GREEN BEANS

Coffee Beans

French roast, mocha, cappuccino, macchiato … whatever the persuasion of Joe, Americans love their coffee a lot. Or, should it be a latte? As a nation, we consume 400 million cups of the beloved brew every day. The rise of café culture has significantly increased the demand for coffee, which has become the world’s second most tradable commodity, other than crude oil. However, our cravings for java can have environmental and economic implications.

Coffee farming and roasting can have major impacts on the environments and economies of the areas where beans are grown. Traditionally, coffee is cultivated under a canopy of shade. The shady environment improves the yield of the harvest and the flavor of the beans, and it creates habitat for indigenous wildlife, protects precious topsoil from erosion, improves air quality and provides natural pest and disease control for the plants. The demands for coffee, though, have led to the development of sun cultivation on coffee plantations. Sun cultivation usually requires the use of pesticides and fertilizers, and it contributes to deforestation. In Central America, for instance, 2.5 million acres of forest have been cleared for coffee farming. The degradation of the ecosystem has devastated the biodiversity and ravaged the environment in this and other coffee-growing regions throughout the world. Furthermore, coffee is produced primarily in developing countries. One hundred million people worldwide grow coffee, but farmers receive an average of only ten percent of its ultimate retail price. Since the price of coffee is subject to the vast and often volatile fluctuations of the commodities market, some farmers earn less than a living wage.

To support sustainable coffee farming and trade methods, choose Fair Trade Certified, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Friendly Certified, Certified Organic and shade grown blends. These coffees contain fewer chemical pesticides and fertilizers, promote habitat preservation, encourage sustainable farming and fair labor practices, and support and invest in local economies. In addition, environmentally sound farming practices allow coffee beans to ripen at slower rates to create bolder, richer tastes.

Café culture also contributes to the waste stream. In recent years, single use pods have gained popularity among coffee consumers, but they have also created exorbitant amounts of trash. Between 2008 and 2013, sales of these pods increased by 78.6 percent in the United States. In 2013, consumers purchased $3 billion worth of coffee pods – enough pods to wrap around the Earth nearly 11 times and produce 966 million pounds of waste. Many of the plastics used in coffee pods cannot be recycled and may contain chemicals that can disperse when heated. Coffee with cream, sugar and bisphenol A is not appealing by most standards. Pods are also more expensive than traditional bags of coffee. A comprehensive analysis by the New York Times found that one pound of coffee packed in pods costs $50 whereas one pound of coffee packed in bags costs only $20. If you have a single cup coffee brewer that requires a pod, reduce waste by using a reusable pod such as Ekobrew or Eco-Fill instead of disposable pods and providing your own environmentally sound coffee. You can also substitute disposable filters for reusable filters in traditional coffee brewers.

To further reduce the waste associated with your coffee, use a reusable container instead of a disposable cup whenever possible. Some coffee shops will even offer a discount if you provide your own container. If you’ll be enjoying your coffee at the café, ask your barista if washable mugs are available for use while you are there. If you have to use a disposable cup, choose a compostable, biodegradable or recyclable option if one is available. Avoid Styrofoam, which is a waste and public health concern. Avoid the use of individually wrapped sugars and creamers, and enhance your coffee instead with additions from bulk packages.

Elements of your coffee break are recyclable, too. If you have enjoyed your coffee from a disposable cup, recycle the plastic lid with mixed plastics and the coffee collar with mixed paper. Coffee grounds can be reused as well. Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, so they can be added to your garden soil to create a natural fertilizer. A bowl of coffee grounds can be placed in your refrigerator to absorb odors, and they can be used in your beauty routine as a gentle exfoliant.

Coffee brewing consumes energy and water as well. Coffee brewers are not evaluated by the federal government for Energy Star certifications, so an energy efficient model may be indistinguishable. However, you can conserve energy by powering down your brewer when it is not in use. If you need hot coffee on hand, do not rely on the brewer’s warming plate, which consumes nearly 1,000 watts of electricity during one use. Instead, use a thermal carafe. Consider a French press, which requires less water and energy. If you prefer a single cup machine, choose a model with a flow-through water heater that warms water only when needed and powers down when coffee is not brewing for considerable energy savings.

Even though many producers and retailers are striving to provide ethically sourced and environmentally responsible coffees, reduce waste and even construct more resource-efficient facilities, consumers can also expand the market for green beans by demanding and implementing sustainable practices with every cup.

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Green Beans

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

Fair Trade Certified

Rainforest Alliance

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Friendly Certification

USDA Organic Agriculture

Sources for Shade Grown Coffee from Earth Easy

International Coffee Organization: Developing a Sustainable Coffee Economy

Coffee and Sustainability: A Complex Cup

How to Go Green Guide: Coffee and Tea from TreeHugger

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THE POWER OF GREENER ELECTRONICS

Recycle Keyboard

How many times do you use electronic devices on an average day? Nielsen Surveys estimates that the average American adult spends 11 hours each day with some sort of digital media. Worldwide, there are over five billion cellular phone subscriptions, 1.4 billion television sets and 1 billion computers. These statistics prove that people across the globe have not only embraced electronics but are dependent on them.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the processes used to manufacture electronic devices are energy intensive, water intensive and chemical intensive. The creation of a 0.07 ounce microchip uses 66 pounds of raw materials including water and substances such as flame retardants and chlorinated solvents. Nearly 530 pounds of fossil fuels, 48 pounds of chemicals and 1.5 tons of water are used in the production of one computer monitor. And, electronic equipment is part of an increasing and complicated waste stream that poses challenging environmental management problems.

The electronics industry has made some strides toward the creation of more sustainable devices. The amount of power required for high-definition gaming devices, for instance, has decreased by 50 percent since 2006. Computer energy efficiency has doubled every 1.57 years and is expected to continue at that pace for the foreseeable future. Some companies have phased out environmental contaminants such as PVC, phthalates, lead, mercury and arsenic in their products, and they have significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and are using renewable energy sources in their production processes.

There are still barriers in the sustainable electronics market, though. Certain manufacturers have abandoned the green features of their products in favor of design and cost considerations. Although it has been enacted in the European Union with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, government legislation on the use of harmful materials in the manufacture of electronic equipment has yet to gain momentum in the United States. The Environmental Design of Electrical Equipment Act was introduced into Congress in 2009 and was intended to regulate the use of certain substances in electrical products. However, the resolution never passed.

What can you do as a consumer to green your electronics?

The most sustainable electronic device is the one that you do not purchase. Electronics retailers are consistently developing and marketing the latest and greatest models of popular devices, so consumers are constantly seduced by upgrades that render products fashionably obsolete before they are practicably obsolete. In fact, the 140 million cellular phone users in the United States own at least two devices and discard their phones for a new model every 14 to 18 months. However, a cellular phone can last for an average of four years with proper care and maintenance. Additionally, there are many versions of similar products on the market. Reduce the costs and wastes associated with electronics by employing all of a single device’s features such as its camera, alarm clock and music player and by refraining from the purchase of multiple products that complete that same tasks. And, use a single device as long as possible.

When you purchase an electronic product, consider a used or refurbished item to extend the life of the device and save money. If you must purchase a new electronic item, consider a greener device. Greener electronics are more energy efficient, can run on renewable energy, are designed to be durable and reliable, and are manufactured with more sustainable, safer materials. Avoid the purchase of electronics that contain harmful substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ether. These chemicals, often used as solders and flame retardants, present numerous health concerns. Purchase electronics with the Energy Star or EPEAT certification to save energy.

In devices that require batteries, trade disposable alkaline batteries for rechargeable batteries, and learn to charge your batteries properly. Lithium ion batteries should be stored with full or partial charges, and the batteries should be used periodically. Nickel metal hydride batteries perform best when they are used on a full drain-full recharge cycle. For more information on proper battery care, visit Green Batteries.

Choose renewable energy chargers that use solar, wind and even kinetic energy to power your electronics.

Save energy by powering down and unplugging electronic devices when they are not in use. Forty percent of the energy used to power electronics in your home and office is consumed when your devices are turned off.

When an electronic device is obsolete, consider a buy-back or trade-in program. Major retailers such as Best Buy and Target as well as Internet sources such as Gazelle, Amazon and NextWorth offer buy-back and trade-in programs. Or, sell your device yourself or donate it to a charity.

When an electronic device has truly reached the end of its useful life, recycle it. According to Nokia, only three percent of cellular phone users recycle their obsolete phones. Electronic waste recycling is important, though, because electronics contain valuable recyclable materials such as plastic, glass and metal. Electronics also contain chemicals that can leach into the environment if they are not discarded properly. Furthermore, computers and televisions are banned from landfills in North Carolina. The Fort Bragg Recycling Center accepts personal electronics at the facility in Building 3-1240 on the corner of Butner Road and Reilly Road. For other electronics recycling facilities in North Carolina, visit ECycling Central.

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Greener Electronics

E-Waste

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

Greenpeace International Guide to Greener Electronics

Green Electronics Council

EPEAT

Greener Gadgets

Energy Star

10 Ways to Trade Your Electronics for Cash : Buy-Back Programs

FASHIONABLE TRASH

Textile Waste

Even when Mother Nature still calls for swim suits and shorts, advertisements for Back to School sales have already inundated consumers, and the first fashions of fall have already appeared on store shelves. And, even in the dead of winter, florals and cheerful colors bloom from fabrics long before they bloom from the soil. Retailers are swift to unveil their latest offerings well in advance of impending shopping seasons, and while the anticipation of new clothes can be exciting, the environmental impacts of the apparel industry can be concerning.

The worldwide demand for mass-produced clothing, especially trendy and affordable fast fashion, has increased exponentially in recent years. This demand, though, has also generated tons of waste. Annually, less than 20 percent of clothing is recycled, and almost four billion pounds of textile wastes are discarded to account for nearly six percent of the entire municipal solid wastes stream. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste, every American disposes of 68 pounds of clothing and textiles each year.

Demands for clothing have caused increases in production and have thus raised the needs for cheaper, synthetic fibers such as polyester, vinyl and nylon. These fabrics, however, are hardly environmentally sound. Many synthetic fibers are manufactured from petroleum. Furthermore, the production of synthetic fibers is an energy intensive process that releases emissions containing volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, acidic gases and chemicals into the air, land and water. Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the EPA considers synthetic textile manufacturing facilities to be hazardous waste generators. Many man-made textiles are not biodegradable and thus contribute significantly to the waste stream.

Natural fibers, though, also have their share of environmental issues. Cotton is one of the most pesticide laden and water intensive crops. Farmers in the United States spend over $4 billion on pesticides every year, and 25 percent of those pesticides are used on cottom. The cotton required to produce one shirt requires 257 gallons of water during the growing process. Rayon, a fiber made from wood pulp, is manufactured with chemicals such as sulfuric acid. If the pulp is not sustainably harvested, rayon production can also contribute to the depletion of forests. Insecticides are commonly used on sheep that are raised for wool. And, materials such as leather, wool, fur and silk have raised animal rights issues.

Both synthetic and natural fibers are often treated with chemicals once they are turned into garments. Polyvinyl chloride and harsh solvents are used to render garments waterproof or water resistant, and crease resistant and flame retardant cottons can contain formaldehyde, a proven human carcinogen.

In addition, the rising costs of labor in the United States have prompted many apparel brands to locate production operations in developing countries. Long hours and low wages create dismal working conditions for laborers, and the transportation costs required to import clothing from foreign markets are enormous.

Furthermore, the care of clothing can cause a strain on resources. An estimated 60 percent of the energy used in the life cycle of a cotton shirt is related to post-purchase washing and drying.

How can you ensure that GREEN is not merely a color in your wardrobe?

Purchase clothing from environmentally and socially conscious companies. Research the environmental policies and production methods of your favorite apparel brands or visit Green America. The Responsible Shopper program provides company environmental profiles and compares the environmental impacts of clothing retailers. National Green Pages has a directory of sustainable products and services.

Consider the ecological impacts of your clothing. Ecologically conscious fashion is often produced from organic, sustainably harvested and minimally processed virgin materials or from textiles made from recycled materials. For instance, active apparel retailer Patagonia sells fleece clothing created with post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. The company estimates that the process has saved over 86 million bottles from the waste stream. The production of sustainable fashion is also less energy intensive, water intensive and chemical intensive. Levi Strauss and Company recently introduced the Water<Less production process for denim, which reduces the amount of water used in garment finishing by up to 96 percent for certain goods. The clothier has saved an estimated 770 million liters of water since the process’s launch.

Be wary of greenwashing. Bamboo, for example, is commonly touted as a sustainable fabric, but some manufacturers use harsh chemicals to turn the raw material into a usable fiber. Research green claims thoroughly prior to purchase.

Shop for locally-produced clothing, and shop from locally-owned stores to support the economy and reduce transport costs.

Create your own clothing.

Buy less, and buy high-quality garments that are designed to last. Avoid fast fashion.

Gently care for your clothing. Wash clothing in cool water, when possible. Allow clothing to air dry to save energy. Also, avoid dry cleaning chemicals such as perchloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene.

Wear clothing as long as possible. Mend or repair damaged clothing, if possible.

Sell gently used items to a consignment shop or donate them to a charity. Or, organize a clothing swap with friends and family.

When clothing has reached the end of its useful life, repurpose worn clothing or try “upcycling” the fabric.

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Fashionable Trash flier

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

Sustainable Fashion News from Tree Hugger

Ecouterre

Fibre 2 Fashion

Green Choices

National Institutes of Health: Waste Couture

Natural Resources Defense Council: Clean by Design

Make Do and Mend

Upcycle That! Fabric

Upcycled Fabric Projects on Pinterest

More Upcycled Fabric Projects on Pinterest

REDUCING YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL PAW PRINT

Husky Pup

If your pet is a part of your family, shouldn’t he be as green as you are? With a few simple changes, you can reduce your environmental paw print and create a healthy, happy and sustainable companion.

CHOOSE A HEALTHY PET FOOD

To choose a healthy food for your pet, research the production methods and values of your pet food provider. Avoid brands that contain by-products, hormones, genetically modified ingredients, chemicals, preservatives, sweeteners, artificial flavors and artificial colors. Real meats and vegetables should be the main ingredients. All pet foods should be certified by the American Association of Feed Control Officials, an organization which ensures compliance with national requirements for pet food standards. Visit The Dog Food Project to learn more.

Or create your own pet food. A healthy balance generally contains 40 percent protein such as beef or chicken, 30 percent vegetables and 30 percent carbohydrates such as oatmeal or brown rice. For recipes, explore books such as Feed Your Best Friend Better: Easy, Nutritious Meals and Treats for Your Dog by Rick Woodford. Consult with your veterinarian to find the ideal balance for your pet.

CONSIDER ENVIRONMENTALLY PREFERRED ACCESSORIES

Choose pet toys and accessories such as leashes, collars, beds and dishes that are created with recycled content and biobased/natural materials such as organic cotton, hemp or corn plastic. Avoid petroleum based plastics and those that may contain bisphenol A or BPA. BPA is a chemical compound that may contribute to health concerns such as neurological disorders, cancer and obesity. Plastics marked with the numerals 3 and 7 can potentially contain BPA. Look for BPA Free on labels.

When you purchase dishes for your pet, stainless steel bowls are the most sustainable choices. Ceramic bowls are a sustainable option as long as they are marked Lead Free.

You can create your own pet toys with common reclaimed materials. Dogs will enjoy a recycled sock filled with an empty plastic bottle. Tie strands of scrap yarn to a hanger to create a fun toy for cats.

COMMIT TO PROPER PET HYGIENE

Dispose pet wastes properly. If pet wastes are not handled in a sanitary manner, they can infiltrate the water supply and create pollution.

Choose biodegradable business bags. Also, choose naturally derived cat litters. Clay cat litters can contain minerals that are extracted by strip mining, an activity that is detrimental to the environment. In addition, clay cat litters are not biodegradable. In fact, of the estimated ten million tons of pet wastes that travel to waste repositories every year, two million tons are non-biodegradable cat litters. Furthermore, clay cat litters often contain silica dust, which can be detrimental to the respiratory health of pets and pet parents. Environmentally preferred cat litters are produced with materials such as recycled newspapers, pine, wheat and corn.

Clean pet accidents naturally with environmentally sound materials. Use baking soda to remove excess moisture, and clean the affected area with diluted vinegar to effectively eliminate bacteria and odor. If a stain or odor remains, apply lemon juice to the affected area for 20 minutes and then rinse with water.

When bathing your pet, consider natural grooming materials and flea care products that do not contain parabens, sulfates, artificial dyes, artificial fragrances, phosphates and harsh chemical pesticides. Create an organic flea repellant by placing one drop of citronella essential oil, one drop of cedar wood essential oil, one drop of lavender essential oil and one drop of white thyme essential oil onto your dog’s collar. These oils will deter fleas for one week. Create a natural flea shampoo for dogs by combining one cup of liquid castile (vegetable based) soap and one cup of distilled water with one teaspoon of jojoba oil and five drops of peppermint essential oil in a bottle. Wash your dog as normal. Do not use essential oils on cats. According to veterinarian Dr. Richard Pitcairn, an herbal flea powder with rosemary is an effective and gentle flea remedy for cats. Flea combs are essential yet sustainable tools in your arsenal against pests.

PRACTICE THE THREE Rs

Consider the responsibilities of pet ownership prior to commitment. By purchasing or adopting an animal, you are commiting to care for that pet for the remainder of its life. Individuals who are not fully committed to pet parenthood often abandon their pets or donate them to a shelter, thus increasing the population of animals that can tax our resources.

Choose your pet carefully to ensure a successful experience. Consider a recycled animal and adopt from a shelter. Fort Bragg has a pet adoption facility on Reilly Road across from the Directorate of Public Works and just prior to the entrance to Pope Field. Call 396.6018 for information. There are many adoption facilities and shelters in Fayetteville and the surrounding region as well.

Reduce the pet population by spaying or neutering your pet upon your veterinarian’s recommendations. By humanely controlling the pet population, you can benefit your pet’s health and reduce strains on the environment.

Recycle clean pet food cans with your other steel cans.

Recycle used pet items by donating to animal shelters or veterinary clinics.

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Green Pet Flier

SOURCES OF GREEN PET PRODUCTS …

Muttropolis

Earth Animal

Pets Head to Tail

Harry Barker

Earth Doggy

Wagging Green

Hip Green Pet

The Good Dog Company

Aroma Paws

EcoPets

Pup Life

West Paw Design

Pups Place

Olive Green Dog

Planet Dog

EcoHound

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

Sustainable Paw Prints

How to Go Green:Pets

Green Your Pets

Collared Greens

Green Tips for Your Dog

GREENWASHING: WHAT CONSUMERS SHOULD KNOW

Green Paint

In the world of retail, consumers are constantly bombarded by slick marketing claims that purport a product’s virtues. And, in a society where green is in fashion, labels such as organic and natural are constantly appearing on shelves. While many seem to be legitimate, a lot of these assertions are actually far from true and contribute to an unfortunate trend known as greenwashing.

A nationwide survey of consumers by environmental policy firm ABT Associates discovered that over half of consumers consider environmental issues when purchasing goods. But, their choices are frequently based on misinterpretations of the terms used to promote alleged green products.

According to The Washington Post, there are 80 different environmental words used commonly in the United States. EcoLogo, a third-party environmental certification group, analyzed more than 2,000 North American products that claim to be environmentally sound and found that 98 percent lack proof to justify their claims. There are few standard definitions of green terms, so consumers often interpret labels at face value and fail to instigate further research.

The Federal Trade Commission, however, has developed truth-in-advertising guidelines for marketers to use to properly label green products.

Products labeled as biodegradable should completely disintegrate and return to nature within one year of disposal. Any product that is destined for a landfill, incinerator or recycling facility should not be classified as biodegradable. Greener products are labeled as compostable. However, biodegradable liquids such as detergents typically degrade in the wastewater system and are considered to be environmentally sound choices.

Recyclable products should be marketed based on the availability of recycling facilities. A product can carry an unqualified recyclable claim only if a substantial majority of consumers have access to facilities that accept the product for recycling. If only a significant percentage of consumers have access to proper recycling facilities for a certain product, then the product label must bear a disclaimer stating that the product may not be recyclable in all areas.

Recycled or recycled content products should be created from content that was diverted from the waste stream either during the manufacturing process or following consumer use. If a product or its packaging is not manufactured COMPLETELY from recycled materials, the label should indicate the amount of recycled content in the product or package, such as 25 percent
post-consumer materials.

Similarly, products or packages that claim to be manufactured with renewable materials or renewable energy must list the specific materials or energy sources used to create the product or package and the amount of renewable content or renewable energy used in the manufacturing process.

Unregulated terms such as green, natural, naturally derived, sustainable, less toxic and non-toxic are too vague to be substantiated and may be somewhat fallacious. For instance, a product may indeed contain a few natural ingredients, but it may also contain harmful ingredients that render any environmentally conscious claims essentially false.

Truly environmentally sound products will feature certification labels. Reliable certification labels are issued by either a government entity such as the United States Department of Agriculture or the Environmental Protection Agency or a third-party certification firm such as EcoLogo. Certification agencies rigorously test products and thoroughly research claims to ensure that goods that claim to be green are, in fact, environmentally sound and safe for consumer use. Some common, trustworthy certification seals include EcoLogo, Green Seal, GreenGuard, Energy Star, EPEAT, Certified Humane, Cradle to Cradle, EPA Design for the Environment and EPA WaterSense. Products can be accurately deemed organic only if they bear the USDA Organic seal. The Fair Trade Certified label indicates products that derive from farmers and laborers – often in developing countries – who are justly compensated for their goods and services. The Forest Stewardship Council label guarantees that products are sourced from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits. The Council for Consumer Information on Cosmetics’ Leaping Bunny label provides assurance that no animal testing occurs in any phase of a product’s development.

Also, consider these points when purchasing products that claim to be environmentally sound.

  • Do the product’s materials harm the environment or endanger natural resources?
  • Does the product’s manufacturing process harm the environment or endanger natural resources? Is its manufacturing process energy-intensive? Water-intensive? Chemical-intensive?
  • How does the product contribute to the waste stream during its lifecycle?
  • What are the company’s environmental and social policies? For instance, does the company recycle? Are its manufacturing processes sustainable? Does the company provide fair wages for its laborers?

To research product claims and company practices, visit The Good Guide. Using scientific methods, The Good Guide rates manufacturers based on their contributions to public health, the safety of their products, their environmental and social policies and more.

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

Consumer Reports’ EcoLabel Index

Green Certification and EcoLabeling : Small Business Administration

Labeling Programs and Rating Tools from the EPA

21 Green Certification Symbols You Should Know

Energy Star

EPA Design for the Environment

EPA WaterSense

USDA Organic Program

GreenGuard

Green Seal Certified

Greenwashing Index from the University of Oregon

Forest Stewardship Council

Fair Trade Certified

Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics’ Leaping Bunny Program

EcoLogo (UL)