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Holiday Sustainability Tips

At Solo Real Estate, where sustainability is a year-round commitment, we want to help you celebrate the joys of the season while keeping the environment in mind. Here are some tips for a more sustainable holiday.

Keep It Real: Avoid Artificial Trees

If you are concerned about the environmental impact of Christmas trees, read on! A real tree spends around eight years growing in the field before it is harvested. So instead of being manufactured and shipped from China like an
artificial tree, a real tree converts CO2 into Oxygen, provides a habitat for wildlife, and keeps large tracts of space green across North America.

Unlike artificial alternatives, when you are done with a real tree, it is 100% recyclable and 100% biodegradable. When you choose a real tree, you put money back into the local economy. It supports your retailer and their
employees, as well as the growers who provide the trees.

After the holidays, recycle your tree at one of the Streets Department’s tree recycling drop-off locations throughout Philly or any one of the City’s Sanitation Convenience Centers. Local compost services like Bennett Compost and Circle Compost will also pick up and compost your tree for a fee. Remember to remove all lights and decorations before you recycle your tree!

Use LED lights to decorate your tree

Use LED lights to decorate your tree. They use at least 75 percent less energy than traditional lights and last 25 times longer. Avoid plastic decorations. Instead, visit Ten Thousand Villages, 1315 Walnut, for an excellent selection of Fair Trade Christmas tree ornaments. West Elm, 1330 Chestnut, also stocks  Fair Trade products including tree ornaments, Christmas stockings, tree skirts, and more. We love the hand-crafted, felt Silk Road tree ornaments at Moon & Arrow, 742 S. 4th Street.  Another place to find recycled tree decorations is at a thrift shop. If you have holiday lights to dispose of, take them to Mom’s Organic Market for recycling. They will accept holiday lights from November 26th through January 31st.

Choose Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper

Forego commercial wrapping paper which sacrifices our already endangered woodlands. This year, consider using newspapers or magazines instead. For fashionistas, get creative and wrap gifts in the colorful New York Times Style Section. For investors, use the Wall Street Journal Stock Report. Or pick up a roll of recycled brown paper at a local shop and add a decorative touch with snippets of fresh ferns, holly berries, or candy canes.

Shop Local

Supporting local businesses is good for the environment in many ways. It reduces the transportation costs associated with your goods, and your carbon footprint while also helping the local economy and strengthening our communities. Here are a few more places to shop locally this holiday season:

Good Buy Supply on East Passyunk – Photo: goodbuysupply.co

East Passyunk’s Good Buy Supply is dedicated to plastic-free home, kitchen, and bath alternatives. Their offerings include all-natural bath bombs, beeswax food wraps, and a bulk bar of pretty refillable soaps. For foodies, consider a Minimalist Utensil Set or the No-Waste Vegetarian Cookbook.

United By Blue, 205 Race St, cleans trash from the ocean for every item purchased. Thoughtful gifts at every price point include recycled cashmere sweaters, backpacks, and pom beanies.

Moon & Arrow offers a selection of socially responsible, handmade, and vintage clothing, jewelry, accessories, and home furnishings. 

Moon and Arrow Ornaments

Nice Things Hand Made, LLC, 1731 E. Passyunk, is a creative boutique and gallery with ceramics, jewelry, clothing, and art by indie artists.  

Downerss 2026 Frankford Ave, is a women-owned and operated boutique in Fishtown, specializing in young contemporary clothing, vintage, vegan leather, handmade jewelry, and all-natural skincare products.

For more businesses to support, check out our Small Business Saturday guide highlighting local small businesses owned by Solo tenants.

However way you decide to celebrate this special season, Solo Real Estate wishes you a happy, healthy, sustainable New Year!

Recycling Plastics

When it comes to recycling, Philly has options but determining what can and can’t be recycled (especially when it comes to plastics) can be difficult to decipher. We’ve put together a guide on plastic recycling to provide tips and introduce you to two innovative startups dedicated to keeping plastic out of landfills and waterways.

Philadelphia offers free recycling bins to residents at six pick-up locations throughout the city. They recommend contacting the location first to ensure supply, as they may run out. If you’re not near a sanitation convenience center or they’re in short supply, Solo provides free recycling bins too! Just send us a note to schedule a time to pick up at our office in Center City. 

Hard vs Soft Plastics

Philadelphia has a single stream recycling system, meaning you can put all of your recyclables together in one bin — cans, glass, mixed paper, cardboard and most plastic containers — no need to sort or separate them. It will be collected the same day as trash day.

Hard plastics, such as bottles, milk and juice jugs, jars, soup cartons, boxed wine cartons, detergent and shampoo bottles, pump and spray bottles can all be recycled, as long as lids and containers are completely emptied and thoroughly rinsed. 

Soft plastic cannot be recycled. This includes disposable plates, cups, and takeout containers, bubble wrap, plastic packing peanuts, foam rubber and Styrofoam.  Ditto for plastic syringes. These materials have little or no value as raw materials, damage recycling equipment, and can even injure workers so you’ll need to dispose of them in your regular trash bin. 

The Numbers

When you look at labels for plastics, you’ll often see a number in the middle of a recycling symbol. These numbers are called resin identification codes. They’re an industry standard used to communicate the type of plastic that item is made from.

Typically, 1 (Polyethylene terephthalate), 2 (high-density polyethylene – HDPE) and 5 (polypropylene) are all recyclable through the city’s recycling system.

Plastic Bags

The city’s recycling program does not accept plastic bags. If you have them, safely recycle plastic bags by returning them to drop off locations at specially-marked recycling bins located at the front of supermarkets. Even better, just say “No” to plastic bags and bring your own reusable tote bag when you shop. 

Starting on July 1, 2021 the city of Philadelphia will begin implementing their much awaited ordinance on single-use plastic bags. While it won’t fully go into effect immediately (the website says prohibition will begin on October 1, 2021) the city is making steps towards a more sustainable future. They plan to fully enforce the ban on plastic bags by April 1, 2022. 

Rabbit Recycling

In 2018, brothers Brian and Matt Siegfried launched Rabbit Recycling in the Spring Garden neighborhood. They saw an opportunity to improve on municipal recycling. Their motto is “Empowering people to be better stewards of the earth.”

Image: Rabbit Recycling 

“The City only takes certain items and our list is much more extensive,” said Matt Seigfried. “Over 97% of household and business items that end up in landfills are made from a combination or single source sub-material(s): rubbers, plastics, metals, and fabrics. Through decomposition and separation, our team is able to increase the number of items recycled and reduce the number of items going to landfills.” 

Rabbit’s extensive list of acceptable items includes everything from shower curtains to sewing machines. “We take almost anything,” said Seigfried. They will haul away bedding, luggage, clothing, microwaves, foam pillows, etc. Note: all items must be clean. Collected materials are recycled, donated or reused. 

Customers may request a five or eighteen gallon container to be delivered to their residence or place of business. Pickup is arranged when the container is filled. They offer three different pricing options. On-demand service, a monthly subscription service and a special plan for businesses.

United By Blue

If you care about the environmental hazards of plastics entering our waterways, thank Philly entrepreneur Brian Linton’s for founding United by Blue. His philosophy? Change comes in waves. 

United By Blue was created in 2010 on the notion that a successful outdoor brand can do serious conservation work.  Today, they have two retail shops in Philadelphia and one in New York City, selling outdoor gear made of sustainably materials that are ethically manufactured. How does selling backpacks and outdoor clothing rid oceans and rivers of trash? “For every purchase, one pound of trash is removed from our waterways,” said Linton.

Image: United by Blue

To date, United by Blue has removed over three million pounds of trash from the ocean.  They started by hauling old tires, gathering plastic bottles, and picking up the bits of styrofoam that litter the shoreline. “We build community through our waterway cleanups, determined to spread the idea that if one business can make a difference, so can one person,” said Linton.  

“Ocean pollution is undeniably one of the most pressing issues of our time. The overwhelming amount of plastic in our waterways is polluting our beaches, choking our wildlife, and contaminating our drinking water,” he said. “We are committed to making a tangible impact, so we confront ocean trash in the most direct way we know how: by getting our hands dirty and removing it from the waterways. By mobilizing the community to join us, we aim to not only rid our shorelines of litter but also to inspire individuals to live less wasteful lives.”

For more information about recycling in Philly, read our article on Single-Stream Recycling In Philly. One of the best ways to help the environment is to build eco-friendly habits and find ways to minimize your waste footprint

Remark Glass: Raise Your Glass to Zero Waste

If you rinse every glass jar and bottle before placing it in your recycling bin, we have some bad news. Only 33% of that glass is actually recycled. The rest ends up in landfills. Now for the good news. Sister companies, Remark Glass and Bottle Underground, are determined to close the loop and make Philly a national leader in recycled glass.

Repurposing


Founded in 2016 by three talented glass artists, Remark Glass doesn’t just recycle glass, they repurpose it. In their studio in the Bok Building in South Philly, co-founders Danielle Ruttenberg, Rebecca Davies, and Mark Ellis, turn used bottles into stunning light fixtures, barware, dinnerware, and decorative bowls. “One of our top selling items is Keepsake Glass, commemorative bottles from a graduation, wedding, or anniversary that we turn into a serving bowl or a light fixture,” said Danielle who graduated from Tyler School of Art and previously operated a glass art business in Port Richmond. “We also work in our showroom with designers on light fixtures for homes and restaurants. Forin Café which is scheduled to open in June in Fishtown is buying recycled glassware from us,” she said. Their one-of-a-kind housewares also make a great housewarming gift for a new homeowner. Shop the available selection on their online shop or consider a custom project.

Recycling


As the first business in Philadelphia to be certified zero waste, Remark came up with a unique concept to bypass the shortcomings of the City’s glass recycling system. They created Bottle Underground, the non-profit arm of Remark, which offers an environmentally sustainable alternative to dumping used glass in landfills. “Bottle Underground offers pick-up service,” said Danielle. “We supply you with a bin to collect your glass. We just ask that you make sure all your glass is rinsed and there is no residue. You can leave the labels on. We take care of that. Once a month we will pick up your glass and return your empty bin.” There is a charge for the monthly pick-up service. “We are trying to make this as affordable as possible on a sliding scale for restaurants and corporations,” said Danielle. “We also welcome one-time drop-offs of clean, used, unbroken glass
bottles at our headquarters in the Bok Building. Just call in advance to schedule your delivery,” said Danielle.
“We accept any clean glass container and anything that has a reusable lid. We love Champagne bottles because the glass is thicker. We also look for blue glass and specialty colors,” she said.

A piece of glass being shaped into a new item. Image courtesy of Remark Glass.

Turning bottles into art


“Prepared pieces are placed in our kiln and heated to 1050 degrees Fahrenheit – this is considered warm in glass – the temperature is stable and the glass is still in its solid-state. From there, our team picks up the pieces, one at a time, on the end of a steel rod. The glass is rotated and heated in a 2000-degree reheating chamber, then tools are used at the bench to transform the material to its new shape,” explained Danielle. “Once the final shape is achieved, our team knocks the piece off the rod, stamps it with our logo, and carefully places it back into the kiln.” Co-founder Mark Ellis studied glass at the Tyler School of Art and worked in high-end glass and metal fabrication for over a decade. At Remark, he specializes in glass blowing and metal fabrication. Rebecca Davies, Mark’s wife, received an MFA at the University of the Arts, then worked at a blown glass lighting company. “We all pitch in,” said Danielle. “We have eight employees and everyone does their part to achieve our mutual goal. To build a better future and support the overall well-being of their community”. Remark Glass also strives to support the local economy by working with local businesses that share the same values.


Danielle Ruttenberg, Mark Ellis, and Rebecca Davies pose for a picture with glass bottles. Image courtesy of Remark Glass.

So, as Summer officially opens with coolers filled with beer and wine, think twice before tossing those bottles and consider dropping them off to Bottle Underground for reuse by Remark Glass instead. Reducing waste by composting food scraps, recycling what you can, and repurposing glass containers can help Philly achieve its zero-waste goal.

Interested. in learning other ways you can help reduce your environmental footprint? Check out our article on Four Ways to Minimize your Waste Footprint in Philadelphia or our list on 5 Things Philly Renters can do for the Environment.

Single-Stream Recycling in Philly: Dos and Don’ts

We all want to play our part to keep the planet healthy and recycling is one way you can help. Since the first Earth Day 50 years ago, society has made big strides in education and awareness of the environmental issues we face, and we’ve learned a lot about how our lifestyle choices and methods as consumers have impacted the Earth. We’ve woken up to our bad eco-habits, and the majority of us are eager to change them.

But while we may have the best intentions at heart, our actions can often be misconstrued. We receive a lot of information from friends and family, brands, and the media — all of whom are constantly telling us what to do and how to do it when it comes to helping the planet. 

We should be cautious not to take all the information we receive at face value because often it isn’t accurate. This is especially true of recycling. 

In Philly, like in many other cities across the country, we use a “single-stream” recycling system, meaning all the recyclable materials we use get mixed into a single bin, collected together, and then sorted and separated later on at a special facility. It’s a system that’s designed with convenience in mind, but in order for it to remain effective, it’s integral for us to use it the right way. As the ones who are doing the recycling, we are the foundation of the system, and if we don’t use it properly, the whole thing becomes obsolete.

Follow these guidelines to ensure that you’re contributing your recycling to our city’s single-stream system accurately. 

Use the Right Type of Recycling Bin

There are many types of sanctioned bins you can use to recycle in Philadelphia. The idea is, you’ll want to have something that won’t contaminate your recyclables between collections. To help you better plan when to put your recycling out and reduce contamination you can also now check the city’s new PickupPHL app for the most up-to-date recycling collection updates. The city considers all of the following acceptable forms of recycling bins:

City-issued bins: There are six Sanitation Convenience Centers scattered throughout the city from which you can pick up a free city-issued recycling bin. If you plan on acquiring one, call your nearest location ahead of time for hours of operation, and to make sure they have a supply in stock. To avoid pick up delays, you can also drop off your recyclables directly at any of these Sanitation Convenience Centers.

Solo bins: As part of our ongoing effort to help Philly residents love where you live, we offer free Solo-branded bins, too. They are available to our clients, tenants, and neighbors, and if you’re interested in obtaining one, we encourage you to contact us directly to schedule a pickup at our office near Rittenhouse Square.

DIY bins: If you can’t easily obtain a city-issued or Solo Real Estate container, the city allows other containers to act as permanent recycling bins. As long as it’s plastic and 32 gallons or less, it should be good to use. The city advises that residents who choose this method either get a recycling sticker, or clearly write “recycling” on the outside of the container.

Temporary paper bags: If you’re between bins and need to put your recycling out before you get a new permanent one, you may use a paper bag or a cardboard box in the interim. However, there’s no guarantee that the city will pick these up, especially if they’ve been out in the rain or snow, where they can easily become contaminated. The recycling crews will use their discretion when determining whether or not to collect temporary paper or cardboard containers, so it’s best to get a permanent one as soon as possible.

Don’t use plastic bags: This includes clear and opaque plastic garbage or shopping bags. These are not recyclable, and the Streets Department will not collect them.

Philly Recycling Dos and Don’ts

Once you have the right bin, it’s important to only place sanctioned recyclables in it. Please read through the following dos and don’ts to make sure you’re using the recycling service effectively.

Plastics

Do recycle: Plastic food and beverage containers (like milk jugs, water bottles, and plastic takeout containers), plastic single-use drink cups (like the ones you get from convenience store soda fountains and fast food restaurants), plastic household and bathroom item bottles (like detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, and cleaning spray bottles), similar plastic pails, buckets, and pots.

Do not recycle: Plastic bags of any kind, styrofoam of any kind (including styrofoam takeout containers and cups), or plastic straws of any kind. 

Pro tip: It’s true, plastic straws are not recyclable! We recommend using compostable paper straws, or reusable glass and metal straws whenever possible.

Paper

Do recycle: Newspapers, magazines, brochures, catalogues, paper-based mail and envelopes/junk mail, paperback books and phone books, greeting cards, and paper-based gift wrap.

Do not recycle: Wet or soiled paper of any kind, waxed paper plates and cups, tissues, napkins, toilet paper, or paper towels.

Pro tip: Keep your recyclables in a closed container until as close to collection as possible to prevent water and other contaminants that will deem these items non-recyclable.

Cardboard

Do recycle: shipping and storage boxes, cereal and dry food boxes, egg cartons, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, cardboard food and beverage cartons (like milk, wine, and soup cartons and boxes), and flatten out all of these containers before you place them in the bin.

Do not recycle: Dirty or greasy pizza boxes, or any other potentially contaminated cardboard items.

Pro tip: Pizza boxes are technically recyclable, but they must be clean and contain no grease, which is rarely the case. However, you can rip them up as compost! We recommend reading this article if you’re interested in learning more about how to reduce waste or start composting at your Philadelphia home.

Glass and Metal

Do recycle: All types of glass jars, tin, aluminum, and steel cans, empty and clean paint cans, disposable metal baking dishes and trays, empty aerosol cans, metal lids and bottle caps, crumpled and clean aluminum foil.

Do not recycle: light bulbs, broken glass of any kind, or porcelain.

Pro tip: Reusing can be more effective than recycling, and used glass and metal jars can serve a variety of purposes—like drinking cups, change jars, and planters. Use your imagination and save your jars! While regular light bulbs can’t be recycled, Green Philly has a list of places in Philadelphia that will recycle your CFL light bulbs. 

Other Non-Recyclables 

There are several other common household items that are commonly mistaken as recyclable. This includes any food waste, any electronics (like phones, tablets, and computers), garden hoses, and needles and syringes. Please leave all of these things out of the recycling bin.