Sustainable Industry: 5 Things You Should Stop Throwing Away

Editor’s Notes: Read what Jessica Kane, a professional blogger who writes for Econoheat., the world’s #1 leading waste oil heaters manufacturer believes we should stop throwing away.

5 Things You Should Stop Throwing Away

Many people who recycle believe they are doing all that they can to prevent unnecessary waste. Yet, unbeknownst to them, they still consign products and materials that could be repurposed to landfill while recycling materials that cost more to recycle than reuse.

If you throw away any of the following five things, it is time to stop and reconsider your options:

 

Food Bags

In the grocery bag recycling area at your local grocery store, you can also recycle certain types of food storage bags, including plastic bread and produce bags, dried fruit bags and sandwich bags. Look for the triple arrow recycling symbol on the bags. Keep in mind that, since food bags are reusable storage, you protect the environment more and prevent unnecessary waste from fossil fuel energy generation during recycling processes by reusing food bags whenever possible.Food Bags

 

Cling Wrap

Recycling centers typically do not take film-style plastic wrap. That said, you can still upcycle and reuse it after wiping food splatter off of the plastic. For example, place sheets of used cling wrap on surfaces to protect surfaces from spills when working with potted plants and soil. If you need to smooth the surface of plaster or caulk when performing a bit of home do-it-yourself repairs, wrap a fingertip with cling wrap instead of dirtying a whole glove.

Produce Mesh

Mesh bags and foam sleeves used to store or protect various types of produce are perfect for other home storage projects. For example, reuse mesh bags designed to carry tomatoes, potatoeRecycling
s and onions during the holidays to carry wrapped desserts and gifts. Foam sleeves from around pears, mangoes and other fruits are perfect for protecting your fingertips from cold canned and bottled beverages. You can also use them as packing materials to cushion fragile collectibles, glasses and plates when moving.

Wipes Canisters

Instead of purchasing plastic canisters for organizing, storing and dispensing various types of items, clean disinfectant wipes canisters when you empty them, decorate them to match your home decor and fill them with loose items. For example, these canisters work well as plastic bag dispensers because the top ring prevents you from pulling out more than one bag at a time. You can also use them to store craft supplies and disinfect combs and hairbrushes.

Towel Boxes

Cardboard boxes that hold stacked loose paper towels are also perfect for home storage. Instead of buying cardboard organization boxes, upcycle your empty paper towel ones. For example, use them in dresser drawers to organize underwear and socks. Also, prevent endless searches for specific craft tools like pencils, markers and paintbrushes by filling a paper towel box with vertical cardboard toilet paper rolls, separating and organizing the craft tools by tube.Tiolet Rolls

Almost every item that you throw away can be used elsewhere. Start out with these tips and then look with a different perspective at everything else you toss to reduce wastefulness.

 

 

Beyond Benign and the Green Chemistry Commitment

Editor’s Note: This week’s blog post is written by Beyond Benign‘s Mollie Enright and Alicia McCarthy about the Green Chemistry Commitment. Mollie is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign, Inc. and Alicia is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign’s Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) program. We would like to thank the team at Beyond Benign for writing this piece for our blog.

 Background to Beyond Benign

Beyond Benign was founded in 2007 as a non-profit organization by Dr. Amy Cannon and Dr. John Warner with the aim to cultivate a national and international “Community of Practice” and to bring green chemistry to pre-college and higher education. Our mission and vision is based on a holistic approach for providing solutions to the environmental problems our society faces by inspiring the next generation of scientists to become responsible chemists that can design and incorporate green, sustainable technologies.

This unique educational approach produces materials and trainings that are audience driven and address multiple learning styles from primary school through graduate school. We believe in providing resources that are free and publicly available online so anyone can have access to quality materials on sustainability and green chemistry. We hope to inspire college students to use green chemistry to innovate a sustainable future. The three main areas of focus within the organization are pre-college curriculum and training, community engagement, and higher education. The Green Chemistry Student Outreach Fellows’ Program and the Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) Program are two ways our organization addresses those areas in partnership with higher education institutions.

Sustainable Outreach

Our Green Chemistry Student Outreach Fellows’ Program trains college students in communicating green chemistry concepts to the public using hands-on activities inspired by cutting edge industrial innovations. Undergraduate students are trained in green chemistry and are coached in communicating chemistry concepts to diverse audiences. The students encourage a positive message to future scientists that they can bring change and develop a safer and sustainable world through chemistry.

Fellows’ are given the option to create an outreach or research project based off their experience within the program. This academic year, two scholarships will be awarded to students within the Fellows’ program to participate and share their project at the 21st Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in June 2017. By bringing their projects to a professional conference, students can connect with the larger green chemistry community and can network with peers and faculty to share resources and gain opportunities.

1Beyond Benign Program Manager Mollie Enright leads our Outreach Fellows program and is pictured here talking with local high school students about the challenge of ocean plastics.

Throughout the academic year, the Outreach Fellows reach hundreds of students and community members through fascinating, hands-on activities to showcase innovations, and opportunities in green chemistry. During interactions with the students and public, the goal of the Fellows’ program is to not only empower consumers to make more educated choices, but to encourage students to explore a future career within the STEM field with curiosity and passion.

2Young Einstein’s Science Club visits Beyond Benign annually as part of the Outreach Fellows training day. Students are pictured above exploring a hands-on activity on the dying of fabrics.

Beyond Benign’s outreach program is a model for how students take on the role of a green chemistry ambassador. Their outreach and influence goes beyond the community and can reach their own chemistry department to join in the commitment to integrate green chemistry principles into chemistry education. The Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) has several student-led initiatives among the signing institutions of how students assisted their department in greening their labs and experiments through research and outreach.

Growing a Green Chemistry Community

The GCC is a consortium program that unites the green chemistry community around the shared goals and common vision to grow chemistry departmental resources; expand the community of green chemists; and improve connections with industry for more student opportunities and collaboration. By signing onto the GCC, colleges and universities are identified as schools that are committed to continual progress in the implementation and adoption of green chemistry student learning objectives. The signers agree that upon graduation, chemistry majors should have proficiency in the following essential green chemistry competencies: 1) Theory: Have a working knowledge of the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry, 2) Toxicology: Have an understanding of the principles of toxicology, the molecular mechanisms of how chemicals affect human health and the environment, and the resources to identify and assess molecular hazards, 3) Laboratory Skills: Possess the ability to assess chemical products and processes and design greener alternatives when appropriate, 4) Application: Be prepared to serve society in their professional capacity as scientists and professionals through the articulation, evaluation, and employment of methods and chemicals that are benign for human health and the environment. These student learning objectives are implemented in different ways within each of the signing institutions in accordance with their green chemistry experience level and department resources.

By having a platform for communicating with the signers, the GCC has a unique opportunity to track the progress of signers and identify common roadblocks many departments and student initiatives face when trying to incorporate green chemistry and toxicology into their curriculum and activities. Working groups and partnerships are utilized to create a resourceful network for creating and sharing new tools and models. One major area all GCC signers are very interested in is how to teach toxicology for chemists. Beyond Benign has observed four different models of adoption within chemistry programs: 1) department seminar expert speakers; 2) student-led resources; 3) stand-alone courses, and 4) integration within existing courses.

3Dr. Amy Cannon (far right) pictured above with regional green chemistry college faculty members.

Partnerships with diverse organizations like NESSE, the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3), and MilliporeSigma are important to the growth of Beyond Benign. These connections help develop and provide free resources and tools that can benefit all socio-economic educational institutions and communities. Beyond Benign is coming up on their 10th year in 2017, and we look forward to expanding our goals for chemistry education as our organization advances forward.

 

About Mollie and Alicia

Mollie Enright holds a B.S. degree in chemistry from Gordon College. She is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign, Inc. At Beyond Benign, Mollie leads all community outreach programming and equips volunteers to lead sustainable science outreach events through the green chemistry outreach fellows program. In her role, Mollie also supports all pre-college programming for Beyond Benign and seeks to equip teachers with the resources they need to bring green chemistry and sustainable science into their classrooms.

Alicia McCarthy holds a B.S. degree in Environmental Health from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and in the second year of her M.S in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. She is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign’s Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) program. Alicia’s role is to communicate with potential and current GCC signers to address needs and celebrate successes among chemistry departments and students to further the goal of creating a community network of green chemists. By developing annual, flexible goals with schools, Alicia tracks the progress of specific learning and research objectives among the GCC signers and utilize their accomplishments as models for other schools.

This blog post was edited by Didi Van Doren

 

 

 

18 Tips for how to Have an Eco-Friendly Christmas

Editor’s Note: Get prepared for the festive season by reading our 18 tips for an eco-friendly Christmas.  This blog post was written by Go Green’s Katarina Lajtban. Go Green is a site providing guidance for sustainable living and environmental news around the world that inspires readers to take action. Katarina create web links and online paths that enable future readers to find the Go Green site, follow the news and learn about important environmental issues to take action towards a more sustainable living.

During the holiday season, there is a world-wide skyrocketing trash output and in America alone, there is about a million extra tons of garbage every week. From food shopping to gift shopping and decorating, you can literally see the amount of trash increase in your own home. There isn’t any question that the holidays are a magical and fun time for those who celebrate.

What’s better than attending parties, buying and giving gifts, cooking up your best dishes, volunteering and sharing in a sense of community? There isn’t any other time of the year quite like it. The spirit is contagious because gratitude is a wonderful feeling. However, we all want to do our part to have a more eco-friendly Christmas. Here are some tips to help you celebrate the holidays in a greener way.

High angle shot of Christmas Presents wrapped in eco friendly craft paper ina a wire shopping basket. Horizontal format on a rustic wooden table.

High angle shot of Christmas Presents wrapped in eco friendly craft paper ina a wire shopping basket. Horizontal format on a rustic wooden table.

Decorating
1. Use food as decoration. It can be eaten at the end of the day, meaning there will be less waste to deal with but even if there is, it is biodegradable. Since food is a big part of the holidays, it can be used as table centerpieces. Think persimmons, cranberries and even pinecones.
2. Use LED lights. Looking at Christmas tree lights can be spellbinding; it is a sight to behold. Even for adults, Christmas tree lights evoke warm and fuzzy feelings. So this year, switch to LED holiday light strands. They consume 70 percent less energy than incandescent ones. In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Energy–it costs just $0.27 to light a six-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days! In comparison, it costs $10 for incandescent lights for the same duration. Fun fact: Did you know the first Christmas trees were lit up with candles? Talk about a fire hazard!
3. Stay away from inflatables. These decorations are fun, but they can cost around $2-$9 per month in energy costs. You can limit your energy use by displaying decorations such as ribbons, wreaths and other decorations that don’t consume energy.
4. Use extension cords. Some decorators use string lights to lengthen holiday displays. All that does is consume more energy. It’s eco-friendlier and more energy-efficient to simply use extension cords.
5. Use automatic timers. Don’t leave your lights on all night. No one will notice them when everyone is asleep. Set the timers to turn them off when you hit the sack.

 
Preparing food
1. Buy local produce as much as possible. For starters, the food will be fresher and taste better. Plus, they require less transportation–which, helps to conserve fuel and reduces carbon emissions. Look for local farms that produces turkeys, hams, cornish hens and chickens or the proteins of your choice.
2. Use glass or ceramic pans for the oven. These types of pans heat faster than metal ones. Thus, you can set the temperature 25 degrees lower than the recipe suggests. You also want to stay away from disposable pans and disposable plates, plastic flatware, and Styrofoam cups. This is the time of year to bring out the good china and cloth napkins. They are easy to wash and can be reused repeatedly. In addition, they take up little storage room until next year. When it comes to beverages, serve them from pitchers or gallon jugs instead of individual bottles or cans.
3. Use a slow cooker. For side dishes and small meals, slow cookers, microwaves and toaster ovens are much more energy-efficient than the oven.
4. Keep the oven closed when cooking. Why? Ovens lose a lot of heat when opened and then use more energy to heat back up to the right temperature. It’s better to turn on the oven light and look through the window.

 
Shopping
1. Look for gifts that are eco-friendly. Ask a retail associate to help you. If you are shopping online, it is as simple as typing “Eco-friendly gifts” into your search engine of choice.
2. Look for energy-efficient electronics. Many of our loved ones would like electronics for holiday gifts. Search for the items that promote energy efficiency. A quick note: laptops require 50 to 80 percent less energy than a desktop.
3. Buy ENERGY STAR® appliances. Just look for the logo, as it is easy to find. These models can decrease energy usage up to 40 percent.

 
Keep the pests away
With all the cooking and sweets, you might notice a few unwanted roommates. The best way to keep bugs and other vermin out of your home is with ultrasonic pest repellents. They work remarkably well, without the damaging and harsh fumes that come with extermination. They are also much safer for our pets since they are non-toxic.
One of the most popular ultrasonic pest repellents on the market is the Crave Greens plugin, which can be found on Amazon. Although, there are many to choose from. Read the reviews and descriptions before purchasing. You want to get the most effective plugin for your needs.

 
Prefer to travel?
The holidays are for enjoying your time off. Sometimes, that calls for a travel adventure. To keep it eco-friendly, choose one of these greener destinations.
1. Costa Rica. This country is known for its eco-conscious boutique hotels. The country also has a sustainability policy which has resulted into hydro-power being its biggest source of electricity.
2. Galapagos Islands. These islands are located over 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. They are also almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. 90 percent of the islands are designated as national parks, pure heaven for nature lovers!
3. Bhutan. This country is deliberately developing tourism slowly so as to preserve their natural resources and protect their culture. They also have a set tourism tax that is returned to the communities. You will find breathtaking wildlife in its many conservation areas.
4. New Zealand. Who can forget the amazing scenery in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings’ movies? In fact, 20 percent of the country is made up of natural parks. Why not spend Christmas surrounded by natural landscapes or going whale watching?
5. Slovenia. Its capital, Ljubljana, was voted the European Green Capital of 2016. It states that it is the first European city to move towards zero waste. They have installed special bins that charge users based on how much waste is disposed. Furthermore, its city buses run on natural gas.

 
As you can see, you have many options for enjoying an eco-friendly Christmas and they aren’t difficult to follow or implement. Plus, you’ll lose the guilty conscious of having too much waste or using too much energy.

 

This blog post was edited by Daniel Ddiba.

70 ways to Reuse Plastics at Home

Editor’s Note: NESSE were recently informed about an infographic created by CF Kunststoffpnofile in the Netherlands explaining how plastics can be reused in the home

The use of plastic is still increasing – you can use it for everything. Plastic is light, strong and durable but there is also a great disadvantage about plastic. There is for example about 5 to 8 million tons of dumped plastic found in the ocean every year. It is obvious that this large amount of waste has a very negative impact on the environment. So what can you do about it?

CF Kunststoffprofile created an infographic with 70 ways to reuse plastic products at home. CF Kunststoffprofile is a manufacturer of custom made plastic profiles. This company is committed to protecting the environment. They take their responsibility by recycling used profiles if this is possible. Profiles which can not be internally recycled go to an external recycle partner. And now they also created this infographic for you, so you can help protect the environment as well! Have fun with protecting our environment.

70-ways-to-reuse-plastic

Sustainable Industry: Method

cleaner cleanmethod products

Method was founded in 2001 by Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan, two former roommates who set out to make less harmful cleaning products. Fourteen years later, Method is a leader in corporate sustainability, producing cleaning products ranging from floor cleaner to hand soap. With Cradle-to-Cradle Gold certified product lines, LEED-certified buildings, and B Corp practices, Method continues to strive towards company-wide social and environmental sustainability, while continuing to grow—in fact, Method is currently building their first manufacturing plant in Chicago to LEED Platinum standards. We spoke with Saskia van Gendt, Method’s “Captain Planet” for greenskeeping, to get some insight on Method’s practices.

 Method is a very eco-conscious company, with LEED, Cradle-to-Cradle, and B Corp certifications and many sustainable initiatives. Did the company start out incorporating sustainability in every aspect of the business, or did that come gradually?

When Method was founded, the cofounders really wanted to disrupt the cleaning products category. Eric and Adam had their own perspective that they wanted to bring to the field. Eric came from design and marketing, and Adam was a climate scientist with a background in chemical engineering, so he brought the science and sustainability portion. It was always style and substance, where the substance was science and sustainability.

 What does Method’s sustainability team look like?

We have a growing team that includes greenskeeping as well as regulatory work and long-term innovation. We merged with the Ecover brand in 2012, and we all work on both brands. Adam is in charge of global greenskeeping, and under Adam we have a chemist who works on pioneering new ingredients and new platforms. Our team also includes regulatory leads and our counterparts based in Europe. Altogether, there are seven of us working directly in greenskeeping.

We have very cross-functional roles. Whenever we have a project involving packaging or supply chain, we’ll work directly with that function. Greenskeeping sets the priorities and strategies for where we should go as a company, and the relevant department helps to execute the plan.

Have you found that sustainability is difficult or expensive to prioritize? 

Wind turbine at Method's new Chicago factory

Wind turbine at Method’s new Chicago factory

No, not really. It’s not often an added cost, but sometimes you do have to make an investment for how you want to do things in the future. For example, at the new factory we’re building in Chicago, we wanted to buy a windmill so we could source up to 50% of the plant’s energy from renewable power.

Also, the price of the recycled plastic we use fluctuates, and sometimes it is more expensive than virgin plastic. But oftentimes the business side will also support the environmental decision. As a B Corp, we have a responsibility to both our shareholders and the planet, and that’s very ingrained in the company and the way we do things. We make a profit and also work towards social and environmental good. Sustainability is always the bottom line for us; we prioritize people and the planet more than traditional companies.

Can you share an example of a recent sustainability challenge and how you approached it?

One of the problems we have, which I think is pretty common with cleaning companies, is preserving our products. We have a portfolio of ingredients that is largely plant- or mineral-derived and our formulas are usually pH-neutral. In order to guarantee the safety of these relatively benign formulas, we have to introduce a small amount of preservative to ensure that there are no bacteria or harmful microorganisms when the product reaches the consumer.

Our ingredients are assessed by a third party scientific research organization, MBDC, before they enter the product; MBDC looks at something like 30 different environmental and health endpoints to ensure the ingredient’s safety. These assessments provide a green, yellow, or red light to tell us whether the ingredient is perfectly safe, has some concerns, or is a total no-go. We never introduce red ingredients to the portfolio. The problem with preservatives specifically is that they’re designed to kill things, like pathogens. Naturally, because they are designed to kill, they may have concerns with aquatic toxicity or they can be allergenic. It’s very hard to find preservatives that are both safe and effective. We’ve found some good alternatives over the years, but the preservatives category continues to be a challenge.

We design all of our products to use the safest preservatives that are out there, and look into technical methods we can use to eliminate the need for preservatives in our factory. With the new factory we’re building, we will have more control over how our products are manufactured and have more options for non-preservative methods like sterilization of the supply line. The factory will also give us more flexibility to try out new things that we couldn’t before, and be able to experiment more.

Do you have any advice for small businesses that are looking to become more sustainable, but don’t know where to start?

Look at the B Corp framework for how to structure a company. Any company can take the impact assessment for free, and it asks about 200 questions about transparency of your operations, how the company is governed, your worker benefits, social responsibility, environmental practices, and so on. It’s a super-comprehensive assessment and through taking it, you may be able to identify a few things that are achievable in the short term and you can start working on immediately. At Method, we recognize that total sustainability is impossible to achieve immediately. We try to do things a little bit better every day, and move towards sustainability step by step.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Saskia! Good luck with your greenskeeping!

contributed by Anna Ivanova