Posts filed under ‘Packaging’
Paper use is, at times, astounding. The average American uses 700 pounds of paper per year, which is over 7 trees per person. There are some very easy things you can do to reduce your paper use.
- Stop getting junk mail. This probably won’t be much of a burden. Simply visit Waukesha County’s website to learn how to get off of junk mail lists. Think this won’t make a difference? Every person in our country gets about 250 pieces of unsolicited mail every year, and in the course of a lifetime, you’ll spend about 8 months sorting through it! This easy fix saves time and money. As a quick reminder: if you do get junk mail it is recyclable. Even paper envelopes with plastic windows belong in your blue bin, not the trash.
- Cool as the other side of the paper. Set your printers at work and home to print duplex. Work printers usually have this option, which is easily set. At home, you may need to feed your paper through the printer twice. This post by TechSoup will walk you through the duplexing do-si-do whether you have a duplexing printer or not. Duplexing just not possible? Use the other side of the paper for scratch paper. I like using junk mail envelopes for grocery lists, for example. I just keep all the coupons for that week in the envelope.
- Make paper reduction automatic. Set up automatic bill pay through your bank or the companies that send you bills. Everyone saves postage and paper, and everyone is happy.
- Give wrapping the axe. Wrapping paper is a huge use of paper products. Consider using more creative wrapping that is reusable, like wrapping a kitchen gift in towels or use reusable gift boxes. Need some ideas? I kept track of gifts & how I wrapped them for the holiday season in 2008 and 2007.
- Use & Reuse. Whenever possible, use reusable plates, cups, and napkins, and rags for cleaning. By avoiding single-use paper products you can save yourself a lot of money as well as a lot of paper.
Waukesha County’s sustainability program has a lot of great information about reducing paper use at work.
So why not give it a try? This week, try to reduce your paper use. What ideas worked for you? What other ideas do you have? I’d love to hear about them!
If you are unlike me and can keep a plant alive long enough to get it home from a nursery and then transplant it, you may acquire plastic pots or seedling trays. I often get calls from residents wanting to know how to best dispose of plastic flower pots and trays.
Reduce. Consider purchasing plants from seedlings or seeds if this is possible.
If you make your own seedlings, cut up toilet paper tubes, newspaper, or paper towel tubes. This way you can plant the entire seedling with growing container and all!
Reuse. There are a lot of great ideas on the internet. Some include:
- Wipe out fire ants in your yard or on the patio. Place a flowerpot upside down over the anthill where these stinging attackers reside. Pour a kettle full of boiling water through the drain hole.
- Keep your yarn tangle-free while you’re knitting or crocheting. Place the ball of yard under an upturned flowerpot and thread the end through the drain hole. Set it next to your favorite craft spot and purl away.
- Help shallow-rooting plants establish themselves in a new, large container. Rather than fill the container top to bottom with potting soil, set a medium-sized flower pot upside down in the bottom of the container. Add the potting soil, and then repot the new plant.
Also, check with the nursery you originally purchased your plants or seedlings from. They may be interested in taking them back so that they don’t have to buy new ones every year. This option works best with nursery’s that grow their own plants and seedlings from seeds. Consider purchasing plants only from a nursery that offers this take-back program.
Recycle. Recycling these rigid plastics is currently very difficult, as the commodities markets are suffering from the poor economy. While Whole Foods has a stable market and collects plastic #5′s, this program does not address other numbered pots. Occasionally there will be special collections for these pots at Boerner Botanical Gardens, however there is not one scheduled for this year.
As recycling markets are supported by people purchasing items made from post-consumer recycled content, demand for the collection of these products also rises. Whenever possible, be sure to practice the 5th R and ‘Rebuy’.
This video follows 2 students through their day to show ways that we can all save energy and reduce trash.
As smart2begreen points out, there are a lot of extra cardboard boxes floating around after the holidays.
According to the 5 R’s, the best thing is to try to reduce the number you purchased. I am assuming it is a little late for that idea this go around. However, in the future consider:
- Reusable boxes instead of ‘one-time-use’ gift boxes
- If moving is in your future, check out companies that supply reusable moving boxes like www.rentagreenbox.com or a similar service.
- Try to purchase things with less packaging.
However, since you already have boxes, reusing is the next best thing. For those who are extreemly talented (i.e. not me) you can make some really cool lamps or furniture from foldschool. If you can’t reuse your boxes, consider giving or selling them to someone who could. Put them up for reuse on-line at sites like craigslist or freecycle. Do you want someone to do the work for you? Check out U-Hauls free box trading message boards or see if your local U-Haul store collects them for reuse. U-Hauls and UPS usually will take packing peanuts as well.
If your boxes are too damaged for reuse, recycle them. For each bale recycled:
-17 trees will not be cut down
-7,000 gallons of water will not be used
-380 gallons of oil will not be used
-the energy saved is enough to heat your home for 6 months!
But what if your cardboard can not be recycled because it has been contaminated with grease? Procede to the 4th R – Rot. For composting information, visit our website.
And as always, if you must buy new – complete the recycle cycle and buy products made from recycled content (preferably post-consumer). Do you have any creative ways to reduce or reuse cardboard boxes? Do share!
This was just too great of an idea not to share. While recycling is great, reusing items is even better and thanks to Team Eco Etsy via EarthFirst, there are easy directions to easily make a waterproof shipping envelope.
Here is what you will need:
This Norman Rockwell photograph is supposed to represent the ideal Turkey-Day. Although, I also enjoy Alton Brown’s interpretation of what this picture has done to our society. Despite the fact that turkey probably wasn’t even eaten on the original Thanksgiving, this is the image permanently etched in my head as I barrel through isles at the grocery store in search of the freshest ingredients to make a huge meal that no one in their right mind has any hope of finishing.
Waste reduction comes to my mind more so at the holidays because of all the extra trash we generate at this time of the year. Each week between Thanksgiving and New Years, Americans create 1million extra tons of trash. Since trash that goes to a landfill never goes away, we are not only spending a lot of money throwing away all of that trash, but are loosing the valuable energy and natural resources used to create that trash. From now until New Years I plan on sharing with you the little ways I plan to reduce trash through the holiday season.
This year I am hosting Thanksgiving. Last year we did this as well and we generated a lot of trash! By planning ahead I hope to drastically reduce the amount of trash we make without having people notice. Just because I want a waste-less holiday doesn’t mean everyone in my family will embrace the tofurky and reducing fuel usage by eating together via webcam. I think the best way to go about this problem is to think about what made up the lion’s share of our garbage last year.
- Food waste from preparing dinner. This was a big one. Potato peelings, fruit rinds, egg shells. You name it, I made it. This past year I have started composting. My compost bin is pretty much filled for the winter, but I am going to make sure that food waste from preparing dinner as well as compostable food scraps left on people’s plates will make it in to the bin before I officially close it up for the winter.
- Food packaging. This is another large culprit. This year I am double checking to verify that I am purchasing items with the least possible packaging. For example, for items I know I will use a lot of (staples, if you will) I have bought in bulk. For other items that I wont ever use again, I have bought the smallest size possible. My husband and I don’t drink soda very often, but we got a 2-liter for family members who drink the stuff almost exclusively rather than a lot of individual cans or 20 oz. containers. We also buy juice for the kiddos (not the re-hydrated or concentrate varieties) because although concentrate would make less trash, looking at the entire energy life cycle, it takes less energy to transport juice in larger containers than to dehydrate the stuff (containers that I make sure are recyclable btw). Also, I bought bacon that just came in the plastic rather than bacon that was in the plastic and then in a box. Downright goofy. Eggs I purchase in a paper egg carton as opposed to Styrofoam so that i can recycle it.
- Left overs on the plate. Last year we had huge plates that everyone filled to the breaking point, plus plates for salad and bowls for jello. Not only did this make our table very crowded, but it was difficult to realize just how much food you were even taking! This year I am doing away with all the extra plates and bowls. People can go back for seconds, which is better anyway because the food will be a lot more likely to stay hot if it is in the original container I cooked it it rather than sitting on its own ‘lil plate. Thats right – subtle psychological ploys to get my guests to take only what they will eat and not feel the need to beach themselves once full.
- Left overs in general. Last year was my husband and my first attempt at hosting a holiday. We had no idea about how much food to make and were a little over zealous in our attempts. This year I knew what to scale back on. Just as important, I have recipes handy to make tasty leftovers. I can personally vouch for this recipe to use up extra turkey and stuffing. I also plan to make turkey soup with the bones, and Shepard’s pie. One of my favorite tricks for making soup is to freeze individual sized portions in small, microwavable safe glass bowls. Then, once the soup is frozen I pop the soup-cicle out into a plastic bag so that I don’t have my dishes lost in the freezer forever. When someone needs an individual portion of soup you can just pop the soup-cicle back into the microwave safe dish and warm it up!
While Thanksgiving tends to revolve around family, football, and a really fun parade – food waste and food packaging are things that can easily be lessened by thinking creativly and planning ahead.
Last night I had the opportunity to have a pleasant evening out with my husband’s coworkers. Someone ordered a soda in a glass bottle, and everyone was quite surprised that the particular brand he was drinking was available in a glass bottle. Apparently, it is a recent development.
This raised the debate: which type of beverage container is best? It is important to note at this point in the evening, that the people my husband works with know vaguely that I work for the county, but they have no idea about the full on environmentalist, I occasionally blog as a raccoon, can rattle off really odd statistics about energy savings and economic impacts of recycling, will bring an aluminum can home to recycle it before I will throw it in the garbage version of myself. As soon as someone asked the question, the hubby glanced at me, as if to say, “don’t. just don’t.” So I kept my mouth shut – for a little bit.
The opinions all around the table were strongly held. Everyone agreed that glass was the best of all three options taste wise, but that it is more expensive and difficult to get. Plastic bottles are easier to drink out of than aluminum, especially on the go and the soda doesn’t taste like aluminum. Aluminum tastes better because the drink gets colder and doesn’t taste like plastic. I swore two people in the corner were about ready to pick dueling weapons over plastic and aluminum when I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut anymore. Consider it environmental tourettes of some sort.
Plastic and aluminum are very much the same. This is because aluminum cans are a four layered product. The aluminum can has an interior plastic liner. On the outside of the aluminum can, there is an oil based painted image, and then another layer of plastic. From what I can tell, both plastic bottles as well as the plastic liner in aluminum cans are made of PETE, or #1. If you are looking to reduce your plastic consumption, then both are a poor choice. However, glass is heavier to ship so there are ecological effects associated with glass as well.
Some humble suggestions,
Reduce: For beverages, consider buying them in concentrated form or in bulk. Feeling very DIY? Consider making your own!
Reuse: If there is a bottle return option in your area, use it! Do be careful about reusing plastic bottles yourself, though.
Recycle: All beverage containers are recyclable in your curbside recycling bin in Wisconsin. A few recycling factoids:
- Aluminum: Recycling 1 aluminum can saves 95% of the energy it would take to make the can from scratch. That is enough energy to light up a 100 watt light bulb for 4 hours!
- Plastic: We use 3,250,000 water bottles in America every hour! When you count all plastic bottles, we use 1.5 million barrels of oil a year to make those bottles. Recycling plastic saves 70% of the energy required to make the materials from scratch.
- Glass: The average American uses 140 glass bottles and jars a year. If everyone in Waukesha County recycled those bottles, we would save enough energy to light up a 100 watt light bulb for 201,600,000 hours.