Category Archives: education

5 Reasons to Attend Green Festival

Green Fest Banner NYCWhen we think of festivals, we oftentimes think of a community celebration – typically centered on music, food, or art. So it’s apropos that the “largest and longest-running sustainability and green living event” in America is the Green Festival®. Attendees enjoy music, food, and art as well as education and “green” products/services. Over the past 13 years it’s grown into more than a festival – it’s Festival Plus.

Green Festival visits five U.S. cities each year: New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. Chicago’s Navy Per is the next stop, with more than 250 businesses showing their wares over three days. We’ve attended several times in Washington.

Here are the five reasons it’s worth going.

 1. Green Festival Exhibit Floor DCSustainable Stuff. I’m always amazed at the range of exhibitors and presentations as well as the quality of the food and products in the marketplace. On the exhibit floor, there’s everything from Ford showing its latest electric and hybrid cars to a small natural soap maker called The Fanciful Fox. You’ll see brands you know, such as Clif Bar, and many you don’t. We talked with some of the vendors who were still operating out of their homes. And there are many free samples!

2. Ideas. The event is also a great chance to learn new things about living sustainably. The upcoming Chicago event, for example, has almost 50 speakers – including authors, filmmakers, politicians, musicians, and scientists. Ralph Nader spoke at the Washington event. There were 83 speakers at the recent Los Angeles festival. Topics range from gardening to yoga to solar power.

GFCommunityAward3. Awards. Green Festival offers a Community Award at each location – a $5,000 grant awarded to a deserving local non-profit, chosen by the public on-site at the festival and online. Selected at the Washington D.C. event was The Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, which is dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the Washington, DC area.

4. Low Cost. Admission is reasonable and family friendly at only ten bucks per person (16 and under free, discounts to seniors and students). Volunteers enjoy free admission.

Kids Activities NYC5. Children and Adult Friendly. There’s a play area, puppet shows, dancing, plus plenty of products geared to children. And with kids (and adults like me) it’s always great to have a ready source of inexpensive and tasty food (some spicy!) nearby. Plus fashion shows, musical performances, and more for the grownups.

Green Festival is a fun way to learn more about sustainable living, through food, music, art, shopping, and discussions.

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My Colonoscopy was Not a Pain in the Ass

Today I had my first colonoscopy.

While I was unable to live tweet about it, like Michael Dubin, the Chairman and CEO of Dollar Shave Club just did (#DSColon), here’s my experience.

But Why?

While I had no symptoms of problems “down there”, after listening to many doctors recommendations and reading, and because of my age, and because Katie Couric is my favorite TV news person, I decided to get it done. Yet like many, I had hesitated for several years to have the test. I eat a vegetarian diet and have for 37 years. There’s no family history and I take pretty good care of myself.

colon diagram

However, I also didn’t want to have something bad show up later that could have been found in this test. Plus – it’s National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month here in the U.S.!

So I evaluated the evidence, alternatives, and risks. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently issued a report noting that comparative effectiveness data have shown at-home stool tests to be equivalent to colonoscopies at catching cancer early in patients who don’t have additional risk factors. Another option is the Flexible Sigmoidoscopy to check the lower 1/3 of the colon. However, the colonoscopy allows direct viewing and medical analysis of the entire colon with the option to remove polyps or cancers; plus it’s a common, well-practiced procedure. I decided that the discomfort was a small price to pay for either potential outcome. More about the discomfort later.

Colon cancer is currently the third leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. The test is credited with helping significantly lower rates of colorectal cancer deaths. Overall, incidence rates decreased by approximately 3% per year during the past decade (2001–2010). Notably, the largest drops occurred in adults aged 65 and older. For instance, rates for tumors located in the distal colon decreased by more than 5% per year. In contrast, rates increased during this time period among adults younger than 50 years. Colorectal cancer death rates declined by approximately 2% per year during the 1990s and by approximately 3% per year during the past decade. Progress in reducing colorectal cancer death rates can be accelerated by improving access to and use of screening and standard treatment in all populations.

Source: CA Cancer J Clin 2014;64:104–117. © 2014 American Cancer Society.

Unfortunately, screening rates remain low for people poor and uninsured. Yet according to the CDC, “Where feasible, the 25 states and 4 tribes in CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program provide colorectal cancer screening and follow-up care to low-income men and women aged 50–64 years who are underinsured or uninsured for screening, when resources are available and there is no other payment option. Colorectal cancer screening tests may be covered by your health insurance policy without a deductible or co-pay.”

Only Try This at Home

My prep was simple. I stopped eating raw fruit, raw veggies, corn, nuts, and bran 5 days prior to the procedure. The day before the procedure I drank only clear liquids – no milk or pulp juices allowed. I was able to enjoy my morning coffee! And later I had vegetable broth for lunch adding water an clear juices the rest of the day.

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Bisacodyl, USP 5 mg

At 4pm the real fun started. My doctor’s regimen included:

  1. Taking four Bisacodyl, USP 5 mg tablets (brand name Ducolax®; I used the less expensive but identical generic TopCare® brand).
  2. An 8.3 ounce bottle of Polyethylene Glycol 3350 Powder (brand name Miralax®; I used the TopCare® brand) dissolved in 64 ounces of clear liquid. Drank in 8-ounce portions every 15-30 minutes.
  3. And the final course of this fancy dinner was four more Bisacodyl, USP 5 mg tablets.
Polyethylene Glycol 3350 Powder
Polyethylene Glycol 3350 Powder

For me, the end time of this laxative overdose was around 7:30pm. I was expecting some “action” more quickly than it happened; it wasn’t until after 8:30pm that I became a Jack-in-the-Box, jumping up from watching TV to rush to the bathroom. It was not painful – I had some gas and boating but no pain from the “Spring cleaning” that continued through the night until about 5am. I didn’t get much sleep, and when I did snooze, I dreamt about being in a place with no working toilets.

By Now I’m More than Ready

My wife and I hit the road at 7am for the 7:30am scheduled arrival across town. Inside the gastrointestinal endoscopy facility they verified my identity and insurance. (Not sure why anyone would commit fraud to get a colonoscopy.) At 7:45am they called me back to a prep area with sliding curtains and a hospital bed.

I undressed, put on the blue gown, put my clothes in a bag, and lied down. Soon a nurse arrived to ask me my weight, age, medicines, when I last ate & drank, etc. Took my heart rate and blood pressure. “Are you nervous?” she asked, “Your blood pressure is a little high.” I answered, “yes” and thought who isn’t nervous doing this the first time? She then inserted the anesthesia catheter, while another nurse attached two sticky wired pads on my left side to monitor my heart.

I then waited 30 minutes or so while the doctor finished the previous procedure that took longer than expected. The anesthesiologist arrived and asked if I was allergic to any meds and explained that he would give me Propofol, after which I would get the procedure and then wake up without feeling the procedure or remembering anything. (There are other sedation alternatives that don’t put you completely “under”, so that is something to discuss with your doctor.) He wheeled me into another room. Seconds later I saw the doctor.

The anesthesiologist told me the Propofol would sting going in, but it didn’t. Then the procedure was performed; reportedly – for some strange reason the doctor started at the end …

You’re Not in Kansas Anymore

I had a colonoscopy and all I got was these lousy photos

The next thing I knew, I opened my eyes to see my beautiful wife standing next to me.  I barely recall that she asked me what I wanted to eat and I quickly answered, “the buffet at the casino.”

The doctor came by in a few minutes to walk me through the results, with photos, which indicated nothing bad. He said return in 7 years for another looksie. When I told him about my vegetarian diet, the doctor winced and said, “well you’re doing better than me on THAT.” Soon I was dressed and outa there.

The doctors said I could eat anything afterwards, but didn’t have time for the casino. So we went to iHop and ate breakfast; iHop never tasted so good. Now I’m home. Nothing hurts except my throat, apparently because of oxygen used during the procedure. This is common.

I Reduced My Risk by Getting Screened

I feel good about my decision to be screened. Yes, some of it was unpleasant and scary but that’s all temporary.  Consider getting screened – it could save your life. Get more information at StopColonCancerNow.com and see some of the research discussed at the Cancer Prevention & Treatment Fund.

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4 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

There are several easy, but not obvious, ways people can reduce their carbon footprint.

carbon footprintEating locally grown food is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Buying local not only reduces the use of fossil fuels, it also helps the local economy and is typically healthier than eating food from distant lands. Local food is typically fresher, tastier, and uses fewer or no chemicals.

Unplugging electronics when not in use reduces the use of electricity in the home and workplace. Even when not in use, electronics that are plugged in use a small trickle of electricity, commonly called phantom load and standby power. Have you ever noticed those little green or red lights, or the always-on clock display? Over time, this waste adds up. Lawrence Berkeley National Labs estimates that as much as 10% of residential electricity use is from standby power, which is responsible for about 1% of global CO2 emissions.  One way to make the turn-offs easier is to use power strips and end the phantom use with one switch for multiple appliances or electronics.

A third way to reduce one’s carbon footprint is to reduce or avoid printing at the office and at home. Printing uses electricity as well as chemicals and paper. Much of the electricity used by printers, especially laser printers, is from standby mode. Instead of printing so much, review drafts on the computer screen and share documents online using a cloud-based service such as Google Drive, DropBox, or SharePoint. Also, Energy Star printers have lower standby electricity use.

Lastly, you can simply buy less stuff. Buying less by purchasing only what you need means you are simply not participating in the culture of overconsumption common is many western societies and directly linked to our individual carbon footprint.

Using these few easy steps, you can make meaningful progress toward reducing your carbon footprint.

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Is Earth Day Irrelevant?

earthday*304I’m not sure I like Earth Day anymore.

As I wrote last year, the Earth, our home, is a wondrous but closed system that warrants our appreciation and care every day.

Having one day designated for paying attention to our home seems token, a mere slogan.

  • Earth Day gives Google a topic for its changing home page image/doodle.
  • Earth Day provides pundits with a platform to discuss progress and failings.
  • Earth Day means that activists turn up the volume because people might be listening more today than other days.

Yet the state of the Earth is not a passing news headline, a curiosity worth only a quick glance, or a snapshot image in a line of our views of cute animals and celebrity nonsense. The Earth is our home, without which there is nothing else. And an endless stream of data and analysis is showing that we are not properly caring for our home.

Recently, we polled people, asking, “What’s the most important action we can take as individuals to live a green/sustainable lifestyle?”

  • Buy less stuff
  • Buy local stuff
  • Recycle
  • Eat less meat/eat non-GMO
  • Turn down the heat and a/c
  • Drive a hybrid vehicle or drive less
  • Other (leave a comment)

One third of the 35 respondents picked Recycle, with the remainder scattering their top choice amongst the other actions. While we can argue the relative merits of all of these actions, it seems to me that in a closed system, reducing use is most important.

While recycling is helpful, it is really a misnomer because the economics are such that recycled materials are usually turned into something different; meaning recycling is usually really downcycling. According to the Dictionary of Sustainable Management, a project of the alumni and students of the Presidio Graduate School,

Most recycled industrial nutrients (materials) lose viability or value in the process of recycling. This means they can only be used in a degraded form for components other than their original use. White writing paper, for example, is often downcycled into materials such as cardboard and cannot be used to create more premium writing paper.

It’s not that recycling is bad, but that its value is perceived to be higher than it really is. If I don’t buy the bottled water, there is no plastic to recycle or otherwise be concerned with. In our daily lives, it is the consumption choices that most affect the Earth, not what happens to our consumption leftovers.

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Google’s Earth Day 2013 graphic

Whether you agree that climate change is a problem, or think that a consumption economy is essential to well being, we must move towards caring for the Earth every day, including today. Our collective health, our survival depends on paying attention to what we do and the consequences of our actions (or inaction).

So, Earth — Happy Earth Day – some attention is better than none! We’ll continue to work on thinking about you every day.

 

 

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AT&T is Wrong. More is NOT Better. Mindful Consumption is Better.

AT&T’s popular commercial “More is Better” not only exploits children, it promotes the ill-founded and overly simplistic concept that more is always better. Really? Better for whom? Many people don’t need faster phone network service or don’t want to pay more money for faster speeds. Some can’t even afford to own a cellular phone or subscribe to such services.

AT&T More is Better campaign

Some people practice mindful consumption and don’t buy everything we’re encouraged to consume. These phone companies work daily to convince us that more is better – faster network, more Gs (we’re up to 4G – wow!), more apps, larger screens, lighter devices, longer battery life, higher resolution, better cameras.

Meanwhile, where do cell phones go when they stop working and are discarded by their owners? In the U.S. in 2010, 152 million mobile phones were disposed of, with 11% of those recycled. In the UK and Europe, over 105 million mobile phones are discarded each year, according to a recent report by Mobiles2Money.co.uk. The phones contain palladium, gold, silver, and copper as well as plastics, glass, and ceramics. According to the EPA, some of the internals of phones are hazardous to the environment when tossed into landfills. “EPA is very concerned about ensuring the proper management of used electronics and has undertaken important work to increase the collection and responsible recycling of used electronics.” We need to recycle phones more than we do today.

This ad promotes the idea that even children inherently know that more is better. Mindless consumerism is in part the result of the assumption that more is better. However, always wanting and taking more, while there isn’t enough to go around, is short sighted and destructive. Sustainability comes from mindful consumption in which we each take what we need. Yet our modern society expects us to want more and take more when we are able. We need to adjust our thinking – more is not better when it comes to consumption.

To be better stewards of our planet requires us to change our thinking. If we can use what we need, and improve inefficiencies in our processes, we can sustain a larger population and potentially close the gap between the overabundance some enjoy and the shortages elsewhere. A circle of children who appear to be privileged  is not representative of the majority. How many of us would want to hear our children say, “We want more. We want more” as they sit in a group as portrayed in the AT&T spot? What would a circle of children in impoverished areas say? “We want some. We want some.”

So AT&T has it wrong. Faster is not always better. And more is certainly not always better.

It’s not complicated.

 

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