All posts by Katie Barrier

Farewell For Now

By no means is this a goodbye post. I want to stick around with this blog, but it was started as a class project. Now that the class is over I just want to thank all my wonderful classmates who read and commented on this blog. You made my job a whole lot easier. Mainly I want to say I hope you learned from this blog as I have learned while I was writing posts. I started out passionate about the subject but not very knowledgeable.

This was how I started out. One of my readers and classmates Katie wrote after my intro post:

Honestly, I can’t wait to read more. I’m highly interested in this kind of stuff, but I never knew where to start.

I didn’t know where to start either. I always valued the environment and wanted to help save it, but it’s hard to know what you can do when you don’t know the exact problem. Katie, I hope my posts have given you an idea of where to start. I think honestly this blog was my starting point. It gave me a place to share new information I learned and build from there.

When I wrote my Valentine’s Day post I kind of had an “aha” moment. I could buy things that would help my cause? That was a great feeling. When I reached out and asked if anyone else had ever bought local or fair trade products, Austin said:

I haven’t. but i might by green gifts, they always seem so much more expensive though. I see the benefits of buying fair and free trade gifts as well.

I’m so happy that one of my readers learned something from this blog, and maybe had an “aha” moment of their own. It was also great to see that I could dispense information and others could utilize it for a great cause.

And I continued to learn and grow from writing this blog. When I came across an article on reusing items I thought it would a wonderful addition to the blog. The reuse of eggshells seemed really popular. My reader and classmate Natalya wrote:

Wow this is very interesting. I never knew that! Ha, I remember when I was little I would break the pieces off and make a mess everywhere lol. I’ve actually never tried reusing them, but it’s worth a shot now! Stuff I usually reuse like shoe boxes for storage and things like that.

Once again, it was great to see that my readers could take valuable information away from here. I learned so much from just starting this little blog and now I feel like I have a great place to keep adding and dispensing information that I learned. It was also wonderful that my readers helped me out by reading and commenting. Thank you guys so much! I hope I really was able to be entertaining and informative at the same time. Good luck to you all and thanks again!


Greener Than We Seem

If you caught the Enquirer this Sunday you have may have seen their article in the Local section “Greener Than We Seem”. I’ve said it many times before here on the blog, but I’ll repeat it. Cincinnati may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think about going green, but as the article argues we really deserve some recognition. We’re 10 years ahead of our fellow Midwestern cities. Since I’ve started this blog my eyes have been opened to the great green initiatives we have here, but my readers have also showed some knowledge on the subject and have weighed in on their favorite  green Cincinnati attractions:

I wrote a post awhile back about the Cincinnati Zoo’s green initiatives. One great one I failed to mention was the zoo’s African Savanna exhibit. One of my readers, Marisa, wrote:

Did they tell you about the Sahara they’re making that’s going to have lions? It’s the fenced off area by the giraffes and flamingos. It’s apparently going to be *super* green-friendly.

The Savanna exhibit is projected to receive LEED Platinum certification when completed. This is huge accomplishment for an animal exhibit.

Cincinnati is also home to many businesses that sell fair trade goods. My reader, Holly wrote:

I also want to give a shout out to Trader Joe’s, a grocery store you left off your list. Trader Joe’s is the most fair priced store of the whole “natural” lot. Plus, the majority of its food and products are sourced locally. I love it.

I always manage to forget about Trader Joe’s out near Kenwood Mall, but I had no idea they sold fair trade items plus local food. It’s great to see that not just specialty shops in Cincinnati are committed to sustainability, fair trade and buying and selling local.

Finally we have places devoted to urban, community garden. Holly also wrote:

I love urban and community gardening! I suggest checking out the Civic Garden Center. They do great community gardening work for the communities around Cincinnati! Very inspiring.

The Civic Garden Center on Reading Road has a long history of philanthropy and advocacy for community. It’s the second oldest non-profit civic garden center in Ohio. In 1981 it became a center for community outreach, having volunteers from the neighborhood join and maintain the gardens. Its success encouraged other programs like it around the country.

So while we don’t have the flash that other cities may have when it comes to being green, Cincinnati is very much worthy of being called a “green city”. With our subtlety and ingenuity, we are leaders for a greener generation.

Green Collar Jobs

As the green industry is growing, there are jobs available even in these economic times. While other areas of industry are suffering, green careers seem to be the new wave of the future. This is great because it’s predicted that green jobs are going to be sustainable as many more people are getting involved in conservation and going green. In this era of the green economy these are the job that are projected to be in high demand:

1. Solar Power Installer

Much of our energy is now being harvested from the sun. After being proven incredibly effective, solar power is becoming much more prominent and many places are making the switch to save money. So anyone going into construction might consider specializing in installing solar-thermal water heaters and rooftop photovoltaic cells as they are in increasing demand.

2. Conservation Biologist

The direction of our education is steadily becoming more focused on the sciences as that is the direction our economy is heading. If you majored in science in college, you could be a great conservation biologist. There is a renewal in the desire to preserve the environment, so there is a growing demand for scientists who are knowledgeable and willing to study and work with ecosystems and wildlife.  This will also open opportunities to teach or participate in research.

3. Urban Planner

As the urban aspect of environmentalism is the focus of this blog, the job of urban planner needs to be included. Urban planners are key to lowering America’s carbon footprint.Urban planners are responsible for designing metropolises so the flow of potential problems, many of the environmental like garbage and flooding, is limited. Employment in this sector is projected to grow 15 percent by 2016.


DIY Compost Pile

Last week I wrote about how you can actually use egg shells in your compost pile, but then I realized I haven’t written anything about starting a compost pile. It’s actually really simple and really effective if you like to garden. You can even start a compost bin in an apartment. Here’s how you get started:

1. Get a bin

You can actually just make a compost pile an actual pile, but everyone recommends getting a bin for the sake of neatness and organization. Also if you plan on composting food scraps, it’s better for keeping the animals away. Below is what a typical compost bin looks like:

This commercial bin stacks for easy turning.

Ideally, you’ll want a bin that is about a cubic yard, but you can work with one that’s smaller.

2. Green, brown and everything in between

A good mixture of green and brown scraps is recommended. Green scraps such as grass trimmings, young weeds and comfrey leaves provide nitrogen to the pile and generates heat. Brown scraps are high in carbon and add fiber. You can use dead plants, autumn leaves and even cardboard to give this kick to your compost. Coffee grounds, hair and paper towels can also be composted, but use these items sparingly.

Make sure you mix everything in the bin really well too. You want to layer it so it’s even and there’s no compact areas of green or brown. Depending on the materials you have available either do a mixture of 3 parts brown to 1 part green, or half and half. Use a pitchfork or a shovel to turn your pile once a week to ensure the mixture keeps decomposing.

3. Maintain

Like I said above, you need to turn the pile once a week. This keeps the air flowing through the pile to help the  anaerobic decomposition. But you also want to keep the pile damp. Depending on the weather where you live, you might need to add water to it. The temperature is important also. The best way to test temperature is to feel the top of the pile. If it’s warm or hot, the compost pile is working. If not, just add more green material high in nitrogen.

4. Don’ts of Composting

Try to avoid composting bread, nuts, pasta or cooked food. They don’t break down well and cause your compost to turn slimy. Also out of health and safety reasons, never try to compost meat, bones, plastic, oil, fats, human or animal waste (ew) or magazines.

Give it some time then harvest it. You have been successfully sustainable!

3 Things You Can Effectively Reuse

I was watching TV the other night when a commercial came on. CBS Cares was advocating for reusing items instead of trashing them. I was so excited! Then I saw them drop a coin into a bank fashioned out of a pop liter, and I raised my eyebrows.

Look CBS, I know you care, but who is going to want to keep a pop bottle piggy bank around for years? Eventually it’s going to end up in a landfill anyways. Don’t misunderstand me, a pop bottle piggy bank is very clever, but there are items you can reuse more effectively. So I wanted to name a few:

1. Eggshells

Eggshells are great for composting. They decompose quickly and enrich the soil with calcium. Crushed eggshells sprinkled into the soil also acts as a great insect and pest repellent for gardens. And if you’re into Pinterest I bet you’ve seen this:


You can reuse eggshells to grow seedlings. Just fill with potting soil and plant the seeds. They transfer easily into the ground once the seedlings are too big for their containers.

Eggshells also can make coffee less bitter, just crush them up and line a coffee filter. When you’re done, toss into a compost pile if you have one.

And if you’re brave, eggshells and apple cider vinegar can even be combined to produce a home remedy for minor skin irritations.

Also, researchers at the Ohio State University are developing ways to use discarded chicken egg shells into a sustainable hydrogen fuel. Turns out these little powerhouses are all sorts of useful.

2. T-Shirts

When you don’t know what to do with your old t-shirts, don’t throw them away. Start a DIY project!

I have plenty of old t-shirts from high school that I don’t wear anymore because they’ve shrank or became worn and dingy. Instead of tossing them though, I’m always looking for ways to give them a second life. Earth 911 has some great ideas you can utilize to reuse your old shirts. Don’t worry if you’re not handy with a needle and thread, many of these ideas only require scissors or glue. I particularly like the idea of making a shirt to make a shopping bag.


3. Packing Peanuts

Packing peanuts are often thought of as little environmental nightmares. While the best thing to do is find a recycling center who will take them off your hands, there are things you can do with them.


For one, you can save them and store them away until you need to mail something. By paying them forward, you reduce the need for more packing peanuts, and you can request the next recipient do the same. If you have a green thumb, packing peanuts can also be used in lieu of gravel for gardens and potted plants. The biodegradable variety are great for drainage and they’ll make potted plants lighter. Packing peanuts also keep ice from melting quickly. All you have to do is fill a plastic baggie with them and place them on top of ice in a cooler.

So have you ever tried reusing any of these items? Are there any household items you do reuse or are interested in their reuse potential?

A Victory for Urban Farming

Cincinnati might not be the first city that comes to mind when someone thinks of urban sustainability, but there are many in this city who fight for conservation issues. Permaganic Co., a nonprofit based in Over-the-Rhine that has operated the city’s Eco Garden since 2010, is an organization committed to not only urban sustainability, but also community involvement and the city’s youth.

The Eco Garden sits at 1718 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine. While the urban garden is used by Permaganic, they don’t own the garden’s property. The city of Cincinnati does. In a clash between continued development in the inner city of Cincinnati, and preservation of the community, the Eco Garden’s land was targeted for CitiRama, a program launched last year to encourage urban development.

The city contacted Angela Stanbery-Ebner, who, along with her husband, Luke, runs Permaganic, in February telling her not to plant at the Main Street garden this year.

After being in operation since 1998, the garden has provided produce for Findlay Market as well as giving the urban neighborhood’s youth a chance to learn how to grow their own fruit and vegetables. In a neighborhood that is often mentioned for the amount of crime, the Eco Garden fosters a sense of community. The land is a miniature farm, an ecosystem in its own right.

The city proposed to move the garden to a different plot of land, but it’s not so simple to transport that many plants who have been rooted on Main Street for so long.

After reaching out for help through petitions and contacting city council, Permaganic received support from city council member, Laure Quinlivan who has long been a supporter of both urban development and making Cincinnati greener. Quinlivan filed a motion and argued that the longest-running urban agriculture program in Cincinnati added to the quality of life in Over the Rhine, gave the community access to local produce and gave teenagers the opportunity to get involved.

After a Livable Communities committee meeting on March 12, the Eco Garden was saved from demolition. CitiRama was forced to find another site to build on and Stanbery-Ebner received the go-ahead from the city to start planting again.

And they all lived happily ever after….for the most part. In a Facebook update Permaganic said, “We are still hoping for long-term permanency…Laure Quinlivan tweeted “We saved this”…I don’t want to read too much into her comment, but we are REALLY hoping City Council will back us again if another development, or anything involving our lease, come up in future…”

Moral of the story? Urban development is not a bad thing; it’s actually a really, really good thing. But when it threatens such a great agricultural project that provides fresh, local produce to an under-served community and offers a place where the community can grow (pun intended), it becomes a hindrance rather than a help. We need to remember that organizations like Permaganic are progressing Cincinnati in the right direction in terms of not only sustainability, but also in community solidarity.

Fair Trade 101

So my readers gave me a great idea after my last post.

While I was rambling on my soapbox about how sustainable fair trade chocolate is, they wanted to know more about fair trade itself. To be honest, I didn’t know many details when it came to fair trade. Buying fair trade was just something nice I thought I was doing, but I didn’t give it much thought beyond that. Now that I know the impact of it, I decided to write a little beginner’s crash course. Let’s begin, shall we?

What is Fair Trade?

The official definition from the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO):

Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade.  It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalizes producers and workers-especially in the South.  Fair Trade Organizations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of international trade.

Fair trade is exactly what it sounds like; it’s the fair exchange of money for goods like coffee, tea, chocolate, jewelry, furniture and art. It’s a global economic model that empowers farmers and producers, especially those working in developing countries, by cutting out needless middlemen and paying providers a fair wage for their goods. The diagram below shows the efficiency and practicality of fair trade versus that of the traditional model:

The Price of Fair Trade

Let’s just admit it, conventional trade is a lot easier on our wallets; using coffee as an example, by comparing a bag of fair trade coffee on Amazon to a canister of coffee at the grocery store you can see a pretty big difference in price, and it’s coffee- a product many people consume on a daily basis. Twelve ounces of coffee doesn’t last long. My reader hayden44e wrote:

I hate that Fair Trade everything seems to be so expensive, although I can totally understand why. I was always a huge fan of fair trade coffee.

12 ounce bag of Fair Trade coffee: ~ $10 dollars12 ounce canister of conventional trade coffee: ~ $3
12 ounce bag of Fair Trade coffee: ~ $10
12 ounce canister of conventional trade coffee: ~ $3

The price of fair trade goods are often higher than non-certified products because when a consumer purchases fair trade, they are covering the costs of production plus a living wage (enough for food, shelter, education and medical care) for the producer. The good news is that by the laws of supply and demand, the more people who buy fair trade, the lower the price will go.  Tea, chocolate and coffee are relatively lower in cost differences because when fair trade became available, many people were willing to support it and buy these items at fair trade prices.

So if money’s tight but you really want to support fair trade, you can do what I do and buy fair trade goods when it’s convenient financially. It’s better to support fair trade every once in a while than not at all. Plus, fair trade is as much a human rights movement as it is economics, so you can always advocate for it, even when money is tight.

One of my readers, Holly, knows a lot about fair trade also. Her advice on how not to spend too much:

Findlay Market also offers a lot of green options for fair prices if places like Park + Vine are out of your price range. Even Kroger locations have been offering more and more local/green options. It’s so awesome to see the trend taking root in everyday American culture.

What Else?

By supporting and buying fair trade, you’re not only ensuring fair wages for farmers, but you’re improving communities in developing countries. Fair trade cooperatives (the farms where products are grown) often reinvest their revenue into their business and into their local communities. Not only that, but with the purchase of the cooperative’s goods, they receive funding called a social premium. This social premium in turn is used to build the local community. What the social premium is put towards often depends on the needs of the community, but the most common investments are in schools and education, healthcare, environmental projects, gender equity and business development.

Fair trade is also sustainable. In conventional trade, farmers are often forced into practices that destroy the environment. Fair trade however encourages sustainable farming methods like reforestation, water conservation and growing organic. The standards are pretty high too. You can read more about the requirements here. Fun fact: 85 percent of fair trade coffee is grown organically.

So now I know, but where do I go?



So now that you know more about the impact, are you more likely to buy fair trade goods? Is there anything you wanted to know that I didn’t cover? Class dismissed.

For more information:

World Fair Trade Organization

Green America

Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade International