Sandy and Sustainability: Defining Resilience

Summertime at the boardwalk: melting Popsicles, sea salt in the air, freckled shoulders, and long, sun-drenched days stretching into nights illuminated by arcade lights and the crack of a firework across the sky.

There a few scenes as quintessentially American, as East Coast, as New York.

The shore is a beloved piece of our identity and one of the reasons that the devastation caused by super storm Sandy was so painful.  The now iconic image of the Seaside Heights’ Star Jet roller coaster in washed out into the grey waters of the Atlantic perhaps best encapsulates the loss of joy and innocence Sandy inflicted: that which was sacred, larger-than-life, reduced to driftwood and debris.

The recovery process has been an arduous one for private citizens and communities alike.  For those on the shore the summer’s opening weekend, Memorial Day, was the goal everyone was striving towards, the light on the horizon. With summer now upon us, all their herculean rebuilding efforts finally on display! 

One of these most interesting acts of resilience has been the redesign of the system of lifeguard stands that dotted the New York coastline and were nearly all destroyed. City architects took this challenge as an opportunity to reimaging the stands and go above and beyond when it comes to sustainability as well as functionality.

A regular overhaul of this scope would take up to two years but this was an eight -month challenge from design to unveiling. The units were built in modules and each includes an office, public washroom and ample office space. Sustainability and flood resistance were at the center of the design. Therefore, the structures rely on solar heat, photovoltaics, and skylight ventilators, boast a net zero energy system and are elevated above FEMA’s most recent storm surge number. Nineteen new stations are now up and running.

Perhaps the most moving detail is the city architects’ use of boardwalk planks that were salvaged from Sandy’s destruction. In a seamless integration of reuse and remembrance, the summers on the shore will always carry with them a piece of their essence and a token resilience.

Sustainable Living: British Counter Culture and Reinventing The Café

Victorian hygiene is more likely to turn your stomach than stir your appetite, but just leave it to the wonderful minds in reuse to turn convention on its head.  Newly opened café, the Attendant, sits just under a bustling central-London street on the site of a Victorian-era public toilet.  The system of municipal WC’s was originally built in 1890s but has long lain dormant just below the city’s sidewalks.  For over fifty years the only reminders of the network were the decorative iron gates which flanked the toilets’ entrances above ground.

Sustainable living: The attendant

The reinvention of this unused space was two years in the making and special detail was paid to incorporating old fixtures in practical ways – the original Doulton porcelain urinals for instance, have become seating to match the original floor tiles.

sustainable living: Inside the attendant

The now bustling brunch and cake shop takes its name from the fact that it was, once upon a time, the post of the local restroom attendant who had an adjoining office.  His office has remained a workspace but of a reinvented variety; it is now home to the small cafe kitchen which, remarkably, keeps up with the breakfast time rush and demand for Gloucester Old Spot bacon sarnies.

Coffee in The Attendant

But 27 Foley Street isn’t the only address where reuse lives in London’s cafe-culture. In fact, all around London people are rethinking, reusing and reinventing the capabilities of the conventional coffee shop. Just look at Repair Cafés for example. These are free, popular meet-ups centered around neighbors sharing knowledge so they can repair and reuse almost anything: clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, appliances and toys.

Sustainable living: repair cafe

The central aims of the events are twofold: to educate about Co2 reduction-potential in fixing rather than purchasing new items, and to bring together communities to support each other in a sustainable way.

At ExchangeMyPhone we love nothing more than great stories of people coming together over reuse.  Be it over a cup of coffee or a a broken blender, the experience is always better when it is a shared one and we are so lucky to get to be part of that experience with our users!

Do you have a creative way of brilliant way of bringing people together to spread the green? We’d love to hear about it!

Sustainable Living: The Dirt on Footwear

sustainable living - OAT

When we talk about our carbon footprint maybe its time to get a little more literal, or, as OAT Shoes would argue, a lot more literal.  OAT Shoes is the force that is taking earth-friendly footwear to a whole new level: the soil.  Their shoes are made from 100% biodegradable materials which means that when you are done with your pair you compost them or even bury them in your garden!  But they don’t just hit the mark when it comes to sustainable living and materials, these shoes are hot.

OAT shoes

sustainable living

The simple, elegant and yet playful design is a departure from many style-sacrificing eco brands. Not here. Their fashion shows have even featured scantily clad models maneuvering wheelbarrows down the catwalk.  The centerpiece? A plant sprouting out of blooming shoe, pretty impressive. OAT is so fashionable in fact that the company walked away with the second prize at the Green Fashion Awards at Amsterdam International Fashion Week and have now branched out into bags and totes.

Blooming shoe - sustainable living

If, like most of us, you are just discovering the world of biodegradable shoes chances are you might have some footwear kicking around that just simply isn’t plantable but that doesn’t mean that you can’t recycle it.  For your fancy lady shoes you might consider transforming the prom experience of a girl in need by donating a pair to the Cinderella Project.  This non-profit aims to let girls in undeserved communities know “that they are not bound by personal or financial circumstances, and that the possibilities are endless for them.”

Cinderella project - sustainable living

For more practical, everyday shoes you might consider Soles 4 Souls.  The Nashville-based charity that has delivered over 19 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes to people in over 125 countries including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal and the United States. The non-profit also has a very strong disaster-relief force and coordinated efforts for the Asian Tsunami and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

At ExchangeMyPhone we love the idea of eco-equality for all which is why we admire organizations like the Cinderella Project and Soles 4 Souls and also why we make it our personal mission to provide free cell phone recycling for everyone!  At ExchangeMyPhone recycling is a right, plain and simple, and we are always humbled to find ourselves in such great company in the world of reuse.

Sustainable Living: Reuse Finds A Home In Furniture Design

With the concept of up-cycling having taken the world of interiors by storm, an interesting trend is emerging. Increasingly, sustainable living is a byproduct of a larger design intention: storytelling.  Furniture that is merely environmentally sound is taking a backseat to pieces which, endowed by their history-rich materials, provoke questions and challenge our beliefs about design.  Today ExchangeMyPhone features those leading the way in the burgeoning field.

The Historian
Los Angeles based furniture designer Stephen Kenn drew his inspiration for The Inheritance Collection from his grandfather, and the sense of duty and sacrifice of The Golden Generation.  His sofas, stools and loveseats made from one hundred percent reclaimed lumber, are suspended using recreated WW2 army belts and upholstered in fabric sourced from old US military uniforms.  The rusted buttons, embroidered names and the wear of the fabric create a tactical homage to those who have served in the armed forces.

The Inheritance Collection

Beside paying this respect Kenn’s second aim in creating the line is to build a truly local product.  He says that the relationships with the venders, carpenters, welders and seamstresses has evoked in him an even deeper connection to his community – a value literally sewn into his products. If you are interested in learning more about his process you can get a true insiders look here.

Stephen Kenn

The Agitators
Much like Kenn, Canadian lighting designers and founders of Castor Kei Ng and Brian Richer are not simply on a quest for sustainable living. Perhaps most central to their vision is creating household objects with a “sense of irreverence” (if you couldn’t tell from their head shots).  Their fire-extinguisher hanging laps, a staple of their line, are quintessential Castor: the duo are fascinated by the idea of turning the familiar and the mundane into a visual centerpiece.

Kei Ng and Brian Richer

Castor lighting

They accomplish this without changing the fundamental esthetic of the object but by simply re-framing it; “Keeping things simple and elegant is actually quite hard to do,” Richer admits.  Their burnt-out, industrial florescent fixture shades are a thought-provoking twist on original purpose of the object and ask the sort of philosophical questions Castor is known for provoking in their work. The invisible chandler, one of their best-selling items, is a further iteration of the same theme.

Castor

Castor hanging lights

The Diva of Demolition
In getting to know the stories behind up-cycled interiors it become clear that for most designers, art and their furniture are one in the same – making the leap from studio art to furniture production is a linear journey.  This is certainly true for Brooklyn sculptor-turned-craftsman Ariele Alasko who turns salvaged wood into geometric art.  Her most popular pieces include original headboards, coffee tables, and wall panels.  For Alasko, re-purposing her materials isn’t an eco-imperative, it is simply what makes sense for the warm, true-to-Brooklyn ascetic that defines her work. To see more check out her site!

Ariele Alasko

“I’m a builder, a fixer, and a do-it-myselfer. My favorite things in life are big tools, old wood, good pasta, and finding great materials in a dumpster. I grew up in California, and blindly moved to New York seven years ago when I was accepted into art school for sculpture. I instantly fell in love with the grungy part of Brooklyn, and within a month, we had moved into Bed-Stuy. I have lived in the same apartment for five years now, which has given me plenty of time to slowly “fix” a few things around the house: de-carpet stairways, tile in kitchen… you name it!”

salvaged wood into geometric art

 

From Mainstream to Macabre: 5 things you never knew you could recycle

1. Crayons
Though it might have been a while since the Crayon was your preferred writing instrument it is still big business in the United States.  In fact, 60 tons of petrol-based wax is generated daily in crayon construction! CRAZY CRAYONS was founded by LuAnne Foty and started as a deposit box in the entryway of a supermarket nearly two decades ago.  It is now a nationwide service that has collected over 88,000 pounds of unwanted crayons.  These crayons are melted down, sterilized and hand poured into non-toxic CRAZY CRAYONS.

unwanted crayons

Crazy crayons

If you’d like to recycle unloved or broken crayons and send them here.  If you’d like to order some 100% recycled, non-toxic you can do that here. The clam shell box they are packaged in are a super green bonus, made using 100% renewable agricultural resources.  They also have a signature swirl crayon guaranteed inspire the little artists in your life.

2. Credit Cards
Finally, that gift card with a balance of $3.50 you got from aunt Janice has a place to live other than your wallet.  Much like prescription drugs, even when credit cards or gift cards are expired we hesitate to dispose of them perhaps because we don’t know exactly how to go about it.  The good news is that plastic cards are recyclable and can be sent to processing services like EarthWorks! Earthworks has developed a system in which scrap polymeric plastics are recovered, reground and recycled into plastic sheet material which is used for manufacturing new plastic cards.

EarthWorks! credit card recycling

If you are feeling crafty, there are also several DIY projects in which you can put old cards to new use.  We love the idea of rocking out with reused guitar picks!

3. Coffin Couch
A little more esoteric than the previous items, coffins are nonetheless posing a waste problem.  This is because (and caution this is not for the faint of heart), funeral parlors must, from time to time, move bodies from one coffin to another.  The original coffin then becomes a bio hazard, both unusable and unsellable, and finds a final resting place in a landfill.  That is, unless, the funeral directors donate the coffin to California’s own Coffin Couches. They take the caskets, clean, remove and replace the interior and then add legs. A macabre man’s perfect sofa.

Recycled coffin couch

4. Trophies
Everyone knows that it isn’t wise to rest on one’s laurels and what better way to do this than clearing out some of our childhood trophies.  After all, parting with your MVP second grade tether ball medal won’t make you any less of a champion.  The Maryland-based LAMB Awards and Engraving company has recently spearheaded a trophy recycling program and are now accepting old and dusty metallic accolades.  They pair any matching trophies that are donated to charities and those remaining are broken down and their parts are reused. What a great way to keep on winning!

trophy recycling program

5. Dentures
There’s those dumpster diving to uncover treasure in the trash and then there’s the Tokyo trailblazers who go denture diving, finding wealth where others only can’t imagine.  The Japan Denture Recycle Association was founded in 2006 and has recycled 30,000 dentures.  Half the profits go to UNICEF and the organization has already benefited hugely thanks to denture recycling, to the tune of $176,500!

We have a feeling the Tooth Fairy might be the angel investor behind this project!

Japan Denture Recycle Association

Sustainable Living: When going green means going rogue

So often travel leaves U.S. Americans feeling a bit behind in the “green living” department. I know I’ve felt this way visiting friends in Montreal and lusting over their state-issued compost box. Or, biking around Copenhagen amongst swarms of commuters whose collective carbon footprint might be lighter than one family’s back home. So you can imagine my shock when, on my most recent travels, the tables were entirely turned.

South America map

As a Fulbrighter headed to San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina’s smallest province located in the Northeast of the country, program ambassadors warned me of a myriad of possible culture shocks. But the most challenging aspect was not on their list. I quickly realized that what I had taken for granted in New York, environmental and waste-management infrastructure, was simply absent in my new home. And this absence translated to an entirely different culture of waste. Littering, for instance, socially stigmatized in New York, is the norm in Northern Argentina. Sorting your trash is strange. And compost? Forget about it.

Thus, I began my efforts to go “independently green”. And, as a result, I met loads of motivated community members creating their own sustainable communities, infrastructure or no infrastructure! Here’s what I learned about how to take green into your own hands:

Buy Local – This was actually the easiest part. Tucumán is known as The Garden of The Republic and farmers bring their fresh produce into the city daily to sell to fruit stands and vegetable venders or simply on street corners. You can tell the season simply by walking through Plaza Independencia: orange season, then strawberry season, followed by peaches and watermelon. Some, like asparagus season, last only a short two weeks; but buying local not only means supporting local farmers, it re-calibrates your diet to be more in tune with nature’s harvests. Pickling is also a common technique and a great way to satisfy your out-of-season cravings (most pickled products are sold in reused Gatorade bottles which is an added bonus!).

farmer's market

Dress Down – Secondhand shopping in Argentina has none of the pretense of Williamsburg thrifting; it really comes down to a matter of price, as clothing is simply more expensive. Luckily there’s no shortage of choice. On weekends sprawling flea markets, known as Ferias Americanas, spring up entirely dedicated to clothing. This shopping is not for the faint of heart, but treasures abound for those who navigate the mountainous mazes of fabric.

thrifting for clothes
Take a Stand – If there aren’t public infrastructures that you’d like to see, take action! I got involved with a wonderful group of neighbors united in the common goal of bike lane implementation. Tucumán is a flat, small city and ideal to navigate by bike. Unfortunately, cars and careening motos are kings of the road so bikers often feel intimidated, opting instead to take a bus or walk. The group leading this fight, AABC has already changed local legislation to mandate the construction of “ciclovías.” But the bicycle activists won’t rest until the job is done, and they’re holding bicycle rallies to ensure that the promised measure is put into effect. This was not only a great cause but a wonderful way to meet like-minded people of all walks of life.

 bicycle activists

Redefine Necessity – I was fortunate enough to live in a beautiful old home designed for Tucuman’s blistering summers with an outdoor/indoor patio and natural ventilation. There was no heating, which was challenging during the cold winter but another reminder that we don’t always need the amenities we think we do back home. Sometimes you just need an extra sweater. Plus it didn’t just save on energy, it also saved on pesos. As is so often the case with the greener option, it is far cheaper to live in a house with a zero output heating and cooling system.

Lend a Hand – As an outsider with unique perspective on green issues, another valuable course of action was bolstering existing efforts in Argentina. My friend, and fellow Fulbrighter, Emily Grady, got to do this first-hand in Salta (further North still) where she got involved with Patagonia Cobex, a local company that designs and develops biological waste water treatment systems for municipalities and the food processing industry (breweries, bodegas, dairy factories and slaughterhouses). The system relies on the natural activity of California earthworms and microorganisms to breakdown contaminants in the water, resulting in fast and effective remediation. Unlike other bio filters, this system doesn’t generate sludge. The only outputs are clean water and humus (an excellent fertilizer!).

Emily says her work at Cobex is a great opportunity to explore “the ways in which the private sector can advance pro-environmental solutions.” She sees the company’s work as “as an example of bio mimicry: it’s an efficient and effective natural process that was harnessed in a creative way so as to solve fundamental human-environment challenge, waste water treatment, without harming the environment.”

The company was founded in 2005, and is now beginning to expand the products and services that it offers. It completes environmental impact assessments, solid waste reduction projects, and will soon be bringing Danish clean-tech water and air purification equipment to the market in Argentina. The bio filter is receiving international attention, and the company has received requests from companies in Europe and Asia to bring the technology overseas.

Patagonia Cobex

Sustainable Living: Top 10 Green University Campuses

Though your college memories might revolve more around microwaved Mac’n'Cheese than the ethics of organic gardening, times they are a’ changing. With increased public focus on sustainable living, green initiatives are no longer just icing on the cake of a school’s PR image, they are now taking a real root in the culture of America’s higher education.  In fact, many students this fall are heading off to institutions they selected based on (among others) factors like energy efficiency, campus recycling and global food-system courses.

So who’s got the highest beanstalks? The Sierra Club recently released their sixth annual “Coolest Schools” survey of the nation’s greenest campuses and here’s what they found:

1. University of California, Davis. We are thrilled to see a public institution claim the title of the country’s greenest university, proving that funding alone is not the key to sustainable success. Though we won’t pretend that it doesn’t take a lot of green to make UCD the best: the school purchases power for good, diverts two thirds of its trash from landfills and has a carbon-butt-kicking bike program, on any given weekday around 20,000 bikes make their way around campus. The school’s newest addition is the UC Davis West Village which, as of last October, is America’s biggest residential community with zero-net-energy.

University of California, Davis

 

2. Georgia Institute of Technology. The Sierra Club’s analysis is not just based on facilities however, its also values how well an institution prepares students intellectually and professionally for a lifetime of green innovation. GIT does just that, offering more than 260 courses geared towards sustainability across many disciplines. But they don’t just talk the talk, the school’s board also ensures that its endowment is invested in responsible markets.

Georgia Institute of Technology

3. Stanford University. Making California State proud, by claiming two of the top three spots, Stanford University’s Palo Alto farmland is its banner program when it comes to sustainability. Not only is Stanford educating future food leaders through more than 20 classes covering the domestic and global food systems, the school also integrates this theoretical knowledge into campus life and yes, this means digging around in the dirt. Many of the foods used by their multiple dining-halls are sourced from the student-run gardens. And, of course, it wouldn’t be the “real college experience” if they weren’t growing barley for beer!

Stanford University

4. University of Washington, Seattle. Another school jumping on the sustainable food bandwagon (or should we say wheelbarrow) is UW, but they are definitely doing it with their own flare, focusing on the local sourcing of food products. A staggering fifty plus percent of the campus’s edibles are grown within 250 miles of the campus grounds. They also have bike-repair stations which help to relieve the headache bike problems can cause and give students no excuse not to peddle to class.

University of Washington, Seattle

5. University of Connecticut. Unlike Washington and California, the state of Connecticut evokes visions of gas-guzzling commuters before organic gardeners, but Uconn is tossing out that stereotype, or perhaps better put, recycling it. They are obsessed with all things compost and the university’s new composting facility produces up to 15 truckloads a week! The student body is also passionate about peer-educating when it comes to hard-to-recycle items like sneakers (which they collect and donate to Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe Program, converting warn footwear into running tracks) and cellphones; music to our ears at ExchangeMyPhone!

University of Connecticut

Honorable mention goes to: 6. University of New Hampshire, Durham 7. Duke University 8. Yale University 9. University of California, Irvine 10. Appalachian State University

So, how would your alma mater measure up?

Trading up to the next iPhone? Get a jump on all the other upgraders

Are you thinking about selling your old phone and putting the money towards buying Apple’s new iPhone when it comes out in September? If you are, then you may want to act fast.

iPhone trade in

From now until Apple announces the new iPhone (expected to be on September 12th), is the best time to get the highest price for your old phone online. Everyone will try to unload their older iPhones in droves after the new phone comes out. This means that the used value of older iPhones will drop as the new iPhone launch day approaches – so now is the best time to lock in pre-release pricing.

Obviously one rather large downside to selling your phone right now is that you will be phone-less in the interim while you wait for your new iPhone5. We have the solution! To make it as easy as possible for you, we give you 30 days to send in your gadgets after locking in your trade-in price. Basically, you can sell your old smartphone today and ship it to us 30 days later, once you have the new iPhone5 in your hands. Plus, there’s no obligation for you to go through with the trade-in so the whole thing is gamble free.

ExchangeMyPhone iPhone4S 3GS

As of today, we are paying $272 for an AT&T iPhone4S (32GB) in good used condition. That is more than enough to cover a subsidized upgrade from your carrier! If you’re feeling really generous you can even donate the payout to any cause that you care about (we have 765,000 non-profits for you to choose from to at checkout). Either way, you are bound to make someone very happy!

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Sustainable Living: ExchangeMyPhone does potty talk

Reuse, recycling, up-cycling, composting: we know that that a green lifestyle begins with proper waste disposal so today we are tackling “the original waste,” because believe it or not, that can be greened too! Rubber gloves securely on, disinfectant nearby, ExchangeMyPhone has waded through the information out there to bring you the cheapest, most foolproof ways to make the toilet the greenest seat in your house.

Who Gives a Crap!?
Judging from the over $66,000 that this toilet paper start-up has raised to kickstart their business, a lot of people give a crap. While the product is certainly cheeky (yes, pun intended) the problem they are taking on is no laughing matter. Who Gives a Crap‘s business model is socially driven, and the company will donate 50% of their profits to building toilets and improving sanitation in the developing world by collaboration with WaterAid to significantly reduce preventable, hygiene-related illnesses and subsequent deaths. Such water-born diseases kill 4,000 children under the age of five everyday.

What was this team’s secret for reaching their fund-raising goal? They “sat down for what they believe in,” on the toilet that is. Co-founder Simon Griffiths sat on the can for 48 hours in front of a live-stream until they crossed the $50,000 mark. Who Gives a Crap has been called the TOMS of the toilet, and they are running with the title. These guys are so likeable because of their awesome sense of humor; we highly recommend watching their pitch video – truly, potty humor at its best (just a few days ago they wrapped up their fundraiser with a phase they called “The Final Push” so, you get the idea). If you would like to pre-order the toilet paper that leaves your behind and your soul feeling good, click here.

Who Gives A Crap sustainable living

The Composting Commode
For the more ambitious among you there is always toilet remodeling. The unequivocal authority when it comes to composting toilets is SunMar because they have been in the business the longest, ever since 1977 when such products were definitely not trendy. Since 1977 they have released four generations of their toilet: the latest version is the Cadillac of compost, the Three Chamber Composting Toilet. Granted going “off the pipe” may not be the best option of the more squeamish among us but after checking out SunMar’s latest creations its clear the composting commode couldn’t be further from the outhouse.

SunMar Composting Toilet

The Low Flow Throne
Terry Love is the plumber you should know, he dedicates his professional life to performing “in home” toilet testing and rating and reporting his findings to educate the public about “toilets that work in today’s world.” In Terry’s expert opinion, the best bet on a low-flow toilet is with the Toto Soiree, if it sounds glamorous that’s because it is. And like the hybrid car before it, this eco-product is apparently suspiciously quiet, one customer review divulged, “the first time I used one I was not sure that it had worked because it didn’t make much noise and it didn’t sound like much water had been used. A peek beneath the seat revealed all had disappeared.” Toto products everywhere are dispelling the fear that “low flow” just can’t get the job done, while saving a ton of water, after all isn’t 1.6 gallons per flush more than enough? The extra $100+ bucks a year doesn’t hurt either.

Toilet Reads
In case you’ll be spending some time in there we wouldn’t want you to be stranded without a good read, so how about leafing through The Shape of Green by writer, architect and CEO of GreenBlue Lance Hosey? The book, which just hit shelves, is making waves in the green design debate and poses some pretty heavy questions like, does going green change the face of design or only its content? Hosey deconstructs why, specifically aesthetic value is inherent to sustainability and how, beauty can, in fact, save the planet.

sustainable living reading

If you are feeling more visual, then we suggest Danny Seo‘s forthcoming up-cycling design book. Seo’s work always features fun, easy reuse ideas and dazzling, colorful photos. The new book Upcycling Celebrations will be out in September, which is definitely cause to celebrate!

The Anderson Soap Co.
Once you’ve got your pot, paper and prose sorted its time for the clean-up, so why not treat yourself to some luxurious eco-soap? And there’s no better choice than the vegan-approved Anderson Soap Co. Plus – they also have a great story. The entire business was bootstrapped by a down-and-out Dennis Anderson who, while living out of his car, started the entire company off a $20 investment. With a lot of hard work, and a little Etsy magic, The Anderson Soap Co. founder went from a homeless entrepreneur to the CEO of a home-based business. Among their most popular hand-made soaps is The Guinness Soap that he began manufacturing at the personal request of a customer… Now that’s customer service. The ExchangeMyPhone personal pick is “The Wandering Gnome”, because who doesn’t want to scrub up with a funny little bearded man? All the soaps are home-made with love in Portland, OR.

The Anderson Soap Co

Natural Linens
Drying off with a Natural Linens organic towel will leave your hands and heart feeling content. Founder Carmen is from Scottsdale Arizona and like Dennis, an Etsy star. She is the head seamstress of an entrepreneurial family and settles for nothing less than 100% natural fabrics when it comes to their products. Son Zachery moonlights at tech guy and web developer and sister Leah works in the shipping department and as editor and writer for their blog. Now those are threads that bind!

So whats our ExcahngeMyPhone personal pick? Well it wasn’t easy to choose just one but we are definitely coveting the Ruffled Red Ticking Hand Towels (though we could also use some of those chic lavender sachets sure to leave your bathroom smelling better than chemical air-fresheners.)

Natural Linens sustainable living

Sustainable Living: How to get a green star this back-to-school season

The days are shortening, the summer heat is breaking and back-to-school anticipation is mounting. With the summer holiday almost over, here are ExchangeMyPhone’s top tips for getting a green star this back-to-school season:

back to school sustainable living

Curb your sales excitement

With the end of summer comes the myriad of back-to-school sales, touting everything from new outfits to the latest fashion in ring binders and backpacks. It is all to tempting to be lured into the sales, but take a minute to see what you have at home or what you can swap with friends. Chances are, your child may not have used the hundreds of sheets of paper that you bought last year and last summer’s package of markers is still sitting unopened in a drawer somewhere. If you take the extra time to make an inventory of all that you have, and all that you need, you’ll be astounded at the amount of stuff you don’t have to purchase.

Buy recycled

As much as you may be fantastic at reusing last year’s supplies, you will need to buy some new things for the upcoming school year. The best way to maintain your green credentials is to buy upcycled products. For example, rather than purchasing a regular backpack you can check out Terracycle’s backpack made from upcycled drink pouches (saved from ending up in dumpsters and landfills across America) or TreeSmart’s recycled newspaper pencils. To start the new year off with some new threads, shop for hip and gently used clothes at fashion forward thrift stores like Buffalo Exchange.

TreeSmart’s recycled newspaper pencils

Green travel

When it comes to going green while getting back and forth from school, human power is best. If your kids can walk or ride their bikes, you will be doing both their bodies and the earth a favor. Riding the bus is the next best green alternative and carpooling is a close third. Plan out a safe bike route, investigate if you live anywhere near the school bus route or organize a walk-pool with families in the area.

Eco-friendly lunches

Packing a homemade, brown-bag lunch is the best way to help your kids stay nourished, full and focused throughout the day, but it can mean a lot of waste. You can trade out the brown bag for retro lunch box, ditch the plastic wrap in favour of washable and PVC-free sandwich wraps and swap the juice cartoons for kid-sized reuseable water bottles.

wrap n mat sustainable living

Encourage your school to do more

Schools collect tons of waste and both students and parents can make a huge impact by talking to school officials about the benefits of reuse and recycling. If you have a great green idea, speak up! If many of the kids at your school are coveting the latest iPhone and Android smartphone, you can set up a phone drive to put their old phones to great use. This can be a great way of teaching kids about the hazards of e-waste, fundraising for your school and responsibly reusing or recycling old cell phones.

If you have any other fantastic green back to school tips, please include them in the comments section below.

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