Monday, May 31, 2010

Trees for the Future Donates Trees All Over The Globe

I am an online survey taker. Years ago I came across a pretty cool company that sends me links for surveys in all manner of topics and I answer the ones I want in order to gain points. The points can be used to “purchase” items in their redemption center.

So far I have collected enough points to redeem for items like a Black and Decker cordless screwdriver, a sushi set (with chopsticks) made of bamboo for two, gift cards, CD’s, a coffee grinder and more. So when they emailed me recently to let me know that for just 200 points I could help donate 10 trees through the Trees for the Future program I was intrigued!

Like any good researcher I immediately set out to find out all I could about Trees for the Future. Turns out, the non-profit organization has been busy planting upwards of 50 million trees in countless countries all around the world since 1989. They have been instrumental in providing training in agro-forestry as well as seed distribution efforts in order to bring tree cover back to many rural communities which have lost this precious resource.

And all I had to do to help further the cause was click a button to redeem 200 points for the planting of ten trees! It felt great to be able to help in even this small way. You just never know where the opportunity to make a difference might be lurking!

To find out more about this very dedicated organization you can visit them on the web at:

Trees for the Future website
Treesftf on Facebook
Treesftf on You Tube

There are many ways to donate directly to Treesftf -- give a gift of a planted tree to someone else, give a cash donation, donate a car, truck or boat, volunteer, or organize a tree planting project of your own! I highly suggest getting over to their website and exploring the various options for how to help.

The planet, and all its oxygen breathing inhabitants, will thank you for it!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Matt Is One of the Best People I Know

He works in downtown Boston on a fairly popular street in the financial district for a mortgage company. That’s all wonderful but it isn’t what makes him great. Over the weekend he told us about a guy who is homeless that lives in the alley behind his building. Every day Matt shares one cigarette with the man and they chat about work, life and how he ended up in the situation he is in.

A former contractor, Karl has been living on the streets for a while now. After very tough times in the market forced him out of his union job, he was unable to maintain paying his bills and sadly ended up where he is.

According to Matt though this has not done anything to damage the guy’s disposition! He is always ready to share a laugh, a smile and directions with lost tourists.

Now Matt, is the kind of guy who just loves the world, will talk to anyone and it is like his mission in life to bring a smile to everyone else’s face! He and Karl struck up conversations months ago but I just found out about him this past weekend when Matt started pulling a whole bunch of clothes together.

I asked if he was getting rid of stuff for Goodwill and he said no, that he was putting a bag of stuff together because Karl had indicated that if Matt was ever planning to get rid of stuff he would be more than willing to take it off his hands, seeing as though they are about the same size.

Tears almost sprung to my eyes. How sweet is that! I have a sneaking suspicion he will do the same come the fall and donate a bunch of warmer clothes to him.

We were talking this morning about the spelling of Karl’s name (which sadly he’s not sure is a C or a K so I’m taking liberties here admittedly) and if Matt happened to know how long he had been homeless when something he said struck a chord.

“Its kind of sad that people like him are just ignored and feared.”

My response was to say that people are just people and that everyone has something in their life, whether they put it right out there or not is inconsequential, we all have issues it is just that some of us are better able to hide them from the rest of the world.

Then Matt said something that really hit home. He indicated that most people are just one bad month away from being in the exact same place as Karl. Sadly, it could not be truer. As a guy who works directly with the financial information of hundreds of people on a weekly basis, no one knows better than Matt how serious that statement really is.

Because we happen to be so fortunate in our lives that we have clothes that fit us, a roof to sleep under and shower to get clean in, it is important that we do whatever we can to help those who are not as well off. Matt started his mission with nothing more than a full bag of clean clothes he was tired of wearing and it has already made a difference in Karl’s life. He wants to do more good deeds and random acts of kindness now!

How can we join him?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico Can There Be a Silver Lining?

I have been avoiding writing this week as the controversy over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has reached breakneck speed. As most of you know I try to keep things on the positive over here at GLR but I feel it is my duty as an environmental semi-activist to finally throw my own change into the hat and use my forum to voice an opinion that has been gnawing at me for weeks.

There are major players in this disaster -- BP, Transocean, the United States government, Halliburton -- but in my opinion the real blame lies on all of us.

This is not to say that BP should not be 100% responsible for the best possible efforts at cleaning up this current mess, both financially and physically, they should be held accountable as it was their operations that sank the rig and caused the breach in the first place. What I mean is that we as a humanity allow ourselves to rely on oil for just about everything and while this spill is a tragedy of massive proportions, perhaps it will make all of us take a step back and reexamine the way we live our lives.

Since the figures became fuzzy over how many gallons were actually spilling out each day, not to mention the moment the first tar ball was reported to have touched land, I seriously started to evaluate my own habits.

The real honest truth of the matter is that just like most of the world I have been trained to rely on petroleum based products as part of my daily life.

I eat a yogurt every morning for breakfast. It comes in a plastic container.
I shower every day. Most of the products I use to cleanse myself come in plastic containers.
I get in my car and drive to work. Though the Corolla gets good gas mileage, it still uses gas.
I workout 3-5 times a week. On a treadmill, physio ball and with a jump rope created from plastic pieces.
I go to bed and set an alarm for the morning. On a clock made from plastic.

I type this blog post on plastic keys. At a plastic computer.

But…As much as it should depress me to realize that I live a double life of sorts, I can not let it bring me down. That is the very reason I have been hesitant to post anything about this man made disaster since it happened. I have had to try to find the thing that turns it all around. The thing that I can focus on that doesn’t make me feel like a hypocrite.

So this is my call to all of us as readers. Because there is really no way to clean up an oil spill I challenge and strongly urge all of us to stop and take stock of every single thing we do, evaluate the way we live our lives and take a stand to reduce our own personal petroleum consumption.

Can we bike to work one day instead of drive? Telecommute? Take public transportation? Buy the largest size yogurt instead of individually sized packages? Reduce our time online? Grow our own veggies (or buy local/organic) instead of buying trucked in brands? Walk outside instead of joining the gym? Buy previously loved items instead of new? Join Freecycle and other similar groups and participate in free trades? Read a book instead of watching television? Sign petitions asking your local government to take active steps toward reducing their own consumption? Join groups that actively participate in environmentally sound practices? Share links to stories with others who need to be educated? Repost this blog post?

I pledge to do as much of this as I can. I will certainly be spending less time online, walking to my local library for a book or two every week, enjoying nature instead of television and drastically reducing the time I spend in my car even though I work from home most of the time. I plan to grocery shop better and smarter and start frequenting my local Farmer’s Market the moment it opens. I will talk about this disaster as an informed individual because I will read the paper, the updated resources online and the links shared by friends. I will take active steps to change my habits and my life and subsequently the lives of millions of others in the process.

What do you pledge to do to reduce your dependency on petroleum based products so we can further eliminate the chances of another BP Gulf disaster in the future?

Photo courtesy of NASA.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Recycling: A Guide for the green Greenie

A great friend of mine recently moved back here from a less Green area of the country, and she expressed an interest in learning to recycle. I told her she came to the right place! It all started while we were visiting the other night; we had a couple beers and caught up. When she finished her beer she went for the trash can and I cringed.

“Don’t you guys love the environment?”
“Don’t you recycle here?”
“I have no clue.”

There was no blue bin with the trash cans or in her apartment so we created a separate paper bag for paper recycling and a trash bag for the rest and talked about how she could get herself a bin and schedule of pick up days/times.

As she put a plastic container into the recycle bag, long overdue to be tossed, I made mention of the number within the triangle & noted that since it was a #6 rigid plastic it was okay. She looked at me like a deer in headlights and said:

“Don’t they have a Recycling for Dummies book for those of us who have no idea what we’re doing but want to learn?”

I told her I’d write a blog post and send her the link! So here it is. I’ll be breaking down what recycling is, how to do it, what they do & don’t take and why you have to separate all of the different items.

Recycling -- What

First off, let’s start with the definition of recycling. The official definition from is:
To treat or process so as to make suitable for reuse.

Pretty simple right? The item that one places in a bin is sent off to a facility somewhere in happy recycling land and by the process of their choosing (melting, boiling, crushing, heating, cooling, grinding, etc.) the material is turned back to its original state of plastic, glass or metal particles or paper pulp so it can be turned back into another milk jug, salsa jar, can of corn or ream of printer paper.

So why can’t we just throw everything we use right into the bin and turn it all back into its original state?

There are two items that immediately come to mind that are not frequently recycled under conventional process -- corrugated cardboard and Styrofoam. So what are they and why can’t we toss them in?

Corrugated cardboard is more rigid and durable because it has accordion folded cardboard (corrugated) in between two layers of flat cardboard (linerboard). It looks almost like a honeycomb when viewed from the side and is commonly used for packing/shipping boxes. It is frequently turned away from facilities because of its toughness (blades for shredding can become damaged) and because an adhesive is used to bond the layers, too much could impact the functionality of the pulp that comes out. I recommend checking with your local facility to find out how they handle this material. Here’s a picture.

Styrofoam is another beast and for those of you who follow GLR you may remember Melissa wrote a very in depth article (The Lowdown on EPS) on it last October. That article explains the material in depth, provides phone numbers and a slew of additional info so I highly suggest reading it. In research I’ve done related to this material it seems the general response is that Styrofoam is too light to ship, too time consuming to compact and too toxic to burn. It doesn’t seem right to throw it away though so once again, contact your local facility to find out if they take it.

Recycling -- Where and When

Most communities in my state have curbside pick-up of recycling. In my town the schedule rotates every other week and we are given special town sanctioned blue bins to place our goods in but every town is different. Here in my state, The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) website is the best resource to find out where to acquire a bin, what day(s) of the week recyclables are picked up and how often.

It’s easy! Go to the website, scroll down and on the left click My Community. Find the town you wish to research in the list and click Go. Scroll down and under the “Get Facts” heading there will be a link to Recycling in my Community. Click that link and scroll down to find your town in the alphabetical list. Any and all information can be found there. Each country, state and town is different so check with your local government offices for the most accurate information.

Recycling -- Who, How and Why

Who? You! Everyone can recycle, even if there isn’t a curbside pick-up in your community it is easy to collect the various goods in a couple bins around the house and pop on over to the nearest facility to drop items off. Sometimes more items are accepted this way and it takes care of the build up on your own schedule. For example, now that we recycle just about everything in our house we end up having more recyclables than trash and for us it would be fine to flip recycle pick-up to weekly while trash could wait every two weeks instead!

The great thing for us in our town is that all our items can go in one bin together and the facilities sort through it but how you sort your items is something to check into. In our old apartment everything had to be separated so we had several bins -- one for paper (reusing paper grocery store bags are perfect for this!), one for plastic/metal/glass and one for all the other stuff (cell phones, batteries, etc which we had to drop off and only on certain days).

So why do I recycle…really? I do it because I feel that any item we create new should be able to function (NOT steaming in a landfill!), in some way or incarnation, for the same number of years that I will be walking around this planet. I feel that if I am going to be here, the least I can do is lessen the blow of the things I do and recycling is one of the most widely available, simplest things to do in order to keep my impact lowered.

Recycling -- The Numbers

While researching I came across this really cool website Green Living Tips and they have an excellent article (not to mention TONS of useful information) on recycling and what the numbers mean.

Not to mention they plant a tree for each new subscriber to the site so you bet I signed up for that too!

Every little bit helps so get out there, do some reading and start looking at the numbers. It may seem daunting or confusing at first but I can assure everyone that once you get used to recycling, you will never want to go back!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Project 365 Community Is Helping to Support Doctors Without Borders

Good morning folks, hope everyone is enjoying their weekend and that perhaps it is sun filled like ours here in the northeast United States! Matt and I have a full day today running around seeing friends who just moved back to the area, other close friends having a little get together and going to check out my mom’s photographic contribution to the “Images of Arlington” show over at the Arlington Center for the Arts.

In the spirit of supporting my mom’s photography, I thought it was high time to tell everyone about a really cool project she is involved in. The name of it is Project 365 and the premise is for all the photographers who are involved to snap and share one photograph a day. Might sound easy but 365 days is much longer than one might think when trying to find fresh ideas for photo subjects!

The group had the great idea to take a sampling of the captures and bind them together into one very awesome coffee table book which is available to purchase through blurb. The book is:

365 Community: A Photo A Day

There are professional photographers and everyday picture enthusiasts (and everyone in between!) featured in this book, but the best part of all is that all the proceeds from the sale of the book will be sent to support Doctors without Borders!

DwoB is an organization operating in over 60 countries worldwide and their main goal is to provide quality medical care to those who are unable to acquire it in their region due to threats of violence or the trauma of living in a post catastrophe environment. Doctors from all regions of the globe, and from all walks of life, come together to provide healthcare in an impartial way to those who need it most.

In March alone the Project 365 book helped to raise $86 for DwoB! Now admittedly that is awesome but I’d love to see that figure jump a mile! Photos are always a wonderful gift and what better way to give that gift than providing over 190 pages of unique photos from some amazingly talented individuals?

My mom has 5 photos featured in the publication; this is what the pages look like inside:

Think Father’s Day people! Don’t get dad another tie, golf club or fat filled meal, give him a gift that really counts and will bring a smile to his face! Not to mention the faces of those people who will benefit the most from access to medical care.

The book is only $46.95 for the softcover but I say go for the image wrapped hardcover version for that extra classy touch since it comes in at only $65.95.

Thanks so much Project 365 for donating your skills to such a worthy cause as DwoB, every dollar raised is a tremendous help and I’m proud that my own mom is a part of it!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

RubberForm Is Making A Positive Impact By Reducing Waste

If you had a chance to read yesterday’s post about the Washington Nationals Stadium and the environmental efforts they put in place while constructing it, you might have thought that was the only thing that caught my eye while I was away. Of course being the eyes-open Greenie I am almost nothing slips past me!

We spent a little time in a small park right near Dan’s house called Brookside Gardens. The grounds were impressive and filled with beautiful plants and cool appointments, like a small stone labyrinth. On the way back to the car we shortcut through the parking lot and I stepped over a wheel-stop barrier at the end of a parking space.

I looked down to see the barrier was not standard concrete color but black and it had an impression in it which read Of course my brain immediately considered the possibility that these barriers were created out of old tires or something equally cool so I snapped the photo above in order to complete research once we were back home.

I was immediately impressed to learn that RubberForm not only creates these wheel-stop barriers out of recycled tires (among other eco materials) but they also produce sign bases and stands, speed bumps and humps, speed cushions and tables, vehicle bumpers, car stops, rooftop patio pavers, rubber bricks, spill containment berms, landscape mulch, pipe/hose/curb ramps, wheel chocks and more, plus they have plans to begin creating systems for drain management, storm water drainage, base weights, rubber retaining walls & water retention systems.

They are a US Green Building Council member, are based in the United States, and pride themselves on being an innovative business that puts their employees first.

In today’s market, thinking recycling and keeping an eye on the planet by reusing materials that were already created in order to produce an item of function is not only innovative but just good business sense.

I applaud RubberForm and will now keep my eye out for their recycled, functional, products all over town!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Washington Nationals’ Stadium Goes Green!

Over the past couple weeks our little family has done an awful lot of traveling far and wide to visit with family and friends. Last weekend we spent a few days with one of Matt’s best friends, Dan, who lives in the Washington D.C. area, and since all of us are big baseball fans he started looking into getting tickets so we could enjoy a game while in town.

The Baltimore Orioles were on the road so we landed at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals. Before we even got to DC, Dan had sent me a link to some information on the park and it turns out the ball park is one of the most environmentally conscious in the country! I was excited to have a first hand look at their efforts.

Construction on the structure was completed in time for the start of the 2008 season and it is the very first LEED Silver Certified professional sporting venue in the country so the two year project was quite a big deal!

Some of the efforts completed include:
- Location chosen to be accessible by the Metro (public transportation)
- Low VOC materials
- Materials consist of a minimum 10% recycled content
- LED lights used in scoreboard/electronic banner displays
- Massive reductions in water and energy consumption (3.6 million gallons annually / 21% over standard field lighting)
- Drought resistant plantings
- Reflective roofing materials
- Locally produced materials specified in construction
- Over 5,500 tons of waste was recycled upon completion of the project

We had a blast at the park, which is also one of the cleanest facilities I’ve ever been to! Here are a few photos I took the day we watched the Nats beat the Florida Marlins.

Thanks for blazing the trail toward a Greener way of thinking, Washington Nationals, while still allowing us to have a truly enjoyable baseball experience!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Charles River Center Benefit Gala -- Building a Dream

Over the past couple months I have decided it is high time for my company to start giving back and I have been looking for charitable causes that I feel strongly about so I could do just that. As many of you know I run my own company, Chucka Stone Designs, which completes installations of various specialty paint treatments in an array of types, styles and locations.

I contributed one of my finishes to the Driscoll School Auction as the school this year was attempting to raise money for installation of Green initiatives in the building (hooray!) and also did a company match donation to the American Cancer Society’s Climb to Conquer Cancer which my sister took part in this past March. When my aunt recently sent out a request for donations to the Charles River Center Benefit Gala -- Building a Dream, I knew it was another very worthwhile cause!

My cousin is significantly developmentally delayed and lives in a group home with other disabled young adults, which is managed by the Charles River Arc. The Arc, dependent on state aide and private contributions, provides housing and programs that allow individuals to achieve a work / life balance in a positive and caring environment. Their clients, who might be considered to have a major disadvantage, accomplish amazing thing in terms of independence, friendships and productive social activities.

For example, my cousin volunteers at a nursing home, a pet shelter and with the Salvation Army and has made many great friends which I have had the pleasure of being introduced to over the years. He is fortunate to have residential services, but many of the clients still live at home, many with aging parents. If The Arc loses their day work program benefits through funding cuts, one parent would probably have to quit their job to stay home as these individuals aren’t independent enough to left alone throughout the entire day.

To me, this is a significant blow to an already struggling community of individuals and it only seemed right to help. I put together a collection of 3 picture frames, similar to the one in the picture above, and handed them off for my aunt to include in the silent auction. I know they won’t raise thousands of dollars but every last dime sure does count!

There is still time to donate! If you have been looking for a worthwhile charity to donate even a few dollars to, please consider the Charles River Center Building a Dream campaign. The gala takes place tonight, May 5. To donate you can click the link to be taken to the donation/gala attendance page. Thanks for considering this worthwhile charity which will continue to benefit my cousin and his friends in such a significant way.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere…

An old quote, from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, goes: “water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink.” This famously used quote was originally written to describe how difficult it was for the crew of a ship to float along in the ocean without being able to drink from it. Luckily our situation is not quite as perilous but it certainly gives pause regardless.

On Saturday while I was busily enjoying a great time at a retirement party in California, a section from a ten foot wide pipe that delivers clean and purified drinking water to upwards of 2 million residents in and around the Boston area, burst.

The water released from the pipe was allegedly leaking upwards of 8 million gallons of water an hour into the Charles River and residents from over 30 surrounding communities were told to boil water as the water coming from their tap would be provided by non purified sources.

When we got in last night after midnight we instantly started to boil water. We placed cups full in the bathroom for brushing teeth and washing hands, I pulled out my hand sanitizer and started plotting my course of action for acquiring fresh, clean water to drink today.

From all the stories I’ve read most, if not all, stores in and around Boston that sell bottled water were stripped bare shortly after the tragedy occurred. I suppose New Hampshire, a short thirty five minute ride north, would be a good place to start and I can acquire my groceries for the week at the same time.

There is no definitive answer as to how long the boil order will last, but I will likely be doing so for longer than the recommended time suggestion anyway and everything will still be run through my PUR filtered pitcher. It has really got me thinking about water conservation and some of the ways I can cut back anyway.

What are your tips for saving water? I’d love some advice as the entire city of Boston aimlessly drifts forward without their morning coffee. Be safe out there friends and enjoy this video from Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds performing an acoustic version of Don’t Drink the Water