What is a Green Hotel?

Day 320 – A Green Hotel is one that has taken steps to be more sustainable. Maybe they were built using sustainable materials. Or perhaps they have installed water saving plumbing fixtures. Some even donate to organizations that are helping protect the environment. There are numerous ways to be “green”, but it’s not always easy to know which hotels are being truthful about their efforts or if it’s just greenwashing.

GreenHotels.com states that certifications are expensive and not necessary when giving a hotel the title of Green Hotel. However, Earth911 shared some certifications that hotels can hold to help better identify them as a company that cares about the planet.

  1. Green Globe – The certification program has specific criteria for various types of tourism-related businesses, including golf courses, restaurants, tour operators, attractions, and resorts. Companies can have three different statuses: Certified, Gold, and Platinum. Companies can achieve the Platinum standards if they have been certified for 10 consecutive years. In addition, Green Globe has received Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) recognition, helping to increase trust in this certification.
  2. Green Key Global – Green Key uses a grading system with five keys being the highest and provides guidance on improving a rating. The assessment examines multiple areas of operation, including waste, energy, water, community outreach, and indoor air quality. Like Green Globe, Green Key is GSTC-recognized.
  3. Travelife – This international certification program is available for tour operators and accommodations in over 50 countries. Its program includes 163 criteria related to human rights, community engagement, and environmental impact. 

A few major hotel chains that have shown a concerted effort to green their operations include Hilton, Marriot, Hyatt, and Starwood Hotels.

Whether you’re staying in a Green Hotel or not, there are things you can do to help the planet.

  1. Avoid drinking bottled water (unless it’s the only safe water to drink).
  2. Let housekeeping know you do not need clean sheets and towels on a daily basis.
  3. Turn down heat or air conditioning when not in your room.
  4. Turn off the lights and TV when not in the room.
  5. When booking a hotel, choose one that is in walking distance of where you want to visit.
  6. Bring your own toiletries instead of using the hotel’s supply.
  7. If your hotel does not recycle, consider funding somewhere that does.

If you’re out enjoying a much needed vacation or working hard on a business trip, it’s always important to keep the planet in mind and your impact on it. Try to choose GREEN!

Tomorrow, green restaurants and what they do.

The Importance of Old Growth Forests

Day 316 – The Daintree Rainforest in Queensland, Australia is the oldest forest in the world. It is estimated to be 180 million years old. To be considered an old growth forest you don’t have to be millions of years old. On average, an old growth forest is around 150 years old.

What is putting the old growth forests in danger?

  1. Canadian lumber exports in 2020 were valued at $33 billion Canadian dollars (US$26 billion) and some of the lumber came from old growth forests.
  2. Old growth lumber is more desirable and old growth forests yield more timber per acre and produces better quality wood.

Though there are some protections for old growth forests, there are so many reasons as to why more needs to be done.

  1. Old growth forests also house tremendous biodiversity.
  2. Many of the species found in old forests are endemic – they cannot survive anywhere else.
  3. Old growth forests protect water quality, prevent erosion and landslides, and remove pollutants from the air.
  4. Old growth trees are more resilient than younger forests to drought and wildfires. 
  5. Old growth forests continue to actively sequester carbon both in their trees and in the soil.

Scientists are constantly making new discoveries about old growth forests. Once lost, it may be impossible to ever replace them. Whatever undiscovered benefits old growth forests hold will be lost forever.” – Earth911

One way you can help save the old growth forests is to avoid purchasing paper products from companies using lumber from these forests. On Day 26, I shared information on toilet paper companies and their sustainability practices. Being an informed consumer will help save the planet.

Tomorrow, the sustainability of honey.

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.

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.

Electric Composters: Are they worth it?

Day 283 – You might be thinking, yet another post about composting? However, I can not express enough how important composting is for the environment. The food that ends up in the landfill is a major contributor to methane gas, which is a greenhouse gas. Landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions in the U.S., according to the EPA. So, making sure we divert food waste from the landfill is key to reducing greenhouse gases.

So, when I started seeing advertisements about electric composters, I was curious if they really worked. Earth911 was kind enough to share some information about various electric composters and to share the pros and cons.

Even though there were a few pros on purchasing an electric composter, the bottom line is that we do not need yet another electric appliance. Just another expensive piece of machinery that generates carbon emissions when built and has no where to go, except the landfill, when it stops working. Yet another contributor to the e-waste problem.

Earth911 does suggest that if an electric composter is the one option you’re willing to try then make sure you’re buying it from a responsible company.

If you’re interested in purchasing an electric composter, look for brands that take a full product lifecycle approach to make their product as sustainable as possible. That would mean the company has taken steps to reduce the manufacturing emissions and raw materials consumption on the front end, and it has a sustainable solution for responsibly disposing of or recycling the product at the end of its life.” – Earth911

Tomorrow, detergent pods and the plastic problem.

Recycling Car Seats

Day 254 – On average, one child will go through three car seats. That ends up being a lot of car seats that need disposal. Over 12 million car seats are disposed of each year in the U.S.

Earth911 has taken the mystery out of recycling your car seat.

Reasons why you would need to dispose of a car seat:

  • The car seat has been recalled for safety reasons.
  • Children have outgrown their car seats.
  • The car seat has expired.
  • The car seat has been in an accident.

If a car seat hasn’t been recalled, expired, or been in an accident and is still in good shape, donating it to someone who can use it is the best choice. The website safeconvertiblecarseats.com has a list of organizations in all 50 states that accept used, non-expired car seats for donation. The listed organizations include children’s hospitals, shelters for families in crisis, and agencies supporting foster families.

Some retailers will take your car seat and recycle it. Target held a two-week car seat recycling event in April 2021. Hopefully, they will continue the program in 2022.

One mail-in option is Clek’s car seat recycling program. They accept any brand of car seat for recycling for a fee. The fees range from roughly $35-50 per car seat. They do offer 10% off of a future purchase of their products. If you’re going to buy one of their car seats anyway, that discount can offset the recycling fee.

Another mail-in option, if you have a Century brand car seat, is TerraCycle’s Century Baby Gear Recycling Program. Although this program is free of charge, only Century brand car seats are eligible.

When your child outgrows their car seat, consider keeping it out of the landfill by looking into one of these many options.

Tomorrow, innovative solutions to plastic pollution.

Nail Polish: Recycling Options & Sustainable Brands

Day 230 – Nail polish is another one of those things that I do not use, but have daughters that do. So, looking into what to do with half used bottles was on the to-do-list. I’m sure many think it’s alright to throw nail polish bottles in the trash. However, the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) considers nail polish to be a household hazardous waste (HHW) due to the toxic chemicals found in nail polish. So, throwing bottles in the trash or pouring unused polish down the drain is not an option.

Chicago residents can drop off nail polish at the Household Chemicals and Computer Recycling Facility, located at 1150 N. North Branch Street. Check out their website for days and times of operation. You can also click HERE to see a full list of other household chemicals they accept. You can also read about what happens to items taken to the Household Chemicals and Computer Recycling Facility by clicking HERE.

For those outside of Chicago, you can enter your ZIP code into Earth911’s recycling search directory to find your nearby HHW facility.

If you’re looking to replace your nail polish with more eco-friendly brands check out the companies below.

Habit – Habit is a black-owned and female-founded vegan cosmetics brand based in the U.S. All of their nail polish is vegan and sustainably made in the US. Their luxurious nail polish bottles are sustainably packaged with a removable bamboo cap and all of the plastic components are made with recycled plastic materials.

Dazzle Dry – Dazzle Dry is based in the US and they continuously strive to adopt more sustainable and ethical practices. They currently uses eco-conscious materials like biodegradable packing peanuts. With every purchase made, a tree is planted in partnership with WeForest.

Base Coat – Base Coat is located in Denver, Colorado. All Base Coat products are formulated to be as clean as possible by cutting out toxins and using plant-based ingredients whenever they can. They also cut down on unnecessary packaging and use recycled, compostable materials to reduce their impact on the environment.

Elle – All of Elle Polish are Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free and vegan. Elle Polish also offers a recycling program where you can send in 5 empty elle polish bottles to be recycled and in return, you’ll get a special edition polish.

Jolie Vegan – Vegan and cruelty free nail polish made in the U.S. Jolie Vegan also gives back. With every purchase, they donate a portion of their sales to charitable organizations such as Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Rooted Woman – Rooted Woman is a black-owned business that offers cruelty-free, gluten free nail polish which is made in the U.S. Rooted Woman curates non-toxic and ethically sourced nail polish.

Tenoverten – A vegan and cruelty-free brand made in the U.S. Tenoverten contains horsetail leaf extract, essential oils, vitamin E and aloe to care for and protect nails. It can be found at Target.

So, if you happen to have environmentally unfriendly nail polish, be sure to dispose of it responsibly. And the next time you’re ready to pick up a new bottle, be sure to check out a more friendly option.

Tomorrow, the best and worst cars emitting carbon dioxide emissions.

Recycling Cooking Oil

Day 220 – My family enjoys french fries. For the longest time we would bake them in the oven. However, once we were introduced to fries cooked in a fryer, we definitely preferred them over the oven baked. Large bottles of cooking oil were purchased and used numerous times. However, once the cooking oil was no longer good to fry with, we were not sure how to dispose of it. Capping it and tossing it in the garbage did not seem like a good solution. Last year, I looked into the Loyola University School of Environmental Sustainability’s cooking oil recycling program. I was disappointed to find out that the program was on pause due to the pandemic.

Well, I’m happy to say that Loyola Biodiesel Program is back in business.

The Biodiesel Program accepts donations of used cooking oil. If you have recently deep-fried a turkey, or have a jar of expired oil…we’ll take it! All vegetable oil (including peanut oil) donated to Loyola will be turned into clean-burning, renewable fuel: biodiesel. We do NOT accept solid fats, petroleum oil products, bacon grease, or pan drippings.” – LBP

Loyola’s student-run enterprise is the first and only school operation licensed to sell biodiesel in the United States, and is a certified green business with the Illinois Green Business Association.

To donate your oil please drop-off your oil in sealed containers at the School of Environmental Sustainability:

6349 N. Kenmore Ave. Chicago, IL 60660

Look for the Oil Donation sign on the left-hand side as you enter the lobby. If the door is locked, please leave your oil in a sealed container outside the door and off to the side so it does not block the door. Thank you!

To find the closest oil recycling near you, click HERE.

Even though we have a place to recycle our oil, we are strongly considering purchasing an air fryer. Not needing to purchase all that oil in plastic bottles would be a nice thing to avoid. Not to mention, I can only imagine having less fried food in our diet would be more healthy.

Tomorrow, keeping the planet in mind while gathering up those back to school supplies.

Which is greener? Grocery shopping online or in-person

Day 215 – The pandemic has really increased the use of online grocery shopping. My family used the option a couple times when we had a positive case in the family and quarantined for a couple weeks. I was thankful for having this option and so grateful for those working through the pandemic to ensure we had access to food and all the essentials. After our quarantine was over, we were back to shopping in-person. However, I know many people have really liked the idea of having their groceries delivered and may never consider going back to a grocery store. So, I thought I would write about which shopping method is greener, online or in-person.

While reading a few articles on the subject a few points stuck out.

  1. Large grocery stores use a great deal of energy to operate. Making sure customers and products are at a comfortable temperature takes a lot of energy.
  2. Overstocking in large grocery stores is standard and it’s estimated that 10.5 million tons of food waste are generated from grocery stores each year.
  3. Direct delivery from a fulfillment center has the potential to eliminate some retail inefficiencies. Fulfillment centers eliminate at least one step from the distribution system, can store food in a way that keeps it fresh longest instead of in appealing displays for consumers, and can order only what they know they will sell.
  4. Secondary packaging for delivery – such as disposable bags, ice packs, and foam cushioning – is an additional source of waste.
  5. The number of delivery vehicles in cities is projected to rise 36% by 2030, which could lead to an increase in emissions and a 21% increase in congestion.
  6. Journey consolidation and smart routing powered by artificial intelligence are promising approaches to more efficient, less polluting delivery.

In the end, both options have their negative and positive effects on the environment.

Earth911 came up with a list of questions to ask yourself before deciding which option is best for you and the planet.

  • Are you replacing a drive to the supermarket, or would you have walked or biked instead?
  • Do your deliveries come from a local hub or a large, distant distribution center?
  • Who makes the deliveries? Gig workers in their own vehicles or employees in company-owned electric vehicles?
  • Do they deliver in reusable containers made from recycled materials or disposable ones made from virgin materials?
  • Do they deliver your groceries according to an algorithm that reduces delivery miles or at the time you specify?

For me, the biggest turn off to online shopping is the extra packaging. At times it is absurd as to how much is used. If I can find what I’m looking for at the local store, I will opt to purchase in-person, using my reusable bags.

Tomorrow, an app that is saving consumers money and addresses the problem of food waste.

Breaking Free from Plastic Pollution

Day 191 – So, we’re a week into Plastic Free July. How are you doing? How many single-use plastic items have you refused this week? Have you made any swaps in your home for plastic free options? It’s never too late to make the changes. It’s never too late to help make a difference.

Plastic will be the topic the whole month of July. It’s an important topic and one that needs a great deal of attention and discussion.

Plastic is unfriendly to the environment. From its creation to its destruction, plastic emits toxins into the air we breathe and the water we drink. More than 350 million metric tons of plastic are produced worldwide. Most of that ends up as litter, threatening wildlife and human life. According to a 2019 study, the average person ingests about 5 grams of microplastics per week (about as much plastic as a credit card) through food, water, and even the air we breathe.

Even though many people see the problem with plastic pollution, there are also a large number that would rather ignore it. That’s where the U.S. Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2021 (BFFPPA) comes in.

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2021 (BFFPPA) builds on successful statewide laws across the U.S. and outlines practical plastic reduction strategies to realize a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable future. The federal bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA), represents the most comprehensive set of policy solutions to the plastic pollution crisis ever introduced in Congress.” BreakFreeFromPlastic.org

The amazing people over at Earth911, came up with a list of ways you can help the cause.

  1. Join the global movement against plastic pollution by signing up on the Break Free From Plastic website.
  2. You can also join organized plastic-fighting campaigns or activities (virtually or locally) or even start your own.
  3. You can help by reducing your own personal plastic consumption; Avoid single-use plastics, Check if an item’s packaging is recyclable before purchasing it, Opt for products made from recycled rather than virgin plastic, Bring reusable bags when shopping, Shop local (local products typically use less plastic packaging).
  4. Contact your representatives and ask them to support the Break Free From Pollution Act. 
  5. Perhaps the easiest way to support this movement is to share it. 

It’s a monumental challenge, but our country has been faced with many difficult challenges before. We need to come together and realize that this is a fight we all need to get involved in, if we’re going to have any chance of success.

Tomorrow, creating beautiful music with recyclable materials.