This summer I read a book that inspired me to make another Green change in my life. I decided to collect water from the shower as it is warming up. In order to do this, I went to Goodwill to look for a bucket. As usual, I found the perfect thing. It is a plastic Brewer themed bucket that one might use to keep beers chilled. Now as I’m waiting for the shower to heat up, I save the water. Then I take the bucket out of the shower so it doesn’t get soapy. This whole exercise would be pointless, unless I used the water for something. Therefore, I use the water for my houseplants. The United States Geological Survey estimates that individuals use 80-100 gallons of water every day at home. Imagine 100 gallons of milk (except filled with water) lined up every day waiting to be poured literally down the drain. It is great to know that I will never have to fill my watering can from the sink again, and that I am doing every small bit to reduce my water consumption.
Sometimes a little bit of exaggeration can be a helpful tool. In the spirit of helpful exaggerations, I have coined two terms: orangutan blood and redwood tears.
Orangutan blood is what I call palm oil. Palm oil is a very pervasive ingredient that is linked to major deforestation of the orangutan ecosystems (see my earlier post for more details). If you tell people you don’t buy some brands of butter/ peanut butter because they contain palm oil, most people won’t really pay much attention. But, if you tell people you avoid a certain brand because it has orangutan blood, they will probably ask you a follow-up question and have a better chance of remembering what you tell them. I’ve written to many companies to inform them that I no longer buy their products because the products contain palm oil. All of the companies respond saying that their palm oil is sustainably harvested and is not contributing to deforestation. Since I have no means of evaluating their claims, I avoid palm oil as much as I can.
Redwood tears is a general term referring to excessive, useless paper products. A stack of unused paper napkins in the garbage at a restaurant is redwood tears. A ream of paper at work that someone accidentally printed is redwood tears. Endless amounts of junk mail are redwood tears. Redwood trees are not actually used to make paper products. However, it was the redwood trees that inspired me as I traveled through the beautiful forests in Northern California. At the time, I was reading The Story of Stuff which taught me that “about 40 percent of the stuff in municipal garbage is paper”. I thought of the wasted paper products, and I imagined forests everywhere crying. We use paper without even thinking of the trees used to make the paper. Referring to needless paper products as redwood tears gives us a reminder of where that paper originated.
I hope that these exaggerated terms encourage people to buy fewer products containing palm oil and reduce their paper consumption. But, if nothing else, I smile every time I use the terms.
So you’ve probably read lists of ways to go green at work. The typical lists have good ideas that should definitely be implemented if possible. However, this is an idea that I haven’t seen on any other lists, and you don’t need to be the president of the company to make it happen. I call it The Eco Tray:
The Eco Tray is a way to reduce paper usage when printing. Of course the best option is to avoid printing things, however depending on your job, that might not be possible. For my job, I have to print sheets that are posted on boards and therefore my print-outs can only be one-sided. We also have a large printer at work that has 3 different trays for paper. I started to collect used papers that were only printed on one-side. Then I would load those one-sided papers into a specific tray of the printer. And thus, the Eco Tray was born.
With the Eco Tray, if you have to print a one-sided document, you can select the Eco Tray. Then your document will be printed with something else recycled on the other side of the document. This works well at a high traffic printer where you can usually find papers that no one picks up. These are un-wrinkled and staple free so they make prime candidates to be loaded for re-use in the Eco Tray.
In order to spread my idea, I posted a notice near the printer so that others were aware of the Eco Tray. Also, I set the default of the printer to show the Eco Tray as “green” colored paper. This prevents people from accidentally printing to the Eco Tray. The printer never defaults to use the Eco Tray. Users instead must manually select the Eco Tray prior to printing their document. At first I was the only person using the Eco Tray, but now I am happy to hear others talking about it and using it.
I hope that others can apply this idea at their jobs to reduce their paper usage. Message me if you would like the actual signs that I used to mark the Eco Tray. It is satisfying to know that when I can’t avoid printing something, at least I’m re-using the piece of paper.
“Round 2?” you might ask. Yes. Although my worm bin was going really well, eventually I must have neglected it because the worms all died. My theory is that I did not give them enough water. I felt really bad about killing my worms, but I missed the opportunity to compost. Therefore, after the appropriate mourning period, I went back to the bait shop to pick up new red wigglers.
Thus began Round 2 of my Worm Bin. I used the same bin. I added 3 containers of red wigglers (same amount as last time). I gave them food scraps similar to the ones I successfully fed my other worms. I watered the bin with a spray bottle to avoid a repeat of the previously fatal mistake. I put the bin in its secondary home under the bathroom sink since the kitchen sink was under maintenance. Everything was set as usual. Then the horror began!
Later that night, I went into the bathroom and gasped. There was a worm in the middle of the rug. It was dried up and dead. I gasped again as I realized that he was not alone. As I looked around our small bathroom, I found about 8 other worms. All dead except 1 struggling survivor whom I quickly returned to the bin. After scouring the bathroom I debated if I should mention this creepy crawly incident to Greg. That’s when I found 2 more little worms outside of the bathroom in the carpeting! Those poor little things!
Now a week after bringing the worms home, I’ve had a few more escapees- never as many as that first night. Based on brief research, I think I must have had too many worms in the bin or just a particularly wanderlust batch of worms. Thankfully the escapes have ceased so I believe my bin is chemically healthy. Time to compost!
A few years ago, I wanted a watch, and I wanted it to be eco-friendly. I ordered a Sprout watch made of biodegradable corn resin. It had a beautiful face with an image of a tree, and I LOVED it. Unfortunately, after a short time, the band broke. When I had the broken link removed, that very same day the band broke in another spot. Multiple watch shops said they could not replace the band due to the design of the watch. Sprout offered to send me replacement links (that was very considerate), however I didn’t think that would be worth it.
Instead of writing off Sprout, I decided to give them another try. This time I ordered a watch with a biodegradable corn resin case, organic cotton strap, and a bamboo dial. It’s not as pretty as the first one, however it still looks stylish and I think the strap will be much more reliable. They had an option with a green cotton strap and the tree face, however I didn’t think the green strap would look as professional as the white strap.
Overall, I greatly appreciate that Sprout is bringing options to those desiring an environmentally friendly watch. Another benefit of both watches was the minimal packaging made with 80% post-consumer recycled fibers. Sprout had many fashionable options, and every day when I put on my watch, I am happy to know that I am also making a statement about my dedication to sustainability.
Based on an awesome suggestion (thanks Paul!), I added the Belkin Conserve Switch power strip to my Christmas list, and I am so
happy that my Uncle Dave got it for me. This power strip comes with a remote control which makes it super easy to flip off the power before you leave the house or when you
are going to bed. I use mine for the internet router and modem. Those little things use a surprising amount of energy and they are ALWAYS ON. What’s the point of leaving the internet on while you’re at work all day?
Everyone should consider trying this product or a similar one. Ours came with a wall mount for the remote so it is just like a light switch but for our internet. We put it right by the front door so when we leave we turn off the lights and the internet. It’s so easy that even Greg does it!