September 26, 2010

7 easy ideas to ‘green up’ your wedding day, a true story from an Ann Arbor couple!

Did you know that an Ann Arbor couple ‘greened’ up their wedding and you simply could do it too?

It was in August 2010, the Ann Arbor couple (Engel and Dyer) were married in a “green” outdoor ceremony and reception near the Huron River fit to pay homage to their shared love of the planet and the outdoors.

The trend toward green weddings certainly isn’t new, but industry experts say it has evolved to allow married couples to incorporate their unique personal preferences and still afford their big event.

Most people are interested in a green wedding and when they hear about just what it entails, they find themselves going a different route. Our heroes Engel and Dyer made the decision they wouldn’t be able to keep everything completely green, but were going to try their hardest. And the most essential element was to make the day educational as well as fun for and nature centers

They planned the marriage at a science and nature center where tours were offered to guests in the hour before they walked down the aisle. The tour featured different water and energy conservation solutions used at the center like the solar-panel arrays for electricity, solar-powered heating and water heater systems and no-flush compost toilets.

The couple also focused on little details they said make a big difference.

– Dyer wore an heirloom – a vintage green dress that had been her great-grandmother’s in the 1930’s.

– Her ring was made with recycled gold and had a beryl stone instead of a diamond.

– Her makeup was certified organic.

– Guests were given local lavender buds – rather than sachets of rice – to throw in celebration.

– Tables were covered with local wildflowers and locally sourced foods.

– Leftovers and unused food were recycled (by sending to local farms) or reused.

– They found a generator that was solar powered and able to produce enough power to run the lights and the sound system they needed for the rock band. (how cool is that?!!)

For all their efforts, they still made some choices they knew weren’t the most eco-friendly options.

While  they could’ve gone with Internet invitations rather than printing and mailing invitations, but Dyer said she felt paper invitations were important – on recycled paper, of course.

So you? What can You do to ‘green up’ your marriage day?solar panel

While green weddings are becoming more trendy, planning and pulling off the event is not as easy as one could imagine.

Sorting through claims of environmentally friendliness when shopping in the current marketplace is a big enough obstacle for typical purchases, let alone for such an emotionally charged and personal event as a wedding.

The best way to reduce the impact of an event is to execute a life cycle analysis on different elements of the ceremony. For instance, where is that food coming from, how much energy is expended to produce it, how does it get to your plate and where do the leftovers go?

While meat typically takes more energy to produce than fruits and vegetables, considering how far some vegatables and fruits must travel might give them a larger carbon footprint.

The best way to reduce an event’s carbon footprint is to cut back on the number of guests invited. Fewer guests mean fewer meals, fewer needs for centerpieces and other decor and fewer miles traveled to reach the wedding.

About the writer – Lucy E. Thomason writes articles for the <a href=””>event planning degree</a> blog, her personal hobby blog focused on recommendations to help people figure out how to organize a green event to spend less energy and reduce carbon footprints.



August 29, 2010

Islam instructs us to care for the planet


There is an emphasis on the importance of environmental protection, so that man can live in harmony with nature

  • By Mohammad Abdel Raouf, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 August 27, 2010
  • It emphasises the necessity and importance of environmental protection so that man can live in harmony with nature, as well as to achieve sustainable development, enrich life on earth, and make best use of available resources.
  • Image Credit: NINO JOSE HEREDIA/Gulf News

In the history of mankind, religion has been the main supporter of environmental protection. All religions call for environmental stewardship to different degrees. However, Islam is unique when it comes to environmental issues because:

• It emphasises the necessity and importance of environmental protection so that man can live in harmony with nature, as well as to achieve sustainable development, enrich life on earth, and make best use of available resources. There is extensive mention about environmental issues, cases, circumstances and components in the Quran and Hadith (the sayings of Prophet Mohammad [PBUH]), the two main sources of Islamic teachings. Thus we can find Quranic surahs (verses) named after natural phenomena, insects, animals … etc.

• All the concepts, causes and ideas related to the environment which have appeared in the past few decades — such as sustainable development, ecological balance and quality of life, to name a few — are mentioned in the Quran or Hadith.

• Islam talks not only of the relationship between Allah and man, and between peoples, but also provides guidelines on how to deal with our environment and natural resources in a better way in all situations — peace and war, affluence and scarcity, polluted or clean environment and so on.

It is important to mention that Islam not only calls for environmental protection but also advocates care for the environment. The concept of caring for the environment is more comprehensive and deeper than protection as it involves different aspects such as protection from damage and pollution, as well as allowing for the environment to flourish.

Before explaining more about Islamic guidance on care for the environment, let me answer this question: What is Islam?

• As a Muslim, you surrender to Allah and believe in Allah, all his messengers and the last of them, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

• If you believe this, then you must obey him, do as he ordered and refrain from doing what he has forbidden (Ebadat).

So the next question: Is that all there is to being a Muslim? The answer is definitely no. There is another important request from Allah to man to ensure that the earth develops and prospers. So, if a man just spends his time praying to Allah, then something is missing in his worship. That is why Allah made man a custodian on earth, as is evident from the following Quranic verses:

“And to Thamud [people We sent] their brother Salih. He said: “O my people! Worship Allah: you have no other ilah [god] but Him. He brought you forth from the earth and settled you therein [with request to develop], then ask forgiveness of Him and turn to Him in repentance. Certainly, my Lord is Near [to all by His Knowledge], Responsive”(Hud 11:61).

In Islam, man’s relation to the earth is seen as that of a custodian. “Now, behold! Your Lord said to the angels: I am placing upon the earth a human successor to steward it” (Al Baqarah 2:30). It is required that man should work towards the conservation of earth, ensuring sustainability of natural resources for future generations. He must not be extravagant in consumption, whether of food, cloth or natural resources. As cited in the Quran: “Eat and drink of that which Allah has provided and do not act corruptly, making mischief on the earth” (Al Baqarah 60). In short, to be a Muslim is to pray [worship] and to be a custodian [to develop earth]. This is very clear in literature on the fundamentals of Islamic religion.

Pursuit of development

What is really amazing is that man on earth — with many different religions or with no religion at all — is working hard in various fields in life to innovate, develop and prosper. This quality is specific to man. No other creature on earth pursues development.

There are general guidelines that guide us to develop the earth. In fact, man’s mission is to improve things or, in a worst-case scenario, to maintain things as they are. From an environmental perspective, this is the idea of quality of life.

In fact, Islam supports anything that benefits man and forbids anything that is harmful or evil for man. The latter includes, of course, pollution and environmental degradation or damage.

In other words, Islam calls on man to care for the environment, enjoy its beauty and not spoil it, as is clearly evident from the following verses “and do good as Allah has been good to you, and seek not mischief in the land. Verily, Allah likes not the Mufsidun [those who commit great crimes and sins, oppressors, tyrants, mischief-makers, corrupters]” (Al Qasas 28:77).

In the next column, I will explain the idea of mischief and spoilage and the Islamic view on current environmental issues as well as focus on the issue of the environment and the month of Ramadan.

Dr Mohammad Abdel Raouf is in charge of environment research at the Gulf Research Centre, Dubai.

Bio-Degradable Plastic: Hope For Our Future

April 28, 2010

We all know that plastic bags are an environmental nightmare as they do not decompose.  Many countries around the world have actually outlawed the use of plastic bags because they cause such an unsightly mess, are a danger to wildlife, clog boat propellers and when thrown into bays and streams clog water flow, causing stagnant water.  This in itself is a health hazard as it is the perfect breading ground for mosquitoes, other insects, bacteria and vermin. Areas in Bangladesh were flooded when plastic bags plugged many sections of the drainage system during a typhoon.  Consequently, in 2002 Bangladesh passsed a ban on plastic bags.   France, China and Italy have banned plastic bags while other countries such as Ireland and Australia push for voluntary bans or place a fee on plastic bags.  Stores in Germany also  charge for use of plastic bags which encourages people to purchase reusable bags.

plastic in an Indonesian river
Indonesian boy collects plastic from a raft in a polluted river in Jakarta—Jurnasyanto Sukarno—epa/Corbis

Another new solution is the use of oxo-biodegradable bags.  Labeled as d2w, these bags degrade and then bio-degrade into water, CO2, biomass and trace elements.  In a period of time it leaves no fragments, methane or harmful residue even when in landfills.  Several large companies such as Debenhams have turned to using such plastic bags.  Utilizing reusable totes and bags is still the favored solution to the massive pollution of plastic throughout the world.

Each of us use several plastic bags a week.  Imagine that compounded by your neighborhood, your city, state and country.  It is estimated that the United States throws out approximately 100 billion plastic bags a year.  Imagine the impact of that on our environment!  If each of us can use our own totes and promote the use of biodegradable plastics, we can have a huge impact.  Please pass on this information and request your local stores, plastic bag manufactures (for garbage bag production etc.) to use oxo-biodegradable plastics.  For more information please visit their website:


January 25, 2009




Welcome !

Have you ever stopped to think about where our trash goes once it leaves our homes, offices, schools, and streets? Most of our waste is burned, buried, or dumped in landfills. This causes all kinds of air, water, and soil pollution that threaten our health and the environment. In fact, waste has become one of the biggest environmental problems that many societies face today. This is an issue that must be taken seriously and solved immediately.
Let us begin by educating ourselves about the problem and making small but important lifestyle changes that are more in harmony with the needs of our environment. We can each work on reducing the amount of stuff we carelessly consume on a daily basis. We can also start sorting our waste and recycling it. Please browse the different pages of this website to learn how you can take an active role to Recycle Your City.











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Towards Zero Waste Community

August 24, 2008

Towards Zero Waste Community

What is waste?

Waste is something that is rejected as useless. These are items that are either so badly designed that they can either be repaired, reused, re-sourced through composting, or safely recycled.

Wastes are also created when we dump various items together in a manner that they cannot be easily separated or in a manner that renders them useless even if they are separated. Much of our resources end up as wastes primarily because we do not separate them before discarding.

Example: When we throw in paper and toxic wastes with bio wastes the entire garbage becomes toxic. The bio wastes then cannot be composted because the compost would be poisonous. The paper cannot be recycled because it becomes wet and dirty for anyone to pick it up and send it to a recycler. Accumulated garbage along roadsides, in rivers and canals, and overflowing dustbins posing serious health and environmental hazards are common sights.

Types of wastes:


  • Bio degradable substances (food wastes, flowers, garden wastes etc)
  • Plastics (bags, bottles, toys and other items, containers and so on)
  • Glass, Paper and Cardboard, Metal Items, Wood Items
  • Toxics such as batteries etc
  • Composites that are made up of a combination of two or more of the above items

    What is waste management?

    The conventional methods of handling garbage is termed waste management. That is this approach sees all garbage generated as useless and then goes on to manage these wastes by devising technologies to collect it, transport it, bury it, dump it or burn it. Landfills, Incineration or burning of wastes, centralized composting and recycling are some of the ways of solid waste management.



    How is garbage handled today?


    Almost every society in the world struggles with the issue of efficient and safe waste management practices. Everywhere, the most common practice of waste processing has always been uncontrolled open dumping, a method which requires no investment and has very little operational costs. However such uncontrolled dumping leads to unhealthy impacts on the surrounding environment not to mention the ugly scenes of garbage heaps it creates.

    Another processing technique used in cities is incineration or for that matter in the rural areas and often in cities is open burning. Incinerating or open burnings are by far the most hazardous among the many inefficient waste management practices. Valuable resources get needlessly burnt and do not provide any long-term solution to the solid waste crises that still remains. In fact incineration further worsens the crisis because resources like glass for instance, that may be reused are also burnt with all the other tonnage of waste. Such reusable resources just ended up as non-recoverable resources.


    a) landfill


    Landfills are those assigned places or holes in the ground where wastes are dumped. Low lying areas are usually selected for this purpose.




  • People, particularly in the cities are producing so much waste that our habitat is being crammed by landfills.
  • The poisons from a landfill leak out from the sides in the form of a black, smelly toxic liquid called ¡§leachate¡¨ This liquid eventually escapes into the ground surrounding the landfills and contaminate the nearby and underground water sources.
  • Landfills also lend to air pollution and attract vermin and other disease causing germs. Landfill fires, a common incident, releases heavy metals and other toxic substances such as dioxins and furans into the atmosphere. 

    b) Open Burning or incineration


    Conventional waste disposal relies significantly on burning garbage, in the open (common in India) or in machines. The machines are also used to burn the waste and these are known as incinerators.




  • Burning of garbage is wasteful because they burn resources that rightfully ought to be conserved for further use.
  • They are also polluting our environment because of releasing poisons such as heavy metals and cancer causing chemicals including dioxins and furans. 

    c) Recycling


    Recycling is a process wherein previously discarded garbage is made into a new product. 



  • Not all materials can be recycled. For example, toxic materials can not be recycled for obvious reasons.
  • It does not in anyway discourage the use of unsustainable material especially when safer and sustainable alternatives exist.As human populations and material use continue to increase, the amount of waste is ever increasing that the natural systems that sustain us are suffering from accelerated degradation. Large percentage of resources often goes as waste in the form of garbage, which either goes up in the smoke or goes down the leachate drain in landfills, with serious environmental and health consequences.Unfortunately there are no such mathematical solutions to the above mentioned problems. However, with the change in habit and people¡¦s attitude toward waste management and natural resources, things can change for cleaner and safer environment. This can be achieved through continued education and awareness programme with some systems in place to involve local people of the community.


    Zero Waste Management is the solution.


    The whole concept and approach to waste problems should be changed. The amount of waste is very little if we are careful and sensible enough when we discard things as useless. Here comes the concept of ¡§Zero Waste¡¨. It is a new approach that seeks to maximise recycling and minimise waste, and ensures that products are made and purchased to be reused, repaired or recycled back into nature or the marketplace.

    Opting for zero waste means we forgo the entire concept of ¡§waste.¡¨ There is nothing as waste. Zero waste works from this belief. Resources are used for creation of a product or commodity usually designed for time-bound use, after which the product is rendered useless and ends up as waste while the process of production also generates waste. Zero waste provides facilities like resource recovery, composting, and waste to wealth ideas to tackle the waste generated.

    As world population and consumption seems to only escalate, all the one way systems of extracting resources, changing them into packages or products and then burying or burning them appear far from sustainable. The Zero Waste approach considers waste as the visible face of inefficiency. An efficient system should have sustainable movement of materials. This assumes that material would be consumed, material would change form, and finally material would become discards.

    The pile of trash we produce throws up a range of raw materials for new products, exciting financial opportunities, and better jobs. Zero waste rechannelises the flow of resources through our societies with marked and substantial environmental, social and economic benefits. Walking the zero waste way has other added gains too. Considerable saving on water, energy, resources and landfill space makes it an optimum environmental and sustainable option.

    And Zero Waste addresses increasing wastage of natural resources and depletion of environment through job creation and civic participation. Thus the zero waste approach shows how this far reaching environmental progress will be achieved by just impacting change at one single point: where and how we empty our bins.


    How do we achieve zero waste goals?


    The most obvious problems of today¡¦s waste management are:

  • Accumulated garbage along roadsides and overflowing dustbins, which were not cleared frequently. These wastes (mostly organic) putrefies and poses serious health problems.
  • There are so many rag-pickers, who depend on these very wastes for their living, by retrieving recyclables from them and selling them to waste recyclers. These rag pickers face great difficulties in identifying the recyclable wastes.So now there should be a solution which will address both the problems.Material Substitution or the efficient use of materials is one way of achieving the goal of Zero waste.People often choose the easy way while purchasing products without taking into consideration the environmental and health consequences. For example: During functions, wedding or party, people use paper or styrofoam cup and plate instead of proper steel cup and plate that could be reused later. This use-and-throw-away culture, particularly generating toxic waste is the main cause of our garbage problem.


    Civic Participation


    Public co-operation and participation is the key to achieving zero waste goals. Zero waste management presupposes the involvement of the local community in its day-to-day processes. Hence forming people based organisation is the key here.

    It is important to take environmental, health and economic issues to the common people and help them understand these issues better. Identify the local garbage related problems or issues that people from all walks of life could best relate to and use it to bring the people together.

    It is also important that people see this from a positive angle, like creation of employment opportunities in a society. The households should be ready to bear a monthly cost which is minimal today where a child spends Rs. 10-20 on unhealthy foods in the form of fizzy drinks etc.


    Need of Street beautifier


    The name street beautifier is given to those people who are employed by the community to do door-to-door collection of wastes. This name also gives dignity to the job. In a not so large Tibetan community, one street beautifier will work for 4 hours every morning. He or She should be paid a monthly salary of Rs. 1500 which is subscribed by the community. He/she should also be able to augment his/her income by about Rs. 200 in a month by selling the recyclables wastes that are segregated from the garbage. The street beautifier should be equipped with one compartmentalised tricycle.

    This new system requires that waste is not disposed onto the streets, or even into the public dustbins, and hence ensures

  • Cleanliness and hygiene of the surroundings.
  • People¡¦s participation in the system and thus their responsibility toward their environment.
  • Creation of employment opportunities, dignity and integrating the waste collection job into the mainstream job. 

    Two key components of zero waste management are  

  • a) Segregation


    Segregation of waste at source is important. Each household should be educated on the need and method to separate wastes into organic and inorganic and to dispose them in the compartmentalised tricycle bin. Thus, the uncontaminated paper and other inorganic waste like plastic, metal and glass could be recovered and recycled.




  • b) Composting 

  • composting


    The organic waste could be converted into manure through composting. However this needs a small plot of land to develop community composting, which can be discussed with the local Tibetan authority. The manure produced could be used for household vegetable garden.

    However, in the process of segregation of waste, a third category of considerable amount of mixed waste will be found. This can not be composted nor recycled and should be transported to the dumping sites.






    Things to consider before going ahead with the new system



  • Count the number of households.  
  • Study the current waste disposal system and its impact on health and environment.  
  • Identify the types of waste that are produced, dumped and burned.  
  • Find out the number of rag pickers and identify the prospects of job opportunity.  
  • Form a community and people based organisation to achieve zero waste. Courtesy: EXNORA, Chennai and Thanal Zero Waste Programme, Kerela



    August 23, 2008



    My name is Doug Copp. I am the Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the

    American Rescue Team International (ARTI), the world’s most experienced

    rescue team. The info rmation in this article will save lives in an



    I have crawled inside 875 collapsed buildings, worked with rescue teams

    from 60 countries, founded rescue teams in several countries, and I am a

    member of many rescue teams from many countries.


    I was the United Nations expert in Disaster Mitigation for two years. I

    have worked at every major disaster in the world since 1985, except for

    simultaneous disasters.


    The first building I ever crawled inside of was a school in Mexico City

    during the 1985 earthquake. Every child was under its desk. Every child

    was crushed to the thickness of their bones. They could have survi ved by

    lying down next to their desks in the aisles. It was obscene, unnecessary


    I wondered why the children were not in the aisles. I didn’t at the time

    know that the children were told to hide under something.


    Simply stated, when buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings

    falling upon the objects or furniture inside crushes these objects, leaving

    a space or void next to them. This space is what I call the “triangle of

    life”.  The larger the object, the stronger, the less it will compact. The less the

    object compacts, the larger the void, the greater the probability that

    the person who is using this void for safety will not be injured. The next

    time you watch collapsed buildings, on television, count the “triangles” you

    see formed. They are everywhere. It is the most common shape, you will see,

    in a collapsed building.




    1) Most everyone who simply “ducks and covers” WHEN BUILDINGS COLLAPSE are

    crushed to death. People who get under objects, like desks or cars, are



    2) Cats, dogs and babies often naturally curl up in the fetal position.

    You should too in an earthquake. It is a natural safety/survival instinct.

    You can survive in a smaller void. Get next to an object, next to a sofa,

    next to a large bulky object that will compress slightly but leave a void

    next to it.


    3) Wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during

    an earthquake. Wood is flexible and moves with the force of the earthquake.

    If the wooden building does collapse, large survival voids are created.

    Also, the wooden building has less concentrated, crushing weight. Brick

    buildings will break into individual bricks. Bricks will cause many injuries

    but less squashed bodies than concrete slabs. 


    4) If you are in bed during the night and an earthquake occurs, simply

    roll off the bed. A safe void will exist around the bed. Hotels can achieve


    much greater survival rate in earthquakes, simply by posting a sign on The

    back of the door of every room telling occupants to lie down on the floor,

    next to the bottom of the bed during an earthquake.


    5) If an earthquake happens and you cannot easily escape by getting out

    the door or window, then lie down and curl up in the fetal position next to

    a sofa, or large chair.


    6) Most everyone who gets under a doorway when buildings collapse is

    killed. How? If you stand under a doorway and the doorjamb falls forward or

    backward you will be crushed by the ceiling above. If the door jam falls

    sideways you will be cut in half by the doorway. In either case, you will be



    7) Never go to the stairs. The stairs have a different “moment of

    frequency ” (they swing separately from the main part of the building).

    The stairs and remainder of the building continuously bump into each

    other until structural failure of the stairs takes place. The people who get

    on stairs before they fail are chopped up by the stair treads – horribly

    mutilated. Even if the building doesn’t collapse, stay away from the

    stairs. The stairs are a likely part of the building to be damaged. Even if


    stairs are not collapsed by the earthquake, they may collapse later when

    overloaded by fleeing people. They should always be checked for safety,

    even when the rest of the building is not damaged.



    8) Get Near the Outer Walls Of Buildings Or Outside Of Them If Possible

    – It is much better to be near the outside of the building rather than

    the interior. The farther inside you are from the outside perimeter of the

    building the greater the probability that your escape route will be



    9) People inside of t heir vehicles are crushed when the road above falls

    in an earthquake and crushes their vehicles; which is exactly what happened

    with the slabs between the decks of the Nimitz Freeway. The victims of

    the San Francisco earthquake all stayed inside of their vehicles. They were

    all killed. They could have easily survived by getting out and sitting or

    lying next to their vehicles. Everyone killed would have survived if they


    been able to get out of their cars and sit or lie next to them. All the

    crushed cars had voids 3 feet high next to them, except for the cars that


    columns fall directly across them.


    10) I discovered, while crawling inside of collapsed newspaper offices

    and other offices with a lot of paper, that paper does not compact.

    Large voids are found surrounding stacks of paper.


    Spread the word and save someone’s life… The Entire world is

    experiencing natural calamities so be prepared!


    “We are but angels with one wing, it takes two to fly”


    In 1996 we made a film, which proved my survival methodology to be

    correct. The Turkish Federal Government, City of Istanbul , University of

    Istanbul Case Productions and ARTI cooperated to film this practical,


    test. We collapsed a school and a home with 20 mannequins inside. Ten

    mannequins did “duck and cover,” and ten mannequins I used in my

    “triangle of life” survival method. After the simulated earthquake collapse


    crawled through the rubble and entered the building to film and document the

    results. The film, in which I practiced my survival techniques under

    directly observable, scientific conditions , relevant to building collapse,

    showed there would have been zero percent survival for those doing duck

    and cover.


    There would likely have been 100 percent survivability for people using

    my method of the “triangle of life.”

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