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Monday, June 23, 2014


honey bees aren’t the only ones stung by neonicotinoids

honey beeIt’s estimated that a full quarter of the food Americans consumes relies on pollination. Honey bees add more than 15 billion dollars in value to US agricultural crops, according to the White House and the EPA. Yet, here in the US, we continue to spray and insert harmful pesticides, primarily neonicotinoids, on and into, many of our crops and plants. Europe – which is usually ahead of the US on most green issues, including: plastic bags, recycling and food protections, has banned the pesticide.

The EU’s ban has drawn the usual scaremongering by the big agricultural establishment, who have taken the position that restrictions on the use of some pesticides and herbicides will make European farmers non-competitive with foreign competitors, just when they need to be increasing production to feed a growing world population. Nice try guys, but the oil industry model – economics always trumps the environment – is not going to work this time. Destroying the honey bee and pollinator population will have a far greater negative impact (we could lose 50% to 75% of our fruit and veggie production) than losses to pests and insect damage.

Additionally, if something has a negative impact on bees and little critters (birds may also be impacted), what is the potential for negative impact on humans, given long term high dosage exposure to chemicals like neonicotinoids? The chemical penetrates the leaves and is taken up by the plant’s vascular system, turning the plant poisonous to insects eating the leaves, pollen and nectar and if the plant’s seeds are soaked, or the soil is treated with the chemical, with the same result. (more…)

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Monday, June 16, 2014

eco-friendly summer roadtrip & staycation tips

cows look into camera

Kids pouring out of schools for summer vacation are the catalyst for a yearly American phenomenon, the summer road trip. The rising cost of air travel has made it impossible for many families to fly their entire brood across the country, or across the globe and has only reinforced the tradition of the summer road trip.

Keeping it local, or within reasonable driving distance, is back in vogue as a vacation game plan. Unfortunately, the oil industry also has its own enduring tradition, rising summer gasoline prices. Though Americans have reduced demand by using less gasoline to get around – primarily due to driving more fuel-efficient vehicles – gas prices have remained fairly stable and painfully high. The on-going turmoil in Iraq will only motivate energy speculators to pump gas prices even higher (though any impact on supply is months away). Oil companies will also tap into their decades of experience in the manipulation of gas supplies, the restriction of refining capacity and the jacking-up of prices in anticipation of increased demand – to ensure gas prices remain high and their profits guaranteed.

Faced with these obstacles what’s a frugal consumer to do? Though arranging your collection of camping equipment in your backyard with your propane grill as the campfire may not engender the same level of enthusiasm that a trip to Yosemite might, there are alternatives. All doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. (more…)

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Friday, June 6, 2014

eco-fashion friday faves: chic, casual summer totes

eco friendly beach tote

Looking to tote your stash from ship to shore in eco style? Here’s a handful of cute totes that will serve you will whether you’re at the beach or your favorite farm stand.

summer tote

Hand sewn in Ramona, California from locally sourced materials, these reversible totes from feature a recycled coffee sack exterior with a nice texture and cute print linings. Totes measure approximately 15″ length x 12″ height and 5.5″ wide. Handles measure approximately 9″ high from top of tote. Personal faves: Sea Stripes print with Lighthouse ($20), top and the customized Love bag, ($45) just above. Carry on.

summer weekender eco tote

(above) Montauk Daisies, anyone? Meander the mountains or magnificent Montauk, but stay organized as you haul that gear from here to there. Bright and cheery, this SANDbag is handmade from vintage textiles found at a thrift shop. There are side pockets which can handle a bottle of wine or a two-liter bottle of water and the front three pocket panel is perfect for those essentials – wallet, phone, lipstick and sunglasses. Sturdy handles. All seams are double stitched. And interior seams double serged for reinforcement. Foldable, too so it’s both easy to store at home and pack while traveling. ($40)

ella vickers upcycled

With a high-gloss, high-tech look & feel, Ella Vickers’ Kevlar bag is meant to get wet. Perfect for boating or pretending to sail the high seas. Rope Tote is available in medium ($138) or large ($148). In addition to her signature array of upcycled sailcloth material totes, bags and duffles, wallets and padded tablet case, her line now includes eco chic nautical-themed home decor and specialty gift items. I happen to own one of her bags and I absolutely adore it. find via

weekender tote

Durable, functional crisp & classic: a navy striped tote made of recycled cotton canvas. Includes top zip closure and interior zip pocket. This Weekender is by Baggu and available in a variety of colorways via ($72).

And that’s a wrap for today. Be sure to join us each week as we feature our favorite eco fashion Friday finds. Have a great weekend and remember to pass along your pre-loved, gently worn items for someone else to enjoy.

related: more eco fashion finds from

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Where Are the World’s Largest Recycling Plants?

Recycle t-shirt drying on clothesline

We tend to think of recycling as something that we all try to keep up with as we do our bit for the environment, but it’s easy to forget that there are huge industrial plants processing all of our waste. Some of them do truly incredible work in pursuit of sustainability.

San Jose, California
The Newby Island Resource Recovery Park in San Jose is purported to be the absolute largest recycling facility in the entire world, with the multi-stream system able to process a massive 110 tons of waste in just a single hour. Opened two years ago, the facility serves the whole of San Jose, and is able to recover 80 percent of all the material that passes through it, making the facility extremely efficient. Some 8000 businesses and 85000 households are served by the system, putting 420000 tons through each year.

Lincolnshire, England
Bottle grade plastics can be recycled into just about anything these days, even clothes, and the largest plant in the world is a joint venture in England, between ECO Plastics and Coca-Cola Enterprises. It’s capable of processing almost half a million plastic bottles an hour, meaning a whopping three billion will be recycled each year. It was a huge boost for the Olympic Games in 2012, collecting nearly every bottle used there. The plant’s green credentials are impressive too – it stops 33500 tonnes of CO2 being emitted each year through the work it carries out. Such a plant is surprising in the UK, which is considered to be behind much of Europe when it comes to recycling. Companies like JP Concrete that make pop-up walls for recycling stations are hoping to change this however.

Nachterstedt, Germany
Recycling aluminium makes a lot of sense. Making aluminium out of recycled products takes just 5% of the energy it would take to make the metal using raw materials. When you consider how widely it’s used, this could make an incredible difference to energy usage. A $250 million plant in Germany is aiming to do just that by recycling 400000 tons of metal each year, using everything from common household objects such as cans to scrap industrial waste.

Houston, Texas
The United States scraps 290 million tires each and every year, and 10 million of them are soon to be processed by the Genan tire plant in Houston. The $140 million project will aim to increase that share to 10 percent in the coming years, as its state of the art equipment turns tires into fuel and numerous other products. Even the turf used at the last two Super Bowls has featured some of the materials produced by Genan’s recycling efforts.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Eco News Roundup for the Week


Just a note of thanks: This is the final article by our stellar intern, Samantha Javier. We’d like to thank her for her wonderful contributions to The Alternative Consumer and wish her much continued success.

Here a few news headlines that caught my eye … At the top of this week’s roundup: a lawsuit brought by insurance companies against Chicago-area municipal governments, “claiming that warning signs of climate change should have been enough to prompt better preparation for a 2013 deluge that led to significant flooding and damages.” more @

Brigham Young University has developed and engineered a new, extremely waterproof surface with an endless array of potential applications. These uses range from: solar panels that don’t get dirty and will self-clean when water rolls off of them; showers, tubs, or toilets that don’t get hard water spots; bio-medical devices, (more…)

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