Tag Archives: reuse

Six Ways to Reduce the Impact of 3 Billion Plastic Gift Cards

Picking out the perfect gift for someone is never easy, which is probably why gift cards have become a retail phenomenon. Overlooking the fact that purchasing a gift card means the recipient will know exactly how much has been spent on them, consumers who want to give but don’t want to shop have made these plastic discs what they are today—enormously popular. About 3 billion new plastic gift cards are produced each year and shipped to major retailers, restaurants, movie theatres, spas…you name it. Just about every commercial business selling to the public has a gift card.

The upside to using these cards is that the recipient will, eventually, get exactly what they want. This means less driving around to return or exchange unwanted gifts; and gift cards can lead to less consumerism if the card recipient doesn’t need anything and never actually uses it—though In this society that is unlikely. The card will likely be passed along to someone who will use it.

The downside to using gift cards is that they lead to more plastic manufacturing and waste, and most gift cards are made with PVC—the worst plastic from both an environmental and health standpoint.

Minimize the impact of plastic gift cards in the following ways:

1. Don’t use them. Instead request a paper gift certificate (preferably printed on recycled stock). You’ll need to go through the manager to get one, but paper is much easier to recycle. You could also give cash in lieu of a gift card. Then the recipient will not only be able to choose their own gift, but their store of choice as well.

2. Before purchasing a gift card, check for a marking that indicates it is made from recycled materials (the chasing arrows alone may only mean it is recyclable). If none can be found, consider option #1 above.

3. Recycle your gift cards. Send expired or damaged plastic cards to:
Earthworks c/o Halprin Ind., 25840 Miles Rd., Bedford, Oh 44146 for recycling.

4. Shop at stores that use cards made from bioplastic, a plant-based biodegradable material. However, magnetic strips and other components present in these cards will not biodegrade. And due to the unique plastic, these cards are not recyclable along with conventional PVC cards. (Participating retailers include Target, REI, Borders and Walmart, according to Plenty Magazine.)

5. If you receive a card that is reloadable, reload and reuse it for as long as you can. When you are done with it, gift it to another and encourage the new recipient to do the same.

6. Wherever you see a gift card display, let management know that they can recycle spent cards given to them by patrons. Refer them to the web site EarthworksSystem.com.

By Crissy Trask for Green Matters

A Closer Look at the Definition of ‘Recycled” and Some Other “Re”-Words

Something’s been on my mind lately. I’ve noticed that the word "recycled" is often used to describe anything that’s been diverted from the waste stream. But in fact, "recycled" refers only to things that have been produced from remanufactured recycled material. For other things that are being diverted from the waste stream, there are more accurate terms like "reclaimed", "reused" or "composted". Here’s my interpretation of what all these terms mean:

If something is "recycled" it’s been newly manufactured with a percentage of recycled materials. "Recycled material" is a formerly whole material or product that has been recovered and broken down (e.g. pulverized or melted) to create a second (or third or fourth…) generation raw material which is then used to produce a new material or product. Examples include deck boards made with the plastic from HDPE milk jugs and paper made from recovered waste paper.

Something is considered "reclaimed" when it has been either accidentally or deliberately found and recovered with the intention of diverting it from the waste stream and making use of it elsewhere in either its current or a refurbished state. Examples include building materials and architectural pieces (i.e. brick, moldings, countertops, light fixtures, etc.) that are salvaged during demolition projects and reused as is or repurposed.

Many durable goods are being made with reclaimed materials too, such as handbags made from reclaimed seatbelts, snack bags or newspaper.

"Reused" is a broad term used to describe something that is passed from one user to another–as in the case of hand-me-downs–or diverted from the waste stream for extended use, such as when using the same plastic Ziplock bag over and over again. Substituting permanent products for disposable products is also reuse, such as when electing to use a steel thermos instead of a paper cup to hold your coffeehouse beverage. The reason reuse is not recycling is because reuse involves using something in its current form or deconstructing something to make use of individual parts.

Something is "composted" if it started as organic material and decomposed in an aerobic environment. Composted food or yard waste is not "recycled" since the process happens naturally. (See "recycled above.)

Eschewing Leather for Eco-Materials

Cri de Coeur—“cry from the heart” for those of you Francophobes—is all vegan, all the time.
We got a lot of flak for featuring non-vegan shoes on the site last month. And though we still entertain the argument that the environmental scale may tip in favor of wearing veggie-tanned, heavy-metal free leather (arguably a byproduct of the meat industry), over the petroleum-based materials favored by many low-priced, leather-free shoe lines, the absolutely oil-free Cri de Coeur makes us want to wear all vegan, all the time.

Because although the line eschews skins in favor of eco- and animal-friendly materials, it’s as haut as any leather line on the block—chrome free or not. Founded in 2007 by Gina Ferraraccio, Cri de Coeur—which means “cry from the heart” for those of you Francophobes—is out to change the face of footwear, one vegan shoe at a time.

Those London Sole demi-flats you’ve been lusting after? CdC does them in luxurious faux suede for $100 less. Going Grecian this year? Check out the Abigail sandal—t-strapped with a hot-pink ‘80s twist. Like your heels high? You’ll love the suede open-toes with the three-inch stacked heel.

But to transition us to fall—especially with (organic cotton, of course) tights—our vote this month goes to the Helena ($295), two-tone, cutout ankle bootie in midnight blue and black suede. Or maybe it goes to the Alexa ($260), an open-toed boot with cut-out sides, crafted in canvas with faux black patent accents.

It’s like going on a date with George Clooney and getting hit on by Robert Pattinson. Who could choose?

Luckily, you don’t have to decide, as we’re—surprise!—giving away one pair of Helena and one of Alexa this month. Enter to win, and you could take home a pair of one (thus justifying the purchase of the other).

Then your cry from the heart would be one of joy.

Eco-sensitive Workout Tips

Got abs? NIKE Elite Athlete and spokesperson for Nintendo’s Wii Fit Ashley Borden is a Los Angeles based fitness expert who works with clients like Mandy Moore, Natasha Bedingfield and Ryan Gosling (yum).


But Ashley’s not just interested in helping her clients get ridiculously fit, she’s also helping them to reduce their carbon footprints through something she’s calling an “eco-sensitive workout.” Sensitive? Workout? Forget the eco (well, not really) and sign us up!

Borden’s tips to greener fitness include:

Train at home or outside with fitness gear like the GoFit Gravity Bar that builds strength and core stability using your own body weight rather than plug-in machines. To keep from getting bored—and tossing gear in the landfill—recycle your exercise equipment by trading with friends.

Stock up on stainless-steel, reusable water bottles like those from Lifeline. This may seem obvious, but if you go to the gym three times a week you’ll save 144 bottles in a year!

Haul gear in a bag made from recycled materials like the “Koren” rice bucket bag from EcoBags, which is Fair Trade made in Cambodia from reclaimed and washed rice bags from Vietnam.

Train yourself to ride, not drive, and bike to the gym one day a week—then increase the days from there. One mile in a car can equal up to one pound of carbon released into the atmosphere—one mile biked could mean a pound lost for you!

Go organic with your fitness gear like Organic Cotton Serenity Tights or Capris from Patagonia. With an adjustable waist that rolls up or down, Borden says these are perfect for hitting the mat, preferably a phthalate- and latex-free one like the thick, grippy, Reversible Yoga Mat from Gaiam.

Finally, post-workout sweat stains and stinky feet are so passé. Cover up with a chic dress like the “Rita” bamboo dress from Sworn Virgins and Kigo‘s new Star shoes (made from recycled milk jugs, they fold up to fit in the pocket of your gym bag), and you’re good to go.

To lunch.




For a long time, Danny Seo sang the Kermit song. Although it seemed easy for him to be green, the rest of the world didn’t really know what the heck he was talking about. But foresight pays off, and today Danny is the Living Green contributing editor for Better Homes and Gardens and an environmental lifestyle contributor to CBS “The Early Show.” They’re selling Danny Seo mattresses at JC Penney and he just launched his own beauty and bath line, Whole Earth Beauty.

Oh, and he was voted one of People’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.” Nice!

So we were thrilled when he agreed to give us some insider tips to an eco-friendly backyard barbeque. Because with Danny around, it really is easy being green.

“We love to eat outside in the summertime, but nothing makes guests run for cover faster than a swarm of mosquitoes,” Danny says. But rather than automatically reaching for the (hopefully non-toxic) bug spray, he recommends planting marigolds, rosemary and catnip around your garden—mosquitoes hate them. And make sure to empty any sources of standing water, where mosquitoes can breed, Danny says. Dump a birdbath, throw in some ice and bottled drinks and you just upped your chic factor by about a thousand percent.

Danny’s partial to an old-fashioned charcoal grill (we like the carbon-neutral Green Hearts Briquettes featured on our home page) and to start it, he recommends lighting a few branches of rosemary wrapped in newspaper rather than using a regular match. “The newspaper starts the fire, but the rosemary continues to burn while you grill, infusing your meal with a little extra flavor.”

We love Danny’s novel take on traditional grilled corn and s’mores: Take small twigs from surrounding trees, sharpen the ends with a pencil-sharpener, and use to create corn handles and marshmallow sticks, which you can warm over the grill and serve with organic, fair trade chocolate.

Finally, for clean up, Danny’s weapons of choice are non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaners from Method Home, and he scored us a 20% off discount through September 30th with “ecostiletto” at check out. Thanks, Danny!

Gorgeous Boots Made from Recycled Tire Soles: See It to Believe It


 Got boots? You might think about another pair, when you see the picture-perfect boots with recycled tire soles from Green Bees that we’re giving away this month. No, they’re not vegan, but these leathers are processed traditionally, without heavy metals or formaldehyde, then treated with natural oils so that they develop a natural patina that changes in appearance over time.

Designed in California by the daughters of a family-run company that has manufactured shoes for decades, these boots are fair-trade hand-made in Mexico from locally sourced materials, such as the recycled tire soles. Green Bees discovered that the rubber from one tire can be used in four pairs of soles, which becomes more important this fall when the company will introduce both men’s and kids’ shoes. “We want a family of four to be able to wear Green Bees and know they’ve taken one tire out of the landfill,” explained co-founder Irene Clancy.

Said soles probably won’t make a dent in the one billion tires that we throw away annually to sit in a landfill leaching chemicals into our soil and groundwater for thousands of years, but it’s a start. Plus, for every Green Bees purchase, Trees for the Future will plant a tree.

But back to the boots. The delicately embroidered Thencha is a new take on an old classic fusing together the classic styling of an equestrian boot with the rugged comfort of a cowboy boot; the Erma features the same shape, without the embroidery. In oh-so-perfect colors like coal, honey and rustic, they feature a low heel, traditional styling and an extra-wide shaft for that perfect, worn-in look to transition you from beach-day barbeques to leafy picnics in the park.

The ever-so-generous Green Bees team will give us two pairs to give to you. Your choice: At $270 (Erma) or $298 (Thencha) a pair, that’s nearly $600 in boots! Go on, get some!

Desperately in Need of a Furniture Makeover? Try Eco-Reupholstering

Do you find yourself daunted by the idea of reupholstering your well-worn furniture pieces? Fear not! It’s much easier and less expensive than you might think to get your old furniture looking like new—the green way, naturally. Whether your cat mauled what was once your grandfather’s favorite chair or you just found a stellar thrift store sofa in desperate need of an update, we’re here to lay down the fastest and simplest methods for eco-chic reupholstering.

To get started, here’s a short list of what you’ll need:

1. A piece of furniture. (Duh.)

2. An upholsterer. If you don’t have one already, check with friends for referrals.

3. Enough fabulous eco fabric & decorative trim for the project (see resource suggestions below). To estimate the proper amount, either consult your upholsterer—if the piece is too large to easily transport, take photos and dimensions with you instead—or use an online upholstery calculator (we like the one at Designers Sketchbook).

4. And finally, what no eco upholstery project would be complete without…kapok! What’s Kapok, you ask? Why, it’s a soft and super-sustainable fiber found in the tropical forests of Central and South America, and Asia. It’s similar to cotton, sans the environmental impact, because it falls naturally from the trees rather than needing to be harvested or treated with pesticides. Kapok is the perfect replacement for down—equally cushy and luxe-feeling, but completely animal friendly. And it’s far superior to any sort of toxic poly option.

Now that you know what you need, let’s talk about where to get it!

You’ve probably got the furniture already. If not, hit Craigslist or your favorite secondhand shop.

So, now let’s focus on the fabric. There are so many great organic-cotton, upholstery-weight fabrics out there. The hardest part of this whole endeavor may be having to choose!

Mod Green Pod, with their oh-so-appropos tagline “shaking the beige off organic,” was a pioneer of eco-style upholstery fabrics. As pictured on our home page, their organic cottons are durable, reasonably priced and super chic, and a dose of MGP gives your room an instant B12 shot. From whimsical, colorful damasks to bold retro prints, all Mod Green Pod fabrics are printed with non-toxic dyes and made in the U.S.

If you’re going for more of a classic vibe, check out the bright and elegant designs of Rubie Green, from whom we borrowed the adorable pictured above. (Who doesn’t want to be that girl. Seriously.) From 1970’s-inspired contemporary to airy but traditional pineapple prints, Rubie Green’s selection of high-end, high-style fabrics has something for everyone. And, of course, they too are printed on 100% organic cotton with low-impact dyes. You just can’t go wrong!

Finally, your must-have item: Kapok. First check with your upholsterer to see if they stock it—and prepare to be surprised. Even non-eco upholsterers have been known to work with Kapok because it’s abundant, affordable and easy to use. If not, buy it yourself and bring it along—any decent upholstery shop will be happy to oblige!

And—presto change-o—you’ve got a refreshed, recycled, eco-beautiful piece of furniture to sit on and show off.

Get 20% off all fabric yardage and wallpaper through August 31st at Mod Green Pod with “stiletto” at check out.

Save My Ass or Save the Environment?

Six weeks and one day ago (not that anyone’s counting), I became a vegetarian. A pescatarian to be exact, since I could give up the thrice-weekly chicken and occasional In-N-Out, but sushi? C’mon.

My intention was to walk my eco-friendly talk a little more. Some sources estimate that animal production contributes more to global warming than cars, and last month I saw a PETA video that really drove the point home (and totally grossed me out in the process).

As PETA puts it, “You can’t be an environmentalist and eat meat.” And although I only bought organic and free-range meat, and tried to avoid inorganic meat in restaurants (except, of course, the aforementioned In-N-Out), even the conscious meat eating was weighing me down.

And that, of course, was also the point. After more than a few friends told me how those last few stubborn post-Barnacle (read: baby) pounds virtually melted away after they went vegan, I was sold. Reduce my carbon footprint and my one-pack? Sold!

But it didn’t work out that way. After eating tofu, beans and whole grains for six weeks, I’m now six pounds heavier. Apparently, my type-O blood needs straight protein, not protein-rich carbs.

So now I’m faced with a conundrum: Save my ass and start eating (free-range, organic) steak or gain 50 pounds over the next year to help save the environment.

What would you do?

Wanna Save Some Cash? Get Eco-friendly, Professional-Looking Hair Dye Jobs at Home

 Wanna save some cash? Stretch out your expensive color and blow-out sessions by as much as a month with supplies that are as easy on the Earth as they are on your wallet. Alli Webb of Straight At Home is an on-call, blowout specialist based in Los Angeles, CA who uses only eco-friendly products during house calls. She filled us in on a few tips to getting professional-quality locks at home.

Because why pay if you don’t have to?


Although Alli doesn’t do color for her clients, she’s often asked to recommend more eco-friendly dyes that are free of ammonia, parabens, sulfates, and 1,4-Dioxane, among other known cancer-causing chemicals. “Unfortunately, these at-home kits have a limited color range,” Alli says. “So for clients who depended on professionally blended color, I started looking for something that could help blend in gray at the ro

ots and freshen up the color in between visits.”

Alli’s eureka moment came when she discovered ColourSplash by Lavender Hill. With no ammonia, peroxide or alcohol to damage the hair, the semi-permanent color—available in blonde, brunette, redhead or a mix your own shade—shakes up with your own shampoo and sudses in, depositing limited amounts of color without coating the hair shaft. For deeper deposits, the company’s Gray Diffuser can be applied directly to gray roots, and lasts for six-to-eight shampoos. (But make sure you pay attention to where you shake that powder, as it does stain.)

But Alli is principally known for her seriously long-lasting blow-outs, so we were thrilled when she offered to share her secrets with us.

First, make sure you wash your hair well before you start—“Dirty or even slightly greasy hair does not blow out well,” she says—and apply product while your hair is still wet. The product you use will depend on your hair type: If you’re a girl looking for body and volume, skip the next paragraph; if you have curly, wavy or frizzy hair, Rahua Leave-In Treatment is the shizzle.

Rahua (pronounced “rawa”) is a vegan line free of parabens, sulfates, dimethicone, propylene glycol, synthetic dyes or petroleum [link to big list] that contains sustainably harvested, rare ingredients grown deep in the Amazon rainforest. Alli works in a small amount of the Leave-In Treatment from the middle of the hair shaft to the end, then brushes it through. With very curly hair, she gently tosses the hair around with an energy-efficient blow dryer to get some of the moisture out before she begins sectioning the hair. “This speeds up the process and helps keep body in the hair,” Alli says. Then, after dividing the hair into small sections, she uses a round brush and patiently dries each section, beginning with the sections at the crown of the head and working her way down; the entire process takes about 30 to 40 minutes.

For straight tresses, Alli adds body and volume by working a nickel size (depending on the amount of hair) of Intelligent Nutrients’ Certified Organic Volumizing Spray on wet hair, then combing it through for even coverage. “A good volumizing spray is essential because it provides body and hold, but won’t weigh down the hair,” Alli says. Then comes the blow-out, using a medium or small size metal round brush. “Roll up small sections of hair, then hold and release the heat from the dryer a few times. The metal heats up, then cools down, which sets the hair.” Alli patiently repeats this process all over the head from the crown down, section by section, for about an hour.

Finally, Alli finishes off each and every blow out with a spritz of no-aerosol, chemical-free hair spray. “I lift up the hair at the root, mainly in the crown area, and spray a small amount for extra hold,” she says. “A great blow-out should last for at least two days; if your hair is thick, up to a week.”

Note the repeated use of the word “patient.” Maybe that’s what we’re paying for, after all.

Want a smaller carbon footprint? EcoStiletto.com is giving away a free pair of eco-friendly shoes worth $500 or more every month! Get the lowdown on shrinking your carbon footprint from an Ugg boot to a Manolo with daily green fashion, beauty, lifestyle, parenting, celebrity and eco-events nationwide and change the world, one small step at a time. Stiletto-size me!

Happy Organic Birthday to You!

It’s been a month of birthdays for the Sarnoff family. First there was my husband’s 40th surprise party, which ended up with a karaoke performance of “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” complete with lifts. (Yes, tequila was involved.) Then, my daughter turned eight, and we hosted a five-girl, two-movie sleepover party. (No tequila, but an equally painful morning after.)

For both parties, I tried to keep it simple—and conscious. For my husband’s party, we splurged on dinner was at our favorite organic restaurant, Akasha. As a gift, I gave him a DIY Grain Surfboard kit, made from sustainable hard wood. Guests came back to our house, where we served organic gimlets in reusable cups, recycled the bottles and composted the lime peels, with a little help from my favorite sustainable party planner, Paige Anderson of Bash Eco Events. For my daughter’s sleepover, the theme was “Christmas in July,” so we broke out the box of ornaments, borrowed a reusable tree and played freeze dance to carols.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t totally consistent on the sustainability front. I wanted to put a childhood photo of my husband on his cake, so I ordered it from a traditional baker. My daughter craved egg rolls, so we ended up ordering Chinese (luckily, we can recycle Styrofoam in Los Angeles). We even decorated miniature stockings with fabric paint—not the most eco-craft idea, and they loved it.

But both my husband and my daughter had fun, and I survived another July.

Besides the “no one puts Baby in a corner” moment, my favorite memory of the whole week was between parties. The day before her birthday party, I took my daughter to the beach, leaving my son and the Barnacle (read: baby) at home with their daddy. While everyone else sat under umbrellas in the sand, my daughter and I joined hands and ran into gigantic waves that were breaking so hard we had to dive under them so we wouldn’t get knocked over. I taught her to body surf, showing her how to race the wave to the shore in order to catch the lip before it crashed. Every so often the current tumbled us, ripping our hands apart and flipping us around in the “washing machine.” But my daughter popped up every time, her eyes wide with fear but ready to laugh it off and jump back in with me. It’s the same spirit she’s shown since the day she was born, since she toddled into pools without warning, since she stretched up to her full five-year-old height in order to ride the roller coasters at Disneyland. She’s so fascinating to me, and so foreign, since I’ve always been so afraid of consequences. My daughter is fearless. And I am so blessed.

Happy birthday, my loves.

P.S. Here’s what my daughter is reading these days, 113 Things to Do by 13 written by Brittany Macleod, with a little help from her mom, Treehugger alum Terri MacLeod, which includes tips like “save water” and “go organic,” as well as “go off the high dive even if you don’t dive” and my personal favorite, “make dinner for your parents.” Preferably organic.

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