SeaStraws Company: Helping to Keep Plastic Out of Our Oceans

Day 332 – Over the year, I have mentioned a couple companies that make compostable straws and recyclable plasticware (made from recycled plastic). Well, I wanted to add one more company to the list of sustainable options when it comes to straws and cutlery.

The SeaStraw Company offers straws and cutlery that are made from renewable forestry and backyard compostable, or contribute to a circular economy through reusability. They offer paper straws, steel straws, silicone straws and cutlery made from Birch wood. They provide these sustainable options for at home use or for businesses.

The materials used are:

  1. SF Certified Paper & FSC Certified from renewable forestry
  2. Vegan wax and ink
  3. Certified gluten free
  4. BPA free – silicone and stainless steel straws

The folks at SeaStraw started the company because they believe that small actions add up and inspire wide-spread impact. Just starting with a sustainable straw, or spoon, or fork, can lead to bigger and better decisions that will help the planet.

Tomorrow, a zero waste center every needs in their neighborhood.

The Decomposition of Everyday Items

Day 328 – Most of us don’t give any thought about how long it takes for common items to decompose. We tend to toss things into the trash and never think about where it goes from there. Many everyday items are here to stay for a very long time.

Here are 20 items and the length of time it takes for them to decompose.

  1. Plastic bags – It can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
  2. Cigarette butts – 10 years
  3. Plastic straws – 200 years
  4. Wet wipes – 100 years
  5. Plastic 6 pack holders – 450 years
  6. Tin cans – 50 years
  7. Tires – 2,000 years
  8. Nylon fishing net – 40 years
  9. Plastic bottles – 450 years
  10. Synthetic fibers – 100+ years
  11. Aluminum cans – 80-100 years
  12. Hairspray bottles – 200-500 years
  13. Shoes – 25-40 years
  14. Disposable diapers – 500 years
  15. Lumber – 10-15 years
  16. Batteries – 100 years
  17. Ink Cartridges – 450-1,000 years
  18. Glass – over a million years
  19. Aluminum Foil – never
  20. Styrofoam – never

We all need to think twice before we throw things away. We need to ask ourselves a few questions.

Can this be recycled? Items in bold print can be recycled.

Can this be reused?

Can I avoid using this item in the future?

We are running out of places to put our trash. We need to make changes now.

Tomorrow, dogs to the rescue.

How Much Trash Does One Person Make in a Year?

Day 326 – An unlikely source, TitleMax, looked at some gross data to calculate what one person produces in garbage in one year by type of waste.

Here’s what they found.

  1. Mail – 23.06 pounds per person
  2. Toilet Paper & Paper Towels – 22.36 pounds per person
  3. Paper plates and cups – 8.22 pounds per person
  4. Cardboard boxes – 187.77 pounds per person
  5. Cartons – 34.97 pounds per person
  6. Glass beer and soft drink bottles – 12.74 pounds per person
  7. Other bottles and jars – 24.52 pounds per person
  8. Metal durable goods – 92.80 pounds per person
  9. Aluminum goods – 10.89 pounds per person
  10. Steel cans – 11.78 pounds per person
  11. Aluminum cans – 9.04 pounds per person
  12. Durable plastics – 72.99 pounds per person
  13. Plastic plates and cups – 6.75 pounds per person
  14. Plastic trash bags – 6.50 pounds per person
  15. Plastic bottles and jars – 17.77 pounds per person
  16. Plastic bags and wraps – 24.27 pounds per person
  17. Clothing and footwear – 70 pounds per person
  18. Food waste – 220.96 pounds per person
  19. Yard trimmings – 91.53 pounds per person
  20. Wood – 854.20 pounds per person

That’s a grand total of 1,803.12 pounds per person

We can help reduce our waste by refusing, recycling, reusing and composting items off the list.

Tomorrow, reusable sticky notes.

Blankets That Keep You Warm and Help the Planet

Day 324 – With the cold weather upon us, it got me thinking about blankets. There is nothing better then a warm blanket to cozy up to during the winter months. I started looking for eco-friendly blankets. I found quite a few companies that offer organic cotton and even alpaca wool. When it comes to price these blankets were on the high end. As mentioned, I love a cozy blanket, but not for over $200.

As I continued looking, I came across Rumpl. Their mission is to introduce the world to better blankets. They also want to do that in a responsible and sustainable way.

Looking to the future responsibly means thinking sustainably. This means that we prioritize scaling our business responsibly with the “long-haul” in mind, never too fast or recklessly. We seek ways to reduce our impact on the planet by incorporating recycled materials in our products and leveraging transportation options that reduce our carbon footprint. And finally, when possible, we leverage our voice and our influence as a platform for social good.” – Rumpl

Here’s how they’re doing it:

  1. Whenever possible they use post-consumer recycled materials in their products. Through that effort they will have up-cycled millions of discarded plastic bottles since Fall 2019.
  2. From bottle to blanket. They use discarded plastic bottles and recycle them into the synthetic insulation and polyester that make up their best-selling products.
  3. Their synthetic insulation is made from recycled plastic bottles, and their natural down feathers are sourced humanely and ethically.
  4. Rumpl has been a member of 1% For the Planet since 2017 and are Climate Neutral Certified, meaning they offset the carbon emissions of their entire company. In 2021, they officially became a Certified B Corporation.
  5. They also support a number of local and grass root organizations.

If you’re looking for a blanket that will make you feel good inside and out, than Rumpl is exactly what you’re looking for.

Tomorrow, celebrating World Fisheries Day.

Keeping the Toilet Bowl Clean

Day 323 – Happy World Toilet Day! I thought it was the perfect day to talk about keeping your toilet bowl clean in an environmentally friendly way. On Day 21, I wrote about Blueland and their line of cleaning products. The people friendly ingredients are packaged in compostable bags. When the tablets are added to water in reusable bottles, various cleaning products are produced.

I was very excited when I heard Blueland added toilet bowl tablets to their product line. One tablet and a toilet brush and you have yourself a clean bowl. The Toilet Cleaner Set comes with a tin and 14 tablets. Refill tablets come in a compostable bag, so absolutely no waste.

Another great way to celebrate World Toilet Day is to help build toilets in countries where they are not available. Who Gives a Crap donates 50% of their profits to ensure everyone has access to clean water and a toilet within our lifetime. They offer toilet paper made from 100% recycled paper or bamboo. It is packaged in brightly colored paper, so there is no plastic to discard. We have been using Who Gives a Crap since January and LOVE this company so much!

The next time you are in the bathroom think about the 3.6 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. Poor sanitation contaminates drinking-water sources, rivers, beaches and food crops, spreading deadly diseases among the wider population. It’s a convenience we usually take for granted.

Tomorrow, eco-friendly blankets.

Let’s Make Sense of Chicago’s Recycling

Day 319 – It’s National Recycling Day! So, I thought I would write about the Recycle By City website. Nine cities participate, Chicago being one of those nine.

The Chicago Recycling Guide helps answer all those questions regarding what can go into your recycling bin and what should stay out. It breaks items down into categories.

Accepted Items in the Blue Cart

  1. Cartons – put lids back on cartons
  2. Glass bottles and jars – labels can stay on
  3. Metal cans and foil – labels can stay on cans
  4. Paper and cardboard – free of food and grease
  5. Plastic containers – put caps back on (pumps and nozzles can not be recycled in blue bin)

Unaccepted Items in the Blue Cart

  1. Bagged recyclables – keep recyclables loose in the bin
  2. Plastic bags and film – recycle plastic bags and film at grocery stores and Target
  3. Food or liquids – consider composting food waste
  4. Scrap metal – recycle at scrap metal recycler
  5. Cords, cables, hoses or chains

Call 311 for Pickup

  1. Yard waste – bag yard trimmings in a bag, do not include rocks, dirt or gravel
  2. Leaves – bag up and call 311
  3. Furniture – try to donate when possible
  4. Major appliances
  5. Mattresses

Hazardous, does not go into recycle or garbage can and can be brought to the Household Chemical and Computer Recycling Facility (1150 N. North Branch Street)

  1. Rechargeable batteries
  2. Electronic waste
  3. Pharmaceuticals
  4. Household chemicals
  5. Metal tanks
  6. Fluorescent bulbs & tubes
  7. Oil based paint and stain
  8. Motor Oil

Before we can start to think about recycling we need to consider, refusing, reducing, and reusing.

Tomorrow, green hotels and what they’re about.

It’s Not Easy Being Green When Your a Type 1 Diabetic

Day 318 – When this blog was created at the beginning of the year, my family was making some changes. We started thinking differently about the waste we created and started making changes to reduce that waste. We started composting, we purchased different products and stopped purchasing others all together. One area that has been rather challenging to cut waste is with my daughter’s diabetic supplies. She was diagnosed when she was 8 years old. She is now 15 and has been through syringes, the pen (a needle device) and now she is on a pump and uses a monitoring system called Dexcom. There is no denying that these devices are keeping my daughter healthy and allowing her to live the most normal life that she can. However, it is sad that these companies have not come up with a plan to take back their plastic waste.

Image borrowed, but represents the amount of waste produced every 3 days.

Every three days she has to change her site, in which the pump is attached to her body. Every 10 days she has to change the site where the sensor, that monitors her blood sugar, is attached to her body. Each time these changes occur another large piece of plastic needs to be discarded. Medtronic, the maker of the insulin pump, nor Dexcom have taken on any responsibility to take back the plastic they produce. I know they are in the business of saving lives, but what about saving the planet?

Here are a few facts about the number of Type 1 diabetics in the U.S.

  1. Approximately 1.6 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes.
  2. By 2050, 5 million people are expected to be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
  3. An estimated 64,000 people are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes each year.

Sadly, Type 1 diabetes is not going anywhere anytime soon. Companies making billions to supply the millions that need these life saving devices, need to start realizing they have an obligation to the rest of the world. They need to start taking responsibility for the waste produced by their products. They need to stop putting the responsibility on the patient. Don’t these individuals have enough to worry about? Adding to the plastic problem should not be one of them.

Tomorrow, celebrating National Recycling Day!

Do your recyclables need to be clean?

Day 314 – Choosing to recycle is a big step in helping the planet. However, it can get confusing. One question that many people have is, “How clean do I need to get my recyclables?” The folks at Earth911 put together a guide to help answer that question and they broke it down by type of material.

Jars, Bottle and Cans

  1. These usually only need a quick rinsing.
  2. If dealing with something like mayonnaise or peanut butter, try to get the majority out, but it does not need to be spotless.
  3. For stickier stuff like honey or jelly, give it a good scrubbing with soap, so you can remove most if not all of the substance.
  4. You do not need to remove labels from jars, bottles and cans.
  5. Allow these containers to dry if you are placing them with mixed recyclables (like paper or cardboard).

Cardboard and Paper

  1. When dealing with cardboard, like a pizza box, recycle what you can. Usually the lid is without grease or food, and can be put with your recyclables.
  2. Don’t be ready to trash a box if you happened to spill a little food on it, while cooking. If it’s not a significant amount, still get that box to the recycle bin.
  3. When it comes to paper, crumbled or wrinkled paper can go into a recycle bin. However, shredded paper can not.

Plastic Bags and Film

  1. If a bag has food on it, make sure you clean it.
  2. Make sure they are dry.
  3. Some crumbs would not hinder the recycling process, but be sure to shake out bags before recycling.
  4. Don’t put your plastic bags and film in your curbside recycling. Find a location (most grocery stores and Target) that will accept them.

By keeping contaminants out of your recycling bin the better chance your items will get recycled.

Tomorrow, drinkable ocean water.

Lasso: The Home Recycling Solution

Day 310 – Recycling rates across the country are not great. Many cities, like Chicago, recycles less than 10% of what is collected. Recycling is not the sole solution, we are going to have to refuse, reduce and reuse. However, the idea of being able to recycle plastic, glass and metal at your home sounds very appealing.

Lasso, at home recycling machine, recycles the following:

  1. PET and HDPE plastic
  2. Clear, green and brown glass
  3. Aluminum and steel

Here is how Lasso works:

  1. Lasso accepts your used materials using internal sensors, cameras and AI machine learning.
  2. If an item is not recyclable, Lasso simply returns it to you. No more recycling confusion.
  3. Lasso tracks your items in real-time, and you can even check products for recyclability on the move before buying them, with our in-app bar code scanner.
  4. 100% of contaminants like food, grease, dirt and sticky packaging labels – all removed for you.
  5. Lasso steam cleans every item, saving precious water versus manual washing.
  6. Plastic, metals and glass are broken down separately, reducing to a fraction of their size and maintaining valuable purity throughout.
  7. Once processed, Lasso channels your purified products into the storage container at the base of the appliance.
  8. When storage is approaching capacity, Lasso automatically notifies you via the smartphone app – required just 3-8 times per year.
  9. Lasso collects when it suits you – your app suggests on-demand collection slots to fit any schedule.
  10. When collection is due, simply detach Lasso’s storage container and leave it at the curb. Our pickup drivers take care of the rest.
  11. Lasso guarantees close-loop recycling, where every item is made new again, from a bottle to a bottle, a can to a can.
  12. Receive cash returns within five years of ownership, subject to your consumption.

Lasso is not on the market yet, but you can reserve one today. It will cost around $3500 – $4000.

I sure hope the Lasso is a huge success and I hope the price comes down. I would love to have a Lasso in the kitchen recycling my plastic, glass and metal, while making me money and saving the planet!

Tomorrow,

What is downcycling?

Day 301 – So, when an aluminum can is recycled it can be turned into another aluminum can. The same can be said about a glass jar. However, when it comes to many other products, they are usually turned into something with less value and quality. For example plastic can be recycled into fleece or polyester.

We have all heard about plastic milk jugs being turned into park benches. As much as a park bench is a nice thing to have, we need to do better in creating a circular economy. We can’t continue making more park benches, because we can not curb our need for virgin plastics.

Downcycling is mainly a problem due to misinterpretation of the public. Many people assume that plastic, like glass or paper, can be recycled over and over again forever without losing any quality. The truth is that plastic is continually downcycled until it is rendered completely useless for recycling. After that, in most cases, it winds up in a landfill, where it slowly breaks down into microplastics and emits methane.” – GreenMatters

It’s important that we realize that many items, especially those with plastic are not 100% recyclable. Far too often we interpret the term “recycle” as “completely recyclable”. However, that is not the case and we need to start rethinking the materials we purchase.

Now the opposite to downcycling is upcycling. This is the process of giving something more value and quality then it originally had. A great place to see examples of upcycled items is the Facebook group “Upcylceit” Here you will see amazing transformations of items that were on their way to the landfill. However, some have taken the time to make these items even better than before. Check it out and get inspired!

Tomorrow, time to celebrate our feline friends.