Sustainable Phone Cases

Day 164 – Our household was in need of a couple new phone cases. There were numerous options for environmentally friendly phone cases. We decided to go with Pela.

Here are a few of the reasons we decided to purchase Pela phone cases.

  1. Their cases are 100% compostable. They will completely break down in 3 to 6 months, in proper composting conditions.
  2. They are Climate Neutral Certified. They offset and reduce all of their greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. They are a certified B-Corporation. B-Corporations have met the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
  4. They are a member of 1% for the Planet. They take 1% of their profits and donate to environmental organizations.
  5. Pela’s 360 program will take your old phone case (from another brand) for FREE to recycle or upcycle it for you and if it’s an old Pela case, they’ll upcycle it into a new Pela product or compost it for you.
  6. Pela offers a Screen Protection Guarantee Policy on almost all of their phone cases.

Pela also has Habitat, which offers a line of plastic free personal hygiene products. They also created Lomi, a countertop composter. Pela has a line of plastic free pet care products called Barxby. They also have a line of compostable sunglasses and blue light glasses, Pela Vision.

If you end up switching to a more sustainable phone case and the company does not offer to recycle your old case, be sure to check out TerraCycle’s PopSockets Recycling Program. Through this program you can recycle phone cases. You can also drop off your old phone cases at the Northcenter Neighborhood Association’s Recycle Popup. Our next popup is on June 19th.

We look forward to the arrival of our new environmentally friendly phone cases. They should be arriving any day!

Tomorrow, our first farmer’s market experience.

Children’s Clothing: Grow. Recycle. Repeat.

Day 162 – On Day 61, I listed some options for clothes that have been worn out and are not suitable for donation. There are numerous places that will take and recycle your well lived clothes. Today, I wanted to include another option for you.

Carter’s has partnered with TerraCycle to recycle your child’s worn out clothing. Any non-donatable baby & kid clothing (newborn – size 14) brands are welcome. However, no shoes or accessories, at this time.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Sign up for the program. If you don’t have a TerraCycle account yet, create one here! To earn reward points and ensure your points can be tracked and awarded, use the email address on your Carter’s Rewarding Moments account. (Take a peek at your Carter’s account or sign up to be a member  here.)
  2. Fill a box with the baby and kids clothes you don’t plan to hand down or donate.
  3. Log into your account, download and print your FREE shipping label.
  4. Seal your box, affix the printed shipping label and drop it off at any UPS location.

Be sure to ship when your box is full to minimize the transportation carbon footprint for this program. Be sure the clothes are dry. Once collected, the clothing is separated by fabric type, shredded, and recycled into materials that are used for stuffing in workout equipment and furniture, as well as for home insulation.

So, there is no reason to throw out your child’s old clothes if they can not be donated. Those torn pants and stained shirts can be given a new life.

Tomorrow, the advantages to wildland farming.

Eyewear: Options for donating and recycling

Day 157 – About 60% of the world’s population needs some kind of corrective lenses. That ends up being a lot of eyeglasses and contacts being worn and eventually tossed. Thankfully, there are places to donate your eyewear and recycle your contacts.

Eyeglasses

The organization you donate to will inspect the glasses, determine the prescription, and clean the eyewear so it can be used again. Your old glasses will then get matched to someone who needs them — around the world or in your neighborhood.

  1. Lions Club International – They operate a network of collection boxes and Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centers, where volunteers process donated glasses for distribution through medical missions around the world.
  2. New Eyes – A United Way agency, buys new glasses for people in need in the United States. It also accepts, processes and distributes gently used donated eyeglasses to people overseas. New Eyes accepts used prescription glasses, reading glasses, sunglasses, safety glasses and children’s glasses in good to excellent condition.
  3. OneSight -An independent nonprofit that has helped more than 9 million people in 46 countries. They set up permanent vision centers and hold charitable clinics around the world. While OneSight dispenses only new eyewear to patients, they accept donations of used eyewear and send it to Lions Clubs International in support of their recycling programs.
  4. Eyes of Hope – Vision insurer VSP Global provides access to no-cost eye care and eyewear for more than 2 million people around the world. They accept donations of new and gently used eyewear.

Contacts

You can recycle your contacts and their packaging through TerraCycle’s Free Recycling Program. Just type in your zip code and you will be given a list of participating eye care facilities that will take your used contact lenses and packaging.

You can drop off your old eyeglasses and used contacts at the Northcenter Neighborhood Association’s Recycle Popup. Eyeglasses will be donated to the Lions Club and contacts will be recycled through TerraCycle. Our next popup will be on Saturday, June 19th.

So, on this National Eyewear Day, consider passing on those old eyeglasses to someone in need and give them the gift of good eyesight.

Tomorrow, keeping our food safe, locally and globally.

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.

GotSneakers: Recycling shoes and raising funds

Day 151 – On Day 62, I gave a list of options to donate or recycle your shoes. Well today, I have another option for you. This one can bring you a little extra cash.

“At GotSneakers, we’re making it socially and financially rewarding to contribute to a circular economy with our FREE sneaker recycling programs for individual sellers and organizations of all types and sizes. When you join our sneaker recycling community, you will be making a global impact AND you will earn money for every pair of sneakers you contribute.” – GotSneakers

If your an individual seller, hosting a fundraiser, or part of a retail program, GotSneakers can fit your needs. Signup is easy and FREE. Just let GotSneakers know how many bags you need and if you need more they will send more. Once your bags arrive, fill them up with your sneakers (only sneakers), seal the bags and drop them off at either UPS or FedEx. Your prepaid postage will specify as to which service you will need to use.

All sneakers collected are recirculated to people who want quality, reusable footwear at affordable prices or repurposed into new surfaces such as playgrounds and tracks. Each pair will be professionally evaluated by GotSneakers’ trained staff, to determine the quality, style, and brand of each pair of footwear. You can check out the compensation chart HERE.

The Northcenter Neighborhood Association Monthly Recycle Popup, will be collecting sneakers, starting on June 19th. We will be using GotSneakers and hopefully raise a few dollars to put toward our recycling efforts.

Tomorrow, the problem with plastic toys.

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.

Never Go Anywhere Without Your Towel

Day 145“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon…” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Today is Towel Day! I wasn’t sure what that exactly meant. So, I read up on the holiday that has been celebrated for 19 years. Fans of Douglas Adams (English author, screenwriter, essayist, humorist, satirist and dramatist) created the day to honor the beloved author after his untimely death due to a heart attack at the age of 49.

In his book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (which I have heard of, but have never read), Douglas writes about towels being the most helpful item for an interstellar traveler. So, it made perfect sense to me that I would use today’s post to talk about all the great ways to reuse or repurpose your old towels.

  1. The most obvious reuse option is to turn old towels into cleaning rags.
  2. You could sew numerous towels together to create a large blanket for outdoor use.
  3. Old towels may not be great for drying things, but they are still good for washing things, like the dishes.
  4. Turn them into baby bibs.
  5. Call or email your local animal shelter and see if they could use towels.
  6. Change out your Swiffer pads with pieces from your old towels. Once you’re done cleaning the house, pop them in the washer to be used again. You can’t do that with Swiffer.
  7. Turn your old towels into a knee pad. Whether, you make one for each knee or a large one for both knees, having a little extra cushion while gardening or cleaning, is helpful for the knees.
  8. Use old towels to cut down the cold draft seeping underneath the doors.
  9. Old towels can keep your fragile belongings safe. Whether your moving to a new home or just looking to store a few things away. Towels will help cushion the move.
  10. When the life of the towel has come to the end, the Chicago Textile Recycling Center will take it.

So, don’t go anywhere without your towel. Not only will it help you on an interstellar trip, but they have so many great uses.

Tomorrow, green refrigerator options.

Tires: Where do they end up?

Day 144 – Back in the day, tires were thrown in a pile or in a landfill. There wasn’t much recycling going on. As the piles got larger and the landfills more crowded, new practices to address old tires were adopted.

So, here is where your old tires end up:

  1. The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association reported that in 2019, 43% of annual scrap tire generation was burned for energy, also known as tire-derived fuel (TDF). More than 40% of TDF goes to cement kilns, but other uses include paper factories and electric companies.
  2. Shredding tires to prepare for scrap tire generation recovers much of the metal in a tire, such as the rim and lead weights used for balance. The metal can be extracted and recycled, leaving crumb rubber to use as fuel.
  3. Crumb rubber can be used as the surface for playgrounds because its soft padding helps prevent injuries. Though there has been some debate about the safety of using crumb rubber, the EPA has conducted studies and has concluded that human exposure to toxins released by the tires is limited.
  4. Old tires even have a purpose in construction. Rubberized asphalt can be used to make longer-lasting roads that produce less traffic noise and is popular in many states.
  5. Rubber from tires is used in running tracks because it causes less stress on runner’s legs.
  6. Tires can also be recycled into new tires. This option is expensive and not the most practical. Hopefully, this option becomes more cost effective as the technology improves.

Thankfully, as a consumer, we don’t have to do much when it comes to recycling tires. Most tire retailers include the cost of recycling into the cost of new tires. You can also check out the list of used tire processors, shared on the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency‘s webpage.

A nice tire swing is always an option, too!