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Reuse: Denim Insulation

Ever thought of using denim jeans for building insulation? These folks have.

Typically, insulation is made from fibreglass. Fibreglass is exactly what is sounds like – tiny glass fibres. In an earlier post I discussed (at a high level) manfacture of glass. It’s not fabulous for the environment (although better than plastic in my opinion). I would definitely say blue jeans are better. They’re better for people and the environment. I like that the jeans are either old ones that would otherwise be discarded, or denim off-cuts from denim manufacturers. Considering cotton (which denim is made of) is such a water-intensive crop, however, is the best choice for the environment though?

If it was up to me, I’d go strawbale. The straw is just leftovers from grain crops, cheap, easy to construct and very effective.

An exterior truth window on a strawbale house, showing the straw inside. Photo from Paso Straw Bale Construction Blog.

An exterior truth window on a strawbale house, showing the straw inside. Photo from Paso Straw Bale Construction Blog.

Besides, strawbale* is pretty. I like it.

I wonder if the federal government would provide a rebate on building a strawbale house, under their insualtion scheme? Somehow, I doubt it. Hmm.

*Photo from Paso Straw Bale Construction Blog.

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Recycle: CFL Lightbulbs

Earlier today, @LighterFootstep tweeted that in three years of using CFLs (those squiggly lightbulbs that save energy and money), not one had needed replacing. That’s pretty cool, and valid – mine haven’t needed to be replaced either, although I don’t think it’s been a full three years we’ve been using them yet. We just replace our regular bulbs with CFLs as they blow.

Talking about replacing them got me thinking about recycling them though, and lo and behold, Lighter Footstep has a challenge going (kind of like a pledge) over at their site. CFLs have mercury, and need to be recycled sustainably so the toxic chemical doesn’t screw over the world. The challenge asks that you pledge to become a CFL Recycling Superhero.

Take the CFL Recycling challenge at Lighter Footstep.

Take the CFL Recycling challenge at Lighter Footstep.

I’m all for that.

Brisbanites, check here to see where you can recycle your CFLs. Everyone else – google, or look in that article I mentioned if you’re American. I know we’ll end up at Ikea – what better excuse for a couple of eco lesbos to take a trip to the dykiest furniture store ever, than recycling lightbulbs?

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Spotlight: Digital Dumping Grounds

I knew developing countries were, to a degree, the rubbish dumps for electronic waste (e-waste) shipped in from developed nations, but I didn’t know how bad it was. I watched this episode of Frontline World this morning that really made it hit home for me. Here’s the promo:

You can access the full 20 minute segment about Ghana here. Sorry Deafies, there are no captions (which annoys the shit out of me – c’mon PBS!), but underneath the video there is a transcript of the segment (if it’s not exact, it’s pretty close). You can also see some photos with captions here on Jane Hahn‘s site.

It’s not just Ghana either – Vietnam, Pakistan, Malaysia, China and lots of other third-world nations are being taken advantage of. In fact, the segment discussed how the average computer-owner (and dumper) is also being taken advantage of, by companies who say they’re dumping responsibly, but who ship out unusable computers for reuse. Clearly, since they’re unusuable, they’re only going to become scrap, but labelling them ‘for reuse’ enables their export courtesy of a legal loophole.

I have a bunch of e-waste here at my place that I was looking to dispose of responsibly, but now I’m unsure how I can do that if I can’t even trust the recycling companies. Plus, I want to make sure no-one has access to my data (that image of the FBI guy smashing the hard drive with the hammer also make an impression on me). Is it really best for the environment for me to be smashing stuff up, regardless of how cathartic that may be? However, is it best for me to not smash it? Ghana is one of the world’s leading areas of cyber crime, after all – there’s has to be link between that and the dumping of e-waste, it’s too convenient a co-incidence.

The one ‘positive’ thing to come out of the whole thing isn’t even very good. I wrote a while ago about the impact of metal mining on the environment (here and here). Trawling through the e-waste for scraps of copper and other precious metals does at least eliminate the need for so much mining… but at what cost? The toxic fumes produced by the burning needed to scavenge this metal is detrimental to both the environment and the unsuspecting people who participate, not to mention every man and his dog who lives nearby.

Aside from making pretty earrings, and giving away old items on Freecycle, what can we do with this stuff? Does anyone know of a recycler who actually recycles stuff responsibly without exporting it?

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Recycle: Ethical Metals

I like to wear silver jewellery. I don’t really mind much what it’s made of – but it needs to be silver-coloured. Some people prefer gold. I’m just a silver person. Of course, silver-coloured jewellery is made of metal. Yeah, you can get the plastic silver-coloured, but um… yeah. Really no.

Metal is natural, so that’s great! Go eco, go! Right?

Not so much.

 

Wouldn't it be great if they were made from recycled metal?

Wouldn't it be great if they were made from recycled metal?

 

 

The process required to extract that metal from the earth is incredibly damaging to the environment. This is slowly becoming more and more well known. A few years ago, the ‘no dirty gold‘ campaign was introduced, encouraging people to buy only sustainably mined gold. The campaign was just the tip of the iceberg though, as not just gold but lots of other metals are mined unsustainably around the world. Don’t think the metals are just used in jewellery though. Metals are used in lots of things – gold thread in beautiful dresses, remote controls, mobile phones and other similar devices. And those are just the highest impact metals.People and companies are increasingly offering advice and alternatives which enable you to avoid metal mined in environmentally damaging ways. Almost all of them include recycling the metals we’ve already mined.

  • You can recycle your mobile phone, as discussed in last week’s Recycle post.
  • You can buy jewellery made with recycled metal.
  • You can recycle lead from old car batteries. Service stations and car battery retail outlets will generally accept car batteries for trade-in. Be careful though – don’t empty out battery acid before taking the batteries for recycling.
  • Scrap metal recyclers can take copper pipes, hot water systems, car bodies, metal appliances and other metals to be recycled.
  • Remember kerbside recycling – putting cans into your regular recycling bin means the metal can be reused to create other cans, fridges and all sorts of other things.

To learn more about how metal mining damages the environment, check out this site or this one.

Note: The image of the rings is from Love and Pride.

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