September 1, 2011

Curbside food composting

It's coming. Soon. Really, really soon. Curbside food composting is -almost- here.

August 1, 2011

Portland/Metro area: Hazardous Waste Fees

From Metro:

Beginning August 1, 2011, Metro will reinstate the $5 fee to dispose of an average load of household hazardous waste. This $5 fee will be charged per load up to 35 gallons, each additional 35 gallons will be charged an additional $5. Also, additional charges apply for containers larger than 10 gallons. No fee for paint waste covered under Oregon PaintCare program.

Metro is reinstating this fee to help defray the costs of running the household hazardous waste program. It actually costs Metro $54 to properly dispose of an average load brought to a Metro facility.

The free Neighborhood Collection events will continue this year. There is no fee to bring your toxic trash to Metro’s community events. Check out Metro’s Neighborhood Collection Schedule.

Washington County (OR) business recycling workshop

From Metro:

Hillsboro (OR) Business Recycling Workshop
September 22nd

Join the Washington County Recycle at Work program, with the City of Hillsboro and the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, for a free business recycling workshops. Gain a marketing advantage over your competitors — learn how to reduce the amount of waste your business sends to the landfill and save money on your bottom line.

For details contact

Garbage/Recycling Pickup E-schedule Tool

Live in the Portland (OR) area? Not sure when your garbage or recycling gets picked up? Check online! Check out the Curbside Collection E-schedule! So far, this only works for Portland :( Hopefully they'll expand soon to the Metro area. The E-schedule does offer a consolation prize - if the address you give it isn't in the "e-scheduler" area, it will at least come back with some useful contact info for finding someone who can answer your questions.

Metro puppeteer needed!

Metro is looking for a (paid!) puppeteer to do educational shows for metro-area elementary schools. Looks like a part-time job over the school year. Programs to mostly emphasize waste prevention, recycling, natural gardening, composting. Looks like the scripts and props are taken care of, they just need an enthusiastic puppeteer they can rely on. This link has much more detail.

I really hope the show makes it to the elementary school I do most of my work in. I'd love to see it!

July 9, 2011

Summer Solar Power Activities

It’s officially summer! It's even summer here in Oregon, the land where spring comes in so late and stays so late, we’ve started changing our calendars to show the month of Junuary.

What better time to try out some solar powered activities? These activities are easy enough to do with children, and they’re fun and interesting for grownups too. All of these activities can be done with household materials, or require only a minimal purchase.

-make a sundial
-make a thermometer
-make a solar powered cooker
-make solar S’mores!
-make sun tea (be sure to clean your jar thoroughly, don’t leave the jar outside for more than 3-4 hours, and don’t make more tea than you plan to use in a day,– otherwise bacteria can flourish.)
-dry your laundry on a clothesline
-Shade or Sun? An easy experiment for young children. Also a good way to talk with children about why tree cover is so important.
-water purification and distilling water from plants This is a fun activity you can also do at the beach.
-watching ice cubes melt This one can be a lot more interesting than it sounds. You use different colors of cardstock or paper as solar heat collectors. Which colors collect the most heat and melt the ice fastest? What if you change the color of the ice cube? This is a good activity for talking about how paint color and building material color affects the indoor temperature of the building. Or compare it with how your child feels dressed in light colors vs. dark colors on a sunny day.

If you decide to try an activity, will you tell me how it went? What surprised you? What did your kids learn? What are some solar-powered activities you already do?

July 4, 2011

Oregon Bottle Bill Expanded

It seems like I’m always late to the good parties. I totally missed this in my inbox till yesterday. The new Oregon Bottle Bill was officially expanded June 9, 2011.

“Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed into law today the latest revision to the state's landmark bottle bill, which expands the scope of containers covered by attaching a nickel deposit to all beverages, including beer, soft drinks, water, juice and sports drinks”.(1)

I’m pretty excited about the bill’s expansion – how many more kinds of containers are included in this bill. (By the way, did you know Oregon was the first to pass a bottle bill in the US back in 1971?)(2)

Mind you, this change won’t take place right away – this will happen “no later than 2018”. The plan is for all glass, plastic and metal beverage containers except for milk, wine & liquor containers. I have to wonder why. It isn’t just because the formulations for the glass bottles differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, as we know glass soft drink and juice bottles are already made by different manufacturers. Is it because we already have ready and close recycling available for milk jugs and wine and liquor bottles? Is it because the nutritionists want to make sure we drink as much healthy milk as possible, and the state wants to be able to tax as much wine & liquor as possible? Cynical perhaps, but I can’t help wondering.

”Forty years after the state passed the country's first container deposit redemption law, HB 3145 goes far beyond an incremental update. In addition to the expanded coverage of new container types, the bill pilots a new system of stand-alone redemption centers for the state. The centers would be independent of retailers and was a critical component in securing support from the grocers' lobby, which had opposed previous expansions of the bottle bill. A pilot project will take place in a to-be-determined area with a population of less than 300,000, and would also ease the requirements of nearby retailers to accept beverage containers.

"The bottle bill is one of the most successful recycling devices ever invented, but it’s showing signs of age," said the bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Ben Cannon (D-Portland), in an earlier prepared statement. "The redemption experience needs to be improved for consumers. More containers should be covered and the deposit should increase if recycling rates drop."

"This is only the second edit to the state's first-in-the-nation bottle bill during its 40-year lifetime. The first came just years ago, in 2007, when the Legislature added water bottles to the list of containers that Oregonians could return for their nickel deposit.

Lawmakers returned two years later hoping to expand the system further by adding containers for sports drinks, coffee, juice, tea and other beverages of that sort. Distributors and grocers balked, however, asking for more time to get the system used to the increased load that water represented.

Two years later, after two trial redemption centers proved highly popular, the former opponents lent their support to further expansion.

That support seems to have made all the difference; the legislation the governor signed Thursday was able to make it through both the Oregon House and Senate with bi-partisan, if not necessarily unanimous, support.

I found this interesting:
"The bill makes provisions for the deposit to be raised to 10¢ if the redemption rate falls below 80% for two consecutive years (as determined any time after January 1, 2016). At the time of the bill's passage, the redemption rate is 84%."(4)

Why make the deposit dependent on redemption rate? I’m sure there’s a good reason at the top of the legislative food chain, but I think it’s just going to confuse the average consumer. And what sort of message does it send to the average consumer? “Recycle fewer bottles, get more cash per bottle recycled”?
And the nickel deposit, first established along with the initial bottle bill in 1971, just isn’t what it used to be. I’ve heard that nickel back then is equivalent to a little over a quarter now. I’d be happy with a flat increase to a 10-cent deposit, especially since you know grocery stores will keep their 24-container-per-person-per-day rule. Though with the new redemption centers popping up, along with the automated bottle return machines, maybe that won’t be so much of an issue after all.(5)

Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy about the expansion of the bill, I’m happy about the additional redemption centers, I’m happy people from all sides worked hard to make this bill pass with as much integrity as it’s got (and didn’t let it get watered down to nothing), and I’m happy that legislators & industry are open to the idea of raising the deposit.

What do you think of this bill expansion?
Does your state have a bottle bill? If so, what does your bottle bill include? If your state doesn’t have a bottle bill, why is that? What do you think needs to happen for one to pass?

(1) Resource Recycling
(2) Oregon DEQ Oregon Bottle Bill: Then and Now
(4) Bottle Bill Resource Guide
(5) Get a sneak peek at the new bottle redemption center
(6) HB 3145

July 3, 2011

Backyard Makeover Photo Giveaway

We talked with over 160 people at the Backyard Makeover event at the Oregon Zoo, but only one person asked for a photo. The one lucky winner is – drum roll please – Mr. Trashmaster! His prize so far has included me adding to the herb garden in our front yard. Today I planted a bronze fennel, a thai basil, a curled parsley, and a Cuban oregano in between our other herbs. Further prize-winnings include me not pestering him (too much) while he played video games today, and probably some snogging later on. Prizes awarded this time around do not necessarily accurately reflect what will be awarded in future giveaways

Mr & Mrs Trashmaster
Isn’t he handsome?

On a side note – what do you think of the shirt? I’ve been working on a “Trashmaster” logo, and that’s what I’ve come up with so far.

July 2, 2011

Backyard Makeover Exhibit at the Oregon Zoo

One of the exhibits at the Oregon Zoo is the Backyard Makeover. There are two little demonstration “backyards” side by side. One is fairly standard: lawn with a fair-sized concrete patio, a few flowers along the fence, the fence is solid wood slats, one small tree and a birdhouse. The other has a smaller area of lawn, far more flowers & shrubs (of varying height), a couple of trees, the patio is made of stone blocks and has patio chairs on it, and the fence is slatted wood that lets a bit of light and air through but still affords privacy. The game is to find the seven things the same in the two yards, and to also notice what’s different about the yards. There is also some signage about what plants are in the yards, how the second, “improved” yard allows for more and more-varied wildlife passing through, requires less watering overall and gives reasons for using less (or no) pesticides and fertilizers. Next to these two yards is a booth where volunteers are often on hand to talk about how to reorganize your yard to bring in beneficial bugs, more birds & other wildlife, how to reduce use of pesticides & fertilizers, how to compost, how & why to set up worm bins and all that good stuff.

The last few years, the exhibit has been staffed by Oregon Zoo volunteers and Master Gardeners. This year, once a month, the exhibit is staffed by Master Recyclers (such as yours truly). We might not have been able to identify all the plants in the exhibit, but we did spend all day talking about composting and rainwater harvesting and why having more bugs in your yard can be a good thing. We also borrowed a worm bin from the Oregon Zoo horticulturists and invited kids (and the grownups!) to pet the worms. The kids were fantastic! They started out as or quickly became expert worm-handlers. We talked about where worms live, how to hold them, and what worms do in the bins and in the gardens at home. We only lost one worm to a very small toddler’s instinctive squishing as the worm wriggled about and tickled his palm.

As I (or another volunteer) helped the kids pet the worms, other volunteers talked with the grownups about recycling and composting and gardening questions. Most of the volunteers had some gardening experience and one of our volunteers is a long-time Master Gardener as well, so we were able to at least give good resources if not actual answers and advice.

The Backyard Makeover exhibit is a permanent part of the zoo, with volunteers available everyday 10am-4pm. Weekdays, the booth is usually staffed by Oregon Zoo volunteers, weekends by Master Gardeners, and for the next two months, Master Recyclers will be out there as well on the first Fridays. I will be back on September 2nd. I’ll do another “take a picture with the Trashmaster, win a prize” event as well. Come on out, say hello and pet a worm with me!

June 30, 2011

Backyard Makeover event at the Oregon Zoo

I will be at the Oregon Zoo’s Backyard Makeover exhibit tomorrow, Friday July 1, 10am-2pm. We’ll be on hand to answer questions and talk about composting, ways to increase wildlife habitat in your yard (birds, butterflies, & such), how to decrease use of toxic chemicals (fertilizers & pesticides), and generally find ways to enjoy your yard even more. Bring your questions, bring your stories, and check out the exhibit!

Regular zoo admission and $2 parking, or take the MAX!

Come by and say hi! Get your picture taking with me and win a prize! (I don’t know what the prizes are yet, but I’ll come up with something!)