What’s your cell phone radiation level? Is it safe?

Look it up with this tool: http://www.ewg.org/cellphoneradiation/Get-a-Safer-Phone

My phone (Treo 650) has high radiation. In fact, among the Top 10 Worst PDA/Smartphones!  (The super-popular iPhone 3G is not among the top 10, but it’s a high-radiator, too.)

What to do? Should I toss out my phone, even though it still works fine? Or should I hang on to it, as I do with most things, since one of my strategies for living as sustainability as possible is to use things as long as I can, even if it might not be as efficient as a new model–e.g., driving (low mileage) an efficient car that’s older versus buying a new hybrid: lower net impact.

However, in this case, continuing to use this phone may be bad for my health. According to the Environmental Working Group’s report on cell phone safety (based on radiation levels), studies show there may be a negative effect on health from long-term cell phone usage. Even if the studies aren’t conclusive, I know that I don’t like holding my Treo to my ear for long; my head feels funny.

For now, I’m using my headset as much as possible; unfortunately, the sound quality is not good enough at times.

How is your cell phone radiation? Would you change your phone based on its rating?  See the best and worst cell phones, and plug your phone into the widget in the right-hand column: http://www.ewg.org/cellphoneradiation/Get-a-Safer-Phone.

Posted in efficiency, environment, health, recycle, sustainability, technology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

how to get extra life from a printer toner cartridge: black tape

Don’t you hate having to replace the toner cartridge, especially when the printing seems to be fine? Surely, there must be more life in the toner.

Well, here’s a workaround in the spirit of responsible consumption: use up what you have fully to reduce waste, and, in this case, save money.

The tip is from a forum topic from fixyourownprinter.com and focuses on Brother printers, though I suspect it would work on other printers, too. You could get another 500-1000 pages printed, as reported by some on the forum.

The printer decided it was out of toner, even though the last page printed was fine. Rather than run out for a new toner cartridge I used a small (.5 x .5 in.) piece of black electrical tape to cover the sensor hole on the non-gear side of the cartridge. By covering the hole the printer is fooled into thinking the hopper is full of toner.

Read the full forum thread for more tips, including using masking tape and a black marker, if you don’t have black electrical tape.

Of course, I continue to advocate responsible printing, which saves paper, ink/toner and energy, which translates into $, too:

Posted in conservation, efficiency, energy saving, everyday, office, paper, sustainability, sustainable | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

how much plastic trash waste in a week?

Take the Plastic Trash Challenge to find out.

I’m starting today.  I don’t think I generate much plastic trash, but actually, I have no idea how much.

Similar to guessing how long I shower, I had only a vague notion until I started using a shower timer a few weeks ago. Now that I can see how long 5 minutes is, I’m definitely showering more efficiently. I’m hoping the plastic trash challenge will do the same. Knowledge = Power.

I’ll collect my plastic waste for a week, then photo, tally and post to Fake Plastic Fish. I’ll report back next week.

Want to take the challenge, too?  (Instructions on how to do.)

Posted in everyday, packaging, plastic, shopping, sustainable | Tagged | 2 Comments

water-wise gadget: can you take a 5-minute shower?

I can. When I use my 5-minute shower timer.

I got this Shower Coach from my city, at an event related to water conservation. It’s great.

  • I stuck it to the shower wall with the suction cup.
  • I flip the sand timer when I start my shower.
  • Keep an eye on the time as I shower. Even with my poor near-sighted vision, I can see the sand slipping down.
  • Finish up in 5 minutes… or as close as I can get.

I’m more conscious of my showering time now, because I have a tool that’s easy to use.  Sure, sometimes I go over, but I’m also more likely to move things along because I know the gallons are running down the drain.

====== UPDATE (3/24/2010)======

Links to purchase timers:


Every minute makes a difference.

My shower flows at 2 gallons per minute (gpm)*. If I shorten my shower by 1 minute every day, I save 730 gallons/year.  2 minutes = 1460 gallons/year saved. But what does 1460 gallons mean?

  • About 32 full baths (@45 gallons per bath)
  • Or 32 car washes at a professional car wash (@ 45 gallons per wash)

Or, 1.5 years worth of water for an average user in Mozambique.

Average water use ranges from 200–300 litres [52-78 gallons] a person a day in most countries in Europe to 575 [150 gallons] in the United States. Residents of Phoenix, Arizona, a desert city with some of the greenest lawns in the United States, use more than 1,000 litres [260 gallons] a day. By contrast, average use in countries such as Mozambique is less than 10 litres [2.6 gallons]. (Source: 2006 United Nations Human Development Report)

Next time you’re enjoying your shower, think about what a 1 or 2 minute difference can make. According to some studies, the average American’s shower takes 7-8 minutes, so getting to the five-minute mark isn’t such a stretch for most. (Except for teens who, as most parents of teens probably know, tend to take longer.)

Try a Shower Coach, or something like it (Shorter Shower Timer), or even a kitchen timer. And see if you can take a 5 minute shower.

* If you have a high-flow showerhead–over 2.5 gpm–you can make a huge impact without even having to shorten your showers. Just change your showerhead to a low-flow. You could go from a wasteful waterfall of 5 gpm to a more reasonable 2.5 gpm and have a lovely shower and reduce your shower water usage 50%.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

could you wear the same dress for one year?

Sheena Matheiken is! 1 dress. 365 days. But then she has a strong creative sense of fashion, and an apparently bottomless collection of accessories in her closet to make it work.

Not only is this a creative experiment and inspiration, The Uniform Project is also a good-cause fundraiser.

Starting May 2009, I have pledged to wear one dress for one year as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Here’s how it works: There are 7 identical dresses, one for each day of the week. Every day I will reinvent the dress with layers, accessories and all kinds of accouterments, the majority of which will be vintage, hand-made, or hand-me-down goodies. Think of it as wearing a daily uniform with enough creative license to make it look like I just crawled out of the Marquis de Sade’s boudoir.

The Uniform Project is also a year-long fundraiser for the Akanksha Foundation, a grassroots movement that is revolutionizing education in India. At the end of the year, all contributions will go toward Akanksha’s School Project to fund uniforms and other educational expenses for slum children in India.

By the way, the dress can be worn forward and backward, and open like a coat. I wonder how it’s going to work for her in the hot humid New York summers.  Anyway, for me, it’s time to think beyond clothing swaps for sustainable dressing; gotta accessorize!

Posted in clothing, design, everyday, recycle, reuse, shopping, sustainability, sustainable | Leave a comment

Food, Inc. movie opens Friday (watch trailer)

Food, Inc., a new documentary about the US food supply opens today in NY, SF and LA. I wonder if it has anything new to say to those of us who have already read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation and are committed to sustainable (as possible) eating?

I guess there’s only one way to find out:

Posted in environment, everyday, food, health, sustainability | Leave a comment

tetra pak: good or bad?

Every time I finish a box of soymilk, I sigh. Because I have to put it in the landfill-bound trash.

But, according to this analysis of the sustainability of tetra pak,

All in all, Tetra Pak figures that its packaging has a smaller carbon footprint than polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE) or glass. A 32-ounce beverage container made by Tetra Pak represents 126 kg of CO2, while glass packaging for the same size drink represents 238 kg CO2, according to the company (and backed up, it says, by third party tests).

OK, fine. But then, as the article points out–and as most of us who don’t have the option to recycle these juice/milk/broth/soup containers–what about the landfill factor? The containers, in the US, mostly end up in landfill. Even if they are recycled, what are they recycled into, since they are “74 percent paper, with aluminum (the liner) and low density polyethylene film (the lid) accounting for the rest”?

So, good or bad? Maybe the question should be reworded: “More good or less bad?” What do you think?

Posted in environment, everyday, food, packaging, recycle, sustainable, technology | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments