One man gathers what another man spills. Some organic farms have started to pick up on money saving strategies such as collecting designated scraps from local restaurants, and adding them to their compost. In this mutually beneficial relationship, the business saves on their garbage bill, and the farm gets free compost. In the way that nature’s living organisms play off of each other in an ecosystem, this is the most fundamental form of sustainability.
Category Archives: recycle
The cold weather has finally given away to warm, if not hot days, and we are all aching to get out of the office to spend time outdoors! Read on to find out how to make your summer more sustainable.
With gas prices up and the economy still down, plan a low impact, high quality summer vacation. Vacation locally and save time, save gas money, and reduce carbon emissions.
- Spend the week on the Great Allegheny Passage, riding from Pittsburgh to Cumberland. If you are adventurous, continue from Cumberland to D.C. on the C&O Canal Towpath. Visit www.atatrail.org for trip planning suggestions.
- Spend a weekend or a week hiking and backpacking on the Laurel Highlands Trail. This 70 mile trail runs from Ohiopyle State Park to near Johnstown. Visit the Laurel Ridge State Park website for more information: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/laurelridge.aspx.
- Explore Pennsylvania State Parks. Camp or stay in cabins during the night and hike, swim, fish, and relax in beautiful Pennsylvania during the day. http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/index.aspx
Whether you are spending a lot of time outside or you serve customers that are visiting our region to enjoy the natural wonders here, you can use these tips to promote sustainable lifestyles.
From a personal perspective:
- STAY HYDRATED THE SUSTAINABLE WAY Use refillable water bottles. Bottled water costs about 2000 times as much as tap water. Bottled water is not safer to drink than tap water. The EPA strictly regulates tap water quality under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The FDA regulates bottled water, yet cannot require certified lab testing or violation reporting. In addition companies are not forced to disclose where the water they bottle comes from. http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater
- BUY LOCAL Farmers’ markets are starting up for the summer. Buy locally produced and grown foods this summer. Local, fresh produce tastes amazing and is energy and resource efficient. Most produce grown in the US is shipped an average of 1500 miles before being sold. Produce grown in other countries is shipped even further. Buying local will reduce the energy use attributed to shipping and will help build local economies. If you live in Fayette County, get a Buy Local card and receive discounts at local stores. You can also save $5 at Fayette County farmers’ markets if you are one of the first 20 people to arrive. http://www.localharvest.org/buylocal.jsp http://www.faypenn.org/economy.jsp?pageId=2161392210281306139485965
- WATER EARLY OR LATE Water your plants in the early morning or the late afternoon to reduce the amount of water that evaporates on these hot summer days.
From a business perspective:
- Offer customers to fill up reusable water bottles in your sink.
- Encourage customers to buy/use reusable bags rather than just giving them a plastic bag. Consider charging for bags like companies such as Aldi.
- Promote local farmers’ markets to customers.
- Invite customers to dispose of any packaging from purchases in your store so they are not tempted to litter. Recycle what can be recycled.
- If you sell food, buy locally produced and grown food. See above for advantages.
- WALK, BIKE, OR CARPOOL Enjoy the nice weather or the company of a co-worker, and use alternative transportation to get to work. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help reduce tropospheric ozone pollution (formed when hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides from car exhaust interacts with sunlight). http://instaar.colorado.edu/outreach/ozone-oceans/ozone.html
Rethinking Green Building – Using Historic Preservation
“Green & LEED Certified” buildings are making headlines these days for being the most environmentally friendly buildings to be constructed in the 21st Century. This is a true, but have you ever heard the phrase “The greenest building is one that already exists.” Yes, older and historic buildings hold value in both their histories and their craftsmanship, but also in their ability to find adaptive reuse or environmentally conscious improvements. Many may believe that demolition of older buildings for the construction of new, green buildings will have better results. But actually demolition of the built environment has a greater impact. The energy and materials that are demolished only add to gas emissions and landfills. Historic structures can be reused with the same tools(solar panels, tank-less water heaters, etc) just as new green buildings are. We recycle paper, plastic, aluminum – why not buildings?
You can learn more about how historic preservation is sustainable checkout the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website:http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/sustainability/position-statements/sustainability.html
For a great example in Downtown Pittsburgh checkout Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation’s (PHLF) work in Market Square: http://www.phlf.org/marketatfifth/market-at-fifth-green-preservation
In a perfect world, we could all bring reusable food containers and coffee mugs every time we visited a restaurant or cafe. However, when we’re ordering takeout, we forget to bring our own containers with us, or if they’re just inconvenient to carry on the go, we often need to use disposable boxes and cups.
With biodegradable take-out containers cheaper than ever, now is a great time for restaurants and cafes to do away with Styrofoam and paper and to adopt greener alternatives. While these alternatives do cost more than the traditional Styrofoam and paper cups and containers, their additional cost is relatively marginal over the course of a business year.
Whereas Styrofoam cups cost $25 per 1000, biodegradable cups can cost as little as $100 for 1000. This means that if your business uses 1000 disposable cups a year, the additional cost would be only $75 per year, which is the amount of money you might make in a single business day. With take-out containers, the additional costs for biodegradables can be less than $140 a year, if your business goes through 1000 of them in that time span.
That’s all it would cost to help curb the use and disposal of Styrofoam, a product that takes a minimum of 20 generations (500 years) to biodegrade, was made using a nonrenewable resource (petroleum), and could potentially be ingested by animals when it inevitably breaks into small pieces.
Paper cups, in many cases, have even fewer redeemable qualities than Styrofoam, considering that they do not insulate heat nearly as well, take much more energy to produce, and cost well more than Styrofoam, at about $80 per 1000 units—which is only about $20 less than some biodegradable alternatives.
When the time it takes for many paper cups to decompose (over 20 years, if the cup is coated with wax) is factored in, paper looks even less attractive than Styrofoam from both an economic and environmental standpoint.
Thus, while large chain restaurants might save a substantial amount of money using traditional Styrofoam, paper, and plastic, small businesses can substantially reduce their environmental footprint with only a minor additional investment in biodegradable take-out boxes and cups.
Here are some resources that explain the economics and environmental impact of Styrofoam, paper, and plastic disposable containers:
And the following links provide a good sampling and explanation of some biodegradable alternatives:
Many of the items we use on a daily basis produce a large amount of waste. Much of our trash comes from food and beverage containers. You eat a bag of chips, and then that bag sits in a landfill for years. Other common sources of trash include school and office supplies, small electronics, and shipping materials. However, there are ways to actually make money from items that normally go straight into the trash.
Here are five types of items that you can get paid to get rid of in an environmentally friendly way.
1. Food and beverage containers
Within the last few years, a new company known as TerraCycle has found a creative way to reuse candy wrappers, chip bags, beverage containers, and even wine corks. They take in these types of trash and then turn them into useable products, such as school and office supplies. The best part is, TerraCycle will pay you for your trash. By registering your organization (usually a school, scout troop, or non-profit), you can begin to keep track of what you send to the company. The price is usually $0.02 per piece of trash, but it all adds up to help produce less trash and raise money for local schools or charities.
For more information, visit http://www.terracycle.net
Businesses that ship and receive lots of items end up with lots of boxes to deal with. They can be recycled normally, but unfortunately such facilities are not always available, or easy to take your cardboard to. For businesses with a large amount of cardboard, a web-based company will actually pay you for your used shipping boxes. They require loads of at least 5,000 boxes, but they will work with the business to arrange pickups and payment.
For more information, visit http://www.usedcardboardboxes.com
If you have appliances that are still useable, they can always be donated to organizations such as The Salvation Army or Goodwill. Often, donating any items (not just appliances) can get you a tax write-off, so you save money at the end of the year. But if they are broken, large appliances can be sold for scrap metal. Contact your local junkyard or metal recycler for more information and prices.
4. Ink Cartridges
Offices, schools, and even households can go through quite a number of ink cartridges in a year. Not only are they costly to replace, they contain plastics and many chemicals that are best not thrown into a landfill. Thankfully there are ways to get paid for your old ink and toner cartridges. Some companies refill them and then sell the refurbished cartridges for cheaper than new ones. Others recycle the entire cartridge. A quick search online will bring you to many companies that will pay you anywhere from a few cents to several dollars per used ink cartridges. Check to find a local company, or shop around to see which service fits your needs best.
5. Sports Equipment
Spring is finally here, and soon we’ll all be heading to the track, field, court, or diamond on our days off and weekends. If it’s time for a new racket or bat, some stores exist that will let you trade in old items for a discount on new ones. The company Play It Again Sports has locations across the country, including right here in Southwest PA.
For old athletic shoes, Nike runs a program called Reuse-A-Shoe. You can donate your old shoes, which will be ground up and used to back the rubber for running tracks, padding under tennis courts, and a variety of other uses. Individuals and send their old shoes in to be recycled. Local schools, gyms, and other groups looking for a new athletic surface can research how to get one made from recycled shoes.
For more information, visit http://www.playitagainsports.com
And for Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe, visit http://www.nikereuseashoe.com
Phones, appliances, clothes, cardboard…when it comes to recycling irregular items in a rural location, the task at hand seems daunting.
Thanks to the internet, finding recycling resources doesn’t have to take up all your time. Consider placing a couple calls, writing a few emails, and you can potentially link up with a buyer. Literally. This site, for instance, may be able to buy your cardboard packing boxes!
Check this list of 21 items that aren’t always easy to recycle for an effective approach to lightening your landfill load.
As a follow-up to compostable materials for restaurants, this article from Mother Jones Magazine offers a quick read with some revealing statistics and a dash of wry humor about the social, psychological, economic and environmental implications of packaging and waste in the U.S. Just something to chew on…
A few standouts:
Nearly 10% of a typical product’s price is for packaging.
The global packaging market is worth $429 billion.
Nearly 1/3 of Americans’ waste is packaging. Just 43% is recycled after use.
In 2007, Americans threw away 78.5 million tons of packaging—520 pounds per person. That’s a 71% increase from 1960.
35% of Americans say that they seek alternatives to excessively packaged goods, and nearly 1/2 of consumers worldwide say they’d sacrifice convenience for more environmentally sustainable packaging.