Partnership Transforms Plastic Bags to Help Those in Need

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

If you’re like me, you start off with the best of intentions when it comes to using reusable shopping bags. You have a cute set conveniently tucked into your cargo area or trunk – my favorites are Queen of Green bags from Lilly Pulitzer. But if you’re like me, those great bags don’t always make it back into the car. Then, in a moment of eco-embarrassment, you end up using the plastic bags from the store, only to get home and find they seem to multiply tenfold in a matter of days.

Plastic bags may be “free” at the grocery store, but they have a huge cost for the environment. They:

  1. Litter our landscapes, clog waterways and jam expensive equipment at the recycling recovery facilities.
  2. Migrate to the ocean via local waterways, where some 100,000 marine animals ingest them and die each year.
  3. Waste energy and create greenhouse gas emissions during the manufacturing process.
  4. Jam expensive sorting machines at the recycling recovery and sorting facility.

What if you could use your plastic bags for good?  Thanks to Operation Bed Roll, you can. Operation Bed Roll is a local collaboration designed to keep non-recyclable materials out of our landfills, engage our citizens in a community-wide maker project and provide the chronically homeless with a better place to sleep. They transform thousands of plastic grocery bags into plastic yarn aka plarn to create crocheted sleeping mats that provide an insulated barrier for those whose circumstances result in sleeping on the ground.

Operation Bed Roll consists of ten partners: Sonoco Recycling, Environmental Education Association of SC (EEASC), United Way of the Midlands, Sustainable Midlands, City of Columbia, EdVenture Children’s Museum, Art Ecologie Group and countless community volunteers: schools, retirement communities, churches, artists, Scout troops and more.  They adopted the project from a similar one in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The average American uses 500-700 plastic grocery bags each year, and that’s about the same number it takes to create a bed roll. And while a recycled bag might not be your idea of luxury, they are lightweight, easy to carry, dry quickly and don’t attract bed bugs and provide insulation for those who sleep on the ground. (A bed roll has been found to keep users 10 to 20 degrees warmer than sleeping on the bare ground.)

I participate in Operation Bed Roll as a bag collector and plarn maker. I love the diversity of volunteers and partners involved as well as the simple sustainability of the project. It takes something that’s designed to be used for a mere 12 minutes and creates something practical and lasting for those less fortunate. And when the bed rolls wear out, they can be recycled with other plastic bags at grocery store plastic bag recycling containers.

Since beginning in January of this year, Operation Bed Roll volunteers have created over twenty “plarn” sleeping mats, saving approximately 15,000 plastic shopping bags from the landfill. Those mats are being distributed to the chronically homeless by United Way of the Midlands.

Operation Bed Roll’s goal is to produce another 80 mats between now and the fall, when the weather will get cooler again. You can help in many ways:

  1. Donating your plastic bags (used only, please; getting new ones defeats the purpose).
  2. Cutting plastic bags into strips.
  3. Linking strips together to create plarn.
  4. Donating plarn to knitters.
  5. Using your crocheting skills to create bed rolls.

For more information, visit OBR’s Facebook page or email the group at operationbedrollsc@gmail.com.

Great Ways To Trim Your Holiday Wasteline

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day Americans throw away 25% more trash than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week. So, to help trim the trash while trimming the tree, here is a checklist of simple things you can do to reduce waste while you eat, drink and make merry this holiday season.

Recycle

Plan Your Parties

From Thanksgiving through New Year’s we like nothing more than to eat, drink and be merry, so we need successful strategies to cut down on the waste we create from our amplified entertaining.

  • Turn down the heat before the guests arrive. You’ll save energy while the extra body heat of your guests will warm up the room.
  • Walk to neighborhood parties, or carpool with friends if it’s too far to walk.
  • After the party, don’t throw away the leftovers! Put them in plastic containers or bags and send them home with guests, or donate to food banks.

Bring Your Own Bag

  • During the nation’s busiest shopping season, bring your own shopping bags. Paper, plastic and cloth are all good; the latter two can be folded easily into purses and pockets until used.
  • Consolidate your purchases into one bag rather than getting a new bag at each store on your shopping rounds.
  • Instead of using wrapping paper, place your gifts in reusable bags. Your present will be two gifts in one: the actual gift and the bag, which the recipient can reuse.

Fuss-Free Gift Giving

  • Plan your shopping in advance. Consolidating your shopping trips saves fuel (and aggravation), and you’ll avoid that last minute frenzy when you won’t have time to make careful gift choices.
  • Rather than piling up “stuff” under the tree, think about what friends and family really want or need. Try giving gift certificates if you don’t know what someone wants, or simply make a donation in his or her name to a favorite charity.
  • Give gifts that encourage others to use less stuff, like a book about making crafts from reusable items, a cookbook for leftovers or reusable tote bags.
  • Or simply set a good example by giving homemade food or something you’ve made yourself from reused items.
  • For kids, start a savings account or give stocks or bonds. It’s fun to watch money grow and it teaches children the value of financial conservation.
  • Shop for gifts at antique stores, estate sales or flea markets, since one person’s trash is another’s treasure.
  • Donate unwanted gifts, along with last year’s gifts that the kids have outgrown, to charity.

Kid Stuff

  • When buying electronic toys and other portable items that are used regularly, remember to buy rechargeable batteries to go with them.
  • Instead of wrapping gifts for the kids, hide the presents, plant clues to where they’re hidden and turn the kids’ search into a treasure hunt.
  • Get the kids to make their own tree ornaments out of things you already have around the house or from materials they might find in the backyard: twigs, bark, flowers and herbs, pine cones, etc.
  • Old clothes and jewelry make a great dress-up box for kids.
  • Tools and gadgets make a great idea box for a young inventor.

Card Sense

This season our mailboxes burst with membership offerings and fundraising appeals, presents, gift catalogues and cards. What to do …

  • Send e-greetings to family, friends and business associates who are online.
  • Did you know…the 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high? If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.
  • Save yourself time, money and hard feelings between friends – and reduce mail volume – by updating and paring down your holiday mailing list.
  • Be creative. Instead of buying placemats or table decorations, make your own. Cut old cards into shapes and press between two pieces of clear contact paper.

Shop Right…And Ship Light

  • When buying gifts you will send by mail, pick items that are easy to ship and won’t require excess packaging.
  • Reuse packing cartons and shipping materials such as peanuts, wood shavings, shredded newspaper and bubble wrap.
  • Drop off extra packing peanuts at local private mailing centers.

Wrap It Up

  • Or better yet, think of gifts that don’t have to be wrapped at all: tickets to concerts, museums, or sporting events, gift certificates, house plants, or even gifts of your own time.
  • When giving oversized gifts like bicycles or CD racks, instead of wrapping them in paper, just tie a bow around them.
  • Wrap gifts in old maps, newspapers, Sunday comics or fancy holiday gift bags. Kids’ art work is a perfect wrapping for presents to proud grandparents.
  • Use brown paper grocery bags to wrap small-to-medium size boxes that have to be mailed.
  • Make the wrap a part of the gift: Putting cookies in a flower pot or hiding jewelry in a new pair of gloves will keep your gift under wraps and the “wrapping” out of the trash.

Which of these changes can you commit to making this holiday season? Can you think of other ways to reduce your waste this holiday season?

Get Down to the Business of Sustainability

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

When it comes to implementing sustainable solutions for the workplace, it can be a jungle out there. But it doesn’t have to be if you let the 2013 Green is Good for Business Conference be your guide. This year’s conference is designed to cut the clutter and get you down to the business of going green.

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Two Columbia-based speakers with national acclaim will keynote this year’s SC Green is Good for Business Conference on September 10 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

Dr. Andrew Spicer, associate professor of international business in the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, will open the morning with Sustainability Strategies from Wal-Mart. In 2005 Wal-Mart made history when then-CEO Lee Scott announced a bold sustainability strategy that would impact every aspect of its business. Along the way, business researchers from the University of South Carolina and the University of Arkansas were given unprecedented access to study the process. Spicer will share his case study of the retailer and offer insights on going green in business.

WLTX-TV Chief Meteorologist Jim Gandy will conclude the morning’s keynote with The Business of Climate Change. Gandy, a professional meteorologist with 37 years of experience, continues to study weather and is interested in climate change which he has studied since 2005. Looking for better ways to communicate climate change, he is working with the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University and with Climate Central.

The seventh annual Green is Good for Business conference will show how workplaces of all sizes – from a large corporation to a home-based business – can become more sustainable and likely even save or make money at the same time. Business and sustainability leaders will conduct a wide range of sessions including:

  • Greening the Fleet
  • Eco-preneurship: Making Money and Making a Difference
  • Recycling: Good for the Environment, Great for the Economy
  • How Ozone Could Choke Business Growth
  • Updates from SC Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Thinking Outside of the Bin: Recycling Non-Traditional Materials

The conference also will provide an up-close and personal look at the latest sustainability products, services and technologies at the Green Expo, featuring more than 40 vendors. New to this year’s conference is the Propane Road Show, sponsored by Palmetto State Clean Fuels Coalition, where you’ll see up close and personal alternative fuel vehicles of all shapes and sizes.

Conference registration is $50 per person with a $10 per person “Green Team” discount for organizations sending three or more people. Every Woman blog readers can get an extra $10 off by entering using the promotion code LMCEW. Additional details and registration information are available at http://greenbiz13-eorg.eventbrite.com/.

The City of Columbia coordinates the SC Green is Good for Business Conference with a host of partners, including Lexington County, Richland County, the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, DHEC’s Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling, and the SC Department of Commerce. This year’s sponsors include Pratt Industries, Sonoco Recycling, and Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, PA.

 

Easy Ways to Green Your Cleaning

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Earth Day is the perfect time to discuss green cleaning, the growing trend of using environmentally-friendly ingredients and/or packaging for your household cleaning.

Green cleaning

Why does green cleaning matter? Consider this:
• Some cleaning products contain ingredients that pose health hazards and/or harm to the environment.
• Cleaning products are frequently involved in home poisoning, many involving children under the age of five.
• According to the US EPA, levels of pollutants indoors can be two to more than 100 times higher than outdoors, and the number one culprit for indoor pollution is our use of cleaning products.

Contrary to popular belief, green cleaning doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time consuming. Here are some quick and easy tips that you can start implementing today.

1. Look for products in containers that are:
• Minimally packaged
• Recyclable in your curbside or drop-off recycling program
• Recycled content, preferably post-consumer
• Large (a gallon instead of four quarts)
• Refillable
• Pump sprays (not aerosols)

2. Purchase products that you reuse instead of throwing away:
• Buy rags or cloths instead of paper towels and wipes.
• Use a mop, not one-use wet floor wipes
• Select a feather or static duster instead of disposable dusters
• Use a traditional toilet brush, not clean once and flush scrubbers

3. Look for eco-friendly ingredients like grain alcohol (instead of toxic butyl cellosolve), plant oils (rather than petroleum) and plant-oil disinfectants such as eucalyptus (not triclosan).

4. Avoid toxic ingredients such as nonylphenol ethoxylates, antibacterials, ammonia, butyl cellosolve, butyl glycol, ethylene glycol, monobutyl, chlorine bleach, d-limonene, diethanolamine and triethanolamine.

5. Be on the lookout for “greenwashing,” misleading claims regarding product eco-standards. There are no standards for words like nontoxic, eco-safe, environmentally friendly, natural and green. Read the labels and research products before purchasing them, and look for third-party certification. Also note that unless you compost them, biodegradable containers end up in the landfill, where very few things ever degrade.

6. Make your own cleaners with ingredients you already have in your cabinets. These cleaners are less expensive, safer and more environmentally friendly. One of the best sources I’ve found is Apartment Therapy’s 25 Green Cleaning Recipes for the Entire House.

Let me know what you think about green cleaning! Are you already using some of these tips around your home? If so, how do they work for you? If not, which one(s) are you willing to try? Do you have a tried and true recipe for green cleaning? Please share it!

Lexington Medical Center Leads “Green” Health Care Movement in South Carolina

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

What’s the first thing you notice when entering Lexington Medical Center’s Medical Park Two? Perhaps it is the rich woodwork or the beautiful steel and glass stairway. Or maybe you notice just how many people come in and out of that building, as evidenced by the bustling parking lot. But one of the most fascinating things about Lexington Medical Park Two isn’t the grand design or occupancy rate, but the round glass seal designating the building as a LEED Silver Certified facility.

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As a sustainability professional by day, I hear a lot about LEED, but don’t often see it put into practice. I recently visited Lexington Medical Park Two for the first time to see my ob/gyn, who recently relocated his practice to Lexington Medical Center. While it’s hard to get excited about those annual visits, I was thrilled to see the LEED seal as I headed upstairs. I knew immediately that I wanted to feature this building in an upcoming blog post.

For those of you who may not be familiar with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), it is an internationally recognized green building program that provides a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. LEED allows building owners and operators to impact their building’s performance and bottom line, while providing healthy indoor spaces for a building’s occupants.

So what exactly does this mean for Lexington Medical Park Two? For starters, it boasts the following eco-friendly characteristics:

  • More than 75% of construction waste was recycled instead of sent to a landfill.
  • Construction materials had a high recycled content, including fly ash for concrete in the parking deck, reinforcing steel for concrete, structural steel in building framing and metal studs to support walls. And, materials came from regional suppliers to reduce emission caused by transportation.
  • Energy-efficient white roofing that reflects the sun, improved building insulation and energy-efficient windows reduce the amount of heating and air conditioning needed by 30%.
  • The building uses an existing retention pond to minimize the impact of storm water runoff into rivers and streams.
  • Bike racks and showers encourage workers to bike to work.
  • The building has water-conserving plumbing fixtures in restrooms.
  • The air conditioning equipment uses refrigerants that are less damaging to the earth’s ozone layer.
  • The project used paint, carpets, adhesives, sealants and composite wood products that cause the least amount of chemicals to be emitted.
  • Janitor closets are specially sealed to ensure cleaning chemicals stored there don’t get re-circulated into the building.

And you think that is impressive? How about this: Lexington Medical Park Two was the first LEED-certified health care building in South Carolina.

If you’re like me, you’re usually in a hurry when you’re headed to an appointment with your doctor. But if you have a few extra minutes, take a look around Lexington Medical Park Two; it’s as attractive as it is sustainable. And while you’re there, thank your doctor for practicing in a LEED-certified building. It’s not only a more environmentally-friendly building; it’s a healthier building for staff and patients.

“Going Green” is More Than a Slogan

By:  Elizabeth Webber Akre

I was in the 10th grade.  Yes, that would be approximately 1984.  I was giving an oral report in Mrs. Sutton’s science class about recycling.  I had done a lot of research.  I knew what I was talking about.  As I gave my report, I looked out over a sea of blank stares and open mouths.  No one knew what on Earth I was talking about.

Oh sure, we knew about taking your glass bottles back to the store so they could be reused. Remember the deposits you used to have to pay on them?  We were starting to hear about being able to recycle aluminum cans.  But at that time, the only place my sister and I could locate in Columbia to recycle was way over on Fontaine Road.  It was a pretty heavy-duty, industrial type recycling company, but they would take our measly trash bags of cans along with the truckloads of metals that were delivered there.  Curbside recycling wasn’t even a suggestion at this point.  And, the only thing I knew then about plastics was to avoid them. This was my closing line in my report to my dumbfounded classmates:  use cloth diapers so our grandchildren aren’t wading around in a sea of dirty Pampers that won’t break down.  Crickets and tumbleweeds.  But, I got an A.  Even being an amateur, thanks to my research, I did know what I was talking about.

Here we are almost 30 years later and thankfully, the concept of recycling and reusing is not only well-known, but has become main stream.  My kindergartener was chosen to make the announcement over the loudspeaker for the school’s “No Trash Lunch Week.”  The City of Columbia has added cardboard recycling to our curbside program.  Now, we need bigger bins.  Once upon a time, “plain paper” recycling was hard to come by; now even my church has a blue recycling bin in the vestibule for all the church bulletins after the service.

I want to share a website with you.  I discovered this site a year or so ago.  It’s called Recyclebank.  You earn points by watching (very short) videos about ways to recycle, reduce, reuse and generally “green up” your everyday world.  Just today, I learned that 90% of the imported cut flowers come from Latin America.  That means, rather than employing our own people to grow flowers and ferns in greenhouses, we are buying them from other countries who then have to load them up on planes and fly them around the world.  That’s just crazy.  I had no idea.  I also learned today that Dasani water bottles contain 30% plant-based material.  I’m not exactly sure how it works, but I think it’s cool.  As you learn these lessons, you accumulate points.  What’s that for, you ask?  You can then use them to get really good coupons (like $2 off Kashi!) or free offers, or make donations.  For instance, for 250 points, you can donate a tree through American Forests.  It’s a cool thing, indeed.  Click here to check it out.

Wasn’t it Kermit the Frog who sang “It isn’t easy being green?”  Well, it’s getting a lot easier these days, but we still have a long way to go.  Check out Recyclebank and see what you can do in your own home to help “Go Green.”

Be A Modern Day Hunter-Gatherer!

By: Shannon Shull

How do you fuel your body? Think about it…what did you feed your body the past few days? Can you say with confidence that you properly fueled your body? Do you even know what your body requires in order to be properly fueled?

My husband’s best friend sent this video from TED.com.  My husband watched it, was inspired and naturally sent it to me with bold letters, saying WATCH NOW. I only wish I had actually watched it right away. Of course it sat in my inbox for weeks before I finally took the time to sit down and watch it. Once I finally did, I was not only astounded by the information, but my eyes were opened in an amazing way.

I’m no biology wiz and I’m certainly not a crazed health food nut, BUT you don’t have to be a genius to understand that if you fuel your body properly, it will in turn operate better for you on every level. I mean come on, let’s use our common sense – if we eat fast foods, processed foods and junk foods and drinks on a daily basis, nearly eliminating any foods rich in real vitamins and goodness, then naturally our bodies will feel and show the negative effects. It’s basic logic. But as smart as we all are, do we actually commit to properly fueling our bodies? For most of us, that answer is no and that’s because we give in to the convenience and cheap costs of the poor eating habits of our current society.

Do you know what mitochondria are? I remember the word from biology class years ago, but I couldn’t tell you what it is. I now know that mitochondria are basically the power centers of our cells. They are power houses, the power producers that manage the energy supply for our cells. I have learned that they are critical to our lives! Check this out…without mitochondria we would be no larger than bacteria!

I personally would prefer to have VERY healthy mitochondria! Our bodies need B vitamins, sulfur and antioxidants for our mitochondria to thrive. Now here’s where the hunter-gatherer thing comes into play. Think about our long gone ancestors and the ways they obtained their foods. They had to hunt their meats and fish and gather their veggies, roots and fruits. The fuel for their bodies was locally obtained and organic, not to mention their fuel was RICH in all the goods that our bodies need to thrive.

It’s not enough to just take vitamins. We also need to get our nutrients from food.  We need to develop a food plan to best fuel our brains and our mitochondria. By NOT properly fueling our bodies, we set the stage for chronic disease, smaller brains, you name it – the list of the negative effects go on and on. It seems like such a simple, logical thing yet most of us do not commit to it.

We all want to be healthier, we all want our children and family to be healthy, yet why is it that in most cases it takes being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease to get our attention? Well, I personally have decided that I’m not going to wait for any health scares to knock some sense into me. I’d rather fuel my body properly now and reap the benefits of a long, healthy life. Yes, it costs more to eat healthy, but would you rather pay the price now by taking the time and money to commit to eating food that restores your health and vitality or pay the price with doctor visits, prescription drugs and surgeries? As Dr. Terry Wahl’s says in this priceless video, we can continue to eat that delicious, convenient, processed food and watch ourselves and our children grow steadily overweight, depressed, diabetic and watch our healthcare costs soar out of control OR we can eat for our mitochondria and have more vitality! The healing powers of food are out of this world.

I urge you to make watching this video a priority. For your own sake, for your family’s sake, become a Modern Day Hunter-Gatherer and together let’s watch and feel our bodies thrive with vitality because we are fueling it properly!

Daily I will try to commit to having more….

Green Leaves , Sulfur Rich Veggies, Bright Color Fruits – and, at least once a week – Grass-fed Meats, and Wild Fish.

I may not always succeed, but I am making a conscious effort to be a Modern Day Hunter-Gatherer.  How will you fuel your body?