Greengirlinc's Blog

Greening the world one blog at a time.

Eco School Supples and More August 12, 2010

It’s that time of year, back-to-school.  I know, we have mixed feelings about this time of year.  Most kids are groaning, and parents are secretly cheering (one can only take the sibling bickering or hear “I’m bored” so many times).  So how do you plan on greening your children’s school year?  There are things you can do to reduce their carbon footprint.  How about starting with how your kids get to school.  Many people drive their kids to school every day.  Now, sometimes this is necessary, when there are circumstances like a ridiculously early bus, no public transportation where you live, or heavy instruments that need hauling.  In those instances it’s best if you can at least car-pool.

What else can you do?  If your kids take their own lunch, then a waste-free lunch is the way to go.  Numerous companies both online and in physical retail sites have water bottles, lunch bags, lunch boxes, cloth napkins, sporks, GoToobs, reusable lunch containers and reusable non-plastic lunch pouches.  A great place to look in your town is at your local natural foods store or co-op.  If you can’t find what you need in town then I have a list of online stores where you can find what you need.

So, transportation and lunch are covered, what else?  How about the all important school supplies?  Try to replace the typical non-recycled or petroleum-based supplies with recycled content and non-petro based products.  Here is a list of products: recycled content notebooks, upcycled wrapper folders and notebooks, upcycled wrapper pencil pouches, recycled plastic pencil boxes,  recycled denim or newspaper pencils, stapleless staplers, recycled plastic scissors, solar calculators, soy or bees-wax based crayons, solar backpacks or messenger bags, recycled PET backpacks, well, you are starting to get the idea.  Maybe you can’t afford to buy all these items, but maybe you can get a few.

If nothing else, stop wasting your money and poisoning your home with cheap, disposable PVC backpacks.   A few years ago I made the switch to good quality backpacks for my kids.  PVC or polyvinyl chloride off-gasses for years and contributes to poor indoor air quality.  Think about your child having this toxic substance strapped to their back.  Plus, most of those cheap backpacks fall apart halfway through the school year and then sit in landfulls (yes, I meant landfulls) for a millennium.

The following is a list of websites and resources to help you green back-to-school.

The Ultimate Green Store

Reuseit

Posh Pouches

Kids Konserve

TerraCycle

Life Without Plastic

eBags-Recycled Backpacks

Green Peace-How to Find and Avoid Toxin Vinyl (PVC) in Your Home

The Nature Conservancy-Enviro Tips

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The Good, Bad and Ugly Paper Products Part 2 July 2, 2010

I wanted to expand a bit more on what makes most paper products like napkins, toilet paper, paper towels and facial tissue not just bad, but downright ugly.  One of the bad things is the amount of energy and water used to make virgin paper products.  Here’s a quote I came across from the University of Colorado’s Environmental Center which states:

  • One ton of recycled paper saves 3,700 pounds of lumber and 24,000 gallons of water.
  • One ton of recycled paper uses: 64% less energy, 50% less water, 74% less air pollution, saves 17 trees and creates 5 times more jobs than one ton of paper products from virgin wood pulp.
  • Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 trees (35’ tall), 2 barrels of oil (enough fuel to run the average car for 1260 miles or from Dallas to Los Angeles), 4100 kilowatts of energy (enough power for the average home for 6 months), 3.2 cubic yards of landfill space (one family size pick-up truck) and 60 pounds of air pollution. (Trash to Cash, 1996)
  • It takes one 15-year old tree to produce half a box of paper. Use both sides of all paper. (Midpoint International)
  • Recycled paper saves 60% energy vs. virgin paper (Center for Ecological Technology

Wow!  That sort of puts things into perspective.  You are literally flushing trees and energy down your toilet along with water.  Not to mention the pollution going up in the air.  It is one thing to raise trees to cut down to build homes and make durable goods, but the make disposable goods out of trees really is downright ugly.  Plus there are good economic reasons to buy recycled, more jobs that are truly sustainable.

The other ugly part of most virgin paper is the bleaching process that is used. The chlorine bleaching process creates waste-water that contains hazardous organic compounds, one particularly nasty one is dioxin.  Dioxin has been associated with cancer, liver damage, endocrine disrupting, birth defects and a long list of bad things in studies.  You can read more about dioxin at this link Dioxin facts from the CDC.  There are other ways to bleach paper that don’t pose the health risks associated with chlorine bleaching; oxygen, hydrogen peroxide and ozone.  I hope this helped to explain more about the negative effects of non-recycled paper products.  I actually look for recycled paper in everything; greeting cards, stationary, calendars, copier paper, school notebooks, and folders.  The next time you are in need of any sort of paper product see if you can find it recycled.

University of Colorado Recycling Facts

 

The Good, Bad and Ugly Paper Products June 23, 2010

Some of you have heard this message from me before; if you’ve converted good for you, if not….well, isn’t it time you got on board?  What am I writing about?  Recycled toilet paper.  I know some of you are hold-outs due to the perception that recycled toilet paper isn’t soft or cushy enough.  I promise you, there are some very nice and cushy toilet papers out there now.  I’ve tried a number of brands, and the softest one I’ve come across so far is Trader Joe’s 100% recycled toilet paper.  It is 80% post-consumer waste and is bleached without toxic chlorine.  Marcal Small Steps is probably the next softest, but it only has 30% post-consumer waste in the 100% recycled paper, and is bleached without chlorine.  Green Forest  and Seventh Generation are tied for 3rd place in softness, both have greatly improved over the last few years.  Green Forest has 90% post-consumer waste, the highest of any toilet papers on the market, and Seventh Generation has 80% post-consumer.  Both these papers use an eco-friendly, non-chlorine bleaching process.  There are other toilet papers on the market, but I’ve not seen them where I live.  Greenpeace has an online, downloadable guide that rates the different paper products on the market.  It rates toilet paper, facial tissue, paper towels, and paper napkins.  Of course, most of those items could be replaced with cloth options, but if you have to use one of these in their paper form, then at least pick the most eco-friendly one you can.

One piece of good news is that Kimberly-Clark, maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle has stopped cutting down old-growth forests for toilet paper and other paper products.  Yeah!!!  I wrote a satirical paper about toilet paper and old-growth forests.  I’m happy that the paper is obsolete, but it’s still a fun read.  If you haven’t read it, you can find it on my blog at The Poor Consumer and Their Toilet Paper.  If your reason for not buying recycled TP is cost, then consider this: if you replace your paper napkins and paper towels with cloth napkins and paper towel replacements like Skoy or Mü, you will save enough money to offset the slightly higher cost of recycled TP.  Remember, even though an old growth forest is not being cut down for toilet paper, doesn’t mean it’s not hard on the environment.  Does it make sense to cut down a tree for your hind end?  Turning trees into toilet paper uses massive amounts of energy and water.  Changing to recycled toilet paper is a choice you can feel good about, and it will reduce your Carbon Footprint.

 

Eco Outdoor Furniture June 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tiffany C @ 11:34 AM
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Summer is the time for many of us to really enjoy the outdoors.  I realize some parts of the country, and around the world, folks have nice weather most or all the year.  Where I live, the Upper Midwest, we have a short season to sit in the sun and relax in the outdoors, about 3 to 5 months, depending on if the weather cooperates.  We just got done with about two weeks of solid rain, so that took a big chunk out of our summer enjoyment.  I’m not saying there aren’t activities to enjoy in the winter, but those activities don’t typically involve sitting, unless it’s ice fishing.

Whether you have a few months or a whole year to enjoy on a deck or patio, what do you sit on?  Finding eco outdoor furniture is getting easier, but it is still challenging.  One of the most eco-friendly ways to furnish your outdoors is with second-hand furniture.  Garage, yard, or thrift sales are a great place to find pieces like that.  Sometimes the furniture needs some TLC and a fresh coat of paint, but sometimes it’s in perfect condition.  FreeCycle is another source for used items.  Look for a local Free Cycle in your area.  Don’t forget about Goodwill, Salvation Army and other second-hand stores.  If you’ve exhausted all your second-hand options and still haven’t found the right thing, there is new furniture available that is eco-friendly.

Polywood is a nice choice because it uses recycled plastic in its production, which keeps the plastic out of landfulls (yes, I wrote landfulls on purpose).  There are many colors and furniture styles to choose from.  Polywood lasts a long time and doesn’t need maintenance.  There are many, many sites to find polywood, just type it into a search engine.  Natural wood is a good choice, but you need to make sure the wood comes from a FSC certified or Rainforest Alliance certified site.  Teak, cedar, and eucalyptus are good for outdoor use and will last a long time.  The other plus with wood is that while it’s growing it is giving oxygen to the environment and providing habitat.  Aluminum and steel can also be eco choices as well.  They are both recyclable and often times contain recycled content.  If aluminum and steel are well made and cared for they can last for many years, steel and last a lifetime.  Recycled and upcycled materials are wonderful choices for outdoor furniture.  Remember, a coat of exterior paint can make many items suitable for outdoor use.

 

More Green Gifts for Dad June 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tiffany C @ 4:27 PM
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Are you still looking for an eco-friendly gift for dad?  I’ve got a few more ideas.

1) A chess set made from recycled auto parts.  Nothing says manly like gear-head stuff and nothing says smart like a chess set.  This is the best of both worlds.  Auto parts chess set.

2) Recycle rubber basketball.  Wilson not only has a recycled content tennis bag, but they also have a recycled rubber basketball called the Wilson Rebound.

3) A recycled fabric golf bag by Wilson called the Wilson Staff Eco-Carry.

4) How about some organic beer.  This is a list of some organic beers from the North American Organic Brewers Festival.  Here in Wisconsin we have a fantastic local brewery called New Glarus Brewing that carries an organic brew Organic Revolution.

5) What about a recycled beer bottle to put his organic beer into.  The Green Glass Company makes glasses made from beer, soda, and wine bottles.

6) Guys love gadgets, Solio is a solar-powered gadget to charge their other gadgets.

7) Speaking of gadgets, here is a whole site full of EnviroGadgets.

8 ) The most eco-friendly sporting equipment is second-hand equipment.  Check with your local sporting store or Play It Again Sports to see what great deals you can find on gently used equipment.

9) Sporting and casual clothing in eco-fibers is another idea for whatever your dad is into.  Patagonia Men’s Shop carries organic cotton and E-Fiber clothing which is made from recycled material, hemp, and chlorine-free wool.  Much of it is recyclable through Patagonia’s Common Threads Program.

10) For the foodie dad, how about a great, gourmet meal made with local and organic ingredients.  In Eau Claire, we have a wonderful farmers market and, of course, Just Local Foods.  Even our other traditional grocery stores carry some local and organic food; Festival Foods and Hahn’s Market are two examples.  I’m sure you can find local and organic most anywhere in the country, or wherever you are.

Make this Father’s Day a great, and green one.

 

Keeping the Holiday Green May 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tiffany C @ 11:09 AM
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There are some simple things you can do to keep waste out of your Memorial Holiday weekend.  I know, it’s so easy to grab the cheap package of paper plates, plastic cups, plastic silverware, and paper napkins.  Resist the urge this year.  There are inexpensive and reusable products that are picnic and camping friendly.  Pick up some melamine plates and bowls.  I know, I rarely recommend plastic, but from the research I’ve done it seems melamine is benign when it’s used for plates and such.  It is not the same as the melamine found in poisonings in China and pet food.  You can find really cute patterns all over the place.  These dishes will last for years.  Glasses, I admit, are trickier.  I used to love my polycarbonate glasses on the patio.  If you really will be in your own backyard, then you can use your regular glassware.  But if you’re going elsewhere, that is harder.  I’ve seen some very cute stainless steel colored drinkware, like the aluminum stuff from the 60’s.  You could also pull out the good ol’ reusable water bottle.  You can also find melamine drinkware too.  For eating utensils there are some wicked cool new sporks.  These new sporks are a vast improvement to the old version. I have also used bamboo travel sets that have chopsticks, spoon, fork and knife  (the knife is not terribly functional).  You probably don’t want to drag out the good, holiday linen napkins to go camping.  It’s time to invest in some inexpensive cloth napkins or make your own.  Old sheets, tablecloths, or fabric remnants can be made into napkins, and you’ll have them forever.

If you feel you absolutely have to have some disposable, opt for eco-versions.  Look for recycled content or non-petroleum plastics.  You can even find compostable plastics. Locally, in Eau Claire,  I know Hahn’s Market carries some of these plates and cups.  I’m sure some other stores do as well.  Let your fingers do the walking to find out.  Below is a list of links for resources.  Have a great Memorial Day weekend.  Let’s remember to honor those that have given their lives for our freedom.

Life Without Plastic

Light My Fire Spork

Retro colored stainless drinking glasses

DIY Cloth Napkins

Reuseit’s Cotton Napkins

Sugarcane plates

Green Paper Products

 

Free Shipping on $50 Order from Reuseit May 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tiffany C @ 11:34 AM
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Today is the last day for free shipping for any order of $50 or over from Reuseit.  This is for anyone, not just new customers.  This is also the last day for free shipping for new customers that spend $25 or more.

For new customers enter NEWCUST25 at checkout by midnight tonight.

For any order over $50 enter MAYFREE50 at checkout by midnight tonight.

Just head to Reuseit.  There is so much more than reusable bags and bottles.