Posts Tagged ‘waste’

Just 3 days. I haven’t seen my favorite Texas country star, Pat Green, since Mardi Gras last year in New Orleans; so before I talk about anything I think you should take a listen.

What I really meant was only 3 days till the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Summer Olympics!  London’s mayor has viewed the Olympics as an opportunity to transcend neighborhoods into sustainable communities for other countries to emulate.  The London 2012 Sustainability Plan highlights how London has aimed to host the most sustainable Games ever. The London Sustainability Plan focused on five key themes: climate change, waste, biodiversity, inclusion (new local employment and business opportunities), and healthy living. The Guardian UK reported on how the Games would focus on the key themes.

Look at this GREAT list of what London has done so far:

  • The Velodrome is almost 100 per cent naturally ventilated and uses natural light to reduce energy consumption and rain water will be collected from the roof for flushing toilets and irrigation.
  • The Olympic Stadium’s roof was made out of unwanted gas pipelines.
  • Water used to clean the swimming pool filters in the Aquatics Centre will be recycled for toilet flushing.
  • The foundations for venues and roads have used recycled materials and many of the venues and bridges will have green habitat spaces incorporated into walls and roofs.
  • Over 100 hectares of new parklands for people and wildlife with over 4,000 trees and over 300,000 wetland plants.
  • 100 per cent of spectators arriving at the Games by public transport or by walking or cycling.
  • Improvements to 80km of cycling and walking routes to the Olympic Park and just under 6,000 temporary bike parking spaces during the Games.

Congrats to London, and I hope you enjoy the green Games. Cheers.

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Do you need anybody? I need somebody to love.

Dan and I are very aware during our morning commutes (rabbits are cuter than tvs).  I found this lonely straggler on my block two days ago on my way to work.  I assume it was left for the bulk trash collectors or maybe for someone to enjoy a 1950’s TV.  Regardless, electronics have a proper home too and it’s not with bulk trash collectors, it’s with proper electronics recyclers.  All of the electronics we use on a daily basis contain dozens of chemicals you and I have trouble pronouncing and many that have been grandfathered in under the Toxic Substances Control Act (where the threat to human health is untested/undetermined).  When electronics are broken down and collected with bulk trash chemicals are released and tamper our air, soil and water and more recently it’s been found that electronics waste (aka e-waste) is now being shipped overseas into developing countries.  Due to our digital era, e-waste is the fastest growing waste sector.  Many retailers like Best Buy and Staples recycle old computers and laptops, and many e-manufacturers will recycle televisions; you can find everything you need on how to recycle your electronics here.  Just this month I carried my old printer on the metro to be recycled at Staples near my office.  If you have any questions about electronics pickups in your town I would call your local Department of Public Works or City Hall official.

I hope this was helpful, and enjoy the rest of your week.  The Green Light will now be posting on Sundays as well. Cheers.

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…this is one of the best videos of all time.

If you don’t know now you know, today is Earth Day.  Here in Washington and across the East Coast it’s cold and rainy; my volunteer project to post “don’t litter” signs on storm drains at the National Mall for the National Park Service was cancelled and hopefully it will be rescheduled.  I really enjoyed this video and it touches on a subject that I’m passionate about, reusable products. Shockingly, there are people and businesses who do not recycle and many of the everyday items we use still end up in our nation’s rivers and lands which we all love for recreational use.  Every bag that you refuse from your local grocery store or every plastic bottle that you don’t buy at the gas station is something great that you’re doing to protect the local lake where you swim and fish, and it saves you a couple of dollars!  Reusable water bottles (this site has it all!), coffee mugs, and bags are really affordable now a days and almost all retailers sell them; so, go get yours today.  Back to my Frozen Planet (Discovery Channel) marathon. Cheers.

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Greetings Spinach Followers!  My name is Ryan C. aka TheGreenLight and I am a new contributor to the Spinach team.  Like my spinach colleagues, I will be posting on green “hot topics” and give you tips how you can make decisions that will protect your health, the environment, and save you money.  I plan to highlight all types of topics and how they relate to our environment; I will provide a few sentences about the story and leave the rest to your imagination.  I want to get right to it – Wal-Mart made quite the announcement yesterday – you’ll find out more about me later this week.

Whether you love or hate Wal-Mart, I have some good news to share about the nation’s largest retailer (good news is good news, no matter who it’s from).  Today, Wal-Mart announced that it plans to recycle or reuse 80% of the waste produced in its U.S. stores and operations.  Impressive!

In 2005, Wal-Mart created an ambitious initiative to address many of its faults which included a zero waste goal, zero waste to landfill goal, pollution reduction, and fuel efficiency improvements to its delivery truck fleets.  Wal-Mart admits it has not met all of its goals, but it has improved fuel efficiency among its fleets by 69% compared to 2005 levels, and it has reduced waste by 64% compared to 2009! Headquartered in Arkansas, Wal-Mart has been quoted as hiring many transplant “closet environmentalists” from Washington, D.C.  Just last year, Wal-Mart signed a healthy foods agreement with first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to improve access and reduce the price of healthy foods for consumers.  For now Wal-Mart is here to stay, and the best option is to work with the retail giant and encourage their practices that keep our country’s air and waters clean.  Next time you’re in Wal-Mart see if they’re recycling and if they’re greening their store branch.  Cheers.

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You guys, this is big: we made it to Friday.  No, seriously.  It’s February now, which is that weird month of the year where winter is getting really, really old, but spring isn’t really around the corner yet, and the task of getting myself out of bed in the morning and on my way to work frequently seems insurmountable.  So making it to the end of a week is a big deal.

You know what else is a big deal?  This:


This is where I wish I was updating the blog from.

In case you were wondering what the heck that is, it’s the Grand Canyon.  Here it is again:


Not Just Your Average Canyon

“Damn!” you might say, “That’s a pretty sweet canyon!!”  Yes, the Grand Canyon is in fact, rather grand.  I supposedly visited it when I was a child, although this is something of a point of contention with my parents.  I frequently insist to them that they never took me out west when I was growing up; they like to remind me that we drove across the country from California to Virgina and hit virtually every National Park that we could manage along the way, including Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and the Smokies.  Apparently it’s my fault that I was two and asleep for most of it, so now, I get to figure out a way to get back myself.


And this time I'm going swimming under the water fall!

When I do, though, it’s a good thing that I’m one of those loonies who has a reusable water bottle permanently glued to my hand and another one in my bag at all times.  (Side note: seriously, if you got to write a blog post about the Grand Canyon, you would ALSO include a photo every three words because….it’s the Grand Canyon.  Come on.)


There's a reason they made it a National Park.

ANYWAY.  Enough pictures, and on to the meat of this post.  This week, Grand Canyon National Park announced plans to ban the sale of all disposable water bottles within the park limits.  Apparently plastic water bottles bought within the park account for 20% of all litter that makes the park less grand for hiking, since nobody wants to look out over the majestic scenery of our country and see a whole mess of old plastic bottles.

Supposedly, the folks at Coca Cola and other major corporations that manufacture bottled water were pretty upset about this decision, since it will mean the loss of a major sales opportunity for them.  But, supporters of the decision say the tighter restrictions on plastics are necessary due to the amount of pollution and waste created by plastics every year. They see the ban as a step in the right direction towards lowering the amount of waste that tourism generates in our national parks – and generally moving away from our ‘disposable’ culture where we prefer to buy, use, and toss rather than creatively finding a way to limit our own consumption of materials and re-use or recycle things.

Meanwhile, if you were concerned about what to do if you forget to bring your own water bottle, never fear!  The Park will be selling re-usable bottles for the (very affordable) price of $1.99 that can be easily filled at water fountains within the park limits – eliminating safety and creature-comfort concerns about people hiking without water.

Of course, there are a slew of other questions surrounding this decision – which seems to be creating a lot of flap for something that may or may not have a real bottom-line impact.  What about the other 80% of the waste in the park that doesn’t come from plastic bottles?  And what’s to stop people from bringing in their own disposable water bottle and still dropping it or leaving it within the park boundaries?  Finally, the energy and materials that it takes to make a reusable bottle are significantly higher than those for disposable bottles – which is totally O.K. if you do plan to re-use it many times, but ends up being even more of a waste generator if people just toss those when they get home.

The unfortunate bottom line is that regulation probably isn’t going to change overnight how people treat our National Parks and the amount of abuse they endure from tourism and negligence – with the most famous and beloved parks such as the Grand Canyon often getting the brunt of it.  Really caring for our national park land is less about restrictions and more about a culture of respect.  But, what this new measure might accomplish is less about an actual reduction in the amount of waste and more about publicity.  If rules like this can raise awareness about the true impact of a “disposable” culture and the waste it generates, change might be one step closer. It’s one thing when you’re told in the abstract that plastic waste builds up in landfills, but maybe when people realize it is impacting something as symbolic as the Grand Canyon, they will stop and think.

Hey, it’s Friday, and I’m in a good mood, so at least we can hope – right?

You can read more about the ban, and how it came about here or here. Either that or you can just spend your Friday afternoon checking your email and wondering how much spinach it would take to fill the Grand Canyon.  Hint: the answer is ‘a lot.’

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There were immediate things to worry about last month when the ill-steered Costa Concordia ran aground near the small Italian village of Giglio. Could the passengers escape before their cabins were submerged? Would valuable components be saved?

With those questions answered – and not with great optimism; 17 people have been confirmed dead from the disaster – a new question sets in, and will linger for a long time. What will happen to the ship, and all the oil inside?

The implications are frightening to the people of Giglio, the small town that rarely sees much excitement, save for the occasional cruise ship of tourists that pump the local economy. There are still half a million gallons of fuel on the ship, a viscous oil that would pummel the local fishery and debilitate the local port. That, plus 75 problems of acetylene (an alkyne hydrocarbon), 1,000 pounds of grease, 650 pounds of paint, one ton of sodium hypochlorite (bleach). Not to mention all the mattresses, deck furniture and knick knacks aboard. All combined makes a pretty toxic stew.

The Italian Navy knows this, and has so far assigned a team of 70 to recover the ship’s dangerous chemicals before they spill into the water. What the Navy is trying to do is reminiscent of 2010’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: drill a hole in the ship’s hill, attach a series of tubes, and pump the oil to a barge on the surface. The infrastructure is in place, but heavy winds and rain have deterred the effort.

Pending that actually works, the longer term question is, what about the ship itself? The Navy plans a tedious operation to dismantle and remove the entire structure, but that process will take up to 10 months, or likely longer if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Ships, or parts of ships, can sometimes be helpful to ocean wildlife. They quickly become the skeleton of new coral reefs, and let new life thrive. In the past, the U.S. Navy has deliberately sunk oil ships for that very purpose. But that’s only after they’ve been thoroughly cleaned. A structure like the Costa Concordia, perched chock full of its dirt and toxins, would do a lot more bad than good.

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It’s always great to learn something when you’re not expecting to , or when it doesn’t come with a hefty price tag (cough, graduate school class, cough).  Tonight, I learned a new environmental tidbit while taking a cooking class.  I’m sure you’ve each heard of different ways to handle your used oil, principally taking it to you local waste authority or to a car shop so they can reuse it as biodiesel.  Or, perhaps you just throw it away with the rest of your trash (as many sites suggest doing).  Here’s a new idea, at least for all you fine people living in the Commonwealth of VA–put it in your recycling.  Yes.  Put it in a plastic container that you would otherwise recycle empty.  The recycling company is supposed to take it to the proper authorities to be recycled.  Of course, there’s the remote possibility that they turn a blind eye and just dump it to crumpit.

But, at least you tried.  And, if they end up doing their part–as they are supposed to–less will end up down the drain and out to the Bay.  Your spinachy food for thought tonight, brought to you by chef Zan Dial (who is a great personal chef, and I recommend).

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