Recycling Gallon Jugs

May 25, 2010

Has there every been anything as easily recycled as a gallon jug?  Seriously, think of all the different ways you know to recycle a plastic gallon jug.

When I was a kid, we didn't get milk in gallons.  My parents were health conscious and they bought powdered milk in square cardboard boxes.  The plastic gallon containers were, therefore, somewhat rare and sought after at their farm in the western United States.

If a plastic gallon jug did somehow manage to arrive at my parents' house, it circled the farm two or three times before leaving the property for the landfill in the back of my Dad's old truck.  Here's a few of the things that we used them for then and now.

Outdoors:
Refilled with more water to carry in a vehicle
Cut-off tops put over newly planted seedlings to offer “mini-greenhouse”
Cut-off bottoms used to carry water to those new seedlings
Bottoms used to line hanging planters to keep water in

Indoors:
Jugs recycled to hold fruit punch for kids going on picnics
Jugs used to hold portion of laundry detergent for convenience
Jugs used to hold rice, beans or other dry foods that need protection from pantry pests
Cut off the top and use it to hold kitchen implements, sewing accessories, craft supplies, crayons, etc.
Cut a hole in the bottom and make into a bird house
Cut hole in the side and tuck in skein of yarn, pull the end of the skein through the pour spout

I'm sure you have more ideas on this at your house, so please fill us all in on the comment section below.  If we all combine our efforts to Greenify, we'll get many more uses from our household plastics before they go off to be recycled into new goods.


Recyling Electronics: Pro or Con?

May 11, 2010

Do you recycle your electronics?  I only ask because it's one of those “in things to do” that perhaps ought to be out. 

I'm not talking about when you repurpose your old cell phone and give it to your 12 year old daughter.  I think it's great to carefully remove all names and numbers and gift the phone to a new user.  (Whether  your 12 year old should have her own cell phone is another discussion and I would like to carefully step aside from leading that one.)  That type of recycling is great!

And I'm not thinking of printer cartridges, either. I happen to love those little green envelopes that allow me to send the cartridges back to the manufacturer where they are dutifully reworked for reuse.  I  think that's my favorite kind of delivery!

But what about those old computer monitors, CPU's and other hardware that were used for a few years and then updated out the backdoor.  Do you recycle those?  Are you recycling those?  If you are, the outcome might not be quite as good as you think it is.

First off, where are those goods going?  A recent “60 Minutes” segment exposed the ugly truth that some supposed “green recyclers” aren't so green.  They are merely accepting the materials for recycling, packing them up and shipping them off to another country where the hazardous materials inside our former computer monitors, CPUs and other peripheral materials are contaminating those countries' landfills and putting their people at risk. 

Lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium and polyvinyl chlorides.  Those are some of the toxic materials that we're shipping overseas.  We're taking our toxic carbon footprint and making it bigger by sending it abroad to someone else's “backyard.”

And when we don't ship them abroad, we offer the work of dissembling them to people that often aren't in a position to say no.  Prison recycling workers have been found to be exposed to that very same list of chemicals by dissembling computers in prison work areas.

The next time you get a new computer and start to think about what to do with the old one, ask your recycler a few questions about what's going to happen to those old parts. 

But do start with yourself: have you used this item fully?  Have you completely used it up or are you perhaps just wanting the latest model?  Right now, most of us can't afford the extra cash for the luxury of “the latest gadget,” but our planet can never afford the extra carbon without a fight. 


Greenify Your Dinner Plate

May 6, 2010

I love to eat sustainably.  I don't always achieve it, but I love to do it when I can.  I thought I might share a few of my thoughts about sustainable, green, locavore eating. 

First off, it's hard to do.  I'm not really interested in eating only cabbage, winter squash, increasingly mealy apples and root vegetables during winter, so I don't succeed in this area.  I love a big pile of fresh spring greens for dinner, topped off by something just interesting enough to keep my taste buds going.

But this year, I'm going to do the CSA thing.  We've talked about this before: Community Supported Agriculture.  It's where you buy a share of the produce from a farm, paying perhaps a little more than you might at a grocery store, but helping support local farmers, cut food transportation costs and of course, getting access to a ton of great local produce.  That said, I can't quite buy into the full season crop.  Here's why: I live by myself and I can't eat $800 worth of fresh produce that fast. 

I have figured out how I can do my part.  I found a local farm that produces organic produce and fruits for CSA share-buyers, but also allows people (such as myself) to come out and work on the farm, then take home part of the crop.  I actually like this idea a lot more than just “go pick up the vegetables from the CSA” (although that's pretty great!) because it allows me to enjoy the feeling of participating in actually growing the vegetables.  I could also just buy them when I want, but wouldn't that be boring?

For the last several summers, I have also grown a few herbs in some pots.  I like a big, round, terracotta pot.  I prefer it be “self-watering” just in case I have to run out of town at the last minute.  I like to grow pots of basil, chives (more like a mini-forest!), rosemary and mint. 

And this year, I'm also looking into a new crop in my urban mini-farm adventures.  I'm considering growing some mushrooms.  There are kits sold online for several different varieties.  I wanted to try growing some Shitakes and some Chantarelles.   Some of the spores take over a year to get thoroughly into the wood.  But the more I thought about it, the more fun it seemed.  Rather like a return to my third grade science class.

“Fungi, anyone?”

I'm even considering whether I could grow them for a few local restaurants, as a side business. Sort of the “greenification” of spores. 

Ahhh!  It's all too delicious.  Maybe you'll try growing your own edibles this summer, too.


Earth Day 2010

April 28, 2010

Earth Day is past.  It's now over and done for another year.  We all drank in the sunshine, good feelings and honors to the planet.  And while our normal message for any day of the year is “Less is More,” on Earth Day this year, it seemed more was more.

More cities and towns celebrating Earth Day all over the world.  More people turning out for the celebrations marking 40 years of greenification and cleaning up the planet and trying to turn our consumption patterns around. 

Other things I noticed more of this year: more corporate representation as Earth Day mentions skyrocketed on the Internet.  It seemed like every advertisement I saw for a national product on the web this past month has mentioned “earth-friendly” and “sustainability.”  I saw food products being advertised in recyclable containers; household goods bragging about fewer chemicals and less harm to the environment; and lots of ideas for lowering energy consumption. 

The reason for this is clearly because corporate entities are starting to realize that given a choice of “earth-friendly” and “generic brand X which might be cheaper,” many customers are willing to pay more to show their concern for the planet.

Maybe it's just the arrival of springtime temperatures and attitudes, but it seemed like a whole crop of new colors of reusable shopping bags bloomed onto the scene just in time for Earth Day.  I only know because every time I saw one that I really liked, I'd ask the person using it where they got it.

“A store at the Mall.”

“Target.”

“A museum gift shop online.”  These are all good answers, but the “online” brings a special smile to my face.  Online shopping also a little greener than ever before. 

There were also more schools than ever participating in this year's Earth Day, which means we're bringing up a strong generation of people who are going to be more concerned than ever about the world that we all share. 

The big celebration honoring our planet is over for another year.  But if you think about it, every day is Earth Day here on the third rock from the sun.  We need to remember that in order to make the most of the world around us. 


Change A Font, Save A (Carbon) Footprint!

April 21, 2010

So what is the number one expense related to a business' use of its printer?  I'll give you a hint: it's not the paper. 

Most offices have at least one printer and if yours is like mine, it gets a lot of use.  Once you buy the thing and get it up to speed, your accountant depreciates it and your employees abuse it.  But what is the number one expense related to it?

I'll give you a hint: it's not the paper.  At $5 a ream or less, depending on your willingness to buy in bulk, paper (a wonderful thing to recycle, by the way!) is inexpensive.  No, it's not the paper.  It's the ink.

Many printer ink cartridges, while recyclable in handy mailer envelopes that come with the purchase of  a new cartridge, are sorta pricey.  They cost upwards of $35 each and when you consider that your staff, in spite of being told not to use printers for personal matters, are probably printing everything from church picnic fliers to their senior research paper, you need to think carefully.  Is it possible you can cut costs and Greenify?

Maybe.  Maybe it's as simple as changing your font. 

A Dutch company, Printer.com, tested and discovered that different fonts require different amounts of ink and over the course of time, the amount of ink used, cartridges consumed, cash used and carbon footprint burned through to keep an office printer going could vary quite substantially.

The best fonts to use to ensure maximum print output for your cartridges are:

1) Century Gothic
2) Times New Roman
3) Calibri
4) Veradan
5) Arial
6) MSS Sans Serif
7) Trebuchet MS
8) Tahoma
9) Franklin Gothic Medium

The findings showed that a someone using a home printer would use one less one cartridge per year, with the pocketed savings of about $20.  But you'll also save on your carbon footprint. 

Using fewer cartridges means you're printing less and printing more carefully.  You're taking a step towards being more conscious of the earth and its resources.  And who knows?  Maybe your business correspondence will look better, too.  Some of those recommended fonts are not only greener, they're very stylish!


Earth Day Alive and Ahead!

April 20, 2010

You may be counting down the days to Earth Day, but I assure you, here at the Green Business Alliance, we are counting down the minutes.  We're also checking off our list:

Local area parade, picnic or other activity to attend?  CHECK!  
(Here's a googling tip: type in Earth Day, 2010 and your zipcode.  See what comes up!) Are you attending the festival or marching in it?  Don't let this parade pass you by.  Get on board and stay at the front of the line for greenifying, recycling, renewing our Earth!

Lunch out at loca-vore restaurant with clients or employees or both?  CHECK!
The food will be fresher, better tasting and have a smaller carbon footprint.  You can probably find a locally sourced restaurant by logging onto your local newspaper's website and searching for “restaurant reviews” and then specifying “locavore” or “locally produced.”  Or call a few of your favorite lunchtime haunts and ask. 

Extra large recyclables receptacle on order?  Do you really need this one?  (I had hoped you already had all the recycling containers you needed, but if you haven't got them, this is a good reminder.  It's long past time to be greener at the curb.

Field trip to visit Mother Nature?  CHECK THIS OUT!  It is National Park Week, April 17 to 25.  What that means is entrance to all 392 United States National Parks is free.  Fees are waived.  Go enjoy the Earth at its most basic, wild and beautiful.  You can learn more at this website: http://www.nps.gov/npweek/.   If you clean up after yourself, that's great, but if you pick up after other hikers, you are a hero to all!

Earth Day 2010 is the 40th celebration of the planet.  We need to Greenify.  If you haven't already, it's time to get on board.   Please join in the celebration this year and every year to come.


Paper, Plastic or... Reusable?

April 16, 2010

“Paper or plastic?” asked the grocery clerk.

Remember when that used to be the question? The simple choice of paper or plastic would be made at the checkout counter of grocery stores. The answer would be a statement of whether you were interested in greenifying. Or so we thought. It turned out that using plastic meant we were saving trees, but it also meant littering our planet with bags that never seemed to really break down and clogged everything from sewers to tree branches and more. They were ugly, hanging from underneath passing cars and strangling fish in our waterways.

I reflected on that this weekend when someone commented on my reusable fabric bag that I used to take a small appliance somewhere. It's a rich sapphire color with strong handles and a firm plastic bottom. I got it at a food industry convention and filled it on the convention floor with samples and information that it took me days to sort through and enjoy. But the bag keeps on giving.

I have other bags. Some are from particular grocery stores and advertise those businesses that I frequent. Some are padded with insulation to keep perishable items from, well, perishing. Some are made of low-carbon burlap and sorta “chic” in a granny-from-a-farm way. Others are very durable and I expect they can carry my purchases for years to come. But here's the thing: I like them all.

I like the endless variety and colors that I'm carrying my things around in. I like the bright colors, as well as the brown burlap. I like the durability and the semi-fragility of the bags. I like that I know exactly what to expect of each. They stack better than paper or plastic, soI like seeing a small stack of them in the back of my car.

The locality where I live started adding a charge for “paper or plastic” a few months back, and since then, I've seen bags like mine on the street. I'm so much happier to see bright colors and store names being carted around than plastic bags blowing in the wind. I'm sure you feel the same way.

So far, we've only cut usage of those bags by a fraction. Some people are willing to pay the surcharge for using plastic bags or they forgot their reusables or they somehow were unable to get a reusable bag for that trip to the store. But we'll forgive and look the other way, “just this once.”

It's nice to Greenify. Maybe give a reusable bag to a neighbor in observance of Earth Day? The planet you save may be your own.


Greenification: More or Less?

April 8, 2010

Have you planted your garden yet? It's getting a little late, so you might want to pick up some seeds or seedlings at the hardware store, if you hoped to grow your own vegetables this summer.

No matter how hard you try, however, it's very unlikely that you'll be able to grow everything your household consumes. So now that we've discussed what you can grow, let's talk about what you can't.

Is it so bad to package things in a little plastic? Maybe it is, but maybe it isn't.

We all want to be as “locavore” and “sustainable” as possible, but when is packaging actually greener than unpackaged food?

I think that decision has to be on a case by case basis for both the producer and consumer. For instance, if a farmer produces cucumbers and sends them off to the plant to be packed and shipped, a little packaging – as little as 1.5 grams of plastic wrap can extend the shelf life by an extra 3 to 14 days. Apples, grapes and potatos shrink-wrapped can cut down on bruising by 27 percent.

Vegetable producers are making a conscious tradeoff there: tiny amount of plastic in order to have less waste in the food supply. When you consider some studies suggest that Americans waste half of the food they buy (six times more food than packaging!), and decaying food produces methane gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide, a little plastic could go a long way towards eliminating some of that waste.

In some European countries, they calculate that if we stopped wasting food, it would be as if realizing the same carbon footprint savings of taking one of every five cars off the road. That would be an impressive savings, indeed!

So when you go to the market, consider the grapes in their packaging and the potatos in their wrap. Is that more or less green? The answer isn't immediately apparent. You may be able to learn something for your own business, there, too. Certainly we all might learn something about how to store our cucumbers.


April 22: Earth Day 2010!

March 16, 2010

It's our favorite time of year at the Green Business Alliance. I'm sure you know why.

Spring is on the way and in the spring, our young-at-heart thoughts turn to Earth Day! And this year, it's the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

As glad as we are that the world has enjoyed forty years of marking the importance of taking care of our world, it seems the planet needs our care and attention more than ever. Climate change is likely to be the biggest challenge of our lifetime.

Earth Day 2010 is a focus point: a moment for some to begin turning their minds and hearts to trying to help clean up and care for the planet. For others, it's a time of renewing the commitment to work together to make sure that our planet is cleaner, that we live a more sustainable life and attempt to help others to do the same. Earth Day 2010 is our annual day to think and act more greener than ever before.

What can we do differently and better this year than last? Where are the small changes that we can make? What are the more long-term, engrossing and community projects we can take on? Are there change we can make at work? What about at home? Is there some small contribution you can make or a leadership role among many that you can take?

For those who have been focused on efforts to Greenify for some time, it may be harder to find new ways to commit to a more planet-conscious approach to life. The road ahead to improve is likely to be found in little tweaks and bits of taking down one's carbon footprint.

If you're just starting to go green, well, you're just in time! There's always room for more and a world of ideas, big and small, for greenifying. We like them all and we like to talk about them here at the Green Business Alliance. So stick around, because Earth Day 2010 is just around the corner and we'll have more information and ideas here at www.GreenBusinessAlliance.com for on how you can get yourself and your business involved.


Recycling the Good(will) Old-Fashioned Way!

March 11, 2010

We don't often endorse green businesses here at the Green Business Alliance Blog. But I have to say, that there is one recycling operation that I have been in love with since I was very small: Goodwill.

I grew up with a mother that loved garage sales. She loved to hop in the car with a friend and drive around on a Saturday morning, looking at other people's stuff for sale. Garage sales, rummage sales, flea markets; she loved them all. But her favorite was Goodwill.

The reason? Because Goodwill is not only recycling other people's used but still serviceable items. Goodwill also recycles people. Read their mission statement:

“Goodwill Industries International enhances the dignity and quality of life of individuals, families and communities by eliminating barriers to opportunity and helping people in need reach their fullest potential through the power of work.”

The business itself provides jobs for the people taking the goods in, cleaning and organizing them and then reselling them in retail outlet stores. They are sustainably recycling people, too.

I can't tell you how many times as a child, my mother would finish with the garage sales and drag us off to Goodwill for another hour. Or two. (There was more than one Goodwill location in our area.) I recall her buying everything from old trunks (great for storing toys in!) to sheets and towels (which she tore up to use for household cleaning) and the occasional clothing item. She never bought used shoes; she felt that shoes sometimes molded to feet and othertimes, well, they might actually contain mold.

When I graduated from college, I made a beeline to Goodwill Stores for household goods. They were all I could afford. I bought a couple of small tables, four or five chairs, some flatware and dishes, and even a broken Moped there once. I thought I could get it running, but I never did. I recycled that one myself, taking it right back to Goodwill and redonating it back to them. II wonder how many times it cycled through the system before it found a home with someone who knew how to get it running again?)

I like recycling more things these days. I'm always excited to see how little actual “refuse” I can put out on the curb, compared to the larger amounts of recyclables. But I'm pretty sure I got my good start at liking recycling, sustainability, renewable resources and making the most of things from shopping at Goodwill.

Goodwill Industries is a plan to Greenify unto itself.

 


Green Business Alliance - Home Greenify For Better Business - Greenify Now