Archive for the ‘reuse’ Tag

More Greenwashing Napkins   Leave a comment

Apparently I’m on a greenwashing bent right now, what with my last two posts being about greenwashing in the dry cleaning industry and nail polish marketing. I notice things unfortunately often, but don’t always make note of them.

Last year I posted about the greenwashing paper napkins that Quiznos was using, this year I have another paper napkin from a pizza chain (I don’t remember which one and there’s no logo on the napkin). The claim? “Save the environment, one napkin at a time.” Even a 100% recycled paper napkin is not going to save the environment. Recycling is at the bottom of the 3-R’s since it is the least beneficial. Using FEWER napkins (reduce), and/or using cloth napkins (reuse), would be better choices but still wouldn’t quite rise to “save the environment” level. These types of small steps need to be part of a larger pattern, a larger movement, to really be effective. Yes, it’s a very good thing to use disposable napkins made from 100% recycled material, and I wish that all fast food/take-out restaurants did so. However, it really annoys me when a company makes outrageous claims of benefit for very small steps. Does anyone actually see these logos and think that the restaurant is a “green” restaurant? Or does anyone actually think that using recycled disposable napkins instead of virgin disposable napkins will save the world? Now, if the claim was “Help the environment, one napkin at a time” I might be able to get on board with it not being greenwashing.

A non-greenwashing (at least in my opinion) example is some brands/sizes of bottled water that I’ve seen recently that are using smaller caps to use less plastic. The bottles that I’ve seen haven’t gone to such lengths as to redesign the label touting that they’re saving the world by using less plastic, they’ve put a note on the label that by using smaller caps they are using less plastic. There is no “save the world” claim, only a mention that this is part of an “ongoing effort to reduce [their] impact on the environment.” For that reason I’m thinking that this is not greenwashing but is legitimate green marketing of a product that is inherently not environmentally friends. There’s only so much that the impact of a disposable plastic water bottle can be reduced. Disposable means landfill space with long-term maintenance of leaching and methane production, or incineration with air pollution and ash disposal concerns, or recycling with energy consumption and downcycling issues. Plastic most likely means petroleum product, with all the impact associated with oil drilling, or it can mean corn product, which also has a significant footprint of energy and other inputs. And water itself is a concern. Some brands of bottled water are tap water, but some are “spring water” and by my understanding that means they have to tap into the spring before it reaches the surface. This requires the construction of an industrial facility in an otherwise untouched place, and my cause the spring to dry up and change the local hydrology. And then there’s that Fiji water brand that ships bottled water to us rich first-worlders while the locals don’t have adequate sanitation and clean water facilities.

Advertisements

Posted April 14, 2012 by mayakey in environment, resource use

Tagged with , , , ,

Compost Trials: Pallet Composter   2 comments

Apparently this winter is all about making changes to my compost systems. Last month I wrote about converting my failed 5-gallon bucket compost “bin” into a vermicomposter, and now I can write about transferring the Heap into a pallet composter. I guess the idea of using pallets to create a compost bin isn’t new, but either I just hadn’t seen it anywhere before or I just spaced it out until now. A couple weeks ago I went to a master gardener workshop and while wandering around afterwards I noticed some compost bins made out of pallets in the corner. Considering that I had a bunch of pallets sitting in my backyard, and they had been on my mind lately, I was immediately intrigued. The pallets are from a remediation system I am running at work that uses nutrients that ship on pallets. While pallets are valuable in bulk, when you are using 2 per quarter and they are exposed to the weather all the time, they end up just going to the dump. Unless, of course, you find a way to salvage them. Originally, I started bringing them home because I thought the wood would be great for a half-height fence in the front yard. I  soon discovered, however, that it is really hard to break down a pallet and they have been stacked in the side yard since then. Last weekend I switched gears and converted four of them into a compost bin, and then transferred the old compost heap into the bin. When needed, I have four more pallets to build into a second bin.

This seems like such a good idea because it is cheap (assuming that you can find free pallets somewhere), easy (all you need are four pallets, four hook-and-eye closures, and a drill), not ugly (at least not compared to just an unstructured pile of compost), and should really work. Since the pallet slats have space in between them, there’s plenty of aeration for the pile, and the inner volume of the bin should be large enough that the compost can actually heat up.

Pallet Composter

 

The Heap was actually working, but it was slow going. That is partially because I wasn’t trying to make it go fast, and partially because of structural problems. Without any support the pile couldn’t get very tall, so I don’t think it really warmed up properly. And of course the rose bush prunings that formed the base of the Heap were going to take forever to decompose. In the process of transferring from Heap to pallet bin, I removed all branches, so the process should go quicker now. The parts of the Heap that had kitchen waste were decomposing relatively well, and the parts of the Heap that were almost entirely yard waste were just a little moldy. Now everything is mixed up or layered in the pallet bin, and we’ll see if this really does work.

Posted February 6, 2012 by mayakey in frugal living, gardening, resource use

Tagged with ,

TerraCycle: Awesome Idea But How Exactly Does It Work?   Leave a comment

The November/December 2011 issue of the Green American (Green America’s periodical) is about plastics, including disposal of them. One of the sidebars is about TerraCycle, a company that recycles/reuses various hard-to-recycle waste like candy wrappers, cheese packaging, and Solo cups. I had heard about TerraCycle before and thought it sounded like a really great idea, but I hadn’t had a chance to use it until recently. Unfortunately, I still haven’t.

My opportunity was Bear Naked granola bags. A while back I started splurging on Bear Naked granola for my cereal when I got a coupon for it, because it isn’t sweet like most of the other granolas in the store and actually tastes really good. On the back of the bag it tells you not to throw it away because you can either send it back to them or recycle it through TerraCycle, so I kept the bags. All four of them. Unfortunately or fortunately, I transitioned to just putting chopped nuts and fresh blueberries or other fruit and don’t anticipate buying granola in the store for a very long time, if ever. Maybe I’ll experiment with making my own so that I actually like it and don’t find it too sweet or unhealthy. During my winter purge this past year I found the small pile of bags and decided that it was time to get rid of them. According to their website there are two options for “sustainable disposal”: sending them in to Bear Naked and getting swag in return, or recycling them through TerraCycle. For the size bag that I had, I was six bags short of being able to get a reusable grocery bag that I don’t need. So I looked into TerraCycle and ended up horribly confused. I guess you need to sign up with a brigade (or start a new one) and then you can send stuff in for recycling. But I didn’t want to sign up to join something just to get rid of four bags. I guess the minimum amount to send in is actually 5 bags, according to the blurb in the Green American. I would have loved to find out who has a brigade and I would have happily sent them my bags in order to support their organization since they can get money back from turning in items. But I couldn’t find that information without signing up, and again, I had no interest in signing myself up for something for this one-time exchange. So apparently TerraCycle is a great idea…if you are or know of an organization that can collect items to send back, or if you go through enough of the items yourself to justify signing up. Unless of course I’m not understanding the process.

Sadly, my four bags ended up in the garbage. It’s unfortunate since the sustainable packaging program, along with the granola not being really sweet, is why I bought the Bear Naked granola in the first place.

 

Posted January 23, 2012 by mayakey in environment, food, resource use

Tagged with , ,

Wrapping Gifts With Calendars   Leave a comment

Several years ago in my quest for a way to have beautiful/interesting gift wrap that does not waste resources I stumbled upon the idea to use old calendar pages, and I have to highly recommend this. They don’t work for every gift, but it is part of the “arsenal” of gift wrap. Arsenal may  be an odd choice of words, but I think that it is appropriate since different types of gifts/gift giving situations require different strategies for wrapping. My arsenal contains gift bags, newspaper, butcher paper (from buying things online), tissue paper, calendars, paint, stamps with colored and metallic inks (although I haven’t used them in a couple years so they may be dry), ribbons, and various silk flowers and leaves from my old bookcase decoration. Oh, and this year there is one particularly large box that will be covered in a sheet as a visual shield since nothing else will work.

I gather from reading comments this year on various Facebook posts and blogs that lots of people just can’t stand the idea of not wrapping gifts with a roll of wrapping paper. I’m  not going to say that using wrapping paper is horrible for the environment and no one should do it, because that’s just not true or helpful. One could easily say the same thing about buying wall calendars or sending out Christmas cards, but for me the spiritual satisfaction of those things is enormous. Besides, I totally understand the desire to make gifts look beautiful. I spend quite a bit of time on the quest myself. The idea to use old calendars to wrap gifts came about because I love a good calendar and a pretty gift. At the end of the year I always felt bad tossing a calendar that I thoroughly enjoyed into the recycle bin. It occurred to me that many calendars have images that make for good/fun gift wrap. And there’s something that I like about using my husband’s old pirate or Darth Vader calendars to wrap gifts for him, or wrapping my mom’s gifts in old goddess calendar pages. It’s more personal than a generic roll of gift wrap that is the same for all of the gifts. For those who object to the look of newspaper or plain paper wrapping, a calendar page can also be used on just the top/front of the gift to spice it up a bit.

There is one type of person who should probably not try this strategy, though, and that’s the person who needs to get every edge and corner perfectly folded and match the patterns at the seam. Calendar pages are heavier than typical wrapping paper, so it can get difficult folding corners sometimes. They do have the hole at the top of the page and the torn edge at the bottom, and depending on the situation these may end up visible. Sometimes the best part of the image is in a corner of the page, requiring some creative wrapping to frame the image on the gift as desired. To me it is worth it and the act of wrapping the gift has become part of the gift itself.

For all that I recommend old calendars as gift wrap, I also have to recommend being more open-minded about gift wrap. Simplicity is ok. A few years ago I went to a few gift exchanges with gifts wrapped in plain paper with a nice ribbon, and I noticed that my gifts were the last to be chosen. It was almost like people expected plain paper to house lame gifts. I am rather offended by that notion, especially since I put effort into every gift and I find plain wrapping to be simply beautiful. Simplicity can be very beautiful.

Posted December 23, 2011 by mayakey in frugal living, resource use

Tagged with , , ,

Corelleware For Picnic Ware?   3 comments

This may not come as a huge surprise, but I’m not big on disposable anything, and that includes dishes. In the planning phase of hosting a July 4 bbq one of the questions that came up was what to do for dishes and napkins? Most people would break out with some paper or plastic plates and cups with plastic utensils and paper napkins or paper towels. I just can’t make myself do that if there is any way around it.

Avoiding plastic utensils is easy because we have lots of regular silverware, so long as everyone doesn’t go through multiple forks. And cleaning up? Well, that’s what dishwashers are for (or apparently mothers-in-law in the case of our bbq). And when camping you’ve probably got to clean a pot or two at least, so cleaning a fork isn’t a big deal.

We do have a handful of paper plates and disposable bamboo plates from past camping trips and the first week or so after moving, but not enough for the number of people we were expecting. Buying more was out of the question. Our Fiestaware plates and bowls would have been enough, probably, but when talking picnic/bbq where there’s lots of movement inside and outside with plates balancing on knees sometimes, I’m not sure that my nice breakable collection is the best choice. Plus I’ve gotten resistance in the past at the idea of using dishes that can break/have to be washed for casual parties. Then I remembered the box of pretty-darn-unbreakable Correlleware in our garage. They’re the dishes passed down from my mom to my brother and I to get us started when we first moved out on our own. I’ve now got the Fiestaware, and my brother insists that it’s okay if I give away his half of the dishes, too. But for some reason I haven’t been able to do that yet. I’m not sure if it was sentimentality or practicality, but it turns out that may have been a good choice. Those are perfect dishes for picnics, bbq’s, parties, and maybe even camping! For camping they’d be easier on knives than metal plates, easier to clean than wooden plates, and on a par with reusable plastic plates. And since they aren’t our primary dishes even if they do get broken it is no big deal.

Where we cheated was on the napkins and cups. I do not have a good solution for party cups. With the exception of wine glasses and brandy snifters, no one ever wants to use glass at a party, or so I’ve learned. So we have paper cups made from partially recycled paper. Since I don’t know what they’re waxed with we didn’t compost them, but finding compostable paper cups might be the best option. For camping we just keep refilling our water bottles for water, and we have travel mugs for hot drinks in the morning. The obvious best solution for napkins is a whole lot of cloth napkins that just get tossed in the next load of laundry. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to get around to making cloth napkins. While we don’t have any paper towels in the house, though, we do have a stack of leftover napkins from take-out (another bad eco- and healthy living sin of mine). Even if we stopped getting take-out today (yeah, right), we’d still have enough napkins to make it through the year.

Posted July 7, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, frugal living, resource use

Tagged with ,

It Really Shouldn’t Be So Difficult To Rent A Pickup   Leave a comment

In preparation for hosting a gathering for the fourth of July, this weekend we FINALLY got rid of the last of the junk that we removed from the house when we moved in last summer. My original desire to have a very low garbage volume has been shot. Percentage-wise we didn’t do that badly since the carpeting and carpet padding was recycled. Then there were the mirrored closet doors in every room, the vertical blinds on the sliding glass door, the broken vertical blinds in the master bedroom, and the window treatment in the kitchen. I knew we were going to have to throw away the broken vertical blinds from the master bedroom, but my plan was to salvage the fabric from the kitchen window treatments for something else, and to take the vertical blinds from the sliding glass door and the mirrored closet doors to the Habitat for Humanity ReUse Store. That was back in July/August…and by the time we finished cleaning and unpacking the rainy season had started and the cloth vertical blinds and window treatments had became a dirty sodden mass. I tried to unsnap the cloth vertical blinds to see if I could wash them for donation to the ReUse store, but instead I accidentally snapped the plastic connector. So the final tally is:

  • Reused in-house: wood from the awning torn down at the behest of the building inspector (ok, not reused yet but will be)
  • Donated: 5 mirrored closet doors, tracks from 5 sets of closet doors, downspouts and 3 gutter sections from awning
  • Recycled: carpeting and padding from 4 bedrooms and hallway; corrugated metal, bent gutter section, flashing, metal shelf pole and various connecting hardware from the awning; metal screen door; 5 mirrored closet door frames; 2 metal tracks from vertical blinds
  • Landfilled (or will be): corrugated PVC and plastic corner shelves from the awning, broken glass from 5 mirrored closet doors, fabric & plastic “rod” from  window treatment, vertical blinds from 2 tracks

Now, to the other point of this post. It really shouldn’t be so difficult to rent a pickup for dirty work. When we replaced Mike’s truck with an SUV he was concerned about what we would do when we were in situations that require a pickup truck. I insisted that it would be fine because we could just rent one, and occasionally we’d be able to use bribe-a-friend.  Having been taken advantage of many times as a pickup owner, he is very sensitive to the latter. I figured that most people don’t own a pickup truck, so there has to be a not-too-inconvenient/costly way to rent a pickup.

When we hauled the carpeting to Oakland for recycling we rented a pickup from Enterprise. That was probably a good move since that means the four hours of driving to and from were done in a clean cab that doesn’t smell bad. That was also way to expensive to make it practical for hauling one or two loads of junk, as I learned when I rented a truck to haul the carpet padding to the recycler and had to pay the $100 daily charge for less than 2 hours of use. So for today’s haul of one load to the ReUse Store and one load to the transfer station for recycling I wanted to find a cheaper option. U-Haul does rent pickup trucks for $20/day; however very very few of the Sacramento area locations have them. I found 1 location. One! I asked the lady behind the counter about that and she said the other locations claim that there is no demand, but that she has lots of demand for her three trucks. We didn’t even get a pickup truck and had to use a small moving truck today because the person who rented our truck yesterday didn’t return it in time and hadn’t returned it by the time our reservation rolled around. This experience was really frustrating, but since I didn’t find out any other options for rental we’ll probably do this again. The ONE location is a half hour from our house, but the price is good. The challenge is finding an available truck.

Posted June 18, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, frugal living, home

Tagged with , , ,

The Moving Box Search   3 comments

This morning I made my second early morning mall run. No, I wasn’t joining the mall walkers (they were out in force), I was dumpster diving for boxes.

The thought of paying for moving boxes pains me. I’ve never had to do it and it is so “easy” to get free boxes. Even more so than the monetary cost of new boxes, I am not comfortable with the environmental cost of new boxes. Even though cardboard boxes for shipping have one of the best recycling track records (manufacturers and retailers like to keep their costs down, after all), there is still way more energy used in the transport and recycling of old cardboard boxes than the reuse of those boxes before they get recycled. Plus new cardboard boxes are not generally 100% recycled; they do contain some virgin fibers.

In the past, I’ve gotten cardboard boxes by going to stores like Wal-Mart or Target at night when they are restocking the shelves. You can literally troll the store collecting the empty boxes. I’ve even staked out a particular box until an employee came to unload the stuff inside. The problem with this method is that you have to drive around late at night hauling piles of cardboard boxes. When working full time, spending an hour or so every day cleaning the new house, taking care of regular chores, and taking care of the other moving stuff (utilities, new appliances, etc.) there’s really no time or energy left for box collection. I really should have started box collection at least a month ago, but I couldn’t psych myself up.

Instead, I planned on using freecardboardboxes.com to find someone locally with free boxes that I could take. Well, that website is now defunct. Craigslist didn’t have any used cardboard box listings, and I’m not a member of Freecycle. So my Plan B was to buy boxes from usedcardboardboxes.com (at least that way I could avoid using new boxes, which is really more important to me than the cost). Then I went to the website and saw the cost. They are definitely competing with U-Haul and other places that sell crazy expensive boxes. There is just no way I am going to pay over $2/box! Not when I can get them for free!

So I called Target to make sure that I could pick up boxes and I was told they prefer people to come first thing in the morning rather than at night after the store has closed. Fishy, but I did that, and luckily I found a very nice employee who didn’t take no from her supervisor and went into the back to load a cart full of boxes for me. Half of them were not particularly helpful sizes, though. I also followed a suggestion that I had found on the internet: I drove across the street to the mall and searched for the recycling dumpsters. Gold mine! I was able to pack my car to the gills with clean used boxes. Of course, I wasn’t able to get as many as we will need, hence mall dumpster run number two this morning. I don’t have time to do it again, so if we still need more boxes at the last minute we’ll have to buy them from Home Depot where they are under $1/box. Yes, even I cave at the last minute.

Posted August 5, 2010 by mayakey in conscious living, home, resource use, shopping

Tagged with , ,