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How Idaho is Embracing Sustainability



Robert Conrad, from Idaho, US, explores how his home city is turning to sustainability initiatives as a growing population is leading to environmental challenges.

As an Idaho native, I have watched my state explode with growth in recent years.  Areas that were once pastures are now filling up with homes to accommodate the large influx of new residents.  With a 14.3% growth since 2000, Boise, Idaho has become the new hotspot for people to move to, with its abundance of trees and rich Basque history.

However, there have been some environmental concerns that have arisen due to this astronomic growth.  Inherently, the Treasure Valley (where Boise is located) is prone to inversions, which traps vehicle emissions close to the valley floor, thus degrading air quality over time.  Other concerns include groundwater contamination and an increasing need for wastewater plants.

In response to this need, some businesses in the local area have taken the initiative in reducing their carbon footprint through various means. For example, Boise Cascade made some excellent changes to its wood-drying process, dropping its emissions output by 81% since 2000.  Boise Cascade has even partnered with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its Climate Leaders initiative to help reduce its greenhouse emissions, which have dropped 5% since 2000.  By voluntarily joining with the EPA’s initiative, Boise Cascade is leading a newfound local interest in long-term sustainability practices.

Another company that has been doing excellent work in the realm of sustainability would be Boise Centre.  The Boise Centre has turned much of its focus on energy efficiency, water conservation and waste reduction.  The methods employed by the Centre include a more efficient lighting system, the use of water stations as opposed to individual pitchers, and partnering with various local companies in their recycling efforts.  Boise Centre still continues to reduce its environmental impact and partner with local companies into 2015, and serves as a great example for other local businesses through their efforts.

Other initiatives that the City of Boise has taken include hosting a ‘Green Workshop’ in 2013.  The workshop covered topics such as development practices, water efficiency, and resource conservation.  The workshop featured speakers from the EPA and ICF International, and was funded by a grant from the city.  Its message expanded beyond business owners, as the event was available to the public.

In its own efforts, the EPA has voiced their interest in sustainable practices and has provided a resource page for interested parties.   Accepted practices endorsed by the EPA include sustainable communities & transportation, as well as green technology and chemicals.  These programs provide information on clean automotive technology, as well as green infrastructure, engineering and chemical research.  The practices of green engineering and infrastructure were the main focus of the Green Workshop hosted in Boise in 2013.

In truth, sustainability is not a new topic of concern.  The roots of sustainability can be traced back to the English Industrial Revolution, where philosophers Adam Smith, David Hume and John Stuart Mill began speaking out against environmental damage.  Since that time, legislation has taken proactive steps to reduce the environmental impact, such as the Clean Air Act of 1970, followed by the Clean Water Act shortly after in 1972.  There have even been private and public organisations that have taken great strides in protecting the environment through cleanup and recycling initiatives.

In whole, the city of Boise is continuing these initiatives through their own programs.  These include climate protection, erosion & sediment control and stormwater programs.  The City of Boise also recognises businesses that employ sustainability practices through their Building Excellence and EnviroGuard Sustainability Awards programs.  These awards are handed out on an annual basis, and honor managers and owners whose upgrades and renovations reduce their environmental impact.

Going forward, Boise’s growth continues at an astronomical rate with no signs of slowing down soon.  As a result, businesses and residents should do what they can to reduce their environmental impact.  Air quality and groundwater preservation are top priorities in the Treasure Valley, and everyone should do their part as a resident to continue the meet, or even exceed, the bar set by Boise Centre and Boise Cascade.

Robert Conrad is an Idaho native and former Business student.  He has lived in Idaho his whole life, and watched it transform from a quiet state to the current hotspot to live.  When he’s not earning a paycheck, he enjoys road trips, random excursions, and playing video games.  Connect with Robert on Twitter or Facebook.

Further reading:

‘Global efforts’ needed to make cities sustainable

Urban sustainable tourism: being responsible in the city

Thriving, livable and green, Melbourne walks the talk as a sustainable city

Urban integration: key issues in building sustainable cities

Sustainable cities go beyond green to blue


Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living



Shutterstock Photos - By Syda Productions |

Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.

However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.

They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.

What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??

Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded. 

Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.

In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.


Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.

Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.

How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?

Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.

For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.

Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.

Their influence in the UK

The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.

Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.

In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.

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How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018



Shutterstock / By KENG MERRY Paper Art |

Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.

Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:

1. Energy – produce it, save it

If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.

It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.

While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.

energy efficient

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By My Life Graphic

Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!

2. Don’t be just another tourist

Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.

3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly


Shutterstock / By Khakimullin Aleksandr

We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t  mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.

To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.

It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.

4. Know thy recycling

People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.

People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.

5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool

Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.

All in all

The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.

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