Saturday, April 3, 2010

For being so green, Easter isn't all that green

Easter celebrates a rebirth, time for renewal, time for spring. It often occurs around the time we celebrate Earth Day, too. So why is it that it’s one of the most UN-green holidays ever? Plastic, plastic, plastic.

In case you’ve never celebrated an Earth Day, or have never heard about recycling, plastic is a petroleum product. It lives simply forever in the landfill. On a larger scale, it’s the material that wars have been fought over, especially those in my lifetime.

Plastic has taken over the Easter industry. There’s probably more plastic sold, then disposed of at Easter than at Christmastime, although I have no statistics to support that. Although I don’t have kids, I can see what is being sold in the stores: plastic baskets wrapped in cellophane, loaded with plastic eggs and individual chocolate bunnies wrapped in hard plastic, sitting atop plastic grass in various colors.

Am I a cynic? No. I love Easter. It even lands on my birthday on occasion. But parents need to indulge their children in a very different way using only recycled or eco-friendly materials to celebrate this holiday which will also provide a great teaching moment.

Let’s look at some of the worse plastic offenders.

1. Plastic Easter baskets. Alternative: buy natural fiber baskets at the thrift store, or dig out the one you’ve had for years.

2. Cellophane wrapped Easter gift baskets. Consider wrapping your Easter basket using tissue or other eco-friendly materials. Or, leave it unwrapped if it doesn't have to travel far to the recipient.

3. Candy goodies wrapped in plastic to go in the plastic baskets. Alternative: dye real eggs using natural dyes with your kids and hide them in the baskets or outdoors early on Easter morning (see below). Instead of buying the pre-made chocolate bunnies, why not buy a bar or two of your (or your kids) favorite chocolate and cover with various bunny images, stickers, or rubber stamps.

4. Plastic grass. Alternative: Use your paper shredder to make recyclable grass. When Easter is over, put the shredded paper in your compost pile or around the base of your plants. Don't leave it in your basket, because it might attract varmints or critters. If you have plastic grass, be sure to either dispose of it quickly so pets (like curious cats, dogs, or birds) don't get into it and accidentally digest it. Never dispose of it so birds can get it. They will be attracted to it to use in their nests. Or, do as I do, wrap your basket filled with the grass (probably purchased in the 80s) in a large kitchen trash bag that you keep from year to year.

5. Plastic eggs. Alternative:
Back in late October, I tried painting a bunch of plastic eggs with gesso.

The experiment was a disaster, because after I spent all that time painting them, when dry, I was able to flake the gesso off with my fingernail.

I finally recently came up with a better idea. It was about the same time I read Lori's blog post. I'm not going to demo how to make these eggs, because Lori at Ravenpainting did that in this post. Although she used real egg shells, she explained the process perfectly. All I added was the rubber stamp (yep, I stamped!) that I inked up with Staz-on so it would hold up well under the Mod Podge. I was thrilled, because I had used these napkins a lot in previous projects. I got them after our National Night Out party last August, when they blew on the ground and no one would use them. Silly people! You can also tear strips of patterned paper and cover the eggs. I found a ton of these on the internet the past few weeks, several of whose blogs I sometimes visit. They look very detailed and involved. Decorative tissue, dressmaker tissue paper, or napkins seem easier to me, since they mold to the egg better, although the egg color does show through a bit on some of my more "colorful" ones.

Of course, you can always blow real eggs and use the shells. According to Lori, you can save them from year to year.

Or simply color the hard cooked eggs using natural dyes, like Halle from Halle's Hobbies did. Check out her post on how she dyed these lovely eggs using all natural materials. You can peel and use the crushed shells in art, or add them to your compost pile. The above photo was used with Halle's permission.

So think before you use plastic this Easter. Maybe in years to come, you will say that Easter is truly a green time of year.

And finally today, I want to address the questions and comments I got yesterday and add a few of my own. I spent a great deal of time finding the answer about newspaper ink Healing Woman asked. I learned everything from why your get ink on your fingers from newspapers, to how to get ink off your fingers or your fine china that has been stored in newspapers. You would not believe how many web sites simply danced around the question, only hinting at what was used in newspaper ink. I thought I knew the answer, but needed to make sure I was right. I found the information on the Newspaper Association of America's web site. Here is the exact quote:

Newspapers today are closely associated with recycling and composting, because over 73 percent of all old newspapers in the United States are recovered and recycled. That exemplary recycling rate dramatically helps reduce impacts on forests, reduces dependency on imported oil and reduces the need for more landfills.

Historically, composting of old newspapers was avoided because of the presence of certain toxic heavy metals in the ink. That environmental and health concern led to significant changes in both the inks and paper used to print newspapers. Today, stringent standards on the use and presence of toxic heavy metals in inks have been developed, and over 95 percent of daily newspapers now use non-toxic soy ink.

I truly believed most newspaper had changed to soy ink awhile back and this confirmed it. However, to learn if yours is one of the 5 percent of newspapers that still use toxic ink and heavy metals, you should call your local newspaper and ask.

Stephanie pointed me to a site that talked about what to add to your lasagna garden. I often add pine needles, crushed egg shells, and coffee grounds to my compost containers, although I don't add directly to the lasagna layers. The one exception is crushed egg shells, which I will sometimes lay directly on the ground at the base of plants. Seems little critters and snails in particular don't like the feel of crushed shells and will seek refuge elsewhere. Coffee grounds are super wonderful (as are banana peels) for fertilizing roses. Just dump either or both around the base of the rose bush and you will have one happy bush.

If you want to start a compost pile indoors, here is a site that will show you how easy it is. That means you have NO excuse if you live in an apartment. The post points out the compost pile doesn't stink. I will say from experience, NO COMPOST PILE will stink if you do it properly.

And finally, I wanted to add one caveat about sawdust. I would never, ever add sawdust to my compost pile if it came from pressure treated lumber. But, since my house is pretty old, anything that rots and/or falls off (yep, it happens to us who choose to live in 100 + year old houses) is not pressure treated. However, don't ever put any sawdust in your compost pile that you don't know where it came from. Instead, add white glue (Elmer's) to it and stir until you have a mixture that will hold well together without falling apart in your hands. Use it as you would air dry clay, which means don't mix sawdust and glue until you are ready to make something. It can be formed, shaped, sculpted, placed in molds, rolled out like clay, and cut with cookie cutters. Sand after your molded or sculpted masterpiece dries, then paint or stain to seal.

In keeping with recycled art, here is a web site I found that showcases carpet squares in unique and creative ways. It is called Ample Sample, and the samples/projects created and submitted by designers and design students really are amazing. The 2008 winners are only the beginning. Here the 2009 entries are shown, although they haven't been judged, yet. I got a kick out of the car pet chair. Many of these come with complete instructions for making the project. So, get those tools out and check out this site for some really great examples of recycled carpet squares. I can assure you, you won't store these ideas in your kids craft recycled art file.

14 thoughtful remarks:

Healing Woman said...

Thanks for clearing up the point about the newspapers today being printed with non-toxic soy ink. I feel better about my lasagna gardening now. Very informative post. As a matter of fact, I'm coming back to read it again later since I'm in a bit of a hurry now and only skimmed it. You always have so many interesting things to tell about that I wouldn't miss coming to your post for anything!

Debby said...

Happy Easter to you!!!

Diane said...

Love those eggs!! Have a wonderful Easter, Elizabeth!!

Terri Kahrs said...

Awesome post, Elizabeth! I wish that more Easter Bunnies were aware of your "green" tips! Happy, Happy Easter to you and Bluebeard! Hugs, Terri xoxo

La Dolce Vita said...

love the article! I am using blue berries and onion skins and now will add the celantro and thyme! awesome thanks!

Melinda Cornish said...

Happy Easter! I recycle the Easter stuff from year to year for the kids...I also dont use plastic grass....
I just ordered a worm bin for kitchen composting...I am pretty excited about it...I lead a boring life I guess......

Tammy Freiborg said...

Interesting post. I kept red worms for quite awhile. So true about the plastic and commercializtion of holidays.

Lori Saul said...

Hi Elizabeth and thanks so much for the link to my eggs! I agree totally that Easter is way too plastic- I have always tried to keep it natural (even when my son was little) but I have offended as well with the plastic eggs. Your post is like a wonderful green newsletter and I think you have brought a renewed sense of responsibilty and some viable resources to look into. I hope you have a wonderful Easter and can get outdoors and enjoy!

Marilyn Rock said...

The eggs are gorgeous! Have a joyful Easter weekend Elizabeth! xxoo

Lynn said...

Your final eggs are really pretty. Glad you had success. Happy holidays.

Hands to Work, Hearts to God said...

A blessed Easter to you too! Sometimes I and my family participate in the International Coastal Cleanup and it is really dismaying the amount of plastic that ends up in our beaches. I live in the Philippines and there is very little attempt at lessening the amount of plastic bags that are used and disposed of!

Halle said...

You shared a wealth of info here! Awesome. Glad I could help with my eggs too! :)

~*~Patty Szymkowicz said...

great post E!
seems the world Loves plastic
I cannot use Mod Podge here in Virginia, it gets too humid and that stuff seems to never dry .. your eggs look great and I enjoyed the links, thank you!

Dianne said...

greatly informative here, as always! the lasagna gardening sounds interesting...may have to try it. love the eggs!