The Economic Benefit of Recycling

 

By: Mary Pat Baldauf 

RecycleMoreSC is a statewide campaign that promotes the economic and environmental benefits of recycling. It’s also a call to action challenging residents, businesses, organizations and local governments to do their part to recycle more. The campaign’s goal is to reach a 40 percent recycling rate by the year 2020.

Recycling is a good practice not only for the environment but also for the present and future economic climate of the state. A study released by the College of Charleston shows that recycling has a $13 million impact on the state’s economy. In addition, more than 50,000 direct and indirect jobs are associated with the recycling industry.

To reach the “40 by 2020” goal, it will take South Carolinians (like me and you) to recycle and to recycle correctly. The process has changed a lot, especially since curbside recycling began some 28 years ago. Even if you’ve been recycling forever, there are some things you need to know. Take a moment to review these three important links before you recycle again.

If you’re rushed for time, perhaps the most important link to review is Recycling’s Dirty Dozen.

Thanks for doing your part to help South Carolina’s economy and the environment through recycling.

Do you recycle? Why or why not? Does RecycleMoreSC motivate you to recycle and/or recycle more?  

Solmates: The Socks That Helped Save My Life

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

I was recently on a trip to Golden, Colorado and slipped away to see the charming downtown. After a day in renewable energy meetings, I needed a break and something different for dinner. I also wanted to get a surcie for my sister, who would face a crazy few days without me at the house to care for the menagerie and keep things in order.

As I walked into one store, I saw a rack of brightly colored mismatched socks and gasped in joy. The sales woman looked at me a little funny.

These are the fab socks I bought for myself in Golden.

“These socks helped save my life,” I said. “They’ll be the perfect gift for my sister, who is bravely caring for four crazy animals while I’m here in Golden.”

Flash back to a little over two years ago – March 18, 2015 – when I suffered my ruptured aneurysm. Sometime between midnight and 5 a.m., I either fell out of bed or tried to get up, but unbeknownst to me, passed out on the floor.

At 5 in the morning, my alarm went off. And off. And off. Sister eventually got up and came into my room, quite annoyed that I’d left for the gym without turning off my alarm clock. She huffed in, turned off the alarm and was probably cursing at me under her breath when an array of bright colors caught her eye. Because those colors were on my feet in the form of my crazy bright Solmate Socks, it called her attention to me, lying unconscious in the floor. Otherwise, Sister might’ve missed me and perhaps only found me when she went to work, which at that time was mid-afternoon. I may not have made it. (I tell you, those socks helped save my life!)

Coincidentally, it was Sister who started my affection for Solmate Socks. She put a pair in my stocking one Christmas, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Purposely mismatched Solmate Socks are whimsical, comfortable and downright cheerful. They’re so comfortable and great to sleep in, which is mostly when I wear mine.

Solmate Socks was started in the year 2000 by Marianne Wakerlin with the simple idea that “Life’s too short for matching socks.” As a lifelong textile artist with a wonderful eye for design and keen instinct for business, she knew there was a market for beautifully crafted, mismatched socks made right here in America.

The company quickly grew out of a small room in her house to three different offices in the US and the UK. Solmate Socks’ product line also expanded to include hats, gloves, and scarves in addition to mismatched, colorful socks.

After 15 years of hard work and success with the company, Marianne decided to put down the proverbial knitting needles and retire. But as it worked out, she kept the business in the family. As of January 2015, Marianne’s son, Randy, and her daughter-in-law, Lisa, are the new owners.

Continuously demonstrating a commitment to protecting the environment, protecting the health and safety of employees, and nurturing relationships with local businesses and communities, Randy and Lisa are firmly committed to keeping Solmate Socks an eco-friendly, American-made company with a focus on developing fresh designs and products and an emphasis on supporting local businesses.

Eco-friendly? Yep! All Solmate products are knit from the ingenious repurposing of recycled cotton yarn. (It was the recycled part that initially motivated Sister to buy my first pair for me.) Solmate collects remnants from t-shirt factories that would normally go into a landfill, grinds them down to basic material and re-spins that material into their own yarn. These recycled yarns are free from harmful substances, made with respect for the environment and respect for human rights. Using recycled yarns means that Solmate Socks decreases the amount of cotton waste sent to landfills. Their yarns also reduce the amount of water, land, pesticides and herbicides used to grow new cotton fibers as well as eliminates the need for harmful chemicals to dye virgin cotton yarn.

While I can’t guarantee that a pair of Solmate Socks will save your life, I can promise you that you’ll love these fun, funky socks. We’ve seen them in very few stores, but they are available online and on Amazon. Check them out today. They make great gifts, but you should also treat yourself to a pair.

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.

3 Easy Steps for Sustainable Holiday Gifts

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time to start shopping for holiday gifts. A shopper at heart, I love buying gifts for the special people in my life. As a “green girl,” I shop with sustainability in mind and wanted to share some tips so you, too, can be a more sustainable holiday shopper.

Think local. The Midlands area has really become a mecca for unique, locally produced items. One of the best locations for finding them all in one place is Soda City, Columbia’s Main Street market open every Saturday morning 9AM – 1PM, year-round, rain or shine. Recycled ornamentLocally produced products support the local economy, and they’re created here – not shipped in from across the country or even across the world. The footprint of your gift will be smaller and result in a cleaner environment.

Consider consumables. Having issues with clutter myself, I refuse to create more for the holidays, for me or for others. My standard gift is usually a recycled-content ornament, but this year I’m only buying gifts that can be used or eaten. The Cotton Mill Exchange at the SC State Museum has a great selection of Palmetto State gifts, including gourmet foods produced within our borders. Or select a gift card to a local restaurant, bakery or micro-brewery. Personally, I’ll be asking Santa for a gift certificate to Spotted Salamander, a downtown Columbia café featuring inventive Southern cuisine with fresh, high quality local ingredients.

Another favorite consideration? Think experiential. In the Midlands, it’s easy to find something for everyone on your list to enjoy, like tickets to a play or attraction you know they like. A donation in the name of your recipient will go a long way, too. At the top of my list is a membership to The Nickelodeon, Columbia’s art house theatre on Main Street.

Where is your favorite place to buy sustainable holiday gifts? And what is it you recommend there? What’s on your list for Sustainable Santa?

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.

lmp2

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.”