Monday, March 14, 2011

USBCELL Not an Alkaline Battery

This is a rechargeable AA battery that charges via your computers USB port. The battery is sturdy, powerful, eliminates the need a separate charger and according to the manufacturer each cell saves 3kg of toxic waste.

Being the skeptic that I am, I researched that claim and discovered some interesting information. I contacted a national chain, Batteries Plus, and was told that recycling alkaline batteries is not necessary. However, rechargeable batteries should be recycled.

I then went to the Duracell Battery web site and found this statement:
“Alkaline batteries can be safely disposed of with normal household waste. Due to concerns about mercury in the municipal solid waste stream, Duracell has voluntarily eliminated all of the added mercury from its alkaline batteries since 1993 while maintaining the performance you demand. Our alkaline batteries are composed primarily of common metals - steel, zinc and manganese - and do not pose a health or environmental risk during normal use or disposal.”

The Energizer web site says: “Energizer recommends recycling rechargeable, but not alkaline batteries, even indicating that alkaline batteries can safely go to city incinerators.”

I even found a couple of sites that said that if you bring alkaline batteries to recycling centers or events, they are separated from the rechargeables and typically end up in the landfill or incinerator anyway.

The Consumer Electronics Association Question and Answer Website says: “Alkaline batteries are not recyclable. They’ll just be thrown out in a landfill, or at the most a hazardous waste landfill.”

Alkaline batteries bo longer contain mercury.
They do contain nickel, cobalt, zinc, manganese, and silver – which are not considered to be environmentally hazardous.
Rechargeable batteries contain mercury, cadmium, lead, and lithium – heavy metals which have a negative environmental impact.

Web sites I have reviewed that address how to properly dispose of household batteries use generalized terms such as ‘can contaminate the environment when batteries are improperly disposed of’ and ‘certain metals might be released into the air” and ‘have the potential to do harm’. Phrases such as these do nothing to ease the controversy over whether household batteries require special handling. Battery collection programs typically target button and nickel-cadmium batteries, but may collect all household batteries because of the consumers' difficulty in identifying battery types.

The bottom line is that all rechargeable batteries should be recycled due to the presence of mercury, cadmium and lead. Alkaline batteries do not require special handling according to their manufactures. If you feel better about recycling alkaline batteries then by all means do so, but what I have learned they end up in landfills and incinerators anyway.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Some interesting uses for Bananas

To the surprisingly inventive uses for banana peels -- which include polishing silverware, leather shoes, and the leaves of house plants -- scientists have added purification of drinking water contaminated with potentially toxic metals.

Supplementing spaghetti with unripe banana flour may be a healthy addition since banana flour contains antioxidants and fiber, according to a study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are pioneering a new technique for the use of banana plants in the production of plastic products.

In the interest of spreading the knowledge of just how versatile the banana as become, see Curbly

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How Much Does “Free” Recycling Truly Cost?

Mountains of electronic waste is still being sent from the U.S. to sweatshops and open burn pits in Africa and Asia. This has been reported for a very long time and yet still nothing is being done to stem the flow.

The cost of dumping our leftover poison on the poorest and most vulnerable people on Earth is shameful and because it is preventable it is more shameful still.

“Recycling” electronics may be “free” for U.S. consumers but whole cities and regions are being turned into wastelands of toxic smoke and ash and mountains of debris.

How much longer can our collective conscience bear this terrible onslaught of damage to human health and the environment to third world countries? Can we truly afford to just throw our hands up and say “That’s just the way it is”?

Some will argue that our waste gives these people a source of income, and if that is true then aren’t we as the creators of this toxic material obligated to make the handling of it less deadly?

The incredible amount of e-waste we generate is due in part to our addiction to always ‘needing’ the ‘latest’ electronic gadgets, but a lion’s share of that blame falls on a corporate mindset that generates ‘new’ devices with ever shorter life spans in order to maintain a constant profit margin.

How can we reverse the trend of increasing e-waste?
Consumers need to be made aware when they are adding to the e-waste problem and take action to stop buying ‘new’ while ‘old’ is still useable.

Corporations need to make products that last longer even though it cuts into their profit margin and future sales. In short, they need to develop a conscience.

Below is a very short list of recent media documenting how much e-waste is dumped on third world countries. And this is only from the U.S. There is even more coming from Europe and Australia.

Business ManagementThe global e-waste problem

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Easy Everyday Ways We Can Use Less Gas

I think everyone will agree that drive-thru convenience is here to stay. I see these used at fast food restaurants, banks, drug stores, grocery stores, even liquor stores. In inclement weather their value is immeasurable. If you cannot walk due to some disability, they are a god-send. No matter the reason you choose to use these conveniences, you can save a little gas by shutting your car engine off while waiting. Even better, if you park and walk into the store, you’ll not only save gas you’ll burn calories.

Park Further Away
Circling a parking lot looking for a ‘closer’ parking space is just being lazy. Plus, it’s a foolish and selfish way to use gas. Give up the quest for the perfect parking spot, and settle for one at the back of the lot. You may have to walk a bit further to get to the store, but when did that become a bad thing?

Park in the Shade
I realize there is very little shade in most parking lots, but when you have the option a cooler car means less need for air conditioning and less gas evaporating from your tank. To save even more, invest in a shade for your windshield and tinting for the rest of your windows.

Hang Up and Drive
Let’s face our driving habits suck. There simply is far too much unconscious driving taking place on our roads. Talking on your cell phone while you drive is a prime example. You are less aware of how you're driving and tend to ‘pace’ with everyone else who are pushing their vehicles harder than they need to, which uses more gas than is necessary.

Tighten the Gas Cap
A loose gas cap makes it easy for gas to evaporate from your car. Protect those precious gallons, by turning your cap until you hear it click three times.

Shop at Home
The internet is wonderful for keeping us up to date on the latest protests for personal freedoms in the Middle East or what so-and-so wore to the Grammy’s, but saving gas by not driving to the store is far more valuable. More and more companies are offering free shipping deals. Calculate how much you would spend on gas by running to the store and if you have to go consolidate your shopping to as few trips as possible. Find what you need online, and let your car spend more time in the driveway.

Check the Traffic Reports
Another great use of the internet. The less time you spend sitting in traffic, the less gas you'll need to get to your destination; so take a minute to check the traffic report before you head out.

Ditch the Attitude
This is an incredibly valuable habit to get into, both for fuel saving and for the safety of everyone around you. Check your bad day at the car door. When you're under the influence of a bad mood you're more likely drive faster and brake harder than you normally would.

Travel at Off-Peak Times
Idling in traffic is a big waste of gas and time. Bow out of the bumper to bumper madness by doing most of your running around before or after rush hour.

Streamline Your Vehicle
Engineers work hard to make cars as aerodynamic as possible, and then we do our best to undo their efforts. Bike racks, car top carriers, flags, giant wreaths – there's no end to the things we'll stick on our vehicles. Unfortunately, all those add-ons add to our wind resistance and our gas consumption. Keep your modifications to a minimum, and you could save big.

Ask for Directions
Don’t waste gas making a bunch of wrong turns because you don’t want to be embarrassed for asking directions or because you don’t want to take the time to stop and ask. If you don't have a GPS to get you on track, stop and ask for directions as soon as you can.

Don’t Tailgate
This one is one of my pet peeves. When you travel too close to the vehicle in front of you, you have to brake a lot more frequently, which means you press the accelerator more frequently to get back up to speed which sucks up even more gas. Plus, it adds to the stress level of the person in front of you.

Don’t Lane Hop
Relax when you drive (see Ditch the Attitude). Passing everything on the road is one of the leading causes of traffic accidents. It increases stress levels and it foolishly uses more gas than is necessary to get to where you are going. Honestly, you are not in a race with anyone. So, give all the lane changes a rest, and you won't need to apply your foot to the accelerator and brake nearly as often.

Final Word
It doesn’t matter that you may be wealthy enough that the cost of gas doesn’t bother you, or you think that gasoline will always be available, the real reason to save gas is to cut down on the added pollution you are subjecting everyone else to. The fossil fuel supply is not limitless. Using it up for lazy, selfish, unthinking reasons is just wrong. Please do your part to keep gas prices down by reducing demand. You not only help the gas supply last longer and cut down on pollution but you help those of us who are more financially strapped than you when gas prices go up.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Booze it Up! Recycled Bottle Crafts & Projects

Next time you empty a bottle of one of your favorite beverages, thing about these great ideas and help the recycling effort as well.

Wine Bottle Table Lamp
Photo: recycled-bottles-wine-lamp.jpg
Caption: (images via: wit and whistle)
Turning any wine bottle into a table lamp is as simple as drilling a hole and inserting a strand of lights. The color of the bottle enhances the glow of the light, adding ambiance to a room. The only special tool needed is a glass drill bit.

Wine Bottle Candle Holder
image: design sponge
How simple and elegant are these DIY wine bottle candle holders? In shades of brown and green, they’re an earthy addition to a wooden table. This tutorial by Design Sponge uses a simple glass cutting kit and some sandpaper to snap the bottles in half.

Wine Bottle Shelves
image: renest
Would you ever have thought of using wine bottles and slabs of wood to create a shelving unit? DIY recycled furniture is rarely easier than this. Made by Zero Waste Design, the shelves are created by drilling holes into the wood for the necks of the bottles, with hook and eye strainers adding a bit of stability. The Glasgow-based furniture maker also offers a how-to on Instructables.

Bottle Trees
image: recyclart, metaefficient, examiner

Turn your holiday tree into an ode to beer (or perhaps just a sparkling green alternative to a living tree) using reclaimed empty bottles. This design uses circular platforms to support each tier of bottles, and as you can see, the result is as big as you want it to be, from a standard living room-sized tree to the monster 1,000-Heineken-bottle tree set up in Shanghai in 2009. Bottle trees are also popular year-round as garden art and easy to create.

Beer Bottle Drinking Glasses
image: bottlehood
Got half of a wine bottle left over from your candle holder project (above)? Use it as a drinking glass! This tutorial from Instructables explains how to cut and finish the edges of your favorite beer or wine bottles to create custom drinking glasses – or you could just buy a set from Etsy seller Bottlehood.

Tiki Lamps
images: design sponge
These DIY recycled wine bottle torches are modern and minimalist, but the best part is, they cost next to nothing. Design Sponge has the details on how to use $5 in hardware to create simple copper-colored tiki lamps that can be mounted to a wall or fence.

Beer Bottle Chandelier
Unless you’re handy with welding tools, this project is not so DIY-friendly, but it’s still an amazing use of beer bottles. Maybe you could even come up with your own cheap and easy solution for creating a custom beer bottle chandelier.

Chalkboard Vases & Pantry Organization
images: ourbly, berm design
Chalkboard paint transforms any old bottle into a cool customizable vase – or just use a swipe of it as a label that can be erased and re-written again and again.

Wine Bottle Bell Charms
image: my vintage decor
These wine bottle bell chimes were made using a hemp string, a wooden ball and a piece of hammered copper, but you could improvise any number of materials to come up with a similar result on your own. Just use the glass cutting kit from the beer bottle drinking glasses tutorial to slice off the bottom of the bottle. A wood or metal ring inside the bottle neck holds the string in place.

Hummingbird Feeders
image: deelux designs
Etsy shop Deelux Designs uses liquor bottles to make these backyard feeders, filled with colored food that looks disturbingly like the real thing – but you could also use wine or beer bottles in a simple wire holder, as illustrated at Crafting a Green World. The feeder tubes are sold on for less than a dollar each, so plan on making some to sell or give away as gifts.

Beer Bottle Solar Water Heater
image: neatorama
Chinese farmer Ma Yanjun came up with a novel, inexpensive way to provide hot water for members of his family: laying 66 bottles, connected by hose pipes, on a board covered with aluminum foil. Placed on a rooftop and pointed north to collect the maximum amount of sunlight, this incredible DIY solution really does work. Instructions don’t seem to be available, but anyone good with DIY projects could probably come up with design based on Ma’s prototype.