Posts Tagged ‘styrofoam’

Traveling Waste

Ah, summer vacation!  There’s nothing like getting away.  Whether by car, by air, or by train, traveling however, generates a lot of waste!

My husband and I were recently in Asheville, North Carolina.  On the drive from Charlotte to Asheville, we stopped at a Subway restaurant , one of the healthier fast food options, for lunch.  Since I haven’t been to a fast food restaurant in years, I was shocked at the enormous amount of throwaway,non-recyclable products with each order – still!

My salad came in a sturdy, non-biodegradeable plastic bowl covered with a heavy-duty non-biodegradeable plastic lid.  The server gave me not one plastic packet of salad dressing but four.    My iced tea came with a plastic straw, several white sugar packets and a lid, even though we were eating in the restaurant.  In the paper bag  with my lunch ( a tray would have made more sense since we were eating there), was the plastic cutlery in a plastic bag and 6 or more paper napkins!   I returned the sugar packets, the napkins and the unused salad dressings.

fast food waste - plastic cutlery

 

fast food saladfast food salad dressings

 

On my flight to London, we had two throwaway meals.  The cutlery came in its own plastic bag, the salt and pepper in another, the cheese and crackers in another, the cookies in another, and the dinner itself in a plastic container sealed in plastic wrap.  Plastic water bottles, soda cans, stirrers, unused napkins – all I could think about was waste!  Some airlines do some recycling,  but not nearly enough.

I don’t understand why, considering the massive volume of fast food sold everyday and the thousands of daily flights, these companies don’t show more environmental consciousness and use biocompostable, biodegradeable disposable serving containers.  They do exist and plenty of restaurants use them for take out!   Starbucks and McDonalds are going towards more environmentally friendly containers and Dunkin’ Donuts recently eliminated Styrofoam coffee cups, but there is still such a long way to go.  It’s a complex issue I know, with cost being the bottom line.  The next time you are at a fast food restaurant, ask for more environmentally friendly containers.  That’s how change happens.

 

Be the Green Czar in Your Office!

A typical modern office

As you move towards a greener lifestyle, greening your office is important too.  Whether you work from home or away, follow the simple steps below.

  • When possible, use energy star equipment – computers, printers, copiers, fax machines, coffee makers, etc. – for maximum energy efficiency.
  • Recycle print cartridges at office supply stores and use soy ink cartridges, which require less oil to manufacture and emit fewer air pollutants.
  • Keep your screen saver blank instead of the energy hogging, hypnotic graphics ones.  They aren’t good for our eyes anyway!
  • Paper copies are less important these days, but if you do have to print something, print on both sides of the paper – most printers have a 2-sided property – and use recycled paper.  Also, set your printer to economy mode or eco-tone.  Most new printers have this setting, which uses less ink.
  • If your office is not already recycling used paper, set up a recycling center (for cans, bottles and plastic too) and organize a weekly or monthly pick up from a local recycling company. Or, reuse unwanted paper for scrap paper.

    Colorful Recycling Containers for Trash

    Colorful Recycling Containers for Trash (Photo credit: epSos.de)

  • For interoffice memos, use email rather than paper.  Most offices already do that and even email is becoming antiquated with Facebook messaging, google chatting and texting!
  • In your office kitchen, install a water filter system instead of using individual water bottles or big plastic water containers.
  • The average American goes through 500 disposable cups every year, so use ceramic mugs, not polystyrene (Styrofoam®) or plastic cups for coffee or water. Use real spoons instead of plastic stirrers. Set up a recycling center in the kitchen too.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with longer lasting, energy-efficient CFLs (compact fluorescents) or LED bulbs.
  • Clean your office with green cleaning supplies.
  • Reuse old packaging materials for shipping.
  • Houseplants are effective air cleaners, removing indoor air pollutants.  Place several plants near your printers, fax and photocopiers. They add beauty and tranquility as well.
  • When remodeling your office, use natural materials for furniture and carpet and low VOC paints instead of man-made laminates,  synthetic materials and conventional paints that outgas toxins.
  • When possible, ride public transportation, walk, bike or carpool to work.  You’ll save energy and start the day in a more relaxed way.

We spend most of our time at work, so setting up a green office is an important step to using less energy and leading a healthier lifestyle.  If your office isn’t as eco-friendly as it should be, take the lead and become the green czar in your office. A little initiative goes a long way!

SIMPLE STEPS TO GREEN YOUR OFFICE

A typical modern office

As you move towards a greener lifestyle, don’t forget to green your office whether you work from home or away!

  • When possible, use energy star equipment – computers, printers, copiers, fax machines, coffee makers, etc. – for maximum energy efficiency.
  • Recycle print cartridges at office supply stores and use soy ink cartridges, which require less oil to manufacture and emit fewer air pollutants.
  • Keep your screen saver blank instead of the energy hogging, hypnotic graphics ones.  They aren’t good for our eyes anyway!
  • Paper copies are less important these days, but if you do have to print something, print on both sides of the paper – most printers have a 2-sided property – and use recycled paper.  Also, set your printer to economy mode or eco-tone.  Most new printers have this setting, which uses less ink.
  • If your office is not already recycling used paper, set up a recycling center (for cans, bottles and plastic too) and organize a weekly or monthly pick up from a local recycling company. Or reuse unwanted paper for scrap paper.
  • For interoffice memos, use email rather than paper.  Most offices already do that and even email is becoming antiquated with facebook messaging, google chatting and texting!
  • In your office kitchen, install a water filter system instead of using individual water bottles or big plastic water containers.
  • The average American goes through 500 disposable cups every year, so use ceramic mugs, not polystyrene (Styrofoam®) or plastic cups for coffee or water. Use real spoons instead of plastic stirrers. Set up a recycling center in the kitchen too.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with longer lasting, energy efficient CFLs (compact fluorescents) or LED bulbs.
  • Clean your office with green cleaning supplies.
  • Reuse old packaging materials for shipping.
  • Houseplants are effective air cleaners, removing indoor air pollutants.  Place several plants near your printers, fax and photocopiers. They add beauty and tranquility as well.
  • When remodeling your office, use natural materials for furniture and carpet and low VOC paints instead of man-made laminates,  synthetic materials and conventional paints that outgas toxins.
  • When possible ride public transportation, walk or carpool to work.

We spend most of our time at work, so setting up a green office is an important step to using less energy and leading a healthier lifestyle.  Remember, every little step helps!


WHAT’S WRONG WITH STYROFOAM?

A lot!  Styrofoam, the trademark name of the Dow Chemical Company for polystyrene foam, and used for disposable cups and plates, food packaging, mailing material, appliance packaging and lots more, is manufactured from petroleum as well as other chemicals. One chemical,  benzene, is a known carcinogen. Because polystyrene is so prevalent, many of us assume it is safe. But according to a Foundation for Achievements in Science and Education fact sheet, long-term exposure to even small amounts of styrene can cause fatigue, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, low platelet and hemoglobin values, chromosomal and lymphatic abnormalities, and carcinogenic effects. It has not been proven to cause cancer in humans, although there is evidence it causes cancer in animals.  Polystyrene can release potentially toxic breakdown products, especially when heated.  It’s never a good idea to put any type plastic in the microwave – use glass instead.

Styrofoam also takes a long time to break down in the environment and is not easily recycled either. (Styrofoam is classified as a #6 plastic, which many recycling centers don’t take.) Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 styrofoam cups each year, or enough to circle the earth 436 times!  Styrofoam is said to take up 25% of space in the landfills where it can leach into the soil and groundwater.  Furthermore, it can be lethal to any animal that might ingest it and can block their digestive tracts, ultimately causing starvation.

Try not to buy products packaged in Styrofoam, especially food items. Food and petroleum really don’t go well together!  It is inevitable you’ll have some, so reuse your Styrofoam for packing materials, crafts, or donate them to schools for art projects.

Image by hahatago Flickr.com

Happily, I have seen eco-safe alternatives for Styrofoam cups and plates in some restaurants and hotels made from biodegradable cornstarch or from useless agricultural by-products and mushroom roots. These new products only take about 90 days to compost.   Change is happening!

To find Styrofoam recycling areas near you, visit Earth911.com and enter your zip code.

Information compiled from Wikipedia.com, Ejnet.org, Greenlivingtips.com, earth911.com, www.gizmag.com – article by Tamith Cattermole, thedailygreen.com

http://www.thedailygreen.com/going-green/tips/polystyrene-stryrofoam-cups-460529?click=main_sr

http://www.greenlivingtips.com/articles/218/1/Recycling-styrofoam.html

http://www.ewg.org/news/84-ways-you-can-help-planet