what are you doing?

Thanh -- February 26th, 2008

I was at the Documentary Club screening of Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home on Monday night and I had the opportunity to take part in several discussions about the movie. In a group of about 10-12 people, many of us expressed or agreed that although messages from media and movies like Garbage! affect us and get us thinking, we are still guilty of not doing the most we can do. And/or that we felt that movies like Garbage! have left us feeling a little depressed and that the movie has provided little information to help determine how we can take action.

So, I pose this idea. Let’s open up a discussion here and talk about what each of us can do or what we already do at home, at work, and at play to reduce our environmental footprint. My hope is that if we share ideas and experiences with each other, then we can learn from each other’s experiences what works and what doesn’t, how to try something new, and encourage each other.

Here are some of my examples:

  • I have a compost bin in my backyard that I constructed out of 4 pallets that I secured together.  Into the compost bin, I throw in yard debris like leaves, broken up branches, egg shells, vegetable and fruit peelings, dryer lint and pet hair, and coffee grinds into this compost bin. I do not put in dog waste, meats, or dairy products because this bin does not get hot enough to kill pathogens. What I have found since I have started using this compost in is that my household has greatly reduced the amount of trash that we put out curbside each week. Its really amazing how much organic waste we create; and now this waste can be turned into compost and be used as good soil amendments. I would be happy to share pictures with anyone who is interested in seeing it.
  • When I go to the grocery store, I do not put my bananas in its own plastic bag. For me it doesn’t make any sense, since when I come home I put the bananas on a banana rack; I would only be taking that bag home to recycle it immediately.
  • If I am just buying a single bell pepper, I don’t take one of those little plastic bags either, I just put that single pepper into my cart and bag it with everything else at checkout. I do admit that if I’m buying 5 apples, I do use a plastic bag. I’ve often feared that if I brought 5 unbagged apples to the checkout that the cashiers might get annoyed with the apples rolling everywhere or not staying together on the scale. I realize now that maybe I should ask them how they feel about it. Is it a problem? Because when I come home, I un-bag the apples immediately and I put them into a basket, and the bag goes into the pile to be taken back to the grocery store for recycling.
  • I also use canvass bags. Not just for grocery shopping, but I also take them in with me to Target so that I don’t take plastic bags home with me.

So, I pose a question to all of you. What do you do at home and what tips do you have to share?

We can talk about anything – lawn watering or not watering; remembering to turn off the lights. Ways to reduce the amount of packaging materials taken home? Tips on how your family recycles? Tips on how to reuse materials again so that they’re not tossed in the trash? Recommendations for dressing warmly on your bike commute into work? Tips on how you better insulate your home?

 We often talk about RECYCLING… but I’m really interseted in tips on REDUCING and REUSING. Thanks!

40 Responses to “what are you doing?”

  1. Emmy says:

    I’m really bad in this area! I do use reusable shopping bags whenever I can and I’m getting a lot better at remembering to do that. I try to reuse the plastic bags I do get as many times as possible. I don’t have any space for composting, but I really wish I did. I admit that I use WAY too many ziploc bags in my sons lunches. I try to use washable containers, but they always end up getting accidentally thrown away.

    I really want to recycle because I cringe at the amount of trash I put out every week, but we have had no success with recycling at work, so I haven’t called to get a bin.

    So, basically I stink at this and I’m open to suggestions!

  2. Justin C says:

    Window sealing in the winter.

    I know things are warming up now, but if you think ahead it can be cheap. Right now at Target I know, and I’m sure everywhere else, you can buy window sealing kits on clearance. Buy them and save for next year.

    They’re very easy to use and lets you seal all the windows you won’t have to open for months. For like $1 you can save $10-20 at LEAST over one winter.

  3. Thanh says:

    Emmy, good idea about the reusable containers to pack lunches. I generally buy the cheaper Glad kinds, as opposed to tupperwear. The Glad ones are flimsier, but they can be reused over and over again, and I don’t get upset if one gets lost or given away to someone packing leftovers home from a dinner at my house. I wonder if you used the containers more, and if your son could remember to bring the containers home as often as possible, what the cost savings might be versus always buying and throwing away the ziplock bags. Just realizing that you might loose a container every now and again.

    I thought of a few other things that I do, and that I know some of my friends and co-workers do too:

    – Setting my computer to the appropriate power save mode. It hibernates or the hard drive turns off when not in use after x number of minutes.
    – Turning my computer off when I leave the office; why leave it on all night?
    – Using a nalgene or reusable bottle and filling it with tap water instead of buying bottled water every day.
    – Bringing a mug from home and using it at work instead of using the disposable ones provided. I cringe at using the plastic straws even, so I try to bring my own spoon that I wash and reuse.
    – Buying phosphate free soaps and detergents. I’ve been using Seventh Generation’s (http://www.seventhgeneration.com/) dish soap and dish washer detergent. I remember reading on the dish soap that has cleaning properties derived from plants, instead of petroleum.
    – Sometimes if I remember to do this, when I am washing vegetables in the sink, I’ll wash them over a large bowl. When the bowl gets full I take the bowl outside and dump the water out there – helps keep my plants quenched, replenish the local water table, and keeps clean water from having to be “treated”.

    I’m still trying a lot of new things, and I’ll try to write more as I think of them.

  4. Laura says:

    My sister turned me on to Shenandoah Valley FreeCycle — a local network of people giving away things they can’t use anymore instead of throwing them away. I have found homes for things like my old tent, hiking boots that never really fit, excess craft supplies, an old CD player we weren’t using, a mountain of books, old picture frames, and lots of other odds and ends. I’ve also met some pretty nice people there!

  5. David Miller says:

    Thanh, thanks for posting this follow up to the discussion at Clementine. As I mentioned, I don’t do a great deal when it comes to doing my part but I have found that some important choices I have made do in fact make a good deal of difference. I live on Broad Street and work downtown. This means that if it’s warm enough to ride my bike, my commute is 55 seconds (downhill and hitting the one stoplight on Mason, happens pretty often but not always). This also means that if I walk, it takes me 5 minutes to get to work. There are those days that I drive because I have to lug something bulky around downtown (and even sometimes when I’m just plain lazy or in pain). I also happen to rarely leave downtown in general. I live, work and play here. I have almost everything I need within a 5 or 6 block radius. All and all this means that I filled up my gas tank 7 times last year. My car gets 7 miles to the gallon so I have a pretty good reason to limit my driving but with a 25 gallon tank (it’s a hoopty!) it means that I spent $525 on gas last year. Many people I know put 10,000 miles a year on their car, I can’t imagine their gas bills (much less their isolation at being alone in a car for that much time a year).

    I know that most people don’t currently have the option of living where they work, but that is a problem. We ship our food over 3000 miles to our table, we ship ourselves to our jobs to pay for the food and then wonder why our lives cost so much. This question didn’t seem to matter 10 years ago (I’m 26 and when I started driving Sheetz had gas for 89 cents). Now with gas prices over 3, it adds up fast and the question of sustainability seems more impossible to answer.

    This is just one way that I limit my usage of resources, but I’m blessed enough to have this option. Many of my friends have also chosen to live downtown so that they too can limit their usage and be apart of the community that we are growing downtown.

  6. Justin says:

    Just thought I’d ring in here. I’m in Cairo right now (computer is for photos and trip blogging, a tiny bit of email) and the litter and waste problem is absolutely mind boggling. Obviously there is trash in the streets, but in the country and along the Nile, the garbage is literally thrown out of their back door. Wrappers are tossed in the street and sidewalks. Even at the Great Pyramids there is trash strewn about and inside the uncovered dig sites.

    This trip has given me an entirely different perspective on American waste. We’re light years ahead of a country like Egypt.

    We recycle glass, cardboard, and metal, by the way. No compost. Maybe when we have finicky kids.

  7. Emmy says:

    Thanh you made me think of a few more things that I do. I have switched all of my cleaning products to Method or Seventh Generation. They cost me a bit more, but I love the way they smell and they clean just as well as the stuff I used to use. If anyone wants to try Method products, HSN just started selling them and they have really good prices.

    I do use aluminum bottles for water and a mug for my hot chocolate at work. I also usually bring my own dishes, but I am guilty of using disposable spoons, but that I can break myself of.
    Next time I’m at the store I’ll buy some more Gladware and try to break the plastic bag habit.

    I don’t have the ability to give up my car, although I really wish I did. However, I work downtown and live just a few minutes away so since my kids are both in school I can make a nice short trip from home to school and then work. I try really hard to combine my trips when I go shopping. Now this summer, when my kids are at a daycare instead of school I’m going to be driving a lot more, but I’m trying to compensate for that now.

  8. John says:

    I spent a week in Boulder last year and think I got brainwashed. That and Al Gore’s movie scared the Bejesus out of me.

    I drove a Ford Excursion (about 8 MPG in town) before my rebirth. I bought a hybrid after the trip. Sorry to say we still have the Excursion, but drive it very little.

    I bought a scooter (like $800 online, shipped). I think I used 9 gallons of gas from July – end of scooter season. Yes, I get laughed at by just about everyone, but for riding around town, it is way economical. And fun. Just not very cool.

    I turn OFF the heat at work Friday eve, and turn it back on Monday AM. We really need a programmable thermostat so I wouldn’t have to manually do this.

    I started to recycle everything I can — paper, plastic, etc.

    I replaced most of my light bulbs with flourescent ones – both home and work. My wife says that the light is not very ‘forgiving’ but I tell her we are trying to save the world — suck it up.

    I have become maniacal about turning off unused lights. My daughters will often leave their bedroom light or bathroom lights on and wander away. I am always chasing behind them turning stuff off.

    I am addicted to Seltzer water. My wife and I used to go through 15 bottles a week. No longer — we bought an at home Seltzer maker where you reuse the bottles. Additionally, we have stopped buying regular water, too. All of the plastics used, and all of the fuels used to transport these zillions of bottles of something that you can get from your tap is crazy. It has got to be the dumbest and most non-green industry ever created.

    I’ve got a 2 YO and a 5 YO. I must be getting old, or responsible, or both, because only recently have I become worried about what type of planet I’m leaving for them, and their kids.

  9. Derik says:

    Composting is my spring project. For Christmas my wife went to one of the local carwashes and asked for one of their large drums. They asked her how many she wanted and gave it to her at no cost. I had planned to use it for a compost tumbler but upon further reading found barrels with screw tops to be preferable (my drum has plugs and a gasket closure). I like the idea of a tumbler compost barrel because it’s easy to aerate the compost. My wife is not a big person and although very capable, I’d rather make it a quick couple of turns on the barrel instead of forking it.
    I’ll use the drum she got me for a rain barrel. We already have one 60 gallon rain barrel that captures its entire volume when we get a ½ inch of rain. This is collecting from a portion of my roof that’s approximately 12×20. I hope to have rain barrels on all 4 downspouts by spring. We use it to water plants and garden vegetables. I’ve never been one to water my yard but with the volume of water I’ll be collecting this year I may just have the greenest yard in town come fall.
    Another small thing we do is to wash out and reuse Ziploc bags. Simply rinse and hang to dry.

  10. finnegan says:

    Sorry to say that I’m not very good about this sort of thing, especially in colder weather. I used to ride my bike all the time, but it’s much harder to get motivated when it’s cold.

    However, I’m currently at my house, in front of my computer, wearing my coat. I keep the thermostat way down these days (although that has more to do with poor insulation and high electric bills than anything else).

    I drive a small, Japanese-engineered, American-manufactured car that gets good gas mileage, and I rarely travel very far in it. I switched out most of my bulbs with fluorescents. And as far as waste goes, I do my best to avoid plastic bags and bottled water — and the few bottles I do get, I reuse.

    But I haven’t really done much to really reduce my garbage output. I buy groceries and get junk mail, the same as everyone else. And I still put out a trashcan full of it on the curb every week.

  11. Marcus says:

    Fantastic post! Some great ideas there too.

    Next few projects:
    – I’m working toward a reusable shopping bag.

    My high school age youth group wants to get involved in getting more people to use them. Here’s a link for one we liked, but we’re looking into the idea of making our own: http://www.green-kits.com/10cotwtobagn.html

    – changing out light bulbs for better use (is it more wasteful to throw away or wait until the current die and replace?)

    – purchase less package intensive food/products

    What I do now:
    – not wasteful with fruit/vege bags at the grocery store

    – fairly good about keeping unused lights, electronics off (including bulky chargers that use power even when they aren’t charging)

    – use tupperware instead of baggies for lunch (would like to know how much good on that one – water use vs. extra plastic)

    – reusing water glasses and water bottles and pushing for efficiency in the shower (water from the tap – for those of you afraid of tap water look up what % of bottled water doesn’t come from the tap)

    – drive a car w/ good gas mileage and try to carpool on trips

    – recycle anything we can

  12. David Miller says:

    Junk mail is a great one, how many helpless trees get cut down in Colorado or Brazil to make the flyer that I stubbornly refuse to even glance through before trashing them?

  13. Emmy says:

    There is a site that you can use to try to get rid of unwanted catalogs. I’ve had a little bit of success with it.

    http://www.catalogchoice.org

  14. Thanh says:

    Great website Emmy! I’m so glad that you posted the link. I’ve visited the site before, and I signed up, but I couldn’t remember the name of the website when I wanted to add more catalogues to be discontinued. This is a FREE service. http://www.catalogchoice.org There are other similar services that charge. Thanks!

  15. Thanh says:

    Marcus, I ordered 100 of these bags with friends. http://go-againbags.com/ The cool thing about them is that you can have your own screen print designed on them, with a minimum order of 200. They’re really great and the perfect size for me. Someone however did point out that these are manufactured in China, but I think the bags you linked to might be too – the webpage says “Proundly *printed* in the USA.” One other suggestion into making your own bags is one that this lady I met at a Healthy Community Council Green Team meeting. I think she took old dresses and sewed them in a manner as to make them into bags. I believe she said she was going to sell them at the Farmers Market. It might be worth trying to track her down and ask her for some advice… It’d be a fun project.

  16. JW says:

    Marcus,
    with regards to:
    “- changing out light bulbs for better use (is it more wasteful to throw away or wait until the current die and replace?)”

    Changing from a standard bulb 60 watt to a 10 watt Compact Flourescent (CFL) will save a 50 watts per bulb. What does 50 watts of power cost? Not much.. but it adds up quick.

    If you live in town (Harrisonburg) you 12.5 cents per kWh.
    So saving 50 watts per bulbs saves you 0.625 cents per bulb, per hour.. so lets assume you run the lights in the house about 50% of the time.. so 360 hours in a 30 day month. You change one light bulb to a CFL and you saved $2.25, change 10 and it’s $22.50 per month!

    Now thats a lot of hours per month, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what could be saved. Multply that accross several households, or a town, and it’s a lot of power.

  17. ammc says:

    Emmy,

    I’ve had success involving my little guy in ‘helping’ me with our green efforts:

    He’s taken over transporting the (safe) items to the recycling bin, things like yogurt containers and plastics. He also likes to identify proudly whether we are reducing, reusing or recycling – he’s started to think of it as a little game. Some of my proudest moments are when he beats me to the ‘green’ punch, like the day I sent a paper towel in his lunchbox and he reminded me that a cloth one would be kinder to the earth. And, since bringing the reusable produce bag is his responsibility, we (I) rarely forget it when we go shopping!

    Nice tip about the catalog reducer site, I’d definitely benefit from that.

  18. David Troyer says:

    I did not see the documentary, but I think a very good follow up to it could be The Corporation. (I have the DVD, if needed)

    It seems that there is a strong contingent of people who are making efforts at home, but what about where we spend the other half of our lives: at work? Corporations, while given the rights of an individual (sometimes you could argue more), are not held to the same moral standard. I’m sure everyone can think of good examples of wasteful practices in their own workplace that they wouldn’t condone in their own home; often times on a MUCH larger scale.

    To me, this almost seems like a bigger issue and I am curious what other people think.

  19. Justin C says:

    David,

    I completely agree. I have not seen the Corporation, but reducing reusing and recycling is even harder to get going in a workplace then it is at home.

    The lightbulb argument JW made is right on, but if the owner of a building doesn’t agree, the tenets who don’t buy the bulbs have little ammunition to complain.

    So much business is run from the bottomline that selling someone on benefits down the road with increased up front costs becomes difficult.

    If the proper steps were taken in new building projects, huge energy savings would be seen. In a world where one company builds, another company markets, another one sells, and one more company manages, who cares what the end customer has to pay in electricity if the place sold.

  20. David Miller says:

    David

    The Corporation is one of those movies that makes you see red. I’d love to see it again but only if I can sip a strong beverage during it and have plenty of time to rant with my fellow citizens afterwards.

  21. Thanh says:

    Method products are also sold at Target. I buy their liquid hand soaps.

    Also, if some of you have tried to recycle cardboard and didn’t know what to do since the City doesn’t pick up cardboard for recycling from residents – try Dave’s Recycling – Drop off 7 a.m.- 5 p.m., except Sunday – 1811 S. High St. – (540) 434-0836

    I have not yet seen The Corporation. David Troyer makes a good point about businesses either being or needing to be more responsible about their environmental footprint. Here are some examples I’ve seen:

    – Even at my place of work struggle with individuals who still put trash into the recycling bins clearly marked only for bottles and cans
    – Sometimes in my work place, one of our side doors didn’t shut all the way. It took a little bit for us to realize why it was so cold in this one hallway. Now we fixed the spring that makes the door shut all the way, but I bet the heating bill was high for a period of time
    – I’m currently taking a course in a computer lab, and it surprises me that there isn’t a paper recycling bin there. I need to remember to write someone a letter about that!
    – I visited the DEQ Valley Regional offices once and was happy to see that in their conference room they had a reminder for the Lights Out Policy, for when the room isn’t in use
    – At JMU, a lot of their classrooms and meeting rooms have sensors in them that turn the lights off when there is no motion in the room. I’m exploring this for some of the rooms at my work
    – And think about all the businesses like bars and restaurants that don’t recycle. Think of all the beer bottles. I was happy to find out that Clementine worked hard to coordinate with the City’s Sanitation Dept to make recycling there possible
    – I was surprised to hear from one Elementary school teacher that many at her school didn’t recycle, or at least she didn’t, because they/she didn’t have the means. I suggested that she talk with her school principal and set a program up, if one didn’t already exist (I realized that maybe other teachers recycled, but she didn’t know) within the school since pick up is available by the City
    – A lot of local governments now are beginning to purchase hybrid vehicles, and I wonder if their are businesses with company vehicles that are hybrids too
    – What about low flow toilets?

    And Justin C makes good points about the bottom line. I see that especially true with building construction, both in residential/commercial and institutions. For residential and commercial a developer/builder wants to spend the least and get the most bang for his buck. The more insulation he installs the more costly that is. The buyer of said building has a budget that constrains him to only spending x amount of dollars and he can’t afford at that time to take cost savings over the long run into consideration. Same with institutions, like state universities. State universities are often limited by the budget they receive for a particular year or for a particular project from the State capital. They can’t afford to fork out x additional dollars now, for savings over the long run. Or maybe it should be argued that these buyers and institutions should all be able to bite the bullet now to save later. Unfortunately, that’s not how a lot of people in the American society think – they want more now. So, how do we go about changing that attitude?

    Maybe by changing our habits at home and encouraging others to think similarly? So that this attitude will infiltrate decisions made in the workplace?

  22. Thanh says:

    My fiance and I just bought a bunch of trees from Turner Ashby HS’s Ecology Club ( http://hburgnews.com/2008/01/29/trees-shrubs-to-improve-your-yard-and-our-environment/ )… Not exactly instant cooling and insulation, but give these trees a few years and we’ll have nice shade and a wind barrier. Plus all the other benefits of having trees.

  23. Justin says:

    Our friends in Egypt (from Harrisonburg) keyed me in on the waste management here in Cairo.

    Trash is collected by private companies who go through your trash and remove valuable items (chipped mugs, scratched “this”, dented “that”) and take the rest to Cairo’s Garbage City, a place were people live who make a living recycling all the trash that major Cairo areas go through. Even medical waste is broken up and recycled for metal and plastics (though the WHO has tried to tell them not to). The smallest, nastiest bits get fed to pigs who then get eaten by people. That’s pretty awesome for a non-government organization.

    Learn all about it and their inhabitants with a quick Google search:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=cairo+garbage+city&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

  24. David Miller says:

    Justin, I’ve seen that Sally Struthers infomercial. That’s the free market run amock scenario alright! Seems to work and has won international recognition but it seemed at first glance, appaling

  25. Emmy says:

    I wonder if the new elementary/middle school complex was built with any of these things in mind?

    I went to an event at HHS and they girls who were doing concessions brought out the recycling bin for us to put our cans in. I just asked both of my boys if they recycle at school and they said they didn’t know, so I’m assuming that means that they don’t. They did go to the recycling plant last year on a field trip though, so maybe its going on and they aren’t aware of it.

    We’ve tried to recycle office paper and other things at work and despite our best efforts, they will not pick it up. We followed all the guidelines and they still didn’t take it so we gave up. Very frustrating.

  26. Marcus says:

    I agree it’s not only corporations, but non-profits, churches and any organizations. It has a lot do with infrastructure too.

    Who is responsible to find out how, retrieve, go get and collect recycling bins through an entire office? Does waste management handle that level of recycling – would someone have to fight for it. Who will be the champion for it? Probably an HR person overburdened with other tasks. Among general wellness, eating better, team building, etc tasks that goes on who has time and money to add something else?

    I think if we each do our part in the work place it will spread or take some responsibility for it (start recycling or another green friendly activity in your department and handle the above listed struggles). Also encourage others to join you (that doesn’t mean you are the green police).

  27. Dana says:

    I too have tried to recycle office paper with the city’s recycling and for whatever reason, it never gets picked up! Our cans and plastic get picked up just fine! I now go to the effort of taking it to Dave’s when I take our cardboard. Another thing we do is have a ‘reprint-able’ bin, (no folds, staples) and things that are in-office or that don’t necessarily need to be on new paper, get reprinted on the clean side. I was amazed at how many things can be re-printed with out a lot of thought or effort. Just a little bin with a sign that near the actual bin!

  28. Josh says:

    A good companion to “Catalog Choice” is the Google Catalogs website. Google receives print copies of many catalogs and scans them in, so you can still sort of have the paper catalog experience without the paper waste:

    http://catalogs.google.com/

    Because, come on “Archie Mcphee” is a fun catalog to browse through. :-)

  29. David Miller says:

    I had a conversation with a friend the other day and he claimed that Hybrids created much more problems and pollution than they fixed. I investigated a bit and ran across some ol’ Penn & Teller that was worth the watch. IT IS NOT FOR CHILDREN OR FOR THE WORKPLACE, but is very informative. Hybrids, Nuclear and well….. I’ll leave the rest to you.

    Episode 1
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mw_WjooMpz0&feature=related
    Episode 2
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khz2Bza_dY0&feature=related
    Episode 3
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nri-WF-DxFU&feature=related

  30. Thanh says:

    Here’s an interesting article that I found:
    In Many Communities, It’s Not Easy Going Green
    By FELICITY BARRINGER – February 7, 2008
    Budget cuts and old habits may interfere with good intentions.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/07/us/07green.html?ex=1203051600&en=88186d4f87ce16ad&ei=5070&emc=eta1

    As far as local government in Harrisonburg goes, the City of Harrisonburg is a member of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability http://www.iclei.org/ (like Arlington Co and other Virginia localities) and has been working with ShenAIR http://www.isat.jmu.edu/shenair/ for the last year or so now on conducting an inventory and analysis of energy consumed and resulting emissions. A presentation to City Council is expected this Spring.

    Anyway, the article above does explain the difficulties that local governments and their citizens face in affording energy efficiency. On one hand it appears to be something that some people want regulated by government, on the other hand, people like their independence, dont want to get told what to do, and/or collectively we can’t afford the cost related to new materials/equipment, or we can’t afford the cost of paying a new person to adminster the program.

    On another note, I was at my doctors office yesterday and realized that they stopped using cloth, washable gowns. They now use disposable paper drapes (I wouldn’t even call them gowns). I found that interestingly wasteful.

  31. Lowell Fulk says:

    Here’s a site you might find helpful:
    Real Goods

  32. This is a great discussion with lots of awesome ideas! I’ve seen several comments about cleaners, so I wanted to mention Shaklee products (see my web link). Shaklee is a great great company for natural vitamins, personal care and cleaning products. They clean MUCH BETTER than method or 7th gen or others on the market, and are actually CHEAPER than even using vinegar and water. Superconcentrated too so you save on shipping, packaging, etc. I’ve been so happy with their stuff that I’ve recently started promoting Shaklee to others.
    Also, we use a lot of acme brand bags from http://www.reusablebags.com They have great mesh and lightweight cotton produce bags too, for those who don’t want apples rolling everywhere but want a reusable alternative!

  33. Josh says:

    David, Thank you for posting Penn & Teller links! I like to balance my idealism with a healthy dose of their cynicism. I particularly enjoyed their episode on recycling a few years back. And I commend you on your low mileage lifestyle!

    Thanh, Great tip about washing things over a bowl!

    For those of you interested in reusable bags, here’s a great collection of links: http://unclutterer.com/2008/02/05/more-reasons-to-purge-disposable-plastic-bags-and-try-reusable-bags/

  34. Thanh says:

    After reading some of the comments above about how the City misses businesses who put out their office paper for recycling, I went and talked to the City’s Sanitation Superintendent, Meki Shifflett, and ask why this is happening.

    Essentially not all businesses have enough office paper to put out everyday or even once a week. So instead of sending the trucks that pick up office paper down every street, to all businesses every day to look for a bin of office paper, that might not be there, the Sanitation Superintendent asks that businesses either 1) let her know that you will be putting out office paper once a week and on which day and she will ensure regular pick up or 2) to call when you need to have your office paper picked up and they’ll come the next day. They will gladly pick up office paper, as well as cardboard. Just call to let them know when you need pick up. This saves staff time and fuel, which I take as saving my tax payers’ money.

    I hope this information helps. Please talk to Meki Shifflett about your trash and recycling questions by calling 540-434-5928. It makes me sad to hear that people felt that they had to give up trying to do a good thing.

    Here’s more information that might help you understand what’s going on: The City has several different types of recycling pick up trucks. There’s the one that picks up plastics and cans. And there’s another one that picks up newspaper, and a third that picks up office paper, or it might be combined with the newspaper truck (two different compartments) – I didn’t think to ask for specifics. This would help explain why your plastics and cans get picked up but your newspaper didn’t.

    And if you recycle office paper, please do your best to keep out staples and paper clips. The buyer of the office paper doesn’t like these “contaminants” and has the right to turn away the contents of the truck, which would result in the office paper you tried so hard to recycle to go to the resources recovery facility and not be recycled.

  35. Thanh says:

    Check out this website and associated videos, http://www.pathtofreedom.com/ … very inspiring.

    “The Dervaes family shows us how they coverted a 1/5 acre city lot in Pasadena, CA into an eco-oasis that has reduced their dependence on electricity by 2/3 and increased their goals of living sustainably and self-sufficiently.”

    “The Dervaes family runs Path to Freedom, an urban homesteading project, in Pasadena. Since the ’80s the family has transformed their city lot into an organic permaculture garden. The yard features more than 350 varieties of plants which are either edible or used for other purposes. The garden supplies the family with their food year round. The family sells some of their greens to local restaurants. Doing this gives them money to purchase solar panels and energy efficient appliances. The solar panels provide their home with power and they use a solar oven to cook food on sunny days.”

  36. Frank J Witt says:

    You know me, for the most part, I LOVE to read, so here is a blogger with some great ideas about non-plastics I hope you find helpful…
    http://www.fakeplasticfish.com/2007/10/list.html

  37. Emmy says:

    Someone alerted me to this site today. I thought it might be good to pass along to other people who live in an apartment and still want to compost.

    http://www.fatworms.com/worm_bins.html

  38. finnegan says:

    I actually know someone in H’burg that uses that, Emmy. I have been to her kitchen and seen the worms in action. Not as gross as I thought it would be.

    Maybe I can do a little YouTube video on that.

  39. Emmy says:

    Oh yeah do that! I’d love to see the system in action. I’m not sure how I feel about worms in my kitchen, I’d think I’d have to keep it outside most of the year and bring in it during the winter.

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