I waste, you waste, e-waste

When it comes to technology, we’re constantly upgrading. It felt like only a month after I’d bought a Samsung Galaxy phone that the shinier, larger, improved version of it came out. There’s nothing wrong with upgrading, but with the limited life spans of our electronics, most of us are just throwing away old electronics without thinking of the whether that’s the best method of disposal. Most discarded electronic products end up in landfills or exported to other countries where their toxins are released into the air, soil, and water.

Electronics waste represents 2% of America’s trash in landfills, but makes up 70% of overall toxic waste. Almost all electronics contain toxic materials that can be harmful to people and the planet like lead and mercury. Smartphones and laptops even contain heavy metals like cadmium, beryllium, or arsenic, which can build up in our bodies and the environment. The disposal of electronics from the United States is rarely handled within the country but instead sent to developing countries where the metal is extracted or burned producing dangerous toxins.

Some companies are moving in the right direction and removing certain toxins from their products, and others have started take-back programs that aren’t merely green washing but showing sincere changes.

These are great steps, but you can also get involved by holding an e-waste collection drive like my local elementary school or even handing down or reselling your technology. As consumers of these products, it’s our responsibility to make sure that our gadgets are being handled properly after they’ve served their purpose and that they’re also being made with less toxins before they enter out eager hands.

Kitchen Recyclables

When it comes to going green, we sometimes forget the most basic and necessary things. Recycling, for instance.

Why is recycling important? Because it reduces waste. Because it takes less energy to create new materials from recycled ones than it does to create them from raw materials. And because it reduces pollution, the kind that comes from landfill runoff or burning trash.

And it’s always surprising to see the amount of things you actually can recycle. Here are ten recyclable things probably in your fridge right now:

Cartons

 

Yogurt and butter tubs

Produce bags

 
Condiments and salad dressing bottles

 

Food scraps

 

Berry baskets and boxes

 

Squeezable bottles

 

Water filters


Six-pack rings


Plastic shakers

That just about covers it. What else do you recycle from your kitchen? Share with us in a comment below!

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/05/recycle-kitchen-trash-fridge_n_3211027.html?utm_hp_ref=green#slide=2409174

Garbage for Fuel, and What Happens When You Run Out

©Pavel Trebukov

Did you know that the city of Oslo, Norway is powered by garbage? Yes, guys. Garbage.

Okay, before anyone gets nauseous, let’s put this into context, shall we? Here’s Oslo’s reasoning: All garbage really does is fill landfills. Right? Plus, not everyone recycles (unfortunately). Right? So we just have a bunch of useless stuff that takes up a lot of space. So why don’t we put all that stuff into a giant incinerator and make some energy? It makes a whole lot of sense, right? The entire city of Oslo is occupied by over 650,000 residents, and they are all happy campers. What a sustainable way to have energy.

Just one problem though. They don’t have any more garbage.

Apparently this is because Europeans are so good at recycling and they tend not to waste so much. Alas, Oslo has created the seed to its own destruction. So what is Oslo doing now? Asking around for imported garbage. And the most valuable country for this is…

The United States of ‘Murica.

Sweden already imports garbage from us for their energy. So…should we be embarrassed that we have so much garbage or proud that we are helping out another country? Gosh, so much irony here. What are your thoughts and opinions? Let us know in a comment below!

Read more here.

Eco-Friendly Halloween Costume Ideas

Halloween is coming up, and if you haven’t started thinking about your costume, you probably should. Dressing up for Halloween is an age-old tradition that will be a part of your life for many years (as it should be).

What’s that? You don’t enjoy dressing up? Halloween costumes are too expensive, you say? Nonsense.

Yes, we agree that purchasing pre-fab Halloween costumes is lame. It’s over-priced and extremely wasteful. But what if instead you used your creativity to create a costume by upcycling household items and old clothes?

Now all that it takes is an idea, and a little bit of planning, and you can come up with an awesome costume for $10-$20, no problem.

Need some inspiration? Don’t worry, we’ve rounded up a few awesome homemade Halloween costumes from around the internet (via The Daily Green and Ecouterre).

The Cardboard Crocodile

MATERIALS:  cardboard, tape, and butcher paper

Sweet Treats

MATERIALS: recycled tights, leggings, laundry basket, bits of fabric.

The Recycled Samurai

MATERIALS: Rubbermaid 32-gallon garbage cans, rubber stoppers.

The Bat

MATERIALS: umbrella, hooded zippered sweatshirt, needle and thread, pins, pliers, scissors, bolt cutters or tin snips.

Lego Man

MATERIALS: Styrofoam, paint, cardboard.

Etch-A-Sketch – Here is a creative, functional, yet complicated costume idea!

MATERIALS: Plywood, metal rods, pulleys, cloth, cable wire, hot glue, plexiglass, nuts, bolts, small wheels.

Plastic Armor Suit

MATERIALS: every empty plastic container you can find.

What cool, eco-friendly Halloween costume will you create? Share your costume ideas with us in the comments!

16 year-old makes big changes on a global scale…

…$78 million worth of big changes, to be exact.

16 year-old Azza Abdel Hamid Faias, an Egyptian student, has found a relatively cheap catalyst to help break down plastic waste and turn it into bio-fuel feedstock.

Azza at the 23rd European Union Contest for Young Scientists

Azza’s discovery was made when brainstorming on how to reduce Egypt’s trash consumption, nearly 100 million tons per year. The idea of breaking down plastic garbage to be used as a bio-fuel starter has been around for several years, however it’s Azza’s catalyst discovery that is the real breakthrough here. All other methods have been regarded as too costly to be efficient, but this newly discovered catalyst, aluminosicilate, has been proved to break down waste and simultaneously produce methane, propane, and ethane, which can be used to create ethanol.

According to Azza, the technology could “provide an economically efficient method for production of hydrocarbon fuel,” including 40,000 tons per year of cracked naptha and 138,000 tons of hydrocarbon gasses – the equivalent of $78 million in bio-fuel.

Azza’s proposal is already attracting loads of attention, including that of the Egyptian Petroleum Research Institute, as well as interest from major energy companies worldwide.

At only 16 years old, this teenager has made a discovery that could change the world. We know she has a bright future ahead. We also know that she is not the only young mind working towards a better planet.

Even ideas that seem small-scale at first can turn out to have a big impact. So we want to know, what things do you do make your part of the world better? Let us know in the comments!

The Earth is Your Gym: Green Workouts for All

School’s almost here. Which means you might be focused on looking your best in your back-to-school gear.

We all know that some of the best clean-air choices—walking and biking—are great workout choices too. But how else can a tree hugger like yourself get fit? By thinking outside of the box. (Or, to put a finer point on it, “by thinking outside of the compostable recycled cardboard packing crate.”)

So, aspiring environmentalists, try these on for size. Go green or go home!

Recycling
News flash: You don’t need expensive weights to tone up. That recycling bin will do just fine. Lugging a heavy crate is a great calorie-burner. And if you’re not satisfied with low intensity of just carrying it to the end of the driveway, you could always dead-lift it over your head a few reps to really feel the burn. Maybe even throw in some lunges on your way down to the curb.

And just think: The more you recycle, the heavier the bin—and the better the workout!

CALORIES BURNED: 136/hr

 

Tree Planting
What’s better for the air than trees? Nothing, that’s what. Trees are nature’s air purifiers, and we’ll take as many of them as we can get. And, wouldn’t you know, planting a tree is a great way to work up a sweat.

CALORIES BURNED: 245/hr

 

Tree Hugging
Yes, we eco-hippies love nothing better  than hugging a good tree. But who knew that you could burn calories doing it? The bigger the hug, the better the workout. Go on. Show those trees some love.

CALORIES BURNED: 54/hr

 

Changing Light Bulbs
How many environmentalists does it take to change a light bulb? Jury’s still out. But YOU can burn a few bonus calories by going around your house and switching out all the old light bulbs for Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs).

Compact fluorescent light bulbs use two-thirds less energy than standard bulbs to provide the same amount of light, and they last up to 10 times longer. According to EnergyStar, if every American home replaced just one light bulb with a CFL, we could prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.

Yeah, that’s a pretty worthwhile workout.

CALORIES BURNED: 109/hr

 

So, clearly, going green offers a LOT of hidden potential for getting fit. Don’t burn gas driving to the gym. Walk, bike or run (or hug trees, or change light bulbs) at home! Just remember to hydrate with a reusable water bottle.

Got a favorite workout? Got ideas for making it green? Let us know in the comments below. And don’t forget to log your air-friendly workouts into the AirCreds tool for points and prizes!

[Source: caloriesperhour.com]

Green Eating

We’re all looking for ways to improve air pollution, and one way to do it is by eating green.

The best way to “eat green” is to try to intake foods that have the least amount of impact on the environment.

Restaurants are notorious for being huge sources of excess waste, such as water, energy, and resources like paper and other materials for containers and packaging.

But there are tons of local, independent restaurants that buy organic and/or local food. Think of it this way: the average carrot travels around 1,800 miles to get to your dinner table, according to the Leopold Center. Imagine the amount of fuel that’s burned up along the way. Eating organic and/or locally can hugely cut down your impact on the environment.

Here’s a list of some great organic restaurants in Georgia: Best Organic Restaurants

Also, try checking out the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), an organization that certifies restaurants as “green” based on a 1 to 5 star rating. GRA also helps restaurants, manufacturers and distributors become more environmentally responsible in a convenient, cost-effective way.

If going to an organic restaurant isn’t an option, try these tips at any restaurant to make it a greener experience:

  • Drink water instead of soda. It can take up to 132 gallons of water to produce a 2-liter bottle of soda, according to the Wall Street Journal. Not to mention the amount of pollution generated to create sodas and have them shipped!
  • Bring your own reusable container for leftovers and let your waiter know that he doesn’t need to bring you a box. Think how much fresher your leftovers will be!
  • Order produce that is in season. Not sure which is which? Here’s a list of seasonal produce for the state of Georgia: Seasonal Produce
  • Order lower on the food chain. The Environmental Defense Fund has found that:
    – Chicken has a lower environmental impact than beef.
    – Seafood has a lower impact than chicken.
    – A vegetarian or vegan meal has the least impact of them all!

We know that some of these ideas sound extraordinary, but even trying just one at any restaurant you go to will make a more positive impact on the environment! These tips can also apply to your everyday eating habits. Encourage your parents to buy organic and local. And try packing a lunch and bringing it to school!

Remember to log your green eating habits on AirCreds for points and prizes!

 

Have a Green Prom

Prom often turns out to be a magical night of celebration, dancing and looking your best! But, believe it or not, prom night can be quite harmful to the environment. Just think of all the expensive dresses and tuxedos made out of synthetic fibers. Not to mention the amount of hairspray clouding the air.

Here are some ways to make your prom truly memorable – by feeling good about your impact on the environment throughout the entire night!

Dress for Eco-Success

The average prom dress is made with synthetic fibers that use horribly toxic dyes and processing. Consider ordering your dress from a store like Edressme, which specializes in selling dresses made from biodegradable material. Or, save the planet and some money by buying from a consignment shop.  These shops provide the ultimate form of recycling. And purchasing a gently, pre-worn gown helps cut down on the amount of pollution created to make new dress! So, once you wear your prom dress, keeps the cycle going by selling or donating it.

Guys, you’re lucky because tuxedo/suit renting is quite common and also extremely sustainable. But if you’re looking to buy, check out Rawganique, a site that ships 100% organic hemp suits that look like any other suit you could get, but are much more eco-friendly!

Ladies: Go Green with Hair & Makeup

Most makeup, shampoos, and conditioners contain harsh sulfates and alcohol, which are not only damaging to the environment, but also to your hair and skin. If you’re getting your hair done, try to find a salon that uses organic professional products like John Masters Organics or Intelligent Nutrients. Consider a style that could allow you to air dry your hair rather than blow-drying it, and try to use organic styling gels, rather than harmful hairsprays.

And if you really want to take an earth-friendly leap, consider doing your own hair and makeup! EccoBella, SaffronRouge, and Aubrey Organics are all great lines that offer organic hair care and beauty products.

Travel Green

The tradition of riding to prom in a limo is—surprise!—the greenest way to travel to prom! By riding together, you’ll decrease the amount of cars on the road, thus decreasing the amount of emissions in the air! You’ll also save on gas, chauffeur tips, and the rental by having everyone split the cost. Make sure to fill every seat in the limo and try to avoid that gas-guzzling Hummer limo!

Guys, if you’re determined to drive your date solo, consider doing what the eco-chic stars do and drive your date in a hybrid or electric car. Most car rental and chauffeur services offer several different hybrid options.

Throw a Green Prom

On the prom committee? Here’s how to make sure every guest enjoys a more sustainable, earth-friendly prom:

  • Use potted plants as table center pieces that guests can take home. Make sure to use fiber pots for the plants because those are waste-free.
  • For party favors, try ordering from an eco-friendly place like Green Party Goods. They offer biodegradable party hats, balloons, crepe paper, etc!
  • For any non-biodegradable stuff you need at the prom, remember to recycle accordingly! Try to provide plenty of recycle baskets with signs that remind your guests to separate their plastic, paper and aluminum.

Just trying a few of these options from any category will help make a positive air quality and environmental impact on your prom night! Got other ideas? Leave them in the comments!

And don’t forget to log your clean prom activity on AirCreds for points and prizes!

The Ultimate Gift Guide for Your Valentines

Happy Day of Love! Today you’re bursting with appreciation for all of your loved ones and the Earth. How do you show it? With a thoughtful, eco-friendly gift of course! The ideas below should satisfy everyone on this year’s love list.

For your parents:

A recycled Valentine’s Day card. Junk mail with colorful ads is great for paper hearts, and you know how much your parents love an original poem!

That compost pile you’ve been working on? Perfect for Dad’s spring tomato planting! (Just make sure to cover any openings in the bin with upcycled wrapping paper so he doesn’t guess what it is from the earthy smell!)

If your compost heap isn’t quite ready yet, give a live plant from your nearby organic nursery. Unlike cut flowers, a live plant will help clean our air and will symbolize your growing love.

For your friends:

An invitation to pick up litter at a local park. With a group picnic made from organic ingredients afterwards, your volunteer day practically becomes a party.

A farm animal. So this isn’t a typical Love Day gift, but what could be cuter than a VIP visit to a farm animal you sponsor? That’s right, adopt an animal and give the gift of a new friend.

For that special someone:

If that special someone is especially special, you may want to go above and beyond this year. Why not try eco-friendly jewelry? Recycled gold, cruelty-free diamonds, and pearls harvested with tropical fish are a good start.

If you don’t have the funds for jewelry, you can always do something free. Using left-overs from your recycled card-making, craft an invitation for a walk in the park (perhaps the one you cleaned up with your friends). What could be more thoughtful than the gift of fresh air?

For everyone:

If the ideas above aren’t quite enough to express your love, a box of organic, fair trade chocolates made from sustainably-harvested cacao never fails to please!

What are your air-friendly plans for the day? Let us know in the comments below!

Waste-Free Lunch Programs

Recently I stumbled across a website called WasteFreeLunches.org. After checking out the site and reading about all of the waste that goes on during school lunches, I began to look more closely at my own school cafeteria. It’s amazing how much we throw away on a daily basis! All of this waste leads to overflowing landfills and more contaminants in the air from incinerators.

WasteFreeLunches.org offers great, workable solutions to reducing waste—for example, they encourage you to use reusable food containers, drink containers, utensils, and napkins. Also, they suggest that you avoid using items with disposable packaging. Not only do these tips help you improve the environment and reduce waste, they save you (and your parents) money! Over time, these savings can add up.

The site even recommends these super cool “waste-free” lunch kits that are really colorful and fun. So you can do your part to reduce waste—and lunch fashionably while you’re at it.

Imagine what a difference we could make and how much waste we could reduce if every school started a waste-free lunch program, which is exactly what WasteFreeLunches.org suggests that we do.

Does your school have a program that helps to reduce waste? If not, why not start one?