Sunday, January 24, 2010

What is made from Oil

In the quest to reduce our dependence on oil, many people think only of conserving gasoline. When people discuss the threat of an oil crisis; transportation, and the impact of the of inhibited transportation on our society, are discussed as the primary impact. However, there are many other products we use in our daily life that would be scarce if our oil supply dwindled. Also, the consumption of these products increases each of our carbon footprints. Here are a few:

1. Plastics
2. Synthetic Fabrics: rayon, polyester, acrylic, nylon, etc.
3. Laundry Detergent
4. Soap
5. Cosmetics
6. Hand and Body Lotion
7. Candles
8. Carpet and Linoleum flooring
9. Ink
10. Crayons
12. Deodorant
13. Glue and adhesives of all types.
14. Tape
15. House Paint
16. Building Materials
17. Insulation
18. Tires
19. Shoes
20. Auto parts
21. Nail polish
22. Medications - Aspirin, Antihistamines, Cortisone and the capsules containing medication
23. Food preservatives
24. Shaving cream
25. Toothpaste
26. Eyeglasses
27. Solvents
28. Roofing materials
29. Balloons
30. Umbrellas

Recycling petroleum products is, at best, a partial solution. Plastics can only be recycled a limited number of times. Soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, health and beauty products and many other products can not be recycled.

Corn or plant based plastics are also only a partial solution. Not all of the products named can be made from plant plastics. The environmental impact of growing enough crops to replace all of these products would be enormous.

The bottom line is that the environmental problems of our time are complex and the solutions imperfect. The best solution is to reduce consumption these products, reuse and repurpose what we can, and hope for the best.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Recycling Plastic Bags to Reusable Bags

Check out this video I found showing how to make reusable shopping bags, hand bags, and book bags from disposable plastic sacks. I love this idea and want to try it out sometime soon.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Zero Waste Challenge: The Paper Coffee Cup

I have a paper coffee shop coffee cup to dispose off. Now, if I frequented coffee shops, or if I had planned ahead, the obvious alternative would be to bring a reusable travel mug with me to the shop. It is not like I don't already have several of these at home. But, I hadn't been planning to go, and I didn't take a mug, so it just happened. Now I have a travel mug to dispose of.

Of course, since these paper cups are made for hot beverages, it could be reused several times before disposal. A quick rinse would have cleaned it sufficiently for a second use. But, not seeing the need to transport hot beverages anytime soon, I didn't opt for saving the cup.

This is what I did with my cup. First, I removed the plastic lid and tossed it in the recycle bin. Maybe I could have found a reuse for it, but, my creativity had not kicked in that day, so I had no ideas.

Second, I removed the paper sleeve from the cup and put them in my compost bin. Since it is paper, the cup should fully compost. I am not certain whether the cup contains a plastic lining or not. I will have to see if a have one left once the cup breaks down.

Since it is the dead of winter here in Utah, my compost has been accumulating in 5 gallon buckets outside by back door. Once we get a spring thaw, the cup will go into my new compost pile. Check back next summer to see what is left of my cup.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Zero Waste Challenge

So, for 2010, I will be devoting the year to eliminating waste that goes to the landfill, and reducing the amount of waste that goes in the recycle bin. I think a full year will be sufficient time to find alternatives for both the things I throw away all the time and that infrequent items. I will be evaluating both my the waste I throw away at home and away from home.

Of course, with my greener lifestyle, I have already been taking steps to reduce the amount of waste I generate that ends up in the landfill. These are some of steps I have already taken.

Recycling: of course, recycling is a great way to keep waste out of the landfill. However, the process is still uses a lot of energy and produces pollution. Reducing waste is a better option.

Compost: I have been diligently composting kitchen and yard waste that can be composted including biocompostable paper and plastic items. I have even saved compostables during the winter to start a fresh pile in the spring. I have even brought home biocompostable food containers from eating out to add to my pile. For more information about composting, check out this article.

Using cloths for cleaning instead of paper towels.

Reusable Shopping Bags: I have been diligent about using reusable shopping bags at the grocery store. I will commit to use reusable bags for more of my shopping.

Water Bottles: I carry a water bottle and avoid purchasing bottled water.

Saving and reusing my glass jars, tin cans, metal pie plates, plastic food containers, boxes, bags, and any other containers I can find a use for.

Repurposing: I have been repurposing may items from denim to thrift store yarn and wire hangers to make useful household items.

Donating to Thrift Stores: Usable items that I no longer have a use for, and can not repurpose, are donated to my local thrift store so they can find a second life in another home.

Eliminated the use of paper and plastic plates, cups, and utensils by using real glasses, plates, and utensils at home; even for outdoor parties.

Home canning fruits and vegetables that I grow in my yard in reusable canning jars.

Using reusable holiday wrapping.

Packing waste-free lunches.

For all of these efforts, I still have some items going in the garbage can. Although my can is never full, and rarely even half full, I feel like I could be doing better. Continue reading this year to see more posts on my Zero Waste Challenge.