Help Save the Polar Bears by Fighting Climate Change

Day 58 – Today is International Polar Bear Day! Those absolutely majestic arctic creatures that are endangered of extinction because of global warming.

“Every winter, Arctic sea ice grows around the pole, its frozen tendrils threading along northern coasts. Right now sea ice has just passed its peak coverage for the year, and will begin to shrink with the coming of spring. It’s a crucial time for polar bears, whose food supply is inextricably linked to sea ice. And in recent decades, sea ice has been shrinking faster than ever. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, 2019 has the seventh-lowest sea ice cover in the Arctic since they began collecting satellite data 40 years ago.” – National Geographic

Global warming is that gargantuan problem that seems impossible to tackle, absolutely absurd to comprehend and inconceivable to think that any of us could actually help the situation. But what if I told you, you could make a difference in your everyday life? And that the choices you make on a daily basis could help the polar bears?

Some of these suggestions have been mentioned in past posts. They are practical, easy and do not require much effort. If they are followed on a regular basis, they could have a huge impact on decreasing global warming.

  1. Waste less food. Composting and/or making sure you eat your leftovers, can make a huge impact on the amount of food you throw away.
  2. Eat less factory-farmed red meat. As mentioned on Day 15, reducing the amount of red meat in your diet can reduce greenhouse gases.
  3. Consume less energy and water. On Day 10, I shared a list of ways to reduce your energy and water use.
  4. Shop local. Not only are you putting dollars into your community, but you are reducing carbon emissions. By shopping local goods do not need to be shipped to you.
  5. Support non-profits fighting global warming. Your donation dollars can help initiatives and movements to help improve our planet.
  6. Recycle and purchase recycled material. On Day 26, I write about purchasing recycled toilet paper. There are countless options when looking for products made from recycled material.
  7. Find alternatives to single use plastic. Whether if it’s reusable produce bags or reusable storage bags, finding alternatives to single use plastics is become easier every day.
  8. Try to use your car less. Walking and biking are great options, along with public transportation.
  9. Consume less and waste less. Sometimes you just have to say no and realize that there are things you just don’t need.
  10. Open a dialogue and find common ground on the subject. The more we talk about global warming, the more people will understand and want to help.

Click HERE to read about 101 ways to fight climate change.

So, skip the cheeseburger, ride a bike, purchase recycled toilet paper, or shop at a local farmers market. All these decisions can reduce greenhouse gases and give those polar bears a fighting chance.

Tomorrow, our love-hate relationship with clothes.

Beauty Products: A place for your empties

Day 37 – I cleaned out the bathroom with the oldest daughter. She let me know what was going and what was staying. It was ridiculous how much product was acquired in a short time. After the big clean out, I was left with numerous containers. Some were recyclable, while others were not. So, the next task was to find a place to recycle these non-recyclables.

I didn’t have to look far. I had read that Nordstrom’s had partnered with TerraCycle.

TerraCycle® and Nordstrom have partnered to create a national program for all brands of beauty and skincare product packaging with Nordstrom BEAUTYCYCLE. Nordstrom aims to recycle 100 tons of beauty packaging by 2025, and you can play a part.” – TerraCycle

All you have to do is find your closest Nordstrom store. Locate the BEAUTYCYCLE box (located in the beauty product section). Deposit your beauty products and skincare packaging, such as pump caps, hair spray triggers, lipstick cases, eyeliner pencils, and mascara tubes. It’s as easy as that!

Tomorrow, lessening the need for paper towels.

Earth911: A newsletter that helps you help the planet

Day 31Earth911 has an abundance of useful information for those looking to make changes or those wanting to continue to live a life of sustainability. If you’re looking for a recycling location, Earth911 can help. If you’re looking for suggestions on how to recycle, Earth911 can help. If you’re looking for ways to make better purchases that will not harm the planet, but can actually help it, Earth 911 can help.

The Earth911 newsletter has been invaluable when it comes to providing useful information. I have found numerous helpful articles.

Send Your Pill Bottles to Do Some Good – Now that I take a daily allergy medicine, there is no doubt that the prescription bottles will start piling up. I now have a place where I can send them and help others!

Recycling Mystery: Kitchen Sponges and Scouring Pads – This article gave me suggestions on what to use instead of popular kitchen sponge, which isn’t easily recyclable and they add to the microplastic problem endangering our waterways.

How to Recycle Your Old Cookware – The Earth911 articles give helpful tips on how you can divert countless household items from the landfill.

If you’re looking for another resource to help guide you on your journey to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, then be sure to signup for the Earth911 newsletter (found on their homepage).

Tomorrow, taking up a collection for the troops.

Bubble Wrap: Friend or foe

Day 25 – Happy Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day! In 1956, Marc Chavannes and Alfred Fielding put two shower curtains together and created air bubbles between the two curtains. They thought they were on to something and decided to move forward with the idea. Their creation went on to be wall paper!

Well, the wall paper was not a big hit and eventually the product evolved into what we know today as Bubble Wrap. For 60 years this squishy, air filled plastic has been protecting our most fragile possessions. Not to mention, its has been delighting children and adults alike. Whether, you take a more meticulous method by popping each individual bubble or create an explosive sound by stomping on it with your feet, there is no denying that Bubble Wrap is entertaining.

Nowadays, the Bubble Wrap is not as popular and has been replaced with air pillows and brown paper. However, if you find yourself in possession of this creatively engineered piece of plastic, be sure to use it wisely. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Recycle the Bubble Wrap with your plastic bags, of course, after you have enjoyed every single bubble.
  2. Hold on to the Bubble Wrap for the next time you need to ship or store something delicate.
  3. Share your Bubble Wrap. There are plenty of people moving and in need of protective coverings.

Whatever you decide to do with your Bubble Wrap just don’t throw it away!

Tomorrow, a paper product that we take for granted, but could not imagine our life without it.

TerraCycle: Eliminating the idea of waste

Day 23TerraCycle was born in 2001, when a freshman at Princeton University took food scraps to create quality fertilizer. Twenty years later, Tom Szaky has grown the company and its programs to include over 202 million people in 21 countries that have helped to collect and recycle enough waste to raise over 44 million dollars for charities around the world. TerraCycle has made recycling those hard to recycle items a little bit easier.

Here’s how it works (as seen on TerraCycles website):

  1. Free Recycling Programs – TerraCycle offers free recycling programs funded by brands, manufacturers, and retailers around the world to help you collect and recycle your hard-to-recycle waste. Simply choose the programs you’d like to join; start collecting in your home, school, or office; download free shipping labels; and send us your waste to be recycled. You can even earn rewards for your school or favorite non-profit!
  2. Zero Waste Box – TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box™ platform allows you to recycle almost any type of waste, from your coffee capsules to complex laboratory waste. Choose the waste stream you’d like to recycle, purchase your preferred box size, collect your waste, and send it to TerraCycle to be repurposed (shipping is included).
  3. Municipal Programs – TerraCycle partners with many municipalities around the world to provide zero waste solutions such as city-wide programs for recycling cigarette butts.
  4. Industrial Waste Solutions – TerraCycle partners with many manufacturing facilities around the world to help recycle hard-to-recycle waste at the facility level. Our programs range from helping to recycle large volumes of packaging scrap to personal safety equipment.
  5. Regulated Waste Recycling – TerraCycle’s regulated waste division provides products and services to help you facilitate the effective and compliant management of regulated, universal and hazardous waste. This may include fluorescent lamps, bulbs, batteries, and e-waste as well as organic waste, medical waste and other waste streams that are potentially harmful to the environment.

In the coming months, I will discuss my participation in various programs offered by TerraCycle. I’ll be sure to include the pros and cons, so you can decide if it can be a viable option for your recycling needs.

Tomorrow, the dilemma of what to do with old furniture.

How2Recycle: Labels that help

Day 9 – How2Recycle began is 2008 as a project of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. There main goals, as described on their website:

Our Goals

  • Reduce confusion by creating a clear, well-understood, and nationally harmonized label that enables companies to convey to consumers how to recycle a package.
  • Improve the reliability, completeness, and transparency of recyclability claims.
  • Provide a labeling system that follows Federal Trade Commission Green Guides.
  • Increase the availability and quality of recycled material.

Currently, they have 225 brands and retailer members who are making their packaging more recyclable.

Recycling can be confusing and some of the time to we find ourselves wishfully recycling. This is when we are not entirely sure if something is recyclable, but go ahead and place it in the recycle bin, hoping it will be recycled. I know I have been guilty of this practice. Unfortunately, many of those wishful recyclables end up contaminating the true recyclable items and preventing them from being recycled. More times than not, it all ends up in a landfill.

How2Recycle takes the guess work out of identifying where an object can go. Hopefully, more businesses will use this labeling system, but for now make sure you are keeping an eye out for the How2Recycle label on your household items.

Check out this poster for a good reminder on what plastics can be recycled and which can not. And always remove any labels from plastic you intend to recycle. Sometimes it takes a pair of scissors.

Tomorrow, we’re going to celebrate a National Holiday of sorts and explain why everyone should be participating.

Plastic Bags: They’re still here

Day 8– It’s crazy to think that the inventor of the plastic bag, Swedish engineer, Sten Gustaf Thulin, created them in 1959 to save the planet. The bags were developed as an alternative to paper bags, which were considered bad because they resulted in trees being chopped down. Fast forward 62 years and they are not saving the planet, but causing extreme damage to the environment.

Eight states have banned the use of plastic bags – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont. Fourteen other states have adopted laws to protect the use of plastic bags. A Politico article, written in January 2020, explains why plastic bags are not going anywhere, anytime soon. It all comes down to money. Making plastic bags is a big business and those involved in their production are making sure they stick around, even though they are harmful to the environment.

In Chicago, there is no ban, but a fee is applied to your purchase when accepting a plastic bag. Most of us bring along our reusable shopping bags on our trips to the store to avoid using the plastic bags. However, it seems almost impossible to keep these plastic bags out of your household, no matter how hard you try. They find there way in, oneway or another. This pandemic has made it even harder to avoid them. Many stores are not allowing your reusable bags from home.

So, what to do with those plastic bags? Some will use them to line their waste baskets at home or use them to pick up their pet’s waste. The unfortunate thing with those uses is that they end up in a landfill, where they can take hundreds of years to decompose. Another option is to drop them off at a plastic bag recycling kiosks. Many stores offer these drop-offs. My go to places are Target and Jewel.

It appears that these programs are legitimate. However, the success of the program depends on the actions of each store and their handling of the plastic bags. I would like to think that these companies are doing the right thing and providing a program that does exactly what it says it will do, recycle plastic bags.

Did you know those plastic bag kiosks except more than just grocery store plastic bags? Here is everything they except:

  1. Paper towel / Toilet Paper plastic bags
  2. Bread Bags
  3. Air Pillows (plenty of these arrive in my Amazon purchases)
  4. Case wrapping (water bottles, Gatorde, etc)
  5. Food Storage Bags (sandwich, storage and freezer bags)
  6. Produce bags
  7. Shopping bags
  8. Plastic shipping envelopes (remove labels)
  9. Cereal box bags
  10. Anything with How2Recycle Label stating plastic bag

Between the composting and keeping a lot of these plastic bags out of the garbage, we have reduced our household waste immensely. We went from two garbage bags a week, to one bag, every 9-10 days. Not too bad, but I know we can do better. I keep a bag under the kitchen sink where all our plastic bags (of all kinds) end up. Once, I have plenty collected I drop them off on my next visit to Target or the grocery store.

It’s great that these programs exist, but ultimately we need to find ways to avoid these plastic bags. Throughout this year, I will discuss how my family is making changes to keep these bags, in whatever form, out of our house.

Tomorrow, we’ll look a little closer at how2recycle and how their labels are taking the guess work out of recycling.

The Can Crusher: Tons of fun!

Day 7- As a kid, one of the chores was to head to the basement and crush aluminum cans. I can’t say I had a lot of fun doing it, but it did release some pent-up energy, at times. Flash forward about 40 years and the can crusher has once again made an appearance. It’s not the original crusher from my childhood, but it sure looks like the same contraption. I never thought I would have one in my own home, but it’s a hit with the kids!

Once, I started separating the recyclables, I knew I needed a container for aluminum. We don’t consume too many beverages in aluminum cans, but the adults in the house have their share of Pepsi. I thought by crushing the cans, we could utilize the space a bit better.

The cans will be accepted at the Resource Center, along with the other recyclables. However, I have another plan for them. The electrician in the house takes his leftover wire to the local metal recycling center for a pay out based on the weight of the wire. I figured while he was there he could cash in on some aluminum cans. Now, the amount paid for aluminum cans does not come close to what is paid for copper filled wire, but every little helps.

So, the next time you’re thinking about what gift you can give the kids that will bring them tons of fun, consider the can crusher!

Tomorrow we’ll deal with the ever so annoying plastic bag. A thorn in our side since 1959.

Single-Stream Recycling: It just doesn’t work

Day 6 “For those of us who spent most of our lives painstakingly separating plastic, glass, paper and metal, single-stream recycling is easy to love. No longer must we labor. Gone is the struggle to store two, three, four or even five different bags under the kitchen sink. Just throw everything into one dumpster, season liberally with hopes and dreams, and serve it up to your local trash collector. What better way to save the planet?”

This is the opening paragraph in an article written by Maggie Koerth for FiveThirtyEight. The article goes on to describe a program that no longer works. Too many contaminated recyclables ending up in the landfill and a change in China’s standard for accepting contaminated recyclables has completely changed the game.

Chicago’s use of the single-stream recycling process is just part of their overall recycling problem. In comparison, the Resource Center separates all their recyclables, reducing the potential for contamination. The key to their success is for those participating in their program to follow the directions and to only drop off items allowed. Placing non-recyclable items in the designated bins is damaging to the program.

So, knowing I needed numerous containers, I got myself to Target and picked up three garbage cans ($10 each). I labeled them (1) plastic (2) glass (3) tin / metal. I also took a large storage bin and labeled it (4) cardboard. Lastly, I took two waste baskets and labeled them (5) paper and (6) aluminum. It quickly becomes clear that a large amount of our recyclables are cardboard and plastic. The plan is to visit the Resource Center twice a month. The tin and glass containers will not need to be emptied as frequently. There’s another plan for the aluminum (to be discussed tomorrow).

In a couple days I will be discussing the 47th Ward’s Green Council. However, I wanted to notify you (if you happen to be a resident of the 47th Ward) of an upcoming meeting, tomorrow, January 7th @ 6:30pm. You can register HERE.

Tomorrow, I’ll reveal the hot new item in our household that is a total flashback to my childhood.

Chicago Recycling: We can do better!

Day 4 – Filling our designated indoor recycle container twice a week and bringing it out to the blue bin has been our practice for years. We thought we were helping and making a difference. Little did we know that it was not making a big impact, or any kind of impact, for that matter. I knew Chicago’s recycling program was not great, but I was definitely in denial as to how bad it really was. As I dug a little deeper, I found that Chicago ranks as the worst major city in the United States for recycling rates in residential areas, with less than 9 percent of waste being recycled. The program is beyond flawed and the solutions do not seem easy to correct.

If you want to read the Better Government Association‘s report on Chicago’s recycling program, click HERE.

So, I was on a mission to find other options. I found a plethora of organizations that will recycle a variety of hard to recycle items. However, it took a little extra digging to find a place that will except my blue bin recyclables. I came across the Resource Center and their North Park Village drop-off location was not too far from home.

North Park Village Recycling Station – 5801 N. Pulaski Road, Chicago, IL 60646 (Hours: 10am-4pm daily)

They accept cardboard and food packaging (made from cardboard), newspapers, magazines, white paper, office paper and shredded paper, metal (tin cans), aluminum, brown and yellow glass, green and blue glass, clear glass (no windows, drinking glasses, nothing “treated”), plastics #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #7.

In future posts, I’ll discuss the need to find other options and not depend on recycling programs. However, for now, I have found a partner and it’s time to get my recyclables in order!

Tomorrow, holiday cards and their afterlife.