Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ohh Brother!

After replacing my P-touch label cartridge, I looked at the old cartridge which is made of plastic and wondered if it could be recycled like printer cartridges.  So I wrote Brother an email to ask.  They got back to me right away to let me know that they do have a program to recycle consumables. http://www.brother-usa.com/environment/TonerInkDisposal.aspx

They subscribe to the 5R Concept:

Refuse:  Avoid purchase of environmentally burdensome materials whenever possible
Reduce:  Reduce waste material
Reuse:  Reuse waste material without processing
Reform:  Reuse materials in a different form
Recycle:  Reuse materials as resources

Their program to dispose of toner, ink, and used consumables is very easy.  You print out a free prepaid shipping label, and ship back the toner, ink, or P-touch cartridge.  According to their site, some of the components are remanufactured, some are reused, and unusable items are processed through WTE (waste to energy).
As I like to say, it never hurts to ask :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

K is for KleanKanteen (or similar reusable water bottle)

Americans buy more than half a BILLION bottles of water every week! Enough to circle the globe more than five times!   And the funny things is, 1/3 of bottled water is actually filtered tap water, such as Dasani and Aquafina.  Other bottled water, that comes from freshwater springs, rain forests, and groundwater undergoes less testing than your tap water. Yup, that's right, Federal and state regulations require that municipal water sources, ie your tap water, be tested for bacteria hundreds of times per month, yet bottled water plants have to test their water once a week!

So for the convenience of drinking water that is not tested as frequently, we actually pay about $1-2 from vending machines, concerts, airports, etc.  That's about 2000 times more than the water from our own tap.   WHAT!?!  If that sounds crazy, it is!  Would you pay 2000x more for an apple, a banana, or a pizza?

And please don't  forget the plastic bottle that contains the convenient water...Americans throw out 38 billion empty water bottles a year, more than $1 billion worth of plastic. The oil used to make the plastic water bottles is equivalent to the amount of oil and energy to fuel 1 million cars.  And additional energy and fuel is required to ship these bottles around the Earth, and keep the bottled "gold" cold.  Then after all this water is consumed, there is the plastic bottle disposal issue.  80% of the bottles are disposed of in landfills or incinerated (resulting in toxins being released into the air), and it is estimated that it takes thousands of years to break down plastic.  

And if the plastic water bottles are made of oil, what about the chemicals that may be leaching out of plastic water bottles, and ingested?  There has been much press about this issue, and the single use bottles made from #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) are often reused when they shouldn't be.  When reused, they can leach chemicals such as DEHA, a possible human carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), a potential hormone disruptor. So unknowingly, by trying to reuse the bottle which you can't clean well enough, you are risking drinking harmful bacteria and chemicals with each sip.

So, bringing your own water on the go is sounding better and better, right?  Much less costly, much less impact on the environment, and healthier....

When choosing a reusable water bottle be aware that many are made of polycarbonate plastic, which may contain bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical linked to reproductive problems and heart disease. Look for bottles advertised as "BPA-free" products, and if you aren't sure, recycle that old plastic water bottle.

While there are many brands of reusable water bottles, I'm particularly impressed with KleanKanteen.com. Their stainless steel water bottles do not have a lining to scratch off, they are free of BPA, phthalates, lead and other harmful substances, dishwasher safe, and I like that the company takes sustainability seriously, and is a member with of 1% For The Planet. In addition, all of their packaging, from the hang tags on the bottles to the boxes and other materials to ship their products, is recycled from post-consumer waste or made from materials certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  And finally, they've adopted a green shipping program to offset the carbon footprint from all orders placed through their online retail store.

So carrying your own clean "canteen" or reusable water bottle is totally hip and worth it :)  Do your research, pick a good stylish, healthy reusable water bottle, and say yes to your own tap water.  You'll stay hydrated, be saving money, and the planet in the process. 


http://www.nrdc.org/  (Natural Resources Defense Council)


    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    J is for JUNK

    Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have JUNK.  And according to Marla Cilley, or  FlyLady as she is affectionately called, (www.flylady.net), you can't organize clutter, aka junk. As an on again, off again member of the Flylady website,  I've definitely learned some wonderful tidbits, you may want to check it out too!

    But back to JUNK...we've all heard the saying, "One woman/man's junk is another woman/man's treasure"...so in order to keep "junk" out of the landfills, there are several options which basically feed into the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle message. 

    1.  If we REDUCE what we consume, or rethink what we think we need, we'd all have less junk in our homes and lives to begin with!  Of course this is very difficult for those of us that enjoy "retail therapy", but I'm trying to retrain my brain to think...."do I need it, or want it", and if I do want it, how badly do I want it...badly enough to get rid of something else to free up space?  I'm trying to ingrain the thought, "Simplify" into my brain..."Simplify to Create Serenity" (ie. less junk!).  If I do make new purchases, I want to donate something else to free up space....which leads to number 2...

    2.  Commit to finding re-uses for things.  Most of us already "reuse" clothes by handing them down to friends or family, and some people have yard sales, which helps keep many things out of the landfill (to me, yard sales are too much time and energy for me to bother with for the minimal yield.)  My preferred mode of re-using things is to donate them, or as Flylady says, "blessing others".  We donate books, clothes, tools, household items, furniture, etc via www. freecycle.org, local charities, and through our church.  I have to admit, that I'm often astounded at the items that people toss out to the curb when there are others who need and could use them.  I'm not sure if it comes down to disposal laziness, or not knowing where, or how to donate items, but it really couldn't be easier!  There are donation bins in tons of locations, and organizations such as Big Brother Big Sister that pick-up from your house, and when you Freecycling items, people pick up items from your doorstep.  There are many options to keep massive amounts of things out of landfills, and it feels great to help out others :)   http://peaceloveplanet.blogspot.com/2010/04/recycle-reuse-reshare-with-big-bro-big.html   http://peaceloveplanet.blogspot.com/2010/03/spring-cleaning-day-23-24.html

    There are also young entrepreneurs, like those at TerraCycle who are thinking outside the box to reuse juice box pouches, corks, chip bags, cookie packaging, candy wrappers and much, much more.  I'm surprised that more companies have not followed in the green footsteps of TerraCycle to use waste to create products.  It's ingenious really, keeping waste out of the landfills; the waste becomes the raw material, and in the end, a product is made and sold.   TerraCycle also believes in number 3...

    3.  Recycling - Hopefully by now everyone knows they should recycle their paper, glass, plastics, aluminum, etc.  And then there are those "15 Totally Recyclable Materials That Most of Us Keep Forgetting About"?

    But what peaks my interest is learning about companies that have come up with creative ways to recycle materials, and there are examples near and far.  On a recent vacation to St. John, we learned about The Art  Center (of Recycling) at Maho Bay Camps.  What a treat! Check out the beautiful, creative ways they recycle glass into beautiful, useful objects at http://www.maho.org/.  They also recycle old bed sheets by batiking them, and making them into table cloths, coasters, bags, table runners, etc.  But to date, one of the most interesting innovative eco-entrepreneurial companies that has captured my attention is Terracycle, based out of NJ because they keep multiple waste streams out of the landfills, work cooperatively with schools, and design great products http://peaceloveplanet.blogspot.com/2010/08/terracycle-on-tv.html .

    Junk aka clutter can either weigh us down, or we can set it free by reducing, reusing, or recycling.  I'm working on simplifying.....and looking forward to serenity and at the same time watching for creative companies that keep junk out of the landfills and instead up-cycle it to the next level via innovation.   

        Saturday, August 21, 2010

        Garbage Moguls

        While flipping through the channels tonight, we found a show on National Geographic (NatGeo) Channel called Garbage Moguls featuring Terracycle, a company I previously highlighted in the blog. http://peaceloveplanet.blogspot.com/2010/04/time-has-come.html The show takes you behind the scenes to show how they take garbage and make it into products...and that is the key, being able to recycle things into products that are affordable, and a worthwhile product that someone would want to buy.  On the show I watched, Pedigree Dog Food contacted them and challenged them to use their dog food bags, and dog food pouches (trash that would otherwise end up in the garbage) to design usable pet products.  They have designed and sold many other products made from chip bags, cookie wrappers, Capri Sun bags, and much more.  Check out their cool lunch box made from Capri Sun bags. 

        If you get a chance to check it out, I think you'll be as impressed as I am.  http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/garbage-moguls-4314/Overview

        Dual-flusher wins approval

        Well, the HydroRight Dual-flush wins approval, even from the kids! I can't believe they actually like one of the home improvement changes we've made ;)   http://peaceloveplanet.blogspot.com/2010/08/h-is-for-home-improvements.html

        Now that Home Depot is carrying them, we were able to find a 3rd flusher at our local Home Depot and it was $7 less, at $17.98! So now, all 3 toilets will be saving us water, and money when they are used. 

        So we'll chalk this home improvement up to a Dual-Flush-Dual-Win; parents are happy about conserving water, and the reduced water bill, and the kids are happy with the neat two button flush!   Who would've guessed? 

        Thursday, August 19, 2010

        I is for Irrigation

        Irrigation ditch
        Irrigation is defined as:  To supply (dry land) with water by means of ditches, pipes, or streams; water artificially.  

        I don't know about where you live, but here in MA, many towns have either total outdoor water bans or bans allowing watering on alternating days.  As a result, there are many brown lawns.  But the flowers and the garden need water to be viable. So we set our timers to irrigate the flowers and gardens.  Luckily irrigation today is much different than how humans used to irrigate :)

        It's not hard to figure out that irrigation goes way back to when humans first began to settle areas and grow their own food.  Humans most likely began irrigating by filling buckets in rivers or lakes, and carrying it on their head, or on poles to water crops.  But water is heavy, and even with the help of donkey or oxen, it is too difficult to carry enough water to irrigate large fields. So humans figured out ways to make irrigation easier. 

        Historians know that ancient Egyptians built mud-brick reservoirs to trap and hold the water from the Nile River.  They also had a network of irrigation canals that filled with water during the flood and were refilled from the reservoirs.  Egyptians built shadufs to lift the water from the canal up to the fields.  A shaduf is a large pole balanced on a crossbeam, a rope and bucket on one end and a heavy counter weight at the other. The rope lowered the bucket into the canal were it was filled with water, then the farmer raised the bucket, swung the pole around and emptied the bucket onto the field.
        Example of terracing
        Aztecs also had sophisticated irrigation systems, allowing them to farm dry lands. They formed shallow lakes by scooping up mud and forming islands called chinampas. These islands provided very fertile land that was suitable for growing crops.

        The Incas created artificial lagoons, and carved out terraces into the steep mountains.  The terracing helped the Incas to take advantage of gravity, and water flowed down the terraces to irrigate the crops. 

        Roman aqueduct

        Romans are famous for their aqueduct systems which were used for irrigation as well as drinking water.  Aqueducts are man-made conduits to carry water.  Their systems used tunnels within the hillsides to bring water for irrigation to the plains below. The elaborate system that served the capital of the Roman Empire, really is a major engineering achievement. 11 aqueducts were built over a period of 500 years (312 BC to AD 226), and brought water to Rome from as far away as 57 miles.  A portion of the aqueduct system crossed over valleys on stone arches, but most of the system was underground conduits made of stone and terra cotta pipe, but also of wood, leather, lead, and bronze.  Water flowed to the city by the force of gravity alone and usually went through a series of distribution tanks within the city.  But I digress!

        spray irrigation
        I was shocked to learn that about 39 percent, of all the fresh water used in the United States goes to irrigate crops. Today, farmers prefer to use more sophisticated methods than flooding fields, and relying on gravity.  While modern irrigation methods are more efficient, they also require energy to pump the water and to force it through pipes to where it is needed.  Drip irrigation methods, which deliver water through plastic pipes (with holes in them) is one common method.  Spray irrigation is also widely used, and is similar to how lawns are watered (when there aren't water bans).  These systems have a long tube fixed at one end of the water source, and water is pumped through a tube and shot out by a system of spray-guns.  Although a large area can be watered, this method is inefficient in windy and arid areas where a lot of water evaporates or blows away before it hits the ground.      
        drip irrigation

        So what can be done to irrigate home gardens and flowers when facing water bans, or if you just want to reduce your water use, and water bill?  Timers are helpful to make sure that areas are not over or under-watered.  Soaker hoses are an option to reduce water use by about 90% compared to conventional watering.  Some are made from recycled materials.  Although I have used soaker hoses in the past for flower beds, I have had problems with pin holes that quickly become geysers, and I'm not sure I would want to use them in the garden since they are made from recycled tires, and may leach heavy metals, lead, cadmium, etc., into the soil like the recycled tire mulches.  

        Many gardening catalogs have fancy but expensive rain barrels, which can collect from 50-100 gallons of water from rainwater.  Water collects from rainwater that pours down the roof into the gutters, down the drainpipe, and into to the water barrel.  I'm not sure if during the quick trip down the rooftop if any chemicals from the shingles would cause problems or not, so it may be best to use the collected water for flowers and not for veggies.  At any rate, I've been wishing for a rain barrel and looking up how to make your own rain barrel online, and there are quite a few options, even some that are made from trash can.  I'd love to reduce our water use, still be able to water the flowers, and capturing free rainwater instead of paying the water company! 
        rain barrel

        This past weekend, my wish came true and while visiting family in NH and walking around the  local  "Olde Home Weekend" where I spied rain barrels.  So of course I had to check out the booth. To my delight, there were directions and parts to make a rain barrel from food grade barrels available locally.  I asked about buying the parts from the young man at the booth and he offered to make one while we watched.  I couldn't believe my luck!  The rain barrels are being promoted by the New Hampshire Coastal Protection Partnership to help reduce nitrogen levels in the Lamprey River and the Great Bay Estuary (to learn more, check out info at www.nhcoast.org or www.lampreyriver.org.)  Increases in nitrogen levels have negative impacts on drinking water, fish, animals, plants, and their economy.  So it felt great to make a donation for the rain barrel constructed while we watched, and knowing that it goes to a great environmental cause.

        I is for inspiring causes such as the New Hampshire Coastal Protection Partnership, and ingenious irrigation...using rainwater collected in a recycled rain barrel, made in NH and now residing in MA!

        sources: http://www.allabouthistory.org/aztec-civilization.htm  

        Wednesday, August 11, 2010

        H is for Home Improvements

        Of course I mean green home improvements!  Over the last few months we've been doing some green home improvement projects that are helping us reduce our carbon footprint and save money in the process. One of our favorites comes in the form of a fluuuuuuusshhhh :) 

        As Ed Begley, Jr. likes to say, we've been "picking the low lying fruit" and doing simple things that don't cost a lot of money, but in the end are better for the planet and our pocketbook.  Since we began our green journey, we've taken the following home improvement babysteps.  We started with:

        Our most recent home improvement project that hubby embraced, researched, and installed (I'm soooo lucky to have such a wonderful, handy, guy who is supportive of the green babysteps we've been taking), is a dual-flush system for the toilet!  When he first tried to find it locally he couldn't and when we were on the road recently he found it at Home Depot in NJ (they told him they'd just started carrying it).  It's called HydroRight Smarter Flush Technology by MJSI, Inc.  This system replaces the regular flusher mechanism inside the tank and the outside flusher as well.  The upper button is to "flush liquids and paper with less water", errr or #1, and the lower button is to "flush with more power", err or for #2.  The HydroRight claims it will saves up to 15,000 gallons after one year ("the equivalent of stacking water bottles 45 miles high"....yikes they used disposable water bottles as their example...heaven forbid!) and result in savings of about $100 in water/sewer costs each year.   At $24.98 per dual-flusher, we plan to install two more for even more savings, because with a family of 6 our septic gets a workout and we'd love to trim our water bill even more.   http://www.gomjsi.com/dual-flush-hydroright/?utm_source=adwords&utm_medium=us&utm_term=hydroright%2Bdual%20flush%20converter&utm_campaign=hydrorightdualflush&gclid=CIvU4rXOsaMCFRafnAodkDLuVA

        Stay tuned to find out what our next green home improvement project will be!