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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Food Fact or Fiction?

We could fill 730 football stadiums a year with the food we throw away.

You heard that right. Across the U.S., 40% of food is tossed annually. That equates to over $165 billion of wasted meals – while 1 in every 6 Americans go hungry.


What’s wrong with this picture?

Maybe the fact that the 1.3 billion tons of food we waste each year would be enough to feed all the hungry in the world… 4 times. Or that, if discarded food was a country, it would be the third-largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world.

Well, that’s good enough reason for us.

It’s time to acknowledge the top three myths that help contribute to food waste. Then, we must ask ourselves: Which am I guilty of believing? And, most importantly, how will I make a difference?


Myth #1: “Sell By” or Die

We’ve all been there. Your morning bowl of Cheerios is begging to be drenched in a sea of fresh, cold milk. But it’s “best before” two days ago, so you and your Cheerios are out of luck. Because who wants to start their day off with a hefty dose of food poisoning?

But, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), that carton of milk is best before… well, whenever your nose and taste buds say so. And – for non-refrigerated foods, there is no difference in taste or quality after the expiration date.


It’s a fact: most dates on products are simply an indicator of peak freshness, not edibility. Oh, and what about “sell by”? Surprise, surprise… it’s a marketing tool that ensures proper turnover in retail stores.

But confusion over “sell by” dates causes 9 out of 10 Americans to toss their food, good or bad. While your box of easy mac might be “expired” this June, we promise it’ll taste just as creamy, cheesy and delicious a whole year from now. Even eggs can be consumed well past those arbitrary sell by dates.

Your best bet? Go grandma-style and practice the good ‘ol fashioned sniff test. Your Cheerios, your wallet and your full belly will thank you.


Myth #2: Misfits Must Go

26% of produce never makes it to grocery store shelves. Why? Because it’s ugly.

Due to retailers’ strict cosmetic standards, that lumpy carrot or bumpy tomato won’t even see the fluorescent light of day. The smallest blemish will have it cast aside like a leper, despite being both perfectly tasty and nutritious.


So, where does this freaky fruit end up? The mouths of the homeless? The tables of the hungry? Not even close. It’s transported to landfills… by the truckload. The worst offender is the potato, with 35% getting the boot for its flaws.

Wait – are potatoes even “pretty” to begin with?

Up to 30% of a farm’s harvest succumbs to the strict beauty standards of the produce aisle. And, if the farmer complains, well – the store will just find another farmer.

Who isn’t a little bruised, misshapen or a tad discolored (think lobster-like sunburn)? In a world with more than enough judgment to go around, our green beans shouldn’t have to face it too.   


Myth #3: Don’t Feed Fido!

80% of corn grown in the U.S. goes to feed livestock – a process that involves massive amounts of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests for farmland.

All the while, food scraps are bee-lining it to the dump, converting to methane (a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide) along the way. Since when did it become taboo to feed our animals “people food”?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), boiling scraps at high temperatures makes them safe for animals to consume – and brings farmers back to an age-old tradition (humans have been feeding animals food scraps for thousands of years).


Just ask Pinter Farms, a family-owned pig and cattle farm local to Rutgers University. Rutgers donates over a ton of dining hall food scraps daily to feed the animals at Pinter Farms, saving the university from landfill hauling fees – and Mother Earth from toxic gases.

So next time you find yourself with a stale loaf of bread or some leftover brown rice, think of your backyard buddies. They’re sure to appreciate it.

Solutions?

Eat ugly food. Eat or, better yet – donate your leftovers. Juice your old produce. Plan your meals. Make use of the freezer. And remember: 868 million people across the globe go to bed hungry each night.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

An Eco Extravaganza

Did someone say cotton candy? Oh. We are so there.
 
Tack on a petting zoo, a Ferris wheel and a whole lot of GreenBox-lovin' college students, and we're in.


So when St. John's University invited us to be a part of this year's Earth Fest, it was a no-brainer. And when they decided to combine the event with their Spring Carnival - well, we even considered bringing along our sleeping bags.


"We saw you guys on Shark Tank!" never gets old. And neither does the look of amazement on people's faces when we break down our handy dandy pizza box right before their eyes.
 
And we couldn't be more grateful for such an opportunity.
 
Between the beautiful spring day and the fluffy alpaca in our sight line, it was one heck of an Earth-lovin' afternoon. The piping hot pie from our friends at SkinnyPizza was the icing on the cake - making for a one-of-a-kind event we'll never forget.


Here are few snaps of the action... tallest woman in the world and all. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Conscious Campuses

For 69% of college hopefuls, conservation is key.

More than ever, university applicants are thinking green – and not just when it comes to their pockets. Students want to know: when it comes to sustainability, how is your campus making a difference?

And, higher ed is responding. 

From banning bottled water to going gung-ho for gardening, there’s no mistaking: nationwide, an environmental revolution has erupted. 


Here are just a few ways that campuses are putting an emphasis on the Earth. Because one day, she will thank us. ☺ 

1. Tree-hugging Transport

It’s a fact: cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. emissions – producing 333 million tons of CO2 annually. Even more sobering? Last year, over 80,000 people lost their lives due to air pollution.

And our college campuses aren’t having it. Universities across the country are re-thinking transportation, taking students out of their cars – and onto the sidewalks. At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 22% of students bike to class... all thanks to BCycle: the school’s bike share program. They even offer free bike valet on game days. Now that’s our kinda campus.


But UW isn’t alone. Over 30 American universities have implemented some sort of bike sharing program – from Ohio State’s “CoGo” to “Zotwheels” at the University of California at Irvine (how cool are those names?!). At Ripon College, first year students who agree to leave their cars at home receive a free bike, helmet and bike lock – each saving one pound of CO2 for every mile they pedal. 

It might not jive with the biking theme... but an honorable mention goes to the University of Alaska, who’s ditched diesel fuel to run their recycling truck on cafeteria cooking oil. Because what eco-friendly blog would be complete without “greasel”?

2. Conscious Containers 

Planet-friendly packaging? Yeah, we know a little bit about that. Nowadays, sustainable swaps are all the rage – and we couldn’t be more pumped up about the trend. 

As part of their sustainability initiative, the University of Georgia conducted a one-of-a-kind experiment: for one week, all dining halls would ditch their trays. Just seven days of tray-free eating resulted in striking statistics: a 26.7% reduction in plate waste and 16.4% cut in water usage. So, that was that. Because once you go trayless, you don’t go back.


And the eco-packaging shift continues. The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay uses biodegradable dishware (made from corn, potatoes and limestone!), while Florida’s Eckerd College has made the switch to Eco-Clamshell: a re-usable takeout container made of durable, dishwasher-safe plastic. 

But our favorite conscious container of all? The GreenBox. ☺ 


Schools like the University of Georgia (these guys are doing things right), Johnson & Wales, UMass, Harvard, Brown and Yale Law are all proud users of our pretty cool pizza box. And, by replacing just 0.04% of traditional pizza boxes with the GreenBox, we preserve approximately 6,000 trees, 2.4 million gallons of water and over 200,000 pounds of air pollution every year. We might be biased, but this seems like a no-brainer.

3. Down in the Dirt 

Ta-ta, Taco Bell. These days, students are getting their hands dirty - bringing farm to dining hall, one patch of Earth at a time. Campuses nationwide are either supporting local growers, or growing local produce themselves... with students even running on-campus farm stands in between classes. 


This makes our green-loving hearts so happy. 

Olympia, WA’s Evergreen State College is a prime example. Their 5-acres of farmland (certified organic by the Washington State Department of Agriculture) produces fresh fruit and veggies during the growing season – while also acting as a “living laboratory” for the agricultural sciences. Hankering for a farm fresh apple? Stop by the student farm stand in front of the Olympia Campus library every Tuesday and Thursday. Mmmm... we can just taste the crunch. 


Even urban schools like UPenn and George Washington University are gettin’ in on the gardening, each encouraging students to work in campus green spaces (and, for class credit!). Ugh. A time machine would be key for us right now. 


At dining halls, local love is strong. 80% of the produce served at Santa Clara University is from local farms. Stanford even invites local farmers and fisherman to meet with students, while Princeton collects food waste from dining halls and sends it along to a nearby pig farm for feed. 

4. Water Wise

In 2009, Washington University in St. Louis became the first in the country to ban bottled water. To date, more than 90 schools – including Brown, Harvard & Seattle University have either cut or restricted the sale of bottle water on campus. 

And – for good reason; last year, 38 billion water bottles were piled in landfills. The kicker? Nearly half of all bottled water is reprocessed tap water, sold at prices up to 3,000 times higher than consumers pay for tap. Yikes...just let that sink in for a bit.


But banning bottled isn’t the only way colleges are getting smart about water. Yale has incorporated a “water harvesting system” atop Kroon Hall: one that filters storm water for re-use – saving the school about 634,000 gallons each year. Georgia Tech has a similar initiative in place – all a part of a larger mission to reduce their storm water footprint to that of 1950. 

Ahh, the good ‘ol days.

So, whether you’re embarking on the college hunt (or just want to relive your golden years), we want to hear from you – what are your favorite ways that universities are getting into a “green routine”?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Recycle by Colors

We're big fans of recycling around here. In fact, as I look up across my desk, I catch a glimpse of our extra large green bin - piled high, overflowing with reusable goodness.

Ah. Be still my heart.

So when we saw that our recent post, Recycle by Numbers was a hit with readers - we figured, why stop there? Let's keep this educational train running.


Today, we bring you a handy guide on how best to re-use and recycle some of the most common materials. From your car battery to that 90's TV and everything in between, we guarantee you'll think twice about how to get rid of that hot pink Razr phone.

Oh, stop. We know you have one.

Let the learning begin.

Aluminum

Americans discard about 2.7 million tons of aluminum each year. But - only half that amount is recycled.

And, there's no excuse. Across the U.S., over 10,000 locations buy back aluminum cans. Plus, who doesn't love some extra cash? 100% recyclable, cans return to the shelves as new within only 60 days after dropping them into the bin. Oh, and recycling just one saves enough energy to run your TV for three hours.

Now that's a lot of Netflix binging.


Aluminum foil is no exception. Last year, Americans discarded almost 500,000 tons of the material - all of which could've been recycled. Re-use it as much as possible (it's easily wiped down) and give it a good rinse before dropping it into your bin. Better yet? Splurge a little for the 100% recycled foil. This kind uses 5% less energy than traditional foil during the manufacturing process.

Voila!

Glass

In the U.S. today, most glass bottles contain at least 27% recycled material. But, when it comes to recycling this sturdy substance, even the smallest remnants of food waste or dirt can contaminate the entire batch. Cue memories of mom nagging you to "rinse out the recyclables!" Yup, she was right... again.


Here's an interesting tidbit: brown glass, the most common color for beer bottles, is manufactured by adding nickel, sulfur and carbon to molten glass. Since this brown color can't be removed, recycled brown bottles = more brown bottles!

Pizza & a brew, anyone?! In the GreenBox, of course. ☺


So, feel free to toss your clear, green and amber glass into the recycling (rinsed clean!) - but mirrors, Pyrex and ceramics (such as dishware and ovenware) aren't accepted.

Batteries

Car batteries are the most recycled product in America. That's right - in the U.S. alone, about 100 million batteries are replaced a year, and 99% of these are recycled. Cool, huh?

Each car battery is made up of about 60% lead and contains three pounds of plastic - most of which can be reclaimed to produce new batteries. Oh, and the sulfuric acid contained within the product can be neutralized, purified & released as clean water.

Minds. Blown.


Bottom line? Many retailers (like AutoZone!) will take back batteries, but contact your local municipality to find out where to recycle yours. Easy as pie.

Computers

Each day, over 130,000 computers are dumped in landfills. But, guess what? Nearly 100% of your old computer can be re-used. Plastic, metal, glass... it's a recycling center's dream!

So, no need to chuck that dust-gathering laptop. Apple, Dell, HP and IBM are just a few of many manufacturers that offer trade-in options. Circuit City and Best Buy will also accept your "e-waste," and Staples even welcomes desktop printers, faxes and all-in-ones. Ta da!


TVs

Making the switch to a 75", HD, wall-mounted flat screen? Us too. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only 18% of TVs discarded last year were recycled. That leaves 20 million televisions, each containing about 8 pounds of lead, polluting our landfills.

Check with your local municipality for drop-off centers, or find a retailer that offers a TV recycling program (LG and Sony do!). Or, if your TV is still in working condition, here's a list of non-profit organizations that would gladly take that clunker off your hands. They'll even scoop it up for free. 


Cell Phones

At this moment, over 1 billion gadgets are catching cobwebs in our junk drawers. And - only 10% of these will be recycled.

Trashed cell phones (hello, Blackberry) represent about 65,000 tons of electronic waste each year. For every 1 million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

Yeah, we said it. Gold.

Before you toss that iPhone 4 (we know, it's so yesterday), consider a program like Eco-cell. They'll even pay you for your old smartphone! AT&T and Verizon both offer trade-in programs, and our personal favorite - Cell Phones for Soldiers - will ensure that your working device gets into the best of hands.