Arbor Day: A Celebration and Appreciation of Trees

Let’s celebrate trees this Arbor Day. Trees do so much for us.  They provide shade, reduce energy costs and increase our property values. Along our streets, they reduce storm water runoff that can carry pollutants to our waterways. Throughout our communities, they improve the mental and respiratory health, break up heat islands, create jobs and boost the economy.

In forests, they restore critical wildlife habitat, provide opportunities for recreation and maintain healthy watersheds to protect drinking water resources.  And no matter where they’re planted, trees are working hard to combat climate change, clean the air and shield us from ultra-violet rays.  Trees filter pollutants out of our air and water. They absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing oxygen back into the air.  Trees provide food for humans, birds and wildlife, alike.  One apple tree can provide 15 to 20 bushels of fruit a year.

Trees provide immeasurable beauty and serenity that feed the human soul. At times, they can take our breath away.  This Friday, April 28th, is Arbor Day.  Take notice. Observe. Celebrate and be grateful for the trees around you.  TreeZero invites you to plant a tree and make a positive impact in your community.

Visit us at TreeZero.  Learn more about how choosing our tree free paper helps the environment and your business or organization to be more sustainable.

Ready to go tree free? Email us and we’ll get you started.

Weekly Round-Up: Recycling – Opportunities to Improve

Below are several articles highlighting opportunities to improve recycling and businesses that are stepping up their game in use of recovered materials to make new products.

What you’re doing wrong when it comes to recycling – Waste Management officials say the Seattle area is considered a national leader with a recycling rate greater than 50 percent. However, that leaves room for a lot of opportunities. “We do a pretty good job but yet, nearly half of what we’re throwing away could be recycled,” says Michelle Metzler, Waste Management’s manager of recycling education programs. “So even though we’re doing better than most of the rest of the country, we still have a lot of opportunities.recycle right

The Recycling Partnership assesses its impactIn its recently released 2016 annual report, titled “How do You Create Impact3,” The Recycling Partnership, the organization has:

  • assisted more than 250 local communities and improved recycling for 19 million households;
  • increased greenhouse gas savings from 43,000 metric tons two years ago to 164,200 metric tons;
  • grown the cumulative tonnage of recyclables recovered from 15,100 tons two years ago to 57,500 tons today;
  • placed nearly 400,000 curbside recycling carts during the last three years; and
  • saved 382 million gallons of water and 2 trillion BTU of energy annually.

The Recycling Partnership has announced its third annual request for proposals to help local governments make the switch to cart-based recycling collection. The national nonprofit will be giving out funds on a rolling process throughout the year. Any county, municipality, solid waste district/authority or tribe with at least 10,000 residents is eligible to apply. For programs with weekly collections, carts must be at least 60 gallons, and at least 90 gallons for biweekly. recycling binAll carts must include embedded RFID tags as well.  The Partnership is offering $7 per household for cart purchases and $1 per household for education. Additional technical assistance and educational materials are worth an estimated $139,000. For Info visit Recycling Partnership.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition and the Recycling Partnership have started a new initiative that will build a roadmap for a stronger American recycling industry.  ASTRX is a systems-level project to increase recycling by strengthening each element of the materials supply chain to create reliable and valuable manufacturing feedstock. For packaging to be recycled successfully, we must consider how it flows through each of the five elements of recycling: end markets, reprocessing, sortation, collection, and consumer engagement. To increase recovery, ASTRX will examine each element of the recycling system, identify barriers to recovering more high quality materials, and develop solutions that support each element and thus help the recycling system as a whole.

P&G and Microsoft Demonstrate How to Move Beyond Recycling – In an article Gina-Marie Chesseman reports Procter and Gamble (P&G) set a goal to send zero manufacturing waste to landfill by 2020. So far, 56 percent of its global production sites send zero manufacturing waste to local landfills. The company works toward its 2020 goal by looking at waste through a new lens. As it states on its website: “The key is to not see anything as trash, but material with potential use.” “We made a strategic decision in the late 1980s to ensure our packaging could be recovered, recycled and reused in our new packages,” Virginie Helias, global VP of sustainability for P&G, told TriplePundit. “We solicited help from multiple partners, built new supply chains and, most importantly, committed to using post-consumer recycled plastic in our bottles.”

P&G recently partnered with TerraCycle and SUEZ to produce a shampoo bottle made from up to 25 percent recycled beach plastic. The bottle of Head and Shoulders shampoo will debut this summer in French retailer Carrefour. And the rollout will eventually represent the world’s largest production of recyclable bottles made with post-consumer recycled beach plastic.

“Microsoft started nine years ago using compostable products and went to fully compostable dining ware in July 2008,” Mohan Reddy Guttapalem, Microsoft senior facilities manager, told TriplePundit. Microsoft’s Redmond campus achieved gold-level zero waste certification from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council.

The company managed to divert at least 90 percent of its food, office and construction waste from landfills. And employee-driven reuse, recycling and composting programs helped the company reach its milestone. Microsoft also likes to conduct complete audits frequently, including periodically auditing waste streams and an annual audit of its waste-hauling vendor, Guttapalem said. The company then tailors its “outreach programs to the employees based on the results.”

Target offers car seat recycling program. Target is encouraging parents not to throw away car seats after they have been outgrown by their children. The retail store chain is offering a car seat recycling program beginning April 17, according to Parents magazine. Target, in partnership with recycling company TerraCycle, will accept car seats through April 30. toddler in car seatParents should bring that obsolete car seat to the store, drop it in a bin located either in the baby section or near the front. Then, locate a Target associate to receive a coupon for 20 percent off any car seat through May 31. Shoppers can buy the car seats in-store or online at Target.com. The recycled car seats will be converted into new products.

Why OEMs are bringing more recycled plastic into devices. According to HP’s latest sustainability report, the company incorporates e-plastics from used ink and toner cartridges back into new cartridges. It also uses other post-consumer plastic sources, including beverage containers. The report also noted that it used 6,200 metric tons of post-consumer plastic in PCs and displays in 2015, although it didn’t indicate whether the recycled content came from recovered e-plastics or other sources. HP isn’t alone in incorporating recycled resin in its devices. Dell has for years incorporated post-consumer e-plastics in its products. During the 2016 fiscal year, Dell used 3.4 million pounds of post-consumer e-plastics in its products, up about 55 percent from the year before.

SUBTITLE C: REGIONAL MEGA-FACILITIES ARE THE FUTURE OF COMMERCIAL COMPOSTING. Ultimately, the rates (costs to residents and businesses) associated with manufacturing compost from organic waste will always be higher than landfilling, even with economy of scale. Commercial composting is a manufacturing process that can take up to 120 days or more. The sheer time difference between landfilling and composting a ton of organic material is enough to multiply the cost of managing it exponentially. Also, compost manufacturing is different from most manufacturing because the cost of making the product exceeds the value of the product in the marketplace.  This is because compost competes with chemical fertilizers even though it shouldn’t since the benefit of fertilizers is mostly short term production gains, whereas compost provides soil health first, creating a healthy microbiome for long term production gains.

Whatever the solution is to the question of how we responsibly and economically manage our waste, we are bound to be more successful and innovative if we think backwards before we think forwards.  What were the lessons learned from RCRA and the consolidation of the landfill industry?  How can we implement and fund organic waste recycling programs using the lessons learned from curbside recycling?  I’ll end with a great quote by author Ronald Wright “Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.”

Dozens dead after dump site landslide in Sri Lankan capital.  At least 29 casualties have been confirmed after a landfill landslide in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, and some estimates say that up to 100 people may still be missing, as reported by NBC News and other media outlets. More than 1,000 emergency workers have been brought in to the crisis area, though a military spokesperson told Reuters it is unlikely they will find any survivors. The incident occurred on April 15 during Sri Lanka’s new year celebrations and damaged an estimated 145 homes. Geological investigators believe that the landslide was caused by a methane explosion, as reported by The New York Times. Residents in the Meethotamulla area had been calling for the closure of this 300-foot-high site for multiple years. The Sri Lankan government has announced that the site will now be closed, as reported by BBC News.

Last year, the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) released a report that linked 750 deaths to dumpsites in less than a year and outlined strategies for beginning to close the world’s 50 most egregious examples. ISWA is turning its attention the Estrutural landfill in Brazil’s capital first — one of multiple challenging sites in the country— and the urgency of this need has been recently demonstrated in other countries as well. At least 113 people were killed by a landfill landslide in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last month.

As outlined by ISWA, closing these dumpsites will also help countries work toward achieving the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. If allowed to continue in their current states, these sites could comprise 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Out of the 50 largest ones, 38 are also in coastal areas and are sources of the ongoing marine pollution crisis that has drawn attention from Sri Lanka and many other countries.

Now is the Time to Make Earth Day Everyday

In a recent blog post, Jason Clay of World Wildlife Fund made some interesting historical references to the conditions of our world dating back to the first Earth Day – April 22, 1970.   Since 1970 the human population doubled.   The non-human vertebrate species’ populations declined by an average of 58 percent.  The global average temperature increased by about one degree Celsius. In 1970, the US imported about $54 billion worth of goods and services.  That number rose to $2.7 trillion in 2016.

Manhattan skyline

Manhattan skyline in 1974, photographed by Alexander Hope for Documerica. Courtesy of the National Archives

By 1970 millions of Americans were fed-up with the state of the natural environment.  Civil society was ripe for activism and government solutions. They were ready for business and commerce to clean up their acts.

Senator Gaylord Nelson (WI (D)) understood this disgust along with the rising demands of citizens.  He proposed a national event to galvanize action – Earth Day.  “The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy,” Senator Nelson said, “and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda.”

NYT first Earth Day

A throng of thousands along New York City’s 5th Ave., as far as the eye could see, came out for Earth Day 1970 demonstrations receiving front page coverage the next day

Clearly, we’ve made great progress since the first Earth Day. But so much still needs to be done.  I’d venture to say, focusing on just one day falls short of the vision of the father of Earth Day.

Our reliance on fossil fuels and the inefficient use of most, if not all, energy continues to make the most significant impact on the environment. Energy is the life blood of our economy.  But extraction, refining, generation and transmission of most of our energy sources creates enormous amounts of waste, emissions of particulate air pollution and heat trapping greenhouse gases.  Yet, many of these externalities are not accounted for on the cost ledger of our businesses or personal budgets.

What does the American public think?  According to a March 2017 Gallup Poll, 59% of Americans believe the environment should be prioritized over energy production.   This is not an unreasonable expectation.  Just think about the amount of solar energy hitting the earth each day. If properly collected, stored and transmitted, solar energy could provide more than is needed to meet our daily energy needs.

LED bulbs avoid the use of significant amounts of energy.  They reduce maintenance costs and eliminate mercury associated with fluorescent bulbs.

Imagine if procurement officials from colleges and universities gave preference to recycled materials and low carbon commitments in setting selection criteria for goods and services?

Would energy efficiency and use of renewable energy increase significantly if fossil fuel energy use by industry and commerce were listed on the loss side of balance sheets?

Senator Nelson said, “The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats, and biodiversity…that’s where all economic activity and jobs come from.”

This Earth Day, by all-means, plant a tree, organize a clean-up, recycle.  Better yet, organize efforts to make long-term commitments to reduce the impact of your organization.   What material impact does your company have as a result of the use of energy, water and waste generation across the entire supply chain?  Do you measure it?  Do you set expectations for your suppliers to reduce natural resource use? Can you meet and exceed the environmental expectations of your customers?

If not, I encourage you to set stretch, time-based goals. Work to make the change you want to see in your organization and the world.  Look for opportunities to embed sustainability measurements, goals and requirements across all functions of your organization and with all your suppliers and customers.

If you don’t do it.  Who will?Gaylord Nelson quote

Easy ways to “go green” at the office to celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day is coming up at the end of the month. You’re already trying to be as “green” as you can be at home, so now it’s time to make your workplace just as sustainable.  There are lots of simple changes you can make to raise awareness of environmental issues, create a sustainable workplace, and encourage your co-workers to make and participate in sustainable choices.

Here’s a few ways to make any office Earth Day-ready:

  1. Think Before You Print. Refrain from printing things that can easily be read or saved on the computer. And, if you decide to print, TreeZero encourages you to use our tree free multipurpose paper. We also suggest that you set up your printers to print two-sided, set your margins as wide and your font size as small as possible. Not only will you save paper, but you’ll think twice about what you’re sending out.recycle bins
  2. Recycle Everything You Can. Recycling is one of the easiest, least demanding and least expensive ways to go green. Strategically place recycling bins around the office to encourage people to properly dispose of paper, aluminum, plastic, glass and other items. As your office becomes more involved in the recycling, you can also set up separate bins for items such as batteries and ink cartridges.biking to work
  3. Commute Smarter. Walk or cycle to work if you can.  Take public transportation (tip: buy bulk passes to save money). As a bonus with either of these two options, you’ll get additional exercise on your way to and from work.  If you must drive, carpool or car share.  According to the EPA, ditching your car for two days per week will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year.dog at work
  4. Conserve Water. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge instead of running the tap. Don’t pour left over water down the drain.  Use it to water the plants.  If you’re lucky enough to be able to bring your dog to the office, use left over water to fill the dog’s water bowl.green team 2
  5. Start a Green Team. Get your office to create a sustainability team. Gather team members from a cross-section of the company and work together to develop and maintain green practices for your company. Keep it fun and encourage company-wide participation rewarding creative ideas.  Your new Green Team can inspire, activate, and engage employees to create meaningful changes within your company.  Otherwise, what’s the use of these tips if no one is using them?

Let us know how you’ve made your office a more sustainable place to work. Share some of your favorite sustainable ideas.  We look forward to celebrating and supporting Earth Day 2017 with all of you!