Monthly Archives: September 2013

What’s an Ecological Footprint?

Your ecological footprint is a measure of how much land it would take to produce the resources necessary to sustain your lifestyle.

Your ecological footprint is a measure of how much land it would take to produce the resources necessary to sustain your lifestyle.

Maybe you’ve started to dip your toe into the waters of the sustainability movement, and you’ve heard some chatter about footprints. Carbon footprints, global footprints, ecological footprints — any kind of footprint, really. “What gives?” You may ask. Well, I’ll tell you.

The most accepted”footprint” these days is an ecological footprint. An ecological footprint is “a measure of how much biologically productive land and water area a human population requires to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb its wastes, using prevailing technology”. It’s also another way of expressing carrying capacity, which is the total population a certain set of resource sources and sinks can sustain and absorb. The USA has the largest carbon footprint of any nation on Earth, which means that even though we may not have the largest percentage of the global population, we use the largest percentage of resources.

When you fill out a footprint calculator, it asks about certain behaviors, including how much you spend on your electricity bill, how often you eat meat and how often you use fossil fuels. It takes these behaviors and gauges how much land is necessary to produce all the food, fuel and power to keep you at your standard of living. It then tells you how many Earths it would take to produce all the resources needed if everyone on the planet lived the exact same way you did.

When you fill out this quiz, you may be alarmed to find that your footprint would take 3, 4 or even 7 Earths to sustain over the long run. While you can lower this through making more more sustainable life choices (i.e. conserving water, eating less meat or using alternative transportation) there is a certain amount of this calculation that is immobile the second you click “USA” as your home nation. The US uses resources to produce crops, maintain an army and basically do things every government does. We just happen to do it more wastefully than most.

FInding out your personal ecological footprint is a great way to put your lifestyle choices in perspective, and to see what kind of an impact your lifestyle and choices make. Interested in finding out how you score? Check out this handy calculator to find out for yourself.

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Greening Your Game Day

999766_10151883300359104_1683425524_nGame day is here once again, Gator fans, so rise and shine to watch the boys of old florida do WORK in the Swamp.

But while you’re enjoying the day’s festivities, why not take a hint from Albert and be a little greener?

Whether you’re grilling and chilling in the comfort of your house or on campus, here are a few tips to ensure your game day is a little more eco-conscious.

First of all, the simplest way to make a difference is to bring the same Earth friendly habits you have at home to your tailgate. The number one way to do this is to reduce the amount of waste you create. Use reusable dishes, cups and silverware instead of paper or plastic. They can be purchased cheaply at thrift stores, or you can pool your resources with your friends and use what you have.

But if you must go disposable instead of reusable, recycle or compost everything you can. An easy way to encourage your guests to do the same is to have a clearly marked spot for recyclables and compostables. Do you want to do more? Consider volunteering for the Tailgator Recycling Team and helping to keep the Swamp clean and green.

Time to fire up your grill. What to use, propane or charcoal? Propane may be a fossil fuel, but it burns cleaner, which means it releases less airborne pollutants into the atmosphere. Charcoal is much dirtier, not to mention more cumbersome and unwieldy. However, you can choose a better charcoal, one made of renewable, plant-based waste products like these coconut shell charcoal briquettes. Skipping the chemical-laden lighter fluid and using a charcoal chimney made of newspaper gets you even more bonus points. This handy tutorial explains the technique quite nicely.

Now comes the fun part – food! Switching out your hot dogs and burgers for veggies is the easiest way to make your tailgate green. Vegetables taste awesome grilled, so even if you aren’t serving them as the main course, it doesn’t mean your tailgate has to be strictly carnivorous. Sourcing your munchies as locally as possible is another simple way to reduce your impact. Beverage wise, Gainesville has plenty of awesome local or organic brews just waiting to fill your coolers.

As for the entertainment, remember to not leave your car running if you’re using the radio. Or, you can skip the fossil fuels all together and try something cooler, like this solar-powered wireless speaker system.

Next is a tip that seasoned greenies are used to hearing, carpool! Walk, bike, bus or dance to the stadium, whatever works for you. Reduce your fossil fuel use and spend a little more time in nature in the process. And if you must bust out your hot rod, try not to ride solo. Plus, parking on game day is miserable anyway.

Once you get to  the stadium, remember that they recently added compost bins in addition to the recycling bins. You can now toss your empty popcorn box, hot dog wrapper and straws in the compost bins. Check the complete list of acceptable compost items out here. In the recycle bins, toss  your plastic bottles, cups and spoons.

You made it! Now sit back, enjoy the game and go (green) Gators!

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Green Your Routine: Shower Time

Water makes the world go round. What you save in the shower will (eventually) make its way all around the globe. Photo by Alex Harris.

Water makes the world go round. What you save in the shower will (eventually) make its way all around the globe. Photo by Alex Harris.

The next time you’re busy getting steamy, it may be a better idea to make it just a quickie.

I’m talking about showering, of course. And unless you’re all about inviting another person into your moment of zen, these tips will help you cut your water bill and ecological footprint by quite a bit.

Chances are, if you’re already showering instead of soaking in a tub, you’re congratulating yourself on how much water you’re saving. And you’re right! Sort of.

See, no matter how you stay clean, you’re still using water (unless you’re trying the whole “dry bathing” thing), and water is a pretty precious resource. Using less water not only saves you money on your water bill, but it saves energy. Conserving water bypasses the lengthy extraction, purification and transportation process all of our drinkable water has to go through. Bottom line: less water is better.

“But I’m good!” you may say. “I take 15-minute showers every day, that’s practically nothing. Right?”

Actually, wrong. The average shower head uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute, which makes your innocent 15 minutes of clean not-so-green  at all. That quick rinse uses 37.5 gallons of water, enough to fill two kegs with some to spare. When you shower daily, that adds up.

So how can you green your hygiene?

  1. Shorten your shower: The simplest way to avoid wasting precious H20 is to just spend less time in the shower. Try timing yourself on your phone and making it a goal to beat your “best time”. Do you really need to spend that extra 20 minutes debating what you could and couldn’t have said to that cutie in line at the coffee shop today? Didn’t think so.
  2. Try turning the water off: If you’ve never heard of a military shower, it’s a method of bathing that involves using the water from the shower head in bursts, and doing activities like soaping up, shaving and washing your hair while the water is off. Those dry minutes add up to save you big-time on water.
  3. Do less things in the shower: The first time you brush your teeth in the shower, it feels like an epiphany. It feels so productive. You feel like a multitasking god. But actually, those few minutes you take to brush your teeth, shave, or what have you, can be done in the sink with significantly less water than the sink.
  4. Start the water once you’re already in the shower: This one is simple. Running the water while you’re not even in is just waste. That cold water blast can be invigorating, and just think how good the hot water will feel once it warms up!
  5. Adjust your temperature and pressure: Showers that feel like a fire hose are just plain uncomfortable, as are those that feel like a light summer drizzle. Try and aim for a low-pressure middle ground. But a word to the wise on cold showers, leave them for teenage boys. You’ll probably spend more time ducking the freezing cold water than actually bathing. But a lukewarm shower can be a relaxing way to cut down on energy without sacrificing too much.
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How to Use a Paper Towel, or: Simple Tricks

If you can take five minutes out of your day to watch a simple TED talk about how to be more sustainable, then this is the blog for you! Green Gator Girl is a resource for busy people who want to learn more about how to lessen their impact on the planet. It’s sustainability in simple, relatable posts. Changing the planet is easy, if everyone works together and makes simple, conscious choices every day. 

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