Learn About Sustainability Around The World With Recyclebank’s Passport For The Planet

recyclebank passport for the planetIf you can’t take an actual round-the-world voyage, a virtual one is your next best bet. Recyclebank recently launched an application that allows users to virtually travel around the planet in order to learn about global sustainability practices, while earning points toward rewards and prizes.

Here’s how it works. Until May 7, users can log onto Recyclebank’s Passport for the Planet website and navigate through four regions to learn about local sustainability practices and how those practices can be applied in other communities. Each week, new regions will be unlocked and new information offered. Along the way, users will be able to earn Recyclebank Points, redeemable for offers and discounts, as well as enter to win prizes including a stay at Plantation, an eco-resort just outside Tampa, Florida.

The hope, said Recyclebank CEO Jonathan Hsu in a release, is that by playing this game, individuals will be inspired to make a global impact through their local choices.

“Be it biking to work, recycling your cereal carton or taking shorter showers – collectively, we all can make a difference and we hope that Passport for the Planet will help inspire and motivate our members to make more green choices that will continue far beyond Earth Month,” Hsu said.

Bring an old book, but not for reading – International travel tip

Many people bring iPods and MP3 players with them when they are traveling internationally. Thieves love to steal them! To deter them, bring a book…

  • First, find an old book or pick one up in a used bookstore.
  • Cut out some of the pages inside the book to make a secret compartment.
  • Insert your valuable into the compartment, and your old book will help to hide your device.

If a thief gets into your belongings while you are away from your room or luggage, there’s a good chance they aren’t looking for a good book to read!

Great Lakes Brewing: Saving the planet one beer at a time

At a recent farm dinner I attended, a multi-course meal of farm-fresh, organic ingredients was paired with beers from Great Lakes Brewing. As we dined and drank, we were treated to an informal lesson on brewing from owner Pat Conway, who also gave us the lowdown on the many greet initiatives that Great Lakes has undertaken in an effort to be environmentally responsible while producing top-notch beer. It’s a philosophy that the company calls a “triple bottom line” – a mission to run an environmentally and socially responsible business while still turning a profit – and it seems to be paying off.

The Cleveland, Ohio, brewery opened in 1988 as the state’s first micro-brewery and has been growing, and racking up awards, ever since. The Dortmunder Gold, one of the brewery’s first beers, was originally called the Heisman. After it won a gold medal in the Dortmunder category at the Great American Beer Festival in 1990, the New York Athletic Club noticed that the Heisman name was be used and requested it be changed. Other beers are more fancifully named and reflect the brewery’s location in the Great Lakes Region. There’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, honoring the boat that famously sank in Lake Superior; Eliot Ness, named for the man rumored to be responsible for the bullet holes in the brewery’s bar; and Burning River, a nod to the infamous burning of the Cuyahoga River in 1969.

But what makes these beers so special, aside from the quirky names and indisputable quality (each has won numerous Gold Medals at competitions around the world), is that they are produced using so many green and sustainable methods. The owners, brothers Pat and Daniel Conway, say they take a full-circle approach to reduce waste and make the company more efficient. This approach has filtered down to all levels of staff, and dictates the methods used in all aspects of the business.

The brewery’s delivery truck and shuttle bus run on recycled restaurant vegetable oil, and they require that the trucks used by their distributors do the same. All cardboard, glass, aluminum, paper and brewer’s barley is recycled. Newsletters, napkins, and menus are printed on recycled paper, all beer packaging is done with unbleached “eco-carton” and Pat says they even go so far as to re-use the blank sides of printer paper for internal documents. The brewery cooler features skylights and sensors to reduce electricity used for lighting, and the cooling system brings in cold air from outside in the winter to reduce the amount of energy required to keep the temperature constant.

Great Lakes works with local organic farmers to serve only the freshest food in their restaurant. Currently, 60% of their food supply comes from local and organic sources, though Pat says they are striving for 100%. They recently contracted with an Amish farmer who will provide the kitchen with meat from animals that graze on the brewery’s own barley waste. Spent grain goes to a baker who makes pretzels and beer-bread served at the restaurant, and another local farm uses brewery grains to fertilize the organic mushrooms they grow and then sell back to Great Lakes for use in entrees. Other organic waste is fed to worms. In a process called vermicomposting, the worms turn the waste into fertilizer, which is used to grow herbs in the brewery’s garden. Even the low-fill beers (beers that aren’t quite filled to the top by the bottling machinery) are saved and used for sauces, salad dressings, and soups. The low-filled Edmund Fitzgerald Porter bottles are used by a local ice cream shop to make chocolate chunk ice cream.

The brewery’s outdoor beer garden is also eco-friendly. Rather than let the space go to waste during Cleveland’s bitterly-cold winters, the Conway brothers decided to cover it with a retractable canvas roofing, packed straw bales into the walls for insulation, and added a fireplace to warm the space. They were using wood logs for the fire, until one employee had a bright idea. Instead of composting the spent cinnamon sticks used to make the Christmas Ale, why not compress them into logs to fuel the beer garden fireplace? The result of all these features is that, even on the coldest days of winter, it costs just $8 per day to heat the beer garden.

The result of all these sustainable efforts is staggering. Great Lakes Brewing, a $25 million business, has zero waste bills. Pat says he looks at waste removal as “waste opportunity” and is always searching for new ways to make the business green, and keep it growing. But the brothers aren’t just pocketing all that profit. The company also contributes to the community. Every year they participate in the Great Lakes Burning River Festival, which raises awareness and funds for environmental cleanup in the Great Lakes Region. An environmentally responsible company that gives back to the community and makes delicious craft beer – I think we can all cheers to that.

If you can make it out the Cleveland brewery, in addition to dining in the brewpub or enjoying drinks in the beer garden, you can take a guided tour of the brewery facilities, attend “beer school” to learn all about the brewing process, or enjoy a multi-course Brewmaster’s dinner paired with beer. You can also find Great Lakes beers in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

Nextworth pays cash for old gadgets, helps being green

As more and more people upgrade their devices once or even twice a year, thousands of products sit unused in drawers and boxes.

Nextworth thinks it has found the perfect solution to take those products off your hands and correctly recycle any gadgets that have no value.

The service pays cash for many recent gadgets, but really old products without any resale value will get very little, or nothing.

Those gadgets without any value can be sent to Nextworth for for free, and they will make sure they don’t end up in landfills.

I took the service for a spin, checking what they’d be willing to pay for a variety of gadgets. A Nokia 1006 is worth $6.06 to them – a similar phone sells on Ebay for just $14 (minus the exorbitant fee’s Ebay will charge you, making the final profit about $11).

A Blackberry Curve 8900 is only worth $43.00 to Nextworth – about $200 less than an Ebay or Craigslist sale you net you.

That said – removing the hassle and risk involved with selling online is certainly worth something. By using Nextworth, you don’t have to worry about non-paying buyers, or other scams.

The whole process is very easy, and their web site makes the trade in or recycling process as painless as possible. Once you have found your product on their site, you describe it as accurately as possible, print a prepaid shipping label, and drop it off at the post office. About ten days later, they’ll cut you a check (if the product is indeed as you described). For products with no value, the process about the same, without the check part.

For some products the price offered by Nextworth may seem a little insulting (would you sell your 16GB iPhone 3GS for $270?), but others are very reasonable, and their free shipping and offer to recycle any gadget for free make it a very green service.

Airports go green with new eco-friendly initiatives

Airports are little cities unto themselves. Many are even large enough to have their own zip codes. With so many people coming in and out, cars dropping off and picking up, and planes departing and landing, airports produce a whole lot of air pollution and physical trash. But, many are making an effort to reduce their environmental impact by implementing new green features. Here are some of the coolest green initiatives at airports around the world.

Using Alternative Power
Last July, Boston Logan Airport installed 20 wind turbines that will offset about 3% of the building’s annual energy needs (doesn’t sound like much, but consider the amount an airport uses), and it’s not the only airport investing in alternative sources of energy. The airports of Munich, Zurich, San Francisco and Denver have also installed solar panels to help power their buildings. Dallas/Fort Worth Airport converted its bus and shuttle fleet to run on compressed natural gas and hydrogen-based fuel, as has Mineta San Jose. Heathrow is testing its new Personal Transport Pods, battery-powered, zero-emission vehicles that will whisk passengers from the terminal to the parking lot, and Boston provides preferred parking spots to drivers of hybrid cars.

Refilling Empty Water Bottles
The Portland Airport allows travelers coming through the security line with water bottles to dump the liquid but keep the container to refill once they pass security. That doesn’t sound like a big deal until you realize that other airports, like Chicago O’Hare, require the bottles to be thrown out. Not only does that policy generate tons of unnecessary waste, but all those full or half-full bottles weigh more and therefore the removal produces more emissions. Portland’s rule seems pretty green in comparison. San Francisco Airport goes one step further than Portland by providing water refill stations past the security checkpoint so people can refill their water bottles free of charge.

Recycling and Composting
Many airports have limited recycling programs in place, but some are going above and beyond when it comes to making sure that nothing that can be recycled gets added to a landfill. Seattle-Tacoma Airport, rated by the Clean Airport Partnership as one of the greenest in the country, charges concessionaires by the pound for waste(but doesn’t charge for recycling), encouraging vendors to recycle as much as possible. Portland makes it easy on flyers as well by providing a “single sort” recycle bin. Everything gets tossed in one bin and later sorted by a recycling company, so people don’t have to worry about which receptacle they throw their items into.

Seattle doesn’t end its recycling efforts with paper, plastic, glass and aluminum – it also composts 145 tons of coffee grounds per year and recycles 1,000 gallons of cooking oil each month, which is then used to produced biodiesel fuel. Munich Airport has a similar program: the organic waste from the airport’s restaurants is collected, sent to a farm, and used as pig feed. San Francisco hopes to require its concessionaires to serve all food in containers that can be composted and turned into fertilizer and Denver Airport will begin its own composting program this January.

Other green airport practices include using energy-efficient LCD screens on all computers and monitors, landscaping with native plants, installing low-flow toilets, and replacing paper towel dispensers with electric hand dryers. With the amount of waste and emissions airports produce as a result of their sheer size, the have a long way to go to truly be called “green”, but it’s nice to know that many are taking steps to reduce their environmental impact in whatever small ways they can.