Ask Extension

Recent Articles


Monday, July 28, 2008

Is It Too Stuffy In Here?

by Vestina F. Crayton, Pinellas County Extension Educator, Urban Sustainability

Making the decision to purchase green is motivated by many reasons such as the desire to conserve natural resources, supporting a local economy, and living a healthier lifestyle.

Retailers, marketers, and advertisers entice the consumer to go out and shop. With clever slogans, catchy jingles and the promise of being “new and improved,” it’s easy to get caught up in the marketing frenzy.

Before you head out to the stores, take a moment to ask yourself, “Do I need it or just want it?” What is my true motivation for making this purchase? Whether by choice or necessity, rising costs for gas and food are making individuals take a closer look at their spending habits.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you decide to purchase:
· Is my current one sufficient?
· Can I reuse or refurbish what I have to meet my needs?
· Can I borrow it from a family member, friend, or neighbor?
· Can I rent or lease the item if it is used infrequently?
· Can I share the cost with someone who can also use it?
· Will I be able to maintain it?
· Can I recycle it once I am done with it?
· Can I donate the item I’m replacing?

Everyone knows the three R’s: Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Add a fourth one: Refuse! Refuse to purchase something you really don’t need or want. Then you won’t have to reduce, reuse, or recycle it! (UF/IFAS Sustainable Living booklet-version 7-06-26-07)

If you’ve examined your motivation and have determined that you must purchase, consider green or environmentally preferable products (this post explains such products). Look for items that are reusable, durable, require little or no maintenance, and are recyclable.

Resource link

Friday, July 18, 2008

How Big is Your Footprint?

by Mary Campbell, Director, Pinellas County Extension

Do you know how much land and ocean it takes to provide the food and products necessary for your everyday life, as well as handle your waste? It is an interesting idea. What if it takes more land for each of us to survive than what is on the earth? That is the analysis behind an Ecological Footprint. It is a resource management tool that measures how much land and water a human population requires to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb its waste. The world’s footprint is approximately 23% larger than what the planet can regenerate as reported by the Global Footprint Network. That does not sound too sustainable.

Sustainability is the recognition that when resources are consumed faster than they are produced or renewed, those resources are used up. Resources become more costly as demand gets greater and supplies are depleted. This depletion of resources increases due to growth in population, as well as improving lifestyles. There are several information resources on Ecological Footprint and you can go on-line and calculate your own personal footprint. As we know, most of us in the U.S. have a large footprint compared to the rest of the world. Through energy conservation, recycling, buying local and other resource conservation methods we can reduce our footprint so we don’t run out of earth. If everyone on earth lived like Americans we would need at least four earths.

Check out the size of your footprint:

Global Footprint Network -
Redefining Progress -

Monday, July 14, 2008

Going Green: Good - Better - Best

Mary Campbell, Pinellas County Extension Director, Urban Sustainability

We hear about so many green practices that will conserve resources, save money and reduce our environmental impacts. When going green there is a whole range of activities that can be considered good, better and best. It is never an all or nothing proposition when we are trying to do a better job and reduce our impacts. Pick a practice that works for you and don’t feel discouraged if you have not reached the “best” level. Pick small changes and when they get easy you might be ready for the next level.

Here are some examples:

Plastic Grocery Bags
Good – Recycle the plastic bags
Better – Reuse the plastic bags several times before you recycle
Best – don’t use plastic bags but have reusable bags handy for shopping

Plastic Water Bottles
Good – Recycle the plastic bottles
Better – reuse the bottles and then recycle
Best – use a reusable container for water and reduce the whole cycle

Paper Use
Good – always print on both sides of the paper
Better – use at least 30% recycled paper and print on both sides
Best – always recycle your 100% recycled paper that is printed on both sides

Energy Use
Good – put your computer and other equipment into power save mode when not in use
Better – shut down computer, printer and other equipment when not in use
Best – shut down electronic equipment at the power strip to stop any energy use

I think you get the idea. Share your comments and ideas on how to go from good to better to best. Each small step is a great effort and it is the small steps that add up to big impacts for us all.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Pets for the Planet

by James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Educator, Urban Sustainability

While we may all be tightening our belts a little, scrimping and saving to pay for rising fuel costs, there is no sign our spending on pets has diminished one bit.

According to the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association, for 2008 it is estimated that $43.4 billion will be spent on our pets in the U.S. That is up from $38.5 billion in 2006 (source:

With more than 60% of US households (that is about 71 million addresses) complete with pets, how can we green our pet-practices? Here are a few tips:

Check the Label
From the foods you feed your pet(s) to the shampoo, conditioner, nail polish, etc. use the same common sense you would for yourself in living the Green Life. Think about the packaging, source, contents, and all other factors of green purchasing when making choices for your pet supplies.

Recycle a Pet
Consider adopting a pet from a local shelter. None of us like to think of the poor critters waiting to be adopted into a loving home, so go get one! Some shelters offer you the opportunity to search online for the perfect pet. Not just dogs and cats, but hamsters, fish, ferrets, you name it. Look up local shelter websites or, for one-stop searching, consult PetFinder ( a site that allows you to search by zip code for the type and location of pet you would like to welcome home.

Remember They Are Not From Here
Our pets, especially dogs and cats, have been domesticated and bred for thousands of years. Many bear little to no resemblance to the wild animals from which they descended. It is important to remember that domesticated animals do not play well with our wildlife. Although we have managed to breed a beautiful coat of fur, excellent retrieval skills, a propensity for life in a handbag, and many other traits into our furred, scaled and winged pets, many innate behaviors remain, including hunting. Feral and non-housebound cats and dogs account for amazing negative impacts on our native wildlife. See this site from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about the local environmental impact of loose cats.

Dogs play an important role in healthy ecosystems as well. Leaving a dog’s “doo” on the pavement or in the lawn exposes wildlife to the pathogens which may reside there. Your pooch may be fine, but the viral load it is carrying (and possibly unaffected by) may mean death to a wild critter. Uncollected dog excrement has lead to an increase in nutrient runoff to local waters as well. For more information on this important issue, see Pooches For the Planet: Scoop That Poop! from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Training your pet to be a compatible member of the household need not stop at the front door. Think about the role your Precious serves in the greater scheme of things, and keep a Green Pet, for the good of the Planet. Their wild ancestors will thank you!