Posts Tagged ‘recycle’

Environmental Sustainability Lifestyle Apps

Friday, January 24th, 2014

A few weeks ago I promised a roundup and review of environmental sustainability lifestyle apps designed to help us live greener, more eco-conscious lives. I combed the App Store, looking at apps for both iPad and iPhone and I was quite surprised that there weren’t more options. The following seven apps stood out to me, for better or for worse. Hopefully you will find a few of these useful as you go through your own environmental sustainability journey.

RR_GoodGuide_012414GoodGuide
iPhone only
This was the most fun of all the apps I reviewed. There are a few distinctive features about the GoodGuide app that makes it stand out. First, every product in their database is reviewed on the criteria of health, environmental impact and social impact and assigned a blended score which is displayed on a red yellow or green background. This serves as a guide for how the product measures against comparable items. After the score, the next most valuable feature is the ability to filter on the issues that matter most to you. I chose nutrition, scientifically proven health hazards, animal welfare certifications and fair trade. Maybe organic, energy efficiency and pollution matter more to you — the filter is completely customizable. If a product you are considering has violations in any of the criteria you select, it is flagged and you are provided with info on why it failed the check. The GoodGuide app allows you to save lists of products to trust and brands to avoid for future reference. It has a barcode scanner, which you know means I ran around my house scanning everything in sight. Finally, I recently read an article about GoodGuide partnering with Target to rate some of their products and I’m looking forward to seeing that happen. This app is a freebie, but it would be worthwhile even as a paid app. It is intuitive, well designed and informative. I highly recommend giving it a try.

RR_Joulebug_012414JouleBug
iPhone only
This app is fun and educational. Creating good habits and doing simple things to green your life earns you digital pins and badges. You can keep your achievements to yourself, share them with the Joule Bug community or brag a little bit on your social media channels. I liked the interactivity and ease of use and found the advice to be sound and practical. My favorite video games are ones where you collect stuff to earn upgrades so it is no surprise I enjoyed the badge quest aspect. I’m working on an iPhone 4S and had a few crashes, but it wasn’t unbearable and I suspect the newer hardware probably supports the app better. I’ll be looking forward to bug fixes, though. The down side of this app — nobody on your Facebook feed cares if you “recycled on-the-go” or if you “planned a meat-free meal” but the tantalizing offer of bonus points may tempt you to overshare. If you have a hard time self-editing these sorts of social media posts, proceed with caution.

RR_Rippl_012414Rippl
iPhone only
Any sustainable habit you want to improve is in your hands with the ripple app. This free app is sponsored by Ocean Conservancy, the group that puts out the sustainable fish list every year. Using Rippl, you can set a new sustainability goal and receive reminders on your phone to help you stick with it. There are dozens of goals to choose from so you can choose according to your personal priorities. I chose “Carry A Reusable Mug” and I’m doing OK but there is much opportunity for improvement. On the days I forgot my mug it was a real bummer having to check the “NO” box. Worse yet, the app holds you accountable because you can’t clear the little red notification icon until you ‘fess up about how you did that day. Of the apps I tested, I think this one is the most likely to inspire real, lasting change.

RR_iRecycle_012414iRecycle
iPad/iPhone
Powered by Earth911.com this app helps you know what to do with all sorts of items at the end of their useful life. The app is based on your geographic location so it knows the rules for your local recycling program and even when and where the next local Household Hazardous Waste (think batteries, paint, chemicals, and tires) collection takes place. Earth911 advises on recycling everything from notebook paper to construction materials, electronics and auto parts. You won’t use this app every day, but when you need it you’ll be glad it is there. The lists are comprehensive and the links are super-useful. This would be an especially helpful app for someone like Jenny who is just starting an in-home recycle program.

RR_DirtyDozen_012414Dirty Dozen
iPad/iPhone
The Environmental Working Group puts out Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists every year to inform consumers which produce items have the most or least pesticide exposure. I think the information is really valuable but consumer guides are available at their website. There’s not much here apart from the lists, so I didn’t find the app necessary. Still, it works properly and there’s certainly no harm in using it if an app is more convenient for you.

RR_TrashNothing_012414Trash Nothing!
iPad/iPhone
Trash Nothing! is a freecycling matching service. The terms of service state that users cannot sell or trade items and should only take things that are for personal use, not for resale. The idea is to have a free exchange of usable goods. Listings are organized into groups that serve a specific geographic area. Users can either list what they have to offer, or they can list things they need and hope someone has the item to spare. The group that serves my area isn’t very active and it seems like the “wanted” posts outnumber the “available” posts. Trash Nothing is a strong concept, but I didn’t see a compelling reason to use this in lieu of other forums like word-of-mouth, Facebook or Craig’s List. For me, this is one to skip, but results may vary depending on the activity level of your local freecycling community.

RR_GreenTips_012414Green Tips
iPad/iPhone
This app was pretty much the worst ever. It is a festival of advertisements with the occasional generic green living tip from their “Home” category thrown in. After you see a couple tips you get another advertisement. If you want to see tips from more categories you have to buy them at $0.99 each. You can also buy rights to an an ad-free version if you don’t want to be assailed by pop-ups constantly, but by the time you unlock everything and nix the ads to make this it usable, you’ve spent $4 on this “free” app and you get nothing you couldn’t accomplish with a Google search.

Do you have any favorite “green” apps? Did I list your favorite here? Or maybe I missed it? Join the conversation in the comments below. The Wilderness Girls love hearing from you!

Eco-Resolution: Starting a Recycle Bin

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

I usually don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Christina’s recent post sums up a big reason why – I tend to set the same stale goals and then get deflated the next year when I realize that in an entire year, I couldn’t accomplish what I was so excited to achieve the previous year. So, this year I decided that I wanted my goals to revolve around actual tasks, most of which are little items that are easy to do, but I keep putting off for one reason or another (time restraints, failing at it the first time, getting distracted by something shiny).

Something that I have wanted to do for months is start a recycle bin. I have done a great job in the past year of taking my reusable shopping bags with me to the store, and even have mastered a cleaning routine before I put them back in the car. After seeing the benefit of how many bags I have saved, as well as the inspiration I garnered from Rachael’s recent post on setting an environmental resolution each year, I decided that it was time to stop slacking, and get my recycle on!

Setting up a recycle bin is simple, especially if your city offers curbside pick-up:

1. Buy a trash can/bin to keep your recyclables in.
2. Print out a list of recyclable items (Rachael recommended this PDF).
3. If needed, put a sticker/printout/spray-painted stencil on the top of your recycle bin of the recycle logo. (You could also get a copy of recyclable items laminated and adhere it to the top of the bin for easy reference.)

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You have your new bin and it’s in the kitchen and labeled, so now what? This is where the intimidation factor came in for me. I know that there are some things that are recyclable and some that aren’t, and if you put something that shouldn’t be recycled with recyclables, it could ruin the entire batch. Talk about pressure!

I imagined that my life was going to be something like this Portlandia skit:

So, I decided to start small. For now, we are focusing on recycling cans, paper and bottles (glass or plastic). If we succeed in keeping up with our new eco-habit, we will expand our focus to more items on the recyclable list. After only a few days, we have done a great job with sorting, and I have made two trips out to our city recycle bin to empty the contents.

UPDATE: We have been using what Bryan calls “the hippie bin” for about three weeks now, and it’s going great. We quickly found ourselves recycling more than just the basics we initially committed to. Cheers to starting new habits!

Upcycled Toys

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Living a more eco-conscious life means looking for opportunities to use what you have more often and buy new stuff less often. Upcycling, or “making stuff” as our grandparents called it, is a great way to use what you might otherwise discard and create a new, better thing from the materials. In my view, to count as a successful upcycle, an item needs to use something that would otherwise be waste and the end product should be different and better/cuter/more useful than the components it is made from.

I scoured Pinterest for cool upcycled toy projects and found mixed results. Some projects were super basic – give your kid a big box and tell her it is a rocket ship. Give her an empty oatmeal canister to use as a drum. That’s cool, but it’s not upcycling. Kids need to play with empty boxes, build forts out of bed sheets, and ward off foes and fiery dragons with nothing more than their courage, a cereal box shield and a wrapping paper-roll-turned-broadsword. Imaginative, unscripted play is vital to the development of a child’s imagination. So, while I 100% support reusing things, for this collection I disqualified pins I don’t see as true upcycles.

FINAL_RR_Upcycled Toys_011514

Sumo Bowling Pins — These little guys, made by Leslie at Pink Stripey Socks rock my world. I’m searching fervently for the little aquapod bottles so I can make a set for my daughter. I realize it is technically cheating to buy a product just to upcycle the packaging but these guys are so cute that I can’t resist. I mean look at them! Can you blame me?

DIY TV Toy — This crafty upcycle has amazing DIY instructions to turn a tissue box into a toy TV with customized “channels” for your kiddo to change or create. Playing with this toy is a great way to switch off the electronics and use imagination instead.

DIY I-Spy Bottle — I saw my first I-Spy bottle about a year ago and I thought it was such fun. It was the kind you buy from the store with the little beads and wee plastic tchotchskies inside. Where was this invention when I was a kid on car trips? This version uses stuff you find around the house and in the dreaded junk drawer. It’s made with found materials and if you buy your rice in bulk, this toy will cost just pennies to make.

Super Hero Bracelets — These power cuffs a la Wonder Woman are made from spent toilet tissue rolls, glitter and Mod Podge. The tutorial is high quality and includes some pro-tips from the creator’s experience. Just last week my two-year-old appeared from her room dressed in a Yo Gabba Gabba tee-shirt paired with her Hello Kitty tutu and Darth Vader mask. My husband was never more proud. This is a child in desperate need of Bracelets of Victory to complete her look.

Recycle Sort Game — This is maybe the easiest to make of all of the toys and games I found. I love it for being a practical, customizable teaching tool. Want your kids to understand what goes in the trash and what goes in the recycle bin? Make a game of it – literally.

Do you have some favorite upcycled toy ideas? How about fond memories of playing with a sweet cardboard box? We got a brand new avocado green dishwasher in ’81 and I probably got 100 hours of fun out of that carton. The Wilderness Girls love hearing your thoughts so please share them in the comments below.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink, Resolve

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

FINAL_RR_4Rs_Resolve_010114_1

A few years ago I looked in my kitchen pantry and found New Year’s Resolution inspiration. Our pantry was chock full of plastic bags even though I took reusable bags to the store every time. I did take them to the grocery store every time but the problem was that I forgot them every single other place I went. Headed to Target? No bag. The drugstore? Nope. The mall? Not a chance.

My very first environmental resolution was born. From then on I’ve tried, with varying degrees of success, to set an environmental goal for myself every year in addition to my other resolutions. If you are making resolutions this year, consider adding a green resolution. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

Bring your own bags, every store, every time – Reusables aren’t just for the grocery store. Put some extras in your purse or trunk for use anywhere you would usually get a bag. Just don’t forget to keep ‘em clean!

Use a travel mug for coffee refills – Most of the big coffee shops welcome reusable mugs and many give discounts. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts offers a “refill” price of 99 cents for any size reusable mug and if you dine in that refill price is for a bottomless cup.

Don’t idle your engine – In modern cars, the break-even point between idling and the gas required to restart is only ten seconds. Any time you are parked and waiting for something, kill the engine to save money, gas and carbon emissions.

Try a new fair trade product – Coffee and chocolate are the easiest switches because, well, they’re delicious and easy to find high quality product in fair trade versions. Your favorite coffee shop brew is probably already fairly traded but if you’re not sure just ask when you order your next (reusable) cuppa joe.

Pass by the drive thru – Reducing your fast food trips by as little as one per week can make an impact. Fast food is easy and cheap in the short term but when we rely on it too heavily the costs to health, environment and social justice start to add up quickly.

My green resolution this year is to try out some new eco-conscious iPhone apps that will give me more info to make good decisions and remind me to make better choices. What kinds of changes are you looking to make? Do you have any favorite apps or tips for making more conscious choices? Please share them in the comments below.

Advent Calendars

Monday, November 18th, 2013

The tradition of Advent means different things for different people.  For some, an advent calendar is just a countdown to Christmas and there is nothing wrong with that, but for me Advent is much more. This is the time of year time when Lutheran Christians excitedly await the arrival of the Christ Child on Christmas morning.  In addition, Advent is the beginning of our liturgical year (the church calendar). Since we now have a daughter, it feels like time to upgrade the cheap-o snowman themed countdown calendar Jacob and I have used for a decade in favor of something more.

December 1st is fast upon us so I turned to the only place a person in this situation can turn: the Internet. Specifically, Pinterest. In my search, I found several types of advent calendars from super simple to over-the-top.  I prefer the simple crafty calendars made with natural or recyclable materials. I was particularly fond of those designed for re-use year after year.  I love the sustainable aspect of that, but, even more so, I love the element of tradition that exists in bringing out the family advent calendar each year.

Here are a few of my favorites organized by material type:

Recyclable Materials (diverted from landfill)

FINAL_RR_AdventCalendars1_111913

Design and photo by Morning Creativity

FINAL_RR_AdventCalendars2_111913

Design by Nadine Reeves Photography by Ryan Brook/TC Media for Canadian Living

Reusable Fabric Bags

FINAL_RR_AdventCalendars3_111913

Design and photo by SevernHomemade on Etsy

FINAL_RR_AdventCalendars4_111913

Design and photo by womaninreallife.com

Paper-free “Paper” Chains

FINAL_RR_AdventCalendars5_111913

Design and photo by lovestitches

FINAL_RR_AdventCalendars6_111913

Design and photo by humbleBea on Etsy

Now to make a decision and get crafting. Which of these do you like best? Have you checked out the plethora of advent calendar options on Pinterest? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Your Green Football Season

Thursday, September 5th, 2013
Photo credit:  NFL.com

Photo credit: NFL.com

Tonight the Baltimore Ravens take on the Denver Broncos to begin the 2013 NFL season. Last week the NCAA football season opened. We’re coming up on four straight months of tailgates, parties, sports rivalries and big games. For many people this is the start of “party season” because in addition to college and professional football regular season we have Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Super Bowl Sunday to celebrate.

It is our time to party but it is the NFL’s time to get down to business. I never gave it much thought before I stumbled upon an article highlighting the sustainability efforts of the NFL. They’re focusing on NFL events, facilities and football clubs in an effort to minimize waste, reduce their environmental impact, build energy efficient office buildings and encourage teams follow sustainable practices. This got me thinking that if the NFL can green their football season maybe we can green ours, too. Following the 4R’s of Sustainability – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rethink – you can minimize the eco-impact of your football parties.

Reduce

* Fewer car trips equal fewer trips to the gas pump so carpool to games or friends’ homes to watch the game.

* When it is your turn to host you can reduce paper consumption by skipping paper invitations. Instead, spread the word via text, Facebook event or evite.com.

* Reduce your landfill contribution by choosing less packaging whenever you can. When you make your own veggie tray instead of buying the pre-packaged one you save money and stay in control of the ingredients. Less celery, more snap peas!

Reuse

* Don’t follow the siren song of the pre-printed paper goods. I know they make cute paper cups with footballs printed on them but you already have dishes and serveware at home. With a little planning you can create a much nicer tablescape, so leave the gridiron themed plates at the party store.

* A real pint glass will maximize your beer enjoyment, especially if you chill it in the freezer before serving. Pass over the plastic cups in favor of the real thing.

Recycle

* When you have several guests over for a party it’s a great idea to set up several separate clearly marked recycle & trash stations around your home and patio.

* Keep it clean! Use care not to contaminate recycling loads with food waste like greasy pizza boxes and leftovers.

Rethink

* Buy beer in kegs instead of cans. It’s fresher, tastier and it comes with far less packaging. You can find some great tips for a more sustainable brew here.

* Try a local specialty. Locally produced products are the freshest and there’s a sense of hometown pride to enjoy when the best products are made right here in your own neighborhood. Also, local products help fight carbon emissions because they don’t take long truck rides to get from the producer to your home.

* Go organic where you can. Organic foods are grown without the use of chemical pesticides. Visit the Environmental Working Group’s website for their Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of chemical residue. This will give you a place to start when adding organic to your diet.

Now that we have some tips to get us started, let’s talk about what else we can do to minimize the impact of every party we host from now until the big game in February. Do you have any great ideas for tailgate or outdoor parties? How about some thrifty ideas for reused or recycled party décor? Please leave a comment to let us know about your favorite sustainable party tips.