Sunday, December 19, 2010

Recycle Bank has so much potential

This year single stream recycling was introduced in Ann Arbor. I believe the single stream does make recycling easier, my husband loves that he does not have to divide up the recycling into separate containers. Ask the drivers and they say it is a mess back at the MURF or at least it was a lot cleaner when separated. I'm neither for or against, it is just a change. If this increases recycling and removes greater volume from the landfills, excellent.

The same time single stream came in so did the recycling bank. I was asked if I knew about it. This was my response,

Yes, I have heard of the RecycleBank, we have it in Ann Arbor, and I have some issues with it. While it does encourage more household recycling and seems to make a difference in numbers of recycling materials collected it also encourages buying more stuff with little consideration to the end of life of the new stuff. It also relies on local vendors to provide all the incentives, which some of them seem to like but in my neighborhood case, if we all don’t spend our points and reach the level that we can earn enough points to get a big screen TV, I’m not sure how the vendor could handle that demand. You can also contribute to charities if you don't want to get stuff with your points.

I don’t like the approach Ann Arbor is taking because they don’t weigh each bin collected. Ann Arbor takes the number of bins lifted for recycling and divides the total weight evenly among the registered users in that neighborhood and distributes points evenly. It is known among the drivers that people are putting out the recycling bin with nothing in it, just so it registers and they can get free stuff.

I would be ecstatic if the recycle bank : 
  1. The bins were randomly monitored to be sure people are not tossing in landfill items and removed from the program if they are unless they want to attend an educational session. Two strikes and are removed for a determined amount of time.
  2. The prizes were limited to:
    • Local social charitable gifts.
    • High post consumer recycle content items.
    • Minimally packaged grocery items.
    • Car share memberships or trips.
    • Bus passes and bicycles.
    • Farmers market coupons.
    • Local vendor services such as legal advice, tax assistance, teeth cleaning, eye doctor…
    • YMCA or community athletic club memberships.
    • Inhouse coffee or foods only – no take out or delivery.
    • No tv’s or single use disposables or unnecessary packaging in goods such as CD’s.
  3. Rewarded each home by the weight/volume of the actual recycling vs the weight/volume of their trash. Lots of recyclables in the trash get deducted.
  4. Zero waste should be the focus and the educational emphasis  – reduced recycling and no or almost no landfillable items. People are instead being rewarded for enhanced recycling and to keep growing the recycling weight annually they will need to buy more.
Because recycling is big business I doubt any of this will happen in Michigan but without purchasing of post consumer recyclable goods being emphasized to close the loop what is the point?

My two cents.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Companies want sustainable business but finding it hard to implement.

The sustainability learning center in Toronto, Ontario has a vested interest in advancing businesses and organizations implementation of sustainable applications and the feedback they are getting is positive but a new approach needs to be taken to be fully embraced. This article was posted on Sustainability Learning Center blog by Kathryn Cooper.

Global CEOs say “complexity of implementation” is greatest barrier to business sustainability

Global CEO
Global CEOs report that greatest barrier to business sustainability is the complexity of implementation.
In the New Era of Sustainability study, released June, 2010, 93 percent of 766 global CEOs agreed that sustainability is critical to the future success of their companies. In fact, 80 percent of them reported the global economic downturn accelerated their conviction to embrace sustainability practices. But they also lamented that “complexity of implementation across functions” was their most significant barrier to implementing an integrated, company-wide approach to Sustainability. Of particular issue was the challenge of establishing a consistent, companywide approach across large and increasingly complex supply chains and subsidiaries. Clearly, the journey from sustainability strategy to implementation is not all that easy. Fast forward to August, 2010, another study, Demand for ISO 14001 adoption in the global supply chain notes that environmental preferences and pressures of customers in environmentally conscious markets are more likely to encourage domestic and foreign suppliers to adopt ISO 14001.
To read full article click on link above.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

History of Thrift Week

Thrift Week sounds great to me and I believe we need to get back to the hard core basics of living within our means and community.

I decided to look into Thrift Week and find out what happened to it and led to it's demise.
Here's what I found.

Thrift week began pre World War 1 in 1961
"National Thrift Week" and sponsored primarily by the Young Men's Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.), the campaign became an annual celebration. National thrift Week began each year on January 17 the American apostle of thrifts' birthday, Benjamin Franklin. Expanding in the 1920's Thrift week gained supporters from over 50 groups including the Boy and Girl Scouts, Bankers, Farm Mortgage groups, Advertising Clubs, The US Postal Service and The Red Cross.

National Thrift Week was celebrated daily by specific principles and encouraged action each day.
Slogan, "For Success and Happiness."  

Monday: Have a Bank Account Day
Tuesday: Invest Safely Day
Wednesday; Carry Life Insurance Day 

Thursday: Keep a Budget Day
Friday: Pay Bills Promptly Day
Saturday: Own Your Home Day
Sunday: Share with Others Day.

Share with others Day was expanded into three pie charts:
“Mr. Tightwad’s Dollar,”
“Mr. Spendthrift’s Dollar,” 
“Mr. Thrifty’s Dollar.”
Mr. Tightwad and Mr. Spendthrift pie only allotted 1 percent to giving, Mr. Thrifty allotted 10 percent because he had more to give.

These principles were meant to cultivate responsible consumerism and civic progress. Rather than self-denial, the goal was self-control. The word, "thrift," finds its root in the phrase "to thrive".
Thrift is thriving because, in the end, the thrifty person will have more resources than the spendthrift—which thrift leaders believed was important not only for one’s personal flourishing, but for societal flourishing as well. 

Finally, thrift is thriving because thrift is not only wise use of money,  “intelligent use of health, time, and property of all kinds, including money.” In a school educational guide called "Thrift and Conservation"  thrift educators boasted that in 1917, schoolchildren in Los Angeles cultivated 90 vacant city lots, and more than 14,000 tended 900 acres of home gardens. As a result, they said, “Children are trained in habits of industry and thrift, and the spirit of cooperation is developed.” For these thrift educators, conserving natural resources was an intrinsic part of the thrift ethic: Because we hold all our resources in trust, the school guide noted, “it is our duty to guard our trust faithfully and to pass it on as little impaired by our use of it as possible.”

Special  events, parades, programs were the rage within budget but slowly fizzled out with more wars, economic downturns and cultural changes and lack of sponsorship until it completely disappeared in 1966. Arguably, thrift was replaced for the next forty years by consumerism and easy credit and our reversion back to thrift is one out of necessity.

How about starting our own thrift movement, emphasizing hard work, wise use of money, generosity, and conservation? As we work our way out of this Recession, the advice from nearly a century ago rings just as true for today: “Get the thrift habit.”Spending as we have seen does not necessarily stimulate the economy, as we are experiencing today.

Taking control back into our own hands and responsibility and out of investment bankers and speculation investors will go a long way to create sound communities and healthy solid/paid for homes and reduce waste everywhere.

Wasteful Numbers

What ever happened to Yankee frugality? Straightening bent nails, saving string.
Is Thrift Week, a holiday which began on Ben Franklin's birthday even on the calendar anymore? When did it disappear? 

"Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship," said he. That leak is not so small anymore.

We disapproved of frippery, definition according to
  1. Pretentious, showy finery.
  2. Pretentious elegance; ostentation.
  3. Something trivial or nonessential.
We couldn't imagine wasting money on ourselves, made do or did without. It took a mighty effort to make us what we are today. 

Today in the USA:
Americans toss:
  • 106,000 aluminum cans every 30 seconds. (Enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet every three months—and aluminum represents less than 1 percent of our solid waste stream).
  • 2 million plastic beverage bottles every 5 minutes
  • 426,000 cell phones every day
  • 14 % of the food we buy at the store

Americans use:
  • 1.14 million brown paper supermarket bags each hour
  • 60,000 plastic bags we use every 5 seconds
  • US airline flights distributed 1 million plastic cups every 6 hours
  • 15 million sheets of office paper every 5 minutes
  • 170,000 Energizer batteries produced every 15 minutes

The average American uses more energy between the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve and dinner on January 2 than the average, Tanzanian consumes in a year.

Time to rethink hyper-consumerism and get back in touch with what really matters.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff  The Book

Now Annie Leonard has a full explaination of her journey through "Stuff". An expanded version of much of the work that went on before her 20 minute video "The Story of Stuff" that has been viewed over 10 million times and is translated into multiple languages. Just as easy to read and understand as her videos, I recommend this book to everyone.

Zip Car - a great way to get around town

Join Zipcar and get $25 in free driving!

I've been a zip car user for two years now and it is a great way to get a car in a convenient location for a flat fee. If I just need a car for a few hours I walk book online to reserve the car, walk 10 minutes downtown or take the bus, pick up the car, drive and drop the car off when my time is up. Gas, insurance, it's all covered and my time driving the zip car also counts as a driver for insurance if I should ever decide to own my own.

I was also able to add visitors to town on my account so they could drive if they needed to. Visitor from Switzerland in town need to drive for only a few days, no problem with zip.

Looks like I can drive a zip car where-ever they are located so that next trip to Chicago or Toronto, no problem, they have even added London, England to the list. I recommend this company to anyone as a zero Waste alternative to car ownership that has zipcar in their area.

Monday, May 10, 2010

They are not going to take our crap

India Plans Laws on E-waste Management

John Ribeiro, IDG News Service 

The Indian government plans to enact new rules that makes a producer of electrical and electronic equipment responsible for the collection and appropriate disposal of e-waste generated at the end of life of its products.

The draft of the new rules, called the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2010, was made available for public comment on the Web site of the Ministry of Environment and Forests on Wednesday. 

Under the draft rules, producers include manufacturers of products under their own brand, as well as those who sell under their brand products that are manufactured by contractors. Importers of products for sale in India are also included under the classification. 

The proposed rules will also ban the import of used electrical and electronic equipment for charity in the country.

A new way at looking at raw materials

BioTrade Potential for Growth and Sustainability
7 April 2010, Geneva Switzerland 
The informal brainstorming session on the BioTrade Potential for Growth and Sustainability brought together a group of experts and negotiators with unique perspectives on biodiversity, trade and intellectual property rights (IPRs) to discuss opportunities and challenges for its advancement in Latin America and the Caribbean. Representatives of several Permanent Missions of the Latin American and Caribbean region and other international experts participated in the event.

The workshop was organized in the framework of a regional initiative entitled “Biodiversity and Ecosystems: Why these are Important for Sustained Growth and Equity in Latin America and the Caribbean”, which is currently being implemented by UNDP in association with UNEP, ECLAC and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Documents on stimulating trade and investment in biological resources to further sustainable development. 

The event, organized by the BioTrade Initiative of UNCTAD and the Regional Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean of UNDP, provided a platform in obtaining valuable inputs to the UNDP team in preparing the regional biodiversity report. 

 BioTrade refers to those activities of collection, production, transformation, and commercialization of goods and services derived from native biodiversity under the criteria of environmental, social and economic sustainability.

BioTrade Principles and Criteria
Based on the experience of national programs in the implementation of their principles and criteria and the different contexts in which they have been applied, a general set of BioTrade Principles has been defined trough a joint process carried out by UNCTAD and the National BioTrade Programs. The following are the Principles agreed upon and adhered by the BioTrade initiative, its programs and partners:
  1. Conservation of biodiversity
  2. Sustainable use of biodiversity
  3. Equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of biodiversity
  4. Socio-economic sustainability (management, production and markets)
  5. Compliance with national and international legislation and agreements
  6. Respect for the rights of actors involved in BioTrade activities
  7. Clarity about land tenure, use and access to natural resources and knowledge
The BioTrade Principles and Criteria are based on the objectives of the CBD and other social and economic criteria that assure the sustainability of private initiatives and the competitiveness of these products in the market.
BioTrade principles and criteria are the basis for the definition of other tools developed by BTFP such as the verification framework for BioTrade products and BioTrade Impact Assessment System.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Six Tenets of Zero Waste

1.    Smart Design
2.    Producer Responsibility
3.    Community Investment
4.    End of Taxpayer Subsidies
5.    Local Markets and Jobs
6.    Transparency

Introduction: As consumers, when we purchase items, we vote with every dollar we spend. If cheap is all we look for on the price tag then we pay later with our tax dollars cleaning up water, land and air that did not need to be polluted from the start. We pay through poor health and medical bills.

Cheap today just means pay much more later in taxes, or health, or inaction due to lack of funds.

Paying it forward is in the long run the least expensive manner to shop by. No toxins, pesticides or fungicides in my food processing means no watershed clean-up, no elimination of beneficial insects or depleted soils later and no toxins in my body from eating. No lead in my child's toys means more to me than a dollar or two. A car returned to the manufacturer instead of the junk yard means fewer materials and chemicals in the cars manufacturing so it can be reused again to make more cars or another product.

To encourage manufacturers and government to implement clean green products that will not harm us, our children or the environment we need to consider the tenets of zero waste in each item we purchase until it becomes the norm in manufacturing.

The really crazy thing is this is already happening in Europe and has been for over a decade. Companies here in the US that operate in the European Union already practice these tenets because they have to by law. They don’t do it here because we are not telling them we want it. We just accept what they give us. Remember you vote with every dollar you spend.

What exactly is Zero Waste?
Specifically, Zero Waste has six basic tenets:

1.    Smart Design. Redesign involves smart planning to limit the resources consumed in producing a product, in its totality, before manufacturing begins. Analyzing waste throughout the process and eliminating it is fundamental. Instead of using virgin materials recovered materials are priority through reuse, repurposing and recycling. All products are designed to be environmentally benign if not beneficial, and packaging is returned to the cycle (not landfilled) or compostable.

2.    Producer Responsibility. Manufacturers are held responsible for the waste and environmental impact their product and packaging creates, rather than passing that responsibility on to the consumer. The end result is that manufacturers redesign products to reduce materials consumption and facilitate reuse, recovery and recycling.

3.    Community Investment. Rather than using the tax base to build new landfills and incinerators, communities invest in new facilities designed to take the place of a landfill or incinerator. Combined with social policies and market signals, the technological advances can easily support the diversion of almost all of society's discards and create a broader job market.

4.    Taxpayer Subsidies would end for wasteful, polluting industries. Manufacturers use virgin resources for raw material partly because tax subsidies and other social policies make this a cheaper and easier alternative than using recycled or recovered materials. This is the beginning of the pollution, energy consumption and environmental destruction chain. Additional public subsidies exist to keep "disposal" costs through landfills and incinerators artificially low by not assigning significant economic penalties to the harmful emissions produced by these facilities. Properly allotted taxes to recover these “externalized” expenses would have an immediate impact.

5.    Local markets and jobs. Creating a new local market from discards, creating jobs and new business opportunities. Wasting materials in a landfill or incinerator also wastes business opportunities that could be created if those resources were preserved. Per-ton, sorting and processing recyclables alone sustains ten times more jobs than landfilling or incineration. Each recycling step a community takes locally means more jobs, more business expenditures on supplies and services, and more money circulating in the local economy through spending and tax payments. Sending our recycling overseas, while cleaner and simpler, removes these opportunities and is environmentally unmonitored.

6.   Transparency. In order to be believable, accountable and to adjust to changes in technology and perception in real time we need a sixth tenet of zero waste and that is transparency. This can help identify true innovators and socially responsible acting industries from their green washing competition who are trying to look good, and possibly mean well, but taking the cheap way around their true actions. If an incinerator claims to not pollute and be better for the community we need to be able to measure the pollutants released and energy consumed in real time, not years later, we need soil samples before incineration and after, often. If a company claims to be a green innovator we need to see the totality of their commitment, not just one or two green buildings out of thousands around the world.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What is all the fuss about?

If ever anyone wanted to truly understand the complex interrelationship between our consumerism and its true impact on the planet the is the first place they need to go. The Story of Stuff written by Annie Leonard is the most comprehensive, personable, straight talking, simple yet all encompassing video and book available today.

Annie demonstrates in clear, simple manner the facts and truths about how all of our actions are interconnected and the true scope of consumption. This woman is brilliant and I highly recommend everyone to visit her site and watch the videos. Her book is a comprehensive detailed expansion of the video written in a voice that speaks to you as a friend, neighbor and educator.

Biodegradable vs. Compostable plastic labeling

 Picture from Worldcentric

There is some confusion regarding the labeling of biodegradable vs. compostable, specifically in plastic products and containers. This confusion is misleading customers into believing that biodegradable is a positive and reliable measure where the purchase will have little impact on the planet compared to standard plastics that are landfilled or recycled. I’m going to focus on disposable tableware commonly used for take-out and home entertaining.

Definition of compostable plastic:
To be compostable three criteria must be met.
1.    The plastic needs to breakdown into viable soil enhancers and leaves no toxic residue. This means the product breaks down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass at the same rate as paper or cellulose.
2.    At final disintegration there is no visible materials that need to be screened out.
3.    The biodegredation does not produce any toxic material or residue and can support plant growth.

What is “plastic corn”
Compostable “plastic” is PLA, Polylactic acid.
Normally made from corn grown in the USA.
The leading corn plastic company that makes plastic containers and cups is NatureWorks , a joint venture of Cargill and Teijin.

Compostable plastic complies with ASTM standards ASTM-D6400 and European EN13432

Definition of biodegradable plastic:
Biodegradable plastic is plastic that will degrade from natural microorganism, such as bacteria, fungi ect. The difference from compostable plastic is that there is no requirement that there is no toxic residue and no time frame for how long the plastic degrades. Most of biodegradable plastics are meant to decompose in a landfill and not in a compost facility. ASTM D5988-96

Definition of degradable plastic:
Plastic that undergoes a significant change in chemical structure under specific environmental conditions resulting in a loss of some properties.
No requirement that the plastic has to degrade from the action of naturally occurring microorganism or any other criteria required for compostable plastics.

An example of this type of plastic can be found on: biodegradable plastic

The European union was dissatisfied with the confusion the label of biodegradability created for consumers and determined that biodegradable would not be an acceptable label. At present they endorse the labeling of compostable or landfill products only to minimize confusion and keep companies transparent.

In the European Union products  the standard of “Precautionary Principle” dominates labeling and code standards. This policy will be discussed in detail in another blog.

The European precautionary principle (PP) standard and labeling policies are under constant pressure and criticism by the plastics industry and we will keep monitoring their progress.

Personally, I like the PP. It’s clean, neat, simplified and puts the pressure on companies to prove their products and practices will do no harm to the environment, people and reduce the risk of future problems in the light of insufficient scientific data. This reduces the probability of problems such as lead in childrens toys, toxins in food and everything we here in North America need to litigate personally or as a class action suits to repair damages done to us and the taxes we pay for environmental clean-up.

In the meantime, as zero waste practitioners, the best way to prevent and eliminate these issues is to not use disposable products of any kind. Use ceramic plates, metal cutlery, glass cups and cloth napkins for our own events at home or away. Slow down and to eat on proper plates and cups in the restaurant or café we buy the food in instead of eating on the run or in the car is extremely effective to become the zero hero we strive to be.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reduce, Precycle, Refuse, Reuse, Compost, Recycle - In that order

What does that mean?

Reduce your purchasing and consumption overall. Ask yourself, Do I really need it? Will I be happier having it? Why am I buying or using this? How many hours do I need to work to pay for this?

Precycle. Consider the packaging, life-cycle and end of life use before purchasing. Is it a cradle-to-cradle (resourse to resource) item or a cradle-to-grave (resource to landfill)? Is this product local, if not can I get it or something similar locally?

Refuse any and all items and their packaging that will end up in the landfill after a single use, or without the ability to be composted, upcycled, reused or recycled or in any form toxic in their production or use or disposal. Fair-trade, farming practices and sweatshop free are also important considerations. Ask yourself, Do I cause harm by buying this?

Reuse any and all items you bring into your day. If you can't reuse it there are many people that will find value in your discards. Consider Craigs List, EBay, student newsletters, free swap, barter, donate to local charities or groups locally, leave for "Free" out on your roadside but bring in if not removed.

Compost all compostable goods, food, newspapers, dryer lint, floor sweepings... among a few items, deposited in outdoor composting bins, or red worms bins (vermiculture), and compact electric apartment composters are a few of the simple easy ways to compost at home. Put this compost on your houseplants, in your garden or rake into your lawn.

Recycle when all other options are exhausted with a responsible recycler who is not shipping your trash overseas. Find out where it is going and for what. Upcycling is repurposing materials without changing the material into something different. For example: Boat canvas sails are resewn into bike carrier and computer bags instead of being sent to the landfill.

All households can immediately reduce their trash percentages by 75-80% if they started to look at what they are throwing it out and asking if there is a better way.

Sounds like a lot for someone new to Zero Waste but it gets easier with practice, and you are not alone.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thermal Solar - The Ignored Superstar

When nature moves in the direction of least resistance why do we as humans always choose the hardest way forward?

Imagine yourself on a sunny summery day at the beach ready to cool yourself off in refreshing water. You do a fast hot sand dance to get to the waters edge to avoid burning your feet. Sandals or not that sand is hot. The sun beating on the sand makes a very blistering beach experience; sun beating on shallow water equals hot water. Simple. Heat makes heat.

The easiest, most cost effective solar options with the best Return on Investment are here and have always been here and solar electricity is not it. If we really want to “Green,” ourselves electrically, our best options are to reduce our electrical load, unplug, turn off, install sensors and timers, switch to low wattage lighting, simplify our electrical needs, use Energy Star or better appliances, insulate the building and seal all leaks - and then heat with heat - not fossil fuels.

Where on the earth does the sun directly convert sunlight, or heat into electricity? It doesn’t. Solar electricity, known as photovoltaics (PV) has taken the lead in the renewable theatre waving banners of great expectations. A great amount of energy and resources is used to manufacture the solar PV panels. Unless we are using DC applications, more equipment is needed and electricity and is wasted converting to AC. Batteries, while improving, are toxic hazards with a limited lifecycle for back up power. If you choose grid-tied systems most of the power supplied via solar is while you are at work and here in Michigan some electrical suppliers restrict the amount of electricity you can sell back to them. I believe solar PV has a future and a part to play but in the meantime there are many other things to do first.

Solar heat directly heating air or water is simple, easy, and peaceful and involves few if any moving parts and no specialized conversion equipment. Solar hot air and hot water systems are the simplest providers of comfort, low maintenance and remove most of the need for electricity and gas, eliminating emissions and utility bills. And yes, gray cloudy Michigan is one of the best places for it, because of our high-energy needs and thermal efficiency.

Solar hot water can reduce your water heating by 70-75% annually. During most months, you will not need any energy back-ups and with the right size tank, your water will always run hot. In the coolest grayest months, the water will be heated from 45 or 50 (ground temp) to 80 degrees and up saving you energy every degree it is preheated before entering your water heater. The same principle works with solar hot air. A recycled air system heats the room temperature to a comfortable environment without the use of fossil fuel.  Solar hot air can save you 30-45% of your space heating costs.

Solar energy is a simple answer to reducing the need of 75% of all energy used to provide hot water and 30-40% of indoor air heating in Michigan. That’s a large chunk of energy used by households today. Simple solutions, reduced energy bills, comfortable home – I‘m going to the beach.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Zero waste, CO2, the consumer and business

A connection is being made today that CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions are a measurement of waste at their very core. If your product is being shipped with a lot of waste in it, that's adding to fuel and shipping costs, which adds to your carbon footprint. ... Nobody in business wants to pay for shipping waste.

The Zero Waste movement elevates today's practice of recycling and landfill diversion to a new height of eco-efficiency. It promotes the intelligent redesign of goods and services that prevent waste from being manufactured in the first place.

Current practices are products designed with planned obsolescence, where products are created to be become obsolete in a few short years so that consumers must constantly replace them, this process is referred to as cradle to grave. How many years do you replace your computer and cell phone. Planned obsolescence is now encompassing the zero-waste strategy that ensures products produced from beginning to end through smart design are created to be repaired, reused, recycled, regardless of life span. This process is called cradle to cradle.

Cradle to cradle mimics nature where nothing is wasted. Landfills are a modern mans invention. Smart design converts what used to be “waste” to “resource” — material for the creation of new goods or services.

Because the products are going to be reused harmful chemicals are cheaper to be designed out products then to pay for their safe removal and find handlers, storage and a use for them the second and third time around.

“Waste equals inefficiency” The whole lifecycles of products need to be analyzed to reduce inefficiencies in the use of materials, energy and human resources, and to eliminate by-products with no clear use or potential value.

Since waste is a sign of inefficiency, the reduction of waste usually reduces costs. One simple example of cutting waste and costs to a company is to remove water in products such as laundry detergent. Concentrated detergent with 2/3 of the water removed reduces packaging, size and weight. This considerably reduces unnecessary water use, packaging resources, storage and shipping costs.

A zero-waste strategy is a sound business tool that supports sustainability by protecting the environment, reducing costs and creating jobs. And it promotes product stewardship, in which everyone involved in the lifespan of the product is called upon to play a part in reducing its environmental impact and extending its usefulness.

Designers, manufacturers, distributors, and most of all consumers — all bear a responsibility for the things we create, transport, purchase and discard.

As a consumers you vote with every dollar you spend. Buy from companies that don't waste your money in plastic or unrecycled packaging, harmful chemicals and planned obsolescence. Buy smart design, recycled and recylable or no packaging, bulk, clean benign chemicals, low processing, local and quality. Learn about your supplier and their products. Find out what is the process to bring that cupcake to you from the local backery or from a corporate chain. How far did that cupcake travel to get to you. The further it came the more CO2 it used and chemicals and packaging were needed to preserve it's 'freshness" and "taste". As consumers nobody can sell us something we don't want to pay for. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Zero waste will help us get to a cleaner smarter community free of landfills, harmfull chemicals and wasted resources.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Natural Daylighting - Clean and Bright

After working in the office for two years with only natural daylighting tubes to light the office, I have to say I'm impressed. I like the bright clean white light that dims slightly when clouds pass overhead and brightens with the sunshine. It keeps me connected to the weather and reminds me that there are other things in the world than my desk and my work. On the sunniest days rainbows dance across the walls in the office. When I compare the lighting tubes to the standard lighting in the office next door and it seems dingy and yellow over there.

I can honestly say we have only used standard lighting on less than 7 days over those two years, during the darkest and stormiest of weather. Otherwise even in those not so bright times we have had plenty of light to work by. Michigan is know for cloudy gray weather in the winter.

My favorite story I repeat often is of a customer and her husband who like to lie on the kitchen floor during lightning storms. They say the light show is amazing and ordered a few more for their cottage. This is a trend I see regularly and understand it. Once you have one you can find a reason for another. I have a cousin who is on her fourth tube.

There is nothing like natural daylighting, now to get one for the kitchen, ok maybe a second for the basement stairwell as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Introduction to Trash Talk

Trash Talk is for business, homes, churches, festivals and events, all of us. Trash Talk is about trash/waste management and what we can do to dramatically reduce our landfill contributions.

Zero Waste embodies the cradle-to-cradle concept that all things (including consumer products) mimic nature in the actions from creation to deconstruction back to creation. In nature nothing is wasted, all things have circular purposes throughout time without end. Trash Talk seeks to end the cradle-to-grave practice we are familiar with.

Most of the posts here will only be focused on immediate zero waste actions that we all can do while understanding the underlining concept of cradle to cradle.