Plastic Pollution Solutions: Working 9 to 5

We’ve already discussed how to end our plastic reliance in the home and in your children’s lives. Considering we spend a third of our lives at the office, it can be a significant investment to address plastic in the office culture as well. From cutlery to phones, plastic has integrated itself into every facet of our daily routine.

Regardless if you are an entry level employee or a CEO, there are ways to reduce the amount of plastic in your office and encourage more sustainable habits with your coworkers.

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Plastic Pollution Solutions: Keeping it Kid-Friendly

Earlier this week, we discussed the proliferation of plastic in the home. As the rate of plastic production and consumption increases, it becomes even more of a concern for future generations. Because most plastic is produced from chemicals derived from fossil fuels, it never truly breaks down or disappears. All of the plastic that has ever been created – over 8.3 billion tons – is still present in the world today, whether it is recycled or ends up in our oceans and waterways. Knowing that plastic pollution is a problem, it’s important to teach children about the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling as much plastic as they can so that future generations can live in a cleaner and less toxic environment.

While kids definitely have a say in the food, clothing, and toys that they use, the majority of purchasing power lies in the parents’ hands. Here are a few actionable steps to limit the amount of plastic in the lives of your children:

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Plastic Pollution Solutions: Home, Sweet Home

According to the EPA, over 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced since the early 1950’s. That’s more than the weight of the entire human population! In 2015 alone, the US produced 34.5 million tons of plastic, including packaging, durable goods, and disposable items. The rate of plastic production and consumption has grown faster than any other material on the planet. This holds especially true for single-use plastics such as straws, silverware, cups, bags, and more, which for many of us, have become an integral part of our lives. Our plastic pollution problem is the result of consumption by manufacturers, processors, and residents.

Why is plastic a problem?

A 2017 study recently uncovered that only about 9% of plastics are truly recycled. The majority – almost 80% – accumulates in landfills or scattered around the natural environment. One of the most well-known end spots for plastic is in bodies of water, including rivers, lakes, and the ocean.The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest accumulation of ocean plastics on the planet. It totals 79,000 tons of plastic – over 94% of which are microplastics, pieces smaller than a grain of rice. If we maintain our current plastic consumption, there will be more plastic in our ocean than fish by 2050

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EcoFellows (try to) Live Zero Waste for a Week

When thinking of living a zero waste lifestyle, mainstream media pictures a mason jar with years of trash stuffed inside. This is a popular approach for bloggers who, after maximizing recycling, donation, compost, and purchasing reduction opportunities, provide a visualization of their impact by fitting the leftover waste in a jar. We wrote a blog on how this extreme zero waste lifestyle might not be the most accessible way to reduce waste as individuals. The associated cost, time, local infrastructure, and location are some of the most notable barriers. Taking this information into account, our EcoFellows – Becky (BK), Morgan (ML), Olivia (OH), Jonathan (JR), and Natasha (NN) – challenged themselves to live zero waste for a week to see what it was like! The goals were to test the feasibility of living the stereotypical zero waste mason jar lifestyle as young professionals in Western Massachusetts, as well as understand the challenges and successes for each person.

For seven days, each EcoFellow kept a list of all of the waste they produced, making note of what could theoretically be composted and recycled in our area. Throughout the challenge, they actively thought about reducing waste and made changes accordingly. Some of the areas of waste tracked included food and associated packaging, hygiene products, receipts, and cleaning materials.

The responses below to speak to each fellow’s experience. All five live in Northampton, so the physical infrastructure and location are relatively standardized. This area has multiple stores with bulk sections, a plastic bag ban, and a progressive mindset towards sustainability and environmental issues in general, which many of them found to be beneficial during their zero waste week.

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Kitchen Remodel Using Salvaged Cabinets

Using salvaged cabinets to remodel your kitchen can sound like an impossible task, but is actually really doable. One solution is to visit EcoBuilding Bargains, where there are always a variety of high-quality cabinets that need homes, but it can make you wonder how to integrate them into the spaces in your home. The Gaylords, who live in Easthampton, have integrated a beautiful salvaged cabinet set with the help of their contractor.

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