Moving One Step Ahead

Environment, Sustainability, Renewables, Conservation, Water Quality, Green Building — And How to Talk about it All!


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Green Your Conferences, Meetings, and Events

Sometimes, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting. Unfortunately, conferences, meetings, and other events require electricity, heating and air conditioning, ground transportation, and air travel, and they produce paper, food, and water waste. The good news is that there are ways to minimize the environmental effects, particularly as facilities become more aware of the need to provide sustainable solutions.

Choose a Green Facility

The first, and perhaps most important, step to “greening” an event is to work closely with your potential meeting facility early in the planning stages. Communicate your organization’s desire for an event with a reduced environmental impact, and make it clear that preference will be given to facilities with environmental goals that align with yours. Then, once a facility is chosen, incorporate environmental priorities into the contract.

Some things to look for:

  • Natural lighting and a comprehensive recycling program.
  • Mass transit services and bicycle parking.
  • Energy management system to reduce electricity and HVAC demands.
  • Certification (e.g., U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED) or energy- and water-efficient equipment and practices.
  • Conveniently placed recycling containers in all key meeting and gathering areas.
  • Clean-up crews trained to keep recyclables out of trash.
  • Facility staff trained to close blinds, turn off lights, and HVAC in unused areas.

Reduce Emissions from Travel

To reduce the impact of travel, try to select a destination city that is close to the majority of participants and is served by direct flights. Multiple take-offs and landings result in higher emissions from air travel. For smaller meetings, consider attendee incentives like reimbursed public transportation costs or a special drawing or recognition for car-poolers.

Other approaches:

  • Choose a destination city with good public transportation that connects the event venue with major transportation hubs and accommodations.
  • Offer a videoconference option.
  • Use alternative fuel vehicles in a guest shuttle service.
  • If taxis must be used, select companies offering hybrid vehicles.

Help Guest Go Green

Choose hotels with environmental certification, such as from Green Seal (www.greenseal.org). For larger meetings, look for conveniently located hotels that are either within walking distance of the venue or close to public transportation. And be sure to provide guests with information about accommodations with environmental certification or policies and practices. For example, ask guests to participate in hotel linen reuse programs andshut off lights, televisions and air conditioners or heaters when leaving their rooms. You can also work with hotels that employ laundry water-saving programs and ask them to reduce frequent replacement of linens, soaps, etc.

Consider Food and Beverage

Look for food service providers that use reusable service ware and that serve water, beverages, condiments, and other food items in bulk to eliminate packaging. Other ideas include:

  • Request locally produced food and beverages to cut transportation emissions.
  • Ensure the venue has a food donation program for leftovers.
  • Conduct a careful head count of attendees to minimize waste.
  • Consider providing refillable beverage containers for attendees.

Minimize Conference Materials

Waste reduction options include digitizing event literature so that it is available online, rather than handing it out on paper. Such measures may only save minimal amounts of waste in the context of the whole event, but can quickly add up.Other options include:

  • Use certified paper (Forest Stewardship Council or Sustainable Forest Initiative) or paper that is processed chlorine free and made from a minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled content.
  • Use printers and photocopiers that are Energy Star certified.
  • Choose suppliers that provide low-carbon products or services.
  • Match print runs to registered attendees.
  • Ask speakers not to include written materials, but to provide upon request.
  • Use materials that are reusable and/or contain post-consumer recycled content.
  • Double-sided printing for promotional materials and handouts.
  • Avoid mass distribution of handouts and allow attendees to order copies.
  • Cardboard recycling in exhibit area.

Use Offsets

Once conservation and carbon reduction strategies are exhausted, emissions that cannot be eliminated can be offset. Renewable energy certificates (RECs) may be used to offset electricity used during the event and carbon offsets can emissions from air travel, energy use, and vehicle use. It is essential to choose a certified provider to ensure that reductions in greenhouse gases actually occur (such as from http://www.green-e.org or http://www.nativeenergy.com).

Communicate Your Efforts

From the beginning, make sure attendees are aware of your environmental efforts so that they too can become stewards. Your event’s website, program, press releases, opening, signage, and post-event publications can all deliver your message. Large event organizers may want to set up an onsite sustainability booth to provide information about the event.

Links

U.S. EPA’s Green Meetings Initiative
Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Conferences
Government Canada’s Green Meeting Guide
Meeting Professionals International
Convention Industry Council
Blue Green Meetings

Elizabeth Striano
Consultant and writer on sustainability and the environment
www.agreenfootprint.com

Helping you leave a green footprint on the world…


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Turning Green Into Green: Is it OK?

There’s a lot of debate these days on the motivation behind all of these businesses going green. Businesses large and small produce more than 50% of all global warming gases and nearly 75% of the waste generated. As a result, they stand to play a significant role in our quest to improve our sustainability as a nation. And more and more, businesses that go green seem to find that they profit from their efforts. And here’s the thing: There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

If becoming more efficient, having a marketing advantage, and saving money is the initial driving factor to eventually doing good, then I’m all for it. Eventually, it will become a cycle of companies producing more green products in a more sustainable way, and consumers demanding more. Then more companies of all sizes will have no choice but to follow.

While I am not personally a big supporter of WalMart and believe they have along way to go. I do believe that they have it within their power the ability to catalyze immense change the world over in how goods are manufactured and distributed. They are making demands of their vendors, who in turn make demands of their vendors, and so on. You see where all of this is going.

Remember the first step in addressing any problem is awareness. And that’s where we’re at now. There is a lot of work that needs to be done. And if business leads the way, we all will follow. Eventually it will become just the “way things are done.”

Elizabeth Striano
Consultant and writer on sustainability and the environment
www.agreenfootprint.com

Helping you leave a green footprint on the world…


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Top 10 Tips for Greening Your Marketing

It seems like everyone is going green these days. Whether this movement is in response to recent studies showing the rise of the “green” consumer or because it’s the right thing to do, associations and nonprofits are getting on board too. In your efforts to go green, one critical area to examine closely is your marketing efforts. Marketing is the public face of your organization and the first area that your customers will notice when they’re measuring your sustainability. Below are some tips for greening your marketing efforts.

  1. Re-Design Your Materials. One of the most effective ways to go green is to consider the potential environmental impact of your printed material at the design stage. That means taking into things like paper weight, item size, and mailing format at the beginning. A smaller, lighter piece will not only reduce the amount of paper you ultimately use, but also the emissions of the trucks delivering your pieces. Self-mailers eliminate the need for envelopes. And, of course, always use both sides of the paper. The official term for this process is known as Design for the Environment, or DfE. For more about it, see EPA’s website http://www.epa.gov/dfe/.
  2. Choose the Right Paper. Re-design leads us to the importance of making the right paper choice. To produce a more sustainable printed piece, look for a minimum of 30% post-consumer content that is processed chlorine free. Ideally choose paper that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forest Initiative. And avoid using add-ons that might make it difficult for consumers to recycle your piece, such as coatings, metallic embossing, or inks containing heavy metals. You can also look for paper that is blended with other, more sustainable fibers, like hemp or kenaf.
  3. Select the Right Printer. Select printers that practice sustainability. Look for providers that use Energy Star printers and copiers; soy- or vegetable-based or recycled, filtered inks; and solvents free of toluene and methylene chloride. Check to make sure they use alcohol-free printing processes. Ideally, look for printers that employ green practices throughout their plant, such as a comprehensive recycling program, energy and water efficiencies, and purchase of renewable fuels. You can also choose a printer that has received chain-of-custody certification from the Forest Stewardship Council.
  4. Clean Up Your Mailing List. You can save money and reduce paper use and delivery impacts simply by cleaning up and reducing the size of your mailing list (PDF). Software and mailing services provide tools that remove undeliverable addresses, duplicates, or fix those with missing fields, thereby saving resources. Also regularly check with your customers for address changes and personnel updates. Finally make it easy for your customers to opt out of your mailing list or to receive notices electronically instead.
  5. Use Electronic Savvy. Until this point, we have assumed that mailings compose a substantial part of your marketing efforts. And this fact remains true for the vast majority of businesses that aren’t effectively using the Internet to reach their target audience. Yet research has shown that organizations that micro-target their online efforts often see a high rate of return. To micro-target your customers, identify the most targeted online publishers, websites, blogs, and email newsletters. Many will offer advertising on their websites or in their email newsletters, which reach thousands of people at a fraction of the cost of traditional media. Or do it for free by writing articles or news items, or by posting comments to blogs or list serves.
  6. Send Effective Emails. Despite spam, statistics show that email remains an excellent way to build relationships with your customers and promote events and products. Build a solid email list of your customers that you can also break down into specific audience segments to better target your message. Ensure that your list is permission-based and that any email you send out has a prominent opt-out link. Include only the highest quality content and provide value to your target audience with minimal self-promotion.
  7. Leverage Your Website. Make sure to design the landing page of your website with your promotion in mind. Whatever Internet marketing strategy you use, be sure that the page that brings visitors to your website is designed specifically for them and clearly highlights what you are promoting. The page should be simple and easy to read. It should highlight the value to the customer of the product, service, or event and outline why your organization is the right one to deliver it to them. Also make sure it’s clear how visitors can gather additional information, including how to contact you. And don’t forget to post absolutely every document you can rather than mail it.
  8. Use Online PR. Press releases aren’t just for the press anymore. With online distribution channels, like PR Web and PR Newswire, you can use news releases to reach your customers directly. But be sure to write press releases in a way that targets your customers, including making a compelling offer to get them to react in some way, such as by going to your website. Also make sure to optimize your news release for searching and browsing by including keyword-rich copy. And don’t wait to send out a press release only when you have big news, look for reasons to distribute them regularly.
  9. Offset Your Impact. You can donate money to green initiatives to offset the environmental impact of producing and mailing hard-copy marketing pieces. You can buy renewable energy credits (RECs), in which you are purchasing the attributes of green power that have been separated from the power itself. Green-e provides a resource of certified providers in your area. Or purchase offsets from NativeEnergy.com or Cargonfund.org. In both cases, your investment supports development of alternative fuel sources, such as solar, wind, or biomass energy. To determine how much to purchase, you can calculate your impact using an online carbon calculator.
  10. Have a Plan. In moving to a greener marketing plan, it’s important to put something in writing. It doesn’t need to be complicated or lengthy, but you should outline the steps you need to take to ensure effective execution of your overall marketing strategy. Overtime, you will add new tools and ideas to your plan and will remove those that don’t work for your organization.

Regardless of which marketing efforts you use, remember to track your success. For your e-marketing efforts, use free, online tracking tools, like those provided by Google, so that you know exactly what is working and what is not. By weeding out under-performing tactics and focusing your energy on those with the highest return, you will end up with a good mix of marketing strategies that will help you meet your organization’s goals while improving sustainability. A version of this article also appears on the website of ASAE & Center for Association Leadership.

Elizabeth Striano
Consultant and writer on sustainability and the environment
www.agreenfootprint.com

Helping you leave a green footprint on the world…


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Tips to Simplify Your Home, Your Life

Living green also means living simply. Do we really need all this stuff?? Americans (like me), love their stuff. But more stuff leads to more consumption, which leads to… well, I don’t have to tell you. If we all just started pairing down just a little bit. Getting back to the essentials of what we need to keep happy and healthy on a daily basis, and resist the urge to consume, we could end up with lower credit card bills and reduce our cumulative impact on the environment through reduced demand for consumer goods. Of course, the Bush Administration would like us to spend that tax relief check when we get it. That’s you’re call.

Where to begin? We can start by going through what we already have. Make sure to maximize your recycling and reuse opportunities, and minimize the amount of trash. There are many, many resources out there that will take your donations, accept your electronic goods, and safely dispose of any hazardous waste. Habitat for Humanity will even take paint! With a few tips, you can ensure a successful transition to simpler living.

  1. Spread Out the Work. Sorting through the contents of an entire home can prove overwhelming for even the most energetic person. It took you many years to gather all of your belongings, so you can’t expect to get through everything in one session. Plan for several 2-5 hour sessions over the course of days or weeks to sort through one room at a time.
  2. Be Prepared. Downsizing is hard work. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty. And have the tools you’ll need on-hand, including: leaf bags (for donations), boxes, trash bags, permanent markers, labels for sorting, scissors, tape, post its, Ziploc bags, archival quality storage containers for photos and other sensitive keepsakes, and rubber bands.
  3. Go Room-by-Room. Work in one room at a time. Resist the urge to move things from one to another and then starting work in the second room. Finish one room, move on to the next. You can create piles of items that need to be moved to their “homes” and take them with you when you leave that room. If two or more people are working together, you can each work in separate rooms.
  4. Divide and Conquer. If any single room is too overwhelming, such as the basement or attic, break it into smaller tasks. Do one section of the room one day and move to the next section the next day. If you allow yourself to become overwhelmed, you may not be able to keep going.
  5. Stay Organized. Designate one relatively open room to serve as the staging area for those items that you are not keeping. Label and create piles of items that you plan to give to family, donate to charity, or sell at consignment, yard sales, or auction (for more valuable items).
  6. Identify Your Resources. If you’ve done your job right, you’ll likely have a lot of items that need a new home – one that is not yours! So in advance of starting work, identify charities that you like that also provide pick-up service. You’ll also need haulers that will take away trash, and outlets for recycling or safe disposal of electronic and other hazardous household waste. Local consignments shops and auction houses may also be interested in some of your more valuable items.
  7. Get Help. If it’s all too much for you to handle on your own, ask for help. You can reach out to family, friends, or neighbors. If they can’t help you, they may be able to recommend professionals who specialize in helping people downsize and organize their homes.

Elizabeth Striano
Consultant and writer on sustainability and the environment
www.agreenfootprint.com

Helping you leave a green footprint on the world…

 


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100 Tips to Go Green at Home and at Work

I’m doing my year-end blog early. Not that I won’t be writing again. Just that I wanted to get a head start on the new year. Now, don’t be put off by this rather long list — it’s all about doing what you can. Even if everyone made a few small changes, it all adds up. I’ve included both the small and big projects that you can do to go green. They are in no particular order but I did try to group them by category. And most apply both at home or at work. Here goes:

  1. Seal leaky heating and cooling ductwork. Use mastic rather that duct tape, which doesn’t offer enough sealing.
  2. Install a programmable thermostat to save up to $100 in energy costs per year.
  3. Heat your home to 68 degrees F, cool to 72 degrees F. Reduce both at night. For each two degrees, save 6%.
  4. Upgrade appliances and electronics with EnergyStar certified equipment. Both at home and at work, including copiers, printers, computers and accessories.
  5. Use smart plugs to shut off power to appliances and unplug chargers and other stand-alone appliances. The U.S. spends about $4 billion annually on stand-by energy alone.
  6. Use timers for indoor and outdoor lights.
  7. Use power-saving settings on your computer. Set them to power down after 2-3 minutes of inactivity.
  8. Flat-screen monitors or laptops are far more energy-efficient than CRTs.
  9. Seal cracks using expanding foam and caulk. Look anywhere that pipes or wires come into the house, doors, windows. Experts estimate that if you added up all the cracks in the average home, you would have a 2-foot square hole.
  10. Weatherstrip doors and windows.
  11. Wrap your water heater with an insulation blanket. About $20 at Lowe’s.
  12. Upgrade your water heater. A solar system can meet 2/3 of a household needs. Or go with a tankless model. If neither works for you, go for an EnergyStar version.
  13. Wrap your hot water pipes with pre-formed, pre-fit insulating tubes.
  14. Vacuum your refrigerator coils, which helps it operate more efficiently.
  15. Keep your freezer full for optimal power use.
  16. Use the microwave whenever practical. It is far more efficient than the stove or oven.
  17. Take 5-minutes showers and skip the bath. Any longer than 5-minutes and you’re wasting water.
  18. Turn off the tap. While brushing, while shaving, while washing dishes.
  19. Run a full dishwasher rather than cleaning dishes by hand. Yes, it actually uses less water.
  20. And set your dishwasher to the energy saving mode and no dry heat modes to save even more.
  21. Install aerators on your faucets to use less water.
  22. Fix leaky faucets and toilets.
  23. Replace older toilets with newer, low-flow models.
  24. In public bathrooms, install motion sensor faucets and hand towel dispensers.
  25. Filter your shower water. You can purchase a filter that attaches to the head for about $50.
  26. Use cold water for your laundry. Today’s soaps are designed for cold water washing.
  27. Use front-loading washers and dryers. Look to replace your old set with these newer models when it’s time.
  28. Insulate your attic and basement to save as much as 20% on your heating and cooling costs.
  29. Install a solar-powered attic fan to draw out hot air in the winter.
  30. Use ceiling fans to cool down rooms in summer and push down hot air in winter.
  31. Plant trees to buffer homes from wind and to help shade air conditioning units and windows that get a lot of sun.
  32. Keep insulating shades and curtains on southern facing windows drawn in summer and open in winter.
  33. Upgrade your heating and cooling equipment. This along with hot water, accounts for 30% of homeowner energy use.
  34. Change the air filters on your heating and cooling system regularly.
  35. In the office and at home, regularly maintain HVAC systems.
  36. Replace at least 5 of your most-used bulbs with compact florescent.
  37. Shut all lights when leaving a room, saving about 5% on energy bills annually.
  38. Shut down your computers and monitors every night.
  39. Use motion sensor lights in offices and other areas if infrequent occupancy, like office restrooms.
  40. Offices are often over-lit. Reduce overhead lighting by removing overhead bulbs. Replace with task lighting.
  41. Replace traditional exit signs with LED signs.
  42. Check with your local electric utility about purchasing green power. Many consumers have this option now.
  43. If green power is not available in your area, purchase green tags or RECs to offset.
  44. Check with your utility about any energy saving incentives it may offer.
  45. Your state may subsidize energy savings and alternative power.
  46. Get an energy audit for your home or a green office audit for your work.
  47. Use an environmentally responsible bank. Many banks are working to address global warming.
  48. Invest in green. There are many good mutual funds and stocks available.
  49. Don’t choose between paper and plastic — shop with reusable bags. Costco sells a sturdy set for $3.
  50. Recycle your electronics and computer equipment.
  51. Safely dispose of hazardous materials, like batteries, CFLs, and chemicals. Check locally or online for resources.
  52. Opt-out of junk mail.
  53. Pick a green dry cleaner that doesn’t use perchloroethylene, a known carcinogen. Or better yet, don’t buy clothes that need to be dry cleaned.
  54. Recycle everything possible. Glass, metal, plastic, paper, cardboard (don’t forget junk mail!) and more. And participate in special item recycling days, such as for paints or electronics.
  55. Donate used items rather than trashing them. Most places will even take worn clothes for rags. Or Freecycle them.
  56. When on the go, use a reusable water bottle. Metal, #2HDPE, #4LDPE, or #5PP are safest. Avoid those with phthalates or BPA.
  57. Don’t use anti-bacterial soaps or other cleaners. They work no better than regular soap and water and may cause health problems.
  58. Green your cosmetics.
  59. Use green cleaning methods. Vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, Borax, and regular dish soap are all you really need for the majority of your household cleaning. Don’t want to mix it yourself? There are plenty of green alternatives.
  60. Use Integrated Pest Management for bugs or vermin. There are companies that specialize in this.
  61. Reduce your grass exposure. Plant shrubberies and other groundcover to replace this high-demand monoculture.
  62. Use natural lawn care. And when using any chemicals or fertilizers, carefully follow recommended application rates.
  63. Plant native plant species, which are better suited to your climate and will require fewer chemicals and water.
  64. Create a compost heap and enrich your garden. You can compost most food waste and yard waste.
  65. Water your lawn less frequently and more deeply and at night in most areas, to avoid evaporation.
  66. Filter your water rather than using bottled. Not only is it cheaper, but you reduce the bottles in circulation.
  67. Eat less meat, which causes the most environmental harm than any other type of food production.
  68. Choose your fish carefully.
  69. Eat lower on the food chain. The higher up you go, the greater the environmental impact. That means more grains and produce. Besides, it’s better for you anyway.
  70. Buy certified organic food or locally grown. Less chemicals, less impact from transportation and delivery, respectively.
  71. Whenever practical, walk or ride your bike. For trips less than 2 miles, it actually takes less time to bike it.
  72. Combine car trips. Instead of several smaller trips, make one larger trips and run all your errands at once. Or join forces with a neighbor or two!
  73. Use public transportation whenever possible. Or just try to commit to one day per week in your commute.
  74. Work from home! See if your employer might be willing to allow work at home days for employees.
  75. Or try car-pooling to work one day a week. If it works for you, add more.
  76. Never let your car idle. If you’re not driving or stopped at a light, shut the engine.
  77. For business travel, try to combine trips and take direct flights to reduce your impact.
  78. Try using a web conference to replace in-person meetings that require air travel whenever possible.
  79. Use post-consumer, recycled content products, such as paper, napkins, toilet paper, tissues, and more.
  80. Use reusable plates, cups and utensils. And no styrofoam. Encourage others to do the same.
  81. Get your coffee cup refilled rather than getting a disposable cup each time.
  82. Print double-sided both at home and at work.
  83. Making smart paper choices has become easier. Use certified or unbleached paper, or both.
  84. Recycle those printer cartridges.
  85. Use rechargeable and reusable office products, like batteries, pens, storage devices.
  86. Don’t flush your medications down the drain. Follow safe disposal practices.
  87. Same goes for other personal care products. Safe use and disposal will help keep them out of our water.
  88. Use safer alternatives whenever possible. Read labels and learn more about what your using. Just because they’re selling it doesn’t guarantee that it’s safe.
  89. Don’t use artificial air cleaners or plug-ins. They’ve recently been found to emit harmful chemicals.
  90. House plants can help clear the air. Peace plants and philodendron are particularly well suited to eliminating many common air pollutants.
  91. When available purchase organic cotton products. Cotton is one of the most pollution-producing crops in the U.S.
  92. Buy certified carpeting, furniture, and other household goods. FSC, SFI, GreenGuard, GreenSeal and more, all certify products produced with less harmful chemicals and sustainable manufacturing processes.
  93. When purchasing a new car, look for the most energy efficient model you can. Hybrids are great, but may not work for everyone.
  94. Regular maintenance on your current vehicle can save on gas. Replacing filters and keeping tires properly inflated are particularly important.
  95. Select low VOC paint for your next remodeling job. And look for low-emissions products for any sealing work.
  96. Use doormats at all doors to keep particulates, dirt, and pollutants out of your home.
  97. Reduce consumption. Do you really need that new shirt? Clothing is the top contributor to environmental impacts of consumer product purchases.
  98. Patronize companies that are making efforts to become more environmentally sustainable. From consumer products to services, your dollar can make a difference.
  99. Buy consumer goods that are produced in a more environmentally sustainable manner and with less packaging.
  100. Don’t forget to pass it on. Share these tips and your own tips with others. That’s part of the responsibility that comes with going green. And remember, a little bit can make a big difference.

Elizabeth Striano
Consultant and writer on sustainability and the environment
www.agreenfootprint.com

Helping you leave a green footprint on the world…


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Green Your Mail: Part II

I just received an excellent tip from Vinay Kumar, co-owner of printers GRCDirect, on how to reduce your junk mail by 90% by signing up for a junk mail removal service for $19.95 per year — still a bargain when you think about it. And they’ll plant a tree in your name. The nice thing about this service, is that it works for small businesses as well.

Most of the free resources that I wrote about previously, are for residents only, not small businesses. By following my own advice there, I’ve reduced my junk mail substantially — but admittedly not as much as I would have liked. The problem is all of those anonymous mailings that go to all residents. I’m not quite sure how these items would be handled, but I think it’s worth a try.

Elizabeth Striano
Consultant and writer on sustainability and the environment
www.agreenfootprint.com

Helping you leave a green footprint on the world…


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Hand-Washing 101: Use Soap and Water

Each September we get a supply list from my children’s school. Inevitably to be found on the list is hand-sanitizer. Now I understand the teacher’s intentions are good — everyone knows schools are germ breeding grounds — but with all of the research showing that the active ingredients in many of the hand-sanitizers are potentially cancer-causing, I can’t understand why we are still being asked to bring them in each year. Perhaps I am just too close to the issues, or know too much for my own good, but I still wonder why these products are still being used in our homes, our offices, and our schools.

Probably my biggest mistake is to assume everyone knows about the research on these chemicals. And there is plenty.

And probably the biggest question I have is why manufacturers are still using triclosan when there are doubts about its safety. Not to mention that there is a very simple, elegant, safe solution: hand-washing. An FDA panel (PDF of report) of experts conducted a multi-year study, which found that hand-sanitizers are no more effective than hand-washing at reducing the spread of bacteria. They also found the ingredients in these products were potential health hazards and that they were persistent and bioaccumulative in the environment. So the downsides are great: potential cancer-causing agent; possible endocrine disrupting; and suspected breeder of super bugs — you know, those bacteria that can resist all antibiotics.

In the EU, they have a the REACH directive, which ultimately will require manufacturers to prove that the chemicals they are using are safe. Now the directive is not without it’s detractors who argue that it doesn’t have enough teeth or is too Big Brother. But it certainly makes sense: A product is not used by consumers until the safety of all its ingredients is assured. Right now the system is working in reverse: new chemicals are produced and used to manufacture products every day that are not proven safe.

And where do these chemicals end up? In our environment and in our water. Here’s an example. Triclosan is in your toothpaste (not all of them, but many). You brush your teeth. Spit out the excess toothpaste with triclosan. The water goes to your local treatment plant. Most chemicals are removed during treatment. Most, but not all. You do that day after day. So do millions of other people. These trace amounts add up. They enter the environment and don’t break down. Those chemicals end up in our lakes, rivers, streams, and then back into our drinking water. It all comes full circle.

Sorry to be so radical, but the ubiquity of the anti-bacterial personal care products are going to be our next water bottle debacle. Both of these issues are sure to remain hot topics on the environmental sustainability agenda. Two unnecessary products that only 10 years ago were virtually unheard of and are now having a huge impact on the natural world.

OK, enough of my diatribe for today. Bottom line: We as consumers need to stop buying this stuff for our homes and offices and schools.

Elizabeth Striano
Consultant and writer on sustainability and the environment
www.agreenfootprint.com

Helping you leave a green footprint on the world…