An App Rescuing Food from the Landfill

Day 216 – The Too Good To Go app is really making a difference on the fight against food waste. To date, they have saved 85 million meals from being tossed in the trash. The concept is very easy and brilliant!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Restaurants, supermarkets, cafes, bakeries (and much more) will, at the end of the day, see how much extra food they have left over.
  2. They will put an add on the Too Good To Go app to notify customers about the reduced priced food.
  3. With the Google Maps function implemented in the app, customers can easily locate restaurants and stores that sell the food.
  4. All the food is discounted, which helps provide people with an inexpensive meal, and it helps restaurants sell all their food.
  5. The planet will be happy as this is a very sustainable way of pushing “leftovers” to consumers and keeping food out of the landfill.

Too Good To Go hopes that the more people that use the app, the more food gets consumed instead of ending up in a landfill. On average, each meal you rescue from going to the trash is equivalent to the carbon footprint from charging your smartphone 422 times.

Lastly, Too Good To Go is a Certified B-Corporation and they’re active in Chicago (and many more towns and cities across the country)!

Tomorrow, celebrating National Underwear Day.

Which is greener? Grocery shopping online or in-person

Day 215 – The pandemic has really increased the use of online grocery shopping. My family used the option a couple times when we had a positive case in the family and quarantined for a couple weeks. I was thankful for having this option and so grateful for those working through the pandemic to ensure we had access to food and all the essentials. After our quarantine was over, we were back to shopping in-person. However, I know many people have really liked the idea of having their groceries delivered and may never consider going back to a grocery store. So, I thought I would write about which shopping method is greener, online or in-person.

While reading a few articles on the subject a few points stuck out.

  1. Large grocery stores use a great deal of energy to operate. Making sure customers and products are at a comfortable temperature takes a lot of energy.
  2. Overstocking in large grocery stores is standard and it’s estimated that 10.5 million tons of food waste are generated from grocery stores each year.
  3. Direct delivery from a fulfillment center has the potential to eliminate some retail inefficiencies. Fulfillment centers eliminate at least one step from the distribution system, can store food in a way that keeps it fresh longest instead of in appealing displays for consumers, and can order only what they know they will sell.
  4. Secondary packaging for delivery – such as disposable bags, ice packs, and foam cushioning – is an additional source of waste.
  5. The number of delivery vehicles in cities is projected to rise 36% by 2030, which could lead to an increase in emissions and a 21% increase in congestion.
  6. Journey consolidation and smart routing powered by artificial intelligence are promising approaches to more efficient, less polluting delivery.

In the end, both options have their negative and positive effects on the environment.

Earth911 came up with a list of questions to ask yourself before deciding which option is best for you and the planet.

  • Are you replacing a drive to the supermarket, or would you have walked or biked instead?
  • Do your deliveries come from a local hub or a large, distant distribution center?
  • Who makes the deliveries? Gig workers in their own vehicles or employees in company-owned electric vehicles?
  • Do they deliver in reusable containers made from recycled materials or disposable ones made from virgin materials?
  • Do they deliver your groceries according to an algorithm that reduces delivery miles or at the time you specify?

For me, the biggest turn off to online shopping is the extra packaging. At times it is absurd as to how much is used. If I can find what I’m looking for at the local store, I will opt to purchase in-person, using my reusable bags.

Tomorrow, an app that is saving consumers money and addresses the problem of food waste.

Be a Scientist in Your Own Backyard

Day 214 – Do you love science? Are you a big fan of nature? Do you want to help preserve and protect the environment? Well, it couldn’t be any easier to get involved in something that includes all these amazing things. Citizen Science Programs provides opportunities for students, teachers and the public to participate in scientific data collection. Some programs require training, while others do not. Some you can do in your own backyard.

There are Citizen Science Programs around the country and the world. This post will include projects that are nation wide, along with others that are focused on ones found in my home state of Illinois. I will also be sharing the ones that require little to no training. The information shared in this post is directly from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count

This program is the longest-running, citizen-science project related to birds.The next Christmas Bird Count Tuesday, December 14, 2021 through Wednesday, January 5, 2022. The Christmas Bird Count occurs December 14 to January 5 every year.  Sign up to receive information and results about all of Audubon’s community science programs through American Birds, our quarterly newsletter by email. 

BeeSpotter

BeeSpotter is a partnership between citizen scientists and the professional science community designed to educate the public about pollinators by engaging them in a data collection effort of importance to the nation. It is a Web-based portal at the University of Illinois for learning about honey bees and bumble bees and for contributing data to a nationwide effort to collect baseline information on the population status of these insects.

Bumble Bee Watch

Bumble Bee Watch is a collaborative effort to track and conserve North America’s bumble bees. This community science project allows for individuals to; Upload photos of bumble bees to start a virtual bumble bee collection; Identify the bumble bees in your photos and have your identifications verified by experts; Help researchers determine the status and conservation needs of bumble bees; Help locate rare or endangered populations of bumble bees; Learn about bumble bees, their ecology, and ongoing conservation efforts; and Connect with other community scientists.

Citizen Science Projects at the Field Museum

Projects include Monarch Community Science Project, Collections Club and Helping to Unlock Biodiversity.

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network

CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, is a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow). They use low-cost measurement tools, stress training and education and utilize an interactive Web site to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education and research applications. 

FrogWatch USA

FrogWatch USA™ is a citizen-science program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that invites individuals and families to learn about wetlands in their communities and help conserve amphibians by reporting data on the calls of local frogs and toads. AZA’s FrogWatch USA™ comprises a national network of skilled coordinators and volunteers who form a community with the goal of providing large-scale, long-term data on frogs and toads in the United States.

Great Backyard Bird Count

Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real time. More than 160,000 people join the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.

iNaturalist.org

Every observation can contribute to biodiversity science, from the rarest butterfly to the most common backyard weed. iNaturalist.org shares findings with scientific data repositories to help scientists find and use your data.

Monarch Watch

There are several ways for a classrooms to get involved with Monarch Watch. In addition to rearing monarchs, several ongoing research projects rely on student-scientist partnerships.

Project Squirrel

No matter where you live, city or suburb, from the Midwest to the East Coast, Canada to California, whether squirrels live in your neighborhood or not, you are encouraged to become a squirrel monitor. 

So, whether you’re a stay-at-home parent looking for something to do with the kids, or you’re a teacher looking for a cool project with your students, or a retiree looking for a new hobby, contributing to one of these projects would be very helpful and fulfilling.

To see more projects, check out the IDNR’s Citizen Science Programs, Lincoln Park Zoo and National Geographic.

Tomorrow, determining which is greener, shopping for your groceries on-line or in-person.

Eco-Friendly Flip Flops

Day 213 – I’m not a big fan of flip flops. I prefer my slip on sandals with socks. However, there are plenty of people that love flip flops. So, I thought, before summer ended, I would give a few sustainable options. These are definitely not your dollar store brands. They are high quality, so you can expect to spend more than a few bucks. Prices range from around $20-$50.

Indosole – These are recycled tire flip flops. The outsole is made from tire tread, and the straps are made out of a material called “ENVRO” fiber which uses little water in the process and gives off a leather-like feel. These flip flops do not use any animal by-products, they are cruelty free and does not contain any types of plastic and is also 100% waterproof. Indosole is a B-Corporation.

Original Cork Shop – Their flip flops are 100% cork, from the footbed to the straps, to the flexible and grippy rubber cork sole. Original Cork Shop keeps things local, Fair Trade, and cruelty free. Everything is 100% sourced and made at their base in Portugal, where the majority of the world’s cork trees are located.

Okabashi – Okabashi flip flops are a combination of 25% recycled materials and bio-based soy material that are free from any BPAs, latex, and phthalates. They’re not biodegradable but are fully recyclable via Okabashi’s own US-based recycling program. They are made in Buford, Georgia.

Waves – Waves uses 100% premium-grade natural rubber for their flip flops, making for a cushioned, grippy, and durable shoe. This natural rubber is sourced in Sri Lanka, where it doesn’t need to travel far for manufacturing, because they’re made there, as well. Waves flip flops are handcrafted under a “strict socially responsible manufacturing process” and in exchange for fair wages.

Fipper USA – All Fipper sandals are made from 100% natural Thai rubber, are biodegradable, anti-bacterial, BPA Free and vegan friendly.  

Whatever flip flop brand you choose, be sure the product is earth friendly. There are so many options out there. Going back to a non-recycled plastic pair just doesn’t make any sense.

Tomorrow, you can become a citizen scientist.

Plastic Free Doesn’t Have to Only Last a Month

Day 212 – July has come to an end and so has Plastic Free July. However, it doesn’t mean you have to stop making an effort to remove plastic from your everyday use. All month, I wrote about ways we can replace single-use plastic with reusable options. I wrote about companies using recycled plastic in their products to help minimize the plastic entering our landfills, oceans and waterways. Hopefully, it inspired you to make some changes and to encourage others to do the same.

Plastic Oceans has created a list of 9 things we can do to help end plastic pollution.

Continue to find ways to eliminate single-use plastic from your life. The fight for the health of our planet is far from over. Stay informed and consider receiving updates and newsletters from Plastic Ocean.

Tomorrow, summer’s not over yet, sustainable flip flops.

Reusable Takeout Containers

Day 211 – The number of plastic takeout containers we collect at the monthly Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycle Popup is significant. When I think about the number of plastic and polystyrene disposable takeout containers used day in and day out, across the city, the state, throughout the country, and around the planet, it makes my head hurt. There is a solution to this problem and people are beginning to take action.

In New York, the restaurant DIG (691 Broadway in Manhattan), has started a program called Canteen. Those who enroll in the program will install a smartphone app, Canteen by Dig, and consent to a fee of $3 a month for the service. In return, they’ll be able to take their lunch with them in a hard-shelled, reusable bowl made from black melamine, complete with a white plastic lid. 

Here’s how it works:

  1. Create your account to start using Canteen by Dig. A membership costs $3 per month and allows you to check out one bowl at a time.
  2. Enter the four digit location code and click “Use Canteen Bowl”. Show the Good to Go screen when you place your order to have it packaged in a Canteen Bowl.
  3. By using Canteen by Dig reusable bowls, you’re saving resources, energy, greenhouse gas emissions and single use trash from landfills.
  4. Return the bowl to a participating Dig location. Find the Canteen Bowl Return sign, Open your app, click on the “Return Your Canteen” and scan the QR code on the sign to check the bowl in. Leave the bowl in the designated return container.
  5. There is no limit to the number of times you can check out and return a Canteen Bowl each month, so reuse often.

Before there was Dig, there was Go Box. Go Box started offering reusable takeout containers at food carts in 2015. The program has expanded to include 110 restaurants and food vendors across Portland, Oregon. Consumers purchase monthly subscriptions, which start at $3.95 per month and show a QR code to participating food vendors to have their to-go orders packed in reusable containers. The used containers are deposited in drop boxes at restaurants and participating partners such as bike shops and banks; Go Box washes and sterilizes the reusable container before restocking with vendors.

Companies like RePlated are making reusable food containers for people who want to enjoy takeout, without feeling bad about waste. The containers are designed and made In Australia from recycled plastic. Each lunchbox saves eight soft drink bottles from landfill. RePlated helps businesses build flexible systems to make single-use plastic containers a thing of the past.

More and more companies are popping up to offer this service and it is one we desperately need. We can only hope that reusable takeout containers are not something we have to seek out, but will be part of our everyday takeout experience.

Tomorrow, a look back on Plastic Free July.

Ending the Need for Single-Use Cups

Day 210 – We have all used our share of disposable cups. Maybe it was at a baseball game, music festival, or backyard barbecue. Easily hundreds of cups tossed in the trash. Now multiply that by the billions of people that live on the planet and that is an insane amount of disposable cups sitting in landfills or floating in our oceans and waterways.

Finding a solution to the small events, like the backyard barbecue, isn’t too difficult. Just three days ago, Day 207, I wrote about Preserve. A company that sells plastic reusable cups that are dishwasher safe. However, what about those huge events and gatherings? That’s where Globelet comes in.

Globelet can be found in New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. Though it appears they are more active in New Zealand and Australia.

Here’s how their reusable system works.

  1. Their reusables are manufactured in New Zealand. They now have a range of cups that are made from 100% recycled bottle caps. Their goal is to switch all of their products to recycled materials.
  2. Globelet reusables get delivered to the venue, where they will be used.
  3. At the venue, the attendees purchase their first beverage in one of Globelet’s reusable cups and pay a deposit for it.
  4. Attendees enjoy their drink in one of Globelets various reusables; cup, stemless vino, bottled water, or coffee cup.
  5. Attendees can return their reusable product to the bars or assigned areas to receive a partial refund. They can also choose to keep it and reuse it.
  6. Globelet reusables get collected post event and head to the Better Future Factory to be washed and recounted.
  7. Reusables go through washing and drying machines designed to dry plastic and reduce water consumption.
  8. Cleaned products are stored or returned to the venue. Any damaged products get recycled.

Globelet has kept over 21 million disposable products from going to landfill and oceans for the last 8 years around New Zealand and Australia. This is a system that can easily work worldwide. However, to be successful, we need to change our behavior and realize that reusables need to replace disposables.

Tomorrow, from cups to takeout containers, continuing the talk on reusables.

100% Recyclable is a Fantasy

Day 209 – Unicorns, fairies and 100% recyclable can all be categorized as fantasy. Major companies are labeling their plastic bottles as 100% recyclable which then allows the consumer to drink without guilt, knowing once empty, their bottle will be successfully recycled.

Sadly, that is not the case. In an article in The Magazine of the Sierra Club, Edward Humes writes about, how big beverage companies are leading us to believe that we are being environmentally friendly be choosing their beverages packaged in “100% recyclable” plastic. The truth is they are more likely to end up in rivers, oceans, roadsides, landfills, and incinerators than inside any sort of recycled product.

“On June 16, 2021, federal lawsuits were filed by the Sierra Club and a group of California consumers against major bottled water manufacturers Coca-Cola, Niagara, and BlueTriton (a subsidiary of global giant Nestlé). The suits allege that these companies’ labeling and marketing claims about the full recyclability of their beverage bottles are not just a little off, but blatantly false and a violation of consumer and environmental protection laws. They accuse the three global beverage titans of unfair business practices, false advertising, consumer fraud, and violations of state environmental marketing claims laws and Federal Trade Commission regulations.” – Edward Humes

Here is the problem with the 100% recyclable claim:

  1. The US recycling system is currently unable to recycle even a quarter of those supposed 100% recyclable bottles.
  2. The US lacks the capacity to recycle more than 12% of the bottle caps.
  3. The portion that does get recycled is never “100% recyclable”—about 28% is lost to processing or contamination and ends up in landfills.  

The article goes on to say, “FTC Green Guide regulations state that a company can claim that a plastic bottle is recyclable only if recycling facilities for that type of plastic are available to at least 60 percent of the consumers or communities where the product is sold. Under 60 percent, and all recycling claims have to be qualified on the label—such as saying, for example, “This product is recyclable only in the few communities that have appropriate recycling facilities.”

So, a company claiming to have a 100% recyclable product, but is only recycling 25% of that product is lying to the public. These false claims also make it very difficult for the consumer to make good decisions when purchasing products.

The brands specifically called out in the suits for allegedly deceptive recycling labels include Dasani, Arrowhead, Poland Springs, Ozarka, and Deer Park (in both lawsuits), and Niagara, Costco Kirkland, Save Mart Sunny Select, and Save Mart Market Essentials.

The law suit hopes to stop the false claims of these bottled water companies. One can only hope that these manufacturers start to take responsibility for their products and begin to offer something that is more inline with a circular economy. We can not continue to dispose of billions and billions of plastic bottles every year, with the idea that they are being recycled. They are not! Until manufactures take responsibility, the consumer needs to make decisions that will benefit the planet. Less plastic bottles is the only answer.

Tomorrow, disposable cups can be a thing of the past.

Fun at the Beach

Day 208 – When you think about items you would need for the beach, I’m sure a towel is high on the list. Beach toys are also a must have. Children of all ages and even children at heart, love playing in the sand. Having good tools to dig those gigantic holes and build epic sandcastles is a must. Today’s post gives a few examples of towels and beach toys made from sustainable materials.

Beach Towels

Rupert and Bird – Each towel consists of fabric made primarily from recycled plastic bottles, equal to twenty-two bottles saved from the ocean or landfill. Each purchase contributes to 1% for the Planet. 

Nomadix – All products are made using certified post-consumer recycled plastic. Thirty plastic bottles equals one Nomadix towel. They also contribute to 1% For The Planet.

Evolve – Ultra-softexclusive Ecolite™ fabric is sustainably made from recycled plastic, with an average of 20 plastic bottles recycled to produce each sand free towel. 10% of all profits are donated to environmental charities. 

Beach Toys 

Love Lotte Eco Beach Toy Set – Made from bamboo fiber, this set is sturdy, but also biodegradable. So, in case anything goes missing, it will breakdown in the sand within 12 months and not become plastic waste. It’s a bit pricey for a beach toy, but knowing you are purchasing a sustainable product is well worth the $36.

Green Toys – I wrote about Green Toys on Day 152. Green Toys are made from 100% recycled plastic. They contain no BPA, phthalates, PVC, or external coatings. The toys are also dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. They have a wide range of bath/beach toys.

Rogue Wave Beach Toys – Pail and shovel is made from a certified compostable plant-based plastic. That means no petroleum, and no micro-plastics! Material is made in the US, BPA-free and oil-free. At the end of their very long life of play, they will compost back to soil in active landfills and commercial compost facilities.

Make your next trip to the beach a good one, for you and the planet.

Tomorrow, 100% recyclable is not exactly 100%.

Preserve: Reusable Plasticware

Day 207 – It may sound counterproductive to write about plasticware, especially during Plastic Free July. However, Preserve is not your typical plasticware. Preserve has been making products good for people and the planet since 1996.

Here are just a few of the ways Preserve is making a difference:

  1. Preserve’s plastic products are made from 100% recycled plastic.
  2. Preserve’s plastic products are dishwasher safe and made to last.
  3. Preserve’s products are made in the U.S.
  4. Preserve has a line of 100% compostable items that are plant based and gluten free.
  5. Preserve has a take back program called Gimme 5, which collects #5 plastic that they transform into new Preserve products.
  6. Preserve even takes back their own products that reach the end of their life. They then recycle and create new products from those items.
  7. Preserve is a Certified B Corporation.
  8. Preserve makes a line of products made from ocean plastic. Through sales of our POPi products, they support organizations that prevent plastic from reaching the ocean. 25% of proceeds from POPi products are donated to non-profits that work on issues including:
  • Developing better recycling systems around the world.
  • Researching the effects of plastic in the ocean and on marine life.
  • Creating catchment technologies (ways to trap plastic in waterways before it reaches the ocean).
  • Providing better end of life solutions for recovered and recycled packages that were heading for the ocean.

I recently purchased the On the Go Party Set (currently sold out) and couldn’t be happier with the product. The plates, cups and plasticware will be used for countless parties to come.

Tomorrow, fun at the beach is becoming more environmentally friendly.