Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Chain Chain Chain

A few links for you and an interesting example of avoiding a pointed question.

First, a friend mentioned this to me:

"One thing I learned recently, which you might already know, small electric appliances - radios, microwaves, clocks, tvs - always pull some amount of current even when off. If you plug in a strip and then plug the devices into that - and turn the strip off when you're not using it - you can cut your electricity use down by about 20% over the course of a year."

I decided to see if I could find any corroborating info, and I found this site ... this guy calls himself "Mr. Electricity." What's described on the page I've linked here essentially supports what my friend asserted, clarifying that it's actually the running clocks that draw the small amount of current. His whole site is pretty informative, and while I can't say for sure this guy is a bonified electricity expert, he sounds very knowledgeable and provides some useful information for minimizing your electricity usage. I am now unplugging my microwave and the clock radio I have in my kitchen when not in use. I can't unplug my alarm clock until I get a battery-powered one ... which I think I have somewhere in my many boxes of junk.

Here's another great page I found, which lists Twenty Things You Can Do to Conserve Energy. What I especially like about this list is that it specifies the amount of CO2 emissions you can save, or we could save collectively, by making these changes.

Another friend asked me if I knew about possible dangers of using Miracle-Gro on her houseplants. I suspected that Miracle-Gro was probably not an eco-friendly fertilizer. I checked their website and they did have a section sort of addressing environmental questions. This should give you an idea of their approach:

"At ScottsMiracle-Gro, we take seriously our responsibility to be a good corporate citizen. We also understand that this duty means supporting a healthy environment, the safety of our associates and the future of communities in which we live and work. It also includes the way in which we conduct business on a day-to-day basis. We pride ourselves on maintaining high ethical standards and being a leader in the area of corporate governance and compliance.
No matter how you measure social responsibility, we believe ScottsMiracle-Gro and our 6,000 fulltime associates prove everyday that we truly are 'Dedicated to a Beautiful World.' "

In their "social responsibility" section, they had two PDF's available, "Green Lawns and a Healthy Environment" and "Gardening and a Healthy Environment." They imply that the best thing you can do for the environment is maintain a healthy, green lawn ... using their products, of course. They list the cooling effects of grass (as opposed to pavement, though they don't mention a comparison to natural ground covered in native plants), the benefits of preventing erosion, and that grasses "clean" the air by trapping dirt and pollutants as well as converting CO2 into oxygen. They do not list the ingredients of their products anywhere on their website that I could find. I wrote to the company and asked what the ingredients of their plant food are and what the environmental impact is of their products and the development of the ingredients themselves. Here's the response I received, within about 48 hours:

"Ms. Sanders, Miracle-Gro makes every effort to insure that our products are as safe as possible for the environment. The fertilizer is absorbed rapidly into the plant so that leaching or runoff is unlikely. This product is safe to use near water, but care should be taken to avoid applying to water. Avoid leaching or runoff by first knowing your soil and then appling water accordingly. Leaching is more prevalent in sandy soils and runoff is greater on clay soils, so the amount and frequency of watering must be regulated. It is safe to use Miracle Gro near a well though it should never be applied over an open well or water source, but as long as it is not, it will not pose any safety concerns to your water supply.

When used according to package directions All Purpose Plant Food will not pose a health or safety risk to humans, animals or the environment.

We do not have information on the development of our products and the impact on the environment; however, our products and research teams must operate under the strictest guidelines set by government watch groups. Check the EPA and related sites for additional information. Again, thank you for your interest in Scotts."

This response is vague at best. What amused/frightened me the most was this sentence:

It is safe to use Miracle Gro near a well though it should never be applied over an open well or water source, but as long as it is not, it will not pose any safety concerns to your water supply.

How close is "near"? Where does it go once it's in the soil or in the air? How can I guarantee that it isn't finding its way into my water supply? If it's not safe in water, is it safe to breathe? Does it biodegrade?

This person also didn't address my question about the actual ingredients, and I was surprised that a company would freely admit that they "do not have information on the development of our products and the impact on the environment." They don't HAVE the information? I can't help but be skeptical ... but, I did read recently that companies are so globalized now that a car manufacturer may in all honesty not be able to tell you where all the components of their vehicles come from. So maybe Scotts doesn't know the specifics of how their ingredients are manufactured ... but I think I can safely say that it's their responsibility to know.

I encourage folks to write to companies about their products. It's an interesting way to see corporate spin in action.


At 1:23 PM, Blogger Mike J. said...

Your blog is really nice! :)

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At 5:14 PM, Blogger SustainableGirl said...

Thanks Mike J. - much appreciated.

At 5:11 PM, Blogger Zeppara said...

Have you ever seen Asparagus this BIG
They grow up to 15in long and 2in wide.


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