Zero Emissions Day

Day 264 – The worldwide movement known as Zero Emissions Day, or ZeDay, began on September 21st, 2008, and aims to encourage the use of renewable energy sources to “give the planet a day off” from emissions.

Here are some ways you can celebrate the day:

  1. Consider riding your bike or car pooling today.
  2. Consider utilizing solar or battery (rechargeable) operated devices.
  3. Consider making meals that can be made with minimal energy or no energy at all, like a salad.

Does reducing emissions really make an impact?

The Environmental Protection Agency has developed a Greenhouse Gases Equivalencies Calculator which shows the equivalencies for energy-related emissions reductions so each individual can see their impact as it relates to their lifestyle. 

Even though Zero Emissions Day is celebrated only once a year, it is definitely something we need to work towards to achieve on a daily basis. The only way we will be able to combat global warming is to reduce the green house gasses being emitted into the atmosphere. Achieving zero emissions will be a game changer.

To read about 10 ways to help your home achieve net zero emissions click HERE.

Tomorrow, cutting out plastic cutlery.

Do Sustainable Plastics Exist?

Day 263Better Future Factory believes they do and they want to help brands and businesses reduce, reuse and recycle plastics. They believe that a circular economy for plastics can exist.

Their services include:

  1. By gaining insight into your current plastic use, they find out how to make your products and packaging future proof.
  2. They help you to build an actionable plastic strategy for the years to come.
  3. They design & engineer new or redesign existing products and packaging, fit for the circular economy.
  4. They make the circular economy tangible by creating iconic products from discarded plastics.

Their mission is to have no more plastic wasted.

The categories in which they have done work include:

  1. Artwork
  2. Consumer Products
  3. Furniture and Retail
  4. Packaging Design

They have made artwork from old file folders. They developed the perfect packaging for Packback, a Dutch start-up revolutionizing the home delivery and take-away market with a reusable packaging system. Packback takes the packaging back, cleans it and brings it back in the loop. As experts in plastics recycling they pushed their skills to go bigger and they 3D-printed a set of stools, a bar table and a reception desk from recycled PET bottles. They were then placed in the entrance hall of an office building in Rotterdam, Netherlands. They worked with Erno Lazlo (New York based skin-care brand) to develop their Clean & Sustainable 2020 initiative for packaging. The first sustainable improvements have been implemented and available for customers, e.g. a soap bar wrapped in paper instead of a plastic box, a reusable soap dish made from the old soap bar plastic boxes and a fully recyclable cap for their iconic jars.

Better Future Factory exists to help the plastic waste problem. More companies need to recognize the problem and start to take responsibility for the products they produce for consumers.

Tomorrow, zero emissions day.

Facts About Food Waste

Day 262 – Back on Day 216, I wrote about the app, Too Good To Go. The app connects people with perfectly good food that bakeries, restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses are trying to sell before being tossed in the trash. The food is offered at a reduced price, giving consumers a great opportunity to rescue food at a discount.

Well, that same app is also a great source of information. The Food Waste Knowledge Hub offers a great deal of information about food waste.

They cover various questions about food waste:

  1. What is food waste?
  2. Where is food wasted?
  3. Why is food wasted?
  4. What food is wasted?
  5. Why is food waste a problem?
  6. Where does food waste go in the end?

By being informed you will discover important information about why food waste needs to be a priority for everyone.

  1. Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted, approximately 1.6 billion tons.
  2. That means within a year, we waste around 51 tons every second.
  3. Up to 40% of all food produced in the US is currently wasted and 83% of this is either wasted in food services such as restaurants and hotels, or at home. Currently, a whopping 63 million tons of food is not recycled or recovered, but instead heads to landfill, is incinerated, or remains unharvested.
  4. Food waste occurs at all stages from farm to fork.
  5. The most wasted type of food is fruit and vegetables. Almost half of all fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers are wasted along the supply chain, while one third of all fish and seafood never make it to our plate.
  6. Up to two-fifths of all fruit and vegetable crops are wasted because they are ‘ugly’.
  7. Our food system, and with it food waste, is the number one contributing factor that drives this threatening change in nature through land use change, pollution, and climate change.
  8. More than 70 billion tons of Green House Gases could be prevented from being released into the atmosphere, if we cut down on food waste.
  9. Together, the world’s top five meat and dairy corporations are now responsible for more annual GHG  emissions than Exxon, Shell or BP.
  10. Currently, in the U.S, a whooping 63 million tons of food is not recycled or recovered, but instead heads to landfill, is incinerated, or remains unharvested.

In order to understand the problem, you need to have the information. Spend a little time educating yourself. Most people don’t understand that food waste is a global issue that has a serious impact on our planet and our overall well-being.

What are you doing to fight the war against food waste?

Tomorrow, sustainable plastic products.

The Story of Stuff

Day 261 – In 2007, Annie Leonard released her first documentary, The Story of Stuff. It was created to start a conversation about the crazy consumption culture we live in. Since then, dozens of animated shorts and documentaries have been produced that chart a path to a more just and sustainable future. Their first feature-length documentary, The Story of Plastic, is now an Emmy-nominated film in the category of Best Writing: Documentary.

You can watch short animated films on various topics:

  1. The Story of Bottled Water
  2. The Story of Cosmetics
  3. The Story of Electronics
  4. The Story of Microbeads
  5. The Story of Plastic

In the category titled, “Good Stuff“, you can see short films covering topics like:

  1. Where Does Your Trash End Up?
  2. Should Plastic Producers Pay for Recycling?
  3. How to Stop Plastic Pollution Forever?
  4. Where Does Junk Mail Come From?
  5. 3 Dirty Marketing Tricks to Get You to Buy More Stuff

Theses are just a few of the topics that the Story of Stuff offers. In a few short minutes you can educate yourself on numerous important topics. Topics that are key in changing and improving our current situation. The time is now!

Tomorrow, facts about food waste.

Reducing Recycling Contamination

Day 260 – Our neighbors in Grand Rapids, Michigan, just recently won an award. They earned Resource Recycling Inc.’s 2021 Program of the Year award in the Large City category, which was open to municipalities with 150,000 residents or more.

The City of Grand Rapids teamed with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and national nonprofit The Recycling Partnership to introduce a first-of-its-kind community wide project aimed at improving the quality of materials residents recycle in their curbside carts last fall. The Recycling Racoon Squad helped educate residents, ““Know It Before You Throw It”. The effort promotes best practices and emphasizes that recycling materials saves energy, reduces water use, decreases greenhouse gases, conserves resources, and translates into local jobs. 

City crews collected 7,170 tons of recyclables from more than 50,500 households in the most recent program year. In its submission materials to the awards program, Grand Rapids reported a contamination rate of 7.4 percent. The percentage is far lower than what’s being seen in many local programs in the U.S., where contamination rates above 20 percent are common. 

Grand Rapids program leaders work closely with the nearby Kent County materials recovery facility (MRF) to educate residents and enforce strict anti-contamination controls. Educational efforts include removing carts after high levels of trash are found in recycling at a residence three times and providing “Recycling 101” educational materials before residents can get their carts back.

Grand Rapids also implemented a “Feet on the Street” anti-contamination tagging program in the fall of 2020, inspecting recycling setouts at all 50,540 serviced households over the course of eight weeks. That effort reduced contamination in the local recycling stream by 37 percent, according to program leaders.

So the question is, could this work in other cities?

It seems like it all comes down to education and of course having people that care about the planet. Without those two things, reducing recycling contamination will continue to be an unreachable goal.

Keep up the good work Grand Rapids! You are showing the country and the world that coming together as a community to accomplish an important goal that helps benefit people and the planet is achievable.

Tomorrow, the story of stuff.

Protecting the Ozone

Day 259 – The ozone layer is a thin part of the Earth’s atmosphere that absorbs almost all of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet light.

“Ozone is only a trace gas in the atmosphere—only about 3 molecules for every 10 million molecules of air. But it does a very important job. Like a sponge, the ozone layer absorbs bits of radiation hitting Earth from the sun. Even though we need some of the sun’s radiation to live, too much of it can damage living things. The ozone layer acts as a shield for life on Earth.” – National Geographic

Starting in the early 1970’s, however, scientists found evidence that human activities were disrupting the ozone balance. Human production of chlorine-containing chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has added an additional factor that destroys ozone. This depletion of the ozone layer, in turn, was affecting life on Earth — the destruction of plants and ecosystems, increase in skin cancer, etc. The scientists’ discovery highlighted the importance of the ozone layer and the dire need to preserve it.

The scientific confirmation of the depletion of the ozone layer prompted the international community to establish a mechanism for cooperation to take action to protect the ozone layer. This was formalized in the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, which was adopted and signed by 28 countries, on 22 March 1985. In September 1987, this led to the drafting of The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.” – United Nations

On 16th September 2009, the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol became the first treaties in the history of the United Nations to achieve universal ratification. September 16 has since then been dedicated each year to the appreciation and preservation of this protective layer and the success of the Vienna Convention.

On this International Day of the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, make sure you are doing your part to protect the ozone.

  1. Avoid the consumption of gases dangerous to the ozone layer, due to their content or manufacturing process. Some of the most dangerous gases are CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), halogenated hydrocarbon, methyl bromide and nitrous oxide.
  2. Minimize the use of cars. The best transport option is urban, bicycle, or walking. If you use a car to a destination, try to carpool with others to decrease the use of cars in order to pollute less and save.
  3. Do not use cleaning products that are harmful to the environment and to us. Many cleaning products contain solvents and substances corrosive, but you can replace these dangerous substances with non-toxic products such as vinegar or bicarbonate.
  4. Buy local products. In this way, you not only get fresh products but you avoid consuming food that has traveled long distances. As the more distance traveled, the more nitrous oxide is produced due to the medium used to transport that product.
  5. Maintain air conditioners, as their malfunctions cause CFC to escape into the atmosphere.

Tomorrow, Grand Rapids is doing something right when it comes to recycling.

Multifamily Recycling Resources

Day 256 – Recycling in a multifamily building is not always an easy task. More times than not there is confusion as to whose responsibility it is to implement a recycling program. Is it the building owner, the building manager, the building association (if one exists) or is it the individual tenant to find ways to recycle?

Thankfully, The Recycling Partnership has created customized collateral to help educate about what’s accepted in your community’s multifamily recycling program.

The Partnership’s Multifamily Recycling Guide and Community Toolkit features free customizable resources and templates for communities to use in their outreach to multifamily property owners, managers, and residents.

Sign up for free to access the customizable resources, which include:

  • Infocards
  • Postcard
  • Full-page flyer
  • Door hanger
  • Recycling container illustration set

The included messaging and resources have been tailored to residents and include information on how to use common area recycling locations, door-step collection and/or in-home recycling bin, if provided, according to various multifamily property recycling setups.

Click HERE to get started.

Tomorrow, lost golf balls finding a new home.

Upstream: Changing the Throw Away Culture

Day 255 – So what is Upstream? Good question.

“Upstream® was founded in 2003 as a public-interest, non-profit organization by a group of Zero Waste activists in the US and Canada. While working together in the 1990s, these leaders felt too many environmental groups were only focused on “downstream” or “end of pipe” solutions like recycling and composting. But they knew we can’t recycle or compost our way to a sustainable future. We have to work “upstream” to redesign the systems generating all the waste in the first place.” – Upstream

Upstream is working to create a world where you will find:

  1. Everyone dining out at restaurants is eating off real plates and cutlery, and drinking from real cups.
  2. To-go coffee is served in reusable cups loaned from a reuse service providing clean, sanitized cups to coffee shops.
  3. Restaurants, grocery stores and delis use services that provide them with clean, sanitized reusable to-go containers for prepared food, takeout and delivery.
  4. At the ballpark, everyone is drinking beer out of real cups. And touch-free soda fountains dispense drinks in reusable cups after you put in your credit card.
  5. You can order groceries, cleaning and personal care products delivered in reusable containers in a reusable box tote.
  6. Tens of thousands of people are employed throughout the area in delivery, pick-up, cleaning, stocking and logistics.
  7. Litter and solid waste costs are down and community pride is up.
  8. None of these innovations required you to bring your own anything. People got tired of single-use waste. And entrepreneurs said we can do it without single-use, and we can do it better.
  9. Community leaders and policymakers worked to create the conditions for this thriving reuse economy. Then the big companies saw this was the future, and everyone started doing it.

Upstream exists to push the idea of reuse. They offer resources for businesses and individuals to make the changes needed to move away from single-use.

Explore the Learning Hub created for activists, educators, policymakers, business leaders and changemakers – like you – to get the information you need to engage and support your community.

Join the movement today!

Tomorrow, multifamily recycling resources.

There is Trash Everywhere! Even at 29,031 feet

Day 251 – It’s a sad reality, but people continue to throw garbage to the ground and waste out car windows and into our waterways. I don’t think anyone can walk anywhere without finding trash where it doesn’t belong. Even atop Mt. Everest, there is trash.

On average, 800 people attempt to climb Mount Everest every year. With each of those climbers comes a great deal of gear and in turn a lot of waste. Over time it all piles up and this majestic mountain turns it into one large trash can.

Nepalese climbers removed 2.2 tons of garbage from Mount Everest when tourists were away due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The cleaning expedition was lead by activist and mountaineer Dawa Steven Sherpa and took 47 days to complete. The climbers braved harsh conditions and managed to clean the eight highest mountains in Nepal.

So, the next time you find trash where it doesn’t belong, think about those Nepalese climbers and what they endured to help clean the planet. It will probably make that effort of bending over to pick up that trash and place it in the nearest garbage can, not feel like a huge inconvenience.

Tomorrow, donating medical supplies.

Drones and Their Impact on Wildlife

Day 250 – I received a drone as a gift last Christmas. I have not spent much time using it. Actually, I have not spent any time. The few times it has been in the air, I have not been the one piloting the drone. I guess I’m afraid I’m going to break it. I’m also very aware of how annoying they can be. So, there’s that. I’m sure I will end up loving the little flying machine. However, making sure to use it responsibility will be my number one priority.

When I came across an article about a drone scaring birds aways from the their nesting area, it gave me yet another reason to be a responsible drone user. In a Washington Post article from June 7th, a story was shared about 1,500 to 2,000 eggs being abandoned by a flock of elegant terns. A drone crashed in the nesting area located on the nesting island at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Southern California. The crash scared away the birds, who most likely mistook it for a predator. The terns never returned, leaving the eggs unviable.

This scenario is repeated countless times around the country and the world. People flying drones where drones should not be flown. One really needs to think about the potential harm a drone could cause before deciding where to fly it.

“These open spaces are a place for wildlife to rest, to breed, to forage and it’s a place where they should feel safe to raise their young and if they truly can’t do that we’re not fulfilling our mission. We need to protect these places.” – Melissa Loebl, an environmental scientist who manages the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Tomorrow, removing trash from Mt. Everest.