Recyling Your Media Waste & Techno Trash

May 11th, 2011

Is part of your 2010 New Year resolution to go through and dispose of all those old videotapes, floppy disks, zip Disks, DVDs, CDs and jewel cases that you never want to see again? You may need to put out a few dollars for postage or services but there are some choices for doing this responsibly:

Disabled employees of the nonprofit Alternative Community Training (ACT) in Columbus MO grind up various smaller plastic items such as CDs, VHS tapes and jewel cases for resale to manufacturers who use recycled plastic. You can mail your trash using media mail rates ($6.95 for the first 20 lbs and 30 cents for each pound over that).

GreenDisk uses a network of non-profit organizations to process techno trash. They refurbish what we can and recycle the rest. Inkjet cartridges get remanufactured and, when possible, cell phones and some computers get refurbished. Material that has no further operating life is broken down to its smallest components (metals, plastics, etc.) and used in the manufacturing of new products. All of the material that GreenDisk collects is reused or recycled. No hazardous materials or obsolete components go overseas to be processed or disposed of. The cost here is the same as above.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area you may be able to take it directly to a local Green Citizen center. They locate themselves near business centers to encourage businesses which produce so much of the techno trash. When my husband’s business moved in San Francisco last week, we just wheeled a couple monitors on carts a few blocks to the Howard St center.

If you’re active at your church or school, consider a drive to collect and return this trash. (Solicit some donations to cover mailing boxes and postage at the same time).

Over the past few years I’ve accumulated a stash of solar garden lights but slowly they seem to be dying. I was complaining (mostly to myself) that 1) they don’t make things the way they used to or 2) I might be saving energy with solar lights but I’m spending it as I throw out these otherwise good fixtures and creating waste, to boot.

I slowed down enough to pull a couple  of these apart and discovered that they use Ni-Cad  or Ni-MH Rechargeable batteries that I could recharge or replace. It also was a good time to clean out the cobwebs from the light housing & spiff them up a bit. Here’s a good tutorial

If the plastic panel has disintegrated or the circuit is no longer working, time to toss or re-use the parts (unless you have electronics skills). I searched for pre-made LED solar circuits but they don’t seem to exist. BTW, don’t forget to keep the rechargeable batteries to recharge for other uses!

Sustainable Shoes

August 14th, 2010

I’ve been pondering how my shoe shopping decisions can be both kind to the environment and to the people that make them. Though buying quality second-hand shoes is suggested as being most sustainable, the original shoe may not have been made sustainably. I depend on comfortable, well made shoes and wear them til they won’t stay on my feet or the soles are worn through.

On the human rights front, most shoes seem to be made in China, South Korea Indonesia other countries with a history of poor worker rights. Sadly, even those made in more developed countries are often made by exploited recent immigrants such as in Italy. If yo

Employee dismissal for asking for better wages & working conditions is occurring in Adidas, Nike contract plants and those of their suppliers such as Freetrend. Sadly they have a history of moving their contracted manufacturing to another country, with poorer labor rights enforcement, when profits are challenged. Oliberté offers ethical & locally sourced leather sneaks which may be my next purchases. New Balance seems to be the only major brand that effectively monitors to human rights at the manufacturing level.

Smaller companies, including those that make vegan shoes are under even more financial pressure to keep manufacturing costs down and often do not even know who their manufacturers actually are. Verite,Workers\’ Rights Consortium (WRC) WRC (Workers’ Rights Consortium created by United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) formed independently of corporations and plans to focus exclusively on the part of the industry producing college apparel. FLA (Fair Labor Association) does factory monitoring though it is funded by Nike & other manufacturers with less than stellar sweatshop reputations.

The second piece are the materials and chemicals used in manufacturing. Leather is my material of choice because I have very sweaty feet and it breathes well and is very strong. Sadly the human and environmental by-products of tanning are well documented. I do favor a simple shape with few individual leather pieces on the presumption that less leather must be used to make it and fewer seams to break down.

Tom\’s Shoes has young, causal offerings and donates a pair for each pair sold; each factory is periodically audited by a third-party inspector.

I’m going to post this unfinished but hope to get back when I’ve done more research. In the meantime, don’t shop before thinking about options.  I look for those that might be made in the USA or EU on the presumption that there are stronger worker rights. There are many Fair Trade choices online. Campaigns for ethical treatment of workers include the Not For Sale fighting the global slave trade which includes economic slavery in company plants.

Water Warming

February 14th, 2010

Water is an essential element of life. Most folks incorrectly link global warming with outside air temperatures. The true problem is occurring in our seas which most of us rarely see, feel or think about. The warming of our oceans, lakes and stream affects the type of fish we can eat, sources of seaweed (seaweed is an ingredient in more foods, beauty products and medicines than you can possibly imagine), and the purity of the water we drink.

I’ll be expanding this post regularly but today’s news is that Target has announced that all their stores will stop selling farmed salmon products.

“Target announced that the reason they are discontinuing the sale of farmed salmon is because of the significant environmental degradation it causes. Aquaculture (farming fish) is often called the future of the seafood industry, but some types of aquaculture – such as conventional open-net salmon farming – can cause tremendous damage to the environment. Parasite infestations, concentrated fish waste, the uncontrolled spread of genetic material, and the unsustainable use of wild fish to feed farmed animals all pose significant threats to the sanctity of our marine ecosystems.

While some types of aquaculture, such as closed-containment systems and many bivalve farms, are relatively environmentally responsible sources of protein, many fish in conventional, open-containment aquafarms suffer from parasitic infections, diseases, and debilitating injuries. Conditions on some of these farms are so horrendous that a large percentage of the fish die before farmers can kill and package them for food.”

Life & Debt

August 14th, 2009

This is the title of a movie which traces how the agricultural industry of Jamaica has been subsumed by NAFTA and the IMF. Local rice and potatoes have been replaced with imports from the US. Workers are paid substandard wages because the factories are on the shore in a special “trade zone” that benefits only the manufacturers and local government officials. Order it on Netflix