Monthly Archives: February 2013

Are e-Readers Really Green?

By Leah Kaminsky

On the surface, it would seem that using an e-reader would be a sure-fire way to up your green factor. After all, they’re pretty much the Superman of the tree world, saving innocent victims from the paper mill. But as an electronic device, e-readers aren’t without their footprint. There are the carbon emissions that result from powering the device, and the consumer electronics industry is infamous for using toxic materials.

So given these considerations, are e-readers actually greener than paper books?

The answer is a resounding yes. Between the paper consumption and the carbon emissions associated with production, printing, shipping and disposal of paper books, there is no doubting the environmental impact of traditional publishing. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at this powerful infographic, which explores the full impact of the two billion printed books produced every year. A few key facts:

  1. Printed books require 3 times more raw materials to produce books than e-readers and 7 times more water
  2. The 125 million trees cut down every year for the newspaper and book industries result in the emission of 44 million tons of CO2 each year versus just 7.3 million from cars.

In fact, the research this infographic cites estimates that e-readers will prevent the emission of 10 million tons of CO2 between 2009 and the end of 2012, which is the equivalent of the yearly emissions from roughly 800,000 cars. What’s more, when we leave more trees standing to absorb more CO2, our e-reading habit can help offset emissions from other high footprint technologies.

When considering the eco-credentials of e-readers, it’s important to take a look at the full supply chain as well as the raw materials. Fortunately for us book lovers, e-readers allow us to feed our book addiction while also doing something good for the environment. Though (sorry, I have to say it!) there’s nothing quite like the weight and smell of a good old-fashioned book…

DIY: Switching things up with switch plates

By Jeanne Romano

Ever look at a room and wonder what you can do to make it more fun? Paint? Wallpaper? Get all new furniture? Knock down a wall? Whoa, slow down.

All that sounds great… however you have a small budget (very small), you want to recycle, you’re renting,  and oh yeah, you’re scared to death to do it yourself. You’ve come to the right place. This idea is not only great for sprucing up a room; it’s new and unique party fun.

Let everyone decorate one and it becomes a party favor. This works for kids and adults!

Personalized plates make great gifts – especially from children to their friends and family. Think early drawings, handprints or even just abstract squiggles.

What you’ll need:

  1. Blank (plastic) switch plate. Of course you can buy a new one (they’re very inexpensive) but the idea here is to recycle, right?
  2. Sharp utility scissor http://www.drugstore.com/fiskars/qxb29286
  3. Craft knife
  4. Double sided tape http://www.drugstore.com/scotch/qxb21916
  5. A variety of papers, fabrics, glitter, pictures, trimming, stickers – etc.  As you’ll see, you can use just about anything to cover, decorate or paint a switch plate.

Like following a recipe, there are specific ingredients, or steps, to turn an average switch plate into something really unique to display in your home or to give as a personalized gift. Here are step-by-step instructions to cover a switch plate. For this example I chose my favorite wrapping paper, however you can use almost anything – a list of ideas and photos will follow.

  1. Turn the plate upside down and place on the wrong side of your paper then cut your pattern
  2. Allow at least ¾ to 1 inch all the way around the plate.
  3. Use double sided tape to line the inside edges of the back of the plate then wrap the paper around the sides.
  4. Finish folding over as if you’re wrapping a present

Turn the plate over – but wait, something’s missing.

Draw an elongated “X” as shown in step 6. Use your craft knife and cut along those lines. (Make sure you have something underneath the plate to help you avoid cutting through to the surface underneath. Place small pieces of double sided tape around the opening. Bend the triangles back until they stick to the tape.

Feel for the holes where the screws should go. Retrieve the screws and just pop them through. If you want to hide them you can paint them to blend in or in my case, I thought accent colors could be fun and painted them red. Then screw the decorated plate back on the wall

For another creative outlet – the outlet.

JUST A FEW IDEAS:


 

Wallpaper –

The plate is wrapped with the wallpaper that matches the wall

Photographs, illustrations, greeting cards (seasonal and misc…)

Hand-painted     Spray painted   

 

Decoupage collage  

or just plain goofy 

Get your kids’ involved – my neighbor’s daughter Rachel C. (11) created these:

 Original artwork  Duct tape  

Trims, beads, sequins and glitter and spray sparkles on a metal outlet plate!

Stickers, stickers, stickers….Tips:

  • If you’re putting the plate in the kitchen, bathroom or child’s room you’re going to want to use washable paper. Or you can always coat the paper with a gloss, flat or shellac type protection. Check the warnings, especially for the kids’ rooms.
  • Nail polishes (both clear and color) are great for this kind of project. It’s very shiny and usually dries quickly
  • Glue can be used instead of double side tape; however glue takes longer to dry and may not be effective with heavier papers or fabric.
  • Check copyrights on all photos, artwork and team logos.

There’s no end to the possibilities. You can make your design permanent or temporary. You can even use the same switch plate over and over again. Have fun and be creative!

 

Real Green or Just Hype?

By Leah Kaminsky

Take a stroll down any aisle in your local supermarket and you’re likely to encounter a wide range of “green” products. It’s in other places, too, from hotels boasting their “environmentally friendly” laundry policies, to energy companies claiming to be “clean.”

But surely, not all these companies could have grown an eco-conscious overnight. In fact, there’s even a term for companies that spend more time and funds on promoting their green deeds than actually working to be green: greenwashing.

So just how can you tell the real green from the fake?

1. Look at the ingredients list. Companies are quick to promote a single natural ingredient and ignore the rest. Just look at all the cleaning products that put phrases like, “Clean with natural enzyme action” on the front just because they use baking soda, forgetting to mention that they also phthalates, sodium sulphate, and so forth. Unless you’re a chemist, bring your smart phone or tablet along to the grocery store so you can look up each chemical on a database like the one provided by the Environmental Working Group.

2. Insist on specificity. While many companies feel comfortable slapping “all natural” on their product, it’s far more likely they’re telling the truth when they use a specific claim like, “Made with 100% organic oranges.” The more specific the claim, the easier it is to check its validity, the more likely the company will feel the pinch to tell the truth.

3. Research the company. What are consumers saying about it online? For that matter, what does the company website say about its products? Does it explain its claims and define its terms? Because there’s no standard definition for words like natural, eco, green, nontoxic, and even biodegradable (yes, while biodegradation is an agreed upon scientific process, add an “-able” onto the term and who knows what you’ve got), each company will have their own definition of what those terms mean. Make sure you agree.

4. Avoid flashy packaging. Product packaging has always been designed with buyer psychology in mind, and greenwashed products are no exception. Just because a spray bottle has a flower on it, doesn’t mean it’s any better for the environment than the plain bottle next to it. In fact, companies would be all the more green with plain packaging, if they invested the cost of designing and printing complicated packaging in green efforts instead.

5. Verify with seals of approval. While there are certainly green products that don’t bear seals from trusted green organizations, having one never hurts. Look for the EnergyStar logo, the USDA Organic Seal, the Green Seal or the Forest Stewardship Council logo on appliances, cosmetics, produce and paper products.

The green industry is still very new, which means it’s something like the Wild West. If history is any indication, we’ll have better guides and oversight as time wears on. Until then, these five tips should help dye your eco-efforts a true green.

Top 5 Green Resolutions for the New Year

By Leah Kaminsky

Happy Near Year! We may be well into 2013, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to add a few green resolutions to your list. (And, hey, if you’ve already broken a few of your other resolutions anyway, why not make room for a few more?). Whether you’re already a Green Queen or you consider washing out an old shampoo bottle for the recycling bin a big accomplishment, here are just a few great green resolutions for the New Year.

1. I will stop using plastic bags. All of them. Type “fashionable reusable shopping bags” into Google and you’ll find a wide range of fun and funky bags that are just as much of a fashion statement as a purse or clutch. I actually enjoy picking up new bags wherever I travel as a souvenir – certainly makes grocery shopping more fun! If you find yourself consistently forgetting to bring your bags into the store, look for ones that can fold up small and fit into your purse or pocket.

2. Forget the bottled water. If you turn to bottled water for filtration, switch instead to an on-top water purifier or a jug you can keep cold in the fridge. Most of the bottled water you buy really isn’t as pure as you might think, and there’s little you’ll find in them that you can’t achieve via a more sustainable filtration option – one that doesn’t require petroleum to make bottles, carbon emissions to ship and deliver the product, and recycling.

3. Bike or walk to work. If you’ve also resolved to get into shape in the New Year, then this is the resolution for you. Try starting small by resolving to bike, walk, run or hey, pogo stick to work at least once a week, and build the number up from there.

4. Put an end to your paper habit. Do you really need a printed version of that document? How about a printed book? Take a look at your paper habits, and propose an accomplish-able reduction. You may, for instance, resolve to go from ordering printer paper once a month to once every two months, and reuse printing mess-ups as scrap paper for notes. You could also begin using an e-reader, buying only used books, or borrowing books from friends or the library.

5. Buy local, in-season produce. In the global food market, we’ve gotten used to being able to eat whatever we like whenever we’d like to, regardless of the season. But those strawberries you purchase in the middle of winter are at the very tail end of a long carbon emissions chain. Instead, buy local and make it a creative endeavor to cook in-season.

Do you have a few green resolutions of your own? Tell us all about them in the comments below.