The City of Alaminos, Phillipines, partners with the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and meets its zero waste challenge in just two years.

Zero Waste: From Dream to Reality in the Philippines (via sustainablog)

By Anne Larracas and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives “Environmental Possibilities: Zero Waste” features new ways of thinking, acting, and shaping government policy that are circling the globe. Each week, we highlight a success story in the zero waste movement, excerpted from a…

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  • Sustainable Style for Kitchen and Dining

Cards end up in the trash. Chocolate is often from questionable labor sources. So what’s an eco-conscious gift-giver to do? Here are some tips for green Valentine’s Day gifts from Eco Lunch Boxes that will make Mother Earth happy too.
Giving a little love at Valentine’s Day is easy when it comes to the people in your life – and the planet!

Green Valentine’s Day Tips and Tricks

  • Do It Yourself Greeting Cards: Sixty five percent of all gifts will take the form of a greeting card. This year don’t be 1 of the 180 million Valentine’s Day cards exchanged — and quickly thrown in the trash! Instead make your own using photos from an old magazine to create a unique and lovingly made greeting card.


  • Reusable Gifts: Pick gifts that are reusable and can be a token of your love for years to come. For example, reusable stainless steel bentos and other lunch accessories can be enjoyed daily and help a person save money and alleviate trash, according to a plastic-free lunch study by ECOlunchbox.


  • Potted Flowers: Instead of cut flowers, choose a potted plant or flowers like tulips or a hydrangea that can be planted outside when spring finally arrives. Another green Valentine idea is to plant a tree symbolic of your relationship – and watch it grow together over the years!


  • Homemade Goodies: Eight billion Sweethearts candy hearts are manufactured each year by the New England Confectionery Company. Get original for your one-of-a-kind Valentine. Ditch the pre-packaged treats and make your own.

ECOlunchbox SPECIAL OFFER: Every purchase of $20 will receive a free Snack Kit- a $12 value! Coupon Code: ecolove Expires 2/14/2013

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Green America: Green Gift Ideas for the Holidays

Another thought-provoking post on green gifting and gift ideas from Andrew at Green America.

The Gifts I’m Sharing With My Relatives and Friends This Holiday Season

On my vacation this year from my work as Green America’s online editor and coordinator of our People & Planet Award for green businesses, I had the good fortune to visit the headquarters of Canaan Fair Trade, and spend a week harvesting olives with the Fair Trade cooperatives organized in around the city of Jenin in the Palestinian territories.

Canaan is a true leader in the Fair Trade movement, and it will be my privilege to share more about my time with the farmers in an upcoming issue of the Green American magazine (you should subscribe!). But for now, as we’re blogging about our holiday gift-giving, I wanted to share some of my strategies — this year including Canaan’s delicious olive oil! — for keeping my gift-giving green (plus, a quick slide show from Canaan):

1.  Books — For my immediate family, I started a new tradition last year.  I scan through my bookshelves and figure out which book from the past year’s reading list would be enjoyed the most by any given member of my family.  Then, I write a short note at the beginning of the book, wrap it up, and share.  No additional resources spent, and then maybe — sometime in the future — talking about the book will help us grow closer.  It’s a more personal and less material form of sharing.

2.  Donations — With the money I save by not buying a lot of material gifts for my immediate family, I give a donation in their names, usually to a non-profit organization whose work I admire — Doctors Without Borders, for example.

3.  Small, green gifts — Then, for those extended family gatherings, or holiday gatherings with friends, where a small gift is customary to be shared, I plan ahead, earlier in the year, for what I can buy or make (something in line with green values) that I can stock up on.  Many years, that’s been something I can myself — pickled local/organic beets from the farmer’s market, or homemade jam from the local U-pick farm.  This year, I’m supporting the farmers I met in Palestine by sharing their organic, Fair Trade olive oil (small bottles, flavored with peppers or garlic, are available in bulk and quite affordable).

And now, a quick snapshot of the production process, as I saw it:


To harvest the ripened olives from the tree, you can stand on the ground, on the ladder, or climb the tree.  Then, you can pick with your hands, strip the branches with a small hand-held rake (you can see an orange one lying on the ground under the ladder), or beat the higher branches with a long stick, to make the olives fall.

showing-the-branchMy kind and hospitable host, Abu Fahdi, displays the olives ready for harvest on one of his trees.

lunchtimeAbu Fahdi and his grandson Ahmed rest underneath an olive tree at lunchtime.


Olives harvested from the trees fall into waiting tarps, where they are collected into piles.  Here, Abu Fahdi’s nephew Samir sifts the olives to remove leaves, stones, branches, and debris before bagging the olives in burlap.


Bagged olives are carried by tractor back to the village to be pressed into oil within two or three days (for the best quality).


Olives wait their turn to be loaded onto the conveyor (at rear) and run through the press.  The process is surprisingly rapid.  In just a few minutes, these olives become the delicious, high-quality oil we see everyday when we reach for the bottles in our kitchens.


Canaan’s home office, in Jenin, Palestine.   Olive oil is one of the newer Fair Trade commodities on the market.  Unlike coffee, tea, or chocolate, which have been certified Fair Trade since the 1990s, certified olive oil first came on the market between 2004 and 2006.  Since then, Canaan has grown rapidly, welcoming many more farmers into their cooperative structure, which helps these farmers from an economically challenged area attain the best price for their product, and find access to international markets which would be harder to tap individually.   Whether you choose to share Fair Trade olive oil this year like I’m doing, or choose other Fair Trade products — Fair Trade chocolate coins for Hannukah or as stocking stuffers, or rich Fair Trade teas as warming gifts for the Winter Solstice, for example — tapping into the Fair Trade marketplace is a great way to give meaningful gifts this season.

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Mexico City has a reputation for being dirty and crowded. But in recent years this metropolis has made strides in addressing their environmental issues as residents get involved in going green.

Revolution in Mexico City, one lettuce at a time (via AFP)

A green revolution is sweeping across the car and concrete jungle of Mexico City, an infamously smoggy capital that was once dubbed “Makesicko City” by novelist Carlos Fuentes. Residents are growing vegetables on rooftops, planting trees where buildings once stood, hopping on bicycles and riding in…

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The Electric Vehicle Conversion in the U.S.

Image property of Tips For Recycling

The U.S. automobile market is finally experiencing an electric vehicle conversion with Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf sales soaring. But why did it take so long?

First, and probably foremost in a society that links personal identity with automobile ownership, these have traditionally been, well….ugly. Why was it necessary to make electric cars look like some kind of reject from Mars? Only the most eco-conscious and techno geeks were able to overlook the ‘look’ and step into one of these vehicles. Remember the EV1?

Second, they are expensive. An electric vehicle will set you back an average of $10,000 extra over an equivalent gas burning model. Recently, however, tax credits have offset that cost and made all-electric and hybrid vehicles a more economical choice.

Third, they had extremely limited travel range, low power and top speeds that left you in the slow lane on the highway. Until recently most electric vehicles could travel an average of 45 to 60 miles on a single charge, and would take approximately 7 hours to re-power  Consider how long it would take to travel from Boston to New York using those figures.  But modern-day electric vehicles have answered these issues, mostly by adding gas-powered generators and the ability to switch to gas when the battery is fully discharged, taking a lot of the worry out of driving one of these technological wonders. Consider the Chevy Volt, which only travels 38 miles on electricity alone, but extends that range to 380 miles with a gas-powered electric generator, and accelerates from 0 to 60 in a mere 9 seconds. The Nissan Leaf is truly all-electric and has a range of 73 miles and a top speed of 90 mph.

Fourth, there has always been the issue of where to charge the car when the battery runs out. Not a problem at home, but a decided issue when out on the road. A sure sign that electric vehicles are now mainstream is the appearance virtually everywhere of electric vehicle charging stations. Now EV owners have convenient options for charging their vehicles away from home.

There are still some challenges that electric vehicles must overcome. In order to achieve long-range mileage they do have to use some gasoline, which means they are not emissions free. Even without the need for gas-powered generators, they still use electricity, and that electricity  is more or less ‘green’ depending upon how it was produced. If you live in an area of the country that uses primarily coal-fired electric plants it’s not as green as an area using primarily nuclear sources. Then too, how economical the electric engine is in comparison to its internal combustion counterpart varies with the cost of gas in your region of the country.  The July 2012 issue of Car and Driver has a nifty map (Nissan Leaf Color Tour) showing the equivalent fuel cost in $/gallon across the U.S., and there’s a huge variance. So don’t assume that you are necessarily saving on your fuel costs.

Overall electric vehicles remain a better option for the short-distance commuter than for road travelers, but the technology is advancing year by year. And as the following post states, they are truly becoming mainstream.

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Spain is probably not the first country that comes to mind when you think of sustainability. In 2002 the landfill that serves Hernani was nearly full. Facing a waste overflow and record high unemployment figures, they decided to dramatically change their municipal solid waste program. Through a combination of curbside collection of both recycables and organics and implementation of mandatory recycling, Hernani achieved an 82% diversion rate in its first year! They also created sixteen new jobs.

Door-to-Door Collection Reduces Waste in Hernani, Spain (via sustainablog)

“Environmental Possibilities: Zero Waste” features new ways of thinking, acting, and shaping government policy that are circling the globe. Each week, we highlight a success story in the zero waste movement, excerpted from the report On the Road to Zero Waste: Successes and Lessons from Around…

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Waste pickers in India are making a major impact on waste management in that country. What started as individuals picking through curbside trash or sifting through piles at the landfill has morphed into a new market for recycled materials.

On the Environmental Frontlines: Waste Pickers (via sustainablog)

By Neil Tangri and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives “Environmental Possibilities: Zero Waste” features new ways of thinking, acting, and shaping government policy that are circling the globe. Each week, we highlight a success story in the zero waste movement, excerpted from the…

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Are Plastic Deodorant Containers Recyclable?

Image courtesy of Unilever.co.nz

Are plastic deodorant containers recyclable? If Unilever has its way the answer may be yes.

Items like deodorant tubes are difficult to recycle because they are made from two plastic resin types. Most recyclable plastics are made from one resin, which can be identified by the plastic recycling number on the bottom of the container (see Plastic Recycling 101 to find out what each of those numbers means). Recycling two resin plastics has simply not been a cost effective process.

As part of their Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever is partnering with Earth911, Nextlife and Funding Factory to test the feasibility of two resin plastic recycling in fifty colleges and high schools. If the experiment is successful, deodorant tube recycling may become available to everyone, and companies like Unilever will significantly decrease the carbon footprint of their products. 

Earth911, Unilever in the USA Pioneer Mass Recycling Program for Deodorant Sticks and Two-Resin Packaging (via PR Newswire)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Nov. 15, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Recycling resource Earth911, an Infinity Resources Holdings company, and Unilever, the maker of Axe, Degree, Suave and Dove deodorants, today announced a project that will test the hypothesis that deodorant sticks can be economically recycled.  The…

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San Francisco is at the forefront of zero waste success stories. Their recycling policy is a big reason why. 

San Francisco: Zero Waste by 2020? (via sustainablog)

By Virali Gokaldas and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives East Coast residents have spent the last week surveying storm damage, calculating how long it might take for water-clogged coastal towns to drain, and waiting half-days in gas lines before returning to cold and darkened homes.…

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When we talk about reasons to recycle the primary justification is that we can significantly reduce, or eliminate altogether, the waste that we produce. But recycling in and of itself will not allow us to accomplish that goal. Recycling is merely the first step, albeit a very important one, on the path to zero waste. 

Beyond Recycling: On the Road to Zero Waste (via sustainablog)

Editor’s note: As regular readers may have guessed, this isn’t the first post in this series – we published the second one on San Francisco’s zero waste goals last week, as we received it first. No problem, though – the information’s excellent regardless of what order you read it in……

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