Friday, November 30, 2012

Let the shopping begin!

Now that the Turkey is eaten, the leftovers gone, and the house guests have vacated the premises, it is time to start your holiday shopping! Did anyone go out on Black Friday? I have to say that I ventured out but not until after 2pm. At that time, the only places that were crowded were places to eat. Everyone had bought their door buster deal items and retreated to one of the many food establishments to re-fuel.

As I was shopping the few small businesses I needed a few things from, I noticed that there is a big difference between them and the big box stores. Oddly enough, the difference is in the name of the comparison.

Big boxes vs. small boxes.

Have you ever noticed that in small businesses, aka mom and pop shops, the amount of packaging almost always seems to be less than that of the big box retailers? I remember reading somewhere that the built in price of the packaging can be anywhere from 1 to 10 percent of the item’s total cost.

That reminds me.

As you are shopping the latest and greatest items this season, be sure to keep in mind what you learned from my Pre-cycling post. Think about the packaging and the item you are buying based on its recyclability, longevity, and reuse.

In the 5 weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Americans trash more than 1 million TONS MORE every week than usual. Let’s see if we can’t make a dent in that increase this holiday season. So here are a few green holiday tips to guide you.

1.       Save and reuse your cardboard boxes.

2.       Green your meal prep by buying fresh produce with no packaging, recycling your containers and give food gifts (like cookies!!) in reusable containers.

3.       Make recycling easy for guests by making small recycling bins visible and available for use.

4.       Create an art project for the kids and have them color those larger holiday season newspapers. Use it as a great personal gift wrap that is fully recyclable!

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gobble, gobble!

The biggest eating holiday of the year is upon us. Well, maybe Super Bowl Sunday is bigger, but, nonetheless, Thanksgiving is big. It is big in many ways. Not only do you have to break out the sweatpants to make room for the extra indulgences, but your recycle bins are also likely to be busting at the seams. While you hit the malls and the gym the following day, your recycle bin isn’t so lucky.

Every day Americans use 100,000,000 steel cans. On Thanksgiving, we are likely to use around 200,000,000. All of those cans that hold our beloved green beans for the green bean casserole, the cranberry sauce, and the pumpkin for the traditional pumpkin pie are all part of this huge increase.

Here are a few quick facts about this widely used food packaging material:

o   Steel cans make up about 90% of the U.S. food can market.

o   Americans use about 100 million steel cans every day. That's 36.5 billion cans a year.

o   Around 63% of steel cans are recycled, making them the most recycled packaging product in America.

o   Steel cans contain at least 25% recycled steel, but many are made almost entirely of recycled steel.

o   Every minute, approximately 20,000 steel cans are recycled in the United States. Using recycled steel to make new steel saves energy. The steel industry saves enough energy in one year to electrically power 18 million homes for one year.


While you hit the malls and the gym the following day, your recycle bin isn’t so lucky. If you don’t have an extra bin, try using some extra cardboard boxes to hold the additional recyclables. Or if you don’t participate in your community’s curbside program, now is a great time to start. Many programs are free or at a very low cost. Another great benefit is that you won’t have to buy additional garbage cans. Or maybe you won’t have to replace the ones you currently have so often if you have an outlet for the recyclables. Prevent your garbage cans from overflowing and give your recycle bin some stretchy pants this holiday season. It’s likely to need the extra room!


Friday, November 16, 2012

I recently embarked upon a journey through the brains of 5th graders. As part of an educational segment on the 3 R’s and recycling in general it is interesting to see the differences in what kids know and how much or how little they know about certain things. And while this journey took me through weird alternate dimensions, there are some lessons I have taken away from this experience.

First, kids know more than you think they do. I was surprised to find out that they pretty much all knew that their trash was taken to landfills. (We don’t’ have any incinerators in our area) And I was also surprised to find that several knew that landfills produced methane gas. It seems like this topic isn’t a very popular one but they did understand, for the most part, how a landfill works. When we got to the recycling part, many did know that you recycle to save resources and that their materials were made into new things.

The alternate side of this is that I was taken aback by the things they didn’t know. Mostly, they hadn’t learned enough about this topic to connect the dots as to what conserving resources, or not conserving them, means to us and to the Earth. The fact that reusing and recycling material is throwing less away not only saves the landfill from producing more methane; but it also means using fewer resources and all the energy and pollution prevented from that end as well, seemed to turn on a light bulb. It literally looked as if 90% of them had a little light bulb hovering over their heads that turned on. It was just like in a cartoon.

There is something so satisfying about being the catalyst for this thought process. Critical thinking skills like this will keep verifying the need to acutely develop them if not every week then every month of their lives. What a great way to begin this journey in life by thinking critically about your role in the community, the region, the country and the world.

Tags: Bloomington Recycling, Normal Recycling, Decatur Recycling, Peoria Recycling