Green Graduation Celebrations: How to Keep Your Grad’s Party Environmentally Friendly

Recycle your plastic bottle today and graduate in it tomorrow! This spring, over 190 colleges will graduate in eco-friendly gowns made with REPREVE recycled fibers. Based out of NC, this company has turned more than 12.7 million plastic bottles into graduation gowns since 2012. When the graduation ceremony is over, you’re probably planning to have family and friends over to celebrate and give gifts. While you’re planning your bash, be sure to consider a few easy ways to recycle and minimize the environmental impact of your party!

First things first, you’ll have to send out invitations. Rather than send paper invitations (which are costly to print, send, and will just end up in the recycling bin at some point), send electronic invites! There are a number of sites that will perform the service for you. You could even create a Facebook page to let people coordinate travel plans or let others know what they’re bringing.
Next, if you already compost then this idea won’t be hard to incorporate, but put out containers for food waste that can easily be composted later. Also, mark special bins as recycling for all your party’s recyclables. This is a great opportunity to educate and show others how easy composting and recycling is.  These recycling and compost bins will work the best if they are well labeled and placed right next to the trash can, twin those bins!

For decorations, consider using products that are made from recycled materials or upcycle some everyday items! Ideas could include stringing together CD’s for a flashy backdrop or banner, borrowing from your stash of old party decorations, or displaying photos using old bottles that also serve as a vase! Repurpose those old newspaper comics by gluing them together and creating a fun table cloth. You could even shred colorful magazine papers to create multi-color confetti (that you can also toss into the compost pile during cleanup).

At the party, be sure to use reusable dishware and silverware to avoid paper plate waste. It actually takes less energy to simply put the dishes in an energy efficient dishwasher, as opposed to the energy required to make the paper plates, ship them, package them, use them, toss them, and dump them into a landfill.

By using these tips, your graduate’s celebration will not only be fun, but environmentally sustainable as well. Congratulations on graduating!

--If you have a tip for other green elements to add to your entertaining plans, leave us a comment below and share your ideas!--


NC Earth Day Events!

Earth Day is just around the corner! April 22 is one of the best days of the year for environmental awareness and sustainability issues like recycling. Here in NC there are plenty of events across the state to attend and enjoy. There are events the weekend before, the day of, and the weekend after April 22. The NC Office of Environmental Education has an entire calendar of events as well. For more information about Earth Day across the world, visit earthday.org. You can check out the links below for specific events that are local to you.

If you have any other events not listed here, please contact ashley.kiser@ncdenr.gov and we’ll update the list with your information!

Raleigh, NC
NC State University - Wednesday, April 17 - Earth Day Celebration http://sustainability.ncsu.edu/get-involved/events/earth-day

Hillsborough St - Saturday, April 20 - Live & Local on Hillsborough Street

NC Museum of Natural Sciences - Saturday, April 20 - Planet Earth Celebration

Greensboro, NC
Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Library - Saturday, April 13 - Earth Day Celebration

Jefferson Elementary - Saturday April 20 - Litter Cleanup “Great American Cleanup”

Cary, NC
Bond Park - Saturday, April 27 - Earth Day Celebration

Atlantic Beach, NC
Fort Macon State Park - Saturday, April 27 - “Crystal Coast Earth Day Festival”

Winston Salem, NC
Dixie Classic Fairgrounds - Saturday, April 27 - Piedmont Earth Day Fair

Durham, NC
Durham Central Park - Sunday, April 21 - Earth Day Festival

Wilmington, NC
Hugh McRae Park - Saturday, April 20 - Earth Day Celebration

NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher - Sunday, April 21 - 5th Annual 5K Race for the Planet

Asheville, NC
Lexington Avenue, - Saturday, April 20 - Asheville Earth Day


North Carolina Landfill Bans

Which materials are banned from North Carolina landfills? There are currently 14 items on the list.

1. Used oil
2. Yard trash
3. White goods
4. Antifreeze
5. Aluminum cans
6. Whole scrap tires
7. Lead-acid batteries
8. ABC beverage containers
9. Motor vehicle oil filters
10. Recyclable plastic bottles (except motor oil or pesticide bottles)
11. Wooden pallets
12. Oyster shells
13. Computer equipment
14. Televisions

First, reduce your consumption of these items. Then, reuse them if you can. Finally, recycle them.

The first items were banned from North Carolina landfills beginning in 1989. Aluminum cans have been banned from landfills since 1994. Unfortunately, still only half of all aluminum cans generated in North Carolina are recycled.

In October 2009, three new materials were banned from landfills: wooden pallets, motor oil filters and plastic bottles. At least 95 percent of North Carolina residents have access to some type of plastic bottle recycling through local government programs. Unfortunately, North Carolinians currently recycle only 18 percent of PET plastic bottles.

The most recent ban is the television and computer equipment ban that went into effect in July of this year.

Landfill bans are necessary for several reasons. In many cases, the banned materials are hazardous to our health and environment. Improper disposal of some substances could contaminate soil, surface water or drinking water. In other cases, throwing away the product is like throwing away money. North Carolina throws away $115,483,600 in aluminum cans and plastic bottles each year!

Now that you are informed about North Carolina’s landfill bans, go tell your friends!

Learn more about the bans at http://www.p2pays.org/bannedmaterials/.

“Draft Blog” at http://www.p2pays.org/bannedmaterials/resources.asp


Home Improvement Tips

My husband and I are making some updates to our kitchen. The room has not been updated since its construction in 1984, so we thought it was time to replace some of the features. As we are undergoing the DIY renovation, I have thought of some environmental sustainability tips you may want to consider when planning your own home improvements. These suggestions are meant to help you save money and reduce waste.
  • First, I must acknowledge that the most environmentally sustainable thing to do is keep using what you already have. If the only thing wrong with your old linoleum floor is its visual appeal, then is replacing it really necessary?
  • If you decide that certain things in your house simply have to be updated, try to replace them with secondhand materials. The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is the first place I browse when I am updating anything in my house. You can find great-looking kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, ceiling fans, light fixtures, doors and windows. My friend even found enough hardwood flooring at the ReStore to redo her whole downstairs. You may have to go and look around a few times to find what you are looking for because new materials are donated to Habitat every day. You’ll save a lot of money by not buying first-hand retail. For instance, I just bought a light fixture to go above my kitchen sink. I got it in good shape from the ReStore for $25. The last time I was at a large hardware store, I found the exact same light fixture for $100. I think a 75 percent savings is pretty good.
  • One of the kitchen updates my husband and I are undertaking is replacing the cabinets. When you are removing your existing cabinets or any installed feature, resist the temptation to demolish them with a sledgehammer. No matter how ugly and outdated the cabinets, countertops or bathtub may be, take the time to unscrew, cut the caulk seals and remove them carefully so they can be donated to places like Habitat for Humanity. You may be able to make some money by selling the items to a neighbor or placing them on Craigslist. My husband and I put an ad on Craigslist advertising that we had kitchen cabinets for free for anyone who would haul them away. The man who ended up taking them said he was going to install them in his garage to store his tools. If we had busted the cabinets apart during extraction, the only place the cabinets could go is the landfill. The landfill should always be your last resort.
  • Most items you buy new, like cabinets, vanities, windows or microwaves will most likely come packaged in lots of cardboard and Styrofoam. The way in which you dispose of these materials is important. Take the time to cut the cardboard down to the size that is accepted by your community’s recycling program. If your community does not accept Styrofoam for recycling, be sure to bag it all up and secure it in your outside trashcan. Don’t let any of it blow out and become litter. Or, instead of throwing them out, you could store the cardboard and Styrofoam in your attic to avoid having to buy as many expensive packing materials when you move.
  • When I am picking out features that are expensive and have to be installed, like kitchen cabinets, sinks, light fixtures or faucets, I choose designs that are less trendy and are more neutral, timeless designs. My thinking is that the trendier something is, the sooner I or the next owner will want to replace it. To avoid dull and uninteresting rooms, I add interest by accenting with eye-catching pillows, artwork or curtains. As styles change, these items are less expensive to switch out, they can easily be donated to a place like Goodwill, and the likelihood of unintentionally destroying them during extraction is minimal.

As the weather begins to cool down, it is a great time to start a home renovation. Go ahead and make your home a place you are proud of, but make the renovations as environmentally sustainable as you can.


Children’s Consignment Sales

Parents know how quickly children outgrow their clothes. Many parents say that in only one month, their baby outgrew all of the newborn clothes they received at their baby shower. Parents are left with piles of barely-used clothing and the need to go buy more! Parents don’t need to worry, though, because a simple answer awaits them: consignment sales. Children’s consignment sales are a great place to find everything you need for your baby or toddler.

Consignment sales are the place to shop for several reasons:

1. Buying secondhand clothing and baby gear prevents new items from having to be produced. New plastic, metal, wood and cloth does not have to be used to produce a new product. Also, coal does not have to be burned to produce the electricity that fuels the production of these items.

2. Parents who sell their children’s outgrown clothing prevent the items from ending up in the landfill. The less we send to the landfill, the slower the landfills grow, and the less open space we have to devote to them.

3. Parents who sell their children’s outgrown clothing and baby gear are provided with income. Parents who have several children and participate in several consignment sales each year can make significant money to supplement their income.

4. Parents who buy secondhand save a lot of money compared to those who buy first-hand retail.

Do your family and the earth a favor and shop the consignment sales.

Here are two sources to find consignment sales going on in North Carolina: http://consignmentmommies.com/ChildrensConsignmentSalesbyState/NorthCarolina.html



My Trip to Australia: Conclusion

Kristen Aubut

I learned a lot during my trip to Australia. It is an experience I will never forget. During my stay, I found that waste reduction, water and energy conservation and the protection of wildlife and their habitats are top priorities for Australians. I will conclude with photos of Australia’s most famous landmarks. If you make it to Australia, I recommend stopping in Sydney to take the ferry over to the aquarium or zoo so you can get up close to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.


My Trip to Australia, Part 5: The Great Outdoors

Kristen Aubut

During my stay in Australia, I got to spend a lot of time outdoors exploring my husband’s grandmother’s paddock, the woods behind her house, several national parks, country roads and zoos. During my exploration, I got to see some of Australia's unique plants and animals. From what I observed, protecting the country’s flora and fauna was high on Australia’s list of priorities. Here are some of the interesting things I saw while exploring.

We took a 4-wheel drive caravan through these national parks in New South Wales.

This is a bathroom on the side of the road in one of the national parks. To decrease the disruption of wildlife and plants in the park by the running of sewer lines, this bathroom is built without any. Some of you outdoor explorers know what this means: a long pipe running from the toilet to a hole in the ground filled with bacteria to speed decay. Quite smelly I must say.

While w
e walked through one of the national parks, we came upon a tree so large we could stand inside of it.

When I think of Australia, I think of ghost gums. I love how the tree trunks glow because they are so intensely white. Ghost gums could be spotted all across the countryside.

Despite the many “Koala Crossing” signs on the sides of the roads
, we never saw a koala out in the wild. But, we got to see these two cuddled up in the zoo.

Kookaburras could be heard in the trees all around the house where we were staying. They have the laugh of a monkey, and, when they all get going at the same time, their noise can be deafening. Here is one perched on a log in the zoo.

One of the animals Australia is known for is the dingo. They look just like a dog you may have as a pet. But, if you see one in the wild, I would not recommend trying to pet it.

And, of course, Australia is known for kangaroos. We got to pet and feed them at the zoo.

This is just one of the many snakes we came upon during our stay. This one was sunbathing on the sidewalk.

As we walked along the same sidewalk, we looked up, and going from
a light pole to the tree just above our heads was an enormous spider web. There were dozens of huge spiders in it.

Here is one of the sharks we saw while walking through a tunnel in the Sydney Zoo.