Archive for the ‘Reduce Reuse Recycle’ Category

Day 91 – Recycle Electronics

Integrated Circuits

So you have an old computer sitting in storage and there’s that old cell phone that you kept in case you needed some information from it.  There’s the printer that doesn’t work and besides, the cord is for a computer that might as well be a dinosaur.  Well, there is hope for these items.  They can be recycled.

You can’t just put electronics in your recycling bin at home.  Contact your city to see if they have a special collection or a drop-off point.  Try calling your recycling company, too.  Even if they don’t take these items, they may know who will.  In my town, there is an electronics recycling day.  It is wildly popular!  People come from miles around and fill a couple of semi truck beds full of old electronics. 

What happens to these old electronics?  Some of them are put directly into use: computers for underprivileged children, cell phones for the elderly to use for emergencies, and simply resale.  Others are disassembled and stripped of valuable materials that can be recycled individually.  You should ask what will happen to your old electronics.  You want a reputable company doing these things.  If your electronics end up in a third-world country that burns them to extract the more valuable materials, the plastics will cause a super toxin to form in the air, and that affects the air we all breathe.

Day 52 – Biodegrading or Degrading?

Earth

There are new marketing ploys that tempt you to buy one product over another because the packaging or the product itself is biodegradable.  Are you really biodegrading or just degrading Planet Earth?

Biodegradable packaging or products will NOT biodegrade in your trash in the landfill…or at least we hope not!  Landfills are designed to contain waste and not biodegrade it.  Think of all of the cleaning solutions and paint cans out there.  You hope that these items do not mix with foods and biodegrade into the soil making it toxic.  There are numerous stories online that tell the tale of simple foods like lettuce still intact in a landfill after several decades!

If a package is biodegradable, you really need to compost it.  Composting is becoming popular from the country to the city, and everyone could do it.  I’ll share more about composting in another post.

The next time you see a package that is biodegradable, consider if you will compost it.  Biodegradable items are not necessarily compostable.  A corn-based instant soup bowl can’t be mixed with recycled petroleum-based plastic.  If you know you really won’t compost then perhaps, for now, a recyclable package is better for you.

Day 18 – BYOB Bring Your Own Bag

Years ago when my local grocery store started having a collection center for used plastic bags, I started recycling them.  The problem is that I would forget to bring them back sometimes several weeks in a row.  I realized that these bags multiply fast and it was a good visual aid for me to realize the environmental impact of so many bags.  Then, I started bringing my own reusable bags!

Now much more fashionable than it was about seven years ago when I started bringing my own bags, grocery store checkout clerks are now accustomed to the process.  Some stores like Whole Foods give you a 10-cent discount for each bag that you bring.  If your store doesn’t offer a program like this, talk to a store manager and tell them about your eco-journey and suggest it to the manager.

Bring your own bag to other types of stores, too!  If I forget my own bag, I’ll tell the clerk that I don’t want a bag and that I’ll just carry the items (with receipt on top) out of the store.  Some stores have a policy that their items have to leave in a bag and sometimes this even means you have to use their bag – most likely as a theft-deterrent.  One time a clothing store clerk would not let me leave with one item out a door that was less than 10 feet away.  I excused myself, went out to my car, and brought in my own bag.

More and more store clerks are beginning to understand the concept of not wasting bags.  Our local pharmacy no longer puts a prescription, which comes in a paper bag anyway, in a plastic bag.  However, be prepared to be firm but polite with your request.  We are leaders here, People!  I have had to tell clerks two or three times that I don’t want a bag.  If they already put your items in a bag, then smile and just take it, though, because you know you’ll recycle it later.  My experience has taught me this: if you tell them that you don’t want a bag after they have already put your item(s) in one, clerks will always take out your items, hand them to you, and promptly throw away the bag.  Yikes!  The only explanation I can think of since this has happened to me several times at several different stores with very nice clerks is that there must be some store policy about contamination.  If you know the answer, tell me!

One final note about bringing your own bags.  Choose nondescript, sturdy bags made as closely as possible to where you live.  These bags should be sustainably made and/or recyclable themselves.  They also should be something that you’ll enjoy using at many different stores.  While some people have no qualms about using bags with Store A logos when they go to Store B, some people are more self-consious about that.

Day 15 – Rechargeable Batteries

Computer Chips

 

In today’s world, we are plugged in!  Our activities are filled with cell phones, mp3 players, cordless home or office phones, digital book readers, video cameras, digital cameras, and radios.  All of these portable electronics need power to run. 

Many of our electronics come with their own rechargeable batteries and a charger.  Sometimes we have a choice of rechargeable or disposable batteries as with digital cameras.  Imagine my surprise the last time I ordered a digital camera and it came with disposable batteries!  Now, I pay attention to the detailed specifications of the power requirements before buying portable electronics.  We’re switching to rechargeable batteries which we have to purchase separately. 

Rechargeable batteries are significantly more expensive than disposable ones, but I believe that you’ll get your money’s worth out of the purchase within a relatively short time and you’ll help the environment in the meantime!  Too often, people I know make decisions based on today’s need and total cost for today when they’re shopping.  Smart shoppers compare not only today’s cost, but the long-term cost of a particular product.  Think of your purchasing power this way: How many disposable batteries would you need to buy over the next several years to compare to the life of a rechargeable battery? 

Whether you use rechargeable or disposable batteries, don’t throw them in the trash when you’re finished with them!  The same goes for the electronics powered by the batteries.  Take a few minutes and figure out where you can recycle these specialty items.  Big box electronics stores often have a drop-off area; the post office here has free envelopes to mail your cell phones and inkjet cartridges to a recycler; and once a year there is an electronics recycling day put on by our local chamber of commerce to recycle all old electronics big and small.  If you can’t find a recycling center, start your own for your neighborhood!

Day 9 – Slash Junk Mail

Forest in Northeastern USA

 

According to The Green Book (Rogers, Elizabeth and Kostigen, Thomas M. (2007). The Green Book (1st ed.). Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0-307-38135-4), “Rid yourself of junk mail – or at least recycle it.  The average U.S. household receives 1.5 trees’ worth of junk mail each year…” and, “If all Americans recycled their junk mail, $370 million in landfill dumping fees could be saved each year.”  

Because of this book and Stonyfield Farm Yogurt’s lids advertising Eco Cycle’s website to help you stop junk mail: http://www.ecocycle.org/junkmail/index.cfm,  I personally have spent about a dozen hours this year working on this very thing including keeping track of who I called, what my customer number is, etc. and have definitely seen a significant difference in my mailbox.  You may think that this seems like a lot of time, but according to 41pounds.org (an organization you can hire for a nominal fee to significantly decrease junk mail for you by 80-95%), “You waste about 70 hours a year dealing with junk mail.”  Looks like I saved myself 58 hours for the rest of the year! 

Go to Eco Cycle’s website and work on some of their suggestions.  If you don’t want to do it yourself, contact 41pounds.org for help.  Sure, you recycle, but it’s a whole lot better not to have to deal with unwanted mail at all.  Don’t worry, I’ve done this entire process, and nobody was mean to me on the phone.  I simply said that I am going green and reducing my mail, I enjoy their products, and when I’m ready to browse for ideas or place an order, I know where to find them online.