Posts Tagged ‘Reuse’
Which is better for the environment, hosting a real Christmas tree or a fake one? The answer’s pretty complex, with many factors to consider…and it really depends on where you live, so answers will be different for people in different parts of the country. The most important thing is to do a bit of research, and make your decision based on the facts.
Fake Trees: benefits and drawbacks
Fake trees can last for decades, which is a great considering nothing is going to waste during its life-span. It also doesn’t take any fossil fuel to go and grab the tree from the attic, so it’s definitely an energy-saver. However, for any tree, real or fake, you have think about where it will go at the end of its life cycle. For a fake tree, this could be tricky. Most are made of PVC plastic, so they aren’t recyclable. The eco-conscious solution would be to re-use it some how (toilette brushes? hah!), or pass it on to someone else. You could give it to Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or maybe put it on Craigslist. But at some point in time, even if it’s 35 years later, that non-recyclable plastic will have to go to a landfill.
For some folks the fake tree will always be the better option because of geographic location, budget, and transportation among other reasons. If that’s you, there are ways to make this option significantly greener (please excuse pun…). Not all fake trees need be store-bought PVC saplings from China. DIY’ers what do you say? Can you make a cool tree from recycled and reclaimed materials? I bet the possibilities are endless! However, if you’re not up for such a project, a well-timed trip to thrift store could win you a great tree and the satisfaction that it wont be seeing the landfill this year.
Real trees: benefits and drawbacks
The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) says that real trees, hands-down, are better for the environment. Real trees contain no harmful chemicals, are 100% biodegradable, “locally-sourced” (local in this case is “grown in the US and Canada”), and provide an added benefit of storing carbon while they are growing. The NCTA makes a very convincing argument for choosing a real Christmas tree, but there are still some drawbacks.
Christmas trees, which are usually firs or pines, need to be hauled to parts of the country where these species don’t grow. Trees are pretty heavy, so this could demand a hefty amount of fossil fuel. Additionally, the carbon storage feature on real trees is great, but it’s counterproductive if trees are cut down. Once trees are dead they don’t use any CO2, so they won’t be removing any more carbon from the air. If a tree stores “x” amount of carbon while it’s alive, but requires “y” amount of carbon to be hauled to the middle of a desert, then the environmental impact totally depends on how big “x” is compared to “y.”
Some ideas on how to control these variables: choose a type of tree that grows in your state, then you know it won’t have come far. You could do this by cutting down your own tree near your home, or asking the tree vendor which kind is the most “local.” Better yet, you could buy a living tree with roots intact and plant it post-Christmas. Or, if you’re a super-ambitious steward of the environment, consider this unconventional idea: check with your local parks and wildlife services to find out which trees in the area are considered invasive species and cut one of them down!
Whether you chose a fake tree, real tree, (or no tree?) this year, knowing the facts will help you arrive at the best eco-friendly solution. And who knows? A little creativity and thinking out side the box could introduce some new and exciting holiday traditions!
(image: Peaceful Craziness)
The Daily Green put out this top 10 list advising readers on how to “green” their pantries. More of the same in terms of advice we’ve been putting out – but everyone loves top 10 lists! Here’s the skinny version of their advice:
- Do: stock bulk foods (there’s a good store for this…read more)
- Don’t: stock processed foods (elementary, but important…read more)
- Don’t: use plastic storage containers (read more)
- Do: use non-toxic food storage containers (glass is your best bet…read more)
- Don’t: overstock canned foods (read more)
- Do: make your own cleaning products (here’s a start…read more)
- Do: stock reusable items (reduce, reuse, then recycle…read more)
- Do: check food safety recalls (read more)
- Don’t: use toxic pesticides (another do-it-yourself opp…read more)
- Do: stock good cookbooks (too many to name! …read more)
Anyone have perspective to add?
(image: Zero Waste Home)
We wrote yesterday that “while our personal convictions about reducing waste make it feel like an ideology, the driving forces behind this line of thinking are actually health, safety, and environmental sustainability.” However, reducing waste doesn’t just improve health and safety by reducing landfill sprawl and airborne toxins – the benefits are economical as well.
Check out (above) how Honda’s American plants are benefitting from zero waste operations. Honda’s proving that precycling (reduce, reuse, then recycle) isn’t just economically and functionally beneficial, but possible on a grand scale!
Many US towns, cities, and in some cases states are encouraging citizens to reduce waste in their homes to reduce landfill-bound waste and pollution levels – reminding us that while our personal convictions about reducing waste make it feel like an ideology, the driving forces behind this line of thinking are actually health, safety, and environmental sustainability.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does a great job of educating Pennsylvanians on how to reduce waste in their homes on this page, which includes the following five tips:
- Buy durable products instead of those that are disposable or cheaply made.
- Repair/restore used items before replacing them.
- Buy items you can re-use. Re-using margarine tubs to freeze foods or pack lunches, for instance, reduces the need for foil or plastic wrap.
- Buy items you can recycle locally through curbside collection or recycling centers.
- Avoid excess packaging when choosing product brands. Buy products in bulk. Buy just the amount you need: larger sizes reduce the amount of packaging, but smaller sizes reduce leftover waste.
Hmm, where have we heard this before…anyway, this is what in.gredients wants to make easy for customers. Reduce, reuse, then recycle.
(image: Lillie in the City)
Next to food packaging, tissues might actually be runner-up for “most household waste generated” on a regular basis – especially during allergy season. According to Innovateus, an individual in an American household uses nearly 50 lbs of tissue paper per year! Don’t want the waste on your conscience? Applying the precycling approach (reduce, reuse, then recycle) to tissues is fun and rewarding.
The zero waste solution? Reusable tissues (and napkins), made from spare fabric, cloth, or apparel. Making Do With The Not So New offers a good walk-through for this, suggesting the following easy steps:
1. Cut fabric to 12×12″ for a tissue, 16×16″ for a napkin.
2. Hem the edges with a sewing machine.
Just think – new, soft tissues from those T-shirts you haven’t worn in months, great conversation-starters, and 50 lbs of waste reduced! Wins all around.
You may want to consider…
1. Setting out little baskets or dishes with your new hankies around the house for easy access.
2. Placing some sort of receptacle for used hankies in an easy location for guests.
(image via: Making Do With The Not So New)
Tired of dropping money on so many cleaning products? Make your own! Tsh Oxenreider, of SimpleMom, does a great job of explaining how easy (and *healthy*) it is to make your own non-toxic cleaners on her blog and in her latest book.
Tsh notes the following benefits of do-it-yourself cleaners:
1. Non-toxic cleaners are perfectly safe around children.
2. Non-toxic cleaners keep the air you breathe clean.
3. Non-toxic cleaners are much, much cheaper.
4. Non-toxic cleaners don’t harm the environment.
We add these benefits to the list:
5. Making your own cleaners reduces packaging waste (if you’re reusing your bottles).
6. Making multi-purpose cleaners saves space in your home, since separate cleaners aren’t always necessary for every household cleaning task.
Check out Tsh’s recipe here, on her blog. We’ll offer each of the simple ingredients in our store, package-free.