Cyber Monday Savings in More Ways than One

Cyber Monday Savings in More Ways than One


Check out this very interesting campaign done by Patagonia, and outdoor goods company a few years ago.  Today is Cyber Monday, the post Black Friday savings extravaganza done on online shopping websites.  Patagonia’s “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign is an effort to enlighten their costumers about their “Common Threads Initiative” and effort to reduce their environmental footprint.  Patagonia states, “But Cyber Monday, and the culture of consumption it reflects, puts the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. We’re now using the resources of one-and-a-half planets on our one and only planet.” They also explain that if they want their business to prosper for a long time, the planet needs to exist to do so!  Therefore, they ask their costumers to reduce their rates of consumption and work with what they already have in order to save the environment one step at a time.


All up in Lights!!!


As we approach the holiday season, I would like to discuss the topic of lights. Various holiday celebrations use lights to decorate their homes, dorm rooms, landscapes, etc.  Whether they be conventional incandescent, LED, or compact fluorescent…I am here to figure out which lights are the best choices for you, the environment, and hopefully both!



Incandescent light bulbs are the conventional light bulbs that have been used since the 19th century when Thomas Edison invented them.  Edison created incandescent light by using electricity to heat a thin strip of material, the filament, until it becomes hot enough to glow a white-hot light.  Pros:

  • Extremely inexpensive
  • Come in a majority of varieties, shapes, and sizes
  • Turn on instantly
  • Emit warm light in all directions
  • Reveals accurate tons and colors of objects
  • Been on the market for many years, customers know what they are getting


  • Use significantly more electricity than LED and CFL bulbs
  • Only 10% of energy used in incandescent bulbs is used for light
  • Other 90% is wasted as heat
  • Short life: at most 1,000 hours

Although this innovation changed how humans have lived on earth for centuries, today, this type of light bulb is not quite so innovative.  The technology has not evolved in incandescent light bulbs.  Today, it still generates light by heating up a filament until it reaches 4, 172 degrees Fahrenheit and glows white-hot, just like Edison’s creation. That white-hot light is not very green coincidently.  Only 10 percent of the heat created is used in the creation of light and the rest is wasted as heat. A large amount of electricity from coal-fired power plants that is responsible for overly emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere comes from incandescent bulb usage.

This fact from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette exemplifies just how wasteful incandescent light bulbs can be when used in such a conventional manner.

There are an estimated 6 billion light bulbs in American homes, according to the Department of Energy, and more than 3.6 billion are standard incandescent light bulbs. You can see how all this wasted energy adds up.

Incandescent light bulbs are used so frequently due to conventional practice and habit as well as its very inexpensive price.  People know what to expect when they are buying this product and will do so especially because of its cheap price.  What they do not always know is the extent of wastefulness the usage of this product contains.


Compact Fluorescent Lights


Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) are mini versions of full sized fluorescent lights.  CFL illumination comes from a different source than the filament incandescent lights utilize.  The illumination of CFLs comes by way of argon and mercury vapor held within the spiral shaped tube.  CFLs also have integrated ballast, which provide a electric currents to pass through the vapor and causes gas molecules to excite and produce ultraviolet light.  That light stimulates the fluorescent coating painted inside the tube and emits visible light.


  • Efficient
  • 4 times more efficient than incandescent
  • last up to 10 times longer than incandescent
  • 22 watt CFL emits the same amount of light as a 100 watt incandescent
  • Use 50-80% less energy than incandescent
  • Cheaper
  • More expensive at first, but their “life” causes the consumer to save money in the long run
  • If single 18 watt CFL is instead of a 74 watt incandescent, it will save around 570 kWH over its lifespan.  If each kWH costs 8 cents, that equals around a $45 savings
  • Pollution
  • Reduces air and water pollution
  • Replacing one incandescent bulb with a CFL will keep 1,000 pounds of CO2 in the atmosphere
  • Quality
  • Unlike usual fluorescents CFLs give a warmer white visual look
  • They neither flicker nor hum
  • Versatility
  • Can be applied almost anywhere than incandescent lights are used
  • Recessed fixtures, table lamps, ceiling fixtures, porch lights, etc
  • Visual
  • Come in a variety of shapes and sizes
  • The typical spiral shape
  • Triple tube lamps
  • Standard light bulb shapes
  • Globe shapes
  • Flood Lamps
  • Candelabra


  • On/off cycling
  • The life’s pan of CFLs decrease when they are turned on and off frequently
  • Time
  • Take time to fully brighten (around 19 second for spiral bulbs)
  • Dimmer
  • Not all CFLs are available for dimmer switches and using a regular CFL with a dimmer can shorten the bulb life span just like on/off cycling
  • Outdoors
  • When used outdoors CFLS need to be covered from the elements
  • Low temperatures may reduce light levels
  • Specific Lighting
  • Only good for large area lighting
  • Mercury
  • Contain a small amount of mercury and may be released if the bulb is broken
  • Heat
  • Low air flow and heat build up reduce the lifespan of CFLs as well

This article discusses how LED lights could possibly increase the attraction of you home if it is on the market.  It also discusses the pros and cons of using LED lights in your home overall.  It mentions things like the dimming issue, which is not a huge deal, but somewhat of an annoyance.  They also discuss how the prospect of going green in regards to lighting is appealing, but often people do not want to expend the effort.  Therefore, the reason incandescent bulbs are still sold quite often is due to laziness rather than a lack of motivation to help the environment.


Light Emitting Deode (LED)


A diode is a semiconductor device (conducts electrical current).  In LEDs, the conducts are made typically of aluminum-gallium-arsenide (AIGaAs).  In simpler terms, LED lights are electronic devices that emit light when an electrical current passes through them.

These lights work differently than incandescent, and their functionality causes them to be extremely energy efficient.

They are used to light up digital clocks, Christmas lights, flashlights, cell phone lights (not screen, but things like message alerts, etc), and more.  They have an extremely long life span.  Apparently, one can go 20 years without exchanging and LED light bulb and some LED bulbs last up to 50,000 hours. According to

Solid-state lights like LEDs are more stable light sources than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, and the difference is startling: A typical incandescent bulb lasts about 750 hours; [an LED] lasts 30,000 hours.

The bad side to these lights are their extremely expensive price.

Because of that time benefit, things get a bit more muddled when you get into the cost issue. A 60-watt LED replacement bulb runs in the area of $100, and even the lower-output versions, used for things like spot lighting, will cost between $40 and $80. That’s compared to a $1 incandescent and a $2 fluorescent bulb.”

People have also had a problem with how these lights appear visually.  They are often known to have a bluish tint within the light they emit.


  • Long lasting
  • Durable
  • LEDs do not have a filament so they cannot be damaged in the same way incandescent bulbs would
    • Cool
    • Do not cause heat build up
    • 3.4 btu/hour vs. incandescent: 85 but/hour
    • Thus reduce AC costs in home
  • Mercury free
  • According to the US Geological survey, Mercury “affects the immune system, alters genetic and enzyme systems, and damages the nervous system, including coordination and the senses of touch, taste, and sight.”
  • Light for remote areas and portable generators
  • Low power requirement allows for its usage to be widespread and reliable for things like generators


  • LED lights emit a lot of light but the structure prevents all the light from showing through
  • Inefficient for home lighting (does not emit light in all directions)
  • Unusual shapes
  • Cost is very pricy
  • 60 watt equivalent LED bulb costs around $100
  • Said to pay off overtime due to long life span, but a lot of money out of pocket
    • Visual
    • Bluish tint

When it comes to environmental efficiency, the biggest factory regarding light and light bulbs is energy efficiency.  The chart I made below compares and contrasts the energy efficiency of incandescent, CFL, and Led lights in watts and lumens.  Lumens are a unit of standard measurements that determine the amount of light contained in an area perceived by the human eye.  The more lumens, the brighter the light.

Incandescent Watts CFL Watts LED Watts Lumens (Brightness)
40 8-12 6-9 400-500
60 13-18 8-12.5 650-900
75 18-22 13 1100-1750
100 23-30 16-20 1800
150 30-55 25-28 2790

When looking at this table you can see that the number of watts is proportional to the lumber of lumens and thus brightness.  However, you can also observe that LED watts have the least number of watts required for the most brightness.  CFL watts come in second place, and incandescent stands at last place.

If the lists of pros and cons were not enough to help you make a decision on what lights you would prefer to use, check out the “Choose a Light Guide” from energy star, which is the EPA’s voluntary programs tat helps individuals as well as business save money and protect our environment through energy efficiency. (Click here)


My ranking of these lights stay the same as the energy usage ranking when I way in the environmental and human factors.  As stated before, energy efficiency is the most heavily weighted factor, so with that in mind, in order of environmental preference I would rank LED first, CFL second, and incandescent last.  This is due to energy efficiency, but also due to human benefit as well.  LED lights last a very long time, which saves trip to the store, a light bulb switch, and more.  The high prices of these lights pay off after a long period of use.  I have a LED desk lamp now that I have been using for three and a half years and leave it on for at least 3-5 hours a day and have not had to replace it yet.  This lamp also does not contain unsafe metals like CFLs (mercury).  Mercury is bad for humans and the environment, so using it materials like lights that are a widespread necessity is an unnecessary danger.  The only con about LED lights is the bluish tint that is hard for consumers of the conventional incandescent light to get used to.  However, this does not take long to get used to, and technologies are being worked on to improve the color and innovate new colors.  CFL lights would be my next choice for because they save much more energy than incandescent lights, have a relatively long life, and are cheaper than LEDs.  The saved energy from CFLs also saves unnecessary CO2 emissions.  So, even though CFLs do not save quite as much energy in comparison to LEDs, they are a much better choice for humans and the environment than the conventional incandescents.


“Animated Christmas Lights.” Animated Christmas Lights. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013. <;.

Layton, Julia. “How LED Light Bulbs Work.” HowStuffWorks, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013. <;.

Harris, W.. N.p.. Web. 23 Nov 2013. <;.

. N.p.. Web. 23 Nov 2013. <;.

“Eartheasy.” Energy-Efficient Lighting: LED & CFL bulb information, including where to buy. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013. <;.

Harris, William. “How CFL Bulbs Work.” HowStuffWorks, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013. <;.

Layton, Julia. “How LED Light Bulbs Work.” HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013. <;.

McKEOUGH, TIM . “What’s Best, LED or Incandescent Lights?.” N.p., 4 Sept. 2013. Web. 23 Nov. 2013. <;.

“Shop Smart: Pros and cons to each type of light bulb.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. N.p., 16 June 2013. Web. 23 Nov. 2013. <;.

“The ENERGY STAR Choose A Light Guide.” ENERGY STAR. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013. <;.

Reusable Bag: Mr. Eco

I came across the webpage of “Mr. Eco,” the self proclaimed environmental rap superhero, who uses music to inspire children to get involved and informed about environmental issues. (He calls the children he inspires #EcoHeros). His catchy but informative videos are cute ways to gain a little knowledge about issues of the environment and sustainability. Some of his other videos include “Fresh Prince of Fresh Air,” “Recycle Robot,” and “Bottles are for Babies.” This reusable bag video relates to my older post about reusable, paper, and plastic bags.

Green Cosmetics

Consumers are starting to become more and more concerned about their moral practices and purchases, especially when it comes to makeup, nail polish, and other cosmetic goods that are not considered absolute necessities in life.  So if we are choosing to buy and use these products, we might as well choose the best ones for our environment, and ourselves, right?  Issues like animal testing, toxic ingredients, sustainable practices, and more, are all reflected upon in the business of green cosmetics.


This diagram discusses the number of chemicals in all of the products used on the displayed model.   It also notes the most dangerous chemicals and the possible side effects.  It goes to show just how many chemicals are in the multitude of products that humans use on a daily basis.

According to this article on, the average woman applies 515 chemicals in her daily “grooming” routine.  A major chemical to watch for in conventional cosmetic products are PPCPs, which are toxic ingredients within pharmaceuticals and personal care products.  The EPA states that PPCPs are

Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products as Pollutants (PPCPs) refers, in general, to any product used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons or used by agribusiness to enhance growth or health of livestock. PPCPs comprise a diverse collection of thousands of chemical substances, including prescription and over-the-counter therapeutic drugs, veterinary drugs, fragrances, lotions, and cosmetics.

Sources of PPCPs are human activity like bathing, swimming, etc, illegal drug use, veterinary drug use, agribusiness, and pharmaceutical manufacturing.  The environmental hazards they cause to the environment involve medication residues passing through the body and into the sewer lines, as well as medications placed in the trash that then infiltrate landfills.  PPCPs are present in the nation’s water bodies, and cause ecological harm and disruption to aquatic endocrine systems. Review this detailed diagram about how PPCPs infiltrate our environment.  The following picture diagram is titled “Origins and Fate of PPCPs in the Environment”, provided by the EPA.


(Click this link to see a zoomed in version of this diagram).  It gives a detailed “story” of how PPCPs travel through the environment.

Other chemicals typically used in conventional cosmetic goods include parabens and petrochemicals.  Parabens are preservatives that mimic estrogen and have been linked to cause cancer.  Petrochemicals are ingredients derived from petroleum and are used as synthetic dyes.

Also, conventional products have a lot of high brow claims to do miracles to your appearance that defy the natural process of aging.

Lots of the high-tech, new generation cosmetics and beauty ‘wonder’ treatments naturally contain more chemicals to be able to achieve even better results, which, of course, means that women now carry more chemicals than ever before.

(this link)

These beauty tricks and “wonder treatments” do not come easily, and require many chemicals and harmful products to be achieved.

Nail polish, another traditional cosmetic product has a lot of harmful ingredients in conventional brands.  It is a product that you put on your fingers, which are limbs that are used in so many different ways. Notably, for eating, which means that a lot of humans ingest this nasty stuff on nail polish.  Watch out for the “Big 3”: dibutyl phthalate, tolune (developmental toxins), and formaldehyde (carcinogen used to preserve animals for dissection, etc) in nail polish.  The three most common and harmful toxins used to create the product.  Alternatives to conventional nail polish include non-toxic and more “natural formulas” which are starting to become more widely sold in typical drug stores, but can be found in many specialty stores like Whole Foods.  Also, different manicuring practices like gel and Shelac manicures utilize techniques that prevent nails from chipping, thus humans from ingesting the polish.  However, the process utilizes direct UV rays to dry the polish, which could lead to skin cancer.  Check out this article from the about the negative sides of such manicure practices.

Stores that carry green cosmetics look for diverse products that are deemed often certifiably organic, claimed to be all natural, fare trade, sustainable, etc.  David Moore, the Whole Body Buyer and Merchandiser for Whole Foods stated, “We look for products from around the world.  Certified organic and fair trade are equally important…”

“According to a 2005 survey of 2,300 adults by the Environmental Working Group, the average woman encounters 168 chemical ingredients in her beauty regimen everyday. And let’s not forget about the men — they’re slathering themselves with an average of 85 chemicals everyday, too.”

The EWG has a database called Skin Deep Cosmetics Database that compares cosmetic goods, similar to the database I incorporated in my review on cleaning goods (click here to view that post, and here to view the cleaning supplies database).  This cosmetics database rates products in regards to their environmental benefits, or lack there of, just the same as the cleaning database.  They review products, conventional and green in the categories of sun, makeup, skin care, hair, nails, fragrance, oral care, and more.  They review the ingredient concerns in regards to overall hazard, cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity, and use restrictions.

According to this article from

  • “33 percent: Personal care products that contain at least one chemical linked to cancer, according to the Skin Deep report by the Environmental Working Group, a partner of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
  • “77 percent: Percentage of rinse-off cosmetics that contain parabens; the figure rises to 99 percent for leave-on cosmetics such as sunscreens.”

These facts allow one to see the true benefits of using green cosmetics.  They prevent exposure to disease causing ingredients, and thus improve the quality of their user’s life.

There are downsides however.  These negatives allow you to reflect upon the positives of conventional cosmetics. Most green makeup products do not use synthetic dyes and colorants, this means that there is only a limited selection of hues, and thus not all skin tones and use such products.  In order to apply correctly, these goods may require a specialized set of supplies (brushes, sponges, wands, etc).

Many of these products lack preservatives; therefore they expire quickly in the package, and do not always last very long on your face and/or body.  Also, just because green products are often along the lines of natural and organic, it does not necessarily mean it is gentle or safe, and overall better for all skin types.  Sensitive skin types can have adverse reactions to natural ingredients like essential oils.

The prices of green cosmetics, like most other green products are typically higher than that of the conventional alternative.  The effort it takes to find the ingredients, and make them usable and appealing without harmful additives, toxins, etc, is quite the task.  Also, packaging these materials in recyclable boxes or with sustainable practices, is more costly than the typical packaging practices.

Similarly to my post on green cleaning products, it is also hard for people to change their habits, as well as ignore societal norms.  This is extremely prevalent in the beauty world, therefore green cosmetics are not what people always gravitate towards.  In a world of people trying to constantly look younger, thinner, tighter, brighter, etc, they tend to buy whatever products they feel will make them look their personal best, and disregard the harmful consequences.  Most green products do not contain face slimming, wrinkle smoothing, spot clearing technologies that many conventional beauty products have.  So it is a question of what you want in a product in regards to health and in regards to aesthetics.  Often there is overlap between those two criteria, but sometimes they just are not conducive.

So for a person like me, a darker skinned girl with some typical adolescent blemishes and marks on my skin, I may not gravitate towards the green product offerings in regards to makeup and hair, as apposed to other cosmetics.  I see the value in such products, and want to preserve my health, as well as the environments in the best way possible.  However, I cannot walk around looking odd with a lighter toned foundation applied to my face, just to avoid PCCPs or parabens on my skin.  Therefore, my option would be to use conventional makeup or just no makeup at all (I usually choose the latter).  I know I am not the only person who struggles with such choices.  It is a shame that the environmentally friendly cosmetic options are not as accessible to everyone compared to their conventional alternatives. The average woman inadvertently consumes around five pounds of lipstick in her lifetime, so the things that we put on our mouth, face, hands, and body really should not be toxic and/or life threatening.  If you meet the demographic of green makeup, hair, etc, and are interested in using them for you health’s sake as well as the environment’s, I would say go for it!!! I will try to best to utilize the green cosmetic options whenever I can.  This depends on price of the product, who the product’s market is, and convenience.  Like nail polish for instance, I am wearing the Seattle based nail polish brand: butter London’s “3 Free Nail Lacquer-Vernis” as I type! The back of the bottle states “3 Free Nail Lacquer ™ by butter London The High Price of Beauty? We don’t think so.  Butter London is a 3 Free company. No Formaldehyde. No Toluene. No DBP Colour,not Carcinogens.” (The shade “Chimney Sweep” if you’re interested in seeing the color!!) Although I will say, this nail polish did set me back a wopping $15, when the drugstore brand may cost me $5.  In sum, I support most efforts to help the health of the environment, and in that category, humans exist.  Thus, the usage of green cosmetics is quite beneficial since their benefits generally focus on human health, but also have many valuable environmental elements too.


Mazzoni, Mary. “Replace Your Cosmetics with These Eco-Friendly Alternatives.” N.p., 27 Mar. 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <;.

Origins and Fate of PPCPs in the Environment. Digital image. Environmental Protection Agency., Mar. 2006. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <;.

“Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs).” Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <;.

Casciato, Paul. “Average UK Woman Wears 515 Chemicals a Day.” Ed. Steve Addison. N.p., 19 Nov. 2009. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <;.

Jerven, Taraneh G. “Top Picks for Eco-friendly Cosmetics.” BC Living, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <;.

Davis, Sammy. “The 8 Commandments of Natural Beauty.” The Daily Green., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <;.

“How to Go Green: Women’s Personal Care.” TreeHugger. N.p., 25 Jan. 2007. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <;.

“Women If You Use Conventional Makeup Heres the 515 Chemicals You’re Putting on Your Sweet Self Every Day.” Elephant Journal, 7 July 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <;.

Green Cleaning

The products being analyzed in this post all focus around the idea of cleaning.  Cleaning products are well known to often contain toxic attributes.  So, are green products worth they hype? Let’s see…

Cleaning products are used everywhere from the kitchen to your work desk to your shower, most everything humans come across, especially indoors, has to be cleaned somehow. Since humans are exposed to these spaces so frequently, it is important that the products that are used to clean them are safe.  Many environmentally friendly cleaning products offer alternatives to conventional ones that work to obliterate everything in their dirty path, disregarding the negative affects on the things that are not so dirty.  

In a general sense, green cleaning products are said to be better for you and the environment because they commonly are marketed as either non-toxic, biodegradable, and/or made from renewable resources.    

According to this link from, Five billion pounds of chemicals are used in the institutional cleaning industry per year, and there are around 63 synthetic chemical products found in the average American home, mostly from cleaning products.  This translates into around ten gallons of harmful chemicals.  Also, a janitor uses 23 gallons of chemicals on average per year, 25 percent of which are hazardous. 

Watch out for false marketing…

Regular cleaners often use terms like “antibacterial” and “antimicrobial.”  These terms are eye catching, and cause people to think that such qualities are necessary to make sure their spaces are as clean as they can possibly be.  However, these characteristics are not necessary on a regular basis.  If overused, you could be creating adverse affects in an attempt to clean your space by risking the creation of “super germs.”  When cleaners like this are used in areas, but do not kill every germ around, then the left over germs build up a tolerance and resistance to the cleaners through natural selection, thus breeding a “super germ.”  This leaves you with a bigger and dirtier problem then you had before. 

Green cleaners can have misleading terms as well. 

Review this guide for a complete list of such terms.  I will indicate below some common terms indicated in this list. 

Biodegradable: ““Biodegradable” ingredients break down in the environment once they enter wastewater treatment plants, rivers and streams or landfills. Cleaning supply manufacturers often advertise their products as biodegradable to make them seem safer or greener than they really are.  However, because no one regulates the use of this term on cleaning product labels, you cannot assume that a product with the label is better than another product.” Biodegradable ingredients also have different speeds of biodegradability.  Some linger in the environment for years, while others start to break down right away, which is something to look out for when choosing green products as a whole.

Green Seal/EcoLogo: “Green Seal and EcoLogo are organizations that provide independent, third party certification of environmentally friendly cleaners and authorize approved products to bear their seals of approval.” Both programs limit certain toxic chemicals to be used in their products.

Fragrance Free and Clear of Perfumes and Dyes: Many cleaning companies market their products to have no added scent.  Added scents often provoke allergic reactions and asthmatic flare-ups. 

Natural/Plant-based: “On a cleaning product, the word “natural” can mean anything or nothing at all – there is no regulation of the word’s use. Some manufacturers use the term to mean that some or all of the ingredients come from plants or minerals rather than petroleum, but they rarely disclose how much or little of those ingredients is present. The term “natural” can mislead consumers to think that a product is safer or more environmentally friendly than it actually is.“

Non-toxic: Term that implies that ingredients or products used will not harm he health of humans or the environment.  However, there is no standard definition in the cleaning industry.


The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health research and advocacy organization.  The EWG’s mission is “to use the power of information to protect human health and the environment. EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning gives you practical solutions to protect yourself and your family from everyday exposures to potentially harmful chemicals.” This website shows the EWG’s 2012 Guide to Healthy Cleaning.  They review mainstream cleaners as well as ones marketed to be environmentally friendly.  The guide helps you find green cleaners for your household needs and gauges many important factors one should consider when choosing such products including asthma/respiratory irritants, skin allergies, developmental and reproductive toxicity, cancer, and environmental factors. The guide also gives a letter grade (A, B, C,…etc) to the product’s ingredients in regards to its health, environment, and disclosure concerns.  The products reviewed include air fresheners, all purpose cleansers, bathroom cleaners, dishwashing soaps, floor care, furniture cleaners, kitchen cleaners, and laundry detergents.  The EWG evaluates green and conventional cleaners ranging from general purpose, kitchen, to bathroom, etc. 

Here I have taken screenshots of two different bathroom cleaners, and how they are analyzed on the EWG’s guide. 

Green Product:



Conventional Product:


You can see the different factors evaluated and the amount of human and environmental concern it carries and the grades they received relating to the product’s ingredients. 

More facts on green cleaners

According to this website from,

“In 2000, cleaning products were responsible for nearly 10% of all toxic exposures reported to U.S. Poison Control Centers, accounting for 206,636 calls. Of these, 120,434 exposures involved children under six, who can swallow or spill cleaners stored or left open inside the home.”

In regards to the environment, many cleaning liquids disappear down our drains, and infiltrate sewage and wastewater.  This then gets discharged into nearby waterways, which threatens the water quality and the biodiversity within that water.  “In a May 2002 study of contaminants in stream water samples across the country, the U.S. Geological Survey found persistent detergent metabolites in 69% of streams tested. Sixty-six percent contained disinfectants.”

Another important water pollutant that is widely used in laundry detergents and other cleaners is phosphates.  These are water softening mineral additives that infiltrate waterways and acts as a fertilizer.  This spawns algal bloom in water bodies, and an overabundance of aquatic plant life.  This depletes the water’s oxygen supply, thus killing off fish and other organisms, a process called eutrophication. 

Also, the usage of petroleum-based chemicals in cleaners is an environmental concern.  This contributes to the depletion of this non-renewable resource and increases the country’s dependence on foreign oil. 

The packaging of such products is an issue too.  The plastic bottles used to package cleaning products contribute to the amount of solid waste in landfills, and contribute to the amount of goods not recycled.  Many cleaners are bottled in high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which can be recycled. 

Do green cleaners really clean?

These green products often collide with societal and cultural concepts of cleanliness.  Many people have a hard purchasing and using green cleaners because they feel that they really do not get their materials as clean s conventional products.  An article from discusses the valid mental blocks people have when it comes to using green products.  A woman featured in the article stated,

“My dishes were dirtier than before they were washed,” one wrote last week in the review section of the Web site for the Cascade line of dishwasher detergents. “It was horrible, and I won’t buy it again.”

The article discuses how “Phosphorus in the form of phosphates suspends particles so they do not stick to dishes and softens water to allow suds to form.” However, that same water-softening agent causes major ecological and environmental concerns.  The article discusses how these products often cost more for a less visible outcome.  It is hard for consumers to feel satisfied and okay with paying more for a product when they do not see immediate benefits.

“Low-phosphate dish detergents are a waste of my money,” said Thena Reynolds, a 55-year-old homemaker from Van Zandt County, Tex., who said she ran her dishwasher twice a day for a family of five. Now she has to do a quick wash of the dishes before she puts them in the dishwasher to make sure they come out clean, she said. “If I’m using more water and detergent, is that saving anything?” Ms. Reynolds said. “There has to be a happy medium somewhere.”

Overall, you have to choose what the right type of cleaner is for you.  You have to find the happy medium between your values, whether that be extreme cleanliness or prevention of environmental degradation.  My conclusion is that the health benefits and the environmental benefits combined in green products is worth the use in the long run.  Cleaning is a necessity for sanitation, hygiene, etc., nevertheless, the products you use should not hurt the earth in the process. The extra costs of the products and the extra cleaning power you might have to exert are worth not risking your exposure to endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, and asthma triggering agents, and more harmful side effects.  I feel that you clean to keep your environment healthy, so the products you use to do so should keep you healthy too. 

If green cleaning is for you…

I found a few websites that show you what to look for in the process of purchasing such products:


“How to Go Green: Cleaning.” TreeHugger., 30 Jan. 2007. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <;.

“Decoding the Labels.” EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <;.

EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <;.

“How Toxic Are Your Household Cleaning Supplies?” N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <;.

NAVARRO, MIREYA. “Cleaner for the Environment, Not for the Dishes.” New York Times, 18 Sept. 2010. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <;.



Green Technologies—Smarts Roads

This blog post is about a technological innovation that manifests itself into the environment; and goes beyond the typical vision of technology behind a screen or device.  The innovation is about technology that is put into roads; smart roads.  These roads are smart in the sense that they are forward thinking, technologically advanced, and especially, environmentally friendly by being very energy efficient.

This post is not quite like the others in the sense that I will tell you which product (conventional or green) that I think is the one worth using.  I came across this product as I was researching other products for this blog, and thought it was so interesting and forward thinking that I had to share it with my readers!

I found two different “smart road” product types that have similar styles but slightly different purposes.  Both products are roads/pathways applied with special type of paint that glows in the dark.  These painted pathways are thought to illuminate the roads so much do the point where they are thought to either replace completely or reduce the numbers of street lights.

The first product is called The Smart Highway, by Studio Roosegaarde and infrastructure management group Heijmans, which are companies based in the Netherlands.

This product uses a “photo-luminising power that will replace road markings—it charges up in sunlight, giving it up to 10 hours of glow-in-the-dark time come nightfall” (source).  This is the main aspect of this product that relates to the environment.  The Smart Highway ultimately uses solar power to run.

An article from jokingly states:

Club kids and eco-activists of the world, rejoice! Driving at night just got a lot more groovy and a lot less boring in the Netherlands, which is getting a grid of glow-in-the-dark roads. It’s part of the country’s new “smart highways” initiative, which means safer winter driving and transportation that’s decidedly less burdensome on the environment.

This glow in the dark light will overall decrease the need for streetlights, and if are done right, could be the primary light system for night driving.  This majorly decreases the amount of light energy emitted in the environment, which saves the large amount of money that it costs to run those lights, and also saves an immense amount of power.

A Sunday Telegraph report has also revealed that nearly 5,000km of motorways and trunk roads in England are already unlit, 75km have their lights switched off between midnight and 5am and 73 percent of 134 councils surveyed switch off or dim lights, or plan to. Fully switching the lights off on major roads saved the Highways Agency just £400,000 in 2011.

This paint also has technology that utilizes certain image markers to indicate certain conditions across the road’s surface.  For example, when temperatures fall to a certain degree, a snowflake will become visible, indicating slippery conditions.

This innovation is especially effective in the Netherlands, a country largely deprived of sun.  Even with limited sun available, the powder within this paint is “super-charged.” This means the paint can absorb any available light, even during the drearier winter, and can then illuminate/glow for up to 10 hours per night.

The Smart Highway won Best Future Concept at the Dutch Design Awards.  This concept has additional elements to it that contributes to its positive impacts on the environment.

The first few hundred metres of glow-in-the-dark, weather-indicating road will be installed in the province of Branbant in mid-2013, followed by priority induction lanes for electric vehicles, interactive lights that switch on as cars pass and wind-powered lights within the next five years.

Those include “Electric Priority Lanes” for electric vehicles that could charge them as they drive through magnetic field, a from of free renewable energy, as well as keep the speed limit lower so they could run for longer.


The next product called Starpath, is made by a company based out of the UK called Proteq, and has similar idea to the smart highway.  This innovation is a photoluminescent spray coating.  This coating could “illuminate roads enough that street lamps could be removed and money and energy could be saved” (  This technology is projected to have uses all over the road for night driving and also has anti-slip properties to reduce car accidents.  The paint is non-reflective, and it also comes in 11 different color variations, and is quite aestheically pleasing to the eye. “British-based company [Proteq] has come up with a way to turn park paths into glow-in-the-dark thoroughfares that double as energy-efficient works of art.”


The installation of Starpath is very quick.  Neil Blackburn says it can be used “straightaway” after installation, without worry of drying time or anything of that nature. Starpath works best over tarmac or concrete.  To spray 1,600 square feet of a pathway, Starpath dried in just half an hour.  It apparently can rejuvenate old pathways that are at the end of its life as well.  This is quite environmentally sound in the sense that it “re-uses” pathways.  There are no extra costs including energy or further material costs used to create an entirely new pathway or road.

Environmentally, Starpath is a great innovation.  This innovation does not produce any electricity.  Its spray-able design allows it to have very low installation and maintenance costs because it works with surfaces that have already been installed.  According to Proteq, Starpath stores UV rays during the day, then releases that light during the night.  The particles of Starpath are able to adjust to the available natural light, and therefore glow at the appropriate level.  This glow in the dark spray has additional environmental advantages.  Its non-reflective surface does not contribute to light pollution.  This means that it does not inhibit views of the night sky, and also does not hurt the biodiversity and wildlife affected to the constant illumination light pollution emits.  Also, as previously stated, it is applied directly onto paths, and does not need to be recreated, which also decreases energy costs.

The illumination Starpath provides is also said to decrease public safety fears and criminal action. “Seeing that local city councils were increasingly shutting off park lights at night to save money, Pro-Teq developed Starpath to maintain public safety without the financial and environmental costs of overhead lighting.” (Source)

Both of these innovations have a multitude of benefits.  The Smart Highway and Starpath are very cool, pretty to look at, energy efficient, relatively inexpensive, avoid light pollution, and contain technologies to create a safer driving experience.  However, I have a few questions surfaced during my research.  Do the materials bother the environment in which they are installed?  Are their any chemicals that could cause harm to near by ecosystems, as well as humans who are exposed to them?  What happens with the spray or the paint wears off?  Then, it seems like the technology to absorb light and then later emit it at night would be obsolete.  How would drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, etc see where they are going if these roads are not kept up to the best conditions possible?  Also, what happens when things like snow cover the light absorbing technologies and also prevent the glow from showing? The illuminations these innovations provide are thought to reduce crime.  However, I still am wondering about the overall effectiveness of keeping the public safe.  Crime is statistically known to increase at night, and with the eradication of overhead light systems, I am not sure if Starpath or the Smart Highway would quite emit enough light to keep criminals away.

Despite these questions, I am still intrigued by these products.  I especially like the fact that their benefits consider the environment and energy efficiency, as well as take into consideration the safety and visual pleasure of humans as well. The combination of human and environmental productivity that is prevalent in these products is what I am most interested in finding throughout my experience researching and writing for this blog.


Antoniades, Andri. “Could Sparkling Glow-in-the-Dark Pavement Replace Street Lights?” TakePart. N.p., 30 Oct. 2013. Web. 03 Nov. 2013. <;.

Antoniades, Adri. “Glow-in-the-Dark Roads Become a Reality.” TakePart. N.p., 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 03 Nov. 2013. <;.

Clark, Liat. “Netherlands Highways Will Glow in the Dark Starting Mid-2013.” Conde Nast Digital, 28 Oct. 0012. Web. 03 Nov. 2013. <;.

Treacy, Megan. “Starpath Glow-in-the-dark Spray Coating Will Light up Roads in the UK.” TreeHugger., 22 Oct. 2013. Web. 03 Nov. 2013. <;.

Borghino, Dario. “Starpath Spray-on Coating Lights up the Road.” Starpath Spray-on Coating Lights up the Road., 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 03 Nov. 2013. <;.

Bags: Reusable vs. Plastic vs. Paper

When consumers switch from plastic and paper bags to reusable ones in the grocery store just a trend? Or, is this action a true statement for environmental awareness and support?

This post will explicate the pros and cons of plastic, paper, and reusable bags, and try to determine which choice of bag is better for the environment as well as which choice is worthwhile to use.

The typical question of “paper or plastic?” from the grocery store cashier holds more weight than it currently ever has before.  The answer all depends on what environmental issue you find the most prevalent.


The cartoon above ask’s a caricature of a woman who appears to have had numerous plastic surgeries.  The grocer asks: “what’ll it be, lady–paper or plastic?” This joke alludes to the wastefulness of present day society, especially in America.  Even though it is a joke about the woman’s plastic surgery, the idea of frivolously using plastic and unnatural products relates to this post about shopping bags quite well.

This article from the Wall Street Journal’s website describes and compares the complexities of the different type of grocery bags.  In regards to plastic bags, the article states:

When plastic supermarket bags were introduced in the 1970s, grocers loved them because they cost less than paper bags and didn’t take up as much storage space. Over time, consumers grew attached to the plastic bag’s secondary uses — from carrying a lunch to cleaning up after a dog. Today, most grocery bags dispensed in the U.S. are plastic.

Plastic bags have become the most convenient societal norm in the world American groceries.

Plastic Bags:



  • Design has handles, lightweight and easily carried
  • Convenient/small
  • Free to use (not to manufacture)
  • Plastic bags only make up a relatively small amount of waste in landfills.  The percentage falls under chewing gum and cigarette butts
  • Consume less water and energy, produce less pollution, produce less greenhouse gas emissions than paper bags


  • Discarded as litter often
  • Their lightweight causes them to blow and drift in the air easily.  This fact causes plastic bags to turn into choking traps for fish and birds
    • An estimated 1 million birds and thousands of sea animals die each year after ingesting plastic bags
    • Rarely recycled
      • Light weight also allows them to fly out of recycling bins
      • Often damage recycling machinery–and are thus no longer accepted by many curbside recycling programs
    • According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), plastic bags are recycled at one-third the rate of paper bags
    • According to this Huffington Post website, “Only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled in the United States. The rest end up in landfills, the ocean, or some other place in the environment. There’s actually a giant garbage heap made mostly of plastic floating in the ocean that’s twice the size of the United States.
    • Often plastic bags are reused once or twice for animal waste pickup or as a trash bag, however, they are often thrown away after use
    • Non-biodegradable
      • Plastic bags take anywhere from 15-1000 years to decompose
      • Photodegradation: process in which plastic bags break down into smaller toxic particles that contaminate the soil and water.  This can end up entering the food chain when animals ingest them, and then humans ingest those animals.  This can cause bioaccumalation in toxins, a subject discussed in my previous post about green eating.
      • Costly
        • According to the EPA, over 380 billion plastic bags are used in the US per year.  Out of those, around 100 billion are plastic shopping bags.  Those bags cost retailers around $4 billion annually
      • Made from petrolieum oil
        • The petroleum used to produce around 14 plastic bags can appreantley drive a car one mile
    • How to mitigate use?
      • Tax–when you put a price on things people are much more inclined to decrease their usage to save money
      • Put a price on the bags

This quotation from another article from the Wall Street Journal’s website discusses an example in which Ireland posed a tax on the use of plastic bags to decrease the widespread use of it, and the process of littering around the country.”

Places that have begun charging for plastic grocery bags report rapid and drastic reductions in their use. Ireland says its “plastax” slashed the use of plastic grocery bags in the country by more than 90%. Mitigating that shift is evidence that Irish residents have begun buying more plastic trash-bin liners to replace the grocery bags they formerly got for free. Sean Dunne, an Irish government spokesman, says that is “a small price to pay” for attacking litter.

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Paper Bags:



  • Less of a litter issue, because paper degrades much faster than plastic
  • Large size, carries a lot of materials
  • Free to use (not to manufacture)
  • Convenient to recycle


  • Contributes greatly to deforestation, which impacts many aspects of the environment including biodiversity loss, and changes in the carbon levels within the environment (because those trees could be absorbing carbon dioxide)
  • Consumes more energy and water than plastic to manufacture
  • Despite the use of petroleum in the manufacturing of plastic bags, it takes four times as much energy to make a paper bag
  • Consumes 3 times more energy than it does to produce plastic bags

Reusable Bags:



  • Reusability
  • Main environmental advantage, hence the name “reusable bag”
  • It decreases waste and bag consumption overall
  • Saves materials, thus decreasing the amount in a landfill
    • Produces less waste than both paper and plastic
    • Less damage during production
    • Great for multiple items/uses
    • Heavy duty materials allow for bags to be used in ways other than shopping

Getting people to actually use the bags is another matter. Maximizing their benefits requires changing deeply ingrained behavior, like getting used to taking 30-second showers to lower one’s energy and water use. At present, many of the bags go unused — remaining stashed instead in consumers’ closets or in the trunks of their cars. Earlier this year, KPIX in San Francisco polled 500 of its television viewers and found that more than half — 58% — said they almost never take reusable cloth shopping bags to the grocery store. (Wall Street Journal online article previously linked)

    • Often grocery stores will deduct a small value from your bill for however many reusable bags you use
  • Incentives are created to encourage people to use bags
  • Many states are stating to establish laws where it costs a small amount for every grocery or shopping bag you use.  The quotation below discusses this phenomenonLast year, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban the bags from supermarkets and chain drug stores, and this month, the city of Westport, Conn., banned most kinds of plastic bags at retail checkout counters. Boston, Baltimore and Portland, Ore., are also considering bans. (Huffington Post article linked previously)
    • Often grocery stores will deduct a small value from your bill for however many reusable bags you use
    • From first hand experience, I can tell you that this sparks introspection about how many bags one uses on a regular basis.  When I went to San Francisco last spring, every time I bought something I had to pay 10 cents per bag used, which really made me cut back on the amount of bags I thought I really needed to use.  Most items that I bought could fit in my purse, or another shopping bag that I did end up paying the money for.  This really allowed me to reflect on my consumption relating to bags in general, and changed my further actions when using bags extraneously.


  • Presence of bacteria
  • This seems to be the biggest con that I have found during my research of reusable bags
  • People often use these bags over and over again without washing them which can lead to bacterial growth and harmful microorganisms in the bag
  • This threat is increased when one transports raw meat back and forth (e.g. the presence of salmonella in raw chicken)
    • Presence of lead
    • Reusable bags are often painted with aesthetically pleasing designs.  Nevertheless, these can be painted with lead paint.  When these bags are discarded, the present lead can lead seep into the groundwater and pose a threat to the environment that way.
    • Also the lead can also contaminate the food being carried in such bags, which can lead to major health issues
      • Thicker in material than paper and plastic, therefore harder to break down in a landfill
      • “to fully degrade, most compostable bags need to be sent to one of the relatively scarce food-waste composting facilities in the U.S.” (
      • Cost money
      • Less than one dollar in most grocery stores
      • Can cost up to hundreds of dollars for some designer brands
        • Not as widely used because you have to remember to bring it to stores

There are many different types of reusable bags.  This informative article from explains them in detail, which I will summarize here.



  • Pros: lightweight, durable, machine washable, biodegradable, grown with less water and pesticides than cotton
  • Cons: illegal in the Us, material is often imported which creates further environmental degradation through transportation emissionsGenerally, the positives out way the negatives when it comes to reusable bags.  This is because many of these down sides can be avoided.  If you buy/use reusable bags with plain colors, or are not painted or designed, this decreases your risk of contributing to the presence of lead in the environment and in human bodies.  If you clean out your bags regularly, make sure they are dry, and do not use them for the transportation of raw meat, your chances of dealing with bacteria are lessened greatly.



  • Pros: strong, long-lasting, renewable, biodegradable
  • Cons: bulky,  made from cotton grown with a high amount of pesticides and water (even if organic)

Nonwoven polypropylene:


  • This is the bag most commonly sold by grocery stores and mainstream retailers
  • Pros: Widely available, cheap in price. Strong, soft, lightweight, often designed in an easy to use shape with a flat bottom
  • Cons: Most are made overseas, especially in China, non-biodegradable

Ripstop Nylon:


  • Pros: Compact, very strong (2 ounce bag can carry 50 pounds), water resistant, machine washable, fast drying
  • Cons: Cannot be recycled “curbside,” which means you have to specifically find a place that recycles this material rather than putting it in your bin at home



  • Pros: Lightweight, strong, durable, machine washable recyclable, “if sent to a landfill. Chemicals remain inert and won’t leach into groundwater”
  • Cons: “Made from high-density polyethylene, non-biodegradable

Many of the cheap, reusable bags that retailers favor are produced in Chinese factories and made from nonwoven polypropylene, a form of plastic that requires about 28 times as much energy to produce as the plastic used in standard disposable bags and eight times as much as a paper sack, according to Mr. Sterling, of Natural Capitalism Solutions. (Wall Street Journal online article linked previously)

After this detailed comparison, I have concluded that the hierarchy of eco-friendliness with it comes to shopping bags goes as follows:

Bad: Plastic

Better: Paper

Best: Reusable

This conclusion comes from the consideration of materials, energy and economic costs during production, recyclability, and affects to wildlife/biodiversity, biodegradability, amount used, and amount of usages.  If one uses reusable bags appropriately, and considers the best choices, they are evidently the most environmentally conscious choice to make.  Not only are reusable bags environmentally conscious, they are beneficial for human use despite their eco-friendliness as well.  They are also the better choice economically, especially if you take into consideration the incentives that are given when one uses these bags, they are essentially free.  Therefore, it would be of no monetary difference to the average person to use reusable bags over paper or plastic.  They are often free, are more durable, can be used in multiple different ways, and last for a relatively long time.



Gamerman, Ellen. “An Inconvenient Bag.” Wall Street Journal, 26 Sept. 2008. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

“L.A. at Home.” Plastic Bag Ban: Pros and Cons of Reusable Alternatives. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

“Paper, Plastic, or Something Better?” Environmental Issues. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

Erdos, Joseph. “Why You Should Use A Reusable Grocery Bag.” The Huffington Post., 06 Apr. 2012. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

McGrath, Jane. “Which Is More Environmentally Friendly: Paper or Plastic?”HowStuffWorks., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

Ball, Jeffrey. “Paper or Plastic? A New Look at the Bag Scourge.” Wall Street Journal, 2 June 2009. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

Lalwani, Puja. “Pros and Cons of Reusable Grocery Bags.” Rev. of Reusable Bags. Web log post. Buzzle. N.p., 28 June 2012. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

Rocha, Isai. “Chilling Reasons Why NOT to Use Reusable Bags |Foodbeast.” Foodbeast. N.p., 10 Aug. 2012. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

Eating Green

Not just that plate of broccoli!

Green eating, an eco-friendly approach to consuming food does not just relate to just green vegetables, however they count in most cases too!

When one thinks of eating for the environment the immediate thought goes to terms like “organic” and “all natural.”  After reading many articles on, I found out that organic refers to the way fruits, vegetables, grains, eggs, meet, dairy products, etc are grown and processed according to the USDA standards.  Organic farming practices are made to conserve water, soil, and also reduce pollution.  An article from stated, “Organic farmers do not use chemical fertilizers, insecticides or weed killers or antibiotics on crops. Nor do they use growth hormones, antibiotics and medications to enhance animal growth and prevent disease.”  These things can cause illnesses like cancer and decreases immune function in humans. Antibiotics used to keep cattle/livestock healthy (not sick) and speed growth has created antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans, which can disable human’s immune systems from responding to antibiotics that treat illnesses like pneumonia and other infections.

There are many discrepancies about what it means to be organic, natural, free range, etc.  Please review these terms that all indicate USDA standards of certain foods.  (Information taken from

100 percent organic

All ingredients are organically produced (excluding water and salt). Products that are 100 percent organic may display the USDA Organic seal.


At least 95 percent of the ingredients are organically produced (excluding water and salt). Other ingredients must come from a nationally approved list. These products may also display the USDA Organic seal.

Made with organic ingredients

At least 70 percent of the ingredients are organic, and the rest come from the USDA’s approved list. These products may not display the USDA Organic seal.


Can be used if an animal has access to the outdoors. It doesn’t matter how long the animal actually spends roaming, however.


“Natural” on a label refers only to meat and poultry that contain no artificial coloring, chemical preservatives or synthetic ingredients.


Hormones are not used in raising poultry or hogs. A beef label may declare “no hormones administered” if producers have sufficient documentation.

No antibiotics

Beef and poultry producers may claim “no antibiotics” if they have sufficient documentation.

The practice of eating local foods rather than organic (although they can overlap) is more environmentally sound than just eating organic foods.  You could eat all organic food from California, living in Rhode Island.  However, if you think about it, it takes thousands of miles to get from the farm to your plate, which uses up valuable energy and increases the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.  Local food boosts the local economy as well.  Your money is going directly into your community’s economy when you choose to purchase and thus eat local food.  This helps save transportation energy, and increases your community’s infrastructure economically, socially, and environmentally.

There are many different ways to eat locally grown produce.  To find out how to eat this way in your area visit:  This website will help you find local farms, restaurants, farmer’s markets, co-ops, meat processors, and more.

There are many innovative ways to eat locally and “green” as well.  Check out this site for eco-friendly caterers: They seek to provide high quality food while minimizing their impact on the environment at the same time.

Importantly, eating organic is not the always the answer.  Organic food, mostly fruits and vegetables, can cost about 30 percent more than conventional food.  For example, organic milk costs almost double than regular milk.  Many professionals agree that choosing to eat organic food is not to gain a nutritional edge.  They also explain how in regards to pesticides it is the “does that makes the poison” and so a presence or trace of pesticides in food does not always make it unhealthy or harmful.

An important aspect of eating “green” is the focus of a plant based diet, and the idea of eating at a lower trophic level. It is important to look at how energy moves through an ecosystem when thinking about eating “green.”  A trophic level is defined as “one of the hierarchical strata of a food web characterized by organisms which are the same number of steps removed from the primary producers” (  The Second Law of Thermodynamic states that the entropy of an isolated system does not decrease and that system’s ability to do work decreases over time.  This relates to green eating because the continual loss of energy due to metabolic activity puts limits on how much energy is available to higher trophic levels

  • 1st Trophic Level: Producers: Plants, algae, cyanobacteria, etc
  • 2nd Trophic Level: Primary Consumers: Insects, mice, rabbits, etc
  • 3rd Trophic Level: Secondary Consumers: Frogs, Snakes, etc
  • 4th Trophic Level: Tertiary Consumers: Fish, Large Birds, Mammals


(Diagram is from this website)

About 10% of energy available at one trophic level is transferred to the next trophic level.  Numbers and biomass of organisms decrease as one ascends the food chain, for example: meet (birds, cattle, etc) are at a high trophic level, but have the least amount of available energy within their food chain/web.  So it is more energy efficient to eat at lower trophic levels, i.e. plants and grains.  Also, as you go up the food chain the concentrations of toxins accumulate, a process called biomagnification.  Review this example for a better understanding of biomagnification:

“1 blade of grass has 1 toxin = 1 toxin
1 rabbit will eat 3 blades of grass = 3 toxins
1 fox will eat 5 rabbits = 15 toxins”

Therefore, eating at a lower trophic level is better for the environment because it consumes food that is more efficient in storing energy and also decreases the amount of toxins one can intake, even if the does does make the poison.  Review this guide from Environmental Working Group (click: here).  It has many interesting facts and statistical analysis about the environmental impacts of the food industry, especially the meat industry.

If you do not have time to look through the entire thing here are two “fun” facts I found most interesting.  They show how feasible it can be to reduce one’s meat intake, by alluding to the serious impacts eating meat can leave on the environment.

  1. “If you eat one less burger a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for 320 miles or line-drying your clothes half the time.”
  2. “If your four-person family skips meat and cheese one day a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for five weeks – or reducing everyone’s daily showers by 3 minutes.”

Conventional Eating:

Remember the pyramid of food that would represent what people should eat each day to maintain a healthy diet? Now daily food guidelines have transitioned to what is called “MyPlate.”  A government backed guideline to help people make balanced meal choices.


This plate shows the daily amount of protein, dairy, grains, fruits, and vegetables one should consume per meal in a visual “plate” diagram.  Healthy eating is all about making the right choices.  Therefore, eating right does not directly relate to eating organically.  One can eat healthily, by buying the right kind of food in a regular grocery store setting. However, there are choices one can make to consciously help the environment if they have the ability to do so.  Eating organic is not always conducive to eating healthy.  One can candy, soda, fried foods, etc that are all organic, and still gain a considerable amount of weight.  Studies show that the proof that organic foods are somehow better for people is not strong enough yet.

To view an article from the NPR’s website that explains how to eat the right food, organically or not click: here.  This quote in particular relates to this article quite well.

Here’s the basic reason: When it comes to their nutritional quality, vegetables vary enormously, and that’s true whether they are organic or conventional. One carrot in the grocery store, for instance, may have two or three times more beta carotene (which gives us vitamin A) than its neighbor. That’s due to all kinds of things: differences in the genetic makeup of different varieties, the ripeness of the produce when it was picked, even the weather.

So there really are vegetables that are more nutritious than others, but the dividing line between them isn’t whether or not they are organic. “You can’t use organic as your sole criteria for judging nutritional quality,” says Smith-Spangler.

To conclude, I would like to point out that the preference of eating “green” as described in this blog over eating conventionally is a choice that one makes for environmental reasons over health reasons.  It just so happens that many of the choices that are conducive to environmental sustainability and practices often turn out to be healthier choices, but one can achieve a healthy diet by eating conventional foods as well.  However, the energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, eating at a particular trophic level, pesticide exposure, etc may change when one eats conventionally rather than “greenly.”  When one eats “green” as described in this blog post, one is making a conscious decision to make choices relating to their food that are better for the environment and most likely their local economy as well.


“Organic Foods: Better, Safer, More Nutritious?” N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

“Nature’s Way.” N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

“U.S. Department of Agriculture.” U.S. Department of Agriculture. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

“Trophic Levels.” Trophic Levels. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

BITTMAN, MARK. “Eating Food That’s Better for You, Organic or Not.” N.p., 21 Mar. 2009. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

Aubrey, Allison, and Dan Charles. “Why Organic Food May Not Be Healthier For You.”NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

“Harvard School of Public Health » The Nutrition Source » Healthy Eating Plate and Healthy Eating Pyramid.” The Nutrition Source. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

Bartolotto, Carole. “Top 5 Reasons to Eat a Plant-Based Diet.” The Huffington Post., 04 Sept. 2013. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

Hybrids or Used Cars?

People buy brand new Prius’s and other hybrids with an effort to help the environment, save on gas, and make better overall choices, when in reality, it would be more environmentally sound if they chose to buy a used car instead.

This post is comparing hybrid cars and used non-hybrid (conventional) cars.  Both options are more environmentally conscious than a brand new, non-hybrid vehicle.  Nevertheless, there are pros and cons to both of these eco-friendly options.


Hybrids combine the benefits of gasoline engines and electric motors and can be configured to obtain different objectives such as:

  • Improved fuel economy
  • Increased power
  • Additional auxiliary power for electronic devices/power tools

An important feature in hybrid vehicles is called regenerative braking.  In regenerative breaking, electric motor applies resistance to the “drivetrain” causing the wheels to slow down.  Then, energy from wheels turns the motor, which works as a generator.  The generator converts energy normally wasted during coasting and braking into electricity, which is stored in the battery until needed by electric motor.  The electric motor drive provides more power to help the engine in accelerating, passing, hill climbing, etc.  This allows for a smaller, and thus more efficient engine to be used.  The electric motor also provides power for low-speed driving conditions where internal combustion engines are least efficient.

Another key feature in hybrid vehicles is the usage of automatic start up and shut down.  The engine of these vehicles is automatically shut off when the vehicle comes to a stop and restarts when the accelerator is pressed.  This prevents energy from being wasted when idling and other periods of pause.


For more information on hybrids check out,

Major Cons of Hybrids:

Hybrid cars normally cost thousands of dollars more than conventional versions of the same car.  If your goal is to pay less in the long run for a car, rather than to take advantage of the environmental perks of these innovative vehicles, a hybrid is most likely not for you.  This obviously depends on the price of gasoline and the number of miles driven by the owner, importantly.  Review the difference in prices of three different hybrid and conventional vehicles in 2012:

  • 2012 Ford Fusion: $20,705
  • 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid: $28,775
  • 2012 Honda Civic Sedan: $15,955
  • 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid: $24,200
  • 2012 Toyota Camry: $21,955
  • 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid: $25,900

Review the chart I made that compares many different aspects of a new Toyota Camry Hybrid, a new Toyota Camry, and a used Toyota Camry.  You can observe the slight differences between the two Camry vehicles, and the more apparent differences between the Prius and the Camrys.

The extra cost of hybrids comes from the expense of the new, gas-saving technology found in such vehicles.

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I would like to point your attention to the part of this chart shows the Greenhouse Gas Emissions.  These emissions are referring to the “tailpipe CO2” that these cars are emitting.  You can see that the 2013 hybrid’s emissions are about half of the 2010 conventional car’s.  So this shows how environmentally progressive the innovations of hybrids are, but does not necessarily show how these innovations compare in the longterm to more conventional alternatives.

Although hybrids use less gas than other vehicles, the materials that make up their batteries, like lithium and cobalt are quite dangerous and destructive when mined.  The materials cause harm to both the miner, and the landscape/environment where they are found. Also, plug-in hybrids use electricity that comes for a preexisting power grid, which takes up a huge amount of energy derived from coal, which is well known to have adverse effects on the atmosphere.

Conventional Alternative (Used, non-hybrid cars):

There is not as much detail to discuss on this vehicle type.  Used cars are also known as pre-owned or second-hand cars.  They are sold through a variety of outlets including retail owners, car dealers, rental car companies, auctions, private sales, and more.  The used car industry makes of nearly half the retail market in United States auto sales.

Analyzing a Car’s Energy:

The most important and environmentally sound aspect of used cars is the fact that when you are comparing how much energy is used to produce cars, you do not have to factor that into used vehicles, for they have already been produced.  This fact exemplifies the “reuse” aspect of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” motto many American’s observe.

“Making a new product requires a lot of materials and energy: raw materials must be extracted from the earth, and the product must be fabricated and then transported to wherever it will be sold. As a result, reduction and reuse are the most effective ways you can save natural resources, protect the environment, and save money.” (Environmentally Protection Agency)

Upon analyzing a car’s energy and the energy it takes to produce a car one has to consider manufacturing and how that car is broken down once it is no longer in use (recycled, use as scrap metal, put in a landfill, etc.).  The US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab has developed a scientific model to analyze the energy input involved in the manufacturing of automotives called GREET.  The “Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation model.” GREET breaks down manufacturing into constituent parts and traces the materials to their source and extraction.  The unit in which such energy is expressed is called British Thermal Units (btu).  According to, “for 90 percent of cars on the road, it takes 31,362 Btus per pound of vehicle to manufacture.”

It takes 113 million BTUs of energy to make a Toyota Prius.  It also takes 113,000 BTUs of energy in a gallon of gasoline.  Therefore, a Prius consumes the equivalent of 1,000 gallons of gasoline before it reaches the showroom.

So, what do you think?

Hybrids do have a lot of environmental benefits, however, their somewhat newness to the market plus the new technologies they contain cause their price to be substantially higher than conventional cars, which deters from their popularity.  If every car produced from henceforth were hybrid, it would be extremely advantageous to the environment, and help towards pollution and energy issues.  However, this is not the case, and causes one to wonder if the usage of hybrid cars is actually more environmentally sound than the other options on the market, like used cars.  Purchasing and driving a used car is a more direct form of recycling, so by driving used cars one is taking part in the consequent act of reusing.  The usage of pre-owned cars allows for the amount of cars in the world to decrease overall.  This substantially reduces the amount of energy it takes to manufacture a new car, as well as decreases the amount of energy it takes to break down and dispose of old cars that are no longer in use.  In conclusion, used cars are actually more eco-friendly than hybrids.  They are already on the earth, rather than hybrids, which have to be produced and use more materials and energy in the manufacturing process.  Used cars are an extremely tangible form of recycling and reuse, and therefore are quite eco-friendly, even without the attributes of new green technologies and fuel efficiency.


“Find and Compare Cars.” Find and Compare Cars. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

“5 Reasons Not to Buy a Hybrid.” HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

“Go Green — Buy a Used Car. It’s Better Than a Hybrid.” Conde Nast Digital, 19 May 2008. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

Birch, John. “How Much Energy Does It Take to Manufacture a Car? | EHow.” EHow. Demand Media, 15 Nov. 2010. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.

“EPA.” Learn about Green Living. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <;.