Please pass on the plastic

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#26-post consumer content May 21, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — michelleodonoghue @ 11:29 pm
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I’ve spent time recently meeting with the environmental group, NRDC (Natural Resource Defense Council). This is an environmental action and advocacy group who uses science and law to help promote a healthy environment for all living beings. At a meeting last night a man named Allen Hershkowitz led the discussion by explaining his role in the “greening” of baseball. ( as well as NHL, NFL, oscars and emmy’s). It was a a fascinating story because a group of 5 people ( along with Robert Redford!) decided to do something about the way America creates waste. The results are dramatic–from saving energy, to using forest certified building materials, to reducing waste–this team has changed the way America’s past times adversely affect our planet.

One of the most valuable pieces of information I took away from the night was the importance of using post consumer recycled content. This means buying goods made from recycled materials.Recycling can be cost effective and successful only if there is sufficient market demand for products that contain post-consumer content. In the stadiums and at the concert halls, NRDC has effectively managed to replace everything from toilet paper and tissues to tickets and programs and year books to be post consumer content. Instead of chopping down virgin forests to create the resources for these facilities they are now using recycled goods. (BTW, when forests are chopped down not only is carbon no longer being absorbed by the millions of trees lost, but massive amounts of carbon are released as the the soil is churned up and the trees are destroyed. Planting new trees does not even come close to absorbing the same amount of carbon as the old trees did. Some of these forest are tens of thousands of years old and the efficacy of these trees can not be matched.)

It is getting easier and easier as a consumer to find post consumer recycled goods and this is an extremely important part of the recycling chain or loop. Its really important that it say post consumer, the higher percentage the better (i.e plastic garbage bags made from 50% post consumer waste are better than bags made with 18% PC waste).

Manufacturing products from recycled materials conserves natural resources, consumes less energy, and saves landfill space. Here are a few examples:

  • Recycled aluminum saves 95 percent energy compared with virgin aluminum
  • One ton of paper made from recycled fibers instead of virgin materials saves 7,000 gallons of water, 17 to 31 trees, 4,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, and 60 pounds of air pollutants
  • One ream of 100% post-consumer recycled paper prevents 5 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere
  • Using recycled glass requires 40 percent less energy than making glass from all new materials.
  • Recycling plastic takes 70 percent less energy than it does to make it from raw materials.

Purchasing products made from recycled materials closes the recycling loop, helps preserve more natural resources, and fuels a growing industry in recycled products, which creates more jobs and thus is ultimately good for the economy as well as the environment. (Deborah Mitchell)

Here are some stores that sell post consumer products:

Even Wal-Mart is carrying t-shirts made from recylced coke bottles. there is a way out of this mess that we are in, its just going to take a huge effort on ALL of our parts.

A little disclaimer here: I can’t promise that post consumer toilet paper is as soft as charmin, BUT, and this is a big but, there were no trees chopped down for it and it works just as well!

Switching over to post consumer products like garbage bags, office supplies, cleaning supplies, paper towels is hardly a big deal and so worth the extra effort it may take to find it.

 

#25–LUCKY LUNCH BOXES May 16, 2008

I’m writing now, so you have ALL summer to think about plastic-freeing your kids’ (and maybe even your own) lunch box……..
It has been estimated that on average a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school. (laptop lunches)

http://www.laptoplunches.com/

Laptop Lunches are American-style bento boxes designed to help families pack nutritious, environment-friendly lunches for school, work, and travel. Our sustainable lunch containers–which come with a book of healthy lunch ideas and lunchmaking recipes–are reusable, recyclable, and dishwasher safe. Our lunchboxes do not contain phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), or lead.

Another very inspiring site,

http://www.wastefreelunches.org/

Waste free lunches encourage the following :

  • cloth napkins
  • reusable lunch box
  • reusable lunch mat (wrap-n-mat has a great one.) sandwhich and place mat in one
  • reusable juice container (stainless steel)
  • stainless steel silverware

This can be instituted as a whole school policy. Many schools across the country are starting up these programs, led by parents who are trying to do their part. I know I’ve found it easier to be green when I know others are a part of it. Its inspiring when you now an entire cafeteria has switched to the green ideas, no more plastic, no more disposable water bottles, cloth napkins, etc… the impact is then HUGE! In our school cafeteria we started off slowly, first by eliminating styrofoam (so,so,so important), having a water dispenser (as opposed to water bottles) and using real silverware. Its amazing how much garbage we reduce by taking these steps.

I have a good friend who did a calculation on how long it would take a schools’ usage of juice boxes (530 kids in the school) to reach the top of the empire state building. A year? Half a year? A month? answer: A week! that is crazy. And to top it off, juice boxes aren’t recyclable b/c the cardboard is lined with foil. It can’t be separated in the recycling process. That is just one little school, in one little town, in one little place on earth. We’ve got to cut down on our waste.

great sites:

  • reusablebags.com– great lunch boxes, a really functional stainless steel container for hot and cold foos (made in safe factory, BPA free, lead free) I’m ordering onenow so you can check back with me to find out if its as good as it sounds.
  • wrap-n-mat–perfect way to store any knd of sandwiches (including bagels–favorite in our house) and/or snack
  • bento boxes–all of the ablove sold at reusablebags.com (best prices) or at the individual sites
 

#24-some questions answered May 14, 2008

1.) What to do with all the plastic containers / toys?

re-use is great: art containers, garage organization, think of this as a one time cleaning out b/c you will not be buying this plastic again. Donate well organized toys to hospitals, big brother, big sister, salvation army. consignment stores…….the hardest thing for us with plastic toys is keeping them in good shape and all the pieces together, but as I’ve become focused on keeping plastic out of land fills, we’ve started to take good care of our plastic. The main ideas here: REDUCE plastic usage in your life, especially the harmful kind, REDUCE the amount of plastic we are purchasing in this world, REDUCE our impact on the earth!

2.) safe, re-usable sippy, travel cups:

this is a tricky one b/c the cost of the cups are high and the chances of losing the cups are high. from experience with my SIGG bottles I can say this–we are much more careful when we travel with these bottles to make sure that they make it home with us. We’ve held onto our SIGG’s since september and each kid does travel around with their own. Maybe its worth saving a few of the old sippy cups just for travelling around (not the purest plastic-free idea!)

Some Good Alternatives to plastic:

  • SIGG
  • Kleen Kanteen
  • Born Free
  • nurturepure.com–3-in-1 bottle/cup that grows with your child, BPA, toxin-free
  • Target-stainless steel sippy cups

3.) Does plastic in your filtration system have the same negative impact as plastic water bottles?

I’m not an expert but from the reading I’ve done it seems the biggest plastic leeching problems are when the water sits in the containers (5 gallon water dispenser jugs) or the plastic gets re-used (deteriorates in dishwashers) over and over. I don’t think water passing by a plastic filtration piece should pose a problem.

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4.) Frozen foods in plastic and heating these foods in microwave?

Ughhhhhhhhh……………….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (not sure the best way to write that reaction but you get the point) Heat and plastic DO NOT mix!!

http://www.thegreenguide.com/products/Kitchen/Plastic_Containers/4

5.) Storing foods in plastic bags in freezer?

The worst foods to store in plastic are acidic (i.e., tomato sauce) and fatty (chicken soup) as those types of food break down the plastic. Plastic bags do not contain the BPA (known endocrine disruptor) so less harmful than hard plastics. Do not thaw frozen bags in microwave. Since the idea is to start getting away from wasteful plastic, eliminating plastic bags and using alternatives is a good idea. (glass, ceramic, stainless steel). Glass does have chance of cracking, ok if only filled 2/3rd’s of way.

6.) Do you use a carbon filter for your tap?

I use a Hague whole house filtration system. I am thrilled with the taste and purity of our water. chlorine eliminated as well as pesticides, metals, iron. A whole house system covers every faucet in the house, including showers and baths, which is where most of our chlorine intake comes from. downside, its expensive, but it is a one-time purchase for your home and save lots on not buying bottled water.

Michelle

 

#23-A Pause and A Prayer May 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — michelleodonoghue @ 3:02 am
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A break from my green, plastic- free banter for this week……..

I’ve spent the last few weeks working on another environmental issue…..the genocide in Darfur continues to rage on and I’m having a hard time stomaching my peaceful (albeit plastic-filled) American life while tragedy prevails across the globe. The genocide in Darfur is atrocious. The books and articles I’ve been reading, by survivors who have escaped, contain too many graphic stories to share. The type of violence, rape, mutilation and destruction going on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is unacceptable, horrifying, senseless.

In the history of the world, this is the first genocide being committed that the rest of the world has a chance to “see.” Journalists are risking their lives documenting the daily atrocities so that the rest of us can step up to the plate and do something. We have a choice to make: mourn this genocide once it is over or do something about it now.

The Sudanese govt. is responsible for committing this genocide against their people. This is the hard piece to understand —-but as one Darfurian explains, “people live above the land, below it are all the resources.” ( The Translator, Douad Hari). The government wants power, money, the natural resources that come from having a “pure”, cleansed population. Horrific.

When the genocide first began, the Sudanese leaders were sure no one would care. There are problems in Africa all of the time, why would the world pay attention this time? Well, the world did care this time and there are many individuals and groups working day and night to end this crisis. Whether sending humanitarian aid for the 2 million–yes, 2 million–displaced darfurians, or putting pressure on governments around the world to step in and do something, there are people working around the clock to let the Sudanese leaders KNOW that we are watching.

We even know a death toll….500,000. In 4 years, 500,000 real people, like you and me, killed. And the ways they were killed are again too horrifying to write about. Children are being given guns (they get a stipend to join the govt. group–the janjaweed–of $200. That is years worth of money. They also get food–a scarcity. In return they must kill. ) There are stories of 12 year old boys banding together to do their killings. Their favorite targets–the elderly, young girls, babies, women. How is this possible? How does the world ever recover from this much evil?

The Sudanese govt is responding to political pressure. They know, now, that the world is watching. In fact We can all help in this situation. The Save Darfur Coalition has paved the way for all of us. By joining with them we can add our voice, our eyes, our ears, our prayers.

Please take a look at their web site.

Michelle

 

#22–5 gallon water jugs are laden with BPA

Filed under: healthy home,healthy office,no more plastic — michelleodonoghue @ 2:21 am
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After 9/11, I had this horrible fear that the terrorists were coming after our water supply next. I quickly signed up for Poland Spring water delivery and felt relieved that I’d have a supply if anything went wrong. I would get excited when we didn’t get through our regular delivery thinking it would be great that I’d have some extra around in case we needed it. Really depressing to think about.

Soon after that, I started hearing and reading about the problems associated with plastic leeching into water bottles. One of the worst culprits? 5 gallon water jugs. Made out of polycarbonate plastic ( really hard, dense plastic) these jugs contain BPA (bisphenol A). A known hormone disruptor (soon to be banned in Canada, already banned in Europe.) This is a substance that is not worth messing with. See post #21 for all the side effects connected with BPA.

SOLUTIONS:

  • test home water supply (many companies do it for free). determine best type of filtration for your situation. (usually carbon filters are most effective.
  • glass bottles for water delivery. Mountain Valley Spring has delivery service, water comes in 5 gallon jugs (drawback: very heavy so hard to lift). other companies have this service as well. if anyone finds good ones, please share.

For health reasons it is a really good idea to switch out your 5 gallon jugs ASAP. Its always a helpful reminder to myself in these situations that it’s never too late make plastic-free changes and the health benefits are usually noticeable immediately.