Affect Change

Saturday, March 06, 2010

How to affect change by throwing a green wedding

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on how to affect change. While I’ve learned a lot and have less drive and focus, I still want provide resources for people to live greener lives. When you want to affect change you really need to evaluate every decision. I’ve learned that it’s not practical to analyze and green up every decision and that you need to pick your battles.

That being said one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make is with a wedding. In fact there are tons of decisions that need to be made. While this is such a big life event, it also makes a big impact on the environment. The sheer amount of energy that goes into planning, creating and holding an event makes planning a wedding difficult to do. Add to that making the wedding a green wedding and you’ve got even more to think about.

Fortunately, nowadays, there are a ton of options available to make weddings greener. Everything from green wedding favor ideas to green wedding dresses to green wedding event locations can be found online. Looking through these resources you can get ideas and find a way to incorporate your environmental values into your big day.

One other issue that comes along with planning a green wedding is getting a conflict free ring. Whether it’s an engagement ring or a wedding ring if you want to try and be responsible about your rings you’ll need look at conflict free rings. As movies such as “Blood Diamond” brought to the attention of the public, there are many issues surrounding the way that diamonds mined from Africa are handled and gotten to the marketplace. A similar issue surrounds the precious metals that go into the rings. Many mining operations use outdated, heavy polluting methods to mine these precious metals. There are operations however that minimize pollution and waste that goes into acquiring gold and silver. Many places that sell conflict free rings will advertise this fact as an additional marketing point.

Whether you want to go to these lengths is entirely up to you. You can certainly go broke trying to do the right thing. The important thing is to be aware of your options and do a little bit of research to see if this is something that’s right for you.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Bottled Water = Braindead consumerism

Bottled water has got to be one of the top ten most ridiculous ideas ever.

Let's take a completely free and widely available resource from a natural location (a spring for instance) ship it to a factory to put it into a disposable and only moderately recyclable container, then ship it to convenient locations everywhere so that consumers can spend $1.50 on it.

I'm not guilt free in this but the more cognizant I am of this fact the better I prepare and can avoid such stupid wastefulness. Spend the $8 for a reusable nalgene bottle, fill it up and throw it in the fridge for when you head out on a trip or whatever. It's going to be way cheaper in the long run and you're not supporting and industry that trucks water around.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that there is a use for such a product (emergencies such as hurricane support or even just in an emergency kit) but the mass consumption from grocery and convenience stores everywhere is ludicrous

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Incentives and taxes

I was recently reading an article by Dr. Charles Wheelan, an economist who writes a Yahoo! Finance column every month. I really liked his first column on gas taxes and now he's come back with a second one. To summarize: He postulates that taxes are part fundraiser part moral/economic tool (i.e. sin tax on cigarettes). The first column was using a freeway system in San Diego to illustrate how economics can solve some traffic problems which than progressed into how those that use more should pay more. The second column elaborates on that fact. If we want to address our "addiction to oil" (i'm starting to hate that phrase) problem bump up the taxes on something that's optional like, say, driving a big SUV really far to work and something that's (arguably) not like working. I like that idea personally because it would benefit me but it also takes some of the difficult morality of want vs. should out of it. People that like their luxury will pay for it; others won't.

I then started thinking how else could this be effective? What about taxing food. Start adding a small but substantial task to processed/high energy foods like beef, soda, beer, baked goods, boxed foods, highly packaged foods, etc. any thoughts?

I do realize that this is a fallacy. America is too happy with the convenience of cheap energy. I fully admit that I wouldn't want to pay extra for my steak or six pack but I probably would especially if it had some ancillary benefit.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Straw-bale home

Check out this straw-bale house in Ashfield, MA owned by author/dairy farmer Paul Lacinski.

Two things I'd like to point out. The roof looks green and stuff because it's a 'living roof'. The owners/builders laid down a rubber pond liner on the complete roof (minus shingles/metal sheeting/slate/what have you) then covered it with topsoil. Instead of planting something up there, they let whatever fell grow unless it was a tree. You can imagine that would be a bad scene in a couple years.

Also, there is a man on the roof of the house. When we first arrived on our NOFA Sustainability Tour, we walked around the house and found a short ladder propped up against the house and pieces of slate that looked like steps on the roof itself. I asked one of the owners if that was for servicing the roof or skylight but apparently they just like to go up there and sit. Cool eh?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Charlie Intro/Gardening and the global economy

I've invited Charlie to post (I talk like people actually read this) knowing that he's got a solid background in grassroots operations and shares the desire to affect change. I'm not really sure how his posts are accomplishing this but damn it if they're not amusing.

Gardening. I've been doing a lot of reading on the subject and it's incredibly complex. I guess it doesn't have to be, just dig-plant-water-repeat. But they've got all these methods for growing the most in the least space and how different plants will compliment other plants and pest control and time of year and it just keeps gowing. Starting my first garden (since I was five) I'm trying to be proficient and grow a modest yield. I'm not going to dilute myself into thinking I will reduce a grocery bill by that much however the thought of what if everyone were to grow a small garden. I guess it's regressing from the centralized version of society where it's one person's job to grow food for everyone (and the efficiency that may or may not go with it). However, in the scenario that everyone's growing something, we reduce global demand, spread out the nutrient demands of the soil, reduce pesticide use (large farms just pour it on), reduce the polution associated with a.) the tractor/farm equipment b.)the trucking accross many states, the refrigeration requirements (if you pick right before you eat; a stretch I admit), and improve health (it's pretty difficult to grow partially hydrogenated oils). Or I could just sit around, watch some hockey and drink a beer.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Keeping an open/alert mind

People are like sheep. I think anyone asked would probably agree. They would also probably think that they're different and that statement wouldn't apply to them. I feel like there are so many simple little things that can be done to save energy and the enviroment and the only reason it's not being done is because it's not status quo. Sheeplike. Here's one of my sheeplike moments:

I've recently moved in to a new house with my fiance, our first, and we've been going through the usual accumulation of things necessary to run a household. After getting about 3 doz. CFLs and numerous other second hand items (yeah freecycle) we also were the beneficiaries of an old but very well maintained motorized push motor. I really didn't think anything of it, in fact I was quite grateful. Then I was over at a like-minded friends house talking about the newness of homeownership and he brought up the old school push reel mowers. About 3 days later it's all over the internet about how great these are and how much gas we, as a society, would save if everyone had one. So feeling peer pressure and a need to not be hypocritical, I made the jump. Hopefully I'll feel justified as I push around my motorless/gasless/pure human powered lawn mower.

I guess the point of the post is this:
1. go out and buy a push reel mower
2. Don't be sheep. Or better yet recognize your sheeplikeness

P.S. I want to try to at some point list all the little things I mentioned.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Energy Perspective Part 3

One of the major campaigns to save energy has been the "Bike to Work" program. I think it's a perfectly valid campaign and if enough people did it we might see the effect in terms of gasoline consumption, monetary retention and physical fitness (maybe even roadway safety). The one big thing about biking to work is that it really puts it all into perspective (at least for me). You see I have one hell of a ride to work. The trip is maybe 3 miles; however, there are three significant hills (Cattaraugus St, Beech Tree Rd, and Watson Rd) that make this ride excruciating. As I struggled my way up one of these hills I tried justifying my agony in my head. ("If I ride to work and back and it's six miles and my car gets ~24 mpg then every four days I save a gallon. Great I saved $0.75 today, this sucks") The thing that gets me is that I'm just pedaling ~200lbs up the hill. When the car does it, it's pushing roughly 10 times that amount. That's a whole lot of energy being used to get my late and lazy ass to work.

I also feel justified in drinking a cold one when I get home. Hello hydration.