Tag Archives: disposal

10 reasons why you’re not green!

Recycling is not the answer

Recycling doesn't mean you're green

First, there were the hotels with their “Please reuse your towels so we can save water” cards. They were one of the first industries to get on board with greenwashing about a decade ago. I admit, at first, I was happy to see this, and reused my towels. Yet, it was really just a ploy to save money for if they really cared about the environment, they would have also had recycling boxes in every room and offered non-disposable plates and cutlery in the restaurants.

I’m starting to see this same kind of green superficiality making its way into our society. With its guise of being positive (and I’m not saying it’s 100% not) it’s not challenging us to question our daily habits and make changes that will really make a difference. I constantly hear  “Oh I’m green because I recycle” or “I’m green because I buy energy-efficient lightbulbs” and “Oh cool, my X brand coffee cup is compostable”. As if it took just a purchase to be green.

You are not green simply because: Continue reading

Green must-see; the Story of Stuff, now en français & 10 other languages

The Story of Stuff - Extraction

The Story of Stuff - Extraction

There are (2) two things that have greatly impacted my life; reading Diet for a New America and watching The Story of Stuff.  It was one of the principle reasons I decided to start Urban Green Girl.

The Story of Stuff was one of the most viewed, viral videos of 2007 with over 4 million pages views.  Because of the immense international attention it received, they decided to launch an international version of its coveted online video. Now it contains sub-titles for (10) ten languages including French, Spanish, Hebrew, German, Arabic and Mandarin.

I am so excited as I can finally share this video with my francophone and other international friends for whom it’s been so difficult to explain green living!

So what is this video about you ask? The Story of Stuff:

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Don’t be left out in the cold!

Inform yourself today and learn about the impact you have on the world by watching the Story of Stuff. Watching this video is STEP #1 in starting your green life.

Consumerism - Planned obsolesence

35 ways urban people can reduce their waste

30 easy ways urbanites can reduce waste

35 easy ways urban people can reduce waste

There’s no doubt that it’s impossible in urban society to accumulate zero waste. This is not, however, to say that we shouldn’t strive to reduce our waste, as urban society tends to be very waste oriented as so much revolves around convenience. In my opinion, there are two types of waste that we encounter in our daily lives; Waste from packaging and waste from final consumer goods that we decide we no longer want.

Did you know that 6 months after purchase, 99% of these goods have been disposed of? What does this say about us? Part of the reason we here in North America can get away with such lax environmental laws is that we are a huge continent. We are not worried about running out of space for landfills, cutting down all the trees or polluting all the water.

However, there is no doubt that if we continue producing and disposing at the current rate, we will encounter these problems. Let me rephrase that…Our “children” and “grandchildren” will encounter these problems because of “our” actions. Is this what we want our generation to be remembered by? Thus, here are some easy ways that we can reduce the waste we encounter in our daily lives. I am personally striving to do all.

  1. Buy dry food in bulk: Bring reusable containers for your grains, beans and lentils instead of buying them individually in cans.
  2. Wash your floors with a reusable fabric mop instead of a disposable sponge mop.
  3. Compost food leftovers: If you recycle, 75% of what you probably throw away is food leftovers. Did you know that 25% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the methane gas produced from decaying food in landfills?
  4. Use a reusable grocery bag: Tip: Always keep 2 in your car for surprise visits and keep a small plastic bag folded in your bag or purse for those impulse trips to the grocery store after work.
  5. Use a reusable coffee mug at work: The average person throws away 500 disposable coffee cups in a year. Leave a reusable coffee mug at work. Cafés nowadays welcome reusable cups and even give discounts. Not only are you saving a cup every time, you’re also promoting this idea to people around you who could potentially do the same.
  6. Use Tupperware for your lunch at the food court: There’s nothing wrong with your panini and salad, but putting it in a Styrofoam container everyday equals a lot of non-biodegradable waste. (I’m personally working on this, as well as bringing more lunches from home in Tupperware).
  7. Use wax instead of disposable razors: Your skin will thank you. For men, at least use rechargeable razors as opposed to disposable.  A lot of the waste comes from the packaging, which is also a problem as it’s not recyclable.
  8. Use bar soap instead of liquid soap and shower gel: No packaging is better than recycling a plastic container or, worse, throwing it out. Many cities, like Calgary, don’t even recycle plastic yet.
  9. Use vinegar and baking soda to clean your house: These powerful ingredients will clean, disinfect and de-grease your entire house. Moreover, it’s better than buying 10-20 bottles of other toxic cleaners.
  10. Adopt a pet: Instead of creating the demand for a new pet, adopt one that already exists! (Of course I don’t consider pets waste, but thousands are euthanised everyday because of overpopulation problems).
  11. Women: Use a diva menstrual cup: Billions of pads and tampons are disposed of each year. We can’t all afford a hybrid or solar panels but we can reduce our environmental impact by using this great product. I will write a funny article about this and my experience with it soon!
  12. Use cloth diapers: Disposable diapers make up the third largest source of solid waste in landfills. Cloth diaper services are one of the fastest growing home businesses, so a quick Google search is sure to turn up a company in your area, like Baby on the way in Canada or Cloth diaper sites in the US.
  13. Use Tupperware for food storage instead of saran wrap and Ziploc bags.
  14. Use a water filter instead of water bottles. It’s estimated that 8 our of 10 water bottles are thrown out, totaling 60 million bottles disposed of every year in the States. Get a water filter at home and if you’re still scared of drinking tap water, then we ought to be raising hell at a municipal level as Dr. David Suzuki says!
  15. Give away unwanted furniture and appliances on online classifieds: Rather than throwing it out on garbage day, post a free ad and invite someone to come pick it up chez vous!
  16. Use olive oil bar soap instead of shaving cream: Both sexes are equally guilty (men probably a bit more) when it comes to shaving cream cans that cannot be recycled. Olive oil soap is the perfect solution as its oily texture makes the perfect lathering agent for the closest shave ever!
  17. Purchase higher quality products that will last longer: If you can’t afford the more expensive alternative, see if you can get it secondhand online. You’ll end up saving $$ and keeping it longer.
  18. Bring leftovers for lunch in Tupperware instead of microwaveable meals. I am very guilty here as I’m lazy and tend not to prepare lunches in advance, but I am making a conscious effort to change.
  19. Recycle your old computer and electronics: I won’t lie, you might have to do a bit of research in  your area, but facilities do exist. E-waste is extremely hazardous and vast amounts get shipped off to developing nations, where it is not dealt with in a environmentally nor human friendly manner.
  20. Don’t buy disposable products! OK, I won’t argue about band-aids but you get the point!
  21. Buy your fruits and vegetables from a market: This will cut down on foods that are packaged in Styrofoam and Saran wrap. I bring reused plastic bags for herbs and place all vegetables together in my reusable grocery bags so i generate NO waste.
  22. Avoid free, crappy presents from events: You know those key-chains, calculators, pins, bags etc. that you get from trade shows and conferences that you just end up throwing out? Don’t take them! This will help decrease the demand for them in the first place.
  23. Cook more food at home (from scratch): So much of our landfills are filled with waste attributed to food packaging because we don’t value taking the time to cook. If there’s one thing I learned from the French, it’s to take pleasure in cooking your own food. Not only is it healthier, you might actually lose weight too because home cooked food doesn’t contain unnatural ingredients that could have long-term health effects. For those who don’t know how to cook (like me), start with one recipe a week and work your way up. (Or get a French boyfriend like I did!! lol)
  24. Bake your own desserts. Don’t buy the frozen kind in plastic wrap; buy the necessary tools and start experimenting. There’s something honourable about our grandparents’ generation, where everything was home cooked with pride and store-bought was looked down upon. Our grandparents were frugal and produced little waste, unlike us. We don’t need to be Martha Stewart but we could be more green by bringing back the valuable skill of cooking and baking!
  25. Buy your music online in electronic format: It might be a small gesture but CD cases are still waste and the plastic in them keeps us dependent on oil.
  26. Use an aromatherapy oil diffuser instead of an air freshener: Aerosol cans are pure waste as they cannot be recycled and one bottle of oil will easily outlast 10 aerosol cans.
  27. Use a deodorant crystal: Deodorant crystals work just as well as regular deodorants, do not contain aluminum (a suspected carcinogen), last up to one year and their packaging is recyclable. One deodorant crystal will reduce the need for 12 non-recyclable deodorant products. You can buy them in health food stores.
  28. Buy sugar in bulk, not in individual packets: Note for offices, if bulk is not possible, try sugar cubes.
  29. Use spaghetti sticks to stir your coffee: They work just as well as plastic stir sticks and it’s even the latest fashion in trendy cafés.
  30. Buy loose leaf tea instead of individual tea sachets: Spice it up by getting a funky tea strainer.
  31. Brew your coffee in a french press (Bodum) or espresso machine (non capsule kind): Eliminate the need for coffee filters. The coffee will taste better too. If you already have a coffee machine, buy a reusable gold plated filter.
  32. Sign up for electronic banking: Receive all your banking statements and other bills online, eliminating the need for paper waste.
  33. Buy only electronic devices with rechargeable batteries: Say goodbye to disposable batteries.
  34. Repair your clothes and shoes: Do as the Europeans do and repair holes in jackets and fix the heels of your shoes. And when you really don’t want them anymore, at least give them to charity.
  35. Lastly, don’t get too caught up in consumerism: Always having to buy the latest and greatest new product because of planned obsolescence leaves us perpetually disposing of perfectly good products for the sole reason of them not being “cool” anymore. Are we that superficial?

Remember, part of the reason we dispose so much is because we can. If we had to throw out our garbage in our own backyard, trust me, we’d all get very creative about what we buy.  So let’s use this as a personal motivator and reduce.

Why recycling is not the answer

screenshotThese days, many people believe think that being “green” means recycling. Don’t get me wrong, this is good, but it should be the last resort in the green solution.

Consumption = (extraction, production, distribution, consumption, disposal) Cycle Remember in elementary school when we learned about the 3 R’s, (reduce, reuse, recycle)? These are the 3 steps in solving our waste management problems. However, before we even start the consumption cycle, we need to rethink our actions and how they will impact the environment. If we rethink our actions, we possibly eliminate the need for waste management in the first place.

RETHINK-REDUCE-REUSE-RECYCLE

For those of you who have seen the Story of Stuff, good for you, for those who haven’t, watch it, it will literally change your life. This has become my environmental bible as it gives an excellent ‘big picture’ of the world in which we live.

WELCOME TO THE 4 R’s

RETHINK We drastically need to rethink our purchases and reflect on the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’.  Do I really need to upgrade my cell phone and computer every 2 years? Do I really need to buy brand new furniture or could i buy second hand?  The objective of ‘rethink’ is to see if we can avoid generating waste. Ex. Instead of buying liquid hand soap, why not buy bar soap?  By purchasing bar soap, we reduce the need for the 3 R’s (waste management), because we no longer have any packaging to throw away.

REDUCE

The objective of ‘reduce’ is to use less of the products we buy, thus reducing our consumption. Ex. Vinegar is an excellent cleanser, degreaser and disinfectant. By buying 1 bottle of vinegar, you could reduce your consumption for at least 8 bottles of commercial (toxic) cleaners.

  • disinfectant spray (Lysol)
  • window cleaner (windex)
  • hardwood floor cleaner
  • drain declogger (Drano)
  • degreaser
  • metal cleaner
  • coffee pot cleaner
  • carpet cleaner

REUSE

The objective of ‘reuse’ is to reduce our consumption of products by reusing them. Before sending something to the recycling bin, or worse the landfill, could this ‘item’ still be of use for either myself or someone else? Ex. Computers, TV’s, furniture, clothing, electronics, cell phones, cooking equipment, dishes, home décor etc. All of this can be donated to so many organisations that exist in your area. Do a google search. Myself personally, I reuse the plastic containers that soup or salads come in as Tupperware.  You just have to make sure you hand wash them as they can’t go in the dishwasher (Low grade plastic).

RECYCLING

This is the last step in the waste management hierarchy. It reduces the inputs (energy & raw materials) needed for production and reduces the amount of waste for disposal. Recycling gives us one last chance at diverting waste from landfills which is unsustainable and environmentally harmful.  However, not all recyclable items can be recycled indefinitely. Paper will still need a percentage of wood fibres due to the degradation of the recycled fibres. Not all municipalities recycle and some don’t even recycle what is picked up which is a big shock for residents.  Recycling still uses vast amounts of energy and water to recreate new materials and it still keeps us active in the consumer society without questioning our actions. There is no doubt that in an urban society, it is not possible for us to grow our own food, make our own homes and reuse what we make, like tribal societies who have an extremely small carbon footprint.  We can’t make our own cereals so we our dependant on buying them, only able to recycle the cardboard box and so many of us depend on frozen meals because we simply don’t have time (or even know how) to cook. Thus we need to be able to recycle. But let us not forget to rethink our entire actions and see if we can divert from waste management in the first place.

CONCLUSION

We live on a finite planet meaning we have a limited number of resources so we cannot keep on consuming the way we are presently in a linear fashion. The only reason it currently works is because the majority of humans on the planet are poor and are not a part of consumerism. But India and China are waking up and we are nearing a crisis for the need of resources to keep up with Western levels of demand. The only chance we have at diverting a catastrophy and ensuring our kids future is healthy is to RETHINK.