Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Product Recycling - Material Value

[Part 1 of a series on Product Recycling]

Anyone who lived through formative years in the 1980s (or anyone who just loves Madonna), sing with me: "We.Are.Living.In.A.Material.World ... Materia-al!" Its true, we are surrounded by materials. Many of them in our landfills. Many, many materials that have value, sitting in our landfills. Why?  Read more here over at my other blog!

left: Chinese waste collector (credit NYPL Digital Gallery). right: Thames River waste collector.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Go It Alone? Or Work Together?

Following up on my recent post, I was curious to hear what came out of the recent United Nations meeting in Bonn, Germany that just rounded up last Friday. The talks, with delegates from 183 countries, were held in preparation for the Climate Summit set for November 28 this year in Durban (aka COP17). Apparently nothing much came out of the meeting except deadlock... Read more here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The “Global” in Global Warming

New Post on Global Warming, over at my other blog.

"An interesting thing is happening in a small country in the Pacific Ocean. Micronesia, an island nation that is already suffering from the effects of global warming, has decided to try to force the issue of global responsibility for climate change. The nation has lodged a legal challenge against the Czech government to stop the expansion of a coal-fired power station some 7,000 miles away. The proposed expansion would create a coal plant that emits forty times more carbon dioxide annually than the entire Micronesian population.  ..."  Read more here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We've taken Green Antennae to the office

We've taken Green Antennae to the office with us...  we've moved our writing activities to our company blog.   Please visit us at http://designtex.typepad.com/blog/

Same great people, same great content!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ethical Sourcing Forum 2011

Having just returned from the Ethical Sourcing Forum 2011 I am in a somewhat more optimistic mood. Amidst the talk of audit fatigue and data gaps, the main theme to take away was that organizations are starting to collaborate across industries and regions to advance sustainability goals. Some consolidation and collaboration in this area is def necessary!  Finally companies are realizing they can't go it alone on a lot of larger sustainability issues (like getting accurate supply chain data and coming together to standardize they way data is requested).

Friday, February 4, 2011

Indoor Environmental Quality in Schools

We all know public schools are chronically underfunded in terms of programs, supplies, well-paid teachers etc… Two news stories yesterday show that public schools in the US (and the children therein) are also suffering from poor indoor air quality. 

This article in the New York Times describes how the city became a part of an EPA pilot program in 2010 to test concentrations of PCBs (primarily coming from outdated lighting fixtures).  According to the EPA, PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls), are “man-made chemicals that persist in the environment and were widely used in construction materials and electrical products prior to 1978. PCBs can affect the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system and endocrine system and are potentially cancer causing if they build up in the body over long periods of time.” 

All NYC schools that the EPA tested had concentrations higher than federal guidelines suggest are safe. Because of this pilot testing in NYC, the EPA put out a national recommendation issued on 12/29/10 that schools should remove and dispose of PCB-containing lighting as soon as possible. (If a school has not retrofitted its fluorescent lighting fixtures since 1978, chances are that PCBs are there.)

What’s in the air in Indiana schools… is unsafe levels of CO2.  An Indiana news agency released an investigative report yesterday showing that 66% of Indiana schools had indoor levels of CO2 deemed unsafe by the Indiana State Department of Health and the EPA.  High CO2 concentration can lead to sleepiness and learning impairment, and the report suggests a link to asthma as well.

While these two investigations focused on particular states, one can only assume the case is similar in most schools in the country. Studies such as these are what led the state of California to evolve its Collaborative for High Performance Schools criteria, with a strict set of standards for indoor air quality (although I don’t believe, anyone correct me if I’m wrong, that CHPS measures PCB levels, alas). The US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system for Schools, now off and running, also addresses indoor air quality.

Existing schools, with tight budgets, are not likely to be able to undertake major renovations any time soon, but perhaps the siren call of better-performing (read: less expensive to operate) green schools will nudge some states and counties to allocate resources in this direction. Those old lighting fixtures, while leaking PCBs, are also surely leaking dollars worth of electricity. And reducing CO2 levels in classrooms really only requires operable (ie, openable) windows to let in fresh air.  Surely we can afford that!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Paper Debuntante Ball

Let's just say a friend of mine is very fond of wrapping paper and has already scored a half a dozen rolls in a handsome selection of patterns and colors from the Container Store, where she failed to notice that of the 128 styles available, 4 patterns (Woodland Village, Winter Trees, Light up the Holidays, and Chilly Dogs if you are still in the market) were printed on recycled paper.

In retrospect she is trying to forgive herself because
a) There was no way to search for "recycled content" on the Container Store's website (the sorting options being price, top-rated, best-sellers, and most relevant) and
b) At least she did not choose a "most relevant" style called Penguins on Ice showing the little guys isolated from each other on broken bits of glacier. (Note: this is not one of the recycled paper styles above.) Sheesh.
c) She is not uninformed about the future recycling of paper. Luckily she steered clear of anything flocked or printed with metallic inks and chose only paper substrates - no foil.
d) Sometime on Christmas day into the paper recycling the wrapping paper will go, with hopes that the de-inking chemicals in their future have been screened for human and environmental health hazards.

All this is going to make her New Year's resolution fairly easy to come up with, so there is that non-printed, purely conceptual silver lining. Happy Holidays to all.