Welcome to Sustainability Scout.

Scouting out reliable information on sustainability

Sustainablility can seem so complicated. It doesn’t have to be.

It simply means practices we can keep up indefinitely without causing harm.

Where can you find carefully researched, balanced, and practical information that can help you live in harmony with nature?

Right here. Read Sustainability Scout regularly!

check out My books

It’s a jungle out there. A wilderness of clashing claims and rants about our environment. Let Sustainability Scout explore the jungle––do the research––so you don’t have to. Come here often for useful, reliable information and tips to enhance your green lifestyle. And check out my books.

ultimate guide to green living
The ultimate Guide to Green Living: 156 tips to save money, improve your health, and transform your community

With all these practical tips, you’re sure to find some you haven’t thought of yet.

Before and after the first Earth Day 1970

A view of environmental history from 50 years before to  50 years after Earth Day. Learn what problems we have solved since Earth Day, which we haven’t solved, and which ones no one had thought of yet.

When the river ran gray

The only book-length description of the third-worst coal ash spill in American history, the Dan River coal ash spill of 2014. What did industry, government, and environmentalists do wrong? And what can we learn from it?

A guide to fabrics: what is a sustainable fabric?

Defining a sustainable fabric is surprisingly difficult. Fabric can be made from plant fibers, animal proteins, or fossil fuels. The latter is obviously the least sustainable. But the processes of turning fiber into fabric and dyeing it raise additional issues for sustainability—both environmental and social sustainability. To begin with, a sustainable ...
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10 simple ways to save water at home

VSPYCC via Flickr Why save water? Water might seem like a renewable resource. Water evaporates and forms clouds. Then it rains and water returns to the earth. It doesn't necessarily turn up where we want it. As you read this, chances are somewhere in the world is suffering from prolonged drought ...
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7 safe and responsible ways to dispose of used cooking oil at home

Wikimedia Commons Do you fry food at home? It makes a delicious meal, but when you clean up afterward, you have a lot of used cooking oil. And so you have the problem of how to dispose of it properly. For the sake of convenience, I’m using “cooking oil” to describe ...
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Do you make these 7 common recycling mistakes?

Sorted bales of PET plastic ready for sale / Nick Saltmarsh via Flickr You want to be a conscientious recycler. Unfortunately, many people, maybe including you, find recycling rules complicated. After all, local governments set their own recycling rules, and the US has thousands of them. Some people recycle carelessly and ...
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What is green cleaning and what does it look like in your home?

“Green cleaning” means different things to different people. Some people look for eco-friendly brands of cleaning products. Others insist on making their own cleaners using common ingredients such as baking soda or vinegar. Whichever camp you fall in, you’ll find useful information here. Keep in mind that there is no legal ...
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8 ways to shop more sustainably on Amazon

Used with permission of Quote Catalog Online sales account for a growing portion of the retail trade in the US. And Amazon sells more online than anyone else. So sustainable online shopping almost unavoidably means shopping more sustainably on Amazon. For years, Amazon resisted releasing its carbon footprint data, but it ...
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Do we need coercive tactics to reach environmental goals?

How should meet environmental goals such as solving problem of plastic pollution? Individual acts such as removing plastic from the beach? Organizing beach cleanups and involving thousands of people? Or producing less plastic in the first place? Clearly, the answer is “all of the above.” But here’s a too-common and foolish ...
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cotton plants

How organic cotton is better than conventional cotton

Cotton growing / Gloria Cabada-Lehman via Flickr Of all natural fibers, cotton is the most used in the clothing industry. (About 65% of all fabric is or includes polyester, nylon, or other synthetics.) Organic cotton fabric is so far used much less than ordinary cotton, though. Nonetheless, people who care about ...
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hands holding soil and young plant. live sustainabiy

12 easy ways to live more sustainably at home

Marco Verch via Flickr We can’t solve our environmental problems without the large-scale involvement of government and industry. But we can’t solve them unless more people live more sustainably at home, either. Perhaps you’ve seen complaints by people who think asking individuals to help out is an unreasonable imposition. But how ...
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Recycling right: how clean is clean enough?

Rinsed for recycling / My photo Recycling has been in an uproar for a few years now, ever since China stopped accepting the world’s recyclables because of high contamination rates. We all need to put out clean recycling, but you may be wondering how clean is clean enough. Most municipal recycling ...
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Cooking for one on a budget: easy, eco-friendly meal ideas

Brian Kelly via Flickr You live alone, whether you want to or not. And you have to eat. Cooking for one person may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider the alternatives: Eat out all the time––but it’s expensive even if you limit yourself to the ...
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The Lorax: environmental warning still valuable after 50 years

B Rosen via Flickr On April 22, 1970, Earth Day kicked off the environmental movement. The following year, Dr. Seuss published The Lorax. It featured the familiar whimsical drawings and rhymes, but in place of the usual humor, Dr. Seuss served up a dire warning about pollution and environmental degradation. Fifty ...
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Natural mosquito control: how to get rid of the nasty bugs

Aedes albopictus mosquito / James Gathany, USCDCP via Pixnio More than simply annoying, mosquitos spread nasty diseases. So we need to keep them from biting. Science has developed chemicals that work very well. Unfortunately, it turns out they’re not healthy for people and pets. More and more people are turning to ...
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7 ideas for a sustainable, low-maintenance backyard

Vladan Rajkovic via Pixabay Sometimes you just need a place to chill out and relax. What’s more convenient than your own backyard? If you have to spend too much time working in it, though, it’s not very relaxing. So you want a low-maintenance backyard. And you’re reading this because you want ...
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Sustainable products: is reusable always better than single use?

Marco Verch via Flickr The question seems so simple. At least for those of us who want to be eco-friendly. But once we get beneath the surface, all environmental questions become more complicated. So what are truly sustainable products for the home? Single-use plastic items are an environmental menace. It would ...
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Have an eco-friendly bathroom in 3 easy steps

Lisa Clarke via Flickr Your bathrooms are probably the smallest rooms in your home. But you might very well use more resources there per square foot than in any other room. Developing a more eco-friendly bathroom can go a long way toward making your entire lifestyle greener. Going green in the ...
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Your sustainable kitchen: must-have no waste, non-toxic utensils

August de Richelieu via Pexels No one decides to start an eco-friendly lifestyle and changes overnight. It takes a lifetime of learning and taking small steps. In fact, considering lifestyle is too broad for one post. Looking to plan a more sustainable kitchen is ambitious enough! A totally no waste kitchen ...
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11 common recycling myths and what to do about them

Materials recovery facility (MRF) tipping floor and conveyor belt to sorting area Lots of people find recycling confusing. It’s bad enough that every town has slightly different rules. What one town accepts the next one down the road doesn’t. But what can make recycling really confusing? Lots of what people think ...
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lawn with shrubs, biodiverse lawn

How to transform your ordinary lawn to a beautiful biodiverse lawn

Image by Ulla Alfons from Pixabay Nearly everyone, it seems, wants a lush, green lawn. Most of our standard ways of taking care of them don’t produce an eco-friendly lawn, though. An eco-friendly lawn is a biodiverse lawn. The ideal suburban lawn has long been a monoculture: an expanse of turf ...
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Rechargeable batteries vs disposable batteries: which are best?

Free Stock Images via Flickr Americans buy about 4 billion disposable batteries every year. That averages out to 47 batteries per household. Rechargeable batteries last about four years. So 12 rechargeable batteries that last that long can replace 188 disposable ones. Rechargeable batteries cost more to buy but much less in ...
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hemp plant

Hemp fabric vs cotton and bamboo: how sustainable is it?

Cannabis sativa (hemp) plant. / Pavel Ševela via Wikimedia Commons Not many people are yet familiar with hemp fabric. Hemp fabric and marijuana both come from Cannabis sativa. Over thousands of years, growers have developed two different strains of it. Marijuana comes from the one high in psychoactive compounds. What’s now ...
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What can we use instead of paper towels?

Wikimedia Commons When it comes to refusing single-use products, plastic gets a lot of attention, but we also need to find eco-friendly alternatives to paper towels. There’s one obvious answer to what to use instead of paper towels: cloth towels. But as with all obvious answers, reality is a bit more ...
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Lawn alternatives for a more sustainable yard

Image by Hebi B. via Pixabay Americans love a lush, green, grass lawn. Even where grass doesn’t grow well. More and more people are beginning to discover lawn alternatives. You can have a beautiful and more sustainable lawn with less grass, or even without grass. More trees, shrubbery, flowers, and vegetables ...
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Dishwasher vs hand washing: which is the most eco-friendly?

Image by AchimThiemermann from Pixabay Probably no one really enjoys washing dishes. That’s one reason we have dishwashers, but probably no one enjoys loading them. If we’re going to use dishes, we have to wash them. So what’s the best and most eco-friendly way to do it: use the dishwasher or ...
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Why use silicone kitchen tools and cooking utensils?

Kitchen tools and cooking utensils have long been made of pottery, wood, and various metals. Rubber and plastic came along in the 20th century. More recently, silicone kitchen tools have joined the party. Sometimes they’re called silicone rubber. They look a lot like plastic, which might make some people a little ...
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Leather, faux leather, vegan leather, and the environment

Vegan leather purse and wallet / Kari Sullivan via Wikimedia Commons What are the differences among real leather, faux leather, and vegan leather? Real leather raises controversy on more than one level. What advantages do leather alternatives have? Especially for the environment? Genuine leather raises ethical issues for some people. First, ...
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How to save energy with window treatments

Image by Mircea Ploscar from Pixabay Most people prefer bright, sunny days to cloudy, gloomy days. And sunlight through the windows certainly cheers up a room. Unfortunately, windows also transfer heat. About 30% of the energy it takes to heat your home gets lost through windows. In the summertime, when you ...
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Reusable cloth grocery bags vs plastic bags

Photo by furkanfdemir from Pexels In an ideal world, we should be able to identify things we can use that have no environmental downside. We don’t live in such a world. Take grocery shopping bags, for example. Plastic bags remain forever in the environment and jeopardize wildlife. But reusable cloth grocery ...
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The hidden costs of not going green

via Flickr Going green has a reputation for being expensive. But the price we pay for our choices does not reflect the full cost. For example, whatever we buy probably comes with packaging. Then we have to pay to discard it. And we have to pay for the energy it takes ...
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The health benefits of drinking water

Aqua Mechanical via Flickr The human body is about 60% water; the brain is about 70% water, and blood about 90% water. You may have seen frequent assertions that we need to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. That’s half a gallon. As it turns out, no particular scientific ...
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The recycling process: how a materials recovery facility works

Overview of a materials recovery facility. Wikimedia Commons Once you haul your recyclables out to the curb, what happens to them? A lot of the recycling process depends on your municipality’s practices. Most rely on single-stream recycling. That is, they require households and businesses to separate commingled recyclables from trash. Recycling ...
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bamboo forest

Bamboo products and sustainability: how eco-friendly are they?

Sagano Bamboo Forest, Arashimia, Japan. The tree at right shows it's a natural bamboo forest. Some rights reserved by Steve Cadman. How sustainable are bamboo products? At first appearances, bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials on earth. Let’s consider some of the ways. First, it grows very rapidly from ...
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garbage bag

12 sustainable living tips through waste reduction

More sustainable living can mean going off grid, giving up your car, and other drastic measures, but it doesn’t have to. You can go a long way toward protecting the environment by reducing waste at home. That can include buying less, buying different things, or just using less water and electricity ...
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8 cool solar products for your home: buyer’s guide

Photo by armaggesin via Flickr Free, clean power from the sun now powers products literally everywhere. You don’t have to put solar panels on your roof to take advantage of solar power. In fact, you can carry some solar products with you, and others can even stay indoors! I went to ...
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lawn with no shrubs. green living message

Promoting sustainable living: the power of many

Instead of condemning all this grass, how about mentioning that trees would protect it from too much sun and shrubbery would make the house look better? / Image by midascode via Pixabay Have you noticed that not everyone cares about sustainable living? And even among people who do, a gap sometimes ...
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online shopping

Online shopping vs in-store shopping: which is more eco-friendly?

Ed Zbarzhyvetsky via Deposit Photos When you want to buy something nowadays, you have a choice between going to a store to get it or ordering it online. Since you have come here to read this article, you want to do what’s best by the environment. So what is the better ...
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food date label

How to reduce food waste by understanding food date labels

Open Food Facts. Original image cropped. Food packages often have food date labels. They use such phrases as “used before,” expires on,” best by,” “best if used by,” “use by,” or “sell by” before the dates. As it turns out, consumers find these labels confusing. A survey in 2007 determined that ...
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Environmental degradation and the plagues of Revelation

The Lamb on Mount Zion and the Redeemed / East window of Yorkminster. Wikimedia Commons In another article, I have described how the fall of man explains human incompetence in taking proper care of the environment. It represents an act of rebellion against God, the rightful Lord of the universe. This ...
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convenience food in pantry

Inconvenient convenience food, or, Tuna doesn’t need help

Wikimedia Commons Our society has become addicted to convenience in general and convenience food in particular. But is it really as convenient as it seems? Let’s look at products such as Tuna Helper™, Hamburger Helper™, and Chicken Helper™. Open a can of tuna or cook some hamburger or chicken and everything ...
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The three pillars of sustainability explained

Wikimedia Commons Explaining the three pillars of sustainability first requires defining sustainability. The concept of sustainability arose from environmental activism. It’s taken to mean making sure that the current generation can meet its needs without making it impossible for future generations to meet theirs. That is, we can sustain ourselves and ...
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The many benefits of outdoor solar LED lights

Solar pathway lights Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay You don’t need to invest in an entire rooftop solar system to take advantage of solar energy. Just get some outdoor solar LED lights. You can get lights with a built-in solar collector or lights with a solar panel you can mount ...
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Do you need a home drinking water filter system?

PxHere Do you know what’s in your drinking water? Don’t buy into the myth that bottled water is safer than tap water. It comes with a lot of hidden costs, too. The US enjoys some of the cleanest and clearest water in the world. Yet, there are times when you might ...
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Extended producer responsibility and the recycling crisis

City of St. Petersburg via Flickr The terms “extended producer responsibility”(EPR) and “product stewardship mean about the same thing. Recently, however, a distinction has arisen. Product stewardship mostly means voluntary programs. EPR mostly refers to programs mandated by. States are exploring it as a way to solve the recycling crisis. The ...
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Energy-efficient home improvements for an older home

U.S. Department of Energy Building codes constantly change to mandate energy efficiency. The newer a house is, the more likely it is to be energy efficient. But what are your home improvement options if you live in an older home? Upgrading an older home to make it more energy efficient can ...
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Dressing up a basic white sauce for unlimited meal ideas

Wikimedia Commons One of the best ways to go green is to cook at home. You’ll save money and not generate as much trash as eating out or fixing prepared foods. Does that seem scary? You can have a mouth-watering supper on the table in half an hour. The stuff that ...
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Looks like plastic, made of molded bamboo!

Molded bamboo mixing bowl set Several years ago, I bought some dog dishes that look and feel like plastic, but they’re made with molded bamboo. How can bamboo be made into something that so greatly resembles plastic? Plastic is a family of different polymers, some of which are suitable for molding ...
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earth from space. help the environment

Easy ways to help the environment that have a huge impact

Earth from space (NASA photo) It’s easy to think that we have to make big sacrifices or investments to have a good environmental impact. Things like installing solar panels or embracing a vegan lifestyle. In fact, we can help the environment by develop little eco-friendly habits. Most of these tips for ...
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green new deal. junk science

Climate change: dissent vs junk science

Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez introducing the Green New Deal Is there a scientific consensus about global warming? Yes, but it is not quite what climate change activists claim. We do not have a controversy between science-based arguments and climate deniers. Plenty of scientists offer climate change dissent. They find themselves in the ...
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Super-easy, nutritious pancakes from scratch

Supermarkets are full of conveniences that, on further inspection, don’t offer much convenience. And there’s a cost to convenience, whether real or imagined convenience.  Here's how you can replace one of the most useless: pancake mix. Making homemade pancakes from scratch is just as easy. I have a couple of easy homemade pancake ...
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bamboo clothing. sustainable fabric

How sustainable is bamboo fabric?

Zeyus Media via Flickr Versatile bamboo has more uses than product in the world. Growing bamboo is probably more sustainable than any other crop. The sustainability of bamboo fabric has been a matter of controversy from the start. This article will look at the environmental impact of bamboo fabric and compare ...
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