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Monday, June 30, 2008

A Green 4th

by James Stevenson, Extension Educator, Urban Sustainability, Pinellas County Extension

In 1968, a rebellious and ostensible “counter-culturist” was arrested for wearing a shirt that resembled the American flag. My, how times have changed! It is time to get out that patriotic garb, hoist Old Glory and celebrate our Nation’s birth.

On Friday many of us will take part in an American tradition: firing-up the grill, inviting friends over, eating together and celebrating with a sky full of gunpowder. How can we make this holiday more green? Here are some tips:

Dispense with the disposables, and recycle
Forget the throw-aways, use real plates, cups, and cloth napkins—just think of the red, white and blue possibilities, ready for Flag Day, Memorial Day, Presidents’ Day, etc.! If your plans include a cook-out, bring these items along, or request that your guests bring their own. Start a patriotic re-usables competition; whoever has the best non-disposable spread gets to belly-up to the grill first. Make sure to provide recycling containers for the inevitable paper, aluminum, and plastic detritus associated with eating outside of home.

Eat Local
Right now, Florida farmers are looking at a “dry spell” with crops (and cash) in an unenviable holding pattern. Some produce is at the end of its season, some just at the beginning. According to Fresh From Florida, the following foods are ripe for the picking right now in the Sunshine State: avocado, cantaloupe, green beans, green peppers, mangoes and watermelon. We all know the reasons for eating locally-grown foods; supporting Florida’s farmers, lack of transportation issues, and freshness among them. For more information, see this UF site:

Be Travel-Conscious
On Monday, June 30th CNN reported the national average price for a gallon of gas had risen to $4.086, with 33 states paying more than $4 a gallon. (source : CNN,com). Do you really think it is wise to fill-‘er-up, drive 20 miles, use petroleum-based cutlery, squirt oil onto a heap of charcoal and grill meat from another country right now? Consider your alternatives: Invite the neighbors around, pool resources to save everyone on expense, walk to a local park. Just think before you hop in the SUV.

Grill Green
Nationwide, the estimated 60 million barbecues held on the Fourth of July alone consume enough energy—in the form of charcoal, lighter fluid, gas, and electricity—to power 20,000 households for a year. Tristram West, a research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory composed a study for the U.S. Department of Energy, and found that this one annual celebration burns the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest and releases 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. What are the alternatives? Use a propane tank to make your patties sizzle. Try traditional charcoal made in a sustainable (read: old-fashioned) way; free from additives and unhealthy chemicals. There are several brands available now, proving that there is nothing new under the sun! Forget the petroleum fire-starters and use kindling (newspaper, yard-thinnings, etc.). What could be more rewarding than starting a fire from scratch to feed the tribe? It is in our DNA. For more information on grilling and nutrition, visit: Pinellas County Families and Consumer Sciences at

We at Pinellas County Extension wish you and yours a happy, safe and healthy Fourth of July, whatever your plans include.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Greenwashing: Be Aware

by Vestina F. Crayton, Extension Educator, Urban Sustainability

When purchasing an environmentally preferable or sustainable product or service be aware of greenwashing. TerraChoice (, a science-based environmental marketing organization, defines greenwashing as the ‘act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.’ Purchasing green starts with a decision and making a decision is a process. Part of this process includes gathering information. This information is retrieved from internal and external sources. Past experiences is a primary internal source while friends, family, advertisements, make up some of the external sources. Many consumers rely on advertisements and labeling to gather information to assist with making a purchase. Advertising professionals understand the psychology of the decision making process and appeal to the average consumer buy following the marketing mix: product, price, place, and promotion. Product is the tangible good or service, price is the amount given that reflects the actual or perceived value, place is the where or how the product or service is disseminated and promotion is the activities that entice the consumer to purchase.

For many, being green, environmentally conscientious, and sustainable is a way of life. However, there are others who are just discovering the social, economic, and environmental benefits of being green. This interest is attributed, in part, to marketing and promotion. Generally speaking, the novice green purchaser will initially seek out goods and services that highlight qualities such as environmentally friendly, eco-friendly, and green through packaging, logos and colors. This is not necessarily the wrong way to identify green products but make sure the product is actually what it is claiming to be. Be aware of greenwashing.

When gathering information to make a green purchase, do the research, look for the third party certified labels and ask the vendor or manufacturer the who, what, when, where, and how was the product created. Including this information into your decision to make a green purchase will give you the confidence that you will not be greenwashed.

TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc (November 2007)”The Six Sins of Greenwashing” (
Crayton Vestina F. (May 2008) ”How Do I know it’s Green?”
Crayton Vestina F. (April 2008) “Finding Green Products is Simple.”

Monday, June 16, 2008

Finding Green Products is Easy!

By Vestina F. Crayton
Extension Education Instructor

Are you familiar with buying green products? If not, here’s a review: Green Purchasing, Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, and Sustainable Purchasing are all words that describe buying products or services that have a reduced negative impact on human health and the environment as compared to other products and services designed for the same use.

Now, the question you may have is “Where can I find green products?” There are numerous resources to help you find all kinds of products from mattresses to building materials. Here are a few to get you started:

In addition to learning about the green products that are available, you can find useful information including tips on how to read the labels, and alternative cleaning solutions just inside your cupboards. You can also search for a product based on specific criteria such as Green Seal approved, non toxic or bio based.

Take advantage of these resources and you’ll quickly be on your way to making better decisions today for the future of our community.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Green Light to Savings

By Mary Campbell,
Pinellas County Extension Director, Urban Sustainability

Making a commitment to change future practices is an important step to sustainable living. If you make a commitment to a new practice you are much more likely to follow through and make that practice part of your daily habits. Many sustainable practices are not difficult, we just have to remember.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs. If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars. (EPA, 2008)

As energy costs rise and we work to reduce our carbon footprint, what could be easier than changing out a few light bulbs to compact fluorescent lights (CFL). Although initially more expensive, you will save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime. Energy-efficient CFLs can be used in recessed fixtures, table lamps, track lighting, ceiling fixtures and porch lights. Replacing a single incandescent bulb with a CFL will keep a half-ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere over the life of the bulb.To choose the ENERGY STAR qualified CFL with the right amount of light, find a CFL that is labeled as equivalent to the incandescent bulb you are replacing. Light bulb manufacturers include this information right on the product packaging to make it easy for consumers to choose the equivalent bulb.

CFLs contain a small amount of mercury and should be disposed of properly, ideally recycled. Although household CFL bulbs may legally be disposed of with regular trash (in most US states), they are categorized as household hazardous waste. Because CFLs also help to reduce greenhouse gasses, other pollutants associated with electricity production, and landfill waste (because the bulbs last longer), they are clearly the environmental winner when compared to traditional incandescent light bulbs. EPA recommends that consumers take advantage of available local recycling options for compact fluorescent light bulbs. EPA is working with CFL manufacturers and major U.S. retailers to expand recycling and disposal options. Consumers can contact their local municipal solid waste agency directly, or go to to identify local recycling options.

Take the Check Your Green Commitment Pledge at:
Resource: EPA Compact Flourescent Light bulbs

Monday, June 9, 2008

Saving Water in the Home

By Mary Campbell,
Pinellas County Extension Director, Urban Sustainability

Making a commitment to change future practices is an important step to sustainable living. If you make a commitment to a new practice you are much more likely to follow through and make that practice part of your daily habits. Many practices are not difficult, we just have to remember.
Less than 1% of the water supply on earth can be used as drinking water or is readily accessible water in lakes, streams, rivers (97% is in the oceans and 2% in the ice caps). The water cycle is continuous, so we could be drinking the same water that dinosaurs drank. Preserving our water resources is extremely important. Our daily use of water becomes a habit that may be hard to change. With small changes, thousands of gallons of water per person can be saved each year, which also reduces your carbon footprint since it requires energy to purify and pump the water to your home.
Faucets are responsible for 16% of the water use in our homes. The top three household water uses are the toilet, clothes washer and shower. Fixing leaks is very important to conserve water. To determine if you may have a leak, turn off all the water in your home and record the current reading on your water meter. Wait 30 minutes and read it again. If it has changed (remember – all water off) then you have a leak.
Find new ways to conserve water like: low volume toilets and shower heads and fill the dishwasher or washing machine before using. Flush less — remember the toilet is not a wastebasket. Take shorter showers — 5 minutes or less. Never put water down the drain when there may be another use for it, such as watering a plant or cleaning.

Take the Check Your Green Commitment Pledge at:

Pinellas County Utilities

Save Water Indoors -

Monday, June 2, 2008

Biofuels are Growing in Florida

Mary Campbell, Extension Director, Urban Sustainability

Everyone is talking about the price of gas. Developing alternative sources of fuel to power our cars and trucks is of great interest with gas prices soaring and carbon dioxide emissions contributing to climate change. Biofuels are renewable liquid fuels made from plant matter rather than fossil fuels. Biofuels can help reduce air pollution, greenhouse gases, and dependence on imported oil.

There are two types of biofuels that are currently taking center stage in the push for alternative fuels – ethanol and biodeisel. Ethanol and biodiesel are completely different. Ethanol is a product of fermentation, and biodiesel is chemically-converted fat or plant oil. Currently, the biggest source of biofuel is ethanol — a liquid distilled from corn or other starchy crops. Flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) are designed to run on gasoline or a blend of up to 85% ethanol (E85). The use of waste from Florida crops such as sugarcane and wood (cellulosic ethanol), may provide the most practical and efficient source of biofuels.
Biodiesel is made from sources such as vegetable oils and can be blended with diesel made from petroleum. When the first diesel engines came along at the end of the 19th century, they were originally designed to run on vegetable oil. Biodeisel can be produced from crops such as soybean or Jatropha. Jatropha curcus or Physic Nut, is a drought-resistant perennial, growing well in marginal or poor Florida soils. It is easy to establish and plants produce seeds with an oil content of 37%. Another source of biofuels is used cooking oils. Since 2002, Pinellas County has been using biodeisel purchased from a company that recycles restaurant grease waste into biodeisel. Algae have also been reported as a source for biodeisel. Unlike some biofuel sources which require crops to be specially grown, which use more land, fuel, chemicals and fertilizers, the algae already exist. To get the fuel, the algae are processed into a pulp before lipid oils are extracted to be turned into biodiesel.

There is not one single answer to the issues of dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gas emissions. It will take a combination of improved fuel economy, investment in public transportation, new technology, and new fuel sources like biofuels and electricity to move us into a more sustainable future.

For more information on Biofuels –read the entire article in Timely Topics – June, 2008