Sustainable Holiday Gift Guide

Day 335 – You may be already done with your holiday shopping. Or you haven’t even started. Whatever the case may be, it’s always a great idea to purchase gifts that will help people and the environment. Not only will you feel good giving special gifts to family and friends, but you can feel good that your gift will have a positive impact on the planet.

Here are 15 ideas from posts that I have written this year.

  1. Day 21Blueland – eco-friendly cleaning products
  2. Day 152 – Eco-friendly Toys
  3. Day 164 – Sustainable Phone Cases
  4. Day 178 – Eco-friendly Sunglasses
  5. Day 193 – Clothing made from recycled plastic
  6. Day 199 – Zero Waste Makeup Brands
  7. Day 205Igloo EcoCoolers
  8. Day 237 – Eco-friendly Yoga Mats
  9. Day 240Looptworks – Upcycled gifts
  10. Day 257Lost Golf Balls – used and recycled golf balls
  11. Day 272 – Sustainable Pet Products
  12. Day 293Green Goo – Skin care derived from plants
  13. Day 300EcoSports – Eco-friendly sporting equipment
  14. Day 324Rumpl – Eco-friendly blankets
  15. Day 327MC Squares – reusable sticky notes

Other great options include:

  1. Earth Hero – variety of Earth-friendly gifts
  2. UNICEF Market
  3. Certified B Corporation gift guide
  4. Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange – gifts for the artists in your life
  5. 4Ocean – gifts that help clean the oceans
  6. Gift card to commercial composting service
  7. Climate Pledge Products on Amazon

One more list to help you out:

20 Awesome Holiday Gifts that Help the Planet

Tomorrow, giving a gift donation.

Flooding Reduced with the Help of Playgrounds

Day 334 – It brings joy to my heart when I read about innovative ideas that are being implemented in Chicago. More times than not, when it comes to the environment, Chicago is behind in making efforts to be more sustainable and eco-friendly. There are organizations and companies doing their part, but as a whole, Chicago is trailing behind other big cities.

So, I was happy to read about new playgrounds being built at five Chicago elementary schools this fall. The schools are O’Keeffe School of Excellence in South Shore, Arnold Mireles Academy and Horace Mann Elementary in South Chicago, Daniel Wentworth Elementary in West Englewood and John Whistler Elementary in West Pullman.

The playgrounds were built with the help of the Space to Grow program. The program is a joint effort between Healthy Schools Campaign, Openlands, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Department of Water Management, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Loyola University, Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California, and United States Geological Survey. Together they have transformed a total of 30 playgrounds (including these last five).

“Space to Grow transforms Chicago schoolyards into beautiful and functional spaces to play, learn, garden and be outside. The schoolyards also use special design elements to help reduce neighborhood flooding. Schoolyard transformations prioritize physical activity, outdoor learning and community engagement. The green schoolyards incorporate landscape features that capture a significant amount of rainfall, helping keep the city’s water resources clean and resulting in less neighborhood flooding.” – Space to Grow

Providing children a space to learn and play, while helping the environment is truly a win for everyone.

Tomorrow, some sustainable holiday gift ideas.

Less Stuff, More Experiences this Holiday Season

Day 330 – The holidays are a wonderful time of year. However, it’s also the time of year, where we produce the most waste. Between, the extra food, the wrapping paper and the need to make room for more stuff, we find ourselves tossing more in the trash.

I had an idea to help alleviate the amount of waste my family produced this holiday season by asking them to come up with gift ideas that involved more experiences than stuff. I even came up with a list to help inspire them.

A few of the suggestions included:

  1. The Movies
  2. Trampoline Park
  3. Escape Room
  4. Cooking Class
  5. A Play/Musical
  6. Golf Outing
  7. Nail Salon
  8. Sporting Event
  9. Museum Admission
  10. Amusement Park Pass

The kids used a website called So Kind Registry, to share their gift ideas with family. The site was created to encourages the giving of homemade gifts, charitable donations, secondhand
goods, experiences and more. My kids definitely need to work on the concept of less stuff and more fun, as I found items on the list along with a few experiences. The hope is that with each year, we can increase the requests for more experiences and less stuff.

Tomorrow, a cool way to protect your bike from the elements.

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.

Vacuuming Carbon Dioxide from the Sky

Day 322 – A Swiss company, Climeworks, has designed a way to remove the carbon dioxide out of the air. The direct air capture devices capture the carbon dioxide which can then be turned into useful materials. The first plant was opened in Switzerland in 2017. They just opened their fifteenth plant this summer in Iceland.

The removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is helping the environment in a few ways. First, by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it is decreasing greenhouse gases which contributes to global warming. Second, the captured carbon can be used for fuels and plastic. This prevents the need for more fossil carbon dioxide.

Another material produced from the captured carbon dioxide is cement.

Materials made from atmospheric carbon could be transformative for the construction and built environment sector, which together are responsible for an estimated 40 per cent of global emissions.” – Dezeen.com

Since buildings stand for a long time, long term carbon storage is possible.

Climeworks is not proposing to help decarbonize the global economy; instead, it is proposing to help defossilize it. This means leaving remaining fossil reserves in the ground to prevent new carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere.” – Dezeen.com

It has become very clear that we can not continue at the rate we are going when it comes to carbon emissions. Something needs to happen and it needs to happen now. Waiting another 30 years for countries to commit to zero carbon emissions is 30 years too long. Climeworks hasn’t come up with a solution to global warming, but they have found a key component in fighting the battle against a warming planet.

You can become a Climate Pioneer be helping remove carbon dioxide from the air. Start making your impact today!

Tomorrow, keeping the toilet clean.

What is a Green Restaurant?

Day 321 – On our road trip this summer, I noticed a sign on the window of the Grand Canyon Lodge’s restaurant. It got me thinking about what is involved in becoming a Green Restaurant.

Founded in 1990, The Green Restaurant Association, an international nonprofit organization, has pioneered the Green Restaurant® movement as the leading voice within the industry, encouraging restaurants to green their operations using transparent, science-based certification standards. With its turnkey certification system, the GRA has made it accessible for thousands of restaurants to become more environmentally sustainable in Energy, Water, Waste, Food, Chemicals, Disposables, & Building.” – Green Restaurant Association

The Green Restaurant Certification Standards include 8 categories:

  1. Water efficiency
  2. Waste reduction and recycling
  3. Sustainable durable goods and building materials
  4. Sustainable food
  5. Energy
  6. Reusables and environmentally preferable disposables
  7. Chemical and pollution reduction
  8. Transparency and education

If you want to find a Green Restaurant near you click HERE!

Green Restaurant Association also wants to educate the public. You can find more information about the following topics regarding restaurants and the environment.

  1. Energy
  2. Water
  3. Waste
  4. Disposables
  5. Chemicals
  6. Building
  7. Food

Whether if we’re eating at home or dining out, we should try to make sure our impact on the planet is not a negative one.

Tomorrow, vacuuming sky to clean up carbon emissions.

Madagascar Needs Our Help

Day 308 – I am a big fan of World New Tonight with David Muir. I tune in everyday to watch. If I’m busy the DVR is ready to record the episode for later viewing. My family doesn’t quite understand why I watch. They believe it’s all bad news. Sadly, they are right. There is not too much good news being shared. Thankfully, the last segment is always a feel good story. Getting through all the negative news to hear the good news is well worth it.

At the beginning of the week David Muir shared a story about Madagascar. Unfortunately, this was not the last story of the show. It was not the feel good story, but just the opposite. The current conditions being experienced on the island of Madagascar are extremely dangerous and it is threatening the people, the wildlife and the land.

Southern Madagascar is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years, making the land here too arid to farm and leading to crop failure. For the past four years, the severe lack of rain has led to depleted food sources and dried-up rivers. Climate change has also led to sandstorms affecting these lands, covering formerly arable land and rendering it infertile. The situation has led to widespread malnutrition affecting more than 1 million people, and pockets of what the United Nations classifies “catastrophic” food insecurity signaling deepening hunger.” – World News Tonight

So, why should we care about Madagascar?

Madagascar is one of the world’s highest priority countries for biodiversity conservation due to its exceptional species richness, high number of unique plant and animal species; and the magnitude of threats facing these ecologically, culturally, and economically valuable resources. There are more unique species of plants and animals living in Madagascar than on the entire African continent and more than eighty percent of its species can be found nowhere else on Earth. Because of this exceptional uniqueness of species, the loss of one hectare of forest in this country can have a larger effect on global biodiversity than forest loss anywhere else on Earth, making Madagascar arguably the highest biodiversity priority on the planet.” – USAID

Madagascar has produced 0.01 percent of the world’s annual carbon emissions in the last eight decades, but it is suffering some of the worst effects. The people of Madagascar are suffering due to the carelessness of so many other countries. If their story doesn’t convince the world that we need to start reversing the effects of climate change now, then we are destined to experience the same conditions.

Click here to help families in Madagascar.

Your donation will go a long way.

  • $7 provides a month of school meals for a child in need
  • $15 provides a month’s worth of lifesaving nutrition to small-scale farmers
  • $25 provides 50 mothers with nutritious meals$50 provides a child with a year of school meals
  • $75 feeds a family of 5 for one month, providing staples like rice, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, flour, beans, and lentils
  • $1,000 can feed a family of 5 for one year.

Tomorrow, a farm in a major league baseball park.

Top Cities with Successful Recycling Programs

Day 307 – After China banned the import of recycled material from the U.S., our rates have declined. Many municipalities have been struggling to meet demand due to the sheer weight of material that needs to be processed and the labor-intensive need to separate clean from “contaminated” recyclables, due to Americans’ imperfect recycling habits. However, there are some cities that are doing something right and have seen their recycling rates increase over the years.

Here is the list shared by rts.com, along with a brief summary of their efforts (shared on the rts.com website)

  1. Phoenix, Arizona – Phoenix is promoting real change both by setting realistic diversion rates that encourage accurate measurement – unlike some cities and companies that set unrealistically high goals – and by acknowledging and budgeting in for recycling and compost market realities to ensure that materials are actually recovered. Phoenix does this by forging creative outside partnerships, including with Arizona State University (ASU) and the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network incubator (RISN). To date, RSIN has incubated 16 companies and created 74 jobs with a total of $5.17 million in revenue generated.
  2. New York, New York – Developed through a collaborative process in 2016, the zero waste guidelines encourage architects, planners, developers, city officials, waste haulers, recycling experts, building managers, business owners, and the general public to work together to refine existing systems and build new ones.
  3. Los Angeles, California – LA’s Solid Waste Integrated Resources Plan (better known as the Zero Waste Plan) aims to achieve the goal of 90% waste diversion by 2025, rising to 97% by 2030. Introduced in 2013, the plan highlights both manufacturer and consumer responsibilities in the fight for a cleaner city. Resources for businesses and private citizens are available at the Rethink LA portal, where advice and guidance on waste reduction and recycling can be downloaded. Additionally, the CalRecycle website offers further information on wider state policies and programs.
  4. San Francisco, California – The city introduced one of the first composting collection programs in the US, as well as a plastic bag ban in 2013. Numerous programs and laws now exist to reduce waste and increase recycling, including; the Zero Waste Textile Initiative, the Cigarette Litter Abatement Ordinance, and the Construction and Demolition Ordinance.
  5. Seattle, Washington – Seattle’s commercial recycling program was made mandatory in 2013, and in 2010 it adopted a zero-waste policy that aimed to design and manage products and processes to eliminate landfill and incineration. In addition to this, the city provides numerous resources to help both businesses and citizens recycle more efficiently.
  6. Boise, Idaho – Among Boise’s numerous recycling initiatives, the Hefty® EnergyBag® stands out as particularly innovative, allowing residents to recycle previously non-recyclable plastics by collecting them in an orange bag. Over 550,000 bags have been collected so far.
  7. Portland, Oregon – The City of Portland aims to increase material recovery rates to 90% by 2030, engaging citizens and businesses in a range of initiatives including a comprehensive youth education program. Available free of charge to schools and young adult groups, it includes a broad range of resources designed to raise awareness of recycling, composting, and climate change as a whole aim to ensure that future generations have the tools and skills required to achieve truly zero waste.
  8. San Diego, California – Its Zero Waste Plan is now aiming for “zero” by 2040, with the city heavily investing in new technologies and promoting awareness throughout its communities. This also includes a Resource Recovery Center at the Miramar Landfill to maximize diversion, even at the final stages of the waste management journey.
  9. Boston, Massachusetts – Boston’s Zero Waste initiative was introduced in 2018 and is striving to achieve 80% diversion by 2030. Offering residents and businesses a wealth of information alongside a range of practical toolkits designed to help residents reduce, repair, and recycle materials effectively and efficiently, the city has drastically improved its recycling and material recovery reputation in recent years.
  10. Denver, Colorado – Its recent collaboration with The Recycling Partnership is helping to raise awareness through a range of pilot routes designed to increase the types of materials residents can add to their purple recycling carts. One of these pilots encourages increased aluminum and steel can diversion – with on-the-ground experts assigned to routes, guiding residents by providing information cards detailing how to properly recycle these materials. This information will also be available in mailers, signs, and social media.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, Chicago is not on the list. We are the 3rd largest city in the country, but have still not figured out how to become a leader when it comes to zero waste initiatives and programs that would educate residents and businesses. There is much work to be done.

Tomorrow, the crisis in Madagascar.

Reducing Methane Emissions

Day 303 – I have written about greenhouse gases in past posts and discussed their connection to global warming. More times than not we tend to focus on the carbon emissions that contribute to greenhouse gases. However, methane gases is 25 more times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Typically, methane remains in the atmosphere for about nine years. This is far less time than carbon emissions, which remain in the atmosphere for 300 to 1,000 years. Yet, methane is far more efficient at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.” – Earth911

Earth911 gives tips on how we can all reduce our methane emissions.

  1. Agriculture – Reduction strategies include preventing the burning of fields after harvests, adjusting feed for livestock so that they release less methane, and regularly draining rice paddies.
  2. Energy – Improving the detection and repair of methane leaks at oil and gas facilities and flooding abandoned coal mines that leak the gas. Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and switching over to renewable energy can help reduce methane emissions. 
  3. Waste – Mitigation strategies include reducing waste that ends up in landfills, such as by recycling and composting; capturing methane gas; and burning methane gas, which is known as flaring. Composting as much of our organic waste from the yard and kitchen as possible helps reduce our methane emissions.

Something we can all do, is support Certified B Corporations. These companies meet rigorous environmental and social criteria and are leaders in the sustainable business field.

Tomorrow, where you can get your Halloween pumpkin composted and keep it out of the landfill.