Is Recycling Really Better For The Environment? Part 2: Plastics

This is part 2 of our “Is Recycling Really Better For The Environment” series and today we are going to talk about recycling Plastics.

Plastic molding is one of the most commonly used processes in product production. As a former industrial designer, I know plastics pretty well and because of the availability, cost and price per unit, plastics have dominated the product and packaging world. Unfortunately, plastics are terrible for the environment and recycling, although better than tossing in the garbage, does very little as applied to the plastic industry.

Unlike paper recycling, plastic recycling does not increase source reduction, in fact studies show that plastic use and plastic trash increases in areas that push plastic recycling. This is a little counter intuitive I know, but if you think abut it, the reason for the increase is because of the increased positive perception of plastics as “eco friendly” because of the recycling programs. The danger of this type of thinking is that people buy and use more plastics, thinking that plastic is eco friendly because it can be recycled.

The simple fact is that most of the plastic that is placed in your recycling bin is used to make secondary products that are not recyclable, like plastic lumber, textiles and containers. Even though this is better than going to the landfill right away, it still does very little to reduce the need for virgin plastics, and the fact that the secondary products are not recyclable, the plastics end up in the landfills anyway, but just at a later time.

Unfortunately the virgin plastic manufacturers know all of this and realize that the increase in positive perception of plastics through public service ads focused on plastic recycling increases plastic sales. This why the majority of all plastic recycling advertisements are bought and paid for by the virgin plastic manufacturers. Not only that, but plastic producers use the recycling logo (chasing arrows in a triangle) on every plastic item that is made, but the logo does not mean anything, the only important thing about that logo is the number in the middle which classifies the type of resin used in that item. The district attorney in several different states are actually going after the plastic manufacturers for this false advertising and are trying to pass legislation to have the logo removed from non recycled plastic items.

With all f this being said, I still believe that it is better to throw that plastic item in the recycle bin rather than the trash bin, however the main point of this article is to let you know the truth about plastics. The only way to truly help the environment where plastics are concerned is source reduction and the only way to to that is to be a environmentally conscious consumer. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your plastic usage:
Do not buy items packaged in plastic. Instead buy items packaged in cardboard or paper.
Only buy food items that are in glass containers. Instead of buying squeeze bottles of mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup, but the glass containers.
Do not buy bottled water. Instead, invest in a good water filter, the result will be cleaner water and a better environment.
Reuse plastic containers. Plastic containers can be reused over 20 times before they need to be tossed in the recycling bin.
Use eco tableware for parties instead of plastic tableware.

Most of all, educate others about the woes of plastic usage and what they can do to help the environment. If you would like to learn more about plastics and plastic recycling, have a look at the Ecology Center’s “Plastic Task Force.”

Now checkout Part 3: Aluminum.

Is Recycling Really Better For The Environment? Part 1: Paper

This is the first part of our “Is Recycling Really Better For The Environment” series and today we are going to talk about recycling paper and answer the question of weather or not recycling paper is better for the environment or not. With that said, et me first start by saying YES, YES and Absolutely YES! I am not sure where people are getting these ideas that recycling is worse for the environment, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Now, of course I can't just make that claim without presenting some sort of evidence to back up my claim, so let me just say that this next blog post is going to be a pretty long. In fact, I will be splitting this post into several different sections each dealing with a different material.

Part 1: Recycling Paper Is Better For The Environment!

When talking about recycling any type of material, a key term that will always show that recycling is better is Source Reduction. Source reduction is a direct result of recycling and affect the entire life cycle of the product. As it relates to paper, when you reduce the use of new paper, you are also reducing the negative environmental effects of producing that new paper.

When a forest is cut down to produce paper, not only is pollution produced form the use of diesel machinery, but when the wood is turned into pulp, it releases all of the CO2 that it has spent its entire life storing. Although trees are considered carbon neutral because they are only releasing the carbon that they have absorbed, the CO2 released from the erosion of the top soil is not carbon neutral because that topsoil loss would not have happened otherwise.

Now, lets first take a look at new paper production vs. recycled paper production using simple logic before we get into numbers and empirical data.

As you can see, recycled paper has a much more environmentally friendly life cycle than new virgin paper. Now lets take a look at some actual CO2 numbers:

Type Of Paper
CO2 per lb.

Virgin paper 0% post-consumer recycled

33% post-consumer recycled

50% post-consumer recycled

66% post-consumer recycled

100% post-consumer recycled

The figures above have been taken from an extensive study done by the Environmental Defense, on paper production and publishing. If you wish to read the entire report please follow this link to the Paper Task Force Report at the Environmental Defense website.

As you can see 100% recycled paper is almost twice as efficient as virgin paper and releases almost half of the CO2 emissions as well. Now this is not even taking into consideration the loss of forests due to clear cutting and all of the environmental effects which happen as a result.

So, whats the moral of this story? Recycle, Recycle, Recycle… Its not hard, just put a recycle bin next your trash can and throw recyclables in that bin instead of the trash bin.

Now checkout Part 2: Plastics

Movie Review: “The Story Of Stuff”

I don’t usually post twice a day, but I just watched this movie and I just had to share it. The movie is “The Story Of Stuff” and its about 20 minutes and I highly recommend that you take 20 minutes out of your busy life and watch this movie.

Annie Leonard narrates this wonderful short and explains the life cycle of things, from the mining and product production, to the consumption and final incineration. Not only does she follow the products, but she explains very eloquently every factor involved including natural resources, people and even governments.

The system of production and consumption is seriously flawed and the human race cannot continue to consume at its current rate less we will be left with nothing more to consume. We need a paradigm shift from this dangerous mindset of consumption. Follow this link and watch “The Story Of Stuff” because simply recognizing the problem will help to create this paradigm shift.

Pollution Showdown: China Vs. US

Everyone is talking about the China Vs. US pollution race and who will end up being the biggest polluter. Many environmental bashers, global warming deniers and people who just don’t care, will quickly point out that China recently surpassed the US in greenhouse gas emissions. They use this fact as and excuse, to say that we (Americans) shouldn’t even bother trying to curb our own emissions because we are doomed by China’s emissions. Personally, I believe this idea is absolute nonsense and that our moral obligation to do the right thing should not be based on what another country or person is doing or not doing.

It should also be pointed out that per person; China’s emissions are much lower than the US. In fact, the US emits 6 times more greenhouse gas per person than China. What this means is that we are using entirely too much energy and that we actually have more power to turn things around than we may think.� Instead of sitting around waiting for a crooked government to make “good” decisions, why not start the change where it really needs to start, with the economy.

Let’s face it, we live in a capitalistic society which is entirely driven by money. That being said, if consumers buy a specific type of product, companies will make more of them at cheaper prices. So, by buying green products, you are essentially creating a larger economy for that type of product, which will ultimately bring in large corporations who will want a piece of that profit. By buying green products from “green companies” you are further pushing the environmental concept and essentially forcing businesses to green up or loose out on this market.

As these green companies grow larger, their lobbyist in congress will have that much more persuasion power ($) to assure that certain environmentally beneficial laws get put into place. Of course these environmental laws and regulations not only benefit the environment, but they also benefit their profits.

Happy Earth Day Everyone


I just wanted to write a quick blog post and wish everyone a happy earth day. I am happy to see all of the wonderful TV programs spreading the word about cutting down our emissions.

It seems that being “Carbon Neutral” is now the “In Thing” which is great. I have noticed that over the past few weeks a lot of Big Businesses are going carbon neutral, for instance Yahoo just committed to start taking steps to be carbon neutral by the end of 2007.

I keep saying it, we the people are the ones who will spark the change. We can make this happen by using our buying power and that way big businesses will follow.

Well today is the day that I officially launched the home site of th Neutral Existence Project. Although not all of the pages are finished right now, you can be sure that we will be working very hard this week to get all of the information up so you can read it and put it to use.

The website is and coming soon is the social networking sister site just for environmentalist at

Now the social networking site is currently closed until we work out all of the bugs, however that will be opening to the public within the next few weeks.

Anyway, check back with us every couple of days to see how its going, or better yet subscribe to one of our blog feed and we will update you via the blog.

Again, Happy Earth Day!!


Carbon Neutrality & Sustainability Definitions

To be an environmentalist, it all starts with educating yourself on the ideas and techniques associated with carbon neutrality, green building and sustainability. You will soon find out that there is a lot more to “being green” than just supporting alternative energies, in fact true sustainability deals much more with low tech applications that harmonize with nature and the natural order of things.

So, in order to help you understand the depth of this field, I decided to put together a small list of terms and their respective definitions.
Bioremediation: The use of living organisms (eg, bacteria &  plants) to clean up oil spills or remove other pollutants from soil, water, and wastewater, use of organisms such as non-harmful insects to remove agricultural pests or counteract diseases of trees, plants, and garden soil.
Black Water: Waste water generated by toilets, kitchen sinks, and dishwashers.
Carbon Neutrality: The state of being carbon neutral where an effective means of offsetting greenhouse gases has been implemented. It establishes that the claimed reductions in emissions, or carbon sequestration, has actually occurred and is stable.
Carbon Offsets: The process of reducing the net carbon emissions of an individual or organization, either by their own actions, or through arrangements with a carbon offset provider.
Climate Change:The variation in the Earth’s global climate or in regional climates over time. It describes changes in the average state of the atmosphere over time scales ranging from decades to millions of years. These changes can be caused by processes internal to the Earth, external forces or, more recently, human activities.
Global Warming: The observed increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s near-surface air and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation.
Gray Water: Wastewater produced from baths and showers, clothes washers, and lavatories: In Green buildings, it can be used for irrigation and flushing toilets.
Green Building: The practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use and harvest energy, water, and materials, and reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better site placement, design, construction, operation and maintenance.
Hydro-Electricity: The production of electricity by harnessing the power of flowing water, usually through the use of a waterwheel
Hydronic Heating: In-floor hot water heating system where hot water is pumped through a thermal mass floor which absorbs the heat and evenly radiates the over an extended period of time.
Passive Solar: The technology of heating and cooling a building naturally, through the use of energy efficient materials, and proper site placement of the structure.
Permaculture: The design of sustainable human habitats. It is based on the observation of natural systems and uses ecological principles to increase diversity and productivity of local human ecosystems. Permaculture designs incorporate food, energy, and shelter for people and animals while linking the needs and outputs of each element of the system. The result is a dynamic yet stable system that sustains itself.
Photovoltaics: The solar panels used to harness the suns energy, and turn it electricity that can be stored in batteries and used to power a homes electrical systems.
Rainwater Harvesting: The act of capturing and using rainwater for indoor needs, irrigation, or both.
Renewable: When a resource comes into being through a relatively fast-acting natural processes (rain is an example).
Sustainable:  Land management practices that provide goods and services from an ecosystem without degradation of the site quality, and without a decline in the yield of goods and services over time.
Wind Turbine: A tower mounted alternator that collects wind energy and converts it to electricity which is transferred to your houses breaker panel, allowing you to rely on your existing utility power supply as only a backup.

Welcome to Neutral Existence

Hey everyone, thank you very much for stopping by and becoming a part of our solution. We here at Neutral Existence believe that we the people can make a difference by using our wits and our buying power to Stop Global Warming and positively affect client change.

Unfortunately, for those of us living in the US where our government is driven by money (in the form of lobbyist) and environmental issues are simply swept under the table, we cannot depend on our government to make the proper decisions. It is up to us “The Consumer” to change our buying habits, alter our way of living and create a new “Green Economy” where big green corporations can begin to flourish and create changes within our government. Unless we have lobbyist representing large “green” corporations in congress, nothing major will ever happen to truly stop Global Warming.
If you would like to be a part of our solution, it all starts by by getting involved. I kindly ask that you signup and get registered in our forums and send more people to this site so we can begin to spread the word about this project. Opt-in to our newsletter so you can be up to date with everything we are doing.

The time is now, help us create a valid solution and support the “Neutral Existence Project”.

Thanks for your support,

Adam Beazley, CEO
Neutral Existence LLC