August 2011


So you’re on your way to college – or maybe you’re already there. It may be your first year, it may be your eighth year, or perhaps you’re somewhere in between. Either way, the eco-friendly habits you keep over the summer living on your own are likely to be compromised by the dorm environment. Some things may be out of your control; for example, I only use fans at home, but my dorm building automatically turns on the air conditioning through the fall. But other aspects are in your control, and a few simple tips can help you keep supporting the planet until your spring exams are finished.

Here are 10 simple ways to make your dorm life greener, from back-to-school shopping to packing up at the end of the year.

1. Buy natural fiber, organic bed sheets. Also consider springing for all natural pillows, comforters, and mattress pads. Bamboo – a very sustainable resource – is also a great option when shopping for bedroom items for your dorm: not just linens, but bath mats and shower curtains, too. Not only will your bed be as comfy as it can be, but you’ll be making the most ethical sleeping choice possible. Check out Earthsake for all of your organic bedding.

2. Decorate secondhand. It’s easy to get caught up in Target wall decals and shiny new posters of your favorite bands, but refrain from impulsively buying new decorations. Shop instead on sites like eBay ClassifiedsCraigslist, and Etsy Vintage  to find unique, one-of-a-kind items to decorate your dorm room with. Also check out Freecycle or your local thrift shops for lamps and other basic room essentials secondhand. Used is great, but we all know used and free is even better! Not only do you avoid having the same Beatles poster as the rest of your hall, but your secondhand shopping makes a big environmental difference.

3. Replace incandescent bulbs with CFL ones. If you’re lucky, your school has already done this for you with your room’s overhead lights – but odds are that it hasn’t. So take initiative and bring a few light bulbs to school. But I get it – mood lighting is important. You need that string of Christmas lights across your door. Make sure you buy LED decorative lights, or purchase strings to which you add your own bulbs. If you have some extra light bulbs, consider giving them away to your roommate or a friend. It makes a huge difference in the long term. And don’t forget to turn off your lights when you leave the room. There
won’t be anyone there to appreciate them!

4. Buy natural candles and air fresheners. It’s college – your room just isn’t going to smell great every day. Even though almost all aerosols like Febreze are now CFC-free, according to the Washington Post, over the course of the year, an ordinary plug-in air freshener will use about 18.4 kilowatt-hours of electricity – equal to about a barrel of oil’s worth. As for spray fresheners, take a look at the ingredients offered on their labels and websites and ask yourself how many names you recognize. Try instead to make your own air freshener with essential oils. Or purchase soy candles, free of paraffin and synthetic fragrances, like these beautiful USA made ones from Maddison Ave. After all, stenches are sometimes out of your control, and it’s best to be prepared.

5. Make sure you only use eco-friendly laundry, bath and cleaning products. I think it’s safe to say that I’m Seventh Generation’s biggest fan. They’ve made environmentally friendly products available to everyone at reasonable prices. No matter where you’re shopping for dorm items, you’re likely to find Seventh Gen products there. Think about it this way: if you buy laundry and dish detergent, cleaners, scrubs, tissues, paper towels, toilet paper, bleach and trash bags that are all made responsibly, you’re alleviating a huge strain off of our precious resources that make those items. Hint: try to avoid fabric softeners. I know your mom probably uses them and that makes all the difference, but steering clear of them will save you money and save help make our environment a little bit cleaner. Think carefully about which products are essentials and which ones you’ll forget about after September ends.

6. Buy Fair Trade and organic snacks (and coffee!). I have a Keurig coffee machine at school and try to only buy Fair Trade cups (like these). If you’re making coffee in a French press or with a traditional machine, try to steer clear of big brands. Equal Exchange  is my go-to for delicious Fair Trade and organic coffees and foods. You’ll definitely want to pick up some bars of their chocolate and bags of nuts and berries. Don’t forget to bring your reusable traveler mug and water bottle to school! Having your own water filter or drinking tap water makes a big difference. If you’re sharing a kitchen, try to buy a water filter that fits on your sink to avoid the extra step.

7. Try to buy Energy Star appliances – and share them. Converse with your roommate(s) before you get to school to find out what appliances they’re planning on bringing. Split the cost of an EPA-approved Energy Star minifridge to save money and
electricity. Microwaves are also a greener alternative to cooking on a stove or in an oven (plus you can make all the Cup of Noodles you want) – just make sure you keep it unplugged when it’s not in use. The best option? Go without these kitchen appliances. But if you don’t think you can go without late night Ben and Jerry’s binges for a year, then make sure you bring a few extra spoons to share with your fridge-mates.

8. Use electronics wisely. If you’re only doing your hair on the weekends, why keep your blow dryer and straightener plugged in all week? Same goes for your laptop – if you head home for the weekend, don’t keep it plugged in while you’re gone. The simplest way to control your energy usage is to plug all of your electronics into a power strip that you turn off when you leave your room. Once you get into the habit of unplugging electronics, you won’t even think twice about doing it.

9. No more nasty red Solo cups! Nothing says “college drinking” like a red plastic cup. But these cups are wasted on a nightly basis in college environments, and they’re almost never disposed of properly. Since you don’t want to be that kid picking up after everyone reminding them to recycle, host BYOG (bring your own glass) parties or have reusable glasses to offer everyone. That way you have less cleanup and you help make Saturday nights on campus a little greener.

10. Store – don’t ship! And reuse packing supplies. The end of the school year seems to come out of nowhere, but don’t let yourself face packing unprepared. Try to get your hands on used boxes by asking local companies and businesses if they have any extra or visiting recycling centers yourself. Don’t buy packing tape with an unnecessary plastic handle, and share the tape with your friends so it doesn’t go to waste. The most important part? Don’t ship everything home! Do you really foresee yourself using your printer more than once over summer vacation? Store it with your school, along with your winter clothes (if applicable). You’ll save serious money with these tips, and time and frustration. Did I mention you’ll save money? Now the cash you made selling your textbooks can go to something useful, like a new bathing suit for summer. Now I’m getting a little ahead of
myself…

Have a great school year! Keep up the green work in college. Educate those around you who aren’t as aware of these environmentally friendly tips. Print out this list or your own list on recycled paper and post it in your common room. Spread the word that it’s not all that hard to stay eco-friendly in the crazy world that is college dorms.

- Jessica Nicholson

Environmentalists, gamers, and future city planners are all looking forward to something called Anno 2070! What would interest all these people and what is Anno 2070?  We’re glad you asked. Anno 2070 is a new computer game, which part of the franchise of Anno. Now if you aren’t a total gamer, you probably have no idea what that is.  Anno is a series of SimCity-esque computer games set at various times in history.  But the newest edition, launching sometime this year, will take place in the future, the year 2070 to be exact.

The world is a very, or not so very different depending on your perspective, place in the year 2070.  Climate Change has ravished the Earth and sea levels have taken over several cities. The continuation of the planet and the survival of human civilization depend on how you play the game. You have two options to become either the Tycoons, who are industrial and the Ecos, who are environmentally friendly.  How you play either of those settings, will decide the look of your cities as well as the fate of the planet. 

Environmentalists are loving this game as it gives a glimpse into our Earth’s possible future if the lifestyle we currently lead continues.  However, it doesn’t just give one a prediction of the future, it actively allows the player to creatively solve the environmental crisis, if this can be done, and find ways for modern human society to still flourish in a not so perfect environment.

Even though it is a hypothetical situation, it could influence people to live more sustainably in their own time and place, as well as in the game.  A game with a socially conscious message? Times definitely are a’changin’! Even if you don’t end up playing the game, possibly you can learn a few lessons just from the trailer, “Your decisions change the face of the world. Ecological technology or the industrial standard? Sustainability or mass consumption? Deal with today’s global challenges and create the future.” Will you be playing Anno 2070?

You hear a loud growl, as your walking down the street in a strange town. At first you are startled, then embarrassed, as you realize that growl was your stomach! The hunger is taking over, but wait.  You are our of town and don’t know where to eat. Because you are vegan, you can not just pop in anywhere and find something healthy or satisfying.  No worries, you pull your smartphone out of your pocket and you are set!

It’s true, we all rely on them, especially when traveling. Just as the early commercials said “there’s an app for that,” and by that we mean everything. Using your smartphone has become all the more convenient if you are a vegan.  Before the advent of constant internet connection, traveling was a huge headache. We can remember times rolling into town far later than grocery stores were open and we were left with iceberg salads and maybe a few soggy french fries. But alas, the vegan world has changed and now everything vegan is right at your fingertips.

For your vegan eating and shopping pleasure we present to you, the Best Vegan Smartphone Apps:

1) Happy Cow: Since we began this blog with restaurant talk, we’ll start our list with our favorite vegan friendly restaurant finder. Happy Cow, a beloved worldwide vegetarian restaurant database, just recently launched their mobile app. It is an easy, streamlined app to find vegan and vegan friendly restaurants all over the world. This is definitely a must for travel across country!

2) Vegan Xpress: Another great app for traveling or late night needs. The mobile app provides a list of menu items safe for vegans to indulge in from major restaurant chains and fast food joints. Gone are the days of picking at your iceberg salad and soggy french fries, with this handy app, you’ll be able to quickly find something tasty at any restaurant.

3) Veggie Passport: One last travel handy app and we promise we’ll move on! This handy app allows you to look up how to say “vegan” and order meals in several different languages. This is ideal when traveling abroad or attempting to communicate with foreign friends! Trust us, we won’t leave home without it on our next overseas adventure!

4) Everyday Vegan: As most of us are, this recipe app is filled with delicious vegan recipes compiled from the Everyday Vegan book! It is on the pricey end of the app world ($6.99), still less expensive with the book and the quality of the recipes are well worth the one time payment.

5) Vegan Recipe Finder: Another great recipe app, with a little cheaper price, but still packs a punch! The app even comes with a meal planner and shopping list (which is perfect for on the go). The other great feature about this app is the pictures. Recipes are so much more appealing with a mouth-watering recipe attached.

6) Cruelty-Free: Because being vegan does not only mean eating from non-animal sources, but it also means abstaining from all cruelty-free items. In walks the Cruelty-Free app, which provides an easy, in depth list of all items officially vegan approved, including toiletries, cleaners, and clothing. Never leave home without this app again! The best part: it’s free!

7) Be Nice to Bunnies: In case Cruelty-Free just isn’t enough info for you, check out PETA’s Be Nice to Bunnies app. Much like the one above, it provides information on many products and whether they are cruelty-free or should be avoided. It also allows you to search by company or product.

8) Vegan Cupcakes: Part of the Vegan with a Vengeance and Post Punk chain, this app based on the book Vegan Cupcakes will Take OVer the World, provides Droid users with over 75 cupcake recipes and delicious frosting to pair them with! Best part, it’s a lot easier to carry to the store than the book.

These heat waves sweeping across the country just feel relentless! We sure know how to beat the summer heat in style with delicious fair trade and organic cocktails! I mean, who is going to say no to a refreshing, cooling cocktail on a warm summer night. We have the perfect recipe for you too, including spirit recommendations! So get out of that heat and into a Summer Berry Mojito.

Summer Berry Mojito

1 1/2 oz Organic Light Rum
2 Tbsp Fair Trade Sugar
1/2 Organic Lime, Juiced
8-12 Fresh Organic Mint Leaves
4 Organic Blackberries
4 Organic Raspberries
4 Organic Blueberries
Soda Water

In a bowl or sturdy cup, crush and muddle the mint and sugar.  Fill glass with crushed ice and add in the rum and lime juice, stir. Add in the muddled mint and sugar, as well as the berries. Fill the remainder of the glass with soda water and stir. Garnish the drink with an extra sprig of mint.

Unfortunately, there is no fair trade rum offered in the US (if you are in the UK try Utkins or Papagayo). However, we do have organic options here in the states such as Crusoe Organic Silver Rum. For fair trade sugar we recommend Wholesome Sweetners, which is also organic. For organic fruits and mints, check your local farmer’s market, natural foods store, or Whole Foods.

Even though Summer is winding down and Fall is just around the corner, if you are anything like the people we know, you are realizing you have to get all your camping in within the next month or so. It seems every year we promise to get out into the great outdoors, but with summer schedules filled with vacations, weddings, bbqs, and days at the beach, before we realize it, summer is almost over. If you are a camping procrastinator or are lucky enough to live somewhere where you can enjoy the outdoors all year round, we have a couple of eco tips in store to use.  

The old adage, “leave only footprints” is actually a beautiful way to look at camping. Most people, unfortunately not all, already respect this rule and do not leave their trash littered around the woods. In case you already follow the golden rule of the outdoors and are looking for more ways to go green, we have put together some more helpful tips on keeping your camping trips as green as the leaves of the trees.

1) Getting There: Traditionally camping requires a car, packed full of kids and gear. But there are much more ecological and economical ways of camping. If you are a bicycle enthusiast, you can bike to your destination. There are a number of safe places and trails to ride around the country. Check out this handy guide aptly titled Bike Camping 101 for advice.  If biking is not your thing, consider catching a ride on public transportation and backpacking to your destination or better yet, join a bus tour. Green Tortoise is a great place to start, as they over bus tours all over the USA from Yosemite to Alaska. If you really must travel by car, try and carpool with your party to cut down on the carbon output.

2) Green Gear: Possibly the greenest option for camping gear is to re-use pre owned gear from tents to tarps. You can find many pre-used camping items on both craigslist and eBay, as in your local thrift store. If you want to go down the brand new route, there are plenty of great options for eco made gear. We recommend the Sierra 2 by Big Agnes which is made from 100% recycled materials right down to the zippers and plastic hooks.  There are also some great upcycled sleeping bags and 100% organic cotton backpacks.

3) Eco Fire Tips: When deciding to build a fire, seek out a fire pit or area already designated for burning. It is also a good idea to only burn wood that is already dead, twigs that line the ground, and fallen pine cones. Do not chop down any wood. Another great tip is to not burn man made materials such as plastics or food wrappers that contain petroleum, such as chip bags. This will cut down on the pollution you emit in outdoors.

 

4) Cooking: Although camping stoves are easy to pack and use, they often use propane and other natural gases. The most eco friendly way to make dinner is over your fire. Since you are already burning the forest fuel, why not use it? We like to cook veggie kabobs or veggie dogs on our campfires. If you find cooking over open flame a tad difficult or intimidating, try out the Sierra Stove, which can be fueled by anything from twigs to pine cones. Another great tip is to leave the packaged food at home and prepare your meals ahead of time.

5) Cleaning Up: Depending on how long you are out and about, you may feel the need to wash your body and or your dishes. It may seem like common sense but be sure not to use soaps or shampoo in rivers, streams, or lakes. Such products can pollute the water, thus hurting wildlife and disrupting the eco-system. Instead try using sanitizer and leave in shampoo. When washing the dishes, only rinse with water, rather than soap. One last tip, be careful where you spit your toothpaste! Either bring your own container or use it to put out the fire!

 

Possibly the best part of a summer camping trip, is the ooey gooey deliciousness best known as s’mores. It is unclear where the origin of the tasty treat came from, but it first appeared in a Girl Scouts recipe book in the 1920’s under the guise of “Some Mores.”  At some point the name was shortened to save people one second by combining both words. But really, the s’more took America by storm over the last several decades and has become an essential part of any camping trip.

Even though the tasty treat is satisfying is there a way to get more from your s’more? Every summer, Global Exchange runs a fair trade s’more campaign to not only bring awareness to the chocolate industry but urge big players such as Hershy’s to change their ways. The “We Want More From Our S’mores” is trying to register fair trade s’more events over the summer. The whole event began with Memorial Day and will continue until the mark of the end of summer, Labor Day.

Good news for all you campers, there is still a month left to get your fair trade s’more on.  You can check the campaign site to find cookouts in your area, you can plan your own outing, or even host something over your backyard bbq or stove. After completing your project, be sure to document it and register through Global Exchange.  They also have some great resources such as a checklist and flyers.

It is easy enough to find fair trade chocolate. We recommend these companies: Equal Exchange, Alter Eco, and Divine just to name a few.  For an extra environmental impact, you could make your s’mores vegan with some delicious vegan marshmallows!  So enjoy your tasty fair trade summer treats and make a statement to Hershy’s and other conventional chocolate. Tell them: We Want More From Our S’Mores!!!!

 

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