I want to ride my bicycle…

Day 154“I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike, I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like.”

Bicycle Race, was just one of the many songs I enjoyed listening to, off my Queen’s Greatest Hits album, when I was a kid. Couldn’t help think of that song while getting ready to write today’s post.

It’s World Bicycle Day! It’s the day where we celebrate all the wonderful benefits of riding a bicycle.

GearHungry.com came up with a list of 23 benefits of bicycle riding. I thought I would share five of them.

  1. Cycling Helps You Get in Shape – Perhaps the most compelling reason to ride a bicycle from a personal perspective is the fact that doing so can help you lose excess weight and improve your cardiovascular health. 
  2. Riding Your Bicycle Improves Mental Acuity – When you exercise your heart muscle by riding your bicycle all that blood surging through your veins is carrying oxygen it’s picking up in the lungs, which are also getting a good workout. That oxygen rich blood is then distributed to your brain where it helps you become more alert and mentally sharp.
  3. Cycling Can Save the Planet – Leaving the car home and taking the bicycle to work is one important step we can each take to putting the human race on a path toward sustainability and making sure we leave our grandkids a world every bit as beautiful as the one we grew up in.
  4. Riding Your Bike Saves Money – No tank to fill, no parking to pay for, no meter maids to deal with and no duals to the death with other drivers whose nerves have been frayed to the breaking point. 
  5.  Riding Your Bike will Help You Sleep Better – Getting out on the bike on a regular basis helps work off the stress and tire you out so you can get a proper night’s sleep.

And you’re going to want to start getting out on your bike, so you can prepare yourself for the ride of a lifetime. The Great American Rail Trail will span across 12 different states from coast to coast, enabling cyclists to travel safely and efficiently, avoiding any and all car and pedestrian traffic. The path will span 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles), starting in Washington State, heading west through Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and finally, Maryland, where it will end in Washington D.C. The trail will hopefully be opening in the next year or two. Check out the route HERE.

So, get out there and ride your bike. Ride it where you like.

Tomorrow, ideas on where to donate a bicycle.

From Plastic Toys to Children’s Furniture

Day 153 – Co-founders Vanessa Yuan and Joris Vanbriel started ecoBirdy (Certified B-Corporation), a Belgium company that recycles old toys into furniture, as a way to reduce plastic waste. ecoBirdy collects toys from schools and recycling centers.

Check out the VIDEO to see how they do it.

“Recycled plastic products are usually recognized as being greyish, dullish and not very attractive. Our aim was to change this, and make something colorful out of the colorful plastic waste. Following an in-depth two-year study period, ecoBirdy created a special production process that gives the characteristic look to its products. The material resulting from this unique production process we named ecothylene®. Due to accurate sorting and using state-of-the-art technology, we are able to transform post-consumer plastic waste into high-grade raw material. The patented technology features integrated material separation and an improved binding formula for polymers. The result is that no pigments or new plastics need to be added. Making ecothylene® is significantly more eco-friendly than most recycling procedures for plastics.” – ecoBirdy

The recycled plastic used for the production of ecothylene® is 100% recyclable. Which means that ecothylene® can easily be recycled again.

The plastic waste goes through several stages.

  1. The collected plastic waste is brought to our partner, a professional recycling center.
  2. Every single object is manually checked.
  3. The volume is ground to smaller fragments and washed.
  4. Precise sorting is conducted automatically.
  5. Lab quality control is carried out.

Throughout the whole production process, the material is checked by people as well as machines to avoid contamination. 

The end product is safe and stylish children’s furniture that is helping keep plastic toys out of the landfill. We can only hope that more manufacturers will see the benefits of using recycled materials. As consumers, we can also help by supporting companies that put the planet first, but also by making good decisions when purchasing products. All you have to ask, “Does this product have a negative effect on the planet?”

Tomorrow, celebrating World Bicycle Day.

Plastic Toys: It’s not all fun and games

Day 152 – One of my least favorite toys that I had to assemble for my children was a kitchen. A rather large, plastic kitchen. All the pieces were attached and had to be separated before they could be reassembled to resemble a kitchen set. I did it all by myself on a Christmas Eve and it was absolutely the worst. However, the kids loved it! And when it’s all said and done, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Well, I sure drank the KoolAid on that misconception. Most of us don’t give much thought about the cheap, plastic toys we purchase for our children or young people in our lives. Our main concern is usually their happiness. So, we spend our money on toys that will most likely not even last a year and will end up in the trash.

About 90% of today’s toys are made from plastic. Sadly, most of the plastic is not recyclable. Think about the plastic toys you played with as a kid. Those same toys are still sitting in a landfill somewhere and will be there for centuries to come.

So, what are our options when looking to purchase toys?

Find toys made from other materials, like wood, cotton, metal or natural rubber

Companies like Big Future Toys and Begin Again Toys are finding other ways to produce fun and entertaining toys without the use of plastic.

Find toys made from recycled material

Companies like Green Toys and Luke’s Toy Factory are using recycled material to create their toys.

Find toys with take back programs

Numerous toy manufacturers are taking back their toys. If you have toys that have reached the end of their life, from any of the following companies, you can ship them, at no cost, to be recycled. Be sure to check out the list of accepted toys for each program.

Hasbro

V-Tech

Leap Frog

SpinMaster

Matel

Lego

*The Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycle Popup collects all the toys listed here. The next popup is June 19th.

Find alternatives to toys

Another great option to avoid plastic toys, is to give the gift of an experience. Maybe it’s a trip to the bowling alley, or the arcade. A movie with all the popcorn and candy you can eat, a hike in a beautiful wooded area, or a day at the waterpark, would all make awesome gifts.

So, the next time you are faced with the challenge of finding that perfect gift consider avoiding the cheap plastic toys. There are so many great alternatives out there. You just need to look.

Tomorrow, a company that has found a purpose for the plastic from discarded children toys.

Footwear: Sustainable options

Day 150 – If you read this title and thought I would be sharing a variety of footwear options, like heels, boots or nice dress shoes, sorry. My footwear consists of gym shoes. Thankfully, I do not have many opportunities to wear anything different. So, today’s post is a list of sustainable gym shoes, also known as sneakers. What? Sustainable gym shoes? Yes, they do exist and they just might find their way on to your feet in the future. While researching for this post, I purchased my first eco-friendly gym shoe. I can’t wait for my new shoes to arrive!

This list consists of shoes good for running, while other are better for walking. It is by no means a complete list. There are many sustainable brands out there. Which is a good thing. I’m always a bit shocked by the price of athletic shoes. The cost of these sustainable brands are comparable to non-sustainable brands.

Allbirds – Allbirds uses wool from merino wool. With fibers that are 20% the diameter of human hair, superfine merino wool is breathable, temperature-regulating, and moisture-wicking, all without that irritating scratchiness. Shoelaces are made from recycled plastic bottles. Castor bean oil helps increase the natural content in their insoles. Their packaging is made from 90% recycled cardboard. They are a B-Corporation. They offset all emissions to operate as a carbon neutral business.

Adidas & Parley -Adidas has partnered with Parlay, whose technology turns plastic into high-performance fabrics. Adidas has a goal to use no virgin polyester by 2024. They have created a line of shoes and apparel. Adidas also has a take back program, which will recycle material from old shoes to be used in their new shoes.

Merrell – Merrell is beginning to incorporate more sustainable practices into their shoe making process. Instead of using virgin polyester, they are using material created from plastic bottles. They are incorporating post-industrial scrap rubber into the soles of some of their shoes (Gridway collection). They use EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) from the midsole manufacturing process in a variety of their shoes.

Newton Running – Boulder, Colorado-based Newton Running is the leader in performance running shoes that promote gait efficiency for people at all levels of the sport, from first-time 5k runners to seasoned marathoners. In addition to its devotion to help people run better, Newton Running is committed to corporate responsibility through sustainability efforts and through the support of numerous charitable organizations and has been nationally recognized for these efforts.

Icebug – Since 2019, Icebug is the first climate positive outdoor footwear brand. From 2020 onwards, they’re offsetting 200% of carbon emissions caused. They are a 1% for the Planet member. They have reduced the number of different materials they use and switched to less environmentally harmful alternatives. Whenever it’s possible, they use recycled material.

Nothing New – With every pair of sneakers produced, 5.6 plastic bottles are repurposed & 160 gallons of water are saved. They are committed to purchasing “carbon offsets” from verified emissions reduction projects to offset the emission created from shipping their shoes. Their shoes are made from 100% sustainable materials. They offer a take back program, where you send your shoes back to Nothing New, they’ll pay for shipping and give you $20 off your next purchase.

Arbor Collective – Arbor’s footwear collection is produced from low-emissions factories and features repurposed materials like their Rubber Regrind and recycled materials such as their polyester fabrics and paper packaging. With every purchase of Arbor footwear, a portion of the proceeds is donated towards their Returning Roots program, which assists in the preservation of the Koa forests in Hawaii.

SAOLA – Depending on the style, each pair of SAOLA shoes contains between 3 and 7 recycled PET bottles. SAOLA insoles and many of the shoes’ outsoles are made with recycled Algae Foam. SAOLA has partnered with the team at Bloom Foam to harvest harmful algae and create eco-friendly, bio-sourced materials for the insoles and outsoles of their shoes. They use organic cotton for their shoelaces. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers are replaced by natural compost, and this cotton requires half as much water as traditional cotton. SAOLA is also a member of 1% for the Planet.

I’m very excited for my SAOLA shoes to arrive! This company is super impressive, the shoes look good and the price fit my budget. Looking forward to taking another step to helping the planet.

Tomorrow, another great option for recycling your sneakers.

National Learn About Composting Day

Day 149 – I can’t tell you how happy it makes me when I hear someone has started to compost. A friend, my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law have all started composting at home using commercial composting. They have made the decision to reduce their carbon footprint by diverting food from the landfill and helping create nutrient rich soil, instead.

Today is National Learn About Composting Day! I have spent the last 6 months telling anyone who wants to listen, how awesome it has been to compost our food scraps and many other nonfood items. On Day 2, way back on January 2nd, I posted about how my family started composting using a commercial composter. I wrote about the ease of the entire process and how it’s not as labor intensive as composting at home. Now, if creating an at home compost pile is up your alley, I highly encourage you to go for it. However, if you’re like me, the simpler the better and commercial composting is the answer!

  1. We spend the week filling our bucket with our food scraps. We have a smaller receptacle on the counter that collects our scraps on a daily basis. Once, the smaller bin is filled, it is dumped in the 5 gallon bucket provided by WasteNot Compost (for $10 a week). The 5 gallon bucket is kept in the basement, where it is nice and cool.
  2. On Thursday mornings (the day assigned to us) the bucket goes out on the front porch. WasteNot picks up the bucket and leaves us a clean and sanitized, empty bucket.
  3. No liners are needed, in either the countertop bin or the 5 gallon bucket.
  4. Not only can all of your food waste go into the bin, but so can napkins, paper towels, wood toothpicks, popsicle sticks (wooden), pizza boxes, compostable wrappers, and soiled paper products.

The United States discards more food than any other country in the world: nearly 80 billion pounds, every year. That’s estimated to be 30-40% of the entire U.S. food supply. While these numbers seem difficult to comprehend and the situation seems out of control. We, the consumers, can help. We can decrease the greenhouse gases emitted from food waste, by keeping our scraps out of the landfill. According to the World Wildlife Federation, the production of wasted food in the United States is equivalent to the greenhouse emissions of 37 million cars.

There is no doubt that food waste is a global problem and it’s going to take consumers (produce 43% of food waste), restaurants, grocery stores, food service companies (40%), farms (16%) and manufacturers (2%) to work together to first, reduce our food waste and secondly, keep it out of landfills.

So, on this National Learn About Composting Day, take a little time to consider either starting your own compost pile or check out the numerous composting companies that will be happy to do all the work for you.

  1. WasteNot Compost – north side of Chicago
  2. Collective Resource Compost – Chicago and suburbs
  3. Healthy Soil Compost – south side of Chicago
  4. The Urban Canopy – Chicago and suburbs
  5. Northshore Composting – North Shore (Chicago suburbs)
  6. Block Bins – Chicago and suburbs – A great option for entire blocks to chip in on one bin!

What are you waiting for?

Tomorrow, sustainable options in footwear.

Costa Rica Plans to Eliminate Single Use Plastics. Why can’t the U.S.?

Day 148 – Costa Rica hopes to be the first country to eliminate single use plastics. In 2020, President Carlos Alvarado Quesada announced the ambitious plan at his inauguration. He wants to achieve this goal this year, 2021. It does seem like an impossible achievement, but Costa Rica has proven time and time again that they are committed to finding ways to protect and preserve their country. Costa Rica has been an example to the world by reversing deforestation and doubling its forest cover from 26% in 1984 to more than 52% in 2020. They also get almost 99% of their energy from renewable sources. The country uses resources like rivers, volcanos, geothermal, solar, and wind power to make energy.

The plan to eliminate single use plastics consists of 5 strategic axes:

  1. Municipal incentives
  2. Policies and institutional guidelines for suppliers
  3. Replacement of single-use plastic products
  4. Research and development
  5. Investment in strategic initiatives

In June of last year, the country officially launched its national strategy to replace the consumption of single use plastics for renewable and water-soluble alternatives. All single-use items must be recyclable or biodegradable. Petroleum based single-use items will not be allowed in Costa Rica.

So, why wouldn’t this work in the U.S.?

In an article published by NPR on May 18, 2021, a report by Australia’s Minderoo Foundation is discussed. The report offers one of the fullest accountings, to date, of the companies behind the production of single-use plastics. The study identifies 20 companies as the source of 55% of the world’s single-use plastic waste, while the top 100 companies account for more than 90%.

“At the top of what the foundation calls its “Plastic Waste Makers Index” is the energy giant Exxon Mobil, followed by the Dow Chemical Co. and China’s Sinopec. The report found that Exxon Mobil was responsible for 5.9 million metric tons of such waste in 2019, while Dow and Sinopec contributed 5.6 million and 5.3 million, respectively. Taken together, the three companies account for 16% of all waste from single-use plastics such as bottles, bags and food packaging, according to the report.”NPR

Big business and big money is preventing the U.S. from making any headway in the fight to eliminate single use plastics.

“The report also traced the money invested in the production of single-use plastics, finding that 20 institutional asset managers hold shares worth close to $300 billion in the parent companies that make up the foundation’s rankings. The top three investors are U.S.-based Vanguard Group, BlackRock and Capital Group, which according to the report have an estimated $6 billion invested in the production of single-use plastics.” – NPR

Until, the U.S. can get everyone on board (government, industry, and consumers), we will never be able to accomplish what Costa Rica plans to do and will most likely be successful in doing, saying goodbye to single-use plastics forever.

Tomorrow, celebrating National Learn About Composting Day.

Sunscreen: Protecting you and the planet

Day 147 – When I thought about putting on sunscreen, I didn’t give much thought about the brand or what was in it. I just slapped it on and went about my day. However, this technique has become problematic with each passing year.

So, on this National Sunscreen Day, also known as “Don’t Fry Day“, I wanted to encourage everyone to wear sunscreen, but also consider a brand that is Earth friendly.

What is an Earth friendly sunscreen?

“Sunscreen ends up in the ocean and other waterways after you swim or shower it off. Common ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, nano titanium dioxide, and nano zinc oxide can harm coral reefs and sea creatures. That’s why in 2018, Hawaii became the first state to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. And the Surfrider Foundation is campaigning for a federal bill that would ban those sunscreens from national marine sanctuaries.” – Sierra Club

It is clear that these chemicals are harmful to ocean life. However, it is unclear if these chemicals are harmful to us. Oxybenzone and octinoxate can be absorbed by the body and have shown up in everything from urine to breast milk. Personally, I do not need further studies to know I would rather not have chemicals in my body that are not supposed to be there in the first place.

A compiled a list from various sources of sunscreens that are good for you, the environment and your wallet.

  1. Raw Elements – Click HERE to read more about Raw Elements products.
  2. Bare Republic – Click HERE to read more about Bare Republic products.
  3. Think Sport – Click HERE to read more about Think Sport products.
  4. Badger – Click HERE to read more about Badger Balm.
  5. Coppertone Pure & Simple – Click HERE to read more about Coppertone Pure & Simple.
  6. Alba Botanica – Click HERE to learn about Alba Bontanica products.
  7. Wax Head – Click HERE to learn more about Wax Head products.
  8. Juice Beauty – Click HERE to learn more about Juice Beauty products.
  9. Banana Boat – Click HERE to learn more about Banana Boat reef friendly products.
  10. All Good – Click HERE to learn more about All Good products.

For more guidance when choosing a sunscreen, check out the Environmental Working Group’s guide to sunscreens.

I have All Good sunscreen on the way for our summertime needs. All Good is a B-Corporation, 1% for the Planet, Leaping Bunny Certified, Reef Friendly, Certified Organic Ingredients, Climate Neutral, Woman owner and founded company and use wild land farming techniques. WOW! Do I need to say more?

While you’re shopping for sunscreen this summer, don’t just keep your own safety in mind. Think about the bigger picture, as well.

Tomorrow, Costa Rica is making big changes and the U.S. needs to follow in their footsteps.

How Energy Efficient is Your Refrigerator?

Day 146 – The EPA says you should replace most appliances after 10 years. However, some appliances may last a little longer than others. I’ve been through a couple washer and dryers in that time frame, but the refrigerator is still plugging along. Energy Star has created a calculator for refrigerators to figure out if the savings justify the cost of replacement.

“If all refrigerators sold in the United States were Energy Star certified, the energy cost savings would grow to nearly $700 million each year and 9 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented, equivalent to the emissions from more than 870,000 vehicles.”Earth911

Earth911 created a Buyer’s Guide for the most efficient refrigerators. They compared ten of the most efficient standard-sized options from Energy Star’s 2021 Most Efficient list that are currently available for purchase.

If you are in the market for a new refrigerator make sure your old one gets recycled. Many retailers will take your old refrigerator when dropping off your new one. Be sure to ask about their recycling practices.

Lastly, whether if your refrigerator is brand new or has been around for few years here are some good tips from Earth911, to keep it running efficiently.

  1. Refrigerators should be set to 35-38 degrees Fahrenheit and freezers to 0 F.
  2. If your kitchen layout permits it, the refrigerator should be positioned away from heat sources such as ovens, dishwashers, or direct sunlight from a window.
  3. Position the fridge a few inches from the wall to allow air circulation.
  4. Don’t store stuff on top of the fridge.
  5. Clean the condenser coils a few times a year.
  6. If the door seals lose their airtightness, replace them.
  7. Only store food in closed containers to keep the moisture levels low.
  8. Keep the refrigerator three-quarters full but organized, so you don’t waste time looking for things with the door open.

We don’t think about them, until the electricity goes out. But, our refrigerators are working hard for us everyday. We should make sure we are doing what we can to make them as efficient as possible.

Tomorrow, eco-friendly sunscreens.

The Pros and Cons of Solar Energy

Day 142 – Now more than ever, we are in need of renewable energy sources. We have reached a moment in time where real change needs to happen or we (the human race) will be unable to recover from our destructive ways. Solar Energy is one of those renewable energy sources. I have seen countless ads in my social media feeds for solar panels. I thought I would look at the pros and cons of solar energy.

Let’s start with the CONS:

  1. Solar panels are not very efficient – The solar panels on the market, today, are only able to convert about 17-21% of the sunlight collected into electricity. That is a lot better than in the past, but still rather low. Scientists have found a way to increase the efficiency to 50%, but the cost is not practical for commercial use. We can only hope that like many technological breakthroughs, the cost will come down.
  2. Recycling solar panels is difficult – Even though solar panels are relatively recyclable, the infrastructure to handle the recycling is lacking in the U.S. “The European Union holds PV module (solar panels) installers accountable for their electronic waste and requires solar producers to recycle, and Japan holds project developers and owners liable for waste disposal and requires payment into a decommissioning fund. However, there is a vacuum when it comes to U.S. federal leadership on solar recycling and treatment of end-of-life PV modules. For now, the future of solar panel recycling is in the hands of the states.”PV Magazine
  3. Not all solar panel companies are eco-friendly – You would think that any business selling solar panels would be environmentally friendly. However, that is not always the case. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition produces a solar scorecard that ranks companies based on sustainability.
  4. Solar batteries are expensive – Solar batteries are needed to store the energy converted by the solar panels. Unfortunately, solar batteries can add an additional cost of $8,000 to $10,000. Solar batteries are recyclable, but like solar panels, the U.S. lacks the facilities capable of recycling them.

The PROS:

  1. Community solar farms are becoming more popularCommunity solar farms allow a group of people to go in on solar energy. This is nice for renters or homeowners in heavily shaded areas.
  2. There are more reputable solar panel companies – Even though one of the cons was that not all solar panel companies are eco-friendly, it is a pro that there are many more environmentally friendly companies than there are unfriendly.
  3. Tax credits help with the overall cost “The 26% federal solar tax credit has been extended through the end of 2022. This solar incentive is available for both residential and commercial solar systems. A tax credit is more valuable to the taxpayer than a write-off because it is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes owed. In addition, businesses can get solar tax write-offs, further reducing the total cost of installing a solar system. For the project to be eligible, the solar system must be purchased. Thus, many community solar farm memberships, solar leases, and power purchase agreements do not qualify.”Earth911
  4. Accessing a free source of energy – Currently, there is no fee to access the sun’s energy. Along with the fact that it is a renewable source of energy. Using it will help decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
  5. Low maintenance cost – Once installed, solar panels can be maintained for as little as $300 per year (even if a professional cleaning company is used). Additionally, companies providing solar panels usually offer warranties, which further helps to minimize costs.
  6. Decrease electrical bills – Solar panels can help both companies and individuals keep their electric bills low. Traditional sources of electricity only need to be used during times when, for an extended period, the sun isn’t out, or during months when hours of available sunlight are restricted.

There is a lot to think about when deciding if solar panels are right for your home or business. This information is just the beginning of the process. If you do decide to contact a solar panel company be sure to ask questions about the issues discussed in the list of CONS.

Tomorrow, lawn furniture made from recycled plastic.

Extending the Life of Your Cell Phone

Day 141 – There are close to 300 million smartphone users in the United States (Statista). Now take half that number and that’s how many smartphones are tossed in the trash each year. And that’s just phones. When you include all the other kinds of e-waste, the number goes into the billions. On Day 72, I shared a list of electronics that Best Buy will take and recycle. On Day 132, I shared a few places that will accept your usable electronics and places where your electronics can be recycled.

What if we could extend the life of our electronics? Today’s post shares some ideas on how you can extend the life of your cell phone. Considering the hefty price tag of cell phones, it would be helpful to find ways to hold on to them a little longer.

Earth911 came up with some suggestions:

  1. If you phone is operating slowly, free up some storage space, by deleting unneeded apps, photos and videos.
  2. Power down your phone at least once a week and leave it off for at least a minute or two.
  3. Protect your phone with a sturdy case and screen protector.
  4. If in the market for a new phone, purchase one with high repairability score. You can use the iFixit Smartphone Repairability scores for guidance.
  5. Consider replacing the battery before ditching the entire phone.
  6. Don’t feel pressured to purchase a new phone. If you don’t need it, don’t allow your cell phone carriers to convince you that you do.

Shiny and new are hard to resist. However, sustainability is so much cooler.

Tomorrow, the pros and cons of solar power.