Wolf Trap Foundation Inspires Green Living through Theatre

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The “3 Rs” of Readin’, ’Ritin’, and ’Rithmetic have been replaced by the “4 Rs”: Reuse, Repair, Recycle, and Reduce.

For the past two years, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, based in Washington, D.C., has been teaching children these lessons through its musical puppet show, Junkyard Pirates.

“We thought, what can 3, 4, 5 year-olds understand?” says Mimi Flaherty Willis, Senior Director of Education at Wolf Trap Foundation. The organization commissioned some of their artists to create a show for children to teach the importance of recycling. All puppets are made out of recycled materials and pirates are the “good guys.” Their leader, Captain Spare Tire, is up against his nemesis, Land Fill….

“The arts are very powerful for children and adults,” says Flaherty Willis, speaking about why it’s so beneficial to teach lessons through musical performances. “As children, important messages are taught through games and songs — like the alphabet. We did the same thing to teach recycling.” …

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An April Breeze and a Soothing Candle

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I had already mistaken this abnormally hot April day for summer. After lighting a Linnea’s Lights candle, I could swear it is mid-July.

The Linden candle smells crisp and fresh, complementing the breeze coming from my open window on this beautiful night. It adds a light, unobtrusive scent to my bedroom. Plus, it’s handmade of natural soy wax with two lead-free, cotton wicks, and packaged in recycled materials.

Soy candles are clean burning, meaning they don’t produce black soot like traditional paraffin candles — something both my landlord and I can agree on. Paraffin is made from petroleum; burning a paraffin (wax) candle releases eleven known toxins into the air that contribute to global warming. An added cost-saving benefit is that soy burns longer than paraffin wax. My Linnea’s Light’s candle boasts “60 hours of illumination.”

The soy wax used in Linnea’s Lights candles is completely natural and free of any genetically modified materials, herbicides, or pesticides. It’s also biodegradable. The lower melting point of soy is what allows it to burn longer than conventional candles. Conventional candles also leave a pool of wax at the bottom of the container, whereas soy candles burn completely. Plus, soybeans are grown in the United States, supporting our local farmers….

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Light the Way for Clean Water – But Hurry!

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One of every seven people in developing countries around the world does not have access to clean water.* It’s a shocking statistic for those of us who take daily showers and use flush toilets with no thought at all. Women and girls, in particular, may walk miles to carry water back to their families. Try moving up on the economic scale when so much of your time is consumed with providing the basic necessities to your family. Not likely.

But organizations around the world are doing ambitious projects to change that. Global Greengrants Fund oversees many of these projects, with serious funding support from Aveda — a company best known for creating organic hair and beauty care products that are sourced from around the world. For the past three years in April, Aveda has been raising funds for Global Greengrants water-related projects by selling their Light the Way candles.

In addition to Global Greengrants, Aveda is supporting 21 regional partners through their Earth Month activities. According to the Aveda website, the projects this year include: “training 3,500 people in sustainable and organic agriculture methods [which keeps pesticides and herbicides out of waterways]; helping 20 communities implement local water resource management plans; enabling 100 communities to take action against toxic industrial pollution and hundreds of other projects that have helped protect water rights and water access around the world.” …

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Old Clothes Cluttering Your Closet? Swap-O-Rama-Rama!

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I’ll bet you have clothes in your closet that you haven’t worn for years. And how about shoes? How many of those are cluttering your shoe rack or heaped on the floor?

The vast majority of people reading this post have clothes that you’ve forgotten about. What good are they doing cluttering up limited closet and drawer space? Isn’t it time to tell them to move along?

After all, someone, somewhere, would love to have a gently used pair of jeans in the size that no longer fits you. Or maybe they’d enjoy those black pumps you only wore a couple of times before deciding they’re not really your style. And that cool outfit you bought that turned out to look better in the magazine than it does on you? Yeah, somebody else would like that one, too.

Swap-O-Rama-Rama (SORR) is an event designed to solve the problem of too many clothes and too little space. At a Swap-O-Rama-Rama, you donate your lovingly worn or long-forgotten clothing at the event, then take home something that’s just right for you today….

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Marcal Small Steps – “Paper from Paper, Not from Trees”

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Is your preferred toilet paper thick and cuddly? Do you require layers of cushiony softness to pamper your bottom?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you’re like many U.S. consumers — me, included – who have a preference for a completely unsustainable and environmentally devastating product. I’d much rather use fluffy, soft paper than the thin, scratchy stuff found in many public restrooms. But there’s a huge problem with this predilection for spoiling ourselves.

Every time we use a roll of fluffy toilet paper, we are personally contributing to the death of a tree. Of course it doesn’t take a whole tree to make a roll of toilet paper. In fact, according to a New York Times article from last year, a single eucalyptus tree can produce 1,000 rolls of toilet paper. But wait a minute! We’re talking about harvesting living trees and virgin forests just for the sake of a little extra softness on our bottoms.

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Sustainable Futures Repurposes Glass Bottles – and Human Lives

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“I was like one of those used wine bottles. I was used and discarded. I laid on the ground, my label faded and my contents dried. I forgot the good that was once inside, the joy and happiness I once knew. I hated what I was and what I had become. Life was dark, bad and not worth living. The prison took what little hope I had reinforcing what people and drugs had told me about myself my whole life. I came to the work center looking for work. I was told I had to have a job or I’d be sent back to the prison and someone else who was employable would take my place. Once again I was not worth keeping, I found a job here at Sustainable Futures and I was recycled. I was picked up, washed off a little and was cut off at the top, sanded down and polished. I’ve been given hope, worthiness and self love. Now I shine, not just on the outside but on the inside. I’m like the glasses we make. I have a new use.” — Lisa Childers, IDOC inmate

Sustainable Futures is a brand-new nonprofit that repurposes glass bottles — and gives new purpose to human lives. It’s a simple idea: Businesses donate used glass bottles to their Boise, Idaho-based center, and hard-to-place workers process the glass to produce new and improved glassware. The company then sells the repurposed glassware back to the businesses. “It’s a great product, and it’s the right thing to do,” says Carlyn Blake, executive director of Sustainable Futures….

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Electronics TakeBack Coalition Promotes Producer Responsibility

February 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, E-Stewards, E-Waste, EPA, Front Page, Recycling, Slideshow

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Our home stands on top of a toxic waste dump.

And if you’re stockpiling obsolete electronics in the house, so does yours.

That clunky old CRT computer monitor or TV that’s currently collecting dust in the basement, attic, closet, or garage contains anywhere from 4 to 8 pounds of lead. The new flatscreen LCD monitor you replaced it with contains far less lead, so you might think it would be safer for the environment.

Actually, it’s not…

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National Cristina Foundation — Connecting Used Technology to Worthy Recipients

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“The National Cristina Foundation (NCF) is a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the support of training through donated technology,” says the organization’s website. In 1984, NCF co-founders, businessman David Bruce McMahan and special education instructor Yvette Marrin experienced an “aha moment,” when McMahan’s daughter, Cristina, one of Marrin’s students, suggested her father could provide the school with much-needed computer equipment. McMahan and Marrin made a critical connection between problem and solution that resulted in the establishment of the National Cristina Foundation.

They saw a way to address the convergence of several issues: managing the increasing stockpile of millions of obsolete computers, the benefit access to computers offers disabled and disadvantaged people, and the environmental challenge of responsible reuse and recycling of outdated electronics.

“We felt sure that computers coming out of their first place of use, where they were considered of little value, could be transferred to places where they would be of great value,” Marrin stated. Since that time, the foundation has worked to assure that no functioning equipment that can be repurposed is ever wasted….

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Basel Action Network — Part of the E-Waste Solution

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The Basel Action Network (BAN), is “a global toxic-trade watchdog organization” that works to prevent the dumping of used electronics from wealthy nations to developing nations. With so many companies and charitable organizations offering to collect your used computer, flatscreen TV, or cell phone, consumers are often lulled into the illusion that our used goods are going to be used for good. Instead, many of them end up dismantled, burned, and dumped in Ghana, China, Nigeria, and other developing nations.

BAN — named for the Basel Convention, the UN-administered agreement that regulates hazardous waste shipment — is the world’s foremost organization focused on confronting the environmental and economic ramifications of toxic trade. Working to prevent disproportionate and unsustainable dumping of the world’s toxic waste and pollution on the poorest nations, BAN actively promotes sustainable and just solutions to the consumption and waste crisis — banning waste trade, while advocating green, toxic-free design of consumer products….

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The Basel Convention — Protecting Developing Nations from E-Waste

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When industrialized countries began regulating the disposal of hazardous wastes in the 1980s, disposal costs skyrocketed. The cost-efficient solution they arrived at was “toxic trading” — the shipment of hazardous waste to developing countries and Eastern Europe.

International outrage from this practice resulted in the adoption of the Basel Convention, a UN-administered set of guidelines for controlling the movement of hazardous wastes across international borders. The Basel Convention ultimately banned the export of hazardous waste from richer countries to poorer ones….

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Computer Recycling – The Downside of Upgrading

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In an era when prices for goods are escalating while product quality seems to be decreasing (“they don’t make ‘em like they used to”), electronics equipment is one bright spot on the consumer landscape. The products keep improving, and the prices keep dropping. That flash drive you’re carrying is about the size of a stick of gum, yet it has quadruple the storage capacity of the laptop you were using on the job ten years ago. With all these advancements in the computer arena, why not upgrade?

The downside of upgrading is disposing of all that old equipment. You can’t sell it, and you can’t give it away. Your local charities and schools won’t accept electronics donations — you’ve checked. So you make the environmentally responsible decision to recycle. Congratulations, you’re living green.

Or are you?

What if you knew that the obsolete cellphones, TVs, and computers you just recycled with a clear conscience are on their way to a “burn village” in China? …

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Gently Used Wedding Gowns — More than a Fashion Statement

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You can use eBay and Craigslist to buy anything from boats to aquariums to musical instruments. And when it comes to your wedding day, you can use them to buy your dress, centerpieces, or other décor — but huge Internet marketplaces make this task seem daunting. Some sites, like PreOwned Wedding Dresses, Recycled Bride, and Bride Share, and have narrowed the focus to make online shopping for gently used wedding items simple for brides-to-be….

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“This Product Is Made from GARBAGE”

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At first glance, the title of this post might seem like a slam against an inferior product. That’s not the case at all. In fact, the title comes directly from a product insert I received with two sample items from XS Project.

When a representative for XSProject first contacted me, I was intrigued with the description of how their products are made — and why. The email I received said, “Don’t be surprised if you soon spy some hipster with an accessory you can’t take your eyes off of (something that makes you think, ‘Oh, what a piece of garbage’).”

Who could resist finding out more? …

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Earth-Friendly Fashion Cry – “Save the Ties!”

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A few years ago Brooke Costello couldn’t use the word “recycled” in describing the unique line of fashion accessories she produces at the helm of her independent Chicago-based design company, Tongue Tied.

“That didn’t help the sale,” she explains. “So I coined the term ‘respirited.’ I’ve seen it used by other people since, but I believe that term originated with me.”

Now the association of her wares with the recycling movement contributes substantially to the bottom line. “People across every socioeconomic level are responding to the concept,” she says. “Shopping in resale boutiques is born of the philosophy that you don’t have to spend a king’s ransom to wear couture.” …

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Donate Vehicle –> Help Charity –> Get Tax Deduction

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Hundreds of thousands of people donate their junkers — and even, good, used vehicles — each year to benefit their favorite charities. One company that helps make that possible is the Vehicle Donation Processing Center (VDPC), owned and operated by Harvard E. “Pete” Palmer, Jr. of Oakland, California, and his business partner, John R. Learned.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with Palmer by phone from his California office. We asked him to tell what happens when consumers gift their vehicles through his program and to explain the advantages for all parties. In the process, we also learned some interesting facts about charitable tax deductions. — Publisher

PALMER: It would be lovely to say that everybody thinks about car donation as a tremendous way to help a charity of their choice, or charities in general. That may well be a part of everybody’s thinking, and certainly it is the big part of what we believe; but for most people, that’s the minority thing. For the great majority, they are looking for a one-time garbage-removal service. …

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My 5, Lauren Sullivan, Reverb Co-Founder

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In Friday’s post, Blue Planet Green Living talked with Reverb co-founder, Lauren Sullivan, about the Reverb’s work greening rock bands and connecting concert-goers with local nonprofits. Today, we asked her to answer two questions we like to ask our interviewees.
1. What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?
2. If you had two minutes with President Obama, what would you say to him? …

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“Recycle Your Imagination” with Vocal Trash

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Texas-based Vocal Trash uses some pretty odd materials to make music. They describe themselves as an a capella production that uses instruments made out of trash.

Yes, trash.

If you attend a Vocal Trash concert, you’re likely to see instruments made from car parts, water bottles, pots and pans, buckets, and brooms. It’s not exactly what you might expect for musical instruments, but this is a trademark that the group is genuinely proud of. …

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Donovan Rypkema on “Sustainability, Smart Growth and Historic Preservation”

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Now and then, I run across an article so worthy of reading that I’m compelled to share it with friends — no matter that it was written some time ago. The article that follows is excerpted from a presentation by Donovan Rypkema, called “Sustainability, Smart Growth and Historic Preservation.” Rypkema gave this speech in 2007, to an audience at the Historic Districts Council Annual Conference, held in New York City.
You may be familiar with Rypkema’s speech, as it has circulated somewhat on the Internet. It was new to me until recently, however, and I am pleased to have Mr. Ripkema’s permission to share it with readers of Blue Planet Green Living. If you’ve never read it, be prepared to rethink some of the cherished notions of “green building.” And if you have read it before, consider reading it again. I learn more each time I do…

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The Repurposed Home Takes Curb-Shopping to a Fine Art

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When was the last time you took a look at the old, cast-off furniture sitting in the corner of your basement or attic? You know, the pieces that were once useful and in style, but that haven’t seen the light of day for decades. Before tossing that chair in the dumpster, or letting that those end tables get musty in your basement, consider another option for your old furniture.

Lori Jacobsen, interior designer and co-founder of The Repurposed Home, can help you find new ways to use those seasoned pieces. The Repurposed Home helps customers use what they already have and make it new again. Jacobsen also does some serious “curb-shopping” to save classic pieces from the landfill….

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Cap Recycling Project Earns State Fair Invitation for Young Environmentalist

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Many of us begin the journey to environmentalism as adults. Others start when they are still children. Recently, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) had the privilege of interviewing 11-year-old Jack Potter, a soon-to-be 6th grader, who began his environmental journey by collecting and recycling #5 plastic bottle caps. Jack didn’t just collect a few bottle caps, he saved nearly 1,000. And this week at his county fair, he earned the right to exhibit his project at the Iowa State Fair. Jack’s determination to make a difference impressed us, so we asked him to share a bit of his story. — Publisher

BPGL: What was the purpose of your recycling project?

POTTER: My goal for the project was to raise awareness of the fact that plastic caps are almost never recycled. When they’re not recycled, they end up in landfills or in the ocean, and that’s bad for the environment…

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