Linda Rudd (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the contributor for the Green Tips. If you have any tips to suggest, please email them to Linda.
2022 Monthly Green Tips from the Green Sanctuary Committee:
Commercially available cleaning products can be pretty harsh on our environment and sometimes on our family’s health. There are other options, though, that can still give you a clean, yet green, home. In many cases, that involves returning to some of the products our grandparents used to clean – baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice, for example. It’s not really necessary to disinfect every surface in our homes – in fact, exposure to household microbes can help our immune systems stay strong! Books and websites on green cleaning abound; a comprehensive book I’ve found is Green Cleaning by Mary Findley and Linda Formichelli.
A nice website is https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/non-toxic-home-cleaning/.
Part of reducing our environmental footprints concerns the packaging we use for the products we buy – from food to household necessities to toys to clothing. Making better choices to reduce packaging can be a challenge, but you’ll find over time that choices are out there, if you consider packaging with every single purchase you make. The most recyclable/reusable food containers, for example, are steel cans, followed by glass. Instead of buying coffee in multi-layered, hard-to-recycle bags, you can often find it in steel cans in the grocery store. Being a packaging savvy consumer can reap big dividends to help protect our precious earth.
You can make a tasty dinner of salmon or shrimp kabobs, or a nice swordfish steak with a side of roasted veggies. But how do you know if your seafood is sustainably sourced? It can be challenging to make good choices for both dinner and the planet, but things are improving. These days, for example, line-caught sustainably harvested canned tuna is available and labelled in most grocery stores; you just have to spend a little time perusing the aisle. The Monterey Bay Aquarium periodically publishes lists of the most sustainable seafood choices ( https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/act-for-the-ocean/sustainable-seafood/what-you-can-do ), and of course, buying local seafood is always a great choice for freshness and sustainability — we’re lucky to have that option here on the Carolina coast!
It’s so disheartening to walk along the shoreline of Beaufort or Morehead City harbor and see oil slicks polluting the water. There’s also the “hidden” pollution of human waste discharged or accidentally spilled from boats. Many boat owners these days are finding ways to reduce pollutants spilled into the bay. Carefully and legally pumping out waste tanks at the marina is the best choice for a cleaner harbor. Older, cheaper, and lighter boat engines were always 2-stroke and churned out oily exhaust. Most new marine engines are 4-stroke, like a car engine. They’re heavier and more expensive, but they have emission controls and are less polluting. Small electric engines are nonpolluting and silent, but we discovered recently that they have a limited range – let’s just say there was rowing involved! Of course, rowing or paddling is the least polluting choice of all.
Water conservation issues are often in the news. Some modern human activities use copious amounts of precious water. Agriculture and irrigation account for 70% of fresh water withdrawal worldwide; industry accounts for 19%, and municipal, including household use, 11%. So what can we as consumers do to help reduce water use? Given that agriculture represents such a large chunk, it pays to research ways we can contribute, such as buying from local farmers using conservation methods such as no-till and drip irrigation. Eating more vegetarian meals can also help, since, for example, 1,847 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef (https://www.denverwater.org/tap/whats-beef-water). In contrast, one pound of corn or potatoes requires about 100 gallons of water. For more stats and some suggestions, visit https://foodprint.org/issues/the-water-footprint-of-food/#.
Laundry. It’s a mundane topic, but one all of us deal with on an almost daily basis. There are many environmental impacts of washing and drying our clothing and linens. Traditional laundry detergents contain chemical surfactants and carcinogens, which are toxic to aquatic life; many containers for detergents also create microplastics and, for larger containers, the usual plastics disposal problem. (https://www.greenmatters.com/p/detergent-environmental-effects). Typical clothes dryers use 3,000 watts of energy per hour; they’re one of the most energy hungry appliances. Better choices exist: make your own soap using 1 cup each Borax and Arm & Hammer super washing soda, plus 1 bar finely shredded Fels-Naptha Soap (available at hardware stores). Dry your clothes outside; in our climate there are many days with wind plus sun – the perfect drying combination, and your sheets will smell wonderful!
Ah, summer! Lazy days on the beach, including a refreshing dip in the ocean, are a favorite part of many folks’ vacation plans. As a child in the 1950s, I remember when sunscreen was a blob of pure zinc oxide smeared on my nose! We have many more sunscreen choices these days, but not all of them are ocean friendly. How to choose? The first rule is to avoid products containing oxybenzone or octinoxate; they can harm coral reefs as well as possibly raising cancer risk. Beyond that, check out the Environmental Working Group annual sunscreen ratings at https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/.
May and June are traditional months for weddings – a joyous time to celebrate the creation of a new family! Unfortunately, the excessive trappings of a 21st-century American wedding can create an environmental burden. From paper goods to discarded catered food to party favors to use of fossil fuels in destination weddings, there are many potential negative impacts. It doesn’t have to be that way, though, if you factor in the environmental cost as you plan your special event. A simple ceremony with locally grown flowers can be just as lovely and memorable as an elaborate affair, and vintage wedding gowns can be beautifully elegant. A food bank could be the recipient of leftover catered food. For more ideas, check out websites such as https://greenweddingshoes.com/10-ways-to-plan-an-eco-friendly-wedding/.
If you’re a gardener, you’ve been dreaming of and planning your 2022 garden for the past few weeks. Even if you don’t have a large garden patch, you can help the migratory birds, wildlife, and insects around us survive and reproduce as they try to deal with climate changes. Check out these websites for inspiration:
http://www.ecosystemgardening.com/top-10-herbaceous-plants-to-attract-wildlife-to-your-ecosystem-garden.html or https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/wildlife-friendly-plants/. The suggested native plants can be a beautiful addition to your living space, and you can feel good about helping the animals. Even a window box of the right plants can be beneficial! With a little more space, youcan include vegetables in an organic, sustainable “victory garden” for your family – a win/win for you and the critters with whom we share this precious planet. Your wildlife-friendly garden could be a small victory over climate change. For information on sustainable gardening practices, check out https://tataandhoward.com/10-tips-for-a-low-maintenance-eco-friendly-backyard/.
Does it feel as if you’re constantly pumping fuel into your car or truck? Not surprisingly, American drivers on average use 656 gallons of gas per person per year! Perhaps it’s time to make better choices about how we get around, but it’s difficult when you live out in the country, as many of us in Carteret County do. I feel fortunate to live in Beaufort, where we can walk or bike to so many destinations. If you’re more car-dependent, consider carpooling and consolidating trips as much as possible. I’ve also seen small busses around Beaufort and Morehead City; that’s another good option for some trips. With thoughtful planning, many of us can reduce the number of times we hop in the car, and our planet will be the beneficiary!
Drive down your street on trash or recycling collection day, and you’re likely to see huge bins overflowing with refuse in plastic bags. It’s a complex problem. Part of the solution could be to adopt a near-zero-waste lifestyle – and it truly is a lifestyle change! Recycling, while a good thing, is not really the answer. From reducing the trash you generate to composting degradable household trash to finding creative ways to reuse items, zero waste can be a rewarding process, and it’s easier than you might think. Want to learn more, including tips and techniques? UCF will sponsor a Zero Waste Seminar later this spring when we can meet in person – watch for information in a future Coastline
You may recall that last April’s Green Tip encouraged you to consider Arcadia for your home energy needs. In our area, that means wind power. Many of us have questions about the environmental impacts of wind turbines – they can have a negative effect on birds, bats, and whales. I came across some good news recently, though. According to a December 16, 2021, professional journal article in Oceanography, oceanic wind turbines have become a substrate for coral reefs, positively affecting biodiversity and fish populations in the area. If you’d like to read an abstract of the article, visit https://tos.org/oceanography/article/offshore-wind-farm-artificial-reefs-affect-ecosystem-structure-and-functioning-a-synthesis. The photo is of a reef on a wind turbine support off the coast of Belgium.
2021 Monthly Green Tips from the Green Sanctuary Committee:
Many of us are ready to update our wardrobes after almost 2 years of Covid. If that’s you, consider buying sustainable clothing – there are more and more choices available these days! My first choice for such purchases is used clothing shops such as Goodwill; I can often find barely worn items in great condition for an excellent price. If you prefer new clothing, a wonderful website called The Good Trade (https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/fair-trade-clothing) lists 35 companies that support sustainable clothing practices. This website was founded in 2014 by AmyAnn Caldwell, a young woman who became appalled at the environmental and social justice issues in the mainstream clothing industry. The clothes are lovely, and you can feel good about your choice as well!
The autumn and winter holidays are a joyful time of year for many of us. It’s a great time to gather with family and friends to celebrate! But the holidays can be a challenging time for the environment and for social justice. Bright foil wrapping paper, purchase of items with excessive packaging and made in sweatshops, food waste from parties and gatherings – the list goes on. Why not focus this year on making or purchasing locally handmade gift items? Reusable cardboard gift boxes are just as colorful as all that paper. Unopened party food containers may be able to be donated to local food banks or reused for another gathering. Consider asking the caterer at the end of your next holiday party if they would donate such food; Daryl Walker (919-219-9840) can help direct the food to where it’s needed. If we approach the holidays with sustainability in mind, we can be just as festive while giving a thought to living more lightly on our precious earth.
Plastic Free By The Sea
By now you’re probably heard about the heartbreaking amount of plastic floating in our oceans and freshwaters. The statistics are appalling: over 100,00 sea birds and 1 million marine animals die from plastic pollution yearly. The Pacific Gyre, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is a huge floating collection of plastic trash larger than the state of Texas (https://www.condorferries.co.uk/plastic-in-the-ocean-statistics).
What can we do? Many of us are trying to phase out our purchase and use of plastic packaging, but it’s tough. Local organizations such as Plastic Free By The Sea are working toward addressing this problem through the Ocean Friendly Establishment program, which is co-sponsored by Coastal Carolina Riverwatch and Plastic Free by the Sea. You can learn more at http://coastalcarolinariverwatch.org/ofe/.
An excellent way to dispose of kitchen and yard waste is to build a compost bin. There are many styles, from plastic bins many towns provide to chicken wire cylinders you can easily build yourself; visit https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/g6957 for ideas and instructions. An added bonus is the rich compost for your garden! Even if you don’t have a garden, it’s a sustainable way to dispose of organic, compostable materials. You’d be surprised to learn how much can go into your bin! See https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/100-things-you-can-compost.
August is harvest time! Here in North Carolina we seem surrounded by bounty – local farmer’s markets abound with beautiful produce and fresh seafood. But it’s also a time to remember that everyone is not able to enjoy this abundance. In Carteret County many families daily face food insecurity. How to help? The Plant It Forward program, sponsored by the Carteret Food and Health Council, encourages home gardeners to plant extra to provide produce to local food pantries during the growing season. If you have extra produce from your home garden, you can take it to Lerzan’s Embell stand at the Beaufort Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, and she will distribute the food. Contact Daryl Walker (919-219-9840) for more information about this program and if you wish to donate during the week. Also, monetary donations to the Food Bank of North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org) or a local food pantry (https://www.emeraldisle-nc.org/Data/Sites/1/media/carteret-county-food-assistance-brochure.-2020.pdf) are welcome; you can rest assured your donation will be well spent toward helping our neighbors!
Ah, the sounds of summer, among them the gentle buzzing of bees in the yard and garden. Beyond adding to the soundtrack of summer, bees provide essential ecosystem services. From pollination of fruits and vegetables to producing honey, bees sustain us in multiple ways. But many of our bees are in trouble. You may have heard of Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious phenomenon killing large numbers of our bees and putting our ecosystem at risk. Use of pesticides in our farm fields also contributes to the challenges our bees need to overcome. We can assist bees with activities such as planting an organic pollinator garden; learn more about how you can help bees at https://thebeeconservancy.org/10-ways-to-save-the-bees/ or https://www.planetbee.org/save-honeybees.
Those who live on the coast love our beautiful beaches and waterways. It’s always heartbreaking to see our shorelines littered with trash, especially plastic and Styrofoam debris. Members of UCF often participate in events such as the Carteret County Trash Trawl that took place April 24 this year (organized by UCF’s own Ryan Mroch, assisted by his family) and Big Sweep on April 17. These and other participatory events are ongoing. Visit https://www.carteretcountync.gov/704/Big-Sweep for information about Big Sweep’s 2021 calendar; they hold monthly cleanup events. UCF also publicizes trash cleanup events during the year. It feels great to help keep our Crystal Coast lovely!
As we start thinking about planting our 2021 gardens, we can benefit our planet’s diversity and wildlife by choosing native plants. Many of our favorite ornamentals are nonnative flowers and shrubs, but there are so many beautiful plants native to eastern North Carolina to choose from for your garden. There’s an added benefit to the birds and insects with whom we share our planet home; they are often specialists who need native plants to sustain them. Plant the aptly named American beautyberry shrub (Callicarpa americana) for a pop of color in your garden!
Have you heard about Arcadia? It’s a great way to help save the planet and, in a current special promotion, help UCF as well. Arcadia is a nationwide program that directs your local energy provider – such as Duke Progress Energy – to use renewable energy for 100% of the electricity supplied to your home. For our area, that’s wind power. UCF is an Arcadia member, ensuring that all electricity used at our church on Bridges Street in Morehead City is wind generated. Interested? Please read more about Arcadia at https://www.arcadia.com/. If you decide you’d like to join Arcadia, then please first read the important information below.
So, you’ve decided to join Arcadia – great! Let’s make sure that your decision to join will benefit UCF as well. Please DO NOT SIGN UP until reading further. FIRST, Linda Rudd would need to gather contact information from households that would definitely like to sign up for Arcadia’s program. Once Linda has gathered 10 such household contacts, then David Hughes will invite these households through UCF’s Arcadia Account. Once all 10 households have responded to UCF’s sponsorship invitation and joined Arcadia, Arcadia will donate $1,000 to UCF – a win-win if there ever was one! Signing up is easy. For more information, please contact Linda Rudd at email@example.com.
Environmentally aware dog and cat owners face a unique disposal problem – pet waste. A couple of options can help: Sir Wagginton’s for dogs and Yesterday’s News for cats. At https://sirwaggingtons.com, you can buy plastic-free biodegradable doggie waste bags made of cornstarch. According to the company, they can be composted or placed in the garbage (without being placed in the plastic can liner). Yesterday’s News is a pelleted cat litter made from recycled newspaper that can be buried or placed in a biodegradable trash bag. I’ve used the litter for several years and have heard no complaints from our cats!
Try a vegetarian supper! Winter is the perfect time to try vegetarian chili, and there are a wealth of recipes out there. One of my favorite combinations is black bean and butternut squash, but the possibilities are endless. Substituting one meal a week with a vegetarian choice for your family can reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of driving 1,160 miles less. Pass the cornbread!
This year think about making a sustainable new year’s resolution. Make it simple so that it’s easy to accomplish. For example, turn out the light when you leave the room, turn off the faucet when you are brushing your teeth or turn your thermostat down a degree or two at night and sleep with an extra blanket. Have a safe and happy new year!