Top 4 eco-friendly gift ideas

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     The holiday season is once again upon us and there is one major thing on everyone's mind this time of the year: gifts. Whether you are still stuck on what to get you best friend, your mom, cousin, aunt or even something for yourself, I am going to give you my top four eco-friendly gift ideas.

#1: Ellie Pooh Paper
I discovered this fantastic brand of paper products a few years ago while on vacation. Ellie Pooh paper is made partially from elephant poop. Sounds gross, but it is an excellent alternative to regular paper. They carry so many great products including scrapbooks, stationary, greeting cards and even children's books. Check out their website for all the great environmental benefits of Ellie Pooh paper.

#2. Simple shoes
I discussed Simple shoes in an earlier entry on my blog, but think that they would make for a great holiday gift. Simple shoes has a wide variety of choices for men, women and children and they also make handbags. All of their products are made from simple, eco-friendly materials.

#3. Food
Food is the ultimate eco-friendly gift to me. Whether you bake cookies or get a basket full of tea for someone, it is a simple, usable gift. When you don't know what to get, get food because you know that it will be used.

#4. Reusable shopping bags
Everyone can use some of these. They are great for more than just groceries. An added bonus: they are cheap and easy to find. Also try putting your gift for someone in one of these instead of wrapping it or putting it in a paper gift bags.


     So, there you go. A simple guide for eco-friendly holiday gift ideas. I hope that you use some of these. Happy Holidays!


IUP E.C.O.

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"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
--Gandhi--

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                                                                                From IUP E.C.O.'s Facebook page

     I've been bringing you eco-friendly tips for the last few months, little things you can do to be friendly to the environment. If you are someone who is looking to do more and become involved to make a difference, you are in luck. Thanks to the passion and hardwork from some students and professors, IUP has a student organization that is trying to make a difference on campus and in the community.
     I recently sat down with Peter Roquemore, an active member of the Environmentally Conscious Organization, or ECO, to learn all about the group and how students can get involved.
     Peter told me that ECO is "a bunch of cool kids having fun and changing IUP and the world." Who wouldn't want to become involved with that?
     ECO has about a dozen consistently active, passionate members. Dr. Amanda Poole is the advisor. They strive to raise awareness and cause change dealing with sustainability, recycling and the environment on campus and in the community.
     This year, they have been working on gaining support to enact a Green Fee on tuition. This would be a $5 fee on students tuition each semester. The money would go directly to projects that would make our campus more sustainable and green. On ECO's blog they say that a venti caramel macchiato costs $5 and if one gave up just one beverage each semester, this would cover the fee and go towards making campus a better place. They are also working on plans for a garden on campus. They want to promote the environmental benefits of buying local food and this would be an excellent way to do so. Promoting local will be a big part of the agenda for the upcoming spring semester and ECO would also like to take steps to give students more local food options in Foster. ECO was also involved with the planning and running of Marcellus Shale Week this fall.
     The past few years, Peter told me, the club spent a lot of time building the group and planning what to do. Now that they are established, the have spent time dorm storming to raise awareness about environmental issues and they even took several trips to West Virginia coal mines. 
     Peter said that a main goal of ECO is to build sustaining leadership here on campus including students and administration so that down the road, ECO is still here and a concern and passion is still here to bring about change. ECO reaches out to students to get them interested and involved and reaches out to administration to hold them accountable and ensure that the change we want to see can happen.
     Peter also shared with me some of his personal convictions. I was curious to know his thoughts on the overall concern students on campus have for the environment. He said that although there seems to be a good deal of interest, there is a lack of action. Peter and I agree that there needs to be a way to show students how easy being eco-friendly can be and that they don't need to make major lifestyle changes to have a positive impact.
     Some advice from Peter? He told me that as students, we should educate ourselves on all environmental issues - big and small. They small things we do every day are important but we also need to be aware and knowledgeable about the larger issues.
     So how can you get involved with ECO? This semester, meetings are in Keith 232, Thursaday's at 7 p.m. "Come to ECO!" Peter told me. You can also check out their Facebook page, just search IUP E.C.O.
     Although it is the end of the semester, ECO will be here in the Spring and ready to take action to make the planet a cleaner, happier place. If you are looking for a group who strives to make positive change, go to their meetings, get involved and inspire change. 

Saving the environment, one electronic device at a time

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"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."

--Ralph Waldo Emerson-- 

 

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                                                                   Photo taken by me, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, August 2008

     This week I am bringing to you another tip that is not only good for the environment but also beneficial to you. How many of you have old electronics that you know you won't use again but you just don't know what to do with? A film camera, an old gaming system or your first cell phone? These electronics and many more can be responsibly recycled with the help of websites like gazelle.com and econewonline.com.
     According to gazelle.com, more than 350,000 cell phones and 130,000 computers are thrown away every day in America. In addition to taking up more landfill space, this can cause lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium and many other harmful agents to leak and affect the quality of our air, water and soil. These metals are toxic, and according to econewonline.com, 40 percent of heavy metals in landfills come from the disposal of electronic equipment.
     Gazelle.com says, "Imagine a world where all electronics are put to use or responsibly recycled. You can help us achieve it. Use Gazelle to trade-in or recycle your electronics and leave us with clean air and fresh water."
     Gazelle is easy to use. They buy 20 different types of electronics including cell phones, laptops, gaming consoles, mp3 players, camcorders and more. You, the seller, search for the item you no longer want, describe the condition and Gazelle gives you an offer price for that item which is based on its current market value. You then print a free shipping label and send the item to be recycled responsibly. On this site, you have the option of donating your money from the item to charity. If the item is in poor condition or has no current market value, there will be no offer price for you, however, you can still send the item to be recycled.

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                                                                                                     From Google Images

 

     Gazelle.com has so far found a new home for more than 20,000 used electronics and responsibly recycled thousands more.
     Econewonline lists two consumer benefits for tech recycling. 1) It is an easy way to get rid of unwanted electronics, responsibly. 2) The environment will thank you for doing the right thing.
     This site works basically the same way. Find your device on the site, send it in and get paid. Unlike Gazelle, this site only takes 9 different types of electronics including laptops, mp3 players, LCD TVs, LCD monitors, game systems, digital cameras, camcorders, smartphones and desktops. Econewonline also gives money for the items you send in and it can be in the form of a Sam's Club, Sony or Visa gift card.
     What makes this site different is that they do not ship any of their items overseas for reuse. According to their site, many recycled electronic parts are shipped overseas and flow legally or illegally into regions like China, Asia and West Africa where salvagers can often be seen in electronic graveyards breaking products down by hand to extract metals and glass. This exposes the worker and the environment to a toxic chemical cocktail.

 

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                                                                                                             From Google Images

     Econewonline resells many of the electronics that are sent in. After they are sold to various resale and e-commerce channels, the products are often broken down into their raw material form and used to produce new materials.
     Electronic devices taking up and contaminating landfills is a growing environmental problem that you wouldn't normally think of. These sites are doing the right thing and giving people an opportunity to recycle their electronics. Whether the items that are sent in are resold and reused or disposed of in a safe way, the environment is being saved one electronic device at a time.   
      So instead of letting those unused electronics sit around, make the decision to recycle them responsibly. Using these sites makes it easy for you to be good to the planet.
     What do you think? Do you have old electronics and don't know what to do with them? Would you consider using these sites?

Be a treehugger

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"Take nothing but pictures

Leave nothing but footprints

Kill nothing but time."

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                                                                                                                                              From Google Images

     With scheduling for next semester happening as we speak, I think now is a good time to talk about textbooks. Textbooks can be awfully expensive and cause a headache for many students. However, with the advice from my awesome, eco-conscious mom, I've learned that getting textbooks can be affordable and eco-friendly as well.

     Under my entry "Mindless ways to be good to the planet" my mom left this comment:

     "There are so many simple things that can be done to be more eco-friendly. Another idea for college students that is eco-friendly and has the added benefit of saving money is to buy used textbooks -- or even better -- rent textbooks. I guess there are even websites where you can swap textbooks and only pay for shipping. I just read that on the website thedailygreen.cm that was listed in the blog entry."

 

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                                                                                                                                                          From Google Images

     Next time you are looking for a textbook, go to Chegg.com. Chegg is simple. You find the book you need, pay to rent it and at the end of the semester return it for someone else to rent. Chegg is awesome for several reasons. 1) The price you pay to rent on Chegg is way less than what you would buy it for (I know this from personal experience). 2) You return the book so that it is reused. 3) Everytime you rent a book on Chegg they plant a tree, which I think is phenomenal. They say that over 3 million trees have been planted so far. Chegg is easy to use and they have 51 different subjects of books to choose from. In addition, shipping your book back at the end of the semester is free, just print a shipping label from their site. Saving you money and saving the planet, there is no better combination.

 

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                                                                                                                                                   From Google Images

     Another magnificent website to check out is Betterworldbooks.com. Better World Books is a "for-profit social enterprise." They collect donated books and sell books on their website. The books that they sell help fund literacy programs around the world. Here are some stats from their site on the impact their sales have made:

  • Raised over $8.6 million for literacy including
    • $5.0 million for over 80 literacy and education nonprofits
    • $3.6 million for libraries nationwide
  • Contributed more than $1.8 million to college service clubs who have run book drives
  • Directly sent more than 3.3 million books to Books for Africa, the National Center for Family Literacy, and Feed the Children
  • Collected over 45 million books through active book drives at over 1,800 colleges and universities and collections from over 2,000 libraries

Better World Books is also extremely earth-conscious. Here are some facts from their site on the impact they have had on the environment:

  • Re-used or recycled over 53 million pounds of books
  • Reclaimed more than 720,000 pounds of metal shelving from libraries across the United States
  • 17,000 tons of carbon offset on BetterWorldBooks.com shipping

     Bookrenter.com is another website where you can rent textbooks. It works basically the same way as Chegg. Rent, use and return. A bonus for using this site is that for every order you place, they make a donation to First Book, an organization that gives books to children in need.

    I highly recommend using these sites because they are socially and environmentally aware and responsible. I love that they are thinking about sustainability, reusing and preserving. Consumerism is becoming a real issue - we want new things all the time. As consumers, we need to start becoming more mindful about what we buy and what we use. Textbooks are just one thing, but every little thing counts. So go ahead, be a treehugger and rent your books next semester.

     Let me know, do you already use these sites? If not, will you after reading this? Do you have any other websites or suggestions?

Wearing green

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     "Optimism can take you anywhere."

                                                                                       -- Life is Good --

 

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With the cold weather heading our way, here is some warm Florida sunshine. Photo taken by me, in Orlando, April 2010

     As I am sitting here searching for inspiration for this week's entry, I soon realize that inspiration is not that far away. I am wearing it, literally. I am wearing a Good Karma by Life is Good organic hoodie. This week I will tell you about how even the clothes you wear can have a positive impact on the environment.

     Life is Good is just one brand of clothing that offers eco-friendly options. It is a personal favorite of mine, as their slogan is "optimistic clothing and accessories for truly inspired people." Good Karma is their organic cotton line of clothing, featuring men's and women's apparel "for the Earth-conscious optimist." I can say from experience that this line of clothing is extremely comfortable and well-made and the best part is that it is all organic.  

 

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The Life is Good logo, picture from Google images

 

     Another company, Element EcoWear, offers eco-friendly, fair-trade clothing for both men and women. Their goal is to provide products that are not only good for the customers but good for the planet. They use products such as hemp, soy, organic cotton and bamboo to make their clothes and they say that their clothing has significant environmental benefits over other clothing sold today made from conventionally grown cotton. Not only do they strive to sell eco-friendly, fair-trade clothing, Element EcoWear donates 1 percent of all profits to charities.

     According to their website, Simple is "the nice little shoe company getting in touch with it's inner hippie." I like them already. This eco-friendly shoe company is dedicated to making their products 100 percent sustainable. Simple uses many recycled and sustainable products to make their shoes. These include:

  • bamboo
  • silk
  • plastics
  • hemp
  • recycled carpet padding
  • organic cotton
  • car tires
  • recycled paper
  • cork
  • recycled inner tubes
  • wool
  • coconut

Simple offers men's, women's and kids shoes as well as a line of eco-friendly bags.

     I am a huge fan of all of these brands and what they are striving for. All of these companies offer cute, affordable clothing, shoes and accessories that are better for the planet than most clothing sold in chains today.

     What do you think? Would you consider buying from these companies?

Mindless ways to be good to the planet

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Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. 

                                           -- John Muir --

 

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          Photo of tree bark taken by me, in Miami, July 2010.

 

     My goal this week is to share some mindless, straight forward advice on how to be eco-friendly. The tips I am going to share are easy and require no real change in lifestyle.

  • Turn off the lights
    • When you are late for class and running out the door, it is common to just leave the lights on all day. Next time, take one second to turn those lights off. You will be conserving energy and not only doing the planet good, but you will also save money on your electric bill.
  • Wash laundry in cold water
    • Choosing cold on the washing machine is another great energy saving tip. 90 percent of the energy used by washing machines goes into heating, according to thedailygreen.com.  
  • Print double-sided
    • The next time you print a paper, notes or article, do it double-sided. The less paper you use, the better.
  • Take notes on your computer 
    • For those of you with a laptop, start taking it to class instead of your notebook. For professors who allow it, take notes electronically instead of on paper. Again, the less paper you use, the better.
  • Do not litter
    • One of my biggest pet peeves is littering. Being eco-friendly doesn't get easier than this. Wait for a garbage can, don't throw garbage on the ground. This includes cigarette butts. Instead of flicking them on the ground, find a proper receptacle to dispose of it.             

     I hope that you found my advice simple and do-able. I encourage everyone to try these mindless tips and see how easy being green can be. I would also like to hear from you. Share with me some of the ways you are good to the planet. What are some of your mindless eco-friendly tips?

Meatless Mondays

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"The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces, or at least not try to defy them."

                                                   --Paul Hawken--

 

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Photo taken by me, in Disney's Animal Kingdom, April 2010

 

 I recently read a news article about a college promoting something called Meatless Mondays. Although I do not remember which college it was, the article said that it was being promoted in the student cafeteria to encourage a healthier lifestyle. The article definitely caught my eye, so I decided to do some research about it.
     I found that Meatless Mondays is not just an idea at this college that I read about, but a non-profit initiative associated with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Their goal, according to their website, is to reduce meat consumption by 15 percent in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.
     Most people probably already know that eating meat can have negative effects on personal health and many people stop eating meat for that reason. But many people probably don't realize that choosing not to eat meat is also environmentally friendly.
     For example, I have taken some classes that have talked about the increasing dangers of factory farming and its negative effects on the environment and what I learned definitely influenced my meat eating habits. Factory farming is an increasing problem in this country because of the high demand for meat. Meat producers are thinking of ways to produce more meat, faster and cheaper. Factory farming is the result and it is having a horrible impact on animals, the environment and our natural resources. I still have a lot to learn but here are some facts that are given on Meatless Mondays website, as well as from farmsanctuary.org.
 

  • The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide , far more than transportation. As annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow, reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.
  • The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef.

  • The quantity of waste produced by farm animals in the United States is more than 130 times greater than that produced by humans. Agricultural runoff has killed millions of fish and is the main reason why 60 percent of America's streams are "impaired."
     Meatless Mondays is an initiative that I completely support and would love to see here. Not eating meat, even just for one day a week, has environmental benefits as well as personal health benefits. Most of the meat that we eat comes from a factory farm, and the less demand we give for meat, the faster this problem can be reversed.
     For those of you that love your meat, just try one day a week and see how delicious a meatless diet can be. There are many recipes on Meatless Monday's website. If you can't completely give meat up, try to buy it locally. Many towns and cities have local meat shops. In Indiana, try Cunningham's. Buying locally usually ensures that the meat was humanely raised and not raised in an environmentally dangerous factory farm.

For more information on Meatless Mondays
     www.meatlessmondays.com
For more information on factory farming
     www.farmsanctuary.org
     www.sustainabletable.org/issues/factoryfarming
Click here to watch a video on the environmental dangers of factory farming. 

Take time to enjoy the environment

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Photos taken by me, in June, 2010, on the Hoodlebug trail.

Hello everyone! We have had some rainy, gray weather in Indiana this week. Today, however, was sunny and beautiful which inspires my blog entry today. Instead of telling you what you can do for the environment, I am going to tell you what the environment can do for you.

After a long day of classes and work, there is nothing I like better than to take a long walk. Walking around campus is great, but I do that all day anyway. Lucky for us in Indiana, there are many parks and trails around the area to enjoy. Located within walking distance from campus, the Hoodlebug trail is my favorite. The 10 mile long trail is a picturesque gem, lined with trees and streams. If you are looking for a great escape from the crazy life on campus, hop onto this trail for a relaxing walk, run or bike ride. hoodlebug2.jpgThe trail holds some rich Indiana history as well. The Indiana branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad system was built in the 1850's and the trail follows that now abandoned railway. According to the Indiana Parks and Trails website, Hoodlebug was the local nickname for the passenger coach that ran along the railway until 1940. The name carried through to the trail.

          From campus, you can walk to the trail by following the walking path to Robertshaw. From there, you have to cross Rose Street and enter the trail right by Hoss's.

          There are several picnic tables and pavilions along the trail, so on nice days it is great to grab some friends and walk to one for a picnic. There are also benches along the way in case you need to stop for a water break.

          The Hoodlebug trail is mainly flat, with only small hills and bumps along the way. The views along the trail are gorgeous, especially around sunset. Autumn is a great time to take advantage of the trail because of all the yellow, red and orange foliage.

          There are other parks and trails to use in Indiana as well. Blue Spruce Park offers hiking trails, a volleyball court and picnic pavilions and is an approximate 15 minute drive from campus. The Ghost Town Trail, another great place to run, walk or bike, is an approximate 35 minute drive from campus.

          So, the next time you are looking to do something good for you, take a trip over to the Hoodlebug trail. If you want to enjoy nature on a nice day, let out some stress or just escape from college for a bit, the Hoodlebug is the place to go.

         

    

 

 

 

Small changes, big impact

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     "The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention."

                                                         -- John Burroughs --

 

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This photo was taken by me in Nags Head, North Carolina. July, 2010.

 

     A lot of people look at being eco-friendly as an overwhelming task, as something that they cannot personally make a difference with. But in reality, every small change you make does make a difference. If after reading this blog, you throw your plastic water bottle into a recycling bin instead of a garbage can, you made a difference. Keeping the environment clean and healthy is such a large problem that every little step counts and chips away at the bigger problem at hand. This week I would like to share with you one small change that you can implement in your life that will make a difference.

     Let's talk more about that water bottle. Or soda bottle. Or Gatorade bottle. Or whatever type of bottle you use. Most people don't think twice about throwing those bottles away, but throwing them into a trash can is doing a lot of damage. The facts vary, but some sites say that it can take up to 450 years for one plastic bottle to decompose.

     The ideal change to make is to invest in a reusable bottle that you can fill and reuse instead of buying a new plastic bottle everyday. On Wal-Mart's website, there are 121 results when you type water bottle, ranging in price from $5 to $38, with many different styles and colors from which to choose. Buying one of these reusable bottles is a good investment for you and for the environment. They are easy to refill and easy to take anywhere. As for the environmental impact, for a person that drinks 2 bottles of water a day, that would be 2 less plastic bottles used and thrown away per day, or 730 per year. Just think: 730 less plastic bottles that will be sitting in a landfill just from one person who drinks 2 bottles of water a day. That is a big impact.

     Of course, in reality, we all need to buy bottles sometimes. When you find yourself in that situation, make sure you recycle the bottle instead of throwing it into a trash can.

 

Breathe In, Breathe Out

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     While browsing YouTube videos for my next eco-friendly tip of the week, I came across a video that I would like to share with you all. I have to say that this may be one of my favorite videos I have ever discovered on YouTube. Watch the video by clicking here.
     The video is simple, yet conveys a strong message to me. As college students, we all live hectic lives. We have class, homework, work, meetings and try to fit a social life in there somewhere. It is important to take time to ourselves and like the video says, just breathe. Even if it is only 90 seconds a day.
     On nice days, go outside and take your 90 seconds to breathe beautiful fresh air. One of my favorite things to do after a long day is go to the Oak Grove, where it is very peaceful in the evening and take time to just breathe and enjoy the air there.
     The video was created and posted by Greenpeace, an organization that according to their website is "the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future."

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