Conscious Shopping

It’s complicated.  Shopping by one’s conscience takes more time, thought, research and label scrutinizing – pain staking yes, but a worthy challenge.  These are factors I consider –

*Second-Hand – Hand’s down, this is the most eco-friendly shopping practice of all.  Producing fewer products reduces environmental damage, and reuse minimizes waste, averting valuable resources away from our landfill.  While shopping second-hand, sometimes I flex my other criteria. Swap meets are becoming a thing!  My daughter recently helped with a community  Stop ‘N’ Swap event in New York City.  I always enjoy all the laughter, and stories as we model and promote our wares seeking a new owner during smaller swap parties among friends.

*Buy what I need – By avoiding impulsive shopping, I minimize my carbon foot-print.  I’m rewarded by saving both time and money.  Focusing on “need” helps one avoid the emotional therapy shopping trap.

*Made in the USA/Shop Local when purchasing “new” items – Certainly challenging, buying as locally as possible minimizes transporting carbon spewing cargo ships and trucks, keep jobs in the USA, and stops supporting companies that gravitate to countries with lax environmental and labor laws.

*Produce – Grow yourself, or buy at Farmer’s Markets.  When purchasing organics, I consult the Environmental Work Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen groups to get more bang for my buck.  Buying in season reduces transportation emissions when produce isn’t transported from countries all over the world.  Frequently cited, food travels an average of 1500 miles from farmer to consumer in the United States.

*Fair trade/Eco-conscious companies – I always start my day with a strong cup of fair trade coffee.  Knowing those working in the fields aren’t over-worked and underpaid enhances my enjoyment.  While considering products, I frequently consult the Good Guide , as their scientists have rated over 250,000 products on a zero to ten scale rating their health, environment and social impact.

*Quality – I will pay extra for products I that will last longer and always purchase energy efficient appliances.

*Buy Healthy Food – Again challenging, I try to avoid processed foods, unhealthy chemicals (additives, preservatives, food coloring), and hormone fed animals and their byproducts.  I also avoid products made with genetically modified (GMO) ingredients which are unfortunately very prevalent and unlabeled.  If you want to see more healthy options available on our local grocery shelves, speak up.

*Avoid Environmentally Damaging Products – Styrofoam, plastic water bottles, cleaning products with toxic chemicals, heavily packaged products, disposables, single-serve products and healthcare products with micro-beads.  With Good Guide’s assistance and lots of research, I am replacing old standbys with healthier products – shaving cream, toothpaste, sunscreen, lotion, shampoo, and conditioner.

Embrace Consumer Power – When we consciously choose where we spend money, we have the opportunity to support businesses and companies that reflect our values.  Many times those “bargains” come at too high of a price to the environment and workers.

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Backyard Trash Burning Dangers

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http://myairdistrict.com/index.php/burning-info/open-burning/

If your method of waste disposal is burning, it’s time to rethink those practices. Not only are you exposing yourself to pollutants, you are also putting family and neighbors at risk. Children, the elderly and those with preexisting respiratory conditions are especially vulnerable. Those airborne toxins also contaminate our environment and food sources.

Per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), backyard burning produces significant quantities of dioxin, a major health concern. Dioxins are formed when the combination of carbon and trace amounts of chlorine are burned. Even when plastics are removed, dioxins are still created because nearly all household wastes contain trace amounts of chlorine. Through burning, dioxins are released into the air settling on plants. Plants are eaten by animals and dioxin settles in their fatty tissue; those toxins are then transferred to us when we eat meat and dairy products. Dioxin also settles on our soils and waterways contaminating the fish we consume. Dioxins can alter the cells resulting in “adverse effects upon reproduction and development, suppression of the immune system, disruption of hormonal systems, and cancer.”

The EPA classifies dioxins as “persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic pollutants (PBTs). PBTs are highly toxic, long-lasting substances that can build up in the food chain to levels that are harmful to human and ecosystem health. Persistent means they remain in the environment for extended periods of time. Bioaccumulative means their concentration levels increase as they move up the food chain.”

In addition to dioxin, backyard burning creates other pollutants including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and hexachlorobenzene. The EPA reports these pollutants can have immediate and long-term health effects including cancer, respiratory illnesses, and damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system.  Remaining ash residues contaminate vegetables when scattered in gardens.

These practices also pollute the environment with toxic compounds including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, and particle pollution. These compounds contribute to acid rain, greenhouse gases, global warming, ozone depletion, and the formation of smog.

Then what do we do with all this trash? For starters, when we practice the RRR principals, we create less waste.

Reduce –Use durable, long-lasting goods, avoid disposable single-use items, and purchase products with less packaging.

Reuse – Repair, sell, share, and donate; Compost –Yard trimmings and food scraps create natural fertilizer

Recycle – If it can’t be reused, recycle through Boonslick Industries.

Waste Disposal – Don’t litter or dump illegally. Take your waste to a transfer station or purchase a waste collection service.

With these practices, our bodies and the Earth will be healthier and happier!

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http://ecoevolution.ie/blog/burning-of-waste/

 

 

Mount Bierstadt Summit

We immensely enjoyed exploring northern and central Colorado during our travels this summer.  Given the beautiful mountains and the cooler weather, we hiked more miles than usual.  While enjoying all the sights, we were also in training as we had a goal in mind – hiking our first 14er. We drove up Guanella Pass in the Mount Evans Wilderness Area where we caught the Mount Bierstadt trailhead.  This was Sunday and a popular hike, so we had plenty of company, although much younger than us!

Initially we hiked through the willows down into the valley, soon starting our upward trek, upward and upward.  Glad to finally reach what we thought was the saddle, the most challenging section of the trail came into view, a lengthy set of relentless switchback.   Upward and upward, many hikers returning from the summit encouraging those laboring up the mountain, one step at a time.  Here I finally understood hiking etiquette – the person hiking up the mountain has the right of way.  As I became more fatigued, my vision remained downward willing my feet around the impending rocks. When I had the energy, I demanded the right-of-way!  We set our sights on a rock or vantage point up ahead where we would again stop to catch our breath, noticing the oxygen becoming thinner as we continued upward.  All along the way the views behind us were astounding.  Multiple mountain ranges emerged and all the while HaRVy (our RV) was visible far in the distance – a tiny shiny white rectangle. Finally we conquered the grueling switchbacks. Next we saw a snow patch and a boulder-filled peak in front of us.  We scrambled up through the rubble, when dizzy stopping to adjust to the elevation gain.  Forging ahead, we soon made it to the top!  Once there we savored our ceremonial gorp and apple, while watching a marmot positioning himself for food scraps.  After we captured our moment on camera, a couple asked me to take their picture.  I said “I would be honored”, well knowing what it took to get there.  Much to my surprise, after the summit picture, the guy pulled out a diamond ring, proposed and she said “yes”.  I made certain that special moment was well documented.

One is advised to not stay on the summit for long due to unpredictable lightening storms, so we soon headed down.  What we thought would be a quick return was also challenging traversing down the slippery, sandy slope, down, down, down the switchbacks. Along the way, we were excited to come across two bighorn sheep goats calmly grazing along the mountainside.  Foraging ahead, we watched our progress as HaRVy slowly grew in size, glad to be back “home”.  7 miles round trip; 2770 ft. elevation gain; Summit 14,065 ft.