Tag Archives: green

Ready to share a car with the neighborhood?

July 30, 2010

We hear a lot about global warming and how driving is one of the major factors contributing to it. Cars & driving are deeply entrenched in American life, whether it’s anticipating your first driver’s license, summertime driving through back roads with the windows down & music blaring, or simply getting to and from work.

But, all of our driving adds up. According to the Environmental Defense study, The Climate Impact of America’s Automobiles, personal vehicles in the US emit roughly 10% of the global CO2 emissions that come from fossil fuels. In 2004, this came out to 314 million metric tons. That much carbon could fill a coal train 55,000 miles long; that’s enough to circle the Earth twice. Ah, nothing like a frightening statistic.

There are lots of ways to cut back on driving, from carpooling to using public transportation. However there are times that life is hard without a car. Activities like moving, taking a weekend trip, or simply grocery shopping often require the use of a car.

A movement that’s been gaining momentum recently is car sharing. Companies such as ZipCar, U Car Share, HourCar, and others have made it possible to ditch one (or perhaps all) of your cars, and only use one when you really need it. Zipcar.com includes some interesting tidbits on the impact of car sharing:

  • “Every Zipcar takes 15-20 personally-owned vehicles off the road.”
  • “After joining Zipcar, 90% of members drove 5,500 miles or less per year.”
  • “More than 32 million gallons of crude oil left in the ground total—or 219 gallons are saved per Member.”

The impact of car sharing isn’t just positive for the environment. Zipcar also claims that their members can save over $500 per month by sharing instead of owning a car. When you consider that maintenance, insurance, and even gas are included in the membership, this may not be too far off. Don’t believe it? Try out their calculator to test the theory yourself.

Car sharing companies and co-ops are popping up in urban centers all over the country, and most have the basics in common:

  1. Reserve your car online
  2. Unlock the car with your personal card or key (or phone!)
  3. Drive away
  4. Return to a specified car-share location before your reservation time expires
  5. Leave car as clean as you found it

Pretty simple, huh? Do your kindergarten teacher proud and give sharing a chance.

Easy ways to save money by going green

July 20, 2010

I recently received a Google Alert on “ways to save money”. A series of articles on helium.com titled Easy ways to save money by going green caught my attention right away. That’s what the Green Frugal is all about!

You can certainly read the full articles, but for your convenience I’ve condensed it down to three things that I thought were of particular interest.  Here they are:

“Instead of buying all sorts of fancy dusting sprays, use Murphy’s Oil soap and dilute it with some water and put it in a spray bottle. That will last you a long time, remove dust easily, be safe on any surface and not fill your air with a ton of chemicals in the process. “

“A great way to conserve water in your bathrooms is to put a 2 quart soda bottle filled with water inside of the toilet tank.  This will save on the amount of water that is used each time the toilet is flushed.” (I just did this today, in my house. Tip: put a few rocks in the soda bottle, or else you may have a floatation device. A 2 quart soda bottle is equivalent to 64 ounces.  If this seems a bit large to you, then you can always start with a 20 ounce… or maybe two 20’s.)

“Look at the way things are packaged – You may not have noticed, but things that are packaged in fancy packaging and/or boxes tend to cost more than things you can buy in plain bags. Some manufacturers even make a point of using plastic food bags that are made from recycled materials. “

5 Facts: Recycling Plastic Bags

June 3, 2010

Everyone knows that we should carry reusable bags to the grocery store, but plastic grocery bags seem to pile up nonetheless. Who doesn’t have a kitchen drawer or cupboard exploding with bags? At Cash4Books, we encourage customers to re-use clean plastic bags as a packing material in their book shipments. The bags are then collected and recycled with EnviroFiber, a local recycling company.

This had me wondering what happens to the plastic once it’s picked up? In doing a bit of research, I’ve found some surprises about the recyclability of plastic bags and other thin plastics. Although most home-pickup recyclers do not accept plastic bags (since they can get caught in and ruin machinery) many grocers now have collection containers destined for plastic recycling specialists.

1. Plastic Lumber

Melted plastic bags and sawdust can be combined to make composite lumber. This is actually the most common reuse for plastic bags. This new material is used  to make door frames, outdoor decks, tables and benches. The composite of two recycled materials keeps trees in the ground and plastic out of the trash.

2. Plastic Batteries

Illinois based Chemist Vilas Ganpat Pol recently discovered a process to create carbon nanotubes from waste plastic. In this example of “up-cycling” (recycling waste into a more valuable product), plastic bags can ultimately be made into lithium-ion batteries. Really.

3. On your way to recycle used grocery bags? Include these too!

All clean, dry bags labeled #2 or #4 can be recycled along with plastic grocery bags. This includes: 

♦ Newspaper bags, Dry cleaning bags, produce bags & bread bags
♦ Cereal box liners
♦ Shipping envelopes
♦ Plastic wrap around paper towels, napkins & toilet paper
♦ Clean zip-lock bags (with the hard plastic removed)

4. Room for Improvement

According to the EPA, only 12% of used plastic bags were recycled in 2007.

5. On the Bright Side

A recent survey revealed that 90% of Americans reuse their plastic shopping bags, mostly to replace garbage liners, lunch bags, and pet waste bags. The reuse of each plastic bag prevents a second bag from being purchased for a single purpose.

The bottom line: should we try to keep plastic bags out of the waste stream (not to mention the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”) by carrying reusable totes? Yes. Will we always remember to bring them shopping? Probably not. But we can recycle what accumulates, and the manufacturing industry is coming up with some pretty interesting ways to reuse the single use bag.

Organic Children’s Books

May 27, 2010

Finding fun, interesting children’s books isn’t hard.

Finding fun, interesting children’s books that are also organic can be a bit trickier. When I say “organic” books, I mean made from recycled materials, using Earth-friendly inks and dyes – even cloth books!

Paper cannot be recycled over and over, the fibers break down and lose connectivity. Some publishers are now mixing paper from trees grown in sustainable forests with already recycled paper, strengthening the fibers and prolonging paper-life. Using soy ink, instead of petroleum based ink, also aids us in our quest for organic books.

Cloth books are great for very young children; easy to teethe on, impossible to tear apart, usually very colorful and some have noisemakers or “feely” objects. The best part about a cloth book: they don’t require any paper!

In my own search for great, sustainable books for my kids, I came across a few wonderful publishers. Priddy books has started it’s own line of natural books called “Natural Baby“.

And here are a few sites offering a selection of cloth books, including how to make your own!

Oompa Cloth Books

Make a Cloth Book

Make Your Own Cloth Book

And, of course, your local used book seller should have some children’s books – buying used is a great way to be green!