Tag Archives: landfills

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52WoLP: #10, Animal Presence Part 2

This is a bit of a riff, but bear with me, we’ll end up at Lincoln Park. I’m still buzzing about animal presence, and wanted to share some o’ that love. After the iridescent octopus at Makena on Maui, the turtle-paloosa at every beach we visited, the shave-ice colored wrasses and graceful idols, the whales, spinner dolphins, I wanted to learn about local folks helping to protect the gift of nature that Hawaii is… and one group stood out: Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

HWF was founded in 1996 by two biologists who saw the encroachment of all kinds of not-very-wild activity on an environment that depends on wild conditions. They are, as co-founder Hannah Bernard put it: “small but mighty.” They spend most of their energy actually doing things like this and this and this (poopy!). They have an awesome education and intern program (do they take 60 year olds??), outreach, and have built an impact worth supporting.

So….Lincoln Park, here’s the link up: as soon as I learned about HWF, Seal Sitters here in West Seattle came to mind. Local with an impact that belies its size, passionate and visionary…Good stuff. Some things I love about Seal Sitters: they have educated a whole city about the little seal pup on the beach, the one people may mistake for injured or worse, others may think would be a happy playmate for their dogs, and still others who might not have noticed at all. It’s neighborly, it’s profound, it’s small but mighty.

Co-Founded by author Brenda Peterson and gaining strength as Seal Sitters in 2007, the group has helped so many–kids, adults, even dogs– understand that it is up to us to protect and share the beach as part of our wildlife habitat. You see them often on Alki, but for the last couple of years, you’ll also see them at the beach in Lincoln Park, setting up a protective zone around a seal pup resting on the shore. They have a great blog (blubberblog, best. name. ever.), our beloved West Seattle Blog is a big booster, and the volunteers are more than happy to talk about what they do. The pups are still taking long sleeps on the shores so keep an eye out for that thing that Seal Sitters does so well.

Wildly, improbably, a few people saw a need and decided to do something about it. As a result, they really have changed the world–one beach at a time. I love that.

52 Weeks of Lincoln Park: week #10

PCC is baggin’ my veggies: why?

PCC’s new veggie bags are buggin’ me

It’s a little thing, but it has now taken on a gigantic irritation quotient in my brain: PCC uses this funky, straight-to-the-landfill plastic netting on many of the vegetables, such as brussel sprouts above, green beans and the like.

Why this bugs me: the netting is completely non-reusable, and face it: my relationship with PCC is a values-based thing.  I don’t go there because they have the best price.  I go there because their values are supposed to be somewhat in line with my own.  And my values are like this: I re-use & recycle to the degree possible.  That means: as much as possible.

These little green mesh bags?  Not so much.  Can’t re-use, can’t recycle…in fact, they’re a total waste, not to mention that if I want a lot (and I do, I eat a LOT of vegetables), I have to buy sometimes two or three of these plastic mesh packages.

So when I asked Kevin, the veg manager at my local PCC why PCC has suddenly started using them, his answer so completely underwhelmed that I just walked away: because  “it’s easier to stock with the mesh bags, and there’s less mess to clean up.”  No.  Really.

So, I went straight away to Metropolitan Market, it has a pretty wonderful veg and fruit section, and guess what!  Their sprouts and green beans?  Free as birds, no plastic mesh wrap.  And guess what else!  None on the floor.  No mess.  So I bought some of the green beans, and if this pattern continues, I may be heading over to Met Market for all my shopping.  I do like it better in many ways.

I work hard to avoid putting more stuff in the land fill.  I prefer to partner with organizations that are sensitive to the issues as well.  As I said, it’s a small thing…but those small things tend to have outsize power over time.

 

End-of-year round up: yeehah!

Some updates on two themes for the year, Living Green and Running.  I’ll save Running for another day before 2010 descends.

Living Green

One big change I’ve really enjoyed is switching to home-made toothpaste.  “Enjoyed” is an overstatement, in fact it was a pretty big adjustment. What most of us are used to wrt to toothpaste is pretty sweet gel stuff, easy to use and tasty like good chewing gum.  Home-made toothpaste isn’t like that so it was an adjustment.

What led to making my own:

  • Estimating the annual landfill caused by non-recyclable tubes emanating from our house, our neighborhood, our city (literally millions of tubes)
  • Investigating toothpaste recipes and history and realizing there were real health benefits to a simple recipe of baking soda, mint mouthwash, glycerin and flavoring
  • Trying it out and learning it takes about 5 minutes to make a jar of it that will last a month.  5 minutes = 1 month.

Some downsides:

  • My partner didn’t like the taste and refused to use it, thus my goal of reducing our personal landfill quotient was cut in half for a while.
  • It doesn’t leave your mouth “zingingly” clean-feeling, so I continue to rinse with mouthwash, but that container IS recyclable  and it added nothing new to my existing habits.
  • You have to stir it up sometimes, but that was good enough for Bob Marley so it’s good enough for me.

An update to the first bullet/”downsides”: I had my first dental check-up about 6 months after I started using homemade toothpaste and was given the most glowing report I’ve ever had from a dentist.  In fact the technician said, in that geeky dental technician way: “I have total gingi-envy of your teeth.”  Homemade toothpaste cuts bacteria way better than traditional toothpastes on the market, it turns out.  My partner started using the homemade version about a month after that report.

Another change we’ve put in place regards plastic bags. Even though we’re fortunate in Seattle to have a plastic bag recycling program, still, once you become aware of how many plastic bags you’re putting into the system, just picking up more and more becomes slightly irritating and disturbing. When you factor in the issue of plastic bags making their way into the oceans and waterways of the world, well, my head sort of explodes, ok?

We began tracking the amount of bags we have in a week: bags from produce, packaging bags for everything from rice to frozen berries, bags from the grocery store.  We made a decision to simply clean and dry all we could and reuse them at the store.  This was a clumsy new process and took time before the magic started to happen: after a while, we simply weren’t bringing IN as many bags.  AND! we now had fridge storage plastic and stopped needing to use so much plastic wrap.  All in all, after about a month, it was a no-brainer.

Upsides:

  • Once we figured out a path to get clean, dry bags into our shopping bags for weekend market/grocery shopping, the system worked.
  • Fridge storage is a lot easier–this was unexpected.  There’s always an easy to use bag in the drawer waiting for you.
  • We’ve reduced our recycling load, again–not by a ton, but by some measure for sure.
  • A bag is a bag is a bag–at first I was self-conscious about using bags with marketing on them, but now I don’t care.  A bag is a bag, it’s a container, that’s all.  Relief.

Downsides:

  • Making a process, and building a habit around the process takes about 3 months
  • When reusing the packaging bags, like from frozen berries, the store has problems with the existing bar code on the bag; we just turn then inside out now so the bar code doesn’t trigger.
  • Sometimes we have a few too many bags in the clean/dry process and it gets a wee bit unwieldy.  Just sometimes.

Those are the two GREEN initiatives that have taken root in our home.  Change is slow.  We’ve done lots of other things over the last few years but I wanted to highlight these two because they indicate a different level of commitment to change than other things we’ve done (drying our clothes on lines when possible, driving less, composting more).  Happy New Year! Let’s make it a good one!

Plastic: the beginning.

My grandmother had what seemed from to me, a funny habit with plastic bags.  But first, let’s back up.

ct1-31_waxpaper.jpg

When I was a little kid, we had wax paper.  We had wax paper for sandwiches and wax paper for covering bowls in the fridge, wax paper for all the uses where plastic is used now.  Plastic obviously took the whole storage and freshness question to new heights, it was a boon, a valuable invention.

So back to my grandmother.  When plastic bags started replacing wax paper, she saved and re-used the plastic bags–which were, as I mentioned, seen as valuable and not yet ubiquitous–for all kinds of things.  She thought they were a miracle invention–precious almost.

plastic bags

As my grandmother aged, and I alongside her, I noticed a growing abundance of plastic bags in her house.  In drawers, jammed in with the pots and pans, stored in grocery bags.  She still felt they were precious and besides, they were still good–and she was from a generation that used things until they were worn out.  Nowadays we only plan on using things until the marketing arm of various companies tell us to dump the old thing for the new thing.

My grandmother hadn’t made the change in her mind–she never made it, in fact.  She never quite got over the value of plastic bags, never saw them as disposable, because they were still good.  In fact, back in the 70’s, I recall various contraptions people designed to help re-use plastic bags.  They were in vogue for about a new york minute since people largely can’t be bothered with so much effort to re-use the thing we can throw away and get so many more of in the same new york minute.

plastic bag dryer

So when she became too old to be in her home and had to move to a care center, at the ripe old age of 94 (she lived to 101), we had to clean out her house to put it on the market.  As you can probably guess, there were stashes of plastic bags everywhere–and I mean everywhere.  She continued to re-use them but who can possibly re-use as many as are coming in?  It was a phenomenal sight–bags of plastic bags in the cupboards, in the drawers, in the hall closet, everywhere.

Plastic bad landfill

And I think back now to this now with a larger frame in mind.  I think of my grandmother’s unwitting demonstration of how many plastic bags one can collect, use, and dispose of one’s lifetime. She was a living experiment–she actually kept most of the plastic bags that came into her possession and it was an unbelievable sight. The amount of plastic bags we collect is, honestly, phenomenal and unthinkable.

Changing my own plastic bag habitz

I’ve started on my new habit changing project and we’re doing pretty well with it, as a household.  Plastic bags we use and can re-use go right back in the canvas bags for use at the store in the coming week.

Plastic bags that are manufactured to hold things with zip lock tops–like raisins, nuts, what have you–are cleaned and used for sandwiches and fridge storage.  Sure, they have branding all over them, but hey.  You get used to it.

I’m already seeing a big reduction in the plastic recycling bag we keep under the sink.  It used to be brimming most of the time with bags, but it’s pretty lame and empty right now–a good sign.  So, how will I measure success?  Haven’t figured it out yet, but so far, the switch to being conscious about plastic is going well.

Except for the depressing realization that plastic is everywhere all the time, and the gnawing question about where all that plastic goes…but I’ll leave that for another day.