You hiked down to mec last week and bought yourself a pop-bottle fleece vest. That's nice - a jacket from garbage! Start handing out back-pats, because we've arrived at the zenith of responsible consumption. Well, no.
Without going all doom and gloom about "consumption," there are finite ends to that pop bottle. Materials degrade, chemicals must be used to pump life into those bottles, and eventually that vest is in a pile of garbage somewhere in Michigan.
Ideally, we should be able to return all our stuff to the earth, but it's not going to be easy. In the meantime, here's how some people are taking junk and remaking it into something better.
Hallowed green halls
At Ohio's Oberlin College, at the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, faculty and eco-architects William McDonough and Partners decided to challenge the Industrial Revolution model of use.
Instead of just taking from the earth's resources, this 13,600-square-foot building is giving back. It uses a closed-loop "Living Machine" wastewater system powered by the sun. After-use water runs through ponds that purify it enough to be used in orchards and gardens.
At this writing, 24 geothermal wells and 4,671 square feet of photovoltaic panels were producing more than enough energy when checked on their real-time online energy usage meters.
It also doesn't hurt that indigenous planting and landscaping surrounds the building.
Outside the box
Chances are if you've ever purchased anything manufactured, it's done a stint in a shipping container. They're those 40-foot-long corrugated steel boxes you see in shipping yards.
Once one of these containers reaches the end of its lifespan, it's too expensive to move, so it sits around rotting. But it doesn't have to be that way. They're really strong, and with the application of a little Lego thinking, visionaries are turning them into affordable housing.
Quik House, which ships from New Jersey, offers six containers in a package, plus basic electrical, plumbing and glass. You have to finish the rest, and costs can run to nearly $200,000.
Other good uses for containers include humanitarian relief housing, a Women on Waves health clinic (outfitted to perform surgical abortions) called A-Portable, hotels and even saunas.
Take some empty pop cans, a used car tire and maybe an old 80s brick car phone and you've got yourself a brand new fancy unit with a non-toxic chipset and no-waste charger.
Well, you can't buy it yet, but Nokia's Remake concept phone is going to inspire discussion on the idea of remaking waste it into friendly new things.
Before you call up and ask for one, understand that the videos floating around are of a non-functional concept. Still, it's good to see the leader of a huge industry attempting to push the cycling of tech waste.
You might want to sit down for this one. Perhaps you're in an office chair. How much time do you spend in it? Ha, too much, right?
Considering the hours we spend as desk jockeys, you'd think there'd be more concern about the hazardous materials that come in constant contact with our butts.
But the people at Steelcase have been thinking, and they've come up with an appropriately named chair.
The Think chair was developed with sustainability in mind. The company made it light and easy to fix with spare parts, and thought about shipping distances and size.
It's 99 per cent recyclable by weight, contains 44 per cent recycled materials and no PVCs, CFCs, solvents, benzene, chrome, lead or mercury. Which should make you ask why your chair does.