Reduce, Reuse, E-cycle

ewasteE-waste has been in the news a lot lately, with the 60 Minutes expose on toxic electronic waste illegally shipped to other countries, and reports from organizations like the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, who recently traveled to India to track the global e-waste crisis. People are starting to pay more attention to where their electronics go when we lose interest in them.

As of January 1, 2009, Oregon now has Oregon E-Cycles, a statewide program that provides FREE recycling of laptops, desktop computers and their monitors, and televisions. You can get information about e-cycling (and what you need to know before you put your old computer in someone else’s hands), as well as a listing of e-cycling locations.  Washingon state has a similar program in place.

If you’re not lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, check out my previous blog post about greening your e-habit, which includes websites that allow you to find where you can recycle your electronics in your state.

It’s fortunate that e-cycling is gaining greater attention, especially when February 17 is the big switchover day from analog to digital TV, which means people need to have TVs capable of receiving the digital signal, if they want TV. Although a converter box is available, many people are trashing their TVs to buy a new digital one, which means tons of toxic e-waste from products that still function. If you want to be sure you’re participating in the transition in an eco-friendly way, check out the Take Back My TV campaign, which has information, links to e-waste recyclers, and a campaign to encourage TV manufacturers to recycle their products.

Of course, you can always decide to do without a TV! We’ve been without one for close to a year now, and we don’t miss it at all.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of greenbk via Creative Commons.
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Less Plastic: Fantastic! Reduce Your Plastic Habit

Plastics are ubiquitous, turning up at practically every corner of our little round planet, and they’re finding their way into the media spotlight more often. The Ocean Conservancy just had their annual International Coastal Cleanup. Last year they removed more than 6 million pounds of trash from oceans and waterways, much of it plastic. Bisphenol A, which is found in some plastics, has been the target of many a controversy. Bottled water and plastic bags are finding themselves banned by schools and governments. Humans have found plastics so handy — but also so environmentally destructive, and in some cases, toxic to our health.

And there have been conflicting reports about which plastics are safe and which aren’t. (The Green Guide has a guide to which plastics are safer for kitchen use, and which should be avoided.)

John and I have decided that, for animals, people and the planet, it’s best to reduce the amount of plastics we use as much as we can. Here are a few of the changes we’ve made:

  • We’re transitioning over to no plastics for storing food.  Whenever we go to thrift stores, we’re on the look out for glass or ceramic casserole dishes of various sizes.
  • We buy in bulk whenever we can and have all our bulk items in glass containers with good seals.
  • We have significantly reduced the number of plastic storage bags we use, usually only use them for non-food items, and reuse them as often as we can.
  • We try to remember to bring our own reusable containers with us to restaurants.
  • We bring cloth bags whenever we go to the grocery, run errands, etc.
  • We only have two trash cans in our house and the “kitchen” trash is lined with a recycled paper grocery bag so that it can biodegrade in the landfill (eventually). No plastic garbage bags for us.
  • We’ve stopped using cling-wrap and use alternatives (waxed paper, aluminum foil, glass containers, etc.)
  • We have glass bottles that we frequently use for water when we’re out and about. When we do use plastic water bottles, we reuse them as much as is safe and then recycle them.
  • We’re buying less-processed, less-packaged food and items, which means less plastic.
  • We often bring our own special reusable plastic bags to hold produce at the grocery.

Need some additional inspiration to reduce your plastics consumption? My friend, Dani, has joined a challenge to use as little plastic as possible for 3 months. At the end of those three months, she and the other participants will use plastic to create art pieces, which will be on display for the public.

And, I recently stumbled upon the Life Less Plastic blog, which features the journey of a woman striving to become plastic-free.

Many people have begun to increase the type and number of plastics they recycle, but many plastics aren’t recyclable (even if they do have those magic arrows). Fortunately for those of us here in Portland, Oregon, we have an option for recycling those tricky plastics, like those darn drink lids and kiddie slides.

Portland Metro’s Master Recycler Program is having its bi-annual Plastic Roundup on Saturday, October 4 (Lake Oswego, North Portland), and Saturday, October 11(Milwaukie, Hillsboro). They don’t accept everything, but they do accept quite a bit, from bubble wrap, cereal liners, plant containers and dry cleaning bags to laundry baskets, kiddie pools and toys, lids, CDs and DVDs. There’s a list of what’s acceptable on their site.

What strategies have you been using to reduce your plastic habit?

~ Marsha