Earth911 celebrates its 20th birthday on October 29, and our staff wanted to take a look back at some of our favorite articles over the years. As managing editor, I have overseen thousands of words and ideas. The ones that stand out are those filled with information that I still use or people whose stories I still think about. Here are the top 20 pieces that you can’t miss on our birthday.
#20: Composting in the City
We write a lot of articles about composting, but millions of people don’t have the ideal setting to start their own pile. I often received emails or comments along the lines of “this is great, but I can’t do this where I live.”
This is because the No. 1 thing that most city-dwellers lack is space – space for their compost, space for the soil that it yields. After all, it seems ridiculous to compost in a studio apartment. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. We found cool ways to compost without a backyard. Best of all, these programs actually go to better the local community. So you’re not just composting for yourself, you’re composting for your neighbors.
#19: Family Embarks on 365 Days of Local
We love stories about real people doing larger-than-life things. Meet the Levitch family: Four people who dedicated one full year to buying everything from only local businesses in the hopes that their efforts will spark the local economy. No Starbucks, no Wal-Mart, no Walgreens.
“This was my favorite story to write because I got to meet a family that was trying something new and pretty difficult to not only help save the planet, but also to prove a point to themselves and their community,” says Megan Dobransky, the author of the story. “Buying local for one year is admirable and getting an honest, behind-the-scenes look at the process was so much fun.”
#18: There’s Glass and Then There’s…the Other Kind of Glass
When Earth911 started writing stories in 2008, we were pretty new to the “green content” scene. Looking back, some of the memorable pieces we wrote were the ones that went back to our bread and butter: recycling. It’s what we know. It’s what we do, and it’s what you love reading about.
“[This story was one] of the earliest examples of Earth911 explaining the recycling process and how materials are chosen/excluded from the recycling market, which are both important information to know for anyone with a passion for recycling,” says Senior Waste Stream Analyst Trey Granger.
“People see recycling symbols all the time and they buy products made of recycled content, but they rarely think about how and why products go from the recycling bin back on to a shelf.”
#17: 8 Ways to Green Your Move
In 2010, I moved cross country to New York City with Earth911. It was a significant step in expanding the company’s presence. But I had a huge task on hand: whittle down my stuff from a three-bedroom home to a small studio apartment and then transport it across the country, from Phoenix to the Big Apple.
As the managing editor of a green website, of course I wanted to do it in the most eco-friendly way possible. So, I recorded every waste-saving, gas-friendly thing I did and shared it with our readers. Turns out, many of you have had to make some similar moves in this down economy. But I learned that these tips can work with any move, from across town to across the globe.
#16: Get Money For Recycling
Most people would agree that recycling is a good thing to do for the environment, but no one would turn down a great incentive, especially if that incentive is cold, hard cash. Readers have asked us many times if they could turn their waste into money, and the answer is yes.
Learn how to cash in on plastic bottles, glass bottles, e-waste, books and dvds and clothing.
#15: How Kids Are Saving the Planet
Who says there’s a minimum age for making a big difference? We found a handful of students that are doing incredible things, from a 12-year-old environmental educator to two sisters who have started their own pollution prevention group.
“It’s easy to think that one person can’t have an impact. But if these inventive young people can do their part to make the planet a better place, anyone can,” says Earth911 Staff Writer Mary Mazzoni. “Reading the stories of these cool eco kids will leave anyone inspired and ready to lend a helping hand.”
#14: The Ultimate Plastic Breakdown
You may have seen the plastic resin chart, but what do those numbers actually mean, and why should they be important to you? Plastics recycling can be tricky, and that’s because there are just so many types of them.
While this article has a slew of scientific jargon, it’s also one of the handiest guides you’ll read when it comes to getting plastics recycling right. And lucky for you,more than 80 percent of Americans have access to a plastics recycling program. So no more excuses! Once you have a handle on what materials make up your plastic, you can make a better decision from purchase to disposal.
#13: 365 Days, 365 Dresses, $365
“Marisa Lynch’s story is bound to bring a smile to your face,” says author Mary Mazzoni. “The New Dress a Day blogger was looking for a way to get creative every day and started upcycling thrift store finds into trendy pieces fit for a night on the town. When she first started the blog, friends and family members made up most of her readership. But by the time we spoke, she was up to 7,000 page-views per day and growing fast.”
“Not only was Marisa a joy to talk to, her trash-to-treasure creations helped me re-think some of the items in my own closet. I’m not usually a very ‘crafty’ person. But thanks to Marisa, I broke out the needle and thread and created some pretty cool pieces for my wardrobe.”
#12: America’s Waste in Numbers: Then and Now
Even though this story was published very recently, it’s a great depiction of just how much we have changed the way we purchase, consume and toss. In fact, did you know that just 40 years ago only one curbside recycling program existed? We’ve come a long way.
“I liked the America’s Waste in Numbers: Then and Now because it’s a good snapshot of the recycling rates over time, and perhaps an eye opener for some folks on why recycling is important,” says Director of Sales Aaron Witsoe. “Knowledge is sometimes the only thing missing for people to take action.”
#11: What is a Producer’s Responsibility?
Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR, in its simplest form, is a strategy that engages manufacturers to take part in the entire lifecycle – particularly end-of-life disposal – of their products, shifting the accountability and economics of waste management away from municipalities.
Sound too heady? Broken down, this term really gets to the heart of one of the most important (and hot-button) topics in environmentalism: Who is responsible for accumulating waste? The manufacturers? The retailer? Or you, the consumer? See what the government, industry organizations and people just like yourself really think.
#10: Is Burning Trash Bad?
The growing popularity of modern waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities in Europe and Asia has many in America asking: is burning trash bad?
We’re not big burners here in the U.S., but we’ve been known to light up some litter from time to time. The majority of our waste is buried in landfills, while 31 percent is recycled, but there are currently 90 waste-to-energy facilities operating in the country that torch 14 percent of our trash and convert the heat into electricity. But is the best choice for America?
#9: Green Ideas That Made Millions
Think green companies are just for treehuggers and nonprofits? Think again. We found five people who have made a fortune from their environmental endeavors.
Meet Spencer Brown of Rent-a-Green Box (a zero-waste pack and move solution), SolarCity’s Lyndon and Peter Rive, Kyle Berner and his increasingly popular Feelgoodz flip-flops, Margarita McClure’s Swaddlebees diapers and Eric Hudson’s Preserve products made from recycled materials (you may have spotted them at Whole Foods). These business-owners’ humble beginnings and innovative ideas may even kick start your own entrepreneurial spirit.
#8: I Got Worms! Composting and You
We love composting, and for good reason: the U.S. EPA estimates that each American throws away an average of 1.3 pounds of food scraps daily. The combination of this food waste, along with yard trimmings, makes up 24 percent of our nation’s municipal solid waste stream.
Vermicomposting is simple to setup and minimal maintenance is required. Not only is it a great option for your trash bin, but it’s also a perfect way to fertilize your household and garden plants! Sound intimidating? We thought the same thing, so we decided to “break it down” and tackle it one step at time. (And yes, that headline was inspired by Dumb and Dumber.)
#7: Is Earth Day Dead?
For Earth Day, we usually right an article about easy ways to celebrate. But this year was different. We wanted to push the envelop and get a story that challenged Earth Day. Does this holiday mean the same thing it did back in 1970?
We got some of the most prominent figures in environmental activism and big-box companies to answer our question, “Is Earth Day Dead?” Their answers resonated with even the most jaded of greenies and stuck with us even six months after April 22.
#6: Oops! Eco Intentions Gone Wrong
Local businesses, big-box chains, national media, small-town shops…almost every market we interact with daily is pushing the “going green” slogan.
But even the most educated greenie with the best intentions can miss the fine print. Do you know what to do with “biodegradable products?” Is installing a programmable thermostat the best move for your home? And are you driving your car the greenest way? Here are some common mistakes to look for when embarking on your own eco journey.
#5: Meet the Zero-Waste Family
The Johnson family of California pledged to create zero waste, and their story was a sensation not only with our audience, but our staff loved it as well.
“The family produced only a small handful of trash in six months and credit the three Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) for their trash-taming success,” says Staff Writer Mary Mazzoni. ”Mom Bea Johnson even added her own R to hierarchy: refuse, saying that getting smart about purchases is vital to controlling waste. Taking a look inside a zero-waste home makes the concept feel within reach for any family.”
“[This was my favorite story] and not just because I wrote it! The family’s pragmatic approach to reducing waste inspired me to make some changes to my own life: using my own bags for produce and bulk food at the grocery store (in addition to the reusable shopping bags I already bring for check out, of course), learning to can tomatoes and make my own jam, and going on a massive anti-junk mail campaign for my household,” says Staff Writer Alexis Petru.
#4: 8 Ways to Not Get Tricked While Going Green
“I loved this story when it first came out, because it really addressed some confusing issues – even our editor learned a few things,” says Social Media Editor Jennifer Berry.
“When it was released, I think we realized how frustrating it was (and is!) for people who want to do the right thing, but either don’t know how or don’t have all the information. Some of these are still problems today, such as how to understand what purportedly “green” labels mean, but I feel inspired because I know there are dedicated people trying to make sustainability more transparent and easy for everyone to join in the long-run.”
#3: The Pizza Box Mystery
More than two years after its initial publishing date, “The Pizza Box Mystery” continues to be the highest-traffic story on Earth911.com. And perhaps it’s because the topic is still a head-scratcher.
Many people assume that pizza boxes are recyclable, but the fact is that the grease and cheese from pizza soil the cardboard, rendering it impossible to throw into the bin. Let’s face it, we’ll always be happy to chow down on a tasty slice of pizza, so can we find another way to recycle the box?
#2: 10 Things You Never Knew Were Recyclable
We couldn’t believe what we actually found when searching for the weirdest recyclable items. Believe me, there were way more than ten items (just search for “mannequins” on Earth911, and it will turn up locations you can take your dress-form friend).
But we narrowed down the strangest examples that actually had recycling locations widely available (and we included mail-in programs on this list). Human and pet hair? It’s on there. Old school trophies? Stray house keys? Millions upon millions of golf balls. Got it, got it, got all of them.
#1: Why People Don’t Recycle
As an editor, this story was initially a risky call, and it had to be handled just right. We tracked down admitted non-recyclers to find out exactly why they didn’t participate in one of the easiest ways to “go green.” Their candid interviews made us realize there were multiple reasons our
“Earth911 got to the heart of the issue by interviewing real people about why they don’t recycle. I appreciated the honesty of the story and even more so the dialog that it fostered,” says Sandra Keil, VP of Government Relations and Industry Affairs. “Earth911 provided information on a topic many are curious about and then an opportunity to have a frank conversation on the issue.”
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