Tag Archives: repurpose

Goat-Christmas tree tech & other upcycling strategies

Tree-eating goats are the newest firefighting tech

goats eat Christmas treesReno’s latest firefighting technology is a bit unusual: Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District feeds old Christmas trees to goats. They’ve partnered with Goat Grazer’s Vince Thomas and his flock of 40, giving them yummy pine trees to eat full of Vitamin C and potassium. The trees would otherwise hang about in illegal dumping areas and become a fire hazard.

Poet journalist praises create repurposing

Adam Cole of NPR penned a poem to praise the different ways people put to use some of the 30 million dead Christmas trees Americans burn through annually once they’re not decorating homes any longer. Bradley Beach, New Jersey made it into his verse:

In the East, Mitchell Mann and Dominic Esposito
Are two Jersey boys who live by one credo:
“To save the environment, pretty much, being green.”
So they drummed up a posse of like-minded teens.
They’ll grab all the trees — every one within reach
And they’ll bring them all down to nearby Bradley Beach.
“Once the trees are on the beach they’re laid down against a fence.”
Where they form the foundation of the town’s defense.
“And as the wind blows the trees capture the sand.”
And soon dunes will form — at least that’s the plan.
And in future years, “When a storm comes through
It protects all the houses,” and habitat too.

Mulch a tree!

Mulch Fest NYCAnother thing you can do with dead trees are mulch them. In NYC if you bring a tree to the city’s MulchFest, you will get back a bag of the mulch created from the noble pine!

Next year, buy a sustainably grown or re-plantable tree

If you plan ahead for next year, you can buy a sustainably grown tree or even a living tree with root ball intact, that gets replanted after Christmas.

Wow Tips for repurposing & recycling

I have two pots I want to get rid of: first, a poor little sauce pot I burned to death. Burnt so bad the welded copper bottom fell right off the stainless steel body. Seems like I should have replaced it sooner because burnt pots can leech nickel and chromium, which are pretty nasty substances. Ah, well.

I didn’t know how to responsibly dispose of the burnt pot but in a couple of minutes, an internet search helped me learn that 1) my pot is considered scrap metal and 2) my town’s recycling center takes in scrap metal. In a quick call I learned that the DPW offers curbside pickup of even just one pot, or residents can drop off at the recycling yard. I’m going to drop off.

The other pot’s body is in perfect shape, except that its welded handle fell off. But because of the potential leeching issue when the pot’s stainless steel surface degrades, I’m going to scrap it rather than try to put it to a creative use.

While I was googling for a repurposing solution before I made that decision, I found these 41 fabulous tips for reusing and repurposing with some great ideas, and thought I’d share. This broken globe light is just one of them.
half globe lights

Responsible computer and e-waste disposal

e-waste-recycle binI was just about to give some old computers to someone who contacted me through Freecycle, claiming to be a recycler, when I learned at a seminar that a lot of electronic waste (e-waste) like computers and electronic gizmos contain highly toxic substances,

such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, beryllium and brominated flame retardants. When the latter are burned at low temperatures they create additional toxins, such as halogenated dioxins and furans – some of the most toxic substances known to humankind.

And, e-waste often ends up being shipped from the US to very poor countries where unskilled laborers – like pregnant women and little children – disassemble them and extract a few materials that are worth money to their employers, exposing themselves in the process to hazardous chemicals and the probability of shortened life expectancies. They are given neither danger warnings or protective gear.

70-80% of the e-waste that’s given to recyclers is exported to less developed countries. Once there, primitive technologies such as open air burning and riverside acid baths are used to extract a few materials. The rest of the toxic materials are usually dumped. Unlike other countries in the world, the U.S. sends a significant portion of its hazardous e-waste to U.S. prisons to process in less-regulated environments without the worker protections and rights afforded in the private sector. Moreover, such operations amount to government subsidies, undermining the development of responsible private-sector recycling infra-structure and distorting the economics of recycling.


The speaker at that seminar responsibly recycles e-waste, but only for big corporations. They’re not going to take just a few old, broken down laptops off my hands, so what should I do with them? Knowing the correct terminology is useful when searching: I googled “computer responsible recycling” and a few clicks later, learned that there is an e-waste steward right in my town. I’ve emailed that company and hope they’ll soon take those relics off my hands and dispose of them without destroying anyone or my family’s air and water supplies.

Responsible disposal resources

The moral of this story is: only give your old electronics to organizations or companies when you’re sure they will handle them responsibly, either by reconditioning them or breaking them down without poisoning anyone in the process. Use these resources to find a responsible disposal recipient:

You can give your computer away to be refurbished and shipped overseas if it’s reasonably new and works, or look over this guide to learn how to recycle your electronic item responsibly.

Green homes built with non-traditional materials

You can visit New Mexico and stay at a luxuriously furnished home built out of recycled and repurposed materials: the cost of a renting the home for a night is what you expect to pay for a room at a city hotel. You can also have one of these things built for you by their creator’s team.

Ever seen a movie where soldiers pile up bags of dirt as a barrier to enemy fire? Well, it turns out that if you pile up enough similar bags, also filled with dirt, in the right configuration you can end up with an Earthbag house, complete with windows and a door.