Blog Archives

Valentines Day Doesn’t Love The Environment

Reflection to Elementary School

 Since it is Valentines Day I was remembering back to my youth when I was in elementary  school. In elementary school parents buy cards for everyone in the class and attach candy to them. This is basically a requirement seeing as if you are the only one not giving a valentine you are at high risk of becoming the class outcast. I remember just as every child I loved getting all the candy, but once I looked at the card once it became unnecessary waste.

The Waste in Valentine’s 

According to Hallmark 188 million Valentine’s day cards are exchanged in America every year which doesn’t include the packaged valentines that schoolchildren give. Although this paper waste is not as much as wrapping paper during Christmas it still has a huge negative impact on the environment.

Green Valentines

For an alternative to buying valentines a great blog I found called ecocrazymom found a great way to create up-cycled homemade valentines from envelopes. Another idea is to make recycled valentines from cardboard and used printing paper. The information on this can be found on How to.

Some alternatives when sending cards to your loved ones are use cards that are plantable paper or seed paper. Some websites to check out for cards are botanical paperworks, Eco Party Time, and Green Field Paper Company.

So I hope that some of you consider this for next year and for all the holidays that use cards.

Will you use some of these resources? Do you have any ideas on how to create green valentines?

Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.
~ Kahlil Gibran 

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Terracycling

TerraCycle Outsmart Waste

Recently my next door neighbors have started a brigade of terracycling through girl scouts. They collect items that normally will not be recycled or items that are hard-to-recycle through the terracycle program.  I thought this was a great idea and am hoping to be able to start a brigade when I go back to my spring semester at college.

Terracycle

Their purpose is to eliminate waste. They create collection opportunities and solutions for things that are normally sent to the landfill.

They turn these products into new products like backpacks, benches, and bags. They use the Upcycle idea, where they use the old product as is, to create a new product. They do not utilize as much energy as recycling.

In 2010 and 2011 this program has spread to all over the world including France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Spain, and many other countries.

What Can You Do?

Find a location near you that is participating in Terracycle, or start your own brigade. If everyone could get some of their community involved with terracyling we could reduce the amount of waste that goes into the landfill.

Can you get your community to participate? Will you start a brigade in your own community? Any thoughts on Terracycle?

“We are not to throw away those things which can benefit our neighbor. Goods are called good because they can be used for good: they are instruments for good, in the hands of those who use them properly.”

~Clement of Alexandria

Lighting Up Holidays the Green Way

Brightening the Holiday Spirit 

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I have started to decorate for Christmas. I love lights, and could never imagine a holiday without them. I know this is not very environmental, so I have researched ways to make it as environmental as possible. This year I have started my own collection of Christmas lights of my own. I decided that on short notice and low budget LED lights are my best option.

Holiday lights have become quite the tradition all over the United States. It goes along with the capitalistic/materialistic view of the holidays, which we have all been trapped into believing, me included. Lights are not only expensive to purchase, but all those lights on at all hours of the night take a toll on your electricity bill, as well as your environment.

LED, Your Gift for the Planet

  • According to the Department of Energy, Holiday lights account for more than 6 terawatt-hours per year, the total electricity consumption of 500,000 homes.  (The majority of lights being incandescent).
  • Incandescent lights burn out quicker than LED lights which last as much as 10 times longer.
  • LED lights have significantly less risk to cause a fire. LEDs also don’t contain mercury.
  • When LED lights started they were often not as bright or attractive as incandescent lights, but with the increase of technology, they are almost identical in my opinion, that is if you find the right brands.
  • LEDs use 80% less energy then incandescent lights.

Throw Away Those Old Lights? 

If you have large incandescence replace them now with LED lights. But if you have mini-incandesent lights you should keep your old lights (if they are still safe to use), until they burn out. Then I recommend switching to LED lights. . If you throw out all your perfectly good christmas lights it creates a huge amount of waste and pollutes the environment.

When you are done with your lights don’t throw them away! Find a local recycling program.

Home Depot offers a trade in where you can get a discount on LED lights. (Although this program has passed for this year watch for it next year). Similar programs can be found with discounts on LED lights such as on Holiday LEDs

Greenest way to Brighten Your Home? 

Solar LED lights have the least environmental impact of all the possible lights that you can use. Solar lights use the solar panel, (photovoltaic cell) which collects sun’s energy and converts it to electric current. The battery is used to store electricity until it is used. LED bulbs turn on when it is dark. Being a new technology they do have some differences in brightness and availability. There are mixed reviews depending on weather, so before buying them make sure your yard would be able to have adequate light.

Pros

  • Easy to setup: don’t have to worry about outlets and cords
  • Convenient: turn on automatically.
  • Safety: No extension cords, lights stay cooler.
  • Free Energy: solar powered

Cons

  • Initial Price: is expensive, but less electrical bills.
  • Sunlight dependent: Without adequate sunlight they won’t shine as long
  • Weather: snow, rain, cold/cloudy can prevent adequate sunlight.

What You Can Do to Keep the Holiday Spirit  

  • Instead of putting up every strand of lights you own, do a smaller presentation of lights.
  • Use LED lights instead of regular lights.
  • Use mini-lights instead of full-sized lights.
  • Turn lights off once you go to sleep.
  • If you live in a place where solar lights are functional use them instead.

What lights will you be using this year? Do you think LED or LED solar is a better option for you?

Those Christmas lights, Light up the street, Down where the sea and city meet, May all your troubles soon be gone, Oh Christmas Lights Keep Shining on

~Coldplay

Wrapping Presents, Not A Gift To The Earth

Gifts Galore!  

  • Every year hundreds and hundreds of presents are given around the holidays.
  • Christmas time has become a consumerist holiday, it’s all about the gifts.
  • Billions of dollars are spent on Christmas.

Deck the Dumpsters with Tons of Waste

  • With gifts being the focus of the holidays all of those presents need to be wrapped.
  • Half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap and decorate products.
  • Gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons annually in the US.
  • Average American uses 2 pounds of wrapping paper a year.
What to wrap gifts in
  • If you want to use wrapping paper use recycled paper (30% recycled paper saves 7.2 trees).
  • Reuse wrapping paper, bags, ribbons and bows, year after year.
  • Wrap with fabric.
  • Use newspapers or paper bags as gift wrap. (You can decorate paper bags with stamps, paint or stickers to make them more festive).
  • Use reusable cloth bags. (There are a wide range of them you can find online if you search for reusable gift bags).
  • You could make your own cloth bag by buying fabric. What is great about these is that they can be reused every year. If you want to be fancy you could make the bags reversible so that you had two patterns on one bag.
  • Wrap your gift in a reusable shopping bag.
  • Instead of using ribbon that has plastic in it use spare yarn, or fabric.
  • Use a small little gift to decorate (a doll, a ornament)
  • Include Towels in your gift and use them to wrap it.
  • Use a scarf as a decoration on your gift.
  • Instead of buying decorations use natural things such as plants or flowers.
How this benefits the Environment
Utilizing alternatives lessens the amount of waste being thrown out every year. Using cloth bags is the most environmental. These can be reused every year and washed if they get dirty. With these they are more affordable, you don’t have to buy new paper every year. They also make for easy wrapping, so will save you time!
What you can do to keep Christmas Time Merry 
Look for alternatives to wrapping paper and what to do with packaging that is used. For society to be able to change, every person has to start by changing what they are doing. If you use the above options you can save the environment and take one step towards a more sustainable Christmas. When giving gifts encourage those who are receiving them to continue the cycle.
Will you take the initiative to start using green ways of wrapping gifts? Do you think if you start it others will too? Do you have any other suggestions for a more environmental way of gift giving?
“Don’t follow trends – start trends.”

Do you know where your e-waste is going?

What is E-waste? 

E-waste is electronic waste that makes up 5% of municipal solid waste worldwide. E-waste includes phones, computers, televisions, audio equipment, printers, DVD players, and any electronic device.Every year 25 million tons of e-waste is produced, and a large percent of it is dumped abroad.

A Consumerist Society 

In American society we have this notion that we need the newest gadget and we need it now! In each new generation there is an increasing need for instant gratification. Our society no longer purchases only their true needs, but over consumes without  considering the environmental impact. American society is materialistic, and consumers only care about their own selfish needs.

Hazards of E-waste 

E-waste being burned to salvage parts in Ghana

There are harmful elements found in electronics like PVC, mercury, solvents, flame retardants, and lead. Lead can be very disastrous to many organs and tissues (heart, bones, intestines, kidneys), as well as cardiovascular, reproductive, and nervous systems. It can cause symptoms from headaches to seizures, coma, or death. Flame retardants can cause abnormal thyroid metabolism, and poor brain development. When burned, plastic and other materials in electronic products release toxic chemicals. Plastics release dioxins such as; PVC or hydrofluoric acid, which can damage the lungs of those exposed to it. Not only are people who are actively participating in this getting exposed, but also the surrounding communities ground water and air is contaminated. The contaminated water leads to contamination of crops, animals and anyone who drinks it.

Check out the video on the right side that is titled “Toxic U.S. E-waste: Third World Problem.”

Shipped off  

The map above shows the known and suspected routes of e-waste dumping (sorry the picture is so small but it was the only one I could find that contained suspected routes). E-waste is shipped overseas to Asia, India, Africa and other developing countries. Because these people are so impoverished they work at ‘recycling facilities.’ At these facilities they do not wear any protection so their health and environment declines rapidly. These people earn about 1 meal a day while damaging their health. Many of these people are not aware of the risks involved with their work.

What can you do to ensure your e-waste does not end up overseas? 

E-waste recycling programs that have been certified by                        e-stewards have to comply with certain standards. These include waste not being disposed of in solid waste landfills or incinerators, prohibits the exports and imports of electronics and specifically prohibits export of hazardous waste to developing countries. In order for this dangerous oversea shipping to stop, it is necessary for the public to be aware of this issue, and make sure that the e-waste recycling program will not ship overseas.

How are you disposing of your e-waste? Is your e-waste recycler certified?

“Shall we surrender to our surroundings or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land and to our water?”

-Richard Nixon

Is biodegradable really better for the environment?

In the past year I have noticed an increase in products that are biodegradable and like me, you may have just assumed that it is so much better for the environment. Take for instance Cutlery, there are now brands making biodegradable forks, knives, and spoons. Unfortunately many people assume that biodegradable is the same as compostable.

Is biodegradable another greenwashing scheme?

If you are unaware of what greenwashing is, it is an organization using supposedly “green” policies or products when their impact is not what it leads the public to believe.

Biodegradable isn’t compostable

Compostable

  •  60-90% of the product breaks down within 180 day period
  • 90% will be 2 mm or less
  • Won’t leave heavy metals (that are toxic to the soil)

Biodegradable

  • Will break down eventually may be 100 days or 100 billion years
  • When broken down can be dangerous to animals, humans, and plant life

Biodegradable Cutlery

Spudware is made from 80% vegetable starch and 20% soy or other vegetable oils. unfortunately the problems that arise are that instead of oil-based product we will use more agricultural land which increases the cost of foods and other agricultural practices. How many pesticides or fertilizers are being used? Is this really more environmental?

Bioplastic

The production of bioplastic relies on oil-derived plastics, and is reliant on petroleum as energy and materials. Biodegradable plastic is made from petroleum byproducts and take centuries, and millions of years to break down.

95% of all disposable cutlery ends up in the landfill

Biodegradable products mainly end up in the landfills. When in the landfills they break down by microorganisms that produce methane. Methane is collected in the first two years but not required in the United States to be collected after. These biodegradable products take longer to break down and then the methane is released into the atmosphere, which accelerates climate change.

Unaware consumers

Again with many things environmental, the public is not aware of the extent of greenwashing that occurs with the majority of the products deemed ‘green.’ Unless the public is aware of the greenwashing of things like ‘biodegradable’ they will continue thinking that they are doing the better thing. My friend said “I thought I was doing a good thing that was beneficial to the environment, and now I find out it’s just another way for companies to benefit from me being uninformed.” She, like the general public believe what the packaging tells them.

Have you fallen for greenwashing before? 

If you want to find out if a product is greenwashed follow this link:

http://www.greenwashingindex.com/

“In the absence of facts, people believe what they want to believe”

-Jeff Butler

I do not want to SEA trash

Last weekend I participated in California’s Coastal Cleanup Day.

A group of Chapman Students got together and worked this clean up. We all walked to the creek bed site and volunteered for 3 hours picking up trash.

In the recent statistics Volunteers removed around 600,000 pounds of trash. Of this amount between 360,000 – 480,000 pounds came from inland sources.

Cleanups in creek beds like the one I participated in help decrease the amount of trash that goes out to sea. If this debris is not removed it can harm or kill wildlife, damage our economy, and can become a health hazard.

What was found

  • Cigarette butts
  • Plastic bags
  • Glass
  • Clothing
  • Shoes
  • Bottle Caps

Picking up Trash in the Creek Bed

My Reaction

I was truly disgusted by the amount of trash that was found in the creek bed. We found the things listed above as well as a mattress, a shopping cart, condoms, and electronics.

Inland to Ocean

The trash from inland ends up in our ocean. This creates pollution and is not good for the wildlife who live there naturally.

The video below describes the Pacific Garbage Dump and I would recommend watching it so you can be more educated on what happens to trash that goes into our oceans.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8a4S23uXIcM&feature=related

For our enjoyment

Enjoyment of the natural beauty

The beach is a place for fun and enjoyment, for tranquility and peace.

Our society views the ocean as such a magnificent place and yet mistreats it.

Society needs to take responsibility and take initiative to dispose of things properly, whether it be in the trash, recycling, or e-waste.

If you would like to help find a coastal clean up near you.

California’s Costaweeks are September 17-October 9

http://www.coastal.ca.gov/

Food For Thought

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient, One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach–waiting for a gift from the sea.”

-Anne Morrow Lindbergh