Cleveland County Conservation District
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Helping People Reconnect To Our Environment

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THE OLD BAIT & SWITCH

Posted on May 12, 2014 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

  Have you ever heard the old Chinese Proverb, "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime" - Lao Tzu?  It's the kind of proverb that raises goosebumbs and gives us continual hope for mankind. But human nature being what it is the environment usually comes out with the fuzzy end of that lollipop.  Truthfully the proverb should say this, "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll need to go to Wal-Mart". 

Cause realistically he's gonna want stuff, a rod, reel, waders, a cool hat, tackle box and accessories, cooler, nets, stink bait, and eventually a boat with sonar & radar, a trailer, new truck and a time share cabin near some pristine mountain stream. And who could call themselves a true fisherman without a bumper sticker that says, "Work is for people who don't know how to fish".  We can't seem to help ourselves, it's beyond our control.  It's the call of Retail, from an early age we have been convinced that every hobby, life experience or right of passage requires a ton of stuff.

But what if we're wrong?  What if all fishing requires is a rod, reel, some worms and a desire to eat? What if living environmentally friendly worked like that as well?  What if all you needed was an awareness of conservation?  What if it wasn't the right recycling bin or rain barrel, what if its more about what you don't do instead of what you have?  Being environmentally friendly isn't complicated, but we humans are contrary over achieving creatures.  

I'm an professional student of human nature.  I watch my neighbors every spring haul out; lawn mowers, fertilizer spreaders, weed eaters, trimmers, edgers, leaf blowers and sprinklers.  I have lunch with a friend who hunts, he tells me about his deer stand and how proud he is of the watering/feeding station he ordered from the internet and set up under his tree. He tells me about his night vision goggles with zoom, the new camouflage vest with 20 pockets and how long it takes to set up his motion sensors.

I'm not above the laws of Human Nature either.  Several years ago, I took a cake decorating class with my sister and like every other student, I got sucked into buying every item known to man to decorate a cake.  If the Cake Boss ever collapses with a sugar coma, he can rest easy knowing that I've got his back.  

But when it comes to being environmentally friendly, less is more. Less packaging, less water, less electricity, less travel, less stress and less stuff to keep up with.  There's nothing fishy about being green, its all about less and nothing more.

-Chris Ward

Happy EARTH Day!!

Posted on April 22, 2014 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

 Today is Earth Day, and being an everyday environmentalist it makes my Top Ten Favorite Holiday list.  Granted, it doesn't have a cool spokesman like Santa, Cupid or the Easter Bunny, but nonetheless, we got game!

Since the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, we've come a long way.  During speaking engagements, I no longer see blank stares pointed in my direction when I use words like; conservation, composting or reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle.  If I ask how many people in the room; practice water conservation, worm composting or energy efficiency, have a rain barrel, use organic methods, or grow their own I see at least 3-4 hands shoot up and wave with pride.

Green practices if you want to call them that, no longer belong to the outer fringes.  It's not a fad; these practices have developed into society norms.  They have become a part of our daily lives.  Large corporations research and develop new packaging and products that are gentler on our environment.  Take Back & Recycling Programs are in stores, large chains sell "green" lines.  Farmers Markets and grocery stores that support local produce are popping up everywhere.  Cities around the country and the world are paying attention to water conservation and have recycling programs.

Do I think that our environmental problems have been solved? No, we have a long hard road ahead of us.  But for today, our 44th Earth Day, let's take a moment to appreciate how far we have traveled down that road already and celebrate our successes.  Go hug a newly planted tree, recycle something or start a compost system.  Then, throw a trash free, paper free, locally sourced picnic in Earth Day's honor.  Take the day to celebrate because tomorrow it's back to work and we have a lot left to do.

Now that I think about it, we have a pretty cool spokesman for our Earth Day holiday, its right beneath your feet, above your head and wrapped all around you.  And as soon as we can figure out how to significantly scale down its size, Earth will be coming to a mall near you so your kids can sit in its lap for those holiday photo opps that are so important to grandmas everywhere.

Happy EARTH Day!

-Chris Ward

WAR OF THE HOSES

Posted on March 19, 2014 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

And so it begins.  Spring is coming and with it, boundary lines are drawn, troops are assembled and weapons are chosen.  As the days warm up and the sun appears more and more often, Lawn Soldiers paint their faces with sunscreen, put on the official uniform of Spring (favorite faded T-shirt, Panama shorts and Flip Flops) and leave the safety of base camp to fire the first shots of water for the season.

Hoses are dragged out of hiding and prominently displayed as a sign that war is on the horizon.  The sovereignty of each home gathers together to discuss battle plans and the best methods of maintaining the envied green lawn for each Castle in the neighborhood.  Fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, sprinklers, and hoses are all discussed, debated and chosen.   And in the midst of this fight against nature to keep bermuda green, my little acreage declares its neutrality by attaching my drip and soaker hoses to rain barrels.....and they don't lead to the lawn.

I am not anti-lawn.  I am however, anti-using our drinking water sources to keep a bermuda lawn green in a state that has temperatures an oven would envy. I am against  fighting the natural defenses a lawn uses to stay alive during drought.  I'm okay with not watering my lawn. I'm okay with replacing it with beds of drought tolerant pIants when I can. I'm okay with letting it go dormant in the summer, and it turns out that the City of Moore is okay with it too, as I found out when a neighbor complained last summer.

The Battle of the Hoses will rage on for another year. But I do see signs of hope, because last year 3 more lawns in my neighbor went a beautiful shade of brown, every year more and more people call the District asking about Rain Barrels. The Cities of Oklahoma City, Moore and Norman have a permanent mandatory odd/even rationing of our water. I see more drip lines being installed and people are talking about water conservation. It is very encouraging, and someday soon, someone will drive past my house and envy my tan lawn.  I believe it because I have faith that society will recognize that in some instances brown is the best way to stay green.

-Chris Ward

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

Red, White, Blue and GREEN!

Posted on July 1, 2013 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

  Americans love a party, and what better reason to celebrate than our nation's independence!  The 4th of July is a favorite holiday in our house, America celebrates our official birthday, and we get a day of free shots at my husband!  No, not due to his BBQ skills, although those too have been a source of some great one-liners. My husband Mark is English, so you can imagine the grief that gets laid at his door every year from every breathing member of my family.  Some people celebrate the 4th with sparklers, hot dogs and parades, we spend the day slamming my husband's heritage.  Don't get me wrong, we can party with the best of them; food, games and enjoying the City of Moore's Fireworks from my backyard, but we have the added benefit of gloating......a lot of gloating! 

If you are hosting a Fab 4th Party this year, I have a few suggestions to help you make your Red, White and Blue a little bit greener.

  • Keep it Local! - Buy your food, beer, wine from local Farmers Markets or business who cater using local food producers.
  • Learn to Love Mason Jars! - Mason jars are a wonderful thing, and not just for canning.  Serve your drinks in these little beauties.  They are also perfect for buffet spread as they serve a multi purpose.  Put the silverware and a cloth napkin in each jar so that your guests can pick up their drinking glass and utensils all in one! Mason jars can hold; candles, candy, flowers, ice cream, whatever!
  • Dump the Disposables! - Use your own dishes for your party, get red, white and blue handkerchiefs to use as napkins.  If you don't have enough tableware, use bamboo dishes.
  • Propane isn't totally Evil! - Propane has half the emission than charcoal.  If you prefer charcoal, find a greener choice, they are lots out there!
  • Offer your guests a recycling bin!
  • Let the Games Begin! - Make some yard games using recycled materials.  Yard Bowling using 1 liter bottles and a ball.  Yard Scrabble using rocks or orange juice lids with letters painted on them.  You can also use this to make a Tic Tac Toe Board.  Play Yahtzee with dice made from scrap lumber.  Have a potato sack race with burlap bags that can be reused.  Pull the large bulk size cans out of recycling as  containers for a bean bag toss.  Remove the bottom of those large cans and you have the perfect stencil for making a Twister board on your grass, anyway....you get the idea!
  • Fireworks are not entirely eco-friendly.  They contain heavy metals, sulfur/coal compounds and noxious chemicals, besides that, they are very dangerous to handle, and dare I mention the word FIRE.  The greener option is to enjoy a fireworks display hosted by your local city!

Have a Fabulous 4th of July!  If you happen to run across any English people, give them a hug, they're having a hard day, my husband in particular because his birthday is also this week. So on a personal note, I want to say, "Happy Birthday, Honey".  I'm sorry that you can't find any descent tea and biscuits in this Country, but that would be because, WE WON AND YOU LOST.  May I suggest that you learn to love iced tea?  Love You!

-Chris Ward

picture is from www.detroitmommies.com

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

 

 

LESSONS FROM THE FARM MA'AM

Posted on April 5, 2013 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

  Do you ever wish that gardeners had a Bat Signal?  Something that could alert a farm superhero that you are in trouble?  Gardeners deserve a hero, a FarmMan or in my case The Farm Ma'am!  Someone to help us battle; Two Blight, Mr. Freeze, Killer Grasshoppers, DROUGHT and The Thrips.  But who do you turn to in the dark days of Gardening Season?  Then before despair could totally swamp me, I had a V8 moment, my BFF IS AN ORGANIC FARMER! Okay, it was more like my husband saying to me, "Chris stop being a drama queen and call Jen".  And being my BFF, she won't kill me for a 5:45 am call about my next post, she will totally understand the panic.

Although I consider myself to be a cute and somewhat savvy organic gardener, I too suffer from clueless garden issues. Jen is my hero, and a major source of information for keeping my backyard garden productive and environmentally friendly.  Most farming techniques can be adapted to a scaled down operation, like raised beds or a small plot, so I called Jen and asked her what advise she would pass on to a helpless backyard vegetable growing public.  I am pleased to announce that most of it I knew already and have implemented it into my garden and public speaking engagements, but it is worth mentioning again.....and again. 

Farms the size of Jen's do several things that are highly beneficial to your produce garden.  So, here is our advice from Farm Ma'am and her youthful sidekick, Chicky.  Use plasticulture, drip irrigation, no till practices, compost, mulch, mulch, mulch.  Using BPA free plastic sheeting gives Jen an impenetrable weed control and provides moisture retention for her vegetable rows.  She also tells me that drip irrigation is the only way to grow!  It is the only method to prevent evaporation loss, it saves her money and time, and puts the water exactly where she needs it.  She generates her own compost, so she knows exactly what is in it, and it takes the place of fertilizers and pesticides.  And, BTW adding compost year after year and planting directly into it is what no-till is all about, and a good mulch will save hundreds of gallons of water, not to mention choosing the right one so that it will rot and allow you to dump compost on top of it the following planting season.  But my favorite tip that she passed on to me?  "Never come straight from work and go into the Chicken Coop without changing your shoes, they will never be the same".  Amen, sister!

Jen is also a big fan of Non-GMO seeds and plants.  Believe me, this is a subject that you don't want to talk to her about at 5:45 in the morning, cause by the time she starts to wind down, my husband is making noises about lunch.  One last thing for the Urban Farmer, give your farm a name, it makes you all tingly inside.  I called mine, "Peaceful Bunny Farms", and I have dibs on that one.  The farming techniques that Jen and I mentioned above are not new, as a matter of fact, they have been around for hundreds of years in one form or another, and in my opinion that tells you something.  They are still around because they work.

If you have read any of my previous posts it's not hard to figure out why Jen and I are Best Friends.  We both believe that we might have been separated at birth and are actually the kidnapped children of Mr. Green Jeans from Captain Kangaroo fame.  He was a farmer, an environmentalist and possibly the subject of a future post.  For all of you urban farmers who are lost wondering in the garden section of a local home improvement store and you don't have access to Jen's number, fear not....there is hope.  Find yourself a farm superhero and become their trusty ward (BFF), or....learn to make a beetle shaped shadow puppet using your fingers and a flashlight.  Barring that, you could just visit our website from time to time. Your choice.

-Chris Ward

*Forgive the 70's TV references, I am a fan.  Also, the picture above is Jen's Farm and this spring's plasticulture installation.

    

THE POPCORN DILEMMA

Posted on February 28, 2013 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (1)

 I recently underwent a crisis of eco-conscience.  Granted it only lasted about 30 seconds, but I truly suffered during the process.  Here was my dilemma, if I somehow personally profit from a green choice, and I a true Ecoist?  If I receive a reward for an environmentally friendly good deed do my motives become suspect and somehow turn the deed into one of self interest?  Does the self interest factor cancel out the green practice?  Conclusion.....NAH!

How can it count against me if my bank offers me the incentive of free fresh popcorn just because I came in instead of driving thru?  But, should I be worried about the state of my subconscience value system?  Well, not today, because I made the right choice for myself, I chose Door A. -  the greener option.  We all do things everyday that have a happy ending with a self reward.  Being energy efficient and paper free is beneficial to our planet, but it can also save us a lot of money and that is definitely in my best interest.  But, in order to be true to the environmental cause, should we return that money.....yeah, I'm not going to either!  

I am paid to be an Ecoist, it is my job and I am good at it because I care about the environment, but does the fact that I popcorn profit take away from the results?  Why should ulterior motives matter if you took the right turn and didn't get lost?  I am not going to stop carpooling to meetings just because I enjoyed the ride.  I am not going to feel guilty because one of the main reasons I bring my own bags is because they won't tear when the baggers overestimate my upper body strength.  I am not going to stop worm composting just because it results in the best garden in a five state area and allows me bragging rights.  I am not going to stop bringing my lunch to work with me just because it saves me money and because I enjoy my own cooking. Why should I?  For me it is all about the green choices that I make and not why I make them.  I can live with me ulterior motives, as a matter of fact, I rarely notice them most of the time.

You have to be amazed that I went through all of that in 30 seconds, but it appears that I have a short eco-conscience attention span.  I do the things that I do because they make me feel good, and if by doing good the Universe provides me with fresh popcorn, why agonize over it?  I'm not keeping score, nor do I weigh my motives against the end results.  But if I were to keep score...... I have to tell you, I think that because they allow me to put that popcorn into my bag, I should be receiving double bonus eco points!

-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? 

Caught You Bein' Green

Posted on August 13, 2012 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

The Conservation District wants to give you a "High Five" for doing the things that you do to be Earth Friendly.  Send us pictures of yourself, family, friends or co-workers being "green". Do you use a rain barrel, compost, grow, raise or preserve your own food, or use organic growing methods?  Send us a pic.  Do you carpool, have a green team, bring your own lunch or recycle at work?  Photo Op.  Do you use green cleaning products, have reusable bags, shop at Farmers Market, practice energy efficiency or water conservation at home?  Another pic.  Have you installed new windows, caulked around outlets, changed to paperless products,  stopped using disposables and plastic bottles or collected your e-waste and hazardous waste for proper disposal?  Take a pic and send it in. Do you shop at thrift stores, changed to LED or CFL lights, bought or are shopping for an Energy Star appliance or installed a toilet dam?  You get the idea, we want your pictures.

Send your pictures via email to; [email protected] so we publish them on our website to share with others.  Please identify all individuals or businesses and tell us where the picture was taken and when.  We will post the pictures on our Pics page under the album, "Caught You Bein' Green".  Visit the page to see what your friends and neighbors are doing to be green.  You don't have to live in Cleveland County or even in Oklahoma to participate, we will post all appropriate pics. Grab a camera and show us your green thumb!

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.