Monday, December 14, 2009

Waste Audit

Twice a year your trusty Green Living Reps conduct waste audits, and the results of the Fall 2009 audit are in. The good news is that recycling is generally improving! 

The not-so-good news is that roughly a quarter of things you threw in the trash could have been recycled.  Keep working on this! Our goal is to reduce this amount of recyclable materials in the garbage even further. This is what we learned from the audit:
·    26% trash by weight was items that could have been recycled or reused, about the same as Spring 2009 (24%).  
·   This is down since the first Green Living audit in Fall 2005, when 45% of the trash could have been recycled or reused.

Here’s how the audit worked: your custodians saved trash bags and labeled them with each dorm's name and date.  The Reps met up with your trash at a recycling warehouse in Allston, where we took everything out of bags and sorted it into recycling, food waste/compostables, reusable items that could have been donated, and residuals (actual trash).  Next, we weighed each of these components and put them in separate bins for processing.  It was an enlightening, if smelly, experience!

Why is recycling important?
·   Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild the entire commercial airline fleet every three months.
·   Making cans from recycled aluminum saves 95% of the energy required to produce cans from virgin material.
·   Every year enough paper is thrown away to make a 12’ wall from New York to California. 
·   Glass can be reused an infinite number of times; over 41 billion glass containers are made each year.

For more fun facts about recycling, check this link: 

For a reminder of what can be recycled and how to do it, go to:

We'll be doing another audit in the spring, and we'll let you know what we find out!  In the meantime, let us know if you have any suggestions for improving recycling signage/infrastructure anywhere on campus.

I'll leave you with some examples of items found in the trash:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Art of Green Gifting

Come join the HLS Green Living Representatives for cookies (yay!), tea, and a workshop on how to wrap and give sustainable gifts! Learn how to save money and impress your friends and family with recycled gift wrapping, reusable items, and homemade gifts. Get your fill of creativity and cookies this Thursday, 12/10, Pound 335, at 3:00 pm.

More than 1 million extra tons of trash end up being tossed each week between Thanksgiving and New Years.  Help make this excess garbage disappear with these magical green wrapping and giving tips:  

Learn how to make this amazing bow from magazine pages and old maps.  Use a perfume sample page for a scented bow!

For a simpler but just-as-cute option, try this alternative bow, made from pages of a used book.

Country Living also has a lot of great reusable wrapping ideas, such as wrapping with sheet music.  Their website also shows you how to make your own flower gift toppers, which can be created using old newspapers or sewing patterns. shows you how to weave wraps from grocery bags and scraps of paper, like this wrapping art:

"Furoshiki" is wrapping with cloth.  Here are some techniques you can use:

You can also make your own shipping package from store bags.  Also, alternatives to packing peanuts are always appreciated - try real peanuts!  

If you are looking for gifts to try these new wrapping techniques on, try homemade options from used material, like this t-shirt-turned bag.  (Instructions here.)

Also, check out items from earlier posts under Your Green Holiday Gift Guide, Installments 1,2, and 3.  

Finally, make your own mini-terrarium by using a clear incandescent light bulb!  You may have some laying around if you have recently replaced yours with more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.  (Idea from apartment therapy)


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Your Green Holiday Gift Guide

Installment 3:  Crafty Gifts

Even if you’re not too crafty, you can have some fun trying these projects.
Homemade candy: fudge, truffles, and more!

“Aunt Joyce’s Five-Minute Fudge” It really only takes five minutes to mix.

Homemade hand warmers: If you know how to make a beanbag, you know how to make a hand warmer. Use wool or cashmere or felt material, but instead of filling the bags with beans, fill them with ceramic pie weights. To use these toasty treasures, simply microwave them for a couple of minutes and then slip them in your pockets.

Themed gift baskets: Use a colander for a basket, add some garlic bulbs, gourmet noodles, and a wooden spoon — a little taste of Italy. Or consider a breakfast basket. Or a breakfast basket (syrup and pancake mix), a movie basket (popcorn, candy, and a movie rental coupon), or a gardening basket (a trowel, a gardening hat, and some packets of seeds).

Stuffed animals: Two examples are Martha Stewart's stuffed pig and Crafty Daisies' felt penguin 

Gingerbread house: Build a gingerbread house. Or ten. Give them to the little kids (and the big kids) in your life. Lifehacker diva Gina Trapani has a photoset demonstrating how she put together a gingerbread house from a kit. If you bake, you can certainly build a better house from scratch. Your nieces and nephews will thank you. (And so will your brother-in-law!)

Personalized calendars: You can buy a calendar or use a computer printout. MS Word has templates. Add pictures of things or people meaningful to the recipient, important dates (birthdays and anniversaries of family & friends), and maybe a special note or quote every once in a while. For parents/students you can add in the school schedule; for sports fans, their favorite teams’ game schedule, and so on.

Spice sampler: Bulk spices can make an affordable and appreciated gift for anyone who loves to cook, or who is moving into a new kitchen. Don’t know which ones to choose? Find some tempting recipes that call for exotic spices, then include the recipes with the spices. Or, get creative and make a custom spice blend for a meat rub, marinade mix, salad dressing kit, dip, or seasoning (search the web for ideas).

Friday, December 4, 2009

Your Green Holiday Gift Guide

Installment 2:  Buy Nothing Holidays

Buy Nothing Christmas ( is a national initiative started by Canadian Mennonites but open to everyone with a thirst for change and a desire for action. (I’m curious: did the Canadian Mennonites start a website?!)

Create a secret hollow book: You might not want to sacrifice Sargentich on Torts just yet, but you can probably find an old hardcover lying around somewhere. Glue the pages together, use an X-Acto knife to hollow out the center of the book. Now the recipient can store his or her treasures!

Photoshop your friends and family: A graphic designer created a booklet that Photoshops her 6-year-old nephew onto cheap stock photos of world landmarks, such as the Great Wall, so it looks like he’s traveled the world. This home-made travel brochure is perfect for adventurous young minds. You could also make a Flat Stanley of your younger relatives, if you’ll be traveling.

Memory drawings: “Draw a very simple black-and-white picture of a memory that you have of you and the person (e.g. me and my dad playing NES back in the day). This could be a very simple, Shel Silverstein style drawing. Frame it and gift. The great thing about this (besides being cheap) is that you can give it multiple times to the same person. They will have a growing collection of ‘memory drawings’ from you.”

Create a cookbook: Make a collection of family recipes, and print and bind the recipes for everyone.  You could do this at a gathering, where everyone can provide a recipe.  You could also make a theme cookbook, for example cookies, and provide samples along with the cookbook.

Write a family history: Pick a topic, and ask each family member to write about it. One person plays ‘editor’, collecting the stories, and presents them all together for Christmas. Sample topics could include: your favorite holiday, the house you grew up in, how everyone met their spouses, the funniest family gathering. This is especially good for older relatives—you could even interview them and write their stories yourself to share with your family. You could print these and make booklets. 

You can make more than gifts!

Make your own greeting cards: Craft stores like Michael’s sell boxes of assorted brightly colored cards, or you could just use cardstock. Then, use leftover paper scraps and stickers to decorate them.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beyond the Blog

Want more green?  

Blogs are great (we certainly think so), but if you’re hankering for the answers to specific questions such as “can I recycle bottle caps?” [yes], and “what exactly is Harvard’s greenhouse gas reduction goal?” [30% below 2006 levels by 2016], visit the Law School’s official Sustainability site: 

There you’ll find information about recycling, HLS energy conservation measures, staff involvement, and much, much more!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Your Green Holiday Gift Guide

Installment 1:  Gift Jars

Do you eat spaghetti sauce out of a jar? How about applesauce, pickles, olives, or peanut butter? You can use the empty jars (washed, of course!) as gift containers for all sorts of tasty homemade things: cookie mix, powdered drinks, granola, candy, Chex Mix or Puppy Chow (chocolate-covered Chex Mix). 

This site lists an overwhelming array of mixes you can put in a jar. 

This website gives not only recipes, but ideas for decorating the jar.  There are even PDFs of tags you can print. 

 And something less tasty, but still really sweet:
“I spent a few months contacting friends and family members and asked them to send me memories and old pictures of my grandfather. Then I wrote one memory (or printed one picture) on each of 365 business card sized pieces of cardstock. I folded each in half and secured it with a bit of tape, then placed them all in a big jar I decorated. Every morning for the next year, my grandfather would take out a paper, open it, and see what other people cherished in him. He loved it.”  [Source: Get Rich Slowly, ]

Finally, a gag gift, for people who say they want "nothing" for their gift. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Take the Sustainability Pledge!

It takes less than two minutes to become one of the thousands of Harvard community members who commit each year to reducing their environmental impacts in small yet meaningful ways:

Did you take the pledge last year? Great— it’s time to take it again this year!  Currently 41% of FAS has taken the pledge, compared to only 9% of HLS (although we’re still ahead of HBS with their  8%).  Take the pledge!

Your Green Living Reps recently tabled in the Hark, and collected over 120 signatures.  Thanks to all who stopped by to sign the pledge or decorate an incandescent light bulb left over from our CFL swap!