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Every evening, I set up my coffee pot to brew just enough coffee for my husband and me in the morning. It is much more sustainable and cheaper than buying coffee at a coffee shop every day. This is especially true if I opt for a fancy designer coffee beverage.

 

My routine consists of making and eating dinner, playing with my son, giving him a bath, reading stories, and putting him to bed around 7:30 (or 8 if he pushes it). I then turn to making my lunch for the next day, setting up the coffee for delay brew, dishes and sometimes laundry.

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My Christmas was picturesque this year. We woke up and watched my 18 month old scoot down the stairs. His first exclamation was "wooooow!" The look on his face was priceless, and the kind of thing you will remember forever. This was really the first Christmas where he could open presents by himself and really notice that the living room was full of things for him.

 

Pretty soon, there was a sea of wrapping paper that resembled a very choppy ocean and if not for the movement I probably couldn't tell where my son was. Amidst this I thought to myself, "I wonder how many trees it took to make this wrap?" Though we recycled everything (except the bows and ribbons of course) it still weighed on my mind.

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This past weekend, my husband and I packed up the baby and went to the tree nursery to pick out the perfect tree for our Victorian home. We walked in the semi-heated outdoor tent where we could get the Fraser Fir of our Christmas dreams. The fragrance kind of hits you in the face when you walk in those places don't it? It certainly seemed to impress our 18 month old who proudly proclaimed "woooow" when he saw the trees.

 

We found our tree, paid for it, and went home to set it up. After about 10 minutes of our son being afraid to go near the tree, he then proceeded to bat at it with his plush baseball bat. Apparently it was not cool with him that the tree was set up in his toy area. After that fiasco was over we noticed another pungent smell that hits you in the face.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Now that the Turkey is eaten, the leftovers gone, and the house guests have vacated the premises, it is time to start your holiday shopping! Did anyone go out on Black Friday? I have to say that I ventured out but not until after 2pm. At that time, the only places that were crowded were places to eat. Everyone had bought their door buster deal items and retreated to one of the many food establishments to re-fuel.

 

As I was shopping the few small businesses I needed a few things from, I noticed that there is a big difference between them and the big box stores. Oddly enough, the difference is in the name of the comparison.

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The biggest eating holiday of the year is upon us. Well, maybe Super Bowl Sunday is bigger, but, nonetheless, Thanksgiving is big. It is big in many ways. Not only do you have to break out the sweatpants to make room for the extra indulgences, but your recycle bins are also likely to be busting at the seams. While you hit the malls and the gym the following day, your recycle bin isn't so lucky.

 

Every day Americans use 100,000,000 steel cans. On Thanksgiving, we are likely to use around 200,000,000. All of those cans that hold our beloved green beans for the green bean casserole, the cranberry sauce, and the pumpkin for the traditional pumpkin pie are all part of this huge increase.

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I recently embarked upon a journey through the brains of 5th graders. As part of an educational segment on the 3 R's and recycling in general it is interesting to see the differences in what kids know and how much or how little they know about certain things. And while this journey took me through weird alternate dimensions, there are some lessons I have taken away from this experience.

 

First, kids know more than you think they do. I was surprised to find out that they pretty much all knew that their trash was taken to landfills. (We don't' have any incinerators in our area) And I was also surprised to find that several knew that landfills produced methane gas. It seems like this topic isn't a very popular one but they did understand, for the most part, how a landfill works. When we got to the recycling part, many did know that you recycle to save resources and that their materials were made into new things.

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They are all over the country. You can even find one right here in Normal, Illinois! Recyclable materials fly off the floor and float along the second story of the building. Materials fly this way and that without any explanation of what is happening. Before you know it, steel cans fly off the belt and disappear into thin air. Not too far from there Aluminum cans are being thrown 3 feet away! In other areas in the building you see bottles flying off and disappearing, and paper falls into a black hole, never to be seen again!

 

Ok, so maybe it isn't haunted but the sorting of the material by sophisticated machinery makes the process feel like there is paranormal influence. Most people would say they have never seen ghostly spirits, much like a material recovery facility. It is an amazing thing to see, and you can catch multiple glimpses of the spirits in action right on YouTube. Did you see anything you may have recently recycled?

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

I hear a lot of these myths repeated over and over (because if you say something enough it has to be true, right?), and I wanted to set the record straight.

 

Myth 1: You have to remove the caps from your bottles before you recycle them because the cap and the bottle are different kinds of plastic.

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I would be willing to bet that most people have no idea what actually happens to their recycling once it leaves the curb. Do you know where it goes or how much of an impact you and your community are having on the planet and the economy? What about the kinds of items in our everyday lives that can be and are made out or recycled materials?

 

Even as an avid recycler all of my life, I didn't know the answers to all of these questions up until a few years ago.

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Why is it that every time I turn around I am hearing about some chemical they found in the food supply in exorbitant amounts? Not only are they finding it, they are finding it in amounts that are more than likely harmful.

 

Let's take for example the recent findings of Arsenic, the non-organic form, found in rice and rice containing foods. Consumer reports found extremely high levels even in Organic infant rice cereals. Arsenic. A known category 1 carcinogen. Did you know the EPA recommends levels no higher than 5 parts per billion (ppb) in our drinking water? They settled for 10 ppb though since most states wouldn't adopt a level that strict. So, now we see that our foods have levels anywhere from none to over 960ppb. Even my son's infant organic rice cereal was found to have levels between 149ppb and 274ppb. Why?

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It's hard to believe that there are places in this country with no recycling options available to them. It seems to me that recycling is a basic service. It should exist everywhere, and sometimes it seems like it is everywhere.

 

Open up the newspaper and you read about plastic bag recycling programs, electronics recycling programs coming to your area, Terracycle programs starting up, and of course new curbside recycling programs. Why then, with all of this publicity, are there so many counties and towns without any recycling options?

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Humans have lived on this plant for thousands of years, and for much of it, very harmoniously with the surrounding ecosystems. Wildlife is an important part of our ecosystem and the key to our ability to live on this planet. Still, most people don't understand our dependence on nature and how we affect the balance of these systems.

 

There is a campaign going on right now, and actually has been an ongoing battle for years now, regarding the Safe Chemicals Act before congress. The League of Conservation Voters is running a campaign to try to get congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act which will force chemical companies to provide safety and health information prior to a chemical being released on the market in our everyday products. As it stands right now, the Toxic Substances Control Act doesn't do enough to keep us safe and the EPA doesn't have information it needs to determine if chemicals pose a health risk or not. Thousands of chemicals enter our beauty, hygiene, and everyday cleaning products that are not tested for their health and safety risks.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

I don't think there is a week that goes by that either I or my husband aren't finding money on the ground or something on the curb that someone threw out that has plenty of use and value left in it.

 

I know a lot of people don't think much of dropping a penny and therefore don't bother to pick it up. But, when you find 2 to 10 cents every day it adds up in the piggy bank. What about finding more than that? My husband and I were on a walk and he found a folded up $20 bill on the ground. When I was little I found a folded up $100 bill on the ground in Chicago. This is nothing to scoff at.

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During this summer's extended drought many communities have imposed water use regulations on their residents. Water levels everywhere are down many feet and there are some power plants that have to build a deeper water intake to cool the plants because theirs is now above the current water level. The corn crop has withered to the lowest yield expectations in decades and you could lose a foot in the cracks in the ground.

 

Yet, a report just came out that we are using more water than other years when there wasn't a drought. Why? Are we that concerned about our flowers, gardens, lawns, and trees? Or are we taking more showers because of the hot temperatures and we need to feel cleaner?

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It seems the fashionable thing to do these days is to repurpose things and create trendy crafts using some old materials. Why? What happened to our throw-away society and single use everything? Are we really changing our ways and recycling and reusing more now than we had been for the last 20 years?

 

No, I don't think this is the case. Consider this: A recent study on the composition of the U.S. landfills conducted by the nonprofit organization, As You Sow, estimates that more than $11.4 billion worth of recyclable packaging is thrown out annually.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

I saved the best for last in this series on up, down, and pre-cycling. Have you been grocery shopping lately? Do you pay attention to the packaging that items come in? In the last 20 years, many of the products you find at the grocery store, and elsewhere, have seen a growing amount of packaging added.

 

Why? Who knows for sure but I have a few guesses.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Last week I was talking about what it means to up-cycle, and this week I wanted to explore down-cycling. As it turns out, I probably should have started with down-cycling because it isn't as cool and glamorous as up-cycling.

 

So, now that we all have discovered the awesome projects and cool things we can do with materials to up-cycle them; let's see what down-cycle means. Many of us have been down-cycling for a while and just didn't know the new-fangled term for it. Down-cycling means to take a product or material and turn it into something of lesser value, and in some cases, compromise the integrity of the material so that it can't be turned back into the original product.

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Up-cycling explained

In my next few entries I will explore these terms we are so often hearing nowadays. First, the newest term I have heard lately is "Up-cycle". I literally had to look up what this means since all of the ideas and pictures I am sent of cool new up-cycle projects seem, to me, like reusing.

 

In short, up-cycling is reusing; just a little more fancy. The true definition from www.planetpals.com is "Up-cycling is the process by which waste materials are used to provide new, high quality products." So I think what has been done here is splitting the idea of reuse into two forms: up-cycle and down-cycle.

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After my first year being a parent I have realized something. It isn't easy being green when it involves children. If you have a child and you have tried to be green in the raising of that child, you know what I mean.

 

When I was pregnant I tried to eat more organic food and to use only organic and natural products. I vowed to only feed my baby organic foods and use natural products for him as well. And I think I haven't done too badly so far. Here is the run-down on the basics for your green baby.

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You may have heard in the news about the latest city to enact a "bag ban". Why and what is the big deal? I must say that before a few months ago, I didn't realize the huge problem that plastic bags cause. We have all seen them caught in trees and fences and blowing across the road to get caught in a farmer's field or flow down a stream. But, did you know that plastic bag litter is the second largest ocean litter material? It is only surpassed by cigarette butts.

 

The problem with these bags stems from their ability to float away in the air and in the water. They don't degrade very quickly at all, taking roughly 450 years in water and 1,000 years on land.

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IRA 2014 Proud Member 2

It takes 95% less energy to recycle aluminum than it does to make it from raw materials. Making recycled steel saves 60%, recycled newspaper 40%, recycled plastics 70%, and recycled glass 40%. These savings far outweigh the energy created as by-products of incineration and landfilling.

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