Category Archives: Life Cycle

The Energy Trail of a Drinking Straw

So what is wrong with straws, you may ask?straw

The better question, would be … what is great about them.

Aside from the fact that they are made from plastic and are intended for single use consumption … read on, and

find out how next time you are served a drink, you just might be compelled to forgo the straw!


A straw is a prepared tube used to suck a beverage out of a container. Historians theorize the first straws were cut from dried wheat shafts and they were named accordingly. With the advent of industrial age, methods were developed to mass produce straws by rolling elongated sheets of wax-coated paper into a cylindrical, hollow tubes. This was accomplished by coiling paraffin-coated paper around a rod-shaped form and then securing the paper with an adhesive. The entire straw was then coated with wax to further water-proof it. The wax coating was important since the straw was paper and would eventually absorb some of the liquid being sucked up it. Thus, inevitably these paper straws became soggy and useless. In the 1960s, paper was largely replaced by plastic which were becoming less expensive and increasingly more sophisticated. The explosion of plastic technology led to techniques to manufacture plastic straws via extrusion. Today, straws are made in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and functions.

Raw Materials

Straws are made from a formulated blend of plastic resin, colorants, and other additives.


Historically, straws have been made from paper but today polypropylene plastic is the material of choice. Polypropylene is a resin made by polymerizing, or stringing together, molecules of a propylene gas. When a very large number of these molecules are chemically hooked together they form this solid plastic material. Polypropylene was first developed in the mid-1950s and has many properties, which make it suitable for use in straw manufacturing. This resin is light-weight, has fair abrasion resistance, good dimensional stability, and good surface hardness. It typically does not experience problems with stress cracking and it offers excellent chemical resistance at higher temperatures. Most importantly for this application, it has good thermoplastic properties. This means it can be melted, formed into various shapes and, upon reheating, can be melted and molded again. Another key attribute of this plastic is that it is safe for contact with food and beverage. Polypropylene is approved for indirect contact with food and, in addition to drinking straws, is used to make many types of food packaging such as margarine and yogurt containers, cellophane-type wrapping, and various bottles and caps.


Colorants can be added to the plastic to give the straws an aesthetically pleasing appearance. However, in the United States, the colorants used must be chosen from a list of pigments approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for food contact. If the colorants are not food grade, they must be tested to make sure they will not leach out of the plastic and into the food or beverage. These pigments are typically supplied in powdered form, and a very small amount is required to impart bright colors. Through use of multiple colorants, multi-colored straws can be made.

Other additives

Additional materials are added to the plastic formula to control the physical properties of the finished straw. Plasticizers (materials which improve the flexibility of the polypropylene) may be added to keep the resin from cracking. Antioxidants are used to reduce harmful interactions between the plastic and the oxygen in the air. Other stabilizers include ultraviolet light filters, which shield the plastic from the effects of sunlight and prevent the radiation from adversely effecting the plastic. Finally, inert fillers may be added to increase the bulk density of the plastic. All these materials must meet appropriate FDA requirements.

Packaging materials

Straws are typically wrapped in paper sleeves for individual use or bulk packed in plastic pouches or cardboard boxes.

The Manufacturing

Straw manufacturing requires several steps. First, the plastic resin and other components are mixed together; the mixture is then extruded in a tube shape; the straw may under go subsequent specialized operations; and finally the straws are packaged for shipment.

Plastic compounding

  • The polypropylene resin must first be mixed with the plasticizers, colorants, antioxidants, stabilizers, and fillers. These materials, in powder form, are dumped into the hopper of an extrusion compounder that mixes, melts, and forms beads of the blended plastic. This machine can be thought of as a long, heated, motor driven meat grinder. The powders are mixed together and melted as they travel down the barrel of the extruder. Special feeder screws are used to push the powder along its path. The molten plastic mixture is squeezed out through a series of small holes at the other end of the extruder. The holes shape the plastic into thin strands about 0.125 inch (0.3175 cm) in diameter. One compounding method ejects these strands into cooling water where a series of rotating knives cut them into short pellets. The pellet shape is preferred for subsequent molding operations because pellets are easier to move than a fine powder. These pellets are then collected and dried; they may be further blended or coated with other additives before packaging. The finished plastic pellets are stored until they are ready to be molded into straws.

Straw extrusion

  • The pellets are transferred to another extrusion molder. The second extruder is fitted with a different type of die, which produces a hollow tube shape. The pellets are dumped in a hopper on one end of the machine and are forced through a long channel by a screw mechanism. This screw is turned in the barrel with power supplied by a motor operating through a gear reducer. As the screw rotates, it moves the resin down the barrel. As the resin travels down the heated channel, it melts and becomes more flowable. To ensure good movement and heat transfer, the screw fits within the barrel with only few thousands of an inch clearance. It is machined from a solid steel rod, and the surfaces almost touching the barrel are hardened to resist wear. By the time the resin reaches the end of the barrel, it is completely melted and can be easily forced out through the opening in the die.
  • The resin exits the die in a long string in the shape of a straw. It is then moved along by a piece of equipment known as a puller which helps maintain the shape of the straw as it is moved through the rest of the manufacturing process. In some processes, it is necessary to pull the straw through special sizing plates to better control the diameter. These plates are essentially metal sheets with holes drilled in them. Eventually, this elongated tube is directed through a cooling stage—usually a water bath. Some operations run the plastic over a chilled metal rod, called a mandrel, which freezes the internal dimension of the straw to that of the rod. Ultimately, the long tubes are cut to the proper length by a knife assembly.

Special operations

  • Straws with special design requirements may undergo additional processing. For example, so called “crazy” straws, which have a series of loops and turns, may be bent into shape using special molding equipment. Another type of straw with special manufacturing requirements is the “bendable” straw. This type of straw can bend in the middle and is made using a special device that creates a series of grooves that allow the straw to flex. These grooves can be crimped into the straws in a two step process. First, it is first necessary to “pick up” the straw so it can be manipulated. This can be accomplished by spreading the straws across a flat plate, which has slots cut in it. The straws will tend to roll into the slots and remain there. The slots are evenly spaced and are adjacent to a separate metal plate, which has a series of metal pins extending from it. The pins are aligned in a parallel fashion with the slots on the plate. Once the straws have come to rest in the slots, the pins can be easily inserted into the straws. The straws can then be easily lifted up and moved around in any orientation by simply manipulating the plate that holds the pins. The steel pins holding the straws have a series of parallel rings cut into them. As the straws are wrapped around the pin, they are gripped by a pair of semi-circular steel jaws, which have a complementary set of rings. The jaws crimp a series of rings into the straw. The crimp pattern allows the straws to bend without closing off. After these operations, the straws can then by proceed to packaging.


  • Straws are typically packaged in individual paper sleeves after manufacturing. This packaging is widely used for applications where each straw must be kept sanitary. One method of packaging involves loading the finished straws into a supply funnel. At the bottom of the hopper is a wheel with straw receiving grooves cut in it around its outer edge. The straws drop out of the hopper and are picked up one at a time by this rotating wheel. As the wheel rotates, it moves the straws along to a second wheel, which has grooves connecting to a vacuum source. Sheets or packaging material (paper wrap) are moved onto this wheel from a supply roller. The vacuum holds the paper in place while the main wheel feeds straws on top of the paper. Another layer of paper is guided over the first and the assembly then passes through a sealing roller. The two layers of paper are then crimped together with the application of pressure or otherwise sealed together. The sealed sheet of straws then travels along the conveyor to a punching region where a die presses down and cuts out individual straws. The die cut pieces then move along a conveyor to a collection area. The individual straws can then be bundled together and packed in boxes or pouches for shipping.

Quality Control

Drinking straw quality is determined at a number of key steps during the compounding and extrusion phases of the manufacturing process as well as after extrusion is complete. During compounding, the mixing process must be monitored to ensure the formula components are blended in the proper ratios. Before beginning the extrusion process, it is a common practice to purge some resin through the extruder. This purging helps clean out the barrel and acts as a check to make sure all molding systems are operating properly. At this stage, sample straws can be checked to make sure they achieve the proper dimensions. These samples can also be used to ensure manufacturing equipment is operating at the proper line speed.

During the extrusion process, it is critical that the resin is be kept at the proper temperature. Depending on the processing temperature (and the molecular weight of the polymer), plastic can flow as slowly as tar or as quickly as corn syrup. If the temperature is too cool, the viscosity increases dramatically, and the resin will not flow through the die. If the temperature is too high, thermal breakdown can occur. Over-heating can cause chemical changes in the resin, weakening the plastic and rendering it unsuitable for use in straw manufacturing. Under certain circumstances, die buildup occurs. When this happens, a glob of plastic gets stuck somewhere in the die. This glob eventually breaks free, becomes attached to the molded straw, and ruins its appearance. Unwanted chemical interactions can also effect the quality of the finished straws during the extrusion process. One problem is oxidation, which results from contact with air. This reaction can negatively impact the plastic. Similarly, the plastic interacts with any moisture that is present; too little moisture can make certain plastic blends too brittle.

After the manufacturing process is complete, it is critical that the extruder be properly cleaned. Thorough cleaning is necessary because different types of different colored plastics can be left behind in the extruder barrel. This residue can cause contamination in the next batch that is made. Die cleaning is done when the machine is still hot and traces of resin can be easily scraped from the metal.


The major waste product from straw manufacturing is the plastic resin. Resin, which is contaminated, overheated, or otherwise ruined must be discarded. However, straws, which fail for other reasons, can be reworked. This process of reusing plastic is known as regrinding and involves pulverizing the straws and remelting them. This can be done without loss of quality because of the thermoplastic nature of polypropylene.

The Future

There are a number of interesting new developments in straw technology. First, new and improved plastic blends are constantly being evaluated. This is necessary to keep costs down, meet regulatory requirements, and improve quality. In addition, new processing and design methods are being developed. These can expand the straws into new areas. For example, thermoliquid crystals, a special colorant that responds to changes in temperature, can be added to straws to make them change color when they come in contact with hot or cold liquid. Other unique applications include ways of printing straws with the identity of the beverage (e.g., diet, root beer, etc.). The straw can then be used to mark what the drink contains. Other advances include straws made by a blow molding process, which creates faces or other artifacts in the middle of the straw.

Where to Learn More


Richardson, Paul. Introduction to Extrusion. Brookfield Center, CT: Society of Plastic Engineers, 1974.


US patent 5,722,219. Method of Making a Drinking Straw.

[Article by: Randy Schueller]


Free Green Living Workshops in Santa Monica


Workshops will be held:

SM Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street @ Ocean Park
Santa Monica, CA 90405

January 24, 2009 @ 2:00 PM
Part 1
Green Living

This workshop on Green Living, will help lay the foundation to create your green abode
– whether you own or not. Learn the simple ways to make your home energy and
water efficient while eliminating toxins and drastically improving indoor air quality!

The workshop will cover a DIY cleaning product demo, lecture, and interaction with the

I will provide all attendees with an E-Book on all material covered as well as local

January 31, 2009 @ 2:00 PM
Part 2
Green Decor

Few people are aware, that just as in our homes as our workplace, there is an
opportunity to choose objects and products that do not pollute our homes and are
harmful to us and the environment.

Learn how to decorate your home in a way that improves your indoor air quality, and
your overall state of being, by pairing down on clutter and waste, eliminating toxins,
and breathing in a new breathe of fresh air into your home!

I will provide a basis of information that will help guide you in a direction of knowing
what questions to ask from your suppliers and manufacturers to insure that the
materials and finishes you choose for your home are environmentally sound.

There will be samples and materials incorporated, to provide a better understanding for
greening your decor!

Februray 07, 2009 @ 2:00 PM
Part 3
Green Landscaping/Gardening

A basic introduction, offering everything you wanted to know about greening your
garden and landscaping!

This workshop will provide an introduction to Permaculture and good gardening
practices, that you can begin implementing in your green space today!

Information will be provided on local programs, through Santa Monica, on sustainable
gardening and landscaping.

Learn simple tools that will help you save time, money, water and energy in your

Calender of Events in The World Of Green – Winter 2009

January 15 Green Building Workshop (Brooklyn, NY)

Time: 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Location: LC 400, Dibner Library Building   5 MetroTech Center, Brooklyn, NY
A workshop that brings industry researchers and developers of green buildings technologies, entrepreneurs, investors, representatives from green buildings and sustainability initiatives, regulators, architects and building designers.

I will be speaking on ‘Integrating Green Building in the Urban Environment’

at 9:55 a.m. – 10:20 a.m.

January 24  – Green Living Workshop  – Part 1  (Santa Monica, CA)

Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Santa Monica Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street   Santa Monica, CA 90405
This workshop on Green Living, will help lay the foundation to create your green abode – whether you own or not.  Learn the simple ways to make your home energy and water efficient while eliminating toxins and drastically improving indoor air quality!

The workshop will cover a DIY cleaning product demo, lecture, and interaction with the audience.

I will provide all attendees with an E-Book on all material covered as well as local resources!

January 25 –   Go Green Expo –  (Los Angeles, CA)

Time –  10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Location: The Los Angeles Convention Center
1201 South Figueroa Street   Los Angeles, CA 90015

Go Green Expo is a showcase for earth-friendly products and services – a trade show that wholly focused on green living.

I will be on the panel for Green Building and Design on the tradeshow floor on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

January 31  – Green Decor Workshop  – Part 2 (Santa Monica, CA)

Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Santa Monica Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street   Santa Monica, CA 90405

Few people are aware, that just as in our homes as our workplace, there is an opportunity to choose objects and products that do not pollute our homes and are harmful to us and the environment.

Learn how to decorate your home in a way that improves your indoor air quality, and your overall state of being, by pairing down on clutter and waste, eliminating toxins, and breathing in a new breathe of fresh air into your home!

I will provide a basis of information that will help guide you in a direction of knowing what questions to ask from your suppliers and manufacturers to insure that the materials and finishes you choose for your home are environmentally sound.

There will be samples and materials incorporated, to provide a better understanding for greening your decor!

February 07 – Green Landscaping Workshop  – Part 3  (Santa Monica, CA)

Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Santa Monica Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street Santa Monica, CA 90405

A basic introduction, offering everything you wanted to know about greening your garden and landscaping!

This workshop will provide an introduction to Permaculture and good gardening practices, that you can begin implementing in your green space today!  Learn simple tools that will help you save time, money, water and energy in your garden!

Information will be provided on local programs, through Santa Monica, on sustainable gardening and landscaping.

Integrating Green Building into the Urban Environment

Green Living Roof

Green Living Roof

The business, of environmental capital is not only a vast new market in the making, but it is a global economy, a shift in our patterns, as well as a turn in ecological literacy.

Urban green building has been on the forefront of this movement and has set the stage for us: the designers, architects and civilians of our country to drive this properly.

Let us start looking at all facets of the construction industry – the basic building blocks that represent the building industry – and begin filling in the gaps, where needed.

This is a ripe opportunity to integrate all the available elements that we have before us – while continuing to push the envelop in design.

Economy – New Business Model

As a new business model, Green Building has been speculated for some time, and perhaps, even considered a fad.  With the Dow Jones having introduced the Sustainability Index a mere nine years ago, this indicates that this shift had already begun to gain traction, on an economic and public front.

It was considered the first global platform in which indexes were tracked and measured for companies, that held the model of the triple bottom line.  A term used to reference the 21st c. business framework, that takes into account the people, the planet and profit.

As we move away from the old paradigms, that are disintegrating behind us –  we are in the midst of designing a new business model.  It is a model, that aside from the ubiquitous triple bottom line, is integrating the value of the collective.

Corporations are now finding themselves in a new state, yearning for the solutions that will help them compete and integrate into this new economy.  A sense of moving away from being compartmentalized and working in a more integrative system that will result in efficiency and profit.

An integrative strategy, represents a whole systems approach – taking into account the many variables at stake.  This creates an effort to design with a more wide approach, yet, while being able to be specialized.

We are sewing the tapestry of a new culture, here in our country, abroad, and within humanity.  As Americans, this is our opportunity to set the bar for ourselves, and set an example for the rest of the world.

It is imperative that we demonstrate that following our previous path, has lead us in a direction, that is having us, redirect the way we build and the way we live.

Building, is such a pivotal sector, within our economy.  If positioned properly, it can serve as a model for all other umbrella industries; as it already has begun to do so, with innovation in materials, technology and systems.

In the past 15 years, enough data has been gathered to build a case against conventional modes of construction and operation.

Buildings of the world consume:

17% of our clean water
25% of the wood harvested
40% of the world’s energy and materials

These numbers, alone, present an ideal opportunity to use the ingenuity we have been known for.  Create buildings that require less energy to perform, turn waste into energy, and releasing cleaner water.

Begin integrating nature as a model by moving away from linear thinking and mathematics to a more organic multifaceted frame of mind.  Because, the reality is that we live in a 3 dimensional world.

Green Building

Green Building has been one of the largest driving forces of this movement.  It has taken some time to realize that how we have been building, in the past, has been ineffective and inefficient; all while creating depletion of natural resources, en masse, and intoxicating ourselves.

Building greener buildings indicates using renewable energy alternatives, low impact efficient materials, in addition to, measuring the environmental performance of buildings.

Today, we have the knowledge, the technology and innovation to build in such ways that are not only, cutting edge and lucrative, but also offer, sustainable living or working environments, in addition to, being “smart”.

Smart buildings use internet protocol-based networks, new digital technology as well as proper design and building materials.  This innovation works to convert waste into energy, save on operational costs, by requiring less maintenance, and reduce energy and water consumption by storing and using these elements from the sun and rain.

Understanding the science of buildings, and the psychology of how people live and work, serve as pillars, to create efficient models, for the various phases of a building.

This foundation, can prove to facilitate efficiency and costs associated with the various stages of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance, demolition and recovery.

In essence, acknowledging the life cycle of buildings, will help urban designers and architects plan and design, in ways, that take far more into consideration than the mere aesthetic of a building.

Studying the location, the intended land use, the building objective, and projected occupant needs can begin to help set the scene for charettes, amongst the design team.

Charettes, are an open forum that is an integral component, found in virtually all green projects, where key players on the project, use their expertise in co-creating a fully integrated vision.

By incorporating: site location, human scale, and natural elements such as, weather patterns, and local materials into the design of buildings, projects work with available resources.

In understanding, the needs of a building, and integrating these elements, in such a way, that cohesively work together, have proven to be successful models that are in rhythm with the natural patterns of nature, and ebb and flow with the culture and seasons of a region.

Through the application of sustainable landscapes, design specifications correspond to site specific project locations, as well as with the local flora and fauna.  Natural settings  create habitats for building inhabitants to spend time outdoors, while encouraging native species and biodiversity to flourish.

In addition, to complementing the visual aesthetic, sustainable landscaping can be integrated into the model of the design and contribute to the energy and water efficiency of the building.  Indoor landscapes, also act as a natural filter – contributing to better indoor air quality and circulation.


Green building effects every sector in human development: from residential to commercial, education to non profit, and health care to entertainment.

Naturally, the initial cost impact of building green, may distract short sited builders and investors; although, there is a significant amount of data to back up any upfront cost associated with green building.

Benefits in productivity, increase in sales, lower rates of absenteeism, and overall employee and tenant satisfaction, rank extremely high in buildings considered green, versus their counterparts.

To an investor, this may seem trivial, yet, considering the significant added real estate value and low operating costs, it could appear to be more of an incentive to understand the larger market value

With certifications and green building programs, such as The Green Building Council’s LEED program and Build it Green, green building is now receiving the added property value and credentials it deserves.

Cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, have implemented green within their municipal policy for new commercial and Federal buildings to be a minimum, of being LEED certified.

In addition, they are facilitating work permits, expediting building plans and priority processing, which encourage, time sensitive projects to consider, this as viable and lucrative alternative.

On the state level, government is offering various incentives, rebates and tax credits for upgrading to energy star appliances, full energy audits and weatherization of homes.

On a local level, the development of legislation in creating a green framework, could prove to be the initiation, that commerce and residents, a like, need to embrace this new practice.

We are creatures of habit, and we are naturally slow, at the reception of change.

It is pivotal, to provide people with the health benefits associated with building sustainably; versus, using the scare tactic, and the costs associated with conditions like, sick building syndrome.

Providing home and business owners, with the multitude of ways in which money can be saved, by implementing green strategies, can serve as the turning point in which a consumer chooses green materials over the conventional counterpart.

With the installation of proper windows, good insulation, efficient fixtures, appliances, and HVAC systems, in addition to, energy and water conservation, can result in stark savings, over a short period of time.

With the learning curve we are living through, we are also writing the history books.

Learning what works, and what does not.  We will be in this phase of research and development for some time, as this is all new.

Materials and resources will continue to grow, and expand, as with the field of professionals, and with the depth of knowledge we will accrue over the years of experience.

It is imperative that we use this technology and innovation, that is currently available.  We must design buildings that help address energy and water efficiency, waste reduction, toxin elimination, improved indoor air quality, and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Urban Green Building

Integrating green into the urbanization of our cities, requires the proper tools to keep within the evolving fabric of a metropolis.

As cities evolve over the years, they begin to build their history, reflecting a community’s current social and economic state.  Implementing green strategies to compliment the landscape of urban development, and seamlessly integrating it.

Today, we build buildings with a life cycle of 50 – 60 years and materials and products with a virtually disposable lifespan.  A mere 100 years ago, people built things to last – a stark contrast, to where we are today.

This is a huge component within the green building initiative that must be addressed – Recreating our frame of mind to design works of art that will leave a lasting impression.

More over, supporting cost-effective dis-assembly, by understanding the future reuse of building materials, will help reduce the amount of waste associated with the deconstruction of a building.

As other countries, continue to emulate the way in which a live and build, we have the ripe opportunity to educate others with Eco Literacy.

By building, a robust green building infrastructure – a road map, per se, where others can have this knowledge available to them.

Design a Green Building Standard where case studies are available to the public and where short and long term solutions can easily, be modeled, with the added benefits for incorporating them.

There is a level of transparency where we are given the opportunity to fully impart the knowledge of what going green truly represents.   Become less ambiguous and available for all.

We need to create a local infrastructure, where  social equity creates a revenue model within sustainability.

As the market size widens, the trends and opportunities across the green building sectors are only going to grow on an exponential level.

In theory, we are currently one of the very few growing markets, and as the leaders of our communities we need to take a rise at this movement and truly take a lead……..

Did you Know?

  • 1. You can make a huge difference by being aware of your habits?
  • 2. Burning coal produces CO2 – the main contributors to global warming
  • 3. Americans use 170 gallons of water per day – 7x per capita average
  • 4. We are in a severe drought all over the state, and world wide
  • 5. Our water travels as far as 500 miles to get our faucets – its comes from the Sierra’s and the Colorado River
  • 6. 2.5 million bottles of water are tossed every hour in California
  • 7. 3 million bottles end up in landfills daily in California alone
  • 8. Plastic out weighs plankton in our oceans 24:1
  • 9. Glass can be recycled indefinitely
  • 10. Plastic downgrades and after being recycled become inert and ends up in landfills
  • 11. Fish and birds mistake plastic for food, and consume it – this effects our food supply
  • 12. Many popular types of fish are endangered – reference your Seafood Watch card when making your decisions!
  • 13. Garbage thrown on the street in Pasadena will make it to the beaches threw the storm drains – if it is not collected by beach clean up after a storm, it washes into the ocean
  • 14. Plastic does not biodegrade
  • 15. 6-pack rings should always be cut
  • 16. Americans consume 400 – 500 beverage containers annually
  • 17. American use 326 lbs of plastic annually
  • 18. 90% of floating marine litter is plastic
  • 19. Californians use more than 90 billion plastic bags annually – about 552 bags per person
  • 20. In LA county we have: 318 miles of polluted rivers, 250 sq miles of polluted lakes, bays, and wetlands, and 116 miles of polluted beaches and coastline
  • 21. Californians throw away 600 plastic bags per second
  • 22. Tossing cigarette butts into the streets end up on our beaches and in our oceans
  • 23. Even when electronic devices are turned off, but plugged in, they still uses energy – Save over 1,000 lbs of carbon dioxide and $256 per year
  • 24. Can save 300 lbs. of CO2 by changing 3 frequently used bulbs with CFL’s
  • 25. Its illegal to throw away batteries
  • 26. You an save 5 Lbs. of CO2 per ream of paper if used 100% post consumer
  • 27. You can remove your name from receiving junk mail for free?
  • 28. Dimmer save 25% of energy
  • 29. What is considered hazardous waste? Know how to dispose of it locally
  • 30. Clean or replace dirty air conditioner filters as recommended. Save 350 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $150 per year
  • 31. CFLs use 60% less energy than a regular bulb
  • 32. Keep your water heater thermostat at 120°F and save 550 lbs. of CO2 and $30 per year
  • 33. Move your heater thermostat down 2 degrees in winter and up two degrees in the summer – Save 2000 lbs of CO2 and $98 per year
  • 34. Caulk and weather strip your doorways and windows – save 1,700 lbs. of CO2 and $274 per year
  • 35. CFL’s lasts 10x longer and a regular blub and each bulb will keep 1,500 lbs. of CO2 over the lifetime of the bulb
  • 36. Wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket – You’ll save 1,000 lbs. of CO2 a year
  • 37. You can save 700 lbs. of CO2 when you air dry your clothes for 6 months out of the year, use a clothesline instead of a dryer
  • 38. You can save 2,400 pounds of CO2 a year by recycling half of the waste your household generates
  • 39. That recycled paper products takes 70 – 90% less energy to make recycled paper and it prevents the loss of forests worldwide
  • 40. The average fruit or vegetable travels over 1500 miles to get to your store
  • 41. Conventional farming destroys biodiversity, pollutes our water and is responsible for 1/3 loss of top soil
  • 42. That the FDA approved cloned meat in January 2008 – It is not required to be labeled
  • 43. 40% of waste is food waste – organic matter that can be composted and used instead of placed in a landfill
  • 44. By shopping at the farmers market it reduces the amount of energy required to grow and transport the food to you by 1/5
  • 45. Frozen food uses 10 x more energy to produce
  • 46. Almost 60% of food found in conventional supermarkets is genetically modified
  • 47. An estimated 13 chemicals are found on conventional fruits and vegetables
  • 48. FDA only samples a very small percentage of food sold to consumers
  • 49. You can improve gas mileage by more than 3% by checking your tires for proper pressure
  • 50. The average American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage during their lifetime
  • 51. We throw 90% of what we buy within 6 months
  • 52. A low flow shower head uses 1 gallon of water less per minute – using the technology of air to distribute the same amount of pressure
  • 53. One ton of recycled paper uses: 64% less energy,50% less water, 74% less air pollution, saves 17 trees and creates 5 times more jobs than one ton of paper products from virgin wood pulp
  • 54. In the United States, we have less than 4% of our original forests left
  • 55. 40% of waterways in the U.S. have become undrinkable
  • 56. The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but we’re consuming 30% of the world’s resources and creating 30% of the world’s waste
  • 57. 75% of global fisheries now are fished at or beyond capacity
  • 58. 80% of the planet’s original forests are gone
  • 59. In the Amazon alone, we’re losing 2000 trees a minute – that is seven football fields a minute
  • 60. There are over 100,000 synthetic chemicals in commerce today
  • 61. Only a handful of chemicals have even been tested for human health impacts and none of them have been tested for synergistic health impacts, that means when they interact with all the other chemicals we’re exposed to every day
  • 62. In the U.S., industry admits to releasing over 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals a year
  • 63. The average U.S. person now consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago
  • 64. During WWII we produced 40% of our from our Victory Gardens
  • 65. Our landfill, Puente Hills, has an estimated 5 year maximum capacity
  • 66. In the U.S. we are targeted with more than 3,000 advertisements a day
  • 67. Americans each generate 4.6 lbs. of garbage a day
  • 68. Recycled aluminum saves 95% energy vs. virgin aluminum
  • 69. Recycling of 1 aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for 3 hours
  • 70. Recycled aluminum reduces pollution by 95%
  • 71. 4 lbs. of bauxite are saved for every pound of aluminum recycled
  • 72. Recycled glass saves 50% energy vs. virgin glass
  • 73. Aluminum can endlessly be recycled
  • 74. Recycling of one glass container saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for 4 hours
  • 75. Recycled glass generates 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution
  • 76. 1 ton of glass made from 50% recycled materials saves 250 lbs. of mining waste
  • 77. Glass can be reused an infinite number of times; over 41 billion glass containers are made each year
  • 78. Recycled paper saves 60% energy vs. virgin paper
  • 79. Recycled paper generates 95% less air pollution – each ton saves 60 lbs. of air pollution
  • 80. Recycling of each ton of paper saves 17 trees and 7000 gallons of water
  • 81. Every year enough paper is thrown away to make a 12′ wall from New York to California
  • 82. If we recycled every plastic bottle we used, we would keep 2 billion tons of plastic out of landfills
  • 83. According to the EPA, recycling a pound of PET saves approximately 12,000 BTU’s
  • 84. We use enough plastic wrap to wrap all of Texas every year
  • 85. A ton of recycled paper equals or saves 17 trees in paper production
  • 86. Production of recycled paper uses 80% less water, 65% less energy and produces 95% less air pollution than virgin paper production
  • 87. Global paper use has grown more than six-fold since 1950
  • 88. 1/5 of all wood harvested in the world ends up in paper – it takes 2 to 3.5 tons of trees to make one ton of paper
  • 89. Pulp and paper is the 5th largest industrial consumer of energy in the world, using as much power to produce a ton of product as the iron and steel industry
  • 90. In some countries, including the United States, paper accounts for nearly 40 percent of all municipal solid waste
  • 91. Making paper uses more water per ton than any other product in the world
  • 92. Over a ton of resources is saved for every ton of glass recycled — 1,330 pounds of sand, 433 pounds of soda ash, 433 pounds of limestone, and 151 pounds of feldspar
  • 93. A ton of glass produced from raw materials creates 384 pounds of mining waste
  • 94. Using 50% recycled glass cuts the waste by 75%
  • 95. Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours
  • 96. If every household in the U.S. replaced just 1 bottle of 25 oz. conventional based petroleum based dish liquid with a plant derived natural cleaner we would save 86,000 barrels of oil a year – enough to heat and cool 4,900 homes for 1 year!
  • 97. The average home has 60 toxic chemicals in it
  • 98. LEED buildings use 25% less, on average, than conventional buildings
  • 99.  The average new home off gasses 2600 chemicals

Nancy Astrid Lindo Interviewed By: Angela Orrechio of Good Life

What is green building and what is your role in it?
Who are your customers?

Green Building is a movement that has stemmed out of the need for man to return to our state of balance with the natural world. We began civilizations, building green, using natural and local materials. It has been through time and technology that we began to exploit natural resources, create synthetic materials and import and export – elements that all began to take us away from our origins.

Today, Green Building represents a wide umbrella of disciplines that encompass everything in a building from the orientation, the design, materials, sourcing, indoor air quality and the performance of the building in reference to energy and water efficiency.

As an Eco Interior Designer, with a wide background that includes interior design, green building and permaculture, I feel that I have a broad and encompassing breadth of what role I play in this field. I take into account beyond what a typical green designer may. Beginning with the core of the individual, and moving my way out through the design of a space all the way to the landscape of the land.

My clients range from citizens interested in moving towards a more regenerative way of life – be it through their personal life or in their home. I also work with businesses in applying ways of implementing sustainable practices in addition to making their office space more energy and water efficient – all while improving indoor air quality and employee performance.

Transitioning from conventional building to sustainable building and remodeling can be a difficult concept to grasp. How do you assist your clients with the transition toward a greener mindset?

Going green must begin with an intention to be more aware of the life you live. I believe once people are given the information, such as the fact that our water travels over 500 miles to get to our faucets or how electricity is created and transported – people may be more apt to raise their level of awareness.

Education is critical in helping people understand the importance in raising their consciousness. I walk my clients through the entire process – the facts, the cost differential, the justification in health and livelihood and most importantly, helping them see the bigger picture.

Having them see the holistic view, that every action truly matters.

What is the concept of green washing?

Green washing stemmed from the concept of whitewashing – it is taking advantage of a wide growing market and few knowledgeable individuals that know what questions to ask or what they should be looking for. Using key words such as ‘green, eco or natural’ have been widely abused without any regard to integrity. Sadly, there are people who believe this type of target marketing, and are deceived.

It is virtually impossible to validate or invalidate any of these claims in this country, when many of our industries are not regulated or monitored – leaving it an open opportunity for
anyone to take advantage of this exploding market. As consumers, people need to become educated and read labels and understand what to look for.

Having lived in Spain, Italy, New York City, Miami and San Francisco what are some of the trends you have noticed in green building in other cities?

Europe has been on the forefront of this movement. They have always kept things in accordance to human scale, be it their cars or their homes. They have outlawed GMO’s, and several countries to not allow American imported produce for that very reason. They are ahead, in the use of alternative fuels, building biology (Bau Biologie), alternative transportation and the use of local and natural materials.

In the United States, San Francisco and New York City are ahead of the game including a couple other cities. Taking advantage of their size – public and alternative transportation thrive in both cities. Federally both have passed laws that all new government buildings must meet LEED standards. San Francisco, in comparison, to NYC is ahead of the curve in educating its citizens, offering city wide compost collection, in addition to having more LEED certified buildings.

What are some of the current projects you working on?
(Currently working on a reference guide for the Interior Design industry and publishing articles on green living, and speaking about the importance of sustainable living) elaborate.

In addition to writing and speaking in public, of the projects I have on the boards, I am working in various industries in helping them be more sustainable – hospitality, commercial, corporate and residential. I also have a remodel in San Francisco and a new construction low rise residential building in Miami.

The reference guide for the interior design industry will be a guide for anyone in the field -from a seasoned designer to an amateur. It will hold a wide scope of information tailoring the various industries that we work closely with that maintain their own standards and vocabulary.

What are five things someone can do right now to green their home?
And what are the environmental and financial benefits to each one?

1. Eat

(a.) organic, (b.) seasonal (c.) local

Environmental Benefits:

a. No fertilizers, herbicides, sewage sludge or GMO’s – does not damage the land or water quality, promotes biodiversity & crop rotation
b. More nutrient content (not picked before harvest, allowing for produce to naturally mature)
c. Lower energy costs (less transportation)

Financial Benefits:

a. Supports a movement – vote with your dollar! If you shop at the farmers market, and you support small scale farming
b. You save on energy costs by not importing fruit from other countries when they are out of season here
c. Support the community (more money stays in the community on a fiscal level – versus shopping at a big box grocer where most of your money will end up at a corporate office outside your city )

2. Save water – we are in a drought and live in a desert! Purchase aerators for your kitchen and bath faucet and a low flow shower head. Educate yourself on the garbage patch in the North Pacific Gyre, and the dead zones in our oceans – spread the word!

Environmental Benefits:

Water is a precious and finite resource that is dependent on snow pack from the Sierras and the Rockies, in addition to the Colorado to sustain our demand – very little comes from our groundwater, most of it is contaminated

Financial Benefits:

Save on your water bill. Even, if you do not pay for your water, you will decrease the city wide demand for it

3. Use alternative transportation – walking, biking, bus, carpool

Environmental Benefits:

Less traffic, toxins, demand for foreign oil

Financial Benefits:

A lot less expensive than driving

4. Save energy – use power strips, use CFL’s, turn the lights off in unoccupied rooms

Environmental Benefits:

Less demand on the grid (nuclear or coal powered plants are extremely taxing on the environment)

Financial Benefits:

Lower energy bill

5. Avoid disposable items at all cost

Environmental Benefits:

Our landfills are reaching capacity and in 5 years, our garbage will have to be taken out to the desert – every bit counts, eliminate anything that is cheap and meant for a short life. Spending a little more on something that is going to last is well worth it.

Financial Benefits:

The need to constantly buy poorly made products. Buying built to last products assures that they are made for duration, versus so many products that are intended for one life cycle. People need to separate themselves from this disposable society mentality, and take responsibility for what they use and consume.  Think Cradle to Cradle.