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This is a guest post by Bryn Kingsley
Consumer behavior has undergone quite a remarkable transformation over the past few decades. There’s been a massive spike in the uptake of recycling, and this has occurred at individual, corporate, and governmental levels. For example, in the city where I live we have three bins that are collected by the council each week – a big household waste recycling bin, a big garden waste recycling bin, and a small rubbish bin that is less than half the size of the other two. This sort of service just wasn’t available when I was a kid. In my house we also do our utmost to adhere to strong environmental practices – we recycle as much as possible, our electrical power is sourced from green renewable sources, all of our lights are of the low energy consumption variety, and we offset all our carbon emissions through funding revegetation efforts that sequester carbon.
Even though these are some pretty solid achievements, unfortunately for the majority us this marks the extent of our efforts. We’re still only scratching the surface of what can be done to create a sustainable living environment, and this is largely due to the combined effect of the “I didn’t know” and “It’s too hard” mantras. So in order to combat these impediments I’m going to devote some time to talking about recycling in a way that doesn’t usually feature as part of our collective consciousness – recycled timber flooring.
Timber flooring products leave a large ecological footprint on the planet, partially due to the nature of the product, as also due to the strength of consumer demand. There’s something about entering a room and being greeted by the rich colours of timber flooring under your feet that just feels good. Perhaps it’s because wooden floors somehow manage to fuse two very different styles into the one decor – they combine a sense of lofty elegance with a home-sweet-home vibe. It’s a very well-rounded aesthetic.
When appreciating this type of flooring it’s easy to forget that timber is made from trees; of course it’s something we all know, but it’s often a subconscious recognition. As such, it’s also pretty easy for us to pay little heed to the environmental legacy of the timber floors we encounter. But the fact is that some timber flooring is made from old growth forest, and sometimes even from endangered species. The thought detracts somewhat from the sense of elegant homeliness doesn’t it?
Now I could go getting all hippie on you and start raving on about the importance of protecting the planet, the destruction of the world’s forests, and the rising salinity problems in farming areas, but I figure most people know this stuff (hopefully!), and that it’s more important to talk about economically viable solutions. So as I see it, there are really four sorts of alternatives:
1.) Constructing your floors out of something else
There are plenty of options – carpets, tiles, slate, vinyl, concrete, laminate, and rugs – to name a few. However if we want the look and feel of timber, then these are pretty much non-starters.
2.) Imitation timber:
Imitation timber comes in vinyl and laminate forms, and for some it could be a good option. For others there’s one little point that can’t be ignored: it looks like imitation timber, not like real timber, so if you want to make a statement of style then it doesn’t really fit the bill.
3.) Plantation timber:
This is often a really good option. It has the benefits of real timber, without the environmental problems. There are just two problems with plantation timber that stand in the way of making this a great solution. Firstly, plantation timber can be pretty expensive. Secondly, there’s generally a fairly limited range to choose from – pine trees are a dime a dozen, but some of the more exotic species can be extremely difficult to come by.
4.) Recycled timber flooring
To me this option brings the best of all worlds to the fore. It presents a great environmentally friendly solution, it’s a real timber product so it has an authentic appearance, and it can be sourced at an extremely cost effective price. The clincher though is that recycled timber flooring is often of higher quality than new timber flooring, and here are the reasons why:
a. The timber has been re-milled to present a fresh clean finish that looks brand new;
b. Recycled timber is much less likely to warp out of shape because the wood has already been well seasoned;
c. It’s often much better suited to matching the colour to an existing well-aged floor;
d. It can usually be custom machined to your specific size and dimension requirements.
So, in short, recycled timber flooring is great for the environment, it can be sourced at fantastic quality, and it’s often one of the most cost-effective solutions to creating those deep earthy wooden colours in your house. Next time you’re thinking recycling, allow your mind to do a little creative wandering, and think outside the box of newspaper, plastic bottles, and tin cans – you’d be surprised what you can come up with.
Bryn writes for Fremantle Timber Traders and aims to educate people about the green home renovation. This post is on the topic of recycled timber flooring.
This morning I found a bottled water cost calculator on the New American Dream website. It enables you to calculate how much money you waste buying bottled water in a year. It’s very simple to use. First, you input the number of 16oz bottles of water you drink in a year, then the price of your tap water per gallon, and finally your average bottled water cost. If you don’t know your tap water cost, it’s safe to assume it’s around $0.002/gallon.
The results are startling! If you drink one bottle of water per day and pay $1.50 for it each time, you are spending an extra $550 on water! Even if you buy your bottled water very cheaply most of the time, you will still be wasting over $150 each year. The $10-15 investment in a high quality reusable bottle seems like a bargain by comparison!
On top of the cost savings you will achieve by using a refillable bottle, there are obvious environmental benefits as well. The calculator also estimates the impact of your bottled water habit on the planet. For the one-bottle-a-day person, an extra 114 gallons of water, 37 megajoules of energy, and 9 gallons of oil will be wasted as well as 68 pounds of CO2 generated.
If you’d like to reduce your impact and fatten your wallet, check out Back2Tap for your best value in high quality refillable water bottles.
Recycling is good but re-using is better. That’s the new trend for 2010.
Now more than ever students are starting to realize that they cannot just keep creating more and more garbage – the average student creates 67 pounds of garbage a year by bringing in a disposable lunch – that’s 18,760 pounds of garbage for an average sized elementary school every year!
Even with the best recycling efforts in place, the supply of recycled materials far exceeds the demand. Almost 80% of disposable plastic bottles end up in landfills. Not to mention the unnecessary waste associated with the production and distribution of disposable plastic bottles – it takes three bottles of water and a half a cup of oil to make and ship just one disposable plastic bottle of water. Also, there is a swirling mass of disposable plastic garbage twice the size of Texas floating in the North Pacific Ocean – further evidence that recycling isn’t working.
But there is a better way. Back2Tap now offers reusable sandwich wraps and snack pouches in addition to reusable stainless steel bottles so schools can encourage completely litter-less lunches. Back2Tap helped one school in NJ with its first “Waste-less Wednesday” and cut lunch room garbage in half!
With over 69 million students in the United States, if just 10% of them made the switch to Reusable bottles and sandwich wraps, almost 1 billion disposable plastic bottles and 2 billion plastic baggies would be kept out of landfills every school year. Together we can all make a difference, one school at a time!
If you’d like more information about running a Back2Tap Litter-less Lunch campaign, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866-228-3453.
Have you ever read a book that you really didn’t want to “hear”? The Onmivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan was one of those books for me. Pollan’s revolutionary book reveals the ecological and health risks associated with our industrial meat and corn production as well as the pitfalls of industrial organic food. He points out that the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmoshphere than anything else we do. This is because our food system is based on petroleum instead of sunlight and soil. Pollan makes a strong case for smaller sustainable farms where animals and crops co-exist, and natural processes are allowed to drive the system in a constructive way, with everything in balance. Now, I look at my dinner plate with a degree of suspicion. Where did this all really come from?
Pollan identifies so many problems with our current food system that radical changes seem necessary in virtually every component. No wonder his letter of recommendations to the president-elect, or “Farmer in Chief” , in October was 9 pages long! Redirecting our food production system onto a sustainable course seems like a “stretch” goal for our new president in the midst of all our economic woes, but I hope President Obama read Michael Pollan’s letter and is taking it seriously.
A surprising number of foods in our diet are corn-based because government subsidies keep the price of corn so low: meat, poultry, dairy, and most processed foods. After reading how detrimental this system of production is to the environment, to the animals, and to our health, I’ve lost my appetite for these conventional foods. Replacing these items will take a lot more preparation time or a lot more money, so I’ve decided to try to a combination approach.
One of the biggest steps anyone can take is to reduce their meat consumption. If every American went meatless one day a week, the carbon saved would be equal to taking 20 million cars off the road. It seems like a small sacrifice for such a huge benefit. When I do buy meat, I will try to buy grass-fed meat. I’ll stay away from processed foods and fast foods which are full of corn oil and corn syrup (not to mention calories!) and try to cook homemade dishes on the weekends that will provide healthy meals during the week. I’ll ask my husband and kids to plant a kitchen garden in the 9 x 9 patch of sun beside our house for my Mother’s Day gift again this year. We enjoyed fresh lettuces and herbs almost every single day for months last year. During World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt inspired Americans to plant Victory Gardens which ended up providing 40% of all produce. Finally, I’ll continue to buy as much fresh produce as possible from local sources such as farmers’ markets and community-supported farms.
I highly recommend this informative, entertaining and well-reasoned book and article by Michael Pollan. I’m sure everyone who reads them will be motivated to come up with their own short-term strategies for improving the quality of the food they eat and reducing the environmental impact of their diets.