Saturday, April 30, 2011

20 Spring Cleaning Recycling Reminders (Don't Throw It Out!)

I don't know how long ago I got it, but I held onto a flyer from Co-op America about recycling because I really wanted to write a post on it. I used their new online list as a starting point, added my own suggestions and even did a little research. So, without further ado:
  1. Appliances. First try the store where you're buying a new appliance; many will take your old one. If it's in good working condition, Freecycle it or donate it to Goodwill. Some utility companies pay you for your old refrigerator. Or, as a last resort, contact the Steel Recycling Institute.
  2. Athletic shoes. One World Running will send still-wearable shoes to athletes in need in Africa, Latin America and Haiti. Nike's Reuse-a-shoe program turns old shoes into playground and athletic flooring.
  3. Automobiles. If they're old and more trouble than they're worth, don't pawn them off on some poor sap. Donate them to a charity and take the write-off.
  4. Batteries. For rechargeables and single-use, use Battery Solutions. You have pay for the kits, but FedEx shipping is included both ways.
  5. Cardboard Boxes. Contact local nonprofits and women’s shelters to see if they can use them. Or, offer up used cardboard boxes on Freecycle or Craigslist. When we moved here, we put our moving boxes on Freecycle and had a taker in minutes. If your workplace collects at least 100 boxes or more each month, UsedCardboardBoxes accepts them for resale.
  6. Clothes. My favorite, for women's work clothes, is Dress for Success. You can also donate them to the Salvation Army, Goodwill or your local shelter. If the clothes are unwearable, your local animal shelter may want them for pet bedding.
  7. CDs/DVDs/Game Disks. Send scratched music or computer CDs, DVDs and PlayStation or Nintendo video game disks to AuralTech for refinishing, and they’ll work like new.
  8. Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFL). Your local IKEA store will take them. Or you can order a Sylvania RecyclePak.
  9. Computers and electronics. Find the most responsible recyclers, local and national, at BAN.
  10. Crayons. We all have 10 times as many as we need, thanks to the many places that hand them out. Send them to Crazy Crayons to be melted down into new crayons.
  11. Eyeglasses. Your local Lion’s Club or eyecare chain may collect these. Lenses are reground and given to people in need.
  12. Foam packing peanuts. First, make sure these are not the bio-peanuts that melt in water. Those are easy to get rid of. Otherwise, your local pack-and-ship store will likely accept foam peanuts for reuse. If not, call the Plastic Loose Fill Producers Council to find a drop-off site at 800.828.2214. For places to drop off foam blocks for recycling, contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers.
  13. Ink/toner cartridges. pays $1 each. 
  14. Motor oil. Find used motor oil depots in each state at
  15. Phones. Donate cell phones: Collective Good will refurbish your phone and sell it to someone in a developing country. As will the CTIACall to Protect reprograms cell phones to dial 911 and gives them to domestic violence victims. Recycle single-line phones at Reclamere.
  16. "Technotrash." Project KOPEG offers an e-waste recycling program you can use as a fundraiser for your organization. Use Project KOPEG to recycle iPods, MP3 players, cell phones and chargers, digital cameras, PDAs, palm pilots and more. Also, easily recycle all of your CDs, jewel cases, DVDs, audio and video tapes, pagers, rechargeable and single-use batteries, PDAs and ink/toner cartridges with GreenDisk’s Technotrash program. For $30, GreenDisk will send you a cardboard box which you fill with up to 70 pounds of any of the above and ship back to them. Your fee covers the box, as well as shipping and recycling fees.
  17. Tires. Bad for landfills. Look up a local recycling program on Earth911. (This site is a great overall resource for recycling.)
  18. Toothbrushes and razors. Buy a recycled plastic toothbrush or razor from Recycline, and the company will take it back to be recycled again into plastic lumber. Recycline products are made from used Stonyfield Farms’ yogurt cups.
  19. Tyvek envelopes. Quantities less than 25: Send to Shirley Cimburke, Tyvek Recycling Specialist, 5401 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Spot 197, Room 231, Richmond, VA 23234. Quantities larger than 25, call 866.33.TYVEK.
  20. Wine corks. Recork upcycles them into other products. Bottoms up, everyone!
One man's junk is another man's treasure.

You know not to buy stuff you really don't need. Just keep reminding yourself. Or shop at second-hand stores or on eBay. Then, of course, there's the stuff you already have that needs a new life. Try to find someone else who wants this stuff. And people will. Post it on Freecycle, Craigslist or or give/sell them at or on eBay.  iReuse will also help you find a recycler, if possible, when your items have reached the end of their useful lifecycle.

Other great posts and resources worth checking out for more information on recycling:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

REVIEW: Made From Earth

OllieOllieToxinFree (OOTF) product review policy: I accept free samples from brands I deem promising (with regard to ingredients, price point and philosophy). I agree to try the products and provide my readers with an honest opinion of them. If I do not like the products, I follow the Golden Rule (say nothing if nothing nice to say) but do report back to the brand contact with my concerns/dislikes. I post reviews of products I like, so my readers learn about new, OOTF-friendly products.

Some time ago, I was contacted by the marketing director at Made From Earth to see if I would review some sample products. (How flattering!) Soon after, I received a package with lots of samples, so many that I have still not tried them all. What Stergios didn't know—and I didn't think to mention—is that I have a pretty pared down beauty routine. 

So, while I'm sure I'll eventually get to test all of them, for now I'll just tell you about the ones I tried, all very good products. My favorite items were the Rosehip & Hibiscus Facial Serum (which is currently half off at just $12.50!) and the Citrus Fresh Lip Balm. I also liked the the Vitamin E & Citrus Body Gel and the pH Equilibrant Moisturizer.

General Notes
Fragrance is something I find challenging with natural concoctions. I like good-smelling products, but most true eco-brands avoid strong scents, even naturally derived ones, because some people have reactions to essential oils. But when potions have no smell or an odor that's not at least a tinge floral/fruity/musky, I personally find that unappealing. Made From Earth seems to have found the right balance with a barely there nontoxic fragrance for facial products and a light natural scent in the other products I tried.

I should also note that testing beauty products for me is always a crap shoot. My skin is highly sensitive and breaks into little dry crusty patches for no apparent reason—usually related to trying a new product or being in a new climate. I have used these products long enough to say unequivocally that my sensitive skin liked Made From Earth.

Looking at the ingredients, it appears that Made From Earth products would get a very low (which is favorable) rating on the EWG Cosmetics Database, however, no products are listed in that system. They specifically ensure that their products contain none of the following:
  • Petrochemicals and Phthalates
  • Parabens (Methyl, Propyl, Butyl)
  • Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate Diazolidinyl Urea
My friend, Todra, at The Healthy Beauty Project, is a fan of Made From Earth. See her inside scoop on the company and the products here. She also tells me that they reformulate their products constantly, and they are very responsive to constructive feedback.

Product-Specific Notes
The Rosehip & Hibiscus Facial Serum has a great consistency, emollient but not greasy, and overall very lightweight. My skin is normal to dry, especially in winter, but it’s not generally amenable to heavy moisturizers, even at night. I love to use serums all over, morning and night, though I’m sure cosmetologists would say it’s not enough moisture for my skin type. I believe that moisture also comes from the inside—be hydrated and your skin will show it. But, I digress.

The Citrus Fresh Lip Balm was smooth and deliciously scented. It's made with beeswax, essential oils, and other natural goodness, and at $3.99, is quite affordable. Made From Earth also offers Mocha, Vanilla, Blueberry, Spearmint and a Chocolate/Vanilla combo pack.

The Vitamin E & Citrus Body Gel was not super sudsy, but most eco-friendly soaps are not, because they are sulfate-free. I found the scent to be refreshing, the texture was typical of a bath gel and I felt clean after using it. That's the point, right?

The pH Equilibrant Moisturizer was a nice addition to my nighttime routine, after the serum. It's light and non-greasy but definitely not as light as the serum. It absorbed into my skin easily and, it's worth mentioning again, did not cause any freakouts. I would like it to have a teeny tiny little bit more natural fragrance, but it wasn't a deal-breaker for me. 

One last product I didn't mention earlier, but did try, is their Grapefruit Glycolic Scrub. An interesting texture, its gel base is sprinkled with soft little scrubbing bits. It didn't feel harsh, but typically, glycolic-type products are not categorized as nontoxic. It's not in the Cosmetics Database, so its toxicity is unclear to me. I'd guess that it's "safer" than drugstore and probably department store brands, but I would use it sparingly, just for a little extra facial rejuvenation. 

All in all, this is a well-priced, low-hype, U.S.-made line of products with carefully selected ingredients that you'll likely really enjoy using. Thanks to the team at Made From Earth for introducing me to your line.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A novel concept: double-sided register receipts

Sometimes, I like to give props to companies who are taking even the smallest initiative to be eco-friendly. 

I was surprised to find that Karns, a local grocery chain, had different register paper so the receipt came out half the size of the monstrous receipts I get at Giant Foods, simply by printing on both sides of the paper. It's a little confusing the first time you look at your receipt; it looks incomplete. But, lo and behold, I flipped it over and there my tally continued, with no space-wasting frills. That is a great way to cut paper use in half. Kudos to Karns.

This post would be incomplete if I didn't also mention the growing concern about all these thermal receipts we collect -- the presence of BPA (Bisphenol-A) on them. 
Handle BPA-laden thermal receipts with care—or not at all!

Just today, I saw an article (which of course I can't find now) on this, and when I searched, came across this one. You can Google it yourself; these articles date back to 2000, but it's definitely attracting more media attention. As the Fox story says, some stores are already using BPA-free paper: Trader Joe’s, Home Depot, Albertson’s, Ace Hardware, Wal-Mart, Sears and Costco. 

The super creepy thing about BPA is that you can't wash it off your hands. Anything that it touches, it attaches to, like paper money, your clothes, your skin. Ick. So what should you do with all these receipts? Recycle them, right? No, says the Washington Toxics Coalition. Read this short post on how to dispose of them and how to avoid BPA-laden receipts in the first place.