Find Recycling Locations Near You With This Online Directory

Do you have a bunch of old electronics sitting around, just waiting to be recycled? Is it difficult to find a location near your home that will accept even standard recyclables such as paper, aluminum, and plastic? Thankfully, this website will let you know exactly where you can deliver items to be recycled, based on where you live. 1-800-Recycling is an online directory that you can search for locations to drop off all sorts of recyclable items.

From their website: “ features comprehensive recycling location database that gives the user the ability to easily assemble a recycling to-do list. The database is location based, and aims to make your recycling needs as easy as possible, whether you’re clearing out the house during spring cleaning or simply looking to recycle a few shopping bags.”

The easy-to-use website lets you search by category and zip code. After inputting what kind of item you would like to recycle and where you live, the website will offer several suggestions with directions to each of the locations, making the process a very simple operation for determining where you can most easily deliver your items. The list of categories is quite vast, too, and includes lots of not-too commonly recycled things such as packing peanuts, old paints, and expired automotive equipment.

I highly recommend 1-800-Recycling! Check it out so you can safely recycle all of those things you’ve been meaning to get rid of!

Buying Green and Renewable Energy: Weighing the Options

Many of us want to buy renewable energy for our homes. We are tired of burning natural gas or coal, both of which contribute to climate change and changes in air quality. However, for many people renewable energy is a challenging thing to create at home. You might live in an apartment and be unable to install solar panels or a wind turbine. If this is just not possible, there is a way to contribute to the production of green and renewable energy without installing it yourself.

What energy are you buying right now, and how green is it? In the United States, most electricity comes from coal. Coal emissions cause smog, particle pollution, and acid rain. Coal is also the largest energy-related source of global warming emissions. Oil is another dirty fuel. Burning oil pollutes the air and leads to global warming through its production of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide. Natural gas is cleaner than coal and oil, but it is still a fossil fuel that leads to emissions. Nuclear power does not contribute to global warming, but it does create radioactive waste that will be dangerous for many generations to come.

What is considered green power? Geothermal energy is energy from the ground. The heat from the earth creates energy. Solar power is sun energy. Wind energy takes the power of the air and uses it to move a turbine. Large scale wind energy has been criticized for its noise and its interruption to the flight paths of migrating birds. Two controversial forms of renewable energy are hydroelectricity, the use of water from dams to create energy. While this does not burn fossil fuels, it does cover forests and farms with water. Bio fuels are made from plants. Some of these plants may be waste products, while others may be grown specifically for their use as fuel, displacing food crops. When you buy green energy, take a close look at what you are buying and whether you support its use.

The simplest way to support green energy is to switch your home electricity bill to green pricing. Check to see if your provider offers this option. This electricity is sold at a higher price and supports the electricity provider in its efforts to increase the renewable energy it has available. You can also switch providers if your current provider does not have a green option. You can find a list of green electricity providers at the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

If you want to buy and support green power but your electricity provider does not offer that option, you can show your support by buying Renewable Energy Certificates. Essentially, these are a contribution to the production of green energy, and each credit usually equals one kilowatt-hour of energy. You can’t say that you’re using this energy yourself, but you are paying for it to be added to the grid.

For those of us who are unable to install green technologies, contributing to the overall production of green energy is a good way to reduce the impact of the energy system as a whole.

How Humans Have Impacted The Oceans

The devastating BP oil spill is still on everyone’s minds as its ecologically dire impacts on the ocean continue to take a toll. The scale of this particular problem is huge, but unfortunately, it’s just another way humans have wrecked havoc on the sea. The ocean is crucial to global ecology. It’s not separate from those of us living on the land. Fish and aquatic life may suffer first from the effects, but we too will suffer; we are all connected, after all.

The journal Science reports just how much of an impact we humans have had on the oceans. Here are some of the effects, quoted from

Warming: The oceans have absorbed between 25 to 30 percent of all human-generated CO2 emissions since the industrial revolution. But as seas warm, this rate of CO2 uptake slows down. This means more CO2 stays in the skies. In the future, global warming will happen faster and faster.

Acid: All that extra CO2 its turning the oceans more acidic, making it much harder for marine species to build carbonate shells. Today, ocean acidification is happening 30 to 100 times faster than ever in the recent geological past. Left unchecked, coral reefs and shelled animals, such as clams, will start literally dissolving by the end of the century. Some plankton—the base of the marine food chain—may also be wiped out.

Dead Zones: Fertilizer run-off and fossil fuel burning are creating dead zones in coastal seas. Humans are the source of about half of all nitrogen carried by rivers to the seas. Too many of these nutrients fuel oxygen-sucking algae and microbe blooms. Life up the food chain, from shrimp and oysters to fish and fisherman, suffer for it.

Toxic Blooms: This excess flood of nutrients also spur a toxic form of these algal blooms, which kill fish and make coastal residents really sick.

Suffocating Fish: There are increasingly more and much larger open ocean zones where fish struggle to catch their breath. That’s because the ocean is like a giant layer cake, where warm, fresh layers sit atop colder, saltier ones. But as surface waters warm, this stratification is becoming more pronounced, and less oxygen is moving from the rich deep waters to the oxygen-deprived ocean surface.

Seafood Threats: We are creating an acronym soup of pollutants in our oceans: POPs, DDT, and PCBs, not to mention methyl mercury. Human activities are moving unprecedented levels of these pollutants around the globe, and these accumulate in seafood we eat.

Lead: The one bright spot on this list. Since leaded gasoline was phased out in the 1970s, lead concentrations have decreased in the North Atlantic back down to early 20th century levels.

When will we begin to take better care of our planet? Will it be too late by the time we realize it?

Where Does Your Milk Come From?

Ever wonder where that jug of milk came from that you just purchased at the supermarket? Just how far away were those cows raised? Well, thanks to this super nifty website, you can find out exactly where.

From the website “where did my milk come from?”:

You’d be surprised. Did you know different brands of milk often come from the same dairy – and the same cows? Often, the same dairy provides milk for store and brand names, only differentiating them by their label! Most dairy products, especially milk have a state and plant code. Go get the milk out of your fridge and, and find out which dairy it comes from.

Created by a student of Brigham Young University, the website has a database with information from the FDA’s interstate milk shippers list, which is public information not easily accessible for the average consumer. The website also accepts codes from dairy products other than milk.

For those interested in eating local foods, this website will allow you to make that more possible. Most dairy makes no mention of where it comes from, but now you can find out! Very cool.

Discover Bicycling Trails and Directions on Google Maps

Google has recently updated Google Maps with an option to find bicycling directions, lanes, and routes. Although some major cities have physical maps with bicycling routes, it’s usually pretty tough for cyclists to find safe routes in unfamiliar territory or on long distance journeys, so this latest Google Maps update is a blessing.

The update includes a “Bicycling Layer,” which shows bike paths and bike-friendly streets with or without lanes:

  * Dark green indicates a dedicated bike-only trail
  * Light green indicates a dedicated bike lane along a road
  * Dashed green indicates roads that are designated as preferred for bicycling, but without dedicated lanes

Google encourages bikers to send feedback and route information for inclusion via the “Report a Problem” tool. Will this latest update make for more cyclists and less cars on the street? Well… probably not, but it’s a nice thought. Check out the official announcement for more information.

Learning Communities Are Sustainable Communities

Carbon-neutral living. Is it about technologies? Well, it is and it isn’t. Technologies facilitate this new way of living. Solar and wind power and even water-saving toilets all play a part. Yet there’s an esoteric aspect to creating a new way of life too. If we’re asking people to re-localize, how do we build communities where people have the skills to become more locally-reliant and self-sufficient?

Schools have a role to play, of course. However, the education system is a large beast, and it’s hard to move. It’s important to consider how we learn outside the education system: how we learn as preschoolers, how we learn as adults, how we learn as students in our time outside school. How can we create life learning opportunities that facilitate the development of sustainable and self-reliant communities?

Think outside the box. Stack boxes on top of each other and nest them inside. Create puzzles and take them apart again. Instead of prescribing solutions or following solutions that are prescribed for you, think about what you and your community really need and try to make that happen, even if it’s not what everyone else is doing.

Learn by doing. Books are lovely things and they can be very inspiring and instructive. However, we also need to revalue the apprenticeship. People who can do things are important. Building a rain barrel, creating a green roof, and spinning wool are all important skills, and we need to value those who practice them and learn some of those skills ourselves.  We are talented people: we can give birth to children and nurse them, we can build our own houses and grow our own food. We need to rebuild our trust that we can do these things.

Learn what is relevant to you and what inspires you, not what someone tells you to learn. Discover what you need to know about your home and the land around it, then seek out opportunities to create this learning. Invite others to join you.

Accept everyone as an expert and everyone as a learner. In these days of experts, few people want to accept the role of the expert, and few people feel that they are credentialed enough to do so. Build a community of people that is involved in learning and sharing, and you take the pressure out of teaching, and it flows.

At the same time, honor those who share what they know. This might be something like baking bread or weaving a basket. Those who do things that are not socially valued may be unused to being honored for sharing their knowledge. Yet this knowledge is important, and it is important to be thankful for it.

Remember how to involve everyone in learning. Children and grandparents are part of our communities too. Instead of segregating everyone into age-appropriate learning environments, we need to remember how to learn together and how to craft learning opportunities that work for everyone in different ways.

How is your community becoming a learning community, one that is prepared for shifts in global climate and energy use and one that is prepared to become more self-reliant?

47 Ways to Live With Less Plastic

I was happy to recently stumble upon Beth Terry’s fake plastic fish, a blog devoted to her adventure in learning to live with less plastic, and in the process, tallying her consumption and plastic trash collection. As she states on her About page, it was a photo of a seabird with a gut full of plastic bottle caps and other plastic trash that set her on a course of trying to bring less plastic into her own life and creating less trash.

It is a very respectable project that Beth has embarked upon, and I salute her efforts. To help make it easier for people to consume less plastic, she has offered up 47 ways to live with less plastic. Some are very familiar, such as “carry reusable shopping bags”, but there are a variety of suggestions to help readers in their own quest to live with less plastic. It’s important to note that living plastic-free can become something of a major lifestyle shift, which is crucial and part of the recognition of just how omnipresent plastic is in our lives.

Check it out!

Where To Buy Products Made in the USA

It’s difficult to find clothes without tags that say “Made in China”, or electronic equipment, shoes, tools, kitchen appliances, and well… just about everything. It seems like a rarity to find something that is still actually made in the USA, but there are indeed companies out there that still manufacture products at home.

Whenever I have to buy something new, I try to find products that are still made in the USA, but at times it can be difficult. Thankfully, I recently stumbled upon Still Made in the USA, a directory of American-made clothes, tool, kitchen appliances, music gear, green products, and more.

Products that are manufactured in the USA have less miles to travel, and help to support local economies. And there is a probably lesser chance of labor exploitation occurring in stateside manufacturing companies. Again, it’s my first choice to find things that I need used, including clothes, tools, and kitchen equipment, but during those rare times when I cannot find something second-hand, I seek out that Made in the USA label.

Check out Still Made in the USA to learn about companies that are still manufacturing products at home!

Those Who Live In Glass Houses

I’ve always wanted to have an odd house. As a university student, I studied straw bale building and dreamed about creating my own straw bale or cob creation, a piece of art that I would live in as well. Now, I wrestle with ideas of green roofs and living walls, and I’m about to integrate both into a new house, albeit my daughter’s playhouse.

Those who live in oddball houses can be intriguing souls, and you can become one of them. In your home search, think outside the custom-built new dwelling or the suburban box and think about all of the ways you can grow a green home.

The simplest eco-move is to buy used. If you are buying land, you can also purchase a recycled house. These homes retain the patina of normalcy but are a big step towards recycling nonetheless. I grew up in a home that had been moved several blocks: it was a beautiful 1930s home that has now lasted for decades beyond its initial demolition date. Moving an old house that is going to be demolished is a time-honored tradition. Get a beautiful old home, get some land, and combine the two.

Recycled houses may also be made out of reclaimed materials. Re-stores are springing up to sell reclaimed housing materials. Ever looked at the waste left behind when a home is demolished?It’s a sad and horrendous thing. Re-stores reclaim materials from older homes with lovely wooden floors and vintage cupboards, glasswork, and even doorknobs are scavenged and resold to those who want to reuse and get the cachet of the past.

Treehouses and green roofs seem to be all the rage these days – a throwback to the elves and hobbits of The Lord of the Rings, perhaps? Or simply a creative use of natural materials? From engineering marvels situated in the trees to traditional sod houses built under the ground, these homes maintain wildlife habitats and use the natural environment as their visual playground, blending in and becoming a part of the landscape.

You can also grow your own home, and if you don’t grow it yourself you can certainly source the materials from a farmer who has grown them for you. Straw bale and cob building integrate renewable materials and are excellent for those who plan to build and maintain their own home. They offer superior insulation from the cold and the heat, and while they are a technology in their own right, straw bale and cob houses can also be user-friendly. You build, you know how to repair them. If you’re moving onto a piece of land that has forest and you need to create space for a home, you can also consider integrating some of that wood into your future home. Forests far away will thank you for using your local materials to create local buildings.

Then there are the houses that seem to be a little more out there. Homes built out of tires? Glass or plastic bottles? Why yes, and more. There are homes built out of just about anything that you can reuse. Knotts Berry Farm has a bottle house made out of 3,000 whisky bottles. If you’re taking this home-building approach, I simply entreat you to source from your neighbors as well as from your own domestic habits.

Now, environmentally-friendly homes can be dead normal too. You can have the conveniences of modern life and achieve them through solar, wind, and geothermal energy and efficient appliances. But if you want to live in a glass house, if you want to go a step further in natural appearance and materials, there are many ways to do that as well.

How far would you go to create a recycled or eco-friendly home?

Where Does Your Trash Go?: The Hidden Life of Garbage

We all know the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Unfortunately, we’d like to think that recycling goes a long way into decreasing the amount of trash that goes into landfills. However, it’s the reducing and reusing that are exponentially more effective actions in the stride to preserve our delicate environment. Recycling is perhaps a mere drop in the bucket compared to reducing the trash we produce in the first place.

Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage is a book that probes the increasing amounts of garbage, landfills, the politics of recycling and the export of trash to developing countries:

“Eat a take-out meal, buy a pair of shoes, or read a newspaper, and you’re soon faced with a bewildering amount of rubbish. The United States is the planet’s number one producer of trash; each American throws out 4.5 pounds daily. How did we end up with this much waste, and where does it all go? By excavating the history of rubbish handling from the 1800s “an era of garbage-grazing urban hogs and dump-dwelling rag pickers” to the present, with its high- tech “mega-fills” operated by multi-billion-dollar garbage corporations, Rogers answers these questions with a “lively authorial voice” (New York Press), offering a potent argument for change.”

Amazingly, 30% of all landfill space is occupied by packaging, the biggest category of household waste! The history of trash is an enlightening one, and the future is increasingly frightening given what is at hand. Check out Gone Tomorrow for an insightful look into the world of garbage and what it spells for our environment, and just where that soda can goes once it leaves your hands.