Tag Archives: Waste

Stuff. Part 2: paper receipts version.

Something was recently brought to my attention that has to do with stuff… of the useless and wasteful variety.

Paper receipts.

In addition to being tricky to spell, these pesky non-recycleable pieces of paper consume barrels and barrels of oil and literally hundreds of thousands of trees every year (more specific stats here). Did I mention that they’re not even recyclable?

My friends at softwareadvice.com are working on advocating for all electronic receipts, saying,

We think paper receipts are a wasteful vestige of the last millennium. There is no reason – legal or otherwise – why consumers or retailers need paper receipts. Electronic receipts are completely valid and far more efficient. Not to mention, the production of paper receipts do some real damage to our environment.

But I really liked what one commenter had to say:

I bought a doughnut, and they gave me a receipt for the doughnut. I don’t need a receipt for the doughnut, man, I’ll just give you the money, and you give me the doughnut… end of transaction. We don’t need to bring ink and paper into this.

Anyway, I think this is a really interesting and applicable campaign that fits nicely with the blog I mentioned in my original “Stuff.” post about how we can vote with our purchases and that we should be vocal about our preferences (i.e. telling the manager to look into this receipt issue.) Online banking is efficient, and a few dozen little paper receipts clogging up my wallet, backpack and life are not.

Check out this post to learn more and take their poll.

Cheers,

Jenny

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Stuff.

We use too much of it.

What a boring lead to a story. But it’s true.

And, hate to say it, but I never quite realized how much it’s true until I ran out of money recently (remember, I’m a senior in college) and noticed just how much stuff I’m accustomed to buying.

I feel like I’ve been deceiving you all by saying how careful I am with purchasing. Because I am. Well, er, was. Well, I thought I was.

For example:

I'm so sneaky.

I might bring my own cup to the coffee shop, but accept a Styrofoam container at lunch because that’s all there was.

I might use a cloth bag at the grocery store but stop and get ice cream in one of those little paper cups with those little plastic spoons and those little paper napkins. (Note: this picture <<< is the trash from one day ONE DAY at red mango fo-yo shop.)

“Because that’s all there was.” Hm, I don’t think I like that anymore. I hate to see all that stuff get used by anyone, but I really hate to see some of it get used by me.

I think this realization will make it easier for me to do a few things:

#1, and perhaps most notably, spend boatloads less money. Since I stopped carrying my wallet, I’ve brought tea to class, made breakfastlunchanddinner, not spent exorbitant amounts in coffee shops because I went in with my laptop and good intentions (i.e. coffee, black) but gave in (i.e. medium iced soy mocha), drank less alcohol, not bought little things (nail polish at Walmart, cool pen at book store, cute little notebook at cute little gift store, worthless piece of [colorful] plastic crap at the dollar spot at target), ETC.

#2, gotten angry about the fact that I did these things, and started to do something about it. Ever since I read this earth day post about our impact (consumer demand) on stores (supply), it’s really had me thinking. And now, speaking up.

Have a read:

…But if you, a customer, request a change?

Businesses will listen. Especially if there is more than one of you.

Vote with your dollar. You have more power than you think.

Ask why the business is still using incandescent bulbs when there are $1 compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs at Ace Hardware down the street. Ask why the faucet in the restroom pours water out faster than Niagra Falls when low-flow aerators cost about $5. Ask why coffee comes in styrofoam cups when paper cups are used at every Starbucks and Caribou. Ask why the air conditioning is set at 55 when the door is left hanging open. And ask if you can turn the temperature back to 70. Pay attention, and speak up. Write letters, write comments, write letters to the editor, ask to see the manager, and threaten to take your business elsewhere — somewhere that you like the way things are being run.

Tell the business you love what they do and want to continue to be a valued customer. And then proceed to be a pain in the ass. I don’t like to do it, either. But trust me. It works. Business decision makers remember you, and roll their eyes, and eventually change their minds. Because any business that doesn’t serve a customer or a need isn’t going to survive.

When you find a business that does it right, tell every other business you visit about it. Name names. Shame your favorite business into action.

Because we are Americans. We are ego-driven. And we don’t like to be told what to do by anyone without a dollar bill.

#3. Noticed Greenwashing. I’ve learned (and really, it sucks it took me so long to realize it), that there’s a difference between greenwashing, making a “green choice,” and “being green.”

Greenwashing, which according to greenwashingindex.com, is, “when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. It’s whitewashing, but with a green brush.” And it’s EVERYWHERE. Read on:

…A classic example might be an energy company that runs an advertising campaign touting a “green” technology they’re working on — but that “green” technology represents only a sliver of the company’s otherwise not-so-green business, or may be marketed on the heels of an oil spill or plant explosion.

Or a hotel chain that calls itself “green” because it allows guests to choose to sleep on the same sheets and reuse towels, but actually does very little to save water and energy where it counts — on its grounds, with its appliances and lighting, in its kitchens and with its vehicle fleet.

Or a bank that’s suddenly “green” because you can conduct your finances online, or a grocery store that’s “green” because they’ll take back your plastic grocery bags, or …

You get the picture.

– “Making a green choice” might mean choosing the organic cotton or bananas or “now less packaging” lotion, when really you could have gone without these things in the first place (refrain from buying the shirt, choose a more seasonal fruit, made homemade lotion!). Don’t get me wrong, green choices are generally good ones, but I would challenge you (as I have just learned, but kind of by accident) to consider whether there’s a greener one…

– “Being green” might mean finding a recipe for my own household cleaner, cooking my own food, carrying a container and fork and cup so I don’t have to accept all those throw-aways (even if it is paper, not Styrofoam). In this context, being green kinda means being cheap. And we could all use some of that. (Especially me.)

So, here’s to less stuff and saving the money for something that won’t be thrown away in 5 minutes, or 5 uses.

Frugally,

-Jenny

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The Green List

You’ve seen it before.

“101 things you can do to be green in 2010” and, “10 ways to Green your life” and… many, many (many) others.

But you haven’t seen it from me!

Don’t worry though, I know that you can’t “green” your life in 10 steps. In fact, I love environmental things and talk/think about them all day long and I STILL don’t live a 100% “green” life … whatever that means.

So I’m just here to tell you a few tips I’ve learned along the way to just do what you can to help.

Before I begin, there are two lessons I’ve learned that you must always remember and that underscore this whole idea:

1. You can’t do it all. No one person is going to save the world or have zero impact. That is actually one thing I really like about environmentalists (or just people who care, if you don’t like that term), is that they must rely on others and believe in good intentions of all people.

In other words, since we can’t do it all by ourselves, we must rely on the progress of others to believe that any change can happen!

Anyway, what you can do is pick one area that you really advocate for and adhere to. I have become passionate about food issues, but others focus on transportation, corporate responsibility, building, renewable energy, fisheries, forests, the list is endless! There really is something for everyone out there!

2. Be willing to make the initial sacrifice. At first, some of these things might seem like a big deal, but I promise your life will often be better off for it in the end. Maybe you’ll save money, be more active, feel good about yourself, get your name out there, feel healthier, or have something to share with your grandchildren. Who knows, all I’m sayin’ is pick something new and give it a try.

Got an idea for me? Share it in the comments! I’d love to know how you “green” your life. (… Although that term grosses me out. I have to think of a new one.)

Anyway, here I go. Oh, also: don’t feel like you have to read the whole thing. Maybe pick your “area” and just read that.

Continue reading

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Bah-humbug

Ever since Obama’s State of the Union address last Wednesday, it’s seemed like everyone’s been pretty grumpy and negative (to say the least).

Well, certainly the environmental community has been, and I suppose the liberals who said the speech was too moderate and the conservatives who complained that it was too liberal are maybe a little more than, “a bit grumpy,” but overall, the mood is not something to sing about.

Although it might have started last Wednesday when your issue area didn’t get the coverage you hoped for, or it was too expensive, or not enough, or whatever… the community (at least the one I’m surrounded by) has just remained a bunch of Negative Nancys and I’m sick of it! (As you can see, it’s beginning to affect me too.)

I understand, it was really disappointing when Obama said this (and pretty much only this) about the environment:

…But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

Here are some of the responses from some greenies that I look up to and respect from twitter that night: (fyi- #sotu just means State of the Union)

“Uh, I’m sorry, did he just call the US a “leader” in the fight on climate change? In what universe? #sotu

“Maybe those kids getting that education can breathe in all that clean coal. #ecosotu

“Man, the section of this speech on climate/energy is just depressing. Boilerplate, blah. No urgency. #fucked #sotu

“So, Republicans have refused to clap for bailout bashing or tax cuts. Maybe if he floats torture … #sotu

“Wow, that clean energy stuff came and went pretty damn quick. #sotu

“I must be broken. I just don’t get the old Obama chills any more. This year has drained my enthusiasm for words. #sotu

While the political leanings of these authors are clear, it’s not the politics one way or another that got me the most riled up… it’s all the negativity (and how uncomfortably divided that room was)!

Then, one Thursday I got into a spat with a Monsanto social media stalker who criticized my informing the twitter world that 2 GMO-loving politicians had been appointed into the FDA by sending me this (one is a previous Monsanto employee actually, Michael Taylor, and the other is Tom Vilsack).

At that point, never have I:

a. Been so concerned with national politics that it actually affected my mood (I know this happens to other people all the time, but I usually remain a bit more removed)

b. Wanted to do something about it more

c. Felt so powerless and discouraged!

And then I decided enough is enough. I’m hoping instead of being sad, pessimistic, hopeless, and powerless, we can pull ourselves up from our bootstraps, focus on our communal need for improvement and work collaboratively, deliberatively, and creatively to solve these problems!

see:

Sound a bit idealistic? kinda, I know.

But it makes sense. I’m not saying that these issues are easy, because if they were they wouldn’t be issues. But I think a focus on COLLABORATIVE innovation and not lingering on being pissed will take us a long way.

So, now I’m trying to be super productive. Here are some things I’m up to:

– Working with Clean Wisconsin to promote the Clean Energy Jobs Act

– Working with a group of super engaged students to come up with waste disposal alternatives for Madison to be presented in a public forum at the end of the semester

– Hopefully blogging about being practical, effective, consistent, motivational and positive in green endeavors

– Writing from time to time in the Daily Cardinal‘s “Green Room” column

– Learning a lot in my last semester of college (!!!) so I can use these skills to help get the rest of the environmental community to stop whining all the time. (ok, that’s an exaggeration)

Sorry if this seemed a bit rantish. It’s just that I know we can do better and I want people to be excited for our future, not scared of it.

So, here’s to a good rest of the week, innovation, and making something to be positive about when finding one is tough.

Optimistically,

Jenny

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