Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

A Waste Free Holiday Season

A Sustainable LIFE welcomes a holiday guest post from Jakob Barry, home improvement journalist, for He blogs about Green topics for plumbing contractors and other pros across the U.S.

The holiday season has many amazing aspects to it but if we take a step back and survey where it could be a little more wholesome one area which has potential for improvement is cutting back on the amount of waste it generates. 

Whether from shopping, utilities, transportation, and other resources which are utilized at this time of year there are many ways waste occurs.

That being the case the following are a few tips on how the holidays can be a more efficient, waste free event for everyone.

1.    Make a list: Lists are great because they help us remember things. Since the holiday season is full of pressure and lots of running around making daily lists to help get things done is one of the best ways to be more efficient. It also prevents us from having to go places twice which can waste a lot of gas, not to mention time.

2.    Plastic: There are a lot of good things made from plastic which we use everyday and which contribute to a better world. At the same time many plastic disposables are simply unnecessary, especially when it comes to food. That being the case, for festive meals and family gatherings go waste free and plastic free by sticking to reusable tableware. Just have some help cleaning the dishes afterwards.

 3.    Water: One might look as the world and see an abundance of water but the truth is there is very little of drinkable quality. For this reason and the fact the US has been in a drought being more watchful with our water usage is important. Water conservation tips for the holidays include adding water regulators to faucets, taking shorter showers, reusing water whenever possible during cooking, and when water can’t be reused in the kitchen to feed it to plants or use it to wash the floor instead of pouring it down the drain. 

 4.    Leftovers: If you’re having guests chances are you’ll be cooking a lot of food and lots of food usually means there will be leftovers. So they won’t go to waste be prepared to package them for freezing or give them to people in need.

 5.    Compost: Leftovers are one thing but don’t forget when preparing meals there are a lot of organic peels and other scraps that often get thrown out. Instead of taking this waste and being wasteful save it for the garden and use it for compost.

6.    Wrapping paper: There’s no need to buy new wrapping paper as there are so many things around that we could reuse for covering gifts creatively. Think clothing, old pictures, newsprint, magazines, and even used wrapping paper.

 7.    Seal drafts: The holiday season comes at a time when it’s usually cold outside. That means most of us will be using heat in some capacity and when there are guests hosts like to be even more generous with how far they may turn up the thermostat.  Sealing drafts around windows and doors helps keep heat in and cool air out. Otherwise home heating can be incredibly wasteful and expensive.  

 8.    Digital cards: Do you like to send holiday greetings cards? If so go with digital ones instead of using snail mail. They can be very cute and are waste free.

 9.    Rechargeable batteries: If you’re buying a gift that requires batteries add a set of rechargeable ones to the item. Because batteries are hard to recycle and contain harmful chemicals rechargeables make the most sense when aiming for less waste!

 10.   Lights: Everyone loves to decorate their homes with lights during the holidays and they often stay on twenty four hours a day but did you know electric power plants which supply all that energy are some of the biggest polluters? To help cut down on demand switch all decorations requiring incandescent light bulbs for those with compact florescent lights (CFLs)or LEDs.

Thanks to Jakob for these helpful tips. A Sustainable LIFE welcomes guest bloggers, if you are interested please contact

Photo Source:

Why you can’t recycle a pizza box!

The other day someone stopped me and asked why I put a pizza box in the trash can. I told them because it was trash, but didn’t really explain why it was trash. Needless to say the person wasn’t very happy with me and proceeded to take the box to the recycle bin. I then had to explain why I (the Sustainability Coordinator) was throwing away what appeared to be a recyclable material!

The easiest answer to this question is simple….grease!  For hardcore recyclers and people who are trying to be more aware this answer is hard to swallow. But trying to recycle a greasy take out box actually does more harm than good. Although the box is usually made from corrugated cardboard, which is a recyclable material, the subsequent grease stains render it trash.

Because paper recycling is a water based process, grease and water (which do not mix) will contaminate the entire batch of paper. Paper contamination is estimated to cost the recycling industry as much as $700 million per year! These facts don’t just apply to pizza boxes, they also apply to paper plates, napkins and paper towels.

So what are your options…

  • Throw the entire box away


  • Cut or tear the soiled parts of the box and trash them, recycle the rest (You also want to remove stickers and coupons from the boxes as adhesives can foul a batch of paper just as oil can)

Even though you may not feel comfortable throwing away a recyclable, take comfort in knowing that you’ve helped to save a batch of recycled paper!



Meatless Monday

Here is an excerpt from ShopSmart magazine which identifies what we sometimes think of as “healthy” foods which aren’t so healthy. I find myself eating a lot of these foods as substitutes for my regular fare on Meatless Monday. Who knew???

  • Vegetable Chips
    Their colors may be mesmerizing and seemingly healthier than the standard chip, but they’re still high in calories and fat, and they don’t count as a serving of vegetables.

    Try this instead: Have some air-popped popcorn or freshly cut-up veggies with some hummus.

  • Applesauce
    Sweetened applesauce is loaded with sugar and calories, and it contains very little nutrients.

    Try this instead: Go for the unsweetened version sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon. Or, better yet, opt for a whole apple. You’ll get extra fiber as a bonus.

  • Granola Cereal
    Granola is usually high in sugar, fat, and calories and relatively low in vitamins and minerals. It also contains a whopping 400 calories in an average cup. (This was very surprising…I love granola).

    Try this instead: Have a bowl of an airy, oat-based cereal, like Cheerios, which topped ShopSmart’s test of kid-friendly cereals. For extra crunch and sweetness, add a sprinkling of granola on top.

  • Trail Mix
    Nuts can be a good source of heart-healthy fats, but some mixes contain calorie-laden dried fruits and even chocolate. One cup can contain almost 700 calories! (Did I mention I love granola in my trail mix!)

    Try this instead: Air-popped popcorn is a good source of whole grains, and it’s filling.

  • Turkey Hot Dogs
    A lot of turkey hot dogs are surprisingly high in fat, and some contain even more than regular hot dogs. They can also be loaded with sodium and nitrates, so beware. (Not exactly appropriate for Meatless Monday but still noteworthy).

    Try this instead: A turkey breast sandwich is a better choice. But if you’re really craving that hot dog, read packages and go for a turkey version with the least fat — and skip the bun.

  • Wrap Sandwiches
    These sandwiches can trick you into thinking you’re being healthier because the bread is thinner, but in reality, they are often made in a size that’s large enough for two people. ( Veggie wraps are were my one of my favorites).

    Try this instead: Have a sandwich on whole-grain or whole-wheat bread. Fill it with lean meats and plenty of fresh veggies.

  • Banana Chips
    Yes, they are made from bananas, but they are typically fried in coconut or palm oil, which is ultra unhealthy.

    Try this instead: Have a real banana. You’ll get lots of nutrients for half the calories and no fat.

  • Bran Muffins
    Many bran muffins are the over-sized and loaded with fat, sugar, and calories.

    Try this instead: Have bran cereal with low-fat milk. Add some fresh fruit on top, and you have a healthy start to your day!

  • Frozen Yogurt
    Frozen yogurt may be the most deceptive of all. It has more sugar and less protein and calcium than plain yogurt. Beware of bottled smoothies, too.

    Try this instead: Choose a light yogurt that’s low in fat and calories or a Greek yogurt that has live, active cultures. Then, top it with some fresh berries.

  • Couscous
    Just like white pasta, regular couscous is a processed, refined grain with little nutritional value.

    Try this instead: Buy whole-wheat couscous or opt for a whole grain like quinoa or brown rice.

Did any of your favorite foods make the list?

Earth Day Countdown: 29 Days



Recyclemania Tip:

Newspapers, magazines, and white paper can all be recycled as long as the paper is clean and dry. Plastic wrap, stickers, or rubber bands should be removed, but staples and plastic window envelopes are OK.

RecycleMania trivia question: Paper can be recycled up to _____ times before it is turned into organic waste and breaks down.

Comment on today’s post with the correct answer for a chance to win a prize from the Office of Sustainability. The winner will by randomly chosen from correct answers submitted by 5 pm (EST) on March 18, 2011. (Note: Prize must be picked up in the Office of Sustainability).

33 days until Earth Day on the Plaza….will you participate?

Say goodbye to your light bulbs

Did you know that beginning in 2012 there will be major changes in the way that you light your home? In an effort to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions the following changes will take place……..

  • The manufacture of 100-watt incandescent light bulbs will be banned beginning in January 2012.
  • The manufacture of 75-watt incandescent light bulbs will be banned beginning in January 2013.
  • The manufacture of 60- and  40 watt incandescent light bulbs will be banned beginning in January 2014

 2012: 100W phase out; 2013: 75W phase out; 2014: 40W & 60W phase out

What does the legislation say?
Between 2012 and 2014, standard A-line 40- and 100-watt incandescent light bulbs must use 30% less energy, but produce the same light output as the incandescent bulbs most of us use today.

What does this mean for me?
While you won’t be required to throw out your existing bulbs, you may be surprised when trying to find the same replacements at the store. After 2012, you’ll find that these bulbs will have to be replaced with energy-efficient options, such as Halogen, Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) and Light Emitting Diode (LED) light bulbs.

 Standard incandescent bulbs will be replaced with energy-efficient options such as Halogen, CFL, and LED light bulbs.

How much energy can an energy-efficient lighting really save?
The most common alternative to incandescents used today is the CFL. While the upfront investment is more for these bulbs, the cost is more than offset in money savings and product longevity.

Using a GE Energy Smart® CFL vs. standard incandescent bulb

Initial purchase price, per bulb $0.27 $3.77
Replacement cost (need to purchase 7 more) $1.89 $0.00
Energy cost (based on $0.10 per kWh over the life of the 8,000-hour bulb) $48.00 $12.00
Total cost $50.16 $15.77

savings in this example = $34.39

How will this legislation affect you? Were you aware of the changes?

 Source: GE Lighting, Business Wire

 35 days until Earth Day…test your shooting skills on the Plaza!


Congratulations to John Wheeler, Grounds Director, winner of Tuesday’s trivia question. It takes approximately 60 days for a recycled can to return to the shelf.

 Recycling Tip of the Day:

Buy rechargeable batteries. It takes 1,000 regular batteries to equal the lifespan of one rechargeable battery. When you are discarding your batteries, recycle them.

 Source: EpOnline

Intro to Recyclemania


This year Life University has joined millions of students across the country by making a difference and participating in the 2011 Recyclemania Tournament. Recyclemania is an 8-week recycling competition endorsed by the America College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment .

As a first year participant, Life University will take part in the waste minimization portion of the contest, focusing on overall waste reduction. This will include an educational campaign teaching the campus community to cut waste by placing emphasis on reusing materials and source reduction.

 Stay tuned to the blog for tips on recycling and chances to win prizes as we learn new ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Be among the first to receive new posts (and increase your chances to win) by subscribing to A Sustainable Life.

Meatless Monday


Mushrooms as a meat substitute?

Although mushrooms are an edible fungi, they have a hearty texture comparable to that of meat. Mushrooms are an affordable meat substitute which offer nutritional benefits that can help strengthen the immune system and provide antioxidants. Mushrooms are also fat-free and a good source of dietary fiber, B-vitamins and other minerals.

Looking for easy ways to incorporate mushrooms into a meal? Try these options…..

  • Portabella mushrooms (one of the larger varieties) have become a menu staple at many restaurants. Portabella caps can be marinated, grilled and eaten on a bun like a burger.
  • Sautéed with onions and peppers, mushrooms make a great addition to burritos, enchiladas, tacos or fajitas.
  • Instead of meatballs or ground beef  try mushrooms in spaghetti, lasagna or stroganoff.


  • Fact: The first mushrooms were thought to be cultivated in Southeast Asia, but it is not known why for sure. It is possible that someone discovered that mushrooms grew by accident or perhaps there was a demand and someone sought out a growing method.


  • Fact: Whether mushrooms are wild or cultivated they continue to grow after they are picked. People sometimes mistake a thin white material called mycelium for mold, but rest assured it probably is the mycelium growing!


  • Fact: While mushrooms are canned, pickled and frozen, drying mushrooms is the oldest and most commonly used way to preserve mushrooms.


  • Fact: One Portabella mushroom generally has more potassium than a banana.


  • Fact: Mushrooms continue to gain popularity, especially the specialty mushrooms such as Portabella, wild Morels, Oysters and Shiitake. Mushrooms, particularly the Portbella are often used in place of meat in many dishes.


  • Fact: Commercial mushroom farming began in the early 20th century. Pennsylvania and California are the largest mushroom producers. 

  • Fact: Mushroom “farms” are climate controlled buildings; airflow, temperature and light are all constantly monitored.


  • Fact: Wild mushrooms can range in price for reasons such as taste, historical significance and availability. European truffles can sell for over $1,600 per pound!


  • Fact: Wild mushrooms can be found in many wooded areas. If you do choose to harvest wild mushrooms, make certain you have a professional identify your pick. Many mushrooms may resemble safe mushrooms (they are called false mushrooms) and can be poisonous.

 Source: Associated Content, Forest Mushrooms


Ask the Sustainability Coordinator

Naturally I get lots of questions about sustainability and the environment. So I thought that from time to time I would share some of the most commonly asked questions with you. 

Q: Can I recycle this cup from _____________ (insert the name of a fast food restaurant here)?

 A: If the cup has a waxy coating (see picture to the right) it cannot be recycled. These cups are made of multiple types of materials and that makes it difficult for the recycler to identify the components.

If the cup does not have a waxy surface (see picture to the left), it can be recycled. To be sure, take a look at the bottom of the cup, there you should see the three chasing arrows (recycling) symbol. This means that the cup (or lid) can be recycled. Plastic straws can be recycled as well!

Photo Source: Dental Excellence and Make and Takes

Meatless Monday


As my Meatless Monday journey continues I find myself eating more fruits and vegetables (instead of chips and cookies). The one thing I didn’t factor in was if I was properly washing these foods.

 How to Properly Wash Fruits and Vegetables

 All fruits and veggies

  • Do Rinse all produce under running tap water while rubbing it with your hand.
  • Don’t fill the sink with water and let produce sit.

 Produce with Rinds, Grooves or Waxy Skin (melons, cucumbers, winter squash, citrus and potatoes)

  • Do scrub this produce with a brush.
  • Rubbing these foods my remove dirt but will not remove pathogens which may be stuck to the wax (this is where the brush comes in).


  • Do rinse bananas, there has not yet been a specific outbreak linked to bananas but think of how many hands may have touched your banana before you.

 Leafy Bunched Vegetables (lettuce, cabbage)

  • Do discard the outer layer of leaves before thoroughly rinsing the leaves in water.
  • Continue to rinse the leaves until dirt is no longer visible and then spin in a veggie dryer.
  • If lettuce is bagged and marked “ready to eat” according to the FDA, its safe to eat without rewashing it. Some experts disagree and urge consumers to wash all “ready to eat” veggies.

 Bunched Fruit (grapes, blueberries)

  • Rinse under running water in a colander (so all of your fruit doesn’t end going down the drain).
  • Using a spray nozzle will give a more thorough cleaning.

 One great overall tip was to NEVER taste fruit or vegetables in the store before they are washed (i.e tasting the grapes before you purchase them). The most surprising of these tips was rewashing the “ready to eat” veggies. Before reading this article I never rewashed the bagged lettuce (or washed bananas)…but I will start. What about you, do you rewash foods that are identified as “ready to eat”?


 Vegetarian Penne


  • 2 cups uncooked penne or medium tube pasta
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, sliced
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute the onion, summer squash, zucchini, mushrooms and garlic in butter until tender.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, seasonings and cream until smooth; add to the skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until thickened. Drain pasta and add to vegetable mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until heated through.