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Category Archives: Monthly Green Tips

February Green Tip: Use Less Plastic

If you missed this little bit of news earlier this year, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by the year 2050 – 124 million tons of plastic to be exact.

If that doesn’t scare the heck out of you, I’m not sure what will.

What’s more, plastic production is expected to double in the next 20 years. DOUBLE!

Plastics are made from petroleum, rarely recycled, and will never biodegrade. They actually photodegrade – breaking into smaller and smaller bits when exposed to sunlight – but they never, ever go away.

In fact, every piece of plastic ever made still exists today. EVERY. SINGLE. PIECE.

If, like me, you find this a little unnerving, you may want to take some steps to contribute less plastic waste to our world, and ultimately our oceans.

Here are a few simple things that we can all do:

Replace disposable plastics with reusables.

Because this…

plasticspoon

With just the slightest amount of effort, it’s quite easy to avoid disposable plastic. Bring reusable shopping bags to the store, bring a reusable water bottle to the gym, and whenever you can, use real dishes and utensils – wash don’t toss.

Avoid Styrofoam.

Otherwise known as the plastic polystyrene (Number 6 plastic), Styrofoam is one of the worst ocean polluters. In addition, it’s virtually unrecyclable.

Although I try to avoid disposable plastics as much as possible, PET (Number 1 plastic) – like that found in disposable water bottles – is highly recyclable. If you must use disposable plastic, it is a much better choice than Styrofoam.

For more information on the types and safety of plastics, see my related post “Plastics by the Numbers“.

Consider packaging.

32% of plastic packaging falls outside of collection systems – yes, a full 32% of it doesn’t even find it’s way in to the trash can. It’s litter!

Buy in bulk; purchase un-bagged produce (and bring your own reusable produce bags to the store); and refuse to purchase products with excessive packaging. Finally, let manufacturers know that you want less, more streamlined packaging. Consumer-driven change can have a big impact.

If you must use plastic, recycle it.

Although most plastics can be recycled, only 14% of them are. Recycling uses much less energy than incinerating, and plastics can be recycled into a wide range of products.

If it can’t be recycled, at least make sure it ends up in the trash.

At the very, very least, make sure the plastic that you do use is disposed of properly. Plastic trash that starts on the road side, eventually ends up in the oceans – killing marine life and impacting our water quality.

More plastic than fish by 2050?! I believe that we can change that. And there is no better time to start than today.

 

 

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January Green Tip: How to Dispose of Hazardous Waste

For each month of 2016, I plan to highlight a simple, easy tip to help you to contribute to a better, cleaner, greener environment. All of the tips will be either little or no cost, easy to do, and help you generally be a better local and global citizen.

For my first post, I will cover how to dispose of hazardous waste. During this post-Christmas, pre-Spring-cleaning time of year, it’s the perfect time to cover this topic.

Hazardous waste includes items like household cleaners, paint, automotive products, pesticides, fluorescent light bulbs, batteries of any kind, and e-waste (computers, cell phones, or almost any other electronic device). These items should NEVER be placed in your curbside bin, flushed down the drain, or dumped in the storm drain. They are toxic to plants, animals and humans and must be disposed of properly.

Some items (rechargeable batteries, CFL’s) can easily be disposed of at your local home improvement store. For example, the Lowe’s in Rancho Santa Margarita has waste bins for these items conveniently located by the customer service area. I know, the photo is not great, but here is what the bin at that store looks like:

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Cell phones can generally be returned to your carrier or donated to charities, like Cell Phones for Soldiers.

Many local schools and organizations collect e-waste such as computers, monitors and digital cameras as a fundraising opportunity. Our local high school has a collection event next month.

Flyer_Trabuco Hills HS_02-06-2016_Front

But other items like paint, motor oil, and pesticides may be a bit trickier. That’s where the hazardous waste services come into play. These free services are located in most counties. There are four here in Orange County – Irvine, Anaheim, Huntington Beach and San Juan Capistrano.

Maybe you think it takes too much time, or it’s a hassle, or “it won’t make a difference if I just throw these few batteries in the regular trash can.”

So to demonstrate just how quick and easy it is, here is a video I did a few years ago for my OC Family blog where I take you along on a trip to Orange County’s household hazardous waste collection center in Irvine.

The trip didn’t turn out exactly as I planned (or maybe didn’t plan) – take a look:

Needless to say, I do recommend you leave your iPhone safely stowed away, but I can’t stress enough how fast and simple it is to dispose of this stuff properly. Also, it’s completely FREE.

A complete list of items accepted at these locations can be found and downloaded here.

Instead of throwing out those old cleaning products, paints, batteries, fertilizer, pesticides, or e-waste, place them in a box in your garage, and make a quick trip once or twice a year to your local hazardous waste disposal facility.

Each location in Orange County is open from 9:00am to 3:00pm Tuesday through Saturday – swing by on your lunch break, or when you are out running errands on Saturday. It only takes a minute to make a difference.