Tag Archives: recycling

The Green Teen Movement

green teens

Many studies show that by teaching kids about conservationism and sustainability at an early age we create much more environmentally aware and responsible adults.  When Judy Shils included her young daughter, Erin Schrode, in her environmental protection efforts as part of their daily lives living in Northern California, she proved these studies correct.  Erin grew up with positive environmental stewardship as a well-worked family value, so it is no wonder that she grew up to develop the organization called “Teens Turning Green:  A Way of Life,” a collaborative youth-led movement to change the world.

Originally called Teens for Safe Cosmetics, Erin launched the campaign in 2005 in an effort to ban toxic substances such as lead, mercury and other harmful chemicals from cosmetics.  Erin and her mom, soon to be joined by other teens from local middle and high schools, identified common cosmetics used by teens, and then went to work with scientists and chemists to develop safe, green alternatives to the toxic make-up currently on the market.  It wasn’t long before Erin and her team travelled to Sacramento to testify before the legislature and ban poisonous ingredients in cosmetics.  Their mission was successful and with a desire to widen their sphere of influence into other areas of environmentalism, sustainability, and protection of the earth and its resources, Teens Turning Green was born.

They soon moved into the educational field, launching a school awareness program called Project Green Dorm on such things as food service, janitorial supplies, landscaping and classroom products.  They held a public rally in San Francisco during prom season to highlight the ease, functionality, and availability of eco beauty, fashion, décor and transportation options, and named their efforts Project Green Prom.   They also launched Project Lunch, a movement to make quality food affordable and available to everyone.

green dorm

Today, Teens Turning Green makes and distributes their own line of skin and body care products through trusted companies, and founded the first Project Green Challenge in October 2011, that challenged students and schools across the world to participate in eco-awareness and conservation efforts across the board.

Teens Turning Green started from one small spark that became a catalyst for positive change in the world, and Erin and her group promise to keep forging ahead, inspiring young people to know, care, act, dream and do.

For more information on Teens Turning Green, click here.

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“Green” your home for $100 or less!

One of the most common misconceptions about green living is that it’s expensive to get started. In reality, there are many ways to green your home that are cost effective and can be done in as little as one weekend. Most importantly, these four DIY projects are easy for anyone to complete – regardless of skill-level.

1)      Replace standard lights with motion-detecting modelsthermostat
How many times have you walked out of a room and forgot to turn off the light? Probably more often than you think. This habit wastes energy, creates heat and increases utility bills due solely to the fact that someone forgot to flip the switch. While most homeowners will just try to kick the habit, some may turn to an increasingly affordable technology and install motion detecting sensors to household lights. Whether they’re installed indoors or out, these sensors typically cost no more than $20 and they’re as easy to install as changing a standard light switch.

2)      Replace old thermostats with programmable models
As one of the best ways to save energy and lower utility bills, programmable thermostats have internal clocks that can be set to heat or cool your home to different temperatures throughout the day—such as automatically turning off when everyone is at work or school, and turning back on shortly before you return.

3)      Find and fix leaks throughout your home
When we say leaks, most assume faucets or sinks. However, doors and windows should also be regularly checked as they can dramatically decrease the effectiveness or heating and cooling your home. By using weather stripping, caulk and tape, you can save a bundle on your utility bills.

4)      Wrap the water heater in an insulated blanketwater heater
Water heaters are necessary for keeping your home’s water ready for showers and dishwashers, but they also pose the threat of wasted energy as they are constantly heating water to a suitable temperature. While it’s important to ensure your water heater isn’t heating past 120° F, it’s also important to make sure the unit is not releasing heat and wasting energy. A thermal blanket can help keep the water’s heat from escaping through the heater’s metal or fiberglass exterior, thus using less energy on the water’s temperature.

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How Green is Your City?

Popular Science published a list of America’s 50 Greenest Cities, using a scoring method that assigned numerical values to categories such as electricity, transportation, green living and recycling.  According to its calculations, Portland, Oregon is the greenest city in America, scoring big in areas of energy, transportation and green living.

Portland gets half of its generated energy by renewable resources and a quarter of the city’s workforce carpools, rides the bus or rides their bike to work.  The city also has a higher than average amount of LEED® certified buildings, meaning the U.S. Green Building Council has recognized the buildings as exceptional in terms of Energy and Environmental Design.

Other cities that made the top of the list have come up with some interesting ways to go green. The city of Boston, Massachusetts for example, has thought up a way to put all the fallen leaves that a New England fall creates to good use. The city uses the methane generated by the anaerobic bacteria feeding on the organic waste to power upwards of 1.5 megawatts’ worth of generators.  In addition to energy harvesting, the compost created by the breakdown of the leaves is used to enrich the city’s soil.

Another example is Oakland, California. Oakland has turned its transit system into a fleet powered by hydrogen-based energy – meaning zero emission buses driving down its city streets instead of the toxic, petroleum-based buses too many cities still use.

Oakland Bus

The East Bay cuts pollution with hydrogen-powered transit.

Here is a list of the top 10 cities in order of “greenness” according to the website’s scores:

1. Portland, Ore. 23.1

2. San Francisco, Calif. 23.0

3. Boston, Mass. 22.7

4. Oakland, Calif. 22.5

5. Eugene, Ore. 22.4

6. Cambridge, Mass. 22.2

7. Berkeley, Calif. 22.2

8. Seattle, Wash. 22.1

9. Chicago, Ill. 21.3

10. Austin, Tex. 21.0

It’s encouraging to see big cities take steps toward a greener, healthier world.  If more cities start getting on the “green” bandwagon, there is the very real possibility that some of the devastating effects of pollution and toxic waste might be reversed and we can begin healing our world and our environment.

Visit the Popular Science website to read the full list of the Top 50 Green Cities and see how your city ranks.

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The Many Uses of an Old T-Shirt!

It’s always exciting to hear about the new ways in which different projects and organizations are working toward reducing waste and doing good for the environment.

Project Repat is on a mission to reduce the amount of clothing waste going into our landfills in a very unique way. The organization is partnering with individuals, brands and universities to “upcycle” old t-shirts into unique, fashionable and functional blankets and accessories, like this upcycled t-shirt blanket.

t shirt blanket

According to Project Repat, 5% of all material waste on earth is used textiles. They strive to keep those old t-shirts out of landfills by repurposing them into accessories that will be worn and loved.

How it works: With Project Repat, you send in your old t-shirts and 2-4 weeks later your shirts are returned to you repurposed as a one-of-a-kind great new accessory. You can have your shirts turned into a reversible bag, circle scarf, tie or blanket.

circle scarf

Many people have a closet or dresser drawer full of old t-shirts that they just can’t seem to part with. This is a great way to turn those t-shirts into a wearable work of art.

Project Repat blankets are made at NuPath, a non-profit organization that creates employment organizations for individuals with disabilities.

For more information on Project Repat and to learn more about how you can upcycle your old t-shirt collection visit www.projectrepat.org.

t shirt bags

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Green Apple Day of Service

September 29, 2012 is the date for the first ever Green Apple Day of Service, an event hosted and promoted by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools.

On that day, advocates from all over the globe will join together to show support for a healthier and more sustainable world by performing various environmental service projects.  Even though the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is based in the United States, it recognizes that environmental issues are of global concern which is why the organization has reached out to conservation and sustainable-living movements for involvement on a multi-national scale.

Green Apple Logo

On mygreenapple.org, participants can search for service projects by country, city and even by the type of project they would like to be involved in. The site lists a number of different target areas relating to sustainability and environmental protection – featuring titles like “Waste Not,” “Take it Outside,” and “Educate” – making it easy for people to find service projects that best suit their interests and areas of expertise. There is even an RSVP option that allows participants to make a commitment to attend an event in advance.

One of the most exciting things about this project is the fact that it involves organizations from all over the world.  A large number of international organizations have already joined the USGBC in support of the Green Apple Day of Service and are hosting events in their own communities to help tackle important environmental issues.These are issues that affect us all and being able to join together from across the globe makes a powerful statement.

To date, the Green Apple Day of Service has already added more than 270 service projects worldwide. Join one by clicking here. Green Apple Day Map

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The 2012 “Green” Games

Olympics GreenThe Summer Olympics currently being held in London are touted by their host as the first green games the world has ever seen.  Olympic organizers wanted to make sustainability an important part of this year’s summer games and made it a priority to address a number of key environmental themes – such as waste, biodiversity, inclusion, healthy living and climate change – in the initial design and planning of the event.

The first step in achieving their goal was to create the Towards a one planet 2012 Sustainability Plan that focuses on tackling the environmental concerns of every aspect of the project. The plan stresses things like a “no added waste policy” regarding additional waste being sent to London landfills while the Games are in action and a minimization of gas emissions in the design and use of the game facilities.

The organizers not only want to keep the integrity of the natural habitats in the areas around the Games healthy and thriving, they would ideally like to leave things better than they were originally.

During the preparation for the Games, the host city began work on its “Brown to green” project of transforming 250 acres of contaminated industrial land into lush, green parkland. While the project was spearheaded by the 2012 London games initiative, the park will afterwards become the largest new urban park in the UK in over 100 years.

An important motivating factor for planning and design officials was the healthy impact on the citizenry of both the UK and world watchers of the Games.  Seeing people swim, bike, race and leap through the air after years of training and dedication can inspire even the most hardened couch potato to get up and get moving. The hope is that the Games’ “green” makeover will too serve as a positive model and source of inspiration.

To read more about London 2012 and Sustainability, click here. We also recommend viewing these amazing green buildings at the London Olympics.

Green Olympics

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Summertime Reading for the Family

Spring might be the time of year when nature comes alive after a long winter’s rest, but summer is the time of year when WE come alive. While you are spending your days outdoors with your kids this summer enjoying the seasonal weather, here are some great, environmentally-focused books to read together.

Childsake.com has books for every age range and reading level, with topics that include “Habitats and Ecosystems”, “Water and Its Cycle”, “The Living Earth” and “Biodiversity.” They also have books that educate about specific animals and their unique plight, such as whales and the health of the oceans they live in, and polar bears and the effect the shrinking arctic has on their population.

Within the theme of Extinction & Conservation is the book Almost Gone: the World’s Rarest Animals, written and illustrated by Caldecott winner Steve Jenkins.  This book for grades K-3 examines twenty-one endangered animals found throughout the world, and draws attention to the critically low numbers that remain.  The beautiful cut-and-torn paper collage artwork that illustrates the book does a great job of capturing the attention of young readers.

Almost Gone childrens book

Another book, Common Ground by Molly Bang teaches grades 3 -7 about the issues of pollution and sustainability by using a colorful parable of what happens to a village when over-grazing sheep wreak havoc to the fields.  The story serves as the basis for analogies to the overuse and depletion of our planet’s natural resources – the seas, forests, water, air and fossil fuels.

common childrens book

No matter what your reading ritual is, take some time this summer to incorporate awareness of environmental issues into the summertime fun.  Spending so much time outdoors, playing in the sunshine and cavorting with nature makes this the perfect time to teach appreciation of our environment and how we can protect it for generations to come.

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Textbooks: Print or Digital?

Many people remember lugging heavy textbooks back and forth to school, requiring industrial strength backpacks or, in some cases, rolling suitcases usually reserved for the executive on the go.  There has even been public concern and discussion about the weight of backpacks filled with textbooks and the effect it’s having on school kids’ spines and posture.

Now along comes the new digital reader, able to download enough textbooks and reading assignments to last a middle school student until graduation and weighing no more than the actual unit itself.  For many, this is the next logical step in the evolution of education – trading in traditional textbooks and giving students access to virtually limitless learning material on e-Readers.

Others, however, have suggested possible downsides to this shift, like the impact it will have on our environment.

replace books with ereaders

At first glance, using digital readers instead of textbooks and saving trees from the paper mill sounds like a great idea, but there are environmental impacts associated with new the technology as well.

A 2010 article by Chris Meadows on teleread.com brings up some interesting talking points from studies on the environmental impact of both types of books.

The estimated carbon “footprint” from digital readers is less than that of textbooks when considering the carbon dioxide released in the production and distribution of printed materials. However, electronic materials can be seen as toxic in terms of manufacturing and disposal.

These toxic electrical components are filling up our landfills at an alarming rate, depositing hazardous chemicals like mercury, lead, cadmium and even arsenic into the soil.

The question of whether going digital is the best answer in terms of the environment is one that requires further analysis. To do your homework on this increasingly relevant topic, check out these websites:




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Green Moms and Enviro Dads

Parents teach kids to go greenFor today’s busy parent, getting their family to “go green” may seem like an added task that requires more time and energy than many have to spare. However, new online “green” groups geared toward parents provide a one-stop shop full of great eco- and family- friendly resources, ideas and support.

For moms, one such group is called Green Moms Meet.  They are an online resource that empowers moms to come together in an informal setting and talk about the latest on raising healthy families and living green.  Some of the topics covered are Going Green on a Budget, Get Smart about Sweeteners, and Allergy-Friendly Food for Families.  One great thing about Green Moms Meet is that they provide opportunities to sample the latest healthy, green products. Past sampling opportunities have included EO all-natural hand sanitizer, Wallaby Organic yogurt, and Healthy™ To Go! Trim Energy™.  Using a resource like this saves you time and makes bringing green and healthy ideas and products into your home easy and fun.

It’s not just moms that are in on the action.  A report by EcoFocus Worldwide shows that 65 percent of the nation’s 36 million dads want to teach their kids lessons in environmental responsibility that they will remember for a lifetime.

Enter Enviro Dad.  He describes himself as, “An Environmentalist. A Dad. A Mission. A Purpose,” and his website covers everything from teaching kids environmental stewardship to Enviro Dad’s Farmer’s Market Resource Guide.  He covers everything from reviews of the eco-friendly cars on the market to reports on the resurgence of the sustainable winery – many topics that today’s parents might find useful and interesting.

For more information on getting your family to “go green,” visit the Eco-Friendly Parents blog.

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QUIZ: Water Conservation 101 Answers Revealed!

Sustainable Water SupplyThe following quiz is from a recent article in Environmental Design + Construction (ED+C) Magazine on water conservation and the elements of facility design. The answers to the quiz are highlighted in green. Check out our Facebook and Twitter pages to see who landed the title of “Green Building Guru” for scoring the highest! If you’d like to take this quiz to obtain Continuing Education Units (CEU), click here and scroll to the bottom of the page for instructions!


1.       One of the most regular and predictable of all indoor water uses accounts for about 33 percent of total building water consumption. What is it?

a.       Coffee machines.

b.      Toilet flushing.

c.       Janitorial maintenance.

d.      Restroom faucets.

2.       Which of the following is NOT used to treat storm water or greywater for reuse within a facility?

a.       Aerobic pretreatment.

b.      Reverse osmosis.

c.       Rain sensors.

d.      Settling.

3.       True or false: Aside from leaks, the three ways that water is eliminated from cooling towers include evaporation, drift and blowdown. The total of these effects equals the cooling towers total makeup water needed.

a.       True.

b.      False.

4.       To improve the water efficiency of heating and hot water systems by as much as 70 percent, a retrofit or new construction project can include:

a.       A single-pass cooling system.

b.      Blowdown processes.

c.       Drift elimination.

d.      Condensate return system.

5.       A novel restroom fixture technology seen recently in Europe allows users to determine the level of water flow, from ultra-low flow to higher flow levels, based on a mechanical feature. This fixtures work based on…

a.       Resistance to force applied to the handle.

b.      Use of aerators to change the water flow appearance.

c.       A range of setting indicators corresponding to specific water needs.

d.      None of the above.

6.       Predevelopment site hydrology includes awareness of both site conditions as well as regional conditions of a natural site before construction-related land disturbance. Which of the following is NOT considered on the assessment of predevelopment hydrology?

a.       Runoff.

b.      Irrigation needs.

c.       Infiltration.

d.      Evapotranspiration rates.

7.       True or false: By definition, xeriscaping plantings are (1) appropriate to the local climate, (2) require minimum watering, and (3) contribute to landscaping that minimizes evaporation and runoff.

a.       True.

b.      False.

8.       Which of the following statements accurately describes the features or use of rain sensors?

a.       They can be hardwired or wireless.

b.      Some contain hygroscopic disks to activate switches.

c.       They can be combined with freeze sensors.

d.      All of the above.

9.       For site installations where irrigation systems are used, assessments of potential water-use reduction goals may be undertaken with a basic punch list or audit, which provides for:

a.       Pre-selection of low-flow restroom fixtures.

b.      Full commissioning of irrigation systems.

c.       Review of site inspection, performance testing and irrigation scheduling.

d.      None of the above.

10.   True or false: Two fixtures with the same rated efficiencies will save the same amount of water, regardless of use conditions or end-user behaviors.

a.       True.

b.      False.

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