If you want to save electricity too, here are some of my electricity saving tips:
Change your incandescent lightbulbs to CFLs. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (which now come in a soft yellow color that's very similar to incandescents) generally use about 20% of the electricity used to power a regular incandescent lightbulb. Even if you only change the lightbulbs that you use most often, you'll still save electricity.
Unplug your electronic appliances and devices when not in use. I didn't know this until fairly recently, but electronic plugs (such as cell phone chargers, laptop chargers, etc.) still use a significant amount of electricity when they're just plugged into the wall. As soon as you're done charging something, unplug it from the outlet - you'll see the difference in your electric bill. Devices that are kept on standby or devices that have a built-in clock that's on all the time are also sucking up electricity all the time. I no longer keep my cable box plugged in or my TV on standby for that reason.
Take shorter showers. Not only does this save water, but shorter showers = less time and energy needed to heat the water. It takes a lot of energy to heat up water.
Turn off the stove burner a minute or two before you think the dish is done. The residual heat will finish cooking the dish and you'll save electricity.
Find other ways to heat/cool yourself, other than the air conditioner. Israeli winters are pretty mild, so I was able to save a lot of electricity by bundling up in my apartment rather than turn the air conditioner on. Now that it's warming up, I'm going to use fans (and popsicles) to cool myself down as much as possible.
To check out my first article at Green Prophet about organic farm volunteer opportunities, click here.
Only print something if it is really necessary. Do you really need print outs of those documents? Maybe emailing something to yourself or carrying something on a disk-on-key would work just as well.
Print double sided copies. Cut your paper consumption in half by getting full use of that paper.
Refill your ink cartridge. Some cartridges may be refilled with an ink needle, eliminating the need for a whole new plastic cartridge.
Recycle your used printer cartridges. If you live in Israel, then Office Depot stores will accept your used printer cartridges, recycle them, and even offer you credit towards your purchase of another cartridge. Office Depot also sells recycled printer cartridges (but not for every printer cartridge model).
According to the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, 430 million plastic bags are distributed in Israel every month. These bags, which far outlive their users by hundreds of years, end up polluting rivers, waterways, landfills.... It's an ugly situation. A law has been proposed to the Israeli Knesset to levy a fee on plastic bags that would have to be paid by consumers, but who knows if that'll go through. Either way, it's obvious that the reduction of individual plastic consumption is up to individuals.
Eco-Chic bags are available in stores all over the country - their website lists where their bags can be found in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Petach Tikva, Gadera, Zichron Ya'acov... and the list goes on. But if these bags aren't for you and you're feeling creative, you could make your own bag from cloth scraps or follow No Impact Man's advice and make shopping bags out of old tank tops.
Which lead to a search for the alternative, and tracking down my boyfriend's mother's amazing granola recipe which she's been making for years. Whenever my boyfriend visits her in the US she always sends a big bag of her homemade granola over. It's easy to make, most of the ingredients can be bought in bulk (for a list of places to buy bulk dry foods in Tel Aviv, click here), and most importantly - it's delicious. And nutritious. Added bonus: your kitchen/apartment/home will smell amazing when you bake the granola.
Here's the recipe:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (she uses spelt flour)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1/3 cup maple syrup (you could also use honey)
1/3 cup oil (preferably sunflower oil)
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnammon
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well-coated. Spread on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 160 degrees Celsius (325 degrees Fahrenheit) for 35 minutes (depending on oven).
... or a paper footprint. Everyone knows the basic paper things that you can recycle - newspapers, old school papers, magazines... But what about all of the other paper products that we don't usually think of recycling? How about recycling your cardboard cereal box, your empty toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, gum wrappers, wrapping paper, cardboard boxes? All of these can be recycled as well.
According to the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, paper waste constitutes 25% of the volume of all waste in Israel, and annual paper consumption is 700,000 tons. Only about 30% of all consumed paper is currently recycled. Recycled paper is used in order to produce products such as new paper, toilet paper, cardboard, and egg cartons.
The paper recycling companies in Israel include Amnir, KMM, Tal-El, S.G. Grisa, and Amek (08-5793489). If you don't know where to recycle paper in your area, or if you own a business and would like to arrange to have your paper waste picked up and recycled, contact one of these companies. Many of them offer pick-ups from businesses.
In 2005, the average Israeli citizen produced 1.8 kg of garbage every day - a total national waste of 4.2 million tons during that year. This amount increases by 4% - 5% each year and by 2010 the space used to bury waste will be all used up.
Pretty scary stuff, right?
There's an upside, though. Separating and recycling your waste at the source (meaning, in your house before you take out the trash) could lead to a 60% reduction in the amount of waste transferred to waste burial. Only 20% of the plastic bottles produced in Israel are currently recycled, but if more of them were recycled it would make a big difference in the amount of space required to dump our garbage. (Or, alternatively, you could stop drinking bottled water altogether and get a Brita, whose filter can also be recycled.)
But first you have to know what you can recycle. Most people already know that you can recycle empty bottles from water, soda, etc. But did you know that you can also recycle the empty bottles from your shampoo, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and cooking supplies? In fact, you can recycle any plastic container marked with one of the triangular recycling symbols above except for the yellow symbol with the number 3 inside. The stamps are usually imprinted on the bottom of the bottles.
For more information about plastic recycling in Israel, see the Aviv Recycling website.
The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one fifth of the world's greenhouse gases are the result of livestock production (making it a larger contributor to climate change than transportation). The world’s total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961. In 2007, it was estimated to be 284 million tons. Nevermind the ethical issues related to raising animals in order to kill and eat them, but there just isn't enough land to support our planet's hamburger habit. Livestock production leads to deforestation (just in the past five months, 1,250 square miles of rainforest in Brazil were lost to livestock production) - both to raise the livestock and to produce the feed for the livestock.
But what if we decided we could do without the meat, or, at least, eat less of it? Even if you switch one meat meal for a vegetarian meal every week, that's a big difference. The National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.
So here's my meat substitution suggestion for those of you living in Tel Aviv: Buddha Burgers. Delicious, "meaty", and totally guilt free. This vegan burger place has two branches - one on 21 Yehuda Halevi (which is bigger and has more seating room) and one on 86 Ibn Gvirol. Along with a variety of vegan burgers, Buddha Burgers offers healthy juice drinks, salads, and vegan desserts. Who said trading in your ground beef burger had to be a sacrifice?
In an attempt to reduce the amounts of garbage that my food consumption generates, I've started buying as many of my dry foods in bulk as possible. Not only does this reduce the packaging (and garbage) associated with the food I eat, but it also means that the energy used to get my food to me (such as the gas used to transport the food) is more efficient. It is much more efficient for a truck (or van, or whatever) to transport large bulk bags of a product as opposed to a much lesser quantity of individually packaged products. Plus, since it is much more efficient means of food supply, it is way cheaper to buy food in bulk.
If you live in Tel Aviv, then your average AM:PM definitely won't have a bulk food section. But if you go to some of the health food stores that are all over Tel Aviv, it's easy to find a wide variety of foods offered in bulk. My favorite is Nitsat Haduvdevan at 58 Ibn Gvirol. They have a really big selection, and the products that I get there in bulk are always a fraction of the price of their packaged counterpart. Their bulk products range from grains to dehydrated vegetables, to all kinds of flour, legumes, nuts, and dried fruits. Teva Castel, which has stores all over Tel Aviv (including a really nice new one on the corner of Dizengoff and Frishman), also has a big bulk selection that includes spice blends and granola. The Organic Market at 59 Sheinkin Street has a small bulk foods section, but they offer organic bulk products. It's definitely the yuppiest store of all three.
Buying in bulk means you need to figure out your own means of packaging the food, though. I keep a bunch of reused plastic bags for buying bulk foods in my bag so that I have them whenever I want to go shopping. Then I transfer the food into reused glass jars and containers when I get home so that I can reuse the plastic bag instead of consuming another one the next time. A little fanatic, but plastic is bad.
Toilet paper is a product we use constantly, and most brands are made from virgin paper. Meaning, lots of trees are cut down so that we can use toilet paper. If you calculate how many trees that means for your own personal consumption, I don't know the math, but it's gotta be up there. And it could be easily avoided.
Shmurat Teva (שמורת טבע) toilet paper, which is available in most supermarkets, is made of quality paper fibers that were specifically sorted and collected for the purpose of making toilet paper. Although it comes in plastic packaging (for packages of 32 rolls), the company emphasizes that the minimal plastic wrap can be recycled. I made the switch about a month ago, and can't really tell the difference (except for that it doesn't smell like pineapples or roses like some other brands of toilet paper which, frankly, I think is a very good thing). And it's definitely not gross... if the whole "recycled toilet paper" thing still freaks you out. I promise.
The filter itself is made of plastic, though, so a couple of months ago I called the Brita offices in Israel to find out if they are part of the Brita company's recycling program in Europe. I finally got to speak to a very nice woman called Ilanit who told me that they were starting to recycle filters in Israel and that I could collect a few of my used filters and somehow get them to her (she suggested a few different methods of doing this). My tiny household of two only uses one Brita filter every month and a half, so at this rate my contribution of filters to be recycled by Brita isn't going to encourage them to continue with their recycling program. So if you're out there, living in Israel, and you use Brita filters - I'd like to encourage you to contact Ilanit (03-9762448) or whoever else you can speak to about recycling the filters in order to encourage Brita to continue with their new program. (If you live in the US and want to encourage Brita to start their recycling of filters then please see Beth's posts on the subject at Fake Plastic Fish).
Freecycle. Until recently, I didn't really understand what this catchy name meant. I mean, I got the "free" part, and I got the "recycle" part, but I didn't really understand how they went together. Wasn't recycling always free?
Until I joined the Freecycle Tel Aviv group, which is part of the larger Freecycle network. Freecyle is a grassroots, non-profit movement of people who are giving away and receiving items for free (and preventing stuff from ending up in landfills). You can easily recycle paper or aluminum cans or plastic bottles, but it's a little harder to figure out how to recycle that kitchen appliance that's in good condition but that you just don't use, or that old piece of furniture that you don't want anymore. You would feel bad throwing those kinds of things away, but just don't know who would want them. Enter freecycle. Freecycle connects people within the same area so that those trying to get rid of things can post a message to the group and give their items to someone nearby. Conversely, if someone is looking for a particular item, he or she can post a message to the group asking if anyone has one to give away. Unlike craigslist, this all takes place without the exchange of money. It is truly "free recycling".
The Freecycle Network, which was recently the subject of a New York Times article, is composed of 4234 groups with 4,449,618 members around the world and it is constantly growing. Recent items I've seen offered on Freecycle Tel Aviv include closets, printers, scanners, small ovens, furniture, and more. The people offering these items are genuinely happy to give them away.
There are additional freecycle groups in Jerusalem, Ashkelon, Yokneam Ilit, Zichron Yaacov-Alona, Herzliya, and Ramallah. Even if you have nothing that you want to "freecycle", its worth joining the group - you never know what you might find.
It's not easy to buy olive oil in bulk when you live in a city, though. Even though I would like to buy it in bulk and reduce the packaging associated with olive oil, especially since it's something I use on a daily basis, I just figured it was pretty much impossible since I currently live in a city. I thought I'd just rely on my grandmother for all of my bulk olive oil needs.
But no more! Today I passed by Shook Levinsky (a great market for bulk dry goods) on my way home to pick up some loose black tea and found an olive oil store that lets you bring your own glass bottles from home and fill them from an olive oil tap that they have in the store. Some of the types of olive oil that they carry are even organic. The owner of the store is very nice and will let you try the different kinds of olive oil, too. The store - called "Hamesik shel Oded (המסיק של עודד)" - is located at the corners of Levinsky Street and Hachaluzim Street.
If you do decide to go there, my grandmother swears by keeping olive oil in dark glass bottles such as - you guessed it - Jagermeister.
Two weeks ago my toaster died (I haven't had toast since). But I couldn't bring myself to dump it with the rest of the regular trash and have it outlive me, my children, and my grandchildren in some landfill. Not only would the plastic not biodegrade, but the metal part of the toaster would disintegrate fairly quickly and trickle into the water system. So my toaster has been collecting dust in my apartment ever since.
This morning on Freecycle someone posted a link to a company in Israel that recycles all kinds of electronic devices. The company, Snunit Recycling, is based in Pardes Hana but has collection days all over the country. The company also has a free recycling notification email service, so if you want to know when they'll be collecting items in a certain city or area they will let you know.
Snunit Recycling collects any type of device that is operated either by electricity or batteries - communications equipment, computer devices, home electronic appliances, etc. They then break the materials down and reuse whatever materials may be reused (plastics, metals, etc.) and transfer hazardous materials to an appropriate facility.
I can now feel good about giving my toaster another life.
One of my new year's resolutions is to make more of my own "processed foods" (and rely less on industrial energy, packaging and transportation to nourish my cravings for a quick hunger fix). Even though it takes more time and energy, there is a special satisfaction that comes from eating something that you made entirely by yourself and of knowing exactly what's in your food. When I make my own veggie burgers, I don't have to worry about hydrogenated corn syrup or preservatives or food coloring. And I can make exactly what I want.
So far, I've started making my own jam, bread, granola, gnocchi, and veggie burgers. This week my CSA put a lot of cucumbers into my vegetable delivery - a lot more than I could eat before they went bad - so I decided to try making my own pickles. They were surprisingly easy to make, and were ready to eat in a day. Since I made pickle slices (and didn't pickle the entire cucumbers), they'll go great in sandwiches or on top of a burger. The jars (which were re-used, of course) are very pretty and would make nice gifts, too.
Here's the recipe:
6-7 large cucumbers, sliced
1-2 onions, sliced
1/4 cup salt
1/2 liter white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon mustard seed
5-10 whole black peppercorns
Use fresh cucumbers; wash and slice. Slice onions. Mix vegetables with salt and let stand 1 hour. (This makes them crunchy later on.)
Drain and rinse with 2 cups cold water (or until most of the salt is out). Combine vinegar, sugar, celery seeds and peppercorns and heat to boiling. Cook 3 minutes.Pack vegetables into jars and add hot vinegar mixture over them, leaving 1/4" headspace. Seal the jars immediately and let them cool before refrigerating or storing.
The downside? Books are made of paper, and paper is made of trees. And I love trees. As with many other things, though, the energy and resources required to support our reading habits could be significantly reduced if people did one simple thing - share. Borrow books from a library, buy used books and then re-sell them, share books with friends, and... swap books with strangers.
How can you swap books with strangers if, well, you don't know them? For the English readers out there, there's a great website called AngloBooks that allows people to post whatever books they have lying around, see what books other people have, and swap. The service is free, and there are book swappers listed from all over the country (Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Raanana, Rechovot...). All kinds of genres are available, ranging from literature, to travel, to mystery and romance novels. Signing up is very easy, too.
Happy book sharing!
Okay, so its not really my farm... but I'm a member so a small part of it is kind of mine. At least a cabbage patch or a tomato plant. About four months ago, I joined a community-supported organic farm called Or-Gani (in Hebrew, literally, "light of my garden") and have been receiving weekly deliveries of freshly picked, pesticide-free, seasonal produce ever since. Before joining the farm I never really thought much about where my food came from or how it was produced - as far as I was concerned, cucumbers came from the supermarket. I didn't even know how certain vegetables grow.
But being part of the farm has made me a lot more conscious about the food I'm eating and of the effects that my food consumption has on the environment. I've learned not to take all of the energy required to transport my food to me for granted, to try and eat the food with the least amount of processing possible, and to reduce the packaging associated with my food. Being a member of the farm puts me into direct contact with the people growing my food (very nice guys called Yaniv and Offer), requires minimal packaging (the cardboard boxes and packaging can be returned to the farmer for re-use), and requires less energy to transport since the vegetables are going directly to the person eating them. And the vegetables are damn tasty, too. I made a sweet potato and carrot soup last night that got rave reviews.
Or-Gani is one of a few organic CSA farms that have started to emerge in Israel, and depending on where you live in the country one may have available deliveries in your area. Other CSA farms in Israel include Chubeza, Hazon, and Gabriella's Farm. I highly recommend giving one a try.
That's why I was so excited when someone posted an invitation to use their compost heap in the center of Tel Aviv last week on Freecycle (Freecycle is an amazing network, better than Craigslist, to be explained in a later post). Not many people get excited about composting their onion peels and lemon rinds. I do.
After reading that invitation I immediately starting separating my organic scraps (food waste, food gone bad, dust, hair, cloth, torn up paper) from my other garbage and this morning I headed over to the compost heap, which is located in the back garden of an apartment building on 8 Ha'Avoda Street (near the corner of King George and Ha'Avoda). To add my scraps I cleared a small space in the center of the pile on the right (the compost heap), placed the scraps inside that area, and then covered all of the scraps with dry leaves (located to the left of the compost heap). Easy.
Easy, and important. Organic waste usually constitutes 30-40% of household trash, meaning 30-40% of the waste in landfills could be composted and used to foster the growth of additional plants. Meaning, our landfills could be 30-40% smaller if everyone composted their food scraps. Sounds good to me. Plus, the nutrients go back into the earth which is pretty great too.
Those who know me know that I'm a very improbable candidate for starting a blog. I'm not a big fan of technology, am never attracted to the newest gadgets, and when it comes to drawing attention to myself I'm generally pretty shy. So why start this blog? Because I've been so inspired recently by all of the environmental blogs popping up all over the blogosphere, suggesting tips for being "green" in New York, or San Francisco, or the UK, and realized that although there are some blogs on the subject here in Israel we could definitely use some more. Hence my blog.
For those who have only recently become interested in adopting a more"green" lifestyle (and for those who haven't), I want you to know that although I was very interested in the environment and animal rights as a kid (I've been a vegetarian since I was seven years old, much to the dismay of my Moroccan grandmother who still tries to feed me lamb every chance she gets), this interest took a hiatus for some reason for many, many years and I'm new to "living green" too. So this blog will serve as an inspiration for me to figure out more ways to be green, and to share them with you.
Since I'm currently living in Tel Aviv, many of my posts might be Tel Aviv specific but I will make a definite attempt to offer more general suggestions as well. Any suggestions you have are very welcome, so please post your comments.
So welcome to Crunchy Greenola!