Eco Blog: dedication to Green Hauling

Sustainability Tips for the Workplace

March 19th, 2015

tslgreen-buildingsOne of the main tenets of the movement towards creating a better environment is sustainability. As a society, we rely mainly on non-renewable resources like fossil fuels, earth mineral and metal ores for power. Extracting and using resources like these causes significant greenhouse gas pollution, which happens to be the biggest contributor to global warming.

Reducing your impact on the environment requires some significant changes in your home and personal life, but you can also change habits at the workplace to facilitate change.

Here are a few things you can do at work to cut your carbon footprint and contribute to a better environment:

– Replace normal incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs instead

– Make double-sided copies to reduce paper waste and printer use.

– Actively recycle all batteries and ink cartridges once they are depleted.

– Regulate thermostat use: keep heat set between 68-72 degrees during cold months, and turn heat down lower before leaving the room.

– Implement a recycling/compost program.

– Bring a personal reusable water bottle to fill up at the cooler, rather then going through countless plastic cups.

– Look for an Energy Star certification for any new appliances you might have to buy, like microwaves or refrigerators.

– Keep desks and furniture from blocking radiators.

– Utilize a power strip for all of your office electronics so you can switch it off for the weekend or days you wont be at your desk.

 

Sources:

http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/oes/residential-programs/green-tips-for-the-workplace/

https://www.luther.edu/sustainability/campus/energy-climate/conservation/savings/tips/

What To Do: Recycling Mattresses

March 9th, 2015

Mattresses_in_LandfillEasily one of the biggest eyesores you can come across in public, illegally discarded mattresses are seen far too often today. Whether it be in alleyways, vacant lots, or along the sides of the freeway, dumped mattresses have long been a thorn in the sides of public utility departments and pose some serious hazards to the general public.

While it’s far from okay to dispose of a mattress by leaving it on the side of the road, it’s easy to understand given the limited options available for resale and recycling. Lets face it, there is not much of a market for used mattresses, and in fact, a majority of donation centers will refuse mattresses unless they are nearly brand new. Heading to the landfill is an option, but not the most environmentally friendly one. Mattresses take up a lot of room (as much as 40 cubic feet) and the springs make it extremely difficult to compact. Most landfills will charge you an extra fee to deal with the added troubles of mattresses.

While the state of recycling mattresses seems grim, you need not worry. There are ways to dispose of an old mattress without resorting to the aforementioned tactics. Here are some of the things you can do with that old mattress:

  • If you feel the mattress is in decent enough shape for further use, you can offer it up for free on websites like Craigslist or Freecycle.
  • Look for specific mattress recycling centers like DR3 Recycling. They deconstruct mattresses by hand and are able to recycle 85-90% of it. Not in the Bay Area? Use this handy search tool from Earth911 to find recyclers near you.
  • If you have to tools and the time, you can opt to take your mattress apart and recycling the raw materials yourself. Check out the step-by step process you need to follow here.

Food Waste Recycling Drops Dramatically in Alameda County

February 9th, 2015

It looks like the green bins in the Bay Area are not getting the love they deserve.

In a recent study completed by StopWaste, a public agency tasked with reducing waste, numerous Alameda County cities are showing drastic increases in food scraps being discarded in trash bins in 2014.

The data was complied by workers who randomly sampled 3,000 garbage bins, both commercial and residential, in 15 Alameda County cities. The data shows that all 15 cities added to the percentage of food scraps in the trash compared to data collected in 2013. For example, the city of Fremont more then doubled its figure, going from 21 percent to 43 percent. On the lower end, Union City only saw a 2 percent increase, although they were the outright worst performing city going into 2014.

20150205_061722_OAK-COMPOST-0206-WEBOther data collected by the agency shows that homes in these cities are more reluctant to put out their green bins on pickup day, with 47 percent of home opting out compared to 28 percent in 2013. Whichever way you decide to look at it, the fact is that Bay Area residents are not recycling organics like they were in the past.

Several possible reasons for this unsettling trend have been hypothesized, one being that transplants new to the Bay Area are not familiar with the concept of separating food scraps from trash, a practice not particularly common in the US. Another could be that folks who were actively composting in 2013 are simply tired of the process.

Composting and recycling organics can be a messy (and sometimes smelly) job, but it is a huge weapon in the fight against global warming on this planet. Organic matter, when mixed in with regular trash, greenhouse gases like methane get released which contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer.

Below you will find some tips that will hopefully make collecting organic was easier in your household:

  • Remember what can and cant be put in the green bin:
    • Good: all food scraps (meat and bones, cereal, dairy, coffee grounds, fruit, veggies), food-soiled paper (paper towels, plates, napkins, pizza boxes, paper bags, coffee grounds), yard trimmings (grass clippings, tree clippings)
    • Bad: plastics, glass, metal, liquids, pet waste
  • Line both your indoor and outdoor organics bins with crumpled newspaper to help absorb any moisture. Replace the newspaper frequently to keep it from getting too soaked and stuck to the bottom.
  • Aviod animals and bugs by keeping your outdoor green bin away from fences and closed securely.
  • Sprinkle rock salt or lime to help kill any insects (like maggots) that might pop up.
  • Wrap extra messy organics like meat, fish and  in newspaper or put it in a cereal box (without the plastic bag) before adding it to the green bin.
  • If possible, freeze meesy food waste untill you are ready to roll your green bin out, it will help control strong odors.
  • Empty your household container early and often, and roll your green bin out to the curb even if its not completely full to prevent stink-ups.
  • Wash both your indoor and outdoor bins on a regular basis using vinegar or baking soda to kill bad smells.
  • Biodegradable plastic bags can help control food waste, but not all recyclers allow them in green bins. Check with your recycling service to see which bags they accept. Most recycling service providers prefer you use paper bags.

E-Waste Recycling: The Next Step In National Defense

January 21st, 2015

e-wasteHere at Fast Haul, we are HUGE fans of electronic waste (or e-waste) recycling. The electronics we use and replace on a daily basis are filled with some of the most harmful and toxic chemicals on the planet, and can wreck havoc on the environment. Although recently, another great reason to increase e-waste recycling efforts has come to light. In a recent piece by the National Defense Magazine, e-waste recycling programs benefit the U.S. defense system by curbing the amount of counterfeit parts that can in the electronic components they use.

The U.S. military depends heavily on electronic components in their defense systems; you can find them in thousands of pieces of equipment like aircraft, submarines, night vision goggles, thermal weapons systems, and helicopters. You would think (and hope) that the US military only uses the highest quality electronics and technology in their equipment, but as noted by the story, more then 1 million pieces of counterfeit electronic components were identified in US military equipment in 2009 and 2010.

You might be wondering how this can happen, and an investigation by US Senate Armed Services Committee has uncovered why. The committee traced various supply chains back to the Guangdong Province in China, known as the “epicenter of counterfeit activities”. The outfits that make these counterfeit components rely heavily on e-waste shipped over from the west to provide “feedstock” (i.e. the raw materials). Once the materials are collected, they are subjected to a plethora of harmful and destructive techniques before being implemented in “new” equipment (i.e. being soaked in acid, heated over open fires, left outside in the rain, etc.). These techniques make the components extremely unreliable and susceptible to failure.

Your next question might be “how can I make sure my e-waste doesn’t contribute to a malfunctioning missile or fighter jet crashing?” Well, the answer is to do your research before disposing of you e-waste and make sure the recycler can show you proof that your e-waste is being handled responsibly.

(Source)

Safeway to Pay Nearly $10 Million for Waste Disposal Infractions

January 12th, 2015

SafewayFor the second largest supermarket chain in the nation, the New Year is off to a bad start.

In a decision levied by the Alameda County Superior Court, Safeway Inc. will have to pay $9.87 million as part of a settlement for improper hazardous waste management. The charges brought against Safeway are a result of a 3-year investigation of nearly 500 stores (including stores of Safeway-owned chains like Pak ‘N Save, Pavilions, and Vons) and distribution centers across the state.

Ironically, the investigation into Safeway started when district attorneys in Southern California were looking into the practices of a different business.  They discovered that Safeway was shipping hazardous waste from stores back to distribution centers without using licensed transporters. This information gave prosecutors enough reason to begin surprise waste inspections at stores across the state.

As the inspections rolled out, investigators discovered that workers at hundreds of Safeway locations were disposing of hazardous waste into common dumpsters. On top of that, workers were also tossing sensitive documents like pharmacy patient records without shredding them, leaving customers susceptible to identity theft.

On top of the financial penalty, the settlement stipulates that Safeway must continue its First Assistant Store Manager Program, which identifies and addresses compliance issues at the store level and oversees yearly store audits.  Between the start of the investigation and now, district attorneys have already been working with the company to develop new procedures to ensure proper waste disposal.

While Safeway admits no wrongdoing (a move we are used to seeing among big companies like this), they have agreed to “continue to dedicate significant resources to these important [waste management] programs”.

(Source)

 
 
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