Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Eggshell Planters

Use empty eggshells for sprouting seedlings, then compost the whole set-up when youre done. See more ideas sprout on our Tumblr: http:/earth911.tumblr.com/

Monday, July 30, 2012

Name that Plastic


With a little bit of care much plastic can be recycled, and collection of plastics for recycling is increasing rapidly. Plastic recycling faces one huge problem: plastic types must not be mixed for recycling, yet it is impossible to tell one type from another by sight or touch. Even a small amount of the wrong type of plastic can ruin the melt. The plastic industry has responded to this problem by developing a series of cryptic markers, commonly seen on the bottom of plastic containers. These markers do not mean the plastic can be recycled, these makers do not mean the container uses recycled plastic. Despite the confusing use of the chasing arrow symbol, these markers only identify the plastic type.
[1-PETE  2-HDPE  3-V  4-LDPE  5-PP  6-PS  7-Other] Virtually everything made of plastic should be marked with a code. Not all types can actually be recycled. Types 1 and 2 are widely accepted in container form, and type 4 is sometimes accepted in bag form. Code 7 is for mixed or layered plastic with little recycling potential. You should place in your bin only those types of plastic listed by your local recycling agency! Due to fluctuating market conditions, some colors or shapes may be useless to the recycling agency.
#6 plastic, by the way, is great for do-it-yourself shrink art (like the commercial product shrinky dinks).

Recycling #5 Open Top Containers (Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, Strawberry Baskets)

For decades, the #5 cups have been the bane of the good home recycler. The cups are hard to avoid buying, and mostly useless for recycling. Many curbside collection programs won't complain if these are placed in a bin, but they won't recycle them either.
Finally there is a good option for some people. Preserve Products offers pickup at select Whole Foods Locations. Simply stack your containers until you have enough to justify the trip.

Other plastic Containers (milk, soap, juice, fresh pasta, water, etc.)

All plastic containers you purchase should be marked with a large and clear recycling code (C). This code must be molded into the plastic and located on the bottom surface of the container. Ideally the entire container should be made of the same plastic to avoid confusion, but often the caps are of a different type. Caps should be separately marked, but few are (B). Note that most caps are NOT of the same type as the bottle they sit on.

Grocery sacks, produce bags, and other packaging

These are great to reuse. Not only do you save a new bag, but your old bags don't smell like chemicals (the 'plastic bag smell' is mostly plasticizer chemicals that outgas from the bags).
Plastic grocery and produce sacks are commonly, but not always, made from plastic types 2 or 4. These bags are often collected in barrels at grocery stores, and usually end up as plastic lumber. Collection is not particularly profitable.

Other Plastic Items

Any product made of a single plastic type should be marked -- after all the product may one day break or be replaced. This includes toys, plastic hangars, trash cans, shelves, baskets, rain ponchos, and many other products (B). Many products, such as compact discs, video tapes, and computer discs, are made from mixed materials which can't be recycled unless first disassembled.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Martin Introduces Recycled Guitar

VIDEO: Martin Introduces Recycled Guitar

Martin, C.F. Martin, C.F. Martin & Co., guitar, acoustic, strings, fretboard, wood
Since adopting a formalized environmental policy in 1990, C.F. Martin & Co. has ben utilizing alternative woods and wood substitutes in its models. And now - a recycled guitar! Photo: Flickr/juro.ma

C.F. Martin & Co. announced this week that it will utilize FSC-certified recycled Sitka Spruce in a new cutaway guitar for its Performing Arts Series.

The wood, which is reclaimed from dismantled Canadian bridges, will be used on the tops of the new GPCPA4 Sapele. The back and sides of the guitar are made from FSC-certified Sapele wood – hence the name – and the company said the addition of recycled content only increases the new model’s performance.

“The use of this recycled traditional tone wood will complement the Sapele wood that this guitar utilizes, allowing us to achieve the same structural integrity and traditional Martin sound,” said Chris Martin, the company’s chairman and CEO.

The green scene is nothing new for the Pennsylvania-based guitar maker. In addition to exploring the use of recycled content, Martin has been at the forefront in tone testing and the development of alternatives for acoustic guitar construction.

Since the company’s environmental policies were formalized in 1990, it has been actively utilizing alternative wood species, including domestic woods like ash, maple, walnut, cherry and red birch.

The company is also researching and implementing wood alternatives for some of its models, including patented High-Pressure Laminates for the popular X Series and Little Martin guitars, aluminum tops for the Alternative X models and a shell laminate called Abalam that greatly increases the yield of abalone and mother of pearl for decorative inlays.

The company will unveil the GPCPA4 for the first time at the 2012 National Association of Music Merchants Trade Show in Anaheim, Calif. For more information on how greenies can rock, check out this video from CEO Chris Martin on responsible guitar making.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Pipe Down!

I love this look for books and can be used as a clothes rack.
Need some literature to fill up your pipes? Check out Earth911’s environmentally minded reads for summer!
I love this look for books and can be used as a clothes rack.
Need some literature to fill up your pipes? Check out Earth911’s environmentally minded reads for summer!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Design It: Create the International ‘Reuse’ Symbol

Design It: Create the International ‘Reuse’ Symbol

While recycling is an effective means of preventing waste, reuse is just as crucial of a step. Resources are inherently conserved by reuse, because it removes the need to buy new products by repurposing those already in-hand.
Earth911.com hopes to make reuse as prevalent and recognizable as recycling by hosting a competition to design a reuse symbol. The winning design will receive a $500 prize, and the symbol will be made a part of the public domain to be reused, remixed and distributed without royalties.
To do this, Earth911 partnered with GOOD Maker, a tool that gives individuals and organizations the ability to tap into the public’s creativity and energy to address an issue that’s important to them.
“GOOD Maker’s platform is the perfect choice to launch the contest to create this symbol. We know their community, which is so focused on the positive outcomes and social benefit of effective design, will rise to the challenge,” said Raquel Fagan, vice president of media for Earth911.
Potential entrants have until Aug. 22 to submit their designs. Then, a voting period will run Aug. 23 through Sept. 6 to allow the public to determine which design is best. On Sept. 13, the winner will be announced. Potential entrants are advised to read the rules and requirements of the contest to ensure their entries are compliant.
“This contest has the potential to inspire people everywhere to rethink what we traditionally call ‘trash,’” said Jen Chiou, general manager with GOOD Maker. “We hope this is the start of a symbol that becomes as well known and has as much positive impact as the recycling logo.”
The chasing arrows recycling symbol, created in a design contest by Gary Dean Anderson in 1970, is one of the most widely recognized symbols associated with sustainability. Contrary to popular belief, it does not mean “reduce, reuse, recycle,” but rather, was designed to demonstrate the three steps in the recycling loop, including collecting, manufacturing, and buying products made from recycled goods.
Over the past four decades, the recycling symbol has been placed on numerous products and is instantly recognizable by the general public. Recycling itself has grown significantly across the U.S., ranging from curbside programs to retail drop-offs, with the ultimate goal of reducing resources wasted every year.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Davis Named Director of State Division of Land Resources

Davis Named Director of State Division of Land Resources

RALEIGH – Tracy Davis of Raleigh has been named as director of the N.C. Division of Land Resources and assumed his duties today. Additionally, Dr. Kenneth Taylor, chief of the N.C. Geological Survey, has been designated the state geologist.  

Davis, a career staff member in the division’s Land Quality Section, replaces Jim Simons, who retired effective May 31. DLR promotes the wise use and protection of North Carolina's land and geologic resources. Within the division, Land Quality Section programs regulate and provide technical assistance related to mining, dam safety and sedimentation control; the N.C. Geological Survey performs scientific investigations, provides technical assistance and maps the state’s geological resources; and the division as a whole supports public education in the earth sciences. 

“Tracy’s engineering background, regulatory experience and managerial skills combine to make him a good fit for this very challenging position,” said Dee Freeman, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “Tracy has extensive field knowledge, technical expertise and exceptional communication skills, and will lead the division in its environmental protection mission, while at the same time keeping in mind the practical concerns of the regulated community.”

Davis, a licensed professional engineer and certified public manager, has worked for DENR for nearly 25 years. He started his career as an assistant state mining specialist in the Land Quality Section, and was then promoted to manage the section’s mining permit program. Davis has served as the Section’s chief engineer since 2003. In that role, he managed the Section’s engineers and environmental professionals across DENR’s seven regional offices, and led special projects, including the statewide implementation of the express permitting program for erosion and sedimentation control projects.

Davis has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from N.C. State University. A native of Dayton, Ohio, he has lived in Raleigh since childhood, where he still resides with his wife and son. 

Since 1851, state law has recognized the need to have an expert on the geology of North Carolina within state government. Simons, who is a licensed geologist, served as the lead state geologist prior to his retirement. Freeman designated Taylor as the new state geologist in concert with his duties leading the N.C. Geological Survey.

Following ratification of Session Law 2012-143, the Clean Energy and Economic Security Act, the Division of Land Resources on Aug. 1 will be renamed as the Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

You Light Up My Yard

Tin Can Lanterns Tutorial

I love summer and I love that I finally have a backyard to have parties in!  I made these tin can lanterns for a 4th of July party (not at my house) and they looked so lovely that I thought I would write a tutorial to share with you all.  

So follow the tutorial below to get started making your own lanterns for your own outdoor summer party!

recycled tin cans
bailing wire
spray paint
tea light candle

Step 1:  Remove labels and glue from the cans.  I've found WD-40 to be very helpful with removing the glue.

Step 2:  Fill cans with water and stick them in the freezer.  Leave them in until the ice is solid.  This helps the can hold its shape for the next steps.

Step 3:  Using a hammer and nail, pound a hole near the top of the can.  Flip the can over and make another hole straight across from the first hole.  These will be used for the handle later on.

Step 4:  Make your design.  Use the hammer and nail to start punching out a design in your can.  You can draw it our before hand or wing it.  Either way, they turn out nicely.

Step 5:  Once your design is all finished, let the ice melt out of the can and dry it out.

Step 6:  Upon turning the can over, you'll notice a big bulge in the bottom.  This comes from freezing water in it.  But, it can be fixed!  Just pound it down with a hammer so that it sits flat.

Step 7:  Time to make a handle.  Cut a 12 inch strip of bailing wire and cure the end of it to form a hook.  Stick the hook through one of the top side holes.

Step 8:  Twist the hook around to secure it.  Make a hook on the other end of the wire.  Stick in the side hole on the other side and twist it around.  There's your handle!

Step 9: Time for some spray paint!  Paint several coats on to cover the entire can and handle.

Step 10:  Once the paint is dry, insert tea light candles and light them up! You're all ready to go!

Monday, July 23, 2012

London Water Tower Upcycled into Townhouse

London Water Tower Upcycled into Townhouse

Tom Dixon, water tower, london
Photo: David Hawgood
Written by Matt Hickman, Mother Nature Network

Just when I thought I had officially retired my “All along the water tower” series, along comes another eye-catching instance of a decommissioned elongated water storage container transformed into a stair-heavy private residence (hat tip to Mark Boyer over at Inhabitat). And this repurposed water tower dwelling located in North Kensington, London, couldn’t pop up at a better time as it includes three private rooms for rent via Airbnb starting at $209 per night. Perfect for Summer Olympics lodgings, am I right? And, somewhat surprisingly, it looks like there’s vacancies during the Games!

The West London water tower home is actually owned by Tom Dixon, the lauded British furniture designer who recently unleashed thousands of somewhat hideous orange Flouro Bags across New York City during NY Design Week (anyone want mine?). Dixon purchased the redundant, 60-foot-tall water tower and the surrounding land on Landsbroke Grove back in 2005 — once upon a time, the concrete tank within the 1930s-era structure stored 5,000 gallons of water to be used if a nearby gasometer ever went up in flames — and since 2009, he’s been working alongside sustainable architectural firm SUSD to transform it into one of west London’s most dizzying examples of adaptive reuse. And although the structure offers knockout panoramic views of the city, Dixon himself has no plans to actually move in, according to The Daily Mail.

Dixon’s converted water tower home currently offers three floors of living space — three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a reception area — that have been “fitted out to meet the highest eco-friendly standards” and are linked by an interior spiral staircase. In the near future, Dixon intends to remove the rooftop terrace, plop on another two stories, and then reinstate the roof deck. Once the £400,000 addition is completed, the home will offer a total of 5,000-square-feet of living space. An elevator that will move not-so-able-bodied visitors from street level to the first story is also in the works (currently, reaching the first floor involves hiking up six flights of stairs). And, last but not least, the next phase of development will include the installation of a heat exchange system that will cool the building using water pumped from the nearby Grand Union Canal.

Peter Harris of SUSD tells the Daily Mail that getting the green light to transform the elevated reservoir into a home was not nearly as big of issue as the complex engineering challenges involved with the conversion. “The local council got behind the idea from the start. They wanted to keep the tower as a landmark structure to mark the entry to the borough. We received no objections from local residents.” Harris adds that even though Dixon himself won’t be taking up residence in the tower, he wanted to “to create something using this great local landmark — to build a townhouse in the sky.”

Head on over to the property’s Airbnb page to view plenty of more photos and learn more about the amenities included when staying in a converted water tower dwelling owned by a super-famous British designer (no parties, no pets, and no smoking, folks). In addition to the obvious, they’re really pushing the fact that there’s a Sainsbury’s supermarket right next door. For some reason, I’m guessing that hauling huge bags of groceries six flights of stairs would get a touch tiresome after a while.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Beaufort's Boathouse Certified Clean Marina

Release: Immediate
Date: July 19, 2012
Contact: Michele Walker
email: michele.walker@ncdenr.gov
Phone: 919-707-8604

Three New Sites Certified as North Carolina Clean Marinas

RALEIGH – Three coastal marinas have recently been certified as North Carolina Clean Marinas, bringing the total number of Clean Marinas in coastal North Carolina to 28. Clean Marina is a designation given to marinas that go beyond the state’s environmental regulations. 

The Coinjock Marina in Coinjock; the Boathouse in Beaufort; and Harbor Oaks Boataminium in Carolina Beach earned the status as North Carolina Clean Marinas.

The Clean Marina program illustrates how marina operators can help safeguard the environment by using management and operation techniques that exceed environmental requirements. To earn the certification, the marina’s owners prepare spill prevention plans and conduct safety and emergency planning. Marina operators also control boat maintenance activities to protect water quality. Marinas must complete the recertification process every two years to retain their certification as a North Carolina Clean Marina.

N.C. Clean Marina is a voluntary program that began in the summer of 2000. Marina operators who choose to participate must complete an evaluation form about their use of specific best management practices. If a marina meets criteria developed by the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, it will be designated as a Clean Marina. Such marinas are eligible to fly the Clean Marina flag and use the logo in their advertising. The flags signal to boaters that a marina cares about the cleanliness of area waterways.

Clean Marina is a nationwide program developed by the National Marine Environmental Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to clean up waterways for better recreational boating. The foundation encourages states to adapt Clean Marina principles to fit their own needs.

The North Carolina program is a partnership between the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, N.C. Boating Industry Services, the N.C. Marine Trade Association, the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program, N.C. Sea Grant, the U.S. Power Squadron, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and N.C. Big Sweep.

For more information, contact Pat Durrett with the N.C. Division of Coastal Management at 252-808-2808.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Grow a Pizza Garden

Margaret Hyde

Eco-Friendly Summer Fun for Kids

Summer is finally here. We made it through two graduations, class parties and birthdays. As a mom I say phew! I made it with big deep breaths, but my kids are saying, "Now what?" I have one son thrilled to be off to baseball camp, but another who would rather hang at home with me.

So over the years I have tried to come up with some really fun, inexpensive, eco-friendly activities that we can do in our own backyard.

Eco-Summer Fun Top Ten:

1) Grow a garden

Sunflower Playhouses & Mazes
Sunflowers are inexpensive and easy to grow. Certain varieties like "Sunzilla," "Mammoth," and "California Greystripe" can grow between 12-20 feet tall which makes them a great plant to use to make an outdoor playhouse or maze. All it takes is a couple packages of seeds and a little watering and in 8 weeks you will have a bright and cheerful "nature made" play area.
Pizza Garden
If space is an issue or you have older children, a pizza garden is a lot fun and keeps them really engaged. In a small bed or pots, plant a few tomato plants, basil and oregano -- all of the garden ingredients that you need for a pizza. After you harvest at the end of the summer, make pizza sauce with the ingredients from your garden.

2) Use Nature's Art Box
Go on a stroll in your yard, neighborhood or nearest park and collect leaves, small twigs, and flowers to use as materials in a translucent garden window or mobile. All you need are the materials that you have collected, translucent contact paper and string.
For older kids, it is fun to collect rocks and pebbles from your yard or neighborhood and paint them. It is great to show your child pictures of ancient cave art for inspirations. You can even try making your own natural pigment paints using egg white and ochre (blush) for reds and charcoal for black.

3) Recycled Box Crafts
Boxes are by far the best item to let the imagination nation run wild. Refrigerator and wardrobe boxes make a great playhouse or puppet theaters. You can take them outside and let your child color or paint them. You can help them cut windows and doors into them. One way to make the decorating easy and fun is to use a paper cup to hold the paint and tape it to the outside of the box right at your child's arm level.

Medium-size boxes that may be gathering dust in the attic or garage are great for toy train tunnels and matchbox car tracks/highways. Help your child cut the tunnel hole in the box and then help them put tape highways across the tops and sides, then take a marker and add the line for the road.

You can also combine several medium size boxes with multi-colored masking tape to make a fun play tunnel for your child to crawl though. Another option would be to have your child color or paint the tunnel to look like a caterpillar.

Let the kids have fun. There is always the old standby of making plastic bottle boats or toilet paper tube binoculars. Just make sure that all of your boxes are clean and sturdy and that they do not have any large staples in them. Many stores will let you have large boxes like TV or refrigerator boxes that they usually dispose of -- you just have to ask them.

4) Make Your Own "Around The World" Play Dough
It is really easy to make your own play dough from basic to bouncy. It is also eco-friendly and safe for your child.

A really fun way to spice up your play dough and add some fun learning is by using natural spices and scents that come from around the world to create different themes. You can add chili powder, cumin and turmeric for an India theme or lemongrass and ginger for an Asian theme. It gives you a way to introduce another culture through the sense of smell.

5) Water Toy Fun
Instead of the classic water balloon fight (which is a pain to clean up and whose remnants are bad for the environment), opt for easy to make water toy balls that are easy to toss and leave nothing behind when they land but a wet spot. All you need are some inexpensive kitchen sponges and a little imagination. They are easy to make, inexpensive and better for the environment than balloons.

6) Make Your Own Non-Toxic Finger Paint
All small children love to finger paint and they love getting dirty even more. While it is hot outside, why not let them paint themselves (as well as the paper) with your own non-toxic paint that you make at home?

7) Make Nontoxic-colored Rice & Pasta
Rice is an inexpensive, natural item to use to help your child learn and engage with spatial relations. After coloring the rice, all you need to do is put it in a large container with all different sized cups and measuring spoons and let your child pour and fill to their delight. Pasta is also an inexpensive natural item that is easy to color and is great for spatial relationship play like the rice, but is also great for stringing to make necklaces and to glue on to pictures for homemade frames.

8) Sandbox Treasure Hunt
Turn your sandbox into a place where your child can become a pirate finding his treasure. All you have to do is buy some inexpensive pyrite ("fools good") and bury it in the sand box. It is really fun to have your child dress up and then, with shovel in hand, dig up the gold. They will love their treasure.

9) Make A Bird Feeder Out of Recycled Materials
There are so many different types of bird feeders that you can make using recycled materials and items you have in the pantry. One of my favorite types to make is using a toilet paper tube. All you need to do is cover it in peanut butter and roll in birdseed then loop a string through and tie it to a large bush or tree. This bird feeder is perfect for little hands -- very easy for small children.

10) Bring the beach to your Back Yard
Even if you live near the beach, it can take a lot of time and energy to load everything up and get to the beach. So why not bring the beach to your backyard? All you need to do is buy several bags of clean sand from your local garden or hardware store, then pick a place in your yard to put your beach. If you want to contain your beach, you might want to put the sand in a kiddy pool, otherwise just poor in one area and spread it out. Put up a beach umbrella and get out the sand toys. Next it is great to bury and place shells, sand dollars and driftwood in the sand. You could use things that you have collected from beach trips or buy them from a local craft store.

Whether you decide to help your child grow their own sunflower play house, open up nature's art box, or hunt for pirate treasure, there is plenty of eco-friendly fun to keep your child entertained and engaged with nature.

Have fun! Be Mindful!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Running for the Gold

World-Class Recycling at the Olympic Track & Field Trials

Showcasing top athletes for Olympic qualification was not the only goal of this Eugene, OR, event — a 75% waste diversion rate was also eyed.
Olympic Trials recycling 1 1024x764 World Class Recycling at the Olympic Track & Field Trials
From June 22 to July 1, 2012, some of the best athletes in the world descended on Eugene, OR, for the Track & Field U.S. Olympic Trials. The event drew more than 25,000 people each day, most of whom spent part of their time at historic Hayward Field eating, drinking and leafing through programs or shopping for consumer products.
That many people could mean a tremendous amount of waste, but event organizers put a tremendous amount of consideration into waste prevention, recycling and composting. The goal was to divert 75% of waste from the local landfill, and at last count they were a mere two percentage points away from meeting that mark.
Ethan Nelson, Sustainability Chair for the event, admits it was not the easiest undertaking. The trials are a big deal, and they are hosted by people who have invested millions of dollars and for people who have incredibly high standards for themselves and those around them.
“Then we threw in behavior change on top of all of that,” Nelson says.
Still, thanks to good planning, plenty of support from event organizers and local businesses and a concerted effort around marketing and branding, the sustainability team pulled off a remarkably green event.
Olympic Trials recycling 2 1024x764 World Class Recycling at the Olympic Track & Field Trials
Three bins separating recyclables, compostables and trash at the Olympic Track & Field Trials.
In some ways, preparations began four years ago, when Eugene hosted the 2008 Olympic Trials. Community members diverted 68% of the waste generated at that event, an effort that earned them one of the first-ever International Olympic Committee Awards for Sport and the Environment.
The sustainability committee wanted to do even better in 2012. They set out a six-point plan to guide their efforts during the trials:
  • Provide a zero-waste event and support sustainability through purchases
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions in energy and transportation
  • Local food and housing
  • Increase access and support social equity for all
  • Support the local community and economy
  • Leave a legacy
The plan was well received by the event steering committee, which did its part to ensure it was implemented. Organizers required all food vendors to use compostable dishware, adopted a sustainable procurement policy (which included buying some local food for meals) and allowed sustainability committee members ask a lot of questions about how to make every aspect of the event as green as possible.
Olympic Trials recycling 3 1024x764 World Class Recycling at the Olympic Track & Field Trials
Bags of trash and recyclables were separated on site.
Local partners in the effort included Sanipac, the region’s top garbage and recycling hauler; the City of Eugene’s Love Food Not Waste program; Rexius, a composting business; and Next Step Recycling, an electronics recycling company. At the event’s conclusion, BRING Recycling, a nonprofit that specializes in building materials reuse, came in to deconstruct exhibits and other structures. Involvement by these partners was essential in providing logistics and reuse and recycling services.
The next, and perhaps hardest, part was educating the public so they could participate in the event’s sustainability efforts. The sustainability committee asked AHM Brands, a local creative agency, to develop high-quality materials that would give the campaign a consistent look and message. Corrugated plastic signs with the slogan “We Can!” were placed all over the event. That same slogan was used on table tents, program advertisements and golf carts used to haul bags of waste to the recycling area.
Organizers set up a three-bin system in each waste disposal area to make it easy for people to sort. One bin collected compost, one held recyclables such as plastic bottles and one held trash. The composting and recycling bins displayed signs with pictures of which items could go in each. The trash bin was clearly marked “Landfill. Please see our other recycling and reuse options first.” A sustainability video ran on Hayward Field’s video screens before the event started each day, reminding people of the zero-waste goal and asking them to “please sort and discard responsibly.”
“If you’re presenting information, you have to make people interested in it,” Nelson says. “We’re such a heavily branded culture that you have to look good. In fact, you have to do more than that. You have to make people feel good about themselves.”
The three-bin system worked to some extent, but organizers found they still needed to go through every single bag and separate materials. Nelson notes that they started out asking volunteers to do it but quickly realized they needed to pay people. Luckily, Northwest Youth Corps, a nonprofit that provides job training and outdoor education for young people, stepped in and took on the task of sorting through the bags.
Olympic Trials recycling 4 1024x764 World Class Recycling at the Olympic Track & Field Trials
E-waste collection bins were even present at the event.
The blog “Focus the Nation” recently shared this thought: “With 58 percent of people paying attention to sports, and only 18 percent to science, these events… represent a great opportunity to change citizen behaviors.”
The memory of sorting trash from recyclables may not burn as bright in people’s minds as watching Ashton Eaton set a new world record in the men’s decathlon, but hopefully the next time they have a choice between compost and trash, their banana peel will end up in the right place.
Sophia Bennett

About the author

Sophia Bennett is a freelance writer based in Eugene, OR. She has contributed to several magazines and writes a regular column for a local newspaper. Sophia is a dedicated home recycler, avid thrift store shopper and huge compost nerd.…

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Track Food Expiration Dates

Track Food Expiration Dates to Save Food Waste

Photo: Flickr/avlxyz
Written by Chanie Kirschner, Mother Nature Network
It’s important to know when companies use an actual expiration date on items or a sell-by date. Often, the date printed on the package is the sell-by date, so for many items, it’s safe to use things after that time. But for how long exactly?

The FDA points out that when a “sell-by” date is marked on an item, it is simply an indicator for stores to know how long to display something. Alternatively, some things may have a “best if used by” date — that date indicates when an item will pass its peak quality. You can still use the item after that date if stored properly. Finally, some food items will have an actual “use by” date — these food items should be used by the date on the package.

Check This Out: Reduce Food Waste in 5 Easy Steps
So, for example, let’s take an item like eggs. Eggs are not federally required to have a sell-by or expiration date on them, but some states require it. All eggs that are graded by the USDA have to have a pack date on them, however. This date is written as a three digit number, representing the day of the year they were packed. For example, if the number is written “078,” then that date would be March 18, 78 days from Jan. 1.
According to the FDA, eggs are still good for three to five weeks after you purchase them, as long as they’re stored properly in the coldest part of your refrigerator (i.e. not on the door). Even though the expiration date may pass during this time, they are still OK to use.

What about dairy items, like yogurt and cheese? Yogurt will usually be good for a couple of weeks after the expiration date, as long as it’s unopened. Once it’s opened, though, you should use it within a week. And cheese (though it may seem like it can last forever) also has an expiration date. Hard cheeses should be used within three weeks after opening, but can last up to six months in the freezer. (I buy those big packages of shredded mozzarella from Costco and keep them in the freezer for that emergency baked ziti that needs to be made when there is nothing else in the house besides noodles, pasta sauce, and — you guessed it — cheese.)

Ponder This: What if We Had to Pay for the Food We Waste?
You asked about cake mix. A story that circulated through my email inbox a few years ago reported a 19-year-old college student died from eating old pancake mix. Snopes.com found the warnings to be far-fetched, but somewhat warranted, if you happen to be allergic to mold. Pillsbury website says to refrain from using cake mixes that have expired, because of potential changes to taste, color and texture. I say, when in doubt — throw it out. (But then again, that’s my motto for pretty much everything.)

For more info about the shelf (or refrigerator) life of meat and dairy products and to find out more about product dating, check out the FDA’s food product dating page

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

LEED Certified No Kill Animal Shelter

More Green Shelter Design: Friends For Life in Houston Opens LEED Certified No Kill Animal Shelter

After writing about the grand opening of Harmony House for Cats’ new eco-friendly cat shelter in Chicago, I received an email from a Moderncat reader letting me know about another amazing green animal shelter. Friends For Life in Houston, Texas recently opened the Don Sanders Adoption Center, the only LEED certified no kill animal shelter in Texas.
The new adoption center includes a welcoming lobby area, an education and training room, meet and greet rooms for adoptable dogs (they are fostered in family homes and brought to the center only for adoption events), and several incredible cat habitat rooms, where the cats in FFL’s care enjoy beautiful surroundings while waiting to be adopted.
The principal architects on the project were from the Houston office of the progressive Gensler architecture firm. FFL also consulted with Animal Arts from Boulder, Colorado, an architecture firm specializing in the design of some of the most spectacular, award-winning animal care facilities.
Clearly, the design team took into careful consideration the needs all who would be using the space — both animal and human. According to the FFL website:
“Our goal was to create a space that is truly animal-friendly from the animals’ point of view. Their sense of smell and hearing are much more acute than ours. They are generally stressed just to be in a shelter environment to begin with. The fact that we know them at all means something has already gone wrong in their lives. It is our task, in part, to provide as stress-free, healthy and interesting an environment as possible. The Don Sanders Adoption Center is adopter/visitor friendly and follows the highest standards of shelter management.”
In addition to installing a state-of-the-art in-wall wet vac cleaning system for sanitizing the rooms, the air purification system is top notch. The system brings in 100% fresh air from outside, completely turning over the air in each room 15 times an hour. The building’s design brings natural sunlight into every single animal room and every human workspace, plus a professional acoustician was hired to plan the sound environment throughout the facility.
The cat habitats are large cageless playrooms with 19 foot ceilings. Each room is outfitted with streamlined modern furniture and built-in elements that allow the cats to climb and perch in comfort, while making it easy for shelter workers to keep things neat and clean. The rooms are equipped with a slat-wall system that allows shelves and perches to be re-positioned as needed. FFL has a special room devoted to senior cats, as well as a feline leukemia positive kitty room and a kitten nursery.
If you’re ever in Houston, please make it a point to stop by Friends For Life to see this incredible new adoption center.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Green on the Move

Got any tips for an eco-friendly move?

Reusable packing materials and Earth-friendly movers can help ease the strain.

Packing up and moving doesn’t seem so easy on the Earth, does it? I mean, think about it. You’re putting all your stuff in boxes, putting those boxes in a moving truck, driving it across town, or worse, across the country, and unpacking it again. And then you’re left with all that packing material. And let’s not forget the oodles of stuff you’re getting rid of before you even step foot out of your door — let’s hope it’s not going to the landfill.
So what’s a gal to do? Plenty, actually.
First, start early. If you know you’re moving in August, for example, start paring down in June. Don’t wait until mid-July to start packing. If you don’t leave yourself enough time, you end up throwing too much stuff out just because it’s easier. If you start early enough, you have time to figure out what can be recycled and where. For example, if you’ve got lots of shoes you no longer wear, you can donate them here. If you have an old printer sitting in your basement, you can drop it off at any Staples location and they’ll recycle it for you. (Same goes for pretty much any electronics item, by the way.) What about all that paperwork sitting at the top of your shelf in your closet? Shred anything sensitive and then recycle everything. What about all those odds and ends that end up in the trash on moving day? Set them aside early, hold a yard sale just before you leave, and arrange for a donation truck to come pick up whatever’s left at the end of the day. Of course, there’s always Craigslist, eBay, and Freecycle — all great resources for passing along your unwanted items to someone who can use them.
Also, instead of buying boxes, start collecting them up to six months before your move — from friends, from gifts you receive in the mail, online shopping, even from the grocery store. You can also ask your moving company if they will supply some moving boxes for you. Some companies will offer you used boxes and even take back your boxes when you’re done with your move so that someone else can use them. Bottom line: If you play your cards right, you should buy almost no new boxes.
Though it also pays to use nationally recognized moving companies because you’re getting a reliable product, it’s also better to use these companies because they often put three or four households on one truck at a time, saving gas. You can go one step further and look for a green moving company. What does that mean exactly? These moving companies will often use biodiesel instead of regular fuel, pack in recyclable plastic storage containers instead of cardboard, or provide a more Earth-friendly solution for fragile packing besides traditional foam packing peanuts (like this company’s solution — recocubes). You can find a green mover here.
Whatever you do, don’t make yourself crazy. Moving is stressful enough as it is without trying to make over the whole darn thing. Just do the best you can and don’t sweat the small stuff — after all, there’ll be plenty of sweating on moving day.
— Chanie

Monday, July 16, 2012

Contact: Tom Mather
Phone: 919-707-8446

Study Documents Large Cut in N.C. Mercury Emissions from Industry, Power Plants

RALEIGH – North Carolina’s coal-fired power plants have cut their toxic mercury emissions by more than 70 percent since the General Assembly enacted the Clean Smokestack Act in 2002, according to a study the N.C. Division of Air Quality presented Thursday to the state Environmental Management Commission.

The mercury emissions reductions resulted as a “co-benefit” from pollution controls that power plants installed to comply with caps that the legislature set on ozone- and particle-forming emissions in the Clean Smokestacks Act. Those caps required the state’s 14 coal-fired power plants to reduce their nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by about three-fourths over the following decade. 

Power companies achieved those cuts by installing $2.9 billion worth of scrubbers and other equipment aimed at reducing NOx and SO2 emissions, which are the primary contributors to ozone, haze, particle pollution, acid precipitation and other air quality problems.  
“We knew that scrubbers and other controls would reduce mercury emissions, but the actual reductions were larger than we expected,” DAQ Director Sheila Holman said. “These cuts show that North Carolina is one of the leading states for reducing mercury emissions and have significant health implications for our residents.”

Mercury is a highly toxic metal that can accumulate in the food chain when it reaches streams, lakes and coastal waters. Eventually it can reach levels in some waters that make top-predator fish unhealthy to eat, particularly for children, pregnant women and women of child-bearing age. Such concerns have prompted the State Health Director to issue advisories about eating large-mouth bass and other top predatory fish caught in waters across North Carolina.

The study found that airborne emissions account for nearly all (98 percent) of the mercury reaching North Carolina waters. Of those emissions, 84 percent comes from out-of-state sources and 16 percent from power plants and other industry located in North Carolina. 

Coal-fired power plants account for about half (52 percent) of the mercury air emissions in North Carolina. Large industrial plants account for about one-third (33 percent) of the emissions, and those sources reduced their mercury emissions by about 50 percent over the past eight years. The remaining emissions (15 percent) come from about 600 smaller industrial sources.

Further reductions in mercury emissions are expected over the coming decade due to pending federal regulations on power plants, boilers and other industrial facilities. The state’s two major power companies (Duke Energy and Progress Energy) plan to shut down some of their smaller coal plants and/or convert them to natural gas as part of their plans to comply with new federal and existing state regulations.

Other notable findings in the study include:
  • Power plants with the most advanced levels of controls cut their mercury emissions by more than 90 percent.
  • Mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants declined from 3,350 pounds in 2002 to 960 pounds in 2010, a reduction of 71.3 percent.
  • Mercury emissions from the eight largest industrial sources (other than power plants) declined from 1,950 pounds in 2002 to 890 pounds in 2010, a reduction of 54.4 percent.
A copy of the report and other information about air quality issues can be found at the DAQ website, www.ncair.org/. 

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