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Food Waste Is a Problem, Home Gardeners Can Help




In the developed world, food waste is an enormous problem, and one that we’re doing too little to address and correct, even though that waste has wide-reaching ramifications. Many in impoverished, famine or drought-stricken nations are going hungry, wasted food piles up in landfills, and the water and oil that go into producing and transporting food are a drain on our global resources.

When individuals and organizations do move to address food waste, very often, the proposed solutions include recommendations like planning your meals and buying less, reorganizing your refrigerator, or making cooking with what you have a priority. These are all good ideas, but they do little to address food waste on a larger scale, and they leave out an important recommendation: home gardening.

How can home gardening help reduce food waste? It all comes down to relating more closely to our food, becoming more reliant on local resources rather than shipping-dependant producers, and learning the skills to be good stewards of our resources.

The Scope of the Problem

Many people know that they throw out food, but as individuals, it can be hard to understand the scope of the food waste problem. Just how much do we waste? One recent study out of Scotland determined that the small country threw out 1.35 million metric tons of food in 2013 alone. In the United States, it’s estimated that we lose as much as 40% of our food supply to waste – an unconscionable amount.

Small Solutions

Why should we grow our own food if so much is already going to waste? Won’t that further contribute to a situation of oversupply?

The reality is that when we grow our own food, we’re better able to determine how much our individual families need, we can redistribute excess to friends, neighbors, and food banks, and we’re able to enjoy our food at peak ripeness. We also diminish the carbon footprint of our food.

And of course, you don’t have to start a full-scale farm to change your relationship with food. We can transform our food system by taking simple steps, such as investing in gardening tools like raised beds that allow us to use our space effectively or learning to grow kitchen scraps like onions, garlic, and potatoes, starting a garden with the leftovers of what we already have.

Skill-Based Strategies

Almost anyone can grow a few tomatoes in their backyard or even turn the end of an onion into a new onion by sticking it in some water, but other aspects of solving our food waste problem require mastering some new skills. For example, if you choose to start a garden, you have a few options, but there’s a fair chance you’ll grow too much of something – leaving you with an overabundance of tomatoes or cabbage. What can you do?

While you could donate the extras, another way to reduce food waste is by learning to can and preserve what we grow, giving it a longer shelf life. Those tomatoes will only last so long on your counter, but they’ll stick around for a while as tomato sauce. The same goes for fermenting; you can only use so much cabbage during the growing season, but it’s easy to turn cabbage into kimchi.

Part of what makes learning skills like canning so remarkable is that they’re rooted in a time when people couldn’t afford to waste things. When people relied more heavily on gardening and farming and lacked refrigeration, they had no choice but to can fresh foods for later use – and use them they did. Then it was about sustenance, but now it’s about sustainability.

When you grow your own food, you stop contributing to the massive ecological harms of big farming and become more self-reliant, but you also recognize the hard work that goes into every bite. When that labor is front and center, it becomes harder to allow for waste, and that’s something we should aspire to as environmentally conscious citizens.



Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?



self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo |

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.


Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family



Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace --

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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