Earth Day 2011: Energy from Champagne, Recycled Flip-Flops

Earth Day 2011: Energy from Champagne, Recycled Flip-Flops

The greenest way to drink champagne - CC license by Nadya Peak/Flickr

Earth Day. It's the day on which countless companies decide to announce new green products, environmental goals, project results or tree-planting plans, meaning it's also the day countless announcements go straight from our in-box to our (electronic) recycling bin.

We'll try to make sure that at least a few of the resources that went into typing up and emailing those releases to us don't go to waste. Here are some of the ones that made the cut:

The Ecology of Oenology

The Champagne region in France is toasting Earth Day by turning its wood waste into energy. The trade association for the region, the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, announced that the 150,000 metric tons of wood that piles up due to vineyard trimming will now be burned to generate energy.

The region also pumps out 158 million gallons of wastewater and byproducts a year, but has increased how much it treats the vintage detritus to 95 percent, with almost all of it (91 percent) getting recycled.

Less Trash in Store

In recycling a bit of news from last year, Target announced how many bottles, cans and other materials it collected in 10 months after putting recycling bins in stores last April.

Since adding bins for customers to use at its 1,740 U.S. stores, Target collected more than 170 million plastic grocery bags, 700 tons of bottles and cans and almost 2 million MP3 players, cell phones and small electronics.  

New Life for Plastic Cups and Flip-Flops

TerraCycle, the New Jersey company that turns all types of trash into consumer products, launched a handful of partnerships and limited collection drives this month. Two new collection programs will accept cosmetics packaging from Garnier brand products and any foam or plastic polystyrene cups, which let's hope you don't see at any Earth Day celebrations. 

Throughout this week TerraCycle is working with Office Depot to give customers coupons for new Stanford products if they bring in pens, pencils or markers to be recycled. And if your flip-flops get ruined while picking up trash on the beach, Old Navy stores will collect used flip-flops until late May to be turned into public playground items through TerraCycle.

Working for the Planet

Numerous announcements tying new products or promotions to Earth Day pose the danger of turning the celebration into a shopping spree. But with no consumer products to shill, Dow Chemical Company is in the position of talking about something other than sales.

The company announced its employees would participate in street cleanups, tree plantings, trail restorations, recycling events and more. The company is also holding a talk by The Nature Conservancy's chief conservation officer, Bill Ginn, at its headquarters.

Calculating the Savings

A year and half ago, Spiceworks, a social network for IT professionals, started offering the Intel Power Manager plug-in to its members, giving them a way to schedule when computers under their control power on and off, and also track power usage.

With 40,000 members, each overseeing an average of 55 desktops, using the plug-in, Spiceworks ran the numbers, estimating that its members are saving 664 million kilowatt-hours a year — enough to power 36,000 houses in southern California — by making sure computers are powered off when they're not in use, and using Earth Day as a springboard to get more members to utilize the plug-in.

That's just a sampling of the news so far; check back on the big day when we'll have more.

The greenest way to drink champagne - CC license by Nadya Peak/Flickr