Today is the 41st Earth Day and with the current environmental issues plaguing our planet, this day is increasingly more important. In the last year we saw devastating, catastrophic events such as the Gulf Oil Spill, Coal Mine Accidents, and the recent Nuclear Reactor explosions in Japan. The truth is: the Earth is hurting at an alarming rate and Earth Day should be used to bring awareness and make actual change.

This day is as a diving board to make real Earth friendly commitments in our daily lives. Although, today is a holiday, we need to keep in mind every day should be Earth Day. To help you celebrate, we’ve put together a quick list of great simple ways to celebrate Earth Day.

1) Events: There are plenty of them! All over the country you will find fairs and festivals dedicated to living green. This is a great and fun way to celebrate with your whole family. Many events include educational booths, new eco products, live music, and even speakers. This is the perfect way to introduce yourself to new ideas or help get your reluctant family member off the fence. To find events near you check out the Earth Day Network.  And if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, come check us out at the San Francisco Earth Day Festival, Saturday on the Civic Center Plaza. Come say hi and check out our new gear!

2) Volunteer: Today is the perfect day to go get your hands dirty, literally. Many cities and communities have organized Earth Day Clean Ups of their rivers, streams, or streets; others have planned  plant a tree campaigns in their local parks. A quick search on google will find some in your neck of the woods. And if you can’t find anything, organize your friends and family and help your community!

3) Educate: Earth Day was founded on the premise of bringing awareness to the environmental cause. Earth Day is a perfect opportunity to spread  the word and educate! If you have children or are a teacher, the day offers great lessons and activities for your kids. There are a number of great resources for this and fun interactive games to do at home!

4) Community: Now is the time to get active in your community. Join local groups who are working to protect your local parks and wildlife. Or get involved with local or even state policy procedures. You can also start a community network if your town doesn’t have one and focus on a cause both the Earth and your community can benefit from. For more ideas, look to the Earth Day Network and their Pledge an Act for ideas!

5) Kick Your Dirty Habits: You know that one thing in the back of your mind you haven’t quite given up, like switching out your light bulbs or starting a compost bin? Well, today is the day to do it and leave those dirty habits behind! Maybe you’ve been wanting to commute less by car and switch to a bicycle or public transportation or start purchasing more organic and local produce. Make today, the day you commit to these new changes, sort of like an Earth Day New Year’s Resolution. Now is the time to make the change.

As for us, we will be living green and celebrating at Earth Day San Francisco!! So, how will you celebrate?

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If you are an avid AP blog reader, you will know that our staff is made up of vegetarians and vegans.  Everyone at AP has chosen this lifestyle for a variety of reasons ranging from environmental issues, animal rights, and health. Although we often encourage the lifestyle, including posting fun recipes, we understand the lifestyle is not for everyone. That’s why we are excited about a new campaign spreading throughout the country and world: Meat Free Mondays! Meat Free Monday is an organization spearheaded by Paul McCartney and his daughters. Yes, the Paul McCartney. He began the campaign to bring awareness about the meat industry’s effect on the environment and the fact that meat consumption is  simply not sustainable, with the hopes of educating the world on how we can cut back and make changes to our environment.

So why should you give up meat on a Monday or any day for that matter? Well there are a host of reasons, however, the movement largely focuses on environmental impact. It has been shown that 18% of greenhouse gases come from meat production. This is largely from  methane and nitrous oxide, which are actually more toxic than CO2. The amount of waste emitted from large scale meat production is shocking, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization reports that livestock production generates more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry! In fact, many studies show that meat production is more harmful for our environment than driving that gas guzzler! The National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan reports that the pollution emitted to produce 1kg of beef, for us Americans that is 2.2 pounds,  is the equivalent the same amount of  carbon dioxide emitted by driving a standard car a whopping 155 miles a day! Wow, that means for one person to eat one or two days worth of meat produces the same amount of pollution for one person to drive across the entire state of Massachusetts and into New York!

In a study published by the University of Chicago, they found that if Americans reduced their meat intake by at least 20%, it would have the same same impact on our environment as a person switching from a Camry to a Prius. Americans on average consume about 8 ounces of meat daily! If Americans cut out at least one day a week of meat consumption, they could reduce their meat intake at almost 20%. It is a small impact but it would be the equivalent to changing from a gas run car to a hybrid.

This is where Meat Free Mondays come in! It is now a worldwide idea and is spreading fast.  Some cities have even begun promoting it. Recently, ever progressive San Francisco recently passed a Meat Free Mondays Resolution encouraging city restaurants to serve meatless meals on Mondays throughout the city. The resolution states that the city will “encourage restaurants, grocery stores and schools to offer a greater variety of plant-based options to improve the health of San Francisco residents and visitors, and to increase the awareness of the impact a Green Diet would be on our planet.” We think this is a great step for the city of San Francisco and hope it will influence others around the country to get on board with Meat Free Mondays! If you want to be a part the Meat Free Monday movement, check out their website or fan them on Facebook.

If you are willing to commit to at least one day a week meat free, your impact on the world would be greater than giving up your car for the day. And think how great of an influence it would have if the entire country did the same. So please, if you aren’t already vegetarian, think about refraining from meat on Mondays, weekdays, everyday or at least cutting back. Environmental issues can seem daunting and it may feel there is little you can do. But by adjusting your lifestyle just a smidgen, you can make a huge influence on the world. It is one area where you can have some control in an out of control world.

Re-posted from the Green Living Newsletter.  Sign up today!

Green Earth Youth Movement’s Top 5 Tips for a Green Prom

1. Create a Car Pool: Drive to the dance with your favorite friends in tow – sans the gas-guzzling bus or limo. When we say car pool, we mean it!

2. Dress for Eco-Success: Why not have your dress serve a greater purpose? Check out dresses that use organic fabrics like bamboo and hemp, so the material is biodegradable. Once you’re done with your digs, donate it to a less-fortunate teen via DonateMyDress.org.

3. “Green” your ‘do: Ditch the energy-exhausting electric curlers and curling iron. Rag curls create soft, graceful curls that will last all night. Just remember: you’ll want to do this the night before since you’re counting on Mother Nature to set the curl.

4. Go Paperless:Instead of the prominvites, go the tree-saving approach by using a service like evite.com.

5. Make Prom Matter:If you do any or all of the above, you’ll save a bundle, so why not consider giving a portion of your promproceeds to a charity or non-profit organization?

Source: Ally Maize, eco teen and founder of the Green Youth Movement via Green Living Newsletter

In the past decade or so, partially due to the increase of the public’s awareness of the benefits of a life lived conscientiously, Green Architecture and Building have slowly but surely become increasingly embraced. Unlike bell bottom pants, pump sneakers or mullets, Green Construction proves to be a beneficial trend to the likes of mankind; increasing sustainability, decreasing pollution and keeping people and animals both healthier, and therefore happier.

Well, I guess something could be said for the happiness inspired by the mental image of a person sporting bell bottoms, pump sneakers and a mullet simultaneously… but I digress.

Sustainable living is often said to start at home. For some people, sadly, they do not have a home with which to start. Among one of the most inspiring sections of Green Building is the creation of sustainable housing options for those without homes to call their own.

Homelessness afflicts men, women, and children throughout the world, with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimates on any night, in the U.S alone, there is anywhere between 700,000 and two million people without proper shelter.

Unfortunately there isn’t much being done to help those less fortunate in the Green sector. However, there are some altogether inspirational efforts in the United States to incorporate humanitarian efforts for the homeless with the environmentally beneficial likes of Green Building, such as:

Bridge Homeless Shelter www.inhabitat.com

Bridge Homeless Shelter http://www.inhabitat.com

* In 2008 Crossroads, a 125 bed shelter, was opened in Oakland, California. Its green amenities include the use of non-toxic paint, hydronic heating, furniture made from pressed wheat, and a solar-paneled roof.

*Bridge, a Dallas area shelter, which boasts helping decrease crime in its surrounding area by as much as 18 percent, also should not feel too shabby about its use of recycling of grey water, utilization of large windows, radiant heating, and uses FSC certifiable wood and some recycled steel in the construction of its grounds.  You go Bridge, get down with your bad self!

*Zo-loft, an architecture and design studio, has invented a sustainable, portable shelter for the homeless. Its creative design allows the user to roll around this shelter on an aluminum wheel, roughly the size of a shopping cart, that contains two expandable tents made completely out of recycled materials that can hold up to 250 lbs of belongings when erected.

Zo-Loft Portable Homeless Shelter www.inhabitat.com

Zo-Loft Portable Homeless Shelter http://www.inhabitat.com

Green solutions to the dangers that plague the homeless are not just incredibly beneficial to Mother Earth, they also are of immeasurable value to the homeless that they help. Many of the United States homeless population are HIV positive or suffer from respiratory ailments such as asthma, an environment free of toxins keeps illness associated to these illnesses at bay. Depression, another frequent affliction of the homeless, can be helped by exposure to serene spaces with adequate sunlight. Furthermore, the knowledge that the shelter that they frequenting, or the the independence they are offered by having a shelter to carry with them and use on their own terms, can be a source of insurmountable pride to a person without a home.

Green solutions benefit mankind, whether that man or woman has a permanent residence or not. These innovations in shelters and portable homes are inspiration that even those less fortunate can benefit from restructuring our society to be environmentally sound. We are in this together…even those among us who refuse to retire their aging pump sneakers.

OK, so you already have a mental image in place but there’s no going back now. After all, the thought of living with your own ‘leftovers’ is not readily settling. Since the invention of fire, humans have figured out that it’s a fairly good goal, if not wholly hygienic, to separate your ‘befores ‘ from your ‘afters’. But give me a second…

Stay with me here…

Try this scenario on for size, it may a little easier to stomach:

Imagine a great, big furniture factory pumping out a tremendous amount of cabinetry each day. At closing, janitors spend a tremendous amount of time and energy, sweeping up all the sawdust, packaging it, taking it to the dumpster and scheduling a pickup. Exhausting work, but hey… you have to keep the floors clean if you’re going to get stuff done the following day.

One day, as a worker, you realize all that sawdust could be mixed with some glue, put back onto the production line and used to make more cabinetry! Cut costs on both the ends and the means. “Brilliant!”, cry the Board…”You’re promoted!”

“But wait”, they say, “we’re not going to just pick it up and start it at the front of the assembly line again. We’ve got a process! We’re still going to package it up, take it to the dumpster, schedule a pickup. Then we’re going to send people back out to find the stuff we just got rid of, collect it in fragments, try to get some of the material workable again and put it back into production…”

“Brilliant?” you say….

Yea, it works… but, I mean…

Think about it. You have someone else ship your waste underground for hundreds of miles, wasting hundreds of gallons of drinkable water, paying hundreds for this apparent service. On top of that, you have to deal with broken pipes, wet ceilings, overflowing toilets. All this when there is already a free process to exploit in your backyard. Literally.

What nature does with leftovers…and humans deciding they can do it better.

“But what about…dare I say…bacteria! And that smell! Puuuhhlleease….you think I’m going to live with my own feces? “

Hmmm, not coming from there…what’s that smell?

YES! And here’s how. People have already considered this. The bacteria. The smell. The maintenance. The hygiene. No one is asking you to cut a hole in the floor and hold your breath. In the era of self-parking cars and I-phones, do you think we can do better that that?

A light at the end of the tunnel?

Enter the composting toilet. A culture shift in the way we start to re-align ourselves with process that have been in place much longer than we’ve existed. A leading expert in the field, Sun-Mar has a number of very practical solutions that promise quiet, odorless and hygienic waste conversion systems. While not the most stylish in the field, Sun-Mar has a very competitive price point.

Looking to really impress your growing throng of eco-yuppie friends? Check out Envirolet….with it’s starter kit and shock soil, you’ll be pushing up daises in a whole new light. While a little more high end, think about how much it’s going to be to replace that septic when it finally reaches maximum capacity.

Envirolet’s Brand of Composting

For more information on the wonderful world of composting toilets, take a look at http://www.compostingtoilet.org/. Aside from a variety of products, you can find general information here about composting and health/odor concerns.

So, take a look and get over it…rather, get on it!

This weekend, Leafygreen.info, a website which promotes green living and lifestyles through product reviews, and Sweet Avenue Bake Shop, an all vegan family owned “cupcakery”, are hosting CUPCAKEFEST. Cupcakefest is a FREE event in Lincoln Park, Rutherford, NJ on June 21st from 12pm-5pm, featuring local bands and FREE VEGAN MINI CUPCAKES! There will also be prize giveaways including a cupcake recipe book from Peta2 and a gift certificate to Autonomie Project. So if you are in the area and want to win prizes, celebrate green living, good music, and vegan cupcakes, then come on down to the park and enjoy this Saturday!

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