All posts by onestepgreener.com

About onestepgreener.com

I am a writer, editor and project manager. I enjoy grant proposal writing, blogging, and developmental editing. My passion lies with environmental issues, but I love any writing that helps people, animals or the planet. I am also an avid reader of fantasy fiction and love working in that realm as well.

Buycott Chobani

While I was reading the Pezullo document about buycotts and boycotts, I started to wonder what products I had been supporting for the good. So I went to my fridge and looked around–it didn’t take long since my fridge looks like it belongs in a college dorm or a bachelor pad–and I pulled out the most common thing in my fridge: Chobani Greek Yogurt.

I dusted off my old friend the Buycott App (admittedly I haven’t used it for a while) and scanned the barcode. Low and behold, Chobani is on my buycott list as a company that I should support!

While I have generally trusted the buycott app for guidance, I have been burned a few times by misrepresented facts and stories. So I took to the Googlescape and did my research to see what was up with Chobani.

Buycott told me that I should support Chobani because they had somehow defended civil rights. So I wanted to verify that and get the whole story. And here it is:

Chobani’s founder and CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, has taken heat and some bad press for supposedly making statements about wanting to, “Drown the United States in Muslims,” or for attempting to “import labor” or exploit refugees as cheap labor. What I found in researching the issue us that the once immigrant leader of Chobani seems to sincerely be trying to help refugees find work and make a home and a life here.

The U.S. has been up and down on refugee admissions over the years and the topic has long been a contentious debate amongst Americans. People worry about the security of letting refugees in, they worry about the cost and the supposed drain on the economy.

Chobani and other companies like them set out to give refugees gainful employment and make them a valuable addition to our economy. Giving them hope and opportunity. 

It seems to me that this sort of opportunity might dissuade would-be terrorists. If a refugee comes here and finds hope for a future, why would they attack? On the other hand, when they face hatred and mistrust, aren’t able to find work and support themselves … well, that seems like a breeding ground for anger and violence.

I just happened to be in Boise, Idaho, a few weeks ago, which is near the Chobani factory in Twin Falls, Idaho. While I was there I noted a concerning lack of diversity. So in a couple of instances, I asked, as politely as I could, “what’s up with that?” The citizens of Boise immediately, and proudly, defend their diversity by telling me they have accepted more refugees than New York City, or Los Angeles. I spent the whole time we were there wondering where the heck these refugees were. Now it seems I have found them, they are all in Twin Falls working for Chobani!

To be clear, I am sure they aren’t all in Twin Falls, and I know there are other factors of diversity in Boise, like the Basque community for example. But I just happened across this Chobani story so soon after my visit there that I found it timely and a bit amusing for the coincidence of it.

More money saving, green living tips

In keeping with my theme of the environment and my earlier blog with tips to save money and the Earth. I thought I’d share another low-cost tip for living green.

I recently came across a really cool new cleaning product. Except that it isn’t new, and it’s not exactly a product, but there are products made from it and you can buy it?

This is starting to sound like a riddle, so I’ll get to the point. SOAP NUTS!!

What is a soap nut?

Soap Nuts, which are actually berries, grow on trees and have actual soap in them!

soapberrytree
Soapberry Tree

The berries contain saponin, which functions as a surfactant a.k.a. soap. They work to release dirt from fabric and other surfaces, then suspend the dirt in the water to be rinsed away. Some species of soap nut have also been found to be anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.

Soap nuts have been in use for literal ages, in the subtropic Asia, in countries such as India, China, Taiwan, and Nepal. There is also a western soapberry tree that was used historically for the same purposes by Native Americans.

What can I do with a soap nut?

Soap nuts can be used to make an array of cleaning products.

  • Produce rinse
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dish detergent for use in a dishwasher or handwashing
  • Shampoo
  • Face and body wash
  • Shaving Cream
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Glass cleaner
  • Insect repellent
  • Jewelry cleaner
  • Automobile washing

How to use them

There is more than one method for using soap nuts, and the exact measurements may vary based on the exact species you are using. So I advise testing out a few methods to see what gets the best results with the nuts that you have available. That’s what I’ll be doing! But for this blog, I will cover some of the ideas and recipes I have found during my research.

Use the whole nut

Put 4-5 nuts in a mesh bag, tie it off and toss it in with your laundry. Reuse the same bag for approximately 10 loads of laundry, or until the soap nuts seem mushy. To test if the nuts are still good, run the bag under hot water and give it a squeeze, you should see some suds come out.

Note that this works best when using warm water to wash clothes. If you are washing in cold water, then you should steep the bag in hot water for a few minutes to activate the saponin for best results.

Another use for the whole nut is to take 10-12 nuts and let them soak in a bucket of hot water for about 30 minutes. Then use this water to wash your car, your floors, or anything else that you might need a bucket of water to clean. Since the wash is all natural and biodegradable the water can be reused to water your trees or plants. It may even keep pests out of the area watered. If anyone does try watering plants with the leftover water, I’d love to hear how it goes! (I don’t have any plants or yeard to test this out myself).

Make a concentrated liquid cleaner

I have found a number of recipes for a liquid concentrate, ranging from 2 nuts per cup of water to 15 nuts per cup. I went with a middle ground of about 10 nuts per cup of water.

Boil the soap nuts in the water, occasionally smashing them down with a bamboo spoon or something similar, for about 30 minutes. You can add essential oils if you want a scented product. Strain the liquid into a jar, and store in the fridge. Will last about 2 weeks. Another idea is that you can freeze it into cubes and just throw a cube into the laundry machine, dishwasher, or bucket of water.

The concentrated product can be used for multiple purposes

  • Mix 1 TBSP into a bucket of water for mopping floors
  • Mix 1 TBSP into dishwater for dishes
  • Add concentrate directly to dishwasher, or laundry machines (low sud product perfect for machine washing)
  • Mix 1 TBSP concentrate with 1 TBSP white vinegar into a spray bottle and fill with water for glass and multi-purpose cleaners
  • Apply a dab to your cleansing cloth for face or body cleansing. The antibacterial properties of the berry make this an excellent wash for acne prone skin, but it is also not drying and is very gentle for sensitive skin.
  • Mix .5-1 oz into 12 oz water in a jar and pour over your scalp for shampoo (follow up with an apple cider vinegar rinse as your conditioner!)
  • Mix 1 TBSP into a gallon bucket of water for another way to get floor and car wash
  • For a jewelry cleaner, use either the straight concentrate or about a 50/50 mix with water, let jewelry soak in it for a bit and then scrub it with a toothbrush.

This list could go on and on, get creative and post your ideas in the comments below!

Make and use as a paste

To make a paste you would take the leftover skins that you boiled to make your concentrate (you would want to remove the hard seeds at this point if you did not buy seedless) and put them in your food processor to create a mash. Then add coconut oil, or olive oil, or grapeseed oil (or whatever type of oil you prefer to use on your skin) and blend it down into a more liquid state. Once you apply to wet skin it will suds up and you can shave away!

The paste of the skins can also be used as a concentrated cleaner and degreaser for tough messes.

Make a powder

You can just buy soap nut powder (and many of the other cleaners listed above), but if you are a DIY sort of person, take the dry nuts and just throw them in your blender, coffee grinder or food processor. I think you would want to use just the skins as the seeds don’t contain any saponin and are rather hard, so they would wear down your blades with no added benefit.

The powder can then be used in basically the same ways as the liquid by putting a scoop into your laundry or into your dishwasher or dishwater.

What else?

The possibilities seem rather endless at this point. I have read that insects are naturally repelled by the plant, which means that no pesticides are needed to grow them. It also means that it has the potential for use as mosquito repellent! Although everything I have read indicates the results are not in as to how effective it might be or the best way to apply it.

It is all natural and very mild so you can use it for your children’s laundry, or for someone with a skin condition such as eczema. You can also use it to shampoo your pet, and supposedly it will help discourage fleas and ticks from them.

Calling all Scientists

There is something missing from the world today … actually, there are a great many somethings missing from the world today.

I refer of course to the species that have gone extinct throughout history. Some of these extinctions occurred naturally over a great span of time. Others occurred as a mass extinction caused by some cataclysmic event. dino

The “natural” rate of extinction is about one-five species per year, but in recent history, scientists have estimated about twelve species per day are going extinct!!

At this rate of acceleration, it appears we may be heading for another mass extinction. This time it will be the end of the Age of Mammals (the Cenozoic Era).

We as humans discuss a lot of issues, politics, religion, social injustice, and yes even the environment. But where we seem to focus our attention is at the very high level, big picture aspects. When we talk about the environment we talk about the ice caps melting (which will take a long time and have obvious widespread effects), we also talk about our grandchildren and providing them with clean air and water. Long-term, big picture stuff.

But what about the small things? The microbiology of Earth? EO Wilson, a microbiologist, speaks out about the importance of insects and microorganisms. For example, he talks about a tiny marine-bacteria in the oceans that was only recently discovered, in 1988. They are now considered to be one of the most populace life forms on Earth, and one of the smallest. This sub-microscopic entity is now thought to be the leading producer of photosynthesis in the ocean.

These are things that go unknown and unnoticed to most people. Because of this ignorance of the world around us. We continue to generate contaminants that we think are protecting us, but are probably actually leading us down the path to extinction. Many small organisms and insects are absolutely vital to our survival, but we spread pesticides and antibiotics with ease.

Wilson has a dream of knowledge, spreading knowledge of every species on Earth and how they might interact with and support our own selves. He calls it the Encylopedia of Life. The idea is an opensource online encyclopedia where scientists can log their knowledge about any and every species on Earth.

That fits into what we discuss in class very nicely, I think, it is basically a scientific forum for sharing information and knowledge. It could inspire a movement to help save some of these species that we unwittingly rely on for life.

Another TED talk given by Wilson is a call to young scientists to take up the mantle of research and discovery. It seems Wilson has a concern about a reduced interest in the field of scientific research. He cites a fear of failure as what he thinks is the reason for this decline. Amusingly, he spends some time trying to convince the audience that math isn’t that hard to learn, and he goes so far as to say that professors and academics should focus less on mathematics, and more on imagination. He suggests that if you make a brilliant discovery, or have a brilliant idea, you can always hire a mathematician to join the research team.

Much ado about not much of anything

 

The author of “What if climate change isn’t real” starts off by suggesting that only 95% of scientists believe in climate change … only 95%. Apparently, if at least 5% of experts disagree with something we should seriously question the validity of the other 95%.

Maybe the author is a one-percenter …

The subheader to the title of this piece is, “What should we do if science turns out to be wrong?” My first thought is, “nothing.” Who cares? I mean seriously, what is the worst case scenario of climate change not being a really, really big deal?

We live on a cleaner planet with less trash floating around in the ocean?

We have more options for fuel, which will increase supply and lower prices?

Yeah, sounds rough.

dunce

As it goes on, the blog does begin to redeem itself as it weighs the pros and cons of taking action to fight climate change. In the end, the author decides takes a “why not” attitude saying that we may as well go ahead and do something since the risks of climate change outweigh the risks of lack of climate change.

Overall, this whole blog is not well thought out and doesn’t really make any compelling arguments. It reads like something that was a required writing for school. The points are stretched and the logic is sketchy.

Land Development Leads to Increased Flooding?

With all the news about all the hurricanes causing so much flooding this season, I keep hearing a lot of hype about climate change and end-of-days scenarios. I think maybe we should sit down and think about this from a more practical view point: land development.

I know what you’re thinking: “what does land development have to do with hurricanes?”

Hurricanes happen. Maybe they happen more regularly, or more powerfully due to increased ocean temperatures, right? Yes, both of those things are true.

But why do we really have all this record flooding all over the place? It doesn’t even have to be caused by a hurricane. Houston has been experiencing increased flooding in recent history. With devastating and costly effects.

Houston has always been an area known for flooding, so why has it just recently began to see increased rates and severity of flood? Even major flooding outside of the areas of Houston designated as flood zones.

Well, my somewhat-educated-guess is that it has a lot to do with urban development and poor city planning. They have paved over much of their prairie region, which would normally absorb much of the water that is now sitting on the concrete and asphalt with nowhere to drain. I mean, there’s a reason it’s called a “flood plain.”

https://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2017/09/11/houston-flood-maps-were-struggling-to-predict.html#i1
Houston flood maps were struggling to predict damage before Harvey, study says

Prairie and grasslands allow for a lot of water to be absorbed, in both the land itself and in the bodies of water found in these regions. Having grasslands and prairies in tact and in range of the flood zones could have greatly reduced the amount of water left standing in the city. And while it would not likely reduce the frequency or strength of the storms, it could reduce the frequency and severity of the flooding they cause.

This could reduce the damage and costs associated with the storms, and even the fatalities cause by them.

 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – IN THAT ORDER

So many people get caught up in the recycle part of that old adage, which is the last part of the statement. The last part. That should tell you something.RRR

I think people get hung up on recycling for two reasons: it’s easy and it’s advertised.

The marketing campaigns and city sponsored programs made that a slam dunk. But the thing is, that is on the low end of the spectrum when it comes to actually making a difference.

We’ve all heard stories about how you separate your recycling and then when it gets to the dump or the processing plant, they just throw it all in together anyway. Or that if one little contaminate gets into the recycling that should have been there, the plant will just toss the lot into the dump because they can’t process it. I certainly hope those are just urban legends, but they are probably at least partly true.

Even aside from the idea that just because you put something in the recycle bin at home, doesn’t mean it goes where you want it to, we still have to consider the process of breaking that product down and creating a whole new product. It’s expensive and energy consuming.

Let’s compare recycle to the two, often overlooked, other components of the adage.

Recycle: buy a new product, throw it (or the package) into a recycling bin, and then buy a new product. Lather, rinse, repeat for eternity.

Not only are you spending money on a new item over and over, but the factories keep burning energy churning out new products and the recycling plants keep processing all the waste.

Reduce: buy less and use less.

Saves you money, saves energy from lower production and processing time, saves space in landfills.

Reuse: buy one thing and then use it again and again.

Saves you money, saves energy from lower production and processing time, saves space in landfills.

Hopefully, you can see the advantages of the reduce and reuse part of the equation: it saves you money.

If you’re still wondering how this saves you money, think about just the packaging. Every time you buy a new product you pay for the packaging, again.

Let’s consider bottled water – this is an item that blows my mind when I think about it too hard. Every 20-ounce bottle of water comes in its own package (the plastic bottle) with a lid and label to show the brand. So you’re paying for the water in the bottle (which you could get free elsewhere), you’re paying for the plastic to hold the bottle (which you will proudly recycle so that it can be destroyed and made into a new plastic bottle or widget), and you are paying for the brand name (because water needs a brand?).

A gallon of water is 128 liquid ounces, so roughly six and a half bottles. If you pay even a single dollar for that bottle of water you are paying $6.50 per gallon of water … How much is gas these days? And that’s a cheap bottle of water! Most people are probably paying double what they would for milk or gas for something they can get FOR FREE!!!

Seriously, my brain hurts!

If you want to learn more about the true cost of bottled water, here is a great video by the Story of Stuff team

There are all kinds of products available that you can put free water in over and over and over again. If you’re worried about purity, you can buy a bottle with a filter that can be reused 300 times for under $10. THINK OF THE SAVINGS!What are your Earth, and money, saving tips? Post below, I can’t wait to see all the ideas!

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