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Helping People Reconnect To Our Environment

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TRASH TALKING TO MYSELF

Posted on January 14, 2014 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

I have a lot of conversations with myself, and I am quite often impressed with my opinions on certain subjects, but sometimes I disagree and the trash talk begins.

I didn't hear much from myself when I decided to stop using trash liners; I had nothing to say when I decided to stop using the dryer and to adjust my digital thermostat to to 66 in the winter. nor did I speak up when I decided to use water in the rain barrels to do my laundry. But when I decided to remove the trash can in my kitchen.....I didn't even know that I knew that kind of language!

I didn't understand the animosity, I mean I compost, I choose my purchases to reduce packaging, I recycle.  What was the problem?  Turns out I had a lot to say on the subject, beginning with the overly mature response, "That's just stupid".  How can you engage in an intelligent debate with such a stance?

We started by discussing my reasoning.  I don't use the kitchen trash can that much, it's an eye sore and it takes up much need floor space, oh and all the eco reasons I mentioned above. But my response never really moved above, "that's just stupid".  Whatever, I'm doing it anyway.

My superior intelligence won the battle again, besides, I used the old tried and true standard of, "Because I said so!".  And as any child of Mother born knows, that's the ballgame.

We are currently on Day 14 of Operation Trash Can Free in the Kitchen, and all is well.  It's been a learning experience for me about habits.  And it turns out I have had to be slightly creative on occasion, but that's another post.  I have grown used to the new regime and have little to say about it these days. I threw myself kicking and screaming into accepting the idea, but eventually I grew to love it.  Although, I did have to ground myself for a few days, because some of the words I used in rebuttal should never be spoken outside of an OU vs Texas game.  Really!

-Chris Ward

Over the Long Haul

Posted on October 31, 2013 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

I have often said that my mind works in mysterious ways, for instance last week I was stuck behind a trash truck and as the not so gentle smell drifted towards me, I started to wonder, "How much food is in that truck?".

Now I know that other things can contribute to the smell, used diapers for instance, but it's mostly food. And from there my mind was off and running. I started to make up scenarios in my head about what happened to put the food in the trash, burnt meals, sell by date rejects, left overs, new recipes that went horribly wrong, or produce that was left to become a High School Science experiment.

Then my mind jumped to the cost of that wasted food. How many food dollars were in that truck, how much does it cost the city to clean out those trucks because of the food, does the food lead to other issues at the landfills like scavengers? How much does it cost to control them? What about the health of the workers? Is it affected due to transporting rotting food?

I don't have the answer to any of these questions, so unfortunately they will have to remain a mystery. What I do know is none of that food heading to the landfill belongs to me, I compost! And because I compost, I have healthy soil, a clean trash can and happy worms. For me, composting is where it's at, and I'm in it for the Long Haul. My mind can rest a little easy, because I know I'm not alone, more and more people are practicing composting at home and that's a big load off my mind.

-Chris Ward

The Fine Art of Recycling Reclamation

Posted on June 25, 2013 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

  What inspires me to roll out of bed at 6 am on a Saturday morning?  My family, my garden and first pick at the Recycling Center.  And I'm not the only one doing it, that's why I have to roll out so early!

Now you have to be asking yourself, what could I possibly want at the Recycling Center enough that I would expose my dignity and ample backside to ridicule and scorn?  Answer....Plenty!

Paper - I will pull out magazines and books whenever I find them, some I will keep, the others I donate to libraries, hospitals, nursing homes and cancer centers.  I will also share a little secret with you.  Although several of my relatives who worship Ms. Manners, the Etiquette Queen, would be horrified to learn this....but I will pull out gift bags and reuse them.

Newspaper - What can I say.....I have animals. I shred it for my worm bins and as bedding for my rabbits, I also use it to line my bird cage.  I use it as a weed barrier and for composting. I have also been known to use it as wrapping paper, (that one has the approval of Ms. Manners, the Etiquette Queen as it is considered quite chic right now).

Cardboard -  Come on!  It's boxes....enough said.

Plastic - I have scored big in this area.  10 gallon tubs converted into worm bins or used for storage, 5 gallon Ozarka bottles as mini rain barrels for raised beds.  5 gallon kitty litter buckets with the lids still attached........GOLD!  I have found; buckets, small pots for seedlings and spray bottles for my own homemade cleaning supplies.

Tin Cans - I paint them to hold utensils or flowers for parties.  I have used the bulk size ones as planters for geraniums that I hung on the garden wall.  I have made rain chains, wind chimes and orange juice lids make great mini chalkboard magnets for your fridge as well as herb markers.

Glass - My personal favorite.  I have a "thing" about glass, I love it.  I use gallon wine jugs to serve punch or lemonade. I use them to contain my homemade soaps, I take colored bottles for bottle trees.  I have found cut glass vases and wonderful storage containers.

The Recycling Center is a shopper's paradise for me, but you could do some of your shopping in your own recycling container at home.  Check out what's in there and take out what could be reused, donated (books and magazines) or repurposed before you recycle.

If you are going to chance being seen removing things from the center's dumpsters, I want to leave you with some safety tips and final thoughts. First, don't try to retrieve anything while the trucks are there to pick up the recycling!  Don't EVER climb into the containers and NEVER send your children in your place.  I'm sure that you would consider these to be "common sense tips", but unfortunately I have seen it too many times not to mention it.

And a final warning...if you are waist deep in the glass container trying to pull out a beautiful blue bottle that is just out of your reach and you feel a tapping on your lower back, don't panic.  It's not the police or even Ms. Manners, the Etiquette Queen, it's probably a sponsor for the local chapter of Alcoholic Anonymous.  I'm still not sure that she believed me when I told her I wasn't looking for liquor but a bottle for a bottle tree.  But, now that she's heard it from me, she might believe you, or you might end up with her card, a disbelieving look and a sympathetic hug.  All in all, I think I handled the situation really well, right up until she walked off with my hard won bottle!  You win some and you loose some to other pickers!

-Chris Ward

 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ELEMENTAL

Posted on January 16, 2013 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

  When did our lives stop being simple and become a series of complicated conveniences?  What moment in history can we point to as the evolution of the Human Race into laziness?  We are currently living in what I call, "The Self Delusional Age", our descendants will study this period of time as our self destructive period.  Some day in the future, a bright young Sociology professor will stand before a lecture hall filled with eager students and discuss our current way of life.  What will he say?

Will he tell them that we spent 25% of our lives in our cars?  Will he discuss our need to continue to develop and purchase products that would improve our lives by saving us precious time: can he explain a leaf blower?  Will he mention the huge toll on our environment that we allowed because we had to have the latest cell phone that allocate never having face to face contact again?  Would they understand why we lived in one of the largest agricultural states and still ate foreign imported tomatoes?  Would it take an entire day to discuss our need to buy bottled water instead of using that money to improve and protect our local drinking water?  Could they comprehend our continued indifference to the production of plastic bags just for our convenience or not providing our own?  What would they think about disposable wipes that hang next to the toilet paper?  And what would be our response to their bewilderment?

If one of us was asked to be a guest speaker, what would we say?  Would we say that drive thru's, paper towels, a separate cleaning product for every job in our home and Styrofoam saved us time, money and personal energy. Would we further explain that it didn't matter what happened to those products once we finished with them, because out of sight is out of mind?  Would we try to convince how important is was to have a green lawn even if we were suffering the worst drought in 70 years?  Would you say that our motto was, "what we didn't know, didn't hurt us", when we did know.....and it did hurt us?  Would you tell them that it didn't matter what each individual did because we had enormous natural resources to draw from, even though we were aware that we were either polluting or draining those resources?  Would you look them in the eye and say that we didn't encourage or support alternative energy research or programs because it would have cost us more money, and those problems belonged to the generation that followed?  Would you say that we didn't hold corporations responsible for their practices because we needed more and more stuff in our lives in order to be productive citizens?  What would we say, and could we say it without flinching.  

I was told once that the definition of insanity was doing the same things over and over again but expecting a different outcome each time.  What outcome can we expect on our current path of self delusion?  Abraham Lincoln is a personal hero of mine and during a speech he made at the Wisconsin State Fair on September 30, 1859 he stated, "No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small percentage of it's numbers".  He was speaking about agriculture and labor, but don't those words ring true for the environment as well?  If we continue on our current course, our resources will no longer sustain our population.  Isn't it time we stand up and take responsibility for our actions, don't we teach our children to do the same?  How can we expect them to do what we are not willing to do ourselves?  What will we tell our children, those students of the future?  The time for idleness has passed.  In that same speech on that beautiful fall day, President Lincoln told the following story as well, "It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever viewed, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations.  They presented him the words; "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses!  How chastening in the hour of pride! - how consoling in the depths of affliction! And this, too, shall pass away."  In this, our age of Self Delusion, isn't it time to allow our ambivalence to simply pass away.

-Chris Ward

THE GREAT PLASTIC EXPERIMENT

Posted on January 3, 2013 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (2)

  Sometimes I feel as if I am wearing a sign, "Plastic is Evil".  I was invited to a party this holiday season and from the moment I entered the room my hostess began to apologize for her choices.  She explained in great length and with widening arm motions why she purchased plastic stemware and disposable dishes.  As I listened, she got more and more defensive about it.  This wasn't a two way conversation as she did all the talking, and when she finished and her hands stopped flying around, I simply asked, "Do you mind if I use my own dishes"?  I carry them with me everywhere; I don't leave home without them, that is my choice.  This has happened to me many times in the past, someone explaining their choices to me, but this time it made me wonder, "Do I think that all plastic is evil"?  After some soul searching I determined that I don't, but I do believe that some of it is redundant and wasteful.

Plastic is everywhere and some of it is a necessary and beneficial part of our lives.  Plastic helped to save my husband's life during his battle with Cancer.  My rain barrels are plastic, my worm bins are plastic, and my favorite sunglasses are plastic.  I started to think a lot about plastic.  I have tried to cut as much plastic out of my life as possible.  I buy things in glass containers; I don't buy disposable items when possible.  But how much plastic was still in my life? This led me to the Great Plastic Experiment.

For one day, I decided that I was going to see if I could avoid touching plastic.  The rules were simple, I couldn't ask anyone else to touch the plastic for me such as turning on the TV because I couldn't touch the remote, and the only thing I was going to allow myself to touch would be the toilet seat...that was a given.  I choose a Saturday because a work day would force me to use a keyboard.  The first thing that I noticed is when you are hyperaware of something you see it everywhere.  The day started off great!  I couldn't do the laundry because the knobs were plastic.  I was able to do some cleaning as I mix my own in glass containers, but the sprayers were plastic as well as the broom, dust pan and steam mop.  So far this isn't bad at all, no laundry, and not much cleaning.  So I settled in with a good book without a plastic dust jacket.  Everything was fine until the cravings started.  Have you ever noticed that if you have a day off you are happily content to stay at home, but if your car is in the shop you can't think of anything but the stuff that requires you to drive and you are stuck at home?  This was like that.  I wanted to watch a DVD and eat a sandwich, both were denied me.  Then I had an overwhelming urge to play spider solitaire on the laptop.  I think that I was experiencing plastic withdrawal, but I was determined.  I almost made it, but the stars aligned against me and the Plastic Gods conspired to trip me up.  I had gone through the entire day frustrated, but plastic touch free and triumphant, and that is when it happened.  I took my shower, climbed into my organic cotton jammies and reached for the light switch on the lamp....the light switch.  Busted!!!!

My Great Plastic Experiment Conclusion; Plastic IS everywhere and we can't avoid it.  Plastic isn't evil, it was designed to improve our lives and it has.  But, as with everything that involves humans, we have taken it to the extreme.  The convenience of plastic is just a little too tempting.  Just because the human mind can conceive an idea doesn't necessarily mean we should develop and use it, do we really need plastic water bottles and plastic shopping bags?  I have nothing against plastic; we just need to be more responsible about how we use it in our lives, and when we do use it we absolutely should recycle it.  Plastic should never reach our landfills.  As for me, I am a little more aware of the plastic that surrounds me and I will continue to cut out what I can.  But, if I come to your home......chill.  Even if the Zombie Apocalypse causes me to forget my dishes that day, I would just take what I used home to recycle it if you don't.  I am responsible and judge my own actions, not yours.  To be honest, I just don't have the brain RAM to supply to the situation.  But if you are interested in learning how to cut down your plastic use, I am easy to find.  I'll be the one carrying the palm leaf plate with matching bamboo utensils.

-Chris Ward

THE RE-GIFTING DEBATE

Posted on December 12, 2012 at 8:40 AM Comments comments (0)

How do you stand on regifting? When I have asked that question in the past, I didn't realize that there are two entrenched camps at war.  You either agree with the practice and then spend the next several hours informing me of the benefits, or you strongly disagree and will spend the rest of your life wondering about the manner in which I was raised.   There doesn't seem to be a grey area here, in my very informal poll which included my friends and several text messages, you are either for or against regifting, I couldn't find any undecided's, I have very decisive friends with big vocabularies at their command.

This is my position on the subject.  REGIFT!!  If my sister, whose biggest cooking accomplishment is making deviled eggs, were to receive a brand new shiny Kitchen Aide Mixer from a well intentioned husband with high hopes and she in turn gave it me for Christmas....well, where is the harm?  The mixer landed in the right hands, and the man deserves a cake from time to time. I have no complaints, my sister doesn't feel any guilt because she's not having to stare at the thing and feel inadequate and my brother in law is happy....didn't I mention the free cakes?  We have all received a gift that just wasn't meant to be in our lives, why not pass it on to someone who will love, enjoy and benefit from it instead of hiding it away or even worse having to dust around it.

My kids disagree with me on this particular subject.  My daughter reacted with horror when I posed the question of regifting.  I was informed that if I ever gave a gift that was given to me in her presence, she would die of embarrassment.  I know that's not true, if she can survive my full, loving support at her sporting events, she will survive this. I don't understand the problem.  For years our family has played Dirty Santa at my mom's house, you know the game where everyone brings a nice gift and you draw numbers. The first person chooses a wrapped gift and opens it; the second person can take the first gift or chose another unwrapped gift and so on.  The gift becomes yours if no one takes it or it has been stolen twice before you take it.  And every year there are back room exchanges going on after the game, it looks like the trading floor on Wall Street.   I hate to tell you this, but that is regifting in the extreme.  So from their point of view it's okay to steal a gift that someone has and wants, but not okay to quietly and tastefully pass on a gift?  I am going to ignore their opinions until they are in their 30's and know what they are talking about or until they agree with me.

I haven't even mentioned all the environmental benefits of regfting.  I know or at least I hope that the gifts I receive especially at Christmas are chosen with love and well thought out consideration.  I will keep the love, the gift however....?  Look at this way, maybe it is the gift's Karma to move on and enrich the life of someone more deserving of that Rudolph sweater with the attached glowing nose.  And if you are very good and eat your fresh locally sourced greens, maybe it won't find its way back to you.  How do you stand on the subject of regifting, have you done it yourself?  Would you be upset if you found out someone had regifted your gift or gave you a gift that they  previously received themselves?  Share your opinion, I can take it.

-Chris Ward

HE KNOWS IF YOU'VE BEEN BAD OR GOOD

Posted on December 10, 2012 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

 The following post has been previously posted in our 2012 Holiday Newsletter.

Would you be surprised if I told you that Santa Claus was an everyday environmentalist?  Don't believe me?  He is and I can prove it! 

First, let's examine the man himself, he grows a beard so that he doesn't have to buy shaving accessories and he wears glasses instead of disposable contacts.  Also, have you noticed that he wears the same outfit year after year, I mean come on, you have to admire a man that can pull off such a loud suit, look good doing it, all the while starting a fashion trend that never gets old.  Even Armani has a version of the Santa Suit.

If you examine his home environment and company policies, you will see that he is definitely a practicing conservationist. He has lived in the same house/shop for hundreds of years; he employs local Elves while maintaining Fair Trade practices.  They make all the toys using hand tools, and I can't image that there are any preservatives in his candy canes.   He has a website that allows you to email your Christmas Wish List.  Since they are located in the North Pole at an undisclosed location, I'm thinking he has to be running off grid.  And then there is his dedication to petroleum free travel.  He uses a sleigh with reindeer and the closet he gets to a GPS system is a star chart.

When he visits you house, he carries his gifts in an old magical bag that he has had forever.  You get all this sustainability for a price of a cookie, so don't you think that the man deserves some organic milk from a local producer to wash it all down?  Kris Kringle is my idol, he is what I strive to be.  So, you better watch out, because yes Virginia, Santa Claus is an everyday environmentalist and he knows if you've been bad or good.

-Chris Ward 

IT CAME WITHOUT RIBBON

Posted on December 3, 2012 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

I could tell you that the greenest option for giving Christmas presents is to not buy anything at all....but where is the challenge in that? I have often stared in wonder at the people in my life who buy tons of gifts for their children each year, and then watch as the kids lose interest in the gift long before they have paid off their credit cards. One of my favorite Christmas memories is the year that I saved up to buy my daughter a play kitchen, she was seven years old and loved playing house. Christmas morning came and I was right....she was so excited and couldn't wait to play. She and my son spend the next several days playing in the gigantic box the thing came in. Lesson learned.

We have tried to make Christmas a holiday about family and love and not about the pursuit of an avalanche of gifts. Every year at Thanksgiving, we draw names and buy or make one gift for the person whose name we drew. We often talk about changing it to homemade gifts only, but if you had seen the Hula Girl Lamp my son spent an entire weekend trying to construct, you would understand why we allow purchased gifts.

But how do you keep your gift giving greener and at the same time more personal? I have a wonderful, awful idea......get creative. If you are like me, your time is at a premium, so a homemade gift announces to the receiver that they are both loved and appreciated. Here are some of my favorites; cookies, candy, bath spa products like facial scrubs and fizzy bombs, memberships in organizations like the Nature Conservancy or an ECOpass. Beautiful house plants (air quality), homemade cleaning products, homemade vanilla or spice mixes. Personal gift certificates redeemable when needed are always a hit. Give a coupon for; child care, cooking, lawn services, 3 months of free eggs (if you have your own chickens) or small household chores. Do you have a talent that you can share; samples of your home canned food, refinish a piece of furniture, a blanket you have knitted, jewelry, scented soaps, stained glass ornaments, a CD of you or your child playing an instrument. Or just share your time by organizing a Christmas Cookie exchange or a Re-gifting Party. And for your own little Cindy Lu Who...... get them a big Recycled cardboard box and consider it a job well done!

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is one of my favorite books and contains words of wisdom from the greenest guy I know, "It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes and bags. And he puzzled and puzzled til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before, What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

Merry Christmas!

-Chris Ward

 

LET'S TALK TRASH

Posted on September 21, 2012 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

 The Reduce Your Waste Line Challenge begins on Sunday and I have been busy posting daily diet tips on our Facebook page (click the FB tab on the right) and through the email to those of you who requested them.  If you are interested in taking the Challenge, please visit our Events Tab (click Events, not any of the options in the drop down menu) for more information.  I wanted to share my tips with you here as well and encourage you to share any of yours that I might have missed.

  1. Use Cloth Diapers
  2. Question the End Life of all your purchases.
  3. Donate & Shop for Used Items.
  4. Bring Your Lunch to Work or School.
  5. Reduce Your Consumption, or Buy Less.
  6. Stop Junk Mail
  7. Compost
  8. Make Your Own Baby Food.
  9. Use Rechargeable Batteries.
  10. Make Your Own Cleaning Products.
  11. Cook at Home.
  12. Use the Library.
  13. Find Alternatives for Disposable Items.
  14. Eliminate Your Use for Plastic Bags & Bottles.
  15. Shop Farmers Markets & Food Coops
  16. Reduce Your Paper Use.
  17. Give Your Recycle Bin Some Love, or Recycle What You Can.
  18. Reuse Everything Possible.
  19. Remember to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Rethink.  Wrap Up.

Each day I posted these tips with an explanation and ideas, and sometimes added possible sources and websites that offer assistance such as www.earth911.com .  Some of our Facebook Friends added their own tips, and are worth checking out. Our waste is out of control, and because we only have so much room to dump it all, it is so tightly packed that it can take forever to break down.  It is up to us to reduce our waste output and the simplest way to do so is to reduce our consumption of disposable products, because if you think about it, if you don't buy it, it doesn't become waste in the first place.   We also need to make our purchases based on the funeral arrangements of the product.  Play the End of Life Game, ask yourself, when I am finished with this product can it be recycled, composted, passed on or will it have to be thrown away?  If it doesn't fit into the first three, is there an alternative available that will fit?  Could you buy better trash?

Our Challenge is a way to audit your trash.  What goes in there?  Could it be diverted away from the dump, reused by yourself or someone else, could it be recycled, or replaced with something that will last longer?  These are the questions you will need to ask yourself during the Challenge, the goal is to significantly reduce your waste by the end the week.  When I say significantly, I mean, so much that you and your family notice a change.  This is by no means a scientific experiment, for that you would have had to audit your trash a week before, weighed it, and documented each item before you disposed of it curbside.  Then you would have had to repeat the process during the Challenge and compare notes.  The District wants you to pay attention to your trash for one week, determine where you can improve and maybe begin some new habits by using the tips that we have provided over the last few weeks. We are hoping that by taking the Challenge, you might only have half a trash can load or less to take to the curb instead of your normal 1-2 full loads and will continue to do so.

Trash talk only hurts us when you don't do something about it, so take the Challenge, reduce your waste line, loose some of those unsightly pounds and be entered to win some great prize.  What do you have to lose except trash? 

THE 2012 GOODWILL TOUR

Posted on August 20, 2012 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

  I have a frugal soul. Long before I became interested in Conservation, I loved to garage sale, go to Flea Markets, thrift shops and antique stores.  I haunt auctions and Estate Sales and I can haggle, barter, dicker and negotiate with the best of them. Add this to my environmental interests and you can image the total euphoria that encompassed me when I was invited to take a tour of the Goodwill Corp Office in OKC that also houses their training center and recycling efforts.

Goodwill and I have had a long and happy partnership.  During me lean and hungry years they helped me furnish my home and cloth my children.  These days, I check with them when I want to buy something new like a vegetable steamer, which I found by the way.  I have donated things to them and shopped there for years and although I knew that they recycled I had no idea the sheer volume of recycling that they handle.

My tour was conducted by Chris Daniels, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries in Central Oklahoma and Sarah Steffes.  The tour started with the classroom where the Recycle Technician and Environmental Technician Training is conducted, these training courses are provided through a grant from Green Jobs. Then we went into the recycling warehouse, where pallet upon pallet of unsalable stuff is waiting in a 60,000 square foot warehouse to be recycled. As a matter of fact, Chris told me that they can recycle and have venders for just about everything except treated lumber. They are as far as I am aware the only source to recycle Styrofoam available to the public in Oklahoma, and they are working on buying the part that will allow them to clean and recycle Styrofoam cups and shells so they can accept and recycle them as well.  The decision to recycle wasn't just an environmental choice, it was equally an economic one.  They receive over 280,000 lbs of donations a year and for whatever reason over 40,000 lbs a year had to go to the dump.  That was an expense they could no longer afford to keep up with, so they searched for solutions outside the box. They found paying vendors for all plastics #1 - #7, glass, metal, paper and cardboard.  They have vendors for shoes, fabric & material scraps and recycle up to 25,000 lbs a day in textiles. They work with a  vendor that takes the Styrofoam and produces work gloves, and Dell takes all the electronics.  Goodwill now makes money off of what was once a drain on their budget.  They once had to take over 30% of their unusable donations to a landfill, today that number is more like 4.7%.  And the largest number of all... their recycling efforts will generate $1.6 million in revenue this year!  

Goodwill has always been my partner in dealing with stuff.  They take the stuff I no longer needed, wanted, or inherited from someone else and sold me other people's stuff that I did need. I am glad to report that they are also a fully functioning environmental partner as well.  I encourage you to drop off your recycling at any Goodwill Donation Center, especially those citizens without a recycling program or with a recycling program that doesn't take everything like glass or some plastics, its money in the bank to Goodwill.

How much better could you possibly feel about recycling knowing that not only are you diverting some of your waste from a landfill, but you are supporting a local organization that makes money off your waste to help your neighbors in need. You are essentially bringing Goodwill to your fellow man and to the Earth one hole ridden sock at a time.

THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS

Posted on August 6, 2012 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

  I am many things; a wife, mother, ecoist, gardener and poo collector.  Yes, you read that right, I collect poo.  I have two worm bins, three rabbits and a free source of chicken poo.  Want to see me smile with glee and dance like a child?  Offer me free range, grass fed farm poo!

My family is slightly, (okay, extremely) embarrassed with my obsession for quality poo.  But it isn't really the poo that obsesses me, it is just an ingredient for my real obsession, compost.  Great compost is the reason my garden is not suffering as much as other gardens during what I like to call the, "2012 Oklahoma Oven Occupation".  We are in DROUGHT and to add pain to injury we have had several days with temperatures over 113 degrees.  I have to water from my faucet like everyone else because the rain barrels have been dry for over 3 weeks, but I would bet that I have to water less often because I compost and use it.

Compost is gardener's gold and its worth its weight, not that you have to pay anything for it.....its free!  Not only are you improving your soil you are diverting materials away from the waste stream, its the original recycling program, Mother Nature approved.  Compost is the answer to most garden dilemmas; it is a mulch, a fertilizer, water retainer and it amends and aerates soil.  The organic matter in compost feeds microorganisms, producing Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus.  This produces healthy root development in plants, helping them to survive pest invasions.  Compost is swimming with life!

Everyone can compost, even if you live in a apartment you can compost.  Worm bins are a one size fits all solution to composting your food and some other types of waste.  You can use the compost for your houseplants or donate it to a friend or family member with a garden, maybe in exchange for produce.  I have a large garden, my outdoor compost bin is a 70 gallon galvanized stock tank, it had a rusted bottom and was going to the dump.  It was beautiful, it was perfect due to the rusted out bottom for drainage and I had to have it no matter the logistics of getting it home.  I have several holes drilled in the side for aeration, and I keep red wrigglers in there and feed them my rabbit & chicken poo with the straw and my garden waste.  I have a compost tumbler and an indoor worm bin in my kitchen.  I make compost tea and feed my houseplants as well as my garden plants with the tea.  Composting allows me to reduce my waste input as I don't have to buy bags upon bags, of mulch, fertilizer, soil amendments, manure or potting soil.

There are too many items other than food waste that you could add to your compost bin to mention here, but this is list of some things I add; shredded paper, newspaper (pulled from bins at the recycling center), napkins, lint, coffee grounds & filters (collected from friends), tea bags (also donated by friends), sawdust, egg shells, cardboard, old wine or beer and the contents of my vacuum.  If I don't use it to feed houseplants, I add the water from boiling veggies and pasta, and another of my favorite add-ins; dying aquatic plants and fish from my pond.  To learn more about the how-to's of composting, contact your local OSU Extension Service, they have some great Fact Sheets on how to compost at home.

Compost means many things to me.  It is my first step to being an organic grower.  It helps me complete my waste cycle; I recycle kitchen waste by feeding my rabbits and worms, I also give the collected poo to the worms who break it all down into compost, which helps me to provide the food that someday will become waste again, circle completed.  And I like to think that I am the best employer in the world.  I employ 3,000 or more worms, and not only do I let them work from home, I provide the housing for their entire families and encourage maternity leave. They get a free lunches everyday and I bring their coffee to THEM!  As Oklahoma is an At Will Employment state, and they know that I need them more than they need me, I do whatever needs to be done to ensure happy campers in order to keep up production.  I do this because it is true, there is a Sweet Smell of Success, and it smells like fresh compost. 

TRASH IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (2)

Trash, garbage, refuse, no matter what you call it, it's the stuff we no longer want and the subject of a cautionary tale.  When the City of Los Angeles banned plastic bags in May they became the largest US city to do so. That article made me wonder just how much trash was collected weekly in Cleveland County.  So, I made some phone calls and this is what I found. 

  • City of Noble, 6500 citizens, over 108 tons of trash weekly
  • Lexington, 2200 citizens, 24 tons weekly
  • City of Norman, 100,000 citizens, over 1,500 tons weekly
  • City of Moore, 55,000 citizens, over 960 tons weekly

That's a lot of trash.  Almost 2,600 tons of trash weekly, it is over 10,000 tons monthly and approximately 125,000 tons annually in Cleveland County.....alone.  But trash is never just trash, it is money.  When you think about it, everything that ends up in your trash cost you money, none of it was free, you paid for that packaging.  And you will continue to pay for it, in the fee that you pay to collect it, store it and remove it when it causes environmental damage.  It even costs you to recycle it, it is in effect lost money, money thrown away.  I like the 4 R's when it comes to trash, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rethink.     

Consider what you purchased yesterday, what percentage of it became trash?  Could you have made any adjustments to allow for recycling instead of the dump? Do you look at your purchases with an eye towards its final demise, where it will end up and how much it will continue to cost you both environmentally and economically?  If trash equals money, how much did you throw away today?  LA's City Council made an excellent environmental decision when they banned plastic bags, but it was also a bottom line financial decision as well. It will save them money in the long run.  In todays throw away society it is important to remember that you keep paying for your trash for a long, long time.   This beholder doesn't see beauty here, just the beast.    

THE FINAL FRONTIER

Posted on May 2, 2012 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (0)

   Conservation, the final frontier.  These are the voyages of the Cleveland County Conservation District.  It's ongoing mission; to preserve our world, to seek out new ideas and new circumventions, to boldly educate so our children can have a better planet than previous generations had before.  Do, doo, do,do,do, do dodo, la la la.... you get the idea.

Star Trek was ahead of its time. Their concept of the future and its conveniences were very attractive, they created and technology followed. We move Warp Speed into the future, and we left something behind. We forgot to develop plans to deal with our electronics when they come to the end of their usefulness. By the time a product is being marketed, the updated model is being developed.  That is as it should be; progress has allowed us to be safer, live longer and has opened the world so that we can learn from each other. However, do you have a Waste Management Plan for your Blu Ray?   Have you made funeral arrangements for your IPad?

It is estimated that every year we produce 25 million tons of e-waste and currently the industry isn't designing their products with a long life span in mind, and most electronics are made with toxic materials.  Progress moves a little slower when it comes to our waste, but we are catching up.  Manufacturers such as Apple, Dell, HP, Panasonic and so many more are developing "Take Back" programs.  Retailers are getting into the groove, for instance, Best Buy will accept any brand of electronics for recycling and have an outstanding program that uses Recyclers that do not use landfills or ship old electronics overseas.  But more needs to be done.  Wouldn't it be great if your household only needed one or two chargers?  One charger for your cell phones no matter what brand, one charger for laptops, calculators or IPads.  One charger that would last for years no matter what electronic devise needs to be charged.  What about TVs, computers and DVD players that were easily and cheaply repaired or upgraded, so a single unit could keep up with progress in technology without requiring endless purchases?  To quote Spock, all of our electronics need to be built to "Live long and Prosper".    

While we are waiting for innovators to catch up with our e-waste, what do we do with it responsibly?  Well first, don't put into the dumpster.  Remember all those toxic elements?  They can easily end up in our water and soil. If the item is still usable; donate it.  If the product manufacturer has a "Take Back" program look on their website for instructions to send it back to them.  Take it Best Buy or to an E-Waste Drop Off Event.  Check the website, www.e-stewards.org for a local responsible Recycler.  Members of E-Stewards have to adhere to strict, high standards and do not export e-waste.

On May 5th at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds, from 8 am until 4 pm a FREE e-cycling drop off event that is open to ALL Oklahomans will take place.  To find out which electronics will be accepted, please visit www.keepoklahomabeautiful.com .   

Progress may be slow but it is inevitable, we will eventually have across the board standards to deal with e-waste and systems in place to recycle all its parts.  We have to work together; after all we all live on this great big Starship called, Earth, and some things Scotty can't fix alone.  One last piece of advice, if you are a member of the landing party investigating conservation, step up and be a main player, be a star, get your hands dirty.  Don't be an extra out on the side lines; it never seems to end well for them.   

EVERYDAY SHOULD BE EARTH DAY

Posted on April 18, 2012 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22nd and there are several events taking place in Cleveland County.  Moore Earth's Day Spectacular is Saturday, April 21st at the East parking lot of Fairmoore Park located on Telephone Rd.  Amanda Nairn and I will be conducting a Rain Barrel Demonstration at 2, 2:30 and 3 pm.  They are also hosting a recycling drive which includes; E-Waste, Glass and Tire Recycling.  The Town of Slaughterville is also hosting a recycling event on Saturday from 9 am until 2pm at the Town Hall. They accept; Oil, Antifreeze, aluminum, car batteries, scrap metal, appliciances, tires and E-Waste.  The City of Norman is hosting its Annual Earth Day Festival on Sunday, April 22nd from Noon until 5 pm at Reaves Park located at 2501 Jenkins Ave.  The Festival has over 50 booths with environmental activities for children as well as information for adults.  There will be a 5K run, a Wheel Fun area, live music, free tree give away and mascots including Thunder's Rumble the Bison.  It's going to be a busy weekend. 

I am glad to see so many events honoring Earth Day. However, Earth Day for me is a state of mind that needs to be observed everyday!  There are several things that you can do at home that helps our environment.  So I have made the following list, that I like to call the "10 Things You Can Do To Save the World";

  • Stop accepting shopping bags, bring your own! 
  • Make or purchase Green Cleaning Products.
  • Research and Implement ways to be more Energy Efficient.
  • Practice Water Conservation.
  • Recycle everything possible.
  • Reduce your intake, for instance stop buying bottled water.
  • Maintain your vehicle so that it functions at peak performance.
  • Support local businesses and local producers.
  • Take advantage of Hazardous Waste Events for substances that should NOT be taken to the dump.
  • Practice Organic Gardening Methods including getting a soil test for find out if you even need fertilizer and how much.

All of these things are easy to do and will save you money.  Every habit you change does make a difference.  Every time you turn off a light in an unused room or throw something into a recycle bin instead of trash benefits our environment. Give those Ecoist muscles a workout!  Get out and enjoy Earth Day, then just keep going.  Let's all make an Earth Day Resolution to change at least one habit and make our Earth a better place.  

SOME THINGS NEED TO BE WASTED!

Posted on April 11, 2012 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Some of us have been waiting all year for this weekend. On Saturday, April 14th the City of Norman is holding their annual Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event.  The event runs from 9 am until 2 pm, and they accept:

  • Auto Fluids (antifreeze, oil, etc.)
  • Batteries (household, car and rechargeable)
  • Car Tires (without rims)
  • Computers, TVs & other electronics
  • Craft & Hobby Supplies
  • Flammable Solvents (gas, kerosene, etc)
  • Fluorescent Light Bulbs
  • Household Cleaners
  • Medicine (remove personal info)
  • Paint
  • Paint Thinners & Turpentine
  • Pool Chemicals
  • Pesticides, Herbicides & Fertilizers
  • Metal Appliances
  • MUCH, MUCH MORE!

Keep all products in their original containers, DO NOT mix chemicals.  This is a free event, open to the citizens of Norman.

This is the perfect opportunity to research using alternative products as well.  Once you take in your hazardous waste materials, look into making your own cleaning products and organic gardening practices.  Learn more about low VOC products or check out the new rechargeable batteries, they are better than ever!  The District holds Green Cleaning Classes from time to time, so check out our calendar for the next class date.  We have scheduled the third class in our Green Acres Primary School series titled, "Organic Gardening, The Bare Essentials" to be held at the Norman Public Library on May 19th.  To learn more about this class, click on our Workshop tab and sign up!

The Town of Slaughterville is also holding it's annual Community Recycling Day on Saturday, April 21st from 9 am until 2pm.  The citizens of Slaughterville and surrounding areas can drop off oil, filters, antifreeze, aluminum, car batteries, scrap metal, appliances, car and truck tires without rims.  New this year is the E-Waste Collection, there is no charge for citizens of Slaughterville for this portion of the event, citizens from other communities may need to pay a small fee.

Hazardous Waste is well named.  It is a Hazard to our environment and our health to have these materials in our waste stream, so let's all work together to dispose of them the right way.  Clean out your garden sheds, garages and cabinets and let's WASTE 'EM.

GREEN UP YOUR SPRING CLEAN

Posted on March 19, 2012 at 12:45 PM Comments comments (0)

    It is that time once again, where the mind of every ecoist turns to thoughts of spring.  Every spring millions of Americans weary of winter's hold, throw open their windows to let warmer breezes drift in.  It is at this perfect moment, when the sun baths your living room with a caress of golden light, that it hits you.....you haven't dusted in 4 months.  And so, Spring Cleaning rituals begin.

To make your Spring Clean green requires not much effort at all.  If you are new to Green Cleaning, continue to use up your current products, and then consider the following suggestions.

  • You can clean almost anything using with the following products in various combinations or alone:  Baking Soda, Vinegar, Castile Soap, Washing Soda, Soap Nuts, Lemon Juice, Borax, cornstarch and olive oil.  You can find some cleaning recipes in our ReGREENerate Your LIfe Manual.
  • An absolute must have is a good microfiber cloth.  You can also purchase a refillable Swiffer type mop with a microfiber pad that can be washed and reused.  If you don't have a microfiber cloth, use old socks, diapers or washcloths.
  • To maintain your drains, pour an equal amount of baking soda followed by vinegar down the drain.  Wait 10 minutes, then pour in hot salted water.
  • Make sachets of baking soda using coffee filters to freshen your fridge, freezer or closet. Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on your carpets before vacuuming.
  • Green up your laundry by washing in cold water and using green soaps.  Use vinegar in the rinse cycle instead of fabric softener.  Line Dry.
  • Wash windows using vinegar and water, or cornstarch.
  • Recycle what you can, like the old menus in your junk drawer.
  • If you don't have one already, this is the perfect time to start a compost bin as you clean out the fridge.
  • Make piles of items you no longer want as you are cleaning out closets, cabinets or your garage.  Donate your items to a thrift or consignment shop, hold a garage sale or put them on Craig's List or FreeCycle. Give them another chance at life.  Or, you can do as I do, and place it on your curbside; it always surprises me what will disappear.  

In our family, Norman's Spring Pick Up is a rite of passage where secret locations and methods are passed down from generation to generation.  This spring my granddaughter Chloe will get to take her first shopping trip through other people's curbside trash heaps.  The Spring Clean Up begins on April 7th; find the dates and a map at www.normanok.gov/content/seasonal-clean  Happy Hunting! 

THE REDUCE, REUSE, REYCLE MERRY GO ROUND

Posted on January 31, 2012 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (1)

I find myself talking about recycling a great deal these days. I get questions about recycling, I write articles about it and we post recycling tips on our face book and website pages.  

Don't get me wrong, recycling is a hugely important issue that needs continuing education. But somehow along the way, I have made recycling the sexy super star diva that uses up all my energy while pushing the other two equally important parts of the equation to the position of backup singers.  I think that it is past time for the trio to reunite and go on tour.   

Recycling is important, but it should not be the only part of the system that get top billing.  It should be the final stop on the Waste Stream Merry Go Round. First up is Reduce.  This can cover a large area; reduce your purchases, reduce packaging and reduce your consumption.  This is also your first step to recycling, (this is the merry go round concept, is your head spinning yet?) chose your purchases for their durability and recycling value.  For instance, can you find that ketchup in a larger glass bottle instead of plastic or worse yet, in little individual packets?  Can you avoid the Styrofoam by buying another brand?

  • When you reduce your purchases, you have an immediate impact, think of the carbon footprint that you just saved by not purchasing.  Ask yourself, do you really need to purchase something that you could download instead?  Could you borrow from a neighbor, the library, or rent from a business.  Cook instead of buying all of those premade packaged meals; make you own salsas, spaghetti sauces, etc. Growing your own produce avoiding even more plastic and styrofoam.  
  • By buying in bulk you are reducing the packaging of all of those single purchase items.  This is plastic that doesn't have to be made. It is even better when you buy out of bulk bins and bring your own bags.
  • When I say reduce your consumption, I mean being thrifty with the items that you purchase, what good is toilet paper if you have to use half the roll in order to feel clean. Could you use less dishwashing liquid and still have clean dishes?  When you get a good grasp of reducing your waste you have less to recycle.

Reusing your stuff is equally important.  I like to think that this was made specifically for my creative juices to go wild. Yes, I have a collection of Jelly Jar Glasses and I am proud of them. I have been known to give these matching glassware sets away to deserving individuals, I swear this is going to be the gift I bring to the next wedding shower invitation that I receive.  It will give them a glimpse of what real life looks like for the newly married couple.  However, I want to learn how to preserve my own jams so this will soon disappear for me as well.  If you can't find a use for your stuff anymore, someone may be desperate to find it, post it on Free Cycle, or take it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Finally there is recycling.  Recycle everything that you can when it has come to the end of its usefulness.  Think of it as sending it to its final reward. Then consider, "do I need to replace it", and if so, the merry go round powers up again. Make sure your purchase contains recycled material, to pay for your ride.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, "what goes around, comes around", this is as true for good deeds as it should be for our waste.

NOTHING LASTS FOREVER

Posted on January 26, 2012 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

I remember my first pair of "big girl" shoes.  my grandparents took me to J.C. Penney where I became the proud owner of a pair of brown buckle shoes; they were beautiful.  I wore them everywhere every day until my grandma sat me down and explained that nothing lasts forever. She took my beautiful shoes that still had some sole, one buckle and a teeny tiny hole in the big toe and THREW THEM AWAY!!!  It was a traumatic experience that set me on my current path in life.  After years of careful, professional research, I am proud to report that my grandma was WRONG - Hooah!

I have this great poster in my office that is produced by the DEQ called, "Litter Lasts", it lists some of our everyday items and how long research dictates it will take them to break down and return to the environment.  I am assuming that they mean if they were left abandoned in an open field and not buried under tons of other stuff.  Some of the items on the poster are: wools socks - 1 year, foam cup - undetermined, aluminum can - 200/500 years, cotton towel - 1/5 months, tin can - 100 years, plastic bottles - 100/200 years and my very favorite, a plastic 6 pack holder - 450 years.  I hang this 11x16" poster over the office recycling bins.  It is a gentle reminder to everyone that recycling matters.  It reminds me to reuse items as many times as possible before recycling and to pay closer attention to my purchases.

I don't know if I should feel happy or very sad knowing that somewhere in a dump in Pittsburg Co. a pair of beautiful, however slightly unwearable brown buckle shoes are still waiting to decompose.  Some things in life do last forever or at least long enough that none of us will be around to mark the occasion on a calendar.  When it comes to litter, that is too long for me, how about you?

A RESOLUTION CRISIS

Posted on January 25, 2012 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Change is good; it is through change that we create opportunities for real progress.  It is with this thought circling my mind that I have made my New Year's Resolution; plugging the holes in my personal budget and being more earth friendly by getting fit and healthy.  Getting fit and healthy is NOT a new resolution, it has had star billing for at least the last 10 resolutions, however I think I have finally come up with a devious plan that just might work.

I believe in four things; my family, my faith, that the economy is out to get me and that I want to leave a healthier planet to my decedents.  So, Resolution 2012 has been crafted to encompass those ideals that I hold most dear in a brilliant attempt to trick myself into success.  Let me explain the master plan, try to stay with me - this one has several sharp turns.

1.  Plugging the holes in my budget by getting healthy - If I exercise more often, I will have less time to shop.  Now, as an environmentalist I try not to buy many new items, however, I do have an addiction to consignment and charity type shops as well as to Garage Sales. By spending more time at the Y, I have less time to shop, therefore, I am being greener, who knew?

I will stop picking up lunch.  I usually pack my lunch, however, my schedule and the many lunch meetings that I attend have badly influenced my budget.  I have purchased a bamboo utensil set and a set of palm leaf biodegradable plates to take with me to lunch meetings where lunch is provided using paper or plastic, and I will bring my lunch to meetings held in restaurants.  Packing my own lunch allows me to control the sugar, salt and preservatives that I am eating.  This will also save me a TON of money.

2.  Being more Earth Friendly by getting fit and healthy - I will be eating less pre-made and packaged foods, cooking more and eating more seasonal fruits and veggies.  I will buy local when I am able, supporting local producers at Farmer's Markets and the Food Coop.  I will stop producing lunch trash.  I will use the USDA's healthy living site; www.choosemyplate.gov to develop menus and make healthier choices.  I will plant more veggies in the spring and summer; the additional gardening will also help me to be more fit.

That is it, Resolution 2012!  I think that I have developed a plan that will fool even me into thinking that loosing weight and getting fit will save the world from itself.  You don't have to thank me, it's my job as an Environmentalist after all.  After I conquer this resolution, I can move on to the next one...... ruling the world. 

CHRISTMAS WRAPTURE

Posted on January 25, 2012 at 11:10 PM Comments comments (1)

Have you ever noticed how much paper goes into Christmas? I, like everyone else in the ENTIRE state was shopping yesterday at the new Target in Moore.  As I was walking down the aisle I noticed all the paper; Christmas cards with matching envelopes, wrapping paper, tissue paper, Christmas boxes,  bags & tags, paper ribbons, ornaments & bows.  Then there are the Christmas themed party items, paper plates, napkins and the children's Christmas Craft kits.  There are many great ideas on how to reduce your paper use at Christmas,  and I wanted to share them with you.  Send the annual family Christmas photo or card electronically.  Save cards that are sent to you to be reused as post cards the following year. Reuse your paper Christmas paper from one year to the next; I am still working on the same four rolls 3 years later.  Get creative with your wrapping, try wrapping your gifts using the Sports pages, Comic Pages, sheet music or maps for those enthusiasts.  Turn an old paper grocery sack inside out and let your children draw Christmas scenes on it, use an earth bag tied with a bit of greenery, pinecones or a glass ornament.  Give gifts using themed containers like; homemade spaghetti sauce in a Ball jar, cookies in a glass container with a lid that could be reused.  Collect and reuse ribbons and bows when possible.  Make beautiful chrysanthemum type bows out of last year's tissue paper.

Your children can make beautiful paper crafts out of paper that you already have.  Reuse some of the gift wrapping paper, pages from magazines or scrapbook paper to make chains, stars and figures.  Check the recycling center for paper options; it is also where I get my boxes for some of my gifts.  Don't forget when it is all said and done, if you can't reuse the paper you generate this Christmas, make sure that it gets recycled.  In the immortal words of the Christmas Wrapper;

Sing Hey! Sing Hey!

For a greener Christmas Day;

Reuse all boxes, paper & bows.

And you will have nothing to fear this year,

Cause Santa holds all Ecoists dear,

As we strive to heal Earth's woes.

That's a Wrap!  (sorry, I couldn't help it.  Pun was intended)