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Think reusable bags are only to be used at grocery stores? Think again! Zero Waste Communities is here to give you 4 simple tips to get the most out of your reusable bags this holiday season.
1. Reusable bags aren’t just for the supermarket.
We all like to get the most value out of our purchases—especially during those holiday sales—but there’s one complimentary item that you shouldn’t feel cheated by turning down at the register: a shopping bag. Using your reusable bag collection for your general holiday shopping will help cut down on numerous wasted disposable bags from department stores. Not only will you produce less waste, as a bonus when you bring your treasures home your giftees won’t know what stores you’ve been to.
For those nervous about being the odd-shopper-out, for five years Heal the Bay has coordinated “A Day Without A Bag” on the third Thursday of December—the 15th this year—where holiday shoppers and retailers forgo single-use plastic shopping bags in favor of reusable bags.
2. Think outside the box; right outside the box.
A lot of effort goes into making our presents look like presents. All that colorful paper looks great, but did you know that wrapping paper and shopping bags alone account for about 4 million tons of trash annually in the US? Most of us probably know that with a little bit of extra effort and care, even the most delicate of wrapping papers can be saved or passed on to wrap again. While that’s fantastic, with a little creativity, resourcefulness and research you can blur the line between wrapping and wrapped. There are a lot of sites that offer some great ideas for good looking reusable packaging or how to make the packaging itself, a part of the gift.
3. That’s your bag, Baby.
Sometimes, you don’t even need to put anything inside of the bag. And why should you? If you happen to find a really awesome bag that you think your friends and family would love to carry and use week after week for their shopping or personal needs, that’s definitely a gift worth giving. Just don’t try to say it’s the same thing as a purse. Even thought it kind of is, that could to get you into trouble.
4. Bags? We don’t need no stinking bags.
If you really want to get serious about using less, don’t wrap or bag your gifts at all. You’ll even get bonus points if the gift itself is made to be reusable or made from recycled or reused material. You can carry small purchases home in your hand, purse or pockets. Once you’re back home, if you want to get more festive than presenting your gift by saying, “Here you go,” find places to hide them: under a pillow, in a tree or in the refrigerator. Be creative, but don’t forget the tried and true behind-your-back technique.
Mostly, we hope that you’ll join with Zero Waste Communities in committing to a simpler but no less magical holiday season. Do you have any gift-giving and material-saving ideas? Share them with us!
As the Zero Waste Communities' Reusable Bag Campaign prepares to roll out across San Bernardino County after a successful pilot program, we’d like to change our main question from “do you use reusable bags?” to “how many reusable bags do you have?”
If you’ve got more than 10 - wow, good job! But don’t worry if you feel like your number is too low. We’ve all got to start somewhere, so why not at one? While disposable plastic bags are convenient and often free, that’s beginning to change in many cities with new local environmental legislation.
Now is the perfect time to start expanding that bag stash and Zero Waste Communities is ready to help you do it by launching a Reusable Bag Campaign and teaming up with local grocery stores. Residents can connect with us on Facebook or at one of our partner stores: Albertsons in Apple Valley, Hesperia, Highland and Victorville, and Clark’s Nutrition in Loma Linda. This year, employees at our partner stores will be reminding residents to use their reusable bags. Best of all, by filling out a sign-up sheet in-store or online and “liking” us on Facebook, San Bernardino County residents can receive a free reusable bag! Whether this is your first one or your tenth, each reusable bag you use stops many of its disposable counterparts from ending up in landfills, or worse, as roaming debris.
As our partnerships prove, it’s not just the conservation groups that are supporting this shift to reusable bags; many retailers are advocating reusable bags as well. This commitment goes beyond reminding people to “Grab Your Bag.” Retailers like Clark’s Nutrition and Albertsons are embracing comprehensive, affordable and environmentally conscious choices and reminders for their customers. Albertsons in particular over the last year has significantly expanded its recycling programs throughout the country, putting their stores and offices on a path to zero waste.
When it comes to that all-important Halloween question, “How should I lug around my candy-loot this year?” the Zero Waste Communities wants you to know that there is more than one answer.
Chances are you have used an electronic device today. Oh wait, you're reading this! That means the computer or mobile phone that is allowing you to check out the Zero Waste Communities blog will one day become what is known as electronic waste (e-waste).
Sadly, there are a lot of computers, televisions and other electronic gadgets out there that will be joining other computers and cell phones in a heap of plastic and metal debris. Every year Americans dispose of almost 400 million e-waste items alone. Of that, the EPA estimates that only 20% is being recycled. We are here to change that and we need your help.
While electronic waste only accounts for 2% of all the trash in our landfills, these devices account for a significant 70% of toxic waste. Toxic you ask? Yes, toxic. Almost all electronic devices contain potentially polluting stuff like lead, mercury and sulfur.
So what are we to do? More and more we are relying on these item to entertain us, store our data and perform work tasks. They are becoming an essential part of our lives. While the United States hasn't yet banned these products from our landfills like the European Union did back in the 1990s, recycling centers and other appropriate disposal facilities are popping up all around us.
Not yet convinced you shouldn't just dump your old electronic goods in the ol' landfill? Here are some more facts to mull over. First, dumping electronics in trash in the state of California is actually illegal.
Wait, there's more. Cathode tubes in those old televisions and computers typically contain about 4 to 7 lbs of lead alone!
It is estimated that 50 million cell phones are replaced around the world each month with only 10% ever being recycled and even less are being reused. If we recycled one million of these cell phones, it would be the equivalent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of taking 1,368 cars off the road for an entire year.
One last important item to keep in mind when thinking about e-waste's impact on our environment: electronic goods are more often than not trashed before they even stop working properly! So if you have old electronics that are working properly, why not donate them to someone who may be able to use them instead? It's something to consider before you throw it away.
We hope you will join us in keeping e-waste out of our landfills. If you live in San Bernardino, check out CalRecycle's electronic waste search engine to find the location closest to you. Also, San Bernardino's HHW program also accepts e-waste. So there is no excuse for trashing those electronic gadgets!
Summer is almost here and that means a lot of us are getting our gardens and yards in tip-top shape. Did you know that planting native plants around your home can dramatically reduce the amount of waste you end up producing? It's true! Here's why.
If your household is like 78 million other homes in the United States, you likely use some pesticides and herbicides on your landscaping, in your garden or on your lawn. Herbicides alone count for the majority of these applications, a whopping 90 million pounds are applied per year! The less we use of these types of chemicals on our yards, the less risk we have of them being disposed of improperly and the less we have to dispose of overall. Unfortunately, a lot of these pesticides and herbicides end up in our trash and then our landfills. As a result, they can make their way into our drinking water supplies and even our waterways.
If you do choose to use pesticides and herbicides, please dispose of excess chemicals by taking them to your local Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) facilities. To learn more visit our page on HHW, or give a call to 1-800-OILY-CAT for a location near year. While you are at it, remember that HHW facilities also take items such as batteries, paint, pool supplies, hobby chemicals, motor oil and furniture polish.
So you don't have time to trek to the HHW facility? Go native! There are dozens of plants that are native to your area and don't need pesticides or fertilizers to thrive. As a result you will not need to dispose of these types of chemicals because you won't have to buy any to begin with!
Check out the cool video below on the top . The bottom line is this: the less maintenance your lawns and yards require, the less waste is produced.
Our homes can stay clean without the use of chemicals, or so says author Tara Rae Miner who recently wrote the book, Your Green Abode: A Practical Guide to a Sustainable Home.
Tara writes in Your Green Abode that the average person living in American uses close to 25 gallons of hazardous chemical products in his or her home -- the majority of those make up our everyday cleaning products. In fact, she notes that more than 32 million pounds of household cleaning products are poured down the drain in a single day right here in the United States.
That's a lot of chemicals and a lot of waste. Water treatment plants were not actually designed to handle all these chemicals, so dumping them down the drain and sewer can actually contaminate groundwater supplies. What are some of the chemicals you ought to dispose of (properly of course!)? How about chlorine, ammonia and all acid-based cleaners, such as those used in toilets and bathrooms. Other common household cleaners contain potent and toxic stuff like ethylene-based glycol and diethylene glycol monobutyl ether - both of which can harm lungs and pollute the air.
Fortunately, there are a lot of non-toxic, eco-friendly ways to clean messes in our homes. Your Green Adobe lists quite a few alternatives to the chemical based cleaners that dominate the grocery shelves and cupboards across America:
Distilled white vinegar: Easy to find and even easier to use. Distilled white vinegar deodorizes, sanitizes and gets rid of bacteria, mold and nasty germs. It can also be used as a fabric softener that will get rid of detergent residue and wash out the stinky stuff.
Baking soda: Make your bathroom and kitchen sparkle. Suck the stink out of your fridge or those dirty clothes in the wash. The list of uses for baking soda is long; just check out Arm & Hammer's site for a (non-toxic) taste.
Liquid castile soap: Typically made with vegetable oil, castile soap is very mild and eco-safe. It dissolves well in water and it can puncture through the most stubborn body odors. Unlike most soaps, castile soap is free of petroleum, so you can feel good about that. And most are even organic!
Lemon: Want to polish that old wood furniture? Clean up that pan? Well, a lemon will do it. It's all natural, freshly scented and completely eco-friendly. It's even safe for humans to eat!
This is just the tip of a very big eco-friendly cleaning products laundry list. Your Green Adobe chronicles many more products that are safe for humans and Mother Nature. So read up and get to cleanin'!
Last week we talked about how composting and recycling can contribute to a
substantial reduction in greenhouse emissions. This week, we'll explain how you can make a compost bin in the comfort of your own home or backyard!.
But first, what exactly is composting? Composting is a natural process of recycling grass, leaves, and other yard waste into rich soil. Anything that was once alive will decompose. Compost bins simply accelerate this natural process. When this organic waste re-enters the soil, the cycle of life continues onward. When this material becomes compost it will resemble a dark brown color that smells of a forest floor.
The benefits of composting are many. Here's just a few (not including the greenhouse gas reduction!):
*Composted soil retains water better than regular soil
*Food and yard waste account for 30% of materials found in our waste stream
*Homemade compost reduces costs compared to store purchased compost
*Composted soil produces healthier, more adaptable and nutrient rich plants
So what are you waiting for? Check out this DIY video below to learn how you can make your own compost bin. You will also hear a few more good reasons for tossing that yard and food waste into the garbage can. Talk about saving a few bucks and nature at the same time!
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If you still prefer to utilize a compost bin, many cities within County of San Bernardino sell them to residents at a discounted price. Please contact your local jurisdictions for more information.
Here's something that might come as a surprise: diverting recyclable and compostable materials from the garbage waste cycle can reduce an enormous amount of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). How much you ask? Well, composting and recycling programs in Oregon, Washington and California alone reduce GHC emissions equivalent to taking a whooping 6.3 million vehicles off of our roads for an entire year.
Shocking right? We thought so too. That's a lot of GHG! The information was found in a fascinating new report by the West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum, an EPA-led partnership with an array of western government entities, called "Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Recycling and Composting".
The study points to four categories that have the greatest potential for reducing GHC emission if they are diverted from the waste stream and composted or recycled accordingly. The four categories are: carpet, core recyclables such as cans, paper and glass, dimensional lumber and food scraps.
Who knew composting and recycling would help reduce some of the very gases that contribute to climate change? The report, while focusing on only three western states, could have a broader impact on communities across the country. The bottom line is simple, the better established recycling and composting programs are, the less GHGs emitted. That's good news for the environment and for the climate that sustains it.
One other thing, it's also super good for the economy. The report indicates that in the three states mentioned previously, composting and recycling only half of the core recyclables and food waste yields about $1.6 billion in annual salaries, $818 million in additional goods and $309 million in sales across the West Coast. That's a lot of green cash for a greener, cleaner environment!
So how does it work you ask? Why would diverting these items from the waste cycle decrease GHG emissions? It's simple, actually. When items like food aren't placed in the landfill, the methane gases they produce are not released into the environment in the same manner. Composting such materials will allow these decomposed foods to be absorbed into nutrient rich soil instead.
The same goes for carpet, the most energy intensive of all the materials discussed in the report. Carpets are made from petroleum and natural gas and require a lot of energy to produce. While recycling carpets used to be technologically challenging, it is becoming much easier to do so and is having a positive impact on the environment in the meantime.
The largest reduction by any one source material can actually happen if communities and industry actively promote the recycling of carpet. And it's the same story for all source materials, be they glass, paper or plastic in makeup.
To learn a bit more about GHG emissions and it impact on our environment, check out this news piece on the EPA's greenhouse gas position:
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Chances are you've been in a car recently. You've likely even been behind the wheel, driven to work or dropped the little ones off at school. Cars, and all of their accessories, are a part of our life for better and for worse. There is little question that automobiles impact our planet, but there are some things we can do to make sure the rubber that meets the road doesn't end up wasting away in our landfills.
That's right, we are talking tires. Every year the United States disposes an average of one tire per person, which equates to approximately 27 million tires per year. That's a lot of tires and consequently, its also a lot of waste. All these tires take up much needed space in our landfills. Stockpiled tires can easily cause dangerous fires and burn for long periods of time, releasing toxic pollution into the air.
There are a lot of ways tires can be reused and recycled, and around 75% of tires end up being reused in one form or another. Some companies are making shoes, others are producing playground surfaces, floor mats and even office supplies. The list is truly endless, and tires are a great example of how innovation can create great things with old products. Check out the CA Gov's Cal Recycle page for more recycled tire uses.
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We’ve all been to the beach and likely seen litter and plastic pieces strewn about. Hopefully most of the pieces and tossed in the recycling bin. Sadly, a lot of plastic in our oceans. The Algalita Foundation, which monitors ocean pollution, estimates that 80% of marine debris comes from humans on land. Of that, 65% comes from consumer used plastics that have been disposed of improperly. Even if you live inland, plastics can make their way to the ocean and into our local waterways. Not all of it is captured before it races out to sea. Once at sea, it can travel hundreds upon hundreds of miles and float around for decades on end.
Some of this plastic returns to shore, but much of it swirls around in what some call the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, which is an area in the North Pacific’s Subtropical Gyre. Essentially this vast area is a plastic soup vortex where debris gets caught and doesn’t leave. That’s a lot of plastic, which can harm and kill aquatic life when they confuse the pieces for food. Let’s not also ignore that the plastic that makes its way to the shore is a very nasty sight for us beach goers.
In an effort to educate the public about the problem, as well as to visualize how much plastic is actually out there, artists Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang of Northern California have been making art with the plastic they find on their local beach for the past thirty years. While inspiring, their work is also striking in its ability to convey plastic’s real impact on our planet.
Check out Richard and Judith’s work and hear why they continue to produce art with the plastics they collect in the video below.
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