Archive for the ‘Tips to reduce your waste’ Category

Americans alone use and throw out 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour or over sixty million every single day. Six to ten million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year, choking the life out of sea creatures. Millions of seabirds are dying from ingesting this plastic. In the Pacific Ocean, the great Pacific garbage gyre is now a permanent whirlpool of plastic garbage bigger than Texas leaking toxins into the food chain. The unnecessary use of disposable plastic also adds to greenhouse gasses. There are many efforts going on to reduce plastic garbage.

One man has a simple idea that he thinks might make a big difference—a simple pledge that he hopes millions of people will take to refuse to use three things: Plastic water bottles, plastic straws and plastic shopping bags.

The idea came to John Izzo, a business advisor and author, while writing his sixth book, Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything. He interviewed scores of people who had stepped up to create change including three women who tackled female poverty in Uganda to a group of ecologists and journalists who confronted the Russian whaling fleet leading to a ban on commercial whaling. “Here I was interviewing all these people who had stepped up to create change which got me thinking about what I could do about this plastic issue.”

But the tipping point came when Izzo watched the trailer for the forthcoming documentary, Midway Journey, a Chris Jordan film about thousands of albatross dying from ingesting plastic on Midway Island several thousand miles from any continent. “I was horrified as I watched the devastation. As I watched these newborn birds dying from eating plastic garbage I kept thinking there must be a simple way that the average person can do something and get engaged on this issue.”

Though Izzo admired people like Beth Terry, founder of www.myplasticfreelife.com whom he had written about in Stepping Up, he felt that going totally plastic free would be too much for most people as a starting point. “That is when I thought of the idea of this three part pledge, these three items that we use on a daily basis in the developed world that could easily be eliminated. First, I took the pledge myself and found that with a few metal water bottles, some cloth bags kept in my car and deciding not to use straws, I could easily make this change.”

Izzo funded the development of www.noplasticpledge.com which tracks the number of people who have taken the pledge, educates people about the issue of plastic garbage, and links people to other organizations that are tackling the issue. The site was launched on March 5th and he has already been joined by organizations like the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Beth Terry and the makers of the Midway film in promoting the pledge.

“In my book I try to counter the idea that one person can’t make a difference. One reason we think that one person doesn’t matter is because we forget the power of aggregate influence, which is what happens when one times many take a small action thereby making a huge difference,” Izzo says.

Izzo’s goal is ambitious—to get one million to take the pledge in 2012 and one hundred million by the end of 2013. “The hope is that entire schools, families and workplaces will choose to take the simple pledge. Even if people aren’t 100% pure, even if they reduce their use of these three products by 90% we can eliminate 170 billion pieces of plastic garbage every single year!”

We would love your support to help raise awareness and encourage others to take the pledge by blogging about this issue. www.myplasticfreelife.com  and the Plastic Pollution Coalition have joined us, but we can’t do it alone. Check out the www.noplasticpledge.com for information. And watch the Midway trailer (http://bit.ly/AdpkbG)  and visit their site http://www.midwayjourney.com to find out more about the documentary.

To interview Dr. John Izzo about the pledge, contact Linda Parsons at 778.737.4991


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I think Spring is almost here….well, almost! Here are a few tips from Mark Cullen, a best selling author, and the host of “Gardening Tips with Mark” on CTV’s Canada AM:

  • Start With a Plan. Make a list of the things you want to accomplish with your garden: Do you want to do a complete renovation? Create some space for your kids? Design a place to entertain? Consider these goals before you start any planting.
  • Go Slow. Now is the time to start sowing your seeds indoors. Find a sunny window and let the plants warm up to the March weather in the comfort of your living room. These can be both vegetables and flowers and can stay indoors until the frost has completely thawed.
  • Only the Best Will Do. Prepare your soil with lots of organic matter, as most gardens’ success revolves around this preparation. Plants will actually take care of themselves; you just need to feed the soil. Add compost and triple mix, especially if the soil is poor to begin with, and let the soil support the plants.
  • Mix and Match. Once plants are ready for the outdoors, make sure each one has its needs matched to the environment. Shade-loving plants go in the shade; sun worshippers go in the sun. Watch out for aggressive plants- only choose ones that you know you can keep at bay.
  • Lessen the Workload. Choose native plants like Echinacea to round out your space. They reduce your water usage and lighten the maintenance required.
  • Patio Party. For those with condo patios or house decks, containers are essential. Buy good quality container soil and don’t use old earth from last year (take it to a nearby park and spread it there). Make sure your containers have drainage access and use a slow release fertilizer, like a “once-in-a-season,” that you only have to apply at the beginning of spring.
  • Behave Yourself. Or rather, pick plants that behave themselves. Aggressive plants can create more work than you have time for. Ornamental grasses, for example, are big right now: the travellers, which move mostly by root through the garden, are very invasive, yet the clumpers tend to stay in their place and won’t take over your garden. Choose the latter.
  • Stay Away from Chemicals. An easy way to prevent weeds from growing is to overseed your lawn, for example, with fresh quality grass seed. The quality of the grass seed in the bag is the pedigree of your lawn tomorrow. Buy quality grass seeds and you won’t regret it.
  • Keep Weeds at Bay: A low maintenance (and natural) way to reduce weeds in your garden is to add finely ground mulch about 5 cm thick. This insulates the soil so that evaporation doesn’t take place as fast. Sun can’t reach down there, so the weeds won’t push through, eliminating the majority of your weeding problems within the first year.


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Breathe new life into old objects and reduce landfill waste by diverting leftover odds and ends that would be relegated to the dumpster into useful items.

Call it repurposing, call it recrafting, call it creative reuse, or call it trash transformed. No matter what you call it, this concept of “cradle to cradle” is one of the tenants of green living. It means that a product’s lifecycle doesn’t have to end up forever rotting away in a landfill. It can be endlessly reincarnated into useful items.

We EcoNesters talk a lot about purging clutter, living slower, donating and thrifting, and living minimally. So, this post is going to take a different tact. It isn’t going to tell you that hording some things isn’t such a bad idea. In fact, hold onto those scraps.

But, wait a minute … scraps are junk, right? Not so fast. Scrap items can be put to use and given a “life after waste.” In fact, the end products of materials are often called salvage. That’s a great word for things that are “saved from the ruins” and eventually end up in dumpsters.

If you’re like me, you’ve got all sorts of scraps hanging around just ready for a new practical renaissance of sorts. Think of it as part of the transformation of renewal for living a more resourceful life.

Scrap renewal projects using…

1. Yarn
If you read my posts with any regularity, you know that knitting is my number one DIY project of choice. Yarn scraps abound in the needle world, and this pin cushion from Craft Leftovers via the Craftzine blog is perhaps one of the best uses I’ve seen for small amounts of yarn scraps.

2. Wood
Keep those wood scraps out of the burn pile and make a beautiful and unique scrap wood cutting board from Instructables.

3. Fabric
I love wrapping gifts using fabric. Here is a pattern from Purl Bee to make an easy, little drawstring bag that could become the perfect packaging for gift giving.

4. Paper
While cardboard furniture has been making the DIY design rounds lately, I’m not sure how comfy these things are to sit on. This bowl, by A Little Hut that is created using scraps of magazine cuttings seems more useful.

5. Plastic
Not being much of a plastic user or a soda drinker, I don’t have a lot of plastic recycling hanging around, but this is truly one of the post amazing things I’ve seen using tossed plastic: This plastic kayak shown here at Gizmodo with DIY instructions from Instructables is outrageous!

6. Glass
I’ve had a case of severe chandelier envy. You can read about it here and here. So, when I found this outdoor glass chandelier over on Casa Sugar crafted from recycled glass jars, it lit my fire.


Ronnie Citron-Fink is a writer and educator. Ronnie regularly writes about sustainable living for online sites and magazines. Along with being the creator of www.econesting.com, Ronnie has contributed to numerous books about green home design, DIY, children, and humor. Ronnie lives the Hudson Valley of New York with her family.

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Zero Waste is a philosophy and a design principle for the 21st Century. It includes ‘recycling’ but goes beyond recycling by taking a ‘whole system’ approach to the vast flow of resources and waste through human society.

Zero Waste maximizes recycling, minimizes waste, reduces consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into nature or the marketplace.

Zero Waste:

  • redesigns the current, one-way industrial system into a circular system modeled on Nature’s successful strategies
  • challenges badly designed business systems that “use too many resources to make too few people more productive”
  • addresses, through job creation and civic participation, increasing wastage of human resources and erosion of democracy
  • helps communities achieve a local economy that operates efficiently, sustains good jobs, and provides a measure of self-sufficiency.
  • aims to eliminate rather than manage waste


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Reasons to Try This Alternative

Every cat owner is familiar with the smell of a litter box that needs to be cleaned. Traditional clay kitty litter doesn’t absorb any smells created in the litter box and it tends to turn into a gooey mess when it gets saturated. It then sticks to the bottom of the litter box and makes the smell even worse. Clay kitty litters get stuck to the bottom of the cat’s feet and then are tracked throughout the entire house. Pine pellet kitty litter is an alternative that is often overlooked. There are many benefits to using pine instead of clay litter.

Odor Control

Pine has a naturally pleasing scent and it overpowers the smell of urine that causes the majority of litter box odors. The odor problem that clay litters make worse is due to the urine being collected in a ball of clay. This ball holds in the smell and it then sits at the top of the litter box. Pine pellets break apart and turn into sawdust allowing the urine to dry and sink to the bottom of the litter box along with the smell.

Environmentally Friendly

Pine kitty litter is very safe for the environment. It is 100% natural and contains no chemicals. Pine is simply a wood product that is biodegradable so it won’t collect in a landfill site. No trees are cut down to make pine litters. Manufacturers often take pride in the fact that they use wood by-products that would otherwise be going to waste.

Less Mess

Pine pellet kitty litter does not get tracked through the house like traditional clay litters tend to. The pellets are too large to stick to a cat’s feet so they stay put in the litter box where they belong. When the saturated pellets turn into sawdust it falls to the bottom of the litter box and stays below the fresh pellets so even when the litter is used the sawdust will not get tracked around either.

Easier Cleaning

When litter boxes are cleaned out the mess has to be placed in a garbage can and the horrible smell still hangs around. If the bag is tied up and thrown out in the trash immediately it has caused yet another plastic bag to be wasted and sent to the landfill. When cleaning a litter box where pine pellet litter has been used the mess can be flushed down the toilet. Pine will not clog the drain because it turns into sawdust when it gets wet and will not clump like clay litters do. When it is time to completely empty the litter box it can be dumped outside and used as mulch in the garden or around trees and shrubs.

Healthy and Safe

Pine kitty litter is a much healthier alternative for both cats and their owners. Pine is a natural product and it is dust free. The dust from clay litters can cause respiratory problems in both animals and people; not to mention the mess the clay dust can leave in the house once it settles on furniture. Pine litter is a wood product and it does not contain any chemicals that could cause health problems for animals and people.

Other Litter Uses

Pine pellets can also be used in cages for small animals such as rabbits, hamsters, and ferrets. It can even be spread out along the bottom of birdcages to control messes. If a cat owner has other animals it is very convenient only having to purchase one type of litter.

Pine kitty litter is an excellent alternative litter choice because it is safe, clean, and easy to use. The environment will be thankful and so will cat owners who no long have to vacuum up kitty litter messes on a daily basis.

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Since you are kicking into waste reduction mode, I thought some of you would enjoy my homemade bulk bags. If you are interested let me know! 

I keep a lot of my dry goods in glass jars to keep them fresh and keep them safe from insects like moths. And, of course I like to buy in bulk whenever possible to reduce waste. The thing is, it is annoying to buy five cups of corn meal from the bulk bin when my jar will only hold four cups—I needed a graduated bag to help me buy the right amount for my jars.

I started with a piece of unbleached cotton pillow ticking 20” tall and 13” wide. The ticking is intended to hold feathers, so the fabric is woven tightly enough that I can buy flour and not have it leak all over the place. I also designed this bag to not have any hidden corners to trap dry goods.

Wash and dry your fabric to shrink it before sewing.

First I tore a one inch strip off the long side for my tie. I pressed the edges in to the centre, then folded and pressed the tie in half again to make a long narrow strip with no raw edges before I sewed it closed.

Tearing off the edge for the tie left me with a piece 20” by 12”. Normally you put your fabric right sides together to sew the seam, then turn your piece inside out for the finished item. I wanted to have the seams on the outside so nothing would get caught inside the bag, so I used a French, or lingerie, seam. So, put the wrong sides together and sew a seam ¼” from the edge. Then turn it inside out and sew a 3/8” seam. Now you have a finished seam on the outside of the bag.

Fold and press the top edge over twice and seam it—again so that it is on the outside of the bag. No flour or corn meal will get caught in the fabric when you dump it into your jar.

Now flatten the fabric tube, fold the bottom end over twice and seam on the outside. Now you have a bag, but we are going to make it even better.

If you put a square of cardboard inside your bag, flat on the bottom, you will see two triangular little ears on the bottom of the bag. These are just like the little triangular ears you see on a drink box or Tetra Pak. You want to sew two seams to close off those triangular little ears. This eliminates two annoying little corners inside your bag that lentils would get caught inside.

Design Alert!!

I said if you put a square of cardboard inside your bag, you will see two triangular ears. But, if you put a rectangular piece inside, the ears will be long enough to overlap. Then, if you sew the ears together you get a great little handle on the bottom of your bag to help you shake the flour out of your bag. My rectangle ended up being 3 ½” by 2 ¼”, but try it out for yourself.

Your bag should be done now. Measure something like rice or beans into the bag, one cup at a time. Make marks for each cup with a permanent marker. Sew the tie on and enjoy shopping your bulk section.



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