Each year, 1.9 billion pounds of pumpkin is grown in the United States. Most of these pumpkins end up in landfills. Composting your jack-o-lanterns keeps them out of the waste stream and adds nutrients in your soil. While most of a jack-o-lantern is used for decoration, the seeds are very tasty when roasted. Another option, recommended by The National Wildlife Federation is to leave the raw seeds and pieces of your jack-o-lantern out in your yard to feed the wildlife after the holiday is over.
Laundry strips are an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bottles of liquid laundry detergent. They are packaged in a small, cardboard envelope, taking up little space and eliminating the plastic waste of a bottle. They are also easy to use: just tear a sheet at the perforation and add to your laundry as usual. But, do they get laundry clean? According to Jonathan Chan on www.reviewed.com, Tru Earth strips performed very well in their stain- removal tests. He describes these strips as being "ideal for sensitive skin, they are dye-, phosphate-, and chlorine-free. They’re also vegan and cruelty free. They have a little fragrance in a fresh linen scent. Because they are low-sudsing, these laundry strips work in standard and high-efficiency washing machines. You can rest assured they’ll dissolve completely in cold water."* Overall, Chan recommends laundry strips as "providing good cleaning power and being environmentally sound."*
Photo credit: Susan O'Donnell
Bring your reusable bags to the Swarthmore Farmers Market: vendors will stop giving out plastic bags starting October 1st
Swarthmore is taking the first steps toward joining the movement to reduce the use of single-use plastics. Starting October 1st, vendors at the Swarthmore Farmers Market will stop giving out plastic bags for purchases. Remember to bring your re-usable bags when you visit the Market. You can also reuse plastic bags that you have already accumulated. You can also consider other ways that you can reduce your use of plastic bags and better protect your produce as a result: bring hard-sided containers, such as mason jars or dairy tubs, to bring home berries, cherry tomatoes, or other delicate produce.
Single use plastic shopping bags are hard to recycle; they are not accepted curbside and must be taken to participating stores with specific recycling bins for bags. Too few plastic bags end up being recycled. Instead, they pollute the environment, choke waterways, and clog recycling sorting equipment. States such as New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and Washington State, and local municipalities such as West Chester and most recently Media have already banned merchants from handing out plastic bags for purchases.
For the first few weeks of the transition at the Swarthmore Farmers Market, donated reusable bags will be available for shoppers who don’t have their own bags. In preparation, the Market is accepting donations of re-usable bags. There will be a bin available at the Manager’s Table at the market each week to drop off reusable bag donations. Bring your extra reusable bags to the Market to help out with this effort!
Photo by Susan O'Donnell
Switching to a reusable cup is as important for iced drinks as it is for hot drinks since single-use takeout cold cups are made from #5 plastic that is generally not recyclable
In an article on footprint.org, Jodi Helmer lists the problems with disposable cups. Neither styrofoam nor paper coffee cups, which are lined with plastic, nor plastic coffee cup lids are effectively recyclable. She points out that "The plastic cups used for iced drinks are also problematic. Most are made from polypropylene (#5 plastic) that is not accepted in many curbside recycling programs."* Paper sleeves for hot drinks are recyclable and often made from recycled material. As an alternative, she suggests "to avoid the cup conundrum, take your own mug. Coffeeshops often offer small discounts to customers who bring their own cups (at Starbucks, the discount is 10 cents). In Berkeley, California, coffee drinkers who want to take their dark roast to go will pay an additional 25 cents for their cups thanks to a new ordinance aimed at reducing single-use plastics. The fee goes into effect in 2020."* She also recommends avoiding lids, straws and stirrers.
*Jodi Helmer Published: 8/14/19, Last updated: 12/11/20, "The Massive Impact of Your Takeout Coffee Cup" , footprint.org
Photo by Susan O'Donnell
Frustrated with those tiny ends of soap that seem like they could be useful but are too small to produce much lather? Save them up and reconstitute them into new bars. It takes only a few minutes to set them up. Give them a few days to dry, and you have new soap!
Adapted from: http://www.instructables.com/id/Reuse-Your-Old-Soap/
Photos by Susan O'Donnell
Paper towels, napkins, tissues, and tissue paper are not recyclable even when clean, though paper towel cores and tissues boxes are
Although paper towels are made of paper, they are not recyclable. Eilidh Dempsey lists the reasons in an article on utopia.org: "During manufacturing, the wood/cardboard gets pummeled and battered so much that all the natural fibers are broken down almost completely. Recycling this paper product at a later stage becomes impossible.
Not to mention the paper also gets a chemical treatment. Softeners, resins and glues are added to the paper fibers for better absorption, strength and smoothness, all of which are highly toxic. On top of that, bleaching often occurs at this stage of manufacturing." Unbleached paper towels, while still not recyclable, are compostable, and the cardboards tubes around which they are wrapped are recyclable. Dempsey suggests that the best way to reduce paper towel waste is to use washable cloth towels. Newspaper is also effective at "removing stains and streaks from glass surfaces like windows and mirrors"* However, "if you can’t quite resist them, then try to use just one square at a time. If need be, fold the square a couple of times to make it thicker, for those bigger spills. You can also reuse paper towels, especially if they were just used for mopping up water or spilled soap."*
*Eilidh Dempsey, August 16, 2021, "Are paper towels recyclable? What you need to know." utopia.org
photo by Susan O'Donnell
Refuse is part of the new 5Rs—Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle. Use your spending power to tell companies what you want and don’t want
You are likely familiar with the ideas of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, but www.52climateactions.com suggests adding Refuse and Repair to the list. "We need to be doing more refusing, whether it’s excess packaging, cheap goods that won’t last, or just simply something we don’t need. Take what you have already and make it last or give it a new lease of life. Almost everything we buy and use in our daily lives has a carbon footprint: from its manufacture to its transport. And almost everything we buy ends up being thrown away at some point. It goes to landfill, becomes litter, pollutes our oceans, contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases, or harms the planet in other ways. We need to cut our consumption to reduce our environmental impact. Single use items make no sense for our wallets or the environment."* Think before making purchases, consider good quality that won't need to be replaced quickly, and "use your spending power to tell companies what you want and don't want. For example, items that are built to last or those with less plastic packaging."* A practice to use to reduce the quantity of items that you purchase is to give yourself time to reflect before buying and "give yourself at least a day or two to think it over. You might not need it as much as you thought."*
Another way to reduce your consumption is to repair items that you have to give them a longer life. Alternatively, give them a new life with a different purpose. "Upcycling, i.e. giving a new lease of life to a neglected item, is an art movement in itself, with tutorials online and articles in magazines about everything from creative use of garden planters to large-scale artworks made from recycled objects. But you don’t have to be artistic to upcycle: simply take something and alter it for another practical use i.e. an old pallet into a shelving unit.
Your junk may well be someone else’s treasure, so before you throw it out check to see if anyone else could make use of it through online sites such as Freecycle, Preloved and Gumtree."
Tired of washing loads and loads of laundry? Annoyed with trying to decide what to wear each morning? Julia Mooney, an art teacher in NJ modeled an alternative by taking the One Outfit, 100 Day Challenge. Wearing the same dress for 100 days, she raised awareness about consumerism, fashion, and sustainability. She posted on her website:
photo credit: Aqua Mechanical, Flickr
“Let's think before we buy, wear, discard, and buy again. Can we buy clothes used? Buy responsibly? Buy LESS? Learn to sew a few things? (Stop shaking your head. Everyone's great grandmother used to, so you can too. Boys too.) Do we really need so many new outfits? Are we just perpetuating a culture that defines us based on what we're wearing rather than what we're doing? What if we spent our energy trying to BE good, interesting humans instead of trying to LOOK good and interesting? ”
According to clothing industry sources, 40-80% of GHG emitted during the lifetime of clothing is from washing, drying, and ironing. Overwashing cloths wears them out faster, leading to a shorter lifespan and earlier disposal.
The dress company wool& offers a gift card incentive for completing a similar 100 Day Dress Challenge. Their merino wool dresses are odor resistant and quick drying, making them suitable for continuous use. Over 1500 women have completed their challenge, many finding that they needed to wash their dress infrequently if at all during the 100 days of continuous use.
Swap out plastic products for bamboo, which grows at mind-boggling speed and absorbs twice as much CO2 as trees
Bamboo is a material that can now be found in a number of household items. A recent article on Treehugger.com reports on the sustainability benefits of using bamboo instead of plastic, paper, or wood. Because bamboo is fast growing, it "can be cut and replanted easily, and yearly harvesting causes no harm to the soil or surrounding environment. Not only does it grow rapidly, but bamboo also absorbs twice as much carbon dioxide as trees and produces 30% more oxygen than most plants and trees.* It can be grown organically, without the aid of chemical pesticides or fertilizers."** They list a wide variety of items that are made from bamboo, including toothbrushes, hairbrushes, utensils, clothing, diapers, flooring, and household paper products.
*"About Bamboo." Bamboo Botanicals.
**Treehugger editors, December 13, 2021, "Bamboo can help you go plastic free at home," www.treehugger.com
Making a donation to a non-profit as a gift is a great way to protect the environment by not buying more stuff and honoring the interests of your recipient. The editors at Treehugger.com have compiled a list of their favorite non-profits that just might fit the bill for your gift giving. Check out their list here.*
*Treehugger editors, November 29, 2021, "Our Favorite Non-Profits for Gifts That Give Back," www.treehugger.com