Tips on Having an Environmentally Friendly Halloween

Day 297 – The colors orange and black are associated with Halloween. However, we should probably be thinking green. Seven Generations Ahead created a great Green Your Halloween Guide to help you make your festivities environmentally friendly.

Here are few of the suggestions:

  1. Try to buy your pumpkin local. Supporting your local farmer is always a good choice.
  2. Have a plan for your pumpkin after Halloween is over. If the pumpkin is not carved think about eating it (soup, pie, etc). If you carved your pumpkin plan on composting it. Look for a local Pumpkin Smash event in or around your neighborhood. On October 31st, I will be listing all the Pumpkin Smashing events in the city and suburbs.
  3. Avoid buying a new costume. Check out your closets and see what you already have. Consider a costume swap with family and friends.
  4. Trying to find sustainable packaging for your candy purchases is very difficult. Consider buying in bulk to limit the packaging and go a step further and invest in a TerraCycle zero waste box for candy wrappers and snack bags. For any leftover candy, avoid throwing it away and donate to an organization collecting surplus candy.
  5. If your hosting a party, purchase decorations and party supplies that can be used year after year. Preserve plates, cups and bowls are an excellent option.

Whether it’s your everyday routines and habits or special occasions, putting the planet first should be everyone’s priority.

Tomorrow, eco-friendly Halloween crafts.

Let’s Talk Recyclability?

Day 296 – When it comes to recycling, many have mixed emotions. Some do what they can to recycle as many items as they can. While others don’t trust the system and don’t bother, thinking it’s all a waste of time. If I have learned anything this past year, it’s you at least have to try to make a difference. If we all become complacent about our impact on the environment, whether that’s negative or positive, then the planet has no chance. We all have the capacity to make a difference.

So, on that note, I thought discussing the number of times a particular item can be recycled would be helpful. It will show you that recycling is helpful and something we should all be doing.

Plastic can only be recycled once or twice. The quality of the plastic decreases. Most of the time, plastic is downcycled into something like plastic lumber or synthetic fibers for fabric or insulation. It’s just one more reminder as to why we need to find alternatives to plastic.

Aluminum can be recycled an infinite number of times. It is the most valuable recycled item in the United States. Choosing packaging made from aluminum and getting that packaging to the recycle bin is a real win for the planet.  

Paper can be recycled around five to seven times to produce new paper. Once the fibers become to short, it can be used to make things like egg cartons and newsprint.

Metals, other than aluminum also have an unlimited lifespan, and it is always a good idea to recycle them. Finding someone willing to recycle your metals is usually an easy process. You can even make a little cash.

Glass can be recycled an unlimited number of times. It is also more cost-effective to reuse and recycle glass than to create from scratch.

So, choose your packaging wisely.

Tomorrow, tips on having a green Halloween.

First Mile – Plastic Collection Brought to You by People that Care

Day 292 First Mile is a business that is monitoring the plastic supply chain. Consumers can have confidence that the products they are purchasing came from recycled material and those responsible for collecting that plastic are being compensated accordingly. From the moment that plastic bottle is picked up from the street to the time it is created into a new product and sold to the consumer, First Mile is tracking every step.

Here is how First Mile describes their process:

  1. People in the First Mile of our supply chain collect bottles from the streets, their neighbors, and yes, even the landfill to trade for cash at a local plastic collection center.
  2. Once prepared and bundled, those bottles are piled high on a truck and transported to a recycling facility for processing.
  3. Workers at each recycling facility unload and grind the bottles to make plastic flakes. Labels and caps are removed to prevent non-PET material from reaching later phases of the supply chain. High-quality flake means superior fabric and ultimately a better livelihood for people in the First Mile.
  4. Recycled plastic flake is extruded into fine strands, then texturized into a soft fiber that rivals other organic materials.
  5. Fiber can be spun and texturized to create a more substantial strand of yarn. Innovation in these steps allows recycled content like First Mile to take the place of traditional materials, without compromising feel or flex.
  6. First Mile recycled yarn can be woven or knit to create unique fabrics and textures.

Many name brands are using First Mile plastic in their products.

  1. U.S. Bank uses recycled plastic in their debit cards.
  2. Puma uses recycled plastic in their shoes and clothing.
  3. Day Owl uses recycled plastic in their bags.
  4. Ralph Lauren uses recycled plastic in their polos.
  5. Hewlett Packard uses recycled plastic in their computers.

These days it is hard to know if we are being greenwashed or if companies are doing what they say they are doing to help protect the planet. It is nice to know that there are organizations like First Mile helping us decipher the truth from the lies.

Tomorrow, green goo that won’t gross you out.

There’s Money Available to Help Your Curbside Recycling

Day 291 – The goal of the Recycling Partnership is to create scalable solutions to packaging and system challenges and to accelerate the shift to the circular economy that uses fewer limited resources. They have given $1.8 million in grants to help meet their goal and to help communities improve recycling. Through its Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, the partnership has given the grant money to six recipients to advance curbside polypropylene (PP) recycling. 

The six companies include:

  • Green Waste, San Jose, California;
  • Murphy Road, Berlin, Connecticut;
  • Palm Beach County, Florida;
  • Pellitteri, Madison, Wisconsin;
  • Sonoco-Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina; and,
  • Sonoco-Onslow, Jacksonville, North Carolina

The coalition has helped fund 13 facilities’ recycling efforts, which will positively impact nearly 15 million Americans.  The grants increase the recovery of polypropylene by an estimated 13 million pounds annually to be made into new products. This includes consumer packaging and automotive parts.  

Reducing the use of plastic and increasing recycling rates is a partnership that is a win for the environment.

Tomorrow, recycled plastic with a story that needs to be followed.

The Plastic Hanger Problem

Day 290 – About 100 million hangers are tossed in the trash each year. Those hangers are made from plastic and it takes about 1,000 years for that plastic to breakdown. So, there is a crazy amount of plastic hangers sitting in landfills. One other piece of bad news, those plastic hangers are made from a variety of plastics that make them impossible to recycle.

Roland Mouret saw this plastic problem and wanted to do something about it. He created the Blue hanger, the first sustainable clothes hanger. They are made out of 80% recycled plastic recovered from the sea and 20% recyclable plastic, and they also feature aluminum hooks.

It seems like a fully recyclable hangers would be a no brainer. Not to mention a hanger made from recycled plastic. Though, you can’t find Mouret’s hanger on the market, there is another option.

(re)x hanger – It is made from 100% recycled ocean plastic collected by reclaimers in South Africa. It is a woman owned business and a !% for the Planet member.

Ending the need for virgin plastics sends a message to the companies continually using these plastics. The more we support companies that are finding ways to use recycled plastic in their products the better our environment will be.

Next time you’re in need of more hangers consider a more a sustainable option.

Tomorrow, grants to help curbside recycling.

Breaking Down the Truth About Plastic

Day 286 – Charlie Rolsky is a plastic pollution researcher, finishing up his PhD at Arizona State University, and he serves as the Director of Science for Plastic Oceans. Charlie and Plastic Oceans International has created a video series to help educate us all on the plastic pollution problem.

The videos are short and to the point. They cover topics like:

  1. The Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)
  2. Burning Plastic: The Pros and Cons
  3. Plastic in Our Food…and Bodies
  4. Recycling
  5. Biodegradable Plastics: Working with What We’ve Got

Plastic Oceans International offers many resources to help you better understand the plastic pollution crisis.

The first step in fighting this war on plastic is to educate ourselves on the root of the problem. If we can not see that we all need to change our relationship with plastic, we will never be part of the solution.

Tomorrow, recycling water in office buildings.

Are Detergent Pods Good for the Environment?

Day 284 – I used to use Cascade detergent pods in my dishwasher. I stopped using them because of the plastic container they were packaged in. I didn’t even consider the plastic that is found in the pod itself.

PVA (polyvinly alcohol) is used to coat dishwasher pods. It’s also found in laundry detergent pods, as well. Plastic Ocean International looked into PVA covered pods a little further.

“Once PVA goes down the drain, the chances of it biodegrading are very low. It requires strict conditions for it to be broken down via microorganisms that are not always present in wastewater treatment plants or in the environment. We also looked at how many pods were used to try to establish how much PVA goes untreated, every year, in the United States. We’re talking over eight thousand tons of PVA going into the environment, every year, originating from these detergent pods. That equates to 600 million plastic soda bottles worth of plastic, yearly. Ultimately, very little is known about how PVA behaves as a pollutant but one thing remains clear, it does not fully biodegrade.” – Plastic Ocean International

Your best bet is to use a PVA free detergent. Blueland cleaning products sells dishwasher tablets. Purchase the reusable tin and continue to load up with refills, packaged in compostable bags.

Tomorrow, celebrating National Farmers Day.

Beverage Container Deposit Laws Need to be Nationwide

Day 277 – It’s not a difficult concept to understand.

  1. When a retailer buys beverages from a distributor, a deposit is paid to the distributor for each container purchased.
  2. The consumer pays the deposit to the retailer when buying the beverage.
  3. The consumer receives a refund when the empty container is returned to a supermarket or other redemption center. 
  4. The distributor then reimburses the retailer or redemption center the deposit amount for each container, plus an additional handling fee in most states.
  5. Unredeemed deposits are either returned to the state, retained by distributors, or used for program administration.

The Can Manufacturers InstituteGlass Packaging Institute and National Association for PET Container Resources have come together to push the idea of a deposit program. The associations say deposit systems lead to higher recycling rates, as well as to better quality material.

“The organizations also say the increase in deposits can decrease litter, provide more pure material beneficial to each of the industries they represent and produce a resilient supply of material needed to make new beverage containers.” – Recycling Today

Ten states plus Guam participate in a deposit program and these programs are making a difference.

According to the Container Recycling Institute, in 2018, in the 10 states with deposit systems, recycling rates for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, glass bottles and aluminum beverage cans were 62 percent, 64 percent and 77 percent, respectively. That’s compared with countrywide recovery rates of 28 percent, 40 percent and 46 percent, respectively.” – Recycling Today

The can, glass and plastic companies want their containers back. The only way we can move from a single-use society to a circular economy is to get these highly recyclable materials back to those that can use them again. Otherwise, they will continue ending up in the landfill or incinerator.

Does your state have a deposit law?

Tomorrow, when sustainability and art collide.

Sustainable Pet Products

Day 272 – All year I have been sharing eco-friendly products to help you on your way to a more sustainable lifestyle. Well, that doesn’t stop when it comes to your pets. Today, I’m writing about two companies that offer pet products that are good for your pet and the planet. I would also like to add that both these companies are Certified B Corporations. YES!

West Paw., located in Bozeman, Montana, is on a mission to create the best pet products possible. They choose eco-friendly materials and processes whenever they can. They keep waste out of landfills, chemicals out of soil and water, and toxins out of their products, all while guaranteeing durable, beautiful toys and beds your pets will love. West Paw has created a material called Zogoflex.

“Zogoflex is made to last. After your dog’s favorite toy has been thoroughly loved, chewed on, retrieved, carried, buried, dug up, and cuddled, just send it back to West Paw. Old toys are sanitized, ground up, and fed back into our machine to make completely new, bouncy, bright Zogoflex toys. Nothing diminishes Zogoflex’s strength—it can literally be recycled infinitely.”West Paw

They also have a line of toys, bowls and mats made from Seaflex. Seaflex is made from ocean-bound plastic.

Another pet company trying to do their part to help the planet is P.L.A.Y. Located in San Francisco, California, P.L.A.Y. offers dog beds, toys and accessories. P.L.A.Y. uses PlanetFill polyfiber, which is made from plastic bottles, to make their beds. They keep packaging to a minimum and use tags made from paper that is certified safe by the Forest Stewardship Council. P.L.A.Y. also offers dog bed covers that can be stuffed with your old towels, garments, or even bed filler from an old dog bed. When you fill your own bed you can easily wash the cover and filling to help the bed last longer and reduce waste.

P.L.A.Y. also gives back to numerous charities.

The next time your furry friend needs a new toy, bed or accessory, consider supporting a company that is putting the planet first.

Tomorrow, composting pilot program coming to a Chicago neighborhood.

Would you pay $3 to help make a difference?

Day 271 – The folks at Baker Miller Bakery & Millhouse (4655 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago) sure hope people will consider $3 a small price to pay to help save the planet. For many of us, including myself, the pandemic has opened our eyes to how much waste and more specifically plastic waste is created. Baker Miller decided to start using reusable takeout containers to address the problem. The steps needed to be part of this environmentally friendly takeout experience are quite easy.

  1. When placing an order at Baker Miller, be sure to choose the returnable container option.
  2. You will be charged $3 for the container.
  3. Next time you’re in Baker Miller, drop off the container. It will be cleaned and used again.
  4. On your next order, you can either receive your $3 back on more food or put it toward another reusable container.

The hope is that more restaurants get on board with the reusable containers. If there’s more involvement than more drop off locations can be created for the reusable containers. New York City and Portland, Oregon have shown it’s a business plan that can work.

We all need to support businesses that are making an effort to help the planet. Thank you Baker Miller for your help in making a difference.

Tomorrow, sustainable pet products.