Artwork that uses recycled material can completely change the way we view the mounds of trash produced every day. Jason Mecier, an artist based out of San Francisco, has transformed recycled material into radiant portraits of celebrities and has gained national recognition for his innovative work. GreenCitizen is thrilled to be showing some of his work at our San Francisco Community Eco-Center from the first week of September through mid-October. Where else can you recycle your own electronic waste and check out awesome art at the same time?
Mecier prominently features discarded items and recycled electronics in many of his pieces. When asked about how acquires the items he uses, Mecier said “Celebrities send me their trash. Most people send me anywhere from a shoebox to a trash bag full of things to incorporate into their portraits.” Some of his pop-art pieces that have gained particular acclaim include Lady Gaga in discarded circuits board and Steve Jobs in discarded Apple electronics and peripherals. Other portraits feature recycled cell phones including Barack Obama in red, white and blue and Nicholas Cage, a piece that also features a recycled pistol. GreenCitizen is showing five of his pieces, so come on by to see which ones!
The partnership between GreenCitizen and Mecier is very synergistic. GreenCitizen strives to become the most responsible company recycling electronics. Our flagship network of Community Eco-Centers provide the most convenient and accountable way for consumers and businesses to recycle e-waste. They also serve to increase environmental awareness in the community. Mecier’s changes our perspective on what we view as “trash” and encourages us to consider how we might reduce our own environmental footprints. So next time you need to get rid of that pile of old computers, cell phones, and appliances, come on down and drop them at our Community Eco-Centers, check out some inspiring art and the best part is it’s all free!
Guest post by GreenCitizen Summer Intern Daryl Zhao
With the rising trend to go green, companies and marketers are scrambling to put eco-friendly buzzwords on their products and services. “BPA free,” “biodegradable,” “natural,” and “non-toxic” are some of the many phrases that you might see on your products. Companies are also adopting “greener” names with earth-friendly colors. The increase in these changes has also led to more instances of false eco-labeling, also known as “greenwashing”. For example, in 2012, Mazda faced criticism for advertising their car as “Certified Truffula Tree Friendly” when they are not tree-friendly.
What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.
Greenwashing is present when more money is spent on marketing and advertising claiming to be “green” than on making business decisions that minimize environmental impact.
A classic example is a hotel chain that claims it is “green” because it allows guests to reuse the same sheets and towels, but does little to save water and energy throughout its facilities and its vehicle fleet.
Here is an fascinating article about common greenwashed products in the United States.
The Problem with Greenwashing
Everything and everyone is going “green” these days. As a response to consumer demand for more environmental and ethical products, car companies, banks, airlines, restaurants, retailers, and more are all adjusting their practices. However, many businesses are trying to find the easiest way to look “green” when there are many impactful changes they can make to help the environment.
Greenwashing takes advantage of hurried consumers, who want to purchase environmentally friendly products, but don’t have the time to investigate each product they buy thoroughly. . Consumers will spend more money to buy products that they believe are eco-friendly but don’t help the environment.
Sometimes greenwashing creates a domino effect. For example, a property manager wants to get a LEED certification (a green building certification dispensed by the U.S. Green Building Council.) for her building so she can attract high paying tenants. She buys AC units that are falsely advertised as environmentally friendly and installs them. At the same time, she managed to get some tenants who want to operate in LEED certified building. Unfortunately, LEED doesn’t approve of those AC units, so she loses out on those tenants and has to replace the light fixtures to qualify for LEED. Bottom line, greenwashing harms the environment because it encourages consumers to purchase products and services that don’t actually help the environment.
How to Spot Greenwashing
Here are a few tips so you and others don’t get greenwashed:
1. When looking at a green ad, see if the company is known for being eco-friendly. Is it easy to find information on the company’s sustainable business practices?
2. Google the company name with the word “environment” and see the search results. If there are any consumer and environmental advocates complaining about the company, watch out!
3. Trust your gut feeling! Does it seem real, or is it fake?
4. Look for certifications and labels! Sometimes greenwashers will make their own fake certifications. If you haven’t heard of it, look it up. Here are examples of real certifications: USDA approved organic, LEED certified green buildings, Green Seal products and services, and EPEAT certified green electronics.
This is not to say that all companies branding themselves as environmentally friendly are making false claims. Here at GreenCitizen, not only do we have an eco-friendly name, we are also a certified B-Corporation and only work with R2 and e-Steward certified recyclers so e-waste is properly processed and not exported out of the country. It’s just a reminder that some companies will mislead you to get your business.
Here are some helpful websites where you can learn more about greenwashing!
GreenCitizen’s efforts in tackling the electronic-waste crisis have been recognized with the Best for the World Award 2013.
The award is presented to the top 10% of all B-Corporations. The B-Corp or “Benefit-Corp” certification is to sustainable businesses what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk. B-Corporations are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. B-Corps can be described as for-profit organizations that benefit the environment and society.
At GreenCitizen, we make sure all the electronics we collect are recycled responsibly and locally. We only work with e-Stewards and R2 certified vendors ensuring nothing gets shipped abroad or dumped in landfills.
But we do much more than that. We put reuse before recycling. A staggering 25% of all the items we collect are put to reuse. We have a whole team of technicians testing and refurbishing computers, laptops, desktops, smartphones, iPads….and the list goes on and on. If there is a company that can find a new home for your old electronics it’s us! The profits we make are reinvested in opening electronics recycling drop off locations, where people from the community can drop off their old electronics for free and we make sure they are recycled responsibly. So far we have five locations in the Bay Area: San Francisco, Burlingame, Mountain View, Berkeley, and we just recently opened our new Eco-Station in San Jose. We can recycle anything that plugs in or runs on batteries. For a small fee we can also take Styrofoam, light bulbs, and tape based media.
Another Christmas has come and gone and now it’s time to clean up. It’s that annual problem come the end of the holiday season: how to safely and responsibly recycle Christmas tree lights. Well luckily for Bay Area residents, GreenCitizen will accept them at any of our drop off sites in Bay Area (for free) and ensure they are recycled locally and in the most environmentally responsible way. We send them to the facility of Sims Metal Management in Redwood city, an e-steward certified electronics recycler. Sims then grinds the strings of lights up, separating the plastic and copper.
Other novel ways of collecting and recycling Christmas tree lights are springing up in other parts of the country. The recycling association of Minnesota is providing jobs to the developmentally disabled through their Christmas tree lights recycling program and in the Chicago area, the program started by the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) expects to see further growth this year.
Inevitably, though a large amount of spent American Christmas tree lights still head to China. As Adam Minter, of Time Magazine, explains, the ability of facilities in China to operate at a lower overhead makes them a cheaper way of recycling these lights. Minter argues that despite lower health and environmental standards, it is still a net positive to the environment if the importation of broken Christmas lights can slow Chinese mining activities by providing another source for raw materials. GreenCitizen’s goal has always been to build local and accountable ecosystems for managing e-waste in the country where electronics are purchased and used. Minter would argue that you can’t fight the forces of globalization. Environmental problems and their solutions are often not clear-cut. What do you think is the best way forward? Leave your comments below.
GreenCitizen has calculated that, since our founding in 2005, our recycling efforts have prevented 12,000 metric tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere. That’s like taking 2,500 cars off the road for a year or planting 300,000 trees! Read on to learn how we made these calculations, and how they fit into the idea of a “carbon footprint.”
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions an organization, business or individual produces in their day to day activities. It includes everything from transportation to electricity usage and measures the direct emissions of gases that contribute to climate change. The most common greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, but gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, which are less common, have a greater impact on global warming. For example, methane’s impact on climate change, pound for pound, is more than 20 times that of CO2.
When a business or individual recycles their electronics with GreenCitizen, they are preventing their e-waste from ending up in a landfill, where it would emit harmful greenhouse gases as it rusts and decays. Recycling e-waste also reuses the precious metals found in electronics and lowers the demand for metal mining and extraction, an environmentally destructive carbon-emitting process.
The EPA has calculated the greenhouse gas emissions prevented when electronics are recycled rather than discarded in a landfill. When a business recycles with GreenCitizen, we use the EPA calculator to convert the total weight of electronics recycled to the metric tons of CO2 a business prevents from entering the atmosphere. Businesses can use our data to calculate how much their carbon footprint has decreased and to quantify the efforts they are taking to mitigate climate change.
If you are interested in calculating your personal carbon footprint, here’s a great resource from the EPA. GreenCitizen’s goal for 2014 is to double the amount of greenhouse gases we’ve prevented from entering the atmosphere. Help us achieve this goal by dropping off your electronics at GreenCitizen! We also do business electronics recycling pick-ups” business electronics recycling pick-ups. Thanks for doing your part!
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