Hey, being green isn’t easy, or to put it in another analogy; it’s not just “black” or “green”. There are several shades of green and determining the greenest of them all is difficult. Let’s to go back to the debate about whether recycling does more harm than good. There is evidence in favor of the negative. Using some recycled materials in products can create more chemical pollution. Here are two prime examples; bleaching recycled papers, and recycling plastic bottles , which can be a nasty chemical process.
So do the costs out weight the benefits? The benefits include using less non-renewable resources, no deforestation, no oil dependence and metal mining. However, in some cases the answer may be no. The next question we should ask would be is there a better use for recycled paper than turning it back into paper?
Old subway cars get a new life as artificial reefs, old newspapers become wrapping paper or at my house fire starters for the wood stove and paper towels can get composted, and turned into nutrient rich soil. These are all examples of re-purposing and that can be the greenest of them all.
Here’s another example; re-using shopping bags. Studies show that the making a cotton/canvas bag can actually create higher carbon emissions than making a plastic bag. According to “Ask Pablo” you would have to use a standard cloth bag at least 171 times for it to pay off its carbon emissions. Compared to the plastic bag, that surprisingly, has a smaller carbon footprint per bag. So that got me thinking, imagine if you reuse a plastic bag several times! It’s not all about emissions though, plastic bags don’t take up a lot of room in a landfill, but they do cause major damage when they enter our waterways. And a rule of thumb for buying re-usable bags; more weight equals more emissions.
Where does this leave the consumer who wants to do the right thing? In my book it still is about the 3R’s and 1C. It’s Reduce the amount of material you use, Re-use and Re-purpose, get creative, and Compost whatever will biodegrade! Mostly, keep it simple and natural whenever possible.
Check out this hilarious plastic bag movie narrated by Jeremy Irons with irony.
This photo is from a friend of mine’s college cafeteria at Marymount University! A friend, who worked at a restaurant that did the same thing; informed me that at closing time he would just throw both bins into the dumpster out back. Cringe. I’ve also heard about cleaning people in offices emptying individual waste baskets and recycling bins into the same large bag. So why go to the trouble to make recycling labels only to throw plastic bottles and newspapers into the trash anyway? Why fake recycling?
No doubt, it’s deplorable. Bottom line; sustainability takes a village. Kudos to Hilary Clinton for coining that phrase. Just like an assembly line, your plastic bottle is counting on a lot of people to make it into its next life as recycled polyester. How do we get folks to change their faking it ways? It’s common knowledge and given it’s helpful when receptacles are easy to access, but still we truebluegreens wonder how much easier can recycling be?
I’ve heard my fellow green architecture friends lament about something similar with LEED, Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design, which certifies buildings for sustainability. Many credits for LEED rely on operations and maintenance staff to complete important steps in the cycle like delivering recyclables to its designated location. With the amount of time and money that goes into certifying a building it’s sad that it’s devalued by small mistakes.
So, let’s say we make some progress on that end. Some of us still question whether or not our cities are even recycling our carefully sorted items. I would love to put a GPS locator in an aluminum can to find out… OK, maybe not so practical. The next best thing is to research local sanitation departments. In my neck of the woods, New York City, the system seems to be legit (reasons why). But, what’s it like for most local sanitary divisions?
Finally, some will also argue that certain recycling processes like creating recycled polyester from plastic bottles do more harm than good. Lets go down that rabbit hole for that next post…
Filed under home, recycled
- Buy recycled content paper products! Trader Joes offers a lovely line of very affordable options. In this day and age there’s really no excuse and it’s not so cool that certain manufacturers haven’t gotten on this already! Better yet, use cloth napkins and microfiber cloths to clean.
- Use a filter or buy a Bobble, I mean really. For god sake don’t use bottled water!!! If you must buy into the “spring water” ploy make sure it really is spring water, not just re-processed, including adding artificial flavoring, municipal water and buy it in bulk, aka large, reusable jugs.
- Check out supplies like Method and Seventh Generation for some good house hold cleaners that won’t make you worried about getting cancer every time you clean your bathroom. Ditch the sponge for something biodegradable or has a longer lifecycle than a couple weeks.
- Unplug! The toaster, the computer, hairdryer, phone changer when not in use. A plug left in an outlet still captures electrical charge and is like leaving the faucet running, which brings us to…
- Use less water. Take slightly shorter showers, turn off the water while you brush your teeth, only run the dishwasher and washing machines when full. If you have a yard, consider using drip irrigation and collected rain water to hydrate it.
- You’re cold, so tempting to turn up the heat right? Reach for a sweater and a hot beverage instead, or better yet install a wood burning stove or gas fireplace. You’re hot? May I suggest just getting as naked as possible and turning on a fan!
- Install Energy Star products when it’s time to replace old items. Consider going the whole 9 yards by getting solar panels or exploring waste water recycling methods that are permitted in your area.
- Eat organic, vegan and local as much as possible they all help to lower your carbon impact on the earth.
- Use the dryer less, it’s a major energy waster!
- Compost if possible! It’s a great way to cut down on household waste and I put my paper towels & bio-degradable utensils in it too!
Filed under food, home, recycled
My adventures in mass market “green” products are yielding some great finds. See these Valentine’s from Paper Magic Group. Made from recycled paper with vegetable based inks from a company that runs on bio-gas! Their packaging is also recycled and they are an American company. And they were $2.99 from K-Mart. Crazy right!
In order to sustain our own economy it is really important to support made in USA companies!
I used some “eco-fi” felt, made from recycled fibers, to spruce mine up a bit and add a bit of texture.