Louisiana Green Schools Challenge to facilitate the implementation of their school-wide recycling program.

A huge thank you to Mr. Lelarge and his class for their dedication and hard work.  Go Rangers!

 

BigApps for the Big Apple

June 20th, 2013

Global Green Advises on “Green” Mobile Apps for NYC Competition

Can mobile apps reduce food waste? Maybe

Can mobile apps reduce food waste? Maybe

Can mobile apps reduce food waste? Maybe! Matt de la Houssaye, from Global Green’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR), advised on the development of mobile apps that would reduce food waste in the New York City’s BigApps Competition. It is the fourth annual contest from the New York City Economic Development Corp. for software developers and members of the public to create web or mobile applications using City data to solve big issues that affect New Yorkers. Matt advised on the development of apps designed to help the over 100 restaurants participating in New York City’s Food Waste Challenge measure and track their food waste, as well as the broader “Cleanweb: Energy, Environment, and Resilience” category

“It is great to be working with experts in mobile technology and software,” said Matt, an expert advisor in the competition. “We’re one of the subject matter experts advising on the competition. This helps provide the connection from the virtual world to the real world.”

In the commercial food waste challenge, announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg April 25, more than 100 New York City restaurants have pledged to reduce the food waste they send to landfills by 50% through composting and other waste prevention strategies. Matt advised the MintScraps app, which calculates the financial benefits of reducing food waste, and another app called WasteCheck that provides improvements in the ease of data collection. WasteCheck facilitates this goal through an online log that allows restaurants to enter their daily records for food waste by specifying type and quantity of waste, and to then view graphs indicating waste trends.

“Our app makes it very easy to record and track data – in this case your waste stream – whether it’s measured in bags, pounds, or cubic yards,” said Mike Brown, who is one of the developers of the app. “The use of a mobile app eliminates the extra step of having to remember or record data back at the office. Moving forward, we’d like to add the ability to attach pictures along with your data.”

Within the broader “Cleanweb: Energy, Environment, and Resilience” category, Matt advised the teams developing the Biketrain and Sparkrelief apps. Biketrain would connect bicyclists to each other and allow them to create and join bike trains. Sparkrelief aims to notify people of environmental disasters anywhere in the world and connect them to disaster relief centers. He familiarized the team with Global Green’s Solar for Sandy project, which aims to install solar-powered systems in community centers in areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Global Green’s first Solar for Sandy partnership was with the Rockaway Beach Surf Club in Far Rockaway, New York.

Teams were solving marketplace inefficiencies, improving resource-related data collection, and even using sensors to make web connected hardware,” said Sameer Rashid, a founding team member of the Cleanweb Initiative, an organization that aims to spread the use of information technology to address resource challenges, such as sustainability, and a partner at Pure Energy Partners. Both were organizers of the Big Apps Competition.

Matt explained some advantages of apps, which he called “the ultimate data collectors,” in implementing medium and large scale projects, such as ones relating to engaging in composting and solar energy. He said they help engage the critical number of participants needed, provide an easier way to collect data, can connect the user to larger web applications, and create greater transparency.

“Apps and web-based interfaces can take large amounts of data and provide them on one’s cell phone,” he said. “Does the restaurant I’m eating at compost their food waste? Is the food local? With the right data sets and the right user interface, large sets of information can be just one click away.”

CoRR is showcasing the best apps on composting and recycling at its monthly teleconferences. WasteCheck has won a cash prize sponsored Action Carter Environmental Services, a CoRR member organization, as the best food waste app in the competition. The winning app of the“Cleanweb: Energy, Environment, and Resilience” was Solarlist, an app that provides students and young entrepreneurs with a tool to inform homeowners about their options for using solar power. The homeowners are then subsequently referred to a network of solar installers.

“We believe the Cleanweb will create better value and choices for consumers and businesses that also happen to be cleaner,” said Sameer Rashid. “We’re very pleased that the New York City Economic Development Corporation and excellent partners like Global Green are working to realize this potential.”