Category: Recycle and Reuse

5 Tips for Sexy Recycling

photo by: Julie
Many businesses embark on greening programs by taking a good, hard look at the stream of materials both into and out of their business. Often, this first shows up as recycling. We all know about recycling, and how we “should” be doing better. So, why aren’t we?

Being trained in the design arts, I firmly believe that if it’s not convenient or beautiful enough, people won’t bother. Yes, beauty has a powerful, usually subliminal effect on us. If something is repugnant and hard to do – why waste your time on it?

Luckily, there are some excellent examples of doing recycling right. For instance, check out the plastic recycling bin in a Swiss McDonald’s pictured on the wonderful website, “Eco Pic of the Day.”

Wish we had that kind of recycling beauty on this side of the pond? Good news! Last August, my family and I went to San Francisco, which in the resource (not “waste”) management world feels like a trip to the future.

The image at the top was taken in the California Academy of Sciences, itself an over-the-toply green building. Definitely worth a visit and do NOT miss the green roof. They had triple-bins all through the building, but since this was in the main pathway, the designers took pains to make it something that fits and is easy to use. It has beautifully weighted lids that pivot, always returning to the list of what materials to put in. This picture also has one key bit of information: “90% of your waste can be composted!”
photo by: Julie

Since San Francisco has municipal composting (how cool is that??), I embarrassed my family by taking photographs of trash bins. Ahhh, but not just ANY trash bins – these are happily color-coded with photos, so you know immediately what to put in each. Since color is deeply symbolic, it is no accident that the green is for compost, the blue is for recycling, and the black is for “landfill.” I’ve even seen places where the black can is much smaller than the others, to discourage use.

photo by: Julie

Finally, since pictures are far more eloquent than words, stations like this go a long way to assuring success. Again, pay attention to both the size and the colors of each poster. Size, color and number of choices work on both an explicit and a subliminal level. Advertisers have known and exploited this for years! We’ve starting doing something very similar at my son’s school events, and it works like a charm.

photo by: Julie

If you’re having challenges implementing a recycling program or getting participation, here are some tips:

1. Take a look at the containers you are using. Is it abundantly clear what materials go into each container?

2. Are the containers placed for convenience? Be honest – people are just not going to walk the entire length of your building just to recycle a single Coke can. If you can err on the side of more containers, do it.

3. Ask for suggestions from your co-workers. You’d be surprised how many people actually DO care about this, even if their at-work behavior is less than exemplary. By asking for their input, you can more effectively deputize them to be part of the solution.

4. Aim high! Why not consider a composting program? Maybe your apartment-dwelling, tree-hugging young employees will be thrilled to bring their kitchen scraps from home. And then blog about what a cool employer you are. There are a lot of composting services cropping up all over. It may not be as crazy as it sounds.

5. Please do not underestimate the value of good design! Color, size, material, and graphics play a deeply significant role in effective communication. Lavishing attention on your recycling bins communicates that it’s a high priority in your workplace. You really can make recycling fun and sexy – if you embrace the beauty, ease and grace of good design.

Harness the power of good design to make your recycling program sexy! Did you these tips useful? Let us know and share this with your friends!

How To Recycle Everything

photo by: James Uhrich

It’s hard finding a niche for the cradle to cradle approach to everything and avoid the unending "just throw it away" syndrome. The good news is I keep finding amazing examples of people using recycled materials in new construction. The photo above shows the Furbish Co. workstation dividers at the Lucky’s warehouse. Each section was built from recycled hollow core doors and painted with reclaimed house paint from the Loading Dock . Designed and constructed by James Uhrich and other Furbish employees, they are a beautiful addition to this already exceptionally green company. There are also many other projects which follow this same idea, including a conference table being built using old bowling balls as feet for mobility so that office space can be better utilized.

After I wrote a post about my discovery and use of urbanite for fencing posts and in a backyard bench construction, I was informed that our volunteer Debbie Smith was getting rid of some and found the perfect person to receive it. Polly Bart, owner of Greenbuilders, Inc , used Deb’s gift of concrete in a retaining wall at her home in Maryland. The photo on the left is the demolished concrete patio in Deb’s backyard. On the right, the new urbanite wall reveals the creative potential of this abundant material.

Click continue on to see a photo and read more about where to take your stuff. Continued

Watch Junk Mail Disappear with Vermicomposting

Having a vermicomposting system in your home might sound scary at first, what with all those worms, but I can assure you this experience has taught me that working in tandem with nature can provide a profound understanding of sustainability and inherent life cycles. For example, all over the U.S. our soil is degrading at alarming speed through monocultures and pesticides, which is stripping the soil of hundreds — if not thousands — of years’ worth of nutrient-rich support for healthy plentiful growth.

Leaves, for example, have always been a source of food for soil and every year we deprive that soil of its regenerating power by bagging leaves and hauling them elsewhere. Soil regenerates itself through the decomposition of mico-bacteria and with a lot of help from various species of worms. It was Darwin who discovered the amazing power of worms to bury and till the earth, which is also one reason that the deeper archaeologists dig, the older their findings.

We must start thinking of better ways of disposing of our waste, ways that give back in order to continue receiving. Vermicomposting is one way to get started. I made this video to engage people to take note of the values of life cycle systems. Worms will not only eat your food scrapes and leaves, but also your junk mail and holiday wrapping paper. Once decomposition is complete you’ll have rich black soil to use in your flower beds.

If you have any more questions about vermicomposting, please email us at or start a discussion thread on our social networking site. (goNetwork button)

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and check back soon. I will be posting updates on this subject.

Recycled Glass is Limitless

photo: unknown
According to one source, the late 1960’s was the first time glass manufacturers established collection centers where people could return empty bottles, jars, and other types of glass containers. These were recycled by breaking up the glass and then melting it down with silica sand, limestone, and soda ash to make new containers. Recycling glass is 100% sustainable because it will not deteriorate with age or "down cycle", like with paper and plastic recycling. The Glass Packaging Institute , an excellent source for this topic states that, "recycling one glass bottle can save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for four hours or a computer for 30 minutes."

WhollyTerra , located in Baltimore uses recycled glass to create visually engaging works with a play on light. Steve, the owner of WhollyTerra, isn’t limited to a window transom or picture frames but makes bowls, candle-holders and other outdoor ornaments, including bird houses. I recently found a happy customer and Baltimore resident here.

A sampling of sources for reclaimed, repurposed, and recycled glass items:

Maryland Mosaic is a full service supply company offering everything for mosaic tile work to the beginner and the experienced artist. They offer the Organiks line, which is a 100% recycled glass mosaic tile. This is great news for the East Coast! Until recently, the only source for this was out of  California.

The Green Glass Company is based in Weston, Wisconsin. They are the largest producer of reclaimed glassware in the world. Known best for their patented winebottle-to-glass, they also make vases, candle holders, and a clever coatrack. Their products are available in a number of Baltimore-area stores; check their store locator for up-to-date information.

You can even build a Buddhist Temple with glass bottles. The Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple, about 600 km (370 miles) northeast of Bangkok, is better known as "Wat Lan Kuad" or "Temple of Million Bottles."

Find other Bmore crafts at the Baltimore By Hand blog.

Comment and tell us your recycled glass ideas!
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Poster Restoration

photo by: alyssa

The Poster Restoration Company has been specializing in archival canvas mounting and paper restoration of vintage, prints, posters and lobby cards for over 20 years. Owner Sei Peterson, a musician and artist in his own right, is a master of his craft and employs a talented team of graduates from the Maryland Institute College of Art . Located just blocks from Penn Station and the Charles Theater .

Are You Looking for Unique, Repurposed Gift Items? Rebound Designs Has the Answer.

photo by: alyssa
Rebound Designs are purses handmade from the reuse of old hardcover books, most of which predate 1970. The selection I saw at a recent craft show included textbooks, D-I-Y Manuals, Little Women and Shakespeare, offering a variety of colors and designs for that popular vintage look. Have an old book you’d like turned into a bag? Creator, Caitlin Phillips is happy to take requests. Wonder what she does with the pages of each book? Well, most are beyond repair, but are sitting in her attic waiting for anyone else’s creative reuse idea…hint, hint. On occasion she finds someone to rebind them and they’re donated for further reading. She’s also happy to send you the pages with your purchase. I saw a great use for old book pages when I was at the Hamilton Tavern. The women’s bathroom has a famous female writer theme. Half the wall is covered in pages from old Jane Eyre novels. It’s quite beautiful and you’re still able to read the words. I never liked sitting down with a dusty moisture-wrinkled magazine or old newspaper while on the “john” anyway, te, he.

Cleaner Greener Baltimore

photo courtesy of:   CGB
Cleaner Greener Baltimore is part of a new initiative by Mayor Sheila Dixon that seeks to educate the citizens of Baltimore on how to keep the city cleaner and greener. The website informs the public on what steps the city has taken and plans to take regarding keeping Baltimore clean, including; recycling measures, trash removal, tree plantings, etc. It also speaks to residents, businesses, students, and commuters and visitors on what steps they can take as well.