How do the decisions made by grocers impact the overall sustainability of your food choices? What can we do to increase the sustainability of our day-to-day grocery shopping? Typically when one walks into a grocery store, they don't truly think about how much is really being wasted. From bags, to boxes, to plastic, it's all an extremely unnatural resource that could be avoided. Just like the new grocery store in Texas, "in.gredients" has gone to extreme measures to help sustain our environment by offering no packaging, using real food, and being the first "no waste grocery store in the United States." Here are some other helpful tips that you can take with you next time you enter a grocery store, in means to be more protective over the sustainability of our planet.
Bottom Line: Follow the lead of Atherton’s Laurel School and start reducing waste in the cafeteria while making conservation an every-day practice.
In 2007, Sustainable San Mateo County and The City of Menlo Park Environmental Quality Commission recognized Atherton's Laurel School for their efforts in reducing school waste. With the help of Allied Waste’s Composting for Business program, Laurel School’s Zero Waste efforts have saved more than 11 tons of garbage since 2005. By bringing recycling and composting practices to the school’s cafeteria, the zero waste program makes responsible environmental action part of the students’ daily routine.
Bottom Line: Use this font for all your reports, charts, and other word processing needs. It uses 20% less ink, saves you money, and generates less waste from printer cartridges.
The prints we make for our 'daily use' not only use paper, but also ink. Plastic printer cartridges, if not recycled, generate waste and fill our landfills. With millions upon millions of printers in the world, imagine the impact of reducing, if only by a little, the amount of ink used in our printing process.
Electronic equipment, such as computers, printers, or TV’s, should not be sent to the landfill. There are a number of resources available to local residents and businesses to help with quick and easy recycling of these items.
Aged or obsolete electronics should not be thrown away along with your normal garbage. Most electronics contain hazardous substances such as mercury or other heavy metals like lead or arsenic. These compounds, if introduced to municipal waste streams, can cause contamination of groundwater and soils. For more information on the hazards of electronic equipment, go to the EPA’s website.
Bottom Line: City governments make it easy for residents and businesses to stop the flow of junk mail to our mailboxes.
Junk Mail is a big problem. We all get it, and 9 times out of 10, that piece of junk mail goes right to the recycle bin. Every year about 42 billion pieces of unsolicited mail are sent to unwilling recipients in the US. This plethora of unwanted mail has immense costs. It robs our forests of over 100 million trees every year. Then it costs us $320 million annually nationwide to dispose of it all. According to San Francisco Department of the Environment’s calculations, it costs each American about 234 minutes a year to sort through the junk.
Bottom Line: At the heart of industrial waste prevention is the idea that every product, service, and manufacturing process can benefit from a Life-Cycle Assessment.
By now, most of us are probably familiar with the iconic 3 R’s of early environmental and waste prevention slogans: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The 3 R’s have provided a simple, yet solid foundation on which consumers can base their purchasing and disposal-related decisions. However, when the focus of waste prevention shifts upstream to the world of design, manufacturing, and industry, the 3 R’s often fall short of achieving their mission.
Bottom Line: Be sure that your auto repair shop uses environmentally sound procedures including water based paints to reduce impact on air quality
Select a shop that uses water based paints and complies with all rules and regulations put out by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and the California Air Resources Board. In general, California imposes controls on the amount of VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) released into the air from the paints and solvents. The shop should also be using enclosed spray booths, as well as HVLP spray guns and reusable filters.
Bottom Line: Using polystyrene food packaging is bad for the environment and the associated marine debris is expensive for local governments. Be one of the many local governments across the nation to enact a Polystyrene Ban.
Local governments across the nation are prohibiting the use of non-recyclable plastics such as foamed polystyrene in takeout disposable food packaging because they are frustrated with the increasing amount of non-recyclable food packaging waste in our marine environment, streets, storm drains and landfills. Studies have shown that in the some areas of the Pacific plastic outweighs plankton by a factor of 46! Polystyrene is impractical to recycle due to its light weight, takes thousands of years to decompose and is the most common form of marine debris. Managing the debris costs local governments millions in storm drain clean up costs.
Bottom Line: Composting your kitchen waste and yard trimmings helps divert waste from landfills, saves you money on trash collection, and reconnects you to the natural cycle of nutrients.
Each week, when the time comes to dispose of (or recycle) yard trimmings and food waste, we all have two main options: 1) combine food scraps, soiled paper, and other biodegradable materials with yard waste to be composted; or, 2) put everything in the garbage bin, ensuring high trash collection costs, an increasing reliance on landfills, and a disconnection from the natural cycle of nutrients. We think #1 sounds better, don't you?
Yard and food waste make up roughly 30% of the waste stream. Composting your kitchen waste and yard trimmings helps divert that waste from the landfill, waterways and water treatment facilities, and is a natural process that recycles decomposed organic materials into a rich soil.
Bottom Line: By promoting "green burials" Colorful Coffins has diverted 827,090 gallons of embalming fluid, 180,544,000 pounds of steel, 5,400,000 pounds of copper, 30,000,000 feet of hard woods, and 3,272,000,000 from the earth and saved clients $400-$2,500 in casket costs per funeral.
Jane Hillhouse's dream of starting a green coffin and burial business in San Mateo County has hit a few snags along the way. A native of the UK, Jane was exposed early on to the concept of green burials and the toxic effects of traditional burial on the Earth's ecosystem. There are over 250 green burial sites in England, and less than 24 in the United States.
Bottom Line: The City of Millbrae completed a $6 million facility at its Water Pollution Control Plant that will turn grease from local restaurants into biogas and pay for itself in 17 years.
The City of Millbrae (with the help of Chevron Energy Solutions) recently completed a new $6 million facility at its Water Pollution Control Plant that will turn inedible used kitchen grease from local restaurants into biogas -- generating renewable energy to treat the city's wastewater. Their old plant was aging and too small to support the installation and use of modern cogeneration equipment that can capture and reuse biogas. Instead of wasting a valuable energy source, the City took on the challenge of building a custom system that can be replicated anywhere.
Bottom Line: San Mateo County Environmental Health Department sponsors a FREE countywide program to collect, recycle and properly dispose of household hazardous waste (HHW).
Anyone can take advantage of this helpful program to dispose of your dangerous household chemicals properly. There are currently eleven (11) HHW collection events per month at locations around the county.
HHW is considered to be any leftover or unused portions of chemical products you use in your kitchen, bathroom, garage, automobile, or yard.
Bottom Line: The common products you use to maintain or remodel your home can be hazardous and harm wildlife in and around the Bay and Ocean and threaten our most valuable resource - water.
Maintaining Your Home Can Pollute the Bay. Unless we take steps to prevent it, motor oil, paint products, pet wastes, chemicals we use to clean our homes and pesticides used to beautify our gardens are washed day after day into neighborhood gutters and storm drains by rainwater and water from lawn watering. These pollutants flow through the storm drain system into local creeks and empty directly into the Bay or the Ocean. They present an ongoing hazard for the fish, birds, and other wildlife living in and around the Bay and Ocean and for many of us who use and enjoy our most valuable natural resource - water.