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E-waste: Where do all the gadgets go?

by The Green A-Team

The International Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up in Las Vegas but what happens to these soon-to-be-obsolete electronic devices once their lifetime has expired?

Electronic waste, made up of discarded TV’s, computers, and cell phones, known as E-waste has swiftly risen to become the fastest growing component of our country’s waste stream.  In reality, the physical stuff of these magic machines consists mainly of lead, mercury, and cancer-causing dioxins that poison the people and habitats around them.

One such habitat can be found in the Guiyu region of China.  Here, nearly 80% of the world’s e-waste is shipped to be sorted, dismantled, and melted down to its valuable elements, including gold.  The result is the highest concentration of cancer and child lead poisoning in the world.

Ensure your e-waste isn’t contributing to this toxic scourge by checking out recycling brokers and accredited e-stewards the next time you’re ready to toss a used gadget.

For more on what to do with e-waste, check out some of these resources:

Electronic Waste - Guiyu, China

Regional Computer Recycling and Recovery (

E-Waste: Dark side of digital age (Wired)

Following the trail of toxic e-waste (60-Minutes)

Photo and slideshow by alistair.ruff.

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My dirty little Valentine

by The Green A-Team

When choosing gold jewelry for your Valentine this year, consider the dirty secrets of this so-called precious metal.

The world’s gold is in short supply and the amount collected in the last 500 yearsd could fill two Olympic sized swimming pools.  Within the last 50 years, the old wild west methods of panning and prospecting have been replaced by mountain leveling, open-pit mining that creates man made earth gashes that can be seen from space.

Having the least vital relevance to human existence, gold generates more waste per ounce than any other metal.  One ounce, the amount found in a typical wedding ring, requires the removal of more than 250 tons of rock and ore.  Cyanide is used to leach gold from the ore and the lead and mercury heavy waste slurry is commonly dumped into local water resources decimating fish, wildlife, and poisoning the food chain for generations.

If you really want to dazzle your Valentine this year, try buy from retailers like Tiffany & Co that are pushing mining standards higher.

For more facts and alternatives to dirty gold, check out some of these powerful images and links:

Women Gold Miners (Chocó, Colombia)

Chocó is a no man’s land. The large inaccessible rainforest jungle area in the western lowlands of Colombia is mainly inhabited by Afro Colombian population, descendents of African slaves. High presence of malaria, guerilla drug traffic routes, tropical deseases and only an irregular river transport makes this region virtually lost. Gold that is found in the jungle rivers of Chocó is the only hope for many although they never find what they dream about. Women goldminers work in a hot tropical humid climate, miring in the goldbearing mud, searching for the gold and platine dust. They will never give up their effort simply because there is no other way to live off. ©

Alternatives to Dirty Gold (

Jewelery retailers target ‘dirty gold’ (Marketplace)

Cleaning up dirty gold (Washington Post)

Photo by danielle_blue.

Slideshow by Jan Sochor.

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Greenhouse open for eco-conscious clubgoers

by Rich Awn

Full Gothamist article here.

This post was originally scheduled for News but I thought, “how is this news?”  I mean, it’s significant but it’s not the kind of thing that’ll  determine the pace of the world’s environmental progress/decline.

But I digress.  My feelings about LEED nightclubs and decor that screams GREEN the minute you walk in is something that puts me in a quandary and schedules this post under the Category, “EEEEEK-oh!” - a category loosely defined as “the sound my brain makes when reacting to something that reeks of greenwashing.”  Posts filed under EEEEK-oh! may be a cautionary tale with an undercurrent of truth that connotes a good deed despite it’s flashy exterior.

I digress again.  Does anyone remember the “Pink Room” at the 90’s NYC club, The Tunnel?  The Pink Room looked like the walls had been stuffed with that Pink Panther-endorsed insulation and everything was plushy and furry with globular mirrors all over the place.  Seems like not much has changed since those ecstasy-heavy days but instead of fiberglass insulation as decor, now it’s some other fake fur crap.

Decor aside, has anyone figured out how to do the kinetic energy dance floor thing yet???  That’s seemingly the most intuitive innovation to making a club green but then again, you need people to fill the floor to make the lights come on.  Is clubland still packing the house like it did in the 70s, 80s, and 90s?

Photo by Katie Sokoler.

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How to build a ZERO impact rocket (for Halloween)

by Rich Awn

Woah!  Been a minute since I’ve posted in here… what HAVEN’T I been doing!!!???


Here’s how you deal with Halloween and stay green and save money -  FIND EVERYTHING!  Step by step on how to retrofit a sustainable rocket (as your costume).

1.)  Get lucky.

Riding by at break neck speeds on my Cannondale about two weeks ago, I noticed this fully formed cardboard structure on the side of the road.  Without stopping, having only seen it for 2 seconds, and about a half a mile down the road, using my powers of Halloween intuition, I thought it might’ve made the best rocket costume ever.

Sure enough, it turned out to be the coolest rocket I’ve ever seen made of cardboard, definitely some kind of Scandanavian kids toy judging by how well it’s crafted.  Kicking myself for not having come for it the night before, I found it the following day (luckily) to have been kicked in, stomped on, and pissed on.  The smell of stale urine actually tuned me away at first and I finally stiffened up and vowed to restore it to is original splendor in the name of all things hallowed.

2.) Cut out the urine-soaked base.

Working on the refurbishing and retro-fitting for the zero rocket, the foul odor emanating from it’s interior was stifling.  With a few quick slashes of a box cutter, the problem was solved and peace was restored to the restoration.  Be sure to cut out just enough for the structure to fit firmly on the hips without compromising the structures overall integrity.

3.) Add a harness.

Using the camel back attachment for my girlfriend’s hiking bag, I laced a piece of nylon rope though holes I made 1″ apart along the back, poking them through with a fillips head screwdriver.  Just like lacing a sneaker, I cris-crossed the rope over the back of the camel back and under the shoulder straps at the height necessary for the rocket to sit comfortably just below my waist and high enough for me to see out every port hole.

4.) Add an interior light.

Using rechargeable batteries and this cool old fluorescent light I found in the bottom of a tool box, I used the aforementioned “shoe string” principle to attaching the light.  Less holes were necessary and shorter rope but it worked just fine.

Et voila!  As you can see from the slide show, it looks amazing… and the best part about it is that it’s recyclable and/or you and an agressive mob of candy-crazed trick-or-treaters can bash the hell out of it at the end of the night.

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Can’t (bicycle) Chain Me Down

by Christine Zhuang

In the grand old tradition of looking to the Europeans for acts of social and environmental advancements, several American cities such as Portland, San Francisco, Chicago have instituted a bicycle rental system similar to the very popular program in Paris which promote cycling over gas guzzling and environmentally unsound cars as an alternative form of transportation. After all, bicycles are cheap and eliminates the hassle of looking for a parking space to cram into. Then why are so many of these bicycle programs failing in the U.S.?

For one thing, it seems many of us simply cannot be trusted with returning bicycles. But there are bigger issues than just petty theft.

The U.S. is geographically much larger than all Western European nations, which explains our overreaching and sometimes overwhelming amount of highways and freeways. That said, there are not enough bicycle paths for people who live more than 5 mile from their workplace or school; especially in large cities where traffic laws are really seen as guidelines rather than regulations. And don’t get me started on those of us who find it very difficult to travel light and are too vain for perspiration.

The root of these bicycle sharing problems I find are buried deeper than the pretensions of efficiency. To have bicycles become the new wave of transportation is ideologically backwards. (Probably why so many opt for vintage bike models. Surely not for the kitsch.) Instinctively for many, the future revolves around moving forward. It is more pertinent for the government to focus on is improving the public transportation system in this country. A Green solution that would not only help the environment but lessen traffic. This is one Rise of the Machines I can get behind.

Photo by Joe S.

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Fake CO2 Sucking Trees: A Dialogue

by Rich Awn

Hmm, well… on the one hand, you’ve got your real tree doing it’s thing, living off carbon dioxide and being old.


And on the other, you’ve got the artificial thing made of the “proprietary material that behaves like sodium hydroxide,” one of the most corrosive, awful, caustic substances you can get your hands on (and if you get it on your hands, you’re in trouble).

Okay, we’re following you.

Now enter kooky investor dudes to the wacky professor’s lab who say, “We’re going to help you, Dr. Wackypants.  We’ll be with you every step of the way in trying to develop more eye sores for the world to feel better about their fossil fuel consumption.”

Starting to lose you here.

Wait, it gets weirder.  Now investor dudes and wacky professor succeeded in mimicking the behavior of real tree leaves by using vertically arranged sheets of proprietary paper (I especially love the bit where they’re using stuff like bunched up wads of yarn and testing the wind resistance… CLASSIC!).  The fake leaves, now caked in carbon dioxide, get rinsed creating some carbon dioxide swill “for storage” and the whole doohicky runs on electricity.

Lost you.

Yeah. I’m lost.  But my only lingering question is why did the wacky professor let his 12-year-old daughter handle lethal sodium hydroxide only to win SECOND PLACE in the elementary school science fair???

No clue.

Nova video here.

Photo by Carol Esther.

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