Preserve: Recycling Product and Packaging

Preserve PackagingIf you’re anything like me, the sheer amount of packaging most products come excessively sealed away in is an endless source of frustration. Even if the packaging is in some way recyclable, not all facilities accept all forms of plastic and consumers often fail to meticulously separate out all of their trash. Thankfully, some companies are looking to make more creative loops and links in the supply chain to minimize waste. Preserve is one of these up and coming innovative industries.

Preserve makes personal hygiene products, such as toothbrushes and razors, and some table and kitchen ware, out of recycled yogurt cups and other grade 5 plastics. In addition to just designing with recycled material, they make it easier to recycle their products when you’re done using them. The Preserve toothbrush is packaged in a slim pouch with a business reply label and prepaid postage. You can mail in your old toothbrush when you’re done using it and the plastic handle will be recycled into other Preserve products (nylon bristles are always new). You can even sign up on their website for a toothbrush subscription and schedule for Preserve to send you a new brush on a regular schedule.

At $2.99 you can only feel good about turning a typically disposable personal product into a cycle of reuse. Not to mention a chance to reinstate the interesting producer-customer back and forth relationship that many companies have given up in favor of expansion and disposability.

LEDs now come in a new shape: square

Square LED LightbulbEver notice LED’s (Light Emitting Diodes) are always round?  They emit light in all directions which has been somewhat of a hindrance for some advanced applications.  As we’ve discussed before, LED’s are a major component of the energy conserving consumer plan.

Interestingly, most light sources we have create round light.  Go ahead, look around you and notice the shape.  This is handy for illuminating entire rooms or large spaces.  However as noted by the folks at Green Tech Media, many elements of life are, in fact, square or straight.  Read: desks, roads, paper, etc.

The value in a new product coming from a startup in Austin, TX is that their LED light source creates a square light which will work from a practical and design perspective in more applications.

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Making Plastic From Plants: A Step Toward an Oil Free Future

pink lemonade in a plastic cup made from plants? It's possibleThe gusher in the gulf continues to spew, the oily sheen and clumpy globules seeping into every nook and cranny of the marine environment along hundreds of miles of coastline. Not a bad time to consider the extent to which petroleum has seeped into nearly every aspect of daily life. Whether it is a product, food or service odds are it was created, packaged, stored, shipped or sold using numerous convenient innovations derived from petroleum or fueled by it.

Disposable plastic packaging, bags and food service containers are just some of petroleum’s many uses. Making the move away from fossil fuel dependency will require substituting renewable materials for oil-based sources we currently rely on in numerous industries. One company working to achieve this move is Michigan-based Fabri-Kal, which produces high quality food service containers called Greenware® and other consumer packaging made from a biopolymer derived entirely from plants.

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Gecko Glue: Scientists Look to Nature for New Adhesives

What can a gecko’s foot teach us about adhesives? After noticing the gecko’s unique ability to run up vertical surfaces and hold onto glass with just one toe, scientists at UC Berkeley’s Biomimetic Milisystems Lab are questioning the ways we think about superglue and duct tape.

Animals have developed a plethora of ways to adhere to surfaces in their environment. Scientists once believed that this “stickiness” was accomplished by natural glues composed of sugars and oils in combination with hooked claws and light body weights. However, a closer look with a high-powered imaging and microscopic force sensors revealed that the gecko foot is covered with tiny hair-like structures called setae. These hairs split even further into tips with surfaces as small as 200 nanometers in diameter. The hairs adhere independently of surface polarity using van der Waals forces. They work on hard or soft textures and on dry or wet surfaces, can hold on under water, in a vacuum,  and can  support the entire weight of the gecko with just one toe pad. The gecko manually un-sticks itself with a toe curling motion, which can happen quite quickly as it runs up walls or tree trunks.

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Green Gift Ideas for Mother’s Day

Green gifts for Mom are best!All a mom wants for Mother’s day is some peace, love and time with her kids.  The typical gifts of flowers, dinner out, chocolates, bath products, cleaning coupons or a day at the spa sure are nice though!  There are some extremely easy ways to “green up” these easy gift ideas to make every hippie mama feel like a spoiled queen on her big day.

Flowers from the heart

Instead of a bouquet of flowers from a florist, why not a handpicked arrangement of wildflowers?  Even small kids can get in on the action and feel included in mommy’s special gift from the heart.  If you’re still stuck in a blanket of snow like me, try planted herbs that can grow on her windowsill.  She’ll surely remember your thoughtfulness everytime she uses the herbs in her cooking!  Potted flowers, bedding plants, potted tomato plants and even trees also make great alternatives to a store bought bouquet.  Another great idea for kids is to make paper flowers out of scrap paper around the house.  Have them write a mushy thought about their mom on each flower.

Locally-sourced dinner

Instead of dinner out, how about dinner in?  You can try a meatless recipe as an eco-friendly menu or perhaps take the 100 mile challenge where all of the ingredients must be sourced within 100 miles of your home.  If you’re not that adventurous, try some free range chicken and an organic green salad.  Make sure that she (and the kids) know why it’s important to eat organic and the difference between free range chicken and the traditional chicken farming methods.  Mother’s day can be a great opportunity to teach your kids about the world we live in and how we should treat it.  Can’t cook at all?  Not to worry.  Research local restaurants looking for their green certification.  There are many search sites online that can help with that.

Organic chocolates

Everyone loves chocolate, right?  Instead of the drug store version that’s been shipped overseas, try an organic or local alternative.  These chocolates will be fresher and have less of a carbon footprint than some of the alternatives that are available.  Luckily, organic chocolate is becoming easier and easier to find in even the most traditional grocery store.  Take her for a tour of a local chocolate factory and make sure you get lots of samples!  This would be an awesome family adventure that everyone would be sure to have a good time at.

Feeling good naturally

Bath products have to be one of the most popular gifts for women.  There are plenty of great options to choose from when shopping for these sorts of products.  Every mall has a least a couple of stores full of handmade, fair trade, all natural bath products.  Feeling crafty?  Look online for lots of easy and fun ways to make your own bath products in the home.  Bath bombs, soaps and linen sprays are all fairly simple to make even with the “help” of a couple of small kids.  You could even sign yourself up with your mom to take a class on how to make natural bath products.

When I was little, we would often make my mom a coupon book for Mother’s day.  She’d receive coupons good for us doing the dishes, cleaning the bathroom and doing laundry.  This sort of idea not only frees up mom’s time, it also teaches kids the value of hard work.  Try buying some chemical free cleaners and phosphate free laundry detergents to do the cleaning with.  These sorts of cleaners are generally safer for kids to use and are much safer for our environment.  This can be a good chance to try some different brands of cleaners than you would normally pick up.  Remember, this gift comes with actual cleaning not just cleaning products!

Ahhhh, the spa.  There’s nothing more relaxing!  A massage, facial, mud wrap and steam bath can turn any stressed out mom back into her eco-chic zen self.  Many spas are now popping up around the continent with eco-minded services and products.  Make sure that the gift certificate doesn’t expire quickly causing mom even more stress trying to get there in time.  If mom’s kids are still small, make sure that you think ahead to making sure they are cared for on the day of her spa visit.

It can be both easy and fun to make Mother’s day into a day to cherish mother Earth as well as your own mom/wife/grandmother/aunt.  It just takes a little bit more thought and planning to make her special day as green as Earth day.  Remember that the best gift of all for moms of all kind is a kiss, hug and a big “I love you!”.  Absolutely carbon free.

Image Credit: Jinx!, courtesy Flickr