Green Tips for Avoiding Plastic Food Packaging

Over on our Facebook page (you have liked us, right?), we recently asked what the most difficult “green change” was for people to make in real life. A couple people commented that they were overwhelmed by how much plastic was involved in their food packaging.

While it’s true that most cities have recycling programs for plastic, many of us would like to avoid having plastic come in contact with our food in the first place. It’s also a good idea to discourage the manufacturing of plastic, and the best way to do that is by eliminating its use from our daily lives whenever possible.

But plastic seems to be everywhere!

Is it possible to get food from the source to your table without introducing plastic in some form?

Here are a few suggestions for removing plastic from your food cycle:

  1. Start a garden. Even people living in small spaces can take advantage of container gardens and window sill gardens to grow vegetables and herbs. Herbs and spices are commonly packaged in plastic, but not when you’re snipping them off your own plant!
  2. Pick your own food. Some local farms will allow consumers to come and harvest their own produce, eliminating the need for the clear plastic containers in which berries are often sold.
  3. Shop at local farmer’s markets. Buying local cuts down on the resources that are used to bring your food to you, including gas and oil. Farmer’s markets are also a good place to find food that hasn’t been overly packaged.
  4. Bring your own containers to the store. Use an organic cotton shopping bag to bring home your groceries and smaller mesh bags for your individual produce purchases.

Making a big difference in the world comes down to making small changes every day. These small changes, when made over time, can dramatically reduce the amount of plastic you use.

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Practicing Green Fishing and Eating Sustainable Seafood

It’s no surprise that fishing is a favorite past time for many avid boaters. One of the best reasons to get up early in the morning is to take the boat out and catch the night’s dinner. Gathering around the table with your family to share a meal that you caught yourself, after patiently waiting and enjoying the Great Outdoors for a few hours, is one of life’s simple pleasures.

Of course, not everyone who throws a line into the water brings home dinner. Fortunately, you can always stop by a local fish market on the way home.

But before you cast out or place your next seafood order, stop and think about what effect your fish dinner could be having on the environment and aquatic wildlife.

It’s difficult to imagine, but there is not a limitless supply of fish in the Earth’s oceans, seas, rivers and lakes. As technology has helped us become better fishermen, we’ve begun to take a large percentage of wildlife out of the water. In addition to overfishing, we can also damage the habitats with certain fishing techniques, including bottom trawling and dredging.

To practice more eco-friendly fishing, learn about the invasive or overpopulated species in the waterways in which you fish. Make sure you throw back anything else you reel in. It’s also a good idea to invest in green fishing tackle – which means 100% lead-free tackle – and recycle your fishing line.

In addition to being a more eco-friendly fishermen yourself, it’s also important to encourage green commercial fishing by only purchasing sustainable seafood. Remember that just because it’s on the menu or for sale in the market, doesn’t mean it’s sustainable. Many corporations and small fishing companies are still more concerned with making a profit than protecting our aquatic wildlife and habitats. It’s up to you to become a better informed consumer.

Here are a few pointers about which seafood to choose and which to avoid:

Best Choices for Sustainable Seafood

  • U.S. farmed abalone (known as awabi in sushi)
  • Albacore tuna from the U.S., Canadian Pacific, Hawaii or Atlantic
  • Alaska wild salmon
  • Farmed oysters and mussels
  • Farmed or wild striped bass
  • Dungeness crab (Blue crab is also a good alternative)
  • Mahi Mahi from the U.S.
  • Pacific or Alaskan halibut
  • Farmed tilapia

Avoid:

  • King crab imported from outside the U.S. (Alaskan king crab is a better alternative.)
  • Atlantic halibut
  • Chilean Seabass

To make the best decisions about whether the seafood you’re purchasing (and eating) was caught using sustainable fishing techniques, you need to know more about where the animal came from and how it was captured. If in doubt, ask.

For a complete list of sustainable seafoods and downloadable pocket guide to help you make eco-friendly purchasing decisions, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch web site. Visit your state’s conservation web site for detailed information on local regulations and restrictions.

Working together, we can enjoy and protect our waterways.

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Why Should You Use Green Sunscreen?

Whether you’re spending a day on the boat or staying on land, wearing sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors is a must. Wearing sunscreen regularly can help prevent skin cancer and keeps your skin looking younger for longer. But wait! Before you start to slather on the white stuff, find out more about using green sunscreen this year.

Why should you use green sunscreen?

Many of the chemicals used in traditional sunscreens are considered “potentially dangerous” for your health. In some cases, research is still being done to determine for certain if the ingredients in sunscreen are linked to cancer or other health problems.

Why take the risk with your health, or the health of your family? green sunscreens use minerals and physical filters to provide protection, and some even offer a broader range of UV protection than traditional formulas.

Another reason to look for green sunscreen is to protect the environment. Chemicals found in traditional sunscreens have been shown to trigger a viral infection in coral that bleaches and kills the coral community. It’s estimated that about 10% of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by the 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen that wash off swimmers into the oceans each year.

What if you’re not swimming in the ocean? Research has shown that chemicals used in sunscreens can build up in fish living in lakes and rivers, although it’s still unclear exactly how the fish are affected by the chemicals.

How do you know if your sunscreen is green?

Unfortunately, you can’t rely on manufacturers’ labels to tell you if a sunscreen is eco-friendly or safe for your body. Words like “natural” and “organic” aren’t heavily regulated within the sunscreen industry and can be very misleading. Your best option is to read the ingredients list.

Avoid:

  • oxybenzone
  • parabens (butylparaben, methylparaben)
  • vitamin A (usually listed as retinyl palmitate)

Look for:

  • zinc dioxide or titanium dioxide

The Environmental Working Group offers a full report on the best sunscreens that provide UVA and UVB protection with limited risk to your health. Some of our favorites from their recommendations include:

Educating yourself about what makes a sunscreen potentially dangerous is the best way to make sure you’re staying healthy in the sun this year!

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What Environmentalists Say About Nuclear Power

Nuclear Power has been in the news and on the minds of people all over the world since the Japan earthquake and tsunami threatened the safety and stability of the Fukushima Dai’ichi Power Plant. Many people are asking questions about nuclear power that have gone unanswered for years.

Is nuclear power safe?

Is it green?

Are there better options?

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be one set of answers that everyone can agree on – even in the environmentalist community.

Patrick Moore, who helped found Greenpeace in 1971 as an anti-nuclear group, is now a paid ambassador for the nuclear industry. He says that nuclear power is among the safest forms of power available and that nuclear power plants are a greener solution than coal-powered plants. Nuclear plants don’t emit greenhouse gases.

The Sierra Club, however, remains opposed to nuclear power. Although the group had supported a bill two years ago that included subsidies for new nuclear plants in the United States, Executive Director Michael Brune now says that The Sierra Club will not support the construction of any new nuclear plants.

While Patrick Moore has changed his position, the organization he helped start has not. Greenpeace USA’s nuclear policy analyst Jim Riccio says, “We’ve always believed that it’s an inherently dangerous technology that should be phased out and replaced and there are many cheaper, easier and less dangerous ways to generate electricity that don’t threaten our families, homes and communities.”

What are the other options?

Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council are advocating for “cleaner” sources of electricity, specifically solar and wind power. They believe that the initial investment needed to develop these technologies would actually result in lower energy costs in the future as communities become less dependent on non-renewable energy sources.

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Getting Your Boat Ready for the Water

While some parts of the country actually had snow this week, it is officially spring. Hopefully that means boaters all over will soon be able to get back in the water. As you’re pulling your boat out of winter storage and getting ready for your first splash of the season, keep these green boating tips in mind.

Green Boating Tips to Get Ready for Spring

  1. Schedule a tune-up with a mechanic you trust and with whom you feel comfortable discussing green maintenance practices. A tune-up is good for finding (and fixing) any leaks or dysfunctional parts.
  2. Scrape off all debris from the boat, trailer tires, propeller, and anchors before entering water for the first time.
  3. Stock up on chemical-free sunscreen. Most sunscreens have an expiration date and should be replaced each year for maximum protection.
  4. Be prepared for spills and accidents by having absorbing bilge pads and oil pads on board.
  5. Switch to a green lubricant to prevent corrosion without damaging the environment.
  6. Know where you can safely pump out and discard mechanical or electrical parts, cleaning agents, paints, and hazardous wastes. Contact a local green marina or state conservation office to locate the facilities nearest you.

After a long winter, many boaters are eager to finally get outside and enjoy the sun and water again. Just a few steps of precaution beforehand can ensure you have a great – and green – boating season!

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5 Facebook Pages for Boaters

Last week we shared some of our favorite Facebook pages for green companies and organizations. This week we’re taking a closer look at our favorite pastime: boating! Be sure to make your way over to these pages and give them a thumbs up to show your support for boating.

5 Boating Pages on Facebook

1. Mario Vittone – Boating & Water Safety – Mario always has great tips and reminders for staying safe on the water.

2. Discover Boating – a great community of boaters and their Facebook page has a fun game to play.

3. BoatUS Foundation – advocates for boating safety and clean water, this is an organization with a mission we can get behind!

4. U.S. Coast Guard - yep, they have a Facebook page. A big “Like” to the men and women committed to keeping our waterways safe.

5. I Love Boating – so do we! This page is hosted by a boating business, but the page itself is just a community of boaters sharing photos, news, and random updates about boating.

Do you keep in touch with other boaters on Facebook? Have you found another social media network that’s better for your boating needs? We’d love to hear about it!

Of course, remember to go and “like” us on Facebook, too: GreenBoatStuff on Facebook.

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5 Green Pages on Facebook

Facebook can be a great way to stay in touch with loved ones who live far away and reconnect with friends you haven’t seen for a while. But did you know it can also make you smarter and save you money?

There’s a lot more to gain from Facebook than another invitation to Mafia Wars! “Liking” your favorite brands on Facebook can keep you in the loop about new products and special discounts. You might also be among the first to hear about technological advancements and news that’s important to you but hasn’t made the front page of the local paper. Here’s a list of some of our favorite green pages on Facebook.

5 Green Pages on Facebook

1. Seventh Generation - get the heads up on deals from local and online retailers right beside environmental news.

2. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapsone of our favorite producers of organic soaps, their Facebook page highlights what they’re doing to promote proper labeling and safer products for everyone.

3. EPA - want to know what the US government is doing to protect our environment? Go straight to the source!

4. Non-GMO Project - are you concerned about how your food is raised or manufactured? You’ll want to keep on eye on this page.

5. The Nature Conservancy - since 1951, this organization has been working to preserve plants, animals and natural communities around the world.

Of course, we’re also pretty excited about our own Facebook page. Have you liked us yet? Our Facebook fans get exclusive discounts. Check out the GreenBoatStuff Facebook page.

What’s your favorite green page on Facebook?

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Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species with Green Boating

Prevent Invasive Species with Green Boating

According to the EPA, invasive species are one of the largest threats to the terrestrial, coastal and freshwater ecosystems in America. The good news is it’s relatively easy for green boaters to help stop the spread of invasive species.

What are invasive species?

Invasive species are plants, animals and pathogens that have been introduced into an area where it does not occur naturally. These species can establish a breeding population and spread widely throughout the new location, disturbing the delicate balance of the native ecosystem.

Where do invasive species come from?

One of the most common ways that invasive species are introduced is on the hull and in the ballast water of boats. A boat can unknowingly transport plants and tiny animals from one body of water to another by simply boating in different waterways.

How can you prevent the spread of invasive species?

Clean your boat thoroughly when you take it out of the water and again before you put it into water.  This is especially important if you’ll be changing locations. It’s estimated that as much as two-thirds of invasive species in waterways and coastal regions have been introduced by boats.

Taking the time to properly clean your boat between launches can have a significant impact on your environment. Regular boat maintenance, including regular cleaning with environmentally-safe products, also protects your investment and helps your boat last longer.

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Green Boat Repair Tips

Most green boaters understand the basic rules of being environmentally friendly. We don’t throw our garbage in the water and we don’t make it a habit of leaking oil and gas into the water. However, there are some aspects of boating that are unavoidably messy, including basic boat maintenance and boat repair. How do you keep up with green boating when it’s time for repairs? Check out these 5 tips for doing green boat repairs.

5 Tips for Green Boat Repair

1. Perform boat maintenance and repairs out of the water whenever possible.

All major repairs should be handled out of the water as well as minor repairs that can wait until you’re safely ashore.

2. Use tarps, drop cloths and protective drapes when doing fiberglass work, sanding or painting.

Even when you’re not in the water, remember that chemicals that hit the ground will eventually make their way into our water supply. Using a tarp to catch spills and a vacuum to clean up debris when you’re done ensures all waste can be properly disposed of when you’ve finished making your boat repairs.

3. Store cleaning and repair products in sealed containers to prevent spills or leaks.

Make sure your supplies are stored in an area where they aren’t likely to be kicked or knocked over easily and that they are protected from weather elements.

4. Keep absorbent materials nearby so that you can quickly and safely handle any spills of oil or toxic chemicals.

Accidents happen. Be prepared to minimize the damage when they do with oil absorbing pads.

5. Use water-based paints, solvents and adhesives, which minimize Volatile Organic Chemical (VOC) emissions that have been linked to air pollution.

The products you use on your boat will likely end up, even in trace amounts, in the water and air. Choose the most environmentally friendly options available.

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Green Navy Could Make Green Boating Easier for Rest of Us

The U.S. Navy is interested in going green, and that could be good news for the average American consumer who has been struggling to find practical ways to be more environmentally friendly. Turns out that the U.S. government faces some of the same obstacles to going green as the rest of us, and their solutions may make become our solutions.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus says that the goal of the US. Navy is to have at least half of its energy coming from non-fossil fuel sources. While this will undoubtedly be better for the environment, the main concern of the U.S. Navy is the amount of fossil fuels currently being purchased from “potentially volatile places on earth”. Secretary Mabus also pointed out that fossil fuel may be less expensive than many biofuel alternatives, but the expense of delivering that fossil fuel to military units in certain parts of the world is very high.

Going green, it seems, is a political, security and economic decision as much as (if not more than) an environmental one.

In its quest to go green, the Navy finds itself facing a problem many consumers may be familiar with: it already owns vehicles that work just fine on fossil fuels. Replacing the Navy’s entire fleet of air, sea and land vehicles a decade sooner than planned would present an impossible expense to the government and tax payers. The only solution, then, is to figure out how to make biofuels work with existing vessels.

Does this mean you might be able to run your current car or boat on biofuels in the near future?

Possibly.

The U.S. Navy is largely relying on biofuels created from things like algae, wood chips, mustard seed and other organic materials.  Right now, these sources aren’t mass marketed and are either unavailable or unaffordable for the average consumer. Consumers currently largely rely on converting or purchasing vehicles to rely on wind and solar energy. But military demand could change all that in the near future.

As Secretary Mabus points out, “the military oftentimes is the cutting edge of technology and the rest of America follows.  And I think that’s because (of) how much energy we use, the market we can establish and driving the price down, making sure the infrastructure is being constructed.  Then it makes it really easy to move it into the bigger economy and move it out of the military sphere.”

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