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…

There ARE alternatives to Ziplocs!

storge bowlsI do NOT buy Ziploc baggies… ever. Okay, one exception:  when I had to buy them to complete our daughter’s list of “required” school supplies.  I wanted to wear dark glasses and a hood because I felt like I was going to be detained and questioned by the “Green Police” at any moment for abandoning my pledge to headquarters!

But I am currently also annoyed by “The Biggest Loser” and the way they keep pimping Ziplocs.  I understand product placements and the sponsorship, but it’s as if you can’t have food without them!  The incessant use of Ziplocs is unnecessary.

There ARE alternatives to Ziplocs and the non-biodegradable trash they create:

  • Reusable containers are a green mom’s best friend.  Invest in some!
  • For those concerned about the plastic, glass bowls with lids or stainless steel containers do wonders.  They come in all shapes and sizes!
  • Aluminum foil is recyclable and is great for wrapping tons of food items.  Buy a roll!ziplc storage
  • Salvage some glass jars and turn them into storage.  Reuse those plastic containers from yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. and do the same.
  • If you must, must, must use baggies, consider the new Ziploc evolve products.  They are made from a new resin blend using 25% less plastic, manufactured using approximately 50% renewable wind energy and packaged in a 100% recycled paperboard carton, with a minimum of 35% post-consumer content.  A step in the right direction, but if you must use them, wash and REuse them!

(I personally think that the new Ziploc evolve baggies are just a way to suck “greenies” like us back to their storage bags but like I said… “if you MUST…”…)

Bottom line is: there are better ways!  Try it… and let’s “bag the baggie!”

A green mom blogger’s choice: laptop vs. desktop?

laptp compWell, last month my laptop died.  (RIP dear XPS, my beloved refurbished computer!) Not a pleasant experience if I want to keep this blog going, so I’ve resorted to borrowing my husband’s laptop in the meanwhile (and it’s not easy when he needs to keep borrowing it back!).

So he has finally said it’s time for Mom Goes Green to get a new computer of my very own.  Enter dilemma:  laptop vs. desktop.

I did my research, because I also want to make the greenest choice, and here is what I found:

  • Laptops use considerably less energy than desktop computers.  In some cases, the savings are somewhere between 50-80% less, depending on the model.  Energy savings = environmental choice. (winner: laptop)
  • Laptops have batteries, so they can actually utilize their own stored energy for use. (winner:  laptop)
  • Laptops are considerable smaller than desktops therefore, when it comes time for disposal, there is less electronic desktp comp“waste” and fewer parts to be recycled. (winner:  laptop)
  • The parts contained within laptops are harder to recycle and refurbish than desktop computer parts.  (winner: desktop)
  • Desktops typically last longer than laptops since laptops are more fragile and the mobility-factor often means a greater likelihood of damage and a shorter life.  Laptops are also more expensive to repair (e.g. $500 bucks to fix mine… augh!) and are therefore more likely to get discarded more frequently. (winner: desktop)
  • The toxic materials in desktops are much less than those in laptops (due to the batteries and other materials contained within the computer) so laptop disposal means more polluting toxins. (winner: desktop)

So there you have it.  As I see it, it’s a wash.  Choose what suits your needs.  There is no real environmental choice (unless you “go computer-less!”… something that’s unlikely for any of us!).

Mom Goes Green takes a bite out of the Big (Green?) Apple!

I just returned from some grown-up fun in NYC… the Big Apple!  This time it was me and my husband only!  Amazing how simple life can be without kids in tow.nycity While neither of us like to leave our kids behind, it’s great to reconnect with your beloved!

We had a fantastic time and were conscious to keep the towels hung in the hotel (so they didn’t get a daily laundering), turn off lights and all that other good stuff, but it’s hard to feel like trekking around the city isn’t making a huge environmental impact.

We walked A LOT but I’m sure we took far too many cabs because (despite our many, many trips) we have never mastered their subway system.  So this led me to wonder, just how green in NYC?

I was surprised to learn that some recent research actually lists the Big Apple as #2 for the least wasteful cities in the US.  Problem is, this nyc-recyclesresearch was based on residents which total about 8.5 million.  But how many tourists visit the city each year?… 47 million.  Mind boggling!  That’s a lot of extra people creating trash.

While I did see some recycling receptacles around the city (one for cans & bottles and one for newspapers & magazines), they were still somewhat few and far between.  Even staying at the Hilton in Midtown didn’t provide much help (but I give them credit for all the CFLs!).  This time I didn’t cart a million things home because we ate in restaurants and didn’t make our own food, nor did we buy from street vendors and have a lot of disposable items, so aside from our addiction to cabs, we kept it fairly green.

Where did the othei-luv-nyr big cities rank?  As usual San Francisco stands proudly at #1.  But I still feel like most tourist cities aren’t doing all they can to see that their visitors have the proper resources to continue their green ways while contributing to local economies.

Aside from using public transportation or walking, keeping it green in your hotel room, and foregoing lots of disposables, what’s a traveler to do? Don’t get me wrong… I (still) love NY, but unless I get elected Mayor in each of these cities, I have absolutely no idea!

Eco-unfriendly Styrofoam coolers give me the “chills!”

Summer is in full swing and sadly, to me, it feels like it’s half over.  I always consider summer a brief 10 week experience (now that we have kids in school), but that’s my own issue.

cooler-foamAnyhow, while I’ve been out and about with my family enjoying the “first half”, one thing keeps catching my eye… Styrofoam coolers.  I almost can’t believe that these things still exist.  I understand that they are a matter of convenience, but with some forethought, it’s easy to be prepared and no one should ever need a ‘single use’ cooler. It pains me to see them sitting next to garbage cans and knowing that they’ve become trash.  And I imagine that after purchasing a few Styrofoam versions, you could probably own a decent cooler of your very own.

My mom actually taught me the amazing insulating ability of newspaper.  Layers of newspaper, wrapped around whatever you need to keep cold in transit, does an incredible job of holding the cold.  This newstrick even works to keep items hot.  I used newspaper to keep our kids’ baby food warm when we went out to dinner, so they could have their food right along with us.  And the best part is that afterward, it can be recycled instead of thrown in the trash.

I just really want Styrofoam coolers to disappear! The problem is this… even if they disappear from store shelves, they still won’t disappear – they’ll live on in a landfill for about 500 years!