Saturday, December 6, 2008

Website of the Month - The Imagination Factory

A reader named Marylin sent this months Site-o-the month in, a site that she runs for kids that teaches them about recycling and art.  It's really cool and I highly suggest checking it out.  The idea for the site revolves around using found objects to create art.  Its got lots of tips on projects to make and has a cool section called the Trash Matcher where kids can find art projects that use things that they may have.  It's really cool.

The Imagination Factory, check it out!


What's In The Basement - December


  • 1 large ball of tape
  • 1 candy bar wrapper
  • 1 paper bag with sticker
  • parts from kitchen sink
  • 2 heavy plastic box holders
  • 1 package dog treats
  • 1 package veggie dogs
  • 1 advil packet
  • 1 emergen c packet
  • 1 piece tape
  • 1 emergen c packet
  • 1 movie popcorn bag
  • 3 plastic straws
  • 1 small bag of cookies
  • 2 dog chewed candles
  • 1 foil from top of wine bottle
  • 1 wrapper from chocolate coin
  • 1 dog chewed plastic bag
  • 3 shredded sink matts
  • 2 parking passes w/stickers
  • 1 plastic hanger from new socks
  • 1 frozen juice container
  • 1 plastic window from pasta box
  • 2 staples from gadget packaging
  • 2 tea lamp holders
  • 4 pieces used scotch tape
  • 1 candy bar wrapper
  • 1 cookie bag
  • 1 movie popcorn bag
  • 1 chips bag
  • 1 used razor
  • 1 sticker from fishmonger
  • 1 package of advil
  • 1 broken hangar
  • 1 foil packet from gum box
  • 1 bog of dog treats
  • 1 piece chewed gum in wrapper
  • 1 plastic cashews bag w/stickers
  • 1 large wad of paper towels w/glitter glue
  • 1 broken dog treat bowl
  • 1 bag cheese puffs
  • 1 staple from tea bag
  • 1 handful of plaster
  • 1 coffee cup
  • 1 coffee cup
  • 2 staples from catalog
  • 2 wick holders from candle

  • 13 ozs paper from mail/bills
  • 1 small plastic bag
  • 1 cardboard box potato pancakes
  • 1 plastic bag from potato pancakes
  • 1 video cassette wrapper
  • 1 plastic cottage cheese tub pp5
  • 1 cliff bar wrapper
  • 1 plastic ricotta cheese tub pp5
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • 1 plastic bag mozarella cheese
  • 1 plastic wrap from masking tape
  • 1 cardbaord backing from pill crusher
  • 1 plastic cover from pill crusher
  • 1 plastic ring from wall compound spread
  • 1 dvd plastic wrap
  • 1 plastic wrap from tea bag
  • 1 large cork
  • 1 box candies
  • 1 glass syrup bottle w/top
  • 1 plastic bag basamati rice
  • 1 torn plastic bag
  • 1 blintzes box
  • 1 cardboard saline box
  • 1 box dog poop bags
  • 1 veggie dogs wrapper
  • 1 cereal box
  • 1 plastic cereal bag
  • 1 can salmon
  • 1 cardboard cracker box
  • 2 plastic bags from crackers
  • 1 gum box
  • 1 plastic spaghetti bag
  • 1 plastic cup
  • 1 aluminum tuna can
  • 1 ring from milk jug
  • 1 plastic straw
  • 2 styrofoam plates
  • 1 bottle teriyaki sauce w/top
  • 1 glass cider bottle w/top
  • 18 ozs paper from bills, mail etc
  • 1 plastic pasta bag
  • 1 plastic butter spread tub w/top PP5
  • 1 tin can
  • 1 beer bottle w/top
  • 2 cardboard backing from videocassetes
  • 1 milk jug ring
  • 1 plastic tortilla bag
  • 1 cliff bar wrapper
  • 1 cardboard ice cream sandwich box
  • 1 plastic ice cream sandwich tray
  • 1 plastic bag from ice cream sandwiches
  • 1 glass grape juice bottle w/top
  • 1 plastic cupcake holder
  • 1 glass hard cider bottle
  • 1 plastic gadget bag
  • 1 cardbaord backing from gadget packaging
  • 1 plastic ring from butter spread tub
  • 1 cardbaord pasta box
  • 1 cardboard box potato pancakes
  • 1 piece aluminum foil
  • 1 styrofoam take out container
  • 13 ozs paper from mail, bills, receipts
  • 1 aluminum tuna can
  • 1 cardboard wrapper from new socks
  • 1 plastic ring from milk jug
  • 2 cardboard baking soda containers
  • 1 cardboard from new battery
  • 1 plastic front from new battery
  • 1 plastic wrap from toilet paper pack
  • 1 package butternut squash soup
  • 1 pasta bag
  • 2 plastic bags from sink matts
  • 1 margarita mix bottle
  • 1 cardbaord candle box
  • 2 plastic bags from toys
  • 1 cereal box
  • 1 bag from cereal box
  • 1 soda can
  • 1 plastic take out top
  • 1 cardboard bread box mix
  • 1 plastic bag from bread mix
  • 1 cardboard box frozen fish
  • 1 plastic bag from frozen fish
  • 2 aluminum tuna cans
  • 12 ozs paper from bills
  • 1 cardboard box from fish sticks
  • plastic pasta bag
  • 1 razor blade
  • 3 thin plastic bags from backdrops
  • 1 plastic ring from milk
  • 1 wine bottle
  • 1 cork from wine bottle
  • 9 volt battery
  • 1 electronic monitor from aline box
  • 3 9 volt batteries
  • 8 cans old paint


Pixar Misses the Point

I've always been a big fan of Pixar pictures and as I wrote this past summer, liked WallE for the reasons you might expect. An animated movie from one of the best studios going, about a trash machine that is cleaning up the planet after humans have trashed it due to unchecked wasteful practices. Sign me up.

So I was quite dismayed when I visited a friend down the street the other day and found what had come in their Los Angeles Times that day. A 10 oz, glossy printed, beautifully bound, 12" x 9 1/2" booklet on the movie. You see here in Los Angeles, Oscar fever is already starting and apparently the folks at Pixar wanted all of the voting members of the Academy to think of WallE. And what better way than to send them to all 815,723 subscribers (I'm guessing here but if the neighbors and several other non voting, non industry folks got them, I'm assuming a lot more did).

What an incredible waste. A waste of resources (paper, ink, time) and a waste of energy (to print them and then to deliver the extra weight). But it doesn't stop there.

WallE was all about how we as a planet need to shape up and start wasting less, start living a little cleaner, dare I say, more sustainably. So I opened it up hoping to find tips on how to waste less, conserve more, recycle, repurpose, you name it. Instead I found quotes from the top film critics on how great the movie was, and truly beautiful images from the film itself. The only thing remotely environmental was on the bottom left corner of the back cover of the entire thing.

Amazing. Amazing and sad all at the same time. Pixar, I give you an A plus for the message behind the movie, but a D (I'm being generous) on not recognizing that the message should apply to us all.



Holiday Tip #6 - Give An Experience

This holiday season, instead of going out and buying stuff, why not give a lesson or two.  Music lessons, art lessons, gardening lessons, pottery lessons, you name it.  If you surf your local craiglist, paper or even ask at the library, you can find knowledgeable folks who can teach just about anything.  Find out what your loved one has always wanted to do, and give them the gift of knowledge!  No packaging, no standing in line, and your pumping money back into your local economy.  Sure i want a turnip twadler, but compared to learning how to play the bagpipes (honey, are you reading this?) does it compare?  I think not.



Day 340 - Saturday 12/6/08

Today's Haul:

  • 1 paper napkin - worms
  • 1 paper flyer - worms
  • 1 tea bag - recycle
  • 1 staple from tea bag - garbage
  • 1 plastic wrap from tea bag - recycle


Friday, December 5, 2008

Day 339 - Friday 12/5/08

Today's Haul:

  • 1 dvd plastic wrap - recycle
  • 1 plastic ring from wall compound - recycle
  • 1 handful of plaster - garbage


Holiday Tip #5 - Gift Lotteries

I'm the first to say that the holidays shouldn't be defined by gift giving, but there is a reality that can't be avoided.  Many of us enjoy getting and receiving gifts this time of year, partly for nostalgic reasons and partly because it's fun to see what someone got you.  The big problem isn't really in the receiving a gift column, but moreso in the receiving 20 gifts column.  So how about changing things up a bit.

Get your family, friends, office workers together and put everyone's name in a hat.  Everyone pulls one name and that's the only person they need to get a gift for.  But here's the catch.  They can only get that person something used that they think that individual would actually want.  this adds to the fun as far as I'm concerned because it makes it  bit of a treasure hunt at the same time.  IF you know the person, you can really think about who they are and what their interests are, and if you don't, well, get to know them.  Starting this process around now will give you the time to research an idea and source a used gift - afterall, you can't just walk into Walmart and buy what you were looking for.

If you want to spice it up, add a no wrapping paper rule and tell everyone they need to figure out wrapping using something that is biodegradable or can be re-used.

And finally, for some added fun, make the gift a two parter.  We all have things that have been given to us that we never actually wanted in the first place, so how about in addition to the gift you get for them, adding something you have that you never wanted in the first place (no trash, just that old guy who blows bubbles out of his butt that Aunt Phyllis ave you last year).  One persons trash is another persons treasure and at the very least, you'll be clearing out some closet space.



Thursday, December 4, 2008

Holiday Tip #4 - Used Vegetable Oil Menorahs

Technically speaking oil menorahs are supposed to use pure olive oil, but it seems like in today's world, why not re-use something you've already got.  It works in cars, why not in your menorah?  Besides, the turkey smell the oil gives off will make the room smell real nice.


Day 338 - Thursday 12/4/08

Todays Haul:

  • 2 local papers - worms
  • 1 rubber band from local paper - repurpose
  • 1 string from local newspaper - worms
  • 1 plastic wrap from masking tape - recycle
  • 1 cardboard backing from pill crusher - recycle
  • 1 plastic cover from pill crusher - recycle
  • 3 9 volt batteries - e-waste
  • 2 sugar packets - worms
  • 1 coffee cup - garbage
  • 1 muffin wrap - worms
  • 1 napkin - worms


Too Much Packaging?

A reader named Craig sent this in a few weeks ago.  Seems like a little overkill for software that could probably be downloaded no?

Thanks for sharing Craig.


"I ordered my new years worth of Norton 360 from Office Depot online, and it just arrived! The software is in a box about the size of a small book, yet they shipped it to me in a box measuring 16x12x10 inches. I'm not kidding! I thought they must have made a mistake and sent me the wrong order, but when I opened it, there was the little box of software sitting inside the huge box! Thought you would enjoy the comedy of it all."


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Day 337 - Wednesday 12/3/08

Todays Haul:

  • 1 package dog treats - garbage
  • 1 package veggie dogs (w/stickers) - garbage
  • 3 thin plastic bags from backdrop rolls - recycle
  • 1 plastic ring from milk - recycle
  • 1 wine bottle - recycle
  • 1 wine bottle cork - recycle


Holiday Tip #3 - Save A Tree

A lot of people get Christmas trees this time of year and there is a fair amount of debate about fake, real, live, you name it. Your best bet on the enviro front is to plant one and use it year after year. If that's not an option, how about renting one? Don't believe you can? Check out this piece from Terrapass all about Christmas tree options including rental opportunites in the left coast.



Black Friday and the Ten Commandments

I wrote this up for Care2 and thought some of you may find it of interest.


I’ve been trying to write up the piece I had planned for today and I just can’t do it. It’s tough to talk about a little pink mouse when there is a huge white elephant standing in the room, stepping on your toe. That white elephant of course, is Black Friday.

What exactly is going on people? Are we really killing each other to save $10 on wii? Have things really gotten that out of hand?

For the few of you who may not know what I am talking about, here’s a little update. While the rest of the world spent Thanksgiving day waiting for word on Mumbai, wondering whether the Thai government will step down or not, and watching the latest in the Somali pirating sagas, many US citizens were getting their track shoes out, warming up their already maxed out credit cards, and, in at least one case, loading their weapons.

Why you ask? Because Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is what has come to be known as Black Friday here in the US, an eagerly anticipated event that stores build up to with a fevered pitch, where “stuff” is on sale. As a result, many stores will open at midnight to throngs of shoppers mad to get $10 off on their child’s favorite Christmas toy or a new blender for the holidays. And as a result, people often get hurt, and as in this years case, killed.

In Long Island, NY, a frenzied crowd outside a Walmart stampeded in as the entrance was opened “ripping the doors off their hinges”, injuring 4 people including a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy, and trampling and killing a 34-year-old employee. In an effort not to be outdone by the East coast, hours later, two fathers in a Toys R Us in California, shot and killed each other after a dispute between their wives. It remains unclear as to what started the dispute (it may have been gang related), but they were there for the sales, and I’m guessing their kids’ lives will never be the same.

All over the country, crowds surged, people shoved, mothers grabbed, fathers ran, children cried – all in all a really wonderful way to bring in the holiday season don’t you think? Ain’t the US of A great?

OK, if you read my articles, you are probably asking yourself, “where’s the wacky guy, we usually like to hear with the tips and ideas?” Well, I’m still here, I’m just a little upset right now. For starters, shame on the stores for allowing this to happen. Shame on them for lighting the fires of anticipation with their circulars and shame on them for allowing these mad dash events to occur. Remember the WHO concert in Cincinnati where all those people were crushed back in the 70s(http://www.enquirer.com/editions/1999/12/03/loc_concert_industry.html)? That changed things, shouldn’t this?

And shame on the shoppers. I recognize that people like a good deal but there is a point. When we forget about human decency and are able to trample a man rather than stopping and trying to help, we’ve gone too far. There has been talk about a mob mentality, and there is truth to that, but a mob is made up of individuals and each of those individuals has the ability, nay, the responsibility to step out of the mob, no matter how tough it may be. I think my favorite headline from yesterday was a CNN piece that read “Walmart Trampling Death Could Have Been Avoided.” Really? Ya think?

Anyway, enough with the sadness and condemnation. Here are a few things I’d like to see happen next year.

For starters, let’s take a stand and stamp out Black Friday. Adbusters (http://www.adbusters.org/campaigns/bnd)(a cool org by the way) has a great site devoted to Buy Nothing Day, their version of Black Friday. As protests go it doesn’t get any simpler than this – do nothing. Next year, instead of rushing to the stores, send the merchants a message and don’t show up at all. Can you imagine how disappointed everyone will be when no one is there to rip the doors off in anticipation of buying the first Hannah Montana Pees A Lot Doll (if that takes off I want my cut by the way).

Secondly, let’s all relax, take a deep breath, and take another look at the Ten Commandments, but with a capitalist twist. I mean no disrespect to anyone here, but this is a list that a large number of us know and it does have a few good pointers. To keep it simple, I’m going with the Wikipedia translation.

1. I am the Lord your God – Recognize that stuff isn’t going to make you happy, but faith in whatever it is you believe in, love, and understanding are what’s important. The iPhone can wait.

2. You Shall Have No Other Gods Before You – That wii may be cool, but making it the focal point of your life isn’t doing anyone any good. Get yourself out into nature for a few minutes. Play with your kids. Read a book.

3. You Shall Not Make Wrongful Use of the Name of Your God – As in “So help me god, I’ll kill you if you don’t let go of that Suzie Barfs A Lot Doll” - that’s just not neighborly.

4. Remember the Sabbath and Keep It Holy – A stretch on this one, but maybe we could all take a day or two off each week from consuming and do some good instead? Just a thought.

5. Honor Your Mother and Father – Ask yourself “Would my parents be proud of how I’m acting?”

6. You Shall Not Murder – Ya see, it doesn’t say, “unless something is 20% below cost,” it just says don’t do it. Simple.

7. You shall not commit adultery – Not touching that one (pun intended).

8. You Shall Not Steal – Let that little girl have the doll she’s holding. Sure you’re bigger and can take it before her mommy sees, but come on.

9. You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbor – Allright, this one doesn’t work so much, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on no?

10. You Shall Not Covet Anything That Belongs To Your Neighbor – Simply put, let the Joneses be the Joneses and let the Smiths be the Smiths. The things that you have that are important can’t be bought and can’t be sold. They are learned and passed along from one generation to the next. Take a look at who you are, and stop worrying about everyone else.

Bottom line is this – we all need to wake up and recognized that we are being played. Somehow we’ve bought into this notion that owning bigger and better stuff makes us bigger and better people. When in fact it makes us shallower and hollower. Last Friday proved that quite well. So here’s to next Back Friday when the stores are empty, the aisles deserted, and everyone is home with their families having made a decision about what is truly important, and acted upon it.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Numbers For November

I just finished tallying the numbers for December and things have grown but only slightly. According to my scale, I have added no new weight on the garbage front which holds at 32 pounds. Of course this isn't true as the scale is inaccurate at best (bit hopefully consistently so) and only goes by .5 pound increments. My hope then is that i created less than a half pound of trash last month!

On other fronts, paper held at 55 pounds (go worms!), bottles, boxes and misc recycling were slightly up, and the ewaste was as well.

All in all, not too bad.

I do have to confess though, the fact that I only need to do this one more time does make me happy. I love what i have learned from all of this, but, truth be told, the record keeping is a tad tedious. There, I said it, it's out.

Back to the basement.



Kevin and Bean Say Goodbye

As some of you may know I have been a guest on a local radio station here in LA at the beginning of every month since January.  To cap it off (yes they are not coming back for one last stop in January) they invited me in studio this AM for some fun.  Its a pretty funny interview and make sure to check out the farewell song at the end.



Day 336 - Tuesday 12/2/08

Today's Haul:

  • 1 large ball of tape - garbage
  • 1 q-tip - worms
  • 1 razor blade - garbage


Holiday Tip #2 Christmas Lights

"Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning." - George Carlin

Let's face it, living sustainably is one thing but giving up your christmas lights is something entirely different. Of course the best thing to do is simply not use christmas lights in the first place, but for many, it's just not the same without them. Luckily, LEDs have come a long way and are here to save the day. (You can read a neat explanation here).

Forever Bright, a really cool (pun intended) LED company now sells L.E.D. christmas lights everywhere from Costco to your local hardware store and they are great. They last for 200,000 hours, contain no glass (no broken bulbs anymore), use only 2-4 watts (compared with 43 or so for similar incandescent), and give off almost no heat (compared with the 94% of the energy in the old kind that were given off as heat - christmas morning fire anyone?).

So let's do a quick break down here. Assuming that you are one of those folks who needs to be able to see your house from the moon around this time of year (I kid, some of them are actually quite nice) and you use 20 - 100 bulb strings, let's look at some numbers.

  • Cost per string - Relatively the same if you shop around, less if you buy online.
  • The incandescents use 850 watts of power while the L.E.D.s use 60 watts of power.
  • If burning all bulbs for 6 hours a day the old ones will use 5.1 kWh/day and the L.E.D.s will use .36 kWh a day.
  • If you put your strings up right after turkey day and run them every night, that's 153 kWh a month for the old school bulbs and 10.8 kWh a month for the L.E.D.s.
  • Finally, using a base of .15 cents/kWh your same ole same ole bulbs are going to cost you $22 in electricity while the cool new ones are going to run you $1.62
Bottom line, they are cheaper, cooler (there's that pun again) and will actually pay for themselves in the long run. And if you don't think it'll make a difference, there are over 100 million homes in the U.S alone so the potential for energy savings is huge.

Thanks to Pablo  for his writeup.



Monday, December 1, 2008

Holiday Tip #1

So between now and Christmas, I'm going to try to come up with some simple tip that will help lighten your impact this holiday season. For anyone who regularly reads this blog, you'll know that i may not do that, but my heart is in the right place right? We'll see. Here goes.

Holiday Tip #1: The Yearly Letter

A lot of people (yours truly included) like to send out an overview at the end of the year to let friends and family know what they've been up to.  This year, why not make it an e note.  Send an email, or, if you have .mac or a similar system in place, make your own website and point people there.  You can post pictures, info, even audio and video, and you'll save some green (no printing/mailing fees) and save a few trees while you are at it.  As an added benefit, you'll make it easier on your recipients who, if they're anything like me, have a hard time throwing out all those family pics that come in the mail.  Deleting is so much easier isn't it?

This year, go E!



Can it really be December?

Wow.  Not sure what else I can say.  11 months down and 1 to go.  Its pretty wild to have actually come this far and look back at this whole thing.  Of course, as Yogi Berra said (or was it Yogi Bear) "it ain't over till it's over".  

Been crazy busy and i have a ton of back posts so hopefully i can get them all in in the last month here.  All sorts of stuff happening and the new website is starting to shape up.  The newsletters won't start until 1/1 so for those who have signed up, you haven't missed anything, so thanks for your patience!



Day 335 - Monday 12/1/08

Today's Haul:

  • 13 ozs papaer from mail/bills - recycle
  • 1 plastic pasta bag - recycle


Holiday Tips

Here's a list of waste-lite holiday tips.  I'll be adding to it daily until the end of the month or I run out of ideas (whichever comes first).  Feel free to add your own thoughts as well.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

T-Day and A Really Black Friday

Well,  Thanksgiving has come and gone, Black Friday/National Buy Nothing Day has come and gone, and sadly, I missed every opportunity I had to talk about any of it.  I had planned to write something up about Thanksgiving on the day, but got kind of caught up in friends, kids and stuff and figured I'd write up something the following day.  The next day, I woke up and found that our dog was in serious dire straights.  I'll spare you the details but suffice it to say it was a really ugly day spent making some impossible decisions and T-giving and Black Friday were the last things on my mind (although, as the title suggests, it was a darker day than I had expected).  Thankfully our beloved Biscuit is home snoring in the other room, but sadly, I think that we may have simply bought her some more time and are nearing her eventual demise shortly.

So moving on (or back), here are a few thoughts I was going to write up on.

- Thanksgiving was interesting and fun as we had about 8 people over, something we don't do much.  As a result, the purchasing and receiving of things becomes a bit difficult to keep under control (Oh my god, it's 4 PM and I have no cranberries!!!!!) and some sacrifices int he packaging department were made.  We also finished off a bit of booze, but what are ya gonna do?

-As some of you may have known, Black Friday, the day that all of the US is told they MUST shop, and many do, is also National Buy Nothing Day , a campaign set up by adbusters to stop the overconsumptiion that begins the day after Thanksgiving.  If you don't know about it, you should check it out.  I had planned to be a part of it and while technically I was, I ended up pumping a fair amount of cash into the local economy anyway through the local vet, so I'm not sure if that counts.

Are we kidding?  People are seriously being trampled to death and shot to death over wiii and hannah montana dolls and who knows what else?  Seriously?  This isn't food people, its stuff.  And stuff that is going to break, be lost, get tossed aside eventually when the next new things arrives.  This isn't food, or medication, or even the New Yorker (just seeing who's still reading), it's cheaply made, deftly marketed, insanely inflated stuff.  Have we really gotten to the point where our kids happiness so depends on us buying them products that we are immune to the sufferings of those around us?

Alright, moving on.  I'm just still in shock over this.  I think my favorite headline I read yesterday was on the CNN ticker.  It read "Black Friday Stampeding Death Could Have Been Avoided".  Really?  Ya Think?

All right, back to the basement with me.

On to Christmas.



Day 334 - Sunday 11/30/08

Today's Haul:

  • 2 dog bandages - garbage
  • 2 pieces gauze from dog bandages - garbage
  • 1 rubber glove - garbage
  • 1 plastic frozen naan bag - recycle


Week 48 Pics