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The Green House

The Climate Impact of Coronavirus

The Climate Impact of Coronavirus

One in four Americans is currently living under a “shelter in place order,” directed by their state officials not to leave their homes if possible. The governors of California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey and New York all passed similar orders last week, so 25% of Americans, including me and maybe you, have been adjusting to a sudden, extreme, and indefinite lifestyle change. Celebrities are staying home and recording a cappella videos, fully grown adults are learning Tiktok dances, and workplaces and schools have been replaced by virtual chatrooms. 

This atmosphere is disorienting and ominous; people are rightly afraid of themselves or their loved ones falling ill. But lost in the virtual noise of case counts and virus maps and twitter threads is one positive effect of this tear in the fabric of society: a dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.

Satellites that sense chemical emissions in the air are showing sharp declines in atmospheric pollution over cities that have ordered their citizens to stay home. Los Angeles, which is normally one of America’s smoggiest cities, recorded starkly cleaner air readings over the past two weeks than the same two weeks last year. In the Bay Area, the number of vehicles crossing the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland went down by forty percent in just the last two weeks, and is likely to fall further. 

It’s not just the reduction of cars on the road that’s cutting emissions down. The mass closure of restaurants, bars, and stores have sharply reduced electricity use in cities as well. Columbia University researchers reported that carbon monoxide emissions decreased over 50% in the last week. 

Obviously, enforced social isolation is not the solution to climate change, and this positive byproduct of the pandemic might soon be counteracted by increased production of supplies to combat the virus, or mass movement of people in its wake. However, we can still take lessons away from this moment. Despite many conservative politicians’ claims, it is possible to rapidly cut down our greenhouse gas emissions, and people are capable of making massive sacrifices to save the lives of people they don’t know. Remembering these facts will be essential to making the radical societal changes necessary to combat climate change in the future. 

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How To Make Homemade Hand Sanitizer

How To Make Homemade Hand Sanitizer

If you live in any major US city, your local pharmacies might be running low on hand sanitizer by now. Don’t panic! Instead, make your own. Homemade sanitizer has the extra benefit of potentially including lotion, so your hands might not get as dry and cracked as they tend to with traditional hand sanitizer. 

The most essential ingredient is rubbing alcohol, preferably 99% isopropyl. You can find this in the wound care section of your local pharmacy. 91% alcohol works too, but your final mixture needs at least 60% alcohol once its mixed with the other ingredients, so don’t go lower than that. 

Pour ⅔ of a cup of your rubbing alcohol in a mixing bowl, and then add ⅓ cup of aloe vera gel. The gel, which is mostly used to relieve painful sunburns, is probably not sold out at your pharmacy, so you should be able to purchase some easily. 

You can mix the two and be done after just these steps. Then, transfer it into a clean pump bottle. You can thank science writer Anna Helmenstine for giving us this recipe. 

But if you want to get fancy and add some nice scents or moisturizing properties to your sanitizer, don’t stop there. You can add 8 to 10 drops of your favorite essential oil to scent the mixture. If you want your sanitizer to do double duty as a hand moisturizer, add 1 tablespoon of whatever hand lotion you use regularly and 1 tablespoon of vegetable glycerin. 

It's really that easy, and it's a great way to spend extra time at home if your office or school asks you to work remotely. 

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4 Cooking Supplies You Can Also Use to Clean

4 Cooking Supplies You Can Also Use to Clean

Picture the cabinet under your sink. If you’re like me, it’s filled with rarely used cleaning supplies that each supposedly have a very specific purpose despite mostly being two syllable words ending in x, from Clorox to Ajax to Windex. This genre of cleaning product is usually rife with synthetic chemicals and pollutants that end up damaging our water supply, not to mention having deleterious effects on your health if you inhale too much of them while cleaning. 

Luckily, there are a few common cooking supplies you probably already have at home that can double as cleaning supplies. Making the switch will not only get rid of harmful chemicals, but will also decrease the amount of plastic waste you create, since you’ll be able to stop buying cleaning materials in disposable plastic bottles. 

White Vinegar

White vinegar can accomplish a shocking array of cleaning feats. It can deodorize, remove stains, and cut right through built up grease. It’s also a natural disinfectant, so you can just put it in a spray bottle and use it to clean your bath and countertops. You can use it to clean your dishwasher by placing two cups of vinegar in an empty dishwasher and run the cycle once. If you have a mildewy showerhead, fill a plastic bag with white vinegar and put it over your showerhead, tied so the head is fully engulfed, and leave it on for a couple hours.

Baking Soda

Your toilet cleaner can be replaced by baking soda and vinegar. Leave a cup of baking soda soaking in the toilet for an hour, follow it with a cup of white vinegar, and flush. You can also make an oven cleaning paste by combining baking soda with water. Once you’ve mixed equal amounts of baking soda and water into a paste, coat the inside of your oven with it and leave it there when you go to bed. In the morning, scrub it off. 


De-griming cooking surfaces that have gotten covered in mysterious gunk is never a fun task, but it is one that does not have to require multiple different cleaners and a wad of steel wool. Cover your stovetop or pan with coarse salt, and then scrub it off with a wet sponge. 


Next time you squeeze lemon juice onto something your cooking, save the squeezed halves you would normally throw away, and you can use them to scrub wooden cutting boards and baking sheets. You can also throw the discarded lemons into a big pot with water, and soak any white fabrics you want brightened. Mixed with olive oil, lemon juice can become a natural wood polish.


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Sustainability Events Roundup: LA Edition

Sustainability Events Roundup: LA Edition

For this edition of our sustainable events roundup, we’re taking a little break from our own backyard and scoping out the sustainability scene on the west coast. If you live in LA, or are heading there for a break from the dreary east coast winter, check out one of these environmentally-focused events coming up in the next couple months. 

Sunrise Movement Super Tuesday Circus

Sunrise Movement, the youth-led coalition organizing for radical action on climate change, is hosting a Super Tuesday circus. The event has no entry fee, but you need an ‘I voted’ sticker to get in. There will be standup comedy, DJ sets, and other circus-inspired entertainment. The event runs from 7:30 to 10:30 at The Virgil on March 3rd, and you can register here

Lecture: The Human Right to Water in LA

This talk at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs will get you up to speed on LA’s complex water dynamics, from the latest technological innovations to the politics to the inequities riddling the system. Speakers include the director of the UCLA Water Resources Group, Urban Planning professors, and government representatives. The event is free and open to the public, and you can register here.

Green Dreams Art Walk

On March 7th, Mar Vista and the Disability Community Resource Center will be hitting the streets of Venice to celebrate art, music, and sustainability. The Music and Art walk will center local musicians, restaurateurs, small business owners, and community leaders. It starts on the corner of Venice Boulevard and Inglewood Boulevard and stretches to Lyceum Avenue. Head over anytime in the afternoon, from 4-10 PM.

People, Planet, Plate

On March 25th, Santa Monica’s Historic Woman’s Club is hosting a celebration of the city’s sustainable food infrastructure, from local farms to eco-conscious restaurants. The evening will include cooking demonstrations, free food from local establishments, and interactive panels about how to make food choices in your daily life that decrease harm to the planet and improve your health. The event is free but you can register here

Sustainable Living Fair

The North Orange and Southeast LA county chapters of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby are throwing a daylong sustainable living fair on March 28th. The all-day event promises to be full of hot tips on how to reduce your impact on the environment every day, from composting how-tos to panel discussions on plastics and vegan cooking demonstrations. Solar panel vendors will be on site for anyone considering adding solar energy to their home, and there will also be live music and activities for kids. The event is free, but you can register here.

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Sustainable Cookbook Roundup

Sustainable Cookbook Roundup

In our last post, we highlighted some sustainable restaurants in the New York City area. This week, we’re helping you out on the nights you want to stay in. Cooking at home is another way to minimize your environmental footprint. First of all, you’re already cutting out a lot of the trash-creating aspects of eating out – especially disposable napkins and cutlery. You can easily make your home cooking even more sustainable by using recipes from a cookbook that was written thoughtfully, with low environmental impact food sources in mind. We pulled together a few of our favorite cookbooks with a focus on sustainability. 

The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook

This book, edited by Ellen Jackson, brings together recipes from some of the over 12,000 American chefs who have joined the Chefs Collaborative network, which hopes to redesign American eating habits so they’re oriented towards sustainability. The recipes emphasize seasonal ingredients and sustainably grown produce.

Modern Native Feasts: Healthy, Innovative and Sustainable Cuisine

Andrew George draws on indigenous knowledge around ingredients and cooking processes to offer a scintillating range of recipes that are surprising, good for the environment, and good for your body. 

The CSA Cookbook: No Waste Recipes for Cooking Your Way Through a Community Supported Agriculture Box, Farmer’s Market or Backyard Bounty

If you get produce from a CSA, this book by Linda Ly and Will Taylor will inspire you not just to use every vegetable that comes in your CSA, but to use every last edible piece of the veggie. If you don’t use a CSA, sign up for your local one! 

The Sustainable Table

In Cassie Duncan and Hayley Morris’ book, they bring together recipes from farmers, at home gardeners turned farmers, and professional chefs. Recipes are backed by stories about individual journeys towards seasonal and local food consumption habits, so reading this book will give you more than a few role models in addition to recipes. 

The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet

Ok, you might not be ready to venture into insect-based meals, but we included this one for the adventuresome among us. In this book, Arnold van Huis, Henk van Gurp, and Marcel Dicke present a convincing case that eating bugs is good for the environment, along with a surprisingly strong argument that they might taste good! Intriguing recipes abound. 

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Sustainable NYC Restaurant Roundup

Sustainable NYC Restaurant Roundup

Eating out is an uber-common part of many an urban young person’s social life, and one we don’t often consider a big part of our ecological footprint. The food waste from restaurants, along with the plastic, cardboard, and other recyclable materials they often don’t recycle, is actually a massive piece of a city’s environmental impact. According to an analyst at the EPA’s waste division, food waste has become the “no. 1 material that goes into landfills and incinerators,” and almost ten percent of a restaurant’s total food purchases end up thrown away. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some New York restaurants working to reduce waste.

Blue Hill 

A mere thirty miles north of New York City, the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture sits nestled in Pocantico Hills. The center cultivates produce on their all-season farm and offers classes on sustainable agriculture. The site is also home to one of the two Blue Hill restaurants: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, where your experience will be menu-free, and your meal will consist of a surprising, ever-changing set of courses made of food grown at Stone Barns and other HUdson Valley farms. If you don’t feel like making the trek upstate, Blue Hill’s Manhattan location is located in Greenwich Village, and offers both a four course tasting menu and a Farmer’s Feast that changes according to the weekly harvest. 

Hunky Dory

This all-day cafe and all-night cocktail bar opened in Crown Heights last year on a mission: sustainability without sacrificing an ounce of style, or taste. The spot is the brainchild of Claire Sprouse, who’s devoted years to decrease waste in restaurants and bars. Hunky Dory achieves this by sharing ingredients between the bar and the kitchen, along with emphasizing dehydration, fermentation, and jarring in their cooking and mixology. Food waste gets turned into cocktail infusions, and what’s leftover gets composted. 


The UN estimated that 70% of fisheries worldwide are currently in or nearing crisis, but barely any sushi restaurants are thinking about sustainability in their fish sourcing. New York City only has one omakase spot, Mayanoki, that centers thoughtful sourcing, working directly with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program and the James Beard Smart Catch Foundation. With a fifteen-course omakase that clocks in under $100 dollars and doesn’t contribute to the crisis in our oceans, you can feel a little less guilty about indulging your raw fish craving. 

Blenheim Restaurant

Blenheim restaurant is named after the Catskills farm that supplies most of its meat, honey, syrup, and produce. Blenheim’s proprietors call their approach “grown to order,” taking “farm-to-table” to the next level. Even the interiors emphasize reducing and reusing: the lamps are made from old milk jugs once used on the farm, and old tools are repurposed as wall art.

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5 Sustainable Living Influencers You Should Be Following

5 Sustainable Living Influencers You Should Be Following

As much as we love Instagram, it can often be a massive time suck, and a trigger for insecurity. But it doesn't have to be that way, and your feed doesn't have to be filled with celebrities on beaches or influencers selling you diet teas. Sustainability influencing is a growing niche, as more and more young people are devoting their accounts to helping others lower their carbon footprint, and their Instagram presences can add some much needed education and inspiration to your feed. Here are five accounts you should definitely follow.

1. @SustainableDaisy

The woman behind Sustainable Daisy is an environmental scientist, so her advice on how to make your wardrobe, skin and makeup routines, and daily cooking and cleaning habits more sustainable is backed by hard evidence. Her academic expertise also means she often drops proven statistics and serious arguments into her very readable captions. 

2. @OldWorldNew

Addie Fisher's instagram is rife with hot tips on slowing down, living more intentionally, and treating the planet better in the process. From how to avoid greenwashing (which is when products market themselves as more eco-friendly than they actually are) to environmental documentary recommendations and giving you eco-friendly home checklists for every room in your apartment, Fisher's account always has a fresh new way for you to live more sustainably.

3. @Renee.ElizabethPeters

Peters is a model turned eco-activist who now runs a lifestyle site called Model4GreenLiving. On her Instagram, she lets followers in on her educational journey as she studies permaculture (design inspired by naturally resilient ecosystems) and regenerative agriculture (farming that aims to capture carbon in the soil). She also posts gorgeous landscape photos as she travels the world, visiting the few pristine ecosystems that remain intact. 

4. @ZeroWasteHome

Bea Johnson has been devoted to living completely trash free since 2008. If that's not enough of an incredible feat, she's sharing how she did it in easy to follow, user-friendly how-tos posted on her instagram and website. Her feed is rife with helpful infographics, lists, and motivational thoughts. She's also relatably honest about her fails, posting pictures when someone gives her a drink with a plastic straw or using something disposable is unavoidable. 

5. @HomesteadBrooklyn

Summer Rayne Oakes believes we don't have enough plants in our daily lives, and her social media mission is to educate people on how they can incorporate more flora and fauna into urban living. She posts informational videos on how to care for basically every houseplant you could possibly imagine, along with videos that tell you what kinds of climates certain plaints thrive, and where to put them in your home to promote growth. This account will add some much needed greenery to your feed.

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Sustainability Events Roundup: January 2020

Sustainability Events Roundup: January 2020

It’s officially 2020. As we begin another decade in the anthropocene, building your sustainability practice is more urgent than ever. To start the first year of this decade off right, check out some of the inspiring and educational climate-focused events happening in New York City this month.

1. Manhattan Trash Talk

On January 16th, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is hosting a discussion around New York’s goal of reaching zero waste to landfill by 2030. Multiple speakers, including a New York Lawyers for Public Interest Environmental Justice lawyer and the President of the Frederick Samuel Houses Resident Association will present projects in various stages of development. This event will be held at the Harlem JCC on 118th street from 6:30-8:30 pm and is free, but you can register here.

2. Package Free: Future of Retail Tour

Package Free is a Brooklyn boutique that sources products only from people and companies devoted to low or no waste packaging, and their store is chock full of reusable versions of things you throw away thoughtlessly every day. This informational tour is sure to be full of tips on how to replace disposable products with reusable ones, and will be at Package Free on Grand Street on the 13th, from 2:30-3 pm. It’s free, but you can register here.

3. Cupping& Coffee Tasting + Discussion

Bird & Branch, a midtown coffee shop with a mission, is hosting Cupping&, a coffee tasting and discussion of sustainability in coffee production, distribution, and sales. Reuben Villagomez, one of the founders of Zero Carbon Coffee, the only coffee company that purchases carbon offsets for all the coffeeit sells, will be leading a panel discussion after the coffee tasting. The event costs $5 (buy tickets here), and is happening at Bird & Branch on 45th street on January 27th, from 6:00-8:00 pm. 

4. Vegan Soap Making Workshop 

Spend an evening making your own bar of vegan soap at Ethel’s Club on January 29th! This workshop also includes discussions about how to reduce your overall soap usage, the health benefits of natural soaps, and the environmental impact of traditionally mass produced, plastic-packaged soap. This event is free, but you can register here

5. Sustainable Social & Green Drinks

Because we love you, we’re finishing off this list with a party! On January 8th, One15 Brooklyn Marina is hosting a free happy hour intended to inspire discussions of sustainability between people working in climate-focused startups, NGOs, academia, government, and any layperson who is interested. The theme is green energy, and speakers will include the founders of Brooklyn Solarworks and Greenbanc. Happy hour at Estuary Brasserie in Brooklyn Bridge Park lasts until 7 pm, and dinner will be for sale at their community table afterward. Continue reading

Sustainable Gift Guide

Sustainable Gift Guide

Christmas and Hanukka are a week away, which probably means you’re scrambling to pull together gifts for friends and family. Don’t let the time crunch make you abandon your environmental goals! Here’s a list of sustainable ways to buy holiday presents. 

Thrift & Vintage

The most environmentally friendly place to buy gifts is at a thrift or vintage shop. Besides their low carbon footprint, vintage and thrift stores are straight up extremely fun, and often offer much more unique gifts than what you’ll find at the closest fast fashion store. Look up your nearest Goodwill or Salvation Army if you want to dig through a vast trove of all kinds of items, or look up your city’s best vintage and thrift boutiques in local papers or on yelp. 


Dims makes chic, minimalist pieces of furniture out of sustainably sourced wood (Forest Stewardship Council approved) and their finishes and adhesives meet GREENGUARD’s rigorous chemical emissions standards. Plus, they have an accessible, transparent pricing structure, which means your gift will probably look more expensive than it was.


Luxe new sheets and pillowcases are a pretty much fail safe gift. Threaded’s bedding is not only OEKO-TEX-certified sustainable, which means they use chemical-free dyes and low-emission processes, but is also produced in factories that provide community empowerment initiatives and education to their communities.


A Sabai pillow is an easy, sub-$50 gift that doesn’t harm the environment. With fabrics made from natural fibers and post-consumer plastic bottles, these pieces promise to brighten a room without increasing its carbon footprint. Plus, they come in an array of colors, textures, and patterns, so you can find something for everyone from your friend who loves minimalism to the friend whose apartment is a cacophony of colors. 

Reformation & Girlfriend

If you want to buy a friend or relative brand new clothing, hit up a store that lists sustainability as a top priority. If you haven’t been living under a rock the past three years, you are probably aware that Reformation uses less water and more sustainable fabrics in its manufacturing processes. Purchase there if you’re in the market for a slinky going out look for a friend. If you’re looking for athleisure, Girlfriend uses recycled polyester and recycled post-consumer water bottles to make its leggings and crop tops, and ships in exclusively recycled and recyclable packaging. 

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Tips on Sustainable Pet Ownership

Tips on Sustainable Pet Ownership

The most eco-friendly among us can succumb to the temptation to spoil our pets. But making sustainable purchasing decisions for your animal companion is integral to minimizing your carbon footprint, so we pulled together some hot tips on easy eco-friendly choices to make around pet ownership.

1. Buy Vegetarian Pet Food

A 2017 study reported that American pets consume 25% of the country’s meat calories, which equals the annual emissions from 13.6 million cars. Switch to vegetarian food for your pets to cut down on your animal’s carbon footprint. Look for environmental certifications on your pet food. If you want to feed your pet animal products, choose pet foods that use meat byproducts that aren’t consumed by humans, like bone meal or organ meat, which often end up wasted when not turned into pet food.

2. Don’t Buy Plastic Toys

Plastic pet toys only contribute to your larger plastic footprint, and are likely to end up in a landfill. Instead, buy toys made of natural fibers and textiles. Your most sustainable source for animal toys is your own closet, where you can find old t shirts you might want to weave together into homemade chew toys. Otherwise, you can buy used toys in the children’s section of most Goodwills. If you want to purchase new toys for your pet, Harry Barker is a great source for toys made out of hemp and recycled fabrics. 

3. Choose Your Grooming Products Wisely

Buy natural, sulfate and paraben free shampoo for washing your pet’s hair. Also, make sure no bathing products you buy have plastic microbeads in them, which end up choking wildlife in the ocean. If you can, refrain from buying chemical-filled pest repellents. The National Resource Defense Coalition says that soap and water can work just as well as synthetic flea and tick products at keeping pests away, as long as you wash your pet often. 

4. Conscious Waste Disposal

If you are a dog owner, buy waste bags that will decompose. BioBag makes totally compostable bags that won’t stay in a landfill forever. If you are a cat owner, choose your litter wisely! Watch out for the very  environmentally detrimental strip-mined chemical sodium bentonite, and look for litter made of natural, non-mined materials like corn, wheat, and old newspapers. Cedarific makes litter form wood, and Purina sells a litter made from recycled newspapers. Continue reading
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