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Surprisingly Sustainable: Oktoberfest’s Green Side

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Some celebrations are almost synonymous with waste. Picture the plastic-bead-strewn streets of New Orleans after Mardi Gras, or the mountains of plastic packaging and wrapping paper after Christmas. For the environmentally conscious, the incredible wastefulness of these occasions is enough to make a Scrooge out of even the most festive individual.

Surprisingly, an environmental hero has arisen from a most unlikely holiday. A celebration that seems to have no other purpose than excessive drinking. No, not St. Patty’s Day (although there are ways to go green then, too!). Friends, we’re talking about Oktoberfest.

Yes. Really.

The Environmental Oscars

Here’s a tidbit that might shock you — it certainly surprised us. Oktoberfest — the real one, that is, held in Munich, Germany, each autumn — is one of the most environmentally friendly events out there. So much so, in fact, that it was awarded the Environmental Oscar in 1997 for its efforts to be as minimally wasteful as possible.

How have Oktoberfest organizers achieved this? Three main aspects contribute to their environmental success:

Disposing of Disposables

In 1991, the city of Munich banned disposable servingware. No more paper plates, no more plastic forks. Instead, food was served on real plates, with real silverware. Drinks were served in glasses, rather than plastic tumblers. This one change reduced waste at the annual festival by over 90 percent. It’s an encouraging statistic for festivals worldwide, especially those that think that waste-free celebrations are beyond their capabilities. After all, Oktoberfest is hardly a small-time operation; it hosts six million visitors each year. If they can go without one-time-use tableware, surely your next backyard barbecue can too!

Organics & Recycling

Gray water from washing all these dishes doesn’t just go down the drain, either. In almost half the festival tents, gray water is reused to flush the toilets (I’ve always wondered why we don’t do this everywhere). Reusing water like this drastically reduces the need for fresh water, and ensures that Oktoberfest gets the most use out of every drop. Much of the food served at Oktoberfest — including the meat — is also organically sourced. And while we could definitely make a strong case for reducing the amount of meat eaten at the bacchanalian beer fest (each year, attendees devour tons of sausages and almost 500,000 chickens), choosing poultry that’s been organically raised does make a huge difference.

Renewable Rejoicing

Since the year 2000, streetlights, toilets and all other public areas of the festival have been powered by renewable energy, making the festival one of the greenest in terms of how it powers its raucous celebrations. This attitude of environmental awareness has filtered through to its vendors, too — approximately 60 percent of them have followed suit and also chosen renewable power sources.

Oktoberfest is one of the purest festivals out there when you look at pure intent. It was originally celebrated to mark the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese on Oct. 12, 1810. These days, it’s a chance to celebrate good beer, great brats and dudes in lederhosen. But the way Munich has focused on creating sustainable Oktoberfest celebrations is an example to all of us that life needn’t be dour and stark to be eco-friendly. In fact, quite the opposite.

Your Own Green Event

So, how can you bring a little of Munich’s environmental sensibilities to your own Oktoberfest celebrations — or any other party, for that matter? It is possible, even if you can’t use gray water to flush your toilet or suddenly switch to renewable energy:

Use e-vite sites like Green Envelope or Paperless Post to create online invites instead of mailing paper ones.
Follow Oktoberfest’s lead and ditch the disposable plates, cups and silverware. If you’re worried about tipsy guests breaking your good dishes, pick up an inexpensive set at Goodwill or Value Village. It’ll likely be the same price as (or cheaper than) disposable stuff, and you can reuse for many parties down the road. Just remember to wash well before use.
Provide bins for compost, recycling and garbage. Often just providing guests options for eco-friendly waste disposal is all you need to do to decrease the amount of waste your party produces.
If you’re going all out for the celebration, rent a costume instead of buying one. Good lederhosen don’t come cheap, and cheap ones won’t last long. Get into the spirit by renting a costume that’ll help you dress the part without taking up space in your closet the rest of the year.
If it’s in your budget, offer your guests organic refreshments and food — organic and/or local chickens, sausage and even beer if you can find it!

We hope you have a fantastic time celebrating good beer, great friends and the crisp arrival of fall. Happy Oktoberfest!

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

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Surprisingly Sustainable: Oktoberfest’s Green Side

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Succulents Simplified – Debra Lee Baldwin

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Succulents Simplified

Growing, Designing, and Crafting with 100 Easy-Care Varieties

Debra Lee Baldwin

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: May 21, 2013

Publisher: Timber Press

Seller: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.


Succulents are hot. And Debra Lee Baldwin, the bestselling author of Designing with Succulents and Succulent Container Gardens , is the ideal guide for gardeners, crafters, and DIYers looking for an introduction to these trendy, low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants. Along with gorgeous photos packed with design ideas, Debra offers her top 100 plant picks and explains how to grow and care for succulents no matter where you live. Step-by-step projects, including a cake-stand centerpiece, special-occasion bouquets, a vertical garden, and a succulent topiary sphere, will inspire you to express your individual style. Whether you’re a novice or veteran, have an acre to fill or a few pots, live in Calexico or Canada, Succulents Simplified is a dazzling primer for success with succulents wherever you live!

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Succulents Simplified – Debra Lee Baldwin

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Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life – Helen Czerski

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Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life

Helen Czerski

Genre: Physics

Price: $15.99

Publish Date: January 10, 2017

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Seller: W. W. Norton


A physicist explains daily phenomena from the mundane to the magisterial. Take a look up at the stars on a clear night and you get a sense that the universe is vast and untouchable, full of mysteries beyond comprehension. But did you know that the key to unveiling the secrets of the cosmos is as close as the nearest toaster? Our home here on Earth is messy, mutable, and full of humdrum things that we touch and modify without much thought every day. But these familiar surroundings are just the place to look if you’re interested in what makes the universe tick. In Storm in a Teacup, Helen Czerski provides the tools to alter the way we see everything around us by linking ordinary objects and occurrences, like popcorn popping, coffee stains, and fridge magnets, to big ideas like climate change, the energy crisis, or innovative medical testing. She guides us through the principles of gases (“Explosions in the kitchen are generally considered a bad idea. But just occasionally a small one can produce something delicious”); gravity (drop some raisins in a bottle of carbonated lemonade and watch the whoosh of bubbles and the dancing raisins at the bottom bumping into each other); size (Czerski explains the action of the water molecules that cause the crime-scene stain left by a puddle of dried coffee); and time (why it takes so long for ketchup to come out of a bottle). Along the way, she provides answers to vexing questions: How does water travel from the roots of a redwood tree to its crown? How do ducks keep their feet warm when walking on ice? Why does milk, when added to tea, look like billowing storm clouds? In an engaging voice at once warm and witty, Czerski shares her stunning breadth of knowledge to lift the veil of familiarity from the ordinary. You may never look at your toaster the same way.

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Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life – Helen Czerski

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Florida’s best defense against natural disasters is nature

The highest point in all of Florida is a hill that tops out at 345 feet above sea level, just south of the Alabama border. Much of the rest of the state lies far, far below that — like, 340 feet below — a peninsula jutting into the Caribbean around the same height as the Caribbean. It’s the last place you’d pick to ride out a hurricane, given the choice.

But that’s the choice Florida’s 20 million residents had to reckon with last week, as Hurricane Irma barrelled toward the state, breaking records and flattening towns across the Caribbean. Many expected it to be the costliest disaster in U.S. history — not just because of the Irma’s towering strength.

Florida is seemingly made for disaster. Its sprawling cities have been built up quickly and extensively, at the expense of the ecosystems that act as a natural defense against the worst of a hurricane’s blow. There’s nothing to stop a hurricane like Irma from wreaking havoc wherever it goes, but dunes, wetlands, mangroves, and coral reefs can all play an important role in absorbing some of the destructive energy of a storm. Unfortunately, over the past century, the Sunshine State has lost the majority of all these natural shock absorbers, trading them for arable land and new developments.

As Florida and Texas start to rebuild from the blows dealt by Irma and Harvey, many are weighing how best to fortify vulnerable coastal cities, even as rising sea level brings the threat of flooding closer and closer.

“If you live near the water, the difference between a crashing wave and a slowly moving chop against the walls of your home can be everything,” says Rob Nowicki, a post-doctoral researcher at Florida’s Mote Marine Lab.

Houston’s mayor made a plea for funding to construct a massive sea wall, or “coastal spine,” to protect the region from dangerous storm surges in the future. “We cannot talk about rebuilding” he said, “if we do not build the coastal spine.”

This bunker-building approach to natural disaster — which Nathanael Johnson wrote about in Houston’s struggle to control floodwater — is prone to occasional, catastrophic failure, especially as climate change continues to shift the baseline on our expectations of what a storm can do. The problem is, for Florida, these kinds of concrete-heavy projects aren’t really an option.

“What distinguishes all of South Florida is that it’s got this porous limestone base,” says Ashley Dawson, author of Extreme Cities. No matter what barriers you put between yourself and the sea, water will be able to seep around it. In Miami Beach, king tides regularly flood up through the city’s storm drains, hurricane or no. At the most dire moments before Irma made landfall, Miami — with an average elevation of 6 feet above sea level — was predicted to see as much as 10 feet of storm surge.

When Irma made a last minute swerve inland, pushing the storm surge away from populated coastal cities, much of the predicted damage was avoided. Still, Miami and Jacksonville saw several feet of flooding, power outages, and overwhelmed infrastructure.

Other cities, like Tampa and Sarasota, remain especially vulnerable because they sit on the on the edge of very shallow seas, Dawson says. That means when storms sweep in from deeper ocean they pile up some extremely high, extremely powerful waves ahead of them. Although Tampa only ended up with a couple of feet of storm surge from Irma, initial forecasts were chilling; if the storm had veered a different way, nine to 15 feet of surge might have slammed into the city.

Shoreline habitats like dunes and wetlands can block storm surge, usually the deadliest part of a major hurricane, because they slow down dangerous waves and prevent water from moving as far inland as it would without them.

A recent study in Nature’s online journal calculated that wetlands saved New York $625 million in flooding damage during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, by absorbing both storm surge and rain.

“As a rule of thumb, you can expect larger and more prominent ecosystems to provide more protection,” says Nowicki.

The same swamps and mangroves that would help protect Florida from storms are also what helped keep people and development out of the sparsely populated state until the 20th century.

To make South Florida habitable, the Army Corps of Engineers dug 2,000 miles of canals and levees starting in the 1930s. Beaches were bulwarked, channels were dredged, subdivisions snaked their way into former marshland, and Disney World appeared in a puff of pink smoke (I assume). Along the way, Florida’s natural wetlands receded and its once-stunning coral reefs all but disappeared. Florida is now the third most populous state, behind California and Texas.

In the last few years, Florida Governor Rick Scott has overseen large budget cuts to the department in charge of researching and preserving these ecosystems, enabling the kind of risky coastal development that puts people too close to dangerous storms. And President Donald Trump recently reversed an Obama-era mandate that federally funded construction projects abide by a higher flooding standard to take sea level rise into consideration. All of this leaves Florida in a poor position to weather future storms.

Then there’s the question of Florida’s coral reefs. Offshore reefs can’t stop surge from coming inland the way dunes and wetlands can, but they sap energy from the waves washing over them. Coral cover in the Caribbean, including in Florida, has decreased by 80 percent, leaving low-lying shorelines less protected than ever.

Mote Marine Laboratory, where Robert Nowicki works, is focused on research into how to restore Florida’s degraded reefs by growing and planting new coral colonies onto former reef sites.

“While much of our living coral is gone, the skeletons remain,” Nowicki explains. The structure of a reef, even a dead one, will continue to act as a brake on waves for a while, but over time the skeletons break down and, without live coral to rebuild them, turn into rubble.

This kind of outplanting project is based on the way foresters restore damaged forests by raising trees in nurseries and then distributing them into the wild. It’s labor-intensive and slow, yet Nowicki says it’s the best bet for rebuilding these damaged reefs, and their storm-buffering services, before they’re gone for good.

“Getting living coral back on the old skeletons,” he says, “is a kind of race against time.”

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Florida’s best defense against natural disasters is nature

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Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer

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Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer

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Warren Buffett is driving truckloads of money into electric companies.

Climate change is rapidly altering the region, and less sea ice means more ships are lining up to traverse its remote waters. “It’s what keeps us up at night,” Amy Merten, a NOAA employee, told the New York Times. “There’s just no infrastructure for response.”

Cargo ships and cruise liners are already setting sail, and the Trump administration is clearing the way for oil rigs to join them.

Canada, the U.S., and Russia have an agreement to help each other during emergencies, but the U.S. only has two functional heavy icebreaker ships, and rescue efforts would likely have to rely on other commercial ships being nearby.

To top it all off, the head of the Coast Guard, Paul Zukunft, says the U.S. is unprepared to deal with an Arctic oil spill. Zukunft pointed out the difficulty in cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon spill, which had much more favorable conditions.

“In the Arctic, it’s almost like trying to get it to the moon in some cases, especially if it’s in a season where it’s inaccessible; that really doubles, triples the difficulty of responding,” the head of the Navy’s climate change task force told Scientific American.

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Warren Buffett is driving truckloads of money into electric companies.

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Tesla has a big new competitor vying to build the batteries of the future.

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Tesla has a big new competitor vying to build the batteries of the future.

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Stop scaring people about climate change. It doesn’t work.

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Stop scaring people about climate change. It doesn’t work.

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6 Must-Try Natural Cleaning Shortcuts

As much as I dislike the process of cleaning, I appreciateit when things are clean(and so do our guests).

So, I do my bestto clean smarter instead of harder.

With a little planning and a well-stocked pantry, you can make it easier to clean your home in a safe and eco-friendly manner.

Keep reading for some natural cleaning tips that will save you time and protect your health!

Why Natural Cleaning?

The products with which you choose to clean your home can have a tremendous impact on your health. According to studies conducted by The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times and occasionally more than 100 times higher than outdoor levels. These levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern because most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors.”

What causes indoor air pollution? Chemical-based household cleaners top the list, which also includes new carpet, paint, adhesives and certain types of upholstery.

Related: 7 Sources Of Indoor Air Pollution

By simply trading these toxic cleaning agents for naturally-made (but equally effective) products, you can drastically improve your indoor air quality. Ready to get started? Here are some of the basic building blocks of natural cleaning you’ll want to keep on hand.

Natural Ingredients & Supplies For Green Cleaning

Ingredients:

White Vinegar
Baking Soda
Castile Soap
Soap Nuts
Essential Oils (Lemon, Tea Tree Oil, Lavender, etc)
Borax
Olive Oil
Flour
Corn Starch
Kosher Salt
Hydrogen Peroxide

Supplies:

Newspaper
Old Socks, T-Shirts, Pillowcases, etc (to be used as cleaning cloths)
Mesh Produce Bags (for DIY pot scrubbers)
Old Toothbrushes
Empty Spray Bottles

6 Natural Cleaning Tips & Shortcuts

Once you’ve collected your natural cleaning ingredients and supplies, it’s time to put them to work in your home. It might surprise you to learn that nearly every conventional cleaning product (from glass cleaner to fabric softener) can be recreated, naturally, right in your own kitchen and at a fraction of the price.

Dirty Oven?

Make this paste out of water and baking soda, and spread all over the walls and bottomof your crusty oven (be careful not to get it on the heating elements, though!). Leave it overnight. In the morning, simply use a damp cloth to remove the paste, taking all that grime with it!

Dirty Toilet?

“Toss afull cupof baking soda right into the bowl and leave it for an hour. Then pour in a cup of white vinegar, let it sit for a few minutes and flush,” writes Chris Sosa for Care2.

Dirty Surfaces?

Use distilled water, vinegar, essential oils and some upcycled washcloths to make your ownDIY disinfectingwipes! Simply roll, stuff and soak in a glass jar that lives on your kitchen counter. Then, whenever there’s a mess that needs cleaning up, you’ve got a reusable, non-toxic wipe at your fingertips. Bonus! They can also be used in place of Swiffer pads.

Dirty Windows?

Screw a spray bottle nozzle directly onto a bottle of club soda. Instant streak-free window cleaner! (Add a little white vinegar if your windows are particularly grimy.)

Dirty Sponges?

Without proper, regular cleaning, your kitchen sponges can become horrifying breeding grounds for bacteria.Throw sponges in the microwave for 2 minutes or add them to your dishwasher’s “sterilize” cycle to kill 99 percent of the stuff hiding in there.

Dirty Ceiling Fan?

“Spritz the inside of an old pillowcase with a vinegar and water solution,” recommends A Part of Life. Place the pillowcase around each fan blade, gently wiping toward the outer end of the blade, trapping the dust inside. Rotate the pillowcase so you have a clean piece of cloth for each blade.

What’s your favorite natural cleaning tip or shortcut? Tell us in the comments!

Related:
10 DIY Green Cleaning Recipes
51 Fantastic Uses for Baking Soda
8’Shower Plants’ That Want to Live in Your Bathroom

Images via Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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6 Must-Try Natural Cleaning Shortcuts

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The Eighty-Dollar Champion – Elizabeth Letts

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The Eighty-Dollar Champion

Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation

Elizabeth Letts

Genre: Nature

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: August 23, 2011

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER   Harry de Leyer first saw the horse he would name Snowman on a truck bound for the slaughterhouse. The recent Dutch immigrant recognized the spark in the eye of the beaten-up nag and bought him for eighty dollars. On Harry’s modest farm on Long Island, he ultimately taught Snowman how to fly. Here is the dramatic and inspiring rise to stardom of an unlikely duo. One show at a time, against extraordinary odds and some of the most expensive thoroughbreds alive, the pair climbed to the very top of the sport of show jumping. Their story captured the heart of Cold War–era America—a story of unstoppable hope, inconceivable dreams, and the chance to have it all. They were the longest of all longshots—and their win was the stuff of legend.

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The Eighty-Dollar Champion – Elizabeth Letts

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