Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Green" Product Test

One of these aisles was stripped with traditional floor stripper and covered with traditional floor finish, the other was refinished using Green Products:

Can you tell which aisle is which?

Don't feel bad because it took me a minute to remember which picture was which.

One of the areas that moved me toward being more environmentally responsible was my work in refinishing tile floors. I have used the same techniques, chemicals, and methods for years. Around the same time I decided that recycling was a decent idea, I started realizing that my methods and chemicals were not helping keep my world a decent place to live. I saw an ad in a janitorial magazine for "Green Logic" products, so I called and asked if they might have a sample. To my pleasant surprise, they sent me 16oz of stripper and 1 gallon of finish.

I got to use them tonight on a floor that I maintain, so I will be able to watch its durability over time and traffic.

I really should have listened in science class because I couldn't explain how the floor stripper works. I only know that the GreenLogic stripper appeared to be as effective as the regular stripper, with an unexpected benefit: low slip factor. For those of you not spending your late nights making other people's floors shine, let me explain. When you apply the stripper compound to the waxed floor, the wax separates and makes the floor extremely slippery. Tonight, the Green stripper removed the finish, but left us sure footed.

The Green finish provided the same level of gloss as the traditional finish and and the application felt smoother.

I have to admit, I didn't expect these results. When strippers were changed years ago, the newest items just weren't effective. This time it appears that they might have gotten it right.

Seems like it's time for a more intense test, so I need to see if these products are economically feasible and try them on a larger area and perhaps a tougher floor, but for now, I am impressed.

(oh, the picture on the bottom went Green!)

Monday, September 22, 2008

That Was Easy

This past Thursday Greater Greenville Sanitation Commission delivered the recycling bins I requested for the town home community that I manage. I'm impressed with our County's commitment to recycling. Beyond setting up about a half dozen drop off points around the country for folks to leave their recyclable goods, they also have an individual home owner benefit across much of the country. The bins you see above are given 1 to each home owner with instructions to deposit paper goods, cardboard, plastic bottles, and cans. The owners simply place the bins by their trash cans on trash day and the County does the rest. They don't even require you to sort the different types of materials. They sort it on the truck.

When I inquired about having the service here at Addison, I was originally told that because my community is serviced by a dumpster, the individual bins was not an option. After a few conversations , I received a personal visit from the residential recycling director. We worked out a few details and he agreed that we could join this program.(It helped that their collection truck/trailer used our parking lot to turn around in)

Now we have the bins and I can't see how it would be any easier for people to recycle here. They fill up the bins during the week, then on Thursday night, they set the bins outside their front doors. Friday morning, the guys drive by and empty the bins.

That was easy!

I know that not all communities have this option, but I would recommend that you speak to whoever picks up your trash for what recycling options are available. If there are none, let's work on creating some. I am looking around the country to see how municipalities are encouraging recycling. My goal is to help us all recycle. If you have any ideas or want to tell us about how your community works, please leave us a comment.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reuse, the neglected middle sibling of the Green family

How many of you can go to the kitchen, either your own or your mom's and find stacks of
Kool Whip bowls waiting patiently for the leftover beans or mashed potatoes? How many of you can find assorted screws, nuts, washers and bolts filling baby food jars or jelly jars on your dad's or your work bench? Do you have some old magazines stored in an old milk crate or garden tools resting in an empty 5 gallon paint bucket?

As you raise your hand to these questions, pat yourself on the back because you have been "Going Green" and you didn't even know it! Lots of folks reuse items, not to "Save the Planet", but because it just makes sense.

It used to be that Americans reused things on a regular basis. We repaired an slightly damaged item because buying a new one seemed decadent and wasteful, and for most of us, too expensive. As our society has become a consumer society, we have become a "disposable" society as well. Instant coffee and disposable razors have changed our mindset to the place where repairmen are becoming an endangered species.

We need to hold on to whatever item we are about to drop in the dumpster or recycling bin for just a few seconds and think if there is any way we could reuse this potential landfill fodder.

I clean a small medical research clinic and they have a lot of cardboard boxes that they discard. Now they are thinking about the environment because they put all that cardboard into a dumpster headed for a recycling plant. One day, as I was carrying an armload of boxes to that dumpster, it occurred to me that instead of throwing these perfectly good boxes into the recycling dumpster, perhaps there were folks who might need a good card board box. I began collecting the boxes, all different size and advertised them on freecycle.org, a web site dedicated to reusing. Within days, I had given away over 20 boxes. One man sold things on ebay and needed boxes to ship his merchandise. Two other couples were moving. With almost no effort, those boxes got an extended life. This clinic also receives their medicines in containers that are full of ice packs, very nice, long lasting ice packs. These were ending up in the landfill until recently for the same reason. People always need an ice pack for their aches and pains or for their tailgating cooler.

My reason for talking about my experience with reusing is to show that reusing items is simple, if we just take a moment to think before we dump. Now I find myself looking for new uses for all my trash.

I challenge you to take the time to try to do just one of the three words in the Green mantra. You will find that once you start, it becomes easy and you find yourself reducing, reusing and recycling like it is natural.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Those are the three words traditionally associated with Green living. The last word of that trio gets the lion's share of media attention and recycling is what most people think about when they think of what they can do to be Green. Recycling is indeed something we all should do, but we can't neglect the first two words of the mantra.

When I hear that word, I think of buying pallets of potato chips and giant sized cans of soup. Buying in bulk is a great way to reduce the amount of trash we have and it is often an even greater way to keep some green in our wallets, but I think we need to look at the concept a little differently. America is a consumer society. Buying THINGS is almost as American as hot dogs and apple pie. Now, don't get me wrong, I like nice new shiny things, and the latest technological gadget catches my eye. There is not anything intrinsically wrong with purchasing things, but perhaps, we could slow down the shopping cart just a touch. It wouldn't kill us to pause for a brief moment before we buy the latest fad item and remember the closet full of 'Thigh Masters' and 'worn-only once' shirts, ties, skirts, etc and place our wallets back in our pocket or purse once in awhile. I think if we took stock of what we possessed, truly inventoried it, we might see the wisdom of not buying something else that in a day, week, month or year will end up on the top shelf of the back bed room closet, or the back corner of the garage, awaiting the day we send it to its final resting place...the landfill. We might see that we don't need to spend $20.00 for that metal rack to display the Reader's Digest and National Geographic magazines, when the old brief case we were about to toss in the trash serves as a functional and artistic alternative.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The other reason for this blog

This is my first born, Jeni, as she graduated with her BA in History.

And this is the graduate on the road trip that was my graduation present, DC & NYC.

What started as an attempt at a creative graduation present when Jeni finished high school has become a tradition. After each scholastic achievement, my gift to her is a road trip. We love these things.

Now, she's in the middle of her Masters in Teaching program and we're planning our next road trip. She decided that she wants to see as much of our great country as she can. I mapped out a couple of courses that would include the maximum number of states. I had to scrap most because I do have a job and a month's vacation is not in the benefit plan. We've settled on what promises to be a great trip. We'll visit some 25 states spanning the entire country, Cajun country in New Orleans, the Heartland of Oklahoma and Kansas, the Great Northwest of Oregon and Washington, the Rockies Mountains get crossed twice, we see both Dakotas and the home of the Cheese heads.

As I was planning this trip, I calculated the cost in gas alone, and let's say that a defibrillator was not too far away. I joked to myself that I needed some sponsors. Of course, that was a joke, until I thought of a great hybrid car ad; something like "Our hybrid crossed the Rockies twice in the same week!" I have to say that sounds like a great ad. OK, it needs some fleshing out. Once I accepted the idea of sponsors, I ran with it. It dawned on me that a blog chronicling our preparations for the trip, and esp. keeping a daily log of pictures, video clips and words describing our wonderful country might interest folks and if folks are regularly reading this blog, some businesses might decide this would be a good venue for advertising.

"But what is going to get folks reading in the first place?" was my main question What about a blog that lets ordinary folks see that doing ordinary things, very American things, like taking a road trip summer vacation, while being "green" is easy. Given my new found interest in normal folks being good caretakers of our planet, this made perfect sense.

So there you have the other motivation for this blog.