Did you know that it takes about 75,000 trees to produce just one Sunday edition of the New York Times? And, did you know that if everyone used one fewer paper napkin each day landfills would have 1 BILLION less pounds of paper? These are just two interesting facts that I learned from Marty Jo McGrath who has embraced the phrase: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” (Margret Mead).
I sat down to interview Marty Jo because she embodies the idea that you shouldn’t refrain from doing something because you think you are too small make a difference. Instead, she took an issue that is incredibly important to her, environmental awareness, created a plan and started spreading the word. She has compiled a fact sheet that lists 75 ways you live “greener” and has been sharing her list with mom’s groups and community groups over the last year and a half.
Marty Jo has always felt the calling to live more green. She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska and migrated south to attend college. She has been a lover of the great outdoors ever since childhood. In college, she made some efforts to live a more natural lifestyle but she lacked a little of the motivating force to live a green lifestyle. However, after she had her first daughter, Laura, she woke up feeling differently about the world than she ever had before. The birth of her daughter made her think about how the world would look in 30 years if our generation continues to live in a way that damages the planet. After seeing the movie, An Inconvenient Truth, she realized she could no longer ignore her urge to make changes to the way she and her family were living.
Instead of doing a complete overhaul- Marty Jo tried to make one or two changes a month. She started with bringing her own bags to the market and using cloth napkins at the table. Gradually, she incorporated more changes to their lifestyles as she researched sources for buying local and organic foods. She has reduced the amount of red meat that the family eats (because producing animal feed creates harmful emissions and the meat industry creates 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases) and even started a compost bin.
Feeling energized by how simple it was to make a few changes to her own household, Marty Jo felt like she wanted to share and encourage other moms to take similar action. As moms, we all share the sentiment that our children should live in a clean and healthy environment as they grow older and have their own children. As fearful as she was that she would come off as fanatical or get booed off stage, Marty Jo decided to contact a few mom’s groups to see if she could find an audience for her message. Sure enough she has received lots of positive reinforcement from other like minded moms!
She put together an interesting fact sheet of simple tasks we can all do to reduce our impact on the planet. She asks her listners to try and choose one or two items to work on each month. After they master those items, she challenges them to try a few more. I am sure glad that we have people like Marty Jo campaigning for our planet! I have attached a copy of her list, which is incredibly interesting.
Even though she has already done more than most of us, she isn’t done yet! Next on her list of goals is to bring a recycling program to Redondo Beach schools similar to the one incorporated at the Manhattan Beach Schools.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with Marty Jo and she taught me a few things: buy local produce. The average meal travels 1200 miles from the farm to your plate (the farmers market is a great resource for local produce). Also, unplug idle utilities/power cords. I leave my cell phone charger plugged into the wall even when not charging my phone. It still uses electricity unless it is unplugged..hmmm, I didn’t know that.
Now you can see how her efforts, made an impact on me, which I am sharing with you and I hope you share with others. See how that works. Coming soon: some interesting facts from The Story of Stuff. I just don’t want to bombard you all in one sitting. Her list is below. See if you can find a few things that you may not already be doing:
Skip the bottled water, use a filter and carry water in a reusable bottle.
Americans use 3.3 million plastic bottles every hour but recycle only one in five. For
every one million bottles of water that are manufactured and shipped, 18.2 tons of
CO2 emissions are pumped into the air. Even when recycled, it is hard to turn scrap
PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) into new bottles. More virgin material is always
necessary. PET is a petroleum product; it comes from oil. Production of bottles alone
consumes over 1.5 million barrels of oil a year. Note: Avoid reusable plastic
Buy and use cloth grocery bags. Americans toss about 100 billion polyethylene
plastic bags a year, and fewer than 1% of them are recycled. They can take up to
1000 years to biodegrade in landfills that emit harmful greenhouse gases.
Buy the product with the least amount of packaging.
Eliminate or cut down on your use of foil, ziplock bags and plastic wrap.
Use recycled paper towels. Americans send 3000 tons of paper towels to
landfills each day.
Skip red meat once a week. If you alone gave it up once every 7 days, you
would save the 840 gallons of fresh water it takes to produce a single serving. The
international meat industry generates 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions–
even more than transportation. Methane (from the cow’s gas!) has a warming effect
23 times greater than CO2, while nitrous oxide is 296 times as great.
Eat lower on the food chain. Much of the greenhouse emissions from meat
come from the production of crops used for animal feed.
Buy wild caught fish. Go to mbayaq.org for Seafood Watch pocket guide.
Only run a full dishwasher. Don’t pre-rinse dishes for your dishwasher. Save
6500 gallons of water and 100 lbs of CO2 a year. Use the shortest cycle you can
If buying new appliances, buy only Energy Star.
Change to cloth napkins. On average, a person uses about 2200 paper napkins
a year. If everyone used one fewer each day, landfills would have 1 billion pounds
less paper a year.
Buy recycled paper cups, plates, cups. It takes 70 to 90% less energy to make
recycled paper and it prevents the loss of forests worldwide.
Buy organic. Organic soils capture and store CO2 at much higher levels than the
soils from conventional farms. Produce most effected by pesticides are peaches,
apples, peppers, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, celery, grapes and pears.
Look for the USDA organic seal. Go to deliciousorganics.com for information about
what is in our food.
Buy local. The average meal in the US travels 1200 miles from the farm to your
plate. Challenge yourself to buy only food produced within a 100 mile radius of
Buy fresh instead of frozen. Frozen food uses 10 times more energy to produce.
Recycle everything you can. Each of us creates 4.5 lbs. of trash a day. 55%
goes to landfills, 45% is incinerated or recycled. Recycling an aluminum can takes
96% less energy than creating a new one. Check your city’s website for what can be
recycled curbside. Save some water…scrape or wipe empty recyclables instead of
washing them clean–just be sure all the ooey-gooey stuff is gone.
Schedule a free Energy Audit with your utility provider. Residential energy use
accounts for 16% of greenhouse-gas emissions. Call SoCal Edison 800-278-8585. Or
do their online Home Energy survey
(sce.com/_Tools/Residential/HomeEnergySurvey/htm) and get a free CFL, low-flow
showerhead and 2 faucet aerators.
Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFLs which use 75% less energy and
last 10 times as long. If every household in America switched out one CFL, we’d
reduce CO2 by more than 90 billion pounds–as much as taking a million cars off the
road. Note: Each bulb still contains 5 mg of mercury, so when they do come to the
end of their life please recycle them with your hazardous wastes. LEDs contain no
mercury. GE now makes dimmable CFLs!
Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
Use Duraflame or JavaLog (from coffee waste) in your fireplace instead of real
wood. They use 80% fewer resources than regular firewood.
Try drought-resistant plants in your landscaping so you don’t have to rely on
excess watering and fertilizing to keep them healthy.
If it’s time to replace your water heater, go tankless. Tankless water heaters
use 45-60% less energy than standards ones.
Unplug televisions and VCRS, computers, cell phone and camera chargers etc. when
not in use. 75% of all the electricity consumed is standby power used to keep
Install faucet aerators and high-efficiency showerheads and in a year’s time
you’ll save between 1000 and 8000 gallons of water. If you don’t have a low-flush
toilet, keeping a filled container in the tank can cut the amount of water you use by
40%. Look for the WaterSense seal.
Don’t let the water run while you brush your teeth or shave. The average
faucet releases about 3 gallons of water a minute. The average amount of water
used daily by one person living in Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda or
Mozambique equals that used by someone in a developed country brushing his teeth
with the tap running.
Conserve water. A faucet that leaks 60 drops per minute can add up to 192
gallons per month.
Shorten your shower. For every minute in the shower 2.5 gallons of water is
used. Reduce your showers from 15 to 10 minutes and save 375 gallons of water a
Move your thermostat down 2 degrees in winter (68) and up 2 degrees
in summer (78). Almost half the energy we use in our home goes to heating and
cooling. You could save about 2000 lbs of CO2 a year with this simple adjustment.
Clean or replace filters on your furnace and air conditioner. Cleaning a
dirty air filter can save 350 lbs of CO2 a year.
Wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket. You’ll save 250 lbs of
CO2 a year. You’ll save another 550 lbs per year by setting the thermostat no
higher than 120 degrees.
Take excess dry cleaning hangers back to the cleaners and ask them to
switch to EcoHangers made from recycled, biodegradable paperboard, they require
less energy to produce. Each year, the number of wire hangers that end up in US
landfills equals the steel in about 60,000 cars.
Dry clean green. Go to greenearthcleaning.com to find a cleaner near you that
uses earth-friendly processes.
Whittle down your beauty regimen to just 2 to 4 products, rather than 7 or 8, to
minimize waste. Or switch to natural beauty brands such as Aveda, Stella
McCartney Care, or Physicians Formula Organic Line.
Buy organic clothes. Cotton accounts for less than 3% of farmed land globally but
consumes about a quarter of the pesticides. Some synthetic textiles are made with
underthecanopy.com or turkandtaylor.com for organic tees
Buy high-end hand-me-downs (vintage or consignment) or invite friends over for
a closet swap to which everyone brings a few items they want to trade.
Yelp.com/manhattan-beach-ca click on shopping to find vintage shops
glassslipperproject.org donate old prom or bridesmaid dresses for needy girls
shoe4africa.org to donate used sneakers or letmeplay.com/reuseashoe
Buy bamboo sheets. the fast growing plant is cultivated without pesticides and
requires less water than conventionally grown cotton.
Run full loads of laundry–saving 3,400 gallons of water a year. Wash all your
loads in cold water and save 500 lbs of CO2 per year. And if your clothes don’t
stink/aren’t soiled don’t wash them.
Over its lifetime, laundering a single T-shirt can send as much as 9 lbs of CO2 into the
Clean the lint catcher every time you use your dryer. A dirty lint filter can
use 30% more energy.
In the summer use a clothesline and save 700 lbs of CO2 a year (for 6 mos of
line drying). 60% of the embodied energy of a piece of clothing is spent in washing
and drying it.
Buy green alternatives: Seventh generation, Meyers, Method. Look for products
with these terms: biodegradable, plant-based, formulated without dye or synthetic
fragrance, nonflammable, does not contain chlorine, phosphate, petroleum,
ammonia, acids, alkalized solvents, nitrates, or borates. Ecover is my favorite.
Use distilled white vinegar mixed with water to clean hardwood floors. Go
to vinegartips.com to find out how to use vinegar to clean anything.
Stop using antibacterial soaps. The ingredient triclosan is threatening aquatic
life and 27 studies conducted between 1980 and 2006 have found that washing with
regular soap is just as effective.
Recycle all your paper. Americans recycled 42 million tons of paper in 2006–
50% of what they used–but still threw out the rest. 900 million trees every year
become pulp and paper. It takes up to 75,000 trees to produce one Sunday edition
of the NYT.
Buy recycled paper. It uses 60% less energy than virgin paper.
Turn off your computer or put it in sleep mode when idle. Turn off
computer monitors. One computer left on all day results in the emission of 1500
pounds of carbon dioxide in a year. It would take 100 to 500 trees to absorb that
amount of extra carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
Change to home voicemail rather than answering machine. Because
answering machines are on 24/7 they use more power in a year than laptops do.
Remove yourself from catalog mailing lists. Avery American receives about
63 catalog per year. US catalog production uses 53 million trees and enough water
to fill 81,000 olympic sized pools each year.
catalogchoice.org to get you on a no send list and stop catalog spam; directmail.com
to get your name off commercial mailing lists; optoutprescreen.com to opt out of preapproved
credit card and insurance offers
Pay your bills online/switch to paperless. If every US home viewed and paid
its bills online, the switch would cut solid waste by 1.6 billion tons a year and curb
greenhouse-gas emissions by 2.1 million tons a year.
Recycle your ink cartridges. Staples and Office Depot recycle them for you (call
your store first). HP gives you a postage-paid envelope to send it back to them.
E-cycle. The EPA estimates more than 2 million tons of electronic hardware ends up
in landfills each year.
Keep your car tuned up. Regular maintenance helps improve fuel efficiency and
reduces emissions. Replacing a clogged air filter can boost efficiency 10%. A typical
car pumps roughly 19 lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere per gallon of gas.
Keep tires inflated to the standard set in your owners manual (not the psi on the
tire). Proper inflation can improve gas mileage by more than 3%.
Take the most efficient route. In 2004, UPS announced that its drivers would
avoid making left turns to spend less time–and fuel–waiting for left turns. In Metro
NYC, UPS reduced CO2 emissions by 1000 metric tons in the first 6 months of 2007.
Consolidate your driving (or carpool, or walk, or bike, or take mass transit).
Avoiding just 10 miles of driving every week would eliminate about 500 pounds of
carbon dioxide emissions a year.
Downsize your car (or get an alternative fuel vehicle). Every 100 lbs a car weighs
requires 2 percent more fuel to move it.
Shut down your engine. Idling for any length of time burns more gas than it takes
to restart the car.
Slow down. Speeding, fast accelerations and hard braking waste gas.
Don’t wash your car at home. Soaps go right into the ocean. The local car
wash is required to send water waste through the city’s filter system. Or try dry
washing your car, go to driwash.com.
Fly direct. Takeoffs and landings are where most fuel is burned.
Lodge in a green hotel go to environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com
Limit your towel use to one per hotel stay (or per gym visit).
If you are relocating, get used cardboard boxes. usedcardboardboxes.com
rescues quality used and new (overruns) cardboard boxes and sells them for 30%
less than new boxes.
Buy recycled wrapping paper (greenfieldpaper.com, paporganics.com) and
greeting cards (doodle-greetings.com)
Use e-stationery (iomoi.com) and evites (evite.com). Household waste increases
25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. In the US trash from wrapping
paper and shopping bags totals 4 million tons.
Make or buy reusable gift bags (luckycrow.com, greenraising.com)
Use biodegradable peanuts when shipping (Staples and UPS store) Recycle
polystyrene peanuts at a UPS store.
Try LED Christmas lights. They have a 20-year life and use 90% less energy than
When giving gifts consider these websites:
greengiftguide.com, organicbouquet.com to give the gift of organic flowers
Buy gently-used clothing or equipment (Children’s Orchard in Manhattan
Beach and Torrance and Kids Double Time in Redondo Beach) or swap with other