Posts tagged “recycling”

Pile it up, pile it high on the platter

Temporary cardboard depot, Montara, CA, July 2009

I’ve started noticing this curious artifact around town on garbage days. At first I thought these piles of cardboard were mistakes (especially when one appeared at the foot of our driveway). But, for reasons that aren’t obvious, these are simply steps in the process: move the cardboard from individual households to multi-street piles, then gather and remove the piles.

It’s interesting to consider how many processes may present as error-ridden or incomplete depending on when (and with what context) they are viewed. Does the county get phone calls every week complaining about the pile of trash sitting on the street? How could they communicate more context in this pile to better suggest that they’ll indeed be right back to pick it up, don’t you worry?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Seen Reading – a "literary voyeruism blog" set mostly (I believe) in Toronto – What is Seen Reading?

    1. I see you reading.
    2. I remember what page you’re on in the book.
    3. I head to the bookstore, and make a note of the text.
    4. I let my imagination rip.
    5. Readers become celebrities.
    6. People get giddy and buy more books.

    Why do you do this?
    Readers are cool. Authors work hard. Publishers take chances. And you all deserve to be seen!

    (Thanks Suzanne Long!)

  • Choose What You Read NY – Choose What You Read NY is a non profit organization that offers free books to New Yorkers, encouraging its residents to read more, giving them an alternative to the free papers that get tossed out and even the digi-trash that crowds our time. In doing so, we help to recycle used books that would have unfortunately been thrown away.

    You will find us near major subway stations on the first Tuesday of each month.The idea is that once someone is finished with a book, they either drop it off in one of our conveniently located drop boxes or back to us at a station. Unlike a library, there will be no due dates, penalties, fees or registrations. We only ask that you return it once you are done so that the same book can be enjoyed by another commuter.

  • What was the last book, magazine and newspaper you read on the subway? – 6000 people respond and the New York Times posts the results
  • How and what people read on the New York City subways – Plenty of detailed examples of people, their books, and their travels: "Reading on the subway is a New York ritual, for the masters of the intricately folded newspaper, as well as for teenage girls thumbing through magazines, aspiring actors memorizing lines, office workers devouring self-help inspiration, immigrants newly minted — or not — taking comfort in paragraphs in a familiar tongue. These days, among the tattered covers may be the occasional Kindle, but since most trains are still devoid of Internet access and cellphone reception, the subway ride remains a rare low-tech interlude in a city of inveterate multitasking workaholics. And so, we read.

    There are those whose commutes are carefully timed to the length of a Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker, those who methodically page their way through the classics, and those who always carry a second trash novel in case they unexpectedly make it to the end of the first on a glacial F train."

    (thanks Avi and Anne)

  • Lego grabs ahold of customers with both hands – From 2006, great Wired piece about Lego's approach to involving ardent fans/customers in developing future products.
  • Noting:books – the simple yet dynamic way to track your reading, from the dates you start and finish a book, to your thoughts along the way.
  • CourseSmart brings textbooks to the iPhone in PDF; major readability challenges ensue – “It’s not the first place to go to read your textbook,” Mr. Lyman said of the iPhone app. But he said that it could be helpful if “you’re standing outside of the classroom, the quiz is in 10 minutes, and you want to go back to that end-of-chapter summary that helped you understand the material.”
  • Nice profile of Lego’s business culture and the tension between growth and losing track of their legacy – But the story of Lego’s renaissance — and its current expansion into new segments like virtual reality and video games — isn’t just a toy story. It’s also a reminder of how even the best brands can lose their luster but bounce back with a change in strategy and occasionally painful adaptation.

Crock Addict

I’ve developed a taste for expensive yogurt.

It started as a lark a few days ago, in a natural foods store near my home, when I saw Saint Benoit Yogurt for the first time. This single-serving yogurt comes in a miniaturized stoneware crock, colored and shaped like (what I imagine to be) a traditional European crock.


I figured I’d throw down the $3.99 for a Saint Benoit once-it seemed luxurious, and worth doing for the experience.

But lo, the Palmetto Organic Grocery has just opened directly across the street from our office, and guess what they carry?

As it turns out, Saint Benoit only costs $2.49 if you return one of the used crocks. Compared to the usual $0.99 for many other organic yogurts, this price is still awfully high, but if the reusable crock and local, sustainable production are an ecological improvement over the usual disposable plastic container and cross-country transport, that’s one inducement to pony up.

The bottom line for me is sensory, though. There’s something about the “old world-like experience” of holding that little crock and hearing the spoon clink on its side that is proving to be quite seductive.

It’s a triumph of interface design.

Core77 Show+Tell video: Steve investigates the bathroom

Yes, more bathroom blogging! Core77 has just posted a quick video I made

In this video for Core77, Steve Portigal takes us into his company bathroom, uncovering examples of bad design and its consequences.

From signage to artifact and back, people are forever mistaking their cues for how to behave, how to use products and systems, and how different, often-conflicting indicators cause our expectations and realities to collide. This 2-minute video is a priceless example. What’s in your bathroom?

Low footprint Halloween

We went to a Halloween costume party yesterday. The invite urged/threatened us to create a costume with an emphasis on recycling, so we put together silly costumes that made use of materials we had around the house. We used a bit of tape and a bit of thread, but it was all stuff that was unused or eventually going into the garbage (as much of it did, today).

Chain taken from an old conference badge. Badge is the reflector from the Ikea “LOCK” light fixture for the headgear, UPC code from empty box of Kong treats.

Found chain with binder rings and shower ring as holster, battery pack with expired batteries and a storage box from wall-mounting hardware.

Guns made from old bathroom faucet valve stems and closet hooks. One screwed right into the other easily.

We took apart an IKEA “Lock” light fixture, and inverted it and stitched it to a baseball cap (with the cap’s button poking through the base’s hole of the same size), then taped the socket upside on top, with the wire connectors as deely-bopper-style endings for the wires.

And the result? Pretty silly!

What happens to recycled paint?

What happens to recycled paint?

The oil-based paint is shipped off to companies that burn it to generate electricity. Latex paint deemed salvageable gets a second chance to brighten someone’s day.

Depending on its color, the paint is poured over a screen into one of three 55-gallon drums. Blues, grays and greens go into the “Cool” drum. Beige hues make it into the “Off White” barrel, and reds, tans and browns are destined for the “Warm” container.

“If you didn’t do any sorting, you’d always get a light brown that gets a little boring,” says Paul Fresina, who oversees the center. “If you separate it and play with it, you can come up with more of the colors that people want.” With the three distinct color classifications, center workers can mix the paint into just about any color they want, from pinks to yellows.

The end product, hundreds of 5-gallon buckets of remixed house paint stored in a shipping container, is available free for San Francisco residents, who use it for everything from covering up graffiti to painting their basements, but the supply always exceeds demand. In an effort to spread the reclaimed paint farther, 10 years ago, the mostly immigrant employees at the center proposed sending some of it back to their home countries.

With this in mind, in 1995 the first shipment of more than 700 5-gallon buckets of paint was shipped to Tonga. Since then, similar shipments have made their way, free of charge, to San Salvador, El Salvador; Tepatitlan (or Tepa), Los Cabos and Santiago, Mexico; and Mali, where the paint has been used for schools, churches and other community buildings. The recipients in these countries generally prefer brighter colors, so the paint is remixed from its drab American origins into more vibrant hues.

The shipping costs are about the same as sending the paint to a Los Angeles facility to be blended into cement. SF Recycling picks up the extra costs of sending paint to Mexico or any other countries.


(see similar recycling icons as well as what they mean here)

My hair gel comes in a plastic container that doesn’t have any such logo; rather it has a circle with the letters PET in it. For some reason, they aren’t using the standard symbols, and so I really don’t know if I can recycle it. Beauty product/consumer product companies are usually pretty responsive, so I sent an email describing the logo on the package, and the logos that I expect to find, and my concern about being able to recycle their product.

Here’s what they sent back

Thank you for visiting Garnier on the Web.

We do not have prepared information to send you in answer to your specific questions.

We want to assure you that we are committed to the protection and respect of the environment. If you are interested in learning about the significant efforts made by our company, we invite you to consult our website at You will find details on our environmental policy under About L’Oreal. The “” website is the corporate site of the L’Oreal group of companies worldwide.

I was honestly expecting some info that I could use. Does anyone know the PET-in-a-circle icon? I don’t want to assume and ruin the batch or whatever happens if you send something non-recyclable through the system (and gee aren’t there a lot of mythologies and confused perceptions around what actually happens to stuff we put in the recycling boxes?).

Ah well.


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