Recycling While Traveling

After spending a week in some really strange weather for Florida, I can’t say I wasn’t glad to reach dry land again yesterday when I arrived back at home. However, that little trip did teach me a lot about living green while traveling. It also provided some insight into how businesses and communities are working together to reduce the amount of waste produced.

Disney is one of the most popular vacation spots in the country. I had never been, so I hadn’t had a really good grasp of just how large this particular resort was in reality. It is vast in size and resembles a mid-sized city rather than a resort. Encompassed in its boundaries are every conceivable want of a tourist, vacationer, and even the business traveler could desire. In short, it is magnificent.

It is also extremely clean and environmentally friendly. The wildlife live side by side at Disney without either hindering the freedom of the other. This intrigued me, so I asked a few question on just how that could be since it doesn’t seem to happen anywhere else. The answers I received surprised me.

Disney has a multitude of recycling bins for various trash. This makes it a snap to continue recycling efforts while on vacation. To help reduce the confusion of mistakes in these bins, the receptacles had shaped openings to fit what should go inside. These were scattered throughout the park in vast numbers to encourage tourists to go green. They are simply painted and decorated to match whatever area you happen to be in. This keeps people happy as there are no eye sores and animals happy as there is less trash that can be harmful to them being left on the ground.

In fact, Disney goes even further in their conservation efforts than most vacation resorts. All of the benches in the Animal Kingdom are made from recycled plastic. They look and feel like wood, but are made entirely out of plastic that would have otherwise become part of a landfill. This greatly reduces the amount of trash inside the dumps and gives something that is needed back to the community. (Trust me, that park is huge and those benches are needed to rest very tired feet!)

Further, you can’t even get a straw in the Animal Kingdom because Disney doesn’t want them on the ground. They don’t want their animals to suffer at our carelessness. Some of the animals Disney shelters are on the endangered list, such as the manatee. For this reason, Disney takes extreme caution to preserve the natural world around us as much as possible while still delivering a magical experience that has become their trademark.

After learning about the efforts of Disney, I decided to look into what I could do with all of my discarded plastic trash at home. The possibilities are really endless-from molds to planters to containers for other items. One thing I discovered is that plastic shopping bags don’t have to end up in the trash at all. Out of boredom (read that as a need to relax and do nothing for a couple of hours), I began to braid some old shopping bags together. I spent most of the afternoon doing this yesterday and ended up with the best bath mat I’ve ever had!

I did put some double sided tape on the bottom of my plastic braided rug when I was finished to avoid slipping, but water won’t ruin this one and washing it is a breeze. I just have to rinse it every now and then under running water and I’m done.

I will be working on a completely recycled scrapbook and will post that with instructions as soon as I have it finished. So far, it is proving to be a most memorable method of preserving the trip to Disney. I’m finding as I research for this blog that going green is less work and much more fun than I ever imagined. In fact, it’s completely painless.

If you have ideas on how to recycle items and reduce the trash on the planet or on how to live a little greener, please feel free to share them with me. I’d love to hear from you.

It’s only garbage-the high price we pay for trash

Have you ever wondered just where your trash ended up after you toss it into the garbage can? Has it ever occurred to you that the trash you discarded may have a monumental impact on the world in which we live? Have you ever considered that there might be something you could do to reduce the amount of garbage you produce in a day?

If you have, then you are among a growing mass of people who have begun to realize that our trash has consequences we all have to pay. And, you’re probably also in the growing number of people who are sighing, thinking there really isn’t anything you could do anyway.

But, you’re mistaken. Each of us can do a lot to preserve the natural world around us and improve not only nature, but our own health at the same time.

Yesterday, I started a post about this topic and intend to run a few in a series to help everyone learn the fun that can go along with becoming more responsible environmentally. It really isn’t as painful as protesting in undesirable weather and living within the trees for years to ensure they aren’t cut down. Many of the things we can do that preserve the environment are not only easy, but they are attractive as well.

I touched on some of the many crafts and reuses of items normally thrown away in the last post. I didn’t explain what happens to the trash once it leaves our trash can in the garbage truck, though. Today, the idea is to learn what happens once we throw something away and what the impact of that action has on us.

Little Johnny tosses a handful of school papers in the trash. He doesn’t think about where they came from or where they are going. He just knows you told him to clean out his backpack and that’s what he’s doing. He has to if he wants to go play baseball outside with his friends.

His sister, Suzy, dumps the junk mail into the garbage along with a soda can and few wads of plastic from the wrapping on her new CDs. She never stops to consider what will happen to it beyond the normal trip outside for the garbage man to pick it up at the end of the week. She only wants to listen to her new music.

Dad drops by the trash can with an assortment of shredded paper from documents and other goodies he’s left at his desk. He gets rid of the coffee cup with the plastic wrap from a trip to the gas station and deposits a candy wrapper-its contents long since gone.

Mom throws away the most. She rummages through the house for any trash that missed the observation of the others and even adds her own special touch to the garbage as she fixes dinner. Plastic and Styrofoam from packages of meat and cardboard from boxes of pasta heap themselves on top of the already bulging kitchen trash container.

No one considers the consequences. The trash this family has accumulated has grown. It will be set out to the curb for pickup, be compressed, and be tossed into a landfill to sit until it degrades. It is in the degrading that the problem of trash is first seen. Not all things biodegrade at the same rate.

Food and natural matter in raw forms that are similar to food biodegrade rather quickly and without a lot of fuss. Insects come along and take care of most of that variety of waste, leaving little behind. But food is not really a huge concern when discussing trash. It will decay as will any living thing and return to the earth from which it came.

Cardboard and paper are sometimes a concern. Besides the fact that many trees were removed from the land to produce the paper products, there is the fact that these items are slightly slower to biodegrade. Instead, they become homes and nesting materials for rodents and insects alike, creating a high pest population.

Plastic, rubber, and a variety of other such materials are a major hazard. These items will sit in the same landfill for what should be considered forever as they have biodegradable life spans of 3-5 hundred years. They will keep the landfills full and cause the need for the development of new landfills indefinitely.

You might think that conventional recycling is the best answer. However, for some items, recycling it can cause as much or more air pollution and damage as filling up the dumps with it. It is for this reason that we should all consider new and innovative methods of reusing the very things that will come back to haunt us in our own backyards.

Trees and plants are opposite when it comes to respiration. They intake carbon dioxide and give oxygen as a by-product. Humans intake oxygen and give carbon dioxide as a by-product as do many members of the animal kingdom. If we were to take a few of our plastic castoffs and turn them into attractive planters for our homes, not only would each of us reduce the amount of plastic in landfills but we would also breathe easier.

Ann had some wonderful ideas on how to use some castoff food parts for fertilization. Her idea on the egg shells used in potted plants and in gardens is not only friendly to the garbage pile but also friendly to us-especially if the plant we are using them with happens to be a tomato.

There is a horned tomato worm that can consume in a single meal an entire tomato plant. However, egg shells prevent this worm from his favorite food source-our tomato plants.

Her tip shows what can happen if we all think of just one or two things that would better the environment. Only a few seconds of our day would really change but the benefits we would reap could be huge.

Coffee grounds make great scouring aids when cleaning burnt on food from pans and they help a garbage disposal stay free of smells that we don’t find pleasant.

Newsprint works well to clean windows and mirrors with a solution of vinegar and water.

Craft paper for the kids can be made using paper that has been allowed to soak into pulp in water and dried using a screen for molding. Once dry, it offers a variety of colors and textures that make new creations shine.

And, all of this takes but a few seconds of time yet reaps a much more pleasant earth for us to live in. Tomorrow, I’ll list some tips and tricks for items outside the house-like motor oil, old tools, license plates, and more. In the meantime, give it a try with a few going green tips and let us know what your tips are. We’d love to hear them!

What Does “Going Green” Really Mean?

If you’ve watched the latest trends out there, you’ve probably noticed the increased desire to “go green”. And, like most people, you probably even know this has to do with the environment. Following the normal course of things, you may have even considered “going green” yourself, but then thought it would be a huge undertaking and procrastinated the decision.

But, “going green” doesn’t really have to be a painful act of sacrifice. In fact, very few people realize just what “going green” really means. That’s alright. Today, we’re going to go over it together and get everyone on the same track to saving our earth.

The color green itself brings to mind the good old days of running through the grass and skidding to a stop in the most lush part of the yard. Many pairs of pants went green that way during the growing up years as we sported grass-stained knees and smiles during the long lazy summers.

In the teen years, “going green” was as simple as writing on both sides of the paper instead of only one. Boys were better at this since we girls preferred to write out our dreams in the form of names: Mrs. So and So, over and over again. If we girls were feeling really environmentally friendly back then, we’d use a little less makeup and save a container or two.

As we reached adulthood and became young parents, we began to seriously worry about the size of our landfills and what we added to the air we had to breathe. That’s when it happened: we started talking about “going green” in a whole new light. No longer did we want to waste the precious resources our children would one day inherit. We plotted, planned, and executed methods of preserving the very things we had once used without reservation.

In essence: we had become our parents-our worst nightmare. After a few tears and the realization that Mom and Dad had always been really cool and therefore, so were we now that we saw the light, we dismissed our mistaken take on all things hip and relaxed.

So, you may be wondering just what “going green” has to do with all of this. It’s simple really. “Going green” is just a way of growing up, becoming responsible citizens of planet earth, and sharing in the consequences of our society’s actions. It means changing our ways to improve our lives and the lives of generations not yet born.

Here’s a few ways we can accomplish the feat of “going green” painlessly:

Trash is a little more than garbage. By recycling materials, we can help preserve resources.

Recycling items doesn’t necessarily require separate trash bins, either. Plastic jars make great piggy banks for kids. You can even let them decorate the banks in any manner they wish for some great family time while saving the earth.

Paper towel rolls make great storage containers for artwork that you may want to save for the future. When your child’s masterpiece leaves the fridge, just roll it up and store it inside the tube. Label it and cover the ends with some tape to ensure nothing else gets to the art you have so carefully preserved. Then, store away for a rainy day.

Save plastic spray bottles to re-use. They make great plant misters or can be reused with the same cleaner they originally held. I love to use my old ones, after washing thoroughly of course, as water guns. My teen daughter and I have a great time cooling off together in the summer this way.

Glass jars can be used in a wide variety of ways. They can be turned into sand art for display, be filled with colorful rocks from outings, hold pencils, pins, or other office supplies, and even serve as a perfect place for odds and end nails that are forever showing up. The list of possibilities are endless.

Old computers can be donated to women’s shelters, children’s centers, and other places where they will be revamped into working means of communication. The best part is, you get to write off the donation on your taxes. Imagine that, getting paid for going green!

Paper items can be recycled in many ways. While not all paper should be reused straight from the trash, many of the paper products we toss could be. For example, milk cartons and the like make excellent planters and candle molders. Cardboard is great for making paper dolls, small houses for the kids, and even gardening mats to save the old knees.

For the trash you absolutely must throw out, try using paper bags instead of plastic bags. It may seem like an inconvenience, but plastic takes over 300 years to biodegrade. the paper will allow for faster degrading and therefore less problems down the road.

“Going green” can be fun and family friendly. With just a little imagination, you can save the planet and have fun. Oh, and by the way, the kids will love doing things like they were done in the ancient days of their parents. The reward for you is the knowledge that you learned it from your parents and you got the kids to sit down with you without complaint while participating in a family activity.

Earth Day All Year Long

Earth Day. Have you ever really thought about what it really means? If you’re like most people, you observe this day set aside for the conservation of our natural resources but you don’t really connect with it on most levels. In fact, it probably never crosses your mind at all.

Earth day is more than just conservation. It is a significant reminder of our impact on the earth. Of all the land on the earth, we have a direct impact on 83% of it. That leaves only 17% of the land unaffected and unharmed by our very existence. What’s worse is the fact that we begin to destroy the earth from the very first day we are born. Of course, in the first few years of life the choice isn’t exactly ours, but it is these early years that form the base of the justification of our treatment of the planet afterward.

Many of the items we carelessly throw away, including vacuums and other household goods, contain plastics. Plastics take a very long time to biodegrade (3-5 hundred years) because they contain crude oil-which is what gives them the waterproof property we desire. Even disposable infant diapers contain the crude oil so that our children don’t soil us. This leads to happy parents, but a huge demand on a natural resource that is commonly known for its role in the automotive industry.

Basically, Earth Day is meant for us to become aware of our footprints. It is supposed to inspire us to recycle, reuse, reduce, and be kind to the planet all year long. When you consider some of the statistics of what we use during our lifetime, it’s easy to see how we can make a difference.

Below are some ideas that we can use each and every day to preserve the resources our earth gives to us. They aren’t hard to do and only take a few minutes out of our day. But, best of all, these simple steps can make a difference in the quality of life we live and in the conservation of nature for both us and future generations.

1. Packaging is a major problem. Most packages use plastic. Purchase items with the least amount of packaging to reduce the amount of waste. (i.e. Buy socks that aren’t in a plastic package but are instead wrapped with only a small connecting tag for store display)

2. Purchase organic vegetables and produce items that are free of packaging from farmer’s markets. Not only are you saving the planet from wrapping waste, but organic foods don’t use chemical pesticides or preservatives. It’s a great way to eat healthier and to encourage more farmers to avoid the poisonous compounds that add to the pollution of our planet.

3. Recycle trash. This seems simple enough, but most of what finds its way into our dumps could be reused if it had been sorted. Paper, plastic, glass, and metal can all be remelted,molded, or reshaped into a new product that doesn’t require us to use more of our natural resources.

4. If you live two miles or closer to where you work, walk or take a bicycle. Both are excellent forms of exercise that improve your health and emissions are not secreted into the air. This reduces both health insurance and air pollution.

5. Instead of cleaners that rely heavily on chemicals, choose the ones with all natural ingredients. For example, find toilet bowl cleaners that use helpful micro-organisims to degrade waste in sewer systems. Vinegar and water are wonderful for cleaning windows. There’s even several commercial cleaners that are now environmentally safe if you prefer ready made cleaning solutions for your needs.

6. Instead of reading your newspaper on newsprint, which requires a lot of trees for production, try listening to the news on an audible recording or reading it on the Internet. Most stories in the daily news can be had this way and don’t use any trees to make. Two of the best newspapers to offer audible recordings of daily news are The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. (And, if you’re wondering why trees are so important: Trees convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis. We breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants, such as trees, intake carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.)

7. When choosing how to diaper your baby, consider the use of cloth diapers. These are washable and reusable, made from natural fibers, and are better for your baby’s skin. By choosing a more natural method, our dumps can see a dramatic decrease in use as the average baby will need almost 3,000 diaper changes in the first two years of life. That’s a lot of waste not going into landfills.

8. Reuse plastic bottles! Instead of buying a cleaner in a plastic spray bottle every time you need a new supply of the cleaner, purchase a concentrated refill that can be mixed with water in the original bottle from the first purchase. The amount of waste is greatly reduced and the spray bottle doesn’t find its way into a landfill.

9. If you purchase milk in a plastic jug, it doesn’t have to be thrown away when the milk is gone. These make great banks for loose change and planters. I love to let the kids decorate the jugs with other items that would normally end up in the trash such as colorful wrappers from cookies and chips. They love the unique banks they make and it helps the planet. The plants serve to help clean up the air in my home and it doesn’t cost me much to reuse what I already have.

10. Clothes also litter the landfills. Consider donating the gently worn items to Good Will or another charity in your area. For those items not so gently worn, consider making them into something else. Old socks make great puppets and cleaning cloths. Old jeans work well as oil rags for working on your car or in the garage. Also, if there is a quilting guild or sewing group in your area, see if they would be interested in clothing not suitable for donation. Many times, these groups will use them as scraps and create beautiful products from what you believed worthless.

There are many other ways to help save our planet and to conserve the natural resources we’ve come to take for granted. Don’t be afraid to try them out. Not only will the amount of trash and pollution decrease, but you may find some enjoyment from creating and being inventive.

Just think what a truly wonderful world we would live in if everyone did their part to conserve the beauty all around us.