Monday, November 29, 2010

Economic Warfare

Photo by Jim Posth, Picture Arts

With glaciers, ice caps and permafrosts melting at ever-increasing rates, causing alarming rises in sea levels and shifts in the oceans’ currents, playing havoc with ocean temperatures, salinity and the livelihood of all earth’s water-dependent inhabitants (every single living organism); with motor vehicles, a status symbol of the modern capitalist-consumer age, an advertising-led and urban-sprawl necessity entering, filling, congesting our roads in hoards of hundreds by the minute, driving pollution and a giant oil-hungry machine that plunders and rapes our mother earth for all her natural resources, ensuring a quickened death to our home, are we throwing it all away? Are we burning it all down? Or are we simply guaranteeing a grim future for the few generations that will live beyond our neglect, our selfishness and our greed? We live on the bloated corpse of an economic system that is no longer relevant to our time, and – since its very first day – has been completely detached from the very home our race inhabits. Controlled by a small number of maggots feeding on its insides and poisoning us all, will we see the light and change our ways, before the nature that supports us is bled of all it has to lose? —Carlos Hurworth

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Yellow Pages Suing To Keep Laying Trees to Waste

David at The Good Human reports that Seattle, Washington recently passed an ordinance that allowed residents to “opt-out” of receiving the Yellow Pages at their homes, something that neds to happen in every city and state in the country. Dex Media West, SuperMedia LLC and the Yellow Pages Association say that the ruling violates their First Amendment rights to free speech and it will hurt them where it counts – their wallet. The ordinance went into affect in October, but with this lawsuit pending it looks like it’s going to be a while before it can be enforced.

Each year, phone books require the destruction of about 19 million trees a year, 7.2 million barrels of oil, 3.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and the generation of 268,000 cubic yards of solid waste that ends up in landfills — not including the waste of the unwanted books themselves.

I agree with David, “there is absolutely no reason that paper phone books should be automatically delivered to every household in America when I would venture that the majority of us just walk them straight back to the recycling bin.” If you want a phone book just ask for it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Where's the Love?

For the Love of Honey

I love Honey! Okay, who doesn’t, right? Sweetening tea has been a family favorite for longer than I care to admit, but how about some other uses? It’s been used for medicinal purposes for years and this great blog I just discovered uncovers some more unconventional ways to use honey.

Did you know that Honey the only food that will not spoil? Despite the rumors of a McDonalds burger lasting forever, it will spoil.

Lead in reusable grocery bags prompts call for federal inquiry

USAToday reports-
Lead found in some reusable grocery bags is raising concerns that the toxin could pose environmental or health concerns to consumers.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is asking for a federal investigation into the reusable bags following a series by The Tampa Tribune. The newspaper found lead in bags purchased at Winn-Dixie, Publix, Sweetbay, Walmart and Target.

Using reusable grocery bags was thought to be a great help in reducing the amount of plastic going into our landfills and the great Garbage Island out in the Pacific Ocean.

Reusable grocery bags make up 10% to 15% of the market, and could become as much of 25%. But other concerns have previously been raised about E. coli contamination in bags. For example, If you put a hunk of meat in one of these bags and it drips, contamination, is the bag is left unwashed, could lead to contamination onto unprotected produce.

Is lead so abundant in our production stream that we just cannot get away from it?

In June 2010, Dr Kristie McNealy reports, a notice of violation of California’s Proposition 65 made by the Environmental Law Foundations alleges that a number of popular fruit and juice products sold in the United States contain unacceptable levels of lead. The specific food categories tested included apple juice, grape juice, packaged pears and peaches (including baby food) and fruit cocktail.

The specific way that these products were contaminated is unknown. It’s possibly related to soil contamination caused by leaded fuel and lead arsenate, an insecticide used in fruit orchards in various parts of the world until 1955.

Though the use of lead paint was banned in 1978, it is estimated that nearly five out of seven homes in the U.S. still have lead based paint. Further, many common household products, even toys and jewelry, contain dangerous amounts of lead. In 2006, the CDC reported that 8 million pieces of jewelry were recalled due to dangerously high levels of lead. Cases of serious illness and even death have resulted from children swallowing small pieces of jewelry containing lead.

Lead is also getting into Urban Vegetable Gardens.

Hopefully, we have not already done too much damage to our planet and ourselves to recover from it. Keeping fingers crossed and trying not to do more damage is possibly the only left for us.

Tell us what you think. Have we poisoned ourselves beyond hope?

America Recycles Day – November 15, 2010

Held every year on November 15, America Recycles Day is a national campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling and buying products made with recycled materials. Buying recycled is the step that "closes the recycling loop." Let’s see what each of us can do to help spread the message.

10 great ways to celebrate America Recycles Day:
1 - Commit to recycle and buy recycled products both at home and at work or school.

2 - Learn what materials you can recycle in your community and do your best to recycle all you can.

3 - When shopping, purchase products that are packaged in materials you can recycle locally.

4 - Visit a recycling center in your area. See how your recycled paper and containers are sorted and prepared for manufacturing into new products.

5 - Read product labels. At your local grocery, department store or home improvement center, look for products with recycled content, and buy some. Look for “safe bets” that always have recycled content: steel, aluminum, glass or molded paper pulp containers (like egg cartons).

6 - Ask your local retailer to stock more products with recycled content, or write the manufacturer of your favorite products asking them to use recycled materials.

7 - Organize an event such as a display of recycled content products at your school, office, store or church, or a tour of a facility that manufactures recycled-content products.

8 - Learn more about how recycling helps preserve resources, protects the environment and benefits the economy, then teach some kids about the importance of recycling and buying recycled.

9 - Don’t forget waste reduction is important too. Look for ways to avoid making garbage — try composting.

10 - Visit the great outdoors and enjoy the clear air, clean water and litter-free landscapes that recycling helps make possible.

You can also get involved through social media to support America Recycles Day. Join the conversation using the #americarecycles hashtag on Twitter.

More Info at:

Mid-Missouri Solid Waste Management District

Seeing Nature Through Other People’s Trash

My wife and I enjoy hiking in the nearby mountains, and along the river that flows through the city, and along the sidewalks of our small town. The mountain trails are preferable because they are not paved. The trails along the river have recently begun to be paved (much to our disappointment) but is still enjoyable, and of course our towns sidewalks are made of concrete (hard on the feet and back), not quite as enjoyable but we get to walk along a road alongside a canal that has not been paved.

We try to walk a minimum of 10 miles a week, a loosely adhered to goal chosen because it is a round number and it is very attainable. Sometimes we actually are able to get in a few more miles, but not often. I know it isn't very much of a goal but with full time work and our hands full maintaining a 30+ year old house and our growing garden, we find time when we can. We enjoy it most when our grand kids and their parents are able to come along with us.

Over the years we have always found a certain level of trash thrown along the trail side and roads, but it seems lately that the trash problem is getting worse. There is simply more of it and in places we did not use to see it. The vast majority of what we find, as you may imagine, is in town and it consists mostly of fast food wrappers and cups. I don't know if people are thinking it's okay to toss this stuff out their window because its all bio-degradable or what, but, it is not okay.

Another, more disgusting, habit we are finding is pet owners allowing their pets to do their business and then just leaving it there. I know it's not pleasant to pick up after your dog, but why leave it there for someone else to deal with? That is just so not neighborly. Despite the signs, the doggy-poo bag dispensers people still allow their pets to 'dump freely'. And the worst of these people allow their pets to do it right on the trail. I mean, come on, have some courtesy!

The occasional diaper is even beginning to show its disgusting self. What are these people thinking?

We try to pick up after others for the sake of the environment and the general aesthetics of the view but some things we just refuse to handle.

I've never been able to figure out why some people think we live in a trash can?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cleaning Solutions for Dirty Windows

On the front page of Yahoo this morning I saw an article telling us of ‘8 clever solutions for cleaning windows’. Naturally, I just had to check it out to see if these 8 clever ideas were still pushing the chemically laden solutions or if they were getting on board with safer chemical free solutions.

Let’s examine them one by one: The numbered items are reprinted from the article followed by an alternative:

1. "My windows always streak after washing"
Use a window-washing squeegee with a smooth, soft rubber edge. Washing windows is a tiresome chore, but it’s even worse when your labors leave streaks on the windows. Here’s how the pros avoid streaking when they wipe off their windows: Use a window-washing squeegee with a smooth, soft rubber edge. (Or use crumpled-up black-and-white newspaper—avoid the color sections.) Dry a 1-inch (2.5 centimeter) strip at the top or side of each window and always start your squeegee there—starting on dry glass is one key to avoiding streaks. Don’t wash windows in direct sunlight, because quickly dried glass is more susceptible to streaking. Evenings or cloudy days are the times for window washing.

They mention a crumpled-up black-and-white newspaper, this is good. Newspaper ink is soy-based and therefore bio-degradable, hard plastic and rubber…not so much.

I use lint-free cloth from old clothing that I wash in my homemade laundry detergent that has not been washed or dried with fabric softener, very important as fabric softener residue will leaves streaks. Works great…the single best advice given here is to not wash the windows in direct sunlight. What is not mentioned here is the window wash solution…white vinegar and warm water.

2. "My blinds are dust magnets!"
Use an antistatic spray. To keep dust from piling up quickly, use an antistatic spray, such as Static Guard, on the window blinds right after you clean them.

Antistatic sprays are chemical based. Ethanol, Polyoxypropylene Methyl diethyl, Ammonium Chloride, Liquified Petroleum Gas. Is the dust build up really worth using this stuff? Dusting the blinds with a feather duster, a soft cloth and/or vacuum with an upholstery brush attachments works best. Here are some helpful tips.

3. "There’s mildew on my window frames"
Wash with a bleach-detergent solution. Black or gray mildew spots on wooden frames can be cleaned for good with a solution of 2 ounces (60 milliliters) of household bleach and 1 ounce (30 milliliters)of laundry detergent in a quart of water. Wearing rubber gloves to protect your hands, sponge the solution on the spots, let it sit for ten minutes, and then rinse thoroughly with clean water.

This one is pretty enviro-friendly. Note it is always best to clean window frames before cleaning window glass so solution does not spot glass panes. Helpful tips.

4. "My outside windowsills get dirty so quickly"
Apply a coat of floor wax. Because your exterior windows are exposed to the elements, they are subject to collecting a lot of dirt. But there is a simple way to keep your sills clean: Wipe on a coat of clear floor wax to protect them.

This one is acceptable but regular cleaning is best. Mix 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of ammonia in a bucket, wipe the window sills with a soft rag soaked in the vinegar/ammonia mixture and wrung out, get out an old toothbrush to get to those hard to reach corners then rinse with clean water. You can let it air dry or use a soft cloth.

5. "My shades are filthy"
Dust or wash the shades. Dust shades regularly with a soft cloth, a duster such as the Swiffer, or the dusting brush on your vacuum. (Be sure to dust both sides of the shades.) If they’re stained or spotted, it’s time for a real cleaning. Though you can wash them in place (with a drop cloth over the floor and furniture), it’s best to remove the shades. Place one shade at a time across a worktable covered with a plastic sheet or shower curtain. Wash vinyl shades using a sponge and a solution of 1⁄4 cup white vinegar in 1 quart (1 liter) of warm water. Washing them in the bathtub is even easier. Run some warm water in the tub, add a squirt of dishwashing liquid, and wipe each side with a large sponge. To rise, dunk them in clean water or hold them under the shower. Then wipe with a clean, soft cloth. Many fabric shades can also be washed, but take a close look at the care instructions before washing them. It’s best not to leave them in the water for more than a minute or so.

Swiffer products use chemicals to get the job done. Need I say more? Plus, buying these one-time-use products are not enviro-firendly. Follow the otherwise ‘cleaner’ method mentioned here and replace the unfriendly Swiffer for that soft cloth. And, again, do it regularly so dirt does not have a chance to build up.

6. "My windows get dirty too fast"
Change your heating and cooling system's filter. If the interior glass surface of your windows gets dirty unusually fast, you may need to change the filters on your furnace or air conditioner. Modern airtight homes trap more dust, pollen, dander, and other particles inside than ever before. Furnace and air-conditioner filters help trap that dirt and also extend the life of your appliances. Filters should be changed every month or two or anytime you can’t see light through the filter when you hold it up to a light.

This is actually the best advise. Regularly changing your filters gets rid of dust, pollen, etc before it can get re-circulated.

7. "Secondhand smoke is killing my windows"
Wash it with ammonia solution. To remove nicotine film or other grime from windows, you need ammonia. Mix 1 cup of lemon scented ammonia in 21⁄2 gallons (9.5 liters) of water and use this solution to clean the windows. The ammonia will cut through the grime, and the lemon scent will leave your house habitable.

Another safe enviro-friendly solution.

8. "My screens are filthy"
Remove and wash. The best way to clean window screens is to remove them from the window and wash them outside. Using abroad, soft-bristled brush, scrub both sides of the screens with warm to hot water and lemon-scented dishwashing detergent. Pick up the screen by its edges, hold it at an angle so most of the screen surface is facing the ground, and rap one edge lightly against a firm surface. This will shake loose any dirt. Rinse with a hose and air-dry thoroughly before reinstalling.

It seems we are getting more enviro-friendly. Several years ago these problems would have been met with much harsher methods. Most of these tips offered are getting away from chemicals although there are still a few of us out there who still hang on to the more convenient chemical-based sprays and wipes.

The only way we are going to get companies to stop selling these is to stop buying them. Speak with your pocketbook and companies will have to listen.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How Much Gift Giving is Going to End Up in Landfills This Holiday Season?

When Native Americans and the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving to commemorate hardships they had overcome, they began a tradition that is much anticipated here in America. And Christmas is, without a doubt, the single biggest worldwide celebration.

With these two holidays come a curious increase in the amount of consumption and its associated waste.

It is estimated that Americans waste 28 billion pounds of food each year and half of the paper expended in this country is used to wrap consumer products.

Let us all try to curb the mad consumption and see if we can get by with just a little less this year. This is a perfect time to show just how committed we are to reducing waste. Are we going to be waste-wise warriors or waste- wise wannabes?

Facts on Holiday Waste
From Thanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons - it all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills. (EPA and Use Less Stuff)

In the U.S., annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons. (Use Less Stuff)

The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year n the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we'd save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. (Use Less Stuff) Consider sending an electronic card. The following are some examples of what is available on the internet:
American Greetings


if every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

At least 28 billion pounds of edible food are wasted each year - or over 100 pounds per person. (Use Less Stuff)

Half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. (The Recycler's Handbook)

Christmas Trees
Each year, 50 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S. (Cygnus Group). Of those, about 30 million go to the landfill. (Environmental News Network)

The average American spends $800 on gifts over the holiday season.

According to a national survey, 70% of Americans would welcome less emphasis on gift giving and spending. (Center for a New American Dream)

About 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. (EPA)

If each family reduced holiday gasoline consumption by one gallon (about twenty miles), we'd reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tons. (Use Less Stuff)

I’m all for celebrating our traditions, without them life would be pretty boring, and disrespectful of those who sacrificed so much to get us to where we are today. But, let’s be reasonable in our consumption and make a conscious effort to cutting back on waste this year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Innovative, Reusable "Replenish" Spray Bottle

This bottle could revolutionize the home cleaning market.

Finally, an innovation in the right direction to help cut down on the amount of plastic we throw away.

Building a Sustainable World – Earth Policy Institutes Plan B

Earth Policy Institute (EPI) President Lester Brown says, “Saving civilization is not a spectator sport.” Check. Many of us already know this. The problem is getting enough people to believe it is a necessary undertaking and then getting us all to agree on how to do it.

EPI has dedicated itself towards building a sustainable future. They have addressed the need to act against the mounting pressures on our global environment and have attracted many industry leaders to formulate a plan to answer this call. That plan is called simply: Plan B.

One of the key components of Plan B, is to halt world population growth at no more than 8 billion by 2040.

Hold on a minute, halt world population growth at no more than 8 billion by 2040? Let’s put aside the ‘deadline’ for this fantastic undertaking and let’s ignore the stated limit of 8 billion people. Any talk of halting population growth is completely absurd.

This would not only require a tremendous effort to educate people everywhere on how this would work but it would require convincing them that it is necessary. Also, there are totally insurmountable obstacles concerning religious beliefs and cultural mores that would have to be overcome as well as many other objections and hurdles I cannot even begin to comprehend.

I do believe the people at EPI have placed themselves squarely in the same category as those who run around the street crying “the sky is falling”.

While their goal to “replace the fossil-fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy with a new economic model powered by abundant sources of renewable energy: primarily wind, solar, and geothermal” is a noble one, this population control thing is so far out in left field to be deemed laughable.

Mankind’s relationship with our natural support systems is deteriorating rapidly and perhaps desperate measures are required to overcome the rate as we are descending into our self-imposed oblivion, but forcing the end of population growth will never be an attainable goal.

We do need to get reproductive health care and birth control services to the more than 200 million women today who want to plan their families but lack access to the means to do so.

Nature has shown time and again its ability to adapt itself to changing conditions to ensure its survival. When the world’s population has reached that tipping point when our planet will no longer be able to support it nature will find a way to relieve the pressure. Whether it be through increased natural disasters or some ‘biblical plague of locusts’. Nature will continue long after we are gone. It’s a cold way of looking at the situation but nature can be pretty heartless. Plus, it is no colder than forcing birth control on our population.

Where Does Stuff Go When It Dies?

Great video from Annie Leonard describing the problems in making, using and disposing of electronics. Very well done. Bravo!

Take back laws, gotta love it.

Sweeping Report Details the Devastation of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Reported in POPSCI: “Environmental groups and wildlife conservation advocates have argued for years that Atlantic bluefin tuna populations are being devastated, but it was difficult to make a hard case. Now a group of investigative journalists have compiled their own detailed and damning report, as well as a companion documentary, tallying the damage done”.

This is the very kind of thing that gets my blood boiling. Authorities responsible for keeping track of fishing quotas and enforcing international regulations simply – and sometimes willfully – do not.

I have stated several times already that basic financial greed is killing us all and this is yet another example. I know many of you know this to be true and on some level I have to apologize for continuing to bring it up but, dammit, it still is true and still needs to be said.

In this particular case, that greed is leading to chronic overfishing which leads to a break down in our food chain. Evidently, the people in charge of this matter are more concerned with lining their own pockets with money than in fostering the long term health of our planet and therefore ourselves. Another display of disrespect for their fellow man.

This is a clear case that these people do not believe in the importance of maintaining a healthy and complete food chain, they do not believe that our planet (and mankind) will suffer greatly when that food chain dissolves, and their actions (inactions) show a complete disregard for international law and our ability to enforce it.

More from the site: “The report, compiled by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), details the abuses carried out in the harvesting of Atlantic bluefin tuna, a marine delicacy that can grow to more than 1,000 pounds and live for up to 40 years – and fetch up to $100,000 per specimen at auction in Tokyo (Japan makes up 80 percent of the bluefin market). The report reveals an intricate web of interests ranging from government agencies down to fishermen and fish markets all willfully ignoring the rules for the sake of profit.”

These illicit practices, the report claims, extend to sea ranching, in which fish are kept in a series of underwater cages and nets, fattened up like cattle, and sold off at auction. Because ranching fish creates a problem for fisherman looking to appear under quota, they quickly figured out how to use the ranches to “launder fish,” falsifying fish counts and the weights of their catches. Barring that, a robust black market arose in loosely regulated places like Turkey and Tunisia, who would take un-counted, illegal fish off ranchers’ hands.

Reverse Osmosis Water Filters

We have one of these in our home, very necessary when you live in an area that has water that can only be described as the ‘hardest water in the country’.

When we first moved into this house six years ago we had no idea of the water situation (this house was scoped out and purchased for us by a family member without us ever having first seen it). We love the house for many reasons, water quality is not one of them.

The process of reverse osmosis purifies tap water by forcing it through a semi-permeable membrane that is designed to filter out bacteria and minerals. Without it you immediately, not so much taste as, feel the difference.

While it may produce what can arguably be called a more ‘pure’ form of drinking water…it still does not make the water more palatable. That is nothing against the filter process but against the water source. The process does not solve all water hardness problems.

There are methods of making tap water taste better but in some cases you simply need more than just coffee beans, tea bags or fruit and sweeteners.

In those case there are carbon water filters on the market that can be attached to your faucets, or you can go all out with the ‘how to purify water under survival conditions’ routine.

More and more homeowners, and even renters, are installing water filtration systems as a backup because we are learning far too often that the good money we pay to local water departments to have good tasting, healthy water to drink is just no longer paying off. So, why should have to buy bottled water? Because we keep polluting our rivers and streams. This has to stop. We can’t count on our local government’s to clean it up anymore.

Here’s an example of why we can’t count on them: 37 Missouri Drinking Water Systems Fail to Complete Testing.

And here’s an example of how depending on home builders and developers could leave you with a bad taste in your mouth: ‘Developer fined for failing to provide safe drinking water’.

These stories are becoming all too common.

So, the need for a water filtration system is real. And the choice of which water filtration system to choose depends on if you’re looking to rid of a specific contaminant or if you’re generally looking for cleaner tasting water. For a full description of home water filter choices see Best Rated Water Filters of 2010.

Polluting our water resources is just another way in which we show disrespect for ourselves and each other.

Mobil CSA

Holton Farms of Vermont has created a unique business model centered on access, with a mobile farm truck reaching clientele across the economic spectrum in different parts of New York city.

I love this idea. It appeals to me on several levels, it helps farmers stay in business and it helps urban dwellers gain access to fresher food. It can be adapted to every part of the country.

Let’s face it, a lot of produce we find in grocery stores is not all that fresh. You just know some of it has been sitting a little too long on the shelf. Ever pick up a carrot and it is so limp you can bend it in half? Not very appetizing. Or how about those wrinkled peppers?

Farmers markets, currently set up in city parks and along country roads, are great if you have transportation to get to them. But this distribution network could be expanded to neighborhoods where transportation is not available. There are many parts of every city where city bus lines just do not reach so a mobil produce truck would be ideal. CSA membership fees could help cover transportation costs and members could get a discount on the price of produce.

The drivers could also take orders for other specialized items to be delivered on the next trip, such as, baked goods, canned items, cut flowers, etc. the size of the truck would be the limiting factor put businesses on wheels sounds like a great idea.

Now if only we had non-polluting vehicles that would be exceptional.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Teach Your Children

Part of the responsibility of being a parent is to teach our children what we have learned from our life experiences. And one of the most pressing and difficult yet very necessary lessons that we, as stewards of this planet, need to pass on is how to treat the environment with more respect.

We hear phrases such as ‘green technology’ and ‘green methods’ and ‘green design’ all of which are indeed ‘designed’ to appeal to our general feeling of making positive progress towards becoming a more ‘environmentally friendly’ society. At first blush it appears that we are indeed reversing our past destructive trends and that we are finally on course towards a ‘green society’. But, is this hope warranted? Are we truly becoming green?

One industry leader defines ‘Green’ as “the design, commercialization, and use of processes & products that are feasible & economical while both reducing the generation of pollution at the source and minimizing the risk to human health & the environment”. This definition has its roots in the business model as evidenced by the words ‘feasible & economical’.

The idea of ‘feasible & economical’ underscores the most pressing issue that must be overcome in achieving a balance between the survival of the economy and the survival of the environment. And that is mankind’s propensity towards financial greed. I believe a balance can be struck. Unfortunately, I also believe there is still too much of an emphasis on becoming financially wealthy. And this drive typically leaves all other types of wealth by the wayside. One of those types of wealth is a thriving, sustainable, and richly diverse natural environment.

We need to take bigger steps towards truly becoming environmentally friendly. As long as financial considerations take precedent over environmental concerns we will never attain our goals of protecting the world we all live in. Oil rigs are still being erected despite the damage done, coal mines are still being dug despite the damage they cause and nuclear energy, solar power, wind power, wave energy, etc are still considered cost prohibitive.

Rallying behind a turn of phrase that serves business interests will only carry us so far. The real force behind any meaningful positive progress towards becoming a more environmentally friendly society falls to the actions and decisions made everyday by every individual. The old adage ‘there is power in numbers’ comes true here because in order for this to work we are all going to need to participate. It truly is the little things that add up to make a big difference.

Humans are cunning and just as resilient as nature herself and we will overcome the big environmental questions of the day. Of this I have no doubt. But until we place the well-being and survival of the environment above the business of making money we have to continue to ask ourselves ‘are we green yet?’

We cannot dwell on what we have not done in the past. Sure, we need to examine our mistakes in order to learn from them, but while we are doing this life is still moving on. We need to set an example.

Repurposing Items

I am a huge believer and practitioner of repurposing any item I can. I believe that every products container has more uses than the one it was designed for. It is our duty as consumers to learn other ways in which containers can be used.

For instance, as I go through my local grocery store I constantly look at how a product is packaged keeping my eye on how that container can be used after the product itself is long gone.

The most common products that come to mind are butter (margarine or near butter) containers. These are great for storing leftovers in the fridge. Just as larger sized Yogurt containers and even whipped topping containers. These plastic tubs of various sizes just scream out “don’t throw me away, re-use me”. Who needs Tupperware or Rubbermaid as long as these little plastic beauties are available?

The small glass jars of artichoke hearts, or yeast, or specialty jellies and jams are just right for making candles in. You can buy a bag of wax at any craft store and pour into your jar of choice in a pan of boiling water and within a few minutes you have a candle for the next time the power to your house goes out. There are a multitude of websites devoted to showing you what you need. Honestly, the double boiler thing is not really necessary.

You can paint these jars afterwards, you can wrap them in jute with a little watered down glue, you can even put contact paper on them to dress them up or leave the label on them if you want.

These jars can be used for keeping loose screws etc in them inside your junk drawer. Out in the workshop they can be used to hold small items. In the kitchen you can store leftover liquids in them. Your imagination is your only limit.

I use small one-cup sized jars to store hummingbird food in the fridge.

I cut milk jugs, vinegar bottles, bleach bottles in half and use the tops as funnels and the bottoms to store kitchen scraps to carry out to the compost pile.

I also use gallon milk jugs to water my house plants with and to carry water out to my bird baths every day.

The lids on some food jars have the little button in the center to be used to check for freshness, these jars are great for putting homemade jelly or other foods in. just put the food in when it is hot, close the lid and wait for the button to ‘pop’ inwards showing it is sealed.

The foil bags that coffee comes in, we use these empty bags to store homemade snacks in when we go hiking.

The tin cans that some foods come in, they are used to store craft items, same as with the small jars mentioned earlier.

Recycling, reusing, repurposing, whatever you want to call it can go a long way towards keeping items out of our landfills as long as possible. Let’s all chip in and help in any way we can.

What clever ways have you come up with to repurpose items? I'd love to hear about them.