Archive | Recycling

DIY Camping Firestarters

Making use of discarded items makes you feel good and less wasteful. For those that love camping or have fire pits in their backyard during the Spring and Summer months, here is a DIY project that uses up two things that are otherwise headed for the compost and recycling bin. This is an easy way to showcase up-cycling for kids and getting them excited about summer months with DIY camping fire-starters. Save you dryer lint (that can be otherwise composted) and toilet or wrapping paper rolls (recyclable item). Stuff the empty rolls with dryer lint and store in a dry, safe place. These are highly flammable which is why lint should be regularly removed from your dryer, but makes them an excellent tool for quick starting fires when camping. This is a quick and easy upcycle for a sustainable school project for kids or DIY craft! Use pens to decorate the rolls and plan for exciting summer nights filled with camp fires and stories.

If cooking over the camp fire and you want cleaner burning fire for cooking – make sure your lint is free from petrochemicals of traditional clothes detergent or toxic dryer sheets. Wool dryer balls are the way to go if you need to eliminate static cling in the dryer with clothes. Hmmmm – I’m thinking these fire starters would make a really cute Father’s Day or Spring birthday gift for the camper in your life. Write special messages on the rolls in anticipation for camping and accessorize with camping gear.

Related Articles:

Clothing Mis-labelling Leads To Composting Problem!

Who Should Shop At Thrift Stores?

 

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The Dark Side of Black Friday Shopping

Black Friday shopping starts today and with The National Research Federation predicting sales for 2012 will increase over this US holiday – it seems that the movement to boycott this shopping day is not working. I’ve written about Black Friday in the past (click here) but this year I asked my friend Barb from Gibsons Recycling Depot to give me a glimpse into the after effects of consumerism through the eyes of a person who is an expert on personal waste. Hopefully the message of over-consuming is not missed by those planning on shopping Black Friday deals. You see, Barb sees the ugly side of the holidays and she also sees the side of Black Friday few people know. The majority of people see this method of shopping as a way to save a few dollars and perhaps even help support the US economy. What a recycling depot sees are the tons of un-opened gifts that start arriving in the trash after the holidays. Gift wrap and discarded gifts (that were never opened from their packaging!!)  are the dark side of a recycling depot in January. Face it or not, when you are purchasing a gift based off price – you are not shopping with any sort of Eco-conscience. When you are shopping based only from cost alone – several things are happening:

- the product is probably manufactured overseas. So how does purchasing it help the US or local economy?

- the product might be unsafe with lead or phthalate levels because the cheapest materials have been used in manufacturing.

- consumers overspend. We all probably head to the Walmarts of the world with a list but we look around and start seeing items in bins for $1. Thinking we can’t possible give up a bargain like this we buy it.

- stores that offer the greatest sale discounts are big box and do not think about packaging or the huge footprint it took to transport the product into their store. Is the cost of that $1 trinket still only $1 if it will exist on earth for 100s of years after it’s been trashed? Is that item still $1 if it’s wrapped in plastic or Styrofoam that cannot be recycled? The facts are – when the toll on the earth is so great from that $1 item – it’s true cost is no longer $1.

Barb actually gave me a quote today that was amazing and I’d like to share it. She works at one of the most progressive recycling depots in Western Canada. I’ve been there, seen how much they can recycle, so it’s important to listen to someone who knows waste.

We are culturally conditioned to want to create displays of abundance. In most cultures and history there is feasts and gifts, so we must create behavioral changes where we create and satisfy those needs but without all the consumption and waste. We need to get into “creative abundance” where maybe we put photos under the tree and everyone shares memories and stories about each other, Maybe those old plastic farm animals toys become symbols of donations we have given to aid organizations in someone else’s name. I see the ghosts of Christmas past throughout the year, bags of awful plastic toys, useless products…

To put a visual along with this quote from Barb, I found a video published by our friends at The Story Of Stuff. It’s called Tis The Season To Get Trampled… and it is driving the movement to ‘Buy Nothing Do Something’ over Thanksgiving this year. I sat and watched this video with my children and their mouths just hung open. Then of course they giggled because they couldn’t believe adults act like this over stuff! Have a watch with your children and then try to justify going shopping later that evening. You might just decide to stay in and choose family over frenzy.

Barb has also given me some stats regarding Canadian waste over the holiday season. I’m posting these facts so that you can think about personal waste while starting your Christmas shopping. Will you be contributing to another person’s personal waste by your gift giving choices?  Thanks for these Barb!

Every person will throw away an average of 110lbs of waste this holiday season

3,000 tons of foil will be used

Canadians will consume 4.3 million turkeys.

2,6 billion greeting cards will be sent

27.8 million real Christmas trees will be decorated

7.3 million fake trees will be purchased

6 millions rolls of tape will be used

250,000 tons of plastic packaging will be discarded

So with the high level of greenwashing that happens from ‘green gift lists’ this year – cut through the crap and ask yourself 3 questions: where is this made? what is it made from? how do I get rid of it? If you can get a positive answer on any of these questions while your shopping – you are no longer shopping based purely off price. You are now shopping based off price and thinking like an Eco Ninja – which is way cooler. Happy Thanksgiving to my readers in the US!

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Car Seat Reycling and Depot Tour

I’ve been given wings to fly from UsedVancouver.com – a company that is allowing me to put my wishes for the environment into action. They are a classified site where people list or buy used items so talking about up-cycling and reusing is right up their alley. We just completed an awesome car seat recycling campaign and the reaction to this community project was fantastic. Car seats are probably the toughest item to dispose of with an earth friendly focus (read this article to understand why) so it felt great to assist with keeping 44 car seats out of the landfill! And yesterday I had the pleasure of delivering these car seats to Gibsons Recycling Depot because they deconstruct car seats and recycle the metal and plastic from the base and straps. UsedVancouver.com absorbed the cost of this initiative and needs to be recognized for their dedication to community projects.

I first learned about Gibsons Recycling Depot when writing my predictions for 2012 and thinking about ownership of waste. Talking to their staff and checking out their website really inspired more meaning to what being Eco-conscience with consumerism is all about. Thinking about the life cycle of a product before we buy it is so important to our health and the environment.  Now after physically visiting the depot, I had another light bulb moment about improving my consumer footprint and it’s a sign located as you drive into the depot with a simple, but important message “what do things really cost?” I took a picture and it’s included below:

 

You just need to tour your local recycling depot to understand the answer to that question. Your answer might be different than mine, but I interpret it to mean that the little things we as consumers purchase – things that we don’t need to survive (clothing, shelter, food, education) that we can afford in the moment because they seem affordable and give us temporary/instant gratification. These items have a higher cost than we think. An example is the plastic toy that costs $2 and seems like a really inexpensive purchase, but what happens when you try to get rid of that toy in 5 years? It can’t be recycled and will hang around in the dump and outlive your children..is the true cost of that toy still $2?  No it’s not. And when you visit a recycling depot like Gibsons, you see the true cost of ‘stuff’. They have a place to put almost everything and if it can’t be recycled – they try to sell it in a little make-shift store. I’ll never forgot the container (where items go that need to be taken to the landfill) with plastic toy trucks around the top. There are containers for most plastics, tin cans, glass, dirty wood, clean wood, etc. but these toys were made up of too many pieces of non-recyclable parts. It’s what I pointed out to my son that I brought with me for a ‘field trip’ because it resonated with me. The true cost of these items can no longer be measured in what the owner originally paid – the cost of having something last on earth forever has a high cost.

But, don’t think I came away disheartened – actually it was the opposite. When you see how efficient a recycling depot is, the knowledge the staff has, and know items are closing the loop on their life cycle – it’s inspiring. My favorite part of the depot was the glass recycling section. For people that think that glass is too heavy, too expensive, etc. as a food packing option – if the glass gets to a recycling depot…magical things happen. The glass is sorted into different colors (green, brown, clear) and then tumbled in a huge machine and broken down into cullet. There are so many uses for glass and because it can be recycled an infinite amount of times – it’s a great material. Some uses are ingredients in paint or building supplies, sand on beaches, ceramic tiles, fiberglass, etc. If you look at the top picture with the sign, the white material that looks like snow is actually glass that’s been recycled into beach sand. Here is the glass going up the conveyor to become cullet:

 

So this week I got to complete a project of collecting car seats and delivering them to a recycling depot that is clearly setting the bar high with their dedication to efficient disposal – it’s been amazing to be on these field assignments and I thank UsedVancouver.com for sponsoring. I share my experience and highly recommend parents taking their children to see the behind the scenes of a recycling depot before the holiday season approaches. A clear message from my tour is how wasteful the holidays can be with people just buying to ‘buy’. Giving stuff that doesn’t have purpose or meaning needs to be curbed and helping children to realize what is truly important with gift giving or celebrating can be redefined and still create memories and fun. We just need to be creative and think about where things go after we are finished using them!

Related Articles:

My Guest Post for The Soft Landing called ‘New Year’s Prediction – Ownership of Waste

Who Should Shop At Thrift Stores?

Spoooky Disposable Tableware

Baby and Children’s Car Seats – How To Dispose or Reuse?

A Greener Christmas Plan

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Baby & Children Car Seats – How to Dispose or Reuse?

I’ve been asked a few times over the last 2 months if I had seen the wording on Health Canada’s website regarding the giving or reselling of used car seats since the new car seat regulations came into force January 2012. In December 2011, Health Canada published this statement regarding updates to child car seats and requirements from car seat manufactures.  But it was the wording on the Health Canada website that had many parents of local Facebook groups concerned which is how I become involved with deciphering the language used on their website which included:  “Health Canada, which is responsible for the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA), requires that seats for sale (or giving or loaning) must meet the criteria set out by CMVSS. It is not lawful to sell, distribute or advertise a seat that doesn’t meet the current criteria of CMVSS.” But it was the next statement found here that includes “Any person who sells, distributes, or gives away products not complying with the current legislation is breaking the law in Canada. By selling or giving away an item that poses a hazard, a person could also be liable in a civil court of law” that has parents stressed about breaking the law if they gave or sold a used car seat (that wasn’t expired)! My question when I spoke with Health Canada last week was asking them “if parents have a car seat and it’s not expired, are they not allowed to resell or give it to a friend/parent/sister to use”?  I mentioned that parents are not used to being told to put something into a landfill with our green minded parenting focus. The official answer from Health Canada is they hold children’s safety first and would like to see children in car seats meeting the new regulations set forth Jan, 2012. But, since this doesn’t help the thousands of parents wondering what to do with car seats that haven’t expired and taking up space in their garage if they are finished using them, there is another option. Health Canada did say that if a parent contacts the manufacturer of the car seat with a model number and serial number and the manufacturer approves that this car seat still meets the new requirements, then it’s okay to resell or give your sister (for example) your car seat. And if your sister/friend/person that purchases the 2nd hand seat is in an accident down the road and injury occurs, you are no longer liable for being sued, etc.  – the manufacturer is now liable for the safety of that car seat. If the manufacturer doesn’t know what these updated car seat safety regulations are – here is a link as provided by Health Canada for you to send them.  Click here.  And while you are talking with the car seat manufacturer – I would recommend putting pressure on them and asking the following questions:

~ is the interior of your car seats made from recyclable material? (I did talk with Transport Canada in my research and apparently different car seat brands are better with using recyclable materials than others)
~ when will they (the manufacturer) be starting a car seat recycling program for car seats they manufacture?
~ would they consider the option of being shipped back the car seat if parents have kept the original box?

Now all of this addresses the issue of parents having car seats that have not met the expiration date. What do parents do if the car seat HAS expired? Bad news on this one. Unless you live close to a recycling depot like our friends at Gibsons Recycling Depot who take used car seats for a very inexpensive rate, and look after stripping down and recycling the car seats for you, pressure needs to be put on Environment Canada and within your own municipality for car seat recycling programs. Of course I agree that kid’s safety and car seats needs to be the number one priority, but the massive amounts of waste that results from parents dropping off car seats in the landfills is not a satisfying answer. How many car seats do your children go through over the course of their life?  Anywhere from 2-4 with many people using infant seats, rear/front facing seats, then booster seats. Why isn’t there a country wide recycling program?  And smaller car seat recycling centers that ask parents to strip down car seats (cut off straps, rip off foam, etc.) should NOT be asking parents to do this?  Why?  The foam within car seats contains flame retardant chemicals that will become air born and ingested if you are doing this without training. A parent trying to do the right thing and strip down a car seat to see if the plastic inside, etc. can be recycled should not be asked to ingest toxic chemicals – this is something that a trained professional should look after.

I loved having my talk this morning with Barb from Gibsons Recycling Depot this morning. They are a West Coast recycling depot that is truly changing the earth and encouraging consumers to be responsible for the items they bring into their life.  She agreed with my points on car seats and agrees that consumers need to speak up and ask our communities for car seat recycling programs.

I personally would have loved to have seen more interaction between Health Canada and Environment Canada regarding regulating baby products and their disposal when they reviewed car seat safety standards in 2010. When parents are being encouraged to not reuse and recycle baby and children’s products due to safety, we need to give them options to lesson the impact on the environment with the waste these actions will cause. The largest ripple effect I could see being levied by the government would be to research the car seat manufacturers that DO use recyclable pieces when making car seats and give them a green star and spread the word throughout the country and have their be a cost reduction if parents make the decision to purchase and use these car seats. Then give parents a place to dispose of their car seats. The cheapest option I could see if having parents return (ship) expired car seats back to the manufacturer to reuse the parts.

I personally found the strong wording on the Health Canada website frustrating because at every level of our parenting journey, we are asked to be accountable for everything to do with our children’s safety. These are not things we are taught or educated on before we give birth to our beautiful children. Of course we want them to be safe, but when you are juggling trying to feed them healthy meals, reduce their chemical exposure, find products that don’t contain toxic ingredients, etc., being responsible for one more thing like car seat safety just doesn’t seem fair. And it doesn’t seem fair to our environment to take the easy way out and ditch them in the land fill. I’m thankful that Health Canada took the time to answer all my questions and although they do recommend using new car seats that meet all new safety requirements, I’m thankful they agreed to give parents the option to call the manufacturer to check if not-yet-expired car seats meet specifications so they can be reused or sold.  Thank you for putting the responsibility of car seat safety back to those who have the expertise…the car seat manufacturers!  But there is a ton of work to be done and without the public’s encouragement back to car seat manufacturers, this problem won’t change. Tell your car seat manufacturer that having a method to dispose of your car seat when it’s expired is important to you. Take action and call!  And if the car seat manufacturer doesn’t know if a) car seats they manufacture meets the new specification set forth here or b) can’t answer if their car seats are made from recyclable materials – we need to know who these companies are!  Post the brand to my fan page: Mommy Footprint and let’s find out which companies are ready to help buffer the environmental  impact with car seat recycling!

I’ve tried to break down my discussions with Heath Canada in easy to understand wording, but I’d like to include Heath Canada specific recommendations on car seats so that their voice is documented. Here were my initial questions:

Q1) What is Health Canada telling parents to do with car seats that have not expired and who want to sell them or give them to someone else?

Look for the date of manufacture printed on your car seat. If you own a car seat or booster seats made before January 1, 2012, you can still safely use it. However, under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act you may not be able to advertise, sell or give it (including lending) away because it may not meet the latest requirements set out by Health Canada and Transport Canada. For more information, go to: www.tc.gc.ca/eng/roadsafety/safedrivers-childsafety-faq-1131.htm.

Q2) How can parents meet the criteria set out by Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in order to sell or give their car seats to someone else before they are set to expire?

For car seats manufactured prior to January 1, 2012, parents and caregivers should contact the manufacturer to find out whether or not their specific model is compliant with the new requirements. Any seat with a manufacturing date of January 1, 2012, or later will meet the new requirements.

Q3) Is Health Canada telling parents that car seats for which they are no longer needed and are not expired have to go into the landfill? If so, what should parents do with car seats that are sitting in the garage? Is there a place where parents can bring their old car seats to be safely recycled?

Consumers should contact their municipal recycling program to see if they accept car seats.

There is no necessity to replace a child seat that hasn’t expired unless the child seat was in a car that was involved in a collision. Even if your child wasn’t in the child seat when the accident occurred, the child seat could be damaged. The previous standards have provided a high level of safety for children for many years and will continue to provide protection throughout the useful life of a child restraint.

I know that many of my readers are from the US so I called the Transport office for the United States and the rules for car seat reselling or giving away is very simple – if the car seat is over 6 years old, it’s considered expired and should not be resold or given to a friend. If the car seat is under 6 years old, there are no regulations on resell or giving away. There isn’t a Government supported program for car seat recycling. Again, it’s a topic that needs to be addressed with manufacturers.

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Who Should Shop At Thrift Stores?

It’s a question I hadn’t really pondered until it was mentioned in a Facebook discussion last week. Should only people struggling with making end’s meet shop at thrift stores? I immediately felt a little ill because in the last year I’ve started shopping for clothes and books at our local thrift store. Is this wrong for me to do?

I was going to my 2nd hand store days after reading this question and decided to walk in eyes wide open. I went solo, without kids, and once I could sit in the children’s book isle and pile up a stack of books I remembered why I’m so comfortable and why it feels good for me to shop this way. I like the fact when I look through the books I hear whisperings of where they’ve once lived. I remember when I went to look for Christmas books, I found a post-it note in the front of a book, hand-written from grandparents about why they thought the child would enjoy the book. It made me feel special that I was seeing the note and it reminded me that even these books had a story. They had already lived in multiple houses, been read to numerous children, they no longer smelled of fresh ink (which my sensitive nose appreciates), and I don’t have to worry about breaking the book in. I am recycling, I say in my head and feel proud.  I am taking something and making the decision to not purchase it new, rather to find it, contribute to a non-profit that helps other people, then when my children are finished we will donate it back to the store. A very good cycle of use I would say!

When it comes to the books, I would say I’m pleased to also see dollar savings. Because I’m donating these books back to the store after they’ve been well loved, it’s nice to pay $1, rather than the high cost of brand new books. But I would argue that point about purchasing clothes 2nd hand. I think you could probably find clothes for the same price that are brand new if you watch for deals at Walmart or other brand name shops.  But when it comes to clothes, I’m not there shopping for deals.  I simply LOVE used clothing.  I believe that new clothing can be toxic. Here are several reasons why:

~ plastic decals, appliques, and embellishments are everywhere on clothing. What do I mean? Check out your child’s t-shirt & PJ drawer and look at the front…you will find a graphic or character there. When I talk about making better choices with clothing and buying 100% cotton clothing over polyester, it’s crazy that the clothing is marked 100% cotton when there’s a huge plastic decal attached to the front of a t-shirt or PJ set. That is not 100% cotton and that decal will be subjected to high heat in the dryer, wash and is breaking down. In really cheap clothing, they are using clothing embellishments made from PVC that contain phthalates and off-gas. When you purchase clothing 2nd hand, these types of decals have been washed multiple times and there is less leaching of materials.

~ the toxic nature of producing cotton has been well documented. This is why organic clothing, especially for babies has been so popular over the last few years.  Organic options are readily available for babies and toddlers but difficult and expensive to source after these ages. I like to think that when clothing is washed over and over the pesticides are eliminated from clothing which is awesome when purchasing 2nd hand!

~ clothing that fits!  And won’t shrink!  I have really bad luck with pants and my 9 year old son. He’s on the above average size and we try on clothes at the store and everything fits him perfectly, after it’s washed they are instantly too small in the waist and leg for him. This has happened to me with every single pair of paints I’ve bought him in the last year. On my last shopping trip I got smart and visited the boy’s jeans section at the thrift store. I paid $5.99 for a pair of broken in jeans that will last him a long time. They fit awesome because they aren’t stiff and awkward, but the best part is I don’t have to worry about shrinkage!

~ if you are on a constant journey to only purchase locally manufactured clothing, it will be a difficult and expensive journey. I try really hard to source everything I can locally, especially for myself, but this is hard with 4 kids and a husband. I don’t shop at big box stores, especially Walmart and others where their business and purchasing methods are questionable…but by shopping at a Thrift store, I can say by recycling clothing, this is more earth friendly in my mind than even shopping locally because I’m not investing in anything ‘new’. Only new to us. And I’m lucky that I have 4 children that see clothing for what it is. Clothing.  There is not talk of brand labels yet which is a blessing, although I know even popular brands exist in thrift stores, you just need to invest the time to look.

~ in an article I wrote years ago, I featured a store determined to change clothing with using sustainable ink. I learned from this article how toxic ink can be and urge you to read the Little Inkers story. Whenever I can, I love to support screen printers that create prints with earth friendlier dye solutions that are free from phthalates and PVC. These designs on the clothing are also so much more original and safe! I also feel when purchasing clothes 2nd hand that many of the toxins in these dyes have been washed out, which reduces exposure. I know the focus is 2nd hand, but I love giving examples of stores doing things right so I want to introduce you to Wren Willow. This clothing store is dedicated to using environmentally friendly water based inks and no harsh chemicals AND the store owner sketches the design that is later screen printed onto the clothes ~ Wren Willow is a magical place to purchase special clothes. These clothes look different,  tell a great story, and what a better alternative to big box clothing? I’d much rather my girls wear this big strawberry than Dora any day!

So back to my visit to the thrift store, and by the time I finished sorting through the pile of books and feeling very comfortable and happy with my decisions to shop thrift, I decided that I’ll continue on the path of being proud of myself for shopping 2nd hand. It is a very earth friendly option with consumerism and when I purchase things for myself and children, I don’t feel the consumer guilt that normally follows shopping at a traditional store. I am recycling. I am reusing. And with spending over $4.99 on each piece I purchased (pair of jeans, 2 dresses for my twins) I realized it’s also not just about saving money. I see new clothes being blown-out on sales all the time for $5. It shows me the markups in these stores is beyond ridiculous and the price tag doesn’t dictate if a shopping trip was successful, it’s the feeling that comes with bringing something new into my home. And if the item has previously been worn, washed, and then donated, it makes me feel proud to have found it.

** For all the latest updates, conversations, and answers to many questions from parents looking for safer solutions in their home, please join our Mommy Footprint fan page. The page is updated with information daily and the questions we discuss are wonderful.

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