How What You Eat Affects the Environment

SaladFood is a part of everyone’s lives — and it affects many different things, including your individual health, the health of the environment, and the health of animals. If you want to see how your diet scores on these three factors, click here. The considerations that go into each score include:

Health: saturated fat, cholesterol, dietary fiber, calcium, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, correlations of foods with cancer, and heart disease

Environment: air and water pollution from manure, cattle belching, production and overuse of fertilizer, depletion of groundwater, unnecessary use of land to produce feed grains and soil erosion, and over-grazing

Animal welfare: castration, hot-iron branding, debeaking, detailing, cramped cages and feedlots, cattle feed high in grain, and inhumane shipping and slaughterhouse practices

Also on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s site is the Eating Green Calculator, which is a more simplified look at what you eat each week. It gives you stats on what it takes to fuel your diet — like how many acres of grain and grass are needed for animal feed, the pounds of pesticides and fertilizer used, and the amount of manure created by animals you eat.

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An Eco-Friendly Easter

Easter EggEaster is upon us, and all that fake grass, toxic egg dye, and plastic packaging can really add up. We’ve rounded up a few good articles to spark some eco-friendly Easter ideas in you. So try making a candy holder from a toilet paper tube (it’s cute; we promise!), serving hard-boiled eggs dyed magenta with beets, or using an old silk tie to create an Easter egg design that’s to dye for.

>> 7 Creative Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs
(via Inhabitots)

>> A Simple, Organic Easter Menu
(via Prevention)

>> The Eco-Friendly Easter Basket
(via Crafting a Green World)

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A Documentary in the Making

Last month, Dolphin Blue sent a film crew to the Forward on Climate rally in Washington, D.C. in a bus from Texas that we co-sponsored with The Sierra Club. The crew is hard at work on the film, which should be ready next month. For now, get a sneak peek with the trailer for “Cry Heard ‘Round the World: The Journey to D.C. to Take a Stand for Mother Earth.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58jD4wRTvKo&feature=youtu.be]

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10% Off at the New and Improved DolphinBlue.com

Have you heard the news? DolphinBlue.com has gone through a complete overhaul to make it even easier for you to browse the products, get your questions answered, and buy when you’re ready. As part of the redesign, we’re now offering new product categories, including children’s toys, pet supplies, and home and garden goods. And, of course, we still have all the same great office products that we’ve built the business on since 1994.

To celebrate our website redesign, we’re offering 10 percent off each item you order with the code launchsale10. It’s good until tomorrow (Saturday) at 11:59 p.m., so make sure to check out the website today!

New Website

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A Society of Overconsumption

Plastic toys are just one category from which we purchase in abundance in the U.S.

Plastic toys are just one category from which we purchase in abundance in the U.S.

When it comes to our ecological impact on the earth, there are three major factors involved: the population (which we talked about a couple of weeks ago), how much each person is consuming, and how efficiently each unit of consumption is produced.

Let’s focus on the second factor, how much each person is consuming, particularly in this nation. Although the U.S. has a lower birth rate than many other countries, we consume much, much more than most of the rest of the world. Compared with someone from China, an American consumes about 53 times more goods and services. Each of us uses as much energy as 370 Ethiopians. While collectively there are fewer Americans than people of other nationalities, each one of us has a huge impact on the world.

For example, Americans use:

– 2.5 gallons of oil a day
– 100 gallons of water a day
– 200 pounds of meat a year
– 500 plastic bags a year

We’re not alone — other industrialized countries use plenty of resources, too. Since 1950, the world’s people have consumed more goods and services than the combined total of all humans who ever walked the planet before us, according to The Sierra Club.

At our current rate of consumption, at some point, there won’t be enough left to consume. The earth’s resources are finite, and no matter how much technology advances, it can only find more creative ways to produce things, but it cannot recover resources once they’re destroyed.

Even with this knowledge, we continue to make poor environmental choices. Take the Tar Sands Keystone XL Pipeline (which Dolphin Blue is producing a documentary on). We’re piping oil mined in Canada and then transporting this oil in a major pipeline that will destroy huge areas of habitat for several thousand miles through Canada and the U.S., to a port near Houston. From there, the oil will be shipped to China and used in the manufacturing of cheap, throwaway goods that will come back stateside for sale — where they’ll quickly be disposed of. It’s inefficient, irresponsible, and environmentally destructive, not to mention unnecessary.

Borrow instead of buy whenever you can.

Borrow instead of buy whenever you can.

How can we change? We’re entrenched in a culture that values material goods, so it isn’t easy to adjust these patterns of consuming. They won’t go away overnight, but here are some small steps you can take as a start:

>> Fight against the urge to “keep up with the Joneses” and have all the latest gadgets and gizmos. Make splurging on something an occasional thing and not an everyday occurrence.

>> When you do need to buy something, look for the most eco-responsible options, including items that are made in the USA. Also, ask yourself if it’s something you could borrow instead.

>> If you’re working on a big project like sprucing up your home, don’t just rush out and buy new things. For example, in remodeling his house, Dolphin Blue founder Tom Kemper is reusing materials taken out of the existing structure; using recovered lumber and wooden floors from teardowns; installing a metal roof to facilitate rainwater collection; installing photovoltaic panels to produce and satisfy his household’s energy needs; buying old tubs, sinks, and doors; and refurbishing the old windows.

>> If there are public transportation options where you live, use them. Bikes and feet are great, too, for shorter distances.

>> Some people shop as a pick-me-up; the rush of buying something new can turn around a bad day. If this applies to you, replace that urge to buy with another behavior — going for a run in the park, giving yourself an hour to read, taking a nap, etc.

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Discussing Overpopulation Solutions

CrowdedWhen actress Alexandra Paul took the stage at TEDx Topanga, she addressed a topic not many other people talk about: overpopulation. Recycling, climate change, energy usage, electric cars, oil spills, and veganism are all a fairly big part of the public discourse nowadays, but people still shy away from discussing just how quickly the rate of people on this planet is growing.

Paul has been worried about the sustainability of rapid population growth since she was a child, but just as no one seemed to understand her concerns then, she worries not much has changed in the ensuing four decades.

“I still feel pretty alone in my beliefs, and I’m still shocked that not more people are disturbed by population growth,” Paul said in her speech. “I think it’s because as a species, we’ve decided not to talk about it.”

It took us until 1850 to put the first billion people on the planet. The next billion came in 100 years. Now, we add 1 billion people to the planet every 12 years. What can we do to slow this growth? Here’s what Paul proposes:

>> Aim for one-child families. “Every day, we add 220,000 people to the planet — every day — and this is unsustainable, which means at some point, the world population is going to stop growing,” Paul says. “The question is: how? Will it stop growing because of famine, disease, a war over resources, or will it stop growing because people choose to have smaller families? And by smaller families, I mean one-child families.”

>> Provide more education to women. “The fastest and most efficient way to stabilize the world population is to send girls to school and to empower women, and to give everyone access to and education on birth control,” Paul says. According to the Institute for Population Studies, 200 million women around the world would prefer to delay having children, but they don’t have access to contraceptives and reproductive health care. The more job opportunities women have, the smaller families they choose to have — and the more resources they’re able to devote to each child.

>> Change social norms. “Couples like myself and my husband, Ian, who have chosen not to have kids are ‘childless’ instead of ‘child-free,’” Paul says. Instead of treating those who choose not to have children as if they’re selfish (which Paul has been accused of) or making a huge mistake, we should focus on respecting that decision. The same goes for those who choose to have one child — we should stop equating only with lonely.

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An Eco-Friendly Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day ChocolatesFeb. 14 may be a celebration swathed in red and pink, but you can add some green — figuratively, that is — to the big day of love with these three simple ideas:

Give a card that keeps on giving. Sure, roses are nice (and we’ve got some great options below), but seeds for a garden are a lot more sustainable. And when they come planted in a cute card with a sweet saying, that’s even better. Botanical Paperworks has adorable options, including the fruit-inspired “We Make a Perfect Pear” and “Orange You Glad We’re Together,” while Twisted Limb Paperworks offers 100 percent recycled cards with stitched envelopes. Or give a tree planting from Dolphin Blue and get a nice card to show your love the new habitat you got in their honor. After all, this is a day to show love — and that doesn’t just have to be for people but can also be for the planet.

Buy chocolates that really show you care. Chocolates are a staple when it comes to showing affection, and organic, fair-trade varieties are the only way to go. Why? You’ll avoid pesticides and the exploitation of farm workers. Plus, more than 40 percent of the world’s conventional chocolate comes from Côte d’Ivoire in Africa, where child slavery is a very real problem. Dr. Sue’s Chocolate is a dark, European-style chocolate enriched by all-natural fruits and local honey. Sweet Earth Chocolates offers everything from the classic red velvet heart-shaped box to a bag of mini chocolate hearts to a heart full of truffles, all 100 percent organic and fair trade (with vegan options as well).

Spend a romantic evening out as locavores. If you want to treat your partner to a special meal out, it doesn’t get better than going to a local restaurant, where the food is fresh and the taste heightened. Need help finding the perfect spot? Check out the directory at EatWellGuide.org, which will show you the restaurants in your area that are committed to serving sustainable and organic meals.

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Heroes of Sustainability: Andy Lipkis

Andy LipkisA carefree teenager in 1970, Andy Lipkis’ world was changed when at summer camp in the San Bernardino Mountains, a naturalist shared that the very forests they were surrounded by were dying due to pollution.

Lipkis was only 15, but he soon sprung into action to save the trees, organizing fellow campers to plant smog-tolerant seedlings. By the time he was 18, he’d overseen the planting of thousands of trees and attracted the attention of The Los Angeles Times, which published an article urging readers to help Lipkis in his efforts. Within days, he’d received more than $10,000, solidifying the future of the forest and launching Lipkis’ environmental nonprofit, TreePeople.

Emphasizing Interconnectedness
The organization’s mission is “to inspire, engage and support people to take personal responsibility for the urban environment, making it safe, healthy, fun and sustainable and to share the process as a model for the world,” according to its website. It is now one of the largest environmental nonprofits in California.

“TreePeople’s approach is holistic, not just about trees, but about air, water, soil, community, and, yes, economics,” Lipkis told LA Yoga. “After all, where does the tree start and stop? It makes oxygen and soil, and holds water, but it’s also dependent on soil and water, and in the city, on people too. Our very name expresses this basic interconnectedness.”

TreePeople’s projects include environmental education for children, teens, and teachers; tree planting in a range of settings; and the Natural Urban Systems Group, which uses an integrated management approach to come up with sustainable solutions — particularly related to water issues — that benefit multiple parties. Using their knowledge of urban forestry and what motivates people, they’ve been able to inspire communities to take a real stake in their personal health, as well as the health of the environment.

A Nonstop Quest
“People mistakenly think of tree planting and the other work we do as something that can be fulfilled in a simple gesture, in part because that’s how it’s often been communicated: ‘On Earth Day, we’ll recycle or plant a tree.’ Of course that’s lovely, but it’s not going to get us to sustainability nor save us from this path of destruction we are on,” Lipkis told LA Yoga.

Lipkis’ accomplishments over the years are almost never-ending — he guided the creation of Los Angeles’ curbside recycling program, airlifted bare root fruit trees to Africa, organized a pivotal conference after the Southern California wildfires in 2003, and inspired the planting of 1 million trees in LA in time for the 1984 Summer Olympics, to name just a few of his résumé bullet points.

“Andy Lipkis is one of my heroes because there are very few people in the world who are ‘doing it,’” says fellow Hero of Sustainability Paul Hawken. “What is Andy doing? That’s the question. What is ‘it?’ Andy is tackling the ‘Big One.’ This Big One’s not simply a reframing or redesigning or re-imagination of industrial society. It is the process of creating a new and viable path to the future for humanity.”

Learn more about Lipkis and TreePeople here.

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Heroes of Sustainability: Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo EmersonFamous in life and death, Ralph Waldo Emerson is considered one of American history’s most noted writers, influencing countless people, including Heroes of Sustainability like Henry David Thoreau and John Muir.

The Harvard-educated lecturer, essayist, and poet — who also worked as a pastor in his younger years — had a way of inspiring his readers that was widely admired. As American poet and critic James Russell Lowell wrote in 1871’s My Study Windows: “We look upon him as one of the few men of genius whom our age has produced, and there needs no better proof of it than his masculine faculty of fecundating other minds. Search for eloquence in his books and you will perchance miss it, but meanwhile you will find that it has kindled your thoughts.”

Man and Nature
One of Emerson’s greatest works was Nature, an 1836 essay that delved into his thoughts on transcendentalism, the literary, political, and philosophical movement he was at the center of in New England in the 1830s and ’40s. One of the core ideas was that both people and nature are inherently good, and Emerson was keen on exploring this connection between the two.

To Emerson, nature was as important as it got, as it was tied to God in a way that couldn’t be separated from the deity. “In the woods, we return to reason and faith,” he wrote. “There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, —no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, —my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, —all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.”

A Far-Reaching Legacy
Many credit Emerson’s writing with influencing the foundation of today’s environmentalist movement and the creation of national parks. By writing so eloquently about the world around us — and showing through vivid description that it’s worthy of being preserved (a sample sentence: “Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration”) — Emerson set the stage for others, like Muir, to take steps to protect the environment.

It’s tough to deny the insight in his words. As Emerson astutely wrote: “He who knows what sweets and virtues are in the ground, the waters, the plants, the heavens, and how to come at these enchantments, is the rich and royal man.”

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Heroes of Sustainability: Ed Begley Jr.

Ed Begley Jr.Ed Begley Jr. is famous for acting in shows such as St. Elsewhere, Arrested Development, 7th Heaven, The West Wing, Maude, and Veronica Mars, but he might be even better known for his environmental beliefs.

He cites growing up in smog-infested LA, having a frugal father, being broke in 1970 (when he became an environmentalist), and being a Boy Scout as factors that shaped him into the green machine he is today.

The six-time Emmy nominee started relatively small — with recycling, a move to vegetarianism, composting, and buying an electric car — and over the ensuing 40-plus years has expanded into being eco-friendly wherever he can. This includes 10 to 15 minutes of pedaling a stationary bike every morning that’s hooked up to batteries that run the house so he can “earn” the energy the toaster uses to toast his bread. Instead of a lawn, Begley has a yard of native California plants, many of which produce food. And solar panels on the roof help keep his electricity bill to something in the hundreds per year — much lower than the average house.

“I’ve owned a windmill since 1985, and it’s still profitable today,” Begley told Tonic. “I own a share of a wind farm putting out many homes worth of power. That’s 25 years of more than mitigating my use. And then you’ve got the solar panels on the roof. And when I must fly — I try to not fly — but when I must I buy a TerraPass carbon offset…”

Agreeing to Disagree
Not only is Begley’s house much smaller than most of his colleagues’, but he’s also been known to show up at Hollywood events via bike instead of the typical limo. The bike is his second favorite mode of transportation, just behind walking, which he does whenever possible. If neither foot nor pedal power are possible, he favors public transportation. Lastly, he turns to driving his electric car.

Begley is often transporting himself to events where he speaks about his convictions. And regardless of whether the audience is sympathetic or skeptic, he always enjoys chatting about his favorite topic.

In response to a question from LowDensityLifestyle.com about what he says to people who say climate change isn’t real, Begley says: “I say let’s agree to disagree on it — and instead focus on what we can agree on. Do we agree that $3-plus a gallon gas is a problem? Do we agree that we have a dependency problem on Mideast oil, and that we are sending billions of dollars to countries that don’t like us very much and impact our national security? Do we agree that we want to clean up the air and water in our cities? Do we agree that we want to save money? If we can agree on those things, then a sustainable lifestyle can make a difference.”

Simplifying
From 2007 to 2009, Begley and his wife, Rachelle Carson, did a reality show called Living with Ed that documented Begley’s devotion (and Carson’s resistance to some of the more radical parts of it). Episodes highlighted Begley’s green house rivalry with Bill Nye the Science Guy; his environmentally safe cleaning products, Begley’s Earth Responsible Products; his public speaking commitments; his efforts to convince friends to get a green audit; and all the improvements he makes to his house.
Living Like Ed
“I have a computer, a fax machine, a printer, and all that stuff, but I try to keep things as long as they can possibly last and use as little stuff as possible. The less emphasis you have on stuff, I think the happier you’re going to be,” he told Mother Nature Network. “I simplify as much as I can.”

To begin living a greener lifestyle, he offers this tip: “Start with the cheap and easy stuff — energy-efficient lighting, weather stripping, recycling, composting, home gardening, bike riding, public transportation, etc.,” he told LowDensityLifestyle.com. For more ideas, read his book Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life.

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