Thursday, March 7, 2013

green thurs #2: best green book for normal people, Earth Talk - part 2

Thank goodness I had this started already! :X Today's Green Thursday is Part 2 of last week's post,
green thurs #1: best green book for normal people, EarthTalk.

To iterate, EarthTalk: Expert Answers to Everyday Questions About the Environment is one of my favorite environmentally-related books, chock-full of information on things you've always wondered and that actually pertain to your daily life.

The book was created by the editors of E-The Environmental Magazine, with the content compiled from their magazine column where readers (normal citizens like us! ;) received practical answers to their everyday questions.

I think the book does a great job of not only choosing relevant issues but giving a well-rounded, grounded view in its answers. I didn't include the complete answer portion in the excerpts, just because it'd be too long, but you can tell from what's given that each answer generally starts with background information to give the facts, then enters to answer the question, giving both sides of the issue whenever possible. Then, each Q&A ends with a "Contacts" section that cites organizations and their contact information that you can turn to for further information.

And for the insatiable, you can turn to the note they include in one of their opening pages:

Got an environmental question that you don't see answered in this book? Send it to: "EarthTalk," c/o E - The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881. You can also submit your questions at or email us at
Without further ado, here are excerpts from the last five categories of EarthTalk:
  1. Green Threads

    Organic Undies and Recycled Sneaks

    Are the materials used in athletic shoes environmentally harmful, and can old shoes be recycled? --Margaret Southgate, Hamilton, New Zealand (p. 170)

          The ingredient that gives some athletic shoes their cushioning support is sulfur hexafluoride, knows as SF6. It's a popular man-made gas with a uniquely buoyant chemical structure. Unfortunately, SF6 is also an unusually persistent global warming gas that is more damaging to the atmosphere (molecule by molecule) than CO2.
          Nike's "Air" technology used 288 tons of SF6 a year, accounting for 1 percent of worldwide production, before they began to phase out SF6 use in the mid-1990s. According to a spokeswoman from the Nike Environmental Action Team, the company found out that SF6 was environmentally damaging in 1992. It wasn't a small effect, either. At the peak of SF6 production in 1997, Nike sneakers had a greenhouse effect equivalent to more than a million tailpipes. The company began investigating alternative materials.
          [...] Perhaps in exchange for its overuse of SF6, Nike is making an attempt to reduce running shoe waste. The company will take back its shoes, and other brands, grind them up and reuse them in athletic surfaces-granulated rubber from the shoe outsole becomes artificial soccer, football, and baseball field surfaces and weight-room flooring [...]
          There's also the option of donating sneakers to local charities and thrift sotres. The Children's Rights Foundation (CRF), for one, sponsors an annual used athletic shoe drive through different retail shoe shops nationally. Retailers promote the shoe drive through normal means of advertising. Customers are directed to bring their used wearable shoes to participating stores in exchange for a discount on new shoes as decided by individual retailers. CRF then donates the used sneakers to needy and at-risk children and their families within the United States and abroad.
          [...] Contacts: Center for Energy & Climate Solutions, (703) 379-2713,; Children's Rights Foudnation,; Eco-Cycle,; Nike Environmental Action Team, (503) 671-8044,
  2. The Whole Kid and Caboodle

    From Dirty Diapers to Toxic Toys

    Which are better for the environment, disposable or cloth diapers? --Barbara Fritts, White Lake, MI (p. 188)

          The "disposable versus cloth" debate has raged for years. Nondegradable disposable diapers can sit for decades, even centuries, in landfills, and they require thousands of tons of plastic and hundreds of thousands of trees to manufacture. But the water and chemicals used to clean cloth diapers, and the fossil fuels diaper services consume to transport them, suggest that their relative environmental impact could be a wash.
          Still, the environmental balance may be shifting back to cloth diapers [...] Moder advances in water and energy efficiency in washing machines and dryers have reduced the environmental impact of diaper laundering. Much as they'd probably want to avoid it, concerned parents also have to think about, well, sewage. The urine and feces in disposable diapers enter landfills untreated, possibly contaminating the groundwater supply. Whether cloth diaper waste is flushed down the toilet or removed in the washing machine, that dirty water will enter a sewer system, mostly likely, a wastewater-treatment plant.
          John Shiffert, executive director of the National Association of Diaper Services (NADS), points out that the chlorine by-product dioxin, a carcinogen, has been found in trace amounts in disposables.
          [...] Contact: National Association of Diaper Services, (610) 971-4850,; Nature Boy & Girl, (206) 784-7766,; Tiny Tush, (608) 356-2500,
  3. Feeling the Heat

    Tackling Global Wawrming from the Backyard to the Beach

    What can I do, as just one individual, to curb global warming? --Karen Cross, via e-mail (p. 212)

          It's a big planet, and global warming is a huge problem, but there's plent for individuals to do, with travel at the top of the list. For starters, air travel burns more fossil fuels per person than any other form of transport. So if you can get where you're going some other way, you reduce your contribution of greenhouse gases significantly - provided, of course, that at least a planeload of others are doing the same.
          The other main offender, obviously, is the private automobile. Driving less frequently, carpooling, and using public transport such as buses and rail can take a big bite out of the greenhouse gases and pollution you are personally responsible for. Also, think about all those short car trips you take that could be replaced by a brisk walk or bicycle ride.
          [...] Various climate-related websites, including Carbon Footprint and TerraPass, offer free online "carbon footprint calculators" so individuals can see and even calculate how their actions contribute to global warming. Another website, SafeClimate helps businesses of all sizes take action on climate change.
          Contacts: Carbon Footprint,; EarthSave,; SafeClimate,; TerraPass,
  4. Open Road

    Transportation, Travel, and Cutting our Carbon Load

    What is the most environmentally friendly way I can wash my car: doing it myself or going to the local car wash? --Jim S., Denton, TX (p. 262)

          Washing cars in our driveways is one of the most environmentally unfriendly choices we can make. Unlike household wastewater that enters sewers or septic systems and undergoes treatment before it is discharged into the environment, what runs off from your car goes right into storm drains and eventually into rivers, streams, creeks, and wetlands, where it poisons aquatic life and wreaks ecosystem havoc. The water running off your car is contaminated with a witches' brew of gasoline, oil, and residues from exhaust fumes as well as the harsh detergents being used for the washing itself.
          Federal laws in both the United States and Canada require commercial car-wash facilities to drain their wastewater into sewer systems, so it gets treated before it is discharged back into the great outdoors. And commercial car washes use computer-controlled systems and high-pressure nozzles and pumps that minimize water usage. Many also recycle and reuse the rinse water.
          [...] One way to avoid such problems altogether is to wash your car with waterless formulas, which are especially handy for spot cleaning and are applied via spray bottle and then wiped off with a cloth. Freedom Waterless Car Wash is a leading product.
          One last caution: Kids and parents planning a fund-raising carwash event should know that they might be violating clean water laws if runoff is nto contained and disposed of properly. Washington's Puget Sound Car Wash Association, for one, allows fund-raisers to sell tickets redeemable at local car washes, enabling the organizations to make money whiel keeping dry and keeping local waterways clean.
          Contacts: Freedom Waterless Car Wash,; International Carwash Association,; Puget Sound Car Wash Association,; Simple Green,
  5. Technically Speaking

    Saving the Earth, One iPod at a Time

    What happens to my old cell phone after I upgrade? Do the stores really recycle them or give them to the poor, or are they just ending up in landfills? Where can I take mine to ensure that it is dealt with properly? --Paul G. Reno, NV (p. 276)

          Cell phones are giving computers and monitors competition for the dubious distinction number one contributor to the world's e-waste problem. Toxin-laden electronics are clogging landfills and pollutin air adn groundwater supplies from coast to coast.
          The average North American gets a new cell phone every eighteen to twenty-four months, and that makes the old ones--which contain hazardous materials like lead, mercury, cadmium, brominated flame retardants, and arsenic--the fastest-growing type of manufactured garbage in the nation. According to the EPA, Americans discard 125 million phones each year, creating sixty-five thousand tons of waste.
          The good news is that electronics recycles are stepping in to help. Nonprofit Call2Recycle has a website that lets consumers enter a zip code and be directed to a drop box in their area. Most major electronics retailers, from Radio Shack to Office Depot, participate in the program and offer Call2Recycle drop boxes in their stoers. Call2Recycle recovers the phones and sells them back to manufacturers, which either refurbish and resell them or recycle their parts for use in making new products.
          [...] Contacts: Call2Recycle,; CollectiveGood,; ReCellular,

Hope you all enjoyed these great tips and learned something valuable! Again, I can't help but gush over this book,  EarthTalk: Expert Answers to Everyday Questions About the Environment, as super useful and practical, and perhaps one of the best bathroom books ever (no affiliated promo here, people ;). Super cheap to buy used, or request from your local library and get them to buy it!

And if you're not willing to do even that, at least try to live a little more mindfully, and look up these things online from reputable sources, please?

One more time, here's the link for E-The Environmental Magazine.

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