10 Ways Walmart is Making a Difference

Last week, Walmart released its 2012 Global Responsibility Report. The 2012 report covers sustainability issues for the retail chain during the fiscal year 2011, i.e., February 1, 2011 through January 30, 2012.

According to Walmart, here are the top 10 highlights from the list:

  1. Reduced waste by 80 percent by keeping 80.9 percent of all waste generated by its U.S. operations out of landfills.
  2. Expanded locally grown produce by increasing the amount of locally grown produce sold by 97 percent. Locally is defined by “grown and sold” in the same state.
  3. Supported women around the world by announcing a women’s economic empowerment initiative. Walmart is committed to sourcing $20 billion from women-owned business in the U.S. and doubling the sourcing globally.
  4. Saved customers $1 billion on fresh fruits and vegetables by reducing or eliminating the price premium on more than 350 “better-for-you” items.
  5. Announced Great for You icon to help customers easily and quickly identify healthier food options.
  6. Utilized 1.1 billion kWh of renewable energy making Walmart the second-largest onsite green power generator in the U.S.
  7. Integrated Sustainability Index to assess and improve the sustainability of their products.
  8. Responded to natural disasters by partnering with relief organizations to provide food, water, blankets, tents, flashlights, clothing, etc.. Walmart also donated $5 million to earthquake relief efforts in Japan and $1 million to tornado relief efforts in Joplin, Missouri.
  9. Growing global direct farm program which supports small- and medium-sized farmers and their communities. This allows farmers to sell directly to Walmart, eliminating the middleman and allowing them to earn a better price for their products.
  10. Nurtured diversity and inclusion by fostering a diverse and inclusive culture. Walmart has increased the number of women and minorities in management positions.

Did you notice any of these initiatives last time you went to Walmart?

You can read more here.

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Recycling Tip: Plastic Bottle Caps

Photo Credit: Sessions.edu

We all know that plastic bottles are bad for the environment, but if you do use them, you recycle them. Right? But what about the plastic bottle caps?

Most plastic bottles are made from PET #1 plastic, but the caps are made from polypropylene, or plastic #5. Because these two types of plastics melt at different temperatures, they must be processed separately.

This has traditionally meant separating the cap from the rest of the bottle. If this was not done, the recycling equipment would either cause the caps to shoot off at a high speed, causing a safety hazard for the workers, or cause the bottles to retain air and take up too much space.

Recycling equipment has improved in recent years. The new equipment allows bottles with the caps on to be safely compressed and divided into separate plastic streams. Due to the small size of the caps, leaving them on the bottles causes the process to run more smoothly.

Whether or not you leave your bottle caps on depends on how new the recycling equipment is in your area. Check with your local center to see their rules. If in doubt, it is probably safer to leave the caps off.

You can read more here.

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Recycling at the Olympic Track & Field Trials

Photo Credit: 1800 Recycling

The Olympic Track and Field trials in Eugene, Oregon drew in a large amount of foot traffic, with over 25,000 people a day spending most of their time eating, drinking, and looking through programs or shopping at the historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. An event like this generates a lot of waste, but event organizers took this into consideration and spent a significant amount of time planning waste prevention, recycling, and composting.

The goal of this sustainability team was to prevent 75 percent of waste from entering the local landfill, and they managed to come within two percentage points of meeting this goal. This is a five percent increase from the 2008 Olympic Trials.

Organizers required that all food vendors use compostable dishware, adopted a sustainable procurement policy, and did the best they could to make every aspect of the event as green as possible. A three-bin system was also set up at each waste disposal area to make it easy for people to sort their waste. One bin collected compost, one recyclables, and the other one trash. The trash bin was marked, “Landfill. Please see our other recycling and reuse options first.”

A sustainability video ran on the screens at Hayward Field each day before the event, reminding people to “please sort and discard responsibly.” This system worked to an extent, but organizers found that the bags still needed to be sorted to separate the materials. The Northwest Youth Corps, a nonprofit that provides job training and outdoor education for young people, stepped in and took the task of sorting through the bags.

Focus the Nation recently shared this thought: “With 58 percent of people paying attention to sports and only 18 percent to science, these events… represent a great opportunity to change citizen behaviors.”

As a University of Oregon graduate, I’m proud that such a green event was hosted on my campus. Oregon took sustainability seriously when I was a student there, so I’m glad to see it carry over to major events like this.

You can read more about this topic here.

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Furniture Line Made From Recycled Cardboard

Photo Credit: SmartDeco

If you had a dorm or off-campus apartment in college like I did, you probably know how inconvenient it is to buy furniture. After all, you’re often living in these places for less than a year before packing up again (and in my case, driving 1,000 miles home). So investing in furniture doesn’t make much sense. And even if you get a furnished place, there are still little pieces you need.

You can always go to Target and buy an inexpensive set of plastic drawers, but what will you do with it when the year is over? Those things usually don’t last for more than a year or two, and throwing them away isn’t so great for the environment.

A company called SmartDeco thinks they found a solution for this problem. They created a disposable desk, dresser, nightstand, and other furniture out of 100 percent recyclable, durable, corrugated cardboard. The furniture also folds up, making it easier to pack and move. As an added bonus, it looks nice too!

It’s still better to invest in furniture that will last you for years, but the cardboard furniture is competing with a different demographic. It’s competing with the people who buy inexpensive wood or plastic furniture and throw it out after a year or two. And compared to that, it’s the better option.

If you were in a situation where you needed inexpensive furniture like this, would you consider cardboard furniture? 

You can read more here at Earth911.

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Is Hawaii’s Plastic Bag Ban Effective?

Photo Credit: Treehugger

Although there have been a number of city-level bans on plastic bags in the United States, Hawaii is the first state to pass a statewide law regarding the issue. Well, sort of…

Effective July 1, 2015, a ban will take place on all non-recyclable paper bags and all non-biodegradable plastic bags at store checkout counters. While this is a great step, the numerous exceptions to this law reduce the positive impact it could have on the environment.

Here are a few of the exemptions:

  • Bags used by customers inside a business to package loose items like fruit, vegetables, ground coffee, grains, etc..
  • Bags used to contain or wrap frozen foods, beverages, or baked goods
  • Bags provided by pharmacists to contain prescription medications
  • Newspaper bags for home delivery
  • Door hanger bags
  • Laundry, dry cleaning, or garment bags
  • Bags sold in packages containing multiple bags intended for use as garbage, pet waste, or yard waste bags
  • Bags used to contain live animals at pet stores
  • Bags used to transport caustic chemicals sold at retail levels, including pesticides and drain-cleaning chemicals, provided that the exemption is limited to one bag per customer

Some of these exemptions make sense to me, like the trash bags, but not all of them are logical. Why can’t prescriptions be provided in a paper bag, for instance? My pharmacy does that and I’ve never had a problem with it.

Large retail chains like Kroger and Safeway didn’t introduce the plastic bag until the early 1980s. This means that before the plastic bag was introduced, people dealt with problems like transporting freezer goods, beverages, baked goods, prescriptions, and more using paper bags or reusable bags.

A quarter of the world’s countries have restricted or completely banned plastic bag use. I assume that they have found alternatives. When I studied abroad in Italy a few years ago, I got used to carrying around a canvas tote bag when I wanted to go shopping and it wasn’t too difficult.

Do you think the exemptions to Hawaii’s plastic bag ban make sense?

You can read more on Hawaii’s ban here. You can read more about plastic shopping bags here.

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Cell Phone Powered by Walking?

Cell phones will always die at the most inconvenient time… probably when there is no charger in site. But what if you could power your phone, or other electronic device, via your own movements?

During the Kenyan Science Technology and Innovation week, 24-year-old inventor Anthony Mutua showed off a technology that uses your shoe to charge your cell phone or other gadgets while you walk. This technology is called piezoelectricity.

To do this, Mutua inserted a thin “crystal chip” in a sneaker that generates energy as the sole bends. The device connects to your phone via a long cable so you can charge your device in your pocket or the device could store power to charge your phone later. It can also power multiple gadgets at once, but that would, of course, require a lot more energy.

The device can also be transferred from one shoe to another, meaning you can buy just one device and still be able to change your shoes to coordinate with your outfit.

Kenya’s National Council of Science and Technology have already funded the project with approximately $6,000. Mutua has patented the technology and hopes to eventually sell it on the commercial market for $46.

Would you try out this device?

You can read more here.

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Green Guardian: Arman Sadeghi

Photo Credit: Recycling Today

All Green Electronics Recycling CEO Arman Sadeghi was featured once again in Recycling Today. The article talks about how the company came to be, what we do, and our plans for expansion.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Arman Sadeghi, founder and CEO of All Green Electronics Recycling, Tustin, Calif., has a background in information technology (IT) and was familiar with computers and computer equipment before he started All Green.

Part of what prompted Sadeghi to get into the business, he says, was the 2008 60 Minutes report that exposed sub-standard electronics recycling practices involving the export of obsolete electronics to overseas destinations where unsafe disassembly practices occurred.

“I had never been in the recycling or security side until I saw a report on 60 Minutes,” says Sadeghi. “I wanted to see if it was something I could advance.” Four years later, Sadeghi leads a company with 145 employees, three facilities and several additional sales offices in different parts of the country.

You can read the full article here.

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Results of Some Successful All Green Events

We just delivered some more checks after successful events and wanted to share the photos with you.

Nathan delivering an event check to Saint Francis Church in Simi Valley, CA.

Nathan delivering a check to Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra. Another successful event!

Gaston delivering an event check to the Friends of the Huntington Beach Library. Way to go!

More Event Photos:

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The Zero Waste Family

According to the EPA, the average American throws away roughly 1,000 pounds of garbage a year. A family of four in California is attempting to reduce this number by living a virtually waste-free life. They have created only a handful of trash in six months.

How do they do it?

The family in question, the Johnsons, live by the “reduce, reuse, recycle” standard. They focus mainly on the reduce aspect of the standard and try to reduce the amount of waste generated in every aspect of their life. They do this by buying items like grains, snacks, tea, lotions, shampoo, and soap in bulk. Béa Johnson, the mother, brings her own reusable containers to the store to transport these items home. She brings cloth bags for dry goods, glass jars for wet items like meat and cheese, and refillable bottles for bath products. She even takes fresh loaves of bread home from the bakery using pillowcases.  Johnson also makes her own condiments and cans her own preserves. She uses vinegar to make cleaning products and a mix of baking powder and stevia to make toothpaste.

If Johnson can’t find a zero-waste or recyclable alternative for a product, she contacts the company in question to ask if they can green their operations.

According to the Johnsons, here are three common conceptions about going zero waste:

  1. It takes too much time. Johnson says that going zero-waste isn’t as time consuming as people think. With the systems in place, it’s autopilot.
  2. It’s too expensive. The family actually saves money by buying in bulk, avoiding processed foods, and reducing their overall purchasing.
  3. They feel deprived. The Johnsons say that they don’t feel deprived at all, and in fact, their standard of living has increased. They encourage family members to give their sons gifts of experience rather than material items. The boys are allowed as many toys as they can fit in four bins.

Would you consider going zero waste?

You can read more here or check out the Johnson family blog here.

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Partner Spotlight: Reconstruction Warehouse on NBC News

One of our partners, Reconstruction Warehouse, was featured on NBC News. Check out the video below:

View more videos at: http://nbcsandiego.com.

Make sure you check out Reconstruction Warehouse’s website at http://www.recowarehouse.com/.

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