Season’s Greenings: A very merry eco-minded celebration

During the holidays, tradition reigns supreme — most people like the familiarity and comfort that come from a routine rooted in warm-and-fuzzy memories. Fortunately, being green is compatible with keeping all those favorite traditions intact, although it may take some slight adjustments. For instance, put a present in a reusable shopping bag or buy 100 percent recycled wrapping paper that uses vegetable-based inks instead of that shiny, not-so-recyclable paper. Love lights on the Christmas tree? Just make sure they’re LEDs. Can’t imagine not sending out holiday cards? Buy recycled ones like those from Twisted Limb or even some with seeds planted inside. 
 
Here are a few other ways you can keep all things merry and bright — both at home during the holidays and out in nature.
 
Spread the green. Eco-friendly presents are everywhere these days, and they’re getting cooler all the time. We especially like the Recycled Bicycle Chain Bottle Opener from Bambeco.com. At just $10, it’s a steal, plus it looks great — cycling enthusiasts will especially flip for it. For more ideas, check out TreeHugger’s Holiday Gift Guide, with something for everyone from the foodie to the fashion buff to the philanthropist, and Dolphin Blue’s gift offerings, including books, music, coffee, calendars, and more.
 
Give a gift that matters. Making a donation to a charity on behalf of a friend or family member who already has plenty is a great way to encapsulate the giving nature of this time of year. For a gift that’s specifically green, try Oxfam America Unwrapped, which allows you to a select a gift that goes to someone who really needs it, while your recipient gets a card explaining the present. Just $18 will get honey bees to help a farmer sell fair-trade honey or a can of worms that will produce fertilizer and enrich land for farming. If your pockets are a little deeper, get a donkey ($100), save a lake ($250), or buy a house on stilts ($10,000).

Another great gift with some extra meaning behind it is a gift tree planting from Dolphin Blue, which includes the planting and care of a young tree in a U.S. national forest, along with a beautiful gift card (made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper).
 
Party in style. Stuffed back in the darkest depths of their closets, almost everyone has one — an ugly holiday sweater. While historically only the elderly set and teachers have worn these works of art with pride, in the past few years, a trend has popped up that makes good use of that sweater you thought you’d never wear: ugly Christmas sweater parties.
 
The inspiration for these parties came from the wastefulness that is ugly sweaters lingering in a heap behind the good clothes, gathering dust instead of shining brightly. In this day and age of reduce, reuse, recycle, digging up that old gift you had to work really hard to pretend to like just makes ecological sense.
 
For extra inspiration, and because it’s all kinds of fun (sure, it wastes some time, but consider it a stress buster, a necessity during this time of year!), check out weloveholidaysweaters.com, where you can virtually create your own ugly sweater with all the goodies of the season, or browse through thousands of images to see what others have come up with.
 
Trees that please. Torn between that yummy-smelling pine and a convenient pre-lit for your Christmas tree? There’s support for both sides, as nearly 29 million households go with the real deal, while about 70 percent choose artificial. But what’s best for the environment? Au naturel trees usually use pesticides and often are shipped from long distances, but they are biodegradable and can be used for things like mulch, compost, wood chips, and fences. Artificial trees are typically made in China from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a pollutant, but they require less maintenance, are less expensive, and can be reused from year to year.
 
One option is to go with a “bulb” tree, a real (small) tree that can be planted outside after the holidays are over, or you can start in the outdoors to begin with and decorate a tree outside. Check out this slide show for other alternatives and read more about the real vs. fake debate.

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CEO answers green cost questions

greenguideAfter a consumer downloaded our Green Office Guide, she mentioned that she had looked at the pricing on recycled paper and found it to be more expensive than Office Depot or Staples.

Our CEO provided the following response:

Office Depot and Staples are both $12-15 billion companies, doing more business in a single hour than Dolphin Blue does in a whole year. Both contribute greatly to the degradation of our planet by offering virgin-material products and products manufactured with no social nor environmental attributes in more than 90% of what they provide.
 
That being said, like in green-building, conventional (non-environmentally  responsible) materials and products are heavily subsidized, not only on the resource harvesting/extraction side of the equation, but also oneco_friendly the energy consumption, pollution/emissions side of the equation as well. No subsidies exist for recycled or environmentally responsible products.
 
We’re all paying the societal costs in loss of air quality, loss of fertile, productive soil and land, degradation of water quality, and, ultimately, higher costs for healthcare and healthcare premiums.
 
If our prices are higher than what you’re looking at currently, then you might consider off-setting the higher cost with savings you’ll realize from the purchase of remanufactured toner cartridges from Dolphin Blue.
 
Do you have a question for Thomas? Send questions to thomas@dolphinblue.com.

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FedEx Kinkos: Definitely NOT Green

maple-trees-12_3I heard a story today that made me ask, “Why not just cut down trees and throw them directly into the dumpster?!”
 
My darling wife-to-be called me this afternoon very frustrated and honestly, quite livid.

As she was walking into a FedEx Kinko’s, which as we all know promotes itself as being green, two employees were walking out to the dumpster, holding three large paper-filled trash bags.
 
Curious, she asked them, “Are you recycling that paper?” They responded, “We always just throw it away.” Margaret immediately called me expressing her great displeasure at FedEx Kinko’s.
 
This prompted me to remember a time when Kinko’s (prior to being acquired by FedEx) was committed to, and used almost exclusively, recycled paper. By doing so, Kinko’s created a market and stimulated economic viability for the recovery and successful recycling of paper that was placed in collection bins. What happened to that environmental stewardship
once so prominent an aspect of the Kinko’s name?
 
It may be that there is no viable market for collected, recyclable paper. I think it is imperative that we all remember, unless we consciously purchase and use paper made of post consumer recycled material, all that recycling is for naught. Successful recycling will only happen when there is economic demand for the “landfill-destined” materials.
 
So, if we’re not willing to purchase and use paper made of post consumer recycled fibers (old paper), we might as well be just cutting down trees and throwing them right into the trash.

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