Simple Sustainability

7 08 2009

A California Academy of Sciences takeaway: we may not all be able to live or work under a living roof, but little steps count too. Upon leaving the Academy of Sciences, guests are offered miniature pamphlets titled “Sustainability Made Simple,” chock full of pointers that make going green easy in all aspects of daily life. Some of my favorites:

  • When you go shopping, bring your own reusable bags: a pretty common one, but such an easy (and fun) one to carry out. Reusable bags are everywhere, and they are often cheap and attractive. You can even get shopping sets. I’m a fan of Baggu Bags, for their fun colors and their little saks that make them easy to toss in the purse.
  • Choose local restaurants over chains. Not only does this make life (and meals) more interesting, it generally means that the meal is sourced close to home, which means fresher food and less strain on the environment.
  • Take the train or bus instead of flying or driving. This may not always be possible, but when it is, it’s better on the environment, and tends to be more scenic and enjoyable as well. Sometimes travel is in the journey as much as it is in the destination.

For more tips, well, visit the Academy of Sciences. I guarantee you’ll take away a lot more than a pamphlet.





Thought-provoking Video

21 06 2009

I recently came upon an article in the Times about a new school controversy. It seems people are actually finding it problematic that a video, The Story of Stuff, is being shown in schools and causing children to think about consumption. This controversy is not surprising to me, but it is shocking. I checked out the video myself, and yes, it is political. But it’s also upbeat and solution forward, and it’s a serious of lovable cartoon characters.

Most of all, though, it’s realistic. It’s the very dose of reality that most people in our society need. When I think of all the stuff I have/need/want, it’s one thing, but when I watch this video and really, truly think about what goes into making that stuff, it changes the whole need/want aspects. I’ll admit I’m not suddenly the anti-consumer (I still love my shoes), but I’m certainly more thoughtful about what I consume. And every little bit helps.

So truly I don’t really see where this could have a negative impact on anyone, especially children, to whom much of comsumer culture is based (gadgets, individually wrapped food and the list goes on…). Anyhow, it’s worth taking the 20 minutes to watch the video. And it’s also worth taking a few additional minutes to check out the website. There is much to be done and it’s one small, but important step.





And Then Again…

17 04 2009

I’m still thinking on this eco-tourism dilemma. Antarctica, yes, it’s a different story, and I agree that regulations should be put in place to protect it. Regulations should be put in place for any area that might be endangered by excessive tourism, for that matter.

On the other hand, such activities as listed by the Berkeley study (hiking, etc.), while they may endanger the areas visited, they also serve to promote awareness. What is nature, that is, if not to be enjoyed. And the more we enjoy it, the more we want to save it, right? So in this way, it seems to me, eco-tourism can actually be a good thing.

The Nature Conservancy, a conservation organization that works to protect ecologically important lands and waters worldwide, seems to believe that we should enjoy the nature we help to save. To that end, the Conservancy has a a feature on its website, Visit a Preserve, an interactive map of the preserves the conservancy helps to protect, which means wherever you are you can visit a preserve. Perhaps said visits will inspire folks to do even more to help. And so, eco-tourism is in fact a good thing, in moderation. (At least that’s my thought for the day.)





I’m Obesessed With: The Daily Green

16 04 2009

Since April is Earth Month, it’s only fitting that I’m feeling more focused than ever on eco-everything. With that in mind, I’ve been spending a lot of time on The Daily Green lately. Not only do the color scheme (a soft blue and green “globe” palette) and design have a relaxing “Zen-ish” quality, but the site is packed with easy tips and great newsy items that are not only easy to read but to put into action. A few of my recent favorites:

  • Obama’s High Speed Light Rail Plan: Just when you think the man couldn’t get any better, he comes up with this energy-efficient (and all-around efficient) way to boost the economy, save fuel, and travel. It’s about time we caught up with Eurail.
  • Earth Month Diet Tips: Easy tips to greenify your diet (and life).
  • Spring Recipes: Easy, healthy, and tasty recipes that make use of spring produce.

I could go on all day. It’s one of those sites that you get sucked into, and then suddenly realize you’ve spent far longer there than was your original intent. For that reason, perhaps, I should hate it. But I simply can’t.





Can We Love Nature Too Much?

16 04 2009

A couple days ago the New York Times ran this article about a recent conference in Washington focused on protecting the fragile Arctic and Antarctic regions. In her keynote address, secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed U.S. concern over tourism to Antarctica, both for the safety of the region and of the tourists themselves. Tourism to the region has become rather popular over the course of the past decade or so, and the effect on the area has been somewhat questionable. The article cites concerns over fuel spills and over the tourism industry in general being responsible for “about 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The article questions tourism’s effect on nature closer to home than the poles as well, discussing a recent study at the University of California, Berkeley, which went so far as to surmise that “even ‘quiet, non-consumptive recreation’ — defined as things like hiking, biking and horseback riding…still led to a steep decline in the density of native carnivores.”

The irony, it seems, is that as the world gets more eco-minded, travelers are more likely to choose “nature-based tourism, and yet it seems that this increase in demand (which, it should be noted, seems to signify an increase in awareness) is also putting some of these ecosystems at further risk. The question, then, is where to draw the line. Is eco-tourism, while excellent in concept, in fact part of the problem? I’ve got no answer, but I’m hoping people will weigh in…