Making DIY home cleaners

DIY home cleaners, ingredients

Some common ingredients for DIY home cleaners

Some people judge the effectiveness of their cleaning products by the way the room smells when they’re finished. Are you one of them?

A chemical smell does not mean a clean room. It means unhealthy indoor air—especially if the chemical is chlorine bleach.

That’s one reason more and more people are starting to make their own cleaners from non-toxic ingredients. Here are some more: DIY home cleaners cost less, they work just as well as expensive commercial cleaners that are good for only one cleaning job, they take up less cabinet space, and they generate less trash.  Continue reading

6 New Municipal Recycling Initiatives

Recycling bales

Bales of recycled plastic ready for reprocessing

When you go to look something up, you never know quite what you’ll find. If you don’t find what you’re looking for right away, you might find fascinating information you hadn’t even thought of.

I looked for statistics on recycling participation. I found recent news stories of several towns that have started, or are considering, new recycling programs.

Municipalities with good programs seek to make them better. Municipalities with mediocre programs or none at all seek to start something viable.

According to the EPA, 65% of normal trash could be recycled, but only 25% actually is. It’s a dismal figure, and only part of it can be attributed to public apathy. Some places have only recently offered recycling service at all. I suppose that means that others still have none.

Here are six new or contemplated municipal recycling programs. Continue reading

A Bottle’s Journey

Have you ever wondered what happens to your recyclables once they’re hauled away from the curb? Plastic, metal, paper and glass must be sorted and subsorted.

Many recyclable materials can never be remade into whatever they were before. They must be put to some other, and likely lower use. Many but not all. Once glass bottles have been separated from other materials, they become raw material for making new glass bottles.

The following infographic illustrates the process. Continue reading

Mushrooms or Plastic? Replacing Polystyrene Foam

EcoCradle wine shipper

EcoCradle wine shipper

What do you get when you buy something like a TV that comes in a large box? Besides the product you want, you get trash.

The bulk of that trash is a polystyrene foam, made from oil, that is mostly air and otherwise the most toxic and difficult to recycle of plastics. And very bulky. It lasts about forever, too.

I reported a couple of years ago about a company called Ecovative that grows packaging (and insulation, and automobile parts, and surfboards, and basically any other application of polystyrene foam) from mushrooms.
After you have taken your product out of the box, you can compost mushroom packaging or otherwise return it to the earth.

Here’s a TED talk given by one of the inventors, Eben Bayer. It includes a marvelous time lapse to show how the product is grown by stuffing agricultural waste, inoculated with mycelium (mushroom roots), into a mold, and then letting it sit in a dark place for a few days. Continue reading

18 Ways to Reduce Wastepaper at Home

world's largest paper wad, belatedly recycled

Minnesota’s giant paper ball, which set a Guinness record.

Do you remember the promise of the paperless society? Hah! We’re awash in paper. Not only paper for reading and writing, either.

Making paper first means cutting down trees and all the energy and transportation that requires. Then it requires a lot of water and a lot of chemicals, making lots of wastewater that has to go somewhere.

One of the easiest ways you can make a difference to the environment is to use less paper. You know the 3 Rs of recycling: reduce, reuse, and recycle. And that’s the order of importance.

Here are some ways to allow less paper in your home, and then reuse at least some of it before recycling it: Continue reading

Solar Panels on Famous Landmarks

Solar Valley Micro-E Hotel

Solar Valley Micro-E Hotel, Dezhou, China

Contributed by Stuart Amm

Renewable energy has been a topic that has generated a lot of interest in recent years. It has gained a lot of column inches in the media in terms specifically of climate change worldwide and how it will inevitably affect us all.

Also, we have unfortunately been witness to some terrifying weather pattern changes resulting in a number of related natural disasters. Weather scientists claim that this is a pattern set to continue as climate change continues to take hold.

We as individuals have the opportunity to make a difference even if it means small changes in our behaviour. Recycling more household products, choosing renewable energy options are just two things that can be done. If everyone made a small change, the world’s environment would reap the rewards.

Solar panels are one option for incorporating renewable energy into the home or business. While many may see them as off limits due to being expensive, this is actually not the case any longer with more affordable options available.

It should also be noted that in the long run, they can actually end up saving money in terms of energy costs. This StoryMap created by Half Price Shutters in Australia highlights how some of the most famous world landmarks have chosen to install solar panels. Continue reading

Communicating Sustainability: Creating Concern without Smugness

eco friendly habits

Doesn’t it just bug you that Americans don’t seem to care enough about the environment? After all, it’s our only home, and we need to keep up with the maintenance.

But here’s part of the problem: a lot of people think “greenies” are nuts. And the zealots who scream the loudest for attention are nuts! Not to mention smug, self-righteous, and obnoxious.

We have to do a better job of communicating. But communicating what? Advocating sustainability entails manifold messages.

Environmentalists try to address society as a whole. Eco-conscious individuals (that’s you and I) try to influence family, friends, and neighbors.

Companies that make “green” products want to persuade people to buy them instead of something else.

Some companies list sustainability as a corporate goal, and their officials must communicate its importance to employees, stockholders, and the public.

Why does the basic message about taking care of the environment so often fall flat on its face?

Continue reading

6 ways to turn waste plastic from a problem to a resource

plastic wastePlastic is everywhere.

You know that just chucking it in the recycling bin doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, most of it never gets recycled at all. That’s because in our wasteful society, plastic seems like a waste disposal problem instead of a resource.

The world has produced and consumed more plastic since 2000 than in the entire 20th century. Much of it becomes disposable bottles, table service, shopping bags, food packages, and much more.

Disposing of plastic has become an environmental nightmare. Plastic is not a single substance.

The familiar recycling triangle on many plastic products contains the numbers 1 through 7. So are there seven kinds of plastic? No. The number 7 means “none of the above,” a catch-all for who knows how many other kinds of plastic.

Fortunately plenty of companies and inventors are working to find new technologies to separate plastics and clever uses for waste plastic, sorted or unsorted.
Perhaps once these products become better known, people will be more willing to take the effort to recycle it. Here are just a few things we can do with waste plastic.
Continue reading

Electricity storage has arrived

models-powerwall@2xAlternative energy has cleared a major hurdle: what good is solar energy when the sun isn’t shining, or what good is wind energy when the wind isn’t blowing? Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors has unveiled a variety of lithium-ion batteries to store electricity.

Now, the sun and the wind can charge the batteries, and the batteries can supply electricity on the darkest, calmest night. Tesla has reduced the cost of battery storage to $250 per kilowatt-hour, which no expert expected to see before 2020.

Does this advance mean that we can all go off grid and the electric utilities can go out of business? No. First, even at a lower than expected price for the batteries, they do not yet make economic sense for homeowners. Second new batteries have advantages for utilities, too. Continue reading

Nature and People Are Not Enemies: Beyond Conservation



Don’t you love the awe-inspiring beauty in our national parks and state parks? Let’s be grateful for the vision and tenacity of the people who fought hard to protect these natural areas from development.

But did you know that the conservation model of environmental protection is based on some questionable assumptions? Today it actually dissuades people from taking care of the environment.

John Muir established the ideal of a national park as a nature preserve where no humans live at the end of the 19th century. He built a cabin and a water-powered mill in Yosemite, then a state park, and considered it a temple.

He wrote, “No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite.”

Eventually, he advocated emptying the park of all other occupants, which meant eviction of the Miwok Indians, who had lived there for generations. Continue reading