Giving Thanks: Celebrate Thanksgiving by giving back to Mother Earth

The Pilgrims may have traveled quite a distance to celebrate the first Thanksgiving, but their food didn’t. They learned to source their sustenance locally, a tough task in a new world, and they celebrated with a feast that eventually turned into modern-day Thanksgiving.

Getting food today doesn’t require nearly as much work for most of us as it did for those Pilgrims in the 1600′s, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about where it’s coming from.

Dinner’s Ready
Concerned about the way animals are treated? Try celebrating this year vegetarian-style. There are so many yummy meat-free foods at Thanksgiving, you may not even miss it. But if the big feast just won’t be the same without a bird on the table, look for pasture-raised, free-range turkey. This tells you that the animal lived outside, without harmful chemicals and hormones pumped into its body. Here are some other labels, classified by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, to look for when buying food:

A GOOD Start
“Cage free” (eggs)
“Free range” (eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey)
“Grass fed” (dairy, beef, lamb)

The “Good Start” labels indicate a meaningful animal welfare standard, but the standard covers only one aspect of animal care, and compliance with the standard is not verified by a third party.

Even BETTER
“Free range” (beef, bison, pork, lamb)
“Pasture raised” (dairy, eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork)
“USDA Organic” (dairy, eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork)

The “Even Better” labels generally indicate a higher level of animal welfare because the standards are more meaningful than those for the “Good Start” labels, but the standards are either not verified by a third party or cover only a limited aspect of animal care.

The BEST Options
“Certified Humane” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork)
“American Humane Certified” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork)
“Animal Welfare Approved” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, duck, goose, beef, lamb, pork, rabbit)

The “Best Options” labels cover multiple aspects of animal care, and compliance with the standards is verified by an independent third party.

To get your local store to carry products with these labels, just ask. Have your friends do the same, and the store will likely listen. You can download a request card to put in a store’s comment box or mail to its headquarters.

The Ambiance
Decorate your table not with cheesy Thanksgiving-print napkins and paper plates but with pumpkins, gourds, apples, and all the other wonderful edible treats the fall season has to offer. If the thought of doing all those dishes makes you want to scrap the holiday altogether, try Preserve Tableware, an environmentally friendly alternative to the disposable stuff. The dishes and cutlery are made from 100 percent recycled plastic and are strong enough to be reused dozens of times (or just recycled when you’re done).

Top off the look with soy candles and a few sprigs of pine, and you’ll have authentic decor that would make even those who came over on the Mayflower proud.

When It’s Over
After the meal’s done and the leftovers picked through, compost the rest. Of the waste Americans send to landfills, 24 percent of it is organic waste (i.e., kitchen scraps). Keeping that waste out of landfills saves space and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, making it a win-win however you look at it. Making your own compost is easy!

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Why BPA-Free is the Way to Be

By now you’ve probably heard about BPA and how you should avoid it or you’ve seen products advertise that they’re BPA free. But what exactly is BPA and why is it dangerous?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in hard plastics and the coatings of food and drink cans. It is used to make water bottles, baby bottles, medical and dental devices, electronics, sports equipment, and more.

When absorbed into the body, BPA can imitate hormones such as estrogen and have hazardous effects on health. In a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they found that 95% of adult and 93% of child urine samples contained traces of BPA. The US Endocrine Society has expressed public concern over the amount of BPA humans are currently exposed to.

Keep reading to learn about the possible health hazards of BPA.

  • Scientists have shown that BPA can cause reproductive disorders by affecting egg quality and egg maturation
  • Impotence has been linked to BPA exposure among men
  • Scientists at the University of Cincinnati reported that BPA can cause heart disease in women and may reduce the efficiency of chemotherapy treatment
  • Researchers in California have shown that BPA exposure has been linked to type 2 diabetes
  • A study by the Yale School of Medicine found a possible increase in breast cancer risk among women who had been exposed to BPA in the womb

Everyone is susceptible to the hazards of BPA but babies and children are the most sensitive so its very important to limit their exposure to the chemical. Dolphin Blue has always ensured that our toys are healthy for the environment and healthy for kids. Our Green Toys are made from recycled milk containers and are BPA free.

When you’re shopping this holiday season be sure to check packaging on all toys and kitchen products to ensure they’re BPA free and safe for your loved ones!

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Everything old is new again

Plastics recycling can have a big impact on our resources.
Shopping bags, liters of soda, cereal box lining, and lots and lots of water bottles — it’s easy to amass plastic in today’s world, given its omnipresence in the products we use. Most of that, though, goes straight into plastic trash bags and heads to a landfill. (The rate of recycling plastic bottles has held steady since the 1990s at about 24 percent.)

Why Recycle Plastic?
When contemplating whether recycling plastic is really worth it, consider the following:

– It costs more money to drink bottled water than to put gas in your car — up to five times more — due mainly to its packaging and transportation, says the Earth Policy Institute.

– Recycling 1 ton of plastic saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space.

– The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes.

– More than $1 billion worth of plastic is wasted each year.

– Recycled plastic can turn into a whole host of new and useful products, including durable building and construction products, fiber for carpets, tote bags, beverage bottles, recycling bins, shipping envelopes, and tableware (cups, plates, and utensils). Dolphin Blue carries a complete line of post-consumer recycled plastic tableware, which you can find here.

How to Recycle Plastic
Fortunately, 80 percent of Americans have access to a plastics recycling program, and more than 1,600 businesses are involved in recycling post-consumer plastics. There are seven types of plastic, and not every community’s curbside program recycles all of them, so first, learn what’s what with the handy chart from the American Chemistry Council, found here. Most likely you have #1 (water bottles, peanut butter jars), #2 (plastic bags, shampoo bottles), and #6 (packing peanuts, yogurt containers).

Many stores will recycle plastic bags for you, so check with your favorite grocer, or visit PlasticBagRecycling.org for a list of locations in your state that offer drop-off bins for recycling plastic bags.

When it comes to water bottles and other containers with lids, take the tops off before throwing them in a recycling bin. Lids are usually made of a different type of plastic than bottles, and the recycling facilities aren’t going to take the time to take off billions of lids — and likely will reject the bottles for recycling.

For more information, watch a short video here about the process of recycling plastic.

The DIY Guide to Reusing Plastic
There are ways to make good use of plastic once you’re done with it other than sending it to a recycling facility. Keeping plastic bags on hand and reusing them as long as they’re functional is a great way to reduce your impact. To make it convenient, try storing bags in empty tissue or garbage-bag boxes. This keeps the clutter at bay, and it makes the bags accessible when you need them. Just pull a bag out of the parachute hole and go.

For those with an artistic side, look at plastic products in a new way and see what you can come up with. You might just end up with something as fun and elegant as these cascade chandeliers. And although crocheting is usually done with yarn, when plastic bags are the material, it’s environmentally friendly and pretty darn cool. Check out one woman’s creations here.

Last but not least, it’s simple and easy to stock your office kitchen or home pantry with Preserve Tableware, made of post-consumer recycled yogurt cups, available on Dolphin Blue’s site here.

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Reduce Paper Plate Waste

According to Greenyour.com, offices consume disposable plates, cups, and cutlery for meetings and conferences and every day lunch breaks. The average 2,500-person conference will produce waste to the tune of 75,000 disposable cups, 87,500 paper napkins, and 90,000 cans or bottles. In an average year, most office workers throw out 500 disposable cups!

How many paper cups and plates from your home make it to the recycling bin? Most waste is needless given all used paper cups and plates can be recycled if cleaned. Dirty paper bowls and plates that are uncoated are approved for composting. Also, choosing reusable dishes and flatware can go a long way to cutting overall trash. Even a small change like using pitchers instead of water bottles could make a huge difference over time.

Try these helpful tips to start reducing your home or office kitchen waste today:

  • Serve guests drinks in pitchers instead of using wasteful plastic bottles
  • Choose dishes and cutlery made from recycled content
  • Use a reusable mug for coffee and take reusable dishes when you have to eat on-the-go
  • Recycle as many paper products as you can from fast food and takeout

For a quick and easy guide on recycling and composting, see this brochure from University of Berkeley. For a relatable story of how one woman stopped an addiction to paper plates, read “Guilt on a Paper Plate” by Larissa Kosmos, guest blogger for the NYTimes. Browse Dolphin Blue’s selection of recycled tableware and kitchenware for the office.

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Let There be Light: A guide to eco-friendly lighting options

As summer draws to an end and the days get shorter, that means less daylight — which, in turn, means more electricity used to illuminate your house. Given that lighting makes up a huge percentage of a home’s electricity bill (somewhere in the vicinity of a quarter of usage), looking at ways to save energy and money through your light bulbs makes good sense.

It’s been a long time since 1879, when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, forever changing life for Americans. And like any invention, the ensuing 134 years have brought modifications and improvements — many that save you resources and money. With lighting constituting up to 25 percent of the average home energy budget, it’s a great place to look for reductions in energy usage.

Here’s a look at some eco-friendly lighting options:

CFLs
According to Energy Star, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy program, CFLs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer, plus they save approximately $30 in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime. CFLs should be left on at least 15 minutes at a time in order to keep their lifespan at its peak potential.

Although CFLs used to give off harsh lighting, the color is improved and warmer now, making them a good option for everything from track lighting to porch lights to table lamps. Because they can sometimes take time to warm up to full power, they may not be the best choice for timed lighting. However, CFLs are definitely faster to light fully than in the recent past.

One of the turnoffs to buying these bulbs is a higher initial cost than incandescents. In the long run, though, you can save money — as an example, an 18-watt CFL used in place of a 75-watt incandescent will save about 570 kilowatt-hours over its lifetime, equating to a $45 savings (assuming 8 cents per kilowatt-hour).

Likely the biggest concern about CFLs is that they contain small amounts of mercury, which can be harmful if the bulb breaks. In case of a spill, the EPA provides guidelines for cleanup here.

More than 50 American Lighting Association showrooms across the country currently offer CFL recycling, as do many retail stories such as Home Depot and IKEA.

LEDs
When the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, replaced all downtown street lights with LEDs, they reaped an estimated savings of $100,000 annually in energy costs — or the equivalent of taking 400 cars off the road per year.

While these energy-efficient bulbs have been restricted to small usages in the past, like Christmas lights, pen lights, and in TV remote controls, more household applications are being developed every day. One barrier to their widespread adoption is that they are currently much more expensive than both incandescents and CFLs, but researchers have been working to develop less-expensive methods of producing the lights, which will bring down the price for consumers.

LEDs last about 10 times longer than CFLs, making them the most energy-efficient option out there right now. They don’t get hot like incandescents, and they don’t break as easily as other light bulbs. Many cities and electric companies offer rebates for LED lighting, so check with your provider to see what options you have.

According to Cree LED Lighting, the average price in the U.S. of running a 65-watt light for 50,000 hours would cost $325 in electricity. By using a 12-watt LED bulb, running the light for 50,000 hours would cost only $60, plus the lights are replaced much less frequently.

Energy Star Lighting
Energy Star has long been known for its appliances, but the program has also certified lighting fixtures for more than a decade, and now has around 20,000 offerings. While screw-based CFLs (those that you substitute for an incandescent bulb) are great at conserving energy, Energy Star fixtures outfitted with CFLs are even better.

If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, save more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars, according to a segment on CBS.

Looking forward, Energy Star is working on labeling solid-state light fixtures — those that employ LEDs as the light source — and you can expect to see more Energy Star qualified lighting products hitting the market. They also feature a buyer’s guide that can help you figure out what kind of bulb you need in different fixtures, based on what kind of light you want.

For a side-by-side comparison of incandescents, CFLs, and LEDs on issues of lighting quality and cost, read this article from financial blog The Simple Dollar.

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Green Toys are Safe Toys for Kids

Green Toys Recycling TruckWhen it comes to buying toys for your children or grandchildren you have millions of options. Toys are one of the most cherished aspects of childhood, yet each year many children are rushed to emergency rooms due to toy-related injuries So, how do you successfully browse the toy aisle to find a fun and safe toy for your child?

Dolphin Blue has compiled a short guide to help you find the right toy for your tot:

  • Paint on toys should always be lead-free
  • Toys should be made of non-toxic materials in case they are accidentally ingested
  • Fabric on toys should be flame resistant or flame retardant
  • Toys should be washable in case they become soiled during play
  • Check that noisy toys are not noisy enough to cause hearing damage to your child
  • Toys should not have small parts or strings that could be dangerous to a child if they break or come loose
  • Make sure a toy is intended for your child’s age group by checking the packaging or label
  • Be cautious of older toys or hand-me-down toys as they may not have been subject to current safety standards and could contain parts or paint that is dangerous to your child

Dolphin Blue took all of these guidelines into account when choosing the toys that we carry in our store. Green Toys are made from 100% recycled milk jugs and re-processed into HDPE, one of the safest plastics around. They are designed without any external coatings to eliminate the danger of lead paint and contain no traceable amounts of phthalates or BPA.

Green Toys are not only safe for your children, they’re also safe for the environment. Every Green Toy is sustainably made in the U.S.A. and completely recyclable. On average, every pound of recycled milk jugs used to make Green Toys saves enough electricity to power a laptop for a whole month!

Check out the Green Toys YouTube channel to see their toys in action and visit our online store to purchase your next children’s toy.

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Party Time: How to throw the greenest bash on your block

Summer is in full swing, and the longer days and warm temps make now the perfect time to throw an outdoor soiree, whether a small patio gathering or an all-out block party. As you can probably guess, though, these kinds of events often produce a lot of waste — each year Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times, says the Clean Air Council.

SeptPoolParty-2

But you don’t have to be a part of those negative statistics — green can be the theme of your party, or you can incorporate eco-friendly principles into an event of any kind. Here are some tips for a backyard bash sure to please Mother Earth:


Invitations

nlg_bbqpoolpartyIf the party is going to be casual, sending an online invite is a great way to save. Sites like Evite.com offer tons of options to suit any kind of soiree, and it takes just minutes to put together something nice, no design skills necessary. But if a printed piece of paper would be more appropriate for your occasion, look for recycled paper and soy-based inks, like the products offered by Dolphin Blue. One especially fun option is to get paper with seeds inside that can then be planted — it makes for an invite that your guests won’t soon forget and sets the tone for your green party. Check out Bloomin’s seed paper, which contain wildflower seeds in every sheet.

Food
Think local, local, local. Buying from a farmers market not only gives you the freshest food Preserve TableWarepossible, it also supports your local economy. Go organic when you can, and serve finger foods — that way you can cut down on the waste of disposable plates and silverware (if there’s no way to get around using throwaway items, go with a company like Preserve Tableware, which offers plates, tumblers, and cutlery made from 100 percent recycled plastic). Try these black bean and corn quesadillas from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse; see more green recipes here.

If it’s a really big bash and you have tons of food left over, consider donating it to a food bank. Find one in your area at Feeding America’s site.

Décor and Centerpieces
Instead of using cut flowers in vases as a centerpiece, try potted plantsgrp_edr_centerpiece_april, which you can then keep or give to your guests as favors. Fruit (locally grown, of course) also makes for a fun decoration, and artfully arranging oranges, lemons, or limes in a centerpiece adds a bright pop of color to your table setting.

Even branches can make an elegant centerpiece (really!). If the party’s at night and you need a little light, try soy candles. Look around your house or backyard to see what you might have that would work — anything recycled is eco-friendly, and your creativity will be applauded by your guests.

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Operation Kindness: Dolphin Blue Reaches Out to Tornado Survivors

On the afternoon of May 20, 2013, a category EF5 tornado devastated the city of Moore, Oklahoma, taking the lives of more than two-dozen residents and injuring hundreds more. With winds estimated at 210 mph, the twister ripped through the Oklahoma City suburb leaving a path of destruction 1.3 miles wide and 17 miles long. Unfortunately, block after block of flattened homes and businesses is not new to Moore. In 1999, another deadly EF5 tornado destroyed the area, following an eerily similar storm path. Once again, the residents of Moore were left to pick up the pieces.

Home destroyed by the powerful tornado that ripped through Moore, OK.

Homes destroyed by the powerful tornado that ripped through Moore, OK on May 20, 2013.

Dolphin Blue’s Accounting Manager, Robin Lynn, was quick to put out the call for local donations and organize a goodwill trip to Moore in an effort to relieve the burden and show support for survivors.  She collected clothes, canned goods, bottled water and everyday supplies from friends, family and coworkers.  Robin also worked with Dolphin Blue CEO, Tom Kemper, to handpick items to donate from the Dolphin Blue store such as Preserve kitchenware, personal care items from Nourish, cleaning products from Mrs. Meyers and Better Life, and Green Toys.

Dolphin Blue Accounting Manager, Robin Lynn, greets Moore, OK tornado survivors with kindness and donations.

Dolphin Blue’s Robin Lynn greets tornado survivors with kindness and donations.

After loading up her truck and making the three hour trip to Moore, Oklahoma, Robin surveyed the heartbreaking wreckage of homes in the area. She met with local residents who were volunteering with humanitarian organizations heading up the relief efforts in the area and donated the items she had collected.

After returning home Robin reflected, “The effects of the tornado were devastating, but the kindness and appreciation from so many people coming together to help their fellow neighbors was truly inspiring. There is a powerful energy in Moore, OK, that I think will allow them to overcome this adversity.”

Dolphin Blue is proud of Robin and her heart-lead efforts to support the survivors of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado.  If you wish donate or volunteer to the ongoing relief efforts, please click here to find out ways you can help.

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Eco Gifts for Dad

This Father’s Day, get your top pop something both he and the environment can get behind. In addition to some of the new home and garden items we offer on DolphinBlue.com, here are six ideas:

Grill Daddy

Grill Daddy
Nothing beats the great American dad pastime of grilling on a summer day. Make the experience even better with a Grill Daddy, a brush that harnesses the power of steam to clean grills easily and efficiently — no harsh chemicals required. Say bye-bye to baked-on residue and grease, and hello to food that isn’t flavored by whatever got left on the grill last time.
$14.99, www.buygrilldaddy.com

Herban Cowboy Cologne

Herban Cowboy Cologne
Get a whiff of this made-in-the-USA, cruelty-free, sweatshop-free, vegan cologne. The smell of dusk (subtle yet manly), this is just the scent any eco-conscious guy would love to sport. The story is inspirational, too — Herban Cowboy was started in a log cabin on a dirt road, with no Internet service and a spotty phone line. People said personal care products that were both healthy and minimally impactful on the environment couldn’t be done … but founders Luke and Lisa have proved critics wrong.
$29.99, www.herbancowboy.com

Dallas Zoo Giraffe

African Safari Overnight at the Dallas Zoo or
Father’s Day Dinner Tour at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! If you live in the DFW area (like we do here at Dolphin Blue) and have a dad in your life who enjoys the great outdoors, these are two pretty special opportunities: Spend the night at the Dallas Zoo or spend the evening at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas. At the zoo, he can kick back and not worry about setting up the tent, building a fire, or foraging for food, and instead focus on encountering animals, listening to special talks, and taking a morning monorail safari ride, all with his kids 7 and older. At the wildlife center, it’s dinner and dessert, followed by a Sunset Safari Tour that introduces you to nocturnal species not seen during the daytime.
Dallas Zoo: $45 to $50 per person, www.dallaszoo.com/event/fathers-day-family-african-safari-overnight/
Fossil Rim: Call 254.897.2960 for details, www.fossilrim.org

RibbedTee

RibbedTee Undershirts
Made in the USA, these comfy undershirts don’t bunch and stay tucked — key for this all-important everyday clothing item. Plus, the collars lay flat and keep their shape, and the tagless labels use non-phthalate ink. Order before June 10, and you can add a personalized monogram for just $5 to the CoolWear Supima, MicroModal/Supima, and CrossOver styles.
$18 and up, www.ribbedtee.com

Tree Planting

Dolphin Blue Tree Planting
For a gift that keeps on giving, turn to our tree planting option. The dedicated trees produce oxygen that we need to breathe; provide habitat for countless species; and stabilize soil, preventing erosion. It comes with a nice (recycled!) personalized gift card to memorialize the planting in a U.S. National Forest.
$27.19, www.dolphinblue.com/office-products-Gift-Tree-Planting.html

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Infographic Friday: How Paper Recycling Works

Have you ever wondered how paper recycling actually works? Check out the infographic below and see how your daily recycling efforts are making a real difference.

We RecycleDolphin Blue has been a big fan of recycled paper since the 90’s.   (Remember the 90’s? Good times.) We pride ourselves in the fact that our papers contain a minimum of 20% post-consumer recycled content, with many of our paper options repping a 100% post-consumer content stamp. In other words, Dolphin Blue offers “tree free” paper. Yes, we love the environment.

And not to brag on our paper products, but they also offer even more great qualities like being processed chlorine free, being made with Green-e Renewable Energy, being carbon neutral plus, and being Green Seal and FSC certified. We love supporting environmentally minded paper industry leaders like Boise, Wausau, Mohawk, Neenah, and Beckett Concept.

Dolphin Blue would love to provide you with environmentally friendly paper. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on our new website, give us a call.  We’re here to help.

How Paper Recycling Works

Infographic courtesy of Brave Media LLC.

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