April is Earth Month and each of us plays a role in conserving our planet’s natural resources. Fortunately, we can start with something as simple as a trip to the grocery store. Here are some practical tips from Socket to make your next grocery run a green and fun one!
Green Grocery Steps:
1. Assemble a Green Grocery Kit: Did you know that in the U.S. alone, we use 380 billion plastic bags and wraps yearly, requiring 12 million barrels of oil to create?(i) Avoiding the plastic bags from the store reduces pollution and saves money. Additionally, plastic pollution costs citizens in the taxes they pay for of the litter removal costs. These costs can total in the millions of dollars annually for cities such as Nashville.(ii) A solution is to purchase, repurpose, or create reusable bags/containers like those pictured.
2. Support your local farmer’s market. Shopping local cuts down on many different types of waste, such as transportation resulting in greenhouse gas emissions, and keeps your money in your community. The Nashville Farmer’s Market is the city’s largest local market and is open year-round and the spring season is just kicking off.
3. Shop with the Green Grocery Shopping Route in mind: When shopping, consider the route you take when you walk around placing food in your bag or buggie. For example, focus on selecting fresh fruits and vegetables which have the lowest environmental impact, and they are healthy for you too. Remember that minor imperfections and blemishes don’t render produce inedible. By not shying away from imperfections, you can help reduce the approximate 133 billion pounds of food wasted in America annually.iii Fresh foods are also not packaged, therefore minimizing the amount of waste. Avoid and decrease your selections of highly processed or packaged items. Use your own containers to contain non-refrigerated fruits and veggies, as well as baked goods. As you can see, the weight of such containers is negligible.
Apples in a reusable plastic container versus plastic bag. Onions weigh the same in plastic as (clean) old pantyhose.
4. Try to buy only what you will consume before your next return to the store. In the United States, food waste is estimated between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This food waste is the single largest component going to municipal landfills helping make them the third largest source of methane in the U.S.iv Nearly 400 lbs. of food is wasted by the average American family each year!v
5. Get ready for a Green Grocery Checkout: Place bags and containers on the grocery belt and marvel as they whirl through the process and return to your shopping cart. Rehearse your checkout mantra that explains a peculiar looking shopping cart: “Just saving the Earth a little plastic.”
6. If you have forgotten your bags, ask a store attendant for a cardboard box. Often grocers have boxes that they will gladly provide.
Now that you have a Green Grocery Game Plan, get out there and enjoy the seasonal bounty of your favorite market knowing you’ve shopped sustainably too!
i Anderson, Marcia. (March 6, 2014). Confronting Plastic Pollution One Bag at a Time. EPA. Retrieved from: https://blog.epa.gov/blog/tag/plastic-bags/
ii MidAtlantic Solid Waste Consultants. (2009) Litter in America: Fact Sheet – Costs of Littering. Keeping America Beautiful. Retrieved from: https://www.kab.org/resources/end-littering
v Sahagun, Louis. (August 28, 2013). Report unveils hidden costs of litter cleanup for Californians. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/aug/28/science/la-sci-sn-litter-hidden-costs20130827
Can you remember the last time you saw a dark night sky, full of stars and planets, in vivid detail? For many of us living in the world’s cities, the answer may be “no” or “never.” When we think of pollution, we don’t often think of the lights that line our streets and illuminate our buildings. This week is International Dark Sky Week, so let’s dive into some related questions: what is light pollution, what are its effects, and how can we manage it?
Light pollution is “light from cities, vehicles, etc., that makes it difficult to see things in the sky (such as stars) at night.”[i] Too much nighttime light can disrupt bird migrations and sea turtle hatchings, cause glare and accidents for motorists and pedestrians, and disrupt the circadian rhythms that regulate our sleep cycles and produce hormones that protect us from disease. Research suggests that artificial light at night can negatively affect human health, increasing risks for obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more.[ii] From a sustainability perspective, excessive or unshielded lights waste both energy and money.
Image credit: I.D.A.[iii]
The good news about light pollution, in contrast to many other forms of pollution, is that it is immediately reversible. With smart lighting design and turning off unnecessary lights, we can darken our skies and return to a vista full of stars. Here are some tips on reducing light pollution from the International Dark Sky Association:
To minimize the harmful effects of light pollution, lighting should
· Only be on when needed
· Only light the area that needs it
· Be no brighter than necessary
· Minimize blue light emissions
· Be fully shielded (pointing downward)[iv]
Metro’s Historic Courthouse Dark for Earth Hour 2018
Here at the Department of General Services, we do our part to reduce light pollution and eliminate wasted energy. The Department manages nearly 100 city buildings. In each, we strive to ensure that building lighting follows an occupancy schedule and that only necessary lights are on at any given time. Our 21 LEED® certified buildings have automated lighting systems that ensure lights turn on and off at set times. Most of the Department’s buildings are not occupied at night, which means their non-essential lights are turned off to reduce light pollution and save energy.
By being aware of light pollution and the simple, commonsense actions we can all take to reduce it, together we can begin to reclaim Nashville’s night sky.
Our health and the health of our planet are inextricably intertwined. When we take a walk in the woods or gaze at a natural scene, our stress levels decrease, and our mental health improves. When temperatures and humidity exceed certain thresholds, incidence of heatstroke and heat exhaustion skyrocket. When we consume fresh, whole foods and pure water, our physical health and energy improve. When air quality is compromised by pollution, cases of asthma flare up.
This first week in April is “National Public Health Week.” What better time to reflect on the close connections between sustaining ourselves and our planet? This year, the American Public Health Association is focusing one day of National Public Health Week specifically on environmental health.
APHA’s goals around environmental health include:
Reduce our collective carbon emissions footprint. Transition to renewable energies. Protect our natural resources and use evidence-based policy to protect our air, water and food. Support environmental health efforts that monitor our communities for risks and develop health-promoting interventions. Call for transportation planning that promotes walking, biking and public transit — it not only reduces climate-related emissions, but helps us all stay physically active.
Learn more about the importance of environmental health, and what you can do at http://www.nphw.org/nphw-2018/environmental-health.
The Metro Nashville Department of General Services’ Division of Sustainability and Socket, Nashville’s Sustainability Outlet work to make Metro buildings, grounds, and operations harmonious with our visitors’ and employees’ health and the environment. Our electric and alternative fuel vehicles, 21 LEED® certified buildings, and efforts to inspire sustainable practices at the office and home all support people’s health and the wellbeing of the planet.
Richard H. Fulton Campus, managed by Department of General Services
Ultimately, the saying “what goes around, comes around” proves true. By ensuring that our everyday actions are respectful of the world around us, by being conservative with our natural resources, and by treating the planet with kindness, we are helping build better health and wellness for all people.
Join Socket at the annual Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival on April 14th in Public Square Park. Learn more at http://www.nashvillecherryblossomfestival.org/.
Want to spend a day outside protecting native plants and keeping our Greenways and waterways beautiful?
The Cumberland River Compact, Socket, and Greenways for Nashville need your help on the Cumberland River Greenway to pull out invasive plants and clear space for native plants. Come out to make a difference in our biodiversity, to learn about the importance of native ecosystems, and to have some fun.
Your help is needed to pull out invasive weeds along the Cumberland River Greenway with hand tools. Please wear pants and heavy, durable shoes. Bring water, and any clippers, loppers, or other weeding tools you might have, and we will supply other tools. SIGN UP HERE.
Weed Wrangle®, is a one-day, citywide, volunteer effort to help rescue our public parks and green spaces from invasive species through hands-on removal of especially harmful trees, vines and flowering plants.
Winter is definitely here, but the days and hours we can spend outdoors in daylight are growing by minutes each day. With Spring just around the corner, now is the time to get familiar with the enjoyable outdoor spaces Nashville offers its residents and guests. It may seem hard to find nature in an urban setting, but in addition to its city parks, Nashville boasts almost 90 miles of paved greenways that connect people and activities throughout the city. It’s time to take a second look at your greenways!
“By being creative with food waste, utilizing compostable materials, and developing a composting/recycling program a restaurant can save considerable dollars over the long run... I definitely see a future in which Nashville leads the way for citywide composting and the restaurant community will be driving the charge.” – Jeremy Barlow, Owner of SLOCO restaurant
January 2018 -- Nashville, TN
On June 16, 2017, the Metro Nashville Fire Department's Station 19 was awarded the Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award in Building Green for its LEED Platinum Certification. Station 19 is the first fire station to achieve this level of LEED certification in the entire southeast, a major achievement for both the Fire Department and the Metro Nashville Department of General Services.
Read the Tennessee Public Works Magazine article here.
Photo by Katherine Bomboy
The following information is provided as information for our users and does not constitute an endorsement of any product, service or individual by Socket or the Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County.
Nashville has many great options for locally crafted, sourced, fair trade and sustainable gifts for the holidays. Here are some suggestions for the season:
If food is a festive favorite for your friends and family, consider creating a menu with savory or sweet courses sourced from local Tennessee products available at local groceries, boutiques and the Nashville Farmer’s Market under the Pick Tennessee logo.
The bounty of offerings for your holiday party or family gathering include fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, honey, meats, poultry, eggs , sauces, condiments, seasonings, et cetera. Go by and check out the produce in the Farm Sheds or head inside the Market House to see the seasonal offerings of local food purveyors and vendors in the heart of downtown Nashville. Some local non-profits have upcoming holiday markets to inspire your holiday feasts, too!
Nashville also has a plethora of consignment stores and thrift shops that offer a second time around for clothing, jewelry, shoes, furniture and household goods.
Photo by Katherine Bomboy
Nashville boasts a gold mine of stores to find reasonably priced, sustainable gifts for your friends, family and pets. Making thrift and consignment purchases for the holidays helps keep like-new and valuable items out of Nashville’s landfill, making them a more sustainable option for gift-giving. It also prevents the extraction, transportation, and use of new materials to create brand new products. Buying secondhand and local also keeps carbon emissions down by eliminating long-distance shipping and packaging. Go one step further and consider alternative or no gift bags or wrapping paper. I use a colorful scarf or reusable tote bags to disguise holiday bounty for family and friends.
Consider giving an experience rather than a thing this year. Sustainable Travel experiences are possible with a little planning. Websites like the Tennessee Department of Tourism offer suggestions for local and regional travel and experiences that will get family and friends outside, active and engaged with people and places. With all the mountains, rivers, parks, caves and attractions available in Tennessee, there is an experience or tour for everyone. For example, did you know you can go on a free tour of the original Oak Ridge Manhattan Project sites and get a history lesson in the WW II development of atomic weapons that occurred in the area? Learn more about Department of Energy Facilities Public Bus Tour here.
How about a green gift idea that is actually green. Indoor plants bring joy year round and have numerous health benefits for home or office. Interior landscapes improve air quality by reducing carbon dioxide levels, reducing stress, improving memory and mental well-being and naturally adding coolness and humidity to the air through a process called evapotranspiration (USGS, Water Cycle). Don’t worry, there are several varieties of indoor plants that are easy to take care of for those without a green thumb. Many local groceries and nursery carry house plants that have co-benefits for humans such as Lavender, Ene Plant and Peace Lily. Add a colorful bow to the potted plant and you have a gift that will add beauty and health for months and years to come. With all of these great gift ideas that support our local economy and health and well-being, you are ready to give green this holiday season! Happy Holidays!
Photo by Katherine Bomboy