June 26th, 2009
Written by Trey Granger, courtesy of Earth911.com
Before you deposit the next beer or wine bottle into your blue bin, here are a few things to know about recycling your favorite sand-based product:
- It has the quickest turnaround of any curbside product, back on store shelves in as little as 30 days
- There’s a strong market for recycled glass, and the demand is not currently met
- A good portion of glass that you place in your recycling bin is not actually recycled.
What is Downcycling?
According to O-I Global, the leading glass manufacturer in North America, about 1.6 million tons of glass are downcycled, translating to almost 40 percent of the 4.2 million tons collected annually for recycling. Furthermore, this 4.2 million tons represents only 25 percent of total glass manufactured, as shown in the chart below.
Let’s start by explaining what happens to all this glass that isn’t reprocessed into new containers. To do this, we need to understand the concept of downcycling.
Downcycling is the process by which materials are recycled into a product of lesser-quality. An example for glass containers would be fiberglass or using it as an additive in concrete or ceramic tiles. The decision to downcycle glass is usually based on the quality of material, but who makes that call?
“This is most often the decision of the Material Recovery Facility (MRF),” says Paul Smith, O-I’s Global Sourcing Manager of Cullet. “Aggregate use of glass is important but limited in application. The recycling rate through MRFs could improve.”
One of the issues is the popularity of single-stream recycling, where all materials are collected in one bin. The materials are then separated at the MRF using a system of magnets, eddy currents and other machines, with glass being separated based on its weight.
During this process, glass tends to be crushed, which lowers the quality and increases the chances it will be downcycled. Smith says crushing can be a negative because large sizes are preferred when it comes to reprocessing glass into new containers.
Popularity: 7% [?]
May 10th, 2009
As the recent fires in Santa Barbara show, we have a long, hot summer of fire danger ahead of us. Many of us who live in areas where wildfires are common are also now facing record drought conditions. We all need to do what we can to protect our homes and communities from the danger of uncontrolled fires. And don’t forget that reducing fire risk is a great way to save water as well. Every little bit helps!
Fortunately there is plenty we can do as homeowners. Here is a great checklist, courtesy of Colorado State University:
- Thin trees and brush properly within the defensible space.
- Remove trash and debris from the defensible space.
- Remove any trees growing through the porch.
- Clear roof and gutters of leaves and debris.
- Remove branches overhanging chimney and roof.
- Stack firewood uphill or on a contour away from the home.
- Use noncombustible roof materials.
- Place shutters, fire curtains or heavy drapes on windows.
- Place screens on foundation and eave vents.
- Enclose sides of stilt foundations and decks.
- Use a chimney screen or spark arrester.
- Clear vegetation around fire hydrants, cisterns, propane tanks, etc.
- Make sure an outdoor water supply is available, with hose, nozzle and pump.
- Make sure fire tools, ladder and fire extinguishers are available.
- Post address signs that are clearly visible from the street or road.
- Make sure the driveway is wide enough for fire trucks and equipment.
- Install and test smoke detectors.
- Practice a family fire drill and evacuation plan.
Be sure to read the rest of this helpful site’s information, which gives excellent pointers on how to clear trees and brush to create a safe zone around your home, what kind of fire-resistant plants to plant, evacuation tips, and how to protect your home should it be struck by fire. Another good resource for fire-safety education is Firewise.org. Their guide on How to Prepare a House for Wildfire Season is particularly good.
Popularity: 3% [?]
April 30th, 2009
When Americans dine out we typically want to have a special experience, indulging in food and drink that we wouldn’t enjoy at home. We’ll order a pricey bottle of a mighty cab that we might never buy at the wine store or we might order a chocolate soufflé knowing full well that we’ll never make such a dessert in our own kitchen.
And so it makes sense that many of us find the concept of purified—instead of bottled water—difficult to swallow.
While a growing number of restaurants across the country are beginning to serve purified water, eschewing the bottled stuff that eats up massive amounts of fossil fuel getting here from exotic spots such as Italy or Fiji, many Americans continue to be hoodwinked by the perceived status and purity of bottled water, oftentimes leaving facts and the health of the environment to swirl down the drain.
In Chicago, green restaurateur Shawn McClain and his trio of restaurants, including Green Zebra and its exquisite vegetarian dishes and Spring’s evolved fare, stopped stocking bottled water and began offering Natura, an Italian based water purification system. While Natura’s process improves the flavor and purity of water, many diners scoff at paying extra for H20 that doesn’t come in a disposable bottle—regardless of whether it tastes any better or is more pure.
But the fact is that the purifier and others like it often creates water that’s more pure and refreshing than that found in a sealed bottle. Natura’s system involves active carbon filters and a UV radiation chamber which remove bacteria and eliminates impurities and offers the final refreshing dose of water in a dishwasher safe, reusable bottle. In essence, diners get the look and feel of bottled water without the environmental cost. And there’s plenty of research sprinkled across the Internet that shows that tap water bests many bottled waters when it comes to flavor and quality—even New York City tap water.
It’s a given that our bottled water habit is wreaking environmental devastation. Walk along a city street—or a beach nearly anywhere—and you’re likely to see an improperly disposed bottle of water washing ashore. And the bottle you’re likely to see is merely one of billions per year that we Americans empty and toss aside in a year.
Worldwide some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year, and much of this ends up in landfills, sluicing along inland waterways, rolling across intersections or bobbing in the Texas-sized island of misfit plastic waste bobbing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Ordering locally produced and purified water makes perfect green sense. In fact, if we’re more serious about addressing the critical environmental issues raised by our consumption of bottled water, we would be willing to pay extra for such water, much as we do for organic produce.
Ordering purified water in restaurants is a good first step toward breaking the bottled water habit, demonstrating that it’s neither trendy nor smart to order bottled water.
Popularity: 3% [?]
April 13th, 2009
It’s that time of year again…Earth Day is April 22, Wednesday of next week. There are fabulous events going on all week across our glorious country. Get out there and celebrate Mother Earth!
In multiple cities: Green Apple Festival. This festival takes place April 17-20 in many cities– NYC, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Chicago, DC and more. There are bands, educational events, and lots of good free fun. Find out about a Green Apple Festival near you.
If your city is not listed here, you can find hundreds more cities and events by visiting the Earth Day Network events directory.
Wilshire Center Earth Day/Car Free Day– Wednesday, April 22, 2009 from 11AM-2PM at 3700 Wilshire Blvd. The event will feature musical performances by Suzanne Teng & Mystic Journey, Naked Rhythm, Ballet Folklorico de El Salvador ASOSAL (El Salvadorian dance troupe), Korean Fan Dancing, Drumming, and a face painting artist among others. We will host a farmers market featuring organic and locally grown produce. The Mayor’s Million Trees Initiative along with KYCC will be giving out over 200 fruit trees.
Los Angeles Children’s Earth Day 2009 – April 26– Join us for the 12th annual Los Angeles Children’s Earth Day at STAR ECO Station on Sunday, April 26th, 10 am – 4pm. Admission is free and ECO tours only cost $5. It is sure to be a day of fun and festivities, as STAR students will perform various dances and songs from around the world! The event features games, crafts, activities, healthy cuisine and live entertainment designed to inspire children to help protect the planet.
San Francisco Zoo’s Party for the Planet–April 18– This fun and informative celebration of Earth Day is aimed at educating and entertaining Bay Area families on green, sustainable living solutions inside and outside of the Zoo, and incorporates everything you love about the Zoo animals. A variety of local, earth-friendly companies and services are showcased as well as music and puppet performances with “green-themes” that the whole family can enjoy! See how the Zoo is maintaining a green commitment to the animals and to the environment. Event free with admission.
Ghirardelli Goes Green– April 18– Join fellow S.F. Environment and non-profit volunteers at the first ever major green event at San Francisco’s famed Ghirardelli Square. You will be monitoring recyclables, compostables and trash bins to make sure festival-goers correctly deposit the item with which they are parting ways. You’ll also hand out tip sheets on green living practices, educating festival-goers in Earth Day solutions that are also economic and quality of life solutions. Free chocolate!
Earth Day at the Arboretum– Work on environmental restoration or bring the family for a day of games and activities! Join UW Botanic Gardens, SCA, and Seattle Parks for a day of fun projects at the Washington Park Arboretum. Get your hands dirty for a cause removing non-native invasive plants, mulching, and improving the Arboretum. Bring the kids for games, leaf rubbings, and more.
Mercer Island Leap for Green Event — April 18 — The 2nd Annual Leap for Green Earth Day Celebration offers more fun than ever for kids of all ages! Join the Reptile Man, award-winning artist Marita Dingus, the Woodland Park Zoo, Puget Sound Energy, Full Circle Farm, EarthCorps, Veraci Pizza, Whidbey Ice Cream and more for an exciting day of hula-hooping, music, art projects, movies and inspiring ways to be kinder to the environment. Friends of Luther Burbank Park invite you to start the morning with an “Early Bird” birding exploration and end the day with an exclusive “Busy Beaver” north wetlands tour. It’s also Leap the Frog’s 1st birthday! Let’s celebrate!
Oregon Zoo Party for the Planet– April 26– Earth Day celebration includes an eco-fair, conservation station, games, crafts and exhibits.
Portland Farmer’s Market Earth Day Celebration– April 18– Seed planting activity for all ages, victory garden exhibit, potting station and a chance to learn how to lay out a 10-by-10-foot garden with vegetables and herbs being grown in the White House garden.
Grant Park Earth Day Festival– Grant Park is the site of this weekend-long working celebration of green in Grant Park. Help get the 25-acre park in great shape by volunteering your time and skills. The volunteer event runs from 9 a.m. to noon on both days. Meet at the southeast corner of Balbo and Columbus (Hutchinson Field).
9th Annual Earth Day at the North Pond Nature Sanctuary –April 25– Spend the morning planting native wildflowers, removing litter, restoring a nature trail and caring for our park trees. Located in Lincoln Park, Chicago. Meeting location on plaza in front of North Pond Restaurant. Must be over 12 years old.
EarthFest 2009 –May 9– Event features interactive displays, workshops and product demos to help people explore and better understand the relative impact of their different green choices. Event-goers will explore five green villages: energy efficiency and other green practices for the home, eating local, buying local, green transportation and the great outdoors. StoneLion Puppet Theatre and other performers will delight children and adults alike in entertainment with an earth-friendly message. Pets are also welcome.
Austin Farmer’s Market 4th Annual Earth Day Festival — April 18– Join thousands of your neighbors, local green businesses and environmental groups and the cultural community in a manifestation of the Sustainability Revolution! Products, services, food, kids activities, music, art and more celebrating life in balance and restoration.
Earth Day Grand Central Station — all week– In celebration of Earth Day, Grand Central Station stages a week-long Giant Earth Images exhibition and a two-day Earth Fair. The fair includes various activities and lectures, including recycling workshops, composting demos, music, dance and more.
Earth Day in Central Park – April 26– Celebrate Earth Day in Central Park on Sunday, April 26th from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Pack a picnic and enjoy live performances, planting and mulching projects, tree care and composting demonstrations, environmental education, and crafts with recycled materials. All events are free and open to the public.
Earth Day on the National Mall — April 19– Washington, DC will hold one of the largest Earth Day gatherings in U.S. history, the Green Apple Festival – a major day-long event on the National Mall to rally support for national action on global warming with a focus this year on environmental volunteerism. The event, sponsored by Earth Day Network, will feature music, entertainment, speakers and environmental activities.
Earth Day Tours at the Smithsonian — Starts April 18– Celebrate National Environmental Education Week and Earth Day: How have artists depicted our earth, its rocks and rivers, land, lakes and life? Investigate the human impact on our landscape with a family-friendly tour. Go green with American Art!
Popularity: 4% [?]
April 10th, 2009
Written by Brian Liloia, courtesy of GreenBuildingElements.com
My jaw dropped when I first watched this video tour of a beautiful owner-built green building construction project in Oregon. This particular green building is made entirely out of cob, a mixture of clay, sand, and straw.
Meka Bunch of Wolf Creek, Oregon built this stunning cob house over a four year period. Complete with hand-sculpted furniture, shelves and nooks built directly into the walls, arched windows, and a killer custom staircase, his cob building is a divine artistic achievement.
Check out the video and photos of Meka’s cob cottage for yourself:
This couch is made of cob and features wood storage tucked underneath, right next to the stove.
The kitchen features many shelves and nooks built directly into the cob walls, and also includes a small compost chute. (Look for the tilted latch.)
The wood stove is surrounded by cob for thermal mass, and includes a warm nook with shelf to culture yogurt.
Gorgeous custom-made cob staircase.
The north porch of Meka’s cob cottage.
I must say that Meka’s cob house design is one of my favorite projects that I’ve seen. This is truly a beautiful hand-built green building.
For more information, visit the Artisan Builders Collective.
(Image credit: Artisan Builders Collective)
Popularity: 48% [?]