Friday, April 24, 2015

You Can Recycle That: Shingles

Warm weather is finally here, and for many that means home renovation projects. Last summer, a new roof was put on our house and I wish I knew then what I know now. Asphalt shingles can be recycled!

Instead of filling an multiple dumpsters, shingles can be ground up and used to pave roads! The shingles from an average sized home can pave about 200 feet of a two-lane highway. Recycling your shingles can keep really large quantities of hazardous waste materials out of landfills (and your ground water), reduce the amount of virgin oil used to make asphalt, and it can save tax-payer dollars (your money) by reducing how much local municipalities spend on paving materials.

Here in Western New York, Triad Recycling collects shingles for recycling. They've teamed up with The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to provide recycled asphalt for paving roadways across New York State. To find a recycling facility near you, use's find a recycler tool.

Before you start a roofing project on your home, speak with your contractor and make sure they are willing to have your shingles recycled.

Once your old roof is recycled, remember your new roof can be more eco-friendly too! Many new roofing products are Energy Star certified. Not only are there products available that can reduce your home's energy usage, but some are made using more earth-friendly materials too. Make sure you do a little research before choosing your new roof.

Further Reading:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Best in Crowdfunding: November 2014

Of all the Crowdfunding posts I've written, this month is by far my favorite. In fact, this may be the first time that I'll actually back each of the projects I feature in a Best in Crowdfunding post. They're all that good.

The Simply Co. - 3 Ingredient Laundry Detergent 

I'm in the habit of seeking out blogs with similar themes and values as my own. That's how I came across Trash is for Tossers. Blogger Lauren documents steps she takes in her own life to eliminate waste and live sustainably. Some of her posts include recipes for homemade household cleaners. When her readers started asking where they could find similar products, Lauren decided to launch The Simply Co. Her first product is a three-ingredient laundry detergent. It's vegan, biodegradable, and basically awesome.
Campaign Goal: $10,000
Deadline: November 28
Platform: Kickstarter

Forced to Flee: Visual Stories by Refugee Youth from Burma

Forced to Flee is a book that will be a compilation of original artwork by young Burmese refugees. Here in Buffalo, we have a large population of refugees, and a significant portion of them are Burmese. I have found that refugees can contribute a great deal to a community, and that they have incredible stories to tell. The artwork from this project is inspiring, and 100% of proceeds from the book will go to Burmese youth leadership programs.
Campaign Goal: $12,000
Deadline: November 24
Platform: Kickstarter

Artwork from Forced to Flee

Handmade Beauty Box

For Christmas last year, my nearest and dearest received baskets of all-natural bath and beauty products, hand-made by me. When I was making things like bath bombs and body butter bars, I discovered that I liked some of the homemade products even more than store-bought alternatives. Making bath products at home is a great way to eliminate unnecessary packaging waste, be positive that you know exactly what's in the products you use on your body, and it can save you loads of money too. One of my favorite online resources for bath product ingredients and tutorials is Bramble Berry. Subscribers to their Handmade Beauty Box will receive all of the ingredients and the instructions for a different complete DIY bath or beauty product each month. I can't wait to see what the first project will be!
Campaign Goal: $3,000
Deadline: November 21
Platform: Kickstarter

Lily Cup Compact

This thing is cool. It took me a LONG time to even warm up to the idea of menstrual cups. I admit, I was grossed out. After years of being closed-minded, I finally realized that they help to keep lots of waste of out landfills and waterways, keep unwanted chemicals away from my most sensitive and important body parts, are way more inconspicuous and convenient than tampons, and can help save money. I tried out a few cups and determined that they may not be the best fit for me, but this is making me reconsider. The material is softer and more flexible than other cups, and the design is much more convenient. If you're sick of dealing with the hassle of tampons and pads, I suggest you check out the Lily Cup. Even if you're a skeptic, as I was, I strongly encourage you to at least watch the video below. It may convince you.
Campaign Goal: $7,800
Deadline: November 23
Platform: Kickstarter

Fables by Barrie

When I started to learn about ugly side of fast fashion, I began seeking out ethical fashion brands. Thankfully, there are lots of great brands out there making ethical pants, dresses, shirts, sweaters, socks, and more. The one item I struggled to find was a bathing suit that I wouldn't feel guilty spending money on. Fables by Barrie is a swimwear brand manufactured in the U.S. All of their products are sweatshop-free, and vegan. I adore the retro-inspired designs. I actually purchased a bikini for myself and am really happy with how well it fits, and the quality of the product.

Unfortunately, Barrie's designs are being copied and the brand is losing business to cheap knockoffs. The designer, Barrie Kaufman has decided to confront the threat in a really unique way. She understands that owning a high-quality, ethically manufactured swimsuit can be cost prohibitive, so she wants to give women an opportunity make their own swimwear, rather than spending money on fast fashion or brands who rip off hardworking entrepreneurs. To that end, she has created #FablesByUs, which will be a book and web video series that will teach readers how to create their own swimwear. The book will include sewing patterns and instructions, and the videos will offer instructions as well as beauty tips and other fun tidbits from Barrie herself. It's a creative way to inspire people to avoid fast fashion and get creative!
Campaign Goal: $35,000
Deadline: ?
Platform: GoFundMe

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

You Can Recycle That: Wine Corks

I drink wine. You drink wine. We all drink wine. In fact, 892 million gallons of wine were consumed in the United States in 2013. That's an average of 2.82 gallons per American. GALLONS. There are about 13 billion natural corks finding their way to landfills around the planet every year.

Surprisingly, the demand for cork is not threatening the natural cork forests. On the contrary, cork forests are being sustainably maintained in a way that is actually good for the environment! That's because cork trees aren't cut down. The bark is harvested from the trees every 9 years or so, and the trees themselves can live up to 300 years! The forests support high levels of biodiversity including some endangered species, and they absorb millions of tons of carbon every year. Natural cork is a sustainable and renewable material. The problem lies in the disposal of wine corks. Natural cork is an organic material, but it is impermeable, so it doesn't biodegrade very quickly. That means it will sit in the land fill for a really long time.

The most important thing to do is be more selective about the wine you purchase. Natural cork is a way better option than synthetic corks and metal screw tops, which don't biodegrade and are harder to recycle. Next time you're shopping for wine, look for the "Real Cork Inside" acorn on the label.

Once you've finished drinking your wine, hang onto the corks instead of tossing them into the trash. There are plenty of options for recycling them.

Here's a video of a wonderful TEDx talk given by Patrick Spencer, executive director of the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance (CFCA). He speaks about why it's important to maintain natural cork forests.

The CFCA has created the Cork ReHarvest campaign and partnered with a variety of companies to recycle used wine corks and turn them into a variety of products. You can drop your corks off at any Whole Foods location. If you don't live near a WF, here is a list of collection sites.

ReCORK is another company that recycles used wine corks. The cork they collect is used to manufacture shoes for the SOLE brand. Find a cork collection site near you using their location finder.

You can also ship your used wine corks to Yemm & Hart, a materials manufacturer that actually pays 1/2 cent per cork. The minimum package weight requirement is 15 lbs, so this option is probably best for groups of wine drinkers or businesses that go through large quantities of wine. But maybe you can package up 15 lbs of wine corks on your own. No judgement!

You can even compost your natural corks. As I mentioned, they won't biodegrade quickly, so you may want to cut them up into small pieces before you toss them into your compost pile. Try giving your corks a quick whir in the food processor to break them down. Having bits of cork in the soil will actually help to retain water for your plants!

And if you're crafty, there is no shortage of cork craft ideas on Pinterest!

If you want to support cork recycling even further, you can purchase products that are made out of used wine corks. When you purchase one of these products, you are supporting the maintenance of natural cork forests and keeping wine corks out of the landfill.

Further Reading