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Category: Recycling

Rapson rocker reissued by Loll in recycled plastic

Rapson rockersToby Rapson, son of midcentury architect Ralph Rapson, was working to put his father's classic designs back into production when he bumped into Loll designer and Chief Executive Greg Benson, whose company specializes in furniture made of recycled plastic. The meeting prompted Rapson to rethink his father's rocking chair as an eco-friendly outdoor rocker made from material.

GreenbeltLineSketches"It became a collaboration between us and Loll to translate the chairs Ralph Rapson drew [pictured at right], to a new innovative  project," Rapson-Inc. President Chris Reedy said.

Rapson-Inc. reissued the modern Rapid Rocker at the end of last year and partnered with retailer YLiving to reintroduce the Rapson Greenbelt line of chairs. The 1939 Greenbelt rocker, pictured on the left at the top of the post, is $1,845 and was originally designed for manufacturer Knoll.

Prototypes of the high-backed armless Rapson Rocker for Loll ($999), pictured at top right, and low-back Rapson lounge chair with arms ($1,099), pictured at the end of this post, were showcased last month at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York and will be on display at the Dwell on Design show in Los Angeles this weekend. As with all of Loll's designs, the pieces are made from 100% recycled plastic.

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Garbage Maven: Look for a new, improved recycling label [Updated]


Anyone who tries to do the right thing and recycle has experienced it: the utter confusion that certain products induce with their packaging. But a new label tries to address the vague and oftentimes misleading recycling messages.

The How2Recycle label, pioneered by the nonprofit environmental group GreenBlue, will soon appear on Yoplait yogurt packs, Aveda acne pads, Orville Redenbacher popcorn and a few other brand-name products as part of a pilot program to reduce consumer confusion and to encourage more recycling.

The new label is based on the On-Pack Recycling Label used in Britain and can include up to four icons indicating if a material is widely recycled (such as cardboard), recycled in limited cases (such as Yoplait's plastic yogurt cups), not yet recycled (such as mylar) or requires store drop-off (the case in many cities for plastic grocery bags).

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Plastic bag ban: Pros and cons of reusable alternatives

Bag Monster man
Reusable grocery bags are becoming almost as ubiquitous as the single-use plastic bags they’re designed to replace, but the choices can be overwhelming. Canvas? Nylon? Tyvek? Hemp? Any bag that’s repeatedly reused is more environmentally friendly than single-use plastic, but the greenest choice isn’t always clear. Each material has pros and cons, and ultimately the best alternative to the single-use plastic bag is the one shoppers are most likely to remember to bring to the store.

Here's a comparison of some of the most common totes, including ones made of that felt-like fabric (called nonwoven polypropylene) that is so common:

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Schoolyard trailers turned into modular homes

Trailer de Cuba exteriorWhen it comes to energy efficiency, most homeowners focus on heating, cooling and lighting. But it may take as long as 15 years for a home's energy usage to match the amount of energy embedded in a home's construction.

This was the concept that a West Hills architecture firm embraced with research+upcycle, a modular home company that intends to reuse classroom trailers, transforming them into low-cost but high-style living space.

"We really need to rethink the way that we build homes," said Chase Anderson, who founded the company last year with his father, Robert, an architect and general contractor, and his stepmother, Petra, an interior designer. "With all the changes in the housing market and economy over the last several years, high-end, custom-built homes aren't selling." They started looking at different structures that would be inexpensive to transform into something chic.

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Woodbury architecture students turn sheds into cool little cabins

Woodbury shed cabinsThe challenge for three teams of architecture students from Woodbury University in Burbank: Design the coolest, smartest cabin that you can dream up. The catch: Your building materials have to come from an ordinary, not-so-cool shed kit from Lowes.

Woodbury paper cabin“There was a lot of grumbling at the beginning,” said Jeanine Centuori, chairwoman of the undergraduate architecture program at Woodbury. Each 10-by-10-foot shed had to be transformed to accommodate two people for sleeping. The template had to be tweaked to provide light, ventilation and insulation. And though the teams each had a budget of $1,500 for additional supplies, they also had a mandate to experiment with one assigned material — paper, plastic or wood.

PHOTO GALLERY: Woodbury students tweak shed kits into mini modern cabins

POLL: Vote for your favorite cabin design

Just how much can a simple shed be transformed? The answer becomes apparent before you're even off the driveway at the Shadow Hills Riding Club, the San Fernando Valley equestrian center where the three cabins were built.

The paper team's bright orange cabin practically glows, its exterior pop-outs borrowing an idea from motor homes (imagine dresser drawers left open). The pop-outs provide seating on the outside and space for luggage racks on the inside. Two beds are cleverly hidden under removable floor panels. Colorful hammocks from Craigslist hang from the ceiling, prompting student Sunny Lam to claim (as only a college student could) that the cabin “sleeps four.” (That's Lam in the photo hanging out, with Colin McCarville holding a floor panel that, when lifted up, becomes a privacy screen.)

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Garbage Maven: Recycling cellphones at the ecoATM

EcoATMMachine_01Mobile devices are discarded more rapidly than any other type of electronics, yet only 11% of them are recycled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But something called an ecoATM is working to change that.

The ecoATM is a self-service kiosk that helps people dispose of cellphones and other mobile devices. The machine uses electronic diagnostics and artificial intelligence to evaluate electronics' value and pay customers on the spot with cash or credit.

The company the makes ecoATM is based in San Diego. It began rolling out its machines in 2010 and has been operating 50 ecoATMs at malls around California, including the Glendale Galleria, Westfield Century City and Westside Pavilion. Thursday marked the kickoff to another round of openings, starting at malls in Brea and Orange and continuing later this month in Baldwin, Westminster, Ontario, Burbank and the South Bay.

Recycling needs to be convenient, financially rewarding and immediate to prevent people from throwing cellphones in the garbage, ecoATM Chief Executive Tom Tullie said.

Although California is one of the few states that bans electronics from landfills because of the hazardous materials they may contain and their potential to be reused, many cellphones still end up in landfills. Recapturing raw materials such as copper and plastic saves the energy, expense and environmental cost that go into mining and processing new materials.

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A salvaged-wood revolution: Turning more fallen trees into furniture

Salvaged wood furnitureThree men in neon-colored hard hats push the blade through a black acacia tree trunk, slicing it into three 1/2-inch-thick slabs and exposing stunning lines and swirls.

"That acacia's beautiful," said John Dominguez, the director of a 2-month-old partnership between Anaheim-based West Coast Arborists and Woodhill Firewood in Irvine, adding that the old-growth grain is something that "you'll never see" on the market today.

It takes eight minutes to cut each 11-foot-long slab because the wood is so hard, said Tom Rogers, owner of Woodhill Firewood, which takes in 600 tons a day from tree trimming and removal jobs. The acacia should yield eight to 10 slabs, he said. Each might surpass 250 pounds, and with luck they'll be sold to artisans to make tables and other pieces.

The tree, which fell in Monrovia Canyon Park in December, and a nearby deodar cedar that fell in Arcadia, are examples of how the popularity of salvaged wood furniture has produced a secondary trend: rising efforts to ensure that urban trees, including those that fall during storms, don't end up in landfills.

It's not a new idea to turn such trees into lumber, and some communities such as Lompoc have embraced it. The state has even lent equipment to those who want to try milling. But until recently, trees that fell or were removed by homeowners and cities in Southern California were mostly treated as trash -- perhaps firewood or mulch, officials say.

PHOTO GALLERY: How salvaged trees become hand-crafted furniture

Dominguez, who has been charmed by wood since playing standup bass in youth symphonies, said he would like to make more connections with furniture makers and wood artisans and see more closed-loop recycling: A tree falls and gets turned into lumber that's used in flooring in, say, a city building. "Walk into City Hall, and you're walking on street trees," he said.

Ferris Kawar, a recycling specialist in Burbank, says about 1% of what goes to the landfill is wood -- an amount he calls "obscene." Branches from downed trees become mulch, he says, but the trunks often go to the landfill.

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Eco-friendly packaging influences shopping decisions, study says

Ecovative Design's EcoCradle wine shipper is made from mushroomsMore U.S. shoppers are interested in choosing eco-friendly packaging, but they're confused about which types are best for the environment, according to a study on packaging and the environment released Monday.

The study from the New Jersey marketing firm Perception Research Services reports that 36% of shoppers in 2011 were likely to choose environmentally friendly packaging, a 29% increase over 2010. Half of the shoppers polled said they were willing to pay more for such packaging. One-third of the shoppers said they bought more of a product if its package was labeled "recyclable" or "made from recycled material," and a quarter of the shoppers said they have switched brands for more eco-friendly packaging.

One in five shoppers said packaging didn't include enough environmental information and provided confusing claims, the study found. Many respondents said they didn't know which packaging was best for the environment.

Packaging had the biggest effect on buying behavior if it was labeled "recyclable," "made from recycled materials" or "easier to recycle," or if it was marked with a recycling symbol. Packaging that said it used less material did not have as large an impact on shoppers' decisions.

Consumers were more likely than previously to check if the packaging could be recycled before buying a product. From 2008 to 2010, just 17% of consumers checked to see if packaging could be recycled; by 2011, that number had risen to 23%.

"We're seeing a great opportunity for manufacturers to provide truly value-added packaging to their target shoppers by making it more environmentally friendly," said Jonathan Asher, Perception Research Services' executive vice president. He said manufacturers that label smaller, thinner packaging as eco-friendly when the intention is merely to disguise cost reductions only tests shoppers' goodwill.

Perception Research Services, whose clients include consumer products manufacturers such as Hewlett Packard and Johnson & Johnson, has been conducting studies on consumer attitudes about packaging and the environment since 2007. One thousand consumers from across the country were surveyed for the 2011 study on packaging and the environment.


Why recycling in Los Angeles is so complicated

The Garbage Maven: Talking trash (and recycling)

The Garbage Maven: Tide pods ride wave of change in packaging

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Ecovative Design's EcoCradle wine shipper made from mushrooms. Credit: Mycobond

Architects recycle truck trailer into lofty tower

Container house tower 2
Mexican architects Alejandro D'Acosta and Claudia Turrent have turned a priest's 19th century adobe house into a 21st century residence, rejiggered a hotel of ill repute into their architecture office and built a rammed-earth dwelling into a seaside cliff in Ensenada. But it's their off-grid country home in the Valle de Guadalupe wine region that may be their most unusual project to date: The house is partially built from an abandoned refrigerator truck trailer, but unlike the converted shipping container projects that have been so fashionable in architecture, this one is flipped up on its end — a tower with rooms stacked vertically.

PHOTO GALLERY: Truck trailer remade as loft tower

Dubbed El Granito for the elephantine granite boulders that surround the property, the 50-acre parcel was the discovery of D'Acosta's brother, winemaker Hugo D'Acosta, and a friend while they were looking for land to plant more vines. In a rocky plain where hawks soar on thermals by day and coyotes call to the moon by night, they came upon the truck trailer lying on its side next to a cinder block shack. Barrels smelling of chemicals filled the trailer.

Container house living
“It was an abandoned meth lab — more el gramito than El Granito,” said a chuckling D'Acosta, referring to the term for a gram of drugs. “We liked the idea of taking a place that was used for making something bad and turning it into a creative place to cook up some good ideas.”

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Home tour: Rammed-earth house on an Ensenada cliff

Rammed-earth home in Ensenada, Mexico
There's nothing new about rammed-earth construction, tapial in Spanish. The technique for building walls using earth, chalk, lime and gravel is ancient, found in 2,000-year-old watchtowers in Dunhuang, China, or the 13th century Pakimé pyramids in Mexico, or contemporary Hmong houses in Vietnam.

Rammed-earth houseBut architects Alejandro D'Acosta and Claudia Turrent, known for their experiments in sustainable living, recently completed their own version of an earthen home in a most unlikely place: built into a seaside cliff in Ensenada, Mexico.

PHOTO GALLERY: Rammed-earth house on the Ensenada coast

They call it the Bridge House, not surprising because the other main components are recycled 100-year-old redwood planks from a bridge in Northern California. The couple bought 200 of the timbers, each 27 feet long and 1 ton, from a salvage yard in Rosarito Beach. The planks have been used to fashion the front walkway and back deck, the front door, the roof, the house floor and the kitchen table. Other broken and splintered posts of varying heights are stationed on the deck, “recalling an old pier,” said D'Acosta, who admires the shadows they cast on the land.

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