It’s just a matter of days before the new school year begins, are you prepared? Many parents have already started shopping with the intent of buying the pure necessities like pens, paper, pencils and binders. On average, a family of school-aged children spends about $250 on school supplies and electronics each year. Do your part this year and look for more environmentally friendly and sustainable school supplies. Dolphin Blue offers a variety of Back-To-School supplies made with post-consumer recycled content and Made in the USA.
Here are 8 green tips for school
- Before you go supply shopping, go through all your old school supplies and sort out what you can still use and what you will need. It’s best to wait until after school starts to get your school supplies, teachers will usually give out a list of materials they will require your kids to have for their class.
- Reuse last years backpack. If it works then use it!
- If you are buying school supplies try to buy products that are made with post-consumer recycled content, ideally buy products that are made with 100% post-consumer recycled materials. Buy products that can be reused or refilled, like refillable pens.
- Walk to school. Streets surrounding schools usually become jammed packed with parents dropping of their kids, its better if you opt for walking or biking to school and if you’re good, why not skateboard to school? Walking is known to improve the academic performance of students; they arrive brighter and more alert to their morning class, it can also reduce stress and increase creativity!
- Take lunch. You’ll be able to monitor what they eat at school if you or they prepare and take their own lunch. Send your kids to school with reusable bottles of water instead of plastic water bottles. Also, use reusable containers or lunch bags for snacks and sandwiches.
- Teach your children to always recycle their paper at school.
- Use both sides of the paper when taking notes in class.
- Have your children cover up their textbooks with cut-up grocery or shopping bags to help keep their books in good condition. Many school reuse text books to save money and reduce waste so teach your kids to take good care of those books!
- There are approximately 133,000 K-12 schools in the United States.
- There are approximately 60 million students, faculty and staff in schools.
- For every 42 notebooks made with 100 percent recycled paper, one tree is saved.
- 30 percent of all waste generated comes from packaging. Many supplies can be reused or recycled such as pens and notebooks.
- American schools spend $6 billion each year on energy, more than what is spent on textbooks and
- About 50% of classrooms have poor indoor air quality computers combined.
- Green schools are built and designed with strategies and technologies that aim to improve the quality of indoor air, which could lead to improved student health, test scores and faculty retention.
- Each school lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That means, just one average-size middle school creates over 40,000 pounds of lunch waste a year.
You’ve probably thought about it before. The thought crosses your mind countless times, “I can totally build my own garden,” and you can, you can totally build your very own garden at home. Why aren’t you?
Sure, growing veggies and fruits may seem a little overwhelming at first, especially if you have never planted or watered a plant in your life, but it’s actually much simpler than it sounds. You can’t expect it all to be grand and great at first, there are going to be a few trial and errors. Will it be worth it? Yes, it’s most definitely going to be worth it.
Here are some reasons on why you should stop thinking about it and start growing!
Gardening can be a great form for exercise; planting, weeding, watering and harvesting, and can also reduce your stress and decrease depression.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can reduce your exposure to pesticides, making them healthier than produce bought fruits and veggies. They’ll be fresh and rich in nutrients, anti-oxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A and folate.
2.) Good for the environment
Plants can improve the air quality around you and with proper placement a garden can help keep your home cool during the summer and warm during the winter.
You’ll reduce your carbon footprint by not buying produce that has travelled long distances, reducing fossil fuels and the pollution from the transportation.
3.) Reduce waste
Instead of buying more than what you need in order to get a better deal and later throwing away the amount you couldn’t use, you’ll be planting and growing “your own” food and thus you’ll be more unwilling to toss out “your own” produce.
Watching the very first seed sprout and later watching your entire garden flourish with fruits and veggies will bring you great satisfaction. Bask in the glory that is your amazing garden, it took a while but you got there. Eating your very first fruit from your garden and have the sweetness and freshness overwhelm you with joy and pride.
For natural and organic fertilizers check out Neptune’s Harvest. It’s 100% organic and safe for the environment.
We also offer Seedballz, they’re unique and grow in clusters rather than single seeds!
Have a compost near your garden! Composting can be a natural way to dispose of organic waste by breaking down organic material and transforming it into a rich nutrient soil additive. Read our “How To Start Your Own Compost Pile” blog post to get started!
We also have great tips on keeping your garden pest free. 6 Natural Ways to Keep Your Home & Garden Pest Free
For tips on how to make your lawn more eco-friendly check out, Really Make Your Lawn “Green”: Eco-Friendly Tips for a Sustainable Yard blog post.
In the month of June, Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health care systems, announced that they will stop using upholstered furniture treated with toxic flame retardants chemicals in their hospitals, medical offices and other buildings. Kaiser Permanente has set an example for everyone, they want manufacturers to switch to more sustainable and environmentally friendly products and this will not happen unless we, the consumers, demand a change.
What are Flame retardants?
Flame retardants are compounds added to manufactured materials, such as plastics and textiles, and surface finishes and coatings that inhibit, suppress, or delay the production of flames to prevent the spread of fire.
Today, flame retardants are used predominantly in four major areas:
- Building insulation
- Polyurethane foam
- Wire and cable
The two types of flame retardants that cause concerns are; halogenated flame retardants containing chlorine or bromide bonded to carbon and organophosphorous flame retardants containing phosphorous bonded to carbon.
Video Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune
Why are Flame retardants a big deal?
The chemicals don’t break down and generally have long term effects rather than immediate effects and can build up in humans and animals. They are not bound to the foam and can settle into the dust around our homes. Flame retardants have become so pervasive they can now be found in meats, fish, and dairy products.
Flame retardants have been linked to male infertility, birth defects, cancer, reduced IQ’s and other health problems.
Children can carry an average of three times the levels of flame retardants in their bodies than the levels found in their mother. How you ask? Simply put, children spend their time putting their hands, toys, anything they seem fit in their mouths and unintentionally ingest more flame retardant chemicals from the dust.
Do they prevent fire from spreading?
Flame retardants do not increase overall fire safety. Even though they can delay ignition for a few seconds in products, they will eventually burn and produce toxic gases that cause most fire injuries and deaths.
What can we do?
Keep your home dust free. The Natural Resources Defense Council has some helpful tips on what you can do to reduce flame retardants in your home and your body.
- Vacuum carpets with a vacuum that contains a HEPA filter.
- Damp mop floors and damp dust furniture on a regular basis.
- Wash hands frequently, especially before eating. Don’t eat on your couch!
- Choose naturally flame resistant fabrics and fill such as wool, cotton or jute.
- Call manufacturers to ask about their use of flame retardants.
- Check the label before you buy upholstered furniture and if you live outside of California, don’t buy furniture that carries a TB 117 label.
- Vacuum and wipe down your car’s interior regularly.
If you’ve been following our series on post-consumer recycled products, then you have a pretty good idea about what PCR is and why it matters so much to me. What you may still be wondering is, “How do I make sure I find and buy PCR products?” And unfortunately, that question is more complex than it seems.
There is no all-encompassing database of PCR products — it just takes good, old-fashioned research to find what you’re looking for.
The Wording on Packages
Reading product packaging carefully is important. If a product says it’s made from recycled content, look for details. Does it specify whether that’s pre-consumer recycled or post-consumer recycled? (Any kind of recycled is better than nothing, but post-consumer recycling means that when someone dropped an item in the blue bin for recycling, it was actually used to make this new item you’re now contemplating purchasing. Pre-consumer recycling involves taking things like leftover scraps that weren’t initially used and finding a purpose for them.)
Do the claims apply to just the packaging, just the product, or both? How high is the percentage of recycled content, and of that, what’s the ratio of post-consumer recycled content? A product can claim to be made of “recycled content” even if only a tiny percentage contains anything recycled, but the FTC requires that the label tell you exactly how much is recycled (unless the product or package contains 100 percent recycled materials — in which case, that’s probably a pretty good item to consider purchasing!).
The Products Where PCR Thrives
It can be discouraging to find a product that touts its recycled content, only to find that it’s really not so PCR-laden at all. And it can take a while to find an item that fits the bill in all the areas that matter, like functionality, design, and sustainability. There is some good news, though: Lots of different kinds of retailers offer post-consumer recycled goods, from hardware stores and automotive centers to furniture shops and clothing boutiques.
One category I’m proud to say often leads the field in PCR is office supplies (it is what I built my business on, after all). Recycled paper has come a long way; you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a high-quality, recycled-content version and its virgin-tree counterpart.
Consider Boise Aspen 100: perfectly new, safe, nontoxic, environmentally responsible, 100 percent post-consumer recycled copy and printer paper. In addition to the recycled element, the paper is whitened without the use of chlorinated compounds or chlorine bleach, eliminating some rather caustic and harmful chemical processes. Those kind of additional environmental and human health benefits that aren’t always obvious are often an added bonus when you make a PCR purchase.
Certifications Worth Seeking
When looking to buy products, it can be helpful to see if they’ve been certified by a third party in environmental responsibility. Not all of these necessarily concern PCR, but they can be a good place to start:
Green Seal: Green Seal, a certification that’s been around since 1989, considers the total environmental impact of a product and works to reduce that impact while maintaining the same performance and quality you would expect.
Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) or Processed Chlorine Free (PCF): The Chlorine Free Products Association is an independent, not-for-profit accreditation and standard-setting organization for evaluating chlorine-free products. Only papers made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled fiber can be PCF.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): FSC certification ensures that products come from well-managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.
Green-e: An independent certification and verification program for renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions.
CarbonNeutral: For this certification, a company, brand, or product must accurately measure its carbon footprint, then commit to a reduction strategy and carbon offset program to prove their activities will not result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions that affect climate change.
Doing Our Part
We know it isn’t always easy to find PCR products, and that’s why we do the work for you — asking companies tough questions, verifying certifications, and making sure that everything we offer on DolphinBlue.com is environmentally responsible. On each product, we’ll tell you the percentage of PCR content and clearly explain what that means.
We don’t know any other companies that go to the lengths we do to both verify facts and educate consumers on this issue, but we know it’s worth it. Every time you buy something containing PCR materials, you’re helping to close the loop — reducing our reliance on virgin resources and bolstering the market for recyclables so that more products in the future can make use of PCR content.
We all win when we recycle, and we win more completely when we purchase PCR products, preserving our planet for future generations.
Tom Kemper is the founder of Dolphin Blue, a company founded in 1993 on the belief that we can all be responsible in what we use. Dolphin Blue sells the most environmentally responsible home, family, pet, office, and business products available.
Is your pet eco-friendly? It seems like a lot of pet owners overlook their pets when transitioning from their own typical purchases to more environmentally friendly products. We search for ways to reduce our own carbon footprints and completely overlook our pet’s carbon footprint. In fact, a pet’s carbon footprint is about twice the size of an SUV! So how can we help reduce our pet’s pawprint? Here are some tips:
1.) Ditch the plastic bowls:
When buying pet bowls, opt for purchasing stainless steel or ceramic bowls, the bowls themselves won’t leach harmful chemicals into your pet’s food or water. It will last longer than your typical plastic bowl so you’ll reduce unnecessary waste going to landfills. (Fact: Plastic can take up to at least 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill.)
Look for grooming products that are made with organic natural ingredients instead of buying products that can harm the environment once they get into our water or soil.
3.) Poop and Scoop
Probably one of the tasks many pet owners tend to avoid, picking up after their pets. It’s not the most enjoyable tasks but it has to be done. What exactly do you use to pick up your pets waste? Plastic bags you get at the store?
Many pet stores have started to sell biodegradable poo bags. Choose these over regular plastic bags.
You can also scoop your pets waste and begin composting it. Don’t mix your pets waste with a compost pile you have for your garden, start a new compost pile just for your pet waste. Canada’s Office of Urban Agriculture has a site with an easy step-by-step photo guide on making a dog waste composter in your back yard.
4.) Eco-friendly Products
Buy environmentally friendly products. There is now a wide variation of toys, apparel, beds and much more of pet supplies that are sustainable and eco-friendly. Buying pet toys at the dollar store can come with risks. A lot of pet toys do not go through testing to see if the chemicals used to produce the toy are safe for your pet. Fabrics and cushions are treated with flame retardant chemicals and are not bounded to the foam or fabrics, they end up settled into the dust in our homes and are ingested through hand to mouth contact; this can harm not only our pets but pet owners as well.
If you’re interested in buying eco-friendly and sustainable products, check out what we here at Dolphin Blue can offer you and your pet. Don’t forget to recycle all the packaging that comes with it when you purchase toys, food, apparel, etc.
Purchase organic and natural food for your pets or go the extra mile and make your own pet food. Search online or throughout pet supply stores for natural and organic foods, they’re easier for your pet’s stomach. They’re also great pet food recipes online for you to try out.
Owning a pet comes with great responsibility. You are not just taking care of an animal; you are taking care of a companion that will be there for you no matter what. Nurture and love your pet.
Many terms get thrown around in the field of sustainability, with some carrying more weight than others. Amid all the terminology floating about, “post-consumer recycled” is truly one worth knowing — and understanding.
In simple terms, post-consumer recycled (PCR) refers to the portion of reused material that might be part of a product’s total material composition. It’s the recycled portion of a product that’s derived from material collected by the consumer after the product from which the recovered material came was used for its intended purpose.
That’s a rather dry explanation, though — what it can even more succinctly be defined as is the key to saving life on earth as we know it. From the songbirds above our heads that croon a tune to the snails below our feet that inch along, the world’s creatures are relying on us to conserve resources.
Creating a Future
The percentage of PCR material used in the manufacturing of a new product generally determines the level of environmental responsibility awarded a product (or the manufacturer of the product) by consumers, a third-party certification organization, the manufacturing industry, or any of the numerous environmental groups that grant awards for the level of environmental responsibility of a product or process. The higher the percentage, the more eco-friendly the product.
All PCR content has a past — and, fortunately, a better future than what it could have been destined for. Instead of being hauled to a landfill in a socioeconomically depressed area (that’s where landfills are always located, after all) where it would burden the ground with yet more trash, it skips the waste stream. Instead of being burned in a waste-to-energy facility, where it would likely produce adverse effects on human health, such as noxious emissions, it escapes being released into the air in the form of something toxic.
Instead, it finds new life as everything from children’s toys to facial tissues — which is much more productive than being buried or burned, I’d say.
How Does It Work?
Let’s say you buy a gallon of milk and drink it. You place the empty plastic jug (#2 HDPE, otherwise known as high-density polyethylene) into the blue bin. The jug gets picked up and returned to a recycling center. It goes from there, with thousands of other jugs, to a plastics processor that supplies post-consumer recycled plastic stock to manufacturers. The bales of #2 HDPE plastic, including your empty jug — along with all your neighbors’ empty jugs — re-enters the economic marketplace as feedstock to make a perfectly new, safe, nontoxic, and environmentally responsible children’s toy. How’s that for teamwork with the family down the street? And you didn’t even have to call a neighborhood meeting to do it.
Here’s another example: This time, you buy a ream of paper and use it to make copies of garage sale flyers, while your partner prints a presentation for work and your kids create artwork masterpieces destined for the gallery of your kitchen fridge. Once the papers are no longer needed, you place them into a recycling bin. The paper gets picked up and returned to a recycling center. It goes from there, with millions of other sheets of previously printed paper, to a paper processor that supplies post-consumer recycled paper stock to paper products manufacturers. The bales of paper, including your paper — again, along with all your neighbors’ contributions — re-enters the economic marketplace as feedstock to make perfectly new, safe, nontoxic, and environmentally responsible copy and printer paper (and yes, it’s just as nice-looking as the non-recycled stuff — I bet you can’t even tell the difference).
PCR sounds pretty great, right? And it is. Keep in mind, though, that the process only works when consumers both recycle everything they can, and then buy the products with PCR content. If you reward manufacturers who institute earth-friendly practices, your loyalty — and your dollars — say a lot.
However, it can be confusing at times when you’re staring at products on the shelf and trying to decide which one is best. Pre-consumer recycled products are also labeled recycled, although it’s not quite the same thing. These products incorporate manufacturer waste, like the leftover scraps and by-products that never made it to market for whatever reason, as opposed to items that did find their way into the hands of consumers and went through the recycling process. Anything recycled is better than anything not recycled, mind you, but post-consumer recycled beats out pre-consumer recycled in positive earth impact — so look a little closer at labels to be sure that’s what you’re getting whenever possible.
There’s Much at Stake
Recycling saves massive amounts of energy, conserves huge volumes of water, eliminates the use of chemicals, and saves precious natural resources, like trees, air, and water. As I mentioned before, though, recycling isn’t enough — you have to go that extra step and purchase the recycled products to really make a difference.
We’re a very interconnected population of creatures who, without each other, cannot continue to exist. As we destroy our forests, we destroy the homes of beautiful songbirds. When the songbirds die off, we see an increase in the number of insects. Songbirds eat insects, and without songbirds, we’ll only use man’s way of dealing with insects — bringing out chemicals that are toxic to us and many other creatures. We then see a rise in the occurrence of disease, cancers, and numerous other health disorders.
As we preserve our natural world by reducing, reusing, and buying products made from recycled materials, we allow the planet to regenerate itself. With 7 billion of us now inhabiting the earth, and that number projected to expand to 9-plus billion in the next 50 years, we’re over-burdening this world’s capacity to renew itself. We’re endangering the opportunity to live a bountiful and thriving existence — for us, for the songbirds, for everything else.
Buying PCR content products is only one small action we can all take, yet it is one big step in the right direction.