Archive for August, 2010

Let’s get one thing straight…reuse vs recycle

When talking  about sustainability I often hear…”I recycle plastic grocery bags…I use them as trash can liners or as lunch bags.” I respond, “Oh…that’s great!” But what I am really thinking is; actually you reuse your plastic grocery bags. The fact that you don’t throw them into the trash is the most important part of the conversation but I want to make sure everyone understands the difference between the terms reuse and recycle.

Unfortunately, in our everyday vocabulary we use the words reuse and recycle interchangeably but they have very different definitions. Reusing an item means just that …to use the same product over and over again. The goal of reusing an item is to lengthen the life of the product, to make it last as long as you can.  Examples of reusing are buying and selling used items, renting DVD’s, “hand me down” clothes.  

Recycling requires a great deal more energy and involves a physical change.  The goal of recycling is to make a brand new product. Examples of recycling include using old tires to resurface roads or breaking down old cans to make new cans.

Reusing is also better for the environment because it prevents new items from entering the waste stream and it does not create pollution like recycling can. The most important part of the recycling vs reusing issue is that you’re consciousness of the importance of the 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle). So no matter how you describe your efforts I would describe them as commendable!


Wordless Wednesday



The Art of Downsizing

Today I read an inspiring entry at . A couple in Portland, Oregon began donating their possessions (cars, clothes, books, cookware, etc.) until they were down to 100 personal items. Three years after the couple began downsizing they now live in a 400 sq ft studio apt. with four plates and two pots. She owns just three pairs of shoes! They live on a $24,000 annual income and are no longer $30,000 in debt.  

The couple commented that “The idea that you need to go bigger to be happy is false,” she says. “I really believe that the acquisition of material goods doesn’t bring about happiness.” This is the embodiment of the statement less is more.

Take a look at your belongings…not only what you have but how much you have. Would you be happier with less? A better question to ask may be could you be content with less?

 I think about the number of resources that could be saved if we all bought less! Tell me your thoughts.

Photo: K12Perspectives

Just the Facts – Natural Gas

In light of the excitement on campus yesterday, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to explore natural gas.

  •  Natural gas is found in 33 states. The dark blue states on this map show you where large amounts of natural gas are extracted. In the medium blue states, moderate amounts of natural gas are extracted. And in the light blue states, just a little natural gas is extracted. Natural gas is not extracted at all in the states that are white.


  • Natural gas, a fossil fuel, is more environmentally friendly than other fossil fuels (besides carbon dioxide and water vapor) it does not release any other harmful substance, into the atmosphere.
  • Existence of natural gas was known to people of ancient Greece, India, and Persia, in the form of burning springs. These springs were created when fountains of natural gas, seeping out from cracks in the ground, were ignited due to lightning.
  • Natural gas was used for the first time in the US in 1816, to light street lights in Baltimore.
  • Natural gas is third most widely used fuel in the US, after petroleum and coal.
  • Natural gas is naturally colorless, odorless, lighter than air and non-toxic.
  • Despite its various uses one of the major disadvantages of natural gas is that it is highly combustible, due to which explosions are very likely.
  • By itself, methane is odorless, colorless and tasteless.  As a safety measure, natural gas companies add a chemical odorant called mercaptan (it smells like rotten eggs) so escaping gas can be detected.

Wordless Wednesday





What does “building a green economy mean”?  features an “Earth Talk” column which answers questions about the environment. A Sustainable Life will occasionally share some of these Q&A’s with you.

Dear EarthTalk: What does it mean when one uses the phrase, “building a green economy?” I’ve heard it repeated a few times lately and would like to have a better understanding of the concept.

— Rosie Chang, Islip, NY

The phrase “building a green economy” means different things to different people, but in general it refers to encouraging economic development that prioritizes sustainability—that is, working with nature and not against it in the quest to meet peoples’ needs and wants—instead of disregarding environmental concerns in the process of growing the economy. The primary way governments around the world are trying to “green” their own economies today is by increasing investment in—and, by extension, creating jobs in—industries on the cutting edge of non-polluting renewable forms of energy, such as solar and wind power.

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The motto is Buy, Sell and Live Handmade. Founded in June 2005, Etsy is the Ebay of homemade crafts and other goods. Their mission is to enable people to make a living making things! Buyers and sellers can connect on the site to trade goods and to relate to a community of crafters.