Be the Green Change

make 5 changes to mitigate the climate crisis

The student Climate Strike last September helped to hone our attention on the reality that our planet is changing, and we must take immediate steps in our own lives to help fight and reverse the climate crisis.
Join Green Towson Alliance as we pledge to Be the Green Change.

 

We’re asking you to make five changes in your life – they can be small and simple changes, like packing silverware along with your lunch so that you avoid using throw-away plastic silverware, or giving up plastic bags – or big changes, like swearing off your clothes dryer and installing a laundry line in your yard, or trading in your fossil-fuel guzzling car for an electric or hybrid electric vehicle.

We’ve been collecting some great ideas and posting them on this blog about how to lighten our footprint on the Earth, for the good of the planet and for the good of everything that lives on it. Once you’ve decided to Be the Green Change, please let us know, either by messaging us on Facebook at @GreenTowsonAlliance, by posting a comment at the end of this article, or by emailing us at greentowsonalliance@gmail.com.

Keep an eye on this blog to learn more about the changes people are making in Baltimore County to mitigate climate change. And please message us in the comments below, or send us a direct message on our Facebook page @GreenTowsonAlliance if you have some fresh ideas to share.

Thank you! Welcome!
and congratulations on joining GTA’s Be the Green Change!

Here is a list of things you can start right away.

Five Easy Changes

Simple actions that won’t be hard to fold into your life. These include picking up plastic trash when you’re walking outside, using a recyclable coffee mug, and adding a plant-based meal to your weekly food plan.

Swear off chemical cleaners

Give up those spray bottles full of cleaning supplies. You’ll be surprised how
simple it is to clean your home naturally!

Thrifting is the ultimate recyclingCheck out local thrift stores instead of online shopping

Think carefully about your habits as a consumer. Try shopping at a local thrift store for the ultimate in recycling.

Give up plastic wrap!
Handmade beeswax wraps

You can buy or make your own food wraps that are every bit as good as plastic wrap.

Update laundry day

Do-over your laundry routine. And no, you don’t have to hang up a huge, old-fashioned laundry line (although you can, if you want to!)

Opt to Act

REI, the outdoor adventure store, has a list of simple changes you can make this year.  The Opt To Act program is s a 52- week long plan of simple changes you can make each week. You can download the plan and read all about it here.

And more ideas to be green

Keep an eye on this blog to learn more about the changes people are making in Baltimore County to mitigate climate change. And please message us in the comments below, or send us a direct message on our Facebook page @GreenTowsonAlliance if you have some fresh ideas to share.

GTA Celebrates 5 Years of Environmental Strides

As the Green Towson Alliance (GTA) enters its fifth year, this volunteer group is celebrating the strides it has made in environmental advocacy and action since its inception in 2015. GTA has worked to increase open space in Towson, promote a greener local community and protect our environment. Across five years, GTA has planted 900+ trees in the local community, removed 9.5 tons of debris from local streams, cleared away invasive vines in numerous locations to restore native habitats and shared its Green Platform for Baltimore County with elected officials.

GTA was recently honored as “Citizen of the Year for Towson’s 5th District” by Baltimore County Councilman David Marks. This honor was bestowed on GTA for its four years of dedicated leadership in developing, fundraising and establishing Towson’s new Radebaugh Community Park.

Since 2015, GTA has created a visible presence in the Towson community as an environmental advocate that takes action to protect our environment and address climate change at the local level.  It has sponsored a green speakers’ series at the Towson Library, launched letter to the editor campaigns and partnered with over 20 local groups, including boy and girl scouts and high school and college students, to plant trees, clean up streams and protect mature trees to promote a green local environment.

As GTA celebrates its 5th anniversary, it will be launching a special Be the Green Change campaign to encourage people to make changes in their lives that will benefit our planet.  A number of initiatives will complement this campaign and GTA will offer information and ideas on ways people can live greener lives with simple lifestyle changes.  GTA urges everyone to think green and fight climate change.

Wash Laundry, Not too Much, Hang to Dry

By Anne-Marie Bonneau

(With apologies to Michael Pollan for another riff of his quote, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”)

Why Does She Keep Posting Pictures of Her Underwear?

Every several months, I’ll post a picture on Instagram of my laundry drying outside on my drying rack. I hear two basic reactions.

  1. Americans: “OMG where did you get your drying rack? I’d love one like it.”
  2. Everyone else: “Why are you posting this?”

In most of the world, hanging up clothes to dry is normal, non-Instagrammable behavior. Here in the US, where many home owners associations (HOAs) ban “unsightly” clotheslines, hanging up your laundry to dry like god intended racks up the likes and confers rebel status. Many of these HOA bans appear to be illegal, however.

Laundry rule #1: Wash only when dirty

You will save time, energy and money by washing clothes only when they actually need it. Unless I spill tea all over myself while sitting at my desk writing and editing all day on my laptop, my clothes stay clean. I’ll wear even my wool or cotton socks for (at least) a couple of days in a row if they pass the sniff test.

Washing

Although I hang my clothes to dry, I have not begun to manually wash them by beating them against rocks except for that one time in the Caribbean while skinny-dipping. I do use a washing machine.

Use cold water

Avoid the delicate cycle

A recent study found that the delicate cycle can release an additional 800,000 plastic microfibers. The study revealed that the more water used, the more plastic microfibers released. The delicate cycle uses up to two times as much water as the regular cycle.

While washing machines cannot capture these microfibers, Guppyfriend bags, which Patagonia sells at cost, reduce the amount of microfibers that washing machines release.

Wash full loads

Get your money’s worth and do full loads. Whether you wash two towels or a full load, your machine will use the same amount of energy to wash them.

Skip the fabric softener

When your nose detects a fragrance, your brain should think phthalates. Fabric softeners may contain these endocrine disruptors. Studies have linked phthalates to an array of negative health outcomes, such as “hormone changes, lower sperm count, less mobile sperm, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities.” The Environmental Working Group (EWG), which rates the safety of household products, gives fabric softeners an abysmal F.

Check out ivy leaves as detergent

Let me start off by saying that I need to experiment with this method more and am by no means an ivy-as-detergent expert. For more adventures in washing with ivy, please read the posts of @cleareasmud on Instagram, who told me about this trick.

I’ve been cutting up large English ivy leaves (otherwise known as common ivy or Hedera helix), putting them in an old sock, tying up the end to keep the ivy from going all over the place and then throwing the sock into the washing machine. For my last load, I used 15 grams of leaves. Never use poison ivy leaves!

Ivy leaves contain saponin, a natural detergent and foaming agent. (“Saponin” comes from the Latin word for soap, “sapo.”) Other sources of saponins include horse chestnuts, soapwort and soap nuts.

I don’t know if the ivy works or the agitation of the machine alone cleans the clothes and we’ve all been duped into buying more products than we need. I do know my clothes come out clean. However, they don’t go in very dirty. Someone on Facebook told me that her family’s very dirty clothes come out of the wash clean with the addition of mere vinegar and no detergent.

On my long to-blog list, I’ve added “make liquid detergent from ivy.” To do this, you simmer the leaves in water and strain. I hope it works well. (Go here for laundry detergent made from horse chestnuts.)

Drying

According to the US Energy Information Association (EIA), clothes dryers account for 5 percent of total household energy consumed in the US, while washing machines account for only 0.5 percent of household energy, not including the energy to heat the water in warm or hot loads.

If you dry laundry in a dryer

Spin it right round, baby right round

Spin your clothes in the washing machine for a longer amount of time than the standard cycle lasts. Your machine may have a high spin cycle or other cycle that you can set it to for a longer spin. This will reduce the amount of time your dryer will have to run to dry your clothes.

Buy a pair

I rarely use the dryer and so haven’t bought a pair of 100 percent wool dryer balls myself but people rave about them online. By absorbing water and increasing the air flow around laundry as it dries, these balls apparently reduce drying time. (As I said, I haven’t tried them myself.)

Look for an efficient model

When you replace your dryer, look for one with the Energy Star label. To earn this label, machines must be pass independent certifications while functioning well. If you can afford it, consider buying a heat pump dryer. These recycle the hot air in the dryer rather than wasting it by venting it outside.

Clean out the lint

Clean out the filter after drying each load. If the lint contains synthetic fibers, I would not add it to the compost pile.

Skip the dryer sheets

These single-use throwaway synthetic (i.e., plastic) sheets can, like fabric softener, contain phthalates. Avoid over-drying your laundry to avoid static electricity shocks.

If you hang laundry to dry

Buy clothes less often

Dryers break down fibers. Hang your laundry up to dry and it will last much longer. Yes, hanging takes more time but I find it meditative.

Send less money to your utility company

Instead of Zero-Waste Chef, I could have named this blog “Zero-Waste by Default for Frugal People.” You’ll save money if you hang up your clothes to dry or if you follow any of the tips I’ve listed in this post.

Does anyone actually like their utility company? Here in Northern California, PG&E sparked outrage in October for cutting off power to hundreds of thousands of residents after weather forecasts predicted high winds and severe fire risk.

A probe into the devastating Camp Fire of 2018, which killed 85 people and razed the town of Paradise, found that PG&E’s power lines ignited the blaze. The company, now in bankruptcy, could face more liability claims if its equipment starts more fires. Hence, the blackouts.

No one wants the state to endure another mega-fire. Outrage over the outages stemmed from the fact that PG&E has not updated its infrastructure and instead, inconvenienced a massive number of residents, some of whom had to evacuate their homes because of medical issues.

Hang up your laundry to dry and stick it to the man.

This article was written by Anne-Marie Bonneau and reprinted here with her permission.  Read more on her website, The Zero Waste Chef.

Buying great shoes and purses at a Thrift Store

Thrifting is the ultimate recyclingWhy do women buy lots of purses and shoes? One theory is that, when you “try them on” they never make you look fat. Lucky for you, Thrifter, there’s usually a lot to choose from.

Shoes
The beauty of thrift store shoes is that they are likely already broken in. However, shoes that show no wear were likely donated because they’re uncomfortable.  Be sure to walk them around the store before purchasing. The shoes you wear to the store should be easy off/easy on. Also wear or bring the weight of socks you plan to wear with the shoes. Here are some great options found recently in a Towson thrift store.

(1) Ryka Faze training shoes – $6 ($60 in DSW.) (2) Ann Taylor booties ($5.50)  (3) Well, maybe not everyone’s taste…

Four pairs of shoes found at a thrift store(4)  Rarely, you will find tap shoes, jazz//split sole sneakers, ballet slippers, sports cleats. On occasion these may even be for adults.

 

 

Purses
Lots of pockets/compartments may initially seem like a good idea, backpacks are in style nowbut, unless you are consistent with what you put in each, you’ll likely get frustrated fishing around through each one to find what you need.

 

 

(5) Backpacks are also in abundance.

Luggage
Great buys can be found for canvas luggage of all sizes and in good shape.  Choose a size and compartment configuration that suits your purpose. Check for signs of wear, functioning zippers, retractable handles. Make sure stains can be removed by using a wet wipe.

Pink striped bag will be easy to see in the luggage carousel(6) For luggage you plan to check, consider something like this “obnoxious” pink striped one.  Think how easy it would be to spot on the luggage carousel!

Hard-shell spinner with wheels

 

 

 

(7)   On rare occasions, you might find hardshell/four-wheeled spinner luggage. This one was $15. Check these for cracks, especially near handles.

New to Thrifting?
Here are some tips on shopping at Thrift stores.  Have a special occasion coming up, or looking for that perfect outfit for a holiday? Be sure to check out the local Thrift stores.  And don’t forget that when you are shopping for a gift, you might find something pretty amazing at a Thrift store as well!

Climate Crisis: Five More Changes

By Patty Mochel

Cutting way back on single-use paper products seemed a no-brainer on my Climate Crisis Consumer Diet. I had used cloth table napkins when I had four kids at home, but as fewer people regularly came to the dinner table, I had inexplicably slipped back into using paper napkins. Last year, when I pulled out my stash of cloth napkins, I had lost my relaxed attitude about them. During dinner, I would cringe every time someone used one to wipe a greasy finger. Why was I so neurotic about them? Was I burdened by the thought that they would need constant washing and ironing? I had handled that in the past by keeping several sets of cloth napkins on hand. However, the unhappy decline of retail stores meant there are fewer local shops to find cloth napkins, and I was loathe to go online to find them, or  cut out and sew a set of six napkins.

Cotton bandana used as napkin
Cotton bandanas make easy-to-use table napkins.

I realized that 20 years ago, because there were so many available, I had several sets and had discovered that napkins made of a darker colored cloth that was printed with a pattern helped to hide food stains, relieving me of daily napkin washing.  With that in mind, I hit on the idea of using cloth bandanas, and the local Michael’s store had a bunch of really inexpensive ones. I bought six in a dark green. They can be washed frequently, and if I shake them out and hang them, they don’t need to be ironed.  Problem solved.

Next to go: paper towels. A trip to Target’s kitchen department scored two Kitchen clothssets of washcloths that conveniently came in a color that matched my kitchen. I stash them in a stack on the counter and use them to wipe off countertops and placemats, and clean out the sink. I inwardly cringed the first time I used them to clean up a mess on the floor – I was screaming inside, “It’s a mess! Use a paper towel and toss the mess away.” What brought me back to reality was the realization that 50 (or 60) years ago, people (like my Mom and grandmother) used cloth “rags” to clean up everything. If they could do it, so could I! Presto. No more paper towels.

Silicone sandwich bag and paper chip sack
Silicone sandwich bag and paper chip sack replace plastic in a lunch box.

My son packs a lunch every day, and I wanted to stop using plastic sandwich and chip bags. In August, I found some reusable silicone sandwich bags at Mom’s Organic Market. I bought two, and they have been working out well.  I missed the before-school sale for chip bags, so my son has been using paper sacks I found at the grocery store for his chips and cookies. I’ll be trading up for reusable chip bags next year.

Finally, I made the switch to 100% recycled toilet paper. I read an articleBath tissue made from 100% recycled paper that the plush T.P. I had been purchasing for my family was made from wood pulp taken from virgin forests in Canada. That was pretty shocking, and I’m glad I found out about that.

 

Next to consider on my Climate Crisis Consumer Diet: Kleenex, and skin care “essentials” like cotton swabs, cotton balls. Dare I say shampoo in plastic bottles? Stay tuned.

You can read about the first changes I made a few months ago here.

Baltimore County appeals board halts Lake Roland project over ‘severely overburdened’ sewer line

Baltimore County officials have stopped a proposal to transform a tiny Falls Road shopping strip near Lake Roland Park into a cluster of apartments, restaurants and offices because the sewer system is inadequate.

The Baltimore County Board of Appeals recently upheld a judge’s rejection of a plan created by the Bluestem development team, which includes Baltimore-based Vanguard Retail Property Development. Neighbors have spent years voicing concerns about the project’s impact to an area already dealing with traffic and sewer problems, as well as on the park.

The decision comes amid the county’s federal obligation to complete more than $800 million in sewer improvements. That commitment is part of a 2005 consent decree with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate the county’s sewer overflows.

“We’re very pleased with the board’s decision and believe they correctly upheld [the judge’s] decision, which itself was supported by substantial evidence on the sewer issue,” said Michael McCann, an attorney for North County Preservation, the Lutherville Community Association, Pikesville Communities Corporation and 16 other groups opposing the Bluestem development.

Vanguard, court records show, wants to build 56,600 square feet of high-rise restaurants, stores, offices and 152 apartments at the Falls Road site. Located in Towson’s Bare Hills community, it borders the 500-acre Lake Roland Park.

The site is home to a handful of stores and mulch business Hollins Organic Products. Vanguard bought the 6-acre parcel just north of the city in 2016 for $4.25 million.

Although the decision halts the plan’s progress, Vanguard could appeal the board’s ruling in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

“We are disappointed with the recent ruling on the Bluestem development, but remain committed to our vision to make this property into something that better serves the wonderful surrounding community, neighbors and current tenants of the space,” Vanguard’s Leonard Weinberg said in a statement.

Wastewater from Bluestem would have discharged into a 42-inch sewer pipe located underneath Lake Roland. The county’s Design Review Panel granted approval to Bluestem in 2018, and it was later sent to County Administrative Law Judge John E. Beverungen in 2019.

Beverungen said Bluestem couldn’t move forward because “the sewer system serving the property is woefully inadequate to handle existing demand, much less additional inputs from recently approved development in the Towson area.”

Beverungen’s ruling was based on the consent decree, testimony from an environmental engineer and evidence from a study of the county’s sewer system, court records show. The county previously hired Baltimore-based RK&K civil engineering firm, and the firm concluded in 2012 that the Towson area was served by sewer interceptor pipes “severely overcapacity.”

The Lake Roland sewer had 541 defects — “more than any other pipe segment in the Jones Falls watershed,” court records show. And during heavy storms, the sewer handled seven times the volume for which it was designed, according to an expert opponents asked to testify in court.

“Those problems are clearly pretty significant even in comparison to the sewer shed at large,” McCann said.

Vanguard challenged Beverungen’s ruling with the county appeals board. Vanguard called the ruling “capricious” and “unsupported by competent, material and substantial evidence in light of the entire record.”

In a 39-page opinion, the three-person board with Vanguard’s arguments. Vanguard “obviously did not cause the pre-existing problem,” the board stated, but the “plan will contribute flow beyond the present-day amount from the property.”

“That [plan’s] increased flow adds to the already severely overburdened interceptors, exacerbating the existing conditions, which in turn enhances the risks of contamination of groundwater, surface water, and recreational facilities, as well as other consequences,” the board wrote.

Although the board stated Vanguard can’t redevelop the site “in the intense manner proposed at this time,” it stated redevelopment is “still a possibility” if the plans adapt to the sewer issues.

The board also called attention to the consent decree because it blamed the sewer system’s inadequate capacity for the sewage that entered Towson Run, Lake Roland and Jones Falls in recent years, records show. The County Health Department found elevated levels of the E. coli bacteria in Lake Roland from June 2016 to June 2019, records show.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s office is not directly involved with the debate over the Bluestem project, spokesman Sean Naron said.

“We remain respectful of the ongoing process and committed to promoting sustainable development which considers community concerns,” Naron said.

But Olszewski is responsible for the consent decree and managing community concerns about infrastructure and development.

The county’s third quarterly report for the consent decree stated that 11% of sewer repair work remains to be completed in the Jones Falls watershed. The EPA initially stated the work must be complete by March 2020, but the deadline was extended through 2025.

Baltimore County, officials say, has completed over $600 million in related projects, $450 million in city contributions for system-wide sewer improvements, and an additional $460 million in non-consent decree sewer system improvements. The consent decree initially identified 38 “relief points” to be addressed, which has been reduced to 10.

Environmental advocacy group Green Towson Alliance released a 2017 report about contamination in Lake Roland. Beth Miller of Green Towson Alliance said the group started to investigate the system in 2016 after reports about a broken manhole leaking sewage into Towson Run, where overflow left “toilet paper in the brushes.”

The group is asking the county to add capacity to the system with a “relief sewer” as part of the consent decree.

Green Towson Alliance is concerned the county doesn’t have a law to help pay for infrastructure needed for new development.

“We’re concerned that perhaps the whole system isn’t working together in light of massive increases in development in Baltimore County,” Miller said.

A group of 19 organizations, including Towson Green Alliance, Rodgers Forge Community Association and the Falls Road Community Association, recently sent a letter to Olszewski asking for a moratorium on new development “in areas of deficient water, sewer and transportation capacity.”

The Maryland Department of the Environment, meanwhile, received a Lake Roland sewer overflow report in August 2019, according to an email from department spokesman Jay Apperson.

Apperson said the state environment department and EPA will jointly seek penalties against Baltimore County for Lake Roland overflows reported in 2019. The county faces penalties up to thousands of dollars, under the federal consent decree.

Wilborn P. Nobles III

Cleaning your home naturally

One way to take a step back from a closet full of plastic bottles filled with cleaning products that may contain harmful substances is to take a look at time-honored methods of cleaning. Just a few generations ago, people who lived in rural areas, who couldn’t readily run to a store to buy cleaning supplies, depended on using everyday products to clean their home. In fact, some old cookbooks included ‘recipes’ for cleaning solutions.

Now more than ever, it makes sense to step back from those disposable floor cleaning pads and use an old-fashioned mop with a cleaning solution you can mix yourself. Need to scrub out the sink? An all-purpose vinegar solution might do the trick. Vinegar is a very helpful ingredient -our grandmothers regularly used vinegar to wash windows

How about killing germs? Daily wipe-downs of kitchen and bathroom countertops are an important step in clearing away messes that may be inviting to bacteria. When there’s sickness in the house, I do what my friend, a nurse-practitioner does: I pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a clean cloth and wipe off all of the door handles and faucet handles in the house.

Here’s a great article on other products you can make yourself to clean your home.

Baltimore County Appeals Board upholds thumbs-down on Bluestem Village

“Woefully inadequate” public sewers – halting a development project near Lake Roland – are reaffirmed as a growing public health problem

The plan to turn six acres adjacent to Lake Roland into a large-scale apartment and retail complex has been dealt another blow.

The Baltimore County Board of Appeals announced, during recent oral deliberations, that it will uphold an administrative judge’s decision to disapprove the Bluestem Village project in Bare Hills.

The board said it will issue a written decision affirming the findings of Administrative Law Judge John E. Beverungen, who earlier ruled that the project could not proceed because it planned to tap into a county sewer line that is already “woefully inadequate.”

The board’s decision not only serves as a major setback to Leonard Weinberg, whose Vanguard group has been trying to break ground for the retail and apartment complex, but it also poses a delicate balancing act for County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

Swept into office last year under the promise of installing an environmentally sensitive and transparent administration, Olszewski is under pressure to crack down on development where sewer lines are deficient.

A coalition of 19 community and environmental groups last month called on him to impose a moratorium on new building permits unless and until the county’s Basic Services Maps (BSMs) are corrected.

At the same time, Olszewski is under pressure to keep development flowing, especially in Towson where the $350 million Towson Row hotel-apartment-retail complex is underway.

Sewage in the Park

The focus of Beverungen’s concern – now reaffirmed by the Board of Appeals – is a 65-year-old pipe that receives sewage from the northern county, then carries it under Lake Roland to a pipeline owned by Baltimore City along the Jones Falls.

Three sewer mains, with a combined total of 96 inches of pipe diameter, are fed into the 42-inch interceptor pipe that goes under Lake Roland.

During extreme storm events, most sections of the interceptor pipe are above 100% capacity and at some points can reach up to 589% overcapacity, according to a report by county consultant RK&K.

“The county is in a tough bind because their own review boards are saying they got to spend money to fix something that’s become a public health issue.”  – Attorney Michael McCann.

Weeks before Beverungen issued his ruling, the county admitted that a major “blow” of untreated sewage had erupted from a manhole below Lake Roland Dam.

The discharge was discovered by a member of the Green Towson Alliance and was reported by The Brew, replete with photos of fecal-contaminated debris hanging from trees and bushes many feet from the damaged manhole.

The county is under a 2005 consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency to end all SSOs (sanitary sewer overflows) by adding “relief points” to its underground sewer network.

Services Maps Defended

The Olszewski administration defended the accuracy of the Basic Services Maps and discounted the need for a “relief sewer” under Lake Roland in a December 2 letter to Michael McCann, an attorney for the citizens coalition.

“The County uses the 10-year, 6-hour storm alternative to evaluate impact on the sewer system,” wrote deputy administrative officer Andrew Vetter. “The 10-year, 6-hour model did not demonstrate deficient capacity in the interceptor under Lake Roland, and, therefore, DPW has not initiated a project for a relief or replacement interceptor at that location.”

Saying “DPW believes that there are no errors in the BSM,” Vetter nevertheless disclosed that “an independent third party” will be hired by the county to complete “a comprehensive study” of the upper Jones Falls sewershed.

“The analysis will include structural condition of sewer pipes, operations and maintenance, future growth, and sanitary sewer system capacity. This report will be shared when it is available,” Vetter promised.

“Felt Bad” for the Developer

The Board of Appeals’ decision to uphold Beverungen’s ruling was announced by board members Andrew Belt, Jason Garber and Kendra Randall Jolivet during a hearing on December 19.

“The board didn’t buy into the developer’s arguments that the administrative law judge committed an error of law or that his decision was arbitrary and capricious,” McCann said.

“But they said they felt bad for the developer because he is the first to be affected by this problem,” he added. “And the county is in a tough bind because their own review boards are saying they got to spend money to fix something that’s become a public health issue.”

After the board’s decision is rendered in writing, Vanguard has 30 days to appeal to the Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Vanguard is represented by Smith, Gildea & Schmidt, whose principals, Michael Paul Smith and David K. Gildea, co-hosted a fundraiser for Olszewski before the 2018 general election.

Smith is the son of James T. “Jim” Smith Jr., a former circuit court judge who was the county’s chief executive between 2002 and 2010.

Is Green Consumerism Part of the Problem?

By Jacinta Bowler

With climate change an ever-looming anxiety, whole industries have sprung up dedicated to help alleviate the stress. Tote bags. Metal straws. Existing companies are trying their best too: clothing retailer Zara has announced that 100 percent of the fabrics it uses will be sustainable by 2025 while Apple has said it has plans to eventually stop mining.

All of this looks great on the surface, but it doesn’t help the underlying issue: We are still buying way too much stuff.

Woman buying eco-friendly products in a supermarket. Martin Leigh / Oxford Scientific / Getty Images

Australia — as a rich, developed nation — buys a huge amount of product. In 2016, Australian households spent AUD$666 billion on general living costs, including AUD$20.4 billion on clothes and fashion alone.

The UN Alliance has estimated that the average consumer is buying 60 percent more clothes than 15 years ago, but those clothes are only kept for half the time. This is mirrored in a number of other industries including electronics — we are buying more, and using it less. And at the end of these products’ life, most of this isn’t recycled or reused — instead it ends up in landfill, and we dig up more resources to create more products.

So, how do we lower our resource footprint? And will doing so crash the whole economy?

Dr Ed Morgan, a policy and environmental researcher at Griffith University, explained to me over email that it’s possible, if hard, to imagine a sustainable society, because it means a shift of lifestyle and economic systems, which we are currently so stuck in we can’t imagine any alternatives. ‘But no one in a monarchy could imagine being in a democracy!’

The first step is buying less stuff, and what we do buy needs to be used many times. Think a well-used mug instead of a disposable coffee cup.

The second step is significantly harder. Experts call for the creation of a circular economy. This is a system where everything we make and use can be reused, repaired, remade, and recycled. No products are ‘new’ so much as remade from other products. This would heavily reduce waste, and use significantly less resources to produce these ‘new’ products.

To do this, our phones, clothes, and even our buildings would be designed to be easily repairable and recyclable at the end of their life.

Despite all the talk of sustainable fashion, electronics, and products, we are still far away from making this a reality. Our products are made to have a short lifespan. Every year there’s a new model of phone, and even one that is a few years old is seemingly obsolete. The rare earth metals inside them are ending up in the trash instead of being reused or remade.

Despite companies like Apple saying otherwise, once the latest product is broken (or we’ve moved onto the next thing), it’s still likely destined for the rubbish heap.

And on top of that, according to geologist Oliver Taherzadeh and environmental researcher Benedict Probst, the idea of ‘green growth’ is a red herring. They argue that green consumption is still consumption, and while we can make a small difference as individuals, the big difference will be through government regulation.

Businesses — even those pushing more ‘sustainable’ products — have no incentive to sell less, and therefore are always inherently part of the problem.

So unfortunately, as good as a metal straw or reusable cup might look, it’s part of the problem unless it’s encouraging us to buy less, and reuse, repair, and recycle the products we currently have.

Jacinta Bowler is a science journalist and fact checker living in Melbourne.

This story originally appeared in Eureka Street. It was republished by EcoWatch  in its partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 350 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

You can find incredible things at a Thrift Store!

If you shop often at your area thrift stores, you will be amazed at the weird & wonderful things you find.  Sometimes you may ask yourself “What is it? What’s it do?  What’s it for?”

Often things end up in the thrift stores not because there is something wrong with them – but  because they are no longer wanted or needed, and they are too big to continue to store at home.

Allow yourself an occasional impulse buy, but at the same time, shop wisely  – Can I really use this? Do I have the space for it?

Here are some examples of the fabulous finds our intrepid shopper has found in thrift stores.

This toy piano and toy crane were in great condition and made a child very happy.
Towson U pompom gloves, Bird duplex, 1950’s juke box, Dachshund planter/ring caddy.
(Above) Penguin ice bucket , electric drum set. (Below) Whirl Ball arcade game, giant teddy bear.

This is a puppy foot massager – perfect for that tween who has everything.

 

 

 

 

Sky-high platforms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Shopping …and don’t forget- When you’re done,  RE-DONATE!