Saturday, January 30, 2016

Things Worth Knowing 1.30.16: What to Do with Unwanted Clothing

Now that winter is finally here, many of us are spending more hours indoors. What better time to clean out our closets and chests of drawers? There are many theories about how to decide what to keep and what to get rid of, but chances are no matter which criteria you use, if you tackle this project you will end up with a pile of stuff you no longer want.

Don’t throw any of it into the trash — no matter how many holes in a sock or how frayed the towel edge. Even if your donation cannot be sold as gently used apparel, there is an excellent chance that it can have a second life as a new product such as home insulation or stuffing for a car seat. And, it will not end up in the waste stream, saving both natural resources and tax dollars!

Donating to a Charitable Organization
One way to rid yourself of these unwanted items is to donate them to a charitable organization. Some organizations deal directly with a specific cause and only want textiles in good condition to pass on directly to their clients. Others operate thrift stores in which donated goods are sold to generate revenue to support the organization’s mission. The best goods are sold in their retail outlets; the others are sold to processing facilities. 

Goodwill Industries, with a network of independent, community-operated stores and collection centers around the country, is one charity that will gladly accept all your textile donations. Locate a convenient donation center by entering your zip code here. If you have a large amount of goods, call to see if your local Goodwill is willing to make a pickup.

Another charity that will accept a full range of textiles is the Salvation Army. This Christian ministry operates 7,546 centers in communities across the United States, providing a range of services including food distribution, disaster relief, drug rehabilitation centers, and children’s programs. You can find a drop-off location for your goods or schedule a pickup by entering your zipcode here

Donations to a charitable organization may be useful to you at tax time if you itemize and can submit an itemized donation valuation form. Goodwill and the Salvation Army each have valuation guides to help you with this process. 

Although it is convenient to drop off items in the collection bins you see in so many parking lots, if it is important for you to know that you are helping a charitable organization, take a second to verify that the bin has been placed by such a group. Goodwill prepared this handy guide to help you make informed decisions about how to put your donations to best use.

Donating at a Retail Store
If you have specialty shopping to do and would prefer a financial incentive over a tax deduction, there are a growing number of retailers that offer in-store coupons to those who recycle shoes and clothing at their locations. Some collect only their own products, but there are several retailers in our area that accept any brand for recycling. Click on the links for details:
  • H&M: Any brand of clothing and home textiles
  • Levis: Any brand of clothing or footwear
  • Nike: Athletic Shoes any Brand
  • The North Face: Any brand of clothing or footwear
For more information
The “What do I do with…?” section of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) site is a great resource for residents looking to recycle their goods. Here is the link to the What Do I Do with my Clothing/Textiles section.

NOTE: One of the many hats I wear is graphic designer of HomeHaven News, the monthly newsletter for HomeHaven, a member of the Village to Village Network. This article is an expanded version of my “Responsible Downsizing” column in the most February, 2016 edition. HomeHaven and the growing network of villages around the country are an extraordinary resource for people who want to “live life to the fullest in the comfort of their own home.”

I hope you find all of this info “Things Worth Knowing.” Check for more stories like these as time goes by. [And search this blog for more posts in this vein.]

Happy Saturday.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Climate Change: What the Candidates Say

At New Haven Green Drinks this past Wednesday, the featured speaker was Sarah Ganong, Media Coordinator at the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, who had the opportunity to attend the recent Paris climate talks. She reported on the ins and outs of her week at COP 21 and offered her perspective on the Paris agreement. She also posed and answered questions. My question to her was whether other countries had such a significant percentage of leaders who denied that climate change was real. Her response was a definitive NO. The United States is the only nation where the subject is even up for discussion.

I thought it might be interesting to look into what the primary candidates of both parties have to say on this subject. I expected it to be a bit of a project, but I discovered that the League of Women Voters had already done my work for me. Here is a compilation of presidential candidate quotes on climate change. It was last updated on January 15.

I have copied and pasted one quote from the list for each of the current contenders. They are grouped by party and are in alphabetical order by last name.

First, the Republicans:

Gov. Jeb Bush:  In an October 2015 town hall in Bedford, New Hampshire, an audience member asked Gov. Bush if he did not believe that “human sources are responsible” for climate change. Gov. Bush responded, “No, I think the climate is changing; I think humans have some say in it, for sure. I honestly believe that, and I think there’s a proper role for the federal government to play in research and development, to find the next breakthrough in disruptive technologies. What I don’t want to do is destroy the American economy as the solution.” [American Bridge, 10/1/15]

Dr. Ben Carson: During a September 2015 campaign stop in Durham, New Hampshire, Dr. Carson was asked if he believed in climate change or evolution. “Is there climate change? Of course there is,” Carson said. “The temperature of the earth is always fluctuating…When that stops happening, we’re in big trouble,” he said. He also said he believes in microevolution or natural selection, and believed God gave organisms the ability to adapt to the environment, “because he is very smart,” he said. [Foster’s Daily Democrat, 9/30/15]

Gov. Chris Christie: During an August 2015 town hall in Salem, NH, Gov. Christie said, “I believe climate change is real, and I believe that humans contribute to it. But, we’re not the only things that contribute to it, and the climate’s been changing forever. In the entire history of the world, the climate’s changed all the time. Does that mean you shouldn’t try to make it better? No, of course we should. But I’m not going to make America noncompetitive in the process … There’s nobody, no matter what political party you’re in, who doesn’t want clean air and clean water.” [American Bridge, 150824_EMZ_68_A (1:33:00), 8/24/15 (video available from American Bridge)] 

Sen. Ted Cruz: During a November 28, 2015 campaign stop in Creston, Iowa, Sen. Cruz was asked about climate change. He stated, “I think we should follow facts and science … I believe in science and data. When it comes to global warming, this is a debate that is almost entirely conducted free of actual science and data and evidence … If you are a liberal politician who believes in government power, climate change is the perfect pseudo-scientific theory … because whether it gets hotter or colder, wetter or drier, the theory is always proven right. The climate has changed from the dawn of time. What do we know? Tomorrow, the climate will change. I don’t know how it’ll change, but it will change. Amazingly, the same liberal politicians and scientists – their solution is massive government control of the economy, the energy sector, and every aspect of your lives. You start to think, if the solution is the same for whatever problem they’re talking about that given day, you start to think, gosh, maybe they just want more government power over our lives. I’ll mention to you, when it comes to facts and data – and by the way? Global warming, it’s not science, it’s a religion. Think of the language: deniers. That’s not the language of science. That’s the language of a heretic, a blaspheme. ‘You are a denier, I cast you in utter darkness.’ I want my scientists to be deniers of everything, and testing and questioning – that’s what a good scientist does … My view is that public policy should be based on the real science and data, not on politicians’ desires to control our lives.” [American Bridge, 151128_MJL_470_B (7:00), 11/28/15 (video available from American Bridge)] 

Carly Fiorina: During a June 2015 Fox news interview, host Sean Hannity asked, “Do you think climate change is real?” Fiorina responded, “You know what I would say, you know what I would say, all of these scientists that tell us it's real and it's manmade, read the fine print of what those scientists say, because what they also say is a single nation acting alone will make no difference at all. So here we have a bunch of liberals and people in the EPA who are willing to sacrifice other people's lives, other people's livelihoods at the altar of their ideology, whether it's fish over families in California or destroying coal mining communities in Kentucky and West Virginia, and we're not making any difference. The answer to this is innovation. It's always innovation, never regulation.” [Fox News, 6/26/15] 

Gov. Mike Huckabee: During a campaign event in Indianola, Iowa, Gov. Huckabee said, “It was global warming to global cooling. In the 70s it was global cooling. World is pretty adaptive. The earth is the lords and he gave us the resources. Science is settled in when life begins and we should work on.” [American Bridge, 160102_MJL_499_A (17:20) 1/2/16 (video available from American Bridge)]

Gov. John Kasich: “I do believe there’s climate change, and I think human beings impact it. But, I also don’t know to what degree we impact it. So, I’ll tell you [that] my philosophy is that we are here to take care of the environment, but not to worship the environment. Sometimes, I think we can find environmentalists who are extreme. I’ll tell you another thing: sometimes, we find them in a position where they complain no matter what we do, because they get to be able to raise money by saying how bad everything is.” [NHPR (34:00), 11/12/15]

Sen. Rand Paul: During a November 10, 2015 Fox Business Republican primary debate, Sen. Paul said, “While I do think man may have a role in our climate, I think nature also has a role. The planet’s 4.5 billion years old. We’ve been through geologic age through geologic age. We’ve had times when the temperature’s been warmer, we’ve had times when the temperature’s been colder, we’ve had times when the carbon in the atmosphere has been higher. We need to look before we leap.” [Fox Business, 11/10/15]

Sen. Marco Rubio: During an October 2015 town hall meeting, Sen. Rubio had the following exchange with a League of Conservation Voters Volunteer. The volunteer asked, “I was wondering why you voted against a bill, in the Senate, to recognize the reality of climate change.” Sen. Rubio replied, “That bill is nothing but a symbolic effort to say that people are against this because they deny science. It’s not that I deny science. I’m not going to support policies that would destroy our economy and do nothing to improve our environment. I’ve been repeatedly clear about that.” [American Bridge 21st Century YouTube Channel, 10/7/15]

Sen. Rick Santorum: In June 2011, Sen. Santorum said, “I believe the earth gets warmer and I also believe the earth gets cooler. And I think history points out that it does that and that the idea that man, through the production of CO2 — which is a trace gas in the atmosphere, and the man-made part of that trace gas is itself a trace gas — is somehow responsible for climate change is, I think, just patently absurd when you consider all the other factors, El Niño, La Niña, sunspots, moisture in the air. There's a variety of factors that contribute to the Earth warming and cooling … To me, this is an opportunity for the left to create — it's really a beautifully concocted scheme because they know that the earth is gonna cool and warm. And so it's been on a warming trend so they said, ‘Oh, let's take advantage of that and say that we need the government to come in and regulate your life some more because it's getting warmer.’ Just like they did in the ’70s when it was getting cooler. They needed the government to come in and regulate your life because it's getting cooler. It’s just an excuse for more government control of your life. And I’ve never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative.” [Politico, 6/9/11]

Donald Trump: During a December 30, 2015 campaign rally in Hilton Head, SC, Trump said, “So Obama is talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it is a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money making industry, okay? It’s a hoax.” [News Universe, 12/30/15 (35:18)]

And from the Democrats:

Sec. Hillary Clinton: In January 2016, the NOAA released a report stating that 2015 was the second-warmest year on record, for the contiguous United States. In response, Sec. Clinton stated, “Climate change isn't some abstract future threat—it threatens our families and economy right now. We need to act.” [@NOAA Twitter, 1/7/16; @HillaryClinton Twitter, 1/7/16] Sec. Clinton: “Ambitious” 1/7/16)

Gov. Martin O’Malley: During the October 13, 2015 Democratic primary debate, Gov. O’Malley said, “We must square our shoulders to the great challenge of climate change and make this threat our opportunity. The future is what we make of it. We are all in this together. The question in this election is whether you and I still have the ability to give our kids a better future. I believe we do.” [CNN Debate, 10/13/15] 

Sen. Bernie Sanders: In response to the Paris COP agreement, Sen. Sanders said, “While this is a step forward it goes nowhere near far enough. The planet is in crisis. We need bold action in the very near future and this does not provide that.” [National Journal, 12/12/15; Sen. Sanders Press Release, 12/12/15]

You can view the complete collection of quotes from the candidates on this issue hereFor the League of Women Voters’ general guide on “How to Judge a Candidate” click here

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Meatless Monday Musings as a New Year Begins

At a weekly address in June of last year Pope Francis berated our “culture of waste” and urged us to follow the example of our grandparents stating, "Our grandparents used to make a point of not throwing away leftover food. Consumerism has made us accustomed to wasting food daily and we are unable to see its real value…Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry."

Anyone who reads this blog will know how much these words resonated with me. But let’s take this one step further. When food is discarded it is a waste not only of the food itself but also of all the resources and energy that went into growing it, harvesting it, transporting it, and preparing it. 

Our American food system is only one of the factors contributing to the increase in greenhouse gases. But changing the way we eat is one of the easiest actions we can take as individuals to help heal our planet, while making ourselves healthier as well This is why I will continue to be a Meatless Monday blogger during the coming year. 

It is my intention to get back to the basics in my posts this year, with recipes geared to eating lower on the food chain, saving resources, and also saving money [who couldn’t use a bit of that right now?]. There will be also be tips to help ensure culinary success, product reviews, food news, and suggestions for further reading.

I don’t have a recipe today, but I do have a great link to share.

One of the most prolific writers on the topic of “Eating Well” is Michael Pollan. The recently released PBS documentary, In Defense of Food, produced by Kikim Media, is based on Pollan’s 2008 book with the same name. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to accompany author/narrator  Pollan on his fascinating journey around the world to answer the question: “What should I eat?” The documentary first aired at the end of December; you can watch it for free here until January 28.

I attended a Michael Pollan talk and book signing in 2008, shortly after In Defense of Food’s release. His inspirational words that day changed how I thought about shopping and eating and were a big factor in my starting this blog.

Perhaps he will motivate you as well. I suggest his small volume Food Rules to get you started on your Michael Pollan reading list.

That’s it for today. I hope that as I continue writing in the new year that you will continue reading.

Happy Meatless Monday. Have a great week!

On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Some Good News as a New Year Begins

I am a bit dazed and confused at the moment — politically and meteorologically speaking — with roses blooming in December and political outsiders the frontrunners in the polls. Not too much makes sense. On the plus side, all this upheaval has people talking and wondering why things are the way they are, some indication that hope is still alive. 

In that spirit I would like to share some good news that occurred as 2015 came to a close.

  • At COP 21 in Paris the world’s nations reached an historic agreement to cut emissions and keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. There is optimism that real progress was made. 
  • Connecticut biologists discovered three redds (nests) in the Farmington River watershed made by wild returning Atlantic salmon. This is the first documentation of wild salmon spawning in state rivers since the American Revolution! The exact location is being kept secret to protect the eggs.
  • President Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, banning cosmetics that contain synthetic plastic microbeads. Research indicates that these tiny particles easily pass through sewage treatment plants and pollute our waterways where they threaten aquatic life. The law will take effect on July 1, 2018, ahead of the date mandated by legislation previously passed in states including Connecticut

I look forward to sharing more good news with you in the year ahead, and I wish you all peace, health, and happiness in 2016!