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On Amazon’s Prime Day, the environment gets a raw deal

This Tuesday is day two of Prime Day, a late-capitalist online extravaganza for Amazon Prime members only. The once-a-year sale, which Amazon says rivals Black Friday for low prices, has become famous for its deals on increasingly bizarre items. But before you rush to purchase a hot dog toaster or a life-size yeti garden statue, consider the environmental footprint of that purchase — and Prime in general.

Transportation experts are split over whether online shopping reduces or increases emissions. In theory, online shopping can be more environmentally friendly than a traditional brick-and-mortar store: Either way, a truck has to deliver the items, and in the case of online shopping, you don’t have to drive to the store as well.

“Our research shows that delivering a typical order to an Amazon customer is more environmentally friendly than that customer driving to a store,” said Melanie Janin, sustainability representative at Amazon, in an email.

But research has shown that it’s a different story when companies incorporate “rush” shipping. Free two-day shipping — the hallmark of Amazon’s plan to squeeze out traditional retailers — burns through significantly more emissions than standard shipping or traditional in-store shopping.

And Amazon has only increased its shipping speeds, offering select products on Prime Now that can be delivered in one to two hours.“With one-hour or two-hour delivery, there is no time for companies to consolidate shipments,” says Miguel Jaller, professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of California Davis. “And that means more vehicles, more emissions, and more health impacts.”

When you wait three to five days for shipment, Jaller explains, Amazon has time to find the most efficient (and cheapest) way to deliver goods. Aviation is by far the most carbon-intensive transit option, and with more time the company can route your package by land, instead of by air. Slower shipping also allows Amazon to group your package with other, similar deliveries. But with Prime, there’s almost no incentive to choose a slower option.

“The concept of Amazon Prime pushes us towards more emissions,” Dan Sperling, another professor at UC Davis, tells Grist. “It makes the marginal cost of purchases very small, so you have motivation to buy more. And of course, that’s what Amazon wants.”

Emissions aren’t the only problem — the company has previously come under fire for truly unreasonable amounts of packaging for small items and more recently for troubling labor practices. But transport continues to be a sustainability problem for Amazon, and we don’t even know the full extent of the problem: the Seattle-based conglomerate is highly secretive about what their emissions actually are.

It’s not hopeless: Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, could take a stance on green delivery and prioritize low-emission vehicles. (Not a bad decision for a man recently named the richest in modern history). According to Jaller, Amazon could also offer higher incentives for Prime customers to opt for slower shipping. Other researchers have suggested labeling standard shipping as the green choice, or giving consumers the chance to purchase carbon offsets.

At the end of the day, however, it will take consumer pressure to make any of these changes. So please, consider whether you can wait a few days to receive your garden yeti — or better yet, whether you even need it at all.

“Amazon isn’t the villain in this,” says Sperling. “The villain is us — it’s what people are willing to pay for.”

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On Amazon’s Prime Day, the environment gets a raw deal

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This Will Change Everything – John Brockman


This Will Change Everything

Ideas That Will Shape the Future

John Brockman

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: December 22, 2009

Publisher: HarperCollins e-books

Seller: HarperCollins

“This Will Change Everything offers seemingly radical but actually feasible ideas with the potential to change the world.”—Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel Editor John Brockman continues in the same vein as his popular compilations What Are You Optimistic About and What Have You Changed Your Mind About with This Will Change Everything. Brockman asks 150 intellectual superstars “what game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?” Their fascinating responses are collected here, from bestselling author of Atonement Ian McEwan to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek to electronic music pioneer Brian Eno to writer, actor, director, and activist Alan Alda.

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This Will Change Everything – John Brockman

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Don’t Blame Tech For Airline Woes

Mother Jones

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Farhad Manjoo says that airline travel sucks and Silicon Valley has made it even worse:

Travel search engines rank airlines based on price rather than friendliness or quality of service. Online check-in, airport kiosks and apps allow airlines to serve customers with fewer and fewer workers. What we are witnessing is the basest, ugliest form of tech-abetted, bottom-seeking capitalism — one concerned with prices and profits above all else, with little regard for quality of service, for friendliness, or even for the dignity of customers.

….What keeps deteriorating are comfort and quality of service for low-end passengers (i.e., most people). Legroom keeps shrinking. Airlines keep tacking on separate fees for amenities we used to consider part of the flight. And customers keep going along with it.

Consumers have shown that they’re willing to put up with an awful lot, including lack of legroom, lack of amenities, mediocre or worse customer service, dirty airplanes and more to save money,” Mr. Harteveldt said. “And the airline industry has evolved to meet that desire” for cheap fares

I’ll give Silicon Valley a pass on this. The flying public has demonstrated conclusively that it cares about only one thing: price. Airlines do their best to charge high prices when they can—usually for late bookings or on routes where they have a monopoly—but most of the time they can’t. So they’ve done everything they can to lower their prices. It’s either that or die.

Nor is it just airlines. Manjoo complains that the whole system of buying an airline ticket is “mercilessly transactional” thanks to tech, but that’s a broad trend. Even the tech companies he celebrates, like Uber and Airbnb, are pretty damn transactional. They aren’t quite up there with airlines, but their single biggest selling point is that they’re cheaper than taxis and hotels. (You think Uber is popular because it’s faster and more convenient? It is. But if price weren’t its paramount feature, Uber wouldn’t continue to lose billions of dollars subsidizing fares.)

I’ve long thought that one of the problems with air travel is the lack of a credible signaling system. If, say, American Airlines was 10 percent more expensive than other carriers, it might be able to make that stick if it truly offered better service. But how do you convince customers of this? You’d have to realign the entire company around service and then spend 20 years building up a reputation. There’s no other way. But who’s willing to risk the life and death of a huge corporation (probably death, let’s be honest) on a 20-year experiment?

So flying sucks because we, the customers, have made it clear that we don’t care. We love to gripe, but we just flatly aren’t willing to pay more for a better experience. Certain individuals (i.e., the 10 percent of the population over six feet tall) are willing to pay for legroom. Some are willing to pay more for extra baggage. Some are willing to pay more for a window seat. But most of us aren’t. If the ticket price on We Care Airlines is $10 more, we click the link for Suck It Up Airlines. We did the same thing before the web too. As usual, the fault lies not in the stars, but in ourselves.

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Don’t Blame Tech For Airline Woes

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Our Dishonest President — Part 1 of 1 Million

Mother Jones

Oh man. Here’s the lead editorial in the LA Times this morning:

This could go on forever. The online version suggests that it’s only four parts, finishing up on Wednesday, but who knows what we’ll find out between now and then? By 2020—or however long Trump lasts—this could end up being a thousand-part editorial.

And while we’re on the subject, a federal judge has ruled that it’s OK for a lawsuit to go forward accusing Trump of inciting violence at one of his campaign rallies last March. That’s sure something you don’t see every day. But Wikipedia tells me the judge is some notorious Obama appointee, so he’s probably taking direction from the same folks who ordered Trump wiretapped. As the president puts it:

Yessir. Find the leakers, and we’ll probably also find out who’s pulling the strings of this so-called judge.

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Our Dishonest President — Part 1 of 1 Million

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Republican Congresswoman Discovers Her Followers Love Obamacare

Mother Jones

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With Republicans convinced they need to repeal Obamacare ASAP but unsure of how they want to replace it, Rep. Marsha Blackburn issued a public plea for help on Tuesday. The Tennessee Republican—and member of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team—asked the Twitter masses to take a poll on whether they like the law. Turns out Blackburn’s followers are pretty big fans of the Affordable Care Act, with 84 percent of the 7,968 votes opposing a repeal of Obamacare.

Online polls are hardly scientific. But the GOP’s hopes to make Obamacare magically disappear without having to offer a replacement took a serious hit on Tuesday, when the American Medical Association—the country’s largest organization of doctors—wrote a letter to congressional leaders demanding that any tweaks to the health care law ensure that the 20 million people who gained insurance under Obamacare don’t lose coverage. That request would be impossible to meet under the various proposals floated by Republican politicians so far.

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Republican Congresswoman Discovers Her Followers Love Obamacare

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Trump Campaign CEO Once Worked for a World of Warcraft Marketplace

Mother Jones

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Stephen Bannon brought quite the varied resume to his new gig as CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. At various points, Bannon has worked as an investment banker, earned money off Seinfeld royalties, overseen a biosphere, directed films, and run an alt-right news site. But one of the stranger blips on his career path came in the mid-aughts, when Bannon joined and eventually ran a company that made its name and fortune as an online marketplace to sell virtual gold to World of Warcraft players and other online gamers.

World of Warcraft was the most successful of a genre of games termed Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs or MMOs) that sprang up in the late 1990s and 2000s. For a monthly fee, people could play these games (which also included EverQuest and installments of the Final Fantasy series) as characters in open-ended fantasy or science fiction worlds. Over time, players upgraded their characters’ status and abilities by going on quests to gain online currency (often gold) along with weapons and other items.

These games required huge time investments to boost characters and attain the best items. A few crafty entrepreneurs realized that time-crunched players might be willing to trade real-world cash for online currency, and they set up so-called gold farms, paying people to acquire currency and goods in the games that would then be sold to other players through an outside system.

One of the first major businesses in the “real-money trading” market was Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE), founded in 2001 by former child actor Brock Pierce. (You may remember Pierce from the 1996 film First Kid, playing the eponymous White House child opposite Sinbad.) As detailed in a 2008 feature in Wired, Pierce set up an online shop that allowed players to purchase in-game goods, much of it coming from gold farms in China, where people were paid to play the game and rake up loot. According to Fortune, at its peak, IGE earned tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars per year.

As Wired reported, IGE brought Bannon on board in the mid-2000s. Bannon’s “mission was to land venture capital.” That mission paid off for IGE. In 2006, Bannon’s former employer, Goldman Sachs, invested $60 million in the company, and Bannon took a seat on the company’s board.

The legality of real-money trading as an industry was never clear; it ran the risk of violating the terms of service of various games. With IGE facing a massive class-action lawsuit led by a World of Warcraft player, the company sold off its online marketplace to a former competitor and rebranded as Affinity Media, which retained a string of community message boards related to MMOs. According to Wired, in June 2007, Affinity’s board pushed out Pierce and made Bannon CEO, a role he would hold until he took over at Breitbart News in 2012. Bannon may have applied his web knowledge gained from his time at IGE and Affinity to Breitbart News, which he transformed into the preeminent destination for the internet-savvy, meme-centric alt-right—in part by stoking the anger behind Gamergate, which saw harassment of female gamers by their male peers.

As for Pierce, he’s now moved on to Bitcoin. His bio at Blockchain Capital says that he’s “a member of Clinton Global Initiative.”

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Trump Campaign CEO Once Worked for a World of Warcraft Marketplace

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Check Out This Good Read About Bad Sex

Mother Jones

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We all know that a “sex object” is an old, degrading stereotype of a woman as nothing more than an objectified plaything for randy men. So why would Jessica Valenti—a feminist blogger and social commentator—choose Sex Object as the title of her troubling new memoir?

One reason is that Valenti has endured a lot of bad sex—the just-get-it-over-with sex, the drunk sex, the unsatisfying hand jobs—and she shares every demeaning detail. When it’s not bad sex, it’s the boldest kind of sexual harassment. A stranger on the subway cums on the back of Valenti’s jeans. Another stranger in a car asks for directions and grabs Valenti’s shoulder while shaking his dick at her. Like an index of trolling, back pages of the book list the vile insults strangers on the internet launched from the safe anonymity of their screens.

This all makes for exhausting reading. How is it possible that Valenti could experience one more miserable episode of violation? The answer is that she can, when she goes to bed with another selfish guy who treats her like a sex object and ignores any desires she might have. And on. And on.

And yet, just when you start rolling your eyes and wondering why she keeps getting herself into these situations, you realize that all the repetition actually makes an important point: This dreary and repetitive sex is what life is actually like for lots of women. Valenti doesn’t sugarcoat—she’s not here to make you feel better—because this is a book that isn’t just for her core audience of women.

“I do hope that more men read it,” Valenti tells Mother Jones. “I’ve heard from men, progressive-minded guys, ‘I understood this on a logical level, but I didn’t necessarily understand how unrelenting it all felt,’ which is a big part of the way that sexism impacts our lives. It’s about that cumulative impact; it’s about that no escape from it.”

For Valenti, who has more than 117,000 Twitter followers and writes about modern feminism for the Guardian, the harassment comes 24/7. When asked how she deals with the constant flow of abuse online—the cutting tweets, the hate-filled emails, the comments sections that debate her attractiveness—she laughs. “Xanex, mostly,” she jokes. But, of course, it’s not that simple.

“I’m forever changed by it, I’m fucked up by it, I’m not coping in the most extraordinary way, because I can’t imagine that any person could or would,” she says. “It’s a really strange and terrible thing to deal with.”

The sheer amount of nastiness and vitriol does sometimes make her want to simply quit logging on, Valenti says. But the more serious consequence is how the fear of harassment discourages young writers from diverse backgrounds from contributing online. “I can’t tell them, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no, do it anyway, it’s fine.’ But I feel like we’re losing out on this whole generation of writers from marginalized communities because they don’t want to put up with the harassment and threats, and I can’t blame them,” she says. “But it means that the art that’s out in the world, the culture that we’re creating, is limited because of that.””

The good news is that at the same time, the web provides an expansive outlet for the feminist movement. Valenti herself is a co-founder of the blog Feministing, and she’s optimistic about the explosion of women’s personal stories online. “When men write about their personal lives, and especially their sex lives, it’s brave and amazing and an objective tale of a universal human experience, but when women do it, it’s navel-gazing or it’s frivolous or silly or not real writing—not worthy in any way, which I think obviously has a lot to do with misogyny,” she said. “But I think, being an optimist, that it’s turning around a little bit. Online feminism…really started with women’s personal stories—LiveJournals, Tumblrs. That’s very much the heart of what’s happening right now.”

But Sex Object isn’t all hard truths men need to hear. Valenti examines her feelings about motherhood in a gut-wrenchingly honest, complex way. She writes about both of her abortions, her PTSD after a complicated and dangerous labor that resulted in the premature birth of her daughter, and her feelings of guilt as her young daughter wrestled with selective mutism—a childhood anxiety disorder in which her daughter would only speak in certain situations and with select people.

“My daughter is now five, and I continue to be interested in the way becoming a mother also lends itself to feeling dehumanized or objectified in a weird way,” Valenti said. “The cultural expectations around motherhood…feel like you need to be a mother first before you’re a human being. The idea around selflessness is a nice idea, and of course you want to be selfless, but it does sort of indicate this lack of sense of self that I think is troubling.”

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Check Out This Good Read About Bad Sex

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Scientists are fact-checking climate journalism now

Scientists are fact-checking climate journalism now

By on May 2, 2016 6:01 amShare

Here’s an open industry secret: Environmental and climate journalists are disseminating scientific information to the public, but most of us aren’t scientists. Neither are the fact-checkers. And even the most highly circulated, well-read publications have inadvertently spread misinformation.

A handful of respected scientists are stepping out of the lab and volunteering to fact-check climate science reporting through a relatively new project called Climate Feedback. Think of it as the Politifact or Washington Post Factchecker of climate journalism. Unlike these sites, Climate Feedback allows scientists to offer in-situ feedback to journalists and editors using an open-source web tool.  

Since January 2015, Climate Feedback has taken the occasional crack at the likes of Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, The Telegraph, and more. Now, the founders are looking to take it to the next level, by crowdfunding $30,000 to build the project’s capacity to keep apace of highly circulated reporting about climate change with new “feedbacks” given each week.

“After arriving in the U.S. in 2012, I was often frustrated by the amount of ‘climate news’ I knew to be inconsistent with the science,” co-founder Emmanuel Vincent, a climate scientist at the University of California at Merced, wrote Grist in an email, “and the lack of any effective way for scientists with expertise on the subject to respond and have their voice heard.”

The problem, Vincent and co-founder Daniel Nethery point out, is exacerbated by both the fast pace and the staying power of online media.

“Several aspects of the online media environment make it particularly conducive to the spread of misinformation,” noted Nethery, a scientist who is pursuing a PhD. in public policy at the Crawford School in Australia. “In the race to attract the most clicks, editorial standards may suffer, qualified journalists who carry out rigorous research may become cost-ineffective, and eye-catching headlines – ‘click bait’ – can trump more sober reporting of the facts.”

With the crowd-funding campaign, Vincent and Nethery plan to hire a dedicated editor and eventually incentivize accurate science writing through a tool they’re calling a Scientific Trust Tracker. It will point readers toward news sites that have consistently received positive feedback from Climate Feedback’s scientists in order to elevate the “journalists with integrity.” The public, meanwhile, would have a guide for which reporting to avoid.



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Earth Week Daily Action: Go Paperless

Paper is the bane of the planet’s existence. Mine, too.

Paper is pretty cheap in the scheme of things, so most people don’t think twice about how they use it. But every aspect of producing paper takes a significant environmental toll:

* Forests may be clear cut for the pulp used to make paper fibers.

* Water is polluted when the fibers are bleached and washed.

* A variety of toxic chemicals, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide are emitted by paper plants, polluting the air.

* Burning energy to power paper processing operations creates more air and water pollution and contributes to climate change.

* Throwing away paper adds to the huge piles of waste and trash we’re already trying to contend with.

The numbers back up these statements. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, discarded paper accounts for about 35 percent by weight of municipal solid waste (before recycling).

Pulp and paper are the third largest industrial polluters of air, water and land both in Canada and the U.S., says Environment Canada. Over 6.5 million trees were cut down to make 16 billion paper cups used by U.S. consumers only for coffee in 2006, using 4 billion U.S. gallons of water and generating 253 million pounds of waste.

Paper in all its forms is the biggest source of trash and clutter in my home. Unwanted junk mail piles up. Paper wrapping when I get a package. Food and consumer goods packaging when I shop. Receipts. Even though I’ve sworn to live paper-free, it’s almost impossible to do.

Still, I have cut down my paper use significantly. One day during Earth Week, turn your attention to getting rid of as much new paper coming into your home as you can.

Here’s How

* Cancel newspaper and magazine subscriptions and read online: I reduced my overall paper consumption probably by 20 pounds a weekan entire recycling bin’s worthwhen I started reading publications online. It saved me a lot of hassle, too, since dragging a recycling bin full of paper down to the street could be quite a chore. If you love reading the Sunday news on paper, make an exception for that one day’s delivery. Otherwise, go digital.

* Pay bills online: Most companies prefer to bill their customers digitally, since it saves them money and resources, too. Another advantage of online bill paying is that you can tie it directly to your checking account. You’ll see exactly how much money you have in your account before you pay each bill, which will reduce the likelihood that you’ll overdraw the account. Many businesses will offer a bonuslike increased airline miles, so some cash back transactionswhen you make the switch.

* Get off junk mail lists: Drop by this earlier post I wrote about “best ways to stop junk mail and control catalog clutter.” It offers everything you need to know to stop the onslaught of unwanted paper from coming to your mail box.

* Refuse receipts: Do you really need a receipt when you buy your groceries or get a tube of toothpaste from the drug store? Probably not. I’ve stopped accepting receipts when I shop unless it’s for a durable good, clothing or some other item I might want to return. This has been a great way to reduce paper clutter not just in my home, but in my purse, as well. Some stores and many banks now let you elect to have an electronic receipt sent to your email address if you really need the record of what you’ve bought.

* Share documents electronically: Minimize what you need to share with others by filing and emailing digital documents rather than creating paper ones.

* Use mobile apps and email to recordtickets, purchases, and appointments: There’s no need to print out a paper version of a ticket when you can pull it up on your phone.

* Use your own reusable carry out containers: Going to your favorite restaurant, or even the fast food joint up the street? Take your own reusable containersso you won’t need their wrapping and packing.

* Switch to a reusable grocery bag: You’ll have no need for throwaway, single-use bags when you use your own reusable cloth one.

* Take a reusable mug when you get coffee: You’ll avoid the throwaway paper cup, the lid and the cardboard sleeve that protects your hand from the hot cup.

Need More Suggestions? See These Related Posts on Care2:

4 Eco-Friendly Ways to Manage Your Money
11 Ways to Reduce Your Garbage

25 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

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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Earth Week Daily Action: Go Paperless

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The Green Gold in Your Wedding Dress

Keeping your wedding dress forever might seem like a good idea the day after your wedding when you’re still euphoric after your wonderful event. But within a few years or maybe even a few weeks, you may be wondering just what you’re going to do with a big white gown that needs to be kept in an airtight plastic bag for the rest of its life.

Are you going to move itaround from place to place, then cram it into the back of a closet somewhere? Or maybe stuff it into a trunk in the attic where you’ll forget all about it? Or pay to store it at a facility that will keep it pristine until maybe a daughter or niece or godchild gets engaged?

Why not take amore eco-friendlyapproach, one that may generate a little cash for you, too?

Enjoy your dress, then find a way to repurpose it sooner rather than later.

Here’s how:

Turn it into a cocktail dress:Depending on the style of your dress, you should be able to shorten it or dye it. There are many tailors who could do the job so well for you, you’d never be able to tell that the garment originally was a wedding gown. Some dry cleaning facilities will dye fabrics if you prefer to have a dress that’s a color other than white. Take a look at 11 different wedding dress transformations Cosmopolitan featured recently.

Re-use the material:If your dress has a long train for a big flowing skirt, that material could pretty easily be converted into a shawl or shoulder wrap, a short jacket for evening wear or even fancy napkins and a tablecloth. Check out the free skirt sewing patterns on So-Sew-Easy.com. If you’d rather not sew something yourself, have a tailor do it for you. It’s pretty straightforward to convert fabric into a shawl or wrap, but Prom DIY puts up the instructions on YouTubehere.

Donate it:Search “donate wedding dress + your locale” and you’ll find women’s shelters and organizations that help girls who need prom dresses. You can also donate your dress to Fairy Tale Brides, a non-profit that re-sells the dresses at reasonable prices, then donate their profits to charities that include St. Judes children’s Research Hospital, Suited for Change and the Kids Network. You can download a donation form on their website here.

Rent it:You can rent a gown to wear or you can rent out your own gown. A surprising number of online companies make this process easy, from Rent the Runway to Borrowing Magnoliato Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses.

Sell it:Many of the online companies mentioned above will buy your wedding gown from you and relieve you of all responsibility to ever have to take care of it again. Given the care with which most gowns are made, they should be able to stand up to at least ten weddingsso why not let them? Of course, you can also put your dress on EBay or Craig’s List, sell it at a local consignment shop, or let your Facebook community know it’s for sale. Agree on a price you think is fair, then enjoy the pictures and the memories, as well as the thought that someone else is extending the life of your lovely gown.

10 Easy Ways to Make Your Wedding More Eco-Friendly
25 DIY Wedding Ideas

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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The Green Gold in Your Wedding Dress

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