Growing Greener

Well, it looks like this will be my last blog for the semester with graduation just a couple of short weeks away. Looking back on my last semester at the University of Arizona and writing for the Cat Scan, our theme "living green" has proven to be more than a success. For me it's been educational, a change in my perspective, and something that will remain as an ongoing learning experience long after I've graduated.

Initially I was resistant to the idea of the Cat Scan's green theme, and thought it was too limited. But I quickly came around and found that whether it's sports, fashion, businesses, or cars, it's more than likely there's something green.

Writing on businesses going green for both my blog and the Cat Scan has been a valuable experience. Not only has it given me the opportunity to get my hands on some real-world reporting, but it's made me more aware of what being green is all about. It can mean carpooling, buying local produce, or recycling. Whether you do all of these things or just one of them, remember this: it's a bunch of little things that create a big change in the future of the environment.

I can't say I embrace a green lifestyle or that everything I buy is 100% organic, but I'm working on it. My reporting experiences through the Cat Scan has opened my eyes and made me more aware of my impact on the environment.

To learn more about a greener lifestyle, check out some of my favorite sites:
  • Treehugger - a great place to check out anything and everything that's green
  • The Green Guide - by National Geographic, this site is great for searching the most recent eco-friendly tips, tools, and product reviews
  • Simply Green - blog by Danny Seo that offers creative and sustainable solutions from everyday materials
  • Greenloop - a great place to check out eco-fashion


Lick Global Warming

Many of you may know Ben and Jerry's for their innovative ice cream creations like their Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey, or Phish Food. (My favorite is Oatmeal Cookie Chunk.) However, Ben and Jerry have been redefining more than just ice cream since day one. Through their dedication to a sustainable corporate concept, they embrace progressive values that focus on children and families, the environment and sustainable agriculture on family farms.

Below are some examples of how Ben and Jerry's embrace and continue to improve upon eco-friendly business practices.

  • 2002: Ben and Jerry's launched their Ben and Jerry's Lick Global Warming campaign which educates others on the challenges of global warming
  • 2006: "Cool Your Jets"" program was introduced to educate the public on carbon-offsetting and encouraging them to purchase carbon offsets to counter the greenhouse gas emissions from their airplane travel
  • 2006: Ben and Jerry's converted their vanilla extract and the cocoa powder to Fair Trade Certified in 2007
  • Beginning in 2007, all eggs used in their U.S. ice cream production were transitioned to Certified Humane cage-free suppliers, making Ben and Jerry's one of the very first national food manufacturers to commit to this practice
  • Ben and Jerry's continues to work closely with farmers who supply milk and cream for their products in order to help implement sustainable practices on the farm

Ben and Jerry's also launched four organic flavors: strawberry, vanilla, sweet cream and cookies, and chocolate fudge brownie. All are made from certified organic ingredients and cultivated in environmentally-sustainable ways.


GreenCareers at MonsterTRACK

As I've mentioned before, my plan is to graduate in December - and I say "plan" because I don't want to jinx myself before my diploma comes through the mail if heaven forbid, something goes wrong until then...

Anyway, I was online the other day job-searching on MonsterTRAK when I came across a page dedicated strictly to GreenCareers for college students and recent graduates. As I clicked around, I found out that MonsterTRAK has been onto green businesses for awhile and is recognized as the first environmentally responsible recruitment website.

In partnership with ecoAmerica and sponsored by Environmental Defense, GreenCareers supports companies and recent graduates who share a desire to impact the environment in positive ways. People searching through this site can check out the featured employers of the week, such as Greenpeace, BP Solar, and Malcolm Pirnie. It also has specific links for Green Opportunities, Career Advice (for pursuing a green career), and articles on green actions such as how to live green or becoming more involved.

GreenCareers even has a link for green scholarships intended for students studying conservation, sustainable agriculture, or have promoted eco-related subjects throughout their community.

Consistent with MonsterTRACK job searches through their homepage, GreenCareers is set up in the same way. Students and graduates can conduct a career search using a specific job type (part-time, full-time experienced, internship, etc.) with specific keywords and locations to find a compatible job opportunity.
For more information, check out GreenCareers powered by MonsterTRACK.


Organic Beauty by Alba

I recently purchased a lipgloss by Alba, a bodycare line that is both pure and environmentally-conscious, from my local Walgreens. I had never seen their products before, though recently the all-natural brand went from being sold primarily at Whole Foods and specialty markets to Walgreens, making it more accessible to the general consumer who might not know much about eco-friendly beauty.

My coconut cream lip gloss from Alba's Hawaiian line is made from 70% certified organic ingredients, though they also offer products such as sunscreen, hair care, lotions, and shower gels, all made from vitamins, natural plant oils and protiens, fruit extracts, and organic herbs.

Alba is under Avalon Natural Products, supporting organic products, and a strong environmental commitment stating "Alba is committed to reducing our footprint so that our company helps to preserve and heal the planet, now and for future generations."


Who's House? Helios House!

Over the weekend during my visit to L.A. for a brief getaway, I was able to check out Helios House, a futuristic-looking gas station that offers sustainable alternatives for the future. Helios House which was created in February 2007 by BP, a global energy group, is made from recycled materials and is the first LEED certified gas station in the United States.

When I got a tour from Josh Weber, a BP employee, he explained that everything at Helios House had a purpose and way of contributing to the environment. "The little things add up. That's all this station is, it's a bunch of little things," said Weber.

The station's structure, made from 100% recyclable stainless steel, is solar-powered by the 90 solar panels sitting on the roof. Helios House also recycles all of its water through a graywater system to irrigate the bamboo plants and succulents scattered throughout the station's landscaping. Even the ground is recycled! The cement is mixed with recyled glass which not only gives it a nice sparkle, but sends back 70% of the sun's heat-causing rays which helps reduce heat island effect found in large urban areas.

During my visit, I realized that the gas station didn't even smell like gasoline. Weber later explained that all gas pumps in the state of California must have to use a special device on their pumps which siphon out the carbonmonoxide and CO2 vapors emitted while pumping gas. These pumps in particular catch between 98-99% of all of the vapors which eliminates the usual smell of gas fumes that are inhaled. You can even watch the screen while you fill up your tank, which flashes green tips with little things everyone can do to improve the environment.

Sitting between pumps are stations offering hand-sanitizing wipes with natural oils and lavender on 100% recycled paper, and mini paper postcards with snippets of information from the greencurve.com that raise awareness about sustainability. After you read the card, you can water it, plant it, and grow wildflowers.

There are also three cans - one for trash and two for recycling - between every two pump stations for customers who want to clean out their car while they fuel up. "if we make it available, if it's right here, people will do it," said Weber.

Marissa Sanchez a local resident said she's been coming to Helios House for the past four months becuase of convenience and because it's green. "The prices seem to be a little bit more expensive, but I think it's worth it overall," said Sanchez. "They make it really nice they have hand-sanitizer here and they have recycling here so you can get a lot done."

Everything at Helios House comes together full circle. "They [BP] really built it with the idea of 'can we take this back apart and reuse it' becuase we know it's not going to be here forever," said Weber. "Sustainability is they key to everything."


The Gap Goes Green

Earlier this year, Gap launched a line of men's organic cotton T-shirts, reinforcing their commitment to being a socially responisble business.

In 2007 the store released a line of organic cotton mens' T-shirts which are not chemically dyed so they retain a natural color, and are made from 100% organic cotton. The shirts which come in three styles - crew, v-neck, and tank - are all made without the use of fertilizers or pesticides and are available in all North American Gap retail stores.

Courtesy of Gap

The idea to integrate organic cotton into their clothing and products was motivated by their customers' concerns and a desire to find new ways to create more options for their consumers.

"Our customers have shown an interest in environmentally-friendly products and our production is always researching new and innovative approaches," said Kris Marubio, a representative for Gap Inc. Corporations.

In 2005, Gap Inc. joined the Better Cotton Initiative aimed at promoting environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable cotton cultivation practices.

"It's a collaborative group that uses a multi-stakeholder effort to address an issue that cannot be taken on by just one retailer," said Marubio in an interview.

Currently, men's T-shirts are the only organic products that can be purchased in stores locally. Organic products for babies is also available through Baby Gap, but can only be ordered via online, or in Gap stores located in the U.K. and France. Hopefully, a women's line will be relased in the near future.

Through BCI and new initiative to offer organic products, the Gap has found a way to support and create products that are fashionable and environmentally friendly.


Healthier Cleaning

Over the weekend, I attended the Green Building Expo. along with some classmates to report on the event in downtown Scottsdale.

The two-day event was absolutely amazing with 100+ booths of companies that embrace an eco-friendly approach through their products and services. Being a clean-freak with borderline obsessive compulsive disorder tendancies, I gravitated towards a joint booth that featured Earth Maids and Shaklee, who both contribute to a toxic-free approach to cleaning.

Earth Maids, a cleaning service for homes and offices, embraces a greener way of cleaning, only using products that are eco-friendly, non-toxic, and biodegradable, by Shaklee.

Ranging from window cleaners, to dishwash soap, to laundry detergent, Shaklee's Get Clean line is both versatile and safe to use. Each bottled product is highly concentrated and can be mixed with different soap-to-water concentrations for the cleaning need on hand.

"What that means is less bottles and then it also means you're not shipping the bottles so it's less greenhouse gases, and you save money," said Jane Pederson, a Shaklee distributor.

With just a couple of drops added to one of their empty cleaning bottles and water filled to the top, Shaklee users improve their home and the Earth's environment, by reducing waste and toxins. They're just as effective in the way the clean, too.

"Most people think if you use those types of products," referring to natural household cleaners, "that they don't work as well," said Pederson.

Earth Maids and Shaklee embrace sustainability and raising awareness. Being socially responsible businesses, both strive to encourage others to make even the smallest change in their routine, for a healthier environment, and are more than willing to show other how to make these changes. Earth Maids only offers their services to homes and offices in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, however, natural cleaning tips using common household ingredients can be found on their website, along with additional guidelines on purchasing cleaning products.