Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sleep better knowing you have a green mattress

Guest post by Ellie Porter
Managing Editor |

What You Need to Know About Green Mattresses

It's easier now than ever before to choose a green mattress. The market is full of options for green mattresses, many of them online. As environmentally responsible innovation has grown, many mattress companies have introduced more sustainable materials and manufacturing practices that make it easier to sleep on a bed that's good not just for you, but the environment as well.

Green mattresses use natural and organic materials in the cover, comfort layers, and support core. Typically, natural or organic materials used in mattresses include natural latex, plant-based foam, organic cotton or wool, or fire socks made from cotton, thistle, wool, or Kevlar.

When shopping for a green mattress, look for standards including:

  • No chemical flame retardants (fire socks are an eco-friendly alternative)
  • Renewable resource materials, including natural latex, cotton, plant-based foam, and wool
  • Recycled materials, such as recycled fibers
  • Organic materials
  • Sustainable manufacturing practices, such as minimal water usage
  • Sustainable shipping practices, such as compact delivery boxes
  • Green mattress certifications

Green Mattress Certifications

Not all green claims are equal, and some mattress companies may exaggerate the eco-friendliness of their products. Although it's not possible to have a 100 percent natural or organic mattress, green mattresses typically have a 60 to 95 percent natural and organic content. But with green mattress certifications, you can verify some of the health and environmental claims made by mattress manufacturers.

Green mattress certifications include:

  • Global Organic Textile Standard: Minimum 70 percent organic materials
  • Global Organic Latex Standard: Minimum 95 percent organic latex
  • GreenGuard: VOC emissions in finished mattresses
  • USDA Organic: Organic raw materials such as rubber trees (latex) and cotton
  • OEKO-TEX Made in Green: Sustainable manufacturing processes
  • Cradle to Cradle: Multiple sustainable criteria
  • Global Recycled Standard: Environmentally healthy and sustainable manufacturing practices
  • OEKO-TEX Standard 100: Emission limits
  • CertiPUR-US: Polyfoam emission limits
  • Eco-Institut: Latex emission limits and chemical substances

Responsibly Disposing of Your Old Mattress

More than 50,000 mattresses end up in landfills each day, according to the Mattress Recycling Council. But up to 80 percent of each is made up of components that can be recycled, so it's never a responsible choice to simply throw away your old mattress. If you have an old one you no longer have a use for, there are options.

Donate Your Old Mattress

Used mattresses that are still in good condition can be donated. Consider passing your old bed on to a friend or family member, or listing it online. Contact local charities to find out if they accept used mattresses. Of course, make sure you call ahead and be sure that your old mattress is clean and in good working order.

Recycle Your Old Mattress

Mattresses that are no longer in good shape can be recycled. Metal and box springs can be sold for scrap and reused by steel mills. Wood can be recycled and used as a fuel source or chopped up for gardening use. Foam, fiber, and other soft materials can be recycled and used as well. Visit Earth911 to find recycling centers near you that can accept used mattresses.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

UK fund manager will name-shame-divest climate bad guys

Helena Morrissey, a large investment manager responsible for over $1 trillion in assets, has said she’s soon to name and shame and strip companies of funding if they aren’t doing enough for climate change.

"There comes a time when talk is over, and it's time to vote with our feet. Money talks as they say," Morrissey said at a conference in London on Monday. She emphasised the need for the financial sector to work together, driving change through sustainable investments, and said that these investments can produce both "profit and purpose." Many individuals don't invest in the market because of fear their money will be used for purposes they disagree with, Morrissey said. She suggested sustainable investing as a solution.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Vacuum ocean plastic...will it work?

You might have seen the TedTalk. Boyan Slat left school because he was so concerned about ocean plastic. His device will be deployed this summer. It will be interesting to see if it works.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

You can go to jail in Kenya for plastic bags

The UK is considering a ban on plastic straws and Q-tips with plastic. But the toughest plastic regulation of all is in Kenya:

 ...there are fines if you use a plastic bag and if business people are caught making or importing them, they actually face up to four years in jail.
Plastic straw and cotton bud ban proposed - BBC News US

Thursday, April 12, 2018

New tool: Zero Waste Events checklist and certification

When we tell people about our Sustainable Business Certification, we are often asked if we can certify events. We thought that was a cool idea, especially because of all the events we have in the area.

One of the first and most accessible actions is to make an event "zero waste" (defined in industry as at least a 90% diversion from landfill.) With a little planning and local resources, it's easily achievable.

Wouldn't it be great if the Sedona Film Festival, Yoga Festival, Native Plant Workshop, Art Festival, Marathon, Day of the Dead, Verde River Festival, Earth Day Celebration, weddings, etc., all produced virtually no waste?  

We could educate all who came about zero waste as an achievable goal.

We created Make Your Event Sustainable guide which includes a Zero Waste Events Checklist. If an event planner commits to all relevant practices (from the 16 zero waste practices), their event can be certified by the Sustainability Alliance.

We also have a host of local resources to help you, including people who can compost your food waste and rent you dishes.

Download the guide and learn of Verde Valley/Flagstaff resources here:

Book review: The Righteous Mind

Haight, Jonathan (2012) The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

This book takes a current look at brain science and evolutionary adaptations that have led us to the political divide in the US. The concepts have a chance of bridging the increasing divide.

Key concepts:

Elephant and the rider: The elephant represents our unconscious which is largely in control. The rider is our rational mind which tries to direct the elephant. Mostly it’s in service of the elephant, even if we don’t know it.

We’re 90% chimp/10% hive: Humans are still largely selfish/self-interested but can in certain circumstances act collectively. This capacity to come together was key to our evolution. Culture of course affects the degree to which we focus on individual freedom or collective well-being. To me one of the most interesting perspectives is how religion—the function of it, separate from whatever beliefs—is designed to create community, to sacrifice for the group and dampen selfishness. There are ‘hive switches,’ actions that can help us move our focus from self to group. Examples include military marches, singing together, and sports, as well as religious practices.

Liberals and conservatives have different moral values: No surprise here, but he reinforces earlier research that shows that liberals focus on two:
·      care/harm
·      liberty/oppression
They are much more likely to care about people outside their group and want to ensure fair treatment.

Conservatives share those values but add 4 more:
·      Loyalty/betrayal (often expressed as loyalty to one’s own group, protecting the in-group, nationalism)
·      Authority/subversion (often expressed as a respect for God, leaders, military structure and service)
·      Sanctity/degradation (often expressed as a respect for God, the sanctity of life, hallowed places and practices)
·      fairness/cheating (often expressed as a respect for meritocracies and a concern about free-riders: why take money from someone who earned it and give it to people—welfare recipients—who have not.)

Without these structures, Conservatives worry that people may behave badly.

Fairness to liberals is about righting wrongs, removing sources of oppression. Conservatives’ version of fairness has to do with getting what you earn, and not getting what you haven’t. These tendencies are largely set at birth. Liberals are more interested in change, new things. Conservatives are suspicious of changing too much too fast. 

Haight’s point of view is that we need both of these perspectives: liberalism to open avenues to adaptation but conservatism to maintain structures that maintain a sense of community.

UPS consortium has transformed London with charging stations

UPS has set up charging stations so they can serve London without a drop of oil.

The technology enables UPS to increase the number of vehicles at its central London site from 65 to 170, its entire fleet in the capital. The company says this marks the beginning of the end for reliance on combustion engine-powered vehicles.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Young adults want to transform capitalism

According to this research, young adults have the worst opinion of capitalism in recent history. The current system isn’t fair. Some hardworking people can’t get ahead while well-connected, wealthy families prosper. But they don’t prefer socialism. Instead, they are advocating for worker owned enterprises.

I’ve long been a fan of worker owned cooperatives. The Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain are famous for providing prosperity, focusing on maintaining employment rather than profit margins. The US has many successful worker owned cooperatives too.

A few words of advice. If you have to choose decision making power or ownership, choose power. The United Airlines ESOP failed because it gave employees stock without any control.

Second, build systems to manage involvement and group decision making. Some people will need help stepping into this responsibility. You’ll need clear principles that guide decisions. In W,hy Teams Can Fail and What to Do About It, I document how I used to prepare staff. Balancing rights and responsibilities is key.

If you can’t imagine a workplace where frontline employees make major business decisions, I encourage you to read Maverick by Ricardo Semler, Flight of the Buffalo by Ralph Stayer, and this article about AES.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Portugal produced enough renewable energy in March for whole country

As the US dithers, other countries are moving ahead with renewable energy. Portugal just produced enough renewable energy last month to power the entire country. Way to go! Obrigada!

The group says renewable power produced in March was equal to 103.6 percent of electrical demand on mainland Portugal. (Portugal also includes several islands, which have separate energy systems.)
Fifty-five percent of that energy was produced through hydro power, while 42 percent came from wind. The country still used fossil fuels to balance out supply and demand.

Friday, April 6, 2018

New solar outpacing coal, gas and nukes combined

Good news: Solar is booming, according to a recent report.

According to a report from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, last year more solar capacity was installed around the world than net coal, gas, and nuclear plant capacity combined.
More good news: Transportation is slowly electrifying as battery prices drop.

2017 also saw the sale of 1.1 million electric vehicles (EVs), the report says. 

The bad news is that greenhouse gases are still increasing.

In 2017, global carbon emissions rose 2 percent, also mostly due to China's explosive growth and its reliance on gas-fired generation through a low-precipitation year that hurt hydroelectric generation.

We just have to keep working at it.

Pets may represent 30% of meat production

Whether or not you’re vegetarian, your pooch likely eats more meat than you do. We all know that animal agriculture is hard on the planet. Now there’s a start up that might provide a healthy faux-meat  alternative.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Pedestrian/bike trails = Economic development

What is the value of building infrastructure for people to get out of their cars? In small towns, it can mean the difference between having only a thriving gas station to having a thriving community.

In cars, people tend to speed by smaller towns and rural areas, and spend money along the way only on gas and quick snacks. Trails support longer stays and more diverse spending, advocates say. “The reason there could be a great restaurant somewhere is because of a trail,” says Dennis Markatos-Soriano, the executive director of the East Coast Greenway. The popular Elroy-Sparta trailthrough Wisconsin, for instance, brings $535 million from tourism annually, and the near-constant stream of bikers, horseback riders, and hikers supports a network of local hotels, restaurants, and shops. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dubuque integrates equity into their sustainability program

When you think of leaders in sustainability in the US, we often think of the coasts, not the heartland. But Dubuque, Iowa earned a 4-star in the STAR sustainable communities certification. They've done better than most addressing some social inequities in their community, in particular, "seven specific equity issues: economic well-being, housing, education, health, safe neighborhoods, transportation, and arts/culture."

While city staffers were gathering data for STAR certification, a community effort called Inclusive Dubuque was also getting off the ground. This initiative brought together over 50 partners from businesses, nonprofits, schools, and government organizations to discuss equity issues and identify metrics to better understand the state of equity in Dubuque. The partnership’s work sessions provided an opportunity for the city to share the data and results from their STAR certification with residents and community partners.

You can review a case study here.

Monday, April 2, 2018

How do we finance sustainability?

Fixing climate change and other environmental messes will take money. Unfortunately our economy has long ignored the environment as part of the economy. Traditional economics pays no attention to stocks of natural resources and places no value on the “Commons,” things no one owns but we all need like air, oceans, etc. If no one owns “the environment” and it’s given no value, then who would pay to restore it?

A decade ago I was calling for green bonds. If building new roads or schools is consider a social benefit, eligible for municipal bond rates, then why couldn’t climate or environmental restoration projects also, regardless of who does the work: a corporation, NGO or municipality. The Catch 22 was that there was no income coming off of these projects to pay back the bond. Now, however, ecosystem services are now being valued and paid for. (For example, people who live along rivers can sometimes get paid for protecting or restoring them to maintain cool water temperatures or reduce flooding risk and erosion.)

A framework has just been proposed by an expert panel and is on its way to the EU. It includes a process for defining what is green.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Essential oils warning

Just because something is “natural” doesn’t always mean it’s safe to ingest or put on your body. Some essential oils have been tied to hormone disruption, creating breasts in boys.

Likely the concentration of essential oils is part of the problem. Concentrations are one of three critical concepts for understanding nature and sustainability.

Concentrations: Your houseplant needs a bit of fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) but it needs them in relative concentrations. Your body needs a bit of metals like zinc and iron that you find in multivitamins, but too much will make you sick. We’ve increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over 40% since pre-industrial levels. Concentrations matter.

Thresholds: Your plant will live with varying amount of water, but at some point, with too much or too little, it crosses a threshold and dies. Your body temperature may range from 98-104 but spend much time at 105 and you’re dead. At what point do greenhouse gases drive our climate into a completely different state? In any system there is a point at which it shifts into a different state, like a canoe. You can wobble back and forth but at some point you end up in the drink.

Feedback loops: Many of nature’s feedback loops are designed to maintain equilibrium. Your plant releases oxygen during the day as part of photosynthesis but the reverse happens at night. When your body gets hot, you sweat which helps to cool you.  But sometimes feedback loops amplify changes. Climate change reduces ice in the Arctic which increases absorption of the sun’s rays and it melts permafrost, both which increase warming more. Feedback loops and the built in delays are key to predicting the future and making things better, not worse. A common example is trying to adjust the shower with a hot and cold handle; the delay caused by water lines often cause you to scald or freeze until you get it right.

More evidence essential oils 'make male breasts develop' - BBC News US

Another reason to cook at home

Eating out can be expensive and portion sizes encourage over-eating. In addition, according to a recent study, people who eat out—regardless of where— may be ingesting some nasty chemicals, hormone-mimicking phthalates.

 On average, the study found, people who'd dined out -- at any type of restaurant or cafeteria -- had a phthalate intake that was 35 percent higher than people who'd eaten only home-prepared meals.