Green Manolo

Green Theshold Alert: Conserve Cards

March 4th, 2011
By Christa

Some people get a little knot in their stomachs when they hear the words ‘green giving’ – they don’t have room for another soy candle or another recycled yarn tissue box and they have reusable water bottles for every day of the week. It’s not that they don’t appreciate the thought behind green gifts, but rather that they’d prefer the gifts to be a little more thoughtful, if not a little less green. These are people who may or may not sign up for Amazon’s Aunt Mildred, but their green threshold is pretty low when it comes to overtly green gifts.

Personally, I like green gifts, and even when I don’t like specific green gifts, I like passing them on to other people who will actually want them. Where my green threshold lies, as it applies to green giving, is probably somewhere around Conserve Cards.

It’s not that I’m morally opposed to the idea of reusable greeting cards – in fact, I think it’s a pretty handy idea for those who know their recipients will actually reuse a card. And I’m happy to hear that Conserve Cards are made from recycled paper, eco-friendly inks, and water-based adhesives. I just don’t necessarily think that most people upon receiving a Conserve Card will take the time to keep it somewhere convenient and then remember that it’s there the next time they feel pressed to send a greeting card. Add to that the fear that it will be awkward when the card makes it back to the original sender, and I see Conserve Cards ending up (hopefully) in the recycling bin along with regular cards.

Or am I just being cynical? What do you think of the idea of reusable greeting cards?

5 Quick Reasons to Buy Organic Dairy

March 3rd, 2011
By Christa

It’s so wallet-clenchingly painful to see the dirt cheap conventional milk on the supermarket shelf right next to the higher-priced organic milk. But there are some compelling reasons to reach for the pricier stuff if your budget can take it. Here are five:

1. When you buy organic dairy products, you’re supporting a system of agriculture that is good for animals and good for the land.

2. We already have enough hormones in our bodies without putting more in via Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). And there’s never a good reason to take secondhand antibiotics.

3. Milk from organically raised cows is higher in Conjugated Linoleic Acids (CLAs) content – those are the good fats that have been linked to decreased heart disease and diabetes.

4. The cows producing the raw materials for organic dairy products often have access to pasture, fresh air, exercise, and other perks not enjoyed by factory-farmed cows. (I recommend looking into the farms producing your dairy to make sure it’s actually animal-friendly.)

5. Organic dairy looks better and tastes better according to some.

Do you spring for the good stuff?

As sustainable materials go, bamboo is sweet. It grows fast (it’s one of the fastest growing plants on earth), releases lots of oxygen as it does, doesn’t require a lot of fertilizers or pesticides, uses less water than most woods, and can be re-harvested in just three years.

The downsides of bamboo, besides the always-present dangers associated with monoculture growing, lie in how it’s processed. A bamboo fiber shirt, for example, takes a lot of not-so-nice chemicals to get from plant to fashion.

But what if you’re using bamboo like wood instead of processing the heck out of it? Then like I said, it’s definitely green. While bamboo might not be the best choice for straight up green fashion, it’s a great choice when it comes to fashion accessories. Like bamboo glasses, for example:

Bamboo glasses are hot and getting hotter, with more and more options on the market. Two manufacturers of bamboo glasses are Bamboo Optics and Unidot – both have prescription options that are pretty awesome. Bamboo glasses are definitely on my list to check out next time I need new frames.

What do you think – are ‘wood glasses’ for you?

Good News: Green Jobs Growing!

March 1st, 2011
By Christa

Green jobs are growing – at a rate twice that of all jobs overall – even though the larger job market is nothing if not worrying at the moment. And that’s pretty sweet, because it means green technology is boomin’ and us U.S.ians are this much closer to staying ahead in the global economy. Sounds like good news all around! What and where are these green jobs, you may ask? Not surprising, most are in the field of green energy, but there are also plenty of jobs in agriculture and transportation and manufacturing can be green, too.

How do you get in on the ground floor if you’re not in one of the aforementioned industries? Be in Michigan, for one, where green jobs are growing the fastest. Try the Green Jobs Network. And then, as necessary, find some educational opportunities!

According to Stephen J. Lynch, Senior Project Manager at Jobs for the Future, the nation’s community colleges are ”the speed-boats of workforce training” because of the ways they can adapt curricula and training design more quickly than traditional four-year institutions.

“Today’s job-seekers, particularly laid off adults, seek training that is accessible, low-cost, and that offers the chance to obtain employment as quickly as possible,” he told us. He goes on to note that Jobs for the Future helps community colleges produce workers with the skills, degrees and certifications that are in-demand by today’s employers by helping them to present course content within a real-world context and modularize training with stackable credentials.

But watch out! Green jobs are still at risk, especially since there are still scores of people who’d like to see green energy and green building initiatives fail. What’s funny about that – in a sad way, mind – is that the growing green job market in the U.S. tends to be homegrown, but green energy opponents like to shout about how green energy is a U.S. job killer.

Meanwhile, it is well established that labor-intensive investments in solar, wind and increased building efficiency create far more jobs than similar investments in fossil fuels. These technologies will most likely go down in cost while fossil prices will only go up long-term. And with a renewable energy economy, there is no cost of fuel or fuel price volatility. Imagine that.

Imagine that, indeed.

What Are Your 10 Rules of Life?

February 28th, 2011
By Christa

Two weeks ago, I asked you to mull over your 10 essentials for living. It’s a wonderful concept to mull over, whether you’re thinking about the 10 things you’d take with you if you had to get out of the house in a hurry or the 10 activities you can’t live without. Today, I thought it might be interesting for us all to choose 10 rules of life. Maybe they’re your 10 green rules. Could be 10 rules for staying upbeat. Or 10 rules of success at work. Leo Tolstoy did it when he was 18, and here’s the Rules of Life he came up with:

Get up early (five o’clock)
Go to bed early (nine to ten o’clock)
Eat little and avoid sweets
Try to do everything by yourself
Have a goal for your whole life, a goal for one section of your life, a goal for a shorter period and a goal for the year; a goal for every month, a goal for every week, a goal for every day, a goal for every hour and for evry minute, and sacrifice the lesser goal to the greater
Keep away from women
Kill desire by work
Be good, but try to let no one know it
Always live less expensively than you might
Change nothing in your style of living even if you become ten times richer

Obviously, this is a very personal exercise, so no need to share. It’s just something fun to think about, and actually penning your 10 rules of life can help you gain a little perspective whether the topic at hand is happiness or green living or creativity. Thoughtful living is one aspect of green living that gets glossed over too often with campaigns against bottled water, but I like to think that most people, if pressed to analyze their lives, will naturally move toward a more eco-friendly existence.

Image: Artist Julien Pacaud

Green Tips for the Homeowner

February 25th, 2011
By Christa

You may or may not be surprised that little ol’ me had a passing interest in environmental issues before I started writing Green Manolo just a few short months ago. Green topics have actually come up pretty frequently at the other two blogs I author: Manolo for the Home and Manolo for the Brides.

I have been tempted to rehash topics I’ve covered at those blogs of mine, but then I thought that wouldn’t make a lot of sense. The content and, when appropriate, gorgeous images are already there, waiting for your eco-friendly eyes! So here’s a list of links in case you’re looking specifically for environmentally conscious housing:

Green Tips for the Homeowner:


Oil Versus the Whales

February 24th, 2011
By Christa

There’s no denying that the world at large is pretty dependent on oil for, well, just about everything. And that means that people are always on the lookout for new places to find it. Just at this moment, the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company, which is partly owned by shell, is hunting for oil… in a stretch of the Pacific inhabited by a certain sort of gray whale that’s critically endangered.

They are on the brink of extinction. “Just around 30 female western gray whales of breeding age remain”, says Aleksey Knizhnikov, Oil and Gas Environmental Policy Officer for WWF Russia. “The loss of even a few breeding females could mean the end for the population.”

Their lives are already disrupted by oil exploration and exploitation, and the company already has two platforms in the area. The new one is planned to be near their primary feeding area, one of the only places where the sea is shallow enough to enable mothers to teach their young how to feed on the seabed.

Does anyone else tear up a little when they hear about this sort of thing, or is it just me? It’s not that my brain automatically goes “oil bad, animals good” – I get that we still need oil and that oil has to come from somewhere. But 30 Western North Pacific gray whales of breeding age, all getting disoriented by seismic surveys and then having their only known feeding ground disrupted by the construction of a rig? Bleah.

Eco Prep: Ball and Buck

February 23rd, 2011
By Christa

Organic, made in the US, and a hit with the preppy crowd? Well, huh. That’s Ball and Buck, a three-year-old clothing and accessory company specializing in, what else? T-shirts.

That would be small-run organic cotton t-shirts manufactured in the U.S by people making a living wage and adorned with hand stitched pockets made out of recycled and vintage fabrics.

Unlike a lot of companies that target a young crowd, Ball and Buck isn’t shy about pushing its ethical and environmental agendas. Its whole shtick is that you can wear the kind of clothes you want to wear without hurting the earth or the people who call it home.

Checked pockets might not be my thing, but I can definitely get behind their message! Have you gotten into clothing recycling? Maybe a little thrifting, a little DIY?

I may be a vegetarian now, but I wasn’t always. And back when you could find meat, fish, and fowl on my plate, I loved me some raw oysters. (So much so that thinking about eating them makes me miss my time as a devil-may-care carnivore, actually. *sniff*) Maybe you love oysters, too? In which case, consider nibbling on the wild caught variety now while you can still afford it because a survey of oyster habitats around the world has found that the tasty mollusks are disappearing at an alarming rate. In fact, 85% of their reefs have been lost due to disease and over-harvesting.

That’s worldwide, not just in my or your backyard.

In fact, if you want to talk about backyards, it’s mine that’s the least affected by pollution, overfishing, and the introduction of non-native invasive species. Seventy-five percent of wild oyster beds can be found in just five locations in North America, according to a study published in BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

“Oyster reefs are at less than 10 percent of their prior abundance in most bays (70 percent) and ecoregions (63 percent),” said the study. “They are functionally extinct — in that they lack any significant ecosystem role and remain at less than one percent of prior abundances in many bays (37 percent) and ecoregions (28 percent) — particularly in North America, Australia and Europe.”

But of course it’s not just about making sure there are plenty of tasty halfshell platters to go around – particularly from my perspective as someone who doesn’t get to slurp them down anymore – oysters are important to the ocean ecosystem because they filter impurities from seawater. If you’ve heard of declining oyster reefs in your area, do these mollusks in decline a favor and ask your local politician to look into a harvesting hiatus until the oysters have had a chance to rebuild their numbers.

P.S. – Check out today’s post over at Manolo for the Home – Karl Zahn has created a beautiful way to recycle shipping pallets. Too bad all that recycling is so pricey!

Dead Bodies Warming Hard Bodies?

February 21st, 2011
By Christa

What good are the dead? Some might say none at all. But one English town, a burg of 80,000 known as Redditch, thinks they can be put to use as a nearly-free source of energy. It’s less gruesome than it sounds, really. No one is proposing that vagrants be rounded up as a free source of power or anything like that. The Redditch Council simply wants to warm the local Abbey Stadium Sports Centre, including the heated swimming pool, with reclaimed energy from its neighboring crematorium.

As you can no doubt imagine, there has been plenty of opposition to the plan for the obvious reasons. As one funeral director put it:

I don’t know how comfortable people would feel about the swimming pool being heated due to the death of a loved one, I think it’s a bit strange and eerie.

Huh. Considering that the measure could save the town about $30,000 per year aaaand the fact that the dead who are cremated at the Redditch crematorium will be returning to ashes whether or not the municipal pool benefits, what’s the big deal? It seems like a case of people being squeamish just because the dead are involved. No one is burning the dead *specifically* to supply heat to the sports center. The will be no contact between the dead bodies and the crematorium and the hard bodies at the gym. And reclaimed heat is apparently a good source of heat, too – here in MA, for example, waste heat from a Cambridge power plant will be used to heat buildings in Boston instead of being discharged into the Charles River.

Am I being too blasé about this? Because in my mind, a scheme like this makes perfect sense and seems like a great way to make use of energy that would otherwise just get blown away by the wind.

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik

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