Nine awesome uses for junk mail

By Jordan Laio, Networx

Most people don’t give a second thought to tossing junk mail in the recycling bin. But with over 100 billion pieces delivered annually, some savvy recipients are seeing it differently. Instead of seeing junk mail as junk, they see it as a gold mine. As the saying goes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

For this reason, some people order as much junk mail as they can. I once read about a man who burned his junk mail. He received enough of it to keep his house warm all winter. In another vein, strictly sells products made from re-purposed junk mail.

Here is a list of creative and useful things you can do with your junk mail. Of course, take into consideration the different types of paper used in junk mailings and chemicals that may be in adhesives or inks:


1. Burn in Place of Wood

Yep, you can do it too. Stay warm in the winter by a fire made of all that junk mail. Just throwing it in the fireplace won’t be too effective, but by using a product like the Newspaper Brick Maker (about $30) you can make paper bricks that will burn like real wood.

2. Use as Packing Material

Sure, dehydrated mushroom mycelia and plastic pillows filled with air are both good green packing material options, but why not use your bounty of junk mail? Just run it through the shredder and use to ship or store fragile objects.

3. Use as Animal Bedding

Avoid the cost of buying bedding for your small rodent friends by shredding your junk mail. It might also come in handy as bedding for your urban chickens.

4. Use as a Funnel

This works best with those return envelopes you get in the mail. Simply cut a small section of one corner of an envelope (for the bottom of the funnel) and a larger portion from its opposite corner (the mouth of the funnel). Use this to conveniently refill salt and pepper shakers. This idea is one of the useful ideas from

For these gardening projects, make sure there are no toxic adhesives or inks on the paper goods you use.

4. Make Seedling Pots

Another clever product is The PotMaker (about $15). You can use paper to make seedling pots, which can then be planted directly into the soil and will decompose on their own. This way, you don’t have to buy plastic pots (which saves money and resources).

5. Mulch in the Garden

You can literally lay out junk mail or old newspapers on your garden as a mulch. This makes an excellent weed barrier and will have all the benefits of traditional mulch. But since this is a little aesthetically displeasing, you might also want to cover with a layer of leaves or other traditional mulch.

Alternatively, you can also shred junk mail or old newspapers first and then lay them as mulch. This will break down easier.

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The hidden costs of coal

coal power plant
(Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by eutrophication&hypoxia)

Energy from coal might seem cheap on the surface, but when you add in the costs of coal-related pollution and health issues, the true cost of coal starts looking pretty steep.

Coal-fired power plants spew toxins into our air while mountaintop removal mining practices destroy our mountains and pollute surrounding waterways. Here are just a few of the hidden annual costs of coal from the Appalachian region alone, according to a recent Harvard Medical School study:

  • Public health: $75 billion
  • Health costs due to air pollution from coal power plants: $187 billion
  • Mercury emissions: $29 billion
  • Climate change and greenhouse gas emissions: $206 billion

According to the study, adding up all of these hidden costs would increase the per kWh price for coal by almost 18 cents. To put that in perspective, coal power now costs around 12 cents per kWh. Solar power costs between 10 and 15 cents per kWh.

Almost 40 percent of our energy supply here in the U.S. comes from coal, so just using less power is one way to reduce the coal you consume. If you can, switching some or all of your home’s power supply to alternative energy is amazing. For folks who can’t afford the investment to get that going, there are other ways you can reduce your coal dependence.

Cutting back on vampire power by using a smart power strip and remembering to unplug unused chargers can go a long way toward saving energy and reducing your coal use. In the warmer months air conditioning is the largest power suck in many homes, so try to take some simple measures to cool your home without the air conditioner.

It also might be time to take a look at your electronics and appliances. From your washer and dryer to your TV and gaming consoles, opting for efficiency can make a big difference in energy savings.

Get heard! Sierra Club has a petition to protect communities from toxic coal ash. You can also let your legislators know how you feel about coal and its effects on our health.



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New cement is carbon negative


Cement is one of the most significant single sources for carbon emissions, due to the intense energy required for its production and the volumes of it that are produced annually, as well as from material itself, but an alternative is now available. It doesn't just reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted, it actually binds more CO2 than is emitted from its production, which makes its production carbon negative.

Novacem has developed a new cement that uses magnesium silicate instead of calcium compounds. The new material is supposed to have performance and cost comparable to ordinary Portland cement. Furthermore, because the production of magnesium silicate is a lower energy process, it can be manufactured using biofuel, instead of requiring more intensive and polluting energy sources.

The company also notes that "production of our cement is carbon negative; more carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed during the process than is emitted." Manufacturing a tonne of this cement results in the absorption of up to 100 kg (220 lbs) of carbon dioxide more than is emitted in the process.

Magnesium oxide is widely available as well, so there should not be an issue of material scarcity with the use of this as a Portland cement replacement. The company is not producing the material itself, but is instead seeking to license its technology to producers.

via: Jetson Green

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