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On donating, buying, and swapping secondhand clothes
Umbra Fisk, Grist
… Secondhand threads are among the most fashionable and eco-friendly garments. They embody one of the three R’s: Reuse. In so doing, they save resources, including that precious green resource — cash.
But not all secondhand clothing options are created equal. Because clothes are valuable, there’s a significant economy around secondhand wear. Like many moneymakers, used clothes have gone global. According to the Council for Textile Recycling, about 61 percent of donated clothes are exported to other countries.
This poses a few conundrums. Shipping more than half of the 2.5 billion pounds of post-consumer textile product waste, aka used clothes, each year to far away places can have a sizable carbon (and cotton and polyester) footprint. Your old discarded “Another Day, Another Doughnut” shirt may make its way across oceans. When it reaches its destination, it will probably clothe someone. But chances are it will also have a suffocating impact on local textile businesses. For more on that troubling t-shirt, check out The Root piece entitled “Dead white people’s clothes: How the used clothes you send to Africa are killing the local textile industries.”
(27 September 2010)
Compostable diaper service
Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle
Babies poop. Most parents use disposable diapers. Dirty diapers clog landfills.
In fact, about 3.4 million tons of used diapers end up in U.S. landfills every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
A Sunnyvale startup has a greener idea: compostable diapers.
EarthBaby has signed up almost 1,000 Bay Area families for its service, which includes weekly drop-offs of diapers made out of substances derived from corn and wood, and pickups of soiled diapers, which decompose into topsoil within a few months.
(28 September 2010)
UN environment chief urges recycling of rare metals
GENEVA — The UN’s environment chief on Wednesday called for a global drive to recycle rare metals that have hit the headlines in a spat between Japan and China, warning that they are crucial for green technologies.
Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said that demand for “rare earth metals” such as lithium and neodymium — used in batteries for hybrid cars or components in wind and solar power — was accelerating fast.
Rare earths are available in only small quantities and mined in a few locations, raising fears that global supply for a clean, high-tech economy could be exhausted swiftly as well as hampered by geopolitical disputes.
(29 September 2010)