Monday, August 31, 2009

Little Wastes - Part Two

I went to a local restaurant and said NO to plastic straws. But to my surprise, one arrived with my fresh lemonade. In fact, a whole flock of straws was presented on my table from the server.


Why do we need these little known wastes? I can easily drink my beverage without the assistance of these slender guests. Now, I certainly understand their purpose when one has oral surgery or has a child (even then sippy cups are acceptable). However, these beverage sidekicks simply end up in landfills. We only enjoy their purpose for maybe one hour, max two, depending on where you are dining. They aren't reusable and I doubt many facilities are even recycling these little plastic straws.

So again, why do we need them?

Image Source: Flickr

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Little Wastes - Part One

I noticed something odd the other day. All of our peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers from our local CSA program were missing something? LABELS. Which made me think, if I go to Heinen’s, Giant Eagle, or Whole Foods, the code for a banana is still the same! Is their purpose to really help the public? Or just help the high school kid find the code faster to punch into the register?

The system does have a method and it’s quite simple consisting of four or five numbers. For example fruits are divided into three classes: conventional, organic, and genetically modified. Alternatively, I wish the codes could help identify whether fruit is full of pesticides and grown with petroleum-based fertilizers, or even explain when it's genetically modified.

Nonetheless, I think it is one of the little known wastes that we put up with for now. Those tiny, wasteful labels end up in the landfills and take up my precious time to peel off – that is if I get off all the glue. Why do we need them?

Source: Natural News, 2008

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Say NO to Bottled Water

If you haven’t heard about the environmental problems with the global bottled water industry, perhaps you might have been living under a rock for quite some time. Given the state of the unpleasant news, I reviewed an interesting article by Treehugger that got me thinking…. If bottled water is bad, could bottled juice be any better?

Bottle Water in Nutshell: First it takes million barrels of oil to manufacture the plastic containers. Not to mention the shipping of empty bottles, filling them up, transporting them. You get the point. If you break the numbers down, for 1 liter of Fiji bottled water, which would be imported into the U.S. has carbon emissions estimated at 39% for the production stage and 61% for distributing the filled bottles, or about 0.55 pounds for 1 liter of bottled water.

The Carbon Footprint of OJ: For the sake of comparison, a Tropicana half gallon of juice comes to 3.75 pounds of carbon. That number is based on more than just squeezing oranges – it is the packaging, distribution, and orange growing. The biggest difference in the two numbers points to fertilizers. Sure, we don’t like insects and diseases in our oranges, but the application and production is the single largest source of emissions.

Now the water example doesn’t seem so bad, right? Not to me...but just a different point of view.

What if your bottled water came from local sources versus being shipped from the other side of the world? More importantly, why not just invest in filtering your water at home? Fresh tap water…who would have thought! If you can’ t invest in the big filters, try to make greener choices by saying “NO” to the plastic straws during your dinner outings and fast-food lunches.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Atrazine in our Water Supply, Again!

Atrazine, the world’s most popular herbicide-weed killer, is back in the spotlight. This time the finger is being pointed at the EPA for not informing the public that higher levels of this chemical was found in our drinking water. The debate now is over threshold levels. What is safe? What is too much? Why is there any in the first place in our water supply?

Now, I’ve been researching and reading the case studies of Atrazine, PCBs, BPA’s and other nasties in our natural surroundings. The story of this toxin is extremely important and starts with Tyrone Hayes in 1998. He holds a biology degree from Harvard University and a doctorate in amphibian development from Berkeley, where he was tenured at a young age of thirty and later became the university's youngest full professor. The science community refers to him as a Rock Star since he was part of an "expert panel" that did research funded by Syngenta (manufacturer of atrazine). Make a long story short, his career with Syngenta went extremely bad when his team's research confirmed that atrazine was associated with hermaphroditism in frogs 100 percent of the time. It is well known that when Hayes discusses these findings at public presentations, grown men shift uncomfortably in their chairs when he explains, "The gonads, instead of sperm, have eggs, and the frogs are chemically castrated because they do not make testosterone."

More importantly, the endocrine disruptors (like Atrazine) are chemicals that imitate the body’s hormonal system and consequently disrupt chemical text messaging amongst cells and other glands. As big “endo” words have been used recently (BPA, PCBs, PBDEs), scientists continue to publish and scream their findings of the alarming rise of hormonally driven cancers (breast and prostate) in younger adults. More recently are the intense battles between the EPA, FDA, farmers and pesticide manufacturers.

Even the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy organization, is expected to release a report on Monday that fully analyzes a smaller set of Syngenta's weekly testing results -- from 2003 through 2006. According to the EPA data obtained by the Investigative Fund, cities in four states -- Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas -- had yearly averages of atrazine violating that standard from 2003 to 2008. The EPA plan is to revisit its rules for atrazine in 2011. Ha! Too late by my standards.

Source: Investigative Fund, Huffington Post, CNN News

Sustainable Shirts

T-shirts are like coffee orders. They come in different shapes, sizes, and colors for everyone to enjoy. More importantly, both share sustainable stories. The GoSustaino shirt story starts with Ethix Ventures from Los Angeles, CA. Sure, I could have picked regular Nike branded shirts, that are potentially made in China by a worker paid $3 per day, pressed with chemicals for “safe” treating (I mean stain guard) and shipped across the sea to my little home.

No thanks.

I’d rather pay the extra coin for a better choice, where I had 4 options:
1) Made in the U.S.A.
2) Eco-friendly
3) Fair Trade
4) Union Made

We are commonly given some of these options in the food and beverage categories. But, how cool to even have such options from an apparel company! So given that I plan to save this toxic world and hope to educate others to evaluate their resources and consumption habits, I believe the culture and personality of Ethix Ventures was a good fit. They aspire to serve as a gathering place for commerce that puts people and the environment at the head of a value chain today dominated solely by price.

Thanks for the support and making a difference! Time for me to make deliveries to friends and family members...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Is Your City Sustainable?

Cleveland, OH is ranked the 16th U.S. state in terms of sustainable practices from SustainLane. With 16 categories/indicies to review, our biggest boost is being next to a body of fresh water along with the infusion of community gardens and farm share programs. So when will we have this infamous wind farm on Lake Erie?

To see your city rankings- click here.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Room with a View

I’ve heard of traveling by boat to get home, even catching zip lines, but never calling home - the top of a lookout tower. How cool would that be to see for hundreds of miles in all directions? It certainly makes for some interesting real estate allowing you to include sustainable practices already in a natural environment (e.g. forest, lake, or mountains).

These owners are using reclaimed materials, increasing their recycling efforts, and have an appreciation (or fascination) of avoiding classic noise pollution. Whether you refer to them as modern day castles, eco-bounty escapes, or down right treehuggers, I foresee a unique trend emerging.

Source: Dornob, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Dirty Dozen Fruits and Veges

You know the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, how about peeling that apple before you eat it to avoid the nine potential pesticides that it contains in a single serving. Don’t take it from me…take it from the U.S. government that has conducted over 87,000 tests confirming this residue.

The Environmental Working Group has reviewed this information in detail before contacting ABC News, who showcased the “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables that contain a super high amount of pesticides. And while 2/3 of our produce has no pesticide residue, the remaining 1/3 is known to cause endocrine-disruption, hormone imbalances, cancer, depression, miscarriages and skin allergies.

In Europe, recent EU legislation has been approved banning the use of highly toxic pesticides including those, which are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction.

So while we continue to use algicides (to avoid algae) or avicides (to control birds), I would rather see some alternative practices. For example, cultivation practices include more polyculture (growing multiple types of plants), and crop rotation (planting crops in areas where the pests that damage them do not live). Even time planting according to when pests will be less problematic, and we can use trap crops that attract pests away from the real crop. In the US, farmers have had success controlling insects by spraying with hot water at a cost that is about the same as pesticide spraying.

Source: ABC News and Environmental Working Group
Image Source: Flickr

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer Lovin'

This summer I fell in love. It has blossomed into a colorful relationship filled with reds, greens, yellow and blues. This partnership even has an official name, but one that I cannot adopt, because many other ladies and gentlemen are already part of its system.

It's called my summer C.S.A. program (community supported agriculture).

For $260, and 16-summer weeks, I receive weekly vegetables. Fresh, crispy, mildly organic, Ohio only grown, goodness. It feels like Christmas comes early when I pick up my fresh blueberries, strawberries, corn, basil, Napa cabbage, and tomatoes. Each week, the mix is different, gorgeous and delicious.

I pick up a canvas bag mix every Wednesday at the main Lakewood Library (Detroit branch), which is the main distribution point. This ever so popular pick-up joint has been orchestrated by LEAF (Lakewood Earth and Food), which is essentially a volunteer based organization of 300 members. The LEAF community partners with City Fresh to distribute the shares with the local farmers and other guest vendors.

I recommend these programs to anyone and any family, and most importantly I save big time. Historically, I’d overspend by $75-$100 at my local Giant Eagle for China-based apples, Chilean grapes, New Zealand kiwis, Idaho potatoes, and who knows what else on other fruits and vegetables. Join now and support your local farmers!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sustainable Cleveland 2019

Last Friday was the close of a much talked about 3-day event, the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 summit! About 750 participants and 90 tables peppered the floor of Public Hall at the Cleveland Convention Center with the goal of creatively uncovering how to move Northeast Ohio's economy toward sustainable practices. It was a creative event above all, in the format of an Appreciate Inquiry lead by moderator, David Cooperrider, a professor at the Weatherhead School of Business at Case Western Reserve University. The rules called for in-depth brainstorming, the encouragement of wild ideas and collaboration amongst the teams that are applied to a radical process.

One brainstorming exercise (photo above) is an individual from Zircoa, Inc. of Solon, Ohio, who shows his module made out of pipe cleaners on how local businesses can network to attain sustainability in a community. "If a community can network together, no one needs to be an expert of all things." Other examples included roughly 25 teams that stormed the stage, American Idol style, to present their BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). One group formed an octet to sing about the death of Oscar the Grouch and happy Cleveland just a decade away. The singers broke into a refrain from "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang, a wild rendition that brought applause. Another group, using rudimentary art materials provided by summit organizers, jumped onto the stage paddling a huge paper boat named, "The Best Time 2019."

Cooperrider, who has held more than 500 Appreciative Inquiry summits in 70 countries, said the focus is on how to spread the word to the 1.6 million across Northeast Ohio will be the challenge in the coming months.

Source:, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Trash Talkers

I met some great Trash Talkers at the 2009 Burning River Festival. This group of high school students is from St. Edwards that portray cool, urban beats with some kick ass fun style. See the video for highlights.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dirty Mouth?

I love gum! It’s like crack. It’s like morning coffee. It’s like a sweet explosion in your dirty mouth. The kicker though is that “party in your mouth” flavor leads to a whole recipe of chemicals. I’m not talking about gum base, or glycerol, or the calorie-free aspartame.

I’m referring to the devil – formaldehyde.

A recent article detailed out the wonderful recipe for a simple stick of refreshing gum:

SORBITOL: A sugar mixed with a little hydrogen atoms creates a compound found in most peaches, plums and fruit. I won't substitute gum for the fruit food group.

ASPARTAME: About 200 times stronger than sugar, which breaks down into mini toxins like methanol and then formaldehyde. Should we be worried? I would.

ACESULFANE K: The “K” is for potassium, like in bananas, but totally artificial and doesn’t metabolize – meaning you can pee it out.

SODIUM BICARBONATE: Yummy, white polish which is the unique selling proposition. It’s short for good ole baking soda.

MALITOL: A mild sweetener, great for diabetics (ha!), yet large doses causes bloating and diarrhea. Don’t take that dare challenge of 15 sticks of gum!

Source: Wired Magazine

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Turn Left at Pollution Cloud

Avoiding stinky areas may not be on your list when thinking of driving to work. But for city dwellers, in NYC, LA, Miami and Dallas, hope is just around the corner. More like your digital corner!

Sensaris offers portable sensors (yes, they can attach to your bike, bag or wrist strap) that upload data to a mobile device. The data shows a real-time pollution map and pinpoints the nasties in the air. A trial device began in Paris, since Sensaris is a French-based company, whereby the units measured ozone and noise levels.

Future units will be upgraded to measure more in-depth nasties in the air such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. The good news is that Berlin, Japan and San Francisco have already put in their orders. Another great Sustaino idea for our modern day economy.

Image Source: CaliforniaStars, Sensaris
Source: Fast Company 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bottoms Up!

Huffington Post is recognizing August as Beer Month. In fact, they have narrowed down the top 8 U.S. sustainable breweries and Cleveland made the list! Check out these damn good, hard working, breweries and their sustainable practices. Have you been to any of these? Cast your vote here after reading the top eight!

1. New Belgium Brewery (Fort Collins, CO)
2. The Fish Brewing Company (Olympia, WA)
3. The Alaskan Brewing Company (Juneau, AK)
4. Full Sail Brewing Co. (Hood River, OR)
5. Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, NY)
6. Great Lakes Brewing Co. (Cleveland, OH)
7. Sierra Nevada Brewery (Chico, CA)
8. Lakefront Brewery (Milwaukee, WI)

What makes this interesting and so unique is how these breweries are not only partnering with local farmers to deliver back spent grain as feed to the animals, but they are setting up Zero Waste initiatives, harnessing wind power, and rewarding employees who ride to work!

Eight top Sustainos for this beer month!

Image Source: Huffington Post 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Garden Greetings

The Canadians have done it! I’ve seen the seed-based business cards and other brochures that are environmentally friendly. However, the new trendy, eco-savvy approach is to go beyond simple cards. Botantical Paperworks, based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, took a whimsical approach to beautiful, handmade stationary that gets your greeting cards out of those dusty memory boxes and back into nature.

The plantable paper (called Garden Greetings™) is "tree-free", meaning that no trees were cut down in the process to make the plantable paper. The base fiber is cotton or 100% post-consumer waste. And the paper is made with pure North American wildflower seeds by skilled papermakers paid a living wage in Winnipeg.

The botanical adventure extends to confetti, envelopes, calendars, journals and even baby and wedding gifts. A Sustaino idea with a great green twist!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Punked Out Green

Being environmentally conscious is not just for treehuggers, granola heads, or those seeking eco-status. It’s about the triple bottom line (People, Planet and Profits). I’ve communicated numerous times about how “going green” and adopting sustainable practices is pure cash/gold for many businesses.

This is clear for the X Games that went to great lengths to green the competition this year. From skate courses constructed of recycled materials and solar-powered stages to Moto X fuel recycling and bike-powered energy stations, the green mindset was pervasive thanks to a partnership with Global Inheritance, a nonprofit organization "working to reinvent activism for today's youth."

This green strategic approach helped to bring in more sponsorships, helped to drive more traffic to the events and certainly made the athletes happy who practice outdoors for their competitive rush. Maybe we'll soon start to see edible gardens planted alongside skate parks?

Source: The Intelligence Group, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Leaf - Zero Emission Car

Nissan showed off their electric car, “Leaf”, during Japan’s auto show. It is a step toward its goal of leading the industry in the zero-emissions field. The Leaf has a top speed of over 76 mph and a cruising range of 100 miles - a distance that covers the needs of 80 percent of the world's drivers, according to Nissan.

Nissan’s grand master plan is to sell Leaf cars in the US, Japan and Europe near the end of 2010, adding two more models soon after. It expects production to start around 200,000 units a year at the global roll out in 2012. So, who is right behind them?

Manufacturers such as Toyota and Volkswagen have also announced plans to launch electric cars in the next several years, but they say it could take quite a while for the vehicles to gain momentum due to their high cost, limited driving range and long charging times with the current battery technology. Have you seen the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car?" It will not take decades; just more breaking down government barriers. There is too much money associated with the combustion engine and our society is ready and ripe for a shift.

Go Sustaino!

Source: Reuters 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Farm Truck, Beep, Beep!

We need a "cool factor" nowadays to re- excite the gardening category, and Ian Cheney's farm truck is that cool factor. It appeared on the summer cover of Edible Brooklyn in Fort Greene NY, at the Edible Brooklyn's Good Beer Event, featuring largely local craft beers and somewhat eco-oriented food pairings from NYC restaurants.

The truck's owner, fellow documentary makers gather around outside the event, enjoying the beer inside the event, and answering questions about their truck. What is so special truck about this truck? Mini solar panels on top of the truck powers a camera that takes a photo of the vegetable garden every 5 minutes that is growing openly, freely and deliciously! Indeed, there are drainage holes, a water-absorbent mat, and Gaia soil made from recycled Styrofoam.

This CSA (community supported agriculture) truck is definitely a Sustaino hero for the month. For $20 you can eat whatever grows in the truck (from your section). You can see its evolution online on at Wicked Delicate Productions website. These guys--Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis--also made King Corn!

Source: Treehugger and Wicked Delicate

Monday, August 3, 2009

America's Best Kept Secret

Cereal. Bread. Soda. Ketchup. Sauces…everything is made from corn.

We are good at growing corn and we sell it around the world. We also have tons of surplus. Here is an inside look into the unique, hilarious, and fantastic documentary “King Corn.” Growing quality or growing crap? Find out for yourself here from Mosaic Films.