Posts Tagged ‘landfill’

Straws and Waste

One doesn’t think of straws as particularly wasteful. After all, they don’t take up much space in the trash. In fact, they actually are because of the sheer volume used every day. According to ecocycle.org, the average person sips through 38,000 or more straws in their lifetime. We use 500 million straws every day, or enough disposable straws to fill over 46,400 large school buses per year. Rarely do they get recycled or reused, so all these straws, plus their plastic or paper wrap, end up in the landfill.

 

 

One also doesn’t think of straws as unhealthy either, but as I always say, food (or drink) and plastic don’t go together, and the majority of straws are plastic.

Some people prefer using a straw in restaurants to insure cleanliness. And some states require restaurants to serve straws with open beverages. But when you don’t want a straw, simply asking a server not to give you one will help reduce waste as well as send a message to the restaurant.

As with most products, there are several eco-friendly alternatives you might not know about. Reusable glass straws that come with a cleaning brush, biodegradeable and compostable ones made from plant-based plastic, and paper straws are much healthier choices for you and the environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple steps that make a difference……..

 

 

 

 

 

Straw manufacturers provided the above statistics. Some environmental groups think these statistics are low since they don’t include straws attached to juice boxes and milk cartons.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from: http://www.ecocycle.org/bestrawfree and http://www.simplystraws.com.

 

 

Food Waste/Food Loss/Solutions

As a child, I was required to clean my plate. “Think about all the starving children in Africa.” my mother repeatedly said. And so I gobbled up my dinner. Even though that philosophy changed when I was raising my kids, “Keep mealtime happy; they take what they need.”, I still hated wasting food.

According to a National Geographic article, “One-Third of Our Food is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done”, more than 30 percent of the food we grow, valued at $162 billion annually, isn’t eaten. Globally it is rising to 50% as developing nations struggle with spoilage and Western nations simply throw food away. In general, “the richer the nation, the higher its per capita rate of waste.”

Think about your restaurant dining experiences. Restaurants usually serve overly large portions, which most people don’t eat. They either leave the food or ask for a doggy bag. Doggy bags make sense except the food, along with other leftovers, is often thrown away. So then is the doggy bag packaging, usually made from non-biodegradable Styrofoam. With elaborate buffets in restaurants and on cruises, consumers help themselves to excessive and unhealthy portions often not eaten. At the end of the buffet, the leftover food is dumped.

The National Geographic article states that food retailers usually have in-store losses of 43 billion pounds of food a year. They over order to avoid running out of a particular product and potentially losing customers. Consumers over buy because food is relatively cheap and designed to be seductively packaged.

Consumers also take the “use by” date literally (brainwashed?), even though the stamps were “designed to communicate peak freshness and have nothing to do with food safety.” Again, out goes the food and back to the store to buy more.

Uneaten food goes beyond the obvious waste.  It also wastes exorbitant amounts of fuel, agricultural chemicals, water, land, and labor needed to produce and transport the uneaten food. Those wasted toxic chemicals used to produce food seep into our waterways and deplete the soil of beneficial nutrients. And if that’s not bad enough, food waste is the number one material taking up landfill space where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.

Yikes – It’s time to go back to the era of cleaning our plates!

Next week’s blog – Food Loss/Solutions

 

Information compiled from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/One-Third of Food Is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done” and http://modernfarmer.com/2013/09/next-food-revolution-youre-eating/

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Benefits of Buying in Bulk

Bulk food buying is the hallmark of eco-conscious consumers.  Buying in bulk doesn’t just mean buying huge quantities of items to save money, which makes sense for staples like toilet paper and paper towels if you have the space.  It also means buying from those bulk bins you see in the grocery store.  There are several advantages to doing so.

Bulk items are usually cheaper.  With no packaging, companies are able to keep costs down. According to the Bulk is Green Council, “organic bulk foods on average cost 89% less than their packaged counterparts”.  Wow!

You can buy only what you need.  If a new recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of a specialty item that you don’t have on hand, you simply buy what is called for.  Buying this way also allows you to experiment with certain spices, grains or flours that you don’t usually buy without committing to a whole bag or box.  You significantly reduce food waste and save space in your pantry by buying only what you need. How many unused spices are in your spice drawer that have been there for years?  To insure freshness and for peak flavor, spices and most food items are better bought in smaller quantities anyway.

Bulk buying also keeps tons of packaging out of the landfills. A study from Portland State University found that if Americans switched to bulk bin buying for common items, it would “it would save tens of millions of pounds of trash from entering landfills each year.”  Specifically, the Bulk is Green Council states, “If all Americans purchased coffee beans from bulk food bins, 260 millions pounds of foil packaging would be diverted from the landfills per year.”  Or, “If all American families bought peanut butter from bulk food bins, about 749 million pounds of waste would be diverted from landfills per year.”

When buying from the bulk bin, you can either bring your own glass container or use the plastic or paper bags provided. Calculate the price per ounce, pound, etc. A scale is usually right there beside the bins.  If you bring your own container, make sure to weigh the container first before adding the item, then subtract that weight to determine the cost of the item you are buying.  If you are concerned about bin freshness or cleanliness, feel free to ask the store manager.  And, don’t forget to recycle or reuse the plastic bag after transferring your bulk items to a glass container at home.  Store them in the pantry or dark place.  I love the way the pantry looks with attractive glass containers or reused mason jars, which is all the rage today.

Items You Can Find In Bulk Bins:

  • Dry beans
  • Flours (including GF options)
  • Seeds (including flax and chia)
  • Nuts
  • Grains
  • Spices and herbs
  • Ground and whole bean coffee
  • Powders (such as baking powder)
  • Cereal and granola
  • Trail mix and dried fruits
  • Dry pasta
  • Nutritional yeast and other odds and ends

During the holiday season when we are baking, cooking and trying new recipes more than usual, buying from bulk bins makes even more sense.  Try it and enjoy saving money and waste!

Information compiled from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-15918/the-benefits-of-buying-in-bulk.html and http://www.bulkisgreen.org/.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Easy Green Tips for Kids!

 Image by woodley wonderworks
It’s never too early for kids to make environmentally responsible practices a part of their daily life. To protect the future of the earth, kids must get involved.  That’s how change happens. Below are simple, money-saving, kid-friendly ideas that make a difference.
  • Start recycling and encourage your friends to recycle too.
  • Start composting kitchen waste and encourage your friends to do so too.
  • Buy green school supplies – pencils, notebooks with recycled paper and reuse last year’s unfinished notebooks.
  • Walk, carpool or take a bus to school to cut down on carbon emissions.
  • Save water by turning it off when brushing your teeth.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
  • Turn off video games and computers when not in use.  Better yet,cut down on video game time, which uses more energy than computers or tv.  Play outside instead.
  • Use rechargeable batteries in your toys and buy well-made toys that last.
  • Plant a little garden – lettuce and radishes are quick, easy to grow crops.
  • Reduce use of throwaway cups, plates, utensils and use washable dishes and cloth napkins instead.
  • Use reusable, BPA-free water bottles instead of plastic ones.
  • Use a recyclable or reusable lunch bag and put your snacks in reusable containers rather than buying small, throwaway ones.
  • Celebrate Earth Day on April 22!

Click on the link below to watch a brief video created for children on the importance of recycling and the positive effects of doing so.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Turn Your Kitchen Waste Into Gold!

One more Vitamix advantage that I neglected to mention in last week’s blog – When making a smoothie or juice drink in your Vitamix, the whole fruit is juiced, which includes the juice and the fiber.  The fiber contains valuable nutrition that is missing in extracted juice, making your Vitamix drinks even more nutritious!

Several of my readers have asked me about composting.

Composting means recycling food waste or organic material to the soil, which is then broken down by natural bacteria and turned into compost or a dark, soil-like humus and an incredibly rich (and free) organic fertilizer!  Compost adds nutrients to the soil and improves soil structure, eliminating the need for high nitrogen-based chemical fertilizers, and produces thriving, pest resistant plants.  Compost is unbelievable fertilizer for your gardens and lawn.

Composting is just as important as recycling cans, bottles, papers, plastics or anything else.  According to the EPA, “ In 2011 alone, more than 36 million tons of food waste was generated, with only four percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting.” When food is thrown away and goes into the landfill, it rots and emits methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

You can compost all organic matter – kitchen waste including fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, eggshells, and tea bags, (but avoid meat and dairy which turn rancid and attract scavengers and citrus which is toxic to the worms); grass clippings; and yard waste including leaves.  Do not add weeds or chemically treated grass clippings.

I keep a compost bucket with a charcoal filter (to prevent odors from escaping) in my kitchen sink, which I then empty into the compost pile in the backyard. You can buy compost bins online or from garden centers that cost approximately $30 – $100, but you can easily build your own. It takes about a year before the organic materials are broken down into compost and ready to add to your garden soil. Regularly turning the pile and occasionally adding a compost inoculant to help break down organic material speeds up the process, but isn’t necessary.

For Apartment Dwellers

Some cities like San Francisco and London offer kitchen waste pick up service, but most don’t.  You can still compost however, even without access to a yard.  There are two fun options.

One is vermicomposting, or composting with worms.  Vermicomposting involves buying a shallow worm container and lid (punch holes in the top and sides for drainage and ventilation), making a bed for the worms using torn newspaper mixed with leaves and potting soil, then adding kitchen waste (it works better if it is small pieces) and about 2000 red wriggler worms, sold at garden centers or ordered online through commercial growers.   Leave the lid off so the worms will burrow underground; they are sensitive to light.  In two to three months, your worms will produce dark, rich, nutritious worm castings or organic fertilizer, which your plants will love.  Click here for more information.

A second option is bokashi bin composting. Bokashi means fermented organic matter in Japanese.  This method uses a mixture of “effective microorganisms” in a medium like wheat bran.  You simply add your food waste to the bin and then sprinkle the microorganism mixture on top.  The microorganisms help to break down the scraps and if managed properly, there won’t be any smell.  This system works fast – it makes compost in two weeks!

With both indoor systems, be careful not to compost too much food waste at once.

I never stop marveling at the beautiful rich soil transformed from my kitchen waste.  It’s another one of nature’s miracles.  Get ready for spring and start composting now!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from www.bokashicomposting.com, http://www.howstuffworks.com, epa.gov, and www.ecolocalizer.com

 

 

 

Reboot Your New Year’s Resolutions!

Lately, I’ve been hearing about rebooting our abandoned New Year’s resolutions.  It’s only February after all, and way too soon to let those good intentions fall by the way side.  Hopefully your resolutions included adopting new green living habits, but if not, it’s never too late to add them.

What is the most important green thing you can do?  Think.      

  • Think about unnecessary packaging when you buy something.  Packaging represents about 65% of household trash.
  • Think about where that product came from and under what conditions it was produced.
  • Think about refusing those ubiquitous, non-biodegradable, petroleum-based plastic bags at the grocery store and bringing your own reusable ones instead.  (Plastic bags are banned in some areas of the USA and in some countries.)
  • Think about bringing your own bags on all errands.
  • Before you throw something away, think about whether it can be reused or given away.
  • If not, think about our jam-packed landfills and the importance of recycling.  According to Recycling Revolution, “The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world at 1609 pounds per person.  This means that 5% of the world’s people generate 40% of the world’s waste.” There is good news however. Efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle are paying off and landfill demand is diminishing.
  • Think about the seriousness of the record-breaking drought in parts of the country and what you can do to conserve water – turn off the water when you brush your teeth, shorten your showers and run your dishwasher only when full.
  • Think about consolidating your errands, walking or taking public transportation in an effort to conserve energy.
  • Think about turning off lights when you leave a room to save electricity.

In our busy, fast-paced lives we usually don’t take the time to think through our daily habits.  They become rote.  It takes about three weeks to develop a new habit.  Make these simple green tips your new routine.  Then, take the time to think and learn about why the time is now to start living a greener life.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Some information compiled from http://www.usi.edu/recycle/solid-waste-landfill-facts; http://postcom.org/eco/facts.about.landfills.htm.

Swiffer vs An Old-Fashioned Dust Mop

Below is a question from a reader about Swiffer.

Dear Betsy:

I just got the latest issue of Vermont Country Store catalog and inside is an old-fashioned wool dust mop, which up to 10 years ago I used and used to shake outside like my Mom used to do! 

This made me think about all the Swiffer products I use.  Hmmm – I’m wondering if anyone has compared cleaning efficiency of an old-fashioned dust mop vs Swiffer – certainly one is more economical.  The Swiffer products are expensive!  Thanks –

Jennifer M.

Winchester, MA

Hi Jennifer:

Great question!  I don’t know of any actual studies about the cleaning efficiency of an old-fashioned dust mop vs. Swiffer, but I know I prefer an old fashioned dust mop.  Swiffer disposable dry cloths are made of polyester and polypropylene and work well to pick up dust and grime from most surfaces, but so does an old-fashioned wool dust mop.  The natural lanolin in wool attracts and holds dust. Wool won’t scratch floors and gets better every time you wash it. I try to avoid single use products that go directly into the landfill, as well as petroleum-based products like polypropylene.

The Swiffer wet cloths are treated with propylene glycol and though categorized by the FDA as “generally regarded as safe”, that’s not assurance enough for me. According to Swiffer, the wet cloths may irritate skin and aggravate known skin conditions.” Considering that concentrations of toxic compounds are higher inside than outside, it’s best to avoid them when you can. Indoor air pollution, partially caused by the use of chemical based cleaners, is a much more serious problem than people realize and one of the reasons for increased cases of asthma and allergies.  Additionally, the chemically treated, single use wet cloths end up in the landfill leaching toxic chemicals into the soil and water table.

There is no question that Swiffer is easier than an old-fashioned mop, but what happened to cleaning with natural and safe ingredients like soap, water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and borax?  All it takes is a little elbow grease and a good sponge mop.

If you insist on the convenience of a Swiffer, there are similar, more eco-friendly options.

  • Method Home floor cleaning mop with non-toxic compostable sweeping cloths.
  • Gaiam’s Spray Mop Kit where you add your own cleaner or nontoxic vinegar and water, spray the fine mist and mop up with a microfiber cleaning cloth (the eco-friendly cleaning rage today).  The set includes five washable MicroTech Cleaning Cloths.

    Gaiam’s Spray Mop

  • Amazon also sells a microfiber mop called E-cloth microfiber mop, as do Bed, Bath and Beyond and Whole Foods.

E-cloth Microfiber Mop

I hope this helps Jennifer– let me know what you decide.  Safe cleaning!

Betsy

Information compiled from www.treehugger.com, inhabitat.com, www.swiffer.com, vermontcountrystore.com, classic.akc.org

 

 

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