Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is best for the future?

September 21, 2018 by  
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The days where plastic straws and their wrappers litter the countertops of restaurants, coffee shops and fast food joints are nearing the end. With several governments, like Australia and the U.K. , banning and taxing single-use plastic items and companies like Starbucks, Disney and Hyatt taking their own environmental stand by rejecting plastic straws, sustainable and reusable varieties of the pipettes have been growing in popularity. Nowadays, it’s no longer about what color straw you’re sporting, but which reusable material you’ll choose. According to the research firm Freedonia Group , Americans reduced their previous consumption of plastic straws by 110 million units in the last year alone. As momentum gains, consumers may now be getting purchase paralysis because of the sheer number of options. Metal, bamboo, silicone, glass — there are many options available when selecting an alternative to single-use plastic straws. The question is, which one is the best? Related: Starbucks ditches plastic straws for the environment There are several factors to consider when selecting a more sustainable option for sipping energizing morning smoothies and indulgent midnight milkshakes. Between lifespan and durability, width and length, taste, feel, shape and cleanliness, there are many variables to reusable straws that could make the leap to convert challenging. Are straws necessary? Before even delving into these seemingly negligible details some may ask, “Are the liquid chutes superfluous altogether? Do I even need straws at all?” Considering the widespread pollution that has been caused by disposable straws, eliminating the meal accessories seems like the best overall option. According to a report by 4Ocean , an organization dedicated to repurposing marine plastics to clear the ocean of pollution, a plastic straw can take up to 200 years to decompose. In the meantime, the harmful microplastics eventually disintegrate and contaminate our planet’s air, water and soil, poisoning wildlife and finding their way into our food. As a result, many people are now swearing by a straw-free lifestyle. But there are many reasons, such as dietary restrictions and health issues, that still call for the existence of straws. Related: UK plans to ban the sales of plastic straws to tackle ocean plastic pollution Factors to consider when purchasing reusable straws It’s no surprise that size tops the list of considerations when purchasing reusable straws. Both length and width are important depending on what type of liquid one intends to drink and from which assortment of container. Standard straws measure approximately 7.5-8 inches in length. Those who prefer to drink out of small glasses and coffee mugs are better suited with cocktail-sized straws. The miniature varieties span between 5 and 6 inches, while the longest options settle around 10 inches, although more extensive models can be found for tumbler and thermos users. A stress of function over form has become the sustainable-straw-purchasing mantra. Smoothies, bubble teas and shakes warrant straws with wider diameters, while less viscous beverages like water, juice and soda that are not semi-solid or thick can be easily consumed through thinner straws. Popular diameters range from around 7mm to 15mm (between 1/4 and 1/2 inches). Shape also comes into play: straight, bent, retractable, flexible — all of these have become important in the straw trade. Ultimately, most individuals would see these factors as a matter of personal preference. Given that straight straws, short straws and wide-rimmed straws are much easier to clean than their counterparts, they are the most hygienic options for users. It is this quality that makes them the most sustainable choices for new consumers, simply because they have a longer lifespan. Otherwise, unkempt straws get thrown out, and a long-term solution to plastic pollution could turn into another mass consumption (and pollution) trend. Steel straws When considering materials, stainless steel has become the most popular go-to material for reusable straw fans. The metal has odor-resisting properties and is the most durable material available for straws. Steel options are also the most widely available on the market because of their heat conducting properties. A cold drink is best enjoyed through a metal straw, because it maintains a crisp and refreshing temperature for the drinker. Unless consumers are turned off by the metallic flavor that steel can sometimes add to beverages, have sensitive teeth that are disturbed by the hardness of the straw or drink many hot beverages, metal straws serve as the best possible option. Silicone straws Those who prefer softer, more flexible straws may turn to silicone. But according to  Life Without Plastic , this material, which is generally categorized as a rubber, is actually similar to a hybrid between synthetic rubber and synthetic plastic polymer. The organization cites Beth Terry, author of Plastic Free , who said, “First of all, silicone is no more ‘natural’ than fossil-based plastic. It is a man-made polymer, but instead of a carbon backbone like plastic, it has a backbone of silicon and oxygen … the hydrocarbons in silicone come from fossil sources like petroleum and natural gas.” If this isn’t enough of a deterrent, the same silky texture that makes many people gravitate toward the silicone models is also to blame for its difficulty to wash. Silicone can harbor mold-forming bacteria, and it takes on unpleasant odors after continuous use. Bamboo straws With bamboo, consumers may see a reduction in availability. While bamboo straws might not be breakable, they ultimately do not hold up to long-term wear and tear. In addition, bamboo straws are the most difficult to clean of all the materials. Being naturally made from bamboo shoots, there is not a lot of precision in the shape and width to which they are constructed, making it hard to find the right kind of brush to use on them. Sadly enough, because of the chalky texture they leave in the mouth, bamboo straws inevitably fall lower on the enjoyment scale — despite the tropical taste they can generously impart to beverages. Glass straws In the end, there is only one other material that can compete with stainless steel in terms of sustainability: glass . Layered and tempered, glass straws are surprisingly durable and will not break easily if dropped or accidentally mishandled. Glass is a close runner-up to metal’s conductivity, and interestingly enough, it is capable of transferring hot liquids without burning the user. Because the glass is clear, making sure the straw is well-cleaned between uses is as simple as it gets. With no odor and no funny tastes imparted to the drinker, glass straws are a viable alternative to metal straws for the socially-conscious sipper. In the end, whether plastic straws are replaced with metal, glass or any other alternative, this trendsetting movement is turning a new leaf for the environment on a historical scale. Via Time , Going Zero Waste , Get Green Now ,  4Ocean and Life Without Plastic Images via Osha Key , Mark Pazolli , Glass Dharma and Shutterstock

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Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is best for the future?

Cities around the world lay the groundwork for a zero-waste future

September 18, 2018 by  
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Cities around the world are pledging to reduce waste over the next 12 years in an effort to curb global warming and eventually become zero-waste cities. During the Global Climate Action Summit, the C40 announced a new initiative that encourages cities to eliminate waste production and end the practice of waste burning. So far, 23 cities have agreed to become zero-waste and will work toward that goal by “reducing the amount of municipal solid waste disposed to landfill and incineration by at least 50 percent … and increase the diversion rate away from landfill and incineration to at least 70 percent by 2030,” according to C40 . Each city has agreed to cut down on waste that ends up in landfills by at least half over the next decade. The cities — which include San Francisco, Catalonia, Auckland, Dubai, Copenhagen, London , Montreal, New York City , Milan, Rotterdam, Sydney, Paris , Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Washington D.C. and Vancouver — also pledged to reduce waste generation by 15 percent and encourage alternative waste management practices by 2030. Related: 19 mayors, thousands of buildings, zero carbon emissions by 2030 Reducing the amount of waste disposal and incineration is an important step in fighting global warming. Scientists believe that the new initiative could cut global carbon emissions by around 20 percent as cities begin to recycle and compost waste instead of dumping it into landfills or burning it. The 23 cities who signed the zero-waste declarations hope that they will lead by example and encourage other municipalities to do the same. The EPA says that incinerators and landfills significantly increase the amount of greenhouse gases around the globe. These practices also encourage companies to acquire new resources and materials, leading to an endless cycle of waste disposal. In addition to cutting down on waste, increasing recycling and reusing materials also contributes to a better economy. Instead of wasting old materials, recycling and reusing keeps the items in the system for longer periods. This reduces the need to purchase new materials and manage waste. + C40 Image via Patrick Tomasso

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Cities around the world lay the groundwork for a zero-waste future

8 Ways to Green Fourth of July

July 2, 2018 by  
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July Fourth is right around the corner! Summer’s hottest holiday … The post 8 Ways to Green Fourth of July appeared first on Earth911.com.

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8 Ways to Green Fourth of July

This LEED Gold wastewater treatment center is helping a community rethink poo

June 13, 2018 by  
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As anyone who’s been to a community meeting knows, the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) syndrome is often a frustrating roadblock. So when Vancouver-based firm PUBLIC: Architecture + Communication was approached to build a wastewater treatment center in the middle of a residential neighborhood in British Columbia, the project predictably ran up against some challenges. Fortunately, the architects turned widely held perceptions of the sewage treatment plant on their head with the design of the Sechelt Water Resource Centre, a stunning LEED Gold -certified facility with a built-in educational component that shows the public the fascinating lifecycle of its waste. The multimillion-dollar Sechelt Water Resource Centre replaces the Ebbtide Wastewater Treatment Plant, an aging facility that was noisy and infamous for its odors. The new treatment center not only contains its smells and sounds more effectively, but also discharges 10 times less solid waste into Trail Bay and is more cost-efficient to operate. Moreover, resources — including biosolids, heat and reclaimed water — that were once wasted are now reused for industry, parks and agriculture. “The LEED Gold-certified Sechelt Water Resource Centre (SWRC) rethinks traditional municipal wastewater treatment by creating a transparent space in the residential heart of Sechelt that engages the public in meaningful ways,” PUBLIC: Architecture + Communication said in a statement. “Instead of sequestering this essential service behind a locked chain-link fence, the facility reveals mechanical and biological systems that clean wastewater, encouraging the public to witness their role in the hydrological cycle. The current incarnation of flush toilet infrastructure — by way of magic, a sort of ‘disappearing’ by water — is no longer viable in our times.” Related: Bicycle highway in the Netherlands built using recycled toilet paper The wastewater treatment center tells the story of the water recycling process through the teaching facility, botanical garden and sewage treatment plant. The waste moves from primary treatment to a plant-based filtration system and finally through UV disinfection, after which the water is redirected to industry. The greenhouse , located in a striking glass structure with a roofline inspired by surrounding residential architecture, grows a variety of plants including tomatoes and roses fed by treated water. The office spaces are clad in charred cedar in reference to the carbon used in filtration, while the heavy equipment areas are sheathed in sulfur-yellow cement board. + PUBLIC: Architecture + Communication Images by Martin Tessler

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This LEED Gold wastewater treatment center is helping a community rethink poo

This custom tiny home features a surprisingly spacious interior

June 13, 2018 by  
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Creating a comfortable living space is the always first challenge of tiny home design . Although many people decide to forgo a spacious sleeping area for a larger living room, the savvy tiny home builders from Alabama Tiny Homes have created the ultra-sophisticated Journey tiny house, which includes a gorgeous loft space with high ceilings guaranteed to not bump heads. The Journey was specifically crafted for a client who was looking for a micro-dwelling on wheels with a relatively spacious interior. The result is a beautiful tiny home with an interior that rivals any contemporary home twice its size. Related: These solar-powered tiny homes are designed just for millennials Clad in 6-inch cedar planks with aqua blue accents, the exterior of the structure is rustic, but sophisticated. This luxury cabin feel continues into the 324-square-foot interior, which is strategically comfortable, functional and stylish. The kitchen is large, with plenty of counter space. Along with a stainless steel fridge, stove top oven and dishwasher, the kitchen offers a six-bottle wine stand. The living area, designed in a parlor layout, is extremely inviting. Well lit with an abundance of natural light , this space is a homey lounge with various seats configured to encourage conversation. When guests stay, the room can be easily cleared out for a trundle bed, which is stored in the bathroom when not in use. Although the first floor’s design is stunning to say the least, at the very core of the Journey’s design is its ultra-high ceiling. This enabled the designers to go vertical and add a second level. Starting at the kitchen, a stairwell with built-in drawers leads up to the sleeping loft , which is big enough for a queen-sized bed. The tiny home includes several energy-efficient features in order to withstand various climates. A closed cell spray foam insulation and double-pane windows help the residents save money on utilities.  LED lighting throughout the home, along with an electric hot water heater, also reduces energy usage. + Alabama Tiny Homes Via New Atlas Images via Alabama Tiny Homes

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This custom tiny home features a surprisingly spacious interior

That Old Air Mattress: Recycle or Reuse?

June 7, 2018 by  
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Whether you use them for camping, spending the night with … The post That Old Air Mattress: Recycle or Reuse? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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That Old Air Mattress: Recycle or Reuse?

How to Reuse Cardboard Boxes Around the Home

December 26, 2017 by  
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By Barry Tabor A staggering amount of cardboard is thrown … The post How to Reuse Cardboard Boxes Around the Home appeared first on Earth911.com.

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How to Reuse Cardboard Boxes Around the Home

Sweden wants to fight waste with new tax breaks for repairs

September 21, 2016 by  
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The Swedish government is unveiling an intriguing plan to discourage throwaway culture. The new proposals would slash the VAT tax rate on repairs to bicycles , clothes, and shoes by half in order to encourage consumers to reuse their old items rather than simply replacing them. The law would also allow residents to claim back income taxes on the cost of repairs to large appliances such as ovens, dishwashers, and washing machines. The tax breaks are the work of Sweden’s ruling Social Democrat and Green party coalition. The VAT cuts are expected to not only reduce the cost of repairs, but to also help stimulate the repair industry within the country. Officials are hoping the development of a new home-repairs service industry will help provide jobs for immigrants lacking a formal education. Related: Repair is Beautiful: Paulo Goldstein Repairs Broken Objects to Be Better Than Before The incentives are part of a wider effort in Sweden to reduce carbon emissions , and cutting the amount of new household goods produced will go a long way toward that goal. The proposals will be presented before Sweden’s parliament as part of the government’s budget, where lawmakers will vote on whether to approve the measure. If passed, the new law would go into effect at the start of 2017. Via The Guardian Images via PixaBay and Wikimedia Commons

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Teenager turns a $200 run-down camper into a beautiful cozy escape

August 28, 2016 by  
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When summer rolled around, 14-year-old Ellie Yeater chose to spend her school break a bit differently than her peers. The ambitious teenager purchased a run-down 1974 Wilderness camper for $200 and transformed it into a cozy and beautiful backyard retreat. Crafted with upcycled finds and homemade fittings, the highly personalized renovation boasts a distinct vintage-reuse theme.

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Teenager turns a $200 run-down camper into a beautiful cozy escape

INFOGRAPHIC: What could our world look like in 50 years?

July 13, 2016 by  
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In today’s “use it and lose it” society, everything seems disposable. The majority of food and drinks consumed in cities are served in single-use containers, and recycling rates are still abysmally low. Even the amount of food consumed per person has skyrocketed in the last 50 years. Meat consumption alone went from 138 pounds per person per year in 1950 to 195 pounds per person per year in 2000. By the year 2100, unless the production of greenhouse gasses isn’t dramatically halted, some estimate that we could face a sea level rise of up to 32 feet, which would devastate cities like New York, London, and Shanghai. ReuseThisBag created an infographic with some of the worst predictions as well as visionary ideas that could help turn the tide. + ReuseThisBag

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