Have A Paperless Holiday Season

The holidays are notorious for wasting paper. Wrapping paper for gifts have a way of finding themselves in dumpsters and trash cans across the world toward the end of the year. If you’re looking for a great way to cut down on your carbon footprint and save a little money in the process, you can use wrapping paper alternatives. These are commonly found around your home and can even give your holiday some uniqueness. Here are some wrapping paper alternatives to get you started.


Fabric wrapping paper is a very unique way to wrap your gifts. It’s very easy to use this. Lay a piece of fabric flat and then set your gift in the middle. Pull all of the sides of the fabric up so that the ends meet each other. Tie a ribbon around the ends so the gift if concealed.

Comic Strips

The newspaper is another alternative to wrapping paper, but you don’t want a horrible news story as the centerpiece for the gift you’re giving your mother. Comic strips are harmless and colorful. Wrap your gifts in the comic strips and then put a bow on top of it. This adds a little more of the holiday to the gift without taking away from its uniqueness.


Almost everybody has leftover wallpaper in his or her basement or attic. Scour your home for any leftover wallpaper from when you redid your kitchen or bathroom. Set the gift in the middle and wrap it with the patterned side of the wallpaper on the outside. The patterns on wallpaper are very similar to regular wrapping paper so your gift will not stand out under the tree.


Many people simply chuck their old calendars. If you have last year’s calendar laying around the house, take a pair of scissors to it and cut out the different pages. When calendars come apart the pages might not be able to handle bigger gifts so keep this in mind. Calendars are great for smaller gifts.

Old Maps

Old maps work well because they are usually pretty big. If you have old maps lying around your house and you know that you’re not going to use them again, wrap your gifts with the outlines of your surrounding area. This makes for a unique look and is very green.

China Cracking Down on Gutter Oil

Police in China have detained 32 people in a nationwide crackdown on “gutter oil“, or illegally recycled old kitchen oil. The campaign is part of an attempt to clean up China’s food safety record following several scandals, such as the deadly infant formula and pork tainted with clenbuterol, a forbidden chemical used to make pork leaner. The Ministry of Public Security in China said in a statement on its website that police have seized 100 tons of the harmful oil in 14 separate provinces.

Six workshops were closed down including one that was operated by Jinan Green Bio Oil Co., a business which claimed to be turning kitchen oil into fuel but that was actually churning out recycled cooking oil which it passed off as safe and new oil. Recycled oil usually contains carcinogens and small traces of aflatoxin, a deadly mold.

The statement said:

“Not only did we destroy a criminal chain that was illegally turning gutter oil into food oil, we also unveiled the greed of the criminals and pulled back the curtain on the immoral acts of those producing this poisonous and harmful food oil…”

Last year, the State Council, China’s Cabinet, said businesses using recycled oil would be forced to temporarily close or lose their business licenses and that the peddlers who sold the oil are now liable to be criminally prosecuted.

Chinese consumers in recent years are horrified by a series of food safety scandals, such as fish treated with cancer-causing antimicrobials, eggs colored with industrial dye and fake liquor which can cause death or at least blindness. Infant formula and milk and laced with the industrial chemical melamine has reportedly been the cause of death of six Chinese schoolchildren and has sickened 300,000 in 2008. The government has responded by enacting an increasingly tough food safety law in 2009 which promised harsher penalties for makers of tainted products.

Austin Ramzy of Time Magazine writes:

The gutter oil crackdown is just part of a broader effort to control China’s continuing food safety worries. As we wrote earlier this summer, the crackdown has been making headlines with more than 2,000 arrests. But such strike-hard tactics are only part of the equation, and cleaning up the food chain in China will require sustained effort. As food safety expert He Dongping noted last year in an interview with the China Youth Daily, it might take ten years before the country cleans up its gutter oil problem. That’s hardly reassuring for Chinese consumers.

Recycling in West Bridgewater

It will be requested of residents of West Bridgewater Massachusetts next month to increase their recycling efforts.

BridgewaterStarting the first day of July, the West Bridgewater transfer station will accept computer monitors, mercury-based items like fluorescent lighting tubes, computer printer ink cartridges, waste oil and car batteries.

Transfer station attendant Rich Jefferson:

“An ongoing problem for us is that some people are still throwing recycling in the trash and it hikes disposal fees for the town…We do have bins for plastic, tin, glass, and cardboard, and about 70 percent of the residents are actively recycling but about 30 percent of the residents still aren’t doing it…One problem I’m seeing is an attitude of being lazy with recycling…but rates will go up and then sticker costs will go up…“Volunteers are available to assist residents during the week after 11:30 a.m. at the transfer station and all day on Saturdays…”

The SEMASS Resource Recovery Facility charges West Bridgewater about $140 per load for trash disposal, that contains eight to 12 tons per haul. The town averages 12 to 20 loads per month. Currently residents pay $65 per year per vehicle just for a transfer station sticker

Sup? Suberra, That’s Sup!

Suberra CorkAfter cork bark, the wood used to make wine bottle corks, is plugged, it may be fashioned into a durable, high-density slab called Suberra by the Eco Supply Center in Richmond, Virginia. This company has compress post-industrial recycled cork grain with a polyurethane binder to create 1-1/4 inch composite slabs, 25-1/2 inches wide by 36-1/2 inches long.

Cork is made from Cork Oak bark which regenerates hastily. It is composed of suberin, a water-repelling and waxy substance. Suberra gets its name from this substance.

The material may be installed using woodworking tools and standard adhesives, according to the Eco Supply Center. Suberra may also contribute to LEED in the renewable, recycled content and no-added urea formaldehyde provisions.

According to lab tests, Suberra has a fire rating of Class B and a good resistance to stain and abrasion (except for mustard, ammonia and black shoe polish in raw, unfinished samples). Each slab weighs about 31 pounds and may be used to make vanities, tables, desks, kitchen islands, countertops, and other surfaces.

Suberra usually goes for about $250-$300 per slab.

Here Comes Recycling Day

With America Recycles Day rolling in on Monday, now might be a good time to contemplate the impact of digital technology on waste.

Try and visualize the obsolete cell phones, TVs, computers, modems, and tangle of wires sitting somewhere in your home; I would guess many have electronic stuff around collecting dust. The EPA estimates that there were 2.25 million tons of PCs, peripherals, TVs, and phones discarded in 2007, nationwide and e-waste is the fastest growing category of waste.

Now, think about what all of this tech equipment is made of: more than 1,000 materials go into the making of electronics, some of which are nasty chemicals, according to the Electronics Takeback Coalition. Heavy metals, including lead, cadmium and mercury, are standard fare for the insides of Television’s, computers, and other electronics.

There are many health risks during the production of these products, though the greatest potential health impact is at the end of life, according to ETC. In order to avoid getting these toxins from stinking up landfills or being burned at incinerators, it is important to recycle or donate them.

First, you’ll want to recycle and collect the electronics already in your possession. Cell phones are the easiest thing to recycle, because many manufacturers will pay for shipping to return old phones and many stores now offer drop-off bins. Work through all of the junk in the house, and good luck!

How to Keep it Green in a Country That Doesn’t Care

The federal government will be turning a cold shoulder to clean-air campaigning as more climate change deniers will find a new stage and microphone on the Hill.

So what are some doing to fight back?

Alden Wicker of the Huffington Post has an interesting scoop: while the federal government may be “hamstrung by man-made climate change deniers and dirty energy lobbyists,” several steadfast state governments are going-it-alone on the righteous crusade. Big Oil’s Proposition 23 was recently crushed by California voters, and the Western Climate Initiative, spawned in 2007, will successfully unite seven states and four Canadian provinces in a large emissions market by 2012.

Meanwhile, on the corporate front, a number of New Jersey Wal-Mart parking lots now have a method for making alchemical monetary profit of consumer product waste.

Terracycle has installed the Store Collection Systems, a 20-foot trailer which accepts all kinds of packaging that cannot be recycled in the normal domestic blue bin. They take the mostly plastic waste and turn them into products to resell in stores and online; making mostly bags, pouches, coolers, picture frames and fertilizer.

Terracycle pays three cents for every piece of waste deposited. Wal-Mart, who already participates in other forms of sustainable business is happy to have Terracycle in their parking lots.

Since their launch in 2001, Terracycle has reclaimed more than $1.85 billion pieces of non-recyclable packaging.

If you are not in the New Jersey area, you can send Terracycle your waste by mail; the shipping cost will be on them.

Making the Change Can Make All the Difference: Switching from Bottled to Tap Water

Can you believe it? Last year Americans spent nearly $11 billion on over 8 billion gallons of bottled water. That’s a lot of water! Wanna know what they did with the empty bottles? They mindlessly tossed them in the trash, over 22 billion of them. The more than 70 million bottles of water which are consumed each day in America drain 1.5 billion barrels of oil, in the course of a year.

Water BottlesWhat can be done? Ban the plastic bottle! San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order last June which bars the San Fran city government from using city money to supply municipal workers with bottled water.

New York City residents consume nearly 28 gallons of bottled water each year. The city government launched an ad campaign to encourage residents and tourists to use the city’s tap rather than buy bottled water. New York City water is considered some of the best quality in the country. Classy restaurants in Boston, New York and San Francisco have taken bottled water off of the menu, offering rather filtered tap water.

Not only does bottled water contribute to excessive waste, but it costs us a thousand times more than water from our faucet at home, and it is, in fact, no safer or cleaner. A 1999 Natural Resources Defense Council study found that tap water may even be of a higher quality than bottled.

So why not make the switch? It is yet another win/win situation for person and environmental health!

David de Rothschild & Voyage of the Plastiki

David de Rothschild is no ordinary person; and certainly no ordinary adventurer. The son of Britain’s Evelyn de Rothschild of the famous Rothschild banking family, and a known adventurer and environmentalist, David has already accomplished a number of feats in his 31 years, including crossing both the Arctic icecap and entire continent of Antarctica, including reaching both geographical poles.

David RothschildHis love for plant earth and concern for its environment has resulted in his launching of what appears to be his most harrowing feat of adventure to date. And that feat entails sailing a homemade craft made almost entirely of discarded plastic bottles, tied together by web mesh.
His destination: the gigantic “plastic island”, located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and made up of waste plastic and other material – and said to be almost twice the size of the American state of Texas.

His voyage, a journey of nearly 11,000 nautical miles, will begin off the State of California, continue until reaching the “island” now floating in an area known as the Great Pacific Gyre (southwest of Hawaii) and finally ending in Sydney Australia. The improbable voyage, on a craft made up of the same type of flotsam that the Plastic Island is said to be made of, is to make people aware that our oceans, the giver of much of our planet’s food and oxygen sources, are in danger to being turned into nothing but floating garbage dumps; and as a result will make life on earth even more threatened.

The journey, which was to have begun in March, 2009, was delayed until mid-summer, which could make de Rothschild’s trip even more perilous due to the occurrence of typhoons and other serve storms which are more prevalent during the summer and autumn months.

Following his journeys to both geometrical polar regions, David led an expedition to the Ecuadorian rain forest in South America, in order to monitor the effects that oil drilling and other man-created ecological endeavors are having on one of the last remaining virgin rain forest regions on earth. The damage that this drilling is having on this region, in order to obtain more greenhouse gas creating fossil fuels, is most disturbing, he notes.

The 60 ft catamaran craft, made out of 12,000 plastic bottles and other recycled plastic material woven into self-reinforcing polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a very strong webbing material , will be his home and that of his crew during the voyage, which he says will take about three months. “The only worry I have (concerning the voyage) is that I get sea-sick in a bath tub. But when one is as committed as I am to do such a thing, it will be done” he says. The craft that he and the small crew of scientists and ecologists will sail on has been named Kon Tiki, after the primitive raft that Norwegian adventurer and writer Thor Hayerdahl used to cross the Pacific Ocean in 1947. The main difference now is that the gigantic plastic island they are sailing to was much smaller then – if it existed at all.

Unbelievable: Toronto Bans Bottled Waters

Toronto City Council voted on Tuesday to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on all municipal premises from City Hall to golf courses by 2011. Stuart Green, spokesman for Toronto Mayor David Miller, said the plastic-water-bottle ban, along with other measures, is all part of the city’s plan to divert 70 per cent of Toronto’s waste from the dump by 2010.

No More Bottled Water in Toronto