Sustainable Swimwear Options

Day 181 – Have you ever given any thought about your bathing suit and if it’s good for the environment? I have not. So, I figured it would be a good time to take a look at a few companies that have given a lot of thought about it.

Here are a few companies to start your research. They all use recycled material in the making of their swimsuits and give back to many amazing causes.

WOMEN

Do Good Swimwear – They are a small, minority women owned/ run swimwear brand that supports eco-friendly and ethical practices, and provides affordable, sustainably and ethically made swimsuits, made to last for seasons to come. Each swimsuit is made out of recycled materials using ocean waste (such as, fish nets, plastic bottles, and old nylons) which is then recycled and turned into soft and comfortable material, perfect for swimsuits. A portion of the profits from each sale goes to ocean conservation efforts (Surfrider Foundation, Coral Gardeners, and Oceana), planting a tree for carbon offsetting (onetreeplanted.org and Trees For the Future ), and towards girls/women’s mental health, education and life skill building (Tahanan Sta. Luisa and Women’s Global Empowerment Fund).

Sensi Graves – They utilize high-quality, UPF 50+, recycled fabrics from Spain, Italy and the US, which are designed to hold up over time. They produce in the USA with quality seamstresses. They use recycled packaging, compostable poly bags and hygienic liners. They’re also a 1% for the Planet member and donate 1% of sales to environmental causes.

Dippin Daisys – They offer women and children options. 95% of their swimsuits are are derived from recycled pre and post consumer nylon. They have a program called RE:PURPOSE which includes them taking swimsuits that have not sold and and tie dye them to give them a new look. They are based in Los Angeles and offer biodegradable packaging. They make donations that support the LGBTQIA+ community.

Patagonia – They have a wide range of outdoor clothing and accessories. However, they also offer men and women swimsuits. Patagonia uses recycled nylon for their swimwear and some suits are made in Fair Trade Certified factories as well. They are a 1% for the Planet member and donate to various environmental groups.

Jessica Rey Swimwear – They offer women and children options. Each garment is made in sweatshop-free factories in Los Angeles. All makers are paid fair, living wages. Their swimsuit fabric is made from 100% regenerated pre and post consumer waste. Each swimsuit helps turn discarded fish nets into durable swimsuits.

MEN

United by Blue – They offer man and women options. They are committed to using sustainable materials, creating a great-fitting, long-lasting product with the exclusive use of materials that are environmentally and ethically sourced. They are a B-Corporation. For every product purchased, United by Blue removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways. 

The Tropics – The Tropics produces men’s swim trunks using material made from recycled plastic bottles and also hosts monthly beach clean-ups in Miami, where the brand is based. They are also a proud 1% for the Planet member. 

Fair Harbor – They offer men and boy options. They make all of their signature beachwear from upcycled plastic bottles, for versatile comfort. They only work with ethical factories, which they visit regularly in-person.

prAna – They’re made with high performance recycled polyester spandex and are UPF 50+ rated. prAna is a longtime advocate of fair trade and sustainability. They’re a proud member of the Outdoor Industry Association’s Climate Action Corps, which means they’re part of a collective group of like-minded companies committed to measuring, planning, and reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and sharing their progress annually.

CHILDREN

Seasalt Kids – Their suits are made with recycled polyester and nylon fibers that were regenerated from post-consumer recycled materials, including plastic bottles and fishing nets salvaged from the ocean. They reduce the amount of waste in their production by eliminating unnecessary trims and upcycling fabric scraps into products, like scrunchies. They also package their product in compostable material. They are a 1% for Planet member.

Get out and enjoy the beach and feel good that you are wearing a suit that is helping keep our waterways clean.

Tomorrow, using the month of July to remove plastic from our lives.

Block Party: Tips for making it eco-friendly

Day 180 – One of the best ways to celebrate summer is having a block party. Gathering the neighbors for some food and fun has been a wonderful tradition shared by countless neighborhoods throughout the years. This year is extra special, since last summer we were not able to gather together.

Here are some suggestions on how you can have an amazing block party, while still being environmentally friendly.

  1. Don’t use disposable tablecloths – Invest in reusable tablecloths that can be used year after year. I found a great deal on tablecloths at Home Goods. There are also a variety of reusable tablecloths made from recycled material.
  2. Ditch the plastic cutlery – Not everyone has a plethora of kitchen cutlery to put out for guests. However, there are reusable options that can replace the typical disposable plasticware. Preserve is just one brand that offers reusable plasticware that can be used countless times. They are dishwasher safe and can be recycled through the companies take back program. Just make sure you tell your guests to not throw out the cutlery.
  3. Switch from disposable to reusable plates – Paper plates are very easy, but they do add to landfill waste. Choosing a reusable option is ideal. Preserve offers reusable plates. Like their cutlery, they are dishwasher safe and can be recycled, once they can no longer be used. They also offer compostable plates as do many other companies. If you must use disposable plates, always choose paper over styrofoam.
  4. No water bottles – A fraction of the plastic water bottles that end up in recycling, actually end up getting recycled. So, the best way to avoid this problem is to avoid using plastic water bottles. Try to use large containers to hold water and encourage your guests to bring a water bottle or glass to fill. You can also provide a reusable cup option, instead of the usual disposable SOLO cup. If you end up using SOLO cups, check out TerraCycles free recycling program. Aluminum cups are another plastic free option.
  5. Compost food waste – Check to see if any of neighbors are composting. If they are composting at home, they might be able to take a little extra. If they are commercial composting, they can request an additional bin or two to collect food waste from the block party. There’s no doubt block parties can produce a great deal of food waste. Many dishes sitting outside for numerous hours are usually not saved for future meals.
  6. Avoid the individual snacks – Try to purchase in bulk when buying snacks for your party. The packaging from individually wrapped snacks will add up. This type of packaging is not recyclable and will end up in the trash.
  7. Encourage neighbors to power off – Remind your neighbors to turn off lights and electronics while outside enjoying the block party. Block party day is the perfect excuse to unplug and get outdoors to spend time with the neighbors.
  8. Have recycling stations – If you will have items that can be reused or recycled, be sure to have a few places where neighbors can drop off those items and avoid putting them in the trash.
  9. Avoid using paper towels – Block party clean up is inevitable. Consider using reusable rags instead of paper towels. This will considerably cutback your waste.
  10. Have fun! – Keep your fingers crossed for good weather, enjoy the day and feel good about putting the extra effort into making your block party environmentally friendly.

Tomorrow, sustainable bathing suit options.

Environmental Working Group: Keeping you safe from hidden health dangers

Day 174 – Since 1993, the Environmental Working Group has shined a spotlight on outdated legislation, harmful agricultural practices and industry loopholes that pose a risk to our health and the health of our environment. EWG’s team of scientists, policy experts, lawyers and communications and data experts work tirelessly to reform our nation’s broken chemical safety and agricultural laws. So, our health and environment are protected.

The areas of EWG’s focus consists of the following:

  1. Food and Water – Whether you’re trying to decode labels at the grocery store or understand the health effects of toxic chemicals in your drinking water – EWG is here to help. 
  2. Farming and Agriculture – EWG pushes for common-sense farming practices that protect our drinking water and produce healthier food.  
  3. Personal Care Products – While other countries have taken action to protect their citizens from chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t even require the basic safety testing of ingredients in personal care products before they’re used. EWG is making sure you know what you’re putting on your skin.
  4. Household and Consumer Products – EWG helps find answers so you know what’s in the products you love.  
  5. Energy – EWG is working to advance the clean energy economy. They harness expert analysis and data-driven resources to show how clean energy protects our health and the world we’re leaving our children, while putting millions of Americans to work in good-paying jobs. 
  6. Family Health – With breakthrough research and expert insights you can count on, EWG takes the stress out of finding safe, healthy and toxic-free choices for your family.  
  7. Toxic Chemicals – EWG has spent decades working to get toxic chemicals out of the food we eat, the water we drink, the clothing we wear and the goods we purchase.
  8. Regional Issues – They spotlight how local government and industry activities in California and the Midwest may affect your health and your environment.  

The existence of the Environmental Working Group should give everyone a peace of mind. They are doing all the hard work for us. Be sure to check out their online database that scores tens of thousands of personal care products for human health and safety. Their consumer guides score cleaning products, food and drinking water and give advice on home products, all with the goal of empowering you to live a healthier life in a healthier environment.

Tomorrow, going over packaging myths.

Why Are Rainforests Important?

Day 173 – We lose 40 football fields worth of rainforests every minute. In less than 10 years, there may only be 10% of rainforest left. We have already lost over 9 million acres.

So, why should we care about the rainforests?

  1. Rainforests absorbs carbon dioxide and release the oxygen that we depend on for our survival. The absorption of this CO2 also helps to stabilize the Earth’s climate.
  2. Rainforests help to maintain the world’s water cycle by adding water to the atmosphere through the process of transpiration which creates clouds.
  3. Tropical rainforests contain over 30 million species of plants and animals. That’s half of the Earth’s wildlife and at least two-thirds of its plant species. There’s thousands of species that have not been identified, yet.
  4. Many indigenous people have been living in harmony with the rainforest for thousands of years, depending on it for their food, shelter and medicines. They are often forced to move away from their homes to unfamiliar places, sometimes even being killed in the process.
  5.  it is believed that the Amazonian forests alone store over half of the Earth’s rainwater. Without rainforests continually recycling huge quantities of water, feeding the rivers, lakes and irrigation systems, droughts would become more common, potentially leading to widespread famine and disease.
  6. Soil in the rainforest is very poor in nutrients. What little nutrients it has comes from decaying trees and plants. However, if trees are removed from the forest, the nutrients are removed with it. The unprotected soil is then simply washed away in heavy rains, causing blockages and floods in lowland rivers, while leaving upland rivers dry.
  7. More than 25% of our modern medicines originate from tropical forest plants. However, we have only learned how to use 1% of these amazing plants.

What can we do to help protect the rainforests?

  1. Many rainforest are cleared to make room for cattle. Reducing your beef intake and buying your meat from local farms that use sustainable practices will help.
  2. Choosing products that are responsibly sourced or made from recycled materials can go a long way to curbing tropical deforestation. You can also refrain from purchasing products from companies who score poorly in terms of eliminating deforestation from their supply chains.
  3. It’s best to buy less. But when you do buy, choose companies that donate to environmental causes.There are hundreds of companies – specializing in a variety of products – that give back to the environment. Certified B Corporations has narrowed down some of the best.
  4. Buying artisanal and fair trade products made by indigenous peoples is a unique and effective way to protect rainforests and sustainable livelihoods.
  5. Reduce your carbon footprint. Drive less, take public transportation, turn down your home thermostat (even a couple degrees makes a big difference!), turn off lights and electronics when not in use, and avoid unnecessary air travel, can all help reduce carbon emissions.
  6. Whenever you cannot reduce, you can mitigate by supporting projects that offer carbon emissions reductions by keeping forests standing.
  7. Share what you know. The more people that know what is happening to rainforests and the indigenous communities who rely on them, the more likely they are to join and support the cause.

So, on this World Rainforest Day make a choice to do something to help protect the rainforests.

Tomorrow, an organization that you most likely have not heard about, but has been working hard to keep you safe.

What does a Circular Economy look like?

Day 172 – On Day 96, I wrote about the circular economy. However, I believe this topic deserves more attention. So, I’m writing again about the importance of a circular economy and what needs to be done to achieve one.

Sadly, 62% of consumers say that they are unfamiliar with the term “circular economy”. To better understand a circular economy, we need to understand a linear economy. In the linear economy, resources are extracted and turned into products that are disposed of at the end of their useful life. Many think that a circular economy is the same thing as recycling. Though, recycling is important, a circular economy involves so much more.

“The circular economy promotes the use of as many biodegradable materials as possible in the manufacture of products -biological nutrients- so they can get back to nature without causing environmental damage at the end of their useful life. When it is not possible to use eco-friendly materials -technical nutrients: electronics, hardware, batteries… – the aim is to facilitate a simple uncoupling to give them a new life by reintroducing them into the production cycle and compose a new piece. When this is not possible, it will be recycled in a respectful way with the environment.” – ActiveSustainability.com

In order for a circular economy to work, we need companies in critical sectors to improve their processes to make an impact.

  1. The Built Environment: Provide green renovation and the upgrade of buildings; improve building material recycling infrastructure.
  2. Plastics: Provide innovative alternatives and recycled packaging; improve the collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure.
  3. Fashion: Create rental and resale business models for clothing; improve the collection, sorting, and recycling infrastructure.
  4. Food: Support farmer transition to regenerative agriculture; support food surplus and by-production collection and redistribution.

Consumers will also need to take action to support a circular economy.

  1. Buy less. Don’t just buy less stuff, buy less electricity; less house; fewer, smaller cars. Take only what you need.
  2. Buy better. When you shop, buy the best quality you can afford or buy secondhand. Prioritize quality over quantity.
  3. Use what you buy more. It’s not about how long something sits in your closet or garage before you pass it on. It’s about making full use of the resources you consume. Wear out your clothes, repair household items and refresh instead of replacing dated décor. And when you can’t get any more use out of an item, recycle it whenever possible.

Shifting to the circular economy would change the trajectory of our climate crisis and growing economic instability. Now is the moment to invest in a circular economy model. If everyone embraces this opportunity, the next generations will be able to enjoy the economic, environmental and societal benefits of sustainable living.

Tomorrow, reasons why we should be protecting the rainforests.

Summer Vacation: There is no break from caring about the planet

Day 171 – It’s the first day of summer and with that comes summer vacation! Whether, you enjoy the warmth of the sun on a sandy beach or the cool shade of a forest full of trees, it’s important that we make sure to care about the environment while we are out enjoying it. Throughout this year this blog has given many suggestions on how to be more environmentally friendly within your home. However, we need to make sure we are carrying the practices over to our time away from home, as well. Even though we may be on vacation, we can’t take a break from caring about the planet.

Here are a few suggestions from Earth911 to make your next trip an environmentally friendly one.

  1. Avoid the disposable items. Pack a coffee cup, water bottle, drinking cup, and reusable utensils.
  2. Don’t depend on the hotel to provide you with toiletries. Take a little time and pack what you will need on a trip. You will most likely be able to use the same items for your next trip and the one after that.
  3. If staying at a resort, be sure to venture out to experience the local culture. Visit and shop at these local businesses. Dollars spent within these communities will go a lot further to help support the local people.
  4. While on vacation, try to walk or bike to places. Not only will it allow you to see and experience things you would not have the opportunity to from a car, but it’s also helpful to the environment.
  5. If you hike or bike on your trip, be sure to stay on the designated paths. Your feet and bicycle tires can destroy a great deal of plant life. Which can then lead to erosion problems.
  6. Leave what you find. It is always tempting to take a souvenir from a trip. However, removing things from nature can be very detrimental to the ecosystem. Take out your camera instead and grab a picture.
  7. Respect the wildlife. Observe them from a distance and try to keep your presence unknown. Unless you have gotten the attention of a bear or mountain lion, in that case, be loud and obnoxious.
  8. No matter where you go, be sure to dispose of waste properly. If you can not find a proper place to dispose your waste, then be sure to take it with you. Don’t leave anything behind. Even burning trash in the campfire is not a good option. Waste that does not burn completely can be bad for wildlife.

Summer vacation should be fun and enjoyable. For some that comes in the form of relaxation. For others it’s nonstop action. Whatever the case may be, the environment needs to be respected and protected at all times. Be sure you are doing your part to be good stewards of the environment, even while away from home.

Tomorrow, a deeper dive into what it means to have a circular economy.

An Inside Look at S.C.A.R.C.E.

Day 169 – On Day 48, I wrote about SCARCE ( School & Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education). They have been around for 31 years and are making a difference in their community and countless others in the state of Illinois and beyond.

The tour started in the area designated for teachers and non-profits. There was an amazing collection of text books, workbooks, reading books and supplies for the classroom. Teachers can take a box supplied by SCARCE and fill it up with the items they need. Each box only costs $5.

We then moved on to area where they accept all their donations. I have been on the other side of the door, dropping off items collected at the Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycle Popup. It was interesting to see how they handled such a large volume of donations. The main ingredients to their success are volunteers and major organizational skills. There is a place for every item they receive. If they don’t have a place, they will look for one. If they don’t accept an item you are looking to part with, they will help you find where that item can go. If it exists, SCARCE will most likely know about it.

Next to the donation drop-off area, is a section of the building that absolutely blew my mind. I was not impressed by the actual space, but by what SCARCE was preventing from entering the landfill. Huge boxes of brand new books, box after box. Books that would have been tossed out because they were not purchased at Target or Walmart (or similar stores). Thankfully, one of the companies responsible for taking back books that were not bought, decided that it would be better to donate the books than it would be to throw them out. To think, this is a normal practice, carried out by countless other companies. Now, some of those books will make it into the hands of kids that need them most.

We were shown a room where they film their educational webinars and podcast. It was then on to a large room, where they conduct their onsite educational programs. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, they have not had a chance to really use the space. However, with restrictions lifting, they are excited to start inviting back groups. Students, mom groups, scout troops and various other organizations can learn about a variety of environmental topics during the classes. Everything from renewable energy, importance of rain barrels, effects of erosion, composting and recycling are covered, along with so much more!

The last stop was the scarce-ly used books and records section. The public is welcome to peruse this area, for LP records, CDs/DVDs, and YA/adult fiction and non-fiction books. The collection is quite expansive.

It’s crazy to think that there are not more organizations in the state or even the country like SCARCE. They get donations from all over the country and even outside the country. As Beverly (staff member and daughter of the founder of SCARCE, Kay McKeen) said during the tour, “What we do here is not rocket science. This could be replicated around the country and the world.”

Thankfully, SCARCE exists and continues to make the world a better place. As they stress in their message to all the people they help and educate, “If everyone did a little to help the environment, then it would add up to be a very significant difference.”

Tomorrow, environmentally friendly bug spray.

Chicago Alderperson Environmental Score Card

Day 168 – We tend not to give much attention to what our elected officials are doing, until a decision made by our alderperson directly affects us. I know I have been guilty of this. However, when it comes to the environment, we should all be paying attention.

For the first time, the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) has released an Environmental Scorecard for the Chicago City Council. Scores are based on the environmental impact of each alderperson’s voting record over the last two years. 

“For the first time, you can see whether your alderperson has used their power in the City Council to protect you, plants, animals and our environment or whether they used their power to aid big polluters and dirty fossil fuel special interests instead.” – IEC

Here’s how scores are tabulated.

For each bill, alderpersons are evaluated on whether they voted with the pro-environment position (“+”) or against it (“-“). For bills that the environmental community supported, a YES vote is a + and a NO vote is a -. For bills that were opposed, a NO vote is a + and a YES vote is a -. The votes are then tallied, and an overall score is calculated. For instance, someone who voted pro-environment on six bills and against four bills is given a 60% score.

The only votes not counted were those when an alderperson had an excused absence (noted in the chart as “A” ), which generally meant that they were not present in city council on that day due to an illness or other unexpected circumstances. Alderpersons who had absences were scored according to the other votes they cast.

When an alderperson is present in city council on the day of a vote but fails to cast theirs, we have counted it the same as a “no” vote on the ordinance. This circumstance is noted in the voting chart as “NV” and counted the same as a “+” when this action supports the pro-environment position. It is indicated as “nv” and counted as “-” when it does not help the pro-environment position.

Click HERE to view the list of ordinances and how your alderperson scored on environmental issues.

“The Chicago Environmental Scorecard is published by the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) for purposes of public education. It provides a record and analysis of votes in the Chicago City Council on a wide range of environmental and conservation ordinances to create a better-informed citizenry.

Since 1975, the Illinois Environmental Council has worked to safeguard Illinois—its people, its plants and animals,
and the natural systems on which all life depends by building power for people and the environment. Representing over 100 environmental organizations in the state, IEC carries out its mission to advance public policies that create healthy environments across Illinois through education, advocacy, and movement building.” –
IEC

I was happy to find out that my alderperson, Matt Martin (47th Ward) scored a 100. How did your alderperson score?

Tomorrow, a summary of my behind the scenes tour at SCARCE.

Even Wind Energy has Waste

Day 167 – When we think of renewable energy sources, we usually think of clean, waste free options. Sadly, even sustainable energy sources can create waste. According to a study by University of Cambridge (2017), turbine blades are set to account for 43 million tons of waste by 2050. Most blades end up in landfills, because they are hard to recycle.

Thankfully, wind turbine maker Vestas, unveiled new technology which it says enables wind turbine blades to be fully recycled, avoiding the dumping of old blades. Using the new technology the glass or carbon fiber is separated from the resin and then chemicals further separate the resin into base materials, that are “similar to virgin materials” that can then be used for construction of new blades. 

The project aims to develop the technology for industrial scale production within three years and also sees potential for the technology to be used for airplane and car components.

If we are to fully embrace a world where renewable energy sources are common place, we need to start finding ways to recycle all the materials involved in harnessing these sources of energy. Sending turbine blades and solar panels to the landfill will not help our situation.

Tomorrow, checking to see if your alderperson is doing his/her part in protecting the environment.

The Power of Wind Energy

Day 166 – It’s Global Wind Day!

“It is a day for discovering wind energy, its power and the possibilities it holds to reshape our energy systems, decarbonize our economies and boost jobs and growth.” – globalwindday.org

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy created a list of benefits that wind power offers.

  1. Wind power is cost-effective. Land-based utility-scale wind is one of the lowest-priced energy sources available today
  2. Wind creates jobs. The U.S. wind sector employs more than 100,000 workers, and wind turbine technician is one of the fastest growing American jobs.
  3. Wind enables U.S. industry growth and U.S. competitiveness. New wind projects account for annual investments of over $10 billion in the U.S. economy.
  4. It’s a clean fuel source. Wind energy doesn’t pollute the air like power plants that rely on combustion of fossil fuels.
  5. Wind is a domestic source of energy. The nation’s wind supply is abundant and inexhaustible.
  6. It’s sustainable. Wind is actually a form of solar energy. For as long as the sun shines and the wind blows, the energy produced can be harnessed to send power across the grid.
  7. Wind turbines can be built on existing farms or ranches. Wind power plant owners make rent payments to the farmer or rancher for the use of the land, providing landowners with additional income.

Even though wind energy has many benefits there are also challenges.

  1. Wind power must still compete with conventional generation sources on a cost basis. Some locations may not be windy enough to be cost competitive.
  2. Good land-based wind sites are often located in remote locations, far from cities where the electricity is needed.
  3. Turbines might cause noise and aesthetic pollution. Concern exists over the noise produced by the turbine blades and visual impacts to the landscape.
  4. Wind plants can impact local wildlife. Birds have been killed by flying into spinning turbine blades. Most of these problems have been resolved or greatly reduced through technology development or by properly siting wind plants. 

Overall, the pros of windy energy outweigh the cons.

Take a little time today to celebrate the wind as a renewable resource and learn about how it is helping in the fight to decrease greenhouse emissions.

Tomorrow, recycling those giant turbine blades.