Archive for May, 2012
These days, many products display Earth-friendly seals of approval. Sometimes, it isn’t always obvious what those labels mean, or whether or not they really make a difference. Today, I am going to share just a few of these seals with you, so you will know what they mean and how your purchase impacts the environment.
1. Energy Star
Most likely, you will see this label on appliances like refrigerators, dryers, washers, electronics, and light bulbs. According to the Energy Star website, this seal was established by the EPA to:
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants caused by the inefficient use of energy; and
- Make it easy for consumers to identify and purchase energy-efficient products that offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features, and comfort.
These products perform as well as their traditional counterparts while using up to 75 percent less energy.
2. Forest Stewardship Council Seal
While I have seen this seal on several products, I never knew what it meant. The Forest Stewardship Council allows these seals to be put onto paper and wood products (like furniture and flooring) that have been harvested using certified sustainable standards.
3. Fair Trade Certified
Fair Trade USA
Fair Trade USAseals can be found on foods such as coffee, fruit, chocolate, and sugar. These seals confirms that these foods are Fair Trade Certified, meaning they have been grown by farmers who use environmentally friendly practices while also receiving a fair price for their crops.
4. Rainforest Alliance Certified
From bananas to tea to flowers, Rainforest Alliance Certified products come from farms that protect water, soil, and wildlife habitats and treat their workers fairly by providing them with access to schools and health care.
5. Green Seal
Products that are eligible to earn a Green Seal certification include cleaners, paint, and paper. This certification means that these products have a low impact on the environment throughout their life cycles, from manufacturing to disposal.
These are just a few of the seals you will find on products. Others include Salmon-Safe (produced in a way that protects salmon habitats), and Demeter Certified (products are biodynamic, meaning growers use methods such as crop rotation, composting, and homeopathic sprays to ensure the long-term health of the soil). These, of course, aren’t the only legitimate earthy-friendly seals out there, but they are some of the most prominent. Knowing what each seal means ensures you know what you are doing to help this planet.
I recently read the sequel to Divergent, Insurgent by Veronica Roth, and I was very impressed. The writing got better, and many of the questions I had lingering from the first book were answered in this subsequent book. Again, the book is a pretty fast read at 544 pages.
Of course, I don’t want to give much away for those of you who have not read Divergent, but I will give a simple plot summary. Tris is about to get initiated into her chosen faction, but things go awry (as the reader pretty well expects to happen at this point). Suspicion, tension, and the threat of war loom over her and all of the factions. There are secrets and betrayals revealed, and Tris must decide for herself who to trust and who to break away from. In this book, Tris embraces the Divergence, and tries to do what she can to save the ones she
The book picks up right where the previous book left off, and I can only assume the third installment will begin the same way. I like that, but it also makes the books feel unfinished. If you ask me, it could have been one exceptionally long book and much of the filler could have been removed. And the story progresses in a way that in interesting and unpredictable — a little more so than Divergent.
The third installment won’t be out for at least a year, so the abrupt ending isn’t something I enjoy. I like to have at least a semblance of resolution at the end of a novel. In The Hunger Games, each book had a definitive beginning and end. And since these books are very similar to that series, I can’t help but to compare the two. If I was allowed to change one thing about this series so far, it would have to be the sudden endings in both Divergent and Insurgent. Nothing is resolved, and the final few paragraphs only give you even more to question.
While I have a problem with the way the books end, I definitely like where the story is going. And I can’t wait to read the third book!
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This weekend is the unofficial start to summer: Memorial Day. And many people across the country will celebrate this holiday with a summer rite of passage known as the cook out (or, as some call it, a barbecue). The most important thing at a cook out or barbecue (besides the people, of course) is the grill. And today, I wanted to write a post about that great appliance. 75% of Americans own a grill, and 60 million of those Americans will fire up the grill for a summer get together.
One of my favorite things about grilling is being able to cook outside. I like to cook, but when it is 95 degrees outside just thinking about turning on the oven in the house makes me sweat. The food can get cooked outside, and the house can stay nice and cool. But when it comes to grills, what kind of grill is best for the environment? Gas or charcoal? Well, here are some of the facts:
Charcoal is dirtier, but can come from renewable resources. And while gas has a smaller carbon footprint, it is derived from non-renewable fossil fuels. Not to mention most charcoal (unless it is real charcoal, known as chunk charcoal) is made up of things like sawdust, corn starch and lighter fluid. When
this funky amalgamation of ingredients is burned, it can result in 105 times more carbon monoxide than burning propane and releases harmful volatile organic compounds.
When comparing the carbon emissions of the various types of grills, gas-powered grills are still the front runners. When the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory compared the carbon output of gas, charcoal and electric powered grills, the results showed that gas produced 5.6 pounds of carbon dioxide each hour, compared to 11 pounds for charcoal (when producing 35,000 Btu’s per hour). And included in this study are electrical grills, which were found to produce 15 pounds of carbon dioxide for every hour at 35,000 Btu’s.
Although chunk charcoal is becoming increasingly available, it often still has to travel thousands of miles to get to your door, which negates some of its carbon benefits. Until it’s readily available from local sources, the efficiency of gas wins out. So, start up that grill (hopefully a gas one) and get a head start on the weekend’s festivities!
Since I really enjoyed reading The Hunger Games trilogy, someone recommended that I begin the Divergent trilogy, written by Veronica Rother. Not sure if I wanted to read a rip-off of the books I had loved so much, I was a bit skeptical. Both series of books take place in a dystopian future, revolve around a main female character who is highly skilled at what she does, involve sectors that have been broken up for various reasons, and war is looming. It sounded very similar, but I decided to give it a chance. While there are many similarities (ones I have listed, and others seem to crop up as the story progresses), the book is interesting, engaging, and exciting.
The novel takes place in Chicago world, where society has been divided into five factions following a war. Each faction is dedicated to cultivating one virtue, based on what the believe was the downfall of the former society and cause of war. The factions are: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Every year, sixteen year olds across the city select which faction they choose, and thus will devote their lives to. The main character, Beatrice Prior, must decide whether to continue the life she lives in Abegnation, or leave her family and become who she really is. After choosing, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her peers to make it through initiation to becom
e a member of the faction they have chose. But Tris also has a secret she has kept hidden because she was warned it could be dangerous if others found out. Tris soon discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel the seemingly perfect society, and learns that her secret may save her and others, or it could kill her.
The book, being of the Young Adult genre, is a fairly quick read. Although, if the story had not been so engaging, I may not have had the interest in continuing. Since it is a Young Adult novel, the writing is kind of bland and predictable. But the story is unique, and saves whatever is missing in the writing. There also seem to be a few gaps in the story-line, (what happened to the rest of the world as they seem to have no contact with other cities or states, or how the war that created the factions began, for example) which affects my ability to believe the story. Perhaps the only inhabited area left in the world is Chicago, but I find that hard to believe as well.
But whatever problems I may have had with the quality of writing or believability, I must have liked something about it because I have already read half of the second book: Insurgent. I like the characters, and the story that is unfolding. Once I picked it up, I had trouble putting it down. But I do have one warning: the third book has not yet been published, so if you are someone who doesn’t like to wait for a satisfying end to a story, I would wait to start reading. If you are looking for a book similar to The Hunger Games in style and ease of reading, this is a book for you. If, on the other hand, you are more into literary fiction, or books written for adults, I would skip this trilogy.
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By now, most of you know that I eat a mostly vegan diet. And I do so for a myriad of reasons, but one of the perks of this diet is that it is very environmentally friendly. Of course I realize that this lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but I still advocate for eating one meatless meal a week. Just by cutting meat consumption by as little as 20% (only 6 meatless days a month), the energy saved would be equivalent to that saved when you switch from driving a sedan car to a hybrid vehicle.
People seem to be responding to the meatless Monday campaign. A new study compiling date from the USDA, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau, the average meat eater in America consumed fewer land animals in 2011 than any year (going back to 2000). One of the boosts to the meatless movement might be all of the great vegetarian option
s on the market now. It seems every trip I make to Whole Foods I discover a new vegan or vegetarian product. Vegetarians are no longer relegated to the world of salad!
And for those of you out there who are still skeptical, here is a link to 10 meatless recipes to satisfy that meat tooth of yours! Just whip one of these delicious-sounding dishes up once a week, and you’ll be doing your part for the environment while enjoying a great meal. While we’re on the subject of 10, why not check out these 10 Reason to Try Meatless Mondays, and give it a shot next week!
It may seem movie adaptations of novels and books have become a very popular trend lately. Some of the biggest movies of the last few years have been based on books: Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games. Most every novel Nicholas Sparks has ever written has been adapted for the big screen, along with a couple of my favorite books: Water for Elephants, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
When I find out a movie I want to see is based on a book, normally I like to read the book first. But I recently found out that movies adapted from books are more numerous than I thought. The following is a list of movies I had no idea were based on books:
1. The Prestige
2. Shutter Island
Leonardo DiCarprio is perhaps my favorite actor, so I was very surprise to learn that the movie was adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane.
3. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
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I haven’t seen this movie since I was a kid, and I didn’t really enjoy it much then. But this is the first I heard that it was based on Gary Wolf’s book Who Censored Roger Rabbit.
4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
While technically a short story and not a novel, the 2008 movie was based on a work by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The story is featured in the book Six Tales of the Jazz Age.
5. Mean Girls
Perhaps the most unexpected, Mean Girls is based on a non-fiction book by Rosalind Wiseman called Queen Bees & Wannabes written to help parents and high school girls overcome the high school years.
I am actually very interested in reading Shutter Island and The Prestige. The others aren’t that interesting to me, and I have no daughter to help through adolescence so I doubt Queen Bees & Wannabes would be my cup of tea. It’s just very surprising to find out such popular movies were based on books, and I’m sure many people (like me) were clueless to this.
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