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.

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.

Footwear: Sustainable options

Day 150 – If you read this title and thought I would be sharing a variety of footwear options, like heels, boots or nice dress shoes, sorry. My footwear consists of gym shoes. Thankfully, I do not have many opportunities to wear anything different. So, today’s post is a list of sustainable gym shoes, also known as sneakers. What? Sustainable gym shoes? Yes, they do exist and they just might find their way on to your feet in the future. While researching for this post, I purchased my first eco-friendly gym shoe. I can’t wait for my new shoes to arrive!

This list consists of shoes good for running, while other are better for walking. It is by no means a complete list. There are many sustainable brands out there. Which is a good thing. I’m always a bit shocked by the price of athletic shoes. The cost of these sustainable brands are comparable to non-sustainable brands.

Allbirds – Allbirds uses wool from merino wool. With fibers that are 20% the diameter of human hair, superfine merino wool is breathable, temperature-regulating, and moisture-wicking, all without that irritating scratchiness. Shoelaces are made from recycled plastic bottles. Castor bean oil helps increase the natural content in their insoles. Their packaging is made from 90% recycled cardboard. They are a B-Corporation. They offset all emissions to operate as a carbon neutral business.

Adidas & Parley -Adidas has partnered with Parlay, whose technology turns plastic into high-performance fabrics. Adidas has a goal to use no virgin polyester by 2024. They have created a line of shoes and apparel. Adidas also has a take back program, which will recycle material from old shoes to be used in their new shoes.

Merrell – Merrell is beginning to incorporate more sustainable practices into their shoe making process. Instead of using virgin polyester, they are using material created from plastic bottles. They are incorporating post-industrial scrap rubber into the soles of some of their shoes (Gridway collection). They use EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) from the midsole manufacturing process in a variety of their shoes.

Newton Running – Boulder, Colorado-based Newton Running is the leader in performance running shoes that promote gait efficiency for people at all levels of the sport, from first-time 5k runners to seasoned marathoners. In addition to its devotion to help people run better, Newton Running is committed to corporate responsibility through sustainability efforts and through the support of numerous charitable organizations and has been nationally recognized for these efforts.

Icebug – Since 2019, Icebug is the first climate positive outdoor footwear brand. From 2020 onwards, they’re offsetting 200% of carbon emissions caused. They are a 1% for the Planet member. They have reduced the number of different materials they use and switched to less environmentally harmful alternatives. Whenever it’s possible, they use recycled material.

Nothing New – With every pair of sneakers produced, 5.6 plastic bottles are repurposed & 160 gallons of water are saved. They are committed to purchasing “carbon offsets” from verified emissions reduction projects to offset the emission created from shipping their shoes. Their shoes are made from 100% sustainable materials. They offer a take back program, where you send your shoes back to Nothing New, they’ll pay for shipping and give you $20 off your next purchase.

Arbor Collective – Arbor’s footwear collection is produced from low-emissions factories and features repurposed materials like their Rubber Regrind and recycled materials such as their polyester fabrics and paper packaging. With every purchase of Arbor footwear, a portion of the proceeds is donated towards their Returning Roots program, which assists in the preservation of the Koa forests in Hawaii.

SAOLA – Depending on the style, each pair of SAOLA shoes contains between 3 and 7 recycled PET bottles. SAOLA insoles and many of the shoes’ outsoles are made with recycled Algae Foam. SAOLA has partnered with the team at Bloom Foam to harvest harmful algae and create eco-friendly, bio-sourced materials for the insoles and outsoles of their shoes. They use organic cotton for their shoelaces. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers are replaced by natural compost, and this cotton requires half as much water as traditional cotton. SAOLA is also a member of 1% for the Planet.

I’m very excited for my SAOLA shoes to arrive! This company is super impressive, the shoes look good and the price fit my budget. Looking forward to taking another step to helping the planet.

Tomorrow, another great option for recycling your sneakers.

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!

Polywood: Outdoor furniture produced from recycled plastic materials

Day 143 – I love learning about companies like Polywood. They saw a problem and decided to do something about it.

“30 years ago, we were the first to create outdoor furniture from recycled plastic materials. Our mission remains to recover and transform landfill-bound and ocean-bound plastic into durable outdoor furniture that will last for generations.” – Polywood

Their line of outdoor furniture is extensive and are backed with a 20 year warranty. The Polywood lumber doesn’t splinter, crack, chip, peel or rot.

As if outdoor furniture created from recycled plastic wasn’t cool enough, here are a few other reasons to check out Polywood:

  1. The all-weather material is built to withstand all four seasons and a range of climates including hot sun, snowy winters, salt spray and heavy winds.
  2. Polywood lumber cleans easily with soap and water and require no painting, staining, or waterproofing.
  3. UV inhibitors and stabilizers protect the lumber from harmful environmental degradation.

I’m leaning toward the Nautical 3 piece Porch Rocking Chair Set. I love a good rocking chair. I’ll keep you posted if I end up making the purchase.

So, if you’re in the market for some new outdoor furniture consider supporting a company that is helping to keep plastic out of landfills and oceans.

Tomorrow, the recyclability of tires.

Mattresses: Are they recyclable?

Day 133 – Mattresses and boxsprings are probably one of the hardest thing to donate. Many organizations do not want your old bed. Especially, in this time of COVID, there are health concerns regarding these items. So, more times than not, your only option is to dispose of the mattresses and boxspring. I can not count how many times I have seen these items hanging out in alleys. Waiting for a special pick up from the street and sanitation department, only to be sent to the landfill. If only there was another option.

Thankfully, there is a company in Blue Island, Illinois, named Green Spring Recycling. They will recycle your mattress and boxspring for FREE! All you have to do is get them to their facility.

From their website:

Green Spring Recycling is open Monday-Friday from 8:00AM to 4:00PM and Saturday 8am-2pm.  Items can be dropped off any time during those hours free of charge. No one is allowed inside the building, or interaction with staff.

Dropoff location:13611 Thornton Road,  Blue Island, Illinois 60406

Look for the big blue water tower.  If you follow the water tower, it is located on our property.  Directly across from the water tower you’ll see 3 loading docks and a metal pallet rack under a sign which reads “Shipping/Receiving”.   Place your used mattress and/or box spring standing upright on the pallet.  Please call 708-262-3749 upon arrival so that staff knows you are dropping off.   No soaked mattresses, no heavily soiled and no bed bugs.  THANK YOU!

They only offer bulk pick-up. Contact them for more information about this service.

The history behind the company is an interesting read and I encourage you to take a few minutes to learn a little more about the company. Through trial and error, they have developed a method to recycle mattresses and boxsprings in an effective way.

“Used bedding is broken down by hand and diverted into different categories of raw material.  Foam is baled and diverted to carpet padding manufacturing processes.  Metal is recycled and diverted to be used for many different processes.   Our suppliers are vast and equally important, consisting of residential home owners, commercial and retail distribution centers, hotel/motel & hospitality, university dorms, and even municipalities for local bulk waste programs.  We provide a variety of solutions for each unique situation, helping to divert mattresses and boxsprings from ending up in a landfill.  By providing employment for locals in the area, and helping divert and recycle used bedding away from landfills, we pride ourselves in helping make a difference in the lives of people and helping keep our blessed earth GREEN.” – Green Spring Recycling

There are other companies out there willing to take your mattresses and boxspring for a cost. One of those being Mattress Disposal Plus, which is affiliated with LoadUp. After my experience with Couch Plus (which is also affiliated with LoadUp), I would not recommend them for any kind of disposal.

So, the next time we are in the market for a new mattress, I will be sure to take a ride out to Blue Island and get the old one recycled.

Tomorrow, the concern over nanomaterials.

Shower Curtains: Recycle or Trash

Day 131 – My shower curtain is fabric, but I needed something to keep the water inside the tub, during showers. I bought the cheapest liner possible. It was a few bucks and made from a plastic/vinyl combination. After about 6 months or so, it would become rather gross and I would throw it away and buy a new one. A few years ago, I realized that if I spent a little more on a nice liner, I could easily clean it. By tossing it in the washing machine, I was able to use it over and over.

Besides the washable polyester shower curtain liner that I started to use, there are other earth friendly options.

  1. 100% cotton or hemp curtain – Once these curtains lived out their lives they could be cut up and placed in your compost.
  2. Shower door – This is not an option for everyone, but having a shower door would take away the need for a curtain.

If you decide to switch out your shower curtain for a more eco-friendly option, then you’re faced with the question, “What do I do with my old plastic shower curtain?”

Earth911 came up with a list of ideas:

  • Dropcloth for interior painting
  • Table cover for messy DIY or craft projects
  • Protect your car seats under kids’ booster seats
  • Line your vehicle’s trunk
  • Liner under the cat’s litter box
  • Liner for inside the cabinet under kitchen sink
  • When camping, use it to protect firewood from rain, as a waterproof tablecloth, a tent tarp, or to divide food in the cooler.

Remember, that your plastic shower curtain can not be recycled curbside. Unless, you’re willing to pay for a bathroom zero waste box from TerraCycle , your other option is to repurpose it or throw it in the trash. Hopefully, you find a new purpose for your old shower curtain and your new curtain is plastic free.

Tomorrow, so many options to recycle your old electronics.

No One Wants Your Broken Stuff

Day 128 – Many people try to avoid throwing things away. They don’t want to add to the endless piles of trash that end up in the landfill. Unfortunately, the next option (for some) is to donate those items. They get boxed up and dropped off at the nearest donation center. Unfortunately, no one wants your broken stuff and all those “donations” end up exactly where you were hoping they would not, in the landfill.

In a recent NPR article, a Goodwill store spokesperson in New Hampshire was interviewed. She oversees 30 Goodwill stores in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Their trash bill adds up to around $1 million a year with about $13 million pounds of waste. This is just one organization, in only three states. Multiply those numbers by thousands of organizations across the country and you have an astronomical amount of waste. Waste that no one cares about or gives a second thought about, because it’s believed it has all gone to a “good cause.”

“A lampshade, which is stained and disgusting and literally falling apart. There’s a small table missing a leg, cracked purple food-storage containers and a used sponge. They’re just a representative sample of the useless stuff dropped off the day before.” – Heather Steeves (Goodwill spokesperson)

Goodwill and other organizations will try to recycle what they can, but when people are donating, what can only be described as trash, then it becomes very difficult.

On Day 72, I shared a list of over 90 items that Best Buy will take and recycle. The City of Chicago has a Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility that accepts numerous items. Click HERE for the complete list of accepted items. I have shared how to recycle clothes and shoes that are not fit for donation. Sometimes a simple Google search can send you in the right direction when looking for a recycler, because your items are not worth donating.

I saw first hand, when volunteering at Cradles to Crayons, the amount of donated waste. The kids and I were put in the toy section. A majority of the donated toys were not considered acceptable. Games with missing pieces, deflated balls, nonworking electronic toys, dolls and action figures missing limbs, random happy meal toys, were just some of the discarded toys. I ended up coming home with two large boxes of toys that were going to end up in the trash. This was just a two hour shift. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of toys thrown out on a daily basis. I have purchased a Zero Waste Box from TerraCycle to recycle the unwanted toys. TerraCycle has partnered with Hasbro, V-Tech, Leap Frog, Spin Master and L.O.L. Surprise to recycle their toys. You can always drop any of these toys at the monthly Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycling Popup.

Heather from Goodwill suggests, “The key question to ask before dropping something off is: If you needed it, would you buy it in this condition?”

Tomorrow, supporting fair trade.

Wrapping Paper: Help the trees out

Day 120 – It is estimated that Americans spend around $7 billion on wrapping paper each year. An estimated 30 million trees are cut down just to produce gift wrap, and it’s difficult to recycle due to the dyes used. The ones made with plastic or foil can not be recycled at all.

So, how are we supposed to wrap gifts in an environmentally friendly way?

Thankfully, there are a few options:

  1. The trusty and very reusable gift bag is always a nice option.
  2. Wrapping in a cloth, using the Furoshiki method can be very stylish.
  3. Kraft paper may not look too festive, but it is highly recyclable. It gets the job done, by concealing the surprise.
  4. Newspaper gift wrap has always been an option for centuries. The comics have always been a favorite choice. I purchased wrapping paper from Wrappily. They use newspaper presses to create festive gift wrap that is 100% recyclable newsprint. Even the packaging that the wrapping paper comes in is compostable. The paper I ordered was reversible and ended up in our compost after the birthday boy opened his gifts.
  5. Reusable gift boxes are easy and festive.
  6. Another option is using wrapping paper made from recycled paper. There are plenty of companies offering this option and an easy internet search should point you in the right direction. There are numerous options on Etsy.

So, on this 149th Arbor Day, let’s think about saving the trees and finding alternatives to wrapping paper. Avoiding giving gifts to your loved ones in unrecyclable wrapping paper, is a gift in itself.

Tomorrow, recycling old candles.