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Archive for December, 2010

RFID Recycling Bins?

Thursday, December 16th, 2010
By Christa

Has your city gotten its recycling bins wired yet? Some areas – e.g., San Francisco, California; Cleveland, Ohio; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Charlotte, NC; and Laurel, Maryland – have installed radio frequency identification (RFID) chips in their recycling bins to track compliance and the amount of recyclables being collected from specific zones and homes. The tags are coded to serial numbers on the containers and the addresses where they’re being used, and they allow officials to track recycling stats without having to figure out en route which bins belong to which houses.

Advocates for the RFID-equipped bins say they will encourage people to be more aware of what they are throwing out and how their waste is disposed of. They also argue that the technology can be used in conjunction with programs that reward recyclers with incentives like gift certificates to local businesses. Detractors argue that the RFID recycling bins are often paired not with incentive programs, but rather with fees for non-compliance (which can range from putting out bins too early to not putting them out at all). And of course, there are the usual privacy concerns – particularly since in some areas, non-compliance means a trash inspector having a looksee at your cans.

What do you think? Are RFID recycling bins a great way to encourage people to go green or another example of too much government intervention?

The Greenest Handbag Is the One That Doesn’t Bring Anything New Into the World

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
By Christa

Browsing Eco-Chick recently, I was delighted to stumble onto WASTE since I am a bag fiend. Waste handbags are not only absolutely fantastic, they’re also made exclusively out of discarded materials from the auto industry. I’m talking discarded leather arm rests and head rests, seatbelts, rubber straps, and more. What you end up with is a bag made from high quality materials that are designed to be durable, which is just the thing when you’re looking for an everyday bag.

Every WASTE bag is completely unique because they’re crafted out of what’s available so nothing new is needed to produce them. WASTE’s artisans un-stitch all those discarded parts and then craft something durable and beautiful by hand to achieve a color-coordinated, polished look. Why’s this important? Car upholstery uses a lot of leather (and other stuff), and about 45% of what is used is tossed out. Using the leftovers means less garbage in landfills and less energy spent on making new materials for other industries – in this case, the handbag industry.

As you can probably guess, these green handbags don’t come cheap – my favorite prices in at €193 for the option currently available – but if you have the money and need a bag, why not WASTE?

Let the Light Shine In

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
By Christa

Okay, I’m sure you’re sick of reading about wall coverings by now – hello, eco-friendly paint, hello, eco-friendly wallpaper – but I have to show you one more cool green thing for your walls. What is it? It’s LIGHT EMITTING WALLPAPER. Light emitting wallpaper was originally developed in 2008 by Jonas Samson, a Dutch designer, as a concept piece, but people went so nuts over it that a lot more money and time has gone into the idea since then.

Some have even theorized that light emitting wallpaper – with its low-energy LEDs or in some cases even OLEDs, wow – could begin to replace standard light bulbs starting as early as 2012. In some cases, light emitting wallpapers have a backing of LEDs in patterns, like in the images here, but in others it’s the entire wall that’s illuminated, creating an even glow that mimics sunlight.

And here’s some technical info about how light emitting wallpaper works when the illumination is coming from OLEDs:

Operating lifetime has traditionally been a problem with OLEDs, but LOMOX has found a way to achieve significantly longer lifetimes than fluorescent lamps with the use of holographically-generated nanostructures to eliminate the 50% loss of light emission, which currently occur with OLEDs. Previous work has shown that reactive mesogen (i.e., polymerisable liquid crystal) OLED emitter materials can be photo-patterned into multicoloured display pixels with no loss in light output due to the photo-patterning process. The technology will also be more efficient (producing 150 lumens/watt) as it only emits light along one axis. OLEDs can produce a more natural looking light than other forms of lighting.

Get all that?

4 Sweet Eco-Friendly Wallpapers

Monday, December 13th, 2010
By Christa

Posting about green painting options on Friday got me to thinking about other eco-friendly wall coverings – in this case, green wallpaper. Over their lifetime, conventional wallpapers can offgas all kinds of unhealthy stuff like dioxins. When it’s time to redecorate, old wallpapers with PVC have to be burned or buried, and both options are less than environmentally conscious. So if you’re planning on papering, choose wallpaper that will be good for you and good for the planet, like these…

Fun Fair Deluxe is hand printed with non-toxic water-based inks on sustainably sourced paper and materials, yet still wipe-able, color fast, and fire retardant. And it’s absolutely vibrant and stunning, too!

This gorgeous wallpaper from Graham & Brown is made from FSC-certified managed timber sources and water-based inks with no VOCs or solvents. Even the packaging is eco-friendly… it’s made of a fully compostable, corn-based material. The pattern, Aspen, is a pretty and fun way to bring the outdoors in.

And then we have this amazing hand-drawn and hand-printed with water-based inks from Madison and Grow. The recyclable, chlorine-free paper is harvested only from sustainable forests. Plus, 100% of the mill’s short paper fiber is reclaimed and used in the agricultural industry for nutrient rich compost or animal bedding. Neat, huh?

Mod Green Pro makes earth-friendly, vinyl- and PVC-free wallpapers that are also beautiful. The company uses water-based inks on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper and finishes the product with a water-based glaze that can tolerate light wiping.

Painting? Think Twice Before Grabbing a Can of Something or Other at the Home Depot

Friday, December 10th, 2010
By Christa

With a baby in the house, we’re pretty careful about what chemicals we use, and paint was high up there on our list of concerns. Made from petrochemical sources and full of stinky volatile organic compounds, regular interior paint can seem pretty shady when you’re thinking of your home improvement from a green point of view. One sniff in a freshly-painted room and you can’t deny that you’re probably breathing in some not-so-great gasses.

That’s why we’re big fans of Green Planet Paints, a line of ecological, clay-based, no-VOC paints developed in southern Arizona. Their non-toxic, plant-based paint formula combines 11 ingredients including water, marble, porcelain clay, mineral pigments, and a soy-based resin. You can breath easy while you’re painting. You can paint with kids present. And unlike the no-VOC paints of the past, which only came in boring pastel colors, Green Planet Paints can color match just about anything in their flat, eggshell, and semi-gloss finishes.

Have you tried the new no-VOC paints? How did you think they compare to standard paint?

Are Programmable Thermostats Green?

Thursday, December 9th, 2010
By Christa

In a word, yes. In a few words: Yes, programmable thermostats are green when used correctly.There are still people out there who don’t regulate their thermostat throughout the day because they believe that lowering the temperature at night just makes the heater have to work harder during the day, thus using more energy than it would at a constant temperature, but that’s flat out silly.

Thermostat setback (i.e., lowering the temperature when it’s cold) and thermostat setup (i.e., raising it when its warm) when you’re out of the house or sleeping will almost always save money and conserve energy. Yes, your heater or AC will have to work a little to bring the temperature back up in the morning or prior to your return, but not so much that it’s burning through crazy amounts of gas, oil, or electricity.

So what’s the problem? Too many people install programmable thermostats and then never use them or still believe that keeping the temperature constant 24 per day is less wasteful that regulating it throughout the day. Like so many things, a programmable thermostat is a great little gadget that can make your life a little greener, but only if you use and use it correctly.

Dreaming of a Greener Christmas? Target Holiday Trash First

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
By Christa

Overflowing garbage cans are a common sight on post-Christmas trash days. Bags of boxes and plastic packaging sit beside bags of unloved leftovers and wreaths getting brown around the edges. Even recyclables like cardboard boxes and Christmas cards find their way into trash bins instead of that other bin that we at Green Manolo love so much. But Christmas doesn’t have to be wasteful – a little mindfulness goes a long way prior to and on December 25.

Cut or Fake?
Both real and artificial Christmas trees can end up in the trash. Honestly, neither is a truly green option, though real trees come out a wee bit ahead – particularly if you cut your own locally-grown tree from a nearby organic evergreen farm or buy a tree with a root ball and plant it after the holidays. If your city has a Christmas tree mulching program, take advantage of it. Artificial Christmas trees are frequently made of non-recyclable plastics and many are made in China where standards for paints and plastics may be low or non-existent. Eventually, they all end up in landfills. If you have to have a fake (because you won’t be home to water it, for example) then choose one that you’ll use for years and years to come to minimize the impact. Or better yet, go for something like this.

Ditch the Packaging
Who else can remember throwing out bags and bags of torn, wrinkled wrapping paper on Christmas? That’s a lot of waste! Nowadays I like using recycled wrapping paper that is also recyclable – which not all wrapping papers are. Wrapping papers that contain laminates and non-paper additives, and super thin wrapping paper may not be accepted for recycling in your area. I use plain brown kraft paper with embellishments of pine branches and cotton ribbon (very rustic) and reusable cloth wrapping bags. Even though people secretly diss on old aunts and grannies for smoothing out and reusing wrapping paper and ribbons, it’s totally the green thing to do.

Beware What You Buy
As difficult as it can be, buying stuff – food and gifts – that comes in less complicated, single-material packaging will mean a lot less waste. Look for products in packaging that can be recycled or things that don’t have any packaging at all. Sometimes spending more money means less waste – look for durable, long-lasting gifts that will be appreciated by the recipients, and think in terms of longevity when it comes to accessories. Will it need a constant stream of batteries? Can you get a reusable filter? If possible, buy recycled, fair-trade, sustainable gifts for the people you care about. And don’t forget when you’re shopping to BRING IN THOSE REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS!

Don’t Pig Out
Or at the very least, pig out thoughtfully – because, come on, pretty much everyone who celebrates Christmas is going to pig out a little. At those ubiquitous buffets, don’t take more than you’ll finish, since it’s not like you can put it back. And if you’re wearing the apron this year, try not to go crazy cooking way too much food since there’s no guarantee your guests will want to take a to-go bag home. All those tips for a greener Thanksgiving I shared last month still apply – go local, go organic, go vegetarian or vegan if you’re up for it.

Honestly, eating green is probably the easiest way to have a greener Christmas this year because decorations and wrapping paper are non-negotiable elements of most peoples’ holidays. Don’t think you have to adopt an all or nothing attitude about green holidays – even reducing your Christmastime waste a little bit is better than doing nothing at all.

Composting Leaves – It’s Easier Than You Think

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
By Christa

Still have leaves on your lawn? Me, too, though that’s because we have an excess of trees, not because I’ve been lazy about raking. I rake not because I care about how those pretty autumn leaves look – I actually think they look really pretty – but because most of the lawns where I live are made of grass that has a growing period in the fall, pretty fall leaves can eventually get mildewy and gross, and I’d just end up doing it in the springtime.

But what to do with all those leaves, especially if you’re like me and have a ton of trees? I have two easy, green options for you: composting and/or mulching.

Composting leaves is awesome and easier than bagging them up for the city to take away, especially when you consider that the city uses those leaves to make free compost and mulch. No compost bin (or no space for one)? No problem! Now you can get reusable compost bags that can sit anywhere in your yard. For best results, shred your leaves first – some mowers do this – but don’t worry too much if you can’t.

Mulching leaves is also awesome. In natural settings, leaves form a natural carpet over the soil surface which conserves moisture, modifies temperatures and prevents soil erosion and crusting. Shredded leaves can be used as mulch in garden beds, veggie patches, and anywhere else you’d use mulch purchases at the garden center. Whole leaves can be used at the base of trees and shrubs where you’d rather not see anything at all growing. If you still see weeds coming up, a thick layer of newspaper right on the soil under a foot of leaves (that will mat down soon enough) will knock out pretty much everything.

How do you deal with your yard waste?

5 Easy Ways to Go Green at Home

Monday, December 6th, 2010
By Christa

easy ways to go green

Turn It Off – All the Way Off
How many people do you know who leave lights and computers on because they claim it takes more power to turn it on than to run it? With lights, that’s straight up incorrect, and with computers, it’s only true if yours is from about 1993 or earlier. Then there are phantom power users like the TV and other appliances, which can draw huge amounts of power even when “off”. Using something like the Belkin Remote Power Strip makes it easy to be sure that off means off. Remember, that a lot of electricity comes from burning coal.

Shed Some LED Light On the Subject
We all have three choices when it comes to lighting up the world: compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), incandescent bulbs, and the new LED bulbs. CFLs use less energy than incandescent bulbs and last longer – up to 10 times longer – but it’s not always easy to find outlets for recycling the bulbs and the mercury inside means tossing them isn’t green. LED lights, on the other hand, use about half as much power as CFLs, contain no mercury, and last a long, long time, even when on continuously. The downside? The new LED light bulbs are a lot more expensive in the short term than other bulbs.

Turn the Dial Down
Your home shouldn’t be too hot or too cold – in the winter, put on the sweater; in the summer, get thee to the pool. In some cases, you should think about turning off, like when it’s not broiling could you cope with using a ceiling fan instead of your AC? The same goes for your fridge and freezer. A lot of people keep ‘em cranked because they’re afraid of good food going bad, but most of the time you can cut your energy costs with no ill effects by turning the thermostat up a degree or two. And while you’re at it, feel free to turn your water heater dial down a notch, too.

Keep It Clean
Clean your appliances and any filters regularly, since dust can affect the energy efficiency of things like refrigerators and air conditioners. And when it comes to keeping clothing clean, wash your duds in cold water whenever possible. Most of today’s washing powders and liquids don’t require hot water to give you a nice solid clean, and washing in cold water can help your clothing last longer.

Eat Thoughtfully
When you’re buying food, look for whole foods in minimal packaging. Better than minimal packaging is no packaging at all – things with skins, like bananas or squash, can go right into your reusable shopping bags. If buying foods sans packaging isn’t possible, look for packaging that’s entirely recyclable. Remember the magic trinity: organic, local, and whole. Going vegan even a few meals each week can reduce your share of greenhouse gasses. And when you do reach for animal products, try to get them from green sources like farms that practice sustainable growing and animal husbandry.

10 Green Gifts Under $10

Friday, December 3rd, 2010
By Christa

Sometimes you just need a little something for someone – not big gift, but you’re still hoping for a green gift. As you surely know, green gifts frequently come at a premium, sometimes because they truly are more expensive to grow or make and sometimes because green is in so people are willing to pay for it. But not all green gifts have to be expensive. Here, for example, are 10 green gifts under $10:


Sure, reusable shopping bags make a great gift provided your recipient doesn’t already have 20 that never actually make it into the store. But what’s even better? A reusable shopping bag that doesn’t actually look like a reusable shopping bag, like these Flip & Tumble bags that look cute and can be folded up into a little ball.


A set of two attractive organically grown bamboo cutting boards are a great replacement for sorry old plastic cutting boards. Just be sure to tell your gift recipient that they shouldn’t leave their bamboo cutting boards soaking in water because fyi they will warp.


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