Thursday, September 26, 2013

How to Recycle E-Waste - Tips for Safely Disposing of Electronics

E-waste is the latest term for all your leftover electronics.  With technology progressing so fast, many people have tons of old TVs, computers, cell phones, and other old stuff just lying around the house which are no longer being used.

English: Pile of e-Waste / Electronic waste: A...
Pile of e-Waste / Electronic waste. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Although it may seem like the easiest solution, it’s important not to just throw your electronics away.  They contain harmful chemicals and heavy metals that can fill landfills and pollute the environment around them.  These materials can pollute the air, water, soil, and potentially harm other living creatures including you and your family.  In fact, in many places, it is illegal to throw these items away.  There are quick and easy ways to reuse and recycle your electronics that are safer for the world around you.

It generally isn’t too difficult to find a local place to recycle your junk.  Some places, particularly in areas where recycling is mandatory, have drop off sites, but if not there are generally businesses that will have recycling events or will take the waste all the time.  They are willing to recycle for you because it gets you in the door of the store.  If no one is advertising recycling in your area, ask at local electronic stores.  If they don’t recycle, ask if they know who does.

There are also quite a few places that offer to recycle your ewaste, but be wary of what is happening to it once it gets into their hands.  Many companies have large collections only to simply send the products overseas to be thrown in landfills there.  This not only harms the environment, it can also harm the people in that area that don’t have the same standard of living as we do.  Be sure to look into the place that is claiming to recycle your old stuff.

English: SAN DIEGO (May 13, 2010) Workers gath...
Workers gather computers, printers, and other electronics during Ewaste at Naval Air Station North Island. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you don’t want to just recycle your ewaste, why not do something good with it by donating it to a charity?  There are many charities now that will take your old cell phones and recycle them, then use the money to support a cause - often something environmental.  You can research these organizations online, or even look around in your local community.  A local zoo or nature center is a good place to start asking.

While many people rush to recycle their old ewaste, if it still works, or even if it doesn’t, you may consider selling it or donating it to a local charity.  Just because an electronic device isn’t the newest, latest thing doesn’t mean that someone doesn’t want it.  TVs can be used by families in need to stay up on the news, and old computers, even if they’re not working, can be taken apart and used for parts. 

If you don’t believe people will want your “ancient” electronics, do some quick searching on YouTube.  People are using electronics for tons of crazy things nowadays, from art to planters and more.  If you want an idea on whether you can sell it or should just give it away, do a quick search on eBay and see what similar items are going for.

By taking a bit of extra time to recycle your old electronics, you’ll be doing the environment a world of good, and might make a little money for yourself in the process.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How to Safely Recycle Batteries

This week we've reached the third "R" - the one that is the most talked about these days - and of course that's recycling (if you've missed the first two - reduce and reuse, those are especially important, so be sure to check out our earlier posts in the series). Once you've done everything you can to reduce your production of waste, and reuse or re-purpose whatever you can, now it's time to recycle whatever's left. (Oh yes, and of course don't forget when it comes to kitchen and food waste, the ultimate and best form of recycling is composting! We talk a lot more about that on our sustainable gardening blog, so be sure to check that out as well - just click any of the tags below the article to pull up more articles on that topic.)

By now, most people are pretty familiar with how to recycle plastic, paper, and glass, but what about electronics and batteries? This week we'll focus on these newer and trickier categories of recyclables, and how you can keep these items and their potentially dangerous chemical ingredients out of our landfills.

Electric batteries.
Batteries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many people don’t think about it all that much and just throw batteries away.  This is not only bad for the environment, it’s also dangerous if kids or pets get into the garbage and get a hold of them. We all know not to even touch battery acid if it leaks, so why would we just throw these toxic chemicals out into the landfill where they can leach into the soil and groundwater?

In addition to battery acid, the metals of batteries can be dangerous when left to leak into the soil.  Heavy metals can get into your soil, water and even into your food. 

Instead of throwing out your batteries, you can simply recycle them.  This keeps those dangerous poisons out of the environment and reduces the amount of trash in landfills.  In fact, many places now consider batteries a form of hazardous waste and prohibit them being thrown away; however, even in these areas, very few batteries are being recycled.

If you get a large battery replaced, like in your car or boat, make sure you know what’s happening to your old battery.  While it may cost you a small fee, you should be able to ensure your battery is properly recycled after it’s taken out of your vehicle.  There are many companies that now offer services to help companies recycle batteries.  You can find a place that already recycles, or encourage your mechanic to do so.

Other batteries might take a little more effort to recycle.  You will likely need to take them to a hazardous waste recycling station.  While you may not have a clue of where to find them, a quick online search will help you find local drop offs where you can take your batteries.  If it’s far away or a bit of a hassle to get to, you can have a place in your house to store dead batteries until you have enough to take over.  Just remember not to let them sit too long because they can begin to deteriorate and become dangerous.

You may also find that local businesses will recycle batteries for you.  There are companies that will set up recycling for businesses for a low price, so they may offer to recycle for you if you can get your batteries into the store.  If you look around, you may find a convenient location so you don’t have to go all the way to a recycling center.

English: Rechargeable batteries Português: Pil...
Rechargeable batteries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
And when it comes to household batteries, why not just use rechargeables?  Sure, you’re going to eventually have to throw them away, but throwing away one set of batteries is a whole lot less of a mess than throwing out fifty.  It used to be the case that rechargeables were a pain to charge up and didn’t last long, but technology has improved significantly.  Now you can get speed chargers that get your batteries fully charged in just a few minutes and last as long as a regular battery.

Once you’ve safely recycled your batteries, keep going.  Everything in your home from electronics to fluorescent light bulbs can be recycled to provide us with a safer, cleaner world.  So start researching and get recycling!

For how to recycle electronics, be sure to check back Thursday.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Green Ideas on How to Revamp & Reuse Old Furniture

Whether you have furniture in your home you’d like to spruce up or you’ve purchased furniture at a flea market or salvage yard, there are plenty of low-cost and green ways to make old furniture exciting so you can get more use out of it and keep it out of the landfills.

English: Furniture conservation - applying pai...
Furniture conservation - applying paint remover (stripper) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
#1.  Paint it.  Dingy furniture can get a whole new life with a fresh coat of paint.  If the furniture is already painted, you’ll want to put on a mask and strip it.  Old paint can contain lead and other harmful chemicals.  Next, head to your local paint store and find your favorite color in low VOC or VOC-free paint. 

(VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are chemicals released from the paint.  They can cause illness and disease for many years to come as they are released into the air for decades.)  You can also strip and stain the furniture with natural and VOC-free stains. 

#2.  Reupholster it.  Have a piece of furniture that you like but doesn’t quite match your current décor?  Reupholster it with environmentally-friendly fabric like organic cotton or wool.  And if upholstering is too big of a do-it-yourself job, take it to an expert. It’ll cost less than buying new and is a more environmentally-friendly choice.

#3.  Add bits of finery.  Cabinets, drawers, and armoires can be spruced up with a little bit of new hardware.  You can often purchase the hardware from a flea market or a salvage store. They’re great places to find hardware with personality. 

English: Taken at a Chicagoland Flea Market. R...
A Chicagoland Flea Market.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Tabletops can shine with mosaic tiles made from hammered porcelain or glass tiles.  You can find tiles at your local flea market or salvage yard and the project of hammering them into bits and then reassembling them on your tabletop into a beautiful pattern can be both cathartic and fun. 

Finally, you can also use sheets of scrap metal or recycled metal to create flash on tabletops or cupboard fronts.  The metal can be used as tiles or as an entire front to add an urban or contemporary touch. 

People have used everything from chicken wire to astro turf to add flair and personality to old furniture.  There are a million green ways to make old furniture new again - it just takes a bit of creativity.  Take a look at what you have around you and how you can make good use of it in an eco-friendly way.

Helpful Resources on Refinishing and Reusing Furniture:
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reuse - Try Bartering to Save Money & Reduce Waste

One great (and cheap) way to encourage reuse is to barter for items you want in trade for items you want to get rid of. Bartering has been around for a very long time - even longer than money. It's well documented that ancient people traded their own items of value for goods from others who had traveled from distant lands.

The definition of bartering is to trade goods or services without the exchange of money. During these uncertain economic times and the need to put a lid on previous easygoing spending habits, bartering is making a big comeback.

One of Dryden, Ontario's Landfill's. This one ...
Landfill - waste goes to waste. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bartering is an excellent way to get rid of items you don't want. Do you have a rocking chair you don't use anymore now that your babies have grown up? You can dispose of it by trading it for something you want now. It's a win-win situation and has the added benefit of not adding stuff you no longer like or need to the landfills. Keep in mind the saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure". It's so true.

Bartering also works with services, not just goods. Perhaps you have a skill like mending, teaching math to kids, cooking, or website building. Maybe you own a big flatbed truck or you have a strong back and big biceps. You can get piano lessons from the little old lady down the road for your child in exchange for mowing her lawn. Maybe the gourmet cook next door will make you a few dinners every time you haul something away for her. Use your imagination; you have plenty of skills you can offer for the services you need.

There are many bartering groups popping up online. Be sure to read their terms of service and then jump in. Don't be intimidated; start off looking at what people are in need of and asking for, and see if you can help them. It's a good idea to figure out what services you might need or items you have to barter with before you get started.

The Barter Network Money
The Barter Network Money (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bartering is also fun. Perhaps you can trade your older TV for those belly dancing lessons you've always wanted to try but never had the money for. Or maybe you get tired of your living room furniture quite often. You can trade your furniture every time you feel like you want a change without having to visit the furniture store.

Bartering has been going on forever to a certain degree, and it sure makes a lot of sense now when money may be tighter. Join some bartering groups online, or even better - start locally and look around at what you and your neighbors or friends could offer each other. Enjoy your new stuff and feel good about keeping your old stuff out of the landfills.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Save Paper & Money With E-Vites and E-Cards

E-vites and E-cards are electronic cards which have been available for several years now. They can be a great way to reduce paper waste, and they can also save you money as well.  As more people become more environmentally conscious, electronic invitations and cards are growing in popularity. 

Here are a few benefits to e-vites and e-cards:

English: Author: Red Bumble Bee Source:
Wedding invitations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
#1.  Less paper.  It is estimated that if everyone sent electronic cards and invitations instead of paper cards and invitations we’d save more than 200,000 trees each year.

#2.  You don’t have to spend money on stamps to send your invitations and cards, which quite often require additional postage.

#3.  They reduce the environmental cost of producing paper.  Paper not only means cutting down trees which are valuable to our environment, the production of paper also uses tremendous amounts of energy and resources - all of which contribute to our carbon footprint.  Cut back on greenhouse gases and use e-cards and e-invites.

#4.  No ink.  Unless your paper cards are printed with earth friendly and non-toxic ink, you’re much better off using an electronic option.  In addition, you don’t have to personally sign each card, once again saving ink.

#5.  There are no delivery costs.  When it comes to ordering invitations or buying cards, it takes a delivery truck and/or airplane to get them to you - whether they’re being shipped to the store where you buy them or you order them and they’re being shipped to you. Electronic cards do not need to be shipped anywhere.  This means you save fuel costs and emissions. 

E-Card Drawbacks?

When it comes to e-cards, the only real drawback is that while the majority of people use their email on an almost daily basis, not everyone is on email. If you’re sending out wedding invitations for example, there is a very good chance your older relatives do not have email addresses. And even if they do, sometimes your card may get caught in someone's spam filter and they may never see it.  However, in many cases you can pick a few people you would want to receive paper invitations and send the bulk of your list an email invite, dramatically cutting back on costs and saving resources.

So where do you get e-cards and invitations?

E-cards and e-invites can all be found online.  There are generally a few basic options:

Halloween-E-Card (Photo credit: brookeduckart)
* Membership sites where you register for free and can then send cards and invites.  Some cards may even be available for free.  And there are customization options so you can change the design, wording and information to reflect your needs.

* Freebie sites that don’t require registration.  These sites are great for the occasional e-card.  However, they typically do not allow for much customization.

* Paid sites requiring a subscription. Generally, the subscription is an annual one, it’s relatively low cost and you do receive a good degree of customization options.

E-cards and e-vites are growing in popularity, not only because of their convenience but also because they’re a very sustainable practice, and they save money.  When you combine these three benefits, and the wide variety of card and invitation options, it’s easy to choose the electronic option and reduce your paper waste as well as cost. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reduce: Five Ways to Cut Down On Packaging

This month we're doing a short series on the "3 R's" - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Growing up surrounded by nature, even as a little kid I was very environmentally conscious. I read environmentally aware magazines, from Ranger Rick to National Geographic, created artwork on environmental themes, and pasted stickers about recycling in my notebooks and on my bedroom walls. I knew about the three "R's" from about the age of 8!

The waste hierarchy refers to the "3 Rs&q...
The waste hierarchy refers to the "3 Rs" reduce, reuse and recycle, which classify waste management strategies according to their desirability. The 3 Rs are meant to be a hierarchy, in order of importance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
These days recycling has become somewhat of a buzz word, but we shouldn't forget the first two - reducing your waste and reusing what you can are even more important. Recycling uses energy and can create its own waste products. So be sure you check off the first two "R's" before you move on to recycling as the last resort. (See the waste hierarchy example to the right.)  This week we're talking about the first and simplest step in terms of energy consumption and effort - reducing your consumption and production of waste.

It’s amazing how much packaging it takes to ship something.  Even something as simple as a book takes a box, shrink-wrap and something to fill the empty space between the box and the book - typically bubbles, foam peanuts or shredded paper.  Where does all this packaging go once you’ve received your item?  For most people it goes in the garbage - unless you're like me, and you save most of your packaging to use the next time you ship something (we'll talk more about reuse next week).  And we haven’t even mentioned the packaging of food and items purchased locally in your every day shopping.  Here are five ways to cut down on packaging and save resources.

#1.  Buy in bulk.  Whether you’re buying books online or cereal at your grocery, when you buy in bulk you cut down on packaging.  Think about it - if you buy one book at a time online then you’re going to receive a box for each book and all the packaging that goes along with shipping that item.  When you buy a regular box of cereal, you consume it and toss the box.  However if you buy a bulk box of cereal it may last as long as three regular boxes of cereal - you get more cereal and less packaging.

#2.  Buy from retailers who package using reusable or recyclable materials.  And when you’re shopping, use reusable or recyclable containers.  This trend is really catching on.  Stand in any grocery store line and you’ll see people shopping with reusable shopping bags - that’s an example of cutting down on packaging because you’re not taking dozens of plastic shopping bags home.  As a mail-order small business owner, I save packaging and reuse it for shipping items to our customers as much as possible. In fact, I haven't bought packing material (other than boxes) in almost 10 years!

Additionally, some retailers who manufacture and distribute processed foods are beginning to package them in reusable and/or easily recyclable containers to minimize landfill waste. And when it comes to books, why not go electronic and buy books with Kindle or another similar reader. You can even download e-books for free from some public libraries now! Not only will you reduce packaging, you'll also cut down on clutter from all those stacks of books that tend to accumulate around the house.

Food Packaging (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
#3.  Don’t buy prepackaged foods.  Juice boxes, for example, are incredibly useful; however, a large bottle of juice is a more sustainable practice and you can just as easily pour a serving into an aluminum water bottle for your children to enjoy.  You throw away less waste. Obviously we talk a lot here about the impacts of processed foods on your health, and the importance of preparing your own meals at home, so this is just another reason to learn to cook from scratch yourself! When it comes to groceries, shop as much as possible at local farmer's markets and CSA programs - not only will you be consuming much better quality food, but you'll drastically cut down on packaging materials.

#4.  Buy used.  Used products rarely come packaged.  You just pick them up as is from the store.  No packaging, no waste. And you can often save quite a bit of money as well.

#5.  Barter and/or trade items rather than shopping.  Bartering and trading for products is a great way to save money and conserve resources.  Many people are forming book swap groups to save money and materials by simply sharing books.  And some people are banding together to share clothing and other items. This can also be a fun way to connect with other like-minded individuals, which is important in helping you feel connected and supported in your community.

Packaging does more than fill landfills; it costs money and resources to produce - and even to recycle.  When you take a few simple steps to cut down on packaging you’re having a significant effect on your environment.  You’re making it a better place to live for you and for future generations. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Top 7 Tips to Reduce School-Related Stress Naturally

At school we learn to read, write and do math. But it’s not always easy. School can also be a source of stress. If this is true in your child's life, try some of these tips.

It is a common misconception that you have to be an adult to experience stress. Stress is our reaction to situations in life that create anxiety or pressure, and it can happen at any age.

Stress at school is not just academic, however. Kids have to maintain their studies while participating in school activities, sports, working and nurturing friendships. It can be a tough load if you don’t know how to handle it. Many adults don’t have to juggle that much on a daily basis!

English: A Student of the University of Britis...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Tips to Help Your Kids Manage Stress Naturally

1. Stay organized – From the beginning of the school year, make sure that your child is staying on top of their homework and other assignments. Keep a separate notebook for each class so nothing gets lost or misplaced.

2. Start early – If your child has a project due in three weeks, waiting until the last week could pose a time crunch, especially if other assignments are also due around that time. If you teach your kids to work on the project early while they have time, you can address any obstacles they might face and help them finish early. This can reduce the amount of worry your child has to deal with.

3. Study a little each day – One common way that many kids study is cramming. Sure, you will have all of your knowledge in your head for the exam but it will evaporate afterwards. That just means it will be harder to study for the next test if it builds on the information he or she has already learned. Instead, advise your child to read over their notes each night so that the information is still fresh in their mind.

4. Talk to your child – When kids get stressed it helps to get them talking. Voicing your concerns allows others to offer suggestions for solving them. Armed with solutions, your child can better cope with whatever comes their way throughout the day. You can also build good habits of communication in your children, which will serve them well throughout their lives.

English: Students need sleep in order to study.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
5. Get a good night’s sleep – Sleep is a hard task for many students. With all of their activities, sleep time is usually cut short. Over time, lack of sleep can increase stress levels by decreasing concentration and memory retention. Try to set a specific bedtime each night so that they get at least eight to ten hours of sleep.

6. Enlist the help of others – If your child is having trouble in a subject, find a tutor. Getting help at the beginning can avoid homework and exam stress.

7. Limit after-school activities – Colleges want to see well-rounded applicants, but too many activities can be counterproductive, causing stress, lack of sleep, and lowered academic performance. Choose a couple of things that your child enjoys and concentrate on increasing participation and taking advantage of leadership opportunities in that activity instead of increasing the number of activities.

School can be just as stressful as work in the adult world. These tips will help your child avoid stress during the school year, without resulting to drugs which can damage a growing child's system, and they are also great learned skills that they can use throughout adulthood as well.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Symptoms of Stress in Children

Stress is one of the largest health issues in our country today, and is a leading contributor to many illnesses and diseases. In our fast-paced world, we tend to think of stress as an adult malady, related to long work hours and demanding jobs. But children are not immune to feeling the effects of stress. We often overlook the signs because we don’t expect to see it. If you suspect that something is wrong with your child, here are some of the symptoms.

English: Symptoms of Stress
Symptoms of Stress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is not a myth that kids suffer from stress. Think of all that they have to deal with: classwork, school activities, bullying, hectic sports schedules, and the general stresses of growing up. Going through the changes that occur with each age level can bring about enough anxiety to lead to stress in children.

Remember back to your childhood. What did you worry about? Many of the issues you dealt with may not have even involved books but friends, self-image and the opposite sex.

Here are some ways to recognize stress in kids.

Symptoms of Stress in Children

* Irritability – When kids have a hard time figuring things out it can lead to frustration. This may show itself in the simplest of tasks at home. After only one try, they may throw their toy or project aside and storm off.

* Sleeplessness – Your child may wake up early in the morning or come to the breakfast table with dark circles around their eyes. This is more than likely not because they are staying up to play video games, but because stress is leading to insomnia. Another symptom of sleeplessness could be an increased incidence of nightmares.

* Change in appetite – Kids love to eat. If your child is showing less than their usual interest in meals or they skip meals due to a stomach ache it could be stress related.

* Withdrawal – Stress can lead to a withdrawal from friends or pleasurable activities. Kids rarely stay inside if they have a good reason to be outside.

* Dropping grades – This is almost a sure sign that something has changed especially if your child is used to gaining high marks. Talking to a teacher may shed some light on the cause. Also, check their book bag for hidden test papers with low grades that they may have been keeping from you.

fearfull and crying child before dental treatment
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Whining – Kids may do some of that but as they assert their independence, less and less is exhibited. A child who seems needier than normal could have a stress issue.

* Mood swings – Kids experience these too. A generally happy child may become angry or manic for no reason. If the change continues to occur, they may be overwhelmed in some area of their lives.

Children are people pleasers. They do not want to disappoint parents or their teachers. Trying to live up to expectations placed on them can be a catalyst for stress. Talk to your child. Assure them that you want to help them avoid stress as much as possible. Check back Thursday for some tips for helping your child deal with stress in a positive manner.
Enhanced by Zemanta