A fun Blog to share fun and easy ways to be green!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

'Read, Respond, Recycle' Mail

Editor's Note: I'm SO glad to hear about this! Our box gets its share of junk mail, and the only option at the post office has been to trash it!

U.S. Postal Service Brings Paper Recycling to Post Office Lobbies

The "Three Rs" take on a more modern meaning today as the U.S. Postal Service makes it easier for Post Office box customers across the country to recycle their mail.

"Read, Respond, Recycle" is the banner under which the Postal Service will reach out to postal customers with a convenient, environmentally responsible alternative to bringing home or discarding their mail.

The Postal Service has a long and proud environmental record, and annually recycles more than 1 million tons of paper, plastic and other materials. The Post Office Box Lobby Recycling program launched here today builds on the tremendous success of similar programs that have been ongoing in the northeast part of the United States for more than 10 years.

The PO Box Lobby Recycling program places secure recycling bins in Post Office lobbies. All bins are locked with a key and the opening is slim -- about the width of a news magazine. PO Box customers are encouraged to remove and open their mail (read), take whatever action is necessary (respond) and simply place the rest of their mail into the bin (recycle).

This program has been thoroughly tested and presents no risk to mail security or customer privacy and does not effect postal operations or costs, according to Postmaster General John Potter.

"The message today is simple. Mail is recyclable," Potter said. "We are committed to helping consumers 'go green' through a comprehensive approach to mail production, delivery and recycling that helps create a sustainable future for generations to come."

Potter was joined at the event by U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia.

"The lobby recycling program is an important milestone in our nation's turn to an environmentally responsible economy. The Postal Service has been a consistent leader in this effort since the days of Benjamin Franklin, our first Postmaster General. Through the use of alternative fuel vehicles and recycling programs, the USPS has continued that tradition," said Congressman Davis.

"By its sheer size and universal presence, postal initiatives have direct impact on the economy, the environment and public policy. It is my hope that through lobby recycling, Postmaster General Potter and the Postal Service are helping to set a standard for both the public and private sectors."

The Chicago launch officially opens the first of three phases of PO Box Lobby Recycling, adding 279 new sites to the more than 3,800 existing sites. The program will expand nationally in the future.

Mailers have responded favorably to the program as well. Earlier this month, Highlights for Children magazine announced it would use the "Read, Respond, Recycle" phrase on 6 million publications it will mail this year to help encourage young readers to recycle. Nationally, more than 35 percent of mail is recycled now.

Each year, the Postal Service purchases more than $200 million in products containing recycled content. Many of the containers that hold and move mail in the system are made from recycled materials, as are stamped envelopes, postcards, stamp booklet covers -- even the adhesive used in postage stamps is biodegradable. And the Postal Service is the only shipping company in the country to earn Cradle to Cradle(TM) certification for all Priority Mail and Express Mail packages and envelopes based on the environmental attributes of the materials used in the packaging.

A complete list of participating post offices can be found at Earth911.com, using the word "mail" in the search engine. The list is sorted by ZIP Code.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Green Halloween!

Great recycled-content costumes. Thanks for the link, Roxanne!

Friday, October 24, 2008

6 Ways to Save More Than $12,000 on Taxes in 2009

A look at the new renewable energy and energy efficient incentives for individuals
By Dan ShapleyGrist.org

It's been widely noted that the passage of the financial bailout bill included $150 billion in additional "sweeteners" to gain passage in the House of Representatives. It's true that only in Washington could the solution to an overly expensive bill be an even more expensive bill, but it's also true that one of the provisions - energy efficiency and renewable energy tax credits - was among the important sweeteners to win passage.

The tax bill is filled with important incentives that will keep the solar and wind power industries competitive, and that means they should continue to innovate, producing more power at ever more affordable prices. That's critical for the U.S., and the world, as we confront the challenge of global warming.

But what about homeowners and other regular taxpayers? There are several important provisions anyone can take advantage of:

1. $500 for energy efficiency

If you can, wait until Jan. 1 to install new insulation, energy-efficient windows or an energy-efficient furnace, boiler or air conditioner.

A tax credit of up to $500 that expired in 2007 has been renewed for 2009. It covers up to 10% of the cost of a range of projects that meet certain specifications. Do $5,000 worth of qualifying work, and you not only get a $500 rebate, but also savings on energy bills for years to come.
Why wait? Of course, the heating season begins before Jan. 1, giving homeowners facing a northern winter reason to invest now - but because Congress let the tax credit lapse, work done in 2008 doesn't qualify.

Also note these important limits, which cap the amount you can claim for any particular project:- Windows: $200- Exterior doors, roofing or insulation: $500- Most heating, ventilation and air-conditioning improvements: $300- Furnaces or hot water heaters: $150

Remember, your overall tax credit is capped at $500, so if you install $5,000 worth of exterior doors and $2,000 worth of new windows, for a total of $7,000, you can still only claim $500 - even though 10 percent of all qualifying work equals $700. Also, the tax credit applies only to equipment, not labor.

Find more information at the Alliance to Save Energy or Energy Star or Department of Energy Web sites. Note that much of this information reflects the tax incentives in place in 2006 and 2007; for the most part, the 2009 tax credits are identical, but updated criteria for which products qualify, for instance, will be published soon.

2. $2,000 for geothermal

The new tax breaks include a new incentive to install ground-source heat pumps, according to Ronnie Kweller, spokeswoman for the Alliance to Save Energy.

The old credits had been capped at $300 and were included under the overall energy efficiency improvement cap of $500. No longer. Now you can claim up to $2,000 of the cost of installing a geothermal heating and cooling system, and the cost is separated completely from other energy-efficiency improvements you might claim. Like the energy-efficient tax breaks, however, this incentives doesn't apply to work done in 2008.

Ground-source heat pumps are installed underground and use the constant 50-degree subsurface temperature to cool air or water in the summer, and heat it in the winter - both of which reduce the cost of heating or cooling year round.

3. $2,000 or more for solar power systems

The bill extends for another eight years a tax credit that covers 30 percent of the cost of new photovoltaic solar power systems on homes.

The existing tax credit, which was capped at $2,000, would have expired at the end of 2008. Now, it's good through 2016 - and there's no longer a dollar cap on the 30 percent rebate.

4. $500 or more for a fuel cell or microturbine

The tax incentive that had covered 30 percent of the cost of fuel cell or microturbine systems in homes, which lapsed in 2008, has been restored for 2009 and through 2016. It covers up to $500 per 0.5 kw of capacity.

5. $7,500 for plug-in hybrid cars

The first 250,000 buyers of plug-in hybrid vehicles now qualify for a $7,500 tax rebate.
similar tax credit for hybrid vehicles had been capped at $3,500.

6. Wildcard

Keep an eye out for new incentives from your state, since the bill also authorizes an $800 million government bond program that encourages states to create incentives for new and existing energy conservation and related programs. Some of that money is likely to be used toward state tax breaks and other incentives that will vary by location.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Green police: Recycling in the workplace

Editors Note: Chances are, you're probably a recycling police yourself. I'm the one in my circle!

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

You see them every day at work. They might be in the cubicle next to you or lurking near the waste cans in the copy room or the cafeteria.

They pull soda cans out of the trash and cast a critical eye at colleagues as they pull papers off the copier. Often their e-mail signatures read, "Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail."

They are the green police, and they are watching you.

And Karl Mockros is one of them.

Bending over a recycling bin in the copy room of his downtown office last month, Mockros let out a long sigh. He pulled out a plastic spoon and held it up.

"These can't be recycled," he said, sounding only mildly perturbed. He dropped the spoon into the wet trash bin and walked on.

As vice-president of Waste Management's Recycle America division, it's Mockros' job to think green. But for Mockros, recycling isn't merely a job. It's a lifestyle.

A year ago, he prompted the company to "walk the talk" and beef up the recycling efforts at corporate headquarters. Mockros' plan made it easy for his co-workers to recycle with a single bin to toss their cans, bottles and paper. How tough could it be?

The program, while successful, still has a few kinks, he said with a smile. There are some in the building that need an extra push. And Mockros is more than happy to provide it.

When co-workers forget their recycling manners during lunch meetings in the conference room, he speaks up. "I say, what are you doing? What is wrong with you? There are two containers here. Pick one," said Mockros, laughing.

A few blocks away at the Hilton Americas-Houston, John Kolata could be known as the "Green Marine."

As the hotel's executive steward, the former Marine certainly looks the part, with his strawberry blond flattop and a no-nonsense gait. His job is to ensure that the hotel's expansive kitchen is spic and span. But since April, he's also been the hotel's recycling czar.

"You give me something to do, and I'm going to toe the line," Kolata said.

Accordingly, Kolata approaches the operation like a military directive — structured, simple and strict. Leftovers are scraped into the green composting bin; soiled "wet trash" into the gray bins; plastic, aluminum and clean paper into the black bins. It's not easy. The staff is extremely busy serving thousands of meals each day.

Only two people hold the key to the large gates that guard the hotel's gargantuan composting bin. Kolata is one of them.

Keeping the 34-yard container on lockdown is necessary, not because of the foul smell, but "to keep people honest," Kolata said. He can't risk contaminating the compost if something other than food or waxed cardboard is tossed into it.

"We believe that 90 percent of what comes through the hotel can be recycled," he said.

Six months into the Hilton Americas-Houston ecotransformation, the hotel's staff of about 1,000 is on board. But Kolata still acts as the big baby sitter.

"You have to keep pounding it home, pounding it home, pounding it home," he said.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thanks a Latte

From Today's Daily Grist
Follow Up on October 8 Post

Starbucks addresses water wastage following tabloid indictment

As John Edwards says, never underestimate the power of a tabloid. Following the revelation in British rag-mag The Sun that constantly running dipper wells waste a humongous amount of water, a Starbucks spokesperson confirms, "Stores will be instructed to switch off the dipper well tap and will wash spoons after use."

And the plot thickens: According to PRWeek.com, a senior-level source at an unnamed PR agency claims, "We warned [Starbucks] several years ago that their usage of water was not good for their environmental credentials and could be a potential problem for them. They listened, but they didn't do anything about it."

Starbucks has tried to polish its green image, saying that by 2010 it wants to source 50 percent of its energy from renewables, use green-building practices in all new stores, and "reestablish" ceramic mugs as the "global standard" for in-store drinkers.

As for water use, Starbucks will continue to look into dipper-well alternatives, including those newfangled -- whaddayacallem? -- dishwashers.

Don't fear the bat, they could help you go green

Enjoyed a margarita lately? Thank a bat. Bats pollinate the agave plant that tequila is made from, as well as the avocados in that accompanying guacamole.

Closer to home, you can also thank bats for fewer mosquito bites: A single bat eats hundreds of flying insects per hour.

Most people only think of bats when they're hanging decorations at Halloween, and consider them dangerous vermin — an opinion based entirely on myths and misconceptions. Bats are not flying mice, they don't want to fly into your hair, and only three out of the over a thousand species worldwide drink blood. Statistically, you're less likely to die from rabies from a bat bite than to be killed by a dog attack — which is itself less likely than being killed by lightning.

Still, some think just being near a bat is dangerous.

"I know plenty of people who've injured themselves in panicked fleeing from a bat when the bat itself wouldn't have hurt them," says Merlin Tuttle, bat expert, author, and founder of Bat Conservation International.

For Leslie Sturges, every day is a bat day. She rehabilitates and releases injured and orphaned wild bats at Bat World NOVA rescue center in Annandale, and presents educational programs with a dozen long-term resident bats who can't be returned to the wild. What fascinates Sturges about bats is how they pack so much into such a tiny package.

"They have the kind of intellect, adaptations, social behaviors that you'd expect in a large mammal," she says. "And, on top of that, they fly!"

What's more, bats use echolocation — navigating by emitting high-frequency sounds and listening to the echoes that bounce back. They can locate an object as fine as a human hair in pitch darkness.

"What they're doing in that minuscule little brain case is so unique and incredible," says Sturges.

Bats can be great neighbors, as you can see in Austin, Texas, where Bat Conservation International is headquartered. A colony of 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats that roosts in the Congress Avenue Bridge has become a major attraction, bringing about 100,000 people each summer to watch the bats emerge — standing within 10 feet or so of them with no trouble, according to Tuttle.

In fact, we're more of a threat to them than they are to us. Like many animals, bats suffer from habitat loss due to human activity — and they're also threatened by our very fear of them.

"One of the biggest risks to bats is that people still panic at the sight of one and their first thought is to kill it," says Tuttle.

Bats are particularly vulnerable because of their unique biology. Unlike most mammals their size, they reproduce slowly — most species have only one young per year. And because they live in such large groups, it's easy to wipe out millions in a single act. Bats are also suffering from a mysterious new disease called White-nose Syndrome that's spread through the Northeast in the past two years, nearly wiping out affected colonies. Some have compared it to the more well-known colony collapse of honeybees, and BCI is sponsoring emergency research into its cause.

"Any time you start having mass dieoffs of animals as distantly related as bees and bats, it's time to sit up and take notice," says Tuttle.

On the bright side, bats' habit of living in enormous groups means that one act of conservation can also make a huge difference, as in BCI's purchase of Bracken Cave in central Texas, home to 20 million free-tailed bats. As well as preserving the site for the colony, BCI plans to build a center that will help to educate people about how valuable bats are — now more than ever, when everyone's thinking about going green and buying organic.

"Bats reduce pesticide use substantially," says Tuttle. Remember, he says: "Fewer bats, more pesticides."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Payless ShoeSource launches green footwear line

Oct. 13 -- Payless ShoeSource is out to make your feet green.

Not literally.

But the retailer says it is launching "the first-ever affordable green footwear line" that will feature sustainable and "eco-friendly" materials, including recycled soles. The company also will use what it calls "eco-smart" packaging.

The shoes will cost under $30 a pair, on average, Payless said.

"The sustainability movement is pervasive today and is touching so many elements of consumers´ daily lives and they are interested in more and more green product options being available to them," said Matt Rubel, CEO of Collective Brands Inc., parent company of Payless ShoeSource.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Packaging company makes 100% post-consumer bottle

Oct. 10 -- Rexam Prescription Products has become the first packaging company to develop and market a liquid prescription bottle made with 100% post-consumer plastic in the United States.

The polyethylene terephthalate ovals, which pharmacists fill with liquid mediation, will be available in November in sizes ranging from 2 to 16 ounces. They can be recycled repeatedly, said Pat O´Connell, vice president of sales for Rexam Prescription Products.

"Pharmacists and consumers have shown a preference for packaging using recycled material," O´Connell said. "This is another example of how we anticipate the needs of customers and create and deliver a full package solution that helps build their business."


Take a look at the sculpture created by Greg Fitzpatrick at last weekend's unearthed event at Saluda Shoals Park.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Drop in the Starbucket

Starbucks wastes some 6.2 million gallons of water each day through a health policy that requires a constantly running tap at each store, says a breathless indictment in British tabloid The Sun.

A Starbucks spokesperson confirms the use of a dipper well, which uses "a stream of continuous cold fresh-running water to rinse away food residue, help keep utensils clean, and prevent bacterial growth."

Dipper wells are common at coffee and ice-cream shops, but the gigantuousness of Starbucks' global operations is such that, according to the The Sun, the amount of wasted water could sate the thirst of "the entire 2 million-strong population of drought-hit Namibia ... or fill an Olympic pool every 83 minutes."

Starbucks says it is looking into alternatives, which water-efficiency experts say do exist.

"Leaving taps running all day is a shocking waste of precious water," says Peter Robinson of U.K. green group Waste Watch. "And to claim you are doing it for health and safety reasons is bonkers."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Study Says Going Green to Yield a Bevy of Jobs

By H. Josef Hebert Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A major shift to renewable energy and efficiency is expected to produce 4.2 million new environmentally friendly "green" jobs over the next three decades, according to a study commissioned by the nation's mayors.

The study released last week by the U.S. Conference of Mayors says that about 750,000 people work today in what can be considered green jobs, from scientists and engineers researching alternative fuels to makers of wind turbines and more energy-efficient products.

But that's less than one-half of 1 percent of total employment. By 2038, another 4.2 million green jobs are expected to be added, accounting for 10 percent of new job growth over the next 30 years, according to the report by Global Insight.

However, the study cautioned such job growth won't be realized without an aggressive shift away from traditional fossil fuels toward alternative energy and a significant improvement in energy efficiency.

For example, it assumes that by 2038 alternative energy will account for 40 percent of electricity production, with half of that coming from wind and solar; widespread retrofitting of buildings to achieve a 35 percent reduction in electricity use; and 30 percent of motor fuels coming from ethanol or biodiesel.

Alternative energy, such as wind, geothermal, biomass and solar, currently accounts for less than 3 percent of electricity generation and nonfossil sources, such as ethanol and biodiesel, for about 5 percent of all motor fuels, the report notes.

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, the conference's president, said the report makes "a very compelling economic argument for investing in the green economy and that we're going to get a huge return for it."

The report predicts the biggest job gain will be from the increased use of alternative transportation fuels, with 1.5 million additional jobs, followed by the renewable power generating sector, with 1.2 million new jobs.Another 81,000 additional jobs will be generated by industries related to making homes and commercial buildings more energy efficient, the study said.

And it predicted an additional 1.4 million green jobs related to engineering, research, consulting and legal work.

Snap Capps

Check these out. We bought one this weekend, but haven't tried it yet.

The Scrap Kins

A new website for kids called the Scrap Kins has just launched. It’s an innovative, fun site focused on getting kids to think about recycling via a cast of engaging, friendly monsters who live in a recycling center—the Scrap Kins. The Kins’ brainchild is illustrator and designer Brian Yinnish, who found inspiration for the characters from his own childhood drawings.

The Scrap Kins MissionFrom the website: The Scrap Kins are a group of creatures that live in a recycling center and build their world out of the things people throw away. The Scrap Kins mission is to foster eco-awareness, promote recycling and encourage kids to use their imagination. The Scrap Kin's Do-It-Yourself resourcefulness empowers children to create and make a difference in their environment.

The site features bios for each of the Scrap Kins, cartoons, a blog, green tips, and a shop offering kids clothing. The whole concept is a fun idea, and a fine way to get kids thinking about recycling in an entertaining manner. And the “U Do it” tagline is catchy, lighthearted, yet emphatic—perhaps kids can grow up with the empowering mantra in mind. Then, perhaps there'll be a better chance they'll do things like recycle their cell phones when they're older.

Going Green to Save the Economy: A Q&A with Thomas L. Friedman

By Steve Mirsky

Some politicians and pundits fear that addressing global warming will drain the U.S. economy and hurt the nation’s competitive edge. But going green and clean is the best way to remain an economic powerhouse, argues Thomas L. Friedman in his new book Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How It Can Renew America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008). We asked Friedman, a New York Times op-ed columnist, to explain his thinking.

Click here for an extended version of this inteview

What do you mean by the title Hot, Flat, and Crowded?
It refers to the convergence of three big seismic events. The first is global warming. Second is what I call global flattening: the rise of middle classes all across the world that increasingly have the kind of energy and consumption patterns, demands and aspirations of Americans. Crowded refers to global population growth. These events are like three flames that have converged to create a really big fire, and this fire is boiling a whole set of problems.

You say that going green is a national security imperative and that green is the new red, white and blue. Can you explain that?
Clean power is going to be a source of power generally in the world—every bit as much as tanks, planes and nuclear missiles have been during the cold war. The country that takes the lead in clean power and clean tech is going to be an economic and strategic leader in the 21st century. If we take the lead in that in­dustry, we will be generating the kind of innovation, competitiveness, respect, security and breakthroughs to help the world. In so doing, we will make ourselves more respected, stronger, more secure, entrepreneurial, richer and competitive.

You argue for an overhaul of our energy system. Why is such a drastic measure needed?
If you don’t do things systematically, you end up doing corn ethanol in Iowa and thinking you solved the problem, when all you have done is drive up food prices and encourage more people to plant, say, palm oil in the Amazon. Right now we have a system. It is the dirty-fuel system. One mile from your house, you can probably find a gas station....One block, actually.Exactly, so this system works really well, and it gets that dirty fuel from the oil well to the tanker to the refinery to your neighborhood and into your car. Of course, we now know in doing that we are also despoiling the environment, strengthening petro dictatorships, driving biodiversity loss, et cetera. We have to replace that system with a clean-fuel system.

So what will we need to start changing the system?
Innovative breakthroughs that we just do not have right now. What we don’t have in energy today is a real market that would encourage 100,000 Manhattan Projects in 100,000 garages with 100,000 ideas.

How do you get to a market that rewards innovation?
You’ve got to shape it in two ways. One is with the right price signal. We have to have a tax on carbon that is long-term, fixed and durable. So those 100,000 inventors know if they do come up with that breakthrough, that if OPEC lowers the price of oil, it won’t knock them out of the game. And the second thing is to rewrite the rules around our utilities, as people started to do in California and Idaho. Specifically, the utilities have to be paid not for kilowatts sold but for watts saved.

But how could a politician running for election sell a new gas tax?
So let’s imagine you are in a campaign. Let’s imagine the discussion, and your opponent says, “There goes my opponent, Mr. Friedman. Another tax-and-spend liberal; now he’s for an energy tax. He’s never met a tax he didn’t like; now he wants to tax your gasoline more.” What I would say is, “Let’s get one thing straight. My opponent and I, we’re both for a tax. I just prefer my taxes should go to the U.S. Treasury, and he does not mind that his taxes go to the Saudi, Russian or Venezuelan treasuries. Let’s not fool ourselves that we’re not paying a tax here [with our existing energy system].” If you can’t win that debate, you don’t belong in politics.

So what can the average citizen do to help alleviate the problems brought on by a hot, flat and crowded planet?
My mantra has been, “Change your leaders, not your lightbulbs,” because leaders write the rules. The rules shape the market. The markets give you innovation at a speed, scope and scale that we need.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

KEYS to Recycling

Keys are metal too, but since they're so small and all, we usually overlook them. Our keys to long-demolished cars and old apartments still sit in the corners of our junk drawers, gathering dust. We're experts on recycling cans and electronics, but something as simple as a key? We're surprised we didn't think of it earlier. When, we came across Keys for Kindness while surfing the Web for new ways to recycle, an imaginary energy-saving lightbulb clicked on above our heads. Just like with your old CDs, send them in and they'll do the recycling for you. The program stemmed from a family member with multiple sclerosis. Looking for a way to raise money and recycle at the same time, they came up with this idea. They'll sell the metal and the money goes to charity. Think of all the good deeds you'll be doing if you recycled your keys -- helping the environment, de-cluttering your house and donating to a good cause.

Wal-Mart will slice use of plastic bags

Wal-Mart aims to cut plastic-bag waste in its global operations by an average 33 percent over the next five years, the retail behemoth announced last week at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. And if you ever doubted that Wal-Mart is big, consider this: The move is expected to eliminate some 9 billion plastic bags each year, equating to more than 135 million pounds of trash by 2013. Wal-Mart will give out fewer bags, offer plastic-bag recycling, and encourage customers to use reusable totes (it will offer its own line of reusable bags for 50 cents each). In the words of one exec, the goal is to "encourage consumers to change their behavior, just one bag at a time." That appears to apply particularly to non-American consumers: The 33 percent average will be attained by cutting bag use 50 percent in international operations and 25 percent in the U.S.

LOVE these!

Created from repurposed vintage materials such as recycled cameras along with pool balls, souvenir salt and pepper shakers, vintage bakelite game pieces, and recycled buttons. See these and more at 1453 Design’s Etsy Shop.