Paper Mate sent me a few of their new pens and mechanical pencils to try out in honor of Earth Day.Â Now while I don’t think that compostable pens are the solution to the world’s problems – I guess I have to give credit to companies for trying to reduce waste and come up with solutions to our overflowing landfills.
The pens work just as well as the normal Paper Mate varieties, I’m a blue ink kind of guy.Â They’re also very comfortable, but that comes at the expense of a non-compostable grip.Â The ink hasn’t run out yet, but when it does, I’ll throw it in the bottom of my composter and see what happens.Â It’s supposed to take a year to break down, but with the generous heat from my food waste-leaves-grass combo, maybe it’ll take less time.
$1.5 billion in new pens and mechanical pencils were sold in 2000.Â That’s a lot of waste!Â These new pens are surely just a drop in the bucket, but hey they might just catch on.Â If you have a business which hands out or goes through a number of pens, this is a good way to reduce your waste and let your customers know that you care even about the little things.
I’d give Paper Mate an “E” for effort.Â Now, about those other hundred million pens and pencils…
Read more on Paper Mate’s Green Efforts below the fold! Read more »
With Spring so close I can barely stand to wait, I’m making plans for the garden, ordering seeds, and getting ready to reorganize my compost pile. See, during the winter months I’ve been reading up on what an absolutely shitty job I’ve done with my current compost layout. Sure, it’s better than nothing, but I could be getting my food and yard scraps to break down much faster with a bit of proper setup.
Anyways, while continuing this research, I came upon a post over on CleanTechnica discussing the composting technique called Bokashi. Basically, it’s a high-speed breakdown process that takes advantage of anaerobic mirobes. Instead of placing your food scraps in an outdoor, open-air bin — you shove them into an air-tight bin. CleanTechnica gives us the deets:
Making bokashi compost is simple.Â You need a couple of big containers with tight-fitting lids (to keep the oxygen out), some kitchen scraps, and bokashi mix.Â The mix contains wheat bran, molasses, and EMâ€™s – the efficient microorganisms that drive the process.Â DIY bokashi help is available online but if you want to get started quickly, you can find ready-to-go bokashi kits at many gardening and eco-shopping sites like gaiam, or at specialty suppliers like Bokashicycle.
From Bokashicycle, you can pick up one of their kits for just under $90. For people living in urban areas — or tight on space — this a great option for breaking down food quickly (supposedly, in only a matter of days).
Anyone else have any luck with this composting technique?
The idea of purchasing “organic” foods depends a great deal on trust.Â I trust the farmer has taken numerous steps to grow food without artificial or chemical products, uses natural pest control versus pesticides, etc.Â He in turn trusts that the products that he is buying to fertilize his fields are based on organic standards.Â Without that trust, an “organic apple” is just an apple, a head of “organic lettuce”, is just lettuce, and so on.
Some argue that the government should set standards so that those farmers practicing organic methods of farming and husbandry can be monitored and those standards enforced.Â Others (myself included) would like the government to stay out of it (mostly).
A recent article brings to light a breach of that trust.Â It reveals that several seasons worth of organic food were grown using a fertilizer that included ammonium sulfate – which is made from fossil fuels.
For up to seven years, California Liquid Fertilizer sold what seemed to be an organic farmer’s dream, brewed from fish and chicken feathers.
The company’s fertilizer was effective, inexpensive and approved by organic regulators. By 2006, it held as much as a third of the market in California.
But a state investigation caught the Salinas-area company spiking its product with ammonium sulfate, a synthetic fertilizer banned from organic farms.
As a result, some of California’s 2006 harvest of organic fruits, nuts and vegetables â€“ including crops from giants like Earthbound Farm â€“ wasn’t really organic.
It goes on…
State officials knew some of California’s largest organic farms had been using the fertilizer, the documents show, but they kept their findings confidential until nearly a year and a half after it was removed from the market. No farms lost their organic certification.
To me the best way of insuring that you have fresh healthy food that is grown with care for the environment and for the consumer is to know your farmer.Â Nevertheless, one should realize that even Farmer John can get duped.Â Another reason to start up a compost pile, and start growing your fruits and veggies in the back yard.
You know you’ve been sniffing a little too much embalming fluid when you argue that natural burials are bad for the planet. And yet, that’s just what a funeral director from New Zealand did while participating in a debate on the topic during a town council meeting earlier last month.
Francis Day, of Marsden House Funeral Services, told the Nelson City Council that putrefaction of a body that was not embalmed would lead to higher toxicity levels in the surrounding soil to levels “which in many places would breach World Health Organization standards.” He continued that diseases and bacteria do not die when a person die but go right on living and could put “future communities at risk”.
â€œThe assertion that unembalmed bodies leave viruses in the soil is scientific ignorance at the least, and deliberate fear-mongering at worst,” he said. â€œInfectious disease-causing viruses and pathogens pass between living people and their excrement. These pathogens die with the host body within 24 hours.
“There are already plenty of microorganisms naturally present in soil which can cause illness â€“ such as Listeria monocytogenes, Clostridium botulinum and Bacillus cereus. They do not come from dead humans under the soil. They are permanent and essential features of the ecosystem. Many breed on the surface level excrement of live animals, like humans. Compounding their display of scientific illiteracy, the Embalmers suggest that embalming fluid kills human viruses but leaves every other micro-organism, especially those in the soil, alive.”
â€œNo one, not even the makers of embalming fluid, realised this hazardous chemical cocktail had such incredible powers of discernment between living organisms.”
Funny enough, the funeral director claims to be all for natural burial — but just watching out for the “well being” of the community. Uh huh. Sounds like someone is a little upset that his customers won’t be forking over more than $7,500 per funeral anymore. And I would love to hear him explain how eco-friendly conventional burial is.
TreeHugger featured this video on making your own compost tumbler. The author was stoked, and so am I. I’ve been after one of those compost tumblers but who has $150 to waste on one? Now you don’t have to.
It’s one thing to consider an eco-friendly burial, but it’s quite another to plan for it by building — or in this case — weaving your own coffin.
Such is the idea behind a new course being offered by Musgrove Willows — a UK supplier of natural willows for basketweaving and courses on how to use them. Last weekend’s “Weave Your Own Coffin” course ($500) was booked solid. The idea is that you use the final product in the meantime as a blanket box. If anything, it would definitely be a macabre conversation piece.
For those that are interested, Musgrove Willows will be offering the course once again in the spring. Now you know what to get that loved one for Christmas…
In my city our local waste management group picks up big plastic containers (which I call a Yardy) of yard waste material. This can be branches, leaves, grass clippings, etc. (Unbeknownst to my neighbors, I also pick up yard materials from their yardies, but that’s a different story…) Participation in this program is great, and it keeps all this material out of the land fill. The city mixes all this material together and turns it into compost which they then sell in 40 lb bags, or give away for free for personal use, if you have a truck to load it in. Paper products and kitchen waste can be recycled in our yardies, although almost no one knows that and it never seems to be highlighted.
San Francisco does a similar thing, although this Time article just mentions kitchen waste so I’m not sure about yard waste. I’m sure there are plenty of other cities that also do similar things.
My question is: why? I understand it’s cheaper and better for the world than dumping it in the landfill. But, I would think the cost of maintaining this huge operation could be dramatically lowered by setting up some local neighborhood groups who could manage the waste and then equipping them with composters that they could use. It would seem to me that after the initial cost of set up (which would probably still be way, way less than what I would expect the one large shredding machine costs) that the cost of operation would essentially go to zero. Perhaps you employ a couple of inspectors to make sure that people are doing it, but I wouldn’t expect much ongoing cost.
So why don’t we try it that way? Maybe not enough people are willing to do this work in their neighborhood groups? Or maybe it’s better financially to go through all this effort and then sell the compost? Maybe the waste management group wants to get bigger and grow for their owners? This system should be able to go on forever right? We’ll always be able to drive these trucks around picking up yard waste and processing it with huge diesel powered machines. Right?
I could see this becoming a hot button issue in the future. As our public systems continue to teeter under the stress of their obligations, and the cost of operating large machinery continues to increase, the cost to operate these programs will go up year after year. At some point, this will lead to a cost raise to the consumer and then people will start asking just how valuable a service like this is. I contend that by flipping this composting program on it’s side you can achieve the same result with less cost, less environmental burden, and even provide better service. What do you think? I think I’m going to contact my city council right now to begin discussions on alternatives.
The East Syracuse-Minoa School District has decided to scrap the styrofoam and paper plates, and will serve school lunches on biodegradable and compost-able plates made from grass, reeds and sugar cane. Â The utensils are made from wheat based resin. Â This fall the district will shift to the Green Wave tableware, and has plans to begin on-site composting.
With over 1200 students in the high school alone, this project would put a huge dent in the amount of solid waste produced by the district. Â According to John Young, Director of Facilities, the price difference will be minimal.
Kudos to the school officials for thinking and acting with the environment in mind. Â Small steps at large businesses and schools can make a big difference.
I do have to question the use of disposable utensils though. Â Dusting off the cobwebs in my brain and thinking back to high school, I remember using silverware, not plastic utensils. Â It seems to me that washing and reusing the same silverware would be more “eco-friendly” than compost-able utensils that are thrown away after one use. Â I’d imagine that it is probably still cheaper to buy the “green” utensils and throw them away than it is to pay someone to wash the dishes for you.
Now if we could just get our schools to “green” the actual food that the district serves (fresh, local, organic) they’d truly be on a path to sustainability. Â Ah, well, as Confucius said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
After reading the Humanure Handbook (which you can download for free here) I have to say, I have an all new appreciation for the subject of composting. Not just composting normal yard waste and kitchen scraps for my garden. But also thoughts on how to compost better, and more efficiently. How to compost better my own waste, if I chose to, as well as waste from other animals.
The Humanure Handbook, in case you have been living under a rock, is a short book put together to introduce people to the idea of composting their own human waste and recycling it onto their gardens. There is compelling information here as to why it should be done. As we all know when you remove a crop from the ground you take some of the nutrients with you. Adding them back through compost and green manures are important. But one missing link in the current chain is that a lot of people flush their waste down a drain, thus polluting clean water that they spent oodles purifying. When they do this they also take precious nutrients and toss them down the drain. Nutrients that should be recycled back into the soil.
Now, before you get up in arms about pathogens and diseases and other nasties you need to read the book. This information is all detailed in the book, very frankly, and the system sounds like it works very well. There is no smell, when you do things right, and there aren’t any problems, when you follow the precautions. Most places in America aren’t ready to accept composting toilets just yet, but the knowledge from this book did come in handy recently when my city was flooded and we were told not to flush the toilets or use water for fear of compromising the water system. We still flushed the toilet in certain instances, but we were able to dump liquids onto our compost pile and follow the directions in this book with no problems. Now, no emergency problem at my house.
If you get a chance, check out the Humanure Handbook, if for no other reason than to learn even more about how to compost, a very valuable skill when gardening.
We’re all about choice when it comes to death here on GroovyGreen. Sure, you don’t have much say in how you’ll go, but you can definitely make sure your exit is packaged just right. Take for instance these eco-friendly custom cardboard coffins from Creative Coffins. Each one is made from 60% recycled paper plus wood pulp sourced from sustainable forests, contains only natural starch-based glues (no screws, bolts, tape, or other fittings), handles made from natural woven cotton, and is completely non-toxic. Better yet, you can have them custom designed — or choose from any number of beautiful designs already on the site.
My favorites are the “Gone To Seed” theme or the “Box of Candy” design — mainly because it would be really funny to see some kid’s face if they thought it was a giant box of candy. Ok, probably not.
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