Inhalers: Recyclable or Trash

Day 125 – Today is World Asthma Day. This year’s theme is “Uncovering Asthma Misconceptions”. One of those misconceptions is that asthma is a childhood disease and that individuals will grow out of it as they age. Well, I am proof that this is untrue. I was recently diagnosed as being asthmatic at 48 years old. I had never experienced symptoms as a child or at anytime during my adulthood. It was only in the last couple years did I start having an issue. I was prescribed an inhaler and my first thought was, “How do I recycle this?”, better yet, “Can I recycle this?”

There are numerous reasons why you would want to properly dispose of your inhaler.

  1. Old inhalers can explode if punctured, compacted, or heated too much.
  2. When broken open inhalers can release greenhouse gases. According to recent studies, inhaler-related greenhouse gases are responsible for roughly 5 million tons of CO2 emissions.
  3. Many inhalers that are disposed still have medication left in them. If these inhalers end up in a landfill the leftover medication can leak out and as a result contaminate land and water.
  4. The plastic and metal that make up the inhaler are recyclable material.

In many cases you can contact your local pharmacy or recycling facility to see if there are any types of take-back programs for inhalers. With inhaler recycling programs patients are able to bring in their empty inhalers to their local pharmacies and exchange them for a new one. From there the old inhalers are collected by a partner recycling provider who then breaks down the inhaler plastics for remanufacturing and safely captures any remaining aerosol medication. 

Always make sure to responsibly dispose your inhalers.

Tomorrow, coffee that is fo the birds.

Deodorants vs. Antiperspirants

Day 124 – I have never been loyal to a specific brand of deodorant. I usually grabbed whatever was on sale. I then started paying attention to the packaging. Not all brands are recyclable. On further investigation, it wasn’t just the packaging I needed to worry about, but also the ingredients.

Aluminum chlorohydrate (in roll-ons and aerosols) and aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex GLY (in solids) are found in antiperspirants. They block the pores of our skin to prevent us from perspiring. While this is helpful in preventing us from becoming a sweaty mess, it becomes a problem when the toxins in our bodies have no way to escape.

Deodorants help mask the smell of sweat and body odor caused by sweating. While antiperspirants use ingredients that interact with sweat glands to target and prevent wetness. Now the question is, is one more safe to use than the other.

“Our armpits are in close proximity to the lymph nodes and breast tissue. A study published in the European Journal of Cancer found “underarm shaving with antiperspirant/deodorant use may play a role in breast cancer.” That’s important since, according to research, only 5% to 10% of cancer is genetic, whereas the remaining 90% to 95% is rooted in environmental and lifestyle factors.”Earth911

The FDA did come out with there own statement saying, “Researchers at the National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health, are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer.”

I guess, if I have to choose between a product that is free of questionable ingredients and comes in plastic free packaging over a product that has a warning not be used if you have kidney disease and is packaged in plastic, then I’m going with the first choice.

We are going to give the following deodorants a try in our house. I will be sure to report back as to which one(s) we liked the best.

Chagrin Valley Soap and Shave Company

Ethique Natural Deodorant

Each & Every Natural Aluminum-Free Deodorant

What are you using? Do you know if the ingredients are safe?

And just a reminder, you can bring your empty deodorants or antiperspirant containers to the monthly NNA Recycle Popup. The next one is May 15th, 9am-12pm.

Tomorrow, a product that helps many breathe, but is not always easy to recycle.

FREE Trees!

Day 123 – When I was younger, the word “free” elicited a feeling of excitement and curiosity. To get something for nothing was a thrill and made me feel like I was winning at the game of life. Sadly, that feeling has changed as I have gotten older. Now, when I hear the word “free”, I am suspicious. I want to know what the catch is and how much it’s going to cost me in the end.

Thankfully, there is nothing sneaky going on here. There are free saplings available and all you have to do is pick them up, plant them, and give them a shot at growing up to be big, strong trees. Restore the Canopy is a program sponsored by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. The program offers FREE Black, Pin, Red and White Oak saplings.

“As a form of green infrastructure, a medium-sized oak tree can help prevent flooding and improve water quality by absorbing 2,800 gallons of rainfall per year.” – MWRD

You can pick up your free sapling every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to Noon (April – October).

Locations include:

Calumet Water Reclamation Plant, 400 E. 130th St., Chicago
O’Brien Water Reclamation Plant, 3500 Howard Street, Skokie
Stickney Water Reclamation Plant, 6001 W. Pershing Rd., Cicero
Egan Water Reclamation Plant, 550 South Meacham Rd, Schaumburg
Hanover Park Water Reclamation Plant, 1220 Sycamore Ave., Hanover Park
Kirie Water Reclamation Plant, 701 West Oakton St., Des Plaines

The emerald ash borer beetle and extreme weather has decimated our tree canopy. Our neighborhoods are in need of more trees. So, if you have the space to share with a tree, consider picking up your free sapling.

Tomorrow, eco-friendly deodorants.

Update: Shoe Collection

Day 122 – Back in March, I collected shoes in any condition. I ended up with 81 pairs of shoes. Footwear of all kinds were left on my doorstep and I needed to decide where they would be going. One thing was for sure, they were not going to end up in a landfill.

Twenty pairs of shoes went to Soles4Soul where they will be reused.

Twenty pairs of shoes went to Nike’s Reuse a Shoe program, where they will be turned into Nike Grind. Nike Grind materials are used to transform community spaces – from basketball courts and playtop surfaces to running tracks and more. 

Forty-one pairs of shoes were recycled through I:CO, who partners with stores like North Face, Levi’s, Forever 21, H&M, Columbia, and Asics.

Next time you are faced with an unwanted pair of shoes, please consider one of these three options. One pair of shoes in the trash may not seem like a big deal, but multiply that by millions (even billions) of people and it really adds up.

Thanks to everyone that participated in my shoe collection!

Tomorrow, my next collection.

Candles: Recycling Options

Day 121 – If you have any home fragrance products from Yankee Candle®, WoodWick®, and Chesapeake Bay Candle®, including candle jars, wax melt packaging, diffuser oil bottles, Easy MeltCup containers, ScentPlug® Refills, reed diffusers and refills, room sprays, fragrance beads, and car fragrances you can recycle them all through TerraCycle.

Consider reusing the glass jars from your candle if possible — that’s the most environmentally-friendly solution there is. If you can’t reuse your empty candle jars, check with your local recycling program to see what types of glass they accept. Ensure candle jars are free of wax, wicks, and their lids before recycling curbside.

A third option is to either box up your recyclable items and send them (for free) to TerraCycle or you can drop them off at your local Yankee Candle store.

To find the closest store near you, click HERE.

To view frequently asked questions about the recycling program, click HERE.

Enjoy your favorite fragrances without the guilt.

Tomorrow, an update on the shoe collection back in March.

Wrapping Paper: Help the trees out

Day 120 – It is estimated that Americans spend around $7 billion on wrapping paper each year. An estimated 30 million trees are cut down just to produce gift wrap, and it’s difficult to recycle due to the dyes used. The ones made with plastic or foil can not be recycled at all.

So, how are we supposed to wrap gifts in an environmentally friendly way?

Thankfully, there are a few options:

  1. The trusty and very reusable gift bag is always a nice option.
  2. Wrapping in a cloth, using the Furoshiki method can be very stylish.
  3. Kraft paper may not look too festive, but it is highly recyclable. It gets the job done, by concealing the surprise.
  4. Newspaper gift wrap has always been an option for centuries. The comics have always been a favorite choice. I purchased wrapping paper from Wrappily. They use newspaper presses to create festive gift wrap that is 100% recyclable newsprint. Even the packaging that the wrapping paper comes in is compostable. The paper I ordered was reversible and ended up in our compost after the birthday boy opened his gifts.
  5. Reusable gift boxes are easy and festive.
  6. Another option is using wrapping paper made from recycled paper. There are plenty of companies offering this option and an easy internet search should point you in the right direction. There are numerous options on Etsy.

So, on this 149th Arbor Day, let’s think about saving the trees and finding alternatives to wrapping paper. Avoiding giving gifts to your loved ones in unrecyclable wrapping paper, is a gift in itself.

Tomorrow, recycling old candles.

Rainy Days: Think twice about your water use

Day 119 – Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of getting water in our basements during or after a heavy rain. If you haven’t, consider yourself very lucky. It is not fun and the clean up is a real pain. Many times the problem is caused by too much rain, too fast. The sewer system can not keep up.

Now imagine, showers and laundry being done during these downpours. All that added water to an already overtaxed sewer system is just way too much to handle. The result is the release of untreated wastewater into the Chicago River system.

“As little as 0.3 inches of rain, depending on the location and severity, can trigger a combined sewer overflow at any number of over 300 outfalls that flow directly into the Chicago River and Little Calumet River.”Friends of the Chicago River

The Friends of the Chicago River created Overflow Action Days. Just like Ozone Action Day alerts people to reduce their ozone producing activities, Overflow Action Day alerts people to reduce their water use. Overflow Action Day is an attempt to relieve pressure on the sewer system to protect the river system.

Here are some ways to reduce your water use during Overflow Action Days, as suggested by the Friends of the Chicago River:

  1. Reduce your shower time: A ten minute shower can use as much as 40 gallons per minute. Depending on your showerhead, reducing your shower by three minutes can save between eight and 22 gallons of water.
  2. Delay laundry: Rainy days are lazy days. You have our permission. Delaying laundry will reduce the amount of soapy water that might end up in the river.
  3. Delay dish washing. But if you must, use a dishwasher if you have one. Running a full dishwasher requires about 20 gallons of water compared to 40 gallons if you washed the same number of dishes by hand.
  4. Flush less: Each flush can use between 1.6 to five gallons of water. Don’t use the toilet as a wastebasket. It’s estimated 75% of indoor water use is in the bathroom and a quarter of that is through toilets.

You can sign up for Overflow Action Alerts. You can also keep an eye on the weather. If significant rain is forecasted consider reducing your water use. Do your part to help protect our rivers and the plants and animals that call them home.

Tomorrow, eco-friendly ways to wrap gifts.

Commercial Composting: The solution to your food waste problem

Day 118 – I truly believe most people try to be responsible with food and avoid wasting as much as they can. However, there are situations that come along that make it impossible to save all the food we purchase. The occasional piece of produce that gets overlooked and goes bad. The new recipe that no one liked and did not eat. The leftovers that sat in the refrigerator and eventually became a science project. It’s hard to completely avoid throwing something out each week. Thankfully, there are options to turn that food waste into something beneficial.

I have talked to people with strong feelings about composting. Some of those people love composting, while others are disgusted by the idea. Some love the task of turning their own food waste into soil, rich in nutrients. While others, can’t imagine working with worms. So, for those people, just the word, “composting”, turns them off. Well, I’m here to say, don’t be afraid. Commercial composting is for everyone not wanting or just not ready to take on home composting.

On Day 2, I shared my family’s experience with commercial composting and how easy it is and how infrequently we need to take our garbage out. The process is also, affordable and unbelievably rewarding. Just knowing our food waste is not ending up in a landfill, doing nothing more than taking up space and producing harmful greenhouse gases, is enough to put a smile on my face. To date, my family has diverted 105 pounds of food waste from the landfill in the last 5 months. And if that wasn’t enough, I found out a few weeks ago that my household was eligible to receive a 40 pound bag of soil, at no addition charge, from our commercial composting company, WasteNot Compost.

This past weekend, I picked up my bag of soil, in what can only be described as one of the easiest processes that I have been a part of. I drove up, opened my trunk and the bag of soil was placed in my car. All I had to do was give my name. I have never been one to get excited about gardening, but I can honestly say, I am looking forward to planting my garden this season.

If there is only one thing you do after reading my daily blog posts, composting is at the top of the list. Diverting food waste from the landfill is crucial to improving the state of our planet. It is something we should all be doing.

So, on this Stop Food Waste Day, stop throwing away food and start creating a healthier planet.

Tomorrow, reducing water use on rainy days.

Caring for Your Lawn and Garden without Harmful Chemicals

Day 117 – Having a lush, healthy lawn is a big priority for many homeowners. Many hours and dollars are devoted to making front lawns and accompanying gardens aesthetically appealing. Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, collectively known as pesticides, have been a mainstay in the lawn care industry. They have successfully helped many homeowners reach the pinnacle of green grass grandeur. On average, 70 million tons of fertilizers and pesticides are applied annually to residential lawns and gardens. Unfortunately, many of them are harmful to humans and the environment.

Thankfully, there are some simple tips you can do to achieve a great lawn without the chemicals. I compiled a list from various resources. (Old World Garden Farms, Earth911)

  1. Don’t cut your grass too low and don’t take more than 1/4 off at a time. Removing too much at once can cause a lot of stress on the grass, which in turn can cause long term damage.
  2. Keep your blades sharp. Worn out blades can cause the tips of grass blades to be damaged and turn brown. This can result in homeowners overwatering, thinking the brown grass is caused by lack of water.
  3. Don’t bag your clippings. You are taking away a great source of nutrients for your lawn when you bag your clippings and toss them in the garbage.
  4. Relax when it comes to a few weeds. Realize that a weed here or there is not the end of the world. The diversity actually helps create a healthier lawn and landscape.
  5. Plant native plants in your garden. As mentioned on Day 99, native plants do not need artificial fertilizers or pesticides. They have adapted to conditions in their environment and are very low maintenance.
  6. Call in the Ladybug army. Instead of using pesticides, consider using Ladybugs. They gobble up aphids, scale, mites, and mealybugs. Also, the larvae of lacewings feast on spider mites, thrips, and whiteflies, and can devour as many as 100 aphids a day.
  7. Water your grass thoroughly, but infrequently. A good soaking once a week, should be sufficient.
  8. Consider making homemade weed killer. Pesticides and herbicides used in traditional lawn maintenance can harm beneficial insects and animals. And if not fully absorbed, these chemicals can soak through soil and contaminate groundwater. Or they may run off into streams and lakes where they endanger aquatic life. Check out Lawn Love and their recipe for homemade weed killer.

Other resources to check out:

  1. Consumer Report’s list of organic solutions to weeds and pests.
  2. Consider companies like Sunday, when deciding on lawn care options. By using all natural ingredients, they can offer you a safe and environmentally friendly way to achieve that perfect lawn.

So, think twice before spraying your grass and garden with chemicals that could harm you and the planet.

Tomorrow, celebrating “Stop Food Waste Day.”

Declutter and Get Organized

Day 116 – Today is Get Organized Day! My senior year of high school, I was given the title, “Most Organized”. It wasn’t the most exciting title, but it wasn’t the worst either. I have carried that organizational skill into my adulthood. However, there are times when things fall of the rails and I find myself with a lot of stuff, everywhere.

Women’s Day shared a list of over 100 ways to get organized. Here are 10 tips from the list. I have added an eco-friendly spin on most of them.

  1. Sort your fridge like a grocery store – By organizing your refrigerator you can cut back on food waste.
  2. Pick your favorite cleaning products – No need to have 100 products and all those single-use plastic bottles and make sure those products are environmentally friendly.
  3. Put everything in its place – If there’s no place for it, then it needs to be rehomed.
  4. Get rid of things you never wear – This tip mentions throwing away your stained or ripped clothing. A better option would be to mend or donate to a textile recycler.
  5. Cut down on paper towel use – Start using old rags and t-shirts to help with the dirty work.
  6. Borrow special-use kitchen appliances – Not only will it save you space, but it will be one less thing you have to get rid of when you realize you never use it.
  7. Get rid of makeup you don’t use – Pare down your cosmetics so that it all fits in one portable bag. Recycle the cosmetics you don’t want anymore.
  8. Stay on top of your bills – Make a list of all the bills that need to be paid and check them off as they get paid. Make sure to go paperless.
  9. Get rid of expired beauty products, medicine, and coupons twice a year – When you adjust your clocks each spring and fall, also weed out expired medicine, sunscreen and smoke detector batteries, to name a few.
  10. When you declutter, before tossing anything in the trash, find out if it can be donated or recycled.

Getting things organized can make you feel better. However, throwing all those unwanted items in the trash can really bring down the mood. So, do your research! Here’s a Recycling and Donation Resource to get you started.

Another great option is to hire a professional organizer. He or she will help you get your life in order and can assist you in accomplishing it in an eco-friendly way. For anyone living in the Chicagoland area, Kelly Brask, Certified Professional Organizer, can help bring order to your home and office. Consider hiring Kelly for your next big decluttering task.

Tomorrow, growing a healthy lawn without pesticides.