Laura Reedy Stukel lives in Elmhurst, Illinois, a city of 45,000 people 18 miles west of Chicago. Last year, she and her husband Ray rehabbed their 1960s house “around energy efficiency” – lower utility bills and a healthier home were the goals. They performed an energy audit, added insulation and weatherstripping, upgraded their windows, bought energy-efficient appliances, installed water-saving fixtures and programmable thermostats. Her project won the Better Homes and Gardens magazine’s 2009 Home Improvement Challenge. Laura decided to create a business out of the experience:
I was selling real estate at the time. As I talked to my clients about nuts-and-bolts stuff like getting an energy audit and insulating the attic and the basement, I saw they wanted to do these things because they’re money-saving, but they didn’t know where to begin. There aren’t a lot of easy resources for information on how to do it. I realized it didn’t have to be so hard.
As Elmhurst’s first EcoBroker Certified sales agent, she’s “working on a shift from green real estate to green real-estate consulting. My niche is around home retrofit. I found I really wasn’t touching enough families in the one-to-one real estate approach. I’m putting the pieces in place and working it out so my children (4 & 6) don’t notice the shift, and I hope to launch officially in the fall.”
I created The 5×10 Challenge to help any homeowner take five smart steps towards energy efficiency before the end of 2010. I recommend a project budget of $5000 because it earns the maximum tax credit of $1500, so the project really only costs you $3500.
My niche is around the boring side of energy efficiency. That is what I call it. I have no problems if you want new windows, geo-thermal, solar, etc. But you have to do your homework first: get an audit, air seal, insulate, etc. It is expensive (even with tax break), so it’s not realistic for everyone. But if you can cut your energy bills by 20-30% by doing 5×10 you can stop there for now and feel great about the green you did do, instead of not doing anything because you don’t have the funds to do geo-thermal.
“I’m Impressively green on the Practically Green Quiz,” she told us. “Our remodel was very green, but it was insightful to see how much better we can do on daily purchases. To be honest, I’m always rushing at the store and never really thought about how easy recycled tissue, etc. would be. So we’re one step greener now thanks to your site!”
Another fact about Laura: Ray hates air conditioning. Especially, he hates to sleep in it. Even in torrid conditions. “We definitely use the air but when we’ve tried everything else. When it is humid and above 83 or so we will turn on for the day. On some days we run only overnight if temps are not going to drop.” In the interest of a happy marriage, she recently investigated alternatives to not turning on the AC. Here’s an excerpt from the article she posted earlier this week:
The Spin on Fans
Temperatures are heating up for the next week. With warm days and cool nights, the end of summer in Chicago is a unique opportunity to virtually eliminate your need for air conditioning – and it is easier than you may think! I think being green is all about doing the most with the least. “Fan Season” (late spring and late summer) is an ideal time to do more with less!
All you need is a couple of fans and a quick check of the weather. My list below will tell you when to use which fan to slash your AC use.
Ceiling fans - Consumer Reports found good options around $50-250.
1 window fan per bedroom – Window fans like this one recommended on Amazon run about $40 each. Window fans can pay back in a season!
Fan unit on your AC equipment.
Paying a wee bit of attention to your local weather is key to getting the most out of your fans. Go to http://www.weather.com/, enter your zip code and hit “find weather,” then select the “hourly” forecast. Get a general idea of:
When night-time temperatures will start to drop and how low they will go.
If the winds are going to be breezy or calm.
Don’t forget to factor in neighborhood considerations. Open windows are not good for allergy sufferers or light sleepers! Be sure to consider allergy levels and sound issues before switching over to fans. Oh yes, and don’t forget to consider local wildlife too. Skunk mating season does not work well for using fans, and you could end up discovering a family of sparrows at 4 am that you didn’t know were your neighbors! If sound is an issue overnight, consider using fans with open windows at dusk and running on high for a few hours to cool the room completely. Then shut the windows before you go to bed.
Excerpted with permission from Not Yet Green: Solutions for the Not YET Green Home. Click here for the rest of the story.
Their goal is to promote innovation by endorsing what they call “nice companies,” ones with well-made products and impeccable service. If those products preserve a craft or protect the environment, they say, all the better.
We agree. We think the Daily Grommet is superb: it’s an on-line personal-shopping advisor that arrives via email every day at noon with a cool new product discovery and a snappy video that tells the story behind it. Even if you don’t want it, or don’t need it, you’ll likely be interested in it. No ads, no hype, no registration fee: just the true inspiration as told by inventors and designers. Five days a week.
Discoveries are introduced by Grommet CEO Jules Pieri and/or a member of her team. Here’s a good example: the Ecosystem Life Journal (August 23) presented by Pieri and colleague Jesse Buckley: “This was a story that slowly grabbed me… they’re almost jewel-like….” Jules might as well be handling a Tsarina’s Faberge egg — except that it’s a $15 notebook made entirely of recycled materials. Jesse reveals the innovative clincher: a tracking code on each notebook that shows where it was made and all of the materials that went into it. “Quite revolutionary!” says Jules. “It looks humble, it’s a journal, but it’s really quite heroic to me!”
There are dozens of recommended actions about reducing, reusing, and recycling at Practically Green: we take Stuff seriously. The Daily Grommet’s approach to appreciating every purchase for its origins, its creators, and its materials strikes us as thoughtful and prescient. So we called Jules to find out more about the underpinnings of The Daily Grommet and why it’s resonating with so many people.
“Today the true story of a person or a product is more knowable, and social media is driving that,” she says. “Facebook, Twitter, eBay, CraigsList — all of these are drivers, making the laws of commerce permeable. My goal is to accelerate that dynamic. I believe that when a business is nimble and flexible, it can solve big problems, such as environmental issues and cultural preservation. I’m passionate about preserving craft and about promoting domestic technological innovation – in the US, yes, but in any country.”
Jules believes that people are increasingly supportive of “little Guy” companies, and she knows that stories make for a meaningful transaction: “… knowing the back story of a product–its invention, or craft, or social benefits, or environmental impact, or technology, makes its experience much richer and even deeply meaningful.”
I had an a-ha moment at Thanksgiving, 2007. Amazon had a surprise release of the Kindle. They had authors and celebrities talking about it, but as real people, in a very low-fi and under-produced way. When Michael Lewis told why he loved the Kindle, I said That’s it, I’m buying one! I had no previous notion of buying that thing — and it was expensive! — but because of the authenticity of the story, I bought one that minute. And then I went to my co-founder Joanne, and I told her we had to have video of the two of us presenting these stories, and later she told me she was thinking, Well, we’ll get over that one. She’ll give up that idea. But it makes such a huge difference when the creators of the products tell the story. They convey their direct personal passion.
Visit The Daily Grommet to sign up and to view video stories organized across themes (e.g. “Grommets for Getting Gussied Up”) in 30 categories, from Art to Wedding/Shower Gifts (here’s “Green/Eco-Living; here’s Kitchen). And look for a new vetting area in October, which Jules announced on her blog this week: “I’m very pleased we are developing a new submission process which will openly publicize the ideas we are seeing. What is now visible only to our team will live in a public “Citizens’ Gallery” on our site. This change is going to be huge.”
Watch this video to learn more.
My son is starting kindergarten in a few weeks, but our PTO (which is arguably managed better than most companies) has already assessed all the incoming kindergarten parents’ skill sets and competencies for various volunteer opportunities. No shocker here, I was drafted for the Green Team. I was enthusiastic because my initial thought was that I could be really helpful given that green living, is well, my day job.
We haven’t even had our first meeting yet (it’s Wednesday), but I’ve already figured out these parents are WAY ahead of the curve. Led by the dynamic duo of Jamie Scarborough Green and Sun Woo Khang and formed last year, the group has managed to achieve immediate results, including:
* switching from disposable to reusable cups for parent coffees, PTO meetings, etc. One thing I loved is that they asked the whole school to donate old coffee mugs to make this happen–what a great idea!
* switching to compostable disposables for large events ranging from the school fun run to graduation
* developed good relationships and support from Angino Farm (a community farm) and Whole Foods. The school has a garden supported by students and parent volunteers and Whole Foods helps with composting.
* shared the results of the school’s energy efficiency audit and will assumedly lobby the city for improvements
* set up a Big Tent online community which has parental advice for things like earth-friendly school supplies. It is also linked with the Greater Boston Green Schools community to share ideas and get inspiration. My personal favorite thing on the site was this video that the kids in the school made to encourage people to reduce, reuse and recycle.
The project plan for this year includes improving the quality of school lunch, tackling pesticides, greening over 15 events, pursuing lots of kid and parent education, and potentially joining in broader events like the Waste Free Wednesdays, Green School Days, and Litter Free lunches–and oh yes, finding a HEPA vacuum to be donated to the custodians.
What I noticed from this amazing, intensive project plan, however, is how many initiatives still need a point person. If your school has a green team, I am confident that Jamie and Sunwoo’s counterparts at your school are looking for foot soldiers who are willing to tackle a projects large and small. Imagine what would happen if 10-15 parents picked just one Green Team thing to help lead for their school–whether it’s a big thorny issue like pesticide use or being an event “Waste Warrior.” That project plan would start having “done” next to lots of items. And fast! I’m looking at the list and can see several actions that fit my time, skills and interests, and I’m looking forward to checking my first item off the list.
If your school doesn’t have a green team, there are lots of online resources to help get you started, on sites like Greenschools or Eco-Schools. If you need one more reason? You can get points on Practically Green for joining your school’s green team!
This post was submitted as part of the Green Moms Carnival.
Everyone knows what NIMBY means: “Not in My Back Yard” (raised-eyebrow alert). So what’s IOBY? “IN our backyards”! IOBY is a website that connects environmental projects in NYC with people who want to donate to them and volunteer. ioby believes that “environmental knowledge, innovation, action, and service begin and thrive in our backyards.” Here’s a post on Seventh Generation’s blog that tells more. What a terrific idea for a Back to School project!
SF’s list of green vendors now available to you: For the past five years, the city of San Francisco has instituted strict standards regarding the products their municipal departments buy: they have to be truly eco-friendly. What sets SF’s list apart is that they require manufacturers to fork over information that commercial guides aren’t likely to get. See which products made the cut!
Food for thought: put salad bars in schools! Whole Foods is teaming up with chef Ann Cooper to help schools switch from processed foods to fresh, natural ingredients. Their goal is 300 salad bars in schools by January. Click here to donate to Project Salad Bar, or simply visit your local Whole Foods. Get credit for your fresh food efforts at Practically Green.
“The Majestic Plastic Bag” California is preparing to vote on the nation’s first state-wide plastic bag ban, and Santa Monica-based nonprofit Heal the Bay, filmed this nature documentary-style “mockumentary” to boost support for the ban. The state senate is expected to vote by the end of August (aka SOON!). While the votes are tallied, enjoy this gut-busting four-minute video.
Get PG points for switching to reusable bags at the grocery store.
New and Cool Pick:
You thought only your faucet had leaks: When you turn your electronics off, they’re not really “off,” they maintain a “trickle” of electricity, otherwise known as an electrical leak. This great article not only tells you how to track your product’s energy consumption, but also reviews lots of products to help you manage this. For example, Belkin’s Conserve AV power strip automatically turns off your DVD player, in home theatre and game systems when you turn your TV off. The Belkin Conserve Insight measures the amount of energy plug-in appliances draw. Get PG points for saving energy here.
Martha Rose Shulman’s weekday Food column at NYTimes.com is my equivalent of having a personal chef in my kitchen: here’s someone who realizes how busy I am and how determined I am to serve healthy delicious meals regardless. Someone friendly and inventive, impeccably thoughtful, worldly, always aiming to please and never ever full of herself. Oh, and this personal chef won’t fatten me up: she includes detailed nutritional information at the end of every recipe.
You can prowl the archive for hours or make snappy choices. Recipes are organized by ingredient (from A: Apricots to Y: Yogurt) or theme (B: Breakfast Grains to W: Winter Greens) This week’s theme was tomatoes. Next week: picnics. The following: stir-fry (she just bought a new wok). From the intro to “Recipes for Health”:
The easiest and most pleasurable way to eat well is to cook. Recipes for Health offers recipes with an eye towards empowering you to cook healthy meals every day. Produce, seasonal and locally grown when possible, and a well-stocked pantry are the linchpins of a good diet, and accordingly, each week’s recipes will revolve around a particular type of produce or a pantry item. This is food that is vibrant and light, full of nutrients but by no means ascetic, fun to cook and a pleasure to eat.
Martha is a prolific author, including co-author gigs with Wolfgang Puck and Dr. Dean Ornish; she’s given classes all over; she’s great on TV; and she co-founded the professional foodie site Zester Daily. Her newest cookbook, The Very Best Of Recipes for Health, comes out this week. In short, she’s a rock star.
It fits that she has a busy cooking school – in LA. I’m scheming to attend…. It was a treat to have a conversation with her recently — about her column, her life, and Practically Green.
The Times column began exactly two years ago. I want the column to demystify healthy eating and empower people to cook, prepare their own food from fresh ingredients, as opposed to eating out or bringing in. The country has gone astray because we aren’t in control of what we eat! If you have an egg and a vegetable, you can make a meal. The recipes are very simple.
Which recipes have been most popular?
One is the Spicy Quinoa Salad. People seem to really love quinoa. It’s fantastic! The week that Obama was elected, that recipe was #3 on the most emailed list of all of The New York Times! Another recipe people really love is anything with beets. It’s always fascinating to me, but any recipe with beets is popular. [Note: I found 14 recipes for beets.] Sometimes recipes get REdiscovered, and I don’t really know how! One of those is one of the first recipes I did, for oriechetti, tomatoes, arugula and parmesan. It’s just a really great summer recipe.
I took the Practically Green test and I got a 6 out of 10, and part of that’s because I have a landlord. I don’t know what kind of a dishwasher I have, but I do know that the fridge is Energy Star, because I bought it myself. I composted until my landlord freaked out; he thought it was attracting rats. [Sigh/humph.] I have a garden, and everything about it is organic. And I still compost because we have green baskets in LA – LA’s bureau of sanitation has a great recycling program. If you enter “green bin” in the search box on that link, you’ll get a pdf with the 3 different bins and what you can put in them, including a green one for compost. We put kitchen scraps into the bin that’s there with all the rest on the curb and it’s picked up!
I have a twelve year old. His generation is much more aware. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to eat crap if he gets a chance – he’s a healthy twelve year old. If he’s taking a long shower and I say, “Liam, you’re taking a long shower, it’s time to get out!” nothing happens. But if I go in there and say, “You’re really wasting shower water, Liam,” He’ll get out. They are getting the message.
Aren’t you a little bit hungry now? Motivated? Visit Practically Green for dozens of ways you can make healthy, eco-friendly decisions in your kitchen and at meal-time! Maybe you’d like to start with these three:
- Shop at a Farmer’s Market Each Week in Season (10 points)
- Buy Cereal Without Artificial Colors or Flavors This Week (5 points)
- Eat Meat Only on Weekends (Whoa! 100 points!)
Catherine Rust is the Founder of Butterfly Effect Consulting, or BEC Green.
We’re all about helping to demystify what makes a green building product green and what doesn’t…. I decided it was time to start a blog dedicated entirely to green building materials available in the greater Toronto area, so here it is!
Cathy lives in center-city Toronto “within walking distance to the subway, shops, movie theatres, bookstores, and five (5) authentic French patisseries. Our new location has cut our driving miles in half annually and my teenage boys know the subway system by heart.” Her favorite green product is Concrobium, a mold-control substance. She rhapsodized about it here.
My greenness is of the practical, almost armchair kind. If it’s easy to do and within my price range, I’ll do it. Conservation in particular is one of the rules I live by — it’s probably why our house looks so dark at night! I’m not one to easily part with my money, so a green product has to be something that actually makes sense before I’ll consider buying it…. We don’t live a green lifestyle: we’re not vegetarians, we drive two cars (one is a mini van, the other a Jetta Diesel) and we have three kids — all pretty much environmental no-nos. I am a walking contradiction — like most humans.
When you first use Practically Green you can take a quiz to find out just how green you really are. It’s a way to see what you’re already doing and what steps you can take to lighten your CO2 load. Unlike other online “green lifestyle” quizzes I’ve taken, this one is quick but accurate. For the most part, when I’ve taken other quizzes, the quick ones are incredibly inaccurate while the detailed ones have you pulling out a year’s worth of utility bills for measurement. Practically Green has done a lot of thorough research behind their quiz, so if it seems simple, it is, but the results are sophisticated. The quiz focuses on your current lifestyle behaviour. Once you’ve completed the quiz you’re given a rating from “Barely Green” all the way up to “Superbly Green.” I hate to brag, but I’m, ahem, “Impressively Green,” second highest level. The quiz gives you points in four categories: Water Use, Energy, Health and Stuff. These are great categories because they basically cover everything from the kind of materials you shop for and put in your home, to what you eat, what kind of transportation to use. Your initial score serves as your benchmark. My worst marks were in water efficiency, something I’ll have to investigate further because I thought I was actually doing well in that area — I see aerators in my future!
Achieving the next level of “greenness.” Once you’ve figured out your starting point, the site offers endless ways for you to advance to the next level of “greenness.” It also gives you the opportunity to commit to different actions and you’re awarded a different number of points depending on the action taken (ie. “carpooling” gets way more points than “using cold water for laundry” which also acknowledges the increased effort level and benefits).
Each time you log in and go to your account you see how you’re doing. You can also share your efforts with your friends and invite them to join in. Doing something in a group can further help you achieve your goals. Practically Green also shows you how you’re doing in comparison to other Practically Green participants. If you’re competitive, this is a great way to push you to do better.
The detailed explanations as to why you should take a particular action are also helpful and all of the information on the site is backed up with authoritative data and more resources if you’re interested in learning more about a subject.
Finally, once you’ve committed to taking a particular green action, the site offers suggestions for the materials you can use and, if possible, where they’re available. Practically Green is still in its early stages so give it a try! They’re always looking for feedback to continually improve the site.
Last year, Cathy earned a LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). She holds a B.Sc. in Biology (specialist, Human Genetics) from McGill University, and an M.A. in Political Science and Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto. Before becoming a mom, she worked as an environmental consultant, in the 90s, “which was pretty much like talking to a brick wall.” You can find her at http://becgreen.ca
Well, it’s that time of the year again. Summer went by quickly, didn’t it? And although it’s sad to leave beach days, family barbeques, and all-around summertime relaxing behind, you and your family have another journey to start: the new school year!
This time of the year is always overwhelming. So we here at Practically Green hope to make life a little easier by offering a round- up of all the great green back-to-school ideas we’ve been hearing, our personal picks for eco-friendly school supplies and of course, actions that will earn you points, points, points!
Let’s start with the small stuff. Staples’ Eco Easy brand offers some great eco-friendly mechanical pencils made from 72% recycled content. They also have pens made from 62% recycled plastic. If you’re looking for something fun, we like O’BON’s colorful fruit pencils made from 100% recycled newspaper. Papermate has cool biodegradable pens and mechanical pencils.
Binders and Folders.
Naked Binder has two-pocket folders and binders made of 100% recycled and recyclable materials and 97% post consumer waste. ReBinder sells folders made of recycled fibers and binders without toxic vinyl material. Staples’ Eco Easy brand has eco-friendly view binders. Check out these folders from Sasquatch with some earthy, interesting designs. Seventh Generation also has great suggestions for writing utensils and notebooks!
How about a notebook that looks like giant falcon plumage? O’BON has a large selection of eco-friendly notebooks, like the non-toxic Sugarcane Series, which is made from sugarcane paper, soy-based inks. We also liked Ecojot’s spiral notebooks. And if you’re already at Staples, their Eco Easy brand also has recycled notebooks as well!
Feel like drawing? We like O’BON’s Wildlife colored pencils, made of recycled newspaper; and we can’t wait to try Prang Soybean crayons. Our all-time favorite markers are Crayola’s AP Certified Nontoxic, washable markers.
How about a TerraCycle backpack made from old drink pouches and cookie wrappers! We also like Lands’ End eco-friendly backpack made from 100% recycled fabric. Grist also has great ideas for eco-friendly backpacks and bags.
P.S. Pop some all-natural hand sanitizer in the backpack, and earn 20 points!
We’re fans of the Environmental Working Group for many reasons, and they’ve compiled a handy green back-to-school shopping list. Want to go beyond your children’s back-to-school supplies? Consider joining greenschools, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to create greener and healthier learning environments through education and awareness.” They’ll help you tackle important, basic stuff like indoor air quality, healthy food and habits, and reducing, reusing and recycling at your school.
Remember that you can also earn points by walking, biking or carpooling to school. All three actions help reduce emissions and are great ways to get exercise and meet new friends. Remember to load up on the sunscreen! We have several all-natural brands for you to try.
And now, the last tip we can give you for greening your back-to-school is quite simple: Have a healthy, happy and wonderful school year!
“I’m a working mom taking a stand against yucky stuff in my food, cosmetics, etc. and gradually turning my family towards more eco-friendly, natural choices. I’m learning, so this is about our journey towards going green. There may be a few stumbles so hopefully you can laugh with me not at me!”
With that, Shannon Hoffman Hinderberger burst into the blogosphere on Working Mom Goes Green. She wrote about Practically Green earlier this month, and subsequently posted on adding “10 points to my Practically Green profile by drinking locally brewed beer.” Of course, we wanted to know her story!
Shannon grew up in Nebraska, where her “mom fed us as best she could…. on corn-fed beef, Kool-aid and Velveeta cheese.” She describes her green journey as a series of steps over several years:
Let’s just say I discovered veggies when I arrived in Bend, Oregon, seven years ago. I started getting Martha’s Stewart’s little magazine Everyday Food. There’s a website [and an iphone app], too. I use that as my bible.
Oregon is green, recycling is a big deal, and they rolled out these comingle bins at the same time we bought a house, four years ago. That was the next step. Then I got pregnant. I started to watch what I was eating. I was trying to eat more organic food. Then my son came. [Huge sigh] I had big aspirations. I wanted to breastfeed, use cloth diapers, make my own baby food. I went back to work and everything fell by the wayside. The day-care woman wouldn’t do cloth diapers. There was only one person in town who would, and she was booked.
Anyhow, I started to look at the labels on household products, food, baby products. One day I picked up my husband’s shaving cream and I read the label. I told him, There’s propane in this! He said, I don’t want to put that on my face any more! I thought, I have to do something: I’m going to blog about this.
Sound bites from a few recent posts:
If you don’t have any idea what to do with a certain veggie, ask your friends. I often use Facebook to poll my friends on what to do. You’ll get some amazing results from folks that have tried the veggies.
I’m not going to hide it. I like Wal-Mart. And I like Wal-Mart even more now that they’ve partnered with Seventh Generation….
If you could only keep 100 items? What would they be? I think this would be easy to do if children weren’t involved. My son alone has more than 100 pieces to his Thomas the Train set!
Shannon has joined Practically Green’s Motherboard. We hope you’ve enjoyed meeting her as much as we have!
Find her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shanlee?ref=ts
email her: Shannon@workingmomgoesgreen.com
Subscribe to http://www.workingmomgoesgreen.com/
See all Shannon’s links here: http://flavors.me/shanlee – _
A new definition of dumpster diving: For those of you who follow us on Twitter (@practicallygrn), you know that we are just thrilled with this story! A year ago a guerilla design project turned dumpsters into swimming pools in Brooklyn. They were such a hit, more pools popped up this summer, including some on Park Avenue in Manhattan! What a great way to be resourceful and have some summer fun!
Pencils? Check. Paper? Check. Net-zero energy? Check! The first public net-zero energy school will be open for classes at the end of the month. The school was built as a teaching tool for students to learn about energy conservation, solar energy, water conservation, and recycling. Get PG points for saving energy here.
Lounging around: How about a 33 ft. long hammock made of 4,278 feet of rope from recycled bottles! The Boston project was a result of the first-ever $1,000 grant from The Awesome Foundation, and it’s meant to help bring city-dwellers together. What better way to get to know someone than to share a hammock?
Green your kitchen: We taught you how to clean your microwave without using any chemicals, now Danny Seo can show you how to clean your coffee-maker, sponges, and garbage disposal as a part of Epicurious’ “Green Kitchen Videos.”
New and Cool Pick:
Oldie but goodie: Ok, so this product is far from new. You’ve likely been using it for decades! However, Crayola recently “plugged in” their solar-powered factory. Crayons will be made with solar power, marker barrels with recycled plastic, and colored pencils with reforested wood.
I’ve been on a basement-cleaning frenzy over the last few weeks, after discovering mold growing on a cardboard box. Molds not only grosses me out, it totally freaks me out for its potential ability to create airborne toxins. It is just about the only thing that could convince me to spend several gorgeous summer weekends in the basement.
My basement had a bunch of stuff that was perfectly good, but that we no longer needed or wanted, so we started creating a pile to drop off at Goodwill. It got me thinking what an absolute marvel, and how totally green, organizations like Goodwill are. Did you know that:
Last year, more than 66 million people donated to Goodwill. Goodwill accepts your new or gently used items — like clothing, appliances, electronics and furniture — and sells them in our well-known Goodwill retail stores. There are more than 2,400 Goodwill donation locations in the United States and Canada.
The sales of your donations help fund job training programs, employment placement services and other community-based programs for people who have disabilities, lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges.
In fact, donating clothes to a charity is so green that you can earn 20 points for it at Practically Green. But I never really thought much about how much benefit my basement stuff would provide until I got news from an industry friend, Park Howell, about a massive fire at the logistics and operations center for their local Goodwill. Without those donations, the 36 community programs they run don’t have funds so they are doing a MASSIVE drive (if you are reading us from Arizona, please donate!). I never realized that cleaning my basement isn’t just green, it creates jobs!
Then last night, I had the opportunity to visit another key player in the re-use market, Gazelle.com. Gazelle gives you cash for your unwanted gadgets (or if there isn’t any value, you can still send them in to be responsibly recycled). They offer their services directly, but also power trade-in programs at places like Costco and Sears. I got to see part of their “logistics and operations center” and it’s really a marvel (and a perfect home for my box of random electronic stuff). Here are some photos:
First shipments arrive and are packed into bins and contents are verified.
Then each bag is sorted into bins labelled for every kind of gadget.They have bins for everything from Blackberries to iPhones to Camcorders.
Every item is then inspected and readied for reuse or recycling. The inspection station ensures data is wiped and the product is functioning appropriately. It then goes into a huge inventory room until someone repurchases the item through eBay or other outlets or it is dismantled and recycled appropriately.
Of course it’s great to get cash for electronics. But what Gazelle.com has helped create is a way to extend the life of gadgets. This is really green because it combats the issue of perceived or planned obsolescence in technology AND helps keep e-waste from being disposed of improperly. By using Gazelle or services like theirs, you also can get 10 points for recycling your old computer, 10 points for recycling your cell phone, and 10 points for recycling other electronics on Practically Green. The final “feel good” benefit? These services makes technology available to people who might otherwise not be able to afford it.
So–one eco-friendly basement-cleaning later, and I’ve created jobs, battled planned obsolescence, kept e-waste out of landfill, helped someone access digital technology, and cleaned up our indoor air quality. And oh yes, earned 50 points on Practically Green! Who knew basement cleaning could be so rewarding?
We thought Park Howell’s “Sustainable Storyteller” review of Practically Green was so unusual, amusing, and compelling that we’re going to reprint it here for your enjoyment. We met Park a few weeks ago when we blogged about his firm’s Water: Use it Wisely initiative. Welcome aboard, Park!
Green marketers: How well do you know the “greenness” of your customer?
I can’t believe it. I’m only “fairly” friggin’ green, according to an online test I just took at PracticallyGreen.com.
That’s kind of embarrassing for a guy who writes a blog called,“Sustainable Storytelling.”
I admit it. I’m no treehugger. And chances are you’ll never find me strapped to a bulldozer, or flying across the bow of a whaling ship in a Zodiak. To be honest, I’m a middle-of-the-road green guy, arm-in-arm with the masses, because I believe that’s where the greatest incremental change in behavior can be made for the most significant impact on our planet.
I’m a practical green.
I promote water conservation, while still responsibly enjoying my Phoenix grass yard. I try to recycle everything, even the stuff that’s not supposed to go in the container; so points out my wife. I’ve switched to CFL’s wherever I can at home, except for my den ceiling fan where they throw about as much light as a Turkish prison cell (Ever watch “Locked Up Abroad”?).
I sweat like a Swede in a sauna if our house is over 78 degrees in the desert summer. I’ve got to have relief at 76 degrees (points off on the Practically Green scale).
We donate ALL of our unused stuff to Goodwill, and know we have more to give, but just can’t part with that “Hang Loose” muscle shirt I got 20 years ago.
Although I drive a fully combustible 6-cylinder Acura, my commute is just one mile each way from home to office, and has been for 15 years (Practically Green says I should ride my bike more). Michele drives a Highlander hybrid.
I eat red meat without giving a second thought to the cow flatulence I indirectly underwrite.
My point is that I work hard to be “practically green” in the consumer sense of the term, and probably not so much as an “activist.” Even so, I was surprised to be found only “fairly” green. I’ve got work to do.
Have you taken the quiz?
If not, you should. Because it will not only help you understand where you are in the greening process. But you can help this green beta website perfect their scoring system. They’re looking for testers, and I’m gladly promoting their site and their cause.
Susan Hunt Stevens, CEO of PracticallyGreen.com, generously spent an hour on the phone with me last week getting acquainted. Although she hails from Boston, turns out we grew up around the corner from each other in the Seattle area. I asked Susan to sum up the concept of her website.
“What Trip Advisor is to travel, and Weight Watchers is to dieters, and Baby Center is to raising kids, Practically Green is to moms who want to live a more sustainable life for themselves and their families.”
What other description would you expect from the former head of Boston.com, the 5th largest newspaper site on the web, and past director of marketing for NYTimes.com. Susan knows her market, and she is delivering the green goods.
I actually think Practically Green is more like eHarmony.com. The site helps match your lifestyle and proclivity towards sustainability with healthy products and services to help you achieve your “greenness,” be it “Barely Green,” or the curve-breaking “Wickedly Green.”
“We are a really valuable matchmaker between consumers who want to live a healthier life with products and services that can help them.”
But they’re not just talking to consumers. They’ve refined it even more to moms. And not just all moms, but young moms with babies and toddlers. And there-in lies the brilliance of their business model. Practically Green creates a marketplace that makes it easy for this highly-niched, highly-chatty, and highly-active consumer group to make wise product choices.
Practically Green doesn’t drive the market. Their customers do. And who wins? Everyone. From the mom’s making educated buying decisions, to the accountability of the companies, products and services on their site, to Practically Green for making it all happen.
It’s the ultimate business model that gains greater knowledge about their customer every time they help their customer gain greater knowledge about their healthy green buying decisions. Manufacturers don’t push product. They simply answer to an active consumer demand under the harrowing light of immediate accountability through this growing community of consumers.
Finally, I have to also give a nod to their “Mother Board.” This is Practically Green’s board of advisors, and I get a chuckle out of the name every time I think of it. They’re looking for more advisors, and if you’re interested, by all means contact Susan’s right arm: Sarah Finnie Robinson.
I dare you. Take the test, and let me know your shade of green.
What is grey water?
Any washwater that has been used in the home, except water from toilets, is called grey water. Dish, shower, sink, and laundry water comprise 50-80% of residential “waste” water. This may be reused for other purposes, especially landscape irrigation. — http://www.oasisdesign.net/greywater/
Put simply, grey water is water that you can’t drink (non-potable) but you can use for watering your plants.
Laura Allen is one of the co-founders of the Greywater Action, one of the county’s first and foremost resources for training and information. She is also a founder of Greywater Alliance, which does policy work. Laura lives in Oakland, California.
This video is a great introduction to Laura’s beliefs and practices. Follow her as she patiently shows a friend how to divert washer to water plants in the yard:
I never wondered where the water came from until I got my first water bill, as a tenant, about eleven years ago. I was ashamed and shocked! I happened to be taking a plumbing class at the time. My roommates and I spent three days figuring out how to take the shower water and send it outside to the garden. The system we built was so dysfunctional! I’ve learned that the more simple the design, the less work it takes to maintain.
Typically the easiest source of grey water is the washing machine. Think of its location in relation to the landscape that you need to irrigate. You can access the grey water from the washer hose itself, which usually pumps into a standpipe anyway. Shower water can be difficult in a house that’s already built. But it all depends on the accessibility of the plumbing. Find a good plumber who is open-minded and trained!
Our organization offers a five-day training for people who want to be installers. Mostly California, but people come from all around the state and US and Canada.
We’ve grown little by little. Our first organization was very informal: me and Cleo and a couple of others. My day job was teaching elementary school.
We became involved in rewriting the state code, and we formed the Greywater Alliance. We participated in the state code rewrite and helped make simple, low tech, low cost systems legal.
We usually have half women in our classes — in a one-week training you can’t learn everything, but you can at least know who to partner with.
People should look at how they reduce consumption. Look at the size of your lawn. Look at what you don’t need that wastes water — or exchange to a low-flow showerhead: easy!
As for my own green lifestyle: I bike everywhere. I do borrow a car sometimes. I live with other people. We grow our own food and we buy from farmers in our community.
Bottom line: We don’t need to be irrigating with potable water; greywater is a great source for irrigation. You can plant water loving plants near the house where they can be irrigated with greywater, and then have drought tolerant landscaping in areas that aren’t accessible. Changing how water is used in our own homes is something that each of us can do, starting today. Most of these technologies are very simple and just require interest and commitment.
For more information about the greywater laws and other greywater tips check out: greywateraction.org. In 2009 Greywater Action joined with a water organization called A Single Drop to connect international clean-water work with US hands-on water conservation strategies (workshops on greywater reuse, rainwater harvesting, and composting toilet construction).
And for additional motivation on conserving water, visit Practically Green’s (rather amazing & substantial, if we do say so) Water section: 34 suggestions for actions you can take today on smart water usage, from tracking your monthly water usage to turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth!
Emily Luchetti is a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef and the executive pastry chef at Waterbar and Farallon Restaurants in San Francisco. She’s the author of, most recently, A Passion for Ice Cream and is working on the forthcoming The Fearless Baker, out in Spring of 2011. Emily is an organic food afficionado — and, she’s my aunt!
During a recent visit, Emily agreed to collaborate on a recipe to suit Practically Green readers: easy, quick, healthy, and appropriate for green living.
I use the freshest, best-quality ingredients available and never mask their basic flavors by adding too much sugar. Chocolate desserts taste like rich bittersweet chocolate; peach desserts taste like ripe, juicy peaches.
My mouth was watering already.
The recipe we finally decided on was Bountiful Berry Compote with vanilla ice cream:Berry Compote
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar (we used sugar in the raw, organic works too)
Large pinch of kosher salt
1 pint (2 cups) fresh organic strawberries, hulled and quartered if small, cut into eighths if large
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 pint (1 cup) fresh organic raspberries
1 pint (2 cups) fresh organic blueberries
To make the compote: Put the orange and lemon juices, sugar, and salt in a large sauté pan. You can add sugar to taste, depending on how sour the orange juice is and how sweet the berries are. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid reduces slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the strawberries, blueberries and butter, gently stirring until the butter is almost completely melted, about 2 minutes. Add the raspberries and continue to cook just until the raspberries are warm, about 30 seconds. Do not overcook, or the berries will break apart.
Scoop some vanilla ice cream into bowls and spoon the berries and some sauce over the top. Or, separately pass the ice cream and compote in two large bowls. Serve immediately.
To further explore the notion that this dessert is healthy, I decided to research which vitamins the berries have and why they’re good for you and your family:
• One cup contains over 100 mg of Vitamin C, necessary for immune system function and strong connective tissue; Calcium, for strong bones; and Magnesium, good for your heart and may protect against some diseases.
• One cup of blueberries will also give you Vitamin C, a little less than strawberries, but blueberries have fewer calories. They also contain Lutein, important for healthy vision.
• Have the least amount of calories of the three, and also contain Lutein.
→ Did you know that the pigments that give berries their gorgeous blue and red colors are also good for you? The phytochemicals and flavonoids in them can potentially help prevent certain forms of cancer, and the ones in blueberries may help prevent bladder infections.
Phytochemicals? Flavonoids? Back to researching….
Phytochemicals are natural chemicals in fruits, veggies, nuts, and legumes that positively affect your health. Flavonoids, found in colorful skins of fruits and veggies may work as antioxidants.
Antioxidants protect the cells in your body from “oxidative” damage. As the body uses oxygen, by-products known as “free-radicals” can cause damage to cells. Antioxidants, like the ones in blueberries, are known to repair these free-radicals.
Phew, I need some ice cream after that.
Emily chimed in on how desserts fit into her healthy, practical lifestyle:
Too many people falsely believe that you have to sacrifice desserts to be healthy and physically fit. But the key is moderation, not abstention. Avoid processed foods and enjoy an occasional dessert. I eat well and exercise to stay healthy but also because I want to be able to eat desserts.
Today I approached a task that’s familiar to the point of boredom and had one of those Practically Green Startle moments: I realized OMG there is a more eco-friendly way to do this. In “this” case, I was trying to stay ahead of the tsunami of laundry that accumulated at our house during a busy family weekend at the end of summer. I shoved a load into the washing machine as usual and prepared to dial “Heavy Duty,” as I have done for the past umpteen years.
Then I thought, why do that? Why not choose the shortest washing cycle? And, why not use cold water instead of hot? After all, all these towels did was dry the newly clean bodies of my family and guests. There’s no reason why they need to be laundered for 84 minutes (heavy duty) when they can be washed for one-third the amount of time.
How much energy would this save? I went to research it at the Energy Star website. It turns out that with washing machines, the most energy is expended for the drum inside the machine to spin. Thus the longer the washing cycle, the more inefficient it is. If you can get away with the shortest washing cycle on your washing machine, go for it.
My laundry turned out beautifully after 26 minutes in cold water. And I line-dried everything — except for the towels. Towels become crunchy when line-dried. Call it a pet peeve, but I won’t go there. I want my towels to be soft.
Here are some of the energy-saving “Best Practice” tips for clothes washers that I found on the Energy Star site. I highly recommend you go there for answers to questions on all your household appliances, including rebate info.
Clothes Washer Tips
Always use HE (High Efficiency) detergent. Front-loading clothes washers are designed to use High Efficiency detergent. Using regular detergent creates too much suds, which will affect the machine’s washing and rinsing performance. Over time, it can lead to odors and mechanical problems.
Fill it up. Clothes washers use about the same amount of energy regardless of the size of the load, so run full loads whenever possible.
Wash in cold water. Water heating consumes about 90% of the energy it takes to operate a clothes washer. Unless you’re dealing with oily stains, washing in cold water will generally do a good job of cleaning. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut energy use in half. Using the cold cycle reduces energy use even more.
Use a drying rack or hang clothes outside. Where and when possible, air-drying clothes instead of using a dryer not only saves energy, but also helps them last longer.
Avoid the sanitary cycle. This super hot cycle, available on some models, increases energy use significantly. Only use it when absolutely necessary.
Activate the high spin speed option. If your clothes washer has spin options, choose a high spin speed or the extended spin option to reduce the amount of remaining moisture in your clothes after washing. This decreases the amount of time it takes to dry your clothes.
Leave the door open after use. Front-loading washers use airtight seals to prevent water from leaking while the machine is in use. When the machine is not in use, this seal can trap moisture in the machine and lead to mold. Leave the door ajar for an hour or two after use to allow moisture to evaporate. Make sure children do not climb into the machine while the door is open.
Rinse the washer every month. Some manufacturers recommend rinsing the washer each month by running a normal cycle with 1 cup of bleach to help reduce the risk of mold or mildew buildup. Consult the product owner’s manual before attempting.
When you’re ready to upgrade your appliances to Energy Star models (and get tax credits and PG points); or if you’re considering line-drying at your house (exhilarating on a sunny afternoon!), visit Practically Green to get more info, encouragement, product reviews, and points!
Think Green and Young: Children’s clothing and toy store Area Kids has a fabulous collection of eco-friendly duds for your little ones. The store is in Brooklyn, but offers products online. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice the “style” part of your “green lifestyle.”
Calling all Green Entrepreneurs: YouGoods is a design contest that challenges you to submit a product idea that is “practical, unique, and eco-friendly.” Act quickly, submissions are due on the 19th!
Are Chemicals Speeding up Your Daughter’s Childhood? There has been much talk in the news lately about exposure to chemicals such as BPA disrupting girls’ hormones. Hopefully the Safe Chemicals Act and the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act will help to put a stop on this disturbing trend. Click here to get PG points for your chemical free-cleaning.
Save That Stuff can help your business with its recycling needs by providing cost-effective alternatives to traditional waste disposal. See the video below for astonishing visuals of all the waste they recycle! The video is a little long, but everything worth seeing is in the first three minutes. Get PG points for recycling your stuff. Enjoy!
New and Cool Pick:
No more shoving a sponge into your Klean Kanteen: This cool brush made from recyclable materials will save you some serious time and effort. It’s hard to clean sticky drinks out of your eco-friendly reusable water bottle (my water STILL tasted like apple juice for at least three re-fillings), but this nifty brush makes it a breeze. It cleans both the inside and the outside at the same time.
We received a fresh message from Sheila Hollender of Seventh Generation first thing this morning, and we want to share it with you ASAP. Sheila is responsible for Seventh Gen’s global feminine-care initiative, and she directs the corporate-giving program. Under her leadership, the brand seems destined not only to make a difference for women of all privileges, of every nation — but also, to involve women of education and means who can help.
We’re proud and delighted to have both Hollenders — Sheila and Jeffrey, her husband — as advisors on Practically Green.
Here’s Sheila’s blog post, dated August 12, 2010. We have a funny feeling it’s historic, and we hope you’ll share it with your friends and influentials. Thank you.
News alert: Women now drive the world economy. Globally, women control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending according to three recent studies on women and the economy: Women Want More, by Silverstein & Sayre; Why She Buys, by Brennan; What Women Want, by Underhill. All three books underscore the fact that the global market has turned female friendly. This means that by exercising the “power of the purse,” women are able to dictate what manufacturers put out into the marketplace.
It should come as no surprise that a good portion of women’s spending is dedicated to beauty and personal care products. After all, through our collective purchasing power we have made cosmetics and personal care products companies vastly wealthy. We have done this without a lot of public questioning about the ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. We have failed to demand that the ingredients used in these products be non-toxic.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has been working to spread the word about the chemicals used in cosmetics. This organization claims that many cosmetics on the shelf today contain chemicals that have been linked to a negative impact on human health. In a video titled, The Story of Cosmetics Annie Leonard highlights the importance of knowing exactly what ingredients are used in our everyday cosmetics and personal care products.
Whether talking about the most recent miracle cream to hit the shelf or the tampons we use on a monthly basis, women have the power to change the way business is done.
Empower yourself and only support companies that actively work to make products that are safe for all of us.
Nancy Mims is a Practically Green Motherboard member who really knows her way around home decor. She’s a co-founder of ModGreenPod, an environmental leader in sustainable and fashionable design. Nancy has a thriving young company, two ingenious children, and a husband who we imagine is exceedingly content. When she told us about her passion for furniture makeovers, we asked her if she’d blog about it for us, and here’s the result, illustrated. Enjoy!
One of the perks of my job is seeing the great “before & after” photos and hearing the accompanying stories that our customers send us when they use our fabric on an upholstery project. It’s so satisfying to see a shabby old piece of furniture not only avoid landfill doom but be completely reinvented with fresh, new fabric through the skills of a local upholsterer. The result is a one-of-a-kind, locally produced piece of art filled with stories and soul.
All of the upholstered furniture pieces in my house are vintage, and all were lovingly reupholstered and with Mod Green Pod’s organic cotton by my favorite two Austin upholsterers. Last year, when I went through the process of working with the very creative and capable upholsterers at Spruce to recreate the Victorian camelback sofa in my living room, I blogged about each step in hopes that I could demystify the process: http://modgreenpod.blogspot.com/search/label/nancy%27s%20chair. For that project, we salvaged everything that we could from the original piece and sourced the greenest materials we could for whatever needed to be replaced. It remains a great “how to” resource for working with an upholsterer, for those who have never done so.
The most recent piece of furniture in my house is The Anticipate Chair, which Practically Green featured in its rather unfortunate “before” state in late spring: http://blog.practicallygreen.com/2010/05/home-decorating-with-ec-friendly-wallpaper-fabric/.
Seeing beyond the tattered brown exterior, I instantly loved the shape of the chair the second I spotted it at Room Service, my favorite vintage shop in my neighborhood. I‘ve learned from most upholsterers that furniture that predates the 1970s is usually built really well and can withstand much more time if properly refurbished. So I could see that it would make a gorgeous statement for a new pattern I had designed, Anticipate https://modgreenpod.com/item/52/. I selected a lush but neutral medium grey for the ground color and a pop of citrus yellow for the center of the cream colored swirling motif. I had the opposite colors printed for a contrasting throw pillow. (For more information about ordering Mod Green Pod’s fabrics in custom colors, click here: https://modgreenpod.com/tep-user/i/customguidelines.pdf and contact us.)
I delivered the chair to Sabrina at Under Cover Upholstery in Austin, and she measured and told me how much fabric to order. When the fabric was ready, I delivered it and she and I discussed the basic orientation of the pattern. Like most upholsterers, she had worked with a huge variety of prints and had great ideas about how the fabric should be laid out. A few weeks later, the chair was ready and WOW, did it exceed my expectations. Even Sabrina was stunned by how well it turned out. It’s really amazing to look back at the “before” photo; I can’t even believe it’s the same chair.
The “after” result is fresh and modern but also elegant and timeless–the perfect combination for a side chair that is now a usable piece of art!
Follow Nancy on Twitter @modgreenpod and friend her on Facebook for terrific updates on all the new designs at ModGreen Pod.
Are you thinking of making some energy-efficient home improvements? Until quite recently, the thought of insulating my water heater or dealing with my ductwork (where’s that?) made my hair hurt. I don’t know about you, but I have a more enjoyable time time thinking about a new bedspread or saucepot.
Until now! Our family is undergoing a major construction project, and I’m deep into everything from LED lighting to cellulose insulation. Cell-you-WHAT?! Enter Green Building Advisor to the rescue! This is an amazing resource for homeowners and professional, and if you are considering any of these projects, it’s worth checking out.
We recently caught up with Alex Wilson, GBA’s co-creator and visionary, in the words of U.S. Green Building Council President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi:
“He was paying attention to how the built environment affects people and the planet 30 years ago, and played an instrumental role in the early development of USGBC and LEED both as a hands-on participant and as a respected journalist. When it comes to visionary, Alex is the real deal….”
We asked Alex what are the top three things you can do to make your house more energy-efficient. “I only get three?” he said. It turns out he has nine, and he’s just getting warmed up. Here are the top four suggestions for homeowners from one of the most renowned building advisors in the country. (Stay tuned for more in a future installment.)
1) Get an energy audit. Have it done by a weatherization professional. In most states there’s a state energy office that can help you with this, easy to find on the internet. In Vermont, where I live, it’s Efficiency Vermont. The professional will want to dig around a little bit to see where you might improve the envelope. Expect to spend $500 – it’s worth it. Often the local utility will subsidize this and you can hire an energy auditor for free. It’s not uncommon for a house in New England to have leaks that a cat could sneak into. Deal with those first.
2) Replace your incandescent bulbs with CFLs. This is easy to do. Start with the light bulbs that are on six to seven hours a day — in your kitchen, at your desk. You get a rapid payback. LED is a great technology but it’s early for that; it will take a while for it to be affordable.
3) Programmable thermostats are a really easy, cost-effective thing to do that will yield great returns. You get multiple set points during the day, and I recommend resetting the temperature before you got to bed and setting it again for an hour before you wake up. If the home is not going to be used during the day, you have the opportunity to program for that. And, you’ll probably have a different program for the weekend, when you’re there more. Lux Pro is a good brand; Honeywell is the best known.
4) Replace old showerheads. They can deliver 5 gallons per minute (GPM), which is hugely inefficient. You get a very rapid payback with a thirty-dollar water-efficient showerhead that delivers a maximum of 1.6 GPM. I’ve been using the Delta Faucet H20Kinetic. It’s mainly been marketed to commercial buildings – hotels, dorms where they’re looking at the bottom line — but they work great at my house.
For Alex’s tips on surviving hot weather, see our previous blog post on him. In addition to his Energy Solutions blog, he writes the weekly blog on BuildingGreen.com: Alex’s Cool Product of the Week, which profiles an interesting new green building product each week. He is founder of BuildingGreen, LLC and executive editor of Environmental Building News. He can be found on Twitter @atwilson, and he is the author of Your Green Home.
It’s renewable, recyclable, biodegradable and 100% natural. If we had an award here at Practically Green for an all-around environmentally friendly and sustainable material, it would be the winner.
Can you guess what it is? Cork!
Yep, that little stopper in your wine bottle is an across-the-board eco-friendly substance. Which also means that it is prime recycling material. But we rarely think to collect all of those wine bottle stoppers piling up in our kitchen drawers and dispose of them efficiently. In fact, they’re pretty easy to lose track of once you pop open a bottle of your favorite organic wine or bubbly.
The useful life of cork is extended through recycling. Almost 60% of the world’s cork is used in wine production, so that’s a lot of cork that could be diverted from a landfill and used to manufacture a range of products such as floor tiles, place mats, memo boards, coasters, shoes and bags. Organizations dedicated to recycling natural cork, such as Cork ReHarvest and ReCORK by Amorim hope recycling will raise awareness of the usefulness of cork and help to create a greater demand for it.
Recycling also saves resources and reduces the demand placed on cork plantations. According to Cork ReHarvest, cork forests are highly important to the planet’s ecological health because they absorb millions of tons of CO2 each year and are a vast provider of oxygen to the planet. The cork forests of the Mediterranean Basin are among the most sustainable and environmentally harvested forests in the world. Trees are not cut down to harvest cork, rather, the bark is stripped by hand every 9-12 years. (Fun fact: cork oak trees can live up to 300 years!) We can support these responsible practices by recycling and reusing cork products.
A unique way to reuse your cork stoppers is to make your own cork board or coasters. There are kits available on Amazon that supply you with the wooden frames, glue and instructions, and then you provide the cork from your favorite bottles of wine (or all the corks saved in a box in your pantry!)
But if you’re not the arts and crafts type (don’t worry, some of us aren’t) you can find cork drop-off locations in your area through ReCORK by Amorim or Cork ReHarvest. These two organizations are not only focused on recycling natural cork, but educating the public on the importance of the Mediterranean cork forests for the world’s ecological balance. Whole Foods has launched cork recycling bins in most of their locations as well.
Susan just dropped off a load of wine corks to Whole Foods and Sarah is planning to do the same. And although I have another 6 months (not that I’m counting) until I can buy a bottle of wine, I plan on recycling the cork stoppers during my Whole Foods runs…although the homemade coasters are tempting. So what do you think? Recycle your cork at one of the many locations, or are you an adventurous arts and crafts type? Either way, you can earn 10 points for this action, so give it a try!
Today I faced the fact that I have two pairs of running sneakers that are dead, i.e., not performing, hurting my feet, ready to die. I threw them in the trash.
But I couldn’t stand the sight of them there, ready to be taken to some already laden landfill.
I Googled “recycled running shoes” and found a number of interesting programs, including RecyledRunners.com. The best program for me, I think, is the Nike Grind “Reuse a Shoe” process. According to the website, I can bring the shoes to my nearby Nike store, and they will send the shoes to one of two facilities:
Memphis, Tennessee: Recently relocated from Wilsonville, Oregon, our Memphis center uses a “slice-and-grind” technique, where each shoe is cut into three slices – rubber outsole, foam midsole and fiber upper. These slices are then fed through grinders and purified.
Meerhout, Belgium: Our Belgium facility, which opened in 2005, grinds shoes up whole, then passes the material through a series of complex separators.
There’s a video here that shows the amazing process.
No matter how your shoes are processed, the end result is the same – three high-quality Nike Grind materials ready to be put back in the game:
Nike Grind Rubber, made from the shoe’s outsole, is used in track surfaces, interlocking gym flooring tiles, playground surfacing and even new Nike products, such as the outsoles of the Nike Pegasus or the Jordan XX3. It’s also used in trim items like buttons and zipper pulls.
Nike Grind Foam, made from the shoe’s midsole, is used as a cushion for outdoor basketball and tennis courts, as well as futsal fields.
I can’t wait to have my shoes participate in such a fabulous program!
There are 28 recycling recommendations at Practically Green: helpful tips on responsible disposal of all sorts of stuff, from televisions to cell phones, from corks to gift wrap. If you decided to do all 28, you’d earn a total of 326 points! (That singleton is for watching a four-minute video, The Story of Stuff.)