The Swedish Revolution: Turning 99% of Garbage Into Energy


Sweden has a passion for recycling! We know this because 99 percent of the country’s garbage is recycled, and less than 1 percent ends up in landfills.

In fact, the Scandinavian country has become so good at managing waste that it even has to import garbage from the UK, Italy, Norway and Ireland to feed the country’s 32 waste-to-energy (WTE) plants.

The Swedish Miracle — How Does it Work?

It begins with the three R’s, but goes much further. At the core of Sweden’s program is its waste-management hierarchy designed to curb environmental harm: prevention (reduce), reuse, recycling, recycling alternatives (energy recovery via WTE plants), and lastly, disposal (landfill).

Incinerator plants are at the heart of the program, but before garbage is trucked there, it is first filtered by home and business owners; organic waste is separated, paper picked from recycling bins, and any objects that can be salvaged and reused pulled aside. OK, so nothing much out of the ordinary there.

What makes Sweden different is its use of a somewhat controversial program incinerating over two million tons of trash per year, producing about 670,000 tons worth of fuel oil energy. Pretty useful in Sweden’s cold winters!

WTE plants work by loading furnaces with garbage, burning it to generate steam which is used to spin generator turbines used to produce electricity. That electricity is then transferred to transmission lines and a grid distributes it across the country.

“Waste today is a commodity in a different way than it has been. It’s not only waste, it’s a business,” explained Swedish Waste Management communications director Anna-Carin Gripwell in a statement. “When waste sits in landfills, leaking methane gas and other greenhouse gasses, it is obviously not good for the environment,” she added.

In case you’re wondering, this is not about burning trash in the open air.  Instead, Sweden has adopted a regulated, low-emission process for its incineration plants, which means that start-up costs for new plants can get too expensive for some cities.

The incineration process isn’t perfect, but technological advancements and introduction of flue-gas cleaning have reduced airborne dioxins to “very small amounts,” according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

Check out this video to see how this recycling works:

Making Everyone Responsible — Raising Awareness

How has this small country succeeded in involving all its citizens in the recycling plan?

Sweden’s success in handling garbage didn’t happen overnight.

Starting in the ’70s, Sweden adopted fairly strict rules and regulations when it comes to handling waste, both for households and for cities and companies.

Rules introduced in the 1990s forced companies to take a more eco-aware look at what products they market: by Swedish law, producers are responsible for handling all costs related to collection and recycling or disposal of their products.

How Are Other Countries Handling Garbage?

Japan introduced a Home Appliance Law about ten years ago. It places the responsibility of recycling on everyone from the consumers to the manufacturers. If you need to get rid of a large appliance, you are required to pay a recycling fee. The amount of money depends on the appliance, brand and size of the unit. The cost of recycling a small television, for example, would run you about $19, but a refrigerator could be around $32.

In Italy, Rome has become quite strict regarding the whole recycling issue: if you don’t separate your recycling from your waste and you have a recycling bin within 500 meters from your front door, you can be fined up to 619 Euros, or $833.

In the U.S., San Francisco is the clear leader in the field of zero waste. In 2002, the city made a promise that by 2020 it would eliminate all waste that is neither recycled nor composted; in 2014, they are at the 80 percent mark, which is pretty amazing.

San Francisco’s plan does not involve incinerators; rather, it’s all about mandatory composting, compulsory debris recycling, banning plastic bags and plastic bottles, and mandatory recycling for all its residents.

Other cities in the U.S. are not doing so well: on average across the country, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates only about a third of waste is recycled or composted. In Houston and New York the number is 26 percent, while in San Antonio it drops to 18 percent.

Whether we’re looking at the country of Sweden or the city of San Francisco, the driving force must be to raise people’s awareness of our environment, and the need to protect it. Once we humans start respecting Mother Earth, and taking good care of it, we will all be in much better shape.

America's top 10 most endangered rivers in 2014


American Rivers has released its sad top 10 of the most endangered rivers in the United States in 2014. Topping the list is the San Joaquin River, Central California’s largest river. Why is it in such bad shape?

Well, for years the San Joaquin has been managed badly primarily to meet the needs of agriculture, hydropower, flood control, etc. It has dams, levees, and all kinds of excessive water diversions which have have hurt the river habitats and reduced community access. Over one 100 miles of the mainstream river have been dry for over 50 years and the diversions along the tributaries take more than 70% of the natural flow.

Here’s the complete top 10, with links to descriptions of each river, what threatens it, and most importantly, what must be done to fix the problem.

1. San Joaquin River
2. Upper Colorado River
3. Middle Mississippi River
4. Gila River
5. San Francisquito Creek
6. South Fork Edisto River
7. White River (Colorado)
8. White River (Washington)
9. Haw River
10. Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers

For your pleasure, here’s a map showing all the rivers in the USA (more details and the ability to zoom in here):

Save Turtles From Dying

Dead sea turtles are washing up on Gulf shores by the hundreds. More are falling uncounted onto the ocean floor. They are victims of drowning, caught in shrimp nets and unable to escape.

Shrimp nets don’t have to kill. They can - and should - include escape hatches called Turtle Excluder Devices. But records show that many fishermen are ignoring the rules, and no one is stopping them.

We are calling on the National Marine Fisheries Service to enforce the rules already on the books and protect endangered and threatened turtles. Sign before July 29 and speak out against this unnecessary massacre.

Please sign the petition here

The dirty dozen: 12 products you should avoid

Greener living is all about making changes each day. Sometimes, it’s about setting aside unhealthy or resource-hogging products. Here are 12 to avoid. So you’ve decided to take the plunge — to embrace lighter living, green your life and do something to help the environment. But where to begin?   The best place to start is by moderating your consumption. You can dramatically reduce the size of your footstep on the planet by making smarter choices in the things you buy and the amount your household uses. It’s not something you have to do all at once: just commit to steady, incremental change. Small steps become big journeys over time.
  Our article, 10 first steps toward lighter living, is a good place to get grounded. If you’re ready to take on taming your shopping cart, we’ve put together a list we call the Dirty Dozen. These are 12 unhealthy or resource-intensive products you should consider reducing or eliminating from your life entirely. Once you’ve tackled these, you’ll probably think of others — and you’ll be well on your way to a lighter, more sustainable lifestyle.   1. Styrofoam Polystyrene foam is actually recyclable, but most of it ends up in landfills or scattered around the environment. Being made of petroleum, Styrofoam is a non-renewable resource — and it’s not biodegradable. Carry your own reusable coffee mugs, skip the fast food, and use glass and metal storage containers whenever possible.   2. Plastic food containers with bisphenol-A (BPA) You’ll recognize these polycarbonate bottles and containers by their #7 recycling codes. Health concerns have dogged BPA for years. If you really must use plastic, choose BPA-free varieties (such as those marked with #2, #4 and #5 codes). And be sure to recycle them when you’re done.   3. Tropical hardwoods Teak and mahogany are beautiful, long-lasting woods. But worldwide demand has driven their irresponsible harvesting from old-growth forests, destroying wildlife and biodiversity in some of the world’s most critical natural habitats. Don’t know where the wood in that magnificent dining table was sourced? Leave it at the store, and look for goods manufactured through certified forestry programs.   4. Aluminum in cosmetics Almost all commercial antiperspirants contain aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium. Both are easily absorbed through the skin. While no definitive studies link them to cancer, some researchers remain concerned about their long-term use — particularly by women. We already get plenty of aluminum in our diet, thanks to anti-caking agents in processed foods. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of alternatives to conventional antiperspirants.   5. Incandescent bulbs With relatively inexpensive CFL light bulbs available everywhere, it makes no sense to buy old-style bulbs for most applications. CFLs don’t radiate light quite the same way as conventional bulbs, so take some time to find out how to live with them. And since CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, be sure to dispose of them properly.   6. Petroleum-based fabric sheets and laundry detergent Sure, fabric sheets smell great. They’re engineered that way — with powerful chemicals. Like most laundry detergents, they’re derived from non-renewable petroleum products. Switch to vegetable-based laundry soaps and seek out less potent alternatives.   7. Overpackaged goods Ask any marketer: the store shelf is a retail battleground. Often, the first casualty is common sense when it comes to packaging. Unusual plastic bubble wraps; huge boxes for small products — competition for your attention sometimes results in a wasteful mess. Rather than contributing to our already overcrowded landfills, vote for more responsible packaging with your feet. Buy something else, and let companies that overpackage their wares know why you’re not a customer.   8. Paper towels and napkins No, you needn’t give up your toilet paper, as our friend Colin Beavan — No-Impact Man — and his family chose to do. Paper is a renewable resource, if properly managed. But let’s face it: we squander more paper than we should. That means wasted trees and all the resources that went into farming them. And that, in turn, means more monoculture pulpwood forests, soil erosion and chemicals used to keep tree-damaging pests away. There are some messes best cleaned up with paper, but couldn’t you use more kitchen cloths and napkins? It takes a little planning, but makes a big difference. If you’re interested in more environmentally friendly paper products, check out Colin’s list at the No Impact Man site.   9. Plastic utensils Like paper products, plastic utensils rate high on the waste scale. While some are marked for recycling, most convenient disposable cutlery gets used once and thrown away. Plastic is forever once it’s in the environment, and the petroleum used to make it is increasingly precious. Consider some alternative strategies: portable metal mess kits for picnics, or simply washing plastic goods and using them again.   10. Disposable batteries There are about 15 billion batteries manufactured each year. Most are alkaline batteries, discarded after a single duty cycle. Once sent to a landfill, they break down and begin leeching chemicals into the groundwater. Convenient, yes — but so are rechargables. With all the electronic devices in our lives these days, it makes environmental (and financial) sense to switch to rechargeable nickel metal hydride (NiMH) and lithium ion (Li-Ion) batteries. They’re less toxic and save you money. But do your homework: not all batteries and chargers are appropriate for a given job. Check out for helpful background information.   11. Commercial insecticides If it’s not good for bugs, it’s probably not good for your family or your pets. In-home pesticide use has been linked to everything from lung disorders to Parkinson’s disease. Household insects are a destructive nuisance, and outdoor pests can become a public health issue. But there are less toxic and nontoxic ways of controlling bugs, from borax (a poison) to essential oils, select plants, and ways to make common insects feel less welcome in your cupboard. Get some tips from Organic Garden Pests, or this article on taking the sting out of mosquitoes without pesticides.   12. Household cleaners Your cleaning cabinet is filled with some of the most powerful toxins on the consumer market. Check the warning labels and lists of unpronounceable compounds: it’s amazing some of these things are sold at all. But old tried-and-true, natural cleaners will often do the trick without exposing your family to exotic chemical fumes and residues. Baking soda, vinegar and salt are the backbone of a cleaner-and-greener home. Take those commercial cleaners to a hazardous disposal facility and start cleaning the natural way. It’ll even save you money.
Contest: ECHELON Helping The Planet?

YES, what a beautiful earth we live in. Let’s take care of it family! This time, by recycling!



The contest is administered and sponsored by Gisella at Echelon Contests. The contest has two major goals all feeding into the larger goal of increasing recycling in general:

  1. To give Echelon an incentive (the prizes) to learn how to use the recycling system in their town, campus, etc.
  2. To provide a focused way to help the environment.

 WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THIS CONTEST Is that EVERYONE wins! Not only the satisfaction of helping the environment, but if you are not 1 of the main prize winners, JUST for participating, you get 1 of these stickers!


Our very own recycling logo (With our Triad represented)


  1. You have many ways: Find out where are the recycling centers on your town, campus, etc. Or if no bins near, you can file a petition with your neighbors to get them! Encourage people to recycle, bring awareness by printing easy steps on how to recycle and the do’s & don’ts JUST GET CREATIVE! It is up to you!
  2. Take pictures (up to 5) videos, etc. Of what you have accomplished to put this in motion and or showing results!
  3. Worldwide entries OK, we are out to help the entire planet!


  • The most creative will win, you are all amazing at that so I cant wait to see your entries!





OK, Spread the word, put your thinking caps on and enjoy the ride!

DEADLINE TO ENTER: October 2, 2010 send entries to


Gisella <3

This Is Huge- India Bans Elephants in Circuses


One nightmare for elephants in India will soon be over. After a nine-month long investigation, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has banned the registration of elephants under the Performing Animals Rules. The ban effectively outlaws the use of elephants in circuses throughout the country.

To say that elephants forced to perform in circuses have suffered horrific abuse is to understate the matter. From investigating 15 circusesPETA India found that elephants had been taken from their homes in the wild and made to spend their lives in chains. All the while, they were jabbed at and struck with weapons including nail-studded sticks and ankuses (metal hooks with sharp, spear-like ends). Training (often under inebriated handlers) left elephants in pain, bruised and bloody.

What’s more, elephants were found to be dying from inadequate care. They were not provided with veterinary care for their numerous injuries and more than a few were “going missing” under mysterious circumstances

The investigation was carried out by a team with representatives from PETA India and from Animal Rahat, an NGO that seeks to improve the lives of working animals in India. The team found ample evidence of cruelty and abuse suffered by the animals, in apparent violation of India’s 1960 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA) and the 1972 Performing Animals Rules and the Wildlife Protection Act.

Even more, the AWBI has ruled that injured and aged animals cannot be used at circus performances. Should these rules be broken, violators will be served with legal notices.

“The findings from our investigations reveal that cruelty to animals is inherent in the circus business, a conclusion that has already led many countries to ban the use of all animals in circuses,” said Dr. Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs at PETA India.

Bollywood star John Abraham and other celebrities have provided vital support for the campaign. As Abraham wrote in a letter to the Indian government, “unlike human performers, animals are forced to entertain through the use of fear, pain or hunger”; he urged officials to make the compassionate choice.

PETA India’s findings will be forwarded to the country’s Central Zoo Authority for further action. PETA India and Animal Rahat are now seeking to have a complete ban on all animals in circuses because, as PETA points out, “only willing human performers belong in the entertainment industry.”

India has taken a significant step in protecting elephants from lives of abuse and suffering while working against their will in circuses. It is not alone in taking such measures. Austria, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Greece already have laws against using animals in circuses. In England and Wales, a ban on the use of all wild animals in circuses is to occur in 2015, “sparing elephants, camels, zebras, raccoons and reindeer a life of misery, imprisonment, beatings and distressing performances.”

Sadly, as the case of Nosey the elephant ,who has been abused and neglected for years — performing at shows and being forced to give people rides — makes too clear, wild animals are still being forced to appear in traveling circuses throughout the United States. A number of major American circuses have eliminated elephant shows and Los Angeles’ ban on using bull hooks on elephants has been encouraging but such measures are just a start.

India has done the right thing to no longer allow elephants to perform in circuses. The United States must consider a similar law and end the suffering of these endangered, intelligent animals.

16 ways to use less plastic

Plastic problem

Plastic is found in virtually everything these days. Your food and hygiene products are packaged in it. Your car, phone and computer are made from it. And you might even chew on it daily in the form of gum. While most plastics are touted as recyclable, the reality is that they’re “downcycled.” A plastic milk carton can never be recycled into another carton — it can be made into a lower-quality item like plastic lumber, which can’t be recycled. How big is our plastic problem? Of the 30 million tons of plastic waste generated in the U.S. in 2009, only 7 percent was recovered for recycling. This plastic waste ends up in landfills, beaches, rivers and oceans and contributes to such devastating problems as the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, a swirling vortex of garbage the size of a continent where plastic outnumbers plankton. Plus, most plastic is made from oil. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take that will dramatically decrease the amount of plastic waste you generate.

Just say no to straws

One of the easiest ways to keep plastic out of the landfill is to refuse plastic straws. Simply inform your waiter or waitress that you don’t need one, and make sure to specify this when ordering at a drive-thru. Can’t fathom giving up the convenience of straws? Purchase a reusablestainless steel or glass drinking straw. Restaurants are less likely to bring you a plastic one if they see that you’ve brought your own.

Reusable produce bags

About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, and a single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. If you’re already bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, you’re on the right track, but if you’re still using plastic produce bags, it’s time to make a change. Purchase some reusable produce bags and help keep even more plastic out of the landfill. However, avoid those bags made from nylon or polyester because they’re also made from plastic. Opt for cotton ones instead.

Give up gum

Gum was originally made from tree sap called chicle, a natural rubber, but when scientists created synthetic rubber, polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate began to replace the natural rubber in most gum. Not only are you chewing on plastic, but you may also be chewing on toxic plastic — polyvinyl acetate is manufactured using vinyl acetate, a chemical shown to cause tumors in lab rats. While it is possible to recycle your gum, it may be best to skip it — and its plastic packaging — altogether.

Buy boxes, not bottles

Buy laundry detergent and dish soap in boxes instead of plastic bottles. Cardboard can be more easily recycled and made into more products than plastic.

Buy from bulk bins

Many stores, such as Whole Foods, sell bulk food like rice, pasta, beans, nuts, cereal and granola, and opting to fill a reusable bag or container with these items will save both money and unnecessary packaging. Stores have various methods for deducting the container weight so simply check with customer service before filling your container. Also, many cotton bags have their weights printed on their tags so they can simply be deducted at the checkout.

Reuse containers

You can buy a variety of prepared foods in glass jars instead of plastic ones, including spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, salsa and applesauce, just to name a few. Instead of throwing these away orrecycling them, reuse the jars to store food or take them with you when you’re buying bulk foods. If you have plastic containers leftover from yogurt, butter or other food, don’t throw them out. Simply wash them and use them to store food.

Reusable bottles and cups

Bottled water produces 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year, and these bottles require 47 millions gallons of oil to produce, according toFood and Water Watch. By simply refilling a reusable bottle, you’ll prevent some of these plastic bottles from ending up in landfills andoceans — but don’t stop there. Bring a reusable cup to coffee shops and ask the barista to fill it up, and keep a mug at your desk instead of using plastic, paper or Styrofoam cups. The average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups a year so you’ll be preventing a lot of unnecessary waste.

Bring your own container

Whether you’re picking up takeout or bringing home your restaurant leftovers, be prepared with your own reusable containers. When you place your order, ask if you can get the food placed in your own container. Most restaurants will have no problem with it.

Use matches

If you need to light a candle, build a campfire or start a fire for any other reason, opt for matches over disposable plastic lighters. These cheap plastic devices sit in landfills for years and have even been found in dead birds' stomachs. If you can't bear to part with your lighter, pick up a refillable metal one to help cut down on waste.

Skip the frozen food section

Frozen foods offer both convenience and plenty of plastic packaging — even those eco-friendly packaged items made from cardboard are actually coated in a thin layer of plastic. While giving up frozen food can be difficult, there are benefits besides the obvious environmental ones: You’ll be eating fewer processed foods and avoiding thechemicals in their plastic packaging.

Don’t use plasticware

Say goodbye to disposable chopsticks, knives, spoons, forks and even sporks. If you often forget to pack silverware in your lunch, or if you know your favorite restaurant only has plasticware, start keeping a set of utensils with you like To-Go Ware’s bamboo set. It’s sure to reduce your carbon forkprint.

Return reusable containers

If you buy berries or cherry tomatoes at the farmers market, simply bring the plastic containers to the market when you need a refill. You can even ask your local grocer to take the containers back and reuse them.

Use cloth diapers

According to the EPA, 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the U.S. each year. Plus, it takes about 80,000 pounds of plastic and more than 200,000 trees a year to manufacture disposable diapers for American babies alone. By simply switching to cloth diapers, you’ll not only reduce your baby’s carbon footprint, you’ll also save money.

Don’t buy juice

Instead of buying juice in plastic bottles, make your own fresh-squezed juice or simply eat fresh fruit. Not only does this cut down on plastic waste, but it’s also better for you because you’ll be getting more vitamins and antioxidants and less high fructose corn syrup.

Clean green

There’s no need for multiple plastic bottles of tile cleaner, toilet cleaner and window cleaner if you have a few basics on hand like baking soda and vinegar. So free up some space, save some cash, and avoid those toxic chemicals by making your own cleaning products.

Pack a greener lunch

If your lunchbox is full of disposable plastic containers and sandwich bags, it’s time to make a change for the greener. Instead of packing snacks and sandwiches in bags, put them in reusable containers you have at home, or try lunch accessories like reusable snack bags or the Wrap-N-Mat. You can also opt for fresh fruit instead of single-serving fruit cups, and buy items like yogurt and pudding in bulk and simply put a portion in a reusable dish for lunch.

Shannon answers your Eco-Questions

This month I asked Shannon two eco-based questions that have been submitted by the Echelon and here are his answers:

1) If you could build an ideal, utopian ecopolis, what would it be? -submitted by  Kate Loran

Shannon: To take everything away and start from the beginning. Cars, factories, electricity, etc. Snap my fingers, SNAP! And we would have everything gone except ourselves and the planet. Then we can start rebuilding the planet with what we know now.

2) For the next album, would it be feasible to distribute it without the plastic casing? I still like to purchase my physical cds, but those plastic covers are brutal in more ways than one. I think it would be great to extend your sustainable practices into this area as well. - submitted by Amina Patton

Shannon: Agreed…and we are thinking of ways to do this :)


Thank you to our Echelon members for your questions and remember to keep sending them in! I’ll choose two more for this next month and have them answered for you on the first of the month!

5 ways to help save the bees

Honey bees are an important part of our ecological fabric, but their population is dwindling. See what you can do to help save the bees.

Photo: MightyBoyBrian/flickr

Pollinators like bees are critical to our world’s food supply, and their numbers are dwindling. What can we do to help save the bees? We rely on bees to pollinate over 30 percent of our food crops, but Colony Collapse Disorder threatens the world bee population and the future of our food supply. Plants like apples, avocados, squash, cucumbers, and many other food plants that we commonly eat need pollinators in order to grow. Luckily, it’s not all gloom and doom! Here are some ways that you can take action right now to help the dwindling bee population. Don’t spray pesticides. Pesticides are a major culprit in Colony Collapse Disorder, and the best way to help bees is to stop spraying the stuff! Buy organic. Support organic farmers who use natural farming methods that are bee-friendly. Don’t support industrial honey. Large-scale honey operations are more focused onoutput and profit than with the health of the bees. If you’re going to eat honey, make sure it comes from a small operation. You can often find small beekeepers at your local farmers market, and they’ll tell you all about their beekeeping adventures! Plant a bee-friendly habitat. Pollinators need a place to pollinate, and by providingbee-friendly plants in your yard, porch, or window box, you give them a place to just be. Plants like fruit, herbs, melons, and even some trees can attract bees to your yard or garden. Get heard! If we’re going to help save the bees on a large scale, we need to let decision-makers know how we feel. Check out this petition aimed at the EPA calling for a ban on pesticides that harm bee populations.