Posts Tagged ‘recycle’

Sixty seconds doesn’t seem like a lot of time; however, there are lots of things that can be done in sixty seconds or less.  For instance, an average adult can type 38 to 40 words and blink between ten and 30 times every sixty seconds (sometimes simultaneously).  Furthermore, an elite distance runner can run about 180 steps every sixty seconds and the world’s fastest rappers can recite over 723 syllables in even less time.

There are a lot of things an average person can do in sixty seconds or less in their everyday life that will, more or less, benefit the earth.  So here it goes…

  • Switch out your light bulbs to ones that are more energy efficient.

Remember that every time you turn on a light in your home or office you send a message to the power grid, demanding more energy.  In America, 301 million people share the same power grid.  That’s five percent of the world’s population, inevitably sucking up a quarter of the earth’s energy. Over half of the grid is powered by coal plants alone, which are the nation’s number one culprit for greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that, for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated by a coal-fired plant, 1.43 lbs of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere.  In Texas, 144 lung cancer deaths and 1,791 heart attacks a year are attributed to pollution from power plants. Switch to energy efficient light bulbs and cut the amount of energy you use by two-thirds.

  • Conserve water by turning off your faucet when brushing your teeth or taking less time in the shower.

The average American family consumes around 300 gallons of water everyday. This works out to be 495,000 gallons per person every year.  What boggles my mind is the fact that there are about 1.2 billion people in the world who don’t have access to clean, portable water and here we are overestimating the frugality of our supply.  We have to realize that water is fast becoming the world’s ultimate commodity, and water conservation is the most cost-effective way to reduce our demand for it.

There are several quick and easy things you can do in your home or change in your daily routine to conserve water.  First, you can simply cut your shower time by 60 seconds or more.  If every member in your family does the same, you can end up saving 200 to 300 gallons a month.  Also, if you are a fan of hot showers and hate the first 60 seconds or so of cold water that first escapes the showerhead, you can use a container to catch the cold water and save it for when you want to water plants or rinse your vegetables.  Second, turn off your faucet when you are brushing your teeth or shaving, and don’t leave the water running when you’re washing dishes—fill one of your sinks for rinse water instead.  These simple acts can save three gallons of water in one day alone.

  • Read your product labels.

The production and distribution of all kinds of clothing have a tremendous impact on the environment.   Wool comes courtesy of sheep, whose herds are known to burp and err… otherwise emit methane—a greenhouse gas that is almost 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. In countries like New Zealand, methane is fast becoming the most potent greenhouse gas.  Researchers for the United Nations now believe that livestock industries are a major contributor to climate change—being responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than cars are.  Furthermore, the method of growing cotton is extremely petrochemical-intensive.   About ten percent of all agricultural chemicals in the United States are used to produce cotton, which is grown on just one percent of all major agricultural land.  The process of growing cotton requires 110 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per acre.  At the end of the day, the use of these synthetic fertilizers and soil additives can wreak havoc on our soil, water, and air supply–leading to oxygen-less deadzones or even acid rain.  Some popular fashion outlets like H&M are now carrying lines of eco-friendly garments, including those made from organic cotton.  Green is the new black; be aware of where your clothes come from and how they are made.

As for the ever popular subject of organic food…

One may enjoy biting into the more conventional, juicy fuji apple—truly nature’s candy, and some say the sweetest apple in town; however, the organic gala apple is just as good as the former, but better for you and for the environment.  It’s true that organic food products are almost always more expensive than the more conventional fruits and vegetables; although, it would only be fair to point out that organic farming is a major player in the effort to combat global warming.  Birthed during the organic movement of the 1930s and 1940s, today organic farms cover a mere 0.8% of the total farming area in the world. Many people don’t realize the great benefits organic farming offers to our land, lives, and livelihood.  Aside from its major contribution of reducing carbon dioxide emissions (done by sequestering carbon in the soil), organic farming also (1) cuts production cost by 25% to 30% for farmers, (2) reduces soil erosion by up to 50%, (3) has a positive effect on the ecosystem and groundwater supplies, and (4) preserves the original nutritional content of food, giving consumers a healthier and fresher substitute.

  • Reuse and Recycle: refill your water bottles and separate your trash.

Ever buy a bottle of water before working out at the gym, or have a bottle of water with your lunch?  Have you ever contemplated the existence of that bottle of water and how it can affect the environment, even after you have used it?

The United States is the largest consumer of bottled water in the world, with Americans chugging a little less than seven billion gallons in 2004 alone.  It takes one and a half million barrels of oil a year to produce the part polyethylene terephthalate plastic bottles made in the U.S.  That’s enough oil to fuel 100,000 cars commuting into downtown Austin daily (this is also another issue that needs to be tackled).  Globally, it takes more than two and a half million tons of plastic per year to make water bottles.  This is a process that requires a whole lot of energy and, in the end, leaves us with heaps of unwanted plastic waste worldwide. Now, I’m not saying to boycott bottled water.   I am just saying that if you do purchase bottled water—and do so frequently, don’t throw the bottle out right away.  You can reuse the bottle—refilling it with water from the tap or water fountains.

Furthermore, by taking 60 seconds to put your newspaper, tuna can, or salsa jar into a separate recycling bin you can ultimately save humanity years in environmental damage.  About 60% of the household trash thrown away everyday can potentially be recycled.

  • Say something!

Probably one of the simplest things an individual can do to bring awareness to green issues and hopefully effect change is to speak up and say something.  You can talk to the manager of your local supermarket and ask that they carry more organic products.  You could call or email your local representative to speak about environmental issues that affect your family, neighborhood, city, or state.

60secondsWhy not take 60 seconds out of your day to save the earth?

Yours truly,

Ashlie Lynn Chandler


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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By Kirsten Bokenkamp

From office paper, to toilet paper, paper towels, paper coffee cups, newspapers, paper bags, magazines and catalogs, notebooks, napkins, and packaging, we cannot escape our dependency on paper products. Check out some of these crazy facts related to paper manufacturing and use:

  • Deforestation causes more global warming pollution than all forms of transportation combined.  A single forest tree absorbs 26 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, an acre of trees can remove 2.4 to 5 tons of carbon dioxide per year, and there are 728 million forested acres in the United States that remove more than 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year.
  • 50-75% of the pulp used to make toilet paper comes from old growth forests, which are valuable ecosystems and also play a huge role in absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • Americans consume more paper than any other country on earth. Each American, on average, uses 741 pounds of paper per year.  Furthermore, The United States is the largest market for toilet paper, and only 2% of sales are from 100% recycled toilet paper.
  • In addition to contributing to the detriments of deforestation, the pulp and paper industry is the third largest industrial emitter of global warming pollution (coming in after the chemical and steel industries). To make things worse, CO2 emissions from the paper industry are expected to double by 2020.
  • 36% of the average landfill is comprised of paper. Americans discard 4 million tons of office paper each year, which is enough to build a 12-foot wall from Los Angeles to New York City.
  • The pulp and paper industry is the single largest industrial consumer of freshwater.

As last week’s blog recommended, there is a lot we can do to reduce our use of paper: reusing shopping bags, printing on both sides, refusing junk mail, using cloth napkins, reusing coffee cups, and by buying products with less packaging.  But, sometimes, even when we are doing all of these things, it is still easy to forget the most simple of tasks: buying recycled paper products, especially toilet paper!

Sure, it is not as fluffy – but let’s not exaggerate – the recycled stuff does the trick and it is far from sandpaper.  And, wouldn’t you rather have a future where we have curbed climate change, still have forests, and have clean water to drink?  I don’t mean to sound extreme – but that is what we are dealing with. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: as consumers we have tremendous power to change the world.  The day we no longer demand the plushy, soft, and tree-killing kind of toilet paper, the market will no longer produce it. So next time you are faced with the choice – make the earth friendly one. I’m sure your skin will forgive you. If you are having trouble taking the plunge, just think that if every household replaced just one roll (500 sheets) of virgin fiber toilet paper with a 100% recycled one, we would save 423,900 trees!

Buying recycled office paper is also important. Ask your manager to green-up the office! How much of a difference can it make? According to the Public Works Department of San Mateo County, California:

Every 20 cases of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 390 gallons of oil, 7000 gallons of water, and 4100 kwh of energy. It also eliminates 60 pounds of air-polluting emissions and saves 8 cubic feet of landfill space.

While it is not always the first thing on our minds as we strive to green-up our lives, buying recycled toilet paper is an important step.  In addition to saving old-growth forests, it gives recycled newspaper and office paper an afterlife to look forward to.  In addition to 100% recycled, also buy the brand with the highest percentage of post-consumer material and make sure the bleaching process is elemental chlorine free.  Check out one of the many buyers guides here.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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By Kirsten Bokenkamp

The chance that Congress will pass a US climate change bill before the global summit in Copenhagen is looking increasingly slim, but that does not stop us from individually minimizing our own impact on the earth. Green-up Your Life! is all about reminding us that as individuals, we can, and should, do our part to protect our planet and combat climate change – even when our policy makers are not quite there. Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling are a big part of the things we all can do. Today’s blog is going to focus on the first two (and most important) parts of this well-known mantra: Reduce and Reuse.

In our society, where we covet big houses and new cars, where we are impressed with shiny toys and with the newest fashions, not everybody likes to hear this, but simply reducing what we buy is one of the best things we can do for the planet. In his New York Times blog Dot Earth, Andrew Revkin asks if being a “green consumer” is good enough: after all, even when corporations are selling environmentally sustainable products, they are still selling consumerism, and their primary goal is not to save the planet, but instead to get you to buy more new things.

And, generally, the more we buy – the more we waste. Think about all of the packaging and the transport associated with everything we buy! According to the EPA, between 1960 and 2007 the amount of waste each person creates has almost doubled from 2.7 to 4.6 pounds per day. Reversing this trend is crucial to the future of the earth.

If you have never seen Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff, I highly recommend that you spend 20 minutes watching it to learn more about the processes of production and consumption within our society. By the end of the short, fun, and interactive film, you most likely will have a different view on buying things. Do you love to give gifts? Rethink how you give, and how it impacts the earth. Good alternative ideas include a gift certificate to a massage or yoga classes; tickets to a concert or football game; a batch of fresh baked cookies; a dinner out at an environmentally sustainable restaurant; renting a kayak for a day out on the water; or simply spending some time together, cooking or playing games. A study about happiness during the Christmas season, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Happiness Studies, has shown that:

Lower well-being occurred when spending money and receiving gifts predominated. Engaging in environmentally conscious consumption practices also predicted a happier holiday, as did being older and male. In sum, the materialistic aspects of modern Christmas celebrations may undermine well-being, while family and spiritual activities may help people to feel more satisfied.


Tommy Sheep

If all this talk about reducing sounds good to you, use the day after Thanksgiving, historically the largest shopping day in the US, to make a point. In 65 countries around the world, millions of people participate in Buy Nothing Day to demonstrate that we don’t have to buy all the newest fashions and the brightest toys just because they are endlessly marketed to us. It is actually pretty empowering to decide to ignore all the marketing schemes. Check out these spoof ads by Adbusters, and imagine how much less we would collectively buy if all ads were as honest as these. (There are more funny ones on their website).nike_1


True Colors of Bennetton

Buying less does not mean not buying anything at all. Just try to keep your impact low, and reuse items when you can. Have you checked out your neighborhood thrift store or consignment shop? Most have clothes, toys, household items, shoes, and books. Check it out – you may be surprised. There are about 6,000 reuse centers around the US, ranging from specialty stores to Goodwill. Another alternative is to buy lightly used items on Craiglist or ebay. You can’t really go wrong when you are saving money and helping to preserve the earth’s resources.

Even if we cut down on what we buy, of course we will all still buy many things. Reducing and reusing isn’t just about less consumerism and buying used items. It is also about bringing reusable bags to a store, drinking from a reusable coffee cup or water bottle, not using the mini-bottles of shampoo at hotels; reducing the amount of packaging you use by buying food in bulk, and reducing paper by printing on both sides, paying bills online and getting yourself off of unwanted mailing lists. Do you wonder what kind of impact this could have?

• If every Starbucks customer used a reusable coffee thermos, we could save 1,181,600 tons of wood, 2,040,061,237 pounds of carbon dioxide, and 4,441,093,624 gallons of water every year.
• The production of plastic water bottles in the US generates more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, and uses 17 million barrels of oil per year! And that is not even taking into account what happens to all those bottles once they reach the landfill. (In the U.S. more than 30 billion plastic water bottles are discarded each year. Only 15% are recycled; the rest end up in landfills, or as litter – 66 million every day.)
• According to the World Watch Institute, each year Americans throw away some 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags. (Only 0.6 percent of plastic bags are recycled.) If every shopper took just one less bag each month, this could eliminate the waste of hundreds of millions of bags each year.
• Producing one ton of paper requires 2-3 times its weight in trees. If the entire U.S. catalog industry switched its publications to just 10-percent recycled content paper, the savings in wood alone would be enough to stretch a 1.8-meter-high fence across the United States seven times.

These facts clearly show that we can all make a difference by changing our habits – even just a bit. It is unrealistic to think that we will all stop buying things, but if we reduce what we do buy, buy used items when we can, and try to reduce the negative side effects of consumerism by choosing products with less packaging and bringing our own shopping bags, it is a step in the right direction. We need to start thinking before we make purchases and stop buying things we don’t need, which is a tough thing to do in a society where people living in cities are exposed up to 5000 advertisements a day. It is time to show those companies that in order to protect our planet, we will not give in so easy!


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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