Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Doggie Bag Dilemma

I love a great meal in a nice restaurant. I am a chef by trade so nothing makes me happier. Often the food is so good that I want to take it home and have it the next day so I will ask the waiter for a box. What he brings me has been a source of angst for for some time. THE STYROFOAM CLAM SHELL!!! We take them home and throw them away without giving it a thought as to what happens next. I am a chef at a Yacht Club at the Jersey Shore. My bartender there is a lovely young man who insists that the styrofoam plates we use must go into a recycling container. Every Friday night, he loads them into his car and drives 2 hours towards home and drops them at the local recycling plant. They are few and far between in most places so most municipalities do not collect them with the recycling.

 Let's talk about styrofoam's impact on the planet. I think you will be as surprised as I was.

Styrofoam has been the 5th largest form of toxic waste since 1986.

1369 tons of styrofoam goes into landfills every day. That is 25-30% of the space in landfills making it one of the worst forms of landfill waste out there. Due to the way garbage is compacted in landfills with dirt then thrown overtop of them, nothing is able to decompose property making paper as difficult to decompose as styrofoam. 

Sunlight on styrofoam releases chemical pollutants into the air. Chlorofluorocarbons and hydrocarbons are released with solar exposure creating contamination of landfills, damage to the ozone,and causing air pollution. 

In landfills, styrofoam creates a barrier for water. As a result, water soaks the garbage creating  a chemical laden "soup" that will later leak into ground water in heavy rains.

It takes 500 years for one styrofoam cup to decompose in a landfill. Half a millennia.

Incineration releases 90 hazardous chemicals into the air including dioxin and styrene vapors

Currently the small amount of styrofoam that is recycled is often recycled into another product that is less than favorable to the environment, such as cafeteria trays and other forms of packing materials.

 The solution to this problem is obvious. Don't use it. Many large chain restaurants have gone to more earth friendly containers but most small restaurants continue to use them. Many companies that ship products are finding biodegradable solutions but you still see styrofoam blocks and peanuts pretty frequently. This makes not having it in your life a little difficult but there are some things you do have a little more control over to reduce usage.

Use reusable containers for food and drink like ceramic coffee mugs, plastic travel mugs.

Sit down at The restaurant rather than getting takeout. If you are going to have food wrapped ask if they can use a foil take out container or wrap the food in foil. 

There is another solution to the restaurant clamshell dilemma but count on the waiter giving you a funny look. I will do it. I have no shame. Bring your own container. Certainly you can bring your own plastic one from home but you also can clean a previously acquired styrofoam one out and reuse it.

Use products made from biodegradable earth friendly materials at home. There are several products that are made from earth friendly products available in most supermarkets. 

Buy eggs in recycled paper containers. We began getting our eggs from a local farm. We keep the 3 containers she brings them in and give them back to her to refill. (and fresh eggs taste SOOOOO much better than the ones bought in the grocery store.)

Recently I began using the take out containers that were resistantly forced into my life, to hand cut and make into printing blocks. I use the printing blocks to print my bags and t shirts which are also repurposed.They can be used indefinitely with a quick rinse in water. Simply cut the flat square out of the top and bottom of a container or plate. draw an image with a ball point pen ( one that doesn't write works well as the ink may show on your print. I sort of like that so I vary between the two.) Paint it with acrylic paint and print on paper, cloth or wood. 

I have heard of using them as "shrinky dinks" for making jewelry but that requires heating them in the oven creates fumes that are dangerously toxic even in a well ventilated room so i wouldn't recommend it.

If for some reason you end up with a mess of peanuts, they can be used to make or refill a beanbag chair. 

They can be sewn into a couple of squares of fabric to make an insulated seat so your bottom isn't freezing at that next football game. Again just cut the flat parts out of the plate or container. Layer them about four or five deep and tape them together with duct tape. Slide them into the fabric pouch and sew shut.

And I had to include this because I was absolutely in awe when I found it.This hanging lamp is made from PACKING PEANUTS!!!

Styrofoam is effective, light, inexpensive, and versatile. People are going to continue to use it. However, we do have the ability to reduce the amount that is used. I understand that changing our behavior can be a hassle but once you get used to it, it really is very simple. Every time you grab a styrofoam cup at the coffee pot at work, just picture that coffee cup laying on the ground 500 YEARS from now. 

To see more of my block printed shirts and bags and other cool up cycled stuff, check out my shop at:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Toilet Paper's Dirty Little Secret

Yes. Even toilet paper has something to hide. We use every day, several times a day and never even give a thought to the toilet paper aftermath. Recently, i started saving the toilet paper rolls because i like the size, shape and texture of them from an artist standpoint. Then, when I opened my shop on etsy that is dedicated to earth friendly products, I started hunting down some information. I was pretty surprised at the statistics that I found.

So lets talk facts for a minute here. 

30.6 billion rolls of toilet paper are used worldwide every year.

That being said, 80% of the world population doesn't use toilet paper. Water is the preferred solution to cleaning up. That means that of the 8 million people on the planet, only 2 billion are contributing to the following numbers.

People use 80% more toilet paper than salt and 63% more than milk annually and yet very few people ever consider the environmental impact of the amount of paper that is going into landfills and the water sources.

348 trees must be cut down and destroyed to make the toilet paper that one person will use in their lifetime.

If every household used 1 (Yes, I said one!) 12 pack of toilet paper made from recycled post consumer paper, 1 900,000 trees would be saved. It would save 690 gallons of water in the production, and would eliminate 4.8 cubic feet of landfill space. That is staggering when you think about it. One 12 pack, folks! I think everyone can manage that!

The toilet paper tube alone amounts to 160 million tons of landfill waste every year. 80% of the population knows they should recycle them but still only 35% do.

Tubes used yearly placed end to end would stretch a roughly million mile span. That is equal to the distance to the moon and back.

Several companies have come up with alternative products using recycled post consumer paper. However, getting people to break away from what they are accustom to and try the product is still a challenge. I use one of these products religiously.(in paper towels and napkins too!) and my backside survived just fine.

Here is a brief overview of the products that are out there. I am sure there are others in smaller organic makers and such but these are the ones I know to be readily available in the mainstream grocery stores and superstores.

7TH GENERATION- I like this company a lot. They have devoted their company entirely to earth friendly green products. ALL of them. Most other companies that put out a green product still keep the not so green ones on the shelf as well which in reality doesn't solve the problem.

Their toilet paper:
-is made from 100% recycled paper, 50% of which is post consumer.
-it is whitened without chemicals
-is starting to become more mainstream in grocery stores and superstores.

They also carry a full line of cleaning products that are totally green, everything from spray cleaners to dishwasher soap (don't even get me started about that!) and laundry soap. I use the cleaning product throughout my house and love them.

MARCEL SMALL STEPS-I also like this product. However, as I said before, I wish that they would go totally green eliminating the option to use the more harmful product. I do understand the marketing impact of that of course but to me, this is far more important.

Their toilet paper-

-is made with 100% recycled paper
-is made with no dyes or fragrances
-has a tube made from 100% post costumer paper
_is more readily available to common markets.

SCOTT NATURALS-this product was recently releases with no tube inside the roll. A brilliant idea but not new technology. Tubeless rolls have been used in commercial settings for years. Those big tubes of paper you see in most public restrooms are tube free.

Their toilet paper-

-is tubeless which is great.
-is made from 40% recycled paper.

So what can we do? First, I would say give one of the products (or any others that you can easily purchase) a try.I assure you, the difference in the product is easy to grow accustom to. In terms of the tubes, there are a million great ideas to repurpose them. I have seen many clever ways to use them. Use them to store cables or candles. Fill them with strips of paper and twigs and use them to start your fire in the fireplace. Cut them in half and use them as seed starter plants. And of course, there are a million craft ideas out there as well.

and if you think you can't make amazing stuff with them, check out a few of my finds.

One way of repurposing  I hadn't really thought of myself is to cut them on one side length wise and slide them on hangers to prevent hanger creases. You can put them on the bottom for slacks and on the top for blouses and dresses.

Now that I have a store on I am finding that I am frequently shipping products, some of them fragile. Toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls make a great packing solution as you can see in the picture below.. Just place them around the object to keep it from shipping. As you can see, it is customizable so it fits your item perfectly every time. You can tape them together with packing tape for added stability. Not only does this repurpose the tubes. It eliminates the use of styrofoam (both noodles and dye cut blocks) that also has an incredibly negative impact on the environment. I will be covering solutions to this problem in my next blog. I am starting to look around at whom I need to contact in  general to have a discussion about this alternative commercially.

My hope for the future is to eliminate the need for trees to create paper products as a whole. In fact, my desire is for people to start thinking AND ACTING in a greener way so that we support the health and sustainability of our planet. We only have one and God's children have to live on it for a very long time.

Blog for January 17, 2012Blog for Jan 17, 2012

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Blog voyage.

This is the maiden voyage of my blog. I hope that I can share some beautiful artwork done by me and my fellow artists at etsy as well as pass on some really useful information about conserving our beautiful planet.

In Genesis, God instructs Adam to rule over subdue and care for the earth. It is not ours as much as it is our children's. I have spent years trying to reduce my carbon footprint. Hence Eart Love was born. I handcraft cool products from upcycled materials. The challenge of finding and repurposing materials is so much fun. Really bends my creative.

I have devoted a great deal of time learning about how plastics impact our environment. Here are some very sobering facts.

Only .6% of plastic shopping bags are recycled.

86% of ocean waste collected is plastic?

Worldwide 500 million bags are used yearly.

California uses 19 billion bags a year, that's 552 bags a year per person. It creates enough waste to stretch around the world 250 times.

Paper bags are made of between 40 and 50% recycled materials. Although most people prefer paper bags, 80 % still use plastic instead.

Pretty astounding, right?!

So what can we do that will make a difference and still be a reasonable alternative in our lives? Glad you asked. I have taken a few simple steps to reduce plastic.

Use reusable shopping bags....I know, the ones that you see in the grocery store are awkward and big to carry but I have found these great little tyvex bags that fold up into a little packet and fit right in your purse. I carry 6 or 7 of them.

Sodastream....I recently found these AWESOME product. I drink 4 liters of seltzer water every day. Although getting the soda out of my life has been great I was stressed about toe plastic usage. Enter Sodastream? For about $100 I can now carbonate my own water, reuse bottles endlessly and even make soda and energy drink. A carbonating canister makes about 60 liters and costs about $30. I looove this thing!

When you are shopping for say one item at the drugstore, conveniences store or whereever. Tell them you do not need a bag. So many bags are needlessly used for that one item you buy and then toss the bag.

Here are some great products to reduce plastic usage care of my friends at etsy. Please take a look at the products and see what you can do to reduce the amount you use. Every little bit helps.

And here is a link for Sodastream.

Check me out on at