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Green Building Blog

Blog Review: The Green Spotlight

Miriam Landman provides tips on water conservation, choosing the right dog food, and living without pesticides

Miriam Landman

Miriam Landman describes herself as a writer, accredited LEED professional, former reporter/producer for public radio’s Living on Earth, and the founder of M. Landman Communications & Consulting.

She also has written Green Homes case studies for GBA, including one about a home made of composite ICFs, and another about a California renovation.

More to the point, this former part-time professional cellist publishes The Green Spotlight.

She sums up the blog’s mission this way: “The Green Spotlight weblog presents concise information and useful links related to green living, green building and design, green business, and sustainable communities.” And after browsing this site for a morning, I’d have a hard time coming up with a better description.

For GBA readers, many of the entries will seem like old friends. There are, for example, nuggets on the value of water conservation, the need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, and how to choose the most appropriate building site. This is the kind of information you’ll find in GBA’s Green Basics, or just about any book on green building you happen to pick up.

But there also are some surprises: how to get rid of bed bugs without resorting to chemical pesticides, how to choose gifts that don’t strain the environment, and even tips on picking the right dog food.

Landman is a serious collector of quotations. Edmund Burke, Voltaire, Lao Tzu, Margaret Mead, Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, Woody Allen, and Lily Tomlin are among her sources of inspiration, the glue being the value of individual initiatives for change, no matter how insignificant they might seem. “I always wondered why someone doesn’t do something about that,” Lily Tomlin is quoted as saying. “Then I realized I was somebody.”

She also is on the hunt for positive developments in our often dispiritingly negative world. By following a link to her Facebook page (you don’t need your own account to have a look), I was directed to the story of a 9-year-old boy’s science project that saved Reno, Nevada, tens of thousands of gallons of water each year (the trick involves water pressure, but to get the whole story you’ll have to read it yourself). Or, you might want to read about Project Kaisei, a California-based project working to remove plastic debris from the North Pacific Gyre, a huge patch of ocean whose currents gather a variety of unhealthy and unsightly garbage.

There’s lots here to read, no matter what your particular green interests. Here are some excerpts:

On the benefits of choosing an appropriate site

“Living in a sensible and sustainable location has numerous benefits. You can reap significant financial savings (e.g., by reducing the amount of driving you have to do; or by avoiding or minimizing the need to build new infrastructure or to do extensive site grading. Location efficiency can also yield broad, collective benefits for society and our shared environment, such as: reducing sprawl-related automobile dependence, traffic, and air pollution; protecting public health, environmental health, and the climate; conserving natural resources, habitat, and open space; and contributing to the creation of livable, walkable, healthy, and vibrant neighborhoods that enhance your community’s quality of life and local economic opportunities.”

On choosing the right gift

“Before the holidays (and other gift-giving occasions), I sit down and have a brainstorm session to try to come up with thoughtful, meaningful gifts that are well suited to each person on my list. Then, I run those ideas through my budget filter, as well as another set of filters that I consider to be just as important: In an effort to be an environmentally and socially conscious consumer, I strive to choose gifts that meet one or more of the following criteria — many of which also happen to be economical…”

[She goes on to list “non stuff” — activities, gift certificates, making a donation — as well as locally made goods, Fair Trade goods, homemade things, and products with green attributes or purposes. She also includes a number of useful links to find them.]

On kicking the fossil-fuel habit

“Until government and industry help shift our infrastructure and economy away from dinosaur fuels and into clean, renewable energy sources, we’ll never be able to get really ‘clean’ — so we should all be pushing for government to end the huge subsidies and tax breaks for dirty energy industries and to support cleaner energy sources (e.g., local solar, wind, tidal power, biomass, and some types of biofuels — a topic for a future post). But we can also do a lot right now, in our everyday lives, to start weaning ourselves off the junk.”

On protecting your pet

“Many conventional flea and tick treatments (particularly the topical, spot-on treatments that are applied directly onto pets’ skin, but also many flea collars, powders, and sprays) contain highly toxic pesticides, some of which have been shown to cause a range of serious reactions in pets, from skin problems, vomiting, and excessive drooling to neurological problems (e.g., seizures or uncontrollable shaking), heart attacks, and death. So, horrifically, some pesticides end up serving as pet-icides…

“The Center for Public Integrity did a study in 2008, and found that at least 1,600 pet deaths related to spot-on treatments were reported to the EPA over the past five years. According to the NRDC, cats may be more susceptible to adverse reactions than dogs, since they are more likely to lick the treatments off of their fur and they often lack enzymes for metabolizing or detoxifying the pesticides. Many of these pesticides are toxic to humans, as well, and children are especially vulnerable to exposure.”

On the value of individual effort

“Progress tends to take longer than we’d like. Change is almost always incremental: it happens through a series of steps, because many people are fearful of or resistant to change. However, small steps can gradually lead to larger strides. Individual actions can have a ripple effect. And small changes made by growing numbers of people can add up to a big impact. We shouldn’t let ourselves get paralyzed into inaction because we feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of a problem or we think our actions won’t make a difference.

“Doing something constructive to address a problem is better than doing nothing. Wise thinkers throughout history — from Euripides to Lily Tomlin — have come to this conclusion, and they have articulated it in a variety of ways.”


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