Tag Archives: eco-friendly

University Recycling 101: How College Students Go Green

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University Recycling 101: How College Students Go Green

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Beverage Container Showdown: Plastic vs. Glass vs. Aluminum

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With summer winding down, it’s hard not to spend every waking (and maybe non-waking) minute outside. That means a whole lot of hikes, cookouts and outdoor fun. You’ve got a handle on green camping hacks and eco-friendly picnic essentials — now let’s zoom in on beverage containers.

Beverages are essential when it comes to outdoor soirees. When picking them out at the store, you’re faced with a few options: plastic bottles, glass bottles or aluminum cans. What to choose? The decision can be daunting for environmentalists. We’re here to give you the lowdown on which of these receptacles gets the planet’s stamp of approval.

Step 1: How They’re Made

We see beverage containers constantly — lining the shelves of the grocery store, filling coolers at BBQs, quenching a beachgoer’s thirst. Just how did they get there?

Plastic

Plastic manufacturing starts off with oil and natural gas. These raw materials are converted into smaller pieces called monomers, and are then chemically bonded together to create long chains, known as polymers. These polymers are the plastic you see in the form of water bottles, food packaging and much more.

To get to the crude oil and natural gas needed to produce plastics, we must head for the earth’s crust. However, oil and natural gas is buried beneath layers of bedrock — that’s where drilling comes in. Drilling for oil in our pristine oceans and fracking for natural gas in America’s West is destroying our environment.

Glass

Liquefied sand, soda ash (naturally occurring sodium carbonate), limestone, recycled glass and various additives make up the glass bottles we use to hold our beverages.

Using limestone prevents glass from weathering and is thus a valuable raw material for glass containers. The sedimentary rock is typically mined from a quarry — either above or below ground. In terms of the environment, limestone mining may contaminate water and contribute to noise pollution. Limestone mining can also destroy habitat for animals who live in their cave ecosystem and can form a permanent scar on the landscape.

It’s safe to say that the raw materials that go into making glass bottles are widely available in the U.S.

Cans

New aluminum cans are almost always made from bauxite, a mineral that the U.S. gets from mines in countries like Guinea and Australia. The mining of bauxite is harsh on the planet — raw bauxite is discovered by way of open-pit mining, essentially scraping a pit into the landscape and leaving environmental destruction behind. Bauxite mining contributes to habitat loss and water contamination, as well as a slew of other negative environmental impacts, like increased erosion.

Step 2: Transport

When getting from here to there, each container has a different footprint.

Plastic

The environmental cost of transporting plastic bottles can exceed even those of creating the plastic bottle in the first place. This isn’t always the case — it depends on the distance of transport — but it’s a throttling idea.

For short distances, plastic bottles have a low transportation footprint. They pack tightly — companies are definitely responding to greener consumers and are keeping sustainability in mind when designing the shapes of their bottles. They’re also very lightweight, meaning less fuel is consumed during shipping.

Glass

There’s one big, undeniable eco-unfriendly aspect of glass bottles — they’re heavy. The transportation of glass bottles requires significantly more energy than their lightweight counterparts. Glass is fragile, too, so they can’t be packed into a truck as tightly as aluminum and plastic can.

Cans

Americans love cans because they are small, lightweight and airtight. Turns out, the planet does, too. Their size means they save fuel — more cans can fit into a smaller space and their light weight means less gas to get them from point A to point B. Because aluminum isn’t particularly fragile, cans use less cardboard packaging when transported as well, meaning more room for more cans.

Step 3: Where They End Up

Empty — now what? Each of these containers is recyclable. Here’s how they match up.

Plastic

The recycling rate of plastics is actually quite low — in 2014, only 9.5 percent of plastic material generated in the U.S. was recycled. The rest was combusted for energy or sent to a landfill where its fate is uncertain — it can either find its way out and pollute our planet or sit there for up to 500 years before finally decomposing.

Glass

Glass bottles are 100 percent recyclable and an estimated 80 percent of recovered glass containers are made into new glass bottles. Once you toss your glass bottle in the recycling bin, manufacturers can have it back onto the shelves in a month. Plus, using recycled glass when making new glass bottles reduces the manufacturer’s carbon footprint — furnaces may run at lower temperatures when recycled glass is used because it is already melted down to the right consistency.

Cans

Like glass, aluminum cans are completely recyclable and are commonly recycled worldwide as part of municipal recycling programs. Aluminum cans can be recycled repeatedly with no limit.

In her book, The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard notes that we are currently recycling only 45 percent of cans. That calls for a lot of pit mining for bauxite to make new material. According to Leonard, more than a trillion aluminum cans have been trashed in landfills since 1972, when such records began.

And the Winner Is…

If they are made from 100 percent recycled material, aluminum cans should be your top choice when shopping for picnic beverages. Their low transportation footprint and ease of recyclability make them a winner.

However, the extraction of raw bauxite is detrimental to the planet. New aluminum cans are not eco-friendly.

Glass should be your pick if recycled cans are not an option. Glass bottles are made from relatively innocuous raw materials and is, like aluminum cans, completely recyclable. Their bulky size and transportation footprint is their downfall.

Plastic does have a small carbon footprint when it comes to transportation, but it’s tough to ignore the giant carbon footprint when it comes to extraction. Plus, the plastic that doesn’t end up in a recycling bin can be a huge pollutant in our environment, killing wildlife and contaminating ecosystems. With using plastic, the planet is ravaged.

Feature images courtesy of Shutterstock

Read More:
How Many Times Can That Be Recycled?
Which Is Better? Plastic vs. Glass Food Storage Containers
The Verdict Is In: Keep the Bottle Caps On

About
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Lauren Murphy

Lauren has a B.S. in environmental science, a crafting addiction, and a love for all things Pacific Northwest. She writes from her cozy downtown apartment tucked in the very northwestern corner of the continental U.S. Lauren spends her time writing and focusing on a healthy, simple and sustainable lifestyle.

Latest posts by Lauren Murphy (see all)

Beverage Container Showdown: Plastic vs. Glass vs. Aluminum – August 11, 2017
Is Starbucks Doing Enough to Recycle Its Cups? – July 18, 2017
6 Simple Swaps for a Green 4th of July  – June 30, 2017

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Beverage Container Showdown: Plastic vs. Glass vs. Aluminum

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Can Greenwashing Ever Be Good?

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Can Greenwashing Ever Be Good?

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Climate March Brings Thousands of People to Protest Donald Trump

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The latest version of organized protest against President Donald Trump is officially underway with the third annual People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. The event is expected to draw thousands of participants both in the nation’s capital and sister marches nationwide, where demonstrators plan to speak out against the Trump administration’s plans to undo the federal regulations that are in place to fight climate change.

Coincidentally, Saturday’s march also marks the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. During that period, the president has stacked his administration with prominent climate deniers, proposed eliminating billions in scientific research, and threatened to withdraw from the Paris climate treaty.

Mother Jones has three reporters on the scene in DC. Be sure to follow Rebecca Leber, Nathalie Baptiste, and Tim Murphy in DC, Jaelynn Grisso in New York, Karen Hao in Oakland, along with our rolling collection of updates below:

3:20 pm ET As we get ready to finish our coverage, here is something to think about.

During the march, Trump tweeted this.

He might want to check out what happened in his own back yard today, as thousands of people chanted, “The oceans are rising and so are we.”

3:10 pm ET In Los Angeles, marchers are also starting to gather.

3:05 pm ET A report from Oakland, where an idigenous leader sings some songs for the climate marchers.

3:03 pm ET Leonardo DiCaprio is all in on the climate march.

2:50 pm ET This is what is happening at the Bay Area march.

2:45 pm ET Here are some conversations Rebecca Leber had at the march in DC.

2:40 pm ET Despite the heat, the crowds in DC aren’t thinning.

2:33 pm ET Marchers are starting to gather in Oakland, Calif.

2:20 pm ET Some more images from DC.

2:15 pm ET Tim Murphy catches up with a man who wants to be the next governor of Virginia.

2:10 pm ET Marchers have arrived at the White House. Wonder who is at home?

2:05 pm ET Here are some reports from New York, where there are celebrity sightings, and Chicago, where it’s raining.

Meanwhile, back in DC, scientists and educators at the march are calling themselves “defenders of truth.” According to the march website, they “defend the facts and promote scientific learning in service of humanity.”

Rebecca Leber/Mother Jones

1:45 pm ET And look who Rebecca Leber just saw. Bill Nye, who also marched for science last weekend, tells her, “Science is political but we don’t want it to be partisan.”

1:39 pm ET Marches all over.

1:30 pm ET

1:16 pm ET The marchers are now going past a particular hotel. They have something to say about its owner.

1:12 pm ET Our environmental reporter Rebecca Leber is on the scene.

1:10 pm ET Despite the heat, this dog persisted.

1:07 pm ET The DC march has begun!

12:41 pm ET Here are some participants from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

12:35 pm ET Nathalie Baptiste captures the mood on the mall.

12:32 pm ET While you are waiting for the march to begin, take a look at some of our great Climate Desk coverage.

12:25 pm ET The crowds are growing and the temperature is rising—and that’s the point.

12:14 pm ET Marchers came to DC from all over the country.

11:57 am ET More marchers in DC.

11:50 am ET Environmental justice is a crucial part of this conversation—so are broken promises.

11:47 am ET Switzerland also joined in—this from Geneva.

11:32 am ET From DC where the weather is clearing. Temps supposed to rise above 90 today.

11:25 am ET This is what is happening in Pittsburgh right now.

10:30 am ET We will be sharing a few of the signs that appear.

10:09 am ET People are still gathering under overcast skies for the Climate March in Washington, D.C. but even before it began, the EPA tweaked its website.

Meanwhile, in Denmark, things have already started:

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Climate March Brings Thousands of People to Protest Donald Trump

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Americans Have Officially Reduced Their Beef Consumption by 19 Percent

Turns out, Americans may be making smart, eco-friendly decisions in the grocery store after all.

The National Resources Defense Council recently released a report on American food consumption, which found that Americans reduced their intake of beef famously the most carbon-intense food on the planet by 19 percent between 2005 and 2014. For anyone who cares about the environmental footprint of their food choices, this is decidedly good news.

Americas Changes in Consumption

Americans chose to eat a lot less meat in 2014 than they did in 2005. In fact, they ate about ⅕ less meat in the former year than they did in the latter. According to the NRDC, this will result in a huge reduction in carbon emissions from the US.

Americans consumed 19 percent less beef, avoiding an estimated 185 MMT of climate-warming pollution or roughly the equivalent of the annual tailpipe pollution of 39 million cars, the report states.

And it wasnt just beef that saw decreased consumption. Milk, pork, high-fructose corn syrup and shellfish consumption also went down.

Image via NRDC

The reason behind the shift is still up for debate. According to the New York Times, some industry experts attribute the changes to steeper prices of red meat. Droughts that plagued the region increased the cost of beef, as did increasing rates of export to other countries. Additionally, about one quarter of consumers attested that it was concerns about cholesterol and saturated fat that had them reaching for alternative protein sources.

Beef vs. Alternatives

Beef is notoriously horrible for the environment. In addition to the methane gasses released by cattle, numerous other factors make beef an unsustainable option (at least, beef as it is raised today). In order to feed cows, farmers must harvest millions of acres of corn and soy, resource-intensive crops that are often heavily treated with fossil fuel-based pesticides and insecticides. Then, of course, there is the loss of arable land associated with massive Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, often known as CAFOs.

In fact, even just switching from beef to chicken can have a massive positive impact on the environment. In simplified terms, beef production emits 26.45 kilogram equivalents of CO₂ for every 1 kg of beef, which chicken only emits 5.05.

What Foods to Eat (And What Foods Not to Eat) To Save the Planet

When it comes to a diet that can improve the state of the planet by reducing carbon emissions, the waters are murky. One thing, however, is certain: Eating mainstream beef is bad for the planet. Swap out beef for plant-based proteins whenever possible, but dont swap it out for dairy. (In fact, most types of dairy have a C02 emissions rating higher than chicken or pork!). You should also avoid some resource-intensive vegetables, like asparagus (big shocker: asparagus is worse for the planet than chicken!), as much as possible. Here are some swaps you might consider making, according to the EWG:

Swap out salmon (11.9 kgs carbon emissions) for beans (2 kgs)
Swap out cheese (13.5 kgs) for eggs (4.8 kgs)
Swap out pork (12.1 kgs) for tofu (2.0 kgs)
Swap out turkey (10.9 kgs) for peanut butter (2.5 kgs)
Swap out canned tuna (6.1 kgs) for lentils (our clear winner at 0.9 kgs)

Finally, eating local should be your first priority if youre trying to go gentle on planet Earth. Even if you just cant give up eating a burger once in awhile, youll be doing the earth a huge favor by simply choosing a local, grass-fed producer.

Most beef cattle in the United States today are finished on grain in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), states the NRDC report. Growing this cattle feed (primarily corn and soy) requires large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, which, in turn, require significant inputs of fossil fuels. Alternative models of beef production, such as intensive rotational cattle grazing, can help sequester carbon in the soil and provide numerous other health and environmental benefits compared to CAFOs.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Americans Have Officially Reduced Their Beef Consumption by 19 Percent

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How to Host a Zero Waste Dinner Party

There are few things I love more than a relaxed, candlelight dinner with friends. Mix together a massive spread of comfort food, genuine laughter and a board game or two and you’ve just described my perfect evening at home.

Since going zero waste, my husband and I havehad to learn the tricks of the trade when it comes to hosting a zero waste dinner party. There is no place for frozen foods or disposable cutlery here; it’s all homemade, homegrown, home-crafted.

Let me show you!

How to Host a Zero Waste Dinner Party

Set the Table

Setting the table for your zero waste dinner party is as simple as opting for real ceramic dishes and linen napkinsover paper and plastic products.

Choose dishes that suit your needs: Do you have a set of china you don’t get to use often? Break it out for fun! Will you be serving a few courses? Count your full place settings and adjust as necessary. Can you cut down on dishes by hosting your event self-serve style?

Find a system that works for you.

Prepare the Meal

The meal you choose to serve will be thefocal pointofyour dinner party, so make it count.

Begin by defining the vibe you’d like to create: Will this be a formal affair? Consider serving multiple courses. Is this a summer or winter event? Opt for a menu that highlights in-season produce. It’s more likely to be grown locally, and it will save you a pretty penny.

Decide howmuch time you are willing to dedicate to preparing the meal: Ifyou’re short on time, go for a lightweight taco bar. If you have time to spare, try something unique and a little more involved that will blow your guests away!

Purchase the ingredients:Shopping for groceries without creating any waste is simpler than it sounds. If you will be shopping at a traditional grocer, start by avoiding the internal grocery aisles and stick to the produce section. If you have to purchase a pasta or canned good, make sure the packaging is recyclable! Otherwise, prioritize farmers markets and bulk bin stores. They are tailor-madefor zero waste shoppers!

To find a farmers market or bulk bin shop near you, use this tool!

Create the Atmosphere

I’m a big fan of laying out a pretty tablescape. Now is the time to pull out those Pinterest tricks you’ve been keeping in your back pocket!

Decide how fancy you want to get:Is this an event that calls for candlelight? Break out those beeswax beauties! Would you prefer to keep the ambiance more casual and lighthearted? Pop a few succulents on the table or avoid decorating altogether.

Set the mood with music:I am a big fan of crafting Spotify playlists for my events. Whether a wedding, birthday party or dinner with friends, music always makes the occasion feel festive and light.

Here are a few that I personally love and enjoy often! “Dinner With Friends” & “Mellow Afternoon.”

Focus on What Matters

In the end, it’s the community and friendship that will make your zero waste dinner party a success. Focus in on the people and let the details fall to the wayside. Have a lovely time!

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How to Host a Zero Waste Dinner Party

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Donald Trump thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax. China begs to differ.

And it’s just in the nick of time, since President-elect Trump has promised to repeal all of President Obama’s climate regulations.

This rule, which will be gradually phased in, requires drilling operators to halve the natural gas that is flared off from new and existing wells, limit venting from storage tanks, inspect for leaks, and so on. DOI projects that the rule should cut methane emissions up to 35 percent.

Methane is an extremely powerful heat-trapping gas. With the the increase in natural gas and oil drilling that is the fracking boom, methane leakage from wells and pipelines has also skyrocketed. A crackdown on these leaks was part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

The new rule doesn’t govern private land, where most drilling takes place. The Environmental Protection Agency developed rules limiting methane leakage from new wells on private land. Hillary Clinton proposed to follow up on that with a rule for existing wells on private land.

Trump will not do that. But, now that the public lands rule is finalized, undoing it would require a new rule-making process, subject to legal challenge.

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Donald Trump thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax. China begs to differ.

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Climate denier Barrasso to replace climate denier Inhofe as head of Senate environment committee.

And it’s just in the nick of time, since President-elect Trump has promised to repeal all of President Obama’s climate regulations.

This rule, which will be gradually phased in, requires drilling operators to halve the natural gas that is flared off from new and existing wells, limit venting from storage tanks, inspect for leaks, and so on. DOI projects that the rule should cut methane emissions up to 35 percent.

Methane is an extremely powerful heat-trapping gas. With the the increase in natural gas and oil drilling that is the fracking boom, methane leakage from wells and pipelines has also skyrocketed. A crackdown on these leaks was part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

The new rule doesn’t govern private land, where most drilling takes place. The Environmental Protection Agency developed rules limiting methane leakage from new wells on private land. Hillary Clinton proposed to follow up on that with a rule for existing wells on private land.

Trump will not do that. But, now that the public lands rule is finalized, undoing it would require a new rule-making process, subject to legal challenge.

Visit source: 

Climate denier Barrasso to replace climate denier Inhofe as head of Senate environment committee.

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The Department of Interior finalized a new rule to limit methane leakage on federal and Native American land.

And it’s just in the nick of time, since President-elect Trump has promised to repeal all of President Obama’s climate regulations.

This rule, which will be gradually phased in, requires drilling operators to halve the natural gas that is flared off from new and existing wells, limit venting from storage tanks, inspect for leaks, and so on. DOI projects that the rule should cut methane emissions up to 35 percent.

Methane is an extremely powerful heat-trapping gas. With the the increase in natural gas and oil drilling that is the fracking boom, methane leakage from wells and pipelines has also skyrocketed. A crackdown on these leaks was part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

The new rule doesn’t govern private land, where most drilling takes place. The Environmental Protection Agency developed rules limiting methane leakage from new wells on private land. Hillary Clinton proposed to follow up on that with a rule for existing wells on private land.

Trump will not do that. But, now that the public lands rule is finalized, undoing it would require a new rule-making process, subject to legal challenge.

More:  

The Department of Interior finalized a new rule to limit methane leakage on federal and Native American land.

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Mass transit wins big in ballot initiatives

In an otherwise rough election for cities, poor people, and the environment, all three got a bit of good news from state and local ballot initiatives funding mass transit. Across the country, voters approved a majority of measures to expand bus and rail lines.

Smart Growth America, the pro-transit and urbanism advocacy group, compiled a list of the biggest transit initiatives on Tuesday’s ballots. Of the 27 measures tracked, 19 passed. And of the eight that failed, five received majority support but fell short because local tax increases required a supermajority.

Among the biggest successes were a sales tax increase to build new light rail in Seattle, a property tax to pay for repairs and maintenance on the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, and a slight sales tax hike to expand bus and rail services and upgrade bike lanes and sidewalks in Los Angeles County.

It wasn’t only the famously eco-friendly cities of the Left Coast that supported mass transit. Even in the South — the country’s most conservative region, with some of its most car-dependent metro areas — voters approved taxes for transit. Wake County, North Carolina, passed a half penny per dollar sales tax increase for new services, including three bus rapid transit lines and a commuter rail line. Atlanta passed two separate sales taxes for biking and walking trails, street and sidewalk improvements, and bus upgrades and rail expansions.

There were also positive results in smaller cities in the Midwest and Interior West. In Eastern Washington, the conservative side of the state, Spokane passed a 0.2 percent sales tax to fund more bus service and launch the area’s first bus rapid transit line. Indianapolis and surrounding Marion County voted for a 0.25 percent income tax to increase bus service. (The Indianapolis area has long had Republicans who support transit, such as former Mayor Greg Ballard and Carmel, Indiana, Mayor Jim Brainerd.)

The Center for Transportation Excellence, a pro-transit think tank, kept track of all transit-related ballot measures and found support for mass transit in small and mid-sized cities, too. Kansas City, Missouri, passed a 3/8-cent sales tax increase to build light rail, while Greensboro, North Carolina, voted for a transportation investment bond to fund new sidewalks.

There were also some disappointments. Measures to expand transit in Broward County, Florida, and in southeast Michigan failed. But, overall, the results were evidence that most Americans — even Trump voters — are willing to pay for greater, greener mobility.

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Mass transit wins big in ballot initiatives

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