Blog Archives

How to Recycle at the Workplace

Placing bins throughout the wokplace encourages regular recycling.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as much as 90 percent of work-related waste is paper, making it recyclable. Starting a workplace recycling program takes initiative, organization and education. Preparing and launching a program take time, but after the program is in place, your workplace can significantly reduce its waste output, lower its carbon footprint and even generate a small amount of income for your company.

Items you will need:

  1. Recycle bins
  2. List of approved recyclables
Step 1: Select an employee to serve as the recycling program’s coordinator. This person should be self-motivated and organized and have a passion for programs that support a healthy environment. The program coordinator takes the lead on educating employees about the new program and organizing the collection and hauling of recyclables. Workplace recycling initiatives function best when upper management supports the program and makes it a companywide effort.
Step 2: Tour the office and identify which waste items are recyclable. Make note of the materials that employees are throwing in the trashcans. You’ll likely find a wide variety of paper products, aluminum cans, glass and cardboard. Compare the list of items you’d like to recycle with a list of allowable recyclable items from your local waste management company. Ink cartridges and computers might not be recyclable through your waste management company, but you can easily research other businesses, such as office supply stores, that might offer ink and computer recycling services.

Step 3: Set out collection bins in strategic locations. According to the EPA, the average employee produces 2 lbs. of waste paper per day. Given this fact, you should place paper recycling bins at each employee’s desk as well as near the copier to encourage participation in the paper portion of your recycling program. In the lunchroom, place separate bins for paper, cardboard, aluminum and glass. Any durable bin can serve as a recycling bin. Label each bin clearly so employees do not accidentally mix materials.

Step 4: Distribute recycling guidelines to all employees. Try to keep things simple in order to encourage participation. Let employees know where bins are located and which items need to be cleaned prior to being placed in the bins. You can also post the guidelines above each bin for easy reference.

Step 5:Determine dates each month to haul your recyclables or to have them picked up. The program coordinator should choose employees who can help load and haul recycling to the local waste management recycling center. Take advantage of any cash-for-recyclables offers. Large companies can contract with independent hauling services to have their recycling picked up.


  • Encourage participation in your recycling program by letting employees know how much waste is being recycled monthly. People like to see the impact of their efforts.
  • Redistribute the recycling guidelines quarterly to keep them fresh in everyone’s mind. Email the guidelines to reduce paper waste.
  • Communicate clearly with your company’s janitorial staff about the recycling program’s efforts. This helps to ensure that items in recycling bins are not being collected with regular office trash as the janitorial staff cleans.

Article excerpted from


Ways to Go Greener at Home (Besides Just Recycling)

  1. Plant an herb garden.  It’s good to have a reminder around of where our food originates.
  2. Switch all your lightbulbs to CFLs (or at least switch a few).
  3. Create a homemade compost bin for $15.
  4. Switch one appliance to an energy efficient model (look for the “energy star” label).

    Photo from Flip & Tumble

  5. Stop using disposable bags – order some reusable bags, or make your own.  My favorites are Envirosax and Flip & Tumble.
  6. Buy an inexpensive reusable water bottle, and stop buying plastic disposable bottles.  Then watch The Story of Bottled Water, a short movie about the bottled water phenomena.
  7. Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot.
  8. Turn off lights when you leave the room.
  9. Don’t turn on lights at all for as long as you can — open your curtains and enjoy natural light.
  10. Drive the speed limit, and combine all your errands for the week in one trip.

    Photo by Kamyar Adi

  11. Better yet, walk or ride a bike to your errands that are two miles or closer.
  12. Support your local economy and shop at your farmer’s market.
  13. Turn off your computer completely at night.
  14. Research whether you can sign up for green power from your utility company.
  15. Pay as many bills as possible online.
  16. Put a stop to unsolicited mail — sign up to opt out of pre-screened credit card offers.  While you’re at it, go ahead and make sure you’re on the “do not call” list, just to make your life more peaceful.

  17. Reuse scrap paper.  Print on two sides, or let your kids color on the back side of used paper.
  18. Conduct a quick energy audit of your home.
  19. Subscribe to good eco-friendly blogs.  My favorites are The Daily Green, TreeHugger, and Keeper of the Home.  Of course, you gotta subscribe to Simple Organic.
  20. Before buying anything new, first check your local Craigslist or Freecycle.
  21. Support local restaurants that use food derived less than 100 miles away, and learn more about the benefits of eating locally.
  22. Fix leaky faucets.
  23. Make your own household cleaners.  I’ve got quite a few recipes in my e-book.

    Photo by Kasia

  24. Line dry your laundry.
  25. Watch The Story of Stuff with your kids, and talk about the impact your household trash has on our landfills.
  26. Learn with your kids about another country or culture, expanding your knowledge to other sides of the world.
  27. Lower the temperature on your hot water heater.
  28. Unplug unused chargers and appliances.
  29. Repurpose something – turn one of your well-worn t-shirts into basic play pants for your baby.  Or save egg cartons for paint wells, seed starters, treasure boxes, or a myriad of other crafts.
  30. Collect rainwater, and use it to water your houseplants and garden.

    Photo by Lori Ann

  31. Switch to cloth diapers– or at least do a combination with disposables.
  32. Switch to shade-grown coffee with the “Fair Trade” label.
  33. Use a Diva Cup for your monthly cycles.
  34. Use cloth instead of paper to clean your kitchen. Be frugal, and make these rags out of old towels and t-shirts.
  35. Use cloth napkins daily instead of paper.
  36. Read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and open your eyes to the way conventional food is processed. Watch Food, Inc. while you’re at it.

    Photo by Katherine Raz

  37. Repurpose glass jars as leftover containers and bulk storage, especially in the kitchen.
  38. Five-minute showers – make it a goal for yourself.
  39. Donate to – and shop at – thrift stores such as Goodwill.  You’ll be recycling perfectly usable items, and you’ll be supporting your local economy.

Article excerpted from

Which of these do you already do?  Which ones are you going to focus on this next year?  And what can you add to the list?

What does it mean to be a Green Designer?

To be a green designer means to think about our environment and to practice sustainable design. This includes using non-toxic recyclable materials and saving on energy and resources where we can. The ultimate aim of practicing sustainable design, is to reduce waste, use as little resources as possible, and the resources that are used, should be unharmful to our environment and re-usable.

Why should I go green?

As a graphic designer, your job is to produce creative ideas to promote your client’s message effectively. By promoting a greener image, you are adding value to your relationship with the client. Consider that consumers have never decided against a product because it is green, but they have and will decide not to buy it if it isn’t. In fact, 82% of consumers are focused on buying green products and services. Customers are becoming more drawn to going paperless, recycled products, bio-degradable products and low emission products.

Companies that are supporting the eco-friendly movement are also seeing increasing numbers in their sales. Many companies are opting for the ‘greener’ option not only because they are contributing to a better, healthier Earth, but because it saves on costs:

  • Less print costs
  • Less shipping costs
  • Less energy costs

How can I practice green design?

By creating a greener image, we are creating awareness of our environment. By creating a greener product, we are taking the step of saving it.

The first step is to become aware as the designer. You’ve heard about the three R’s and why we should be doing it, everyone has; but has it become something you think about daily?

Start with your own surroundings:

  • Are you using energy efficient light bulbs?
  • Are you turning off your pc/appliances when you’re finished?
  • Are you using more paper than needed?
  • Are you printing more than necessary?
  • Can you reduce your own waste materials?
  • Do you have recycling methods in place?

The next step is to think about how your work is impacting the environment. Did you know that for every ton of paper that is recycled, the following is saved: 7,000 gallons of water; 380 gallons of oil; and enough electricity to power an average house for six months.

When you receive a project, the importance of how it may effect our environment should be something considered in every step of the planning.

Factors to consider include:

  • Are the materials you’re using recyclable?
  • Are the materials coming from somewhere nearby?
  • Are the materials non-toxic?
  • Can you use less materials?
  • Can scrap materials be used?
  • What will happen when the user no longer needs this piece?
  • If printing, are the inks vegetable-based or soy-based

There are so many helpful resources out there supporting graphic designers to make the commitment. If you’d like to make a pledge please visit :

Re-nourish is my favorite site of all. It includes fantastic tools to help, including a project calculator, paper finder and green printer finder. It also includes standards on design sustainability and includes the best case studies on companies that have gone green. Another inspiring and helpful resource is the ‘big book of green design’, which shows numerous examples of projects and explains why they are green.

Don’t be frightened to think of green design as being limited… it’s just another opportunity to think outside the box and get creative!

Article excerpted from


Eco Chic

Left to right: Eco-chic designs from Helen Lee, Niki Qin and Camilla Wellton. Gao Erqiang / China Daily

China and Sweden come together for a new approach to sustainable style, Mary Katherine Smith finds out in Shanghai.

Trying to be fashion-forward while at the same time eco-friendly doesn’t mean wearing a burlap sack and 10-year-old T-shirts, at least not for the designers behind the Swedish Institute’s “Eco Chic – Towards Sino-Swedish Sustainable Swedish Fashion” exhibition, currently in Shanghai. Whether it is shoes that are made by hand and use naturally tanned leather, a coat made from recycled polyester or wool products that are locally and organically sourced, each of the Swedish designers featured in the exhibition demonstrate how even fashionistas can be green. The 20 Swedish outfits shown at the exhibition not only push the envelope in their designs and concepts but also show how those in fashion can be more environmentally and ecologically friendly in the way they make their products.

Kajsa Guterstam, the project manager from the Swedish Institute for the exhibition, says the theme is meant to inspire people to be more sustainable one step at a time.

“No one can guarantee to be entirely eco-friendly. It’s really difficult and they might end up not doing it,” she says.

That gives designers the encouragement to make small or significant changes to their production. “It’s a humble way and the only way to move toward a more sustainable way of living.”

While eco-friendly fashions may not be on the radar for most in the industry, Guterstam says it’s an important market. Environmental issues are something we all have to deal with, she says, “so we ask ourselves: ‘How can I contribute to make my living more sustainable?’ Clothes are something that applies to everyone”.

The Swedish labels included in the exhibition were picked based on how ecological the products are, whether they use organic or locally sourced materials, methods of production and whether they reduce the supply chain. Many are leading designers in the Scandinavian country; some have collaborated on special lines for international chains like H&M.

For a few of the featured artists, it is more than just making a fashion statement. “The way you dress yourself expresses how you feel,” says Camilla Wellton, whose fashions are featured in the exhibition. “In turn it shows how (you) treat the environment.”

“Beauty is not about being outwardly beautiful,” says Emy Blixt, founder and creative designer of Swedish Hasbeens, which sells handmade and eco-friendly clogs, shoes and other accessories. “Making goods that don’t harm the environment is also beautiful” she adds.

The exhibition, started in 2008, has already traveled to eight other cities around the world, but its stop in Shanghai is unique. Along with the 14 Swedish designers that make up the exhibition, seven established Chinese designers and two Chinese students from Raffles Design Institute of Donghua University are included in the show.

The Shanghai installment of the exhibition offers a mix of more practical and ready-to-wear items that are iconic, while the Chinese designs showcase how clothes can be fashionable and organic.

While finding organic materials is difficult in China, designers like Shanghai-native Helen Lee are making it their mission. She’s made changes in how and where she sources some of the products and reuses leftover material for other garments or accessories.

She says one way to start is by educating her customers about the value of sustainability. Like Blixt from Swedish Hasbeens, Lee thinks that fashion and beauty go beyond the surface level. “Fashion is about beauty,” she says, “and more importantly, inner beauty.”

Article excerpted from


Everyday Green in 4 Simple Steps By Terra Wellington

Many super-busy parents cringe in fear when they see the words “go green,” thinking they don’t have the time or the money to do it, especially in this economy. But the reality is, there are simple ways for families to begin to ease into green living. It is possible to find a way to make healthy choices and protect the planet within the resources we have at our disposal.

So, what are the next steps? There are many things that most of us already do each day that can be slightly altered to inspire you to create eco-habits, instead of eco-obligations. Here are some ideas:

Veg Out 
Try eating less meat — especially red meat. Cows require a lot of feed or grass to survive, they pollute water with their waste, and produce a large amount of greenhouse gases. For you and your family, eating a lot of meat can be strenuous on your digestive system and disagreeable for your overall health. Since you have to shop for food and make meals anyway, why not change it up and eat vegetarian a few times a week. Again, it’s about habits.

Simply Recycle 
Each piece of your trash has a final destination. You have landfill trash, recyclables, compostables, green waste, and donations. Create an easy way for everyone at home to sort their trash into one of these five areas – all on the fly. Make the process painless by having a simple system in place: regular trash bins, recycling receptacles, a bowl for compost items next to the kitchen sink, the green waste bin outside, and a box for donations in the garage.

Slow the Flow 
While it’s great to encourage family members not to waste water, a nearly effortless way to improve on those results and also help your bottom line is to install low-flow fixtures and low-flow toilets. You can easily exchange your showerhead for a water-saving variety that saves a gallon of water a minute. A faucet aerator for the kitchen or bathroom is a cheap replacement and can immediately cut water consumption in half.

Those Shoes are Made for Walking
Are you used to jumping in the car just to pick up milk from the corner store? Before you grab the keys, consider walking instead – to run errands, to get exercise, to go to the park for recreation. Have your children go with you. And as your children get older, they can take on these errands themselves. Walking is free, saves energy, produces no emissions (unless you count the production of the clothes and shoes you wear), and keeps you healthy. Viva la green!

Terra Wellington is the author of The Mom’s Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home. She encourages her kids to walk or ride their bikes to school whenever possible, and she gets her cardio outside for free on most days instead of driving to the gym.

Article excerpted from

We don’t need to spend a lot to support Go Green action. By following all the 4 simple steps above, this will definitely make a big changes. Let’s start practicing and become a good habit.








20 Interesting Facts About Plastics

If you read environmental web sites regularly, then you’re aware about the damage that the plastics make to the planet. However, we chose 20 Facts About Plastics that will make you think about it once again and make you sure that you’ve done the right thing when you decided to go green. If not, then you have to know these facts, because the environment needs it.

1. Plastic needs about 450 just to start decomposing. Then, it takes another 50-80 years to decompose completely.

2. That means that every single produced piece of plastic has not decomposed yet.

3. The average American consumed 1.6 gallons of bottled water in 1976. In 2006, that number jumped to 28.3 gallons. Fortunately, the total weight of the bottles was reduced during that period.

4. Even 40% of the total house plastic waste of average American family is due to the use of plastic bottles.

5. Another interesting fact about plastics and your money: 90% of the price you pay for the bottled water goes to the plastic bottle, while the water cost you only 10% of the money you give.

6. The average American buys 167 bottles of water per year, avoiding using any alternatives.

7. 24 million gallons of oil are needed for producing of billion plastic bottles.

8. Only 25 recycled bottles are enough to make one adult’s fleece jacket.

9. Europeans are not that interested in recycling. They currently recycle only 2.5% of the plastic bottles they use.

10. Sad but true, the worldwide fishing industry throws huge amounts of plastic garbage in the oceans. Amazing 150,000 tons go into the water every year, including packaging, plastic nets, lines and buoys.

11. This thrash causes death of many animals in the seas, which mistake the garbage for food. Estimations say that the number of killed animals is over one million.

12. Over 13 billion of plastic bags are produced every year, which are about 300 per adult. A number of 300 bags for 365 days are just too much!

13. In recent years the plastic recycling business in the United States is nearly tripled. There are more than 1600 businesses involved in recycling plastics.

14. However, the recycling rate remains steady at 27% (in United States), as the production of the plastics grows.

15. Recycling a single plastic bottle can conserve enough energy to light a 60W bulb for up to 6 hours.

16. Recycling plastics can save up to 2/3 of the needed energy for producing plastic from raw materials.

17. Four out of five bags in the United States are plastic.

18. Surveys show that more than 90 percent of consumers reuse their plastic bags at least once for things like wastebasket lines or lunch totes.

19. Bottling and shipping water is the least energy efficient method ever used to supply water. Unfortunately, it remains the most popular one.

20. There are many countries which have banned or restricted the use of plastic bags. Australia, China, Austria, Bangladesh, Ireland and several European Union countries are among them.

Article excerpted from

Old plastic bags recycled in Cambodia

With its dirt floors and rough backyard it’s hard to imagine this being the birthplace of anything artistic or creative.

But in this humble shack in the south Cambodian town of Kampot, beautiful handicrafts are being carefully created.

Brightly coloured bowls, bags, belts and other products are made here and shipped halfway round the world to the United States.

The products are made by Reloop Designs and are the brainchild of Ruth Yoffe.

An eco-tour group asked her to travel to Kampot in the south of Cambodia and volunteer her expertise to create products from used plastic bags in 2007.

Ruth invested a huge amount of her own time and money trying to make a difference in the small province.

Kampot is a sleepy riverside town and feels a world away from the dusty hustle and bustle of the country’s capital Phnom Penh.

And while the area is home to beautiful sunsets, picturesque rural villages and friendly locals, plastic bags drift everywhere – at the football park, in the river, in trees and on the roadsides.

Ruth’s goal in creating Reloop was to build a company that not only helped clean up Kampot but also helped its inhabitants.

She set about teaching artisan skills to poor and disabled members of the community.

Ruth’s company employs locals to collect bags from around the town.

The bags are rigorously cleaned, dried and then cut into strips and made into yarn ready to be used to crochet bags, belts and bowls.

The process seems simple enough but setting up the enterprise was far from easy.

Coming to grips with the intricacies of customs and shipping from Cambodia to the US was also a steep learning curve.

In spite of frustrations and setbacks Ruth says she has a winning formula.

“I believe this project has great potential not only in Kampot but other parts of Cambodia and South East Asia.

“The efforts and appreciation of everyone I work with in Cambodia are rewarding in themselves,” she says.

One-third of Cambodians live below the poverty line with the average daily wage being about NZ$3 a day.

The artisans are paid a retainer and then an amount for each piece they produce, earning them a fair wage.

Leb Sim has been working for the company as project manager for eight months. He loves his job because he gets to make a difference in the town he loves.

“In Cambodia many people do not care about the environment so I want to be one of the model people to help clean up the environment in Kampot as well as in the whole of Cambodia.”

Ruth’s next goal is to find an organisation that has the business development expertise to take the Reloop model and help it grow.

“My experience in Kampot has been touched by the individuals I have met,” she says. “I am always impressed by their tenacity, their joy of life and determination to help themselves.”

Ben Watson travelled to Cambodia with the help of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

– North Shore Times

Article excerpted from

%d bloggers like this: