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Back to School Green: Waste-Free Lunches

It’s hard to believe it but back to school time is almost here. This year why not be a bit greener? One great way to reduce the waste caused by school is to pack a waste-free lunch. This is easier than you think! To start packing waste-free lunches you can either buy a kit that comes with everything you need, or you can put the supplies together yourself. We have put together a guide with what you need and what to avoid.


  • Lunch Bag- look for organic cotton or recycled plastic that says it’s free of BPA and lead.
  • Cloth Napkins- organic cotton is best.
  • Food containers- stainless steel is best, if plastic look for clear #5 plastic that says it’s BPA-free.
  • Silverware- stainless steel or bamboo is best.
  • Reusable water bottle- stainless steel is best. Glass is great but not best for packing in lunches.


  • PVC- PVC often contains lead and other toxic materials
  • Unknown plastic- avoid plastic when possible but if you must by plastic make sure it’s BPA free, #5 plastic is thought to be the safest choice.
  • Traditional lunch boxes- many of these contain lead or other harmful chemicals.
  • Vintage lunch boxes- this may seem eco-friendly but they may contain things like lead.

Disposable school lunches can create a lot of waste, around 67 pounds per year, per child! Just switching to waste-free lunches this year can make your child’s school year a lot greener. Many of these items can be used to pack your own lunch as well to save even more waste!

We encourage you to look locally for these types of products. However, when that isn’t possible be sure to support Green Oklahoma by shopping our new online store.

What are your favorite waste-free lunch items? And where do you shop for them? Share in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


Is Tire Burning Really Recycling?

tiresWhen you buy a new tire in Oklahoma you may notice a tire recycling fee. Many people believe this means their old tires are being recycled but many of Oklahoma’s tires go to cement kilns to be burned for fuel. While some consider this recycling, is it really? And is it safe?

When Erie, Pa wanted to start burning tires in their power plant a group of residents formed the group KEEP (Keep Erie’s Environment Protected) and had this to say about the idea.

“They are calling this a completely green, renewable thing; well, burning tires isn’t considered renewable by anybody,” said KEEP member Dennis Stratton, an electrical engineer. “They talk about gasification and liquefaction. You’re going to be throwing tire chunks into an oven at 1,600 degrees; I don’t care what you call it, it’s still going to be burning.” –read more

When tires are burned they release many toxins. Some of the toxins include things like dioxins, which are highly toxic and causes seriously health problems. The World Health Organization says most toxic forms of dioxin are the most carcinogenic substances known to science.  Tires also contain petrochemical feedstock which includes styrene (a benzene derivative) and butadiene, both are carcinogens. Heavy metals are also often released.

One of the places that burns tires in Oklahoma is the cement plant in Ada. The facility is listed as a “high-priority violator” of the Clean Air Act by the EPA. The plant has been out of compliance for many years.

There are ways to use tires in more environmentally friendly ways. Tires can be used as mulch, in asphalt, to make playgrounds and many other things. These options can help keep a lot of pollution out of our air, while still dealing with the disposal issues with tires.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page

Photo Credit:  Public Domain 


Getting Your City to Recycle


While many cities in Oklahoma have recycling programs, there are still many that don’t. So what can you do if your city doesn’t have a recycling program? It’s not something that will happen overnight but there are things you can do to encourage your city to recycle.

  • Talk to city officials and ask questions like, have you looked into having a recycling program? What would be your concerns about offering recycling?
  • Talk to people in your city to find out if others are interested in recycling. You can even set up a free survey on Google Docs or many other sites and share it on sites like Facebook, to find out what the interest levels are.
  • Consider starting a recycling coalition. I serve on the board for the recycling coalition in my town and while as long as I’ve been on it my town has had recycling, we did help get a curbside recycling program started a little over a year ago. It’s a very small group, with few funds, but the people are passionate.
  • Talk to nearby towns, that are about the same size, that have recycling programs. You can try and find out how their program got started and if they have any tips.
  • If your city contracts out your trash, see if you can talk to the trash company to find out if they offer recycling.
  • Ask to speak at a city council meeting about recycling and your desire to have recycling in your town.
  • Check out the Oklahoma Recycling Association, they have a lot of great information on recycling.
  • Most importantly, don’t give up and get others involved.

If you choose to take on this project it can be a lot of work but if you are able to make it happen you will have a lasting impact on your city and even the world.

Have a tip for how to start a recycling program? Post in the comments below or on our Facebook page. We would also love to hear from you if you helped get your city to start a recycling program or are working on doing so, send us an email at gogreenokla@gmail.com

Recycling Your Old iPhone

Getting a new iPhone? Did you know just trashing it is bad for the environment? Be sure to reuse it, sell it, or recycle it. Here is some info on making your switch to a new iPhone greener.

Recycling iPhone E-Wastes the Practical Way

Browse more data visualization.


Trash to Cash…for Real?

It’s pretty astounding that the average American creates over one and a half tons of trash a year. Very overwhelming if you think about it. Spread that figure out over 300 or so million Americans and you get an inkling of the problem we’re facing—we’re making more trash as a nation than we know what to do with.

No doubt recycling is catching on and becoming a habit for many of us—I’m thankful for that—but there’s still a majority out there who don’t recycle…and that’s a problem. We have the huge challenge of encouraging people to see the necessity of recycling and then to make a commitment to do it.

One option may be just to pay them for their recyclables. Hey, don’t laugh yet…it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. If you look at the growing demand from worldwide burgeoning economies such as China and India, you’ll see that raw materials are more in demand than ever. Items such as plastics and aluminum are at their all time highs, which sets up a huge market need and big-time incentive for companies to pay cash for trash.

I know at my company, American Waste Control, we have a program now in place where we actually pay non-profits and groups per container for their recyclables. We call it our Trash to Cash Program and many schools and organizations in Tulsa are finding it a great way to earn money for their special projects.

trash to cash american waste, Turn your trash to cash using Mr. Murph at American Waste Control


The incentive is pretty worthwhile: Not only are they doing something incredible for the environment, they’re also helping raise funds to further their organization’s cause. We’re not at a point as a company where we can pay households for their recyclables, but I can see a time when that could become reality for us and other recycling haulers.

Going green could actually net some green. Pretty ironic given that a decade ago, recycling was considered a zero profit endeavor. Now, recyclers are finding a niche market, and bringing others along for the ride.


E-Waste Not Just a Landfill Issue

We all know about the good things that come with today’s technology advances. Mobile apps and computers, media and electronic gadgets galore. We love them all and can’t get enough.

The downside is the surplus of massed produced e-products that quickly become obsolete and then pile up in our landfills. One UN estimate puts the amount of e-waste produced globally each year at 50 million tons. Just think how much that figure will climb as more consumers enter the market and look to buy bigger and better things.

The truth is, we need to look seriously at ways we can deal with e-waste without simply—excuse the pun—dumping the burden on our ever-expanding landfills. Landfills are just part of an integrated solution as we look for ways to mitigate the effects of e-waste on the environment.

True, a sanitary and well-designed landfill can dramatically help reduce the effects of dangerous chemical substances. I’m the head of a waste management company in Tulsa that owns its own landfill, so I know the vital part landfills can play. There’s no question disposal of e-waste is absolutely safe as long as it can be properly contained and the toxicity significantly reduced. (For example, at American Waste Control we’ve installed the latest technology in liners, a leachate collection system, and an interceptor line around our landfill to protect soil and water).

But, the fact is, much of the problem can and should be effectively addressed even before e-waste reaches that endpoint. It clearly takes a synthesis of all sources including consumers, recyclers and manufacturers, if we’re to solve what is one of the most important waste disposal issues of this generation.

Thanks to the green movement that is really a global phenom, people are becoming increasingly aware of the problems of e-waste and the negative impact it can have on the environment. Not only are consumers beginning to consider how the product is manufactured, they’re looking at the energy it takes to make it, as well as the recyclability of each product before they buy. That’s a really encouraging trend as we move beyond just the disposal side of the equation and effectively utilize consumer purchasing power as well.

Companies within the computer and consumer electronics industries are also slowly beginning to do their part. Many are using greener production techniques, enhancing energy usage and putting a focus on recyclability and reuse of end of life electronics. Companies such as Dell and others even have special buy back programs for certain products to help extend their life and lessen the impact before they’re completely disposed of.

No doubt, the trends addressing e-waste are positive and show an encouraging awareness of the issue. However, we still have to remain diligent if we’re to overcome the growing and damaging effects that e-waste can have. The huge deluge of e-products on the market will only grow stronger as we move forward with ever evolving technologies.

Those of us who are committed to conservation must learn to work together in a global fashion if we’re to meet the challenges and stem the tide. It’s not just a landfill’s concern…it’s up to all of us to continue growing awareness about e-waste and boldly use every resource available to create solid solutions.

Photo credit- JohnJMatlock

About the Author

Tom Hill is the CEO of American Waste Control, Tulsa Recycle and Transfer and American Environmental Landfill along with a member of the Tulsa Master Recyclers Association.  Tom’s company recently opened a six million dollar expansion to their recycling facility called Mr. Murph. For the past year, he’s devised and led American Waste’s green recycling initiative, aimed at communicating ways in which Tulsa families and businesses can reduce their waste through recycling to better help the environment. He and his wife, Olivia, have two children and live in Tulsa, OK.


The Life of a Water Bottle

Are you still using bottled water? This graphic shows what is happening to that bottle when you are done.


If you use bottled water please recycle your bottles. Better yet, switch to a reusable water bottle like the options below. (click on the pictures for more info)

Have you made the switch yet?


About the Author

Lisa Sharp is passionate about green living, organic food, animals, and natural medicine. She is an environmental activist, green living expert, and consultant. In addition to being the founder and editor of Green Oklahoma, Lisa has a green living blog, Retro Housewife Goes Green. You can follow Lisa on twitter @Retrohousewife5 and Facebook.



Harmful Algae in Oklahoma Lakes

A harmful algae is showing up in lakes around Oklahoma. The algae is called Blue Green Algae and it’s very harmful to people and animals. The algae creates endotoxins, hepatoxins and neurotoxins. Current lakes in Oklahoma that the algae has been found in include, Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, Keystone, Fort Gibson, Lake Tenkiller, and Lake Eufaula.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) says “when in doubt stay out.” You can’t know for sure what kind of algae a bloom is just by looking so if algae is present it’s best to stay out of the water and to also keep pets and livestock away. The DEQ also asks that if you see an algae bloom that looks like thick pea soup; green paint; bluish, brownish or reddish- green paint, please report it to the DEQ.

You can help prevent this toxic algae by not using products that contain phosphorous. Some products you may have in your home that can contain phosphorous include:

  • Automatic Dishwasher Detergent
  • Cleaners
  • Fertilizer

To help avoid these products use natural cleaning products, phosphorous free, natural fertilizers, and phosphorous-free automatic dishwasher detergent, which is becoming very common as many states have outlawed automatic dishwasher detergent containing phosphorous.

For more information visit the DEQ’s website.

Photos are all property of the Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

About the Author

Lisa Sharp is passionate about green living, organic food, animals, and natural medicine. She is an environmental activist, green living expert, and consultant. In addition to being the founder and editor of Green Oklahoma, Lisa has a green living blog, Retro Housewife Goes Green. You can follow Lisa on twitter @Retrohousewife5 and Facebook.




World Oceans Day

Today is World Oceans Day, while Oklahoma doesn’t have any oceans to enjoy, we do still have an impact on the health of the world’s oceans. Plastic waste is one way that we are all having an impact. Around 10 percent of the plastic produced each year ends up in our oceans.  That’s around 10,000,000 tons of plastic each year. This plastic isn’t floating around in large pieces in the ocean that would be able to be cleaned up, they are photodegrading and turning in to tiny pieces that would be impossible to clean up.

So what can we do to help the problem? We should be rethinking the items we buy and reduce our use of plastics. Since plastic is everywhere this can seem overwhelming but with some simple steps you can make a big difference.

  • Stop using bottled water. An estimated 25% of bottled water is just tap water. If you are worried about your tap water invest in a good filter and fill your own stainless steel reusable bottles at home.
  • Use reusable bags. Plastic bags are one of the items often seen in the ocean. Every year, Americans use approximately 1 billion plastic shopping bags and few are recycled. Reusable bags are easy to use, come in many great styles and often stores offer discounts for when you use them.
  • Use real dishes. Using real dishes will help save you money and greatly reduce your waste. You can even use neat products like To-Go Ware utensil sets to help reduce waste when away from the house.
  • Use a reusable mug. When you get coffee and other drinks out bring your own mug. Many insulated mugs will keep your drink hot or cold for several hours, unlike disposable cups.
  • Think before you buy. This is one of the biggest things you can do. Ask yourself these questions before you buy a product. Is it something you really need? Is there a better option that will last longer and has less waste? These are good questions to ask not only to reduce your waste but also keep more money in your pocket.
  • Recycle your plastic. When you do end up with plastic do your best to recycle it. You can find places to recycle your plastic on our recycling page.

And remember take it one step at a time. If you do these things slowly they become habits and you won’t become overwhelmed. And if we each do our part we can help save our oceans.


About the Author

Lisa Sharp is passionate about green living, organic food, animals, and natural medicine. She is an environmental activist, green living expert, and consultant. In addition to being the founder and editor of Green Oklahoma, Lisa has a green living blog, Retro Housewife Goes Green. You can follow Lisa on twitter @Retrohousewife5 and Facebook.


Local Woman Takes the Litter Problem to Heart


Karen Miles at the first clean-up.

Six years ago Karen Miles heard about LitterBlitz – an event in Oklahoma that encourages people to clean up their neighborhoods – and wanted to get involved. She enjoys walking her dogs around Lake Overholser and the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge so she decided that is the area she wanted to clean up.

She knew she couldn’t clean up the area’s alone so she started asking others to come help. She also asked local businesses to donate items to giveaway to those who came to help. She finds this to be an added encouragement for people. The first year she had around 12 people and each year it has grown, last year the count was 125. In addition to the increase of people participating each year, there has been a decrease in the amount of waste they find. This is a very positive trend that Karen and other participates hope to keep seeing.

Volunteers digging out a piece of metal on the North Canadian River.
Karen says the first year she wasn’t very well prepared. She now plans the event in advance for the month of April, which is also the Great American Clean-Up. She is able to get supplies through organizations like Oklahoma City Beautiful and Keep Oklahoma Beautiful. She even has national sponsors that have helped like Waste Management and Pepsi. Last year Boulder Chips sent chips and t-shirts for the participates. Karen hopes to continue to see this grow but says she needs help.

“Eventually, I would like a group to take ownership of this clean-up so I am not having to do everything by myself each year. Other lakes have “Friends” such as “Friends of Lake Hefner”, “Friends of Lake Arcadia”, “Friends of Lake Thunderbird”. Overholser doesn’t have “friends” like this even though I personally think the Overholser/Stinchcomb area has so much more to offer than other areas. Most people have never even heard of the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge. It is a rare jewel that we need to protect. “

Sorting out recyclables, it’s important to Karen that as much as possible is kept out of the landfill.
Oklahoma needs more people like Karen that not only care about the areas around them but take action to protect them. There are many ways to help this great state of ours and one is to help Karen and her clean-up of Lake Overholser and the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge. To find out how you can get involved please click here. The upcoming LitterBlitz – the event that motivated Karen – is also coming up, click here for more.
All ages get in on the clean-up
Photo Credits: Lake Overholser and Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge Clean-up/Karen Miles

About the Author

Lisa Sharp is passionate about green living, organic food, animals, and natural medicine. She is an environmental activist, green living expert, and consultant. In addition to being the founder and editor of Green Oklahoma, Lisa has a green living blog, Retro Housewife Goes Green. You can follow Lisa on twitter @Retrohousewife5 and Facebook.