Summer BBQ Cheat Sheet

6-10-18

Planning a BBQ or picnic this summer? Check out this cheat sheet for five easy ways to green your event and reduce your footprint.

  1. Make recycling obvious. Put out a clearly marked recycling bin. Guests are more likely to recycle if visually prompted. If you compost, set out a clearly marked composting bin as well.
  1. Share leftovers to prevent food waste. In your invitation, tell your guests to bring Tupperware so that they can bring home leftovers. That way, you won’t end up with your leftovers spoiling before you can eat them all.
  1. Plan your portions. Prevent food waste by tallying up how many guests you’re expecting, how long the event will be, and plan food portions accordingly. Adults tend to eat one pound of food per meal, and children, half a pound. If you’re serving only appetizers, folks will eat about 4-6 in their first hour, and 2-3 per hour after that. If you’re serving a full meal, plan about 6-8 oz of meat per adult (a store-bought hamburger tends to run around 6 oz) in addition to side dishes. A serving of pasta salad is about one cup per person, baked beans, half a cup. For light desserts like watermelon or cookies, plan two small servings per person, or 4 oz of a cake or pie. For beverages, estimate two per person for the first hour, and one per hour after that.
  1. Serve finger food. To cut down on plates, serve foods that don’t need them. A lot of classic summer fare is handheld, including hot dogs, sandwiches, skewers, corn on the cob, fresh vegetables and watermelon.
  1. Skip disposables. Choose reusable plates, cups, utensils and napkins over disposable ones. If you’re set on disposable, choose compostable and unbleached paper or bamboo products over plastic or styrofoam ones. If you want to use plastic cups, you can either collect them for reuse, or invest in a more durable replica.

Nonprofit Tackles the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

6-3-18

The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch nonprofit, hopes to have most of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch removed in the next 20 years.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating patch of swirling plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean. It’s the largest hub of plastic debris in our oceans, approximately twice the size of Texas. While plastic floats in the ocean, it breaks down into microplastics and is eaten by wildlife. Slowly, these microplastics work their way up the food chain and into our bodies.

The Ocean Cleanup’s CEO, 23-year-old Boyan Slat, started working on a plan to remove plastic from the ocean as a teenager. After a scuba diving trip where he realized just how much plastic was in the ocean, he began working on a prototype for a high school science project. Now, with $40 million in funding, Slat plans to launch his first open ocean test from the shores of Alameda, Calif., in July 2018.

The strategy of the cleanup is to drop large, U-shaped floating tubes into the Pacific Ocean to act as trash funnels. The tubes will be 2,000 feet long and have attached nylon screens. The ocean currents will sweep plastic inside the funnels, and every two months, a garbage ship will net the plastic debris floating inside the “U” and haul it back to shore. These tubes are net-free and designed to retain plastic debris without harming wildlife.

The Ocean Cleanup estimates they will be able to collect as much as 50 percent of the plastic debris in five years, and 90 percent in 20 years.

Learn more about The Ocean Cleanup in this video from ABC7 News, or learn more about how to reduce plastic waste.

Driving Fast Costs More Than You Think

5-27-18

You might think that since driving faster saves you time on the road, it saves you gas as well. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

The EPA has found that every car has a peak fuel efficiency around 50 mph. When you drive over — or under — 50 mph, you aren’t getting as many miles per gallon. Instead, you’re paying more to drive the same distance. According to fueleconomy.gov, a site run by the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy, there’s a different way to evaluate your fuel costs.

For the average Californian, every 5 mph over 50 mph is essentially costing you an extra $0.25 per gallon. At 70 mph, you are spending about $1 extra per gallon of gas. As if that weren’t enough, speeding, rapid acceleration and rapid breaking could cost you an additional $1 per gallon. Driving slower than 50 mph costs more per gallon, too. Use this simple tracker from fueleconomy.gov to find out how much it costs to drive your specific vehicle at different speeds.

Consider driving at a relaxed pace on the highway and walking or bicycling if you’re traveling around town. Not only will you save money, you’ll also help the environment. Reducing gas consumption reduces overall greenhouse gas emissions. Learn other simple ways to improve your fuel efficiency with this list of tips from fueleconomy.gov.

Do You Have the Right to Repair Your Own Electronics?

5-20-18

Apple, Microsoft, Verizon and a host of other tech companies all have something in common: They don’t want you to repair your damaged devices on your own. You might think that buying a TV or a smartphone gives you the right to fix it — or at least to bring it to a knowledgeable, independent repair shop. Currently, however, that isn’t how most tech companies see it.

From a manufacturer’s perspective, providing you or your repairperson the parts and information needed to repair your devices is an act of leaking valuable intellectual property. It may make them vulnerable to hackers interested in exploiting this knowledge or stealing data from users. Unfortunately, the result of such policies is that manufacturing companies now have a monopoly on repairs. With this kind of monopoly, repairs are typically more expensive or unavailable, forcing consumers to replace old devices at a rapid rate. The unnecessary electronic waste this policy creates is extensive. Additionally, independent repair shops that used to thrive are now struggling to stay open.

Across the country, legislators are proposing bills that would grant the “Right to Repair.” If these laws pass, they will require electronics manufacturers to offer any necessary tools, parts and repair guides for all of their products. Consumers will have more affordable repair options, and the amount of devices tossed each year could decrease significantly. In California, a Right to Repair Act has been introduced by Assemblymember Susan Eggman of Stockton. Learn more about this ongoing issue from Consumer Reports.

Take an Eco-Friendly Vacation With These 5 Tips

5-6-18

Living green at home may be second nature to you, but traveling comes with its own set of environmental concerns. However, a vacation doesn’t have to mean a vacation from being eco-friendly. Use these 5 tips to make your next vacation easier on the environment.

1. Look for Green Destinations

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council has numerous resources for selecting green destinations. Hotels in particular can present a host of environmental concerns. Before booking, search online to find locations with in-house green programs and sustainable certifications. Outside of the hotel, take advantage of the beauty, entertainment and relaxation that nature itself provides. A scenic hike, bike or picnic could be the greenest part of your vacation. Just remember to stay on paths and avoid feeding any wildlife.

2. Don’t Leave Waste at Home

Your opportunities to reduce waste start before you even leave the house. You’ll probably remember to leave all your lights off, but that’s not the only way to prevent wasted energy. Many electronic appliances use power while they’re not even running. Unplug all your appliances or plug them into a power strip that you can shut off to prevent this “phantom energy loss.” Put your thermostat on a schedule that will protect your home from extreme temperature damage but use minimal energy otherwise. Finally, check your fridge for food that will spoil while you’re away. If you can’t freeze it and don’t have time to use it yourself, try to donate it or give it to a friend.

3. Pack Smart

Now that your home is ready, it’s time to pack. Planes, trains and automobiles all use more fuel when carrying heavier loads, so try not to pack inessential items. Also, avoid relying on disposable containers while traveling by bringing your own reusable water bottle, reusable bags and refillable toiletries. If you plan on a day at the beach, pack a biodegradable sunscreen that doesn’t have one of these harsh chemicals. Chemicals in your sunscreen will wash off in the water, bleaching coral reefs and harming aquatic wildlife. Instead, find a healthier sunscreen with some help from the Environmental Working Group.

4. Travel Green

Choosing how you reach your destination is another opportunity to reduce waste. For an estimate of the pollution your trip will produce, use The Converging World’s Carbon Calculator. Trains are one of the greenest ways to cover long distances. If you need to fly, try to book a flight with the fewest connections. Renting a fuel-efficient car is another way to reduce pollution and save money. If you’re a fan of tour groups, smaller groups tend to be less wasteful than larger ones.

5. Think Like a Local

Thinking like a local can reduce waste in all kinds of ways. Public transport is almost always the greenest way to travel when you can’t walk or bike. Try taking local busses and trains instead of renting a car. Eat locally grown foods and consume locally brewed beverages — you’ll not only immerse yourself in the culture, you’ll also reduce waste created by international shipping. Finally, remember to recycle — recycling abroad might not be as easy as at home, but the effort will be appreciated by locals.

Don’t Recycle Bungee Cords

4-29-18

Bungee cords are dangerous to place in your recycling. They can become wrapped around sorting machinery, which damages the machinery, causes delays, and endangers the workers who need to untangle them. The same goes for garden hoses and Christmas lights. Any cord-shaped item is a safety hazard if it ends up at your recycling facility.

If your bungee cords are no longer usable, throw them in the trash. They cannot be recycled. If they’re still functional but collecting dust in your garage, donate them or give them a second life with one of these ideas from Good Housekeeping.

Break Down Boxes for Recycling

4-22-18

Do you need to break down your cardboard boxes to recycle them? Yes! It’s easier for sanitation workers to handle and sort boxes that are broken down. Many people forget to break down their boxes, but it increases the efficiency of our recycling program. Make sure to flatten your cardboard boxes, and share this video to tell your friends!

Needles and Sharps Never Go in the Trash or Recycling

4-15-18

Needles and sharps are hazardous waste. It is illegal to put them in the trash or recycling, where they pose a serious health risk to sanitation workers. When needles are hidden in trash or recycling, it’s easy for workers to accidentally handle them. If a worker is pierced by a needle, they may have to wait up to a year to know if they’ve contracted a blood-borne virus, such as hepatitis B.

To protect yourself, your family and your sanitation workers, always dispose of sharps in designated sharps containers and take them to a sharps disposal facility. Learn how to get containers and find disposal locations here.