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Adventures in Greening: Link Love

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By Catherine Moran

So, I’ve been a bit exhausted the past few weeks, so sleeping has taken priority over researching and writing (sorry, y’all). In lieu of a lot of reading, I’m sharing some favorite links of late. Check them out, and have a great Monday!

I’m helping to #spreadYES because I am a lover and supporter of all things Jason Mraz. Check out this awesome new track, “Back to the Earth,” in which Mraz sings about how getting back to nature helps him deal with life. You go, Jason. Keep spreading the positive, Earth-lovin’ vibes.

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Purusha People is one of my favorite shops to buy yoga clothes. Hayley uses Fair Trade organic cotton in many of her pants. The environmental practices used in producing Fair Trade cotton encourage sustainability, which is, of course, awesome. And Fair Trade is better for those who are producing the cotton, so it’s better for both people and the planet.

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One of my favorite things these days is The Tiny Project, and other projects like it: people living in very small homes or trailers. You can’t have a lot of Stuff when your space is limited. Another blog I very much enjoy that is along those same lines is A Restless Transplant, who takes gorgeous photos of his travels.

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It might not be much, but that’s what I’ve got for you today, greenies. Till next time!

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Of Trash and Ocean Patches

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By Catherine Moran

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a fun and safe holiday weekend. You might have been lucky enough to spend some time at the beach during the long weekend. While there, you were hopefully thinking about snoozing on the sand, listening to tunes, and swimming until your fingers pruned. You hopefully weren’t thinking about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or, if you were, you weren’t letting it bum you out too much. Why do I say that? After all, The Garbage Patch is a major bummer. But it turns out that it’s disappearing. Yay! But, hang on: Is this a good or bad thing?

We might be inclined to say it’s a good thing, because disappearing garbage means the ocean is free of this problem, but that’s not really the case. Where are the microplastics that make up the Patch disappearing to? One possibility is that some marine wildlife are attaching themselves to this trash (think barnacles on the bottom of a boat, only now they’re attaching themselves to, say, plastic bottles). This takes the plastic down to the deep fathoms below, and no one can say what changes it’s creating down there.

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Two other possibilities for what’s become of the plastic: it’s making its way to our shores in smaller pieces, or it’s being broken down by bacteria into extremely small particles.

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If this missing garbage wasn’t causing concern before now, brace yourself: if this plastic is broken down and becoming  teeny tiny, there’s a possibility that it’s being eaten by teeny tiny fish. Teeny tiny fish are eaten by bigger fish, which are in turn eaten by bigger fish, and then, somewhere along the line, people might eat these fish. This is bad news: plastic is not on the food pyramid.

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So, in conclusion, the disappearance of the plastic garbage patch might be worse than its existence in the first place.  Scientists can only speculate as to what is happening to this plastic, and its unclear if they will be able to come to a definitive answer. What’s done is done, but, going forward, we can continue trying to eliminate adding to these collections of trash by reducing our plastic usage and supporting such endeavors as bans on microbeads. For more reading on the disappearance of the The Great Grabage Patch, check out this article, or this one.

 

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Vacation Time!

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By Catherine Moran

I’m in Salt Lake City for some Life Events this week, so this post is short and sweet. In honor of seeing my friend Sara, I’m linking you to the guest post she wrote for Adventures in Greening back in 2012. I’m looking forward to experiencing some of the green things Sara has found in SLC.

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Have a great week!

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Back to the Future

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By Catherine Moran

I’m pretty excited to say that I am, for once, on top of an electronic advancement. Well, sort of. I’m not calling myself Nostradamus, or anything (but I will share ::cough:: humblebrag ::cough:: that a friend of mine did deem me so when he passed along the article below), but it looks like some green technology that caught my eye awhile back might actually become real. tumblr_mhjr2iuhXz1rwz799o1_500

In September, I wrote about Phonebloks, a company that has created a design for a phone with replaceable parts. The Phonebloks phone would revolutionize the cell phone: rather than upgrading and getting rid of your phone after a certain number of years, you could switch out specific pieces for, say, bigger memory or better speakers as they become available. In essence, it’s the anti-planned obsolescence model.

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So, Phonebloks is a great idea, and I’m not the only one who thinks so: Google seems to have a phone in the works that seems to function similarly to the Phoneblocks model. It’s set to launch in January, for $50. Hey, now! That pricing is…reasonable! tumblr_m601jjuJrR1qhcq3b

From the article linked above: The barebones base model will have the frame, screen, a limited CPU, and Wi-Fi connectivity. Purchasable add-ons would build that base model into a highly personalized, fully functional phone. It would be a phone that can easily upgrade to new technologies, such as camera improvements, without having to pitch the base device. Of course, this sort of device won’t appeal to everyone, and it might take awhile to catch on. And, in the long run, this may not be a more eco-friendly alternative to other smartphones, but it’s definitely a step forward in letting consumers decide if they want to continue purchasing items that are designed to become outdated in a matter of years. If this is real life, I will, no doubt, leave my iPhone when it’s hit its planned obsolescence run time (though that won’t be for a few years yet, so I’ll have to seek out friends who try this new kind of mobile device). Who’s with me? tumblr_inline_mr9zl8IgE21qz4rgp Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Memorial Day!

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By Catherine Moran

My, oh my, how time does fly! We’re back to another Memorial Day weekend. You may already be out and about today, but if not, think about making your long weekend a bit more eco-friendly.

• If you’re going to be outdoors, do something with a low environmental impact. Planning a picnic? Pack your sandwiches beforehand in reusable baggies, and bring stainless steel pint glasses (Klean Kanteen has some nice options), reusable utensils, and cloth napkins. The idea is, when you leave, you leave nothing behind that indicates you were there at all: not even the trash barrels will have been touched!

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Don’t forget the bug spray, either. How about Meow Meow Tweet’s all natural spray? Keep the bugs away, while reducing the number of toxic chemicals we spray onto ourselves and into the environment.

• If you’re going to the beach, make sure you’re protecting yourself from UV rays. Sunglasses and hats are a must, as well as sunblock. Beth Terry has a great recommendation for a brand of sunblock that I have yet to try, but I plan on giving it a go this summer.

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• If you’re staying in, open windows to avoid running the AC or fans all day.  Consider reading a book, or playing a board game with friends, and leave the electronics off. Maybe even stage a picnic in the living room!

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Whatever you do this holiday, stay safe, and have a great day!

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: The Green Book

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By Catherine Moran 

It’s been awhile since the last book review, so today’s post is a few words on Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen’s The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time.

This book came out in 2007, which dates a lot of the information found within it. Not only have the Whats we consume changed a bit since then, but the Hows have changed, as well. For example, the section “money and finance” lists a lot of green options that were, at the time, good ideas, but are now the norm: receiving electronic bills, doing your banking and filing your taxes online. Some of their suggestions are slowly being made easier, such as forgoing an ATM receipt. I’m one who likes to keep a record of my banking transactions, so I always took a receipt. These days, I have the option to have my receipt emailed to me, so now I have no problem opting out of a printed receipt and emailing the transaction to myself.

Outdated information aside (there are tips for how to set up voicemail in lieu of having an answering machine), I wasn’t too blown away by this book. The formula bored me fairly quickly: if you do X, we could do X with what we saved. For example: “If 80 percent of students did so [used a binder made from recycled materials], the materials saved could build a binder with an area of 1,240 acres­––larger than the entire campus of the University of California at Berkeley.” I guess that’s a neat visual, but these statistics quickly became something that I glossed over in my reading. I get it. We could do a lot with the things we don’t really need to use. But to continually hit the reader over the head with these “shockers” made me feel slightly insulted after awhile.

Another aspect of this book I didn’t enjoy were the celebrity highlights, which each featured a celebrity sharing why they have bought eco-friendly cars or started using reusable bottles. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not going to change any habits just because I read that Tyra Banks thinks you should go green. None of these celebrity voices offered prescriptive advice (that was left to the body of the book), so I wasn’t sure of their purpose, other than to give themselves a pat on the back. And, I suppose, convince some people who might be on the fence about switching up their habits that if a celebrity can curb his exorbitant lifestyle, you can, too (I’m poking fun here.)

In short, I’d deem this a pass. If you’re looking for a good green read, I’ll always recommend Beth Terry’s Plastic Free. It’s still that good!

Have a great week, greenies! Spring is here – go out and enjoy the green.

 

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: How about a burrito?

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By Catherine Moran

I am writing about Chipotle today because I ate there last week. I didn’t really know much about Chipotle’s business practices until this video aired in 2011, followed by this video in 2013. Both videos take on the idea that factory farming is not the way our food should be getting to us. I applaud that idea, as I’m a big fan of farm to table proponents.

According to their website, Chipotle supports sustainable farming practices and family-owned farms whenever they can, steering clear of animals raised on hormones and antibiotics if possible. These are good practices for the environment, especially if Chipotle is honoring the declaration that they buy local when they can. For the chain, buying local means buying from locations within 350 miles of a Chipotle.

Chipotle pays employees more than the minimum wage, and employees can work their way up the management rungs, no matter where they start. Way to go, Chipotle!

Now, onto the really exciting news for greenies: Chipotle makes their burrito bowls using recycled materials From their website:

We try to use packaging materials that have minimal effects on the environment. Our burrito bowls are made from 93% recycled material–mostly recycled newspapers. And our aluminum lids are made of 95% recycled materials, including aluminum cans. Our lids reduces [sic] energy consumption by 96% compared to using lids made of new materials.

Their napkins are also made from 100% recycled content, hurrah! When you get your items to go, there are no extra napkins or utensils thrown in the bag (at least not in the NYC locations I’ve been to). You can pick up these items at a separate serving station. I can walk in, grab a burrito in a paper bag (or say no to the bag, in fact!) and be on my merry way, and no extra future trash has to make the trip with me.

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Now, a lot of this info came directly from Chipotle’s site, so it should be taken with a grain of salt (at least the sustainable farming commitment clams). The company page stresses that Chipotle uses fresh, organic, or sustainable ingredients wherever possible, but that means that sometimes it’s not possible. So, while it is frustrating to not know if the food you are consuming actually does fall within those parameters, I have to applaud Chipotle on their efforts. I may be naive in saying this, but I believe that they are making an effort; at the very least, they’re using buzzwords in a way that few other chains do…so they can have credit for that!

In conclusion: I don’t often eat from chains, but when I do, I’m happy in the choice of Chipotle. Now I’m hungry….

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Do you know about any other large chains that try to use sustainable practices?

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Link Love + Happy Anniversary

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By Catherine Moran

It’s been a busy few weeks, per usual for this greenie. I got stuck in some train traffic on the way home this weekend, and was thinking – I’ve been writing Adventures in Greening for almost two years now! As we approach my two-year greenieversary, I thought I’d re-share some of my favorite posts from days gone by. It’s been fun for me to write these posts, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them! Without further adieu, a jaunt down memory lane:

My very first post! (April 2012)

Jason Mraz is a greenie, and I admire him to pieces (September 2012)

How much do I love buying in bulk? Let me count the ways (October 2012)

All about Buy Nothing Day (November 2012)

All about my love of composting (July 2013)

My friend’s green wedding in Seattle (August 2013)

As always, thanks for reading, and be well, greenies!

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Green from your couch

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By Catherine Moran

Almost everyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not a big movie buff. I’m lacking a lot of “classic” films from my movie repertoire, much to the astonishment and shame of my film-loving family members and friends.  However, while I go to see films on the big screen very rarely, I’m a bit of a tv addict. Long-form stories give the viewer more time to make a connection with the characters, as well as plots that can unfurl at a less-compressed pace. And, in this day and age, it’s very easy to sit down and marathon seasons of television shows; all it takes is one day of beginning a marathon (curse you, headcolds), and suddenly you’re spending all of your free time catching up to current episodes. I’m not alone here…right?

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How does my love of television relate to being green? Well, it’s the perfect time for me to do some green activities. Sometimes, life gets hectic. And if you’re a (wo)man on the go, you try to consolidate activities. A lot of green activities require time, an element of one’s day that can sometimes feel like a luxury. So, I try to make use of my time in front of the screen. Here are a few suggested green activities that you can multitask while watching television:

• Making your own laundry soap. Grating up a bar of soap by hand can take awhile, let me tell you. I would never do this task without something else to occupy my mind, unless I was using it as a meditative exercise, but I definitely prefer to take my mind off how long the process is (my grater is fairly small; I’m on the hunt for a larger one to possibly help me speed up the process). I feel pretty accomplished when this task is done, and I try to do more than one bar in one sitting, so I don’t have to worry about grating a new bar for awhile when I run out of the first batch. Plus, it works my arm strength, what an added benefit! Good preparation for becoming a green superhero.

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• Ripping the windows off of any envelopes that come your way, mostly from junk mail, or mail that includes a windowed envelope for you to return a payment or other information. In NYC, you can’t recycle envelopes with clear plastic address windows because they don’t dissolve in water (there’s an interesting Reddit thread on this subject and other recycling queries, for interested parties). This is a fun one, because you get the satisfying sound of paper ripping to go along with the task. (Again…just me?)

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• Making Stuff. Get to work on illustrating those homemade birthday cards or knitting beanies for the holidays. Even if it’s summertime, it doesn’t hurt to be forward-thinking; you’ll save time later.

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Of course, this list will only be useful if you’re watching a show that doesn’t require constant vigilance, or includes commercial breaks, or doing a task that doesn’t require strict attention. You would have found me very hard-pressed to draw my eyes away from the first season of True Detective. No multitasking during that hour, no way. Even blinking felt costly.

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There are plenty of other ways to make use of your television-watching time if you so choose, but those are just some of the things I do to save myself some time during the week. It’s all about getting things done sooner rather than later, so they’re not on my mind, and I can free up time for other things later, television-related or otherwise. And watching a show as a purely downtime activity when all else is down is pretty darn enjoyable, too.

cheers

 

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Change and Challenge

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By Catherine Moran

I’ve been thinking recently about challenges. It’s no surprise that life is full of unexpected (and expected) uphill battles. They can occur in our relationships, our careers, our physical bodies; you name the staging ground, there’s most likely a challenge that could play there. Living a greener lifestyle is definitely filled with challenges, as is any lifestyle change. Change is the operative word here: it’s a scary thing to contemplate.

I was trying to think about what the first change was that made my lifestyle a bit greener, and other than an L.L. Bean backpack that I had throughout grade school (no need to buy a new one every year!), I think the first item that began my transition to less stuff was my iPod. Now, I’m not singing the praises of Apple here, because their use of planned obsolescence maddens me to no end. But mp3 players, in general, are a step forward.

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For the purpose of these ruminations, I am not discussing all of the resources used to construct a music-playing device, or how ethically or environmentally-sourced these materials are (topics for another time, methinks). So, back to the iPod. I’ve talked about my first iPod before, but not how it changed my life.

I’m a big music fan. Okay, huge music fan. I’m lucky enough to work in an office that allows me to have headphones in all day (you’ll be hard-pressed to find me listening to anything but Spotify, music junkie that I am), and teaching yoga on weekends allows me to share music with students. I’d always loved music, but when Napster became the Big Thing, I really went to town on a search for new, unheard-of artists.

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My CDs went with me everywhere. Choosing just five to fit in the Snapple carrying case I’d won in a giveaway was an agonizing process. When I went to college, I left with a larger carrying case, one that fit up to 500 CDs (without cases). I would tote this case between college and home for every visit (did I mention it was nearly full?)

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I had no problem carrying around hundreds of CDs. My family, on the other hand….well, let’s just say they were wiser than I. I accepted the iPod with reluctance (I know this might sound mildly spoiled of me, but I liked the way I was doing things; it took me ages to come around to Spotify, which is my preferred service for music listening these days, though my iPod is still much beloved). It took some time, but I eventually fell for my iPod, and it traveled (and still travels) with me everywhere. I have so much music at my fingertips that it is thrilling, and I refuse to travel further than a subway ride without music. I’m able to carry more than 500 CD’s worth of music at one time, and it weighs so very little.

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Change is hard for many of us, even if the change we are making is a change for the better (add a few letters to the word change, you’ll get challenge). Even after making a conscious effort to go greener, I find myself stumbling. I can’t avoid all plastic packaging, especially when all I want for dinner are some Buffalo Chik’n pieces, or when I forget my travel mug at the coffee shop (this post from Beth Terry is great on Guilt and the Green Lifestyle). And, sometimes, there are changes that I could make, but either run out of time (i.e. making my own almond milk, which just requires advanced planning, which I don’t always make time for), or am just not inclined to try (like forgoing shampoo and its friend, plastic packaging – yes, it’s a movement).

The best we can do is take it one step at a time, and do what we can. And who knows how something we do today will affect us in future? If I hadn’t received that iPod, it’s not hard for me to imagine myself still rockin’ the CD player and lugging around a lot of CDs, instead of using digital downloads, and wanting only digital downloads for my music and movie/television purchases nowadays. We don’t have to do everything all at once, and we don’t have to do “everything,” either. Small changes may not change the world at large, but they’ll change the world around us, and if that translates to something larger, great, but making a change that betters ourselves and the planet, even a bit, means we’re doing well.

 

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: This is Just to Say

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By Catherine Moran

that plastic bag
floating
in the tree
still present
closely
gripping the branches
still ugly
in tatters
once again
please leave this lone tree
you still
spoil the view

Inspired by the plastic bag outside my window, first addressed in April 2013, and by the William Carlos Williams poem, “This is Just To Say.”

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: What Do I Do With My DVDs?

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By Catherine Moran

I don’t know what to do with my old DVDs. Well, I guess they’re not old, but they’re underloved and underappreciated. In this new regime of Digital Technology, I would very much like to be able to trade in my physical DVDs for digital copies of the same film, but that does not seem to be an option anywhere that I can find. It’s not as if I have very many DVDs; on the contrary, I don’t have very many, but I have a lot of boxed tv series, and those babies take up space. I’ve been slowly distributing my DVD collection over the past year, but there are some shows and films that I want to hang on to.

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The closest service for turning physical DVDs into digital copies that I have found in my searches is VUDU, which was only available at Walmart when it was launched in 2012. However, the downside of VUDU, for me, is that it is a program. That, and the fact that you have to pay for the service of converting the films. I want to have my purchased movies and television shows available on storage devices, and not accessible only through a program–and you must have VUDU on any device you wish to watch your films on. That sounds like it’s restricting access to something I already own, so I’m not ready to go this route just yet.

Amazon has a trade-in option, but it’s only for certain titles, and they give you a pittance for the product, an amount that does not equal the cost of purchasing a digital copy of your film. You can’t give me $2 for my Harry Potter films when the digital copy is $10! I won’t be magicking my copies into digital any time soon, thank you very much.

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Another sell-back site I found is Zumu, but if I thought the rates at Amazon were abysmal, Zumu is even worse. I am not selling back my DVDs to make money, but I would like to be able to afford to re-buy the DVD that I am selling (I own it for a reason!) Zumu is interesting, in that: “Here at Zumu we don’t just recycle your pre-loved DVDs, CDs and Games by finding a new home for them, we also turn what can’t be re-homed into baby bottles and other useful stuff! “ So, if I do find a way to get digital copies of movies I already own as physical copies, Zumu might be the best place to go to make sure my DVDs are properly recycled.

The search will continue. I am trying to de-clutter my life of Stuff, which I believe is in line with green living: these DVDs could be recycled, or given new life with new owners. If you have any suggestions for legal ways of making my DVDs into digital copies, I’d appreciate it. I have a feeling this is something other greenies would want to do (especially if they live in New York apartments!) Thank you in advance for any help!

Stay well, greenies.

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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