Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Items collected during July 2009

I'm still avoiding bringing home other people's recyclables, out of concern I'll bring home H1N1 flu. Instead, I've spent quite a bit of time picking up non-recyclable trash, which seems preferable at this time because the bags of trash can be tossed straight into a trash can without having to enter my home. (Recyclables almost always need rinsing.) I didn't even attempt to keep a list of the trash I picked up during the month of July. I did note, however, that it included an unusual quantity of foam packaging, much of it broken into pieces.

When I picked up recyclable bottles and cans that didn't have visible contaminants, I sometimes threw them into a recycling bin at work without bringing them home for logging, so I can't provide a complete list of recyclables collected. However, the following list should be fairly complete.

  • 12 aluminum cans (1 Natural Light beer, 2 Diet Pepsi, 2 Heineken, 1 Miller Lite, 1 roadkilled Coors Light, 1 round Coors Light, 2 Miller High Life, 2 roadkilled Diet Coke)
  • 20 plastic water bottles (7 Deer Park, 2 Aquafina, 6 Kirkland, 1 water bottle without a label, 1 VASA, 2 Poland Spring, 1 Dasani)
  • 1 torn plastic bag

  • 2 black pens
  • 5 plastic carrier bags
  • 1 small plastic bag
  • 1 very long, very narrow plastic bag

One odd thing about the July tally is that it doesn't include any glass bottles. It's possible I picked some up and threw them in a recycling bin at work without logging them, but it's still odd that there would be such a discrepancy between the number of glass bottles and the number of aluminum cans. I can't explain it.

I have largely given up on picking up plastic bottles, because I find the environmental benefits of recycling plastic less clear than the benefits of recycling aluminum or glass. However, one day I felt compelled to pick up numerous plastic bottles. I was participating in a group walk for a cause I believe in, and was dismayed to find my fellow participants tossing their used water bottles onto the ground. I always find it disconcerting when people who are activists for one of the causes I believe in turn out not to care about one of my other causes, in this case the environment. I wanted to say something, but settled for whipping out a bag and filling it with discarded bottles. I wish I could also have collected the hundreds of bottles that were "properly" disposed of in overflowing trash cans, but I lacked the time and bag space to do anything about those. I'm already thinking ahead to the next walk, and am wondering how to raise the issue of plastic pollution with the organizers and participants. Any suggestions?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Buying Recycled-Content Products for Others

I've pretty much run out of ways to green my own life. I avoid packaging as much as practical, buy local foods at a farmer's market, buy paper products only when they are made of post-consumer recycled fiber, buy clothes only from yard sales, do not use a clothes drier, do not own a car, and never, ever travel by plane. There are several things I'm not yet doing, e.g., powering my home with solar energy and composting food scraps, but these are unfortunately not practical where I live at the moment.

Having reached a plateau in my efforts to green my own life, I've turned my attention to other people's lives. I don't mean that I harass people who drive hummers, or lecture friends whose toilet paper is made by Kimberly-Clark. That isn't my way. Instead, what I've been doing is helping people who want to live a green lifestyle but are constrained by their finances. In particular, I make bulk purchases of toilet paper, facial tissues, and office paper made of post-consumer recycled fiber, and give a portion of each purchase to eco-minded people of limited means who would otherwise be stuck buying whatever brand was cheapest.

This has proven very popular with environmentalists whose earnings are at the minimum wage level or below. They are happy to be able to live in accordance with their green values without going broke, and I'm happy to have a way of helping both my neighbors and the planet at the same time. So far, I'm giving supplies to only a handful of people, but I'm willing to give to more people if requested. I like knowing my money is doing some good for the environment, which is something I've lacked confidence in when donating to environmental groups.

I'm thinking about expanding the range of eco-friendly products I offer to people in need. One thing I'm uncertain about is what type of product brings the most benefit per dollar. I would welcome feedback from my readers. If you could spend $50 on eco-friendly products for low-income people, what would you buy? Organic produce? Rechargeable batteries and a battery charger? Other ideas? Keep in mind that these are low-income people, therefore renters, so they (like me) are unable to install solar water heaters or make other changes to their homes.

Driven crazy by blog software

I've been having a number of problems with blogging lately:

  • Blogger/Blogspot no longer shows me formatting buttons when I create blog entries. If I want to use bold text, bulleted lists, or any other formatting, I have to enter the HTML code myself. Another thing I can't do is preview my entries before posting them, which I used to be able to do.

  • I cannot find a way to make the URL for a blog entry anything other than the full title of the entry. For example, the blog entry titled "Hassle-Free Junk Mail Reduction" has the long URL "". I would like to be able to create shorter URLs, e.g., "". Is there any way to do this?

  • I am unable to leave comments on one of my favorite blogs, Awake Anew. The "Comment as:" drop-down menu doesn't display any items, and without an identity (not even "Anonymous") I can't leave a comment. I had the same problem at Fake Plastic Fish, another favorite green blog, but was able to get around it there by clicking on Preview, which seemingly made Blogger wake up and realize that I had to be allowed to enter an identity. This technique isn't working at Awake Anew. Danielle, if you're reading this, please know that I'm reading your blog, I just can't comment on it.

  • When I try to view pages at Fake Plastic Fish, my browser often displays the banner at the top and the advertisements at the side but doesn't show the actual text of the blog entry for ages. I've sometimes had to give up and shut down the computer because half an hour has passed, I've finished everything else I needed to do on the computer, and there's still no text visible. I've tried to get around this by using Yahoo's and Google's translation programs, hoping they would translate just the text and ignore the graphics, but, again, just saw lots of graphics and had to wait and wait for the text. Is there any web site out there where I can enter the URL of the page I would like to read and be shown only the text?

Please, no suggestions that I upgrade my computer. The last thing the planet needs is for me to buy more electronics. And, ironically, my computer works 100% perfectly for everything except blogging about environmental matters. I can access every other web page I want to read, including several blogs, just not the ones about the environment.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hassle-Free Junk Mail Reduction

I receive much less junk mail than most people I know, probably because I'm diligent about contacting companies that send me unwanted mail and telling them to desist. However, it's a chore I dread, and lately I just haven't wanted to deal with phoning junk mailers.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to think of a way to help a man I know who is unemployed and has little to occupy his time. I wanted to get him a part-time job where I work, but the only vacancy involves contact with the public, and this man is completely unsuited to dealing with the public due to his disordered thinking and occasional delusional statements. We simply can't afford to have our office represented by someone who may blurt out inappropriate statements.

Although this man is unsuitable for making calls to companies his employer wants to do business with, it occurred to me that he would be perfectly capable of placing calls to companies an employer doesn't want anything to do with. After all, if he makes a bad impression, there's no harm done. So, I asked him if he would be interested in working for me occasionally, placing calls to companies that send me junk mail and asking them to stop. He readily agreed. I'm delighted with the outcome. It's great not having to phone the companies that send me unwanted catalogs or solicitations, and, as a bonus, I'm giving a little work to a man who would otherwise have none.

It would be interesting to calculate the environmental damage caused by junk mail. There are so many factors to consider, including the paper, the plastic windows in some envelopes, and the fuel used delivering the mail to its recipient then taking it away to a landfill or recycling center. Anyway, I'm just happy I'll now be getting a little less junk mail.