Thursday, February 25, 2010

Eat, then make compost... no, not that way.

i just saw a commercial that made me stand up and applaud... literally! sunchips has developed a chip bag made from plant materials that will biodegrade within 14 weeks. 14 weeks! that's a little more than 3 months! chip bags made primarily out of aluminum and plastic can take anywhere from 200 to 400 years to turn back into dirt. i'd say that's an improvement.

SunChips - Healthier Planet

p.s. - frito lay makes sunchips. terracycle upcycles frito lay chip bags into back packs and donates 2 cents for every bag to the kenton county animal shelter. i am currently collecting these bags and other items for terracycle. give me your bags.

Friday, January 1, 2010


a plea to my friends and those who just sorta know me (aka: facebookistan),

i know i've mentioned it before, but i found this really cool company called terracycle that takes trash and either finds a way to re-use it or upcycles it into something else. they have regular people that form trash "brigades" to collect the refuse and mail it in a postage paid package back to the company. even better yet, a few cents for every item you collect is donated to a charity of your choice.

they have brigades that collect all kinds of stuff, from used cell phones to yogurt cups, to scotch tape dispensers. there are currently two open brigades that i want to sign up for; candy bar wrappers and chip bags. so here's what i need from you all; i need people willing to give me their trash and the trash of others. also, i need a good local charity (and their tax id) so that i can apply to be a brigade leader. any ideas? i was thinking of the kenton county animal shelter or the free store food bank. i can do a different charity for each brigade, i just need ideas.

this is not going to be one of those situations where i just throw an idea out there and wait for one or two people to say they might help. i'm gonna bug the crap out of my friends and family on this one! it's just too good of an idea! i mean, it keeps trash out of the land fills, prevents the use of virgin materials and the energy required for production, and it gives back to charity. who could possibly not like that. and, i'll do all the work... well, unless you really get into it and start collecting trash from people you know as well. in that case, you are awesome.

so, check out terracycle, send me some ideas for charities in the area to donate to, and join my brigade! these change every now and then, so i'll let you know when a new and interesting brigade comes available. thanks!

yours always,
brigadier mciver

Monday, November 30, 2009

I still love the earth, I promise.

holy crap! it's been over three months since my last eco-blog. i promise you i have not fallen off the wagon. i've just been conserving energy by not typing. ;-)

anyway, i was on the cincinnati zoo website the other day and found some awesome info about little things we can do to help make this world just a little better. so, i thought i'd share! so that i'm not just plagiarizing their info, i'll just give you the links. they are done in top ten format... and who doesn't like a top ten?

ten things you never knew you could recycle

ten ways to help local wildlife

ten ways to make your home a little greener

ten ways to save money while saving the earth

ten easy things kids can to to save the earth (big kids too)

when i have more time, i'd like to comment on some of the info and websites provided here (specifically

but for now, i'd like to make an offer to any of you that know me. if you are interested in or have even thought about recycling, but do not currently have a recycling bin, let me know. i will be glad to find out how to get recycling in your area, find the closest recycling station, pay for a recycling bin if your locality requires it, or even pick up the recycling from you and take care of it myself. once you have a mindset to recycle, it really does become difficult to actually throw stuff away that still has a future.

that's all for now. i promise to try to post more often. merry christmas everyone!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

bottled water = evil?

bottled water. we all drink it. heck, it's just as easy to get as a coke but it's better for you. honestly, i'd never really thought about how harmful to the environment bottled water is. i mean, it's water! what harm could it possibly create? then i read an article about Fiji Water on not real sure how i stumbled onto this website, since finance is quickly becoming one of my least favorite topics (right up there with colonoscopies and the jonas brothers), but it is an enlightening read.

very little of this article is about the effects of bottled water, but what it did mention is how ridiculous a concept it is!

"Bottled water is notorious for its position in top five lists of "what not to do" for the planet. One day, future civilizations will look back on this decade and wonder in disbelief why it was that we pumped water out of one part of the planet, encased it in plastic, then encased it again for shipping, and spent many many non-renewable resources to bring it to another part of the planet where clean water was already plentiful. It's patently ridiculous." i couldn't have said it better myself.

don't get me wrong, i love filtered water. i grew up drinking my water from the tap and the garden hose, but either by habit or corporate brain washing i enjoy the taste of filtered water much more than non-filtered. supposedly, it is better for you (specifically in the removal of lead) and i do think it has a better taste (that could be the brain washing, though.) however, the concept of paying for something that most restaurants give you for free has never set well with me. ad to that the fact that most people do not recycle their plastic bottles, and the problems outweigh the benefits.

here's my suggestion. buy a water filter. brita and pur both make water filters you can either attach directly to your faucet or that filter the water into a pitcher. it tastes the same and it's just as good for you. over the long run, you'll save a bundle and you will keep hundreds (if not thousands) of plastic bottles out of the land fill. even if you recycle, it is still better for the planet to not even have the product in the first place. of the three r's (recycle, reduce, reuse), recycling should be the last resort.

i also suggest that you read this article.

here is another one that is even more damning for Fiji Water.

the picture it paints of Fiji Water is not very pretty. i intend to read up on this company more to get a more balanced opinion of their business practices, but as of now, i am personally boycotting Fiji unless i find these claims to be untrue. i also intend to purchase bottled water as little as possible from hear on. sometimes it will be necessary and sometimes it will be a better idea health-wise than the alternatives, but over all it just seams to be a silly concept.

importing and paying for water... why?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's cheap! It's easy! It's... aluminum!

ok, so everybody knows that recycling is a good thing and that throwing stuff away that you should recycle is bad, right? why? now there's a thinker. why? why is recycling so good and throwing stuff away bad? (and no sunday school answers, either.) the thing is, there is no solid answer without context. for the sake of this post, my context is a coke can.

aluminum is one of the most useful metals available to consumers today. it's heat resistant, holds up to freezing temperatures, is quite malleable, and costs very little. it also does not break down easily. aluminum in any form can last for over 400 years before it even starts to biodegrade.

but it's so small that it doesn't take up much space in a landfill, right? nope. 68,000,000,000 lbs. of aluminum are produced every year. the average american throws away 14 lbs of aluminum per year from packaging (coke cans) and 3 lbs. of aluminum foil. now multiply that by everyone living in the continental u.s. and you've got... well... alot! each year tens of millions of tons of aluminum in any form end up in landfills. that's TONS, not pounds.

the good news is that aluminum is one of the easiest and most frequently recycled products in america. why is that? well for one, it's so frequently used and easy to sell. the second reason is that it is 100% recyclable. that means there is no waste. none. this is the only recyclable material that does not break down and create some sort of waste in the recycling process. 1 recycled can = 1 new can.

so, we know that it's easy to recycle. that still does not tell us why we should bother. well here's the dirt. aluminum is made from bauxite. bauxite is a mineral that has to be mined and formed into metal. mining and smelting (turning it to aluminum) takes lots of energy. most of that energy is created from burning fuels like gas and coal. it also creates a great deal of heat and emits toxins into the air during the smelting process. those toxins include hydrogen flouride, sulfur dioxide, and nitric oxide. these toxins rise into the air and settle on the plants and soil around the smelting facility and in the surrounding towns. this hurts humans and... wait for it... cows!

cows, you say? yes, cows. cows eat grass that has absorbed the toxins from the smelting process. over time, this causes the cows to lose their teeth. now, i know this sounds ridiculous, but it is true. if a cow has no teeth, it cant eat. if it can't eat, it can't produce milk and gets skinny. that means we all end up drinking soy milk and eating veggie burgers... well, maybe not that drastic, but you get my point.

now, the toxins don't just attach to the grass cows eat. it also lands on crops and vegetables we eat. since we don't necessarily eat from the same crops every day like cows eat from the same grass, we aren't likely to lose our teeth over this. but we could lose something more valuable. over time these toxins can build up in our bodies. in significant quantities they can lead to parkinson's disease, alzheimer's, and lou gehrig's disease.

recycling aluminum creates none of these toxins.

also, it takes less energy. 5% of the energy it takes to mine bauxite, in fact. that equals 20,000,000 barrels of oil per year that would be saved. and that means we pay less at the pump.

...and the cows get to keep their teeth.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

repurposing: junk = candleholder

much of what i post will be ideas for turning trash into treasure... so to speak. honestly, i hate to throw away anything. my greatest hope is that doc brown will finally perfect the mr. fusion used to fuel the flux capacitor. (if you aren't a big nerd like me, this is a reference to back to the future 2. basically, trash was used to power a time machine. rent the movie, weirdo!)

anyway, paper products and food containers aside, trash takes up space and usually doesn't biodegrade quickly. in most cases, trash goes to a landfill where it is covered with layer of dirt, never to see the light of day again. there in lies the problem. light is one of the ingredients necessary for material to break down efficiently. air is another. obviously, these two resources aren't prevalent under even a foot of dirt. you can take a core sample of any existing land fill and will likely find garbage from when it first opened. (maybe this would be the best way to find vintage clothing from the 60s.)

so, what to do with junk: that is the question. i define junk as random and often large items that have either broken, worn out, or existed past their intended function. furniture, clothing, kitchen appliances, old toys, etc. are good examples of what i mean. if something breaks, it's often less expensive to just replace it than fix it. if it's outdated (like vhs tapes or last years wardrobe), we get rid of it. this is why God invented yard sales and gave us the salvation army and goodwill. however, some things aren't even fit for donation and therefor finds its way to the trash bin. what other choice do we have, right?

wrong. get creative! people have found new uses for old junk for years. i recently bought a book titled "re-creative" by steve dodds. it provides ideas and inspiration for making something out of nothing. clocks made out of hub caps, pillows made out of neck ties, and fruit bowls made out of electric fan covers are just a few of the ideas showcased in this book. let's start off simple, though. do you have a chunk of wood or stone laying around that you need to get rid of? how about making that into a candle holder!

let's be honest, though. most people don't have large blocks of wood or rocks laying aroud their yard that they are just dieing to throw away. the book mentions scrap stone blocks from a construction site. this could be bricks or masonry blocks that have been broken and are no longer useful in the construction process. a person could also use cinder blocks, wood scraps, drift wood, or a small tree stump.

so how do we turn this otherwise undesirable waste of space into an eye-catching candle holder? i'm glad you asked, martha stewart! first, you will need to gather your materials and tools. obviously, you will need the "junk" and candles (standard 3/4" long stem candles work best). you may also need stick-on felt, but this is optional. the required tools consist of a pencil, an electric drill with a 3/4" masonry bit (or regular 3/4" drill bit if you piece is made of wood), and a brush.

second, decide where you want your candles to go. use the pencil to mark the location of each candle so you know where to drill the holes. keep in mind, you don't want your candleholder to tip over when the candles are installed, so don't go crazy with the number of candles and try to keep them away from the edges. it looks better when they are centrally located, anyway.

next, drill holes in the stone or wood approximately 1" deep. blow the dust out and scrub with the brush and water to clean out any excess that you may have missed. this would be a great time to clean the rest of the candle holder as well.

once it has dried thoroughly, apply the adhesive felt to the bottom to prevent damage to any surface it sits on. of coarse, if there is not a flat bottom to the candle holder (like if you used a regular rock or tree stump) this may not be possible. if wood is used instead of stone, you may also want to use some sort of wood sealer to give it a shine and protect it from further degradation.

finally, make sure the candles fit snug. if the hole is too small, you can use a knife to trim down the candle. if it's too big, wrap electrical tape around the base of the candle until it fits.

the great thing about repurposing "junk" is that you save space in the land fill and you also save yourself some money. keep an eye out for any interesting "junk" that you may see sitting out by the curb on trash day. you won't always have an idea for what to make at the time you pick something up, but when inspiration strikes you'll be glad you grabbed it. you may save yourself a trip to ikea.