Wednesday, March 28, 2012


 This is part of my series20 Ways to Go Green that Make a DifferenceThis series discusses practical ways we can go green in our lives, that will have a measurable effect on the environment.  This is an alternative to the many lists that offer 100+ suggestions, many of which are not easily applied to our lives or the impact is minimal. 

One of the most green things that you can do is to volunteer.  Many of the things you can volunteer to do, such as clean up the local parks or just the city where you live will make a meaningful impact.  Or you can choose to help others.  During the time that you are volunteering, you will not be using electricity to watch video games or driving to the mall to buy goods made halfway around the world.  Even if the activity you are doing is green neutral, you will still be making a huge difference in someone's life.

There are so many different ways to volunteer.  Every year on Thanksgiving my family volunteers at a local homeless shelter.  We get together to serve the homeless a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Instead of sitting at home, with the heat on, television on the football games and all of the accompanying environmental damage, we are out in our community, interacting with the downtrodden.  It feels absolutely great to give up a couple of hours of your time for a good cause.

There are many other activities that you could volunteer in if you would rather be outside, volunteer with the local parks department.  I am sure they would be willing to have a helping hand clean up one of the local parks.  This helps to keep our green places fully natural and avoids disturbing the local ecosystem as much as possible.  In addition, you get a chance to be outside, enjoying making a beautiful place more beautiful.

Even if you are simply volunteering your money, by donating, make sure to donate to a good cause.  There are many causes that help the sick, hungry, and downtrodden.  Also money can be donated to keeping the outdoors clean.  Volunteering your riches can help to facilitate others to take up the cause, even if you do not have the time to do it yourself.

The most important point is that this does good in a world filled with cruel people.  This series is all about making a difference, and there is no better way to make a difference than to volunteer to help others or the planet.  Even if the volunteering you are doing has no environmental effect, it is likely that you are at least not doing anything negative, environmentally speaking!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Go Green: Beer Growlers

As anyone who reads my other blog, A Terrific Life, knows that I love beer.  Specifically, good, local craft beer.  The beer brewing process uses an unfortunately large amount of resources, specifically water, grains, and electricity.  The beer must then be stored while it ferments, and then packaged and shipped to the consumer.  Then the cans or bottles are often discarded or thrown in the trash, rather than recycled.

Growlers present a great alternative that will hopefully limit the environmental impact of the packaging and distributing activities involved in beer.  Growlers are large jugs, often 32 or 64 ounces, that can be filled directly from the tanks or kegs and sold directly to customers.  This cuts out the distributor, since consumers can buy the beer directly from the brewery.  Also, there will not be electricity wasted on packaging, storing, and shipping the cans or bottles that are traditionally used in the beer market.  In addition, the nature of a growler means that you will be getting fresher beer, often from a local brewery.  This is important, because beer tastes better the fresher it is, and there is not as much energy wasted in storage between the time produced and ultimately consumed.  Finally, supporting local businesses is something we always encourage.

Another point that I like about growlers is the higher bottle deposit. This is something that I have advocated in the past and stand by firmly.  Many people who do not recycle, would, if it was in their own selfish best interest to do so.  This can be accomplished by raising recycling deposit limits.  People will have to shell out extra money for the container when purchasing, and then be refunded upon return.  Growlers are large containers, and I am sure expensive to buy, so they charge $1.50-$5 bottle deposits.  Of course, once you pay it once, you can re-use the growler or bring it back and exchange it at the brewery for a new one. 

Selling growlers makes good business and environmental sense, as the middle-man distributors are cut out, and there is less waste as a result of packaging beer into 6-36 packs of bottles and cans, and the recquisite packaging for individual retail and wholesale cases.  Of course growlers can not serve every single consumers needs, but using them more, as well as increasing bottle deposits on smaller vessels will help to lower the environmental impact of one of my favorite beverages.

Drink Craft Beer!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Green NCAA March Madness

The play-in games, or Round 1, as the NCAA is trying to push, are upon us.  The NCAA March Madness tournament is one of the biggest sporting events of the year, after the Super Bowl.  It may seem like an odd time to think about the environment or going green, but I consider it a reminder and a prompt for us to reconsider and evaluate how we think about our impact on the world.  Also, it s a time where many often host parties or gatherings, which can result in a large amount of unintended and ultimately unnecessary waste.

Let me preface by saying that I am a huge fan of the game of basketball, and although I prefer the NBA, and my beloved Boston Celtics, I still am a fan of the college game as well.  The desperation that is brought out by a single elimination tournament cannot be matched in professional sports other than in championship situations.  Let's take a look at some of the points I thought were important regarding the green aspect of March Madness.

First of all, there is the electricity consumed while people make up their brackets, watch games on the television or computer, and even stream them through their mobile devices.  Granted, this would probably occur normally anyways, but I think it is always important to be conscious of when we are using energy.  There are often parties or gatherings to get together to watch games.  This is one of the positive aspects of a group event like this, a single television can be shared by many, not to mention the great times had by sharing the experience of an underdog taking out a heavy favorite.

Where there are parties gathered to watch sports, there is likely to be food and alcohol, whether at a house or restaurant.  The host of the party may ask guests to bring specific items, such as appetizers, drinks, or an entree.  This will help to limit the amount of excess waste that is produced.  My recommendation to improve on this is to have the host provide all the food for the event, and charge a small fee.  This will allow the green-conscious party to provide just enough food for the amount of people expected, and in addition, there will not be the waste by-products from all the packaging material that guests would inevitably bring if left to their own devices.  As always, a focus on local foods is a positive idea.

If you are going to drink beers, consider drinking locally brewed craft beer, in a can or growler if you can find it!

There is going to be a ton of garbage and mess after the party, make sure to take care and dispose of it all properly.  Recycle as needed.  You can have the guests all do their part before they leave, especially as they are all aware that your party is a green one.  Before, during or after the games consider getting outside and actually playing basketball.  It is a great, fun way to excercise with no effect on the environment!

Enjoy the tournament and go Michigan State Spartans!!!