Freeganism: A Waste-Free Way of Life

Freegans dumpster diving for re-usable items.Freeganism is a movement that focuses on reducing and making use of society’s waste by decreasing one’s participation in an economy of consumption and instead obtaining the resources needed to live—food, materials, shelter—through alternative means that are both free and produce minimal waste. Freeganism is very community-centered and demands to know why so many people starve every day or freeze to death out in the streets when at the same time tons of edible food is being thrown away and buildings lie vacant because the owner could not turn a profit on them. By standing up for these values in a variety of ways, Freegans promote sharing, food independence, and decreasing waste.

    • Waste reclamation/minimization: Rather than adding to the waste generated by consuming new materials, Freegans often acquire many of the materials and food that they need from dumpster diving and from community sharing programs like Free Stores. If there is a needed item that cannot be obtained from dumpster diving or community sharing programs, buying from second-hand stores is another way to reduce the waste coming from our society.
    • Alternative transportation: Buying gas and other necessities and accessories for cars contributes to our world’s dependence on greenhouse-gas-producing fossil fuels. Therefore, Freegans forgo the money- and resource-suck that are cars and choose alternative means of transportation like bikes, hitchhiking, and train jumping.
    • Rent-free housing: The waste in our society can also be seen in our communities’ willingness to let livable spaces remain empty when thousands of us live on the streets. Freegans recognize that housing is a right, not a privilege, and so practice squatting in abandoned buildings and house-sharing programs.
    • Going green: Freegans often plant community gardens (or, guerilla gardens) to gain food independence from giant agribusinesses, as well as to be able to share safe, free food with others. Freegans also forage for food and medicinal plants in the wilderness, proving that one can live independently from supermarkets and pharmacies as people once did not too long ago.
    • Working less: By living outside of the consumer-driven economy, Freegans don’t find the need to participate in monotonous, demanding work in order to earn a paycheck. Time could be better put to use volunteering in the community or doing something you enjoy. By working less or not working at all, Freegans refuse to be a cog in the corporate machines only to earn money to throw back at the many corrupt and wasteful companies.

Everyone in our society can work to reduce the exorbitant waste that we produce in our daily lives by learning from the Freegan example. By buying less, buying second-hand, and/or buying recycled we can all reduce the trash that threatens to bury us all. By growing our own garden, we can develop a relationship with nature while also becoming food independent.

(This blog was written by Dolphin Blue’s amazing intern, Elisa Rivera.)

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Infographic Friday: Guerilla Gardening

Ron Finley is an inspiring gardener in South Central Los Angeles. He plants vegetable gardens in some of the most unlikely places: abandoned lots, traffic medians, even along the curbs of neighborhood streets. Why does he do it? Check out the infographic below and then follow this link to watch his TED Talk. Maybe it will inspire you like it inspired us at Dolphin Blue.

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Recycle, Reuse, Recaffeinate

Nothing says “welcome back to the work week” quite like an extra long line at your favorite coffee shop on Monday morning.  This could brighten your day: get a discount by bringing in your own reusable coffee mug or tumbler.  To curb the excessive waste caused by all the disposable coffee cups they sell, many coffee shops offer discounts to their eco-conscious customers.  Check out the infographic below to learn more and contact your local coffee hangout to find out what kind of discount you can get by bringing in your own cup.  The savings for your pocket book AND the environment can really add up.

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Infographic Friday: Aluminum Cans & Their Infinite Recyclability

Did you know you could keep recycling the soda can you’re drinking out of forever? Well, you CAN (get it?) and here are some reasons why you should:

  • It takes the same amount of energy to create 1 new can as it does to create 20 recycled cans
  • Even though it accounts for less than 2% of the weight of USA’s recycling stream, aluminum generates 40% of the revenue needed to sustain all recycling programs – about a $1 billion a year
  • Recycling aluminum cans diverted 1.7 billion pounds from landfills
  • Used aluminum cans are recycled and returned to store shelves in as few as 60 days
  • Aluminum never wears out and can be recycled forever

So make sure the next can you drink from ends up in a recycling bin and keep the infinite aluminum recycling process going strong!

If you’re looking to add more green to your life, check out www.dolphinblue.com today.
Aluminum can be recycled an infinite number of times.

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Really Make Your Lawn “Green”: Eco-Friendly Tips for a Sustainable Yard

Eco-Friendly Tips for a Sustainable YardThe most commonly irrigated crop—the plant that receives 4 billion gallons of potable water a day, the plant that the average American spends 150 hours a year tending, and the plant that North America alone spends $40,000,000,000 a year on—is not the crop that will feed the world. In fact, it is not a crop that will feed anybody, except maybe some lucky cows.

American’s lawns are often more trouble than they are worth. We spend so much time, effort, money, and resources on keeping our lawns green and kempt, yet lawns do not provide us with food, need poisons and fertilizers to grow well, and decrease the biodiversity of the area. Yet, in most residential neighborhoods, the dream of the perfect lawn doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Lawns are the norm. But, maybe it’s time to rethink this norm, or at least adjust our lawn practices to be more environmentally friendly and less work for you.

Some Alternatives to Lawns
These beautiful, healthy alternatives to a lawn can bring a sense of nature’s true beauty to your home.

  • Vegetable Gardens: For all the time you put into your yard, wouldn’t it be nice if you got something out of it? Replacing part or all of your lawn with a vegetable garden would grow food that could support you, your family, and even your community.
  • Native Plants: Growing a variety of plants that are native to your area instead of the monoculture of grass seeds we have today, will end up being less work for you! Native plants need less water and fertilizers, and they will create ecosystems for the local fauna to form a sturdy, healthy environment.

EPA Suggestions
If you’re not quite ready to uproot your whole lawn, but still want to have a healthier impact on your environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has these handy tips:

Mowing:

  • The ideal height for a lawn is generally 2 ½ to 3 inches. The taller the top of the grass, the longer the roots, making for a stronger, healthier grass that can absorb water much more easily and leaves no exposed dirt in which weeds can grow.
  • Use a push mower instead of the gas- or electric-powered kind that causes pollution.
  • After mowing, leave the grass clippings on the lawn as a fertilizer. Less work for you!

Watering:

  • Your lawn only needs 1 inch of water per week. You can measure this using an empty tuna can!
  • Water before 10:00AM so the grass has time to soak it all up. Perpetually wet grass grows fungi.
  • In July and August, let your lawn go brown. Brown lawns are dormant, not dead!
  • The best rule is to water only when the lawn begins to wilt from dryness—when the color dulls and footprints stay compressed for more than a few seconds.

Fertilizing:

  • If you must fertilize your lawn, remember that fertilizers are NOT water soluble! Fertilize right after it rains (not before) so the fertilizer stays on your lawn instead of running off and draining into our water sources.

An alternative to conventional, petroleum-based fertilizers are all-natural fertilizers like those that Dolphin Blue sells. Check out more ways you can make your life more environmentally friendly at dolphinblue.com!

(This blog was written by Dolphin Blue’s amazing intern, Elisa Rivera.)

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Infographic Friday: Sweden Wants Your Trash

All but 4% of the trash produced in Sweden bypasses the landfill and is either recycled or used as fuel in their waste-to-energy programs.  Sweden is able to generate 20% of the energy they need to heat the country and also provide electricity for 250,000 homes.  They’re so successful in their recycling and waste-to-energy programs, they’re actually running out of trash.

Sweden has begun to import tons of trash from neighboring countries in order to gather burnable waste so they can incinerate it and create energy.  Countries like Norway are paying them to take their waste, since it’s more expensive for the Norwegians to burn the trash in their own country and they lack recycling programs.

Waste-to-energy initiatives have been introduced in Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and Lithuania.  In the USA, 67% of our waste ends up in landfills.  Hopefully someday, we can follow in the eco-friendly footsteps of our European friends.

Sweden burns trash to create about 20 percent of its heat, but the Swedes are so diligent about recycling that the country simply isn’t generating enough waste to create the heat they need.

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How to Live in 480 Square Feet

Little House Deck

The Party Deck is the first thing people see as they pull up to the house.

When writer Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell and her husband first had the idea to build a 480-square-foot home in the Ozarks, they wanted a great place to retreat. What they found — despite its diminutive stature — was a home, which they’ve been living in around the clock since October 2007. Here, Kerri (who writes a blog at www.livinglargeinourlittlehouse.com) explains the environmental, economic, and social benefits of small-house living.

You didn’t initially plan to live in your home full time — what changed your mind?
We decided to move here and thought we would be building a larger home, at least as large as what we had in the city. However, we didn’t make as much on our sale of the house in the city [as we thought we would], and digging our well cost more than anticipated. Construction costs had exploded when we got here. We also thought of building an addition, but we felt it would ruin the charm of the little house. That was going to be $70,000, and we would have had to borrow. We didn’t want more debt, and it was a good thing, as my husband lost his job here after 12 months and was unemployed/underemployed for 18 months during the recession.

What were the biggest challenges in transitioning from 1,100-plus square feet to less than 500?
Letting go of the stuff. I still have a whole corner of a metal building full of it. Much of it is heirlooms from my mother’s home, and I am having a hard time parting with her things.

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell and her husband have been living in a 480-square-foot house since 2007.

Why is living in an environmentally sustainable way important to you?
I’m part Native American and my ancestors have a saying that goes something like, “We don’t inherit the land from our ancestors, we are borrowing it from our children.” I think if we continue pillaging every natural resource and souring the land and the seas, there may not be anything to pass on one day.

What’s been the biggest unexpected benefit of living in a small space?
There have been many — costs are lower, less to clean, the environmental factors of leaving less of a footprint. The most important to me depends on the day. During the height of the recession, it was definitely lower cost of living. On cleaning day, it’s the fact I can whirl my way through the entire house in two hours. When I am so sad about [events like] the oil spill in the Gulf, it is the knowledge that we are doing what we can for the planet.

What advice do you have for others who are thinking of making the big leap to a small house?
Start going through your stuff now and keep going through it. Some people who live in small spaces even count their possessions and won’t allow themselves any more than [a certain number]. Do what works for you. Also, build what you feel comfortable in. I know people who live in 120 square feet. That would never work for us. However, don’t close the doors to the possibilities. If anyone had asked me if we could live full time in such a small space years ago, I would have asked them if they were nuts. It’s amazing how little we need to live.

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Exciting Eco-Eating: The Down & Dirty On Edible Insects

The U.N. recently released a report extolling the virtues of edible insects as an environmentally responsible alternative to meat as a source of protein and other nutrients.  With their high fat, protein, fiber, and mineral contents, edible insects certainly pack a healthy punch! What’s even better is that the cost to our environment to raise insects for consumption is far less than the impact of raising large livestock for meat.

Adding mealworms to caramel apples gives this fun treat a tasty crunch!

Adding mealworms to caramel apples gives this fun treat a tasty crunch!

Even though entomophagy, or the act of eating insects, hasn’t quite caught on in the West (yet!), in many other countries around the world, bugs are eaten with gusto and are often considered a delicacy. So, why should you add bugs to your menu?

The Problem: Meat is Unsustainable
Relying on large livestock (cattle, pigs, and chickens, for example) for one’s primary source of protein means one must rely on highly inefficient, greenhouse-gas-producing, and sometimes cruel practices to obtain nutrients. Not to mention the health problems associated with consuming too much meat.  With the world’s population growing at an incredible rate and the demand for food rising along with it, having enough land to support both people and large livestock will soon become an issue, as well. All this is why many have said that producing and consuming as much livestock as we do is not sustainable.

But, you’re not willing to go cold turkey on your meat and go vegetarian? Why not try substituting meat with insects every now and then? All the nutrients, none of the burden on our environment.

Edible Insects: Less is More
Insects are an eco-friendly food option for a simple reason: they need less—less food (some insects can be raised on human/animal waste, which reduces the possibility of environmental contamination and avoids wasting food that could be eaten by humans), less water, less space. They even release fewer greenhouse gases and ammonia than cows, pigs, and chickens.

Many insects’ feed conversion rates (the amount of feed it takes to put on 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight in an animal) are much lower than traditional meat sources. The feed conversion rates of crickets, chickens, pigs, and cows are shown below:

Crickets 3.7 lbs of feed: 2.2 lbs of body weight gain
Chickens 5.5 lbs of feed: 2.2 lbs of body weight gain
Pigs 11 lbs of feed: 2.2 lbs of body weight gain
Cows 22 lbs of feed: 2.2 lbs of body weight gain

Large livestock create a larger toll on the earth with problems ranging from habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, and contamination from livestock and feed farms and farming practices. In general, insects are more efficient to farm and their impact on the environment is much less severe.

For something we spend so much time and money trying to exterminate, insects may actually be the first step to a solution to many of our world’s burgeoning social and environmental problems. All we have to do is get past those legs.

Creepy Crawly Recipes
Looking for some yummy ways to try bugs? Check out these sites, and add some environmentally conscious treats to your plate.

http://edibug.wordpress.com/recipes/
http://www.ent.iastate.edu/misc/insectsasfood.html
http://www.insectsarefood.com/recipes.html

For other ways to add a splash of green to your life, check out Dolphin Blue for sustainable office, home, and pet supplies.

(This blog was written by Dolphin Blue’s amazing intern, Elisa Rivera.)

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Infographic Friday: Buzzing Off, How Dying Bees Affects You

Honey bees are super pollinators and have an enormous impact on the environment.  Since the mid 2000′s their numbers have been declining rapidly. Scientist are unable to explain their disappearance but one thing is for certain, the absence of bees would leave much of the world’s food supply in question. Without pollinating insect life, fruits, vegetables, and field crops would be obsolete causing extreme hardship for the farm and food industry and leaving their future, and our survival, in question.

See the infographic below to find out more about why honey bees are so important to us and what you can do to save them.

How the disappearance of bees will affect you.

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