An Intro to Green Fabrics

Being a sustainable consumer can be extremely challenging. The more information you learn means the more restrictions you may place on what you can purchase and it can be a tad overwhelming. Instead of feeling like there is too much information out there to absorb and thus accept defeat that purchasing environmentally friendly garments is dimply not a viable option, here is some information about sustainable fabrics that you should keep your eyes peeled for when you are out on your next shopping venture:Image

Organic cotton: this material is generally free from chlorine bleaches and synthetic dyes. Traditional cotton farming uses harmful pesticides and chemicals whereas organic cottonseeds are non-genetically engineered and grown with natural fertilizers, This also means that organic cotton farming has a lower carbon since it uses less energy and fuel, emits fewer greenhouse gases into the air and reduces water consumption and toxic run-off.

Hemp: an extremely ecological crop as it is very productive as well as easy to cultivate since it is pest tolerant so agrochemicals are rarely needed. As a result, it is grown without the use of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. The final processing of hemp is when it is combed, spun, knitted and weaved, completely without any use of harmful pesticides or chemicals.

Bamboo:  a naturally sustainable textile that is quick to grow, harvest and replenish. The most environmentally friendly way to process this fabric is to compress wooden portions of the shoots and soak crushed bamboo in a mixture of water and enzymes to soften the fibers. After being dissolved and liquefied, the softened bamboo fibers are combed and spun into yarn. Thus, not all bamboo fabric is eco-friendly as some companies choose to chemically process bamboo, so look for organically processed bamboo products.

Linen: made from flax, which requires little chemical fertilizers and much less pesticides than cotton requires. Again, to ensure the sustainability of this textile you should read labels to see if it is organic or more about its general production process to find a fully environmental fabric/

Organic wool: this is becoming more and more popular in markets. This is created by using sustainable farming practices without the use of toxic sheep dips.

Recycled polyester: most likely found in fleece jackets and base layers, this takes previously used products such as plastic bottles and recycles them into fabric. At the current time our economy doesn’t seem to be able to escape the consumption of plastic so this provides a good option for not simply throwing these products into the landfill.

Soy silk: produced using tofu-manufacturing waste. It is a 100% biodegradable eco-fabric that is liquefied, cut, processed and spun much like cotton, hemp and bamboo.

There are other types of sustainable fabrics but here are the most prevalent at the current time. In any situation, the main two things to consider are how the product was made and transported. Keeping this in mind is a good starting point in leading a sustainable lifestyle.


How we can eat our landscapes

Edible landscaping provides an alternative to conventional residential landscapes to produce fruits and vegetables for home use. This video serves as a great explanation of what we should do with unused lands in a way that is sustainable and productive!

When it’s Most Important to Eat Organic

While buying organic is certainly a step towards supporting more sustainable food, the cost of these foods is to high for many consumers. Through pesticide testing, a list referred to as the “Dirty Dozen Plus” has been compiled that lists the produce with the highest amount of pesticides, and thus should be a priority in terms of organic purchases.

The “Dirty Dozen” is as follows:







Sweet bell peppers




Cherry tomatoes

Hot peppers


The “Plus” that may carry organophosphate insecticides that have been characterized as highly toxic are:

Kale/collard greens, and

Summer squash


So, eat clean and be green!

The Economics of Pollution- Reflecting on Ruff

In his article, “The Economic Common Sense of Pollution,” Larry E. Ruff explains how, “we are going to make very little real progress in solving the problem of pollution until we recognize it for what it primarily is: an economic problem, which must be understood in economic terms.” This requires us to apply the economic principles, such as marginalization, to the issue of pollution in order to understand why certain societies choose various levels of dirt and pollution based upon the costs and benefits of creating or not creating that pollution in the first place. Due to the economic benefits of pollution, Ruff notes that, “the optimal combination of pollution control methods is going to be a very complex affair.” This already complex situation if further complicated by the factors of social and private costs that cause private profit-maximizing choices to not be “socially efficient” as there are negative social effects that may result. Thus, it appears reasonable to believe that the “divergence between private and social costs is the fundamental cause of pollution” that “arises in any society where decisions are at all decentralized.”

By placing pollution in the economics perspective, not only does it highlight the fundamental motives for why we pollute, but it also gives rise to ideas about how we may be able to solve this environmental problem. One economic approach to pollution we may take would be to establish a market of certificates where the holder is given “the right” to pollute. Such an example of this type of system is the carbon emissions trading rights under the cap and trade program. In this program, a limit is established stating the the total amount of a pollutant that can be emitted. In a free market economy a producer can chose to invest into a technology that will lower their carbon emissions or the producer can decide to buy the market certificates that allow him the right to pollute. In this economics scheme, the total amount of certificates issued is equal to the initial limit. While this type of system is certainly not ideal as it devalues the importance of limiting pollution and allows for wealthy producers to simply pay for credits to pollute instead of taking the initiative to curb their emissions, the cap and trade system is certainly a viable solution as it does enforce limitations that can curb emissions. Thus, it seems reasonable for us to explore Ruff’s connection of pollution and economics as it may provide society with practical ideas for curbing emissions and crating a more sustainable world.

Original Article:

What is Fair Trade?

What does fair trade mean? Is it important? To put it simply, the fair trade label was created to help consumers support goods from farms that have been certified to supply fair wages and safe working conditions. Additionally, certified fair trade farm producers are paid a premium to apply to projects like healthcare, female leadership initiatives and micro-finance programs, which are voted on by the farmers and workers themselves. The Fair Trade certification also assures that farmers obey internationally monitored environmental standards, while empowering workers on the farm with monetary incentives and resources for organic conversion, reforestation, water conservation and environmental education.

Products with a Fair Trade Certified label carry an independent, third-party-verified guarantee that the farmer was given a fair price for the crop, and is motivated to compete in the global marketplace through direct, long-term agreements with international buyers. Such market benefits give farmer’s families the opportunity to move out of poverty not by aid but by trade. This ensures food is kept on the table, that children stay in school and that families may remain on their land.


Being better for the environment and people, Fair Trade is certainly a label consumers should look out for if trying to be more conscious consumers. Chocolate, coffee, wine and grains are just four of the most common fair trade products that you should be able to find at your local grocery store.

What Our Energy Addiction Really Means

An energy crisis results from any drastic bottleneck in an economy’s energy resource supply. But how can we have an energy crisis if according to the laws of thermodynamics, energy cannot be destroyed? This is because of the other key component of the laws of energy that states that though energy cannot be destroyed, it also cannot be created and once it is used, it is transformed mostly into heat energy, a non-usable energy form. This fact has lead to severe consequences as energy consumption increases, especially when we use non-renewable energy sources such as oil. Due to industrialized nation’s increasing dependence on oil, it is “being consumed at prodigious rates- about 84, 000, 000 barrels a day in 2010” (“Global Issues”). While oil is extremely versatile, it is also extremely polluting and is present on Earth in very limited quantities. However, because of the great demand for this resource and its finite supply, the price of this energy source is steadily increasing beyond our control. This crisis is escalating as a result of the growing global population and increasing dependence on oil as our world puts greater emphasis on industrial development and technological advancement and convenience. Now, developed nations are finally noticing the repercussions of extracting cheap energy from depleted, non-renewable sources.


This desire for energy in developed countries has consequently trickled down into developing nations as they try to implement industrial measures at a rapid pace in order to catch up with already industrialized nation’s productivity. Such effort causes these nations to disregard their environmental impacts and use non-renewable energy sources like oil in a way that is polluting and unsustainable. So now the question has become, will there be enough energy to meet our global needs? The McKinsey Global Institute predicts that developing countries will generate nearly 80 percent of the growth in world energy demand between now and 2020 and an MIT study published in October of 2011 anticipated a tripling of demand for energy worldwide by 2050. This escalation in demand has lead to greater desire for natural gas and realization that the use of energy sources other than oil is imperative.

One area in which our energy crisis is having a huge impact upon is Pakistan. Current conditions have further worsened their economic status as well as decreased agricultural production and halted industrial development. In its past, Pakistan has subsisted as a provider of agricultural raw materials, however, due to the current energy crisis, this has changed and this country is now losing out on exports. Without being able to sell its goods to other nations, Pakistan’s economy is greatly deteriorating. Not only is Pakistan’s agricultural sector in shambles, but also millions if its citizens that previously worked in the industrial sector have now been deployed. Thus, unemployment is scarily high and the country verges on bankruptcy. Internationally, Pakistan’s downturn resulting from the crisis is leading the country to ask for financial aid from the world’s economic leaders such as the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s situation is not unique as many countries around the globe are suffering severe economic and environmental consequences from our increasing dependence on oil and energy in general. In order to prevent the extremely negative financial and social impacts of a worldwide oil shortage, the 2005 Hirsch report highlighted the necessity in finding energy alternatives and easing off of the use of petroleum before our world hits peak oil. Mitigation in this manner may require energy conservation, fuel substitution and unconventional oil use. Because mitigation may involve using traditional oil sources less, it may forestall the timing of peak oil, and thus lead us to discover and utilize alternative energy sources more readily and efficiently. Thus, until we finally become accountable for our actions and be proactive about our energy consumption in order to find alternative sources and policies, we will not find an end to this global crisis that is affecting nearly every aspect of our lives.



Global Water Issues

As cited by the 2012 Millennium Development Goals Report, 783 million people, accounting for eleven percent of the world’s population, do not have access to an improved source of drinking water. More than 3.4 million people each year die from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. Ninety nine percent of these deaths occur in the developing world and lack of accessibility to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equal to a jumbo jet crashing every four hours. These facts demonstrate that too many individuals worldwide lack access to sanitary water.

Unfortunately, these devastating statistics about our global water statue come as a result of privatization of water resources. This type of privatization, publicized as a means to bring business efficiency into management of water services, has unfortunately backfired and has led to diminished access for the poor globally as prices for these essential services have climbed drastically. Commoditization of water thus has lead to such a global crisis over water. This is due to the fact that by promoting water as a commodity, more and more multinational corporations have gained control of this vital natural resource. As a result, worry has grown that impoverished individuals are shut out from access because major corporations’ primary responsibilities are to its shareholders and to increase profits. Consequently, while there are certainly many individuals in terms of market access, many people are too impoverished to afford the necessity of water. In the past, the IMP, the World Bank, and other national organizations have promoted the privatization of water access around the world in hopes that such actions would enhance efficiency, and have encouraged countries to adopt certain policies such as the elimination of subsidies for such provisions. This encouragement, however, has caused impoverished people around the worlds to lose access to water as rising prices have simply made water unaffordable.

As a result of this terrible and increasing threat to global water security, in 2010 on July 28, the General Assembly passed The Right to Water and Sanitation, UN Resolution 64/292. This resolution declared that the United Nations, “Recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.” The resolution requires that every human have access to “sufficient water,” between 50 to 100 liters of water per person a day, as well as to have that water be “affordable” in the sense that it costs is to be no more than three percent of household income. The water must also be physically accessible in a location that is within 1,000 meters of an individual’s home and time to collect that water must not take more than thirty minutes.

Studies conducted by the United Nations demonstrate that unsafe water is the cause of death for more people each year that every form of violence, including war. For many years, the UN has been working to address the issues related to water scarcity dating back to the United Nations Water Conference of 1977, however the 2012 Millennium Development Goals Report demonstrates that water source access for rural populations is still lagging. Also, due to population growth, the number of individuals in urban areas without an improved source of water has actually increased. Still, there is a great divide between urban and rural water security as the amount of people in rural areas without access to an improved water source is five times more than those in urban populations.

This obvious disparity in water sanitation and access leaves us no other option than to act. While the UN may be doing their best to enact measures to improve the current stance of water scarcity, it is up to the governments, officials, organizations, and corporations around the world to truly invest their money, time and effort to ensure reliable, safe, and pure access to drinking water for all in our global community. It will not be until the countries of the world work together to communicate and form an actual plan that it will be even remotely possible for us to accomplish tangible improvement.



“United Nations Global Issues.” Welcome to the United Nations: It’s Your World. N.p., 2013. Web. 30 Mar. 2013.

In Response to Peter Singer- Factory Farming

In the article, “Animal Liberation,” author Peter Singer discusses Ruth Harrison’s essay, “On Factory Farming” which discusses the issue of industrial farming. In this essay, Harrison states that, “any animal should at least have room to turn around freely.” Further research into this topic reveals the cruel nature in which animals are treated on concentrated animal feeding operations, or “CAFOs”. Here, animals are kept in extremely confined spaces rather than open pastures. In these factory farms that Harrison speaks of, “veal calves are kept in stalls five feet by two feet,” and are killed at about 4 months of age when they are too big for their own crates. Pigs are inhumanely treated as well as they are born in gestation crates and then nurse off mothers placed on their sides in farrowing crates. Not only is this miserable for animals as they are not free to move, but this intense confinement in metal barns also leads to enormous excrement production that is stored underneath the barn’s slatted floors, which dramatically decreases air quality and thus the health of the animals. Manure spills may even occur which pose even greater air quality risks to not just the animals but humans as well since manure runoff can infect local drinking water.

One extremely overlooked risk from factory farming is the continued use of antibiotics. In CAFOs, animals are placed extremely close together and given high dosages of antibiotics as preventatives for infection. This is extremely controversial since such extensive use of antibiotics on these animals creates antibiotic-resistant pathogens that spread to humans, including the food-borne pathogens Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Campylobacter, as well as MRSA infections. It has been estimated that for Salmonella alone, the cost to humans is about $2.5 billion per year (, a cost that could be completely avoided if all farmers adopted natural agricultural procedures with free range, organic farming.

While Stinger notes that there are defenders of factory farming that believe, “since [the animals] have never known anything else, they don’t suffer,” this argument is has proven to be irrelevant as Stinger remarks that “not all behavior is learned.” Thus, as animals attempt to perform the activities such as walking and opening their wings that they would normally perform in the wild, they are inhibited by their enclosed spaces and can recognize the inhibition of their confinement. However, not only does factory farming prove to be unethical in the manner by which it treats the animals, but also the subsequent affects of pollution and medical implications to humans are so great that it clearly does not seem justified for anyone to argue such operations benefit our society in the long term.


Peter Singer’s Paper:

Understanding What Organic Really Means

Here is a paper I wrote about understanding what it means to be certified organic. It is certainly taking a step towards a greener lifestyle by buying organic but it is important to understand the label’s limitations as well. Read on to learn more!…


In 2012, Business News Daily wrote that organic food is the fastest growing sector, outpacing the rest of the grocery industry. According to the Organic Trade Association’s CEO Christine Bushway, “Consumers are increasingly engaged and discerning when they shop, making decisions based on their values and awareness about health and environmental concerns” (Smith.) To address and regulate this expanding organic market, the USDA created the National Organic Program based on a definition of “organic” requiring expensive certification that many small farmers simply cannot pay. Though consumers may be more conscious about their health and the environment, unfortunately many are still uneducated about what is required for a product to be “certified organic.” By trying to make healthy and environmentally friendly decisions, consumers are leaning towards purchasing organically certified products that are often produced by large farms that can afford the costly inspections. Thus, while the USDA’s intentions initially appear honorable, their definition of organic neglects to promote the products of small farmers and instead is a political tool used to enhance big business.

Under Title 21 of the 1990 Farm Bill, the Organic Foods Production Act was passed to create consistent national standards for the production and dispersal of organically labeled products. In addition, the act established the new USDA National Organic Program to set organic agricultural standards as well as the National Organic Standards Board to advise the Secretary of Agriculture upon the standards enacted by the National Organic Program. This convoluted system has led the USDA to define organic as “a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole” (Gold.) The FDA defines “organic” on their webpage by stating that the “Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the National Organic Program (NOP). The NOP regulations include a definition of ‘organic’ and provide for certification that agricultural ingredients have been produced under conditions that would meet the definition” (How.) Thus, the FDA places the definition and regulation of “organic” in the hands of the USDA, which has created a certification process for organic products that is too costly for many small farmers to afford.

According to the USDA, the NOP “regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced” (Organic.)  In combination with the Organic Foods Production Act, the NOP is designed “to assure consumers that the organic foods they purchase are produced, processed, and certified to be consistent with national organic standards” (Organic). To uphold these standards, the USDA requires farms to undergo a time consuming and expensive process in order to label their products as “certified organic.” After introducing the organic certification process, the NOP approximated that product certification would cost an average of $750 per farm (Organic.) In reality, the cost differs for each farm as it is contingent upon its size and the agency employed to provide the certification, as well as other indirect costs such as administrative fees. According to a study of eleven different agencies’ certification costs, “initial costs averaged $579, $1,414, $3,623, and $33,276 for farms with incomes of $30,000, $200,000, $800,000, and $10,000,000, respectively” (Swanson.) These sizable costs hinder many sustainable local farms from obtaining the USDA organic label, and thus, they are unable to equally profit from the rapidly increasing organic market.

Last summer, the New York Times profiled Michael J. Potter in an article entitled, Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized? Mr. Potter founded a small “hippie café and whole earth grocery” in Michigan that was then absorbed by Eden Foods, one of the primary organic food producers and wholesalers (Strom.) The nature of the business is that “organic food has become wildly lucrative business for Big Food and a premium-price-means-premium-profit section of the grocery store” (Strom.) Big business has come to recognize organically certified product’s increasing profit potential, which has made it nearly impossible for small mom and pop producers to compete. As a result, instead of continuing with their small-scale sustainable practices that benefit the local community and earth, small farms are rapidly being bought out by large food companies. Strom explains in her article, “Over the last decade, since federal organic standards have come to the fore, giant agri-food corporations like these and others — Coca-Cola, Cargill, ConAgra, General Mills, Kraft and M&M Mars among them — have gobbled up most of the nation’s organic food industry.” Strom effectively describes the consequences of these merges perfectly when she writes, “Pure, locally produced ingredients from small family farms? Not so much anymore” (Strom.)

Unfortunately, it is not just the price of certification that makes “organic” a political weapon for big business, but also the nature by which the standards are created. The National Organic Standards Board is responsible for providing recommendations to the United States Secretary of Agriculture about organic food and products. Essential tasks of the board include developing and evaluating the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances as well as ensuring that regulations are properly enforced upon the organic farming community. The fifteen National Organic Standards Board members currently include Joe Dickson of Whole Foods Market, Dr. Wendy Fulwider of Organic Valley Family Farms and John Foster of Earthbound Farm (National.) Though the National Organic Standards Board aims to incorporate a diverse group of representatives from the organic community including farmers, environmentalists, consumer advocates, a scientist and a retailer, its list of members demonstrate its influence from primarily big organic companies. This means that the large-scale organic producers are given the power to put forth policies that regulate the production and distribution of organic products. As Mr. Potter explains, “the [National Organic Standards] Board is stacked…either they don’t have a clue, or their interest in making money is more important than their interest in maintaining the integrity of organics” (Strom.)

One example of how the National Organic Standards Board favors large organic farms is an amendment created in 2006. Once passed, it established a list of permissible artificial ingredients in USDA certified organic labeled products. While small local farms are able to produce and sell their products without these artificial additives, it is much more difficult for big organic farms to produce on such a large scale without these synthetic inputs (Schmitz.) This puts small farms as at a great disadvantage because even though their farming methods are generally more sustainable and natural as they tend to maintain crop diversity and source locally to achieve a smaller carbon footprint, due to the allowance of certain artificial ingredients in organic foods, the big businesses that can afford certification may obtain the organic label and the customers that come with it despite the actual contents of their products (Rosett.) Though industry lobbyists may argue that big organic farms make it possible for the industry to handle the growing demand for organic products, such policies inhibit many small sustainable farmers from receiving the profits they deserve. Evidence also demonstrates that smaller US farms actually produce 10 times more the value of output per unit of area versus large farms, and therefore large farms are not necessary to keep up with this growing demand (Rosset.)

Maintaining the status quo of big business, the definition of organic hinders the progress of small farmers as it creates a power structure that allows for the continued success of large organic farms at the expense of less commercialized farms. Placing the definition of organic in the hands of the National Organics Board which is dominated by large organic industry leaders enforces this power structure. Requiring the extensive testing procedures as well as imposing financial burdens in order to obtain certification, the organics industry forces all farms to jump through hoops in ways that are simply unfeasible for small farmers. As a result, the definition of organic has developed into a political tool for industry leaders to manipulate the standards of the National Organic Standards Board and ultimately control the entire organic market.



Gold, Mary V. “Organic Production and Organic Food: Information Access Tools.”United States Department of Agriculture. N.p., June 2007. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.

“How Is the Term “organic” Regulated?” Food and Drug Administration. N.p., 6 Oct. 2010. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.

“National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).” USDA, 16 Sept. 2013. Web. 03 Nov. 2013.

“Organic Certification.” United States Department of Agriculture. USDA, 15 Nov. 2011. Web. 02 Nov. 2013.

Rosset, Peter. “Small Farms Are More Efficient & Sustainable.” Organic Consumer Association. N.p., June 2000. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.

Schmitz, Jake. “Organic Certification Process.” University of Kentucky, Aug. 2010. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.

Smith, Ned. “Organic Food Sales Growth Outpaces Rest of Grocery Industry.” N.p., 23 Apr. 2012. Web. 03 Nov. 2013.

Strom, Stephanie. “Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized?” New York Times. N.p., 7 July 2012. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.

Swanson, Abbie. “How Much Is Organic Certification Worth?” Harvest Public Media, 6 Dec. 2012. Web. 03 Nov. 2013.

Exercising Green


As a part of leading a healthy lifestyle, one of the main components individuals focus on is exercise. I am an avid runner but I cannot stand taking runs inside on a treadmill. When I am home from school, however, I sometimes take a workout class with my mom or friends or hop on the elliptical and watch a cooking show in our basement. The media emphasizes the importance of being fit, but I began to wonder, aside from our bodies, in what ways are our workouts impacting the environment?

To begin, think about your average gym. You may not realize, but the average commercial gym is extremely unsustainable. These facilities use vast quantities of energy for cooling their large spaces to optimal temperatures for exercise, regardless of the number of individuals actually working out in these spaces. Next, there is all the energy used not to power the machines but just the rows upon rows of plasma TVs constantly running to entertain the gym-goers. Then, we move to the machines themselves that require great expenditures of energy. To put it into perspective, an average treadmill for one hour used a kW when someone is running and still uses baseline energy at all times, even when no one is even on the machine. Now that’s for one piece of equipment- think about that multiplied to all the different machines in just one gym!

We also cannot forget the carbon footprint required to make the pieces of equipment themselves. From the great amount of energy used to manufacture the metal frame to the paint with large concentrations of unstable VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that pollute the air, as well as the non-recyclable plastics and rubber used in the finishing stages of the machine- it is clear that environmental considerations were not made when producing this equipment. What’s even more disappointing is that in order to attract more customers, gyms are constantly upgrading their equipment. Instead of responsibly disposing of their “old” machinery, chances are it is going straight to the landfill. Then come all the services a gym provides such as washing towels and other general cleaning that may use more chemicals and machinery. Trying to turn the greatest profit, your gym probably isn’t using eco-friendly products.

But don’t let this news give you the excuse to stop exercising! Aside from doing more research to join a gym that is making more environmentally friendly choices, here are my three top tips:

1. Use your commute as your workout at least a few times a week (in the event your offices have a shower.) This will not only minimize your carbon footprint of your exercise but of your commute as well, this killing two birds with one stone!

2. Find alternative forms of exercise than the gym. Aside from the carbon footprint of the gym itself, simply getting there burns furl. Biking, running, yoga or even strength training outside will bring an exciting change of scenery and a breath of fresh air.

3. Adjust your exercise for the season and invest in sustainable gear to keep you warm for winter workouts. Rowing. For example, is an amazing arm workout but if you’re sane, leave that for the Spring and Summer. Running, on the other hand with the right outerwear can even be taken into the Winter.

Being more conscious about the way our exercise may impact the environment is the first step. None of us are perfect but by making small adjustments we truly can make a difference.