August 2016 - Our Daily Green

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Waste Not, Save More (reprinted from

Here's an idea for the climate, and your wallet: 
If you waste less, you should pay less.
On average, each person in the U.S. throws away five pounds of solid waste each day. While many eco–conscious citizens do their due diligence to recycle, compost, and reduce waste, others remain apatheticabout preserving the environment.
Wherever you might land on the eco-friendly scale, innovative “Pay As You Throw” (PAYT) programs are incentivizing people nationwide to increase (or start) recycling and composting through a usage-pricing model.
Basically, the less trash you send to a landfill, the less you pay.
Over 7,000 communities in the U.S. report using this green solution, with cities seeing an average of 45 percent less trash.
Though various types of PAYT programs have been tested, waste-reduction company WasteZero reports the most cost-effective and convenient option for reducing waste isusing specialized bags. With this approach, residents purchase uniquely printed bags approved by their municipality, just like you would purchase garbage bags from a store. Trash collectors only pick up these bags, incentivizing residents to follow the protocol.
A common concern is that people will just dump their trash illegally in communities where these policies are implemented. But according to the Environmental Protection Agency, that’s not the case. In fact, when residents are offered reliable recycling and composting options for yard trimmings, they find it easier to reduce their waste.
And PAYT is often cheaper than what most households pay for waste management, especially if you pay a trash tax to help your municipality cover the cost of having waste dropped off at a landfill.
Imagine if your city decided that everyone would have to pay a flat fee for electricity, regardless of how much you use. This fee would likely be much higher than your monthly bill, and you wouldn’t have any control over it.
That’s exactly how the conventional “trash tax” many of us currently pay works.
Even if you use five large PAYT bags of garbage a week, at $1.50 each — which includes the cost of the bag itself, transportation, and disposal — it’d be less than half the cost of the trash tax in the communities that charge it. Additionally, many communities have coupon or voucher programs for lower income residents and larger families concerned about the cost of the bags.
While cutting costs is a huge incentive, the environmental benefits of PAYT programs can’t be understated. Landfills stuffed to the brim with solid waste emit large amounts of methane, a shorter-lived and more potent greenhouse gas with over 70 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide.
One of the most effective ways to curb methane emissions that threaten our climate, second only to reducing our meat consumption, is to shrink the amount of solid waste decomposing in landfills. And with less trash to be burned at incinerators, programs like PAYT will also improve air quality.
Even residents with a laissez-faire take on the environment won’t be able to find a reason not to pay as they throw.
Beth Porter directs Green America’s Better Paper Project. 
A project of the
Institute for Policy Studies

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tips on finding a truly green mattress (guest post)

Consumers are becoming more wary of what’s in the products they buy. Whether it’s a perfume, processed food, furniture, or anything else, people want to know that the products they buy are going to be safe to consume.  This is especially true with mattresses because people spend 6-8 hours a night in them. Unfortunately, there are a lot of marketing gimmicks in the mattress industry, so it’s pretty difficult to know exactly how “green” the mattress you are looking at is.  Here are a few helpful hints of what you should look for if you are looking to get a more natural, eco-friendly mattress.

Tip 1- Beware of false “green” claims

A lot of companies in the mattress industry will make claims that their mattress is “green” for this reason or that.  Most of the time those claims are dubious at best.  For example, some companies will claim they use “bio-based” foams.  This will lead you to believe that the foam is 100% bio-based, but in reality the foam is only a small percentage bio-based (usually 10-35%) and the rest is petroleum-based.  If you ever see “bio-based,” make sure you find out the exact percentage breakdown of bio-based versus petroleum-based.

Similarly, companies will make a big marketing push around their product that has been certified by certiPUR.  This certification means that the foams used the in the mattress have not been made with specific harmful chemicals.  However, this should be the absolute minimum you should expect from your mattress, and it doesn’t mean the mattress is “green” by any means.  The foams used are still going to be petroleum-based.

Tip 2- Not all latex is green

Many companies that sell latex mattresses will make claims that their products are green because they use latex in their construction.  However, there are different types of latex.  There can be natural latex, which actually comes naturally from a rubber tree, or synthetic, which is not very green at all. In most cases, companies use synthetic or blended latex because it is much more economical to manufacture.

The only way to have a “green” or “organic” mattress is if the mattress is constructed using natural latex.  If you are looking at getting a latex mattress, then you should look into whether it’s truly natural or synthetic.

Tip 3- Business model

Companies that sell through physical stores leave a large carbon footprint.  Think of all the energy used to keep a store going each day.  Companies that sell online leave a lot smaller carbon footprint because they avoid having stores entirely.  By buying online, you are actually making a more green choice than if you go to a store.

Tip 4- Be willing to pay more for a green mattress

The only real “organic” or “green” mattress out there is a natural latex mattress.  To make a natural latex mattress is very expensive, so for you to get one you have to be willing to pay more.  There’s really no way around it, and that’s why so few companies offer such mattresses.

Overall, you should be initially skeptical of big claims from mattress companies about their “green” mattresses.  Do your research, and know that you might have to pay a little extra if you want a truly organic mattress.

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