Think Like a Pioneer: Turn Your Trash Into Treasure

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Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. It’s a mantra for green living that we’ve all heard for years. And while recycling has become more and more mainstream, with even Grandma lugging the blue box out for curbside recycling, and sorting and filtering for her weekly trip to City Carton [recycling plant], Reduce and Reuse have been nearly forgotten in the recycling frenzy.

It’s not yet trendy to make noticeable cutbacks and people will definitely look at you funny if you tell them you are making a vase out of a burned out light bulb. But the times they are a’ changin’ and one thing is for sure: Reducing and reusing are equally important components of this three-part commitment to living more sustainably….

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Book Review – The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

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If you could interview your food, what would it say? As a journalist Michael Pollan attempts to give a voice to what we eat: That is to say, he explains what food really is, where it comes from, and what it can do for us. The Omnivore’s Dilemma expounds on fast food, big organic food, local food, and foraged food, identifying the resources, causes, and effects of each one.

Devoted to the scientific, while valuing the personal significance of food, Pollan reveals not only the corn behind our food, the government behind the corn, the corporation behind the government, but also investigates the possibilities for eating that can bring us back to earth, and everything in between. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is our fascinating predicament; written for those who care about what they eat, it presents us with an array of menus, encourages us to eat, and to eat in good conscience…

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Brigette Fanning, Contributing Writer

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Brigette Fanning works as a Proposal Writer for an international educational company. Previously, she worked as a Marketing and Communications Specialist at a contact center company and as a correspondent for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, where she covered local city council meetings…

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Student Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Takes on the “Hard Work on the Ground”

April 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Education, Front Page, Iowa, PIRG, Volunteers

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To some students, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference: Getting a student’s promise to be responsible with their computer’s energy. Letting the local Congressmen know of their gratitude. Informing a passer-by of innovative ways to recycle.

They’re all important to the Iowa Student Public Interest Research Group, or Iowa PIRG, a small, student activist group working to solve a large array of society’s most pressing problems.

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Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s

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Did something in the environment cause my cancer? This is a question I heard asked repeatedly by young adult cancer patients across the country while researching my book Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.

I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of twenty-seven and often wondered if growing up amid Pittsburgh’s steel town relics may have contributed to my own cancer. I leapt at the chance to interview Richard Acker, a 36-year-old metastatic colon cancer patient and environmental attorney…

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Kairol Rosenthal, Contributing Writer

April 27, 2009 by  
Filed under BPGL Crew, Kairol Rosenthal

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Kairol Rosenthal is a national advocate for young adult cancer and is the author of Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s. Visit her blog www.everythingchangesbook.com.

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Product Review – Eco Canteen Water Bottle

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From time to time, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) gets offers of sample products that people would like us to review. The products (full disclosure alert!) are complimentary, so you should know that at the outset. But there are no strings attached. No one is paying us to say nice things. And no one can dissuade us from saying a product stinks, if we believe it’s true.

Important: If you are considering purchasing this product based on my review, please read all of the comments that follow. I stand by the product I received, but am extremely disappointed with the lack of customer service I experienced and especially dismayed by reports from dissatisfied readers. A company spokesman tells me they are working to resolve complaints lodged by others on this site. Although some of these complaints have been satisfactorily addressed by the company, others remain to be resolved. Stay tuned. — Publisher

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Saving the Wolves, Saving Ourselves

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Must humans insist on a “them or us” mentality? If everyone changed their light bulbs, used cloth bags rather than plastic, became a vegetarian and ate organic food, drove a smaller car, and recycled responsibly, would we save our planet? Of course, these are important; but, no, that will not save our planet. Until we stop the uncontrolled proliferation of our own species (which no one seems to be talking much about), dramatically reduce our personal and collective unquenchable thirst for energy and alter the ways we acquire it, and stop poisoning ourselves and the earth, we haven’t a prayer…

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My 5: Earth Day, Kirkwood Community College, Iowa City, Iowa

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Today is Earth Day, and Iowa Citians couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful Spring day to celebrate. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) joined other environmental groups in an Earth Day display at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa City. Joe and I had the pleasure of meeting quite a few like-minded students, faculty, and exhibitors, and engaged in lively discussions with several of them. As we did on Saturday at the University of Iowa’s Green Summit, we invited today’s attendees to write their “My 5.” We’re pleased to share with you their responses to this question:

BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?…

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Earth Day Founder Gaylord Nelson Inspires Us Still

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Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, passed away in 2005, leaving a legacy that resonates within every article you will read in this environmental magazine. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, back before I ever imagined running a magazine — or had the slightest hint of the electronic revolution yet to come — I was engaged in campus protests against the Viet Nam War. Though our main concern was the war, my fellow student activists and I took began to take on an additional focus, a whole new cause: the environment.

For many of us, pollution was just another symbol of how out of touch our government was with its people. By turning a blind eye to the egregious environmental crimes of big businesses, the government was slowly killing us. If “The Man” didn’t get us killed in Viet Nam, he was allowing us to be poisoned by the industrial machine. Our air, our water, our soil were being sold to the highest bidder. And our voices were being suppressed to keep us in check….

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My 5: Green Summit, University of Iowa, Iowa City

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On Sunday, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) joined local environmental organizations to participate in a Green Summit on the University of Iowa campus. The event was part of a campus kickoff for Earth Week, featuring speakers and activities for students and the Iowa City community.
Sponsored by the University of Iowa’s Office of Sustainability, the Green Summit was intended as “an academic conference created to empower student environmental leaders and equip them with practical social, scientific, political and business skills to put their passion into practice.”…

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Book Review – Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

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The following book review contains material that may be disturbing to some readers, due to references to animal cruelty that are an integral part of the book under discussion. — Publisher

Generally, I’m put off by diet books, because most seem to favor eating one food group over the other; which, commonsense-wise, doesn’t make much sense. Yet Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, was a provocative read exactly because it’s not your average diet book. This short, but extremely powerful, book may have a cheeky overtone, but at its heart you can tell the authors are passionate about what they preach. Although and animal cruelty are the driving points behind their book, no detail escapes these self-proclaimed skinny bitches. Alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar, bleached flour, chemical additives like aspartame and many others, also make the no-no food list…

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SoyClean – Nontoxic Cleaning Products Made from Soybeans

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When a friend told Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) about a line of nontoxic cleaning products made from soybeans, we were intrigued, but skeptical. It seemed counter intuitive to use soybeans, which contain a high percentage of oil, to clean glass, carpet, and laundry. We requested a few sample products to try, and we were impressed by the results.

We were even more impressed to learn that SoyClean products are environmentally friendly, nontoxic alternatives to many harsh chemical cleaners and solvents. We interviewed Kurt Brannian, Director of Marketing, at the SoyClean warehouse and distribution center in Brooklyn, Iowa. When we arrived, he told us, “We’ve got a variety of different products, everything from Paint Stripper to Grill Cleaner to Penetrant and Lubricant to Cutting Fluid. The overall theme is soy-based, nontoxic, and biodegradable. It’s safe for the user, safe for the environment.” Then he took the cap off of a bottle and extended it to us to smell…

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Namibian Research Project Leads to Unforgettable Adventure

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When Elsita Kiekebusch agreed to conduct an environmental awareness campaign for Integrated Environmental Consultants Namibia (IECN), she expected to face challenges. After all, the Namibian landscape can be harsh and inhospitable at times, and she would be driving across some of the most remote and desolate areas of the nation. While the results of her survey proved unspectacular, the journey itself contained surprises that made it an unforgettable adventure.

Miriam Kashia, international editor for Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL), interviewed Kiekenbusch by email to find out about both her experiences and the work that sent the young woman on her remarkable journey.

Washed out roads and flash floods challenged Kieckenbush and colleagues…

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Are Those Personal Care Products Safe to Use?

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Despite Joe’s firm stance on not keeping things we haven’t used in a year or longer, I have a stash of half-used bottles of hair care products and a box full of makeup that qualifies as an archaeological dig site. The items were useful in their day. Then, for whatever reason, I moved on, rejecting each product like a lover fallen out of favor. I can’t very well pass them along through FreeCycle — no one wants someone else’s quarter bottle of shampoo or half-used blush. And I don’t want to send them to a landfill to spend eternity. So, I’ve been doing my best to use them up…

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Take This House (and Float It Away) Flooding Play on Midwest Tour

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In the heart of levee-protected suburbs along California’s American River, a middle-aged couple think they’re immune to anything nature blows their way — catastrophic flood included — only to find themselves terribly deluded. This original theatre piece, Take This House (and Float It Away), spirals into the tragicomic world of Stu and Marlene’s floodplain living room, where the couple is unable to comprehend nature’s effect on their safe, suburban sphere. As Stu hides behind “groundbreaking” research into bird gestures, Marlene extrapolates caffeinated solutions to newspaper headlines, conflating staying informed with staying afloat…

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Green Living Tip – Don’t Store It, Sell It

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I’ve learned a lot from 30+ years of being a waste stream management consultant.

We all have stuff, most of us have clutter. Whether it is in our home or at work, things slowly appear around us, filling the open spaces. It’s a mysterious wind that blows chaos into our lives, like snow drifting in around our feet. It leaves us wondering, Where did all this crap come from? …

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Purple Fig – Austin’s Green Cleaning Company with a Heart

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“Purple Fig is a natural cleaning service in the greater Austin area — all the clean with none of the chemicals,” said owner Amanda May. “We make and use only green cleaning products, which we ship nationwide. We provide free recipes for everything we sell, and we’ll teach anyone how to make what we sell. Our goal is to create healthy, clean homes.”

A green cleaning company that gives away its trade secrets? When we heard about ecopreneur Amanda May and her Purple Fig Cleaning Cooperative, we were intrigued by both her green-cleaning methods and her business model. We wanted to know what drives a businessperson to be so generous with the information most companies would keep to themselves. We spoke with May by phone from her Austin, Texas, home.

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Project GreenHands – Compensating the Earth

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In 2005, drawing extensively on community involvement and large-scale volunteer participation, Project GreenHands planted more than 25,000 trees in tsunami-devastated coastal areas of Tamil Nadu. In 2006, PGH volunteers planted 856,000 trees in just three days, securing the project a place in the Guinness World Book of Records. By the end of the 2008 planting season, PGH had planted a total of 7.1 million trees and introduced a newly designed model of agro-forestry among the farmer community. The Project’s current aim is to inspire and support the citizens of Tamil Nadu to plant an astonishing total of 114 million trees statewide by the year 2010, adding 30% more to the existing level of green cover in Tamil Nadu.

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Power Up 2009 Conference in Ft. Walton Beach April 8 – 11

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Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (March 27, 2009) – The Gulf Coast Energy Network, in cooperation with the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, the Bay Area Resources Council and Okaloosa County, is bringing together a group of energy leaders, policy makers, scientists, engineers, green building specialists and more for Power Up 2009 Energy Conference & Expo April 8-11, 2009 at the Emerald Coast Conference Center in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

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