Years ago I lived in a very rural area where we had no city garbage service. This meant no trash pick up and no recyclable goods pick-up and I had to find a private service to haul garbage away. For the first week or so I committed the ultimate eco-sin and did not recycle. I ended up with 4 cans of garbage! Yikes! It became clear to me that I would have to figure out how to recycle on my own and find a place or places to take the recycling stuff.
I immediately consulted Earth 911, a great web site that helps you find places to recycle your garbage. You put in your zip code and they tell you of all the places that recycle in your area and what materials they recycle. Luckily I found a place close to me that recycled just about everything you could possibly want…plastics, tin and aluminum cans, glass, paperboard, newspaper, aluminum foil, scrap metal, car batteries…you name it. We used two of our garbage cans as recycle bins and we started collecting all the recyclables we could. It drastically reduced the amount of actual garbage we had.
I also did some research about good recycling etiquette so I could make sure I was teaching the kids correctly.
Common Recycling Mistakes
1. Ask your recycling facility if you should crush aluminum cans – Depending on the facility, crushing the cans can make things harder for them. In our case they like the cans crushed because they are always separate from the other materials and crushed cans mean less space used.
2. If your facility accepts aluminum foil make sure you clean it first.
3. Don’t run plastics or glass through the dishwasher…just give it a rinse.
4. Don’t bother peeling the paper off of cans and jars. This one surprised me since I have always peeled but the recycling process burns the paper off.
5. If your recycling facility does not accept paperboard (think cereal boxes) you can compost them. You can also put used paper towels and napkins in the compost bin too.
6. Many recycling plants only take certain types of plastics so make sure which ones they take, HDPE #2 is one type. The bottom of most plastic bottles will tell you what type of plastic it is. Also many plants will only accept bottles and not open mouth containers like yogurt cups and cottage cheese containers so ask them.
7. Loosen all bottle caps. Bottles with caps can cause pressure to build which can result in injury to recycling plant workers so make sure they aren’t super tight but many facilities will also recycle the caps.
8. Many places do not accept plastic bags like grocery bags, newspaper bags, and dry cleaning bags. Check PlasticBagRecycling.org to find places in your state that do.
It is big fun for my kids to accompany me to the recycling plant. We load up our vehicle with all of our recyclables and then go the plant where we pull into the drive through, get out, and sort all of our stuff into the appropriate bins. Then we usually hang around a bit and watch the heavy machinery at work compacting the garbage and moving around giant cubes of crushed cans. It is a great time to talk about why we are there and why it is so important.
The graphic below from Junk King has some great tips and info about what can and should be recycled for quick reference. Americans create 254 million tons of waste every year. The EPA claims that if all the recyclable materials in that waste stream were properly disposed of, about $7 billion worth of resources wouldn’t wind up in landfills! Let’s get to work.
Earth Day is this week. This time of year we hear a good game about all things you can do, big and small, to make an impact and reduce your footprint on our planet. I love all the tips, every little bit helps. I especially liked the infographic I am sharing with you below because it highlights ways you can help the earth by doing something you love. Well, something I love anyways. I love to garden and like to spend as much time as possible in my garden…planting, harvesting, cultivating, and enjoying. I love shoveling manure for the compost, I love picking ripe tomatoes, I love watching the bees flock to my flowers. I love all of it so it gives me the warm fuzzies to see just how good for the planet my “hobby” is.
While I love the concept of the graphic below I do not agree with every single item in it…ie petroleum jelly and irish spring are no-no’s for me. We eat from the garden so every single thing I put in it has to be carefully considered. This gives some good get started tips though. Collecting rainwater is so easy and so much better than turning on the hose. Beneficial bugs are important to a healthy garden. Many items in the recycling bin can be reused in the garden and composting is easy and rewarding. Gardening can be more than a hobby and more than a way to feed your family. It is a way to give back a little of what we take from Mother Earth. Enjoy!
Infographic courtesy of RubberMulch.com, a maker of 100% recycled mulch.
We all know there are things we can do, personal changes we can make, to reduce our energy consumption. This is important to eco conscious people everywhere. But perhaps even more important though is the ability to recognize that energy savings technologies may ultimately be even more important than our personal habits and our desire to conserve. Technology keeps getting better and better. New computers, new cars, new smart phones, new TVs, and new tablets are just a few of the items on our holiday wish lists. But, what about these products impacting our energy bills, not to mention, impacting our environment? Maybe we need tech that saves energy???
Many of us have programmable thermostats for instance but smart thermostats may do an even better job. They can tell when no one is in the house and therefore reduce energy consumption when you otherwise would have forgotten to adjust the temperature. LED light bulbs use 90% less energy and last 5 times as long. A single battery may be able to power our homes. Every technology innovation we can make furthers our goal and when you combine that with our personal habits you achieve more in shorter time frame. Everyone needs to support and even demand more investments in energy saving technology.
The impact that future technologies have on saving energy is crucial as there has been an astonishing increase in overall energy consumption since 2000. Finding new ways to save energy at home and on the road is now becoming a primary objective among technology innovators. Whether through the creation of “glow-in-the-dark road markings” or light bulbs that can last up to 50,000 hours.
The infographic below outlines the inventive technological advances that are aimed at helping people save money both on the road and at home. Think a “smart road” is something straight out of 2060? Think again!”
Image from SaveOnEnergy.com
When you think of helping the environment picking the right gym gear is not usually the first thing that comes to mind, but eco friendly gym gear can be a big step towards living a greener existence. Just think about how many people go to gyms each day. Each of those people might be packing a big bag full of stuff that they will use while they are there. Think about all the folks who have home gyms. It really adds up.
Lots of the gym gear you see is made from plastic, even the clothing. While I may not be able to avoid all plastic and other planet-cringing materials, I like to think that you can keep it to a minimum with some careful planning. It also goes to follow that someone who cares about planetary health will also want items that are healthier on a personal level too. The exercise industry has sprung onto the green living bandwagon with aplomb, generating a whole host of eco-friendly equipment and gear that can be used by those who want to integrate green living into every aspect of their lives.
So what eco friendly options can you find to replace the mainstream gym bag and its contents?
The Eco Friendly Gym Bag – If you walk down the isle of a Wal-Mart or a Target to find a gym bag you will like end up with some sort of polyester (from plastic) gym bag. I have avoided this issue by just making do with a reuseable shopping bag I already had. I think it is made of some poly material but it is not new. If I do decide to get another one at some point I already have my eye on one made from recycled materials… this one from Gaiam. To hold wet things like swim suits you could get a wet bag like is used for diapers but I have just opted to wrap my wet stuff in my towel and hang it when I get home.
Organic Towels – If you have any beach towels at home you can just grab one of those to use after some pool time. If not you may want to check into organic beach towels like these from DreamSacks. They are made from bamboo and cotton. If you need something smaller, perhaps for yoga or the treadmill, a small hand towel from your towel closet will work or you can get a small bamboo gym towel.
Sustainable Workout Clothes – Workout clothing that is ‘environmentally conscious’ is widely available now; all it takes is a little research. Keep your eye out for workout clothes made from organic and natural fibers OR recycled materials which are great for removing moisture. A minimal amount of synthetic fibers is preferred but sometimes you need something that wicks better than natural fibers and that is where recycled synthetics come in. Just be aware that synthetic fibers can become really stinky over time.
If you want to take it a step further, check into the businesses that sell or produce the products and make certain that they have sustainable business models and/or fair labor practices that correlate with your own world view. Patagonia and Gaiam are two companies that are known for their eco-friendly practices and ideals. I love yoga pants, which is what I wear. They’re organic!
Eco Gym Shoes – Footwear is another area where you can choose eco-friendly products. The same ideals as those expressed in workout clothing apply, make sure that the products and company fit with your ecological ideals. One that comes to mind is the Green Silence. It is made with soy-based inks and recycled materials. The packaging is also 100% post-consumer recycled. I have read numerous reviews of them and all have been favorable. I also really like barefoot shoes and wrote a whole post about those and Okabashi recycled flip-flops for the gym showers and locker room.
Eco Water Bottles – It’s not cool to drink out of disposable plastic bottles so the best choice will obviously be to get a good reusable bottle. I love my glass water bottles but those aren’t very practical for the gym. This Klean Kanteen Stainless/Bamboo bottle would be awesome for the gym.
Other Stuff – Wood Earbuds and Eco Yoga Mats.
And if you really want to green your gym experience write a letter to management or chat them up while you are there about using green cleaners to sanitize the machines and wash the towels or using less chlorine in the pool. If their customers consistently make these demands they may just rise to the challenge.
How do YOU green your workout routine?
No doubt you have heard by now that some of the popular bottled water brands are actually glorified tap water. There is just nothing like a cold, refreshing bottle of $2.00 tap water right? Not!
Save yourself some money and bottle your own “public water source” water in a nice reusable bottle. I recommend Klean Kanteen or Life Factory. Not only will you stop funding greedy and manipulative corporations you will also help to reduce the amount of plastic bottles entering the market and our landfills.
And if you are worried about the quality of tap water you can always look into a water filtration system for your house or one of those refrigerator water filters and drink your very own “aquafina”.
Do you have an quickie green living tip? Send me a guest post with your tip and I will post it here!