Green lifestyle

23 Creative Ways To Reuse Old Plastic Bottles

Read the full post at Bored Panda.

DIY recycling projects are always cool, especially when you can turn your trash into something new and useful. We’ve written posts about ways to recycle before, but it turns out there’s so much that you can do with recycle plastic bottles that they deserved their own post.

The PET plastic that most plastic beverage bottles are made of is a fairly useful material – it’s resilient, flexible, transparent and food safe. As such, there are probably countless applications for these bottles that will give them second lives. These 23 are a great place to start, but can you think of your own as well?

The Water Short List: The Most Effective Actions U.S. Households Can Take to Curb Water Use

Read the full article in Environment Magazine.

The long-term sustainability of many urban water supply systems in the United States is under assault from a confluence of forces. Climate change, an aging and increasingly obsolete water infrastructure, an expanding population in water-scarce regions, and economic growth are several of the formidable challenges to meeting present and future freshwater demands.1 Water conservation (broadly defined as reducing water use) offers a cost-effective and environmentally benign way to address these challenges in comparison to capturing, transporting, and treating new supplies.2 American households, a key end user of publicly supplied water, can play a vital role by curbing their own water use through installing water-efficient appliances (e.g., clothes washing machines) and fixtures (e.g., faucets) and adopting conserving habits. Determining the extent to which overall water use can be curbed can demonstrate the potential broader role that households can play in contributing to more sustainable water systems. Furthermore, identifying the most effective actions can help individuals and households with limited time, attention, and resources prioritize actions with larger savings.

‘Give Back Box’ Turns Old Shipping Boxes Into Charitable Donations

Read the full story in Triple Pundit.

Monika Wiela was walking to work on Michigan Avenue in Chicago when she passed a homeless man holding a sign that read, “I need shoes.” Wiela desperately wanted to help him. As the founder of online shoe store, she had a warehouse full of platform heels and stiletto boots – but no men’s shoes.

Wiela did, however, have a ton of cardboard shipping boxes, and after ruminating over the man’s dilemma all night, she came up with a solution: What if you could take your old shipping boxes from online retailers and – instead of tossing them into the recycling or garbage – pack them with clothes and household goods you no longer need, and send them to charities?

That’s the idea behind Give Back Box, a startup Wiela launched last year after running a year-long test with clientele. Before shipping a pair of new shoes to customers, the Polish-born entrepreneur placed a prepaid mailing label addressed to a secondhand charity in the cardboard box, along with donation instructions. The result? Thirteen percent of shoppers boxed up their unwanted goods and mailed them off to nonprofit organizations.

Now Wiela is working with online retailers and to promote the Give Back Box program to their customers, by including flyers in their cardboard shipping boxes. Prior to officially launching her partnership with Newegg, Wiela ran a pilot program with the electronics retailer and achieved a return rate of 0.5 percent without any real marketing effort, Forbes reported.

Champaign County (IL) Volunteers Needed for Low-cost Radon Reduction Pilot Study

The Indoor Climate Research and Training program of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, in its capacity as a member of the Partnership for Advancing Residential Retrofit team of the U.S. DOE’s Building America Program, is conducting a pilot study on radon reduction through low-cost measures.

The aim of this research pilot project is to study the impact of air sealing between the foundation and the living space on radon transport reduction across the foundation-living space floor assembly. It is aimed at reducing radon levels in the lowest living level of the house.  Basements used as a living level are not candidates for this study.

As a part of this study, we are currently seeking homes in Champaign County with crawlspaces or unfinished basements. During this 3 month project, radon concentrations are measured before and after treatment, which involves air-sealing on the underside of the floor and duct sealing. There is no cost to the homeowner. Homes with known radon issues are preferred but not required. Please contact Stacy Gloss at or 217-300-7430 for more information.

We will not be conducting radon education. More information about radon can be found on the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) website or by calling IEMA in Springfield at (217) 782-2700, as well as on the U.S. EPA’s radon website. The U.S. EPA also maintains a Citizen’s Guide to Radon and has a page regarding healthy indoor environments when implementing energy efficiency upgrades.

This is not a health study. We will not be collecting health information.

App aims to broaden the ‘eEcosphere’ for consumers and business

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Can millennials and social networking really lead us to a sustainable future?

One startup is betting its business model on “yes.” eEcosphere aims to help users discover, adopt and share actionable ideas to build a more sustainable lifestyle — providing personally tailored tips and local resources to improve their everyday decisions. The company, which launched the iOS version of its application last month, targets millennials, is co-led by one and offers a practical solution for the conscious, connected generation searching for a sense of meaningful action.

The objective? To transform the idea of “being sustainable” from a destination into a lens for evaluating one’s current lifestyle, and through which opportunities to make simple yet meaningful behavior changes become apparent — not to mention fun and collaborative. Along the way, it aims to create new opportunities for companies to evolve more personal, valuable relationships with their younger customers.

The societal costs and benefits of commuter bicycling: simulating the effects of specific policies using system dynamics modeling

Macmillan A, Connor J, Witten K, Kearns R, Rees D, Woodward A. 2014. The societal costs and benefits of commuter bicycling: simulating the effects of specific policies using system dynamics modeling. Environ Health Perspect 122:335–344;


Background: Shifting to active modes of transport in the trip to work can achieve substantial co-benefits for health, social equity, and climate change mitigation. Previous integrated modeling of transport scenarios has assumed active transport mode share and has been unable to incorporate acknowledged system feedbacks.

Objectives: We compared the effects of policies to increase bicycle commuting in a car-dominated city and explored the role of participatory modeling to support transport planning in the face of complexity.

Methods: We used system dynamics modeling (SDM) to compare realistic policies, incorporating feedback effects, nonlinear relationships, and time delays between variables. We developed a system dynamics model of commuter bicycling through interviews and workshops with policy, community, and academic stakeholders. We incorporated best available evidence to simulate five policy scenarios over the next 40 years in Auckland, New Zealand. Injury, physical activity, fuel costs, air pollution, and carbon emissions outcomes were simulated.

Results: Using the simulation model, we demonstrated the kinds of policies that would likely be needed to change a historical pattern of decline in cycling into a pattern of growth that would meet policy goals. Our model projections suggest that transforming urban roads over the next 40 years, using best practice physical separation on main roads and bicycle-friendly speed reduction on local streets, would yield benefits 10–25 times greater than costs.

Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first integrated simulation model of future specific bicycling policies. Our projections provide practical evidence that may be used by health and transport policy makers to optimize the benefits of transport bicycling while minimizing negative consequences in a cost-effective manner. The modeling process enhanced understanding by a range of stakeholders of cycling as a complex system. Participatory SDM can be a helpful method for integrating health and environmental outcomes in transport and urban planning.

Deadline approaching for 2014 Get2gether Neighborhood Challenge

Have you been mulling over a great project idea to help transform your neighborhood? Are you ready to take the next step to make it a reality? The Center for a New American Dream can help!

The Center for a New American Dream is now accepting applications for the 2014 Get2gether Neighborhood Challenge. The challenge is a great way to get organized and bring your ideas to life. New Dream will help your team raise funds for a project to improve your neighborhood and will match the funds raised by each selected team up to $2,000. If your project will be based in Canada, click here to apply.

Once again, we’ll be partnering with ioby, a crowd-resourcing platform for citizen-led, neighbor-funded projects that make neighborhoods stronger and more sustainable. On ioby, anyone with a good neighborhood idea can raise tax-deductible donations, recruit local volunteers, and share ideas with a like-minded community.

How It Works

All selected winners will begin the project process in August 2014 by attending two custom, ioby-led webinar trainings on crowdfunding. Whatever amount the teams raise through this process will be matched dollar-for-dollar by New Dream up to $2,000. The winners typically reach their goal and more within four weeks! Last year’s winners were able to raise more than $25,000 combined for their work. You can find some project ideas here or check out last year’s winners for some inspiration.

Challenge Timeline

The deadline to submit your application is July 15, 2014. Finalist projects that are selected will be announced on August 1, 2014, and each selected project will have until September 15, 2014 to raise funds toward the matching grant. Matching grants will be awarded on October 1, 2014.

How to Participate

The proposed project must be focused on building a local economy, on greening your community, or be linked to a sharing system. It should be replicable in other areas around the country and must be completed on or before April 30, 2015.

Each project group must have the following characteristics:

  • Be a New Dream Team with an existing Get2gether page.
  • Have a minimum of 4 active team members.
  • Have enough organizational capacity (time, leadership, or base of supporters) to run a fundraising campaign.
  • Have more than one project leader.
  • Have a minimum of one person who can manage the digital components of the campaign.

We look forward to hearing your ideas for helping your neighborhoods blossom. Contact Anna Awimbo if you have any questions or need more information.

Wearable Superhero Accessories To Fight Pollution In Your Own Home

Read the full story in Fast Company.

Air pollution can enhance a vivid sunset, but it still isn’t very much fun. Breathing it, seeing it, and recognizing its invisible effects on our bodies can be a real killjoy. But what if we could gamify a solution?

Open-source seeds: While they spread shoots, they plant ideas

Read the full story at Grist.

Does this seem fair? A plant breeder at a public university manages to grow a long-necked broccoli that, for easy cutting, stands tall above its leaves. Then a company that has used his creation to breed a slightly different broccoli submits it for a patent, claiming ownership over the very idea of long-necked broccoli.

So far, the company, Monsanto subsidiary Seminis, has failed to persuade the U.S. Patent Office to grant it a broad “utility patent.” But Seminis has appealed. If it succeeds, the original breeders, who shared their seeds freely, could be barred from working with their own seeds.

Surely there’s a better way.

This story launches Lisa Hamilton’s beautifully written piece in the Virginia Quarterly Review on open-source seeds: Linux for Lettuce. It’s the kind of longread that both deserves and demands the sort of focus that’s hard to achieve if you are connected to the internet.

Everything we know about neonic pesticides is awful

Read the full story in Grist.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are great at killing insect pests, which helps to explain the dramatic rise in their use during the past 20 years. They’re popular because they are systemic pesticides — they don’t just get sprayed onto plant surfaces. They can be applied to seeds, roots, and soil, becoming incorporated into a growing plant, turning it into poison for any bugs that might munch upon it.

But using neonics to control pests is like using a hand grenade to thwart a bank robbery.

Which is why the European Union has banned the use of many of them – and why environmentalists are suing the U.S. EPA to do the same.

The pesticides don’t just affect pest species. Most prominently, they affect bees and butterflies, which are poisoned when they gather pollen and nectar. But neonics’ negative impacts go far beyond pollinators. They kill all manner of animals and affect all kinds of ecosystems. They’re giving rise to Silent Spring 2.0.