Reuse, recycle or…. just GIVE IT BACK!

hangrzHow often are you given something you want to give back or never even asked for? (Well, I can think of about a dozen things when I think back to my wedding gifts.  Of course, my thoughts then were something like “my god, WHAT were they thinking!” ) But now I’m thinking more about the things that come our way from purchases or services.

Think about wire hangers from the dry cleaner, packing peanuts from shipments we receive, plastic bags that always seem to slip by us when we aren’t paying attention and burned out CFLs.

Well, they don’t need to become needless trash. Consider this the next time one of these things slip your way:

  • Wire hangers – (hopefully you’re using an eco-friendly dry cleaner!… but) take them BACK to your dry cleaner the next time you make a drop-off.  Most will accept them and reuse them.
  • Packing peanuts – even if they didn’t come from a UPS shipment, they will accept them with a smile and reuse them too.  Check here to find a location.packn peanutz
  • Plastic bags – if I’m not vigilant and paying attention, a cashier always seems to manage to slip one in on me.  Save them at home and many stores have collection bins at their entrance if your curbside recycling does not accept them.  And don’t forget about all of those “other bags” too (like bread bags, plastic wrappers, etc.)
  • CFLs – so many people get hung up on the mercury content in CFLs, but keep in mind that most still contain only enough mercury to fit on the head of a pin and each new generation of CFLs has even less.  However, when they finally do burn out, remember to dispose of them properly at your local Home Depot through their CFL Recycling Program.  They’ll take them off your hands for proper disposal, free of charge.

Now, as for those hideous items I received for wedding gifts, well those were “given” too… in the way of donation. They do say “one (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure!”

Simple reuse/recycle tip: You CAN give back what you get…

hangrzHow often are you given something you want to give back or never even asked for? (Well, I can think of about a dozen things when I think back to my wedding gifts.  Of course, my thoughts then were something like “my god, WHAT were they thinking!” 🙂 ) But now I’m thinking more about the things that come our way from purchases or services.

Think about wire hangers from the dry cleaner, packing peanuts from shipments we receive, plastic bags that always seem to slip by us when we aren’t paying attention and burned out CFLs.

Well, they don’t need to become needless trash. Consider this the next time one of these things slip your way:

  • Wire hangers – (hopefully you’re using an eco-friendly dry cleaner!… but) take them BACK to your dry cleaner the next time you make a drop-off.  Most will accept them and reuse them.
  • Packing peanuts – even if they didn’t come from a UPS shipment, they will accept them with a smile and reuse them too.  Check here to find a location.packn peanutz
  • Plastic bags – if I’m not vigilant and paying attention, a cashier always seems to manage to slip one in on me.  Save them at home and many stores have collection bins at their entrance if your curbside recycling does not accept them.
  • CFLs – so many people get hung up on the mercury content in CFLs, but keep in mind that most still contain only enough mercury to fit on the head of a pin and each new generation of CFLs has even less.  However, when they finally do burn out, remember to dispose of them properly at your local Home Depot through their CFL Recycling Program.  They’ll take them off your hands for proper disposal, free of charge.

Now, as for those hideous items I received for wedding gifts, well those were “given” too… in the way of donation. They do say “one (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure!”

The light goes out on incandescents… hello CFLs & LEDs!

incand bulbThe lights ARE going out on incandescents… would Thomas Edison be sad?  Maybe, because lightbulbs haven’t changed much since he invented them(!) but now his invention is being banned in the European Union as of September 1.  The US will follow, with a phase out beginning in 2012 and complete elimination by 2014.

Can you imagine the energy savings and the reduction in carbon emissions?  Good news for the environment!

CFLs are currently the best option available for those who want to make the switch.  And surely you’ve heard about the mercury they contain and this makes some consumers a little uneasy.  But did you also know that today they actually contain 20% less than mercury than those manufactured two years ago?  Yep, it’s true!  The amount contained would actually fit on half the head of a pin!  (Old mercury thermometers contained 150-500 percent more!) And since most of it becomes bound to the inside of the bulb as it’s used, the dangers aren’t as great as it appears.  Just don’t break it!

I, in fact, just had my first CFL burnout.  It certainly didn’t last six years, but I’m sure it reached its “hour” maximum!  It’s now sealed in a container and awaiting drop off at Home Depot.  You might remember that they accept CFLs for proper disposal and that is key.  Landfills are the last place CFLs belong because of the mercury, so please, please be sure they are properly disposed.

Now might also be a good time to remind you what to do if they (gasp!) DO break.  It sounds frightening, but there are some simple guidelines to follow:CFL blb

  • Open a window, and walk away for 15 minutes.
  • Put on disposable gloves.
  • Sweep up the remnants with an old rag or a stiff paper and put everything in a sealable container, preferably glass.
  • Wipe down and thoroughly clean the entire area.
  • Drop all of these materials (in the sealed container) at a Home Depot or hazardous waste site.

Yes, it sounds like a bit much, but better to err on the side of caution… or better yet, just take precautions so it doesn’t get broken!  (This makes me think back to an incident in elementary school, when my friend dropped an old mercury thermometer. We didn’t touch it and I really don’t remember the teacher having a major freak-out, but maybe she should have!  I certainly don’t remember a hazmat team on site either… boy, have times changed! And maybe that’s why I’m a “half-bubble off level”!)

CFLs aren’t the permanent solution either. On the horizon?  LEDs… light emitting diodes, if you didn’t know!  They’re already being introduced in Japan and are even more energy efficient, so eventually the “mercury-factor“ won’t be a factor at all.

In the meanwhile, switch a bulb… take precautions and care… dispose of them properly… and thank Mr. Edison, but it’s time to move on…

A green gift basket for the earth.

Inevitably, if you have children in school, there’s bound to be a fundraising event that means your child brings home the “ever-popular-request-for-donations”.

think-greenLast week our daughter’s school had their annual Spring Fest to raise money to support their land lab.  This area in front of their school has gardens, walking paths, trees and a pond and it’s an amazing little “earth” educational site for our kids.

So, guess what I received prior to the event?  You guessed it… that “ever-popular-request-for-donations”!  They were going to hold raffles to win gift baskets and needed families to donate items.  So, a few seconds of wearing my thinking-cap made me realize that this was an opportunity to make a green statement.

Our family put together a basket that included reusable bags, CFLs, a stainless steel reusable water bottle and green cleaners.  Instead of using an actual basket, we put it all inside a cardboard box wrapped it in brown paper and included shredded paper (all recyclable) for a little extra flair!  I think it looked pretty cute!mgg_basket

We completed our mission by including a paper that explained everything in the box and why they are important.  We were really proud of our creativity that really didn’t require any creativity at all.  To us they’re “no brainers”, but they sent a wonderful message and hopefully made an impact for everyone that took a look.

The next time you receive that “request”, consider the statement you can make too. And a basket like this would also make a great gift!

Little did I know my friend, Jasmina, would win the basket (and she’s already a fellow “eco-mama!), but it was rewarding to see all the other families interested in winning some “green” too!

Give them your tired, your poor, your burnt CFLs…

I took a little bit of heat for recommending CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) to readers.  Some people really object to them because of their mercury content.

They do contain some mercury (about four milligrams – old thermometers used to contain 500 milligrams – yikes!) and we do need to be more careful not to break them.  I’ll take this opportunity to say, if you DO break one, go here for proper clean up instructions.  But I still believe the switch to CFLs is a necessary step that all households need to take… I won’t change my view on that.

Enter: Home Depot

I can’t believe I just heard about this(!) but Home Depot recently started a program dubbed their National CFL Bulb Recycling Initiative.  All you need to do is bring your burned out, UN-broken CFLs to a Home Depot location, hand them to a store associate in customer service and they’ll turn them over to an environmental management company so they are properly disposed and won’t cause contamination.

This is such good news, because there are 1,973 Home Depot locations in the United States and 75% of households are within a 10 mile radius of one of their stores.

Bravo, Home Depot!

Now, not only do we have an opportunity to make the right choice in purchasing CFLs but we can also be guilt-free afterward.

So, step number one: don’t drop the damn bulb! 🙂 Step two: five years from now, when they FINALLY burn out(!) take them for a drive to Home Depot and say ’thank you very much!’