Saturday, February 20, 2010

Where do your plastic milk jugs end up?

I had never heard of Polywood until I came across their website. Polywood is a wood replacement material that is constructed from recycled milk jugs and plastic containers into recycled plastic lumber. It gives you the same look and feel of regular wood, but without cutting down a tree, and without sending the plastic and jugs to the landfill.

Many wood products are also treated with harmful chemicals, so this is avoided. As a benefit, the material is high-quality and maintenance-free, which is better than what most wood products can offer. It also can not leak or contaminate the soil.

There are many uses for the polywood material, since it is almost identical to natural wood. These include: decking, railings, picnic tables, benches, patio furniture and playground equipment.

The products are easy to assemble, as you can see from this video.

At first, I thought the price was a little high for these chairs, as you would expect with any recycled product, but it's actually not that much more than a chair made from virgin wood. When you compare the length of time that you will have the chair, compared to a model made from virgin wood, you'll be saving lots of money in the long run. We need to be looking at long term decisions when we buy products (quality, not quantity), and this is a perfect example of the type of quality products we need to be buying.

Visit their website for more information about Polywood products.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

'King Corn' opened my eyes to high fructose corn syrup

"King Corn" is an independent film based in Iowa. It follows two east coast college students, who figure out that they have family roots in the same small Iowa town. They spend a summer growing one acre of corn, to better understand the impact and the inner workings.

What they learn is pretty shocking, regarding the government subsidies that are provided to farmers. Most farmers make very little money, since the cost of a bushel of corn is kept so low. The subsidies allow the farmer to make just enough money to survive. You would think this would be a good thing, but it drives them to produce the wrong kind of corn, not the edible kind.

They also explore where a typical acre of corn goes (not as corn-on-the-cob, as you might think), along with the environmental impact of that corn. You would think that corn has to be good for us, and growing more would be a good thing, but this film clearly shows how bad things have gotten. The amount that goes to overfeed cows for meat is also shocking!

However, the biggest shocker for me was the amount of corn going to create high fructose corn syrup. This product has basically no nutritional value, and has replaced sugar in almost every food we eat nowadays. It drives our obesity problem, and since it is so inexpensive (government funded), it is now less expensive to buy food that is bad for you (cupcakes, soda, chips, etc) than buying healthy fruits and vegetables!

They also recently released a supplemental short film called "Big River", which explores the impact of farming (pesticides and runoff) on the water streams, which all eventually flow down into the mouth of the Mississippi River (the "dead zone").

This movie was exactly what I needed to see, in order to finally convince me to cut back even more on eating meat, and now I'm severly reducing my consumption of products with high fructose corn syrup!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

'No Impact Man' sets the bar really high!

I'd like to think that I do pretty good at being "green", but after watching "No Impact Man", I feel like I've got a long way to go.

The movie is about an author who wants to write about something more meaningful. He decides to try an experiment, with his "somewhat willing" family, to see how little impact on the environment they can have. They start out pretty agressive, and build upon it in stages over the course of a year. The final six months, they go without electricity completely.

They generate zero trash, which is truly amazing! Everything they eat is from the Farmer's Market, or bought in bulk, to prevent having any packaging/trash. They don't use any toilet paper (still confused about how they did that...) and only take public transportation.

There are two sides to this movie. First, the effort took a toll on the couple, and they were ridiculed at times. On the other hand, it made them realize what was really important in life, and break themselves from things they thought they needed. Overall, I think they grew closer going through the experience.

Think you're up for the challenge? Download (don't print) the "How to Guide" to see what you are signing up for. The next scheduled event is April 18th.