Tops Eco Efforts

Tops supports going green! We believe in protecting our environment. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. One of the ways our customers can support us in this effort is to use our Tops reusable grocery bags. Take a picture with your bag and share it with us. We will post pictures and pick winners from time to time.

Is the Drought Over? Green Tips for April 2017

 

Is the Drought Over? Green Tips for April 2017
California had the wettest winter in 122 years, so we must have enough water now, right? Unfortunately not. As we warm up this spring, we encourage you to continue to conserve water. Here are some interesting facts about the state of our State’s water supply. We hope this reinforces our personal and community-wide water conservation behavior. With the effects of climate change creating a new “normal”– like longer drought periods and wetter, more destructive rainy cycles– conserving one of our most precious resources should be a year-round habit. Feel free to pass this article along to a friend; together we can save the planet…and ourselves:
• How much water have we lost? “As of August 2014, California had lost 63 trillion gallons of groundwater in one 18-month period of drought—a combination of no replenishment from surface water, increased evapotranspiration rates, and increased groundwater pumping by users without water in their rivers or their wells,” according to the Arid Lands Institute of Burbank, California. And that 63 trillion gallon figure was only for half of the drought we have been experiencing!
• How much rain would it take for California’s drought to be over? It’s taken years of ongoing drought to deplete the groundwater levels, and low snowpacks for the last several years has allowed the ground to soak up more sun, adding even more to the environmental warm up. The Sierra snowpack, according to National Geographic, was at a 500-year low before this 2016-17 rainy season. Not only do reservoirs need to fill up around the state, we also need to have the groundwater aquifers replenish. A combination of a lot of rainfall, falling in the right places (up and down the state), with below-freezing temperatures (so the water freezes and turns to snow) over a sustained period of time would go a long way towards overcoming this devastating drought.
• How much rain did we get this season? “Fueled by a parade of ‘Pineapple Express’ storms, California is in the midst of its wettest water year in 122 years of record-keeping, according to federal scientists. Between October 2016 and February 2017, California averaged 27.81 inches of precipitation, the highest average since such records began being kept in 1895,” according to data released Wednesday by the National Centers for Environmental Information, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
• What can I do to help? Did you know that the Governor’s proclamation of drought is still in effect? Continue to conserve water by not: using potable water to wash sidewalks and driveways, allowing runoff when irrigating with potable water, using hoses with no shutoff nozzles to wash cars, using potable water in decorative water features that do not recirculate the water, or irrigating outdoors during and within 48 hours following measureable rainfall. When indoors you can reduce consumption by taking shorter showers, flushing your toilet less, and soaking dishes prior to washing to reduce the time running water is on. Those prohibitions, and more information about conserving water can be found on the state’s Water Conservation Portal: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/conservation_portal/index.shtml
Thanks for reading this article. Investigate further, if you want, on the web or by emailing Jude Frates at: jude@fratesconsulting.biz.

March 2017 Green Tips: Starting an Organic Garden

Spring is almost here and we have been aching to get outside again; how about making a project of starting an organic garden in your yard, balcony, rooftop, or office? Enjoy these tips and have fun growing your own healthy, fresh, pesticide- and GMO-free food. There is nothing like a meal made from ingredients freshly harvested from your own garden! Here are a few ways to get going now to have organic food soon:

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  • Cultivate the soil. Starting with healthy soil is crucial to the life cycle of your fruits, vegetables, herbs and other plants. All the vitamins and minerals the plants utilize come from the soil. To prepare it, wait until the ground is not too dry or wet, and then remove the rocks and other debris, including any weeds. Be sure to get their roots! Use a tiller to turn the soil, and then add nutritional amendments, preferably organic compost. Work for a soil texture that is loose and easily crumbled. For more info on soil cultivation, check out the articles by Mother Earth News at: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening.
  • Size doesn’t really matter. A well-maintained 4’ x 4’ garden will feed one person easily with a variety of vegetables. Window boxes and ½ wine barrels are great small gardens. Spread a few containers around your deck and porch! You might also want to rethink your lawn as a space for a garden; lawns require a lot of water and don’t produce any food!
  • Invite worms, birds and insects into your garden. When in balance, your garden will contain a mixture of beneficial and troublesome insects. (By troublesome, we mean that they want to eat your plants before you get to.) Learn about the insects and bugs in your area and what likes to eat the plants you’ll be growing. Pair plants they like with those that will attract bees and other pollinators. Investigate ways of pairing plants so they can offer shade, water and food to the birds, worms and beneficial bugs you want to attract. Here’s a good resource: http://permaculturenews.org/2014/10/04/plants-attract-beneficial-insects/
  • Choose the right plants. Answering a few simple questions will help you get the most out of your garden. For example, what vegetables, herbs, or other plants you’re interested in will work best in your climate and specific growing location? What diseases are your garden plants susceptible to? Get friendly with your local organic garden supply store and check out local farmer’s markets for vegetable starts. Or how about using this great guide from the Farmer’s Almanac: http://www.almanac.com/content/growing-guide-herbs
  • Water wisely. Many organic farmers say that overhead watering is wasteful and can cultivate plant diseases. Check the soil with your finger; the top 2-3 inches should be dry and under that to be moist. Water in the morning so the plants have a chance to absorb the moisture it evaporates in the sun or is whisked away by wind. While young plants need more frequent watering, more established plants require deeper and less frequent watering. If the leaves of your plants start to turn brown at the edges and fall off, you may be overwatering.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this article. We hope this inspires you to have some fun with your garden this year–whether it’s big or small—and enjoy the vegetables, fruits, herbs and other plants you grow! For more information, contact Jude Frates of Sustainable Business Solutions at: jude@sbs.green.

 

 

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November Environmental Report

Tops Green Tips January 2017: Resolve To Help Our Environment

Happy New Year! As we open 2017, we encourage you to remember that our home, the earth that supports us all, is being damaged at an incredible rate. Every action we take can help undo the effects of plastic choking the oceans, pollution rendering our air more and more toxic, disappearing animal and plant species, and more. So here are some easy and effective resolutions to make this year your greenest and most sustainable yet. Together we really can make a difference. Check out these ideas for a healthier planet:

  • Reuse your stuff. You may already be carrying reusable bags to the store, and if so, thank you! If not, get a few made from cloth or recycled plastic. In your car, backpack or desk drawer, an extra bag can be very handy. By not using paper or plastic bags from stores, you can reduce the amount of plastic thrown away annually—each year, there are enough discarded plastic bags and bottles to circle the earth four times (ecowatch.com). Also, how about bringing some cloth towels to the office to cut down on paper towel use? We go through about 45 pounds of paper towels per person per year. According to a Harvard University report, paper towels account for 20-40% of office waste. Use reusable water bottles; look for BPA-free materials and American-made to reduce the hidden transportation and energy costs of cheaper bottles.
  • Commute in a more earth-friendly way. There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint, which is the total amount of greenhouse gases caused by an individual, company, activity, etc. According to Wikipedia, “most of the carbon footprint emissions for the average U.S. household come from “indirect” sources, i.e. fuel burned to produce goods far away from the final consumer.” Help reduce your footprint by car-pooling or trading off with other parents to drive kids to practices and events. There are also several ride-sharing programs, check out this article from greenlivingideas.com on the best apps for carpooling and ride sharing: http://greenlivingideas.com/2015/07/22/15-best-apps-for-carpool-and-rideshare-in-2015/. And don’t forget you can always walk or ride a bike to your destination. Setting a distance under which you won’t drive gives good structure to your drive vs. walk debate. Start with a .5 mile and work up from there. It will improve the environment inside and outside your body.
  • Green your house. You can start collecting your food scraps for compost. Add it to your yard waste bin and it will help make nutritious soil and stay out of the landfill. How about setting up a rainwater catchment system to collect the rainwater for you to use during the dry season?
  • Review your energy and water use. Is there a clean energy company in your area? When was the last time you checked your bills for any noticeable changes or odd trends? One easy way to save energy in your home of office is by replacing the light bulbs with energy-saving CFL or LED lights. To find out more about renewable energy in your area, check out renewal energy world at: http://buyersguide.renewableenergyworld.com/.
  • Clean up your cleaning. Use earth-friendly shampoo, hand and laundry soap, dishwasher detergent and floor cleaners; you get the idea. By keeping toxic chemicals found in conventional cleaners out of the environment, you are saving the water quality of our drinking supply; not only for people, but also for all the animals and crops we grow.

Happy New Year and thank you for reading this article. Write Jude Frates with your questions: jude@fratesconsulting.biz.

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Tops December 2016 Green Tips: Recycle, Reuse and Re-Purpose

We are all about reducing our waste, water, and energy usage; the most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place. Making a new product requires a lot of materials and energy – raw materials must be extracted from the earth, the product must then be fabricated and transported. As a result, reduction and reuse are the most effective ways you can save natural resources, protect the environment and save money. How big a problem is waste? According to the World Watch Institute, with only 5% of the world population, the U.S. generates more waste than any other country in the world. And in less than 15 years, worldwide waste is expected to double. So, let’s learn more about what these recycling, reusing and repurposing things are all about:

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  • Recycling involves the processing of used materials. The process collects the recyclables, sorts and processes the recyclable materials into raw materials such as fibers, glass, and metals (to name a few) and manufactures new products out of these raw materials. Subsequently, the purchasing of products made from recycled materials creates a circle or loop, and is critical to the overall value and success of recycling. Remember how important it is to purchase recycled products, too, which helps ensure that recycling becomes an economically viable activity within our communities. With the help of standardized labels displayed on recycling bins throughout the country, recycling will thrive even more. When the U.S. recycling levels reach 75%, (currently at 22%), it will be the environmental equivalent of removing 50 million cars from the road each year and it will generate 1.5 million new jobs.
  • Reusing materials. Reuse things in their original form instead of throwing them away or pass them onto someone who could use them. Some examples of reuse: bringing travel mugs or washable water bottles instead of using disposables. If you do use plastic cups, plates, food storage bags, etc., wash and reuse them. Would you throw away your bicycle after one use? No way! So don’t let the purchase price of an item determine if it should be thrown away; consider the entire cost of the item, which includes the cost of making, transporting and throwing away that item.
  • Re-purposing materials. To repurpose something is to use it for something else before it goes through any breakdown or reformation. For example, pallet repurposing has become a popular trend, which I have engaged in, making a desk out old pallets. You can also easily repurpose fabric; take that old shirt from your bottom drawer and make it into potholders! Almost anything can be repurposed with some imagination and elbow grease. Have fun being creative or donate old materials to someone who will.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. For more information, check out the internet or email Jude Frates, Sustainability Consultant, at: jude@fratesconsulting.biz.

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Tops Green Tips November 2016: Gifts That Give Back

We’re in the Holiday season and want to share some ideas on how to have a more sustainable gift-giving experience. How about trying something different this year and choose gifts for family and friends that give back to the community and environment? More companies and brands than ever are partnering with humanitarian organizations and non-profits as a way to give back to those in need. Here are some suggestions, so have fun:

  • Top-Rated Charities. Charity Watch rates nonprofits on the following criteria: spending 75% or more of their budgets on programs, spending $25 or less to raise $100 in public support, not holding excessive assets in reserve, meeting Charity Watch’s governance benchmarks, and receiving “open-book” status for disclosure of basic financial information and documents to CharityWatch. This site has a listing of many nonprofits, by categories such as Animal Protection, Environment, Hunger, Literacy and many more and can be used as a guide for your charitable giving: . Check it out!
  • Look at National Resource Defense Council’s offering of “gifts that give back”. Instead of giving things, why not give something like clean drinking water for those who need it, protecting whale nurseries, reviving the rainforest or adopting a wolf? Starting at under $25, you can choose a meaningful gift, get a print or ecard to send and help the environment at the same time! Check out the “Gifts That Do The World Good” webpage at:
  • Have you heard of Sevenly? Recognized as “one of the world’s leading ‘social good’ companies, Sevenly performs monthly, weekly, and even daily campaigns that change lives and bring awareness and funding to the world’s greatest causes.” On their website, you can shop by cause and see that the organization has raised over $4,441,000 since their inception in 2011. Check them out at: .
  • Microlending in California. Want to keep your donations local? Do you know about the Opportunity Fund? It’s the largest nonprofit microlending organization in California. They issue microloans ($50,000 or less) to entrepreneurs who cannot qualify for other credit and have helped thousands of small business owners break the cycle of poverty. A donation to this organization gives back to the community by creating jobs and expanding businesses. Want to learn more? Go to: .
  • Shop local. More of your money stays in the community when you purchase from locally owned and independent businesses. For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $73 stays in the local economy and $27 leaves. For a non-locally owned business, that same $100 purchase has $57 leaving the community and $43 staying. Spending your money in your community encourages local prosperity, creates jobs, invests in the community, reduces the impact on the environment and puts your tax dollars to good use. So look for unique and local gifts this year and support your local businesses!

Thanks for taking the time to read this article and have a Green Holiday.

Tops October 2016 Green Tips: Trash the Plastic

Next month, we have some very important decisions to make. On November 8, we will be voting on new leaders nationally and locally, along with many measures affecting our well-being and the health of the planet. We have often encouraged you to vote with your dollars at the store by buying local and organic products and knowing who owns the companies you purchase from. Now we want to write about three particular pieces of legislation about plastic bag bans. Here are some facts that may inform your decision:

  • SB270 (the Single-use Carryout Bag Ban) was enacted into law in 2014. It required stores to stop providing single-use plastic carryout bags to customers, with a few specified exceptions. It also requires store to “establish recycling programs that provide customers the opportunity to return clean plastic carryout bags to the store”. This law also provided $2 million to create jobs for the manufacture and recycling of plastic reusable grocery bags.
  • What’s so bad about single-use plastic bags? Plastic bags are made from petroleum and don’t biodegrade. They leach toxic chemicals into landfills, they contribute to litter on land and in the waterways. Plastic bags propose serious threats to wildlife who eat them and cannot digest them. They are a huge problem, with 60,000 plastic bags being used in the U.S. every 5 seconds! (Onegreenplanet.org)
  • So why are we voting on this issue again? According to cleanwateraction.org, out of state plastic bag manufacturers have spent over $3 million to overturn SB270. Their efforts to put Props 67 and 65 on the ballot are to confuse voters and protect their revenue stream by repealing the bag ban. If Props 65 and 67 both pass and Prop 65 gets more votes, it could actually negate SB270. Tricky, huh?
  • CA Proposition 67 (the Plastic Bag Ban Veto Referendum) seeks to uphold the 2014 law. A YES vote will uphold SB270, banning single-use plastic bags. A NO vote would overturn SB270. This law would allow stores to keep the funds from their paper bag sales and use them for: covering costs to comply with the law and of providing reusable or recycled paper bags, and to provide educational materials to encourage the use of recycled bags.
  • CA Proposition 65 (the Dedication of Revenue from Disposable Bag sales to Wildlife Conservation Fund Initiative) will send the funds from the sale of paper bags to the Wildlife Conservation Fund. A YES vote would redirect money from paper bags sales to the Wildlife Conservation Fund. A NO vote is against redirecting those funds. So, YES sounds like the right move? Well, no, because according to the official voter guide’s analysis of Prop 65, f it passes, it could negate SB270 altogether. See:
  • If you want to ban plastic bags in California, vote Yes on Prop 67 and No on Prop 65.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article and please let us know if you have any questions or comments. Contact Jude Frates at Frates Consulting: . And make you voice heard on November 8!

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