We like our fair share of minimalistic toys. After all, not all of us here at GreenCupboards.com grew up with the most egocentric action figures on the market. However, for those of us who grew up with more aesthetically organic playthings, Citiblocs shares a part of our simplistic yet intricate toy regalia from yesteryears. Rectangular building blocks may seem like a faux pas relic from the past, but not so! After playing with a tub of the rectangles ourselves and a call to the folks at Citiblocs, we’ve come away with these facts and figs:
3. The commute to work for this Tampa, FL based operation is a Zero Mile endeavor since the Citiblocs team work from the home. Yep! That means composting, veggie garden and recycling all in one backyard stop! How’s that for environmental footprint reduction?
Interested in Citiblocs? You can help this team of block-stacking elites by suggesting charitable organizations that you think would benefit from Citiblocs donation! Get stacking for the planet! Citiblocs has, and that’s why they’ve earned this week’s GreenerRevie Green Thumbs Up.
I’ve been pondering the problem of plastics for the past few days and in my research I’ve discovered what some consider being the most menacing member of the plastic family.
Did you know that 20% of the waste in landfills is comprised of Styrofoam? I remember using this material at parties in grade school, at church brunches, and family gatherings. Styrofoam can support a whole meal, making cups, bowls, and plates. Not to mention my last computer came padded in Styrofoam packaging, and come to think of it, so did my TV.
Now consider this: Next time you sip out of a Styrofoam cup or take your new appliance out of the box, take a look at the white material in your hands. This packaging is going to last longer than you. When humans die, our bodies decompose and become part of the earth within the first 100 years. Any Styrofoam that you’ve encountered in your life will still be around long after you’ve been dead and buried.
It’s a disturbing thought. People talk about leaving behind a legacy. Is this the legacy of our generation?
Looking for something to reaffirm my faith in humanity I consulted TED Talks. Here I found Eben Bayer, a man who asks “Are Mushrooms the new plastic?”
Bayer says they could be. Using a part of the root system of mushrooms called Mycelium, Bayer and his collegues have been able to grow an insulating, fire resistant, vapor resistant alternative to plastic which can also absorb impact like Styrofoam. This organic material is compostable, which allows it to fit into the natural recycling system of the natural world. Bayer is proving that the great minds of our time are putting themselves to good use.
The community of social networkers is once again spreading it’s wings with a new social networking site called Pintrest. Instead of sharing your status, posting personal pictures, or catching up with friends, Pinterest is a place where you can categorize pictures, hobbies, quotes, or articles from your favorite websites.
So what does this new social site have to do with sustainability? As a place dedicated to sharing people’s interests, I’ve discovered a gold nugget of sustainable themed information, crafts, and images.
For instance, I signed into my account this afternoon only to discover that a friend had “pinned” an entry from a blog that described how to hang fallen yard branches from the ceiling for interior decorating purposes in her nursery.
Last week I came home to find my roommate struggling with an old picture frame in the living room. Inspired by John Hardy’s innovative green school and their use of old car windshields as whiteboards, she told me she had seen a similar idea on Pinterest which involved putting recycled paper in an old picture frame to make a white board. It’s now hanging in our living room.
Currently 29,443 boards exist on Pinterest showing the people who have created a space for keeping track of clever, sustainable, green living ideas. These include sustainable household items, designs, fashion, poetry, pictures of bikes and alternate transportation, tips on gardening, and alternative crafts that are aimed at reusing and recycling.
With the wide wealth of information that is spread over the World Wide Web, Pinterest is a snazzy way for the sustainable community to spread ideas across the globe.
Although the world is still buzzing with green gossip, today I thought I’d address a more relevant issue. There’s been word traveling through the world about the dangers of Phthalates and BPA. Companies including GreenCupboards.com are working tirelessly to offer products that are safe from these chemicals and others, but why? I’d like a clear explanation.
What’s the big deal? What are they? What do they do? Why should we care? When someone picks up a water bottle and says, “It’s BPA free!” why do we get excited?
I want the facts.
And the facts are available. Although, at times, they’re hidden in some exceptionally dry research. To spare you the time and effort of muddling through the analysis of the National Toxicity Program to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, I’ll give you a little synopsis.
Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastics more flexible. For over 25 years people have known that some Phthalates are dangerous to humans. The basic risk with Phthalates is cancer, specifically in the reproductive organs of males who’ve been exposed to phthalates at a young age or as a fetus. There are two categories of Phthalates. “Active” Phthalates are the ones that are being referred to when people speak of dangerous Phthalates. In studies with animals, specifically rats, these active Phthalates were the chemicals which induced cancerous tumors in the reproductive system.
BPA stands for Bisphenol A. Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical found in most hard plastics. In 2004 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study that showed noticeable levels of BPA in 93% of the 2500 people tested over the age of 6. BPA is said to mimic estrogen in large doses and recent studies have linked high exposure to BPA to behavioral problems in adolescent girls.
Overall, the full effects of these chemicals are unknown. The evidence shows that they have adverse effects on lab animals, and that high levels are apparent in the majority of the population. No, we don’t know if they’ll cause physical damage, but our high exposure makes us very susceptible to any damage they may cause.
So here’s the big question: why do we care?
Well, I’m a bit more grateful to the industries that have chosen to exclude these chemicals in their production. Dangerous chemicals have no place in the home, when the safety of one’s family is at stake. Although I’m sure there’s no avoiding BPA or Phthalates completely, I plan to be more selective of the plastics I’m buying.
Now that toy season is coming into bloom, the scramble to get just the right thing four your giftee must be causing you at least some anxiety, especially if you’re looking for a gift that cuts back its impact on the environment. If you’re shopping for that special infant or toddler someone, then you might want to take a close look at what Uncle Goose has to offer in ways of wooden toys.
After speaking with the toy makers at Uncle Goose, we’ve rustled up some GreenerReview facts and figs that could help you navigate through the eco-toy confusion.
1. Materials: Uncle Goose uses hardwoods such as Basswood (part of the Linden tree family). These fast growing trees, native to the Great Lakes area, make for the sturdiest block and wood cart material that Uncle Goose uses to make their toys.
2. Enviro-Sauce: What makes these guys “green”? From start to finish, 99% of the raw materials Uncle Goose uses become either toy matter or donation material. Sawdust is collected and shipped off for zoo bedding and mulch while rejected blocks are donated to special needs education programs.
3. Packaging: High post-consumer corrugated cardboard makes for both a sturdy hold and a recyclable bind.
4. People and The Future: While some employees either bike, walk or carpool to work, Uncle Goose’s vision for their manufacturing future includes LEED certified additions to their facilities.
From our end, Uncle Goose creations make for an eco-conscious shopper’s must have if longevity and a concern for Mother Earth are a part of your checklist for the holiday season.
Big news this week is Terry Thompson and his exotic animal farm. For those of you who haven’t heard, Terry Thompson, owner of an exotic animal farm in Zanesville Ohio, released all of his animals on October 18th before committing suicide. Within the next 24 hours 49 of his 56 animals were hunted and killed by 50 deputies from the Sheriff’s office in Zanesville.
Among these rare animals were 18 Bengal tigers, two wolves, eight lionesses, six black bears, and one baboon. As of yesterday there was only one monkey missing, but deputies have announced that he was eaten by one of the loose tigers.
Thompson had a history with the police department including complaints from neighbors, animal cruelty, fines for loose animals, and a term in prison after being found with illegal weapons. There is speculation that his actions stemmed from his wife recently leaving him.
Photos from Zanesville are hard to stomach. Rare animals slaughtered in a mass hunt. Even so, representatives from the Humane Society and even Jack Hanna have said that deputies were not wrong in their actions. Concerned with their own safety and the safety of residents, deputies were forced to act. Many deputies have voiced their sadness at being put in such a position.
Jack Hanna, who drove up to aid deputies and to transport the captured animals to the Columbus Zoo, has voiced his dismay at the Ohio laws that allow civilians to own exotic animals at their homes. The County Sheriff and Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, have also voiced outrage about this incident in reference to loose state policy where exotic animals are concerned.
What makes it green? The destruction of these exotic animals is a horrific incident. Sustainable treatment of this planets treasure’s and resources doesn’t include the mistreatment of animals. The fact that Terry Thompson’s actions could lead to the death of 49 exotic animals is disturbing. I’m interested to see what happens in the future. This event has given the Ohio state legislature something to consider and activists a new cause.
Falling into soil rejuvenation isn’t the easiest task on the list of pre-freeze slate of things to-do. If prepping your garden’s topsoil is as mysterious as we thought it to be (as a matter of fact, only two people in the office answered correctly when asked “what is top soil”). Turning our garden gaze to Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, the creepy crawlers this company breeds may be just the thing your garden’s been asking for after a season of growth. Take look at a few of the benefits worm farming can carry:
1. Nutrient Breakdown- Worms can act like active composters, breaking down nitrogen and phosphorus in bio-waste into fertilizer.
2. Aeration- Boring intricate tunnel frameworks into compost and topsoil, worms help perpetuate the flow of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide to and from root systems.
3. Compost Mobility- For those botanists who find themselves tight on space, worms reduce the need for compost bins. Thus, apartment residents can reap the compost benefits of backyard mulchers.
Last night I went to a showing of the documentary “Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai”. This Nobel Peace Prize winner recently passed away at the age of 71.
I think Maathai’s story is one that needs to be told, or at the very least, is one on which to reflect. Although I’m an advocate for the environment, I’ve never been so truly moved by its impact until I saw this film. Maathai was able to do something that most environmental advocates fail to do. She relates the issue of environmental rights with human rights.
Here are some facts about this incredible woman that you may not know. She was the first woman in East Africa to earn a Ph.D. She had a transformational experience in her early 20’s when she spent five years in the United States, where she said she learned what it meant to be a good citizen. She founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, focusing on planting trees in Kenya.
Maathai began her movement simply trying to help women in Kenya who wanted to plant trees. Due to intense opposition from the Kenyan government Maathai soon transformed into a political activist. She saw that the environmental symptoms of her country were tied directly to the condition of the people and the poor condition of her people was tied directly to the government. She began small with education, leading Civic and Environmental Education seminars. In her lifetime she stood in protest and negotiated the rights of plants and people. Throughout her life she was scorned by government officials, imprisoned, beaten by police forces, and yet she persevered. In 2002 she was elected to the Kenyan Parliament and in 2004 she won the Nobel Peace Prize. She is seen as an advocate for the human rights, women’s rights, environmental rights, and education.
In the documentary she is called “a credit to those few people who kept the light burning in the dark” during a time when her country’s people and forests were suffering. Wangari Maathai’s work for the Green Movement has led to the planting of thousands of trees in Africa. Her work will survive long past her lifetime. She speaks for the environment when she says that it is our duty to “give back to the children, a world of beauty and wonder.”
In the wake of Steve Jobs death, messages of inspiration have been spiraling through the web. An influential member of society and major contributor to the past and future of technology, Jobs lived an inspired life. Personally, inspired by this great man, I wanted to find what other great members of humanity are doing in the name of sustainable innovation and inspiration.
The man who stood out among others is John Hardy, the founder of the Green School inBali, Indonesia. Originally known for success in business, this owner and designer of a Balinese jewelry line decided that he would use his business success to start a school. Inspired from the movie “An Inconvenient Truth”, Hardy contemplated the idea that his world is deteriorating and that his children and grandchildren may not be exposed to the wonders of nature as he experienced them. Disturbed by this fact, he moved into action.
In efforts to truly make a change for the next generation, Hardy and his wife, Cynthia, began a project to start a school that was solely focused on creating a “whole” person. As Hardy says, “we practice whole-ism, and for me it’s just the idea that if this little girl graduates as a whole person the chances are she’ll demand a whole world in which to live”.
To do this the Green School teaches reading, writing, arithmetic, along with bamboo building, gardening and Balinese arts. This school has no walls, which allow for natural light classrooms. It teaches children through observation and interaction with nature, and Hardy believes one of the most important lessons is that the world is not indestructible. In its third year, the Green School has 160 students, and 20% are from local Bali.
With a concern for the loss of forests and global water issues, Green School is made from sustainable, local bamboo. The school is one of the largest bamboo buildings in the world and Hardy has incorporated the practice of using bamboo infrastructure into many of the locations for designers of his jewelry line. The facilities lie on 20 acres, next to a river, and surrounded by gardens where children learn to take care of and produce their own food.
John Hardy’s school is becoming a model for sustainable efforts internationally and his influence and passion for sustainability is being passed down to his students. Greencupboards.com tips our hat to this man who accepted the challenge to change the world, and started locally.