Tag Archives: Reduce Reuse and Recycle

The Solar Bottle Bulb

I have been meaning to write about this project for months now, just got around to it today. Back in September of 2011 I read about Isang Litrong Liwanag (A Liter of Light) project in Manila powered by pop bottles and bleached water! A bottle with water is enough to light up a small room. In the poor neighborhoods of Manila shacks have dark roofs and hardly any daylight. Many of the homes are not connected to the electric grid and in third world countries continuous power availability is not a given.

This year i.e 2012 is the year they plan to complete lighting 1 million homes using this green technology. The clear water disperses the light in all directions through refraction, which can provide a luminosity that is equivalent to a 55-watt electric light bulb, according to the MyShelter Foundation.

The idea behind the Solar Water Bulb is the brainchild of Alfredo Moser a mechanic from Sao Paulo, Brazil; who came up with it during the 2002 power shortage in Brazil to light up his workshop for working during the day! Like Plato said Necessity is indeed the mother of invention!

MIT students have been instrumental in spreading the usage of this simple and virtually free technology to the third world countries as a remedy to light up dark areas during the day without windows! They disperse light to all the corners of the room unlike skylights which are pretty much unidirectional.

How to Make Your Own Solar Bottle Bulb?

Raw materials Needed
1. 1 liter Pet Bottle
2. Galvanized iron corrugated or flat roofing sheet size 9″ x 10″
3. Chlorine (10ml per liter)
4. Steel Brush or Sand Paper
5. Snipping tools to cut the sheet
6. Pliers to fold the sheet back
7. Rubber Sealant or Epoxy resin – to seal and attach the bottle
8. Screws to attach it to the roof securely
9. Filtered water


On the galvanized roof sheet piece cut a circle 2mm smaller than the diameter of the bottle. Make small cuts perpendicularly along the edge and fold them upwards. Take the bottle and rub the sides to make it rough enough for the glue to adhere. Pass the bottle through the hole and hold in place using the folded edges of the sheet (1/3rd of the bottle above the fold). Apply glue to the bottle and the folded edges to seal and attach them together. Now pour 10ml of Chlorine into the bottle and top it up with filtered water. Close the lid tightly.

Now cut a hole on the roof of the shack where the light is needed. Apply sealant or epoxy resin around the opening to cover an area equivalent to the 10″x9″ sheet. Press it down and secure with screws. The bottle top which will be exposed to the elements needs to be protected (use plastic tubing and sealant to protect it). The Solar Water Bulb is ready and spreading light. The bottle light is believed to have a life of up to 5 years!!

How Does it work?

Simple: water diffracts the light, letting it spread throughout the house instead of focusing on one point. The chlorine keeps the water clear and microbe-free.

Positive Attributes – One can make on ones own Solar Bottle Bulb from waste materials! It can be installed any place world over where there is a roof. It is easily portable and yes, there are a huge number of households world over which do not get enough light during the day.

For e.g 360 million people in India lack access to electricity!!

Negative Attributes – Does not work during night when people do need light. The bottles sticking out of the roof is not very aesthetically pleasing 🙂

I am amazed at the possibilities such a simple idea provides – It is Green, Eco friendly, Cost effective and Practical! Try it out!

Things to watch out for or remember-

Make sure you seal the roof properly to avoid water damage.

Cover the bottle cap to make sure it does not disintegrate.

It only works during the day when there is sunlight.


Isang Litrong Liwanang

Recycling Plastic Bottles to Build A Home!

I received an email today with pictures of a home being constructed, wondering why that warrants a mention here? Well the home had walls made of mud and recycled plastic bottles! I remembered seeing it somewhere long time back, think it was either on Discovery or on Natgeo, not sure. Anyways the pictures had no  details and the finished homes kind of had an adobe like South American flair, so thought the best way would be to do a web search. On searching I came across this website Eco-Tec Soluciones Ambientes based in Latinamerica.



Eco-Tec is the brainchild of Andreas Froese a German construction engineer who found his calling in helping the poor and disadvantaged build homes out of waste materials.  Froese began to develop his technique in 2001 in Honduras and since then has made over 50 different bottle construction projects around the world. One article about him starts with the liens Andreas Froese is in love with trash! it could not be more simply put.

How is it built?

The method includes filling the bottles with sand and stacking them in rows on top of each other. On the walls, every bottle is tied to one another to create a network, with one tie at the neck and another tie at the base of the bottle. Agricultural twine (sisal or nylon) is widely available. Bottles are first cleaned out and the labels etc removed.

A mesh screen is used to screen rubble, earth, or foundry castings into usable grades.  They always use local materials.  In cities, they use rubble, while in rural areas river sand or earth is used.  Clean plastic debris and plastic bags may be used to fill the bottle bricks. A funnel, made from the top half cut from a plastic PET bottle is used to fill the bottles. The drier the materials the easier it is to fill the bottles.


On the walls they typically use a clay soil mix similar to adobe, however rice husk or grass may be added. To strengthen the structure in wet climates, every 4-6 rows a mixture of lime and cement is used to avoid problems. If one does not have sand, a soil mixture may be used with up to 1 part cement, 10 parts soil, and 0.5 part lime.

Eco-Tec says their PET-bottle buildings are very much like an adobe. In general, they say PET-bottle houses are bioclimatic in design, which means that when it’s cold outside is warm inside and vice versa.

SV-AS10 ImageData


The Positives:

  • Makes use of plastic bottles which mostly end up in land fills.
  • Reduces CO2 emissions from the non-usage of bricks (bricks need to be baked there by release a large amount of CO2 into the air).
  • Looks unique and being bio-climatic will help in reducing power consumption.

Check out the Eco-tec videos below
1. Why Eco-tec?

2. How to make a bottle brick – starring Andreas Froese:

Live Green!
For More details visit – http://eco-tecnologia.com

E-Cycling: Steps On How To Do It Right

Right off the top of the head if someone asks what is one electronic item most people use “The Cellphone” is sure to make the top 5, so will the Personal Computer or PC as it is referred to. This is the age of technology where distances have reduced to kbps and people talk across the world over VOIP. Technological advancement also meant additional products being brought by more people every year thus also adding to more electronic gadgets heading to the landfills.

Two million tons of tech trash ended up in landfills in 2005, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and only about 380,000 tons were recycled. If Americans recycled the more than 100 million cell phones that are no longer used, the amount of energy saved would be enough to power approximately 18,500 U.S. households for one year!

On Average people keep laptops for 3-4 years and cellphones are exchanged or trashed every 24 months! Imagine the amount of waste produced if they all end up in waste dumps! The first option should be reusing, You can either donate you used and working electronics to charitable organizations or you can find buyers for functioning second hand electronics easily online and there are also local stores which do the same. Make sure you erase the data multiple times before handing out any electronic items as most erase commands can be undone using strong programs and can lead to identity theft.  For more details on identity theft protection check this link

How can we best recycle our electronics?

Depending on where you live and the products you want to recycle, you can:

  • Find an e-waste collection event in your town – SEARCH HERE
  • Send your used tech stuff back to the manufacturer – SEARCH HERE
  • The Consumer Electronics Association , Electronic Industries Alliance , and Earth 911 Web sites identify electronic equipment recyclers in many areas around the country.
  • Head to a nearby retailer that accepts old electronics (Some have buy backs while others have postal e-cycling options, paid and for free..) – LOOK FOR STORES NEAR YOU HERE
  • With Cellphones and their chargers it is simple, most manufacturers have a mail in option to return your phone for recycling or you can find drop off points near where you are. What you need to do before you send it off for recycling:
    • Terminate your service.
    • Clear the phone’s memory of contacts and other stored information.
      • Manually delete all information, and follow instructions from your wireless carrier or the product manual on how to conduct a factory hard reset; or
      • Use data erasing tools that are available on the Web. One tool can be found here
    • Remove your SIM card and shred or cut it in half. If you are not sure if your phone uses a SIM card or if you need assistance removing your SIM card, contact your service provider or manufacturer.

With Computers too manually erase data using a strong tool like Eraser

To Donate Computers find an organization HERE
What all can be recycled?

  • Computers – CPU’s and laptops, mainframes, peripherals
  • Monitors – CRT’s and flat screens
  • Telephones, Cell phones and Telephone systems
  • Fax Machines and Central Office Equipment
  • Printers and Copiers
  • Televisions
  • Banking and Financial Equipment
  • Medical Equipment
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Electronic Circuit boards and components
  • Stereo Equipment, Games, PDA’s

Some facts about e-recycling:

  • In 2007, approximately 18 percent (414,000 short tons) of TVs and computer products ready for end-of-life management were collected for recycling.
  • Cell phones were recycled at a rate of approximately 10 percent.
  • Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 US homes in a year.
  • One metric ton of circuit boards can contain 40 to 800 times the concentrations of gold ore mined in the US and 30-40 times the concentration of copper ore mined in the US.
  • A recent, survey of three large mobile device recyclers indicated that in 2009 approximately 38% of mobile devices collected for recycling were reused/refurbished and 62% were recycled for material recovery.
  • The plastics recovered from cell phones are recycled into plastic components for new electronic devices or other plastic products such as garden furniture, license plate frames, non-food containers, and replacement automotive parts.
  • Cell phones have a number of different metals in them which can be recycled. For every million cell phones we recycle, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. Recovering metals from used cell phones can reduce extraction of raw metals from the earth.
  • The principal markets for refurbished cell phones extend beyond the US—availing access to modern communication technology to many people in developing economies with who would not otherwise be able to afford it.

Last but not the least keep in mind if and when buying new electronics be aware and look for electronics which:

  • Contain fewer toxic constituents.
  • Use recycled materials in the new product.
  • Are energy efficient (e.g., showing the Energy Star label).
  • Are designed for easy upgrading or disassembly.
  • Use minimal packaging.
  • Offer leasing or takeback options.
  • Meet performance criteria showing they are environmentally preferable.
    • Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a procurement tool to help institutional purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. EPEAT also provides a clear and consistent set of performance criteria for the design of products, and provides an opportunity for manufacturers to secure market recognition for efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its products.

We can have the best programs and technology in the world but nothing matters unless each one of us takes responsibility for our actions. One cell phone, one battery, one PC at a time we can make a difference. Live Green!

Sources :US EPA Website

NRDC Green Living Guide

You can also recycle your cellphone here

USPS Postal recycling

Interesting Reads :

An Interesting article in wired.com

The Story Of Stuff: My Inspiration to Reduce Consumption

Life has become more about accumulating stuff than living. Every day one gets up goes through the same routine work, back home, watch some TV Dinner Bed, wake up and again the same routine. There is always this “my stuff is better than yours” thing which goes on unsaid between neighbors, friends and family. We all tend to accumulate stuff, buy things we don’t need etc… I was so into window shopping there were times I thought I needed intervention of some kind.

Green sustainable living has been something I talk about a lot and thought I was practicing until I saw The Story Of Stuff It opened my eyes to the realities of wastage and about how much processes goes into manufacturing and transportation until the stuff gets to me. That is really when my REDUCE gene kicked in.

The Story of Stuff project is very close to my heart and This is the Story of Stuff a short film only 22 minutes long which I believe everyone of us must view at least once. Truly worth your time and a fabulous production!

Story of Stuff, Full Version; How Things Work, About Stuff

The Story of Stuff Project was founded in June 2008 by Annie Leonard to leverage the remarkable success of The Story of Stuff, a 20-minute web-film that explores the often hidden environmental and social consequences of America’s love affair with its stuff. Currently, the film has been viewed over 10 million times on-line and in thousands of schools, houses of worship, community centers and businesses around the world.

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Reduce,Reuse, Recycle! Live Green!

The Story of Stuff: the Book by Annie Leonard

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

A Dozen Plus Green Gift Ideas for Fathers Day

Father’s Day a day to honor fathers, paternal bonds, and the communal influence of fathers. Just like mother’s day it is celebrated by everyone to celebrate their fathers.

In the US it falls on the 3rd Sunday of June which incidentally falls on the 20th of June this year. Father’s day became a national event after it was designated a national holiday by President Nixon in 1972.  So every year we all think about what to get dad? I know if and when I have asked my father what I can get him he always says “I don’t need anything” and then am going behind his back talking to mom and then my siblings we discuss and discuss and discuss until we reach invariably the same conclusion every year – a Tie / a New Pen / electronics??. And of course the card!

The last few years I have searched diligently to find something Green for him and have mostly ended up with a handmade card and a bottle of his favorite scotch =) so this year I thought I needed to work a little more and find a list of things my dad or any other dad would love to have and would make more sense environmentally. My dad loves to spend time in his vegetable patch when not at work, so I will probably also go look at some seeds / plants etc… native of course. Then since he takes care of a whole region and needs to keep in touch via email and phone a some new technology stuff might come in handy too… well let me make a list… Yeah I do still kind of stick to handmade cards it just adds to the personal touch and makes both of us happy giving and recieving it =)

So here it goes my list of Green Gifts for the Special Man in your life –

My first Choice is a donation in Dad’s name to the Ocean Conservancy or the Ocean Futures Society to help protect the Oceans and the Ocean dwellers. The clean up of the OilSpill in the Gulf is being funded by BP but the aftermath of the spill will be long lasting and will need all the donations it can get. I have also added a list of charities at the end of the list just incase you are a donor looking to make a gift which helps others in your dad’s name.

1. What better way than a lasting gift that keeps on giving. The Nature Conservancy protects Earth’s most important natural places — for you and future generations — through great science and smart partnerships. Your dad will adore receiving this fun and personalized gift that helps to protect and restore the Earth’s most critical natural places.

I am sure it would make any Green guy happy! Price: 50$ or more per Acre.

2. A board game for the little ones and DadBioviva

The more we understand about nature the more we’ll want to help preserve it. This award-winning game will help instill in your kids, and yourself, an interest in learning more about nature and our planet. In this game two to six players assume the roles of adventurers thirsting for knowledge. Each player begins the game by drawing a destination card. Multiple choice question cards are drawn throughout the game covering topics such as solar systems, plant/animal behavior, evolution, and other areas. Eco-points are awarded along with advice about environmental protection to players correctly answering questions, with the winner being the first player to collect the required eco-points for the locations listed on his or her destination card. Suitable for 2 to 6 players, ages 8 and older. Approximate playing time is 60 minutes.

All printed materials with this game are from recycled materials and recyclable, with vegetable-based inks. The wooden pawns are made from beech trees from PEFC certified French forests. What better way to inculcate the love for the environment in kids and also bond with Dad!

Price: around 30$

3. A Backpack for dad’s laptop with solar changers integrated! How cool is that?

The Voltaic Converter is a versatile solar backpack for charging handheld electronics. It is a small light weight day bag with a compartment for a water bladder, so it is ideal for biking and hiking.

  • 4.5 watts of solar power for fast charging.
  • The solar panels protect fragile items inside.
  • Included battery pack which stores power until you need it.
  • 10 adapters for easy connection to handheld electronics.
  • Wire channels throughout the backpack for headphones, bladder tubes etc.
  • High density padding in the shoulder straps and back .
  • Can be worn as a backpack or sling bag.
  • Mesh backing material for better air flow.
  • Shell uses 600D fabric made from recycled PET (soda bottles), which is tough, water resistant and light weight.
  • Indicator light inside the logo shows when the panels are generating a charge.

Price: 200$

4. A solar Cooker from Sun Ovens

Sun Ovens International is striving to develop and implement comprehensive solar cooking programs that will radically decrease the developing world’s dependence on fuel wood and dung as the primary cooking fuels while benefiting the environment, raising the standard of living and improving the health of the poor worldwide. Solar cooking doesn’t have to be limited, however, to those in developing countries. Sun Ovens can be used anywhere, year-round.

Price: Around 300$

5. iSolPlus – The Super solar charger Get Dad a portable charger to help keep his small electrical device running longer. We have all experienced running out of power while listening to your MP3 player, playing your PSP or talking on your cell phone. Silicon Solar offers the new iSol Plus. This innovative solar charger can be charged using free solar energy. No sun available? Don’t worry, the iSol Plus can also be charged using your computer’s USB port.

The iSol Plus comes with 3 different DC output settings: 5.5v, 7.5v and 9.5v. The charging time for the iSol Plus using the solar panel is about 10-20 hours and 2-4 hours using the USB connector.

The iSol Plus is great for PDA, MP3, IPOD and more. The kit also comes with adaptors for some Motorola and Samsung cell phones. Adaptors are constantly changing with today’s technology and if this kit doesn’t have what you need, there are many companies that sell the USB adaptors for your device. If you have a USB adaptor to charge your device you will be able to use the iSol Plus to provide the charge. A male USB Mini 5 Pin adaptor is included with the iSols, rather than a female USB A (standard USB).

Price: around 35-40$

If looking for some more solar stuff check out here

They also have some cool lights on sale here

6. A Green Laptop Jacket for Dad

GreenSmart’s Laptop Jackets are a stylish choice for laptop protection. They are made from supple, strong, durable fabrics derived from 100% post consumer recycled plastic water and soda bottles.

Eco-friendly Always On Protection stays on your laptop full time, to open and close with it. Sized to fit your laptop, lightweight, and sleek enough to fit into another carrying bag. Handles can be used for carrying or tucked away. Shoulder strap included for added convenience. Price: $45.00

7. Dad needs a new display for his Computer? Get him a Green one!

Lenovo L2440P 24 inch Wide Flat Panel Native resolution of 1920 x 1200; Internal power with 35 watts/50 watts power consumption; Up to 50% less power consumption than conventional monitors of the same size and resolution; 33% less mercury content than conventional monitors of the same size and resolution; Four high speed USB 2.0 connectors; Tilt, Swivel, and height adjustable stand ; Pivot for portrait or landscape viewing; Analog and DVI-D video signal connectors; supports HDCP: Compliance with Energy Star 4.1 requirements; Kensington Lock slot for security; TCO 03 compliance; EPEAT Gold certified; GREENGUARD certified  

Price: $374.99

Anything Tech related and Green You can find a few more here

8. Does Dad love his iPod? Get him a Green iPod speaker! Sprout Creation Vers 2X – Bamboo

Vers2X – Bamboo Ever heard of a plastic violin… neither have we. Vers is the first hand-crafted wood iPod speaker with real wood finish – made to look and sound like a musical instrument. The lustrous bamboo finish will match any decor in your home, and the 1/2″ thick wood speaker chambers and dual ported stereo design provide exceptional sound performance. Perfect for the Family room, Kitchen or Bedroom, or anywhere where superior acoustics are demanded.

Vers is more than just a great looking and sounding speaker system; it is good for the planet. The wood comes from sustainable plantation forests, what is used is replaced. Vers also features a low power consumption amplifier and power supply to save energy, plus all packaging comes from recycled material and is completely recyclable.

Price: $199.99

9. Recycled Glass bowls and Glasses from Amazon price from 20- 56$

10. Swiss Army knife with a Blade, Nail file with Screwdriver, Scissors, Key ring, Tweezers, LED Mini White Light (18,000 MCD)

11. A Casio Solar powered digital watch – Shopping for a fashionable, feature-packed timepiece doesn’t need to drain your bank account. The affordable Casio Men’s Tough Solar Digital Sports Watch #WL500-1A comes packed with features typically found in more expensive digital watches, like solar powered quartz movement–which means you’ll never need to change its battery–an LED light with Afterglow technology for telling time in the dark, a day and month calendar, and four daily alarms (including a snooze function for when you need a few extra minutes of sleep). This watch also includes a stopwatch that can record split time and a low battery warning. With a resin band with a traditional buckle clasp, this watch is water-resistant to 165 feet (50 meters).  

Casio Solar Watches Price: 30$ to 300$

12. A Recycled Cycle Chain Bottle Opener – Manly indeed!

The first chain-driven bike was made in 1885. But it took more than a century for the next great innovation – the recycled chain bottle opener – to be developed. The flexible chain makes a unique handle for the colorful anodized aluminum head. So much fun to play with you’ll wish twist-offs had never been invented. And of course a good conversation starter!

Mix and match colors. Dimensions: 8” x 1.5”. Available in Red, Silver, Green, Blue, and Orange.

Price: 11$   Bambeco has a lot of Eco-friendly stuff in different price ranges.

These are some other charities who do amazing work around the world do take a moment and check them out when you have some money and time to spare. Thank you.

For Human rights – Amnesty

For Global Education – Cosmos Education

For the Children – Worldvision

For fighting Aids and Malaria – Global Fund

For the wildlife around the world – WWF

For the Chimpanzees – Save the Chimps

For Women – Women for Women

For the environment – Stop global warming

Well looks like I have enough for this year will have to pick something soon so I can get it to dad by Father’s Day. Happy Green Gift Shopping! Live Green!

Recycling Plastic Made Easy


 Picture source telegraph.co.uk

A life surrounded by plastic! Where ever one lives world over, a thing that has become a part of our life is “plastic”. We get milk, meats, vegetables, detergents, cleaning supplies, lotions, medicines, you name it… anything one uses, it mostly comes covered in plastic!

I grew up in a minimum-plastic world with some plastic boxes containers etc around but people mostly stuck to steel, aluminum etc which were traditional allies. But then things changed plastic charmed one and all with its ease to use, lightness, cheap prices, longevity and of course the colors! The mom and pop store that by today’s standards were really green; they packaged their goods in newspaper! Tied it up using just strings! We all took bags when we went Grocery shopping! Once plastic bags arrived they all took to plastic like fish to water… There were even plastic bags blown up and used as balloons for decoration here and there. Now Plastic bags have been banned in the city I grew up in, after it clogged the drains and made the city roads canals during monsoon, well am glad it has been done better late than never. But Plastic still is very much around everywhere we go. California is on the way to become the first US state to ban plastic bags.

So let us get to know Plastic better so we can recycle it better:

What is Plastic?

plastic material is synthetic or semi-synthetic polymer used in the manufacturing of industrial products and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce costs. It is made from natural gases and crude oil (around 4% of all crude oil is used in the manufacture of plastic!). There are many different kinds of plastics as we look around. Plastics are good for storage and are used as we know from food to cleaners and others.

Almost all the plastic containers and bottles we use have the triangular recycle sign imprinted on it along with a number in the center when it comes to Plastic. I have wondered what it stood for. On researching found out it was for recycling purposes and referred to the type of plastic as per composition.

So how do we know what each number means?

Before reading further do a simple test: Walk around your home with a piece of paper, write down the number in the center of the triangle on a piece of paper and come back we will compare notes and see what we have around us.

#1 – PET or PETE: polyethylene terephthalate is used in many soft drink, water, and juice bottles. It’s easily recycled, doesn’t leach, and accepted by just about all plastic recycling centers. (In my house that means water bottles, oil containers, sauce bottles, spice bottles, cleaner spray bottles etc…)

#2 – HDPE: high-density polyethylene is used in milk jugs, detergent and shampoo bottles; it hasn’t been found to leach and is widely accepted and easily recycled. (Milk jugs, lotions (sauve), generic pill bottles, pain-rubs, glue , most of my cleaning supplies & I also found some Rubber-maid containers with 2)

#3 – PVC: Vinyl or polyvinyl chloride is a bad, bad plastic. Soft PVC often contains and can leach toxic phthalates, and can also off-gas chemicals into the air. It’s used in some cling wraps, many children’s toys, fashion accessories, shower curtains,blister packs and detergent and spray bottles. To top it off, PVC isn’t recyclable, either. (Shower curtains and blister packs [those plastic bubbles which are fun to burst- cool stress reliever too! Now I need to wash my hands after bursting it] are all I managed to find with #3!)

#4 – LDPE: low-density polyethylene is used most plastic shopping bags, some cling wraps, some baby bottles and reusable drink & food containers. It hasn’t been found to leach, and is recyclable at most recycling centers (and many grocery stores take the shopping bags) but generally not in curbside programs. If you absolutely must use plastic wrap, stick to a brand that doesn’t employ PVC. Recycling code #3 and “V” are dead giveaways that it does.  (Did not find any in my home, cling-wraps I stopped using them some time back)

#5 – PP: polypropylene can be found in some baby bottles, lots of yogurt and deli takeout containers, and many reusable food and drink containers (like, the Tupperware- and Rubbermaid-types). It hasn’t been found to leach, and is recyclable in some curbside programs and most recycling centers. (The orange pill bottles from CVS!, Rubber-maid water bottles, Olay moisturizer bottle)

#6 – PS: polystyrene is used in takeout food containers, egg containers, and some plastic cutlery, among other things. It has been found to leach styrene–a neurotoxin and possible human carcinogen–and has been banned in cities like Portland, Ore. and San Francisco. Still, it persists and is not often recyclable in curbside programs, though some recycling centers will take it. (None found)

#7 – Everything else, and this is where the waters get a bit murky. First, and perhaps most notably, #7 includes PC, or polycarbonate, which made  headlines lately because it’s used in Nalgene’s reusable water bottles and has been found to leach bisphenol A, a hormone disruptor that mimics estrogen; as such, Nalgene is switching to HDPE, a less harmful plastic. (Lots of everything else’s, plastic covers, wrappers, other plastic containers etc…)

With #7 though you’re less likely to see them in the grocery store than some of the others, the growing crop of bio-plastics (made from plant-based material rather than the usual petroleum base for plastic) also falls under this umbrella, for now, at least. Most common of these is PLA, or polyactide, which is most commonly made with corn. It isn’t easily recycled, though it can be composted in industrial composting operations–your kitchen composter most likely doesn’t create enough heat to help it break down.

So, while cutting back on plastic packaging/ using recyclables is the greenest way to go, when it comes to buying new, it is recommended one sticks to the less toxic, more recyclable numbers. On the positive side today 80% Americans have access to Plastic recycling (not sure how many make use of it). 11 American states have a 5¢ to 15¢ deposit on plastic and glass bottled drinks etc… and those states have the highest recycling rates too. The Container Recycling Institute thinks a nationwide bottle deposit law would create the incentive to recycle, especially when it comes to plastic bottles, and ease the burden on taxpayers, who pay for cleaning up litter.

Watch Plastic being recycled

Until that comes into effect try not to buy plastic whenever possible and if you do remember to recycle, it will help reducing in the usage of fuel and add less to the landfills. It is time to stop using petroleum based products if you ask me.

Things I do to reduce using plastic:

  1. I have a re-useable water bottle; I do not buy bottled drinks any more.
  2. Take a shopping bag with me whenever I go shopping and even when I get take-out (they only look at you weird once, then they smile 🙂 )
  3. Sort out plastic separately when recycling and tie it up in a separate bag.
  4. Try not to use zip-lock bags, and re-use them multiple times before recycling them.
  5. I re-use plastic containers (especially the ones with 1 in the center) for storing dry food stuff.
  6. Stopped using cling wrap (it is one of those things I used because it was there J)
  7. If I see a bottle when am out walking, I tend to pick it up and bring it home for recycling.
  8. I know am still not doing all I can and I am taking steps towards being plastic free some time soon.


Some Plastic facts:

  • Plastic was first manufactured in 1855 by an Englishman Alexander Parkes from Cellulose and was called Parkesine! It made its world debut in the 1962 world’s fair in London.
  • Today’s plastic has its origin in Bakelite a synthetic polymer made from phenol and formaldehyde, along with additives like wood flour, slate, asbestos etc invented in 1909 by Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian-born American living in New York state. Bakelite was the first purely synthetic material not based on or derived from naturally occurring substances.
  • The word plastic has its roots in Greek ‘plastikos’ meaning fit for molding which in turn was derived from ‘plastos’ meaning molded.
  • Plastic should not be used for cooking in the Microwave, use it strictly for re-heating only and make sure the plastic is microwave safe.
  • It a land-fill plastic can sit around for 1000 years without deteriorating! (Just imagine centuries later archaeologists could find plastic intact in any one of their digs!!)
  • It’s estimated we use 1.6 million barrels of oil every year, just making plastic bottled water.
  • More than 1,400 quality products made with or packaged in post-consumer recycled plastics are now commercially available, including single-use cameras, park benches, sweaters, jeans, videocassettes, detergent bottles and children’s toys.
  • Only about 40% of the plastic which is send into recycling gets recycled, the rest ends up in the land fill.
  • Recycling 1 ton of plastic saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space.
  • Recycling a one-gallon plastic milk jug will save enough energy to keep a 100-watt bulb burning for 11 hours.
  • During Keep America Beautiful 2008 Great American Cleanup, volunteers recovered and recycled 189,000,000 PET (plastic) bottles that littered highways, waterways and parks.

Next time you are about to throw plastic into the trash bin, remember 1000 years. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle! Live Green! for a better tomorrow! 🙂


Sources :

cancer.org   americanchemistry     Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy

If interested in BPA related stuff read this when in 2008 Nalgene a US company phased out its water bottles after it was found to leach Bisphenol-A(BPA).

To find recycled plastic products check out this list

Celebrating The Environment

Happy World Environment Day 2010


Happy WED2010! Wondering what WED stands for? June 5th is the day United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Celebrates the World Environment Day – WED! It has been observed on 5th June since 1972, WED is one of the principal mediums through which the UN motivates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.

Why is the Environment on the front page these days? It is not about just the oil spill, or deforestation, or climate change alone… it is about all of these and more, it about the quality of life on our planet, it is about taking small steps and making a difference. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon says Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose, we can make a tremendous difference.”

It is estimated that we share the world with around 5 million plus species of which only around 2 million have been identified. It is also estimated that around 35 species go extinct every day just in the rainforests. Why is there such a rapid deterioration around us? Winters are colder, summers warmer, droughts and floods abound and other natural disasters too…

Scientists have found that in Earth’s history before the Industrial Revolution, Earth’s climate changed due to natural cause’s not related to human activity. These natural causes are still in play today, but their influence is too small or they occur too slowly to explain the rapid warming seen in recent decades. So for something that we have contributed to in creating is it not our responsibility to make amends?

So this WED day take your own small step, does not matter how small you think it is, it will make a difference.

A list of things one can incorporate in everyday life easily:

  1. Plant a tree! Help achieve UNEP’s Billion Tree Campaign target of planting seven billion trees – one for every person on the planet! Let us start one by one…
  2. Use cold water for washing clothes and a laundry line with air drying helps too!
  3. In Summer leaving the windows open is a good way to get some fresh air and also help with your carbon footprint by not using the A/C. When you really feel the need to switch on the A/C use a fan with it to spread the cold air around more effectively.
  4. When cooking match the size of your pan to the heating element and use a lid, lowers energy wastage.
  5. Don’t throw your jeans into the hamper after a day’s use unless it is really dirty, lesser times you use the laundry the more efficient your use of water!
  6. For washing use eco-friendly products, helps the environment and if you have the space plant a tree J
  7. Plants are the best air purifiers, add to the beauty of your room and also help to clean the air! Green at its best!
  8. Turn off all unnecessary lights and remove idle chargers plugged in to the sockets when not in use, will save you up to 25% on your power usage.
  9. All PC’s Laptops, Printers etc have a power saver option (look for the Energy star) and turn them off at the end of the day!
  10. While printing (if you really need to print it out) print on both sides; it helps save trees!
  11. You are a coffee drinker like I am? Take your favorite mug to work, that way you won’t be using non-biodegradable cups. What a way to be Green!
  12. If you get stuck in traffic a lot, consider turning off your engine if you will be idling for long periods of time.
  13. Did you know cruise control on straight roads is fuel efficient!
  14. Keep a few cloth tote bags in your car for use whenever you want to buy something.
  15. Go vegan once a week at least, producing meat releases loads of greenhouse gases.
  16. Using an electric or hand razor with replaceable blades is GREEN, avoid disposable ones as it adds to landfills.
  17. It would seem like the most normal thing to do, but many of us forget that we can save water in simple ways like not letting the tap run while shaving, washing your face, or brushing your teeth you can save up to 200 gallons of water a month.
  18. Drinking tap water when safe is a better choice than bottled water and those plastic water bottles.
  19. Making green food choices also has global consequences. Buying local means supporting the local economy and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions required to get food from its origin to your plate.
  20. Buy things you need not want. Reducing consumption be it of oil or anything else helps in reducing our carbon footprint.

The Earth is like a large breathing and feeling living-being, every small step each of us takes good or not affects one and all. I truly believe we are all connected to each other and to the earth, so what I do every day has to be thoughtful so as to not hurt another.

I start my day by remembering this Native American saying (well it is the first thing I see every day :)) “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

Remember the 3R’s Reduce, Reuse and Recycle! Every Day is Earth Day! Have a Green WED 2010 day!! Live Green! and yeah Don’t forget to plant the TREE 🙂

The Hole In The Ozone Layer What Happened To It?

What happened to the Ozone Hole?

Picture source The National Geographic

Remember the Hole in the Ozone layer? It’s size, location, remedy etc was a topic of heated discussion for quite some time in the late 80’s and through the 90’s which now sounds like eons back (remember the big hair, Dirty Dancing??!).  Discussions about what we could do to reduce CFC’s – Chlorofluorocarbons which were causing it used to be quite common. Growing up during those years it was my first encounter with what we were doing to the environment and in some ways my first step into the realm of environmentalism.

We were told keeping the Refrigerator door closed (Freon was the agent of cooling in many of the old refrigerators), using less or no aerosols etc.. would help, and almost all the aerosols sold during those times did contain CFC’s. The industrialized nations were using CFC laden aerosols for over 50 years by then! Simplified what was happening was the CFC’s remained in the atmosphere rose up to the Ozone layer and the Chlorine in the CFC’s comibined with Oxygen there by depleting Ozone. By 1996 almost all the industrialized nations totally banned CFC’s. Even then it was estimated by scientists that it would take more than 50 years to get the Chlorine in the atmosphere to normal levels.

Today morning I read this article in The National Geographic which talks about “what is happening to the Ozone Layer?”  It says that in the last 3 decades the world has taken a united stand that has made the Ozone hole manageable, it is still there, but has stopped growing and is under control. Will a united action plan by the world be able to curb climate change too? Something to think about…

Read more about it here

DIY – Make A Bird Feeder Under 10 Minutes

Finch Feeder

I look forward to spring when I can see the gold finches back in their normal plumage. Always been a fan of backyard  birding so I plant plants which the birds like to eat and keep the feeders filled for  everything from the tiny humming bird to the Blue jays and Squirrels.

I am used to buying a new feeder every year after the squirrels gnaw through them! I buy sock feeders every year and by the end of the year it would have holes in them. Inspite of mending it hardly lasts more than 2 years in Ohio’s winters.

One day as I was emptying out the garlic from its package, it struck me this could work! My feeder for the finches from a plastic mesh cover which would other wise end up some where in a landfill.

5 Steps to making a simple finch feeder.

Things needed:

  • Garlic pack (don’t eat garlic? try using your old panty hose with the feet cut off works as well!)
  • a thread/shoe lace to tie it
  • scissors to trim tag
  • Lyger thistle

Garlic Pack

1. Take out the garlic from the mesh casing.

Trimming Excess

2. Trim the tag , make sure you keep the sealing intact.

Feeder Filled

3. Turn it inside out. Fill it with Thistle (I use Nyjer – buy mine from Wildbirds unlimited).

tie-up 4. Tie a knot at the top, make sure you can open it out to refill it. Use a shoe lace or rope to hang it from a tree branch (birds do prefer to be amongst greenery, makes them feel safer I guess)

feeder with a female gold finch There you have a feeder made under 10 minutes from something one would normally throw away and yeah you can  keep adding more feeders as you buy new garlic! Now all we need to do is wait for the finches to show up.

Male gold-finch

Happy Birding and Green Living!

Learning To Manage Consumption

Buy conscientiously

For years my better half and I have had this discussion about buying what we need and most of those discussions end with a debate about “Men! What do you know about impulse shopping and the satiety behind it?” But then over the years as I do spring cleaning and find things I did not use for more than 2 years, it started hitting me it does make sense to buy just what one needs. I have always felt responsible towards the environment but sort of never really thought about the production impact of things I buy and end up not using.

Now with that too in mind I set out searching for a way to make sure I do not buy anything I don’t really need. Searching online I came across this blog by Dave Chameides titled “Get on board the non consumption train” .

He has this easy to follow questionnaire to ask yourself before making a buy, it helped me! Check it out I believe it will help you too.

Follow this link to the post.