Archive for September, 2010

Not Everyone Throws Their Trash in the Bins at the Beach

By Karoline Steavenson

One of the basics of becoming eco-conscious is learning what to do with your trash. We know the recyclables go in the recycling bins, the non-recyclables go in the trash cans, and if you want money for your cans and plastic bottles you can cash those in at a recycling center.

Simple, right? Everyone can throw away their trash.

But for whatever reason some people who visit the beach don’t know where their trash belongs. One blogger has proof of this.

Tony Barboza of the Los Angeles Times reported on this issue recently when he wrote a story about Sara Bayles, a one woman eco-warrior, writer and ceramics teacher.  Bayles gave herself the task of collecting trash on a regular basis at Santa Monica beach, weighing it, photographing it, and writing about it on her blog, The Daily Ocean.

So far she has collected over 639 pounds of trash in only 158 days. That’s just one person, working alone, for about 20 minutes a day.

In one blog posting Bayles wrote that once, while she was cleaning, she watched a sea gull swallow a cigarette lighter before she could grab it.

Bayles has found other bloggers and activists who are also cleaning up beaches and writing about it. Here are a few of their blogs:

Beached Art

Our Daily Ocean

Washed Ashore

Pluck Fastic


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Several Stores Offer Cash Back for Reusable Bags

By Karoline Steavenson

In order to encourage shoppers to bring their own bags, some stores are offering small incentives of cash or points to shoppers who use their own bags for purchases.

Target Stores gives shoppers $.05 off their total purchase for each reusable bag. Whole Foods gives $.05 to $.10 back for each bag used for a purchase. Safeway reportedly gives $.03 back. CVS gives shoppers receive $1.00 in Extra Care Points for every four visits in which they use their own bags. Ralph’s shoppers get five Ralphs Rewards Points for every reusable bag they use when they shop there.


This bag says it all. (Photo credit:


The bags do not have to be purchased at the stores mentioned. They can have any logo on them.

Some non-profit organizations host events at which they give away reusable shopping bags. Heal the Bay sponsored a county wide event last year on Dec. 17.  Several grocery stores all over L.A. County gave away free bags. Hopefully, Heal the Bay will be able to sponsor a similar event this year.


Teach the kids to go green this Halloween. (Photo credit:


Halloween is just around the corner.

Why not let the kids decorate a cloth grocery bag for the day which they can later use to help carry the groceries?

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Be a Pro-active: Preventing Trash Get to Our Oceans

The Heal the Bay organization has hosted several events in the past weeks to bring awareness to out environment. On September 25th this organization will be hosting a cleanup at the Sepulveda Basin and it’s open to the public. This event is target to remove items such as plastic bags or any kind of trash which could end up in the oceans. Most of the items found in the oceans are grocery plastic bags, plastic snack bags, cigaret butts, plastic bottles, plastic fast food wrappers and many plastic relate items. All of us can be a part of the solution by being proactive toward this ecological problem. Some suggestions to keep our oceans clean can be from buying less products that are made from plastic, keep your home front curve clear of trash, while walking you dog in your neighborhood  keep a trash bag with you in case you see a bottle or plastic bag on the ground. All these little actions can make a big difference in our eco-system.

In an article aired on NPR and published by the Republic on the environment makes a good  debate on which to decide: a  better life for mankind or a better environment. You  be the judge.

I believe that we as human beings have a duty to maintaing and prolong our Mother Nature with our own actions. We need to responsible for what we do in this life.

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Getting to know your ‘green’ community businesses

By Julio A. Cruz

This past Sunday, the Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce held its first Sustainability Summit, providing several topics on going, being and moving to a ‘green’ lifestyle, but only as consumers but as a community.

One thing is for sure when it comes to sustainable businesses. It is about the 3Ps – people, planet and profits.

Fair Trade is a perfect example in dealing with the right people in honest ways. Some businesses might not be Fair Trade but they are socially responsible and even active when it comes to dealing with human rights, education, creating access (e.g. food) health, and community impact (the most important).

Dealing with the planet is obvious. It is all about climate change, improving it that is, working appropriately with waste, toxins and ensuring safe ways that impact our environment.

Profits are important because face it, money needs to be made to only survive but to continue practicing sustainable habits. Practicing ethics, fair wages to employees, and the people that make the products is very important.

Look for your community businesses to be transparent, some even have their info online, which they should, and others in their stores and the rest have its employees informed of what they do in case you ask them.

As consumers, we have to make sure our local stores that say they are ‘green’ to truly be green.

If you see a store stating they are Fair Trade, organic, ethical, locally made, etc., double check.

For those that are not sustainable and you would really like them to be, talk to them.

As a consumer it is your right to do so and find out what is going on in you community. It is a conscious way of living.

Check out CERES, a network of environmental organizations and businesses, where you can see the measures that business should follow.

For example, one of the speakers, Randi Ragan, spoke on how she follows those measures for her GreenBliss EcoSpa.

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A Growing Trend in Eco-Consciousness: Using Backyards to Grow Food

By Karoline Steavenson

When the Obamas moved into the White House one of the first things Mrs. Obama did to set an example for children about eating healthy was plant a garden on the front lawn.


Students from the Bancroft School help Mrs. Obama plant the White House garden. (Photo credit:


The New York Times has reported in several articles this year that urban gardening is becomingly increasingly popular all over the nation. Some people grow their own food because they want to eat organic produce, and some do it to save money in hard times. Whatever the reason, gardening at the very least is good exercise and with a little practice and expertise, can save families money on food in the long run.

One local man who has turned urban gardening into an art form and a business is Jules Dervaes.


Urban gardening expert Jules Dervaes. (Photo credit:


He and his three children transformed the backyard of his Pasadena home into a mini-farm that produces so much organic produce that he sells the excess to local restaurants.

He takes the urban gardening expertise he learned over decades and teaches others how to do the same. He and his children maintain many educational websites devoted to the topic. They also made a short film about how to start and maintain an urban garden.

Beware: after watching the Dervaes film you may find yourself inspired to tear out your lawn and let the soil beneath it do something useful for a change.

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Striving for 100% sustainability in shoes and our lifestyle

By Julio A. Cruz

When most people think about eco-friendly apparel they think that it isn’t fashionable or they just don’t know how the clothes are actually made.

Vegan-friendly shoes from Simple. Photo Credit: Julio A. Cruz

A couple months ago I was in San Luis Obispo with my family in our annual mini summer vacation and came across a small store, Hemp Shak that has all that plus bags, accessories and more.

I’d been wanting some walking shoes and I had been thinking of purchasing some eco-friendly ones, as well, to test them out and see how they look and feel.

I came across a brand that I’m familiar with, Simple, and the shoes that grabbed my attention where literately some “simple” carport elastic ones which happen to be vegan friendly.

My 11-year-old nephew didn’t understand the concept and difference from these shoes in his Vans.

It’s pretty simple, again, “simple.”

The clothing in the store is all natural. No chemicals or dyes. Some are made from either recycled materials or organic cotton.

Most of their shoes are made from recycled car tires. According to Simple, 6 pairs of men’s size 9 shoes can be made from a single tire.

Yes, this is a great sustainable way to wear shoes but the best feeling wasn’t only that I was walking on some eco-friendly shoes or that they actually felt comfortable, and still do to this day, but that I introduced my nephew to a different side of how and why things are made.

As I was paying he saw a bracelet made out of white beads and he got pretty excited about it after reading the tag because is stated that it was made by women in Uganda which are paid reasonably, hence a Fair Trade product.

So we left the store talking about Fair Trade, he with his bracelet, which was a gift for his mom, and I with my sustainable shoes.

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Opinion: Why and How I Started Using Reusable Grocery Bags

By Karoline Steavenson

I began using reusable bags for grocery and other kinds of shopping about a year or two ago.  I made this decision when I read news stories about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an island of plastic trash, mostly floating below the ocean’s surface, that is anywhere from the size of Texas or the size of France. Scientists are not sure of its exact size but they do know it’s out there and it’s huge.

How did this big island of plastic trash develop? It developed because of us. We all use tons of plastic packaging for food, water, electronics, toys and to carry what we buy.  Not all of it ends up at recycling sites or in landfills. Too much of it goes into the sea.

Think of it this way: Los Angeles is a city of about 3.4 million people. If each one of us accidentally lets one plastic bottle or one plastic grocery bag get into the ocean each year, that’s 3.4 million pieces of plastic trash in the Pacific every year and that’s just by accident. That doesn’t even count people who are intentionally careless with their trash.

You don’t have to be near the beach for your plastic trash to get to the ocean. Plastic grocery bags fly away easily. Plastic bottles and plastic caps roll into storm drains, into the L.A. River, and the river goes to the sea.

So I began using reusable bags in an effort to do my small part to keep plastic out of the ocean. I don’t need plastic grocery bags. I don’t even like them very much but at some stores that’s all they have. I don’t think they carry much and when you put them down they collapse and your groceries fall out.

These are my bags!

I bought my first reusable bags at Trader Joe’s for $.99 each. They are made out of recycled plastic and stand up on their own. They are very sturdy and can carry a lot of weight.

The hardest part about switching to reusable bags was remembering to bring them into the store with me. I would place them on the passenger seat of the car to make me remember. I felt a bit awkward at first telling the cashier I had my own bags, and back when I started this many cashiers seemed to not know what to do with a reusable bag, but nowadays reusable bags are really catching on. Most cashiers are used to them now.

I needed a few more bags so I bought some at the 99 Cents Only Store. These were made of cloth and not quite as indestructible as the Trader Joe’s bags, but they had a distinct feature – they had longer handles so I could actually carry bags of groceries on my shoulders.

Now, thanks to my reusable bags, I can carry two bags on my shoulders and two or three bags in my hands all in one trip upstairs to my apartment. That’s nice. I like carrying all the groceries in one trip.

The cloth reusable bags are washable. If they tear they can be sewn back together. The plastic reusable bags do not go through the washing machine very well (I have tried this), but they can be hand washed in a sink or simply sprayed with cleanser and wiped with a wet cloth. For those who are very concerned about germs and bacteria, both kinds can be washed in a little bleach water too.

After I unload my groceries or other purchases I hang my reusable bags by the front door so I can take them back out to the car with me next time I leave. This way I always have my bags with me in the car.

Now that I have grown accustomed to reusable bags I can’t imagine living without them. They are stronger than plastic bags, they hold more stuff, they don’t fall over too easily and the cloth bag handles can even be tied at the top to keep things in.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky hopes to pass a plastic bag ban in L.A. County. I hope he succeeds. But we don’t have to wait for a new law. Plastic bags are useless. Reusable bags are wonderful. Everyone should use them.

I still have my first Trader Joe’s bag. I think it’s about two years old. It has no tears, no rips, or damage and it cost $.99 .

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