Reeducate/Recycle: What is Truly Recyclable?

In an August 21, 2015 Wired Magazine article, “Listen Up America: You Need to Learn How to Recycle. Again.”, author Nick Stockton wrote that though a majority of Americans recycle, the recycling industry is hurting. He explained that pricing for second-hand commodities is down, and that the cost of sorting through too many “non-recyclables” that get thrown into the bin by overenthusiastic people has risen. Certain things are just not recyclable. Just because a product has metal or plastic parts doesn’t mean it is recyclable. Even if a product is made entirely of plastic, it doesn’t mean that that specific plastic is recyclable, or that your local recycling center is accepting it.

The problem is not that people are lazy, but that they are throwing anything and everything into their recycle bins, hoping that maybe the broken parts of their mirror and their food-soiled pizza boxes will magically turn into new products. The article quotes Susan Robinson, director of public affairs for Waste Management: “The single biggest problem material at recycling facilities are plastic bags.” Plastic bags get caught up in the sorting equipment and can slow or completely cease sorting machinery for hours.

So let’s reeducate ourselves. What can we recycle? What items should never be put into our recycle bins?

Aluminum and Steel Products

Aluminum and steel cans, aluminum foil, and aluminum bakeware are all recyclable. According to Waste Management’s website, “Americans only recycle 49% of the aluminum cans they use.” The website also stated that “Recycling steel and tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them.” If we are saving that much energy, we should definitely make an effort to recycle all the cans we use. Energy-saving tip: Make sure to rinse off any food residue from recyclable products before throwing them into the bin. Many recycling centers will not accept products with food residue. Clean products also increase efficiency at the sorting facilities.

Newspaper, Magazines, and Other Paper Products

Newspaper, magazines, catalogs, and magazine-type ads (like grocery inserts) are easily recycled and accepted at most recycling centers. Items that are usually, but not always, accepted are corrugated cardboard, paper, and paperboard. Cereal boxes and non-styrofoam egg cartons are good to recycle. Used pizza boxes and milk cartons are not accepted because of oils and food residue that are not easily removed. Drink boxes lined with wax are also not recyclable.


Know your plastics. Non-recyclable plastic products are one of the biggest problems for recycling centers and sorting facilities. Unless the plastic has a three-arrow recycle symbol on the bottom, it is not recyclable. Additionally, just because the product has a recycle symbol on the bottom doesn’t mean that your local facility accepts it. If your recycling center accepts plastics (not all do), they most likely accept products labeled PETE 1 and HDPE 2. Some centers accept other types of plastics, but always contact your local center for a list of the products they accept.


Glass is another product that is not always automatically accepted at recycling centers, because they need to have specific equipment to process it. If your local center accepts glass, make sure to ask that they specify if they accept colored glass, and if so, which colors.

Mirrors, Pyrex, light bulbs, and ceramics are never recyclable. Broken pieces of these products pose a danger to sorting-facility employees.

The best thing to keep in mind when deciding what to throw into your recycle bin is whether the product in question would be easily processed into a raw material or if it is just a part of another product that would have to be disassembled first (i.e., garden hose, shovel, etc.). Recycle centers are processing raw materials into raw materials to sell. In order to do business efficiently, they need consumers to be educated to save time and reduce the cost of processing.

Is Sunscreen Really Protecting You?


Many people think that exposing their skin to the sun will give them skin cancer. So to combat it, they either slather on sunscreen when going outdoors or try to avoid the sun as much as possible. Sadly, neither of these is a good solution.

Smaller amounts of sunlight can be healthy, but overexposure is what can be harmful. In modern times, most people do not get enough sun as a result of spending large amounts of time indoors. Many people actually become Vitamin D deficient, which can cause more problems than having too much sun exposure. Vitamin D deficiencies have been connected to several types of cancers and problems during pregnancy.


As for covering yourself in sunscreen for protection, what people don’t realize is that most sunscreens contain toxic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which can actually promote skin cancer and free-radical production in the body. They may protect against sunburn, but do very little to prevent skin cancer and signs of aging.


The best solution is to get limited daily sunshine to ensure that you are producing enough Vitamin D, but no so much that you risk getting sunburned. If you are planning on being outdoors for the entire day, you should consider loose clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses, as well as locating shady spots to minimize the amount of time you’re in direct sunlight.


If you are in a situation where you feel it is necessary to use sunscreen (rather than get burned), the best thing to do is try a natural recipe for homemade sunscreen. Below I’ve listed a recipe by Wellness Mama, as well as her personal notes for preparation.

Next time you go out in the sun, be prepared and informed about the proper ways to protect your skin.

Natural Homemade Sunscreen

Homemade natural sunscreen with beneficial oils, zinc oxide and beeswax for water protection.

Author: Wellness Mama

Recipe type: Remedy



  1. Combine ingredients except zinc oxide in a pint sized or larger glass jar. I have a mason jar that I keep just for making lotions and lotion bars, or you can even reuse a glass jar from pickles, olives, or other foods.
  2. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and place over medium heat.
  3. Put a lid on the jar loosely and place in the pan with the water.
  4. As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all ingredients are completely melted, add the zinc oxide, stir in well and pour into whatever jar or tin you will use for storage. Small mason jars (pint size) are great for this. It will not pump well in a lotion pump!
  5. Stir a few times as it cools to make sure zinc oxide is incorporated.
  6. Use as you would regular sunscreen. Best if used within six months.

Additional Notes:

  • This sunscreen is somewhat, but not completely, waterproof and will need to be reapplied after sweating or swimming.
  • Make sure not to inhale the Zinc Oxide- use a mask if necessary!
  • This recipe has an SPF of about 15, though adding more Zinc Oxide will increase the SPF.
  • Add more beeswax to make thicker sunscreen, less to make smooth sunscreen.
  • I recommend coconut or vanilla extract or lavender essential oils for fragrance.
  • Store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge.
  • I prefer to store in a small canning jar and apply like body butter. It will be thicker, especially if you use coconut oil in the recipe.
  • Remove the Zinc Oxide and this makes an excellent lotion recipe!

Are there federal requirements for calling a mattress “organic”?

Answer: Yes. And verifying these requirements is the only way to make sure you’re not falling victim to fraudulent advertising claims when shopping for an organic mattress.

The government agency that controls use of the word “organic” is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), under Title XXI of the 1990 Farm Bill, otherwise known as The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

This Act established national standards governing the marketing of certain agricultural products as organically produced products in order to assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard and to facilitate fairness within interstate commerce.

USDA control over use of the word “organic” extends to non-edible agricultural crops such as cotton and rubber trees, and further extends to non-edible products derived from livestock, such as wool.

To call any of these raw materials “organic,” each producer must meet the requirements listed in the Act and subject its facility and products to annual audit by a USDA-approved “certifying agent.”

Furthermore, for a complex finished textile product, such as a mattress, to be called organic it must be composed of a minimum of 95% certified raw materials as listed above. Then independently, the company manufacturing the mattress must also meet the requirements as listed in the Act and to subject its facility and finished products to an independent annual textile audit to standards such as GOTS, by a USDA-approved certifying agent.

Therefore, to call a mattress “organic” or to sell it as such, the company producing the mattress must earn independent organic status and be awarded an organic certificate annually in their name. This means that a mattress cannot be called organic simply because it is made up of one, some, or even all organic raw materials. It is the “certifying agent” that substantiates that the organic claim being made is actually true. It must be a USDA-approved certifying agent, who through an audit process can give a company legitimate claim or right to use the term “organic.”

Legislation in the United States established the Federal Trade Commission Act in1914. Under this Act, the Commission is empowered to, among other things, prevent unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive consumer acts or representations affecting commerce.

If a company calls its product “organic” and its facility, methods, and specific products have not been awarded organic status by a USDA-approved certifying agent, that claim is deceptive, and constitutes an unfair method of competition in the marketplace. Unfair marketing claims fall under the purview of the FTC.

Specific to environmental claims, the FTC has published the “Green Guide.” While the guide defines a number of environmental terms and correct use and association of logos and seals, the primary emphasis of the document is substantiation. Environmental marketing claims must be substantiated.

Section 5 of the FTC Act prohibits deceptive acts and practices in or affecting commerce. A representation, omission, or practice is deceptive if it is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances and is material to consumers’ decisions. See FTC Policy Statement on Deception, 103 FTC 174 (1983). To determine if an advertisement is deceptive, marketers must identify all express and implied claims that the advertisement reasonably conveys. Marketers must ensure that all reasonable interpretations of their claims are truthful, not misleading, and supported by a reasonable basis before they make the claims. See FTC Policy Statement Regarding Advertising Substantiation, 104 FTC 839 (1984).

In the context of environmental marketing claims, a reasonable basis often requires competent and reliable scientific evidence. Such evidence consists of tests, analyses, research, or studies that have been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by qualified persons and are generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results. Such evidence should be sufficient in quality and quantity based on standards generally accepted in the relevant scientific fields, when considered in light of the entire body of relevant and reliable scientific evidence, to substantiate that each of the marketing claims is true.

James Kohm is the Associate Director for the Enforcement Division of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. In that capacity, he oversees enforcement of all consumer protection orders and the Commission’s Green Marketing program. When Mr. Kohm spoke on January 27, 2013 at the World Market Center, he made clear that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does not define what is or can be called organic. The FTC can conduct investigations relating to the organization, business, practices, and management of entities engaged in commerce and seek monetary redress and other relief for conduct injurious to consumers and other businesses from unsubstantiated environmental claims.

At OMI, we’ve worked hard to establish and maintain a comprehensive organic program. This ensures the creation and assurance of certified organic goods. Testing, quality assurance, lot tracking, purchasing organic raw materials (despite the higher cost), and spending thousands annually on auditing are just a few of the ways in which we keep our rigorous organic program in place. Third-party certification is the only thing protecting us from companies that do none of these things, but would try nevertheless to reap marketing dollars by fraudulently associating the term “organic” with their products.

It does not fall to the consumer or retailer to judge what is or is not organic. For a company to call its products “organic” it must have been granted organic status by a USDA-approved “certifying agent.” The consumer need only confirm a valid certificate with the company’s name and products listed, not a certification showing the name of a grower or producer. At OMI, we’ve covered all the bases, so you can “rest” assured you’re purchasing a TRULY organic mattress.

8 Tips For a Happy and Healthy Organic Garden


Everyone wants their garden to be as healthy and beautiful as possible, but not everyone knows how to accomplish this without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. These harsh chemicals will contaminate your soil, plants, food, and therefore your body.

To protect your family and our planet from further exposure to harmful chemicals, an organic garden is an excellent first step. This will promote a cleaner environment for your family and pets, and healthier produce for their consumption.

There are plenty of natural ways to provide nutrients and protection for your garden. Here are some great tips for starting or maintaining an organic garden of your own!


1. Use organic fertilizers such as horse manure, bat guano, fish emulsion and kelp meal. These natural fertilizers help your soil stay moist and aerated, promote microbiotic activity, and keep roots healthy.


2. Make your own fertilizer by starting a compost pile for food scraps such as fruit peels, uneaten vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds, or yard waste and paper items.


3. Get your soil tested by your local Cooperative Extension (a service provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture). They can let you know which natural additives will be beneficial for replenishing your garden soil.


4. Companion planting is the practice of raising different plants in pairs that encourage each other’s growth and discourage harmful insects. Do some research on what would pair well with your favorite plants, and incorporate them in your garden.


5. Plant rotation is very important for keeping your soil replenished with nutrients and for discouraging soil-borne disease. Keep track of which plants you have in a plot and grow something else in its place the following season.


6. Beneficial insects should be welcomed into your garden with open arms. Earthworms are wonderful for aerating your soil and bees are phenomenal pollinators. Predatory insects such as ladybugs and praying mantises are the perfect solution to problems with plant-consuming bugs, without the use of pesticides!


7. If you are trying to deter animals such as deer and rabbits from your garden, do not poison or kill them. There are many repellents that are made from natural ingredients — like garlic, predator urine, and pepper — which will work wonders!


8. For fungus and mildew issues there are a variety of home remedies that can be used in place of harsh anti-fungal sprays. A small amount of baking soda mixed into water can make a great anti-fungal spray for your plants.

Now there is no excuse for using toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, because there are so many natural and organic options for garden care!

The Story of Stuff


Released in 2007, The Story of Stuff takes a closer look at the linear pattern of our economy. From our constant reaping of the planet’s finite resources to the addition of toxic chemicals to our products and our overwhelming transition to identifying ourselves as consumers, this unsustainable system cannot and will not last forever.

This video illustrates the current flow of our economy and the role that government, corporations, and individual consumers play in the “big picture.” It points out the problems with our current linear model, and the possibility of change to a more cyclical model based on people coming together to make a difference.

To learn more about The Story of Stuff Project or see more videos, visit

OMI Mattresses Now Provide Fire Retardant Information on New Label


California Senate Bill 1019 was approved on September 30, 2014. This bill requires manufacturers of upholstered furniture to identify and label products that contain flame-retardant chemicals with a statement on the product’s label.

While mattresses were excluded from this legislation, OMI agrees that this is information consumers deserve to have. OMI has become the first mattress manufacturer to voluntarily label its mattresses with the words “This product contains Organic Wool and does not require flame retardant chemicals.” OrganicPedic® mattresses meet all flammability requirements using certified organic wool and unique methods of construction.

Consumers should have the right to choose the healthiest option available and have access to information regarding materials and processes used to manufacture a mattress. We feel a responsibility to help our customers become better educated about toxic chemicals found in conventional furniture and bedding.

We hope that this voluntary step on our part will not only support this important Senate bill, but also bring attention to the importance of labeling all products, and not just items found in the upholstered-furniture segment.

For more information on OMI’s wool flame barrier, check out our previous blog, “Who?.. What?.. Wool?”

Is Food Healthy Just Because It’s Labeled Organic?

When most people see a food item that is labeled organic, they automatically assume that it is healthy for you. The truth is, food is labeled organic based on how it is grown, raised, or prepared, not based on the nutritional value. Unhealthy foods can be made with organic ingredients and be labeled as such, but will still be lacking in wholesome, nutritious ingredients. Check out this fun video that explains the difference between organic and healthy and will let you know what to look for next time you are shopping for a healthy meal: