Why I’m so scared of a Donald Trump presidency.

There’s a post going around Facebook these days that asks: Why are you so scared [of a Donald Trump Presidency]? In it the author implies among other things: that people shouldn’t be afraid of potentially being pushed into war by our new President, because the country is already at war, and that we shouldn’t be afraid of racial divide because the country is already divided. After having read parts of this effort to school those of us who’d voted for the status quo over the potential for turbulent change and are now concerned, and after having heard one Trump-supporter refer to the growing number of protesters angry over the election results as ‘children throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get their way,’ my heart sank even deeper into the pit of my stomach.

They just don’t get it.

For me, the grim feeling that keeps me up nights has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton having lost. I’d never liked her or the President-Elect, probably because each had been in America’s spot light for my adult life. I remember when Hillary tried to co-president with Bill and how the country resented her for it. I remember how she campaigned for her ‘socialized’ health care system and how furiously people opposed her. I remember the scandals.

I remember Donald Trump’s rise too. How he built Trump Towers, now a landmark in New York City. How he overspent by millions on airlines and yachts. How he defaulted on loans, went bankrupt and couldn’t pay many of the workers who’d built his Atlantic City casino. (Recently, he’d claimed he’d refused to pay because of their shoddy work.) I remember too, how he picked himself up, sold his name to businesses around the globe, and then rebranded himself as a reality TV star.

In comparing both candidates on toughness, resilience, survival, they’ve each held their own.  Still, as I watched the way each carried themselves during all the debates and listened to the tenor of their discourses throughout the campaign, I perceived in them two very different types of human beings. Trump is the antithesis of political correctness. A thin-skinned businessman, who’d never held a political office, he saw an untapped vein of potential voters and delivered what they wanted to hear in sound bites and tweets. Clinton, a thirty-five year veteran of politics, with two terms on the Senate and twelve years in the White House as First Lady and Secretary of State, did her homework before each debate, knew her stuff, held her own against a bare knuckle street-fighter. As I watched them go toe-to-toe I was impressed with Clinton’s smart answers and I was disturbed by how disrespectful Trump was to his opponent. He rarely chose a substantive response over sticking it to her.

For me, the devil that perpetuates my insomnia lies in part with the character of this man who will soon become our Commander and Chief and in part with the support he’d gained despite it. While it cannot be denied that Trump’s capacity for diverting attention from his flaws and failings is impressive; in that he’d kept his campaign alive by artfully dodging questions about things like his tax returns, which he still has not produced, it bothers me that his supporters seemed not to have cared about the dodging. Whenever a question about some potentially damaging situation arose, rather than answer it, Trump would call out his opponent on issues unrelated again and again until the question was dropped.  Whenever the media reported on some issue, like the pending civil suite by students who’d attended his Trump University, Trump would repeatedly top the story by firing off allegations sure to stir his base until it was forgotten. Yet, for his supporters these tactics never diminished his appeal.

I, like many others who’d voted against Trump, am struggling to understand how his practice of the art of the dodge, and his hateful language, and his disrespect for others, and his never owning up to his mistakes were not deal breakers for most Americans.  But my tantrum here has nothing to do with wanting a recount of the election. Election Day has past. Forty three percent of Americans chose not vote. Donald Trump was elected President. Done. My fears have nothing to do with the possibility of him pushing us into war. We are always at war. We are always at risk of a hit to the homeland. But during this campaign Donald Trump had driven American politics to a new low, and to me he is no more than an opportunist who’d brought out the worst in us as a Country. After all those nasty exchanges, tweets that played the blame game, personal attacks, accusations, and frightening promises, he owns the backlash of assaults on American Muslims and Latinos, protests and riots. They are responses to his rhetoric. Yet, he has made no tweets to help us heal and unify. Based on his history, he is not a man who owns his mistakes.

My fear is that this is who he will continue to be as President; a man who blames the media for inciting protestors that have come out because of his hate speech; a man who has speculated about how the media would react more critically if it were HIS people protesting. That prompts the question: Aren’t we all HIS people now? Whether we love him or hate him, trust him or fear him, he will soon be OUR President and we, the people of a richly diverse Nation, are his. My fear, based on his rallying cries and whom they were meant to call, is that he and many of his supporters don’t see it that way. I’m afraid that over the next four years he will enact legislation that will unfairly impact some minorities, like women, Latinos and Muslims. I’m afraid that enemies like ISIS and Putin will exploit the discord this might cause. I’m afraid for our relations with foreign allies now and in the aftermath of his Presidency. Will reading Trump tweets about conspiracy theories regarding foreign leaders who disagree with him become our new normal? Based on his hateful rhetoric during the campaign, which had served to deepen divides within our Nation, will he now point fingers at people and countries around the world and add to the dangerous divides there as well?

One more thing high on my list of Trump-related fears, I’m afraid of climate change, which science has proven is a progressive event brought on by manmade carbon emissions that will have devastating consequences, and Trump has said is fake. When leaders of many countries had come together earlier this year to sign the Paris Climate Agreement, I felt hopeful about our future. There are changes we must make for our children. Deep down we all know it. Trump plans to bow out on that agreement, to cut the program that the EPA had put into place, which would have regulated the amount of carbon emissions large industries produce, and to channel money away from development of green technology.  He plans to push coal, the Keystone Pipeline, oil drilling and fracking; all things that might serve us economically now, but which will lead to continued rise in global temperatures.

I would love nothing more than to be wrong about why I’m scared; to wake up one morning four years from today (that is, if I ever do get a good nights sleep between now and then) and say, “That Facebook post was right. I was being silly and childish.” But for now, I take solace in the final comment of one of the guys from The Circus, a Showtime series that had followed the election since the primaries. In regard to Donald Trump’s looming presidency he projects that: “Our highest hopes may not be realized, but our worst fears probably won’t be either.”

I’d settle for that.

Post-Election Day Blues

It’s 5 o’clock on the morning after Election Day. I descend the stairs from the bedroom my husband and I share to the sound of heavy rain beating against our metal roof. Blue light from our big screen TV flickers in our living room, where my husband is sprawled out in his LazyBoy. He’s wearing his favorite Jerry Garcia boxers, drinking Higher Ground coffee, watching the election results.  “You’re up early,” he says.

“Couldn’t sleep.”

He takes a sip from his eighteen ounce, Steal-Your-Face mug. “You know, it’s not the end of the world, hon.”

Is he kidding! I’m thinking of spending the next four years curled up on the couch, watching cute pet videos because of it. “The guy from Celebrity Apprentice just became the most powerful person on the planet. Somehow, I feel like it might be.”  The media keeps showing Hillary Clinton supporters crying. I guess they believe it might be, too. “We had an opportunity to elect a good, solid leader and a champion for climate change reform. Instead we picked Donald Trump.”

My husband snorts. “At least Vladimir Putin is happy.”

I go the kitchen, grab my favorite student-painted coffee mug and pour myself a cup. The mug feels warm inside my palms.

“That’s the last of the Higher Ground coffee, by the way,” my husband says.

After I’d blogged about how some coffee companies are destroying the rainforests, my husband said he’d consider switching from Eight O’clock to Higher Ground. “A subscription for two pounds per month for six months is $180.00,” I told him. “I’ll go ahead and place the order.”

“Well…” The doubt in his eyes feels like a kick to my stomach. He’d changed his mind. How could he!

My heart plummets further. I glance down at the dark brew inside my brightly painted mug. Even my coffee is making me feel hopeless today. “You said we could change brands if you liked the taste of the new coffee. Remember?” I’d ordered three different types from the eco-friendly roasting company.  We liked the Birmingham Humane Society blend best. The fact that part of the proceeds go to the humane society is a big plus, too.

“I do. But…”

“I’m not giving up on my blog, my journey towards going green, and my dream of saving the planet.”

“I’m not saying you should.”

“No. You’re saying that it’s all fine as long as you don’t have to change anything.”

“Hey, don’t get mad at me just because Trump won.”

I try to hold back tears. Can’t. “I’m fighting really hard to believe that anything I do matters. ”

My husband comes over, wraps his thick arms around me. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how much I really needed a hug. “But small changes can add up to something that matters,” he whispers.  “Isn’t that what you say in your blog?”

“I really believe that, too.” Sniffle. “There are things we still have control over.”

“Like whether or not we buy our coffee from a planet-friendly company,”  my husband says with a smile.

“Yes.”

“Then that’s what we should do.”

Nuff said for now.

 

 

Hope and a box of Kleenex

There are many brands of facial tissues out there, but to me the name Kleenex is synonymous with the product. That’s probably because the maker of Kleenex, Kimberly-Clark, invented facial tissues almost a century ago. Like many people, my husband and I have used that brand for most of our lives. He buys in bulk at Sam’s Club. So we always have one of the colorful cardboard boxes of fluffy wipes at the ready. At least four times a day, I pull out a tissue from one to blow my nose into–––and that’s when I’m healthy. When I’m sick, and because I work with toddlers that happens a lot, it feels like a zillion times.

Four tissues a day and the planet

In trying to make our lives greener I’ve been becoming more conscious of how the little things my husband and I do impact the globe. And, I’m always searching for that middle road between living green and living comfortably. With single-use items, like tissues, the impact of my four tissues a day plus is embedded in a cycle that starts with how the basic materials are acquired.

For the paper industry, that usually amounts to cutting down lots of trees.  This industry has been accused of unapologetically deforesting virgin woodlands, which the planet needs to manage the carbon emissions we people produce. On the list of Planet Earth’s biggest polluters the paper industry is number three, right behind oil and clothing manufacturers. So, my assumption was that: even four tissues a day amounted to a heavy environmental toll.

A hankie to the rescue. Me thinks snot.

The problem is, the soft tissues we love all come from wood fibers, and there are no great alternatives to them. Tissues made from recycled content are generally scratchy to the snout and not strong enough to hold up to a sneeze. There are tissues made from bamboo and sugar cane fibers, but to me that’s just swapping one raw material for another. Hankies are the number one green alternative to single-use tissues. But the thought of sneezing into one and unknownthen putting it in my pocket seems way too  unhygienic –––and gross.

It’s a good thing then, that my assumption about Kimberly-Clark was wrong.   

Kimberly-Clark is an American paper company that started in the 1800’s. It now has mills all over the world. It’s the largest producer of tissue products. Between 2004 and 2009, Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council targeted the giant in their online Kleercut  campaign. They accused K-C of clear cut logging: a practice where acres of forests are cut down and not replenished.

The demands of the campaign included:

 A victory for us all

In 2009 Kimberly-Clark agreed to the terms, which made Kleercut one of the most successful online environmental advocacy campaigns. It also made Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace partners in improving the impact of paper companies on the planet;  of which many have put up barriers against positive environmental change and have engaged in greenwashing to hide that from consumers.  Kimberly-Clark has since created a plan for sustainability that is not just for show. It has also become more transparent.

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/sep/08/greenpeace-kimberly-clark-kleenex-tissue-paper-canada-forests-ngo-corporate-collaboration

(Thanks to Samuel Wicks of the NRDC for directing me to the above article and for educating me about this great accomplishment.)

A final thought

Now, I’m not saying that just because Kimberly-Clark is doing the right things, I should continue to use 4 tissues plus per day. It’s important to reduce our consumption of single-use items, like tissues, to slow down the cycle of production, and lessen the amount of trash we bring to the landfill. So, I’ve bitten the bullet and have been using hankies (cut up old shirts, old linen napkins, old baby washcloths are hankies to me,) which I keep in my night table and at my desk. It felt weird at first to blow my nose into something that’s not paper, but now I’m okay with it. I just have a separate hankie-receptacle that I toss the cloths into when I’m done using them, the contents of which I boil before throwing in with a load of wash. But the truth is, because most of these are rags that I would have thrown out anyway, I could just as easily use toss them after each use.

But the story of Greenpeace and Kimberly-Clark has made me feel encouraged about my efforts to save the planet. I realize what I’m doing is tiny in comparison. But here’s the thing, while Greenpeace and the NRDC had gotten the ball rolling, part of the reason that K-C decided to change was because it made good business sense. If we as customers make it known that we care about the planet, and if we use our buying power to choose  companies that care about it too over ones that don’t, then green production becomes smart business, as Kimberly-Clark had realized. If a big paper company like Kimberly-Clark can adopt planet-friendly ways, maybe others in the paper industry will, too. It’s a reason to feel hopeful and to keep striving to improve our own habits, no matter how small they seem. It’s also a reason why my husband and I will continue to buy Kleenex.

 

 

 

 

Disposable Plates and Big Dinners

For me, disposable plates and big family dinners have always gone together. Case in point: Every Rosh Hashanah about nineteen of us converge on my mom and stepdad’s two-bedroom ranch. Then we all crowd around the dinner table to argue politics and laugh at bad jokes, while steam from sweet kugel and brisket rises off our polystyrene plates. imagesI always  leave  mom’s with warm feelings about family and heritage. But this year, I felt a tinge of guilt over all those dishes we’d thrown out, too.

But aren’t paper plates biodegradable? 

Well, yes…sort of. If the conditions are right many types of paper plates will revert back to nature in about five years. But some disposable plates have shiny coatings and are made with petroleum based resins in addition to paper to make them more durable. With them, reverting back to nature could take much longer, and they can seep toxins into the ground along the way. Other disposable plates won’t degrade at all, particularly if  they’re made of heavy plastic or styrofoam.  img_1665

But these days, more disposable plate manufacturers have been simplifying the number of materials used to make their products, so they can label them as biodegradable.  That can be misleading, though. Without the right amount of air and sunlight even things known to be biodegradable can remain in landfills for a surprisingly long time. The folks from the Garbage Project, an anthropological study of our waste conducted by a group at the University of Arizona, had found grapes at the bottom of a landfill that were over twenty years old. (greengood.com)

Ceramic vs Paper Plates

If I’ve learned anything from living this blog, it’s that buying something once and reusing it multiple times is always better for the planet than buying single use items again and again. There’s still a carbon foot print from manufacturing and transporting a box of ceramic plates. But that balances out over many uses, compared to paper ones that are forever in a cycle of production, transportation, and winding up in landfills. Every step of that uses resources and creates a never-ending flow of greenhouse gasses, which isn’t good for the planet–––or us.

But when I started looking for alternatives to disposable dinnerware, I learned something that surprised me. It seems, when it comes to green living and paper plates, there’s an exception to the rule of multi-use over single use.

The right dishwasher can make a difference

So, lets say I went to a consignment shop and purchased some used dishes that were in good condition for when we entertained. If we owned a dishwasher that was EnergyStar rated, (that means it does its job efficiently, while conserving energy and water,) and we loaded it up, we would be far greener than if we were to use even the most eco-friendly brand of paper dishes once.

The problem is, we don’t own a dishwasher.

An EnergyStar rated dishwasher uses about 4 gallons of water per cycle. Washing dishes by hand uses much more, because the average faucet flow is about 2 gallons per minute. Plus, there’s the electricity needed to run the water pump, as well as the propane used to heat the water. I’m not smart enough to calculate the benefits of each. But, believe it or not, there are people who have worked up life-time analysis’ formulas that compare the use of paper vs. ceramic dishes. greenbuildingadvisor.com.

But seeing as how these are too complicated for me to understand, as well, I’ll just boil it down to this: it takes me about 10 minutes to hand wash our dinner dishes–––and that’s just cleaning up after one meal for two people.  If we owned a dishwasher, instead of hand washing our dishes three times a day, we could rinse them with cold water and accumulate around eight place settings and six serving dishes into it over a few days before running a cycle.

That’s if we owned a dishwasher, which we don’t.

For us, the right paper plates might be a better option

I’ll be honest, I’m very happy to use our china when it’s just the two of us eating, or even when we have a few dinner guest. But if we have a party list of more than six people, I dread the idea of having to even pre rinse tons dishes. If only there were disposable options available that were also planet friendly.

Turns out there are! A Google search for planet-friendly disposable dinnerware will bring up a lot of websites for plates and eating utensils labelled as eco-friendly, biodegradable, or compostable! I was happy to learn too, that Chinet, the brand of plates my husband buys from Sam’s club img_1664is compostable. Now, I’m aware of how paper milling is generally hard on the planet, because of the chemicals used in manufacturing products and the waste that reenters the environment after. I wish too, that Chinet used post consumer recyclables instead of pre-consumer scraps left over from milling, and that the dishes were brown instead of bleached white. But, it wouldn’t be hard to find a greener option; plates that are not only compostable, but also are manufactured using green methods.

The difference between compostable and biodegradable

I realized not long ago that I didn’t understand the difference between the terms: biodegradable and compostable. The fact is, they both involve decomposition of an item back to nature. But in terms of labelling, one is a more reliable promise from the manufacturer than the other.

The FDA has a strict definition of what manufacturers can call compostable. The term refers to solid waste that completely breaks down within 180 days under the right conditions, like with enough heat and with adequate oxygen to allow microbes to turn it into nutrient rich ‘hummus.’ Many people own backyard composts. But these days some communities have large composts, too. In these industrial composts, conditions are closely monitored. That’s why some of the paper plates I’d looked at were labelled as ‘compostable only in an industrial compost.’ That means that the manufacturer promises that the item will break down within 180 days under that closely monitored condition. Otherwise, like if it wound up in a landfill, it could take longer or might not  biodegrade at all.

The term ‘biodegradable’ is more liberally defined, which is not good for consumers who are trying to buy green. Because of the lack of a strict definition, manufacturers can label products as biodegradable if they degrade under certain conditions, even if the sunlight and oxygen deprived landfills, where the products would likely wind up, would prevent them from doing so. That kind of misuse of green labelling is called green washing.

My take away

When it comes to hand washing dishes or using paper plates, at least for big dinners and parties the latter is a better choice for us. In choosing the right paper plate, simple is best. Disposable plates made of paper, not styrofoam or plastic, without a shiny coating, are okay choices for the planet. Also, the product label ‘compostable’ is a more reliable promise from the manufacturer that the product will biodegrade under certain conditions, than a ‘biodegradable’ label.  When it comes to disposable dishes, Chinet paper ones are not a bad choice, because they are compostable, but there are plenty of greener options available.

Or, the next time we have a holiday dinner we could go with edible dishes. Brisket in a bread bowl, anyone?

the-wedding-of-6

 

 

The Keurig in our Kitchen

Last week, after I’d blogged about coffee and paper filters, it occurred to me that I can’t put off writing about the 15Keurig in our kitchen any longer. Yes, my husband and I own one of the single-use coffee brewers. I’ve left a long trail of plastic coffee pods to prove it.

I received my Keurig as a gift several years ago and instantly fell in love with it.  Not only did I no longer have to scoop yucky coffee grounds into the trash, but I could enjoy several different flavors of coffee every morning. I liked it so much I bought my mom one.

I’ll admit I saw the problem right off. I’ll also admit that I ignored it. Then, as the guilt grew more each time I dropped one of the plastic pods into the trash can, I tried something crazy. I cleaned them out and put them in with my recyclables. I was fooling myself. Mingling k-cups with #2 recyclable will not transform them into something recyclable. It did however, annoy the people at the Waste Management Facility enough to yell at me.

A little k-cup history 

While Keurig was starting up back in the 1990’s the developers had a hard time finding the right receptacle for the single-use pods. They needed something that was strong enough to keep the grounds air sealed, that could still be punctured by the brewer’s cap, and remain in tact when the brewer dripped hot water through it. They eventually found that the take-out salad dressing containers from Ken’s Steakhouse fit the bill.

Back then, no one had anticipated that within a decade billions of k-cups would be produced, and that, between offices and homes, if we were to make a chain of the ones thrown out annually, we could wrap it around the Earth ten times. It was surprising then that in 2006 the environmentally responsible Green Mountain Coffee Roaster acquired Keurig.

The company agreed publicly that the environmental impact of  k-cups was a concern and vowed to fix it. In the mean time, they developed Earth Friendly campaigns and publicized them on the Keurig website. But finding a more sustainable replacement for the k-cup wasn’t as easy. So, environmental watch groups stepped up their anti-k-cup efforts.

Here’s an example of how environmental activism can move a green mountain!

In 2011 the hashtag ‘killthekcup’ was born. Then someone made a short monster film about k-cups. There’s also a website,  killthekcup.org, that tracks and reports on the environmental impact of the coffee pods as well as the progress of the anti-k-cup campaign. These efforts are an example of how environmental activism can make a difference, because since 2011 k-cup sales have declined. Recently, the city of Hamburg Germany has banned the coffee pods from its government buildings.

In April 2016, Keurig announced that it had finally come up with a recyclable k-cup. They promised to begin manufacturing it in coming months and to turn out only recyclable coffee pods by 2020. Three questions remain, though: will consumers make the effort to scoop out the wet coffee grounds from the pods in order to recycle them; will Waste Management Facilities, which are already overrun with plastic receptacles, accept the small plastic cups; will the greenhouse gasses produced when manufacturing k-cups  remain as high as they are currently?

Planet-friendlier alternatives

There are reusable coffee pods available. We own one. It’s a little bit of a pain to clean and we also have to grind the coffee to put in to it. But it is environmentally friendlier than k-cups. It’s why our Keurig still sits on our kitchen counter.

In truth, we hardly ever use it, (which is probably why I hadn’t blogged about it until now). I’m glad I remembered, though. Whenever I visit the supermarket I notice that there are boxes of many varieties of single use coffee pods on the shelves. The pods in them will end up in landfills, where they will never bio-degrade.

I choose to walk by them.

My husband and I brew our coffee by the pot and, even though we’re still using up the white coffee filters on the top of our fridge, before we switch to unbleached ones, the trash from our daily brews will break down in the landfill. Eventually, we hope to have a composter, where the coffee and filter can break down.

I should also add that we received our shipment from Higher Ground Roasters earlier this week! I’m so impressed with how quickly my order arrived, as well as with the speedy and helpful responses to my many, many emails. I’ll blog more about that later. For now, at least where our morning coffee is concerned, I’m greener now and I’m feeling less guilt!

A Tough Talk about Coffee

It’s six a.m. My husband and I are sitting across from each other, steaming mugs of Eight O’Clock coffee on the table between us. We’re having a tough talk. And, from the way my husband’s lips are pinched together, it’s not going my way.

Me: “Honest. All I was trying to do was Google paper coffee filters. But then one click led to another…”

My husband sighs. “Like always.”

A word about coffee filters, (since I’d promised to blog about them before I got sidetracked.): Most paper ones are made from the pulp of fast growing, soft trees, like pine, which likely grow in tree farms.  (If there are brands out there made from post consumer recyclables, I couldn’t find them.) The filters can be white or brown, and there are also reusable baskets. With wet coffee grounds in them, paper filters break down easily in landfills. They can also be tossed into the composter, when we someday get one.

The problem is, the coffee filters we currently use are white. So, chances are elemental bleach is used to make them. Like with other paper milled products, byproducts from chemicals used in manufacturing can find their way into the air, ground, and water.

At least with coffee filters our choices are easy:
img_1618

We can continue using the white ones on top of our fridge, or

 

61ogitscr4l-_ac_us160_switch to an unbleached version, which is kinder to the environment, or

img_1591go with the reusable one that came with our new coffee maker. That’s best for the environment, but it’s harder to clean and may raise our cholesterol.

(The part about cholesterol may seem random, but I read somewhere that paper filters do the good job of absorbing something in the coffee that raises LDLs.)

Back to the tough talk:

My husband: “I have no problem with switching to brown filters.”

Me: “Another easy green change!  Thank you! But what about our coffee? Now that we know what we know, we can’t just––”

My husband stops me mid sentence with his stare. “Does everything have to change?”

“Huh?”

“We’ve had Eight O’Clock coffee every morning for the past fifteen years. I…” He lowers his eyes. I’m instantly sad for him.

Me: “But until now we didn’t know about the small farmers in Brazil.”

My husband: “Brazil? Every week you come up with something else. I liked it better when we didn’t think about every little thing. Now, not only are we were trying to save the planet, but we have to worry about Brazilian farmers.”

“Brazil is part of the planet,” I snap. “So are the other countries where coffee plants grow.” My husband’s chin stiffens. I regret snapping. I slide my hand across the table onto his. “The problems with coffee goes further than the farmers.”

Once upon a time coffee grew in the shade:

Coffee is a small shrub that naturally grows on forest floorsimages in some of the most delicate eco-systems on the planet. To grow and harvest it, the sustainable practice called Shade Growing has been handed down for generations.  Shade Growing is where the shrubs grow naturally under the canopy of a rainforest.

Then coffee became the globe’s second most traded commodity next to crude oil:

In the 1970’s coffee companies, like Nestle, put pressure on local tribes to guayab_2let them clear vast acres of rainforest, so coffee could be planted in rows, and farmers could produce more.

This method of coffee farming is called sun cultivation and it comes with a cost. Because large sections of rainforest are destroyed, the bio-diversity of plant and

images-2animal life that used to help control insects and plants that damage coffee crops, and which also provide nutrients to the soil have disappeared, too. That means farmers have to now rely on pesticides and herbicides, as well as fertilizer to grow coffee. Plus, with the rainforest canopy gone, more water is needed to provide moisture.

The dangers of industrializing coffee farming: Sustained exposure to chemicals have impacted the health of the men, women, and children who work the farms. Of concern too, these artificial means of growing coffee is a one-two-punch to the rainforests that keeps coming, because whatever remains of the eco-system continues to be harmed by it.

The tough talk continued:

My husband: “Okay. Maybe coffee companies aren’t being nice to locals or responsible with the rainforest. But I like my coffee. It tastes good and the price is right. Why should I give it up for something that’s happening 5,000 miles away?”

Me: “Here’s one reason. Water. The rainforests only make up 7% of the planet and yet they help maintain the climate and water cycle for all of it.”

My husband: “I just buy a 2 1/2 pound bag every month. I don’t see how that–––”

Me: “The little choices add up to things that matters. But here’s the good news. There are coffee companies that believe that, too. If we choose to buy from them, it makes us part of the solution.”

Three certifications that say a coffee company is doing right by people and the planet:

Fair Trade: Coffee grown using ethical standards and treatment, like no child laborers and share of profits for local farmers.

Shade Grown: Coffee grown naturally, within forests.

Organic: Coffee grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals.magiccityblend_large

This article by thegoodtrade.com has a list of eco-friendly coffees to choose from. I’m interested in trying, Higher Ground Roasters, because it has all three certifications.

Last word in the tough talk: 

Me: “Higher Ground coffee may cost a little more than Eight O’Clock, but the difference is not astronomical.” I squeeze my husband’s hand.  “If it’s better for the planet, can’t we at least try it.”

mymorning-routine

My husband gives me his sweet smile, which makes me smile, too.

I knew he’d come around.

My Arguments for Cloth Napkins over Paper

My husband and I had gotten off our paper napkin habit a while ago. It was one of the easiest green changes we’ve made so far. Even still, my husband found what to complain about when I bought 2-25 packs of linen napkins.

“Are you going into the restaurant business or did you overbuy again?”

“Um…” I overbought again.

Then, I had even more explaining to do when a friend pointed out that the greenhouse gasses released and the water used when washings and drying those cloth napkins makes them no better for the planet than paper ones.

Thanks a lot, friend.

So, here are my arguments in favor of cloth napkins over paper:

A never ending cycle: Paper napkins are a single use item. That means companies, like Procter and Gamble, 51-jexwsphl-_ac_us160_need a steady flow of resources, like trees, water, crude oil, and electricity in order to manufacture and package them. The many phases of getting those resources to the mills causes the release of greenhouse gasses at intervals. Then manufacturing and packaging the products releases greenhouse gasses and chemicals that pollute the air and water at a steady flow. And after, the finished product has to be shipped to supermarkets, sending more greenhouse gasses into the air. The consumer completes the cycle when they use the napkins and then drop them in the trash at a rate of over a billion per day–––and that’s just in the US! Those billion plus napkins wind up in landfills across the country, where they slowly decompose and release even more greenhouse gasses.

Big Paper is often not so eco-friendly: Paper mills have a reputation of being hard on the environment.  They use harsh chemicals to turn wood into pulp and elemental bleach to make their paper products bright white. Paper milling has been around a long time, though. So, many companies that make paper have powerful lobbies. Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s they’d block regulations put forth by the EPA that would have made them more planet friendly. That said, nowadays there are 51ujs6ebutl-_sx425_mills that do the right thing. They use recycled material instead of trees and gentle or no bleaching agents to manufacture their paper products. For me, it was just a question of doing a little research to find out which paper companies really care about the Earth.

These days, most washers and dryers are energy efficient: Our washing machine and dryer both have Energy Star ratings. That means they’re designed to save us money and be better for the planet. Plus, I let my linen napkins accumulate and then I wash them with my whites. I could also use the setting for ‘tap/cold’ water, which would save even more energy. If I then hung each napkin on a clothes line instead of using the dryer to dry them it would be even greener. But we don’t have a cloths line. Phew!

There are plenty of green laundry products available:  My husband and I haven’t yet talked about making our laundry room greener. (I’m still working through reducing our trash.) But for several weeks now, I’ve been experimenting with Dr. Bronners as detergent and cleaning vinegar as fabric softener. (Dr. Bronners is a plant-based soap that has a reputation for being good and green.) My husband was skeptical. He said things like: “Do you even know what your doing?” and “I’m not on board.”

The wash came out great, though. And, as a bonus, I no longer had to use dryer sheets, because for some reason, vinegar not only softens clothes, but it also prevents static cling! But that’s not all! That musty smell in our wash tub disappeared! So, now, not only did I find a green alternative to laundry soap, but we no longer have to buy fabric softener or dryer sheets! I was over-the-top excited, right up to the moment our washing machine stopped working mid-cycle and no longer turned on. Guess who my husband blamed.

“But I’d been using Dr. Bronners and vinegar for over a month,” I said.

To which he replied, “You killed the coffee maker the same way.”

“It was thirteen years old.”

“It was doing fine until you cleaned it with vinegar.”

For the record, I’d cleaned the coffee maker with vinegar plenty of times over the years. But now, whether he can figure out how to fix the machine or we replace it, I’m a little scared to try the vinegar/DB combo again. So, my plan-B was to find a green laundry detergent at my supermarket. I noticed that Seventh Generation has so many planet-safe ones, and most of them have gotten ratings of 8.0 or better for environment on GoodGuide. (They’d also gotten high marks for health and social.) Some of them 173738-5even come in compostable containers. But, back to my point, whether I use vinegar and DB or one of the green detergents found in the cleaning aisle at the store, that would take the negative impact of chemicals from laundry detergents and such out of the equation.

Cloth napkins can be used more than once: Don’t be grossed out by this, but my husband and I will use the same linen napkin for two or three meals, or until it looks dirty. (I see you making a face.) It’s not like we share a single napkin with lots of people. It’s just the two of us and we each have our own. And, might I point out, the Spartans wiped their mouths with lumps of dough. At least we’re not dabbing our faces with uncooked bread.

With all that considered: It seems to me, with environmentally friendly practices in place for washing and drying, cloth napkins win over paper.

And now, the degrees of going green for paper napkins:

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