Eat Well Guide makes Eco-dining Easy

The Eat Well Guide from Sustainable Table is a great tool for finding green dining resources in your area. Discover co-ops, green wholesalers, farmers' markets and more. Sustainable Table also has kits for sale enabling anyone to spread the news about improving our food quality and the condition of our environment by making green food choices.

De-code Green Labels

Marketers have jumped on the green bandwagon. Furthermore, they're trying to steer it by utilizing a wide array of labels to boast a product's eco-friendly feature. Educate yourself by finding out what the labels mean and which are essentially meaningless. Consumer Reports teams up with Greener Choices to provide an eco-label search engine and evaluation.

For example, the label Free Range scores very poorly. According to the report, Free Range is not a meaningful or verified label. In poultry, the USDA requirement for free range chickens is that they have access to the outdoors, but there is no guideline for the duration of access.

There are some meaningful and verified labels out there. A highly rated label is Fair Trade Certified. It is rated highly meaningful, the meaning of the label is consistent, the standards are publicly available as is information about the organization.

Thrift Store Review: The Thrift Shop

Overall Rating: 3.6
Location: 3.5
Organization: 3
Selection: 3.5
Cleanliness: 3
Price: 5

A visit to The Thrift Shop at 525 Campus Street begins on the porch. There, free items lead shoppers into the hall and to the actual store. Some of the freebies were surprising, such as a beautiful antique suitcase. The store location on College Hill, Pullman, Wash. is great for college students, but not ideal for other members of the community.

The Thrift Shop is located in the bottom floor of the Community Congregational United Church of Christ and it is not very large. Because there isn't a lot of room and there are so many items, it seems cramped and a little disorganized.

The shop offers a wide selection of clothing, but the quality varies greatly. Besides clothing, the selection includes books and knick knacks, but does not include many furniture pieces.

Prices at the shop are extremely reasonable. Jeans and dresses are $3, blouses are $2 and t-shirts are $1.50.

The Thrift Shop is run by friendly volunteers and all of the items for sale have been donated. In effect, prices stay low and the proceeds go to support programs within the Community Congregational United Church of Christ including the Common Ministry- K House, Pullman Child Welfare, United Way, Community Action Center, Palouse Habitat for Humanity and the Council on Aging.

The Thrift Shop also has a voucher program for families in need. Organizations like Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse, the Community Action Center and Head Start distribute these vouchers which are valid for all items at the Thrift Shop.

The Thrift Shop is open Tuesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 4 p.m. They accept cash and check only. Be prepared for kind customer service from lovable volunteers.

Renewable Energy Purchases on the Rise

Corporations can wreak havoc on the environment. However, their large purchasing power gives them the opportunity to make a positive effect by buying renewable energy rather than using conventional, unsustainable power sources.

Consumers in all states have the opportunity to buy renewable electricity. In areas where consumers pick a utilities provider, they have the option to select a green energy provider. In other areas, green pricing programs are available. If nothing else, renewable energy certificates (RECs) are available to offset emissions, but these are more common for businesses.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "if the typical commercial facility switched to 100 percent renewable power or used RECs to offset emissions, this could amount to thousands oftons of emissions avoided each year."

Kohl's became the new #2 purchaser of renewable energy this week. Intel is still on top and PepsiCo is #3. For more information, read the article on the Environmental Leader Web site.

Organic Affordability

With chemicals like pesticides and growth hormones in food, people often wish they could eat organically. Stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts and Christina Aguilera do it, but not all of us have celebrity incomes. According to the Washington Post, buying organic food can be up to 40 percent more expensive than conventional food.

How can the rest of us afford to eat organic? Here are ten tips for eating organically on a budget:
  1. Buy locally- Shop at local farmer's markets. The food is often cheaper and fresher than grocery stores. Ask about bargains and seconds, fruits or veggies that may be discounted because they are misshapen. Shopping locally also helps sustain the local economy. Search for local farmer's markets at Local Harvest.
  2. Buy seasonally- Fruits and vegetables that are in season are more abundant and usually cost less.
  3. Buy in bulk- Stock up when items are on sale, especially canned items, cereals, dried fruits, beans, etc. Be careful about food expiring when storing items. Place items that have closest expiration date in the front of your cupboard.
  4. Freeze it- Freezing is a great options for fruits and vegetables. Buy things in season and freeze them for up to six months.
  5. Grow your own- Consider starting your own garden. Start with produce that is easy to grow and ask garden center employees which items grow best in your area and when to plant them.
  6. Clip coupons- Look for coupons in newspapers, fliers, at the store and online. Many product labels also include coupons for future purchases.
  7. Research- Look through advertisements to see which organic products are on sale at specific locations and plan your shopping trips accordingly. Research local farmer's markets and organic retailers-- Try the Organic Consumers Association.
  8. Become a member of a co-op or buying club-A food co-op is a member-owned business that provides groceries and products to its members at a discount. Many products are organic and from local family farms. Joining is as simple as signing up and paying dues. In a buying club, members purchase food and other organic products in bulk and then divide the order. It is a great way to get organic food cheap--often 30 to 40 percent off the retail price.
  9. Buy generic brands- Generic in-store organic brands are often much cheaper and usually contain the exact same ingredients as the name brand, just check the label.
  10. Start slow- If you cannot afford to go completely organic here are some foods you may want to consider buying organically because of pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, etc: Beef, chicken and pork; Dairy products (i.e. milk, cheese, butter); Strawberries, raspberries and cherries; Apples and pears; Tomatoes; Spinach and salad greens; Coffee; Potatoes; Stone fruits (i.e. peaches, nectarines and apricots); Grapes; Celery; Peppers.

Go Reusable

Did you know that more than 500 billion plastic bags are used annually (almost 1 million per minute)? According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. alone uses 100 billion plastic bags per year, with an estimated 12 million barrels of oil going into making them. Look here for more shocking statistics on plastic bags.

Because plastic bags cause so much waste, reusable grocery bags are becoming more popular and can be found in most stores. Many are also given away as promotional items for companies, organizations and causes.

As a college student who is good at getting free stuff, I have at least five reusable bags. I keep a few in my car so I can remember to take them into the grocery store with me. And when I am only buying one item at a store, I often request no bag and either throw the item in my purse or just carry it out.

Reusable bags are made from a variety of materials and fabrics and come in many different designs and colors. Here are a few examples:
1 Bag At A Time

Next time you go shopping, pay a few extra bucks to purchase the reusable bag and REUSE IT!

(And if you have a bunch of old plastic bags laying around-- RECYCLE THEM!)

Thrift Store Review: Palouse Treasures

Overall Rating: 4
Location: 4
Organization: 5
Selection: 3.5
Cleanliness: 3.5
Price: 3.5
(See explanation of categories below)

Throughout the next few months we will be reviewing local thrift stores. We will be using a five-point scale, five being the best in a given category.

Palouse Treasures is located at 1005 NW Nye St. in Pullman, Wash. It is visible from Grand Avenue, the main drag in Pullman. The store is a two-story establishment and its spacious layout and good organization makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. It offers a very large selection of items.

“This is my favorite thrift store because of its location, price and variety of kids clothes,” said Tanya Steward of Palouse, Wash. She has been shopping at Palouse Treasures for two years.

Palouse Treasures accepts all forms of payment, but most items cannot be returned. All electronics for sale have been tested in store; if they do not function after purchase they can be returned for store credit.

A non-profit organization, Palouse Treasures accepts goods on a donation only basis.

The store is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The categories include location, organization, selection, cleanliness and price. Location includes accessibility and visibility. Organization is based on the layout of the store and placement of items and goods. Selection includes quantity, quality and variety of products. Cleanliness will be based on the smell of the store and general upkeep. Price is that compared with other thrift stores.

-Reviewed and Written By Holly Luka and Erica VanNatta

Earth's Core Keeping WSU Students Warm This Winter

Geothermal energy, a renewable energy source, is an affordable and environmental-friendly alternative to fuel that Washington State University is using to heat and cool a residence hall.

Geothermal energy comes from the earth’s core. Most high temperature geothermal heat is harvested in areas close to tectonic plate boundaries where volcanic activity rises close to the earth’s surface, however, even cold ground contains heat that can be extracted with a geothermal heat pump.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, geothermal heat pumps are the most energy efficient, cost effective and environmentally clean systems for temperature control.

Due to recent advances in heat pump performance, geothermal energy is a rapidly growing market. Because it uses the earth’s natural heat, it is one of the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling technologies available.

WSU’s Olympia Avenue residence hall uses geothermal heating and cooling. Water pipes run under the residence hall into the adjacent play field that acts as the well field for geothermal heating and cooling. It provides water at a stable 50 degree temperature all year.

The pipes are filled with a glycol-water solution that remains the temperature of the earth it runs through. Then the solution brings that temperature back to the building to either heat it or cool it. In the summer the 50 degree water runs through the building to keep it cool and during the winter it goes through a heat exchanger to remove enough heat to keep the building warm. Instead of having to heat the water from 30 to 70 degrees, it only has to heat the water from 50 to 70 degrees.

Although most homes still use traditional furnaces and air conditioners, geothermal heat pumps are becoming more popular and should be strongly considered when building homes and businesses.

For more information and picutres of WSU's Olympia Avenue click here.

Eco + TP squared = Save our Forests

Sheryl Crow once suggested that we ration toilet paper to one square per visit. Easier than rationing, consumers can really make a huge impact by switching to eco-friendly disposable paper products. "If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper (500 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees," (Natural Resources Defense Council).

I recently bought Marcal toilet paper and I'm really impressed with the quality. The quilted hearts and sturdiness are its best attributes. The toilet paper could be softer, but I still prefer it to overly soft brands. The ultimate benefit, especially in this economy is that I bought the tp for less than the clear-cutting, common name brands.

Have you tried an eco-friendly disposable paper product yet? Please post a comment of which brand and its pros and cons.

Meatless Mondays

Michael Pollan spoke at WSU Wednesday night and among other ideas, touched the concept of Meatless Mondays. There is so much petroleum in our food system that an individual who eliminates meat from his/her diet once a week makes the same eco-impact as a driver switching from a Hummer to a Prius.

Grab some veggies and join our Facebook Event: Meatless Mondays

Also, become a fan of The Planet is my Friend!