Saturday, May 31, 2008

Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch Video

Here is a sobering NBC News story about 7 million tons of plastic debris floating in the Pacific Ocean, creating a garbage patch twice the size of Texas. We've read other reports of a toxic soup of plastics below the surface of the Pacific twice the size of the entire continental United States.

We generally try to avoid environmental sensationalism and unsubstantiated eco warnings, but it's clear that our current consumption patterns and many of our industrial (and promotional) practices are doing serious harm to our planet. Past posts here have documented plastics we've found washed up on the beaches of Northern California. This mainstream media report is well researched and visually powerful.

Not only does plastic trash pose serious risks to marine life and sea birds but our filth-filled waters threaten human health as well. The good news is more people are waking up to these facts, and there are a growing number of more responsible alternatives to plastics, excess packaging and cheap disposable goods.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Crash Course on California Prop 65

In 1986, California voters approved the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, known as Proposition 65. The purpose of Prop 65 is to ensure that people are informed about exposure to chemicals that have been determined by the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and/or other reproductive harm.

Any product shipping into California which contain these chemicals is required to carry a Prop 65 warning label. Some of the most popular promotional products — including many mugs, plastic goods, and electronics — require such warnings. Even some "green" products, such as those made with high recycled content, are subject to Prop 65 warnings because they may contain trace chemicals from their former life.

As a result, the promotional industry has been abuzz with complaints about Prop 65.

We recently met the owner of a large promotional products supplier from the midwest who complained bitterly that Prop 65 was total overkill and required labeling in California was beginning to harm his business. What he neglected to consider, I guess, is that the potentially dangerous chemicals in his products could harm the individuals who use them. Chemicals from all sorts of products are leaching into our water system (and our bodies) at alarming rates, and cancer incidents continue to rise.

Information is better than ignorance, and everyone has the right to know if the goods they are using or giving away may have a risk, however minimal. Laws like Prop 65 may be a pain to some, but they force manufacturers to rethink the way they do things and they ultimately create change that is good for people and the planet.

We support responsible manufacturers and distributors who investigate safer ways to produce products using alternative materials and processes that don't require a warning label. We advocate full disclosure on chemicals, even though it's often difficult to get this information from manufacturers.

If you're looking for promotional goods that won't go out with a scary label, the good news is that there are many greener, more sustainable and safer alternatives. You can have them sourced through our partner site, eco imprints.

If you want a little more info on Prop 65, here's a simple Q & A that we hope you'll find useful.

1. What is California Prop 65?

Answer: Prop 65 is a law that went into effect in 1986 in California that prohibits the distribution of products into the State of California where that product contains one or more of approximately 750 commonly occurring substances determined by the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive harm unless the company that distributes the product into California places a properly worded warning on it.

2. What products does Prop 65 apply to?

Answer: All products distributed into the State of California. Prop 65 does not apply to products that are not distributed into the State of California. However, to minimize legal liability, some manufacturers now place Prop 65 notices on products that deliver to states outside of California.

3. What chemicals are cited by the State of California as causing cancer or reproductive harm?

Answer: The State of California maintains a list of those chemicals. From time to time the list is changed to add chemicals and, less frequently, to delete chemicals. Currently there are approximately 750 chemicals on that list. Additional chemicals have been proposed for addition to this list.

4. How much of a chemical needs to be present before a company must provide a warning?

Answer: Prop 65 requires a warning if one of the following NRSL or NOEL thresholds is met:

A) When a person is exposed to a chemical at more than the “No Significant Risk Level” (NRSL). If a person is exposed to a chemical at the NRSL for 70 years that person would have no more than a 1 in 1,000 chance of developing cancer as a result of that exposure.

B) When a person is exposed to a chemical at more than 1/1,000 of the “No Observable Effect Level” (NOEL). The NOEL is the level determined by the State of California to pose no reproductive harm to humans or lab animals.

5. Has the State of California established a NRSL or NOEL threshold for all of the chemicals they list?

Answer: No, no all of the listed chemicals have NRSL or NOEL thresholds.

6. How are warnings given?

Answer: Warnings may be given in a variety of ways such as by labeling the product or its package, placing a warning slip in the packaging for the product, or printing on the packaging in some other fashion. The placement of the warning depends upon the nature of the product and its packaging.

7. What must the warning state?

Answer: A proper warning must state in clear, reasonable and legible language that the product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. Warnings that only state that the product contains a chemical that “may” cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm have been found to be insufficient.

8. Where can I get more information about Prop 65?

Answer: The State of California has a website that you can check out here — or you can call (916) 445-6900 for more details.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Save Gas with Custom Branded Tire Gauges

Here in California, our culture has been highly influenced by automobiles for a long time. While we're seeing a lot more hybrids on the road these days, most adults continue to drive an average of at least 11,500 miles a year.

The recent rise in gas prices has caused many to rethink their dependency on vehicles. Shifting to a more fuel efficient lifestyle is not only good for your pocket book, it's also good for your planet. Among other things, it saves energy, slows climate change, protects water and wildlife, prevents heart disease, strengthens national security, and allows us all to, well... breathe easier.

When you must use a car, one very simple but often overlooked way to enhance your fuel efficiency (and thus reduce your carbon footprint) is to keep your tires at proper pressure. By doing so, you'll improve gas mileage by around 3.3 percent.

Custom tire gauges with your branding or message can be a useful, practical and eco-friendly promotional item — especially in this time of high gas prices and climate change. From heavy duty pen styles to high tech digital versions, you can find a wide assortment of customizable tire gauges by searching products here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Plastic Shopping Bags Must Go! (But Not To The Landfill)

One of the most powerful symbols of our wasteful lifestyle is the plastic shopping bag. It's made from non-renewable fossil fuels, is non-biodegradable, and is typically produced to be used once ... then tossed out.

The vast majority of our country's 6 billion plastic bags end up in landfills — or worse yet, littering streets, clogging natural ecosystems, spreading chemicals and posing a threat to the health of humans and wildlife.

Last year, thanks to legislation sponsored by progressive supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, our hometown of San Francisco became the first major city in the country to ban grocery stores from using plastic bags. The landmark law requires all retailers with revenue over $2 million to provide only compostable or reusable bags. 28 Cities in the U.S. have proposed laws restricting the use of plastic bags, and many more around the world have already done so. The City's ban will extend to chain drug stores next week, but it does not extend to events and promotions.

Inexpensive custom-branded plastic bags have been a convention business staple for decades and are ubiquitous in the promotional marketing industry. But now many more responsible and reusable promotional bag choices are available — including recycled paper, cloth, biodegradable plastic, and recycled eco-spun PET bags. (Today we delivered 4,500 beautiful recycled cotton and soda bottle fabric tote bags to promote a city recycling program here in the Bay Area.)

Public opinion has been somewhat mixed on San Francisco's bag ban. Neighboring Oakland put a similar ban on hold last month to further study the issue. Opponents say plastic bags can be reused for things like trash bin liners, or to pick up pet poop — but most municipalities don't allow you to recycle them and ultimately, to the landfill they go.

Having done extensive research on the negative impacts of plastics, we support the ban. Plastic has many wonderful uses, but throw-away bags aren't one of them. It's not just the problem of plastic accumulating in our landfills and our ecosystems, but how plastic and related chemicals are accumulating in our own bodies.

In addition to bans, we like creative ideas such as small discounts or credits offered to people who reuse bags at retail, or "taxes" on people who don't. Our local coffee shop discounts our coffee 30 cents because we bring in our own mug. The same incentives can work for bags. In 2002, for example, Ireland implemented a 15 cent plastic bag tax which has been credited with reducing the use of plastic bags by a staggering 90 percent.

To learn more about plastics, and how our oceans are becoming the world's biggest "landfill" check this out from How Stuff Works.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Euro-style Non-Toxic Promotional Flash Drives

One of the key environmental concerns related to electronic products is the chemicals and materials used to make them — and what happens to those chemicals when the product's useful days are over. If you're into tech gear and gadgets, there are plenty of promotional solutions that are not as harmful as traditional electronics.

Flash drives have many promotional applications and they save trees. Choose from drives made of eco-materials like bamboo, recycled plastic, and reclaimed wood — or items manufactured without the most harmful toxins found in typical electronics. We offer drives made to stricter European environmental standards — without Lead, Mercury, Cadium, and other toxic substances. Lots of eco styles and configurations available, and price points are comparable to standard versions. Our eco flash drives have been particularly popular for replacing printed brochures at trade shows.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sustainable Swag Recycled Compost Bucket

People are always looking for green promotional items that cost a few bucks or less. Here's one that isn't exactly beautiful, but we love its practicality.

This 87 oz. recycled bucket works perfectly for holding and transporting food and paper scraps to the composting bin. Not only is the bucket fully recycled, but composting reduces landfill waste and promotes sustainable living.

The bucket has a full wrap imprint area so you have plenty of room for branding or composting tips. Other uses: watering plants, toting vegetables from the garden, building sand castles. The recycling process produces a variety of colors, from black to gray, dull to shiny. No two are exactly the same. You can find it here.