What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Increasing Our Recycling Efforts

Much of the focus at home and on this blog has been focused on our recent kitchen renovations. With the completion of the renovations I will now begin focusing on other homemaking issues. The weather is quickly becoming much cooler so those high heating bills are just around the corner. I will be sharing some ways to save on those heating costs. The holidays are also just around the corner so I will be sharing some homemade gifts that I'm making. I will also be sharing what I'm doing on the homemaking front as well as anything else home related that strikes my fancy.

We are very conscious when shopping to avoid over packaging and as much as possible we avoid those kinds of containers that cannot be recycled in our area if they cannot be reused for another purpose. We don't use near the commercially canned or boxed foods that others do because a large portion of pantry foods are home canned in re-usable mason jars or home frozen. This in itself greatly reduced the amount that goes into the recycle bin. The other day I was checking out our recycle bins. There were filled! Granted we have had a fair amount of company but still I surprised. We have two 3 foot high recycle bins, a normal small blue bin and a smaller green bin. Most things are accepted except aluminum pans, foil, sour cream and similar containers, and plastic grocery bags. Our recycles are picked up every two weeks. Recycling is good but reducing is better so now I'm on a mission to reduce our recyclables!

Coffee to Go

Picking up a cup of coffee on the way to the office, work or school. They stop by coffee shops on their breaks or lunch hour to buy coffee. And all that coffee comes in disposable cups! Anyone who travels or lives in rural areas already know the negatives of inconsiderate drivers who toss their empty coffee cups out the window!

Disposable coffee cups are not made from recyclable paper but rather 100% bleached virgin paperboard (reference). The paperboard is coated with polyethylene to help retain heat and prevent leakage. However the polyethylene prevents the cups from being recycled so all disposable coffee cups end up in landfills. As the cups decompose in the landfills they release methane, a greenhouse gas. Starbucks® alone used over 2.3 billion cups in their stores in 2006 so you can imagine how many cups are used when all coffee shops are considered and that isn't even taking into account the coffee shops that are still using styrofoam coffee cups or the plastic lids.

When I was working on my undergrad degree the university began encouraging a re-usable coffee mug with a lid. It was a simple mug with the university logo on one side and the recycle symbol on the other side. It became a statement for anyone concerned about environmental issues to fasten these mugs to their backpacks. The university cafeterias gave a discount if you used your mug. Well that mug saw me through the rest of my undergrad as well as my graduate years and it is still my favourite mug.

Tim Hortons® came out with larger, insulated plastic 500 ml (16 oz) travel mugs designed to fit into the cup holders in vehicles. Now travel mugs are widely available. They are insulated to keep drinks either hot or cold. They are convenient and dishwasher safe. We have several stainless steel, insulated travel mugs. We very seldom buy coffee in disposable cups and despite the larger (25+) get togethers we host on a regular basis, I simply refuse to use disposable coffee cups in our home. Those pictured are from two of my husband's friend who picked him up very early Sunday morning for three fun filled days of golfing. I got their cups which given the weather might have been a better deal. Coffee is cheaper and just as fast to make at home when compared to coffee from the coffee shop but what some might not know is coffee shops will gladly refill your travel mug. The only thing is you might have to get out and go in instead of sitting in line at their drive through but just look at that as a little extra exercise.

Bottled Water

We had a water cooler with the blue* 5 gallon jugs for a number of years bought when chemical spills threatened the municipal water supply. We sold the cooler when we moved to our last house and what I've noticed is our consumption of bottled water has increased. Part of this is because we are drinking more water. Part is our use is our emergency preparedness plan. Part is because bottled water is convenient to take in the car or on the boat and part is because bottled water is often on sale here for $2.99 for 24 - 500 ml bottles. At 12¢ each this is quite a savings over the 99¢ or more price tag at variety stores or gas stations when travelling. Is this false frugality?

Statistics Canada reported that 1.5 billion litres of bottled water were produced for consumption in 2003. By 2006, 3 in 10 households reported drinking bottled water. They found a correlation between bottled water consumption, income and education. Those in higher income brackets consumed more bottled water as did those with some post-secondary education although those with a university education consumed less bottled water. Americans consume 28 billion bottles of water annually with 80 per cent of those bottles ending up in the landfill. In the US producing the bottles for water created 1.5 million tons of CO2 in 2006 which is low in comparison the oil used by the rest of the food and beverage industry. On Aug 18, 2008 London City Council (London, Ontario) voted 15-3 to ban bottled water on city premises including city owned buildings, arenas and community centres (read more here).

I looked at those figures and decided no more using bottle water unless absolutely necessary which with careful planning there should not be a need. The only reason we use water bottles at home is to prevent any insects getting into the water overnight or when we are outdoors. I bought 2 re-usable 500 ml water bottles. They have been very well received so I am going to buy more so that we have 8 total. In researching the disposable water bottle environmental impact I came across the issue of BPA (Bisphenol A)**. We will continue using our water bottles for home use but I will be careful to buy BPA-free water bottles for the ones we will be using for traveling or on the boat.

I knew about BPA because the grandbabies were using formula so there was an issue with the bottles and they had to change. BPA is in some but not all polycarbonate plastics. If there is a 7 or PC within the recycle symbol on the bottom of the bottle they may or may not contain BPA. I rushed to check our bottles and sure enough they have PC with the recycle symbol. We are using these bottles for water only as are many people. One very well known brand that made re-useable water bottles popular is Nalgene. Older Nalgene water bottles also contain BPA. The current recommendations for any water bottle that may contain BPA are:
  1. Do not clean with harsh detergents (eg. dishwasher detergent).
  2. Do not expose to high heat (eg. dishwasher, heated liquids, leaving in car on hot day).
  3. Do not use for high acid liquids (eg. orange juice).
  4. Hand wash using mild soap, rinse with clear water.
  5. If you notice any signs of cracking as hard plastics will as they age, discard

* known to contain BPA
** watch for a more extensive post on BPA that will cover other sources of environmental exposure

Garden Gnome


Kathy said...

Great info and I heartily concur!

Would you be interested in a link exchange with my newest blog? It sure could use a little link-love to get up and running and your blog seems to be a somewhat similar niche.

I am Jamie Sue! said...


Doris said...

Great ideas.

I hate driving down the road and seeing those disposable coffee cups. It ruins the beauty of the landscape and it is potentially harmful to any animals who might wander by a take a bite.

Thanks for the resource!