Go Green in NYC with Green Mountain Energy

According to Green Mountain Energy, their customers have avoided using over 69 billion pounds of CO2 which is the equivalent of planting over 8 million trees. You can see the climbing numbers on their website. By the time you check it out for yourself, it’ll be over 70 billion and we can only hope that it keeps climbing!

Green Mountain Energy had a booth by the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and they got our attention for waving a $5 discount coupon for the store we were about to shop at. We decided to listen to what they had to say, and ten minutes later we were signing up to change from coal to renewable energy.

The company boasts being the longest serving renewable energy retailer. They offer competitively-priced electricity products that use wind and solar power. According to their website, the traditional production of electricity from fossil fuels is the largest source of industrial air pollution in the U.S. This fact is supported by the EIA – the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Changing over was very easy, we just needed to find our Consolidated Edison identification number and fill out an online form. Con Ed has a monopoly on providing electricity to New York City and they offer the option for using green energy instead of coal. We didn’t know about this so we never thought of changing it. Since coal is the cheapest and easiest for them to provide, that is the automatic option.

The change to Green Mountain Energy will cost us just a few dollars each month for the service fee, but the actual rates are basically the same – for electricity. We also ended up switching to a sustainable gas source as well, which is supposed to reduce our gas bill and cancel out the extra electricity costs. Basically, going green is going to be free and changing it was the easiest thing in the world.

Like so many of you, Isaac and I do so much to try and minimize our footprint on this planet but we were missing this vital step that will make more of a difference than saying no to a bag at the store! If you would like to make the change but need more information, call your electricity provider today. It can be scary signing papers handed out by strangers, go through your provider directly for peace of mind.

We’ll be receiving our first utilities bills this week, so we still can’t confirm that this change was practically free. But we only have one Earth, so even if it costs us the price of a coffee or two to reduce just a little of the damage that’s being done to the planet, then we’re willing to pay it.

According to Green Mountain Energy, their customers have avoided using over 69 billion pounds of CO2 which is the equivalent of planting over 8 million trees. You can see the climbing numbers on their website. By the time you check it out for yourself, it’ll be over 70 billion and we can only hope that it keeps climbing!

 

 

 

 

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Creating a Zero-Waste Kit: It’s Easy and Cheap!

In the morning, you stop at Starbucks for an iced coffee. You like it sweet, so your stir in some sugar. You’re late, so you grab a quick bagel off the street for breakfast. Next, you stop at the local deli to grab a sandwich and a bottle of water to have later for lunch, plus a couple mustard packets to spice it up. By the time you get to work, you’ve inadvertently used a paper cup (lined with plastic), a plastic lid, a straw, a plastic stirrer, two sugar packets, a plastic bottle, a plastic bag and packaging for your bagel, plastic wrapping and a plastic bag for your sandwich, plus two plastic mustard packets. Statistically, 10% of that will end up in the ocean.

In the morning, you stop at Starbucks for an iced coffee. You like it sweet, so your stir in some sugar. You’re late, so you grab a quick bagel off the street for breakfast. Next, you stop at the local deli to grab a sandwich and a bottle of water to have later for lunch, plus a couple mustard packets to spice it up. By the time you get to work, you’ve inadvertently used a paper cup (lined with plastic), a plastic lid, a straw, a plastic stirrer, two sugar packets, a plastic bottle, a plastic bag and packaging for your bagel, plastic wrapping and a plastic bag for your sandwich, plus two plastic mustard packets. Statistically, 10% of that will end up in the ocean.

Am I asking you to give you your coffee and street food in the morning? No! Am I asking you not to get your favorite sandwich for lunch? Absolutely not! Can you enjoy all these things without single-use plastic? The answer is a resounding YES! You might even save some money. Here’s how to create a zero waste kit that’ll fit in any bag or purse.

  • Water Bottle: By far the most important thing to have on you at all times. Why pay money for a single-use bottle when you can bring your own? I tend to prefer drinking from glass bottles like these but you can carry a BPA-free plastic one if that’s too heavy for you.
  • Coffee Cup: Whether you like it hot or iced, it’s easy to carry a cup for your coffee. Some places, like Starbucks, even offer a discount! Try this one for iced or this one for hot.
  • Cutlery Kit: Instead of using plastic knives and forks, carry around a portable cutlery kit like this one. This kit is less than 150 grams, making it easy to carry around in any purse or bag!
  • Collapsible container: Fan of street food? Like to order take-out? Carry around one of these silicone collapsible containers. They’re BPA free, can withstand very hot and very cold temperatures and can be thrown in the dishwasher after use. They’re great to use at home too!
  • Aluminum straws: If you’re a fan of smoothies, juice, cola or iced coffee, you no doubt use a lot of plastic straws. Not anymore! Just grab a set of reusable aluminum straws! Just remember to remind your server that you brought your own!

Now, let’s go back to your morning commute:

You stop in at Starbucks and hand them your cup. You get a 10 cent discount on your coffee, which will add up to $20 a year in savings. You kindly ask the barista to add some sugar for you, which they do from a glass jar. You stir the iced coffee with a spoon from your cutlery kit and pop in your aluminum straw. Now you’re headed to the bagel shop, where you kindly ask them to hand it to you without any packaging. You eat your bagel on the way to the deli, where you order your sandwich for lunch. They know you by now, so they accept your reusable container with a smile and even offer to wash it for you. They know you like it spicy, so they add some mustard from the deli counter. You put your boxed sandwich in your bag or purse and head to work, having used ZERO single-uses products. No new waste will end up in the ocean, and at lunch, you’ll be a constant advocate for your new lifestyle as your friends and colleagues watch you take out your container for lunch and fill your water bottle from the tap.

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Global Warming by Singapore’s Super Tree Grove

Yes, the Gardens by the Bay are an amazing green initiative that uses waste from the city and turns it into energy to power the entire park. Then there’s the tap water, that is cleaned using reverse osmosis which turns sewage into safe drinking water. It’s absolutely genius and the epitome of zero-waste. Although on a grand scale, Singapore is doing a lot when it comes to sustainability, they don’t focus enough on changing the habits of their people or businesses.

Our recent travel adventures took us to Singapore! A city known for it’s cleanliness, passion for sustainability and of course, the Super Tree Grove at the Gardens by the Bay. Although Singapore was beautiful and I could spend weeks exploring it, I was a little disappointed by it’s hypocrisy when it comes to protecting the environment.

Yes, the Gardens by the Bay are an amazing green initiative that uses waste from the city and turns it into energy to power the entire park. Then there’s the tap water, that is cleaned using reverse osmosis which turns sewage into safe drinking water. It’s absolutely genius and the epitome of zero-waste.

Although on a grand scale, Singapore is doing a lot when it comes to sustainability, they don’t focus enough on changing the habits of their people or businesses. Example: When you arrive extra early for your flight at the Changi airport because you want to see why it’s considered the world’s best airport, you may run into a cool wall displaying information about Singapore and local customs…

One of these is the “correct way to drink kopi (traditional Singaporean coffee) where they tell you to do as the locals do and order it in a plastic bag and drink it with a plastic straw. Facepalming did not suffice, I wanted to head table when I read this…

During my visit to Singapore, I got to meet up with an old friend who I hadn’t seen for years. I told her all about my new zero-waste lifestyle and vegan diet, telling her how amazing it is that Singapore is doing so much to promote sustainability. She smiled and nodded but even she agreed that unfortunately, Singapore focuses too much on the details instead of the big picture.

Visiting the Gardens by the Bay was one of the highlights of my trip. But I was immediately disappointed by what I saw happening in the park. Restaurants, fast food places and other vendors selling food and items unnecessarily wrapped in plastic with no biodegradable or re-usable alternatives. I’m shocked at the slap in the face that these places are to all the efforts made to create this environmentally-friendly place.

Once I get the chance and find the right people to contact, I will issue a complaint to the Gardens of the Bay. They put so much effort into educating visitors and making a step forward but then you can’t even eat there without creating waste.

  • Is it really that hard to at least use paper instead of plastic?
  • Or how about creating a deposit system for nice re-usable containers to eat from?
  • Perhaps with a logo of the place, that can be bought as a souvenir or returned after use? If they can do this with beer cups at festivals in Europe, why not do it at a place that literally exists to promote sustainability and ways to save the planet?

Okay, rant over. Here’s one of the videos that you can watch at the Super Tree Grove about global warming and how we can still prevent the destruction of our beloved Earth.

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Waste-Free Wednesdays: Intro to Zero-Waste Lifestyle

Recycling is the last option on the “R” list that we had drilled into our heads from a young age. Recently, the list has grown to include even more “R”s that come ahead of recycling. REFUSE, REDUCE, RE-USE, RE-PURPOSE, REPAIR snd finally, if all else fails, after you’ve re-used THEN re-purposed THEN repaired, THEN you should RECYCLE.

I have been on a journey towards a zero-waste lifestyle since the beginning of this year. What began as an item on my New Year’s Resolutions list sandwiched in between ‘lose weight’ and ‘leave China’ actually ended up changing the way I live and see the world.

Living in a rural area of Shanghai has really opened my eyes to the wasteful habits that plague the world we live in. It’s hard to describe the amount of single-use plastic I see littering the streets when I walk to and from work every day. Big cities on the other hand, especially in the West, produce more waste than you can possibly imagine, but it’s all very well hidden.

Until recently, most plastic produced by the USA was shipped to China and the responsibly to deal with it was shifted. But handing your trash to someone else to deal with is not the way to go. Just like simply throwing your recyclables into the allotted containers is not actually the best things you can do for the environment, despite it feeling like a good and productive thing to do.

Recycling is the last option on the “R” list that we had drilled into our heads from a young age. Recently, the list has grown to include even more “R”s that come ahead of recycling.

  1. REFUSE
  2. REDUCE
  3. RE-USE
  4. RE-PURPOSE
  5. REPAIR
  6. And finally, if all else fails, after you’ve re-used THEN re-purposed THEN repaired, THEN you should RECYCLE.

I have learned a lot about sustainability during my journey. Although I’ve been posting tips and updates on social media, a friend pointed out the other day that I haven’t been writing much about it on my blog… and that’s about to change!

After several people have asked me for tips on how to be less wasteful, I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned on my blog in the hopes that others will be inspired to make the world a better place.

One big obstacle that everyone needs to overcome to begin this journey is actually extremely simple and happens to be a good life lesson as well. Everyone needs to realize that ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Sure, when you see the careless wastefulness going on around you, it can be extremely discouraging. Living in China, where the entire population is addicted to plastic has made me question if what I am doing actually matters. They literally buy drinks in plastic-lined cups camouflaged as paper (#sneakystyrene), with plastic lids and plastic straws that they carry in a disposable PLASTIC BAG. But I had a long-term zero-waste friend knock some sense into me.

– “How many bags and bottles do you refuse every day?” She asked me.
– “At least 10,” I told her after doing the math. “But everyone else uses up to 20!”
– “But if you save 10 bags a day, how much is that in a year?”

3,650 bags that would end up in oceans, landfills or incinerated and turned into air pollution. Does that really sound like not making a difference?

Other than refusing plastic, one of the biggest differences I make when it comes to sustainability is being vegan. Don’t panic! I’m not going to tell you that you HAVE to become vegan to save the planet. Simply skipping one meat-meal can apparently save thousands of gallons of water so it doesn’t have to be all or nothing! There are many ways that you can change your diet to make a difference without doing anything “extreme”.

SHOP LOCALLY! If you eat meat, find a local butcher, preferably working with a smaller farm. Not only will your purchases directly help a hard-working family instead of a greedy corporation, but smaller farms tend to treat the animals slightly better plus you minimize the waste that comes from shipping the meat across the country or even from abroad.

I can’t emphasize this point enough: EVERY single seemingly minuscule decision that you make every day can make a HUGE impact – never forget that.

You shouldn’t limit shopping locally to animal products. Find local farmers markets for fruit and vegetables as opposed to stale, plastic-wrapped vegetables full of preservatives in large shopping centers. You can also find a local producer of handmade beauty and cleaning supplies. Not only will it benefit the local economy, but they will be a healthier alternative for you and the world around you.

For example, I buy all natural cleaning supplies made by an Australian couple living in Shanghai. Although they come in plastic bottles, the store offers a discount if you come with an empty bottle for a refill. If you find a similar store in your area, you will only ever need ONE bottle of laundry detergent, window/mirror cleaner, etc.

Of course you can also buy your ingredients in bulk and create your own cleaning supplies. It’s much easier that you would expect, but I’ll share recipes and tips in another blog post. If you’re just beginning your journey towards sustainability, there are many other things to start doing before you become obsessed with everything DIY (like I am).

There’s one more important thing to know about pursuing a zero-waste lifestyle. It may not be the most CONVENIENT way to live, but it definitely is CHEAPER. Yes, you read that right, it is much cheaper to avoid single-use plastic! Warning: you might have to occasionally sacrifice your comfort and immediate needs. But ONLY until you get the hang of it – once you’re properly equipped with your canvas bag, collapsable food container (affiliate link), aluminum straw and re-usable water waterbottle. Again, I’ll write more about this at a later time, but a quick example is buying a safety razor.

In China, a SAFETY RAZOR only costs $10 but in the USA or Europe they can cost up to $100. It can be overwhelming to spend $100 when a disposable razor is so cheap. But unless you lose it, one of these $100 razors is FOR LIFE. I cringe when I think about the countless Venus razors I’ve bought over the years… All you need to buy for a safety razor are blades, that come packaged in paper and cost close to nothing.

If you’re interested in learning more about a zero-waste lifestyle (which I still haven’t fully achieved, and probably never will because I will never stop using toilet paper), follow my blog and subscribe to my YouTube channel! I can’t wait to share my tips and stories about my journey to zero-waste travel as well as all of my successes and hilarious failures.

Have you made any positive changes towards a zero-waste lifestyle? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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