March 30, 2011

Compost Giveaways at Whole Foods Market

The compost news just keeps coming! All you lucky Portland/Metro area folk can take advantage of a free compost giveaway at Whole Foods for all of April.

Whole Foods Markets joins Recology to giveaway compost every Saturday during Earth Month. Come and collect the equivalent of two-to-five gallon buckets of compost for free! Everyone is encouraged to bring their own containers.

April 2nd – Tanasbourne -- 19440 NW Cornell Rd. Hillsboro, OR 97214

April 9th – Laurelhurst -- 2825 E Burnside St. Portland, OR 97214

April 16th – Mill Plain -- 815 SE 160th Ave. Vancouver, WA 98683

April 23rd – Fremont -- 3535 NE 15th Ave. Portland, OR 97212

April 30th – Bridgeport  -- 7380 SW Bridgeport Rd. Tigard, OR 97224

March 25, 2011

Seattle Mariners offer Free Compost Night

Sports teams in Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, and Vancouver, B.C. have teamed up to form the Green Sports Alliance (with more teams already wanting to get involved), dedicated towards “real progress toward reducing their environmental impact”. Plans include reducing energy costs by switching from incandescent to LED lights, switching urinals to low-flow models, more thoughtful decisions on away-game traveling, and free venue parking for carpools.

None of this would have been terribly newsworthy, at least outside of Time, Newsweek or Fred’s Weekly Recycling Newsletter if it weren’t for Compost Giveaway nights.

Yes, as the articles say, it’s no Ichiro bobblehead, but hey, freebies are freebies, right?

First, there’s the question of whether fans will receive their compost on the way in or out of the stadium, and what they might do with the compost should they disagree with the referee’s call or with other fans.

Then there’s looking at what the compost is made of. Food waste? Check. Packaging material? Um, check. Paper and “degradable corn product” cups and utensils? Erk, check. True enough though, the compost is made by Cedar Grove Composting, whose facilities are designed to heat up the materials to where even the paper and “biodegradable” utensils will break down. This compost is then sold throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Should I even get started on the plastic packaging it will take for all those little bags?

Still, it’s an interesting promotional tool. It’s a way to demonstrate some of the greener steps that franchise owners & executives are taking, and it’s a way to start conversations with the public (my favorite statistic: “during the first six games of the season, the Safeco Field recycling rate has jumped from 38% last year to 75.9% so far this season”*). It’s also a way to show that being green isn’t just for those Left-Wing Liberal Hippie Tree Huggers. You tobacco-spitting, beer-drinking, foam-finger-wearing fans are welcome to join the environmental agenda too! On April 21, the second annual Zero Waste Game Day, Cedar Grove Composting and Seattle City Light will staff tables in various locations in the stadium to share information with fans about composting, recycling and energy conservation.

The only date I can find for sure for the Compost Giveaway is the Zero Waste game on April 21st, but on the official Seattle Mariners website it looks like there will be green-related goings-on throughout the season.

For folks wanting to get more involved in sports-related environmental issues – you might want to be part of the Green Sports Summit over August 1-3, 2011 at the World Trade Center in Portland, OR.

Hey, if you go, let me know what you think of the compost, eh?

Time magazine
Yahoo! Sports
The Seattle Times
*Seattle Mariners official site
Cedar Grove Composting
Green Sports Alliance

SOLV Spring Beach Cleanup

Already run out of things to do this spring break? Looking for an excuse to hit the Oregon beach? Be part of the all-volunteer SOLV Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup! SOLV (“Sustaining Oregon’s Legacy by Volunteering”) has been organizing volunteer opportunities all across Oregon since 1969 – the beach cleanup project is just one of many projects throughout the year. Other projects include tree planting, Oregon Adopt-a-River and Project Oregon, which removes invasive species from public parks.

The beach cleanup project happens in the spring and the fall, and has been an Oregon tradition since 1984. This year’s spring cleanup is Saturday, March 26th, 10am-1pm.

SOLV asks that you register to volunteer for a particular city and area so they have an idea how many volunteers will be where, and so you’ll be able to connect with the volunteer coordinators for a safety orientation and to get gloves and trash bags (or bring your own!).

Can’t make it this weekend? Live too far from the beach? Check out SOLV’s website for other opportunities. Not sure you are physically capable but still want to help? SOLV could really use your donation. “For every $1.00 donated to SOLV each year since 1997, Oregon has received $10.46 in volunteer service.” How’s that for a positive return?

If you do decide to help out, SOLV offers some tips:

-->Bring a bucket or reusable bag to reduce the amount of plastic trash bags used.
-->Bring a pair of gardening gloves from home instead of using the plastic gloves provided at the Cleanup.
-->Bring a reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug for drinks.
-->Carpool and use public transportation where possible to get to the beach.
-->Plan ahead, and pack a “trash-free” lunch, or choose a restaurant with reusable utensils and ask for drinks without a straw
-->Aim to create zero waste, and send SOLV your stories of efforts to achieve a personal zero waste to landfill day!

Hey, if you decide to go, or if you’ve been in the past, let us know!

March 22, 2011

Recycling a bottle: Flashmob style

I couldn't resist sharing this. It's a short video clip.

Recycling a bottle: Flashmob style

My first thought, of course, was "wow, that would scare off more people than it would encourage" (me, I'm reasonably certain I would have piddled myself if I'd been that woman). But it's a neat way to make a point.
My second thought was "so, just how many people passed by before this woman?

-Each year, 671 million kilograms of plastic are produced across the world.
-Each year, 400 million returnable containers are not recycled in Quebec
-About 18,000 pieces of plastic are floating in each square kilometer of ocean
-91% of Quebecois care about the environment. And you?
(my apologies for the lack of accent marks - I haven't yet figured out how to do those here just yet)

March 13, 2011

Gas Hikes: Effect on Recycling

We’re all noticing the rise of gas prices. Unrest in Libya and Bahrain? The annual Spring Break rate hike? A random Tuesday for OPEC? Whatever the reason, it affects more than just your daily commute or whether you decide to go on that awesome road trip. Think of what it takes to get your curbside recyclables to materials recovery facility. Think of what it takes for those materials to be reprocessed into new materials – new paper products, new cans and bottles. Think, then, of what it takes for those new materials to get to a market near you. It takes gas. It takes lots and lots of trucks and trains and ships and planes to move all that stuff around.

Gas prices go up. Container fees on those trucks and trains and ships and planes go up. Processing costs go up. Transportation costs to get materials to recovery facilities go up. Garbage & recycling rates go up. Rate hikes may price out smaller markets. Which means businesses close (see Blue Heron Paper Mill). That’s loss of jobs and a hit to the local economy. It also means the loss of a recycling center. Now, there might be other places to recycle around. But then again, there might not be. Paper on the west coast might continue to be recycled in the US. In the cases of specialty recycling businesses, such as #5 plastics through Preserve, if one shuts down, that’s it. Who else is going to recycle water pitcher filters?

A couple of things come to mind. I won’t even mention doing less driving or taking public transit.

One, accept that garbage & recycling fees are going up. All that stuff has to go somewhere. We can take care of it responsibly or we can be buried in the consequences. Another is that we can make less garbage to haul off in the first place. In the Portland/Metro area, less garbage means you can request a smaller garbage can or less-frequent pickups, which mean cheaper garbage bills. Last, we need to purchase mindfully. If we’re not buying recycled items, then we’re not recycling. We’re just paying for someone to haul off our crap. Purchasing recycled means there’s a market for recycling, and that’s what keeps stuff out of the landfill.

How are you coping with the recent gas hikes? Is it changing what you reuse and recycle? Is it changing how you shop?

Consider reading: Money – Who suffers most from food/gas hikes?
Bloomberg Businessweek: Gas hikes may send recovery in reverse
Oxford Press, Ohio: Public, private sectors grappling with fuel costs

March 12, 2011

Giveaway: Composting books

Alrighty - I promised this a while back, and I'm making good on my promise. It's time for a giveaway! But wait, there's more! Two giveaways! Two prizes to win!

TMR compost giveaway

Comment below for a chance to win one of these fabulous prizes. Tell me about your experience composting, or maybe about gardening, or about the garden you'd like to have, or just tell me how fabulous this blog is.

For a second chance to win, become a follower, then comment here that you've done so.

The deadline for commenting is midnight April 2 (no chance of April foolin' with the prizes that way!). The first person I draw on April 3 will get to choose between the books, and the second person will receive the remaining book.

About these books: These are used books I picked up at Powells with my own money.

Note: relatives of the Trashmaster are not eligible for prizes. However, they are eligible to receive the benefits from the Trashmaster compost pile

March 10, 2011

Compost as Stuffing: An analogy

Last night, a flash of insight hit me like a ton of fertilizer. An analogy.  Compost is a lot like stuffing.

You know, stuffing - like at Thanksgiving.  (Yes, yes, for some of you, unless it's actually in the bird, it's properly called "dressing". In my household, even when its in a separate pan, we still call it "stuffing." Deal.)

Now, bear with me a minute.

The fruit and vegetables in the stuffing (apples, celery, onions, whathaveyou) are like the greens in the compost pile.

The bread is the browns.

The broth (or whatever you use to moisten your stuffing) is the water.

You need a bit of air in each as well.

Making stuffing, like making compost, isn't all that complicated. Just a few considerations:

-If you have just fruits & vegetables (greens), you end up with a lovely side dish, but it's not really stuffing.

-If you have just bread (browns), you can have a different lovely side dish, and it's technically stuffing, but not very interesting.

-If you don't have enough water, nothing much happens, and it doesn't make for very good stuffing.

-If you have too much water, you end up with more of a bread pudding, which is fine and all, but it's not really stuffing.

-If you pack it all down too tightly (or have too much water), it all compacts and doesn't really make for very good stuffing either.

-If you just pile the fruit & vegetables on top of the bread (or vice versa) and don't stir it and the liquid through, the stuffing probably won't be all that interesting.

As long as you have the basics accounted for, here's a fair bit of flexibility in making a good stuffing, as there is in making a good compost pile. Lots of leeway, and lots of room for a beginner to still get good compost.

(Mr. Trashmaster, bless his heart, asked "How do the worms and bacteria and other bugs factor into your Compost Stuffing model?" 
I told him to get stuffed.)

March 8, 2011

Composting: A rind is a terrible thing to waste

One of the things I got to talk about at the Portland Home & Garden show was compost. That lovely dark earthy stuff that helps your plants & soil be healthy. Making compost is one of the neatest magic tricks there are.

1. Put your kitchen scraps in a pile.
2. Add some dried leaves or cut grass from the yard.
3. Make sure it’s moist – not wet, not dry, but moist.
4. Mix it up a bit.
5. Wait.

That’s pretty much it.

You can make the process as complicated as you want. You can measure out exact amounts of greens (the kitchen scraps & green yard waste), browns (the dried yard waste, such as leaves & cut grass) and water, and be absolutely anal-retentive about how often you mix the pile. While cutting your kitchen scraps and yard waste into small pieces helps the process along (more surface area for the compost critters to feed on), you can be excessively fussy about not just chopping up your potato peels and carrots tops and eggshells but you can pulverize them into sludge with your food processor, if you really want. You can even add composting activators that will hasten the process further. If this is you, I say go for it. Everyone’s gotta have a hobby, and this is as good as any to have. Heck, entire online forums are dedicated to the topic.

You can simplify the process even further. Simplest of all: a pile of kitchen scraps on their own will eventually decompose. They might take a while, but honestly, Nature will find a way. Adding the dried leaves or cut grass will help it decompose faster as well as help keep the smell down (the carbon from the dried materials helps take care of the smell). Making sure the pile stays moist will help it decompose faster than either drowning or not watering the pile (the moisture is necessary for the life of the critters in your compost pile). Mixing the materials through the pile will help it decompose faster than just letting everything sit and compact (oxygen is also necessary for the life of the critters in your pile), which of course you can do with a hand-held device designed specifically for your bin or you can invest in one of those giant rotating composting bins. Some people choose to do a three-part composting method where they put all their greens into a bin and let it rot for a while. Then they move that pile to another bin, add some browns, mix it up and let it rot for a while. Then they move it all to a third bin, mix it around, and let it rot some more until it’s ready for use.

Me, I’m fairly lazy. My own compost pile is a mix. I try to chop up my kitchen scraps, and sometimes I remember to add dried leaves to the pile. I keep it all in an Earth Machine bin I bought from the city, partly to keep out rodents & other local wildlife, and partly just to keep the pile, um, piled up. Sometimes I remember to mix it up. Mostly I let it sit and do its thing. I add some water periodically in the summer during the dry stretches. That’s about it. I dig out the useful stuff from the bottom and mix it into the raised beds as we build them, or tuck in a large spoonful as I put a plant start into the ground. Every now and then I’ll pick up a bag of coffee grounds from Starbucks and mix that into the compost pile (and sometimes apply it directly to the ground around the acid-loving plants like the blueberries and huckleberries). I’m starting to get better about crushing my eggshells for the calcium. But it’s really more about finding some way of dealing with my eggshells in a useful manner instead of putting them in the landfill (some folks pay top dollar for bonemeal soil amendments). I also add a handful of soil a couple of times a year to reintroduce the useful critters to the compost pile. My compost pile takes longer to break down because I don’t usually remember to add enough browns. One of my goals for the garden this year is to remember more browns, and remember to turn the pile more often.

You’re providing food and water (and making sure there’s air) for bacteria, mycorrizhae, worms and a whole host of bugs. They eat this food and make poop casting.

Why do we care about composting?

-> it helps take yard debris and kitchen waste out of the landfills. Yard debris and kitchen waste make up as much as 30% of the waste stream!

-> it helps reduce the need for fertilizers and pest control products. Fewer chemicals in my yard means for safer eating of the edible plants, and fewer chemicals on the grass we and our cats walk on (which means we’re not tracking those chemicals into the house either!). It also means fewer chemicals running off into our waterways

-> it helps amend the soil. In my area, this is important – I’ve got packed clay with river rocks. Adding the organic material helps loosen the soil, which means my plants can develop better root systems, which makes for healthier plants.

-> do I really need to mention the cost-savings? If I’m making my own soil amendment and plant food out of my yard & kitchen waste, then I’m not buying soil amendment and plant food. Dollars in my pocket!

Consider reading:
Guide to what goes in, what stays out of the compost pile
Make a simple compost bin – video
Mother Earth News: Compost made easy
Basic composting info, including composing demonstration sites and where to get an Earth Machine bin in Portland, OR

If you *really* want to geek out about composting (and I support geekiness in all its forms), check out the microbiology involved in the process:
Soil Foodweb
Mother Nature’s Farms, Inc: Compost Microbiology

March 7, 2011

Pardon me while my brain explodes...

Pardon me while

plastic wrap banana 2

I am
individually wrapped prunes

shrink wrapped cucumber

by all
shrink wrapped potato

the packaging
shrink wrapped sweet potato

shrink wrapped corn

I suppose having some fruit & veg is better than none, but seriously?  Is this what it takes to get these foods to your area?  Do you really need them this spiffed up, polished and shiny? Honestly, I'm gonna scrub the potatoes right before using them anyway, however they make it to my kitchen. So hermetically sealing them for my protection really doesn't accomplish much except for the ENORMOUS waste involved in (a) the plastic wrap itself and (b) the total energy spent wrapping the things.


See also:
Plastic wrapped bananas
Individually wrapped prunes
Shrink-wrapped potatoes
Shrink-wrapped fruit on cardboard
Shrink-wrapped sweet potatoes
Shrink-wrapped cucumbers
Tokyo Damage Report: Japan sizes of food

Re-Use-O-Rama: PDX Craft Swap!

Reposted from Re-Use-O-Rama:

-Saturday March 26th from 11:30-12:45 at the Mississippi Pizza Pub in the music room.
-Located at 3552 N Mississippi Ave in Portland, OR
-Bring your unused or reusable crafting/crafted items at 11:30
-eat free pizza
-begin foraging for new items at noon.
-wrapping up at 12:45.
-leftovers will be donated to SCRAP community reuse project.

March 6, 2011

Blue Heron Paper Company update

Hey, remember reading about my visit to the Blue Heron Paper Mill a while back? Here’s an update: They’ve shut down.
Blue Heron Paper Company press release
Questions and Answers about the mill closure

What will happen to the employees? It’s possible they’ll be eligible for federal benefits through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, as their jobs were “essentially outsourced abroad”.

What will happen to the equipment? Given that the jobs pretty much went overseas, the equipment likely will as well. Or maybe be sold off as scrap.

Where will our recycled paper go now? There are some other paper mills in the US, but more and more paper production is happening overseas as places like China make it cheaper, between government subsidies and cheaper labor. So, yay paper products will still get recycled. But boo, they’ll now have to be transported across the ocean for that to happen. And who knows what the environmental protection regulations will look like and how they’ll actually be implemented.

What will happen to the Blue Heron site? Several developers have been keeping an eye on it over the years, but whoever decides to develop it will have some challenges. It’s possible another paper mill could move in, but with the overseas competition and the Blue Heron’s aging equipment, it’s unlikely a paper mill could be successful there now. Other uses for the site would have to include an involved clean-up along with restructuring the facilities. Not impossible, but in today’s economy, possibly more expensive than many businesses will choose to go through.

One local business affected by the mill’s closure is The 505 Tavern.
Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation will also have to find another home for its historic preservation & education materials now.
”Blue Heron Paper: Memories of a “mill family”.

Fireclay Tile - Toilets in the kitchen

You’re the socially-responsible sort. You’ve been reducing and reusing wherever possible, and you’ve even made sure your old house or apartment has a low-flow toilet. What happens to that high-flow toilet? I mean, it’s fantastic that you’ve swapped it out, but what in the world happens to the old one? You don’t really want someone installing it in a different home. Because then ultimately you haven’t reduced anything at all – you’ve merely shifted the problem onto someone else. Oh sure, you could put it in the yard as a planter. Which isn't terribly helpful for folks swapping out toilets from apartments.

Fireclay Tile* is a northern California company that recycles glass, ceramic tile & porcelain fixtures. Fireclay Tile not only reuses the ceramics and glass, but they try to keep their business green throughout. They use locally-sourced materials, they use lead-free glaze, many of their products count towards LEED points, and all of their products are made and finished in the US. On top of this, they recycle glass from bottles and windows and doors into glass tiles, aluminum cans in to aluminum backsplashes, and the dust from a nearby rock quarry into their ceramic manufacturing process. Seriously! They incorporate even the dust into their finished products! According to Fireclay Tile, they recycle their “kiln heat, water, and all manufacturing waste that is then re-used in other parts of our business”. They even offer workshops for creating art with tile and glass pieces.

Recently, NPR did a story on Fireclay Tile, which you can find here.

Recycling porcelain from the Zanker Road recycling center in San Jose

According to Fireclay Tile, through their work with the Zanker Road recycling center, and Recology**, they’ve “removed over 17 containers, or 150 tons of waste porcelain from the waste stream.” How awesome is that?

*And once again, I have no ties to this business. I just like sharing info about businesses making true efforts to reuse consumer materials, and reduce waste in the production processes.

**You might remember seeing Recology in a previous TMR post about one of the Master Recycler program field trips. Recology operates the Metro Central transfer station in Portland, OR

March 5, 2011

Not my proudest post...

Today I did my part to save energy by not baking cookies - instead, I just ate the dough with a spoon.  :)