Category Archives: recycling

A zero-waste holiday!? Yup!

Okay, zero-waste is really, really challenging (at first) so let’s take this one step at a time.

According to GreenAmerica.org, “Americans will spend a total of $586.1 billion dollars in November and December — and an average of $646 per person on gifts alone. The impact on people and planet of all our consumption is staggering. Pledge to shift 20% or more of your holiday spending away from cookie-cutter consumerism and one-use waste—instead supporting local, green, handmade and homegrown businesses!”

There are a lot of really great ways to reduce waste this holiday season. One way is to think about gift giving and all the potential waste involved. Here’s an example from my own holiday story:

My family celebrates Christmas. So we do the traditional gift giving for everyone in the family and special friends. Each year, there seems to be more and more folks for which I need a gift. It’s really hard to keep up! I should put thought and care into the gifts, right? Right. Another important point to make: On January 1st of this year, I pledged with my friends to Buy Nothing New for 1 Year. That includes things for others. So…

…this year I am making my gifts. A great way to reduce waste, indeed, since nearly nothing will have enormous amounts of packaging and nearly everything is coming second-hand or as a found object (except the cheese kit). I am making re-usable produce bags out of old, mismatched pillow cases for the families; washcloth puppets for bath time with the little kids in the family; I’ll be sewing a pair of Minecraft Sweeper Fingerless Gloves for my lil’ gamer nephew tonight; I scored a huge bag of colorful needlework thread at a rummage sale which will go to the eldest niece (she loves to make friendship bracelets and this stuff is perfect for it!); and the ladies will all get a lovely sugar-body scrub (Peppermint for some and Vanilla-Honey for others).

But for me, the men are the harder ones to cover…so, the gift of experience comes into play here. Except for Dad; for him, I’m making him a belt pouch to hold necessities while he works his farmer’s market stands (shallow front shirt pockets are no place for phones or spectacles when you’re in a hurry serving up fine cheese!). For one, I got a pair of movie tickets and a free night of babysitting for date night with the lovely Misses. And the last one is getting a cheese-making kit made with compostable packaging.

“Americans generate an additional five million tons of waste during the holidays. Of that, four million tons come from shopping bags and wrapping paper alone.

Everyone will receive their gifts wrapped in the funny pages or some cool, old map. Old sewing patterns make great wrapping, too! Plenty of resources to think outside the shirt-box for your wrapping needs here! And, of course, the cards will be handmade, too. But that’s really easy! Hard cardstock + fun magazine images + glue stick = viola! Custom cards for each of your loved ones.

What are your plans? Need some crafty ideas? Check out this page– I was so overwhelmed (in a good way) with all the possibilities! Especially the Childhood page. Very cool ideas!

What other ways can we eliminate waste during the holidays (and beyond, of course)? Consider what will be on the dinner table, where you’ll be traveling or who will be traveling to you. I’m sure you can think of several ways to shed a few pounds of waste. Let’s hear about it!

Happy Waste-less Holidays!

Changing the future on a…train?

Millennial Trains Project (MTP): 20 participants age 18-34 are set to embark on a fast-paced cross-country journey in the name of sustainability, entrepreneurism and social change.

Ten cities, 10 days, 20 bright young minds on a transcontinental train trip sharing ideas for solving real-world problems — that’s the concept behind The Millennial Trains Project, a sort of mobile think tank that brings together socially minded entrepreneurs to address the challenges of the present and future. Departing Aug. 8 from San Francisco, the train will stop in Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington on its journey of discovery. 

Read more about this project in Mother Nature News reporter Gerri Miller’s interview with Patrick Dowd, the project’s founder and CEO.

All of the projects sound really interesting! There are studies of food waste, energy conservation, health and diversity issues like- living with chronic illness or what it’s like to be an Arab American– and one, not surprisingly, about the use of trains for transit as a sustainable choice. In all, the MTP categorizes the individual projects into ten tracks:

I’ll be very interested to learn more about that last one; it’s Malcolm Kenton’s project. Trains Revitalizing America, is born out of Malcolm’s passion for trains and interest in sustainability and ecology. He’ll be creating a documentary that highlights various reasons that makes train travel a sustainable, efficient and ecologically sound mode of transportation. Cool!

The individual millennials and their project ideas can be found on the Project’s website. They have some really unique and creative stories and ideas. I hope they are able to make great strides and grow their concepts into real, actionable and helpful strategies to shape a better future for us all.

Safe & successful travels, Millennials, Choo Choo!!

Staying Hungry for Justice

Students, staff and faculty frat the University of California, Santa Barabara recently participated in a 24-hour “Justice Fast”, to promote justice, solidarity, integrity and dignity, in light of humanitarian issues worldwide and other social justice concerns.

Excerpts from the article, Campus Fasting Event Highlights Diverse Social Justice Movements, shed some light on the event:

  • …the act of fasting, or abstaining from eating, emphasizes a continued prevalence of people’s hunger for justice. … “We’re trying to bring awareness to certain issues that are affecting our society and our larger global society,” Ochoa said. “At first, we were trying to figure out what issue to revolve our fast around, but in the end, we realized we couldn’t just focus on one issue. So we decided to split them, and students decided to take upon their own issues.”

Another recent article, which cites this UC-SB event, discusses deeping the academic experience to help students foster their already innate connection to the global challenges facing them and expounds on why these students resorted to fasting:

  • From water shortages to climate change, population growth to the health of bees, biocultural diversity to globalization, everything feels inextricably interdependent and connected. Higher education is a great leverage point for addressing the complex issues that affect us all. Many students recognize the multifaceted challenges that face us, and they can become overwhelmed when classes seem abstract and disconnected from day-to-day life and there is no clear action component to the learning process. A recent article discusses a student fast at the University of California, Santa Barbara with the slogan “There’s too much to lose, don’t make me choose!Resorting to fasting shows the seriousness with which these students take environmental, social and economic problems.

And these students and others across the nation are serious!  80% of US grads want to make a positive impact on the environment and 92% want to work for an eco-friendly company. Thankfully, 53% of our Fortune 500 companies are publishing some kind of sustainability or corporate social responsibility report, so our grads can find these companies, and nearly 80% of the nation’s population agrees we need to decrease consumption of energy and goods. This means, more and more our institutions of higher education need to be preparing students to be able to design systems, social and economic, that will meet these concerns and allow humans to persist within our limits.

At Moraine Valley Community College, faculty are fortunate to have an excellent resource that will help them integrate the concepts of sustainability into their coursework. The Moraine Valley Learning Academy, in collaboration with the Center for Sustainability, offers a faculty-enrichment program called the Greening Your Curriculum- Prairie Project. Enrollment for Fall 2013 is open now. The course explores many facets of sustainability, addressing today’s challenges and the unknowns of tomorrow, and guides faculty to understand how these topics relate or can be used to teach their individual disciplines. The program is unique to Moraine Valley, but there are other similar examples across campuses regionally and nationally. I am inspired and hopeful because of them.

Dumpster Diving gets a New Look!

Wow, I really like this idea. As someone who has furnished nearly 95% of her apartment with used, often curbside/alley found, objects I think this see-through bag would revolutionize my dumpster divin’ scores.

“Whether it’s that purple vase your sister-in-law got you, or that particular coffee-pad-loving coffee machine (you know the one) that’s been lying in the basement for ages; everybody owns items that are no longer of value to them,” says designer Simon Akkaya on the WaarMaker website.

What do you think? Clever, eh?

Be Green in 2013: Recycling Odd Things

More Plastic Recycling!
If you use plastic bags (grocery, food-storage, newspaper bags, etc.) Your local grocery store probably accepts them for recycling. Jewel & Dominick’s (or other Safeway stores) are two locally that I know accept these. The Whole Foods in Orland Park also does. So does Target, Wal-Mart & JC Penny at Ford City Mall!! Just to double check, for store drop-off locations near you, see this site Earth911 directory.

  • At the very least, most stores collect plastic carry out bags (the kind you receive if you forgot your cloth bags). The bin is often located at the entrance or sometimes at the checkout area
  • Most stores collect a wider variety of “plastic film” or “plastic bags and wraps”—like Jewel, Dominick’s, Wal-Mart, Target & Whole Foods—you can recycle any of the following: plastic carryout bags; dry cleaning bags; newspaper bags; bread bags; cereal box liners (plastic bags inside the cardboard box); produce bags; sealable food storage bags (like Zip-loc); wraps from paper products, (diapers, napkins, paper towels, bathroom tissue, and baby wipes); & case wrap from bulk snacks & beverages.
  • Most of these different plastics outlined in bullet 2 are labeled with a #2 or #4 near or inside the recycling symbol on the bag.
  • Make sure plastic bags and wraps are clean and dry (you want them that way for storing at home before bringing them to the store, anyway). No food residue, paint, adhesive or stickers.

Eyeglass Recycling!
Do you have old eyeglasses lying around? Not sure what to do with them? The Lions Club collects used glasses (in one piece or broken) and redistributes them to people in need.

Imagine if you could help a child read. An adult succeed in his job. A senior maintain her independence. And provide a community with more opportunities to grow and thrive. Donate glasses and change someone’s life with the Lions Club.

Visit this site, type in your city (Orland Park has at least 5 sites!) and locate a Lions Club and an eyeglass collection center.

You can also package your old eyeglasses and mail them to one of two locations:

  • Your nearest Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center
  • Lions Clubs International Headquarters
    Attention: Receiving Department
    300 W. 22nd Street
    Oak Brook, IL 60523, USA

And, don’t forget- the Moraine Valley Center for Sustainability is still collecting Frito-Lay Chip Bags, Expo Markers & PaperMate Pens for recycling.

Office L-242 or email sustainability@morainevalley.edu for more information