Posts tagged recycle

Day Without a Bag

Today is California’s Heal the Bay organization’s Day Without a Bag.   Even if for only one day a year, take today to refuse all disposable bags.  If you need one, use a renewable reusable tote.  If you live in Los Angeles County, then consider yourself lucky – today all around the county sponsors are giving away free reusable totes for people interested in greening their lives. Want to know where?  Go to this site: www.healthebay.org and look up the disbursement locations.  Everyone else, well, I guess you’ll have to campaign your local orgs to run a similar program next year.  In the meantime, start by using one less of the average 500+ plastic bags Americans consume each year!

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Eco-conscious Christmas

It can be hard, come holiday time, to stick to your eco-guns when purchasing gifts for others.  After all, even though you LOVE your NatureMill composter and would like to buy one for the world, to your auntie Mary, no matter how well you explain the concept, it’s just plug-in box full of trash.  So unless you want some serious regifting going on, you might want to find  some products that sneak your eco-conscious sensibility in the back door, while your none-the-wiser fam revels in their tasty and chic gifts.

For some eco-chic clothing that doesn’t slack on style, check out nau.com, a socially conscious outwear company that offers coats galore for the dark days of winter.  They offer all sorts of other great clothes too, but hey, it’s cold out there!  I especially like the Shroud of Purrin Hoodie (yes, they have a good sense of humor!), which takes the classic hoodie and adds some super soft lovin’ to the inside, while sporting class it up cut details that take it from the gym to your dinner date without a change of clothing.  For urbanites, they also offer the super soft coat in a trench version, shown below.  The best thing about nau.com is that for any purchases made, 2% of the sale price will be donated to your choice of five eco-conscious causes.

Of course some people are receptive to getting green gifts, and for them, please, promote away!  Perhaps you could send a sheep or cow (in their name, not to their doorstep, can you imagine the shipping?) via Heifer International, an organization that lets you adopt a livestock animal or flock of birds for a family in a developing country.  Or maybe buy a TerraPass with carbon offset points for someone you love, helping them to green their whole year.  It’s a little less cute than a smiling cow, but promotes alternative energy development and comes with a convenient calculator that will let you offset individual actions such as that holiday plane flight to visit Grandma. And if you’re stuck for green ideas, they also have a gift store on their site which makes it easy to pick up eco-gadgets for anyone in the family.

And finally, if you want to give a present to your whole town, visit RecycleBank.com and express your city’s interest in joining their recycling program, which actually PAYS YOU TO RECYCLE (which you do anyway, right?  So it’s free money!!!)  When a city signs up with RecycleBank, the company puts RFID tags on your curbside recycle bins and on the trucks that come and pick up their contents.  For every pound you recycle, the truck logs the weight of your bin, and you earn points and coupons which can be redeemed at local businesses for free or discounted stuff, thereby stimulating your local economy and encouraging recycling at the same time!  Some cities currently using the program have seen recycling rates go up from around 3% to almost 30%, and the cities themselves save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in reduced waste transport costs to the landfill, which they split with the company.  So next year, there will finally be enough money in the town budget to buy LED lights to power the annual light festival, or switch to CFLs in city buildings, saving money (and landfill space!) for generations to come.

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Plants Need Rescuing Too!

The other day I was out for my morning run when I happened upon an all-too-common urban sight: gardeners pulling up plants to make room for the next season’s flowers in commercial flower displays.  To be precise, the gardener was pulling up young boxwoods which over the course of the growing season had lost their perfect lollipop shapes, and replacing them with rounder versions of the same plant.  Anyone who has boxwoods in their yards will know that they are perennial plants which grow slowly and make excellent living borders.  Certainly not landfill material after a growing season.

To replant the same thing and toss the old plants seemed like such a waste for a little aesthetic symmetry, so I stopped and asked to rescue as many as could be carried.  The gardener said sure, and in fact, wouldn’t I like to come back the next morning, too, when they would be pulling all the marigolds and replacing them with mums?  Of course I would!  So the next morning I bundled up early and went to retrieve the flowers.  Though marigolds are annuals, and were near the end of their lives, they were heavy with seeds, and easily yielded at least 2000 for planting in the spring.  Not bad for a morning’s work!  And in two months, the whole process begins again as a new season’s colors take over the beds.

This is pretty much the norm for commercial landscaping services.  If you are looking for inexpensive (usually free!) plants for your garden, consider asking your local plaza who does the gardening and contacting them about rescuing unwanted plants.  They usually keep a regular schedule which you can put on your calendar.  Even almost-spent annuals can make great displays of color for entertaining before yielding seed for future plantings.  If you have a compost pile, this organic matter will greatly aerate your pile, increasing the speed at which the soil is formed.  And, of course, you learn a little more about what goes into creating the perfectly manicured version of the world that we urbanites take for granted.

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DIY Success Story – Solar Garage Heater

Diy Solar Air Heater from Soda Cans

DIY Solar Garage Heater

Here’s another project done right.  Again, this one comes from the resourceful mind of a car enthusiast who spent too much time in a cold garage.  I guess when you’re already in the garage, it’s easier to put construction projects into action!   Using only materials had around the house, he built something that warmed the air, and learned a lot in the process, too, from the people who commented on his experiment.  Read the full story above.

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zeroHouse – Making Your Home Work for You

Nice. No, really, everything about this concept is nice, from the idea, to the execution and the website. So nice that you’d better go check out the website for yourself, so I’m only going to provide one chart here as a teaser.

zeroHouse by Scott Specht

This house does it all. Collects water, uses high-capacity solar, makes its own compost, and looks amazing while doing it through your laptop. And you can construct one in under a weekend. How’s that for simple? It’s certainly inspiring.

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DIY Solar Heater

It’s only March, but the sun is already beating hot and heavy on us here in SoCal. But here’s an easy project for you to try in the colder regions of the world: a solar heater that converts the visible light spectrum to usable heat using pennies! Yep, pennies. So I hardly need to tell you that this solar heater doesn’t cost too much to construct. It’s yet another good idea from the folks behind greenupdater.com, a site that shows you DIY projects that can enhance your life using alternative energy. Visit their site for the full instructions, but here’s the equipment list so you can collect before jumping in head-first:

2x 20″ x 30″ Foam Board – at your local hardware or craft store.

About 300 pennies (Ross uses 304) – Start looking in the couch.

Flat Black Paint – Benjiaman Moore Eco-Spec paint which is a low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) latex paint. Many hardware stores will sell you small sample jars.

24″ x 36″ Plexiglass – At your local hardware store.

Spray Adhesive

Hot Glue Gun

Packing Tape

Utility Knife

And here’s a picture of the completed unit: DIY Solar Penny Heater

Happy Easter everyone!

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The best website ever?

Freecycle.org

Oh, how I love Freecycle. It might be the best site on earth for getting people to reuse the things sitting in their garage gathering “don’t need it, but can’t toss it” dust. I’ve been able to find a lot of the materials necessary for solar projects just by asking. Maybe that has something to do with living in Sunny CA, the mecca of earth-friendly solar enthusiasts, but I’m pretty sure with a little ingenuity, you can get started on your solar projects with little more than a bit of gas money. Just remember to return the love when someone asks for that one-of-a-kind thingamajig you have rotting in the basement.

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Trashing our Oceans

Stuck in a rut trying to motivate yourself toward a greener life? Here’s an animation that you should see. Greenpeace – The Journey of Trash . Just click on the link above to view it.

Plastic Beach, Hawaii

If you want to help the world out in some tangible way TODAY, just take a look in your trash can. See a lot of plastic? Remember that these days, recycling companies are able to take many more types of plastics than even a few years ago. According to one site I visited recently, there is enough dissolved plastic in our oceans to place a saran wrap thickness of it over the surface of every ocean on earth. And most of that is in little tiny bits, which sea animals easily mistake for plankton and other small prey. If, as recent studies have shown, you absorb plastic chemicals into your body when drinking from plastic containers (see this USA Today article for starters), then imagine what eating a fish who’s spent his life dining on plastics might do. Scary thought. Every piece of trash that you recycle is one less that can find its way out to sea. As it stands now, there are areas of the ocean so think with floating trash that shipping boats can’t even pass through them, so they route their ships around them, using more fuel.

When I first heard about the “North Pacific Gyre” as the largest water landfill on earth is called, it seemed impossible. Why not just load it up on ships and haul it back to port for proper(ish) burial? But the problem is, we put so much INTO the ocean every year, even with dredging, we’d hardly be able to keep up. So do yourself, and the planet, a favor today. Make a commitment to put ONE LESS PIECE of non-biodegradable trash into your trash can, whether you find another use for it, you buy a product with less packaging, or you take another look at what might be recyclable in your can. One. How hard is that? Do that every day for a month (okay baby steppers, start with a week), imagine how happy the fish (and the people in Alaska, Russia and Japan!) will be. That’s reason enough for me!

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Meet my solar panel~

Aaron Cake’s Converter http://www.aaroncake.net/circuits/inverter.asp

I decided to start my experiment by figuring out how to convert the power my solar panel will one day generate into usable power for my daily activities. First stop: the DIY version at the web link above. Um, yeah. Way over my head (and it seems it’s over everyone else’s on that site too. It’s their most popular “help” topic!) Makes spending $75 for the version from the store seem all that much more attractive. I think I’d blow up at least that much in equipment trying to get this to work. For all of you electro-philes out there though, this is a nice site with descriptions of tons of gadgets I could never hope to successfully build.

When I picked up my solar panel, which the guy gave me with the caveat that it wasn’t working due to a voltage drop, he suggested that maybe I could slice apart the panels and charge smaller batteries instead. Since my goal is still to use them as a whole, so that I can deal in 12V current and not have to create a voltage understanding nightmare (this statement alone may proclaim me an electronics newbie, I have no idea), I decided to give the panel a good looksie and see what there is to work with. The panel is composed of about 18 individual panels, set up in a series circuit. Here’s a little diagram:

The Circuit

They output to a little box on the back with two wires. One for each battery terminal, I have to assume. The clear vinyl(?) covering on the panels has started to peel back, and the aluminum frame is disassembled from where the former owner tried to attack the voltage drop problem. Around the edges is a strip of what looks like aluminum foil, keeping all the layers together. So, first thing I did was get rid of it. Sure hope that’s not part of what makes it work! Next to go will be the clear covering, once I find a suitable replacement, because it’s dirty and peeling. Any suggestions on a good material?

I did receive an auspicious sign this morning, one that let me know going solar is definitely in my future: As I was walking down the street, thinking about what the best use for that panel would be, someone had put a roll of solder wire on top of their trash can for the taking. In city-slicker Los Angeles. Oh, joy! If you think dumpster diving is wrong, well, you and I probably won’t have much in common. I take my blessings where they come, and finding free and recycled parts for my experiments is definitely always a big one. So, the rest of today will likely be spent digging through my toolbox to find my old soldering iron. Looks like this solar panel’s gonna get a make-over after all! See you soon~

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Breaking Ground…

Welcome to day one of a grand experiment. As a greenie-at-heart, but not always in practice, I’ve been gliding through life claiming to be more ecologically friendly than I must really be. Heck, I’m not even sure what the best steps to take will be! So, in a spirit of jump on in the deep end, I acquired my first solar panel this morning. I feel greener already, even though it’s just sitting in a dark corner at my house. It’s old and needs some love before it’s going to work, but I’m determined to make it replace something in my life that uses grid power. The guy who graciously freecycled his old panel said that it would charge a 12 volt battery (a car battery). Okay! Now I need a battery, a converter, and a clue about how to hook this stuff all up! Looks like I’ll need make a few smart friends along the way.

Rather than tell you this blog will be this or that, and fail miserably, I’m going to let it just grow like one of those mystery seeds you pick up off the floor. If I succeed at learning anything, maybe you’ll learn something too! If not, well, I’ll try at least not to make things boring. Thanks for stopping by.

Here’s my textbook!

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