Green your life at home, work & play

Greening Hospitals April 6, 2012

The health care industry has a great, untapped potential to be more environmentally friendly. Currently hospitals in the U.S. create 6,600 tons of waste per day. There are many problems that the health care industry faces that others do not, such as infectious and hazardous waste. The proper disposal of these items is important for both human health as well as the environment. Current methods of disposing of infectious or hazardous waste, although effective, are not the best for the environment. Incinerating waste is important to not spread infectious diseases or have chemicals leach into the ground in landfills, but this causes air pollution from mercury and dioxin.

Contrary to what many may believe, a large amount of waste created by the health care industry is actually regular trash and recyclables – plastic, cardboard, etc.  The need for sterile instruments has led to the “single-use” culture, which has been facilitated by prevalence of plastics. In certain instances this is necessary (needles, etc). However, in other instances, reusable products could be utilized. A re-assessment of how hospitals use materials is necessary to find this difference. For example, plastic is commonly used for packaging, but glass or other materials can be a substitute when there is less risk of breakage. Glass is a great material because it can be recycled infinitely without degrading, unlike most other materials.

Fortunately, some people realize the great impact that the health care industry can have on the world’s carbon footprint. In 2000, the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care was created to promote eco-friendly practices, which include pollution prevention and resource conservation. There are also many hospitals in the U.S. that are going green as well.

Photo Courtesy of Planet Green


16 easy ways to cut down on your waste stream at work February 10, 2012

Using as many of these tips as possible will cut down on costs your workplace has related to trash disposal, help your employees get in touch with their waste stream and even provide some resources for the community:

  1. Keep one–and only one–trash can in shared office space, but give everyone a recycling bin at their desks for paper, aluminum, plastic.
  2. Shred paper that has been used on both sides and use it as packing material for shipments – or offer the shreddings to the gardeners in the office to use as compostable material.
  3. Organize office staff on a rotating schedule to take the trash to the main collection area or dumpster instead of having it magically disappear each night thanks to the cleaning crew.
  4. Keep a container (with a lid) in the office kitchen/coffee area to collect used coffee grounds. Find the gardener in the office group who would love to take those spent grounds to use on their roses or tomato plants.
  5. Eliminate Styrofoam cups for hot beverages.  Give employees quality reusable mugs (with your company logo, of course) and have the same available for guests to use.  Also, provide a scrub brush and dish soap at the sink for cleaning mugs.
  6. Buy cartons of cream and bags of sugar/sweetener for beverages instead of offering individual-sized packets.
  7. Ditch the bottled water in the vending machines and provide employees with a cooler with filtered water.  Another reason to use those wonderful corporate mugs you gave out!
  8. If unnecessary printing of documents or emails is a concern, program your print command to trigger an additional popup that asks the person printing to consider the cost in trees and to the company before going ahead with the print.  Vary these messages, make them humorous and add some little graphics for greater effectiveness.
  9. Switch to refillable, recyclable, non-toxic whiteboard markers—such as AusPen—and pay less than you would for traditional ones.  AusPens are available through EcoSmartWorld and other vendors.
  10. Provide each employee with an individual dry erase board for notes and reminders, to help reduce the overuse of sticky notes in their office space.
  11. Have printers and copiers set to black ink only, draft quality and duplex mode by default since these options should be sufficient for most internally used documents.
  12. For paper that is only printed on one side, designate an area for it to be collected and reused for scrap paper (before being shredded or recycled).  Ask your local commercial printer if they will take your one-sided printed paper, cut it and make it into notepads for office use.
  13. Cancel or unsubscribe from mailed publications that your staff are not taking the time to read.
  14. Designate a cupboard or other organized area to swap used office supplies such as binder and paper clips, file folders (provide blank adhesive labels so they can be repurposed), manila envelopes (can be relabeled too), and rubber bands.
  15. Wooden pallets should never be land-filled.  Recycling contractors will often agree to collect them and then will resell them to shipping companies.  If that is not possible, tree-trimming companies may take them to shred for mulch.  There are even some entrepreneurial types who have realized the value of decorating and making furniture with them.
  16. Don’t ditch used office equipment or furniture.  Find a resale store in the area (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, or Habitat for Humanity ReUse store) that will accept the items—they may even come and pick them up for free.

Cell Phone Recycling September 17, 2010

Cell phones have become so popular in our society that they have taken over the public telephone.  It is rare that you find a public phone in the streets nowadays.  It seems that everyone from age 5 to 75 has a cell phone; the average consumer always wants to have the latest and greatest of this technology.  Yet what happens to the phones when consumer “upgrade” their old device?

Many companies have implemented cell phone recycling programs for their companies and they take in phones from any provider.

Verizon has implemented a program called, Verizon Wireless’ HopeLine, that donates unused cell phones, batteries, and accessories to victims of domestic abuse. (Verizon Wirless)

T-Mobile has partnered up with the U.S. Environment Protection Agency to help promote  and participate in the “Plug-In to eCyling Campaign“.  The company has made recycling very accommodating for their customers.  T-Mobile has designated areas for the consumer to recycle their old phones and places self addressed envelopes in new cell phone packages so the customer can easily send their old phone to be recycled proper through T-Mobile. (T-Mobile USA, Inc.)  AT&T has a similar program that they have implemented in their stores.

When getting ready to upgrade your phone, activate a new line, or migrate to a new company, know that many of the major cell phone companies are ready and willing to take your unused phone.

You can also donate your cell phone to many worthy causes, such as to soldiers or senior citizen charities.  Find out the nearest place that will recycle your cell phone here.


Green your kids! August 19, 2010

Living green is a lifestyle and is starting to become more popular.  Parents need to start teaching their children to be green so that this lifestyle does not phase out.  Regardless of their age, children can be taught to be more environmentally friendly.

Even preschoolers can be green.  They can be taught simple habits such as turning lights off when they leave rooms and turning the water off when it isn’t being used.  Recycling can also be taught so that children can sort out newspapers and junk mail.

Recycling can be more in depth for older children.  Even first graders can be taught what materials can and cannot be recycled.  They can also be taught to take the bus to school cutting down on transportation emissions and have lunches that come in washable, reusable containers. They be taught to garden and grow their plants like sunflowers or even their own fruits or vegetables such as carrots.

Middle schoolers can be taught to use less energy and unplug appliances when they aren’t in use or at least at night. They can be taught to mow the lawn using a push mower and to leave the grass cuttings for compost.  Those in high school can participate in stream or beach clean-ups.  They can also learn more about waste by taking a field trip to a landfill to see how trash doesn’t just “go away” when it is thrown away.  Those who drive should be encouraged to carpool and can be taught to drive to maximize their miles per gallon.

There are many numerous ways for parents and children to go green.  When teaching children to go green, remember it is important that they are told how what they are doing is environmentally friendly and why being environmentally conscious is important. There are many green guides and sites on the internet worth looking at, especially for kids!


Do you E-cycle? August 7, 2010

Many people have been or have started recycling, but there are still those who don’t know about electronic waste.  Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, e-scrap, or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, includes old electronics like cellular phones, televisions, and batteries, must be recycled properly, not just thrown away.  From 1999 to 2005, the recycling rate of e-waste was about 15%, and 85% was disposed of in landfills, primarily.

The reason it’s important to recycle e-waste is because simply disposing of it is dangerous.  New LCD screens have mercury, and other televisions and computer monitors contain up to eight pounds of lead.  Batteries have health hazards in addition mercury and lead such as lithium and other toxics.  If this waste is thrown away and sent to landfills,  toxic metals can leak from the landfills into groundwater systems, or if they are incinerated, the toxic metals can be released into the atmosphere.

What you can do: take your used and non-working electronics to an electronic recycling plant. Many office supply stores accept used toner cartridges, or they can be mailed back to the manufacturer.  Used batteries can also be dropped off at many home improvement stores.  Don’t forget that working cell phones, DVDs, CDs, and other electronics can also be donated!

Before buying new electronics, check out Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics for the top manufacturers based on their policies on toxics, recycling, and climate change; also explore the Consumer Reports’ Greener Choices Electronics Reuse and Recycling Center for ideas about buying electronics, extending the lives of current electronics, and how to go about donating or selling your unwanted electronics. Finally, check to see if the recycling company you use is a member of E-Stewards.


The Fun Green Museum – Trash! July 8, 2010

Although all green museums are fun, the Trash Museum in Hartford CT, and the Garbage Museum in Stratford CT managed by the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority are particularly geared towards making information about landfill-destined waste interesting and engaging.

Proud owners of the Trash-O-Saurus and the Temple of Trash (made from more than a ton of salvaged trash), these museums run environmental and recycling educational programs including suggestions on how to implement recycling at home. Besides tours of recycling facilities lead by trained educators, the museums run school and community programs, their overall attendance reaching nearly 60,000.

These museums run on a fraction of the budget of large-scale centers such as the California Academy of Sciences, and yet have a widespread tangible, positive impact on their communities. More museums need to take on the responsibility of teaching their patrons about practical skills for improving their everyday lives.

Note: Photo by


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