Earth911 Podcast, Nov. 23, 2018: Beth Porter, Author of Reduce, Reuse, Reimagine

November 23, 2018 by  
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Beth Porter, climate and recycling director at Green America, a … The post Earth911 Podcast, Nov. 23, 2018: Beth Porter, Author of Reduce, Reuse, Reimagine appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Podcast, Nov. 23, 2018: Beth Porter, Author of Reduce, Reuse, Reimagine

5 Ways To Repurpose Your Trash

November 5, 2018 by  
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When it comes to reuse, we all know the basics. … The post 5 Ways To Repurpose Your Trash appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Oregon initiates first modern statewide refillable glass bottle system in the US

October 22, 2018 by  
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At the beginning of the century, refillable bottles were the only option when you purchased a beer or soda from the local merchant. With the invention of the steel can in 1938, however, that practice began to change. Within 10 years, the 100 percent refillable glass usage for beer had dropped to 84 percent. When non-refillable glass started taking over mainstream production, that number dropped to 8 percent by 1986 and, according to the Container Recycling Institute , refillable beer bottles now account for less than 4 percent of the total containers used. Today, Oregon is getting back to the basics by revitalizing the use of refillable beer bottles. The World Counts reported, “The world’s beer and soda consumption uses about 200 billion aluminium cans every year. This is 6,700 cans every second — enough to go around the planet every 17 hours.” While recycling is an important piece of the puzzle, a large percentage of cans and bottles are tossed into the landfill. Those that do make it to the recycling plant require massive amounts of water and energy to recycle into clean, usable material. With all of this in mind, Oregon recently initiated a statewide recycling program that cuts out the need to break down materials and turn them into something new. Instead, they’ve gone old school by bringing back refillable bottles. Related: Eco-minded Melbourne brewery breaks the mold for sustainable beer production The process works the same as any other bottle deposit system. The consumer pays a deposit upfront when buying a beverage. Upon returning the empty container, they receive the deposit back. The bottle return machines identify the refillable bottles by a unique barcode and automatically separate them from the recyclable glass options. The bottles themselves are slightly different in other ways, too. Noticeably thicker and marked with a “refillable” stamp, the bottles can be reused up to 40 times, which sharply dials back the carbon footprint for the industry. Oregon has been poised to reintroduce refillable bottles into the market because of an existing statewide program that collects and recycles bottles and cans. With that efficient infrastructure in place, adding refillable bottles to the mix is a natural step in the progression of responsible resource management within the state. It’s no surprise that Oregon is an early adopter of the program, as it has a long history of innovation in the beverage recycling industry. In fact, Oregon was the first state to pass a bottle refund law in 1971. In order for the program to be cost-effective, there are some stipulations in place. For example, bottles leaving the state and not being returned for refill drives up costs. To protect against this, bottlers who commit to using the refillable bottles are only allowed to export 20 percent of those bottles out of state. Although Oregon hopes to be a leader in the refillable bottle movement, the program is still going through some growing pains. Bottles are currently being shipped to Montana for cleaning until Oregon can complete its own facility to do the work. While the state’s Department of Environmental Quality hasn’t put an exact measurement on the impact of these efforts, most agree that even with temporary transport to another state, refillable bottles cut the carbon footprint at every post-production phase of the life cycle. The real measure of the program’s success will come with the deposit return rates. If people don’t return the bottles, the system won’t work. This is a struggle that Double Mountain Brewery founder Matt Swihart knows all too well as the original provider of refillable bottles within the Oregon brewing industry. He’s fought an uphill battle in his efforts to successfully introduce refillable bottles to his Hood River bottling plant. With an initial return rate of only 15-20 percent, he’s hoping an organized state system will help facilitate his goals. “Anything we get back and clean saves us money down the road, and of course is a more responsible environmental package,” Swihart told OPB . “Frankly, it’s just the right thing to do.” Currently, seven breweries in Oregon have stepped up to the program. Widmer Brothers Brewing is one such optimistic leader of change. It has always been transparent in its efforts to maintain sustainability wherever possible in the beer-making process, with actions like donating spent grains to local farms and providing reusable to-go containers for employees to cut back on waste. For a company that looks to repurpose and recycle everything down to the crayons and corks, moving to refillable bottles is a natural progression. The company stated, “In 2016, we completed our first Life Cycle Analysis on a bottle of beer produced at our brewery to understand the biggest opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint, learning that one bottle generates 392 grams of carbon dioxide emissions. We are partnering with suppliers to improve!” And now, the brewery is doing just that. Buoy Beer, Double Mountain, GoodLife, Gigantic, Wild Ride and Rock Bottom breweries have also signed on with hopes of many others joining as the program gains credibility. Although breweries are in the spotlight right now, there is hope that the soda industry will also jump on the refillable bottle bandwagon. Who knows — maybe it’s just a few short years before we make the full circle back to refillable milk bottles. Via  OPB ,  The World Counts and  Container Recycling Institute Images via Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative and Thomas Picauly

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Oregon initiates first modern statewide refillable glass bottle system in the US

6 tips for crafting an eco-friendly Halloween costume

October 19, 2018 by  
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It is hard to believe, but it’s almost that time of year again when sugar-hyped witches, ghosts, superheroes and princesses will be ringing your doorbell and asking for candy. Halloween is a fun holiday for many of us, but the celebration can easily become expensive and far from eco-friendly, thanks to the decorations, candy and greeting cards. Worst of all, the plastic-packaged costumes can also be an enemy of the environment as well as your wallet. Americans spend billions of dollars on Halloween goods each year, but you don’t have to contribute to the waste. Instead, keep this Halloween season as eco-friendly as possible with these tips for making a costume that will be a hit at your holiday party, but won’t crush your bank account — or the planet. Certified pre-owned Buying a brand new, expensive, cheaply-made costume is never necessary. Instead, there are a variety of ways that you can get a used costume that will work perfectly. You can visit your local thrift shop to find a used costume that won’t cost much, and reusing items is good for the environment. Related: 11 brilliant ideas for family costumes that will blow you away You can also get together with friends, family and neighbors and host a costume swap party. You can easily do this for adults’ or kids’ costumes, and it can give you some Halloween inspiration. Send out some electronic invites to your friends with details about bringing old costumes they have stashed. Then, enjoy an evening of mixing and matching costumes until everyone has what they need.  You can use different parts of old costumes to create something new, or swap for one that is already complete. Either way, it will help you avoid a Halloween mega-store. Look in your closet It is quite possible that something already sitting in your closet would be perfect for a costume. Striped, plaid or polka dot clothing works for a clown costume, a sheet works for a ghost and black clothing can easily turn you into a bat or witch. Do you have a formal dress or suit in your closet? Get dressed up and add a white sash to the outfit with the word “apology” written on it, and you can go as a “formal apology.” Do you have some old medals from winning competitions in school? Put them all around your neck, grab some loaves of bread and be a “breadwinner” this Halloween. With just a few items, you have an entire costume that costs you next to nothing. Makeup and face paint Instead of buying an overpriced plastic or rubber Halloween mask, use makeup that you already have or non-toxic face paint to create your look.  You can even make your own DIY makeup by mixing cornstarch, solid shortening and natural food color. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has other face paint recipe options, while Smart Mama has a  recipe for fake skin . There are tons of tutorials online to help you with this project, and you will be pleasantly surprised by how it turns out. Raid the recycle bin and watch what you throw away There are many things that we throw in the trash or into the recycling bin that can be used for Halloween costumes and decorations. Cardboard boxes and soda bottle caps can be the beginning of a robot costume; soda can tabs can become chainmail sleeves on a Monty Python costume ; cardboard boxes and paint can turn you into a Tetris game piece; plastic cups, cardboard and paint can transform you into a LEGO character. Related: 10 ingenious Halloween costumes made from recycled junk Work uniforms Do you have a friend or family member that delivers pizzas? Or maybe you know someone who is a Subway sandwich artist. Anybody who wears a recognizable uniform to work can be the source of your next Halloween costume idea. Just ask them to borrow it for a night and add a special detail or two — like food service gloves or a pizza delivery bag — and you will be the life of the party. DIY treat bags If you are going trick-or-treating, you will need to add an eco-friendly candy bag to your Halloween ensemble. From reusable shopping bags to duct tape, there are many ideas out there — including 14 from The Spruce Crafts — that you can easily make so you can avoid the cheap plastic candy bucket. A little bit of craftiness and creativity can go a long way during the Halloween holiday season. All it takes is using resources like items in your closet, the recycle bin and your real-life social network to avoid spending a ton of cash while keeping the celebration eco-friendly. Via Sierra Club , Boston.com and Earth 911 Images via Shutterstock

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6 tips for crafting an eco-friendly Halloween costume

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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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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That Old Air Mattress: Recycle or Reuse?

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