Posts filed under ‘Reduce & Reuse’
On November 13th, Dan Vrakas, Waukesha County Executive, was on hand at the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) to award Mary Jo Baas the grand prize in the Reduce Your Waste Stream Team Challenge: a 46” LCD television donated by the Carton Council. The Baas family won the prize for reducing the amount of garbage they threw away by an astonishing 89.8 percent, more than 32 other households in the Challenge. The Brookfield family reduced their weekly trash from 20.8 pounds to 2.1 pounds. Coming in second place and receiving a laptop computer laptop was the Beyerlein household, compiling an impressive 87.5 percent reduction in their garbage. The Town of Waukesha family reduced their weekly trash from 16 pounds to 2 pounds.
Where did it all go? Much of it was removed from their garbage cans and either reused, thrown into the recycling bin or composted in their backyard. Some of it never made it into their house because participants learned to buy in bulk or recyclable packaging to significantly reduce packaging waste.
The recycling grand prize, a desktop computer, went to the Peggy Lippe household from Elm Grove for increasing recycling from 7 pounds to 86 pounds per week, an increase of over 1100 percent. Both the laptop and the desktop computers were donated by Materials Processing Corporation.
The fun, friendly waste-reduction competition was designed to increase awareness of recycling and waste reduction strategies available to all Waukesha County residents. In all, 33 families in six Waukesha County communities participated in the Challenge. The STEaM Team, made up of five families whose children attend the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Charter School in Waukesha, were awarded a Team Grand Prize for their cumulative 71 percent waste reduction. They reduced their weekly waste from 7.7 pounds per person to 2.2 pounds per person.
Mr. Vrakas was pleasantly surprised by the results of the Challenge. “The most interesting outcome of the Challenge might be the way families came together to work toward a common goal. This competition did more than simply reduce the amount of waste people threw away. It actually gave people a sense of accomplishment. It made a difference in their lives. These families are models for the rest of us.”
It also made a difference when considering the environmental impact. Preliminary competition data showed that each household reduced the amount of garbage it produced by an average of 12.6 pounds per week. The data also showed the amount of recyclable material increased by an average of 10 pounds per household per week. By extrapolating the data collected from the participating households, if just one quarter of the households in the 25 participating communities did as well as our Challenge participants, the county would divert more than 7,200 tons of garbage every year from landfills and increase recycling by 5,700 tons. From a financial standpoint, that represents an annual savings of over $288,000 in landfill disposal fees and $572,000 worth of additional recyclables..
“Even though this is a small sample size, this competition shows what can be done to reduce our waste stream in the county and the entire state,” said Karen Fiedler, Solid Waste Supervisor for Waukesha County. “Most of the families that participated thought they were already pretty good about recycling, yet they were able to increase recycling by an average of 67%. What that tells me is that those families that don’t do a lot of recycling could post even more impressive results by simply practicing the 3Rs- reduce, reuse, recycle. The Challenge results are very encouraging and speak well to what households can accomplish in the future with just a little effort.”
Sponsors for the Challenge are: the Carton Council, leading manufacturers of carton packaging; FCR Recycling; Materials Processing Corporation (MPC), recyclers of electronics; Marcus Theatres; Veolia Environmental Services-Hartland; and Johns Disposal. To read participant blog posts and see team reduction and recycling data, or to learn what you can do to reduce your waste stream, go to www.ReduceYourWasteStream.org.
34 households in 6 communities are taking on the Challenge of reducing their waste, while also looking to make sure they recycle everything they can.
After establishing a baseline trash and recycling output in the first week, the households then entered the Reduction Phase of the competition, where they are looking at ways to reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot!
This project has brought out the best in green behaviors for the over 125 participants. As of this publication, the households have already reduced their trash by 40% and increased their recycling by 24%, with two weeks to go!
WCR is running this project with the dual goal of community waste reduction and recycling education and gathering information on the easiest and most efficient ways households can reduce their waste.
The project will come to a conclusion the weekend before America Recycle’s Day, when the winning household and team will be determined and awarded at the WCR Semi-Annual Recycling Open House.
You can follow the action right now at the exclusive Challenge website: www.ReduceYourWasteStream.org
Be sure to remember Mother Earth on your shopping list this year! What do you get the planet that has everything? Fortunately for all of us, Mother Earth doesn’t have expensive taste. She just wants all of us to do a little more to show we care.
Mother Earth has been working really hard this year to keep up with all of the changes happening in her life. Give her a break and let her sleep a little longer in the dark these days: always turn off lights in unoccupied rooms around your home and use less lighting for holiday decorations.
She also appreciates the crisp cool air of the holiday season so be sure to keep the thermostat down and instead possibly wear some of the sweaters you received as gifts in past years.
Nothing makes Mother Earth smile like a batch of freshly baked holiday compost soil. Consider giving Mother Earth the gift of starting a compost bin or pile in your yard or where you work or go to school. Much of your holiday waste could be composted instead of trashed including your tree, food waste, organic decorations, and shredded paper.
Another great idea for Mother Earth is to treat her to a facial! Mother Earth always loves to be pampered with new native gardens and trees naturally landscaped to enhance her beauty.
Mother Earth has also been very generous, digging into her savings account the last several years to let us manufacture new things out of natural resources. So be sure to recycle the stuff we already have and let Mother Earth keep some savings to splurge on herself!
Remember, you can’t go wrong with anything green, organic, efficient, resourceful, or that does less to stress her out.
If nothing else, Mother Earth always appreciates a hug!
Paper use is, at times, astounding. The average American uses 700 pounds of paper per year, which is over 7 trees per person. There are some very easy things you can do to reduce your paper use.
- Stop getting junk mail. This probably won’t be much of a burden. Simply visit Waukesha County’s website to learn how to get off of junk mail lists. Think this won’t make a difference? Every person in our country gets about 250 pieces of unsolicited mail every year, and in the course of a lifetime, you’ll spend about 8 months sorting through it! This easy fix saves time and money. As a quick reminder: if you do get junk mail it is recyclable. Even paper envelopes with plastic windows belong in your blue bin, not the trash.
- Cool as the other side of the paper. Set your printers at work and home to print duplex. Work printers usually have this option, which is easily set. At home, you may need to feed your paper through the printer twice. This post by TechSoup will walk you through the duplexing do-si-do whether you have a duplexing printer or not. Duplexing just not possible? Use the other side of the paper for scratch paper. I like using junk mail envelopes for grocery lists, for example. I just keep all the coupons for that week in the envelope.
- Make paper reduction automatic. Set up automatic bill pay through your bank or the companies that send you bills. Everyone saves postage and paper, and everyone is happy.
- Give wrapping the axe. Wrapping paper is a huge use of paper products. Consider using more creative wrapping that is reusable, like wrapping a kitchen gift in towels or use reusable gift boxes. Need some ideas? I kept track of gifts & how I wrapped them for the holiday season in 2008 and 2007.
- Use & Reuse. Whenever possible, use reusable plates, cups, and napkins, and rags for cleaning. By avoiding single-use paper products you can save yourself a lot of money as well as a lot of paper.
Waukesha County’s sustainability program has a lot of great information about reducing paper use at work.
So why not give it a try? This week, try to reduce your paper use. What ideas worked for you? What other ideas do you have? I’d love to hear about them!
The school year is about to begin. I always loved back to school shopping (if you have seen the commercial with the girl enthused about having a binder for every day of the week you have a pretty good image of me as a child). However, now as a certified reducer, reuser, recycler, rotter, and rebuyer (the three r’s are so passe – we’re up to 5 r’s now) I came up with 5 tips to reduce purchases made at the beginning of the school year.
- Assess. What will still work from last year? Some items may have survived the year before and can be used again. When I was growing up my mom would always wash our backpacks at the end of the school year and repack them with items that were still in usable condition. If you have items that are not going to make it another year, look into recycling options. Crayons, glue bottles, and fabric can all be recycled.
- The Paper Problem. Depending on your student, it may make sense to purchase a binder with tabs for each class and fill with loose leaf paper rather than individual notebooks or a multi-subject notebook. This way there is not those left over sheets in the binder at the end of the year. If your child’s teacher does not already save paper that has been only used on one side, consider saving it at home for scratch paper or first draft paper.
- Quality Over Quantity. Make sure when you do purchase items that they will last the entire year or beyond. Consider purchasing a plain colored backpack and decorate it with patches that can be modified as your child’s tastes change rather than a lesser quality backpack that will not be ‘en vogue’ even if it manages to survive to next year.
- Munch Much? One of the easiest ways to reduce trash throughout the year is to get your child a lunch box and reusable containers. This allows you to buy in bulk and avoid one use items like the single servings of applesauce and plastic baggies. Using a lunch box, reusable containers, and a thermos will save 67 lbs of waste from entering the landfill this school year. Also, your child’s school is paying for that garbage to be thrown away. Think of how much money could be saved if most kids in the school reduced lunch waste to this degree! If you compost at home, also have your child bring home food scraps to add to the pile or bin. I recently posted a link to a post about vermi-composting which is not only a great way to reduce waste, but it is also educational!
- Rebuy. When you do need to purchase an item, make sure there is recycled content when possible. Tissues, writing paper, rulers, pencil bags: all this and much more can be purchased with recycled content. Post-consumer content is best because that means it was purchased from a Materials Recycling Facility and your purchase is helping rebuild these commodity markets.
What do you plan to do to reduce waste this year?
If you are unlike me and can keep a plant alive long enough to get it home from a nursery and then transplant it, you may acquire plastic pots or seedling trays. I often get calls from residents wanting to know how to best dispose of plastic flower pots and trays.
Reduce. Consider purchasing plants from seedlings or seeds if this is possible.
If you make your own seedlings, cut up toilet paper tubes, newspaper, or paper towel tubes. This way you can plant the entire seedling with growing container and all!
Reuse. There are a lot of great ideas on the internet. Some include:
- Wipe out fire ants in your yard or on the patio. Place a flowerpot upside down over the anthill where these stinging attackers reside. Pour a kettle full of boiling water through the drain hole.
- Keep your yarn tangle-free while you’re knitting or crocheting. Place the ball of yard under an upturned flowerpot and thread the end through the drain hole. Set it next to your favorite craft spot and purl away.
- Help shallow-rooting plants establish themselves in a new, large container. Rather than fill the container top to bottom with potting soil, set a medium-sized flower pot upside down in the bottom of the container. Add the potting soil, and then repot the new plant.
Also, check with the nursery you originally purchased your plants or seedlings from. They may be interested in taking them back so that they don’t have to buy new ones every year. This option works best with nursery’s that grow their own plants and seedlings from seeds. Consider purchasing plants only from a nursery that offers this take-back program.
Recycle. Recycling these rigid plastics is currently very difficult, as the commodities markets are suffering from the poor economy. While Whole Foods has a stable market and collects plastic #5′s, this program does not address other numbered pots. Occasionally there will be special collections for these pots at Boerner Botanical Gardens, however there is not one scheduled for this year.
As recycling markets are supported by people purchasing items made from post-consumer recycled content, demand for the collection of these products also rises. Whenever possible, be sure to practice the 5th R and ‘Rebuy’.
Knowing what products to buy is a sometimes confusing venture. Once you have reduced and reused all you can and the final decision has been made to purchase a product, people are often still left in a quandary about which are the best products to buy. Over the next few posts, I will be looking at different aspects of purchasing products.
Today, I am particularly interested in websites that can assist people in researching products they may be interested in purchasing. There are really two types of websites that can assist with this venture. The first type of website looks to review an entire company in regards to their quality, environmental responsibility, or other factors. The second type of website focuses on specific products that are reviewed.
Good Guide is a website that reviews specific products as well as companies for social justice, environmental impact, and health. Most products that are reviewed are food products, other other personal care products are also reviewed. There is also a blog on the site. This site is a for profit company, although they are a certified B Corporation.
Skin Deep is a website that focuses on personal care products. Products are reviewed based on the toxicity of ingredients. There is a search option by category of product, company, or ingredient.
Other lists are very specific. One example I located is from the NRDC (Natural Resource Defense Council). It looks specifically at toilet paper, napkins, and other paper products. The NRDC also has a wide variety of fact sheets on a wide range of issues. The Environmental Defense Fund has a list of which fish are best to eat. The nice thing about this list is that it has a mobile phone app and a pocket version available for download so memorization is not necessary. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), who have broad databases of products like Skin Deep, also provide a short list of the fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticides used on them. The “Dirty Dozen” are the fruits and vegetables that should be purchased organically to avoid pesticides while the “Clean 15″ have less pesticides used in their production. There is also a mobile phone app.
Also, if you are buying a product that you would like to have for a while, like a grill, sofa, vacuum, or television, be sure to check out the wide range of product review sites like Consumer Reports, Amazon, the Better Business Bureau, or other such site. A product is only sustainable if it stands the test of time.
Hopefully this list gives you a wide range in options when it comes to picking a product that meets your needs. Do you have a favorite site I missed? I would love to hear about it! How do you make purchasing decisions?
I received a phone call this week about railroad tie disposal, and with the nice weather encouraging people to get out in their yards and do some cleanup or landscaping, I can’t say I am surprised. According to Waste Age, 13 million ties are in need of disposal every year in America. Over 90% of railroad ties are made of wood and usually treated with preservatives. The most common preservatives are arsenic or creosote, which looks like a black goo.
Due to the wood preservatives, it is not advisable to burn railroad ties yourself. There are, however, other disposal options.
Reuse. Railroad ties can be used in landscaping when they are kept whole.
Check out this article by Jack Stone from ProGarden for a wide variety of other landscaping uses.
If you don’t need any ties for this purpose, consider asking neighbors or posting a listing online.
It is important to note that because of the chemicals used on railroad ties they should not be chipped or burned. Also, they are not best used on soil that comes into direct contact with vegetables you intend to eat. Use untreated wood beams to surround your vegetable garden.
Disposal. If left whole, railroad ties can be treated as garbage and can be thrown away in a sanitary landfill. Check with your municipality to see if they can be picked up on a large pick-up day or if you need to transport them to the landfill yourself.
This video follows 2 students through their day to show ways that we can all save energy and reduce trash.
It may seem like a tiny portion of the waste stream, but 340,000 tons of cork are harvested annually. 13 billion (yes, with a ‘B’) cork wine stoppers are made every year. So rather than throw these little stoppers into the landfill, here are a few helpful tid-bits.
Reduce. Some wine makers are going to screw top lids or plastic corks, which actually work better than their cork counterparts, but these items are not as readily recyclable.
Reuse. If you are feeling froggy, I found a few (very fun looking) DIY projects with corks. Click on the pictures to get to the respective websites.
Recycle. Several services offer cork recycling.
- The EcoSpheric Blog looks at Korks for Kids
- Yemm & Hart recycles corks
- ReCork America
- Cork ReHarvest for Willamette Valley Vineyards via Whole Foods. Learn more at stumptown savoury
Update: For information about the future of cork stoppers please read this post by Pays to Live Green.