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    My New Year’s resolution journey – Be more sustainable

    January 22, 2021
    curbside recycling after 3 weeks
    It was a cold and snowy night in February 2020, as I was returning from running errands, I parked my car and asked my husband to help me take out the trash and recycling for curbside pickup. Looking up from the trash barrel I yelled, “No! Not those! I’m saving that for a project.” My husband was holding a paper bag, packed with Styrofoam. Looking at the bag he sighed and said, “Are you creating another abstract art project again?”. I just stared as he put down the bag and grabbed the recycling bin and went to the curb.
    Rewind to October of 2019:
    I attended a Zero-Waste/Recycling Committee event in my city. I wanted to ask something that had been making me feel guilty for some time: is there any way to recycle solid deodorant containers? I don’t sweat a lot, but I go through one per month and don’t understand WHY you can’t recycle the plastic housing. Also, what about toothpaste tubes? After conversing with a member of the Zero-Waste team I learned that not all plastics are the same and that some have to be recycled differently than others. Fortunately my city will take collections of hard to recycle items and send them to be recycled properly through this company called TerraCycle. Later while running on a treadmill, I thought: “What if I didn’t throw away any plastic or Styrofoam for a year? What would that look like?” So began my “2020 Sustainability Resolution”: Try to be a Zero Waste household. I’ve always recycled and strived to be green, so this didn’t seem like a huge undertaking. I was wrong.
    recyclable polycarbonate

    Want more sustainable products in your lighting design?

    I was also starting this new job within Signify on the 3D Printing team where during the interview and presentations I watched, the division talk strongly about its role in improving the circular economy. My green, tree-hugging-hippie, side loved this fact. A 3D Signify printed luminaire has a 47% - 75% lower carbon footprint than one that’s manufactured in the traditional way. It can be printed in our Pennsylvania factory and ship it straight to a domestic customer in record time. In a traditional manufacturing process, the components might be made in China, sent by sea freight to Mexico for assembly, then delivered by truck to a distribution center to sit in stock until it is ordered. With 3D printing, we don’t need to do any of that. Everything is made to order, produced and shipped locally with minimal components and parts. This also means less inventory in warehouses.

    Signify has perfected this highly flexible, more sustainable form of manufacturing. Using a 100% recyclable polycarbonate material, which allows luminaires to be designed or tailored to customer’s exact needs and recycled at the end of their life. This sustainable form of manufacturing supports our efforts in being a carbon neutral company which we officially achieved in 2020 as well as helps our customers in their efforts to be more sustainable. I know this may sound pretentious, but the fact that we can do this as a global leader in lighting, really inspired me to try to make an impact personally.

     

    How did my sustainability resolution go?

    In March I was surprised at the number of plastic bags I started to collect from just things I purchased at the grocery store. Bags and plastic from Bread. Salad. Lemons. Carrots. Cereal. The amount that I collected after 3 months was shocking. Though these cannot be recycled, I found new uses for some of them: Pet waste bags!

    Bag of bags
    By April I was watching the NetFlix Docuseries “Down to Earth” to learn more about “green energy” and sustainable living practices to better understand the human affect on the globe. Climate change is real. We really need to do something….  

    By June my bestie thought I was nuts when we went shopping for the first-time sans Covid19 lockdown and I bought a hoodie made out of recycled water bottles at Banana Republic. When I told her months later that they extended this line to sweaters she rolled her eyes and said I needed help.

     

    In August, I told a lighting design group from Seattle that I was part of this new division of Signify that 3D prints lighting fixtures. I told them that part of the job that intrigued me was the sustainable portion of the products. Seeing a “he’s-a-coproate-congulmate-marketer-of-course-he’s-going-to-say-that” look in one of their Zoom faces - I shared what I was doing for my “2020 Sustainable Resolution” that my husband was now considering divorce because when moving something in the garage and a bags of used spay cleaner inserts impaled him.

    recyled spray pumps
    By September my neighbor officially though I had become a hoarder when she saw my stash of waxy almond milk containers spilling over in my driveway as I pulled out my hedge trimmer.
    non recycled wax containers

    By November I wondered what was the percentage for my trash vs recycling. I didn’t bring out the trash and recycling for 3 weeks. (A Veterans Day and Thanksgiving holiday, where trash removal day was delayed a day, along with my out of sync memory may have also helped.) I was amazed. My recycling was double that of my trash. One bag of trash per week for a somewhat active couple made me think: How much less trash would I have if I started composting?

     

    At the end of the year, my key learnings…

    As 2020 came to a close I thought it would be a good time to sort my deodorant containers from toothpaste tubes and separate all the black plastic (Black plastic cannot be recycled easily)  and plastic containers that did not have a recycling logo (like those fancy looking night moisturizing cream containers) and prepare for my TerraCycle drop off. As I was sorting, it became apparent that I ordered allot of take out in 2020 but here are a few other findings:

    collage
    • Styrofoam - made up most product that I had that could not include with curbside recycling. I had two 35 Gallon trash barrels full! Luckily my city has a Styrofoam recycling event a few times a year so I can properly dispose of those.
    • Container tops – you know the tops to condiments, laundry detergent, toothpaste, wine bottles – I collected 3.5 lbs or ½ a grocery bag of these random tops. They add up! I found out that these can be in fact recycled. You just need to clean out the bottle/container and put them back on prior to recycling.
    • Bags – ½ way through my “recycling journey” I wondered about all the plastic food bags that my salads came in, vegetables, stuffing, nachos etc. unfortunately these cannot be recycled. I attempt to avoid purchasing food in bags – but it proves more difficult that one thinks.
    • Glossy milk containers – I thought these could be put in with paper recycling but upon reading an article from my city’s Zero Waste group – I learned this wasn’t true. Make sure you know your local recycling rules.
    • Spray bottles tops – sad to say, but you can’t recycle the spray portion. Because of this I started to make my own counter cleaner out of vinegar and water and use a reusable spray bottle. There are also companies like Jaws or BlueLand that offer a reusable bottle and tablets for cleaning supplies. Water is the main ingredient of any cleaner.
    • Paper napkins  - even though these can’t be recycled I thought about the impact of how many napkins my house hold went through in a week, let alone a month. I now use cloth napkins and wash them with towels. In addition to contributing to less waste I also feel more civilized. I never saw any of the characters in Downton Abby using paper napkins.
    • Zip lock bags – I cut my use of Ziplock bags after I found reusable ones that you can even put in the dishwasher!
    • Plastic wrap – I’ve felt plastic wrap to be something I shouldn’t use but have out of force of habit. While walking around in Salem Massachusetts, my favorite sea-side-village, I found a ZWraps, a REUSABLE food wrap alternative at Oak+Moss! Get this – it sticks to glass bowls and plates better than plastic wrap!
    • Random plastic – without a recycling logo on it, tops of food containers, daily and night moisturizer containers.
    • Daily Contact lens containers – I’m guilty of using daily disposable contacts. The result is a plastic shopping bag or 5lbs of small plastic pieces that I would have thrown out otherwise as they are not allowed for curbside recycling. The good news is that Bausch + Lomb partners with TerraCycle to help assist in recycling the plastic packaging as well as the contacts themselves. Items can be dropped off at select eyecare locations or mailed in.
    recycling contacts collage

    In the end I learned, a Zero Waste household could be easily done. It just takes a dedicated space, sorting, being mindful and having a spouse who doesn’t ask too many questions or joins you on that journey. Will I be doing this again for 2021? You better believe your Styrofoam abstract art I am!

     

    For more information on 3D Printing our sustainability effort please visit: https://www.tailored.lighting.philips.com/en/us/

    For more information on Zero Waste please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_waste

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    Post tags

    Sustainable, Zero-Waste/Recycling Committee, recycling, TerraCycle, lighting design, 3D printing, circular economy, Jaws, BlueLand, zero waste, sustainability

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