When the teacher becomes a student: Motivated to action at the Richland Recycles Education Day

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Compost Day 3

Every May, Richland County hosts a Richland Recycles Education Day at the State Fairgrounds. Local environmental groups devise a short lesson and staff a table, which groups of invited students visit to learn more. In years past, I’ve led my own lesson, but limited now by the volume of my voice, I instead offered to assist as needed as a volunteer. I was assigned to the  Atlas Organics booth, where I learned more about composting and was even motivated to start an office vermi-composting bin.

I started composting at home about six years ago when I transitioned to a more plant-based way of eating. Using more veggies and fruits led to fruit flies in my house, and when I complained about it, one of my sustainability sidekicks recommended that I get it out of the trash via a compost bin. I’m what they call a lazy composter; I just toss my food scraps in the bin and add browns every so often, but I rarely turn it or add water. And neither of my bins are in the sun, so I don’t monitor the temperature either. According to Atlas educator Leslie Rodgers, that’s okay. I’m probably missing out on some great soil amendment material, but I’m diverting my food waste, and that is a good thing.Compost Day 2

For the event, Leslie brought a mini vermi-composting bin to explain the compost process to students. I was quite taken with the process and decided to make my own. I once tried to compost at work, but it created some issues with fruit flies and bugs. I wasn’t actually composting, but saving my fruit scraps to take to my home compost bin, thus the problem.

Compost Day 1

 

By the end of the day, I left with a new appreciation for composting as well as a scoop of red wiggler worms to start my own. I put them in a coffee tumbler and kept them inside until I could get them home. Three days later, the worms are still in the container on my night stand. I have good intentions to start a bin, but until I do, I’ll keep them moist and fed.

 

(To Be Continued)

 

The Economic Benefit of Recycling

 

By: Mary Pat Baldauf 

RecycleMoreSC is a statewide campaign that promotes the economic and environmental benefits of recycling. It’s also a call to action challenging residents, businesses, organizations and local governments to do their part to recycle more. The campaign’s goal is to reach a 40 percent recycling rate by the year 2020.

Recycling is a good practice not only for the environment but also for the present and future economic climate of the state. A study released by the College of Charleston shows that recycling has a $13 million impact on the state’s economy. In addition, more than 50,000 direct and indirect jobs are associated with the recycling industry.

To reach the “40 by 2020” goal, it will take South Carolinians (like me and you) to recycle and to recycle correctly. The process has changed a lot, especially since curbside recycling began some 28 years ago. Even if you’ve been recycling forever, there are some things you need to know. Take a moment to review these three important links before you recycle again.

If you’re rushed for time, perhaps the most important link to review is Recycling’s Dirty Dozen.

Thanks for doing your part to help South Carolina’s economy and the environment through recycling.

Do you recycle? Why or why not? Does RecycleMoreSC motivate you to recycle and/or recycle more?  

Great Ways To Trim Your Holiday Wasteline

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day Americans throw away 25% more trash than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week. So, to help trim the trash while trimming the tree, here is a checklist of simple things you can do to reduce waste while you eat, drink and make merry this holiday season.

Recycle

Plan Your Parties

From Thanksgiving through New Year’s we like nothing more than to eat, drink and be merry, so we need successful strategies to cut down on the waste we create from our amplified entertaining.

  • Turn down the heat before the guests arrive. You’ll save energy while the extra body heat of your guests will warm up the room.
  • Walk to neighborhood parties, or carpool with friends if it’s too far to walk.
  • After the party, don’t throw away the leftovers! Put them in plastic containers or bags and send them home with guests, or donate to food banks.

Bring Your Own Bag

  • During the nation’s busiest shopping season, bring your own shopping bags. Paper, plastic and cloth are all good; the latter two can be folded easily into purses and pockets until used.
  • Consolidate your purchases into one bag rather than getting a new bag at each store on your shopping rounds.
  • Instead of using wrapping paper, place your gifts in reusable bags. Your present will be two gifts in one: the actual gift and the bag, which the recipient can reuse.

Fuss-Free Gift Giving

  • Plan your shopping in advance. Consolidating your shopping trips saves fuel (and aggravation), and you’ll avoid that last minute frenzy when you won’t have time to make careful gift choices.
  • Rather than piling up “stuff” under the tree, think about what friends and family really want or need. Try giving gift certificates if you don’t know what someone wants, or simply make a donation in his or her name to a favorite charity.
  • Give gifts that encourage others to use less stuff, like a book about making crafts from reusable items, a cookbook for leftovers or reusable tote bags.
  • Or simply set a good example by giving homemade food or something you’ve made yourself from reused items.
  • For kids, start a savings account or give stocks or bonds. It’s fun to watch money grow and it teaches children the value of financial conservation.
  • Shop for gifts at antique stores, estate sales or flea markets, since one person’s trash is another’s treasure.
  • Donate unwanted gifts, along with last year’s gifts that the kids have outgrown, to charity.

Kid Stuff

  • When buying electronic toys and other portable items that are used regularly, remember to buy rechargeable batteries to go with them.
  • Instead of wrapping gifts for the kids, hide the presents, plant clues to where they’re hidden and turn the kids’ search into a treasure hunt.
  • Get the kids to make their own tree ornaments out of things you already have around the house or from materials they might find in the backyard: twigs, bark, flowers and herbs, pine cones, etc.
  • Old clothes and jewelry make a great dress-up box for kids.
  • Tools and gadgets make a great idea box for a young inventor.

Card Sense

This season our mailboxes burst with membership offerings and fundraising appeals, presents, gift catalogues and cards. What to do …

  • Send e-greetings to family, friends and business associates who are online.
  • Did you know…the 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high? If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.
  • Save yourself time, money and hard feelings between friends – and reduce mail volume – by updating and paring down your holiday mailing list.
  • Be creative. Instead of buying placemats or table decorations, make your own. Cut old cards into shapes and press between two pieces of clear contact paper.

Shop Right…And Ship Light

  • When buying gifts you will send by mail, pick items that are easy to ship and won’t require excess packaging.
  • Reuse packing cartons and shipping materials such as peanuts, wood shavings, shredded newspaper and bubble wrap.
  • Drop off extra packing peanuts at local private mailing centers.

Wrap It Up

  • Or better yet, think of gifts that don’t have to be wrapped at all: tickets to concerts, museums, or sporting events, gift certificates, house plants, or even gifts of your own time.
  • When giving oversized gifts like bicycles or CD racks, instead of wrapping them in paper, just tie a bow around them.
  • Wrap gifts in old maps, newspapers, Sunday comics or fancy holiday gift bags. Kids’ art work is a perfect wrapping for presents to proud grandparents.
  • Use brown paper grocery bags to wrap small-to-medium size boxes that have to be mailed.
  • Make the wrap a part of the gift: Putting cookies in a flower pot or hiding jewelry in a new pair of gloves will keep your gift under wraps and the “wrapping” out of the trash.

Which of these changes can you commit to making this holiday season? Can you think of other ways to reduce your waste this holiday season?

“Going Green” is More Than a Slogan

By:  Elizabeth Webber Akre

I was in the 10th grade.  Yes, that would be approximately 1984.  I was giving an oral report in Mrs. Sutton’s science class about recycling.  I had done a lot of research.  I knew what I was talking about.  As I gave my report, I looked out over a sea of blank stares and open mouths.  No one knew what on Earth I was talking about.

Oh sure, we knew about taking your glass bottles back to the store so they could be reused. Remember the deposits you used to have to pay on them?  We were starting to hear about being able to recycle aluminum cans.  But at that time, the only place my sister and I could locate in Columbia to recycle was way over on Fontaine Road.  It was a pretty heavy-duty, industrial type recycling company, but they would take our measly trash bags of cans along with the truckloads of metals that were delivered there.  Curbside recycling wasn’t even a suggestion at this point.  And, the only thing I knew then about plastics was to avoid them. This was my closing line in my report to my dumbfounded classmates:  use cloth diapers so our grandchildren aren’t wading around in a sea of dirty Pampers that won’t break down.  Crickets and tumbleweeds.  But, I got an A.  Even being an amateur, thanks to my research, I did know what I was talking about.

Here we are almost 30 years later and thankfully, the concept of recycling and reusing is not only well-known, but has become main stream.  My kindergartener was chosen to make the announcement over the loudspeaker for the school’s “No Trash Lunch Week.”  The City of Columbia has added cardboard recycling to our curbside program.  Now, we need bigger bins.  Once upon a time, “plain paper” recycling was hard to come by; now even my church has a blue recycling bin in the vestibule for all the church bulletins after the service.

I want to share a website with you.  I discovered this site a year or so ago.  It’s called Recyclebank.  You earn points by watching (very short) videos about ways to recycle, reduce, reuse and generally “green up” your everyday world.  Just today, I learned that 90% of the imported cut flowers come from Latin America.  That means, rather than employing our own people to grow flowers and ferns in greenhouses, we are buying them from other countries who then have to load them up on planes and fly them around the world.  That’s just crazy.  I had no idea.  I also learned today that Dasani water bottles contain 30% plant-based material.  I’m not exactly sure how it works, but I think it’s cool.  As you learn these lessons, you accumulate points.  What’s that for, you ask?  You can then use them to get really good coupons (like $2 off Kashi!) or free offers, or make donations.  For instance, for 250 points, you can donate a tree through American Forests.  It’s a cool thing, indeed.  Click here to check it out.

Wasn’t it Kermit the Frog who sang “It isn’t easy being green?”  Well, it’s getting a lot easier these days, but we still have a long way to go.  Check out Recyclebank and see what you can do in your own home to help “Go Green.”