Saturday, June 26, 2010

Our visit to Cedar Summit Farm

We went to Cedar Summit Farm's Milkapalooza (family farm fun) today, and it was an educational visit.

We talked at length with John Zinn, grazing specialist for the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. We already were proponents of raising cows on pasture, but John greatly expanded our knowledge, and now we know rotational grazing really is THE way to go for the full spectrum of benefits: environmental (fertile soil means rainwater's soaked up like a sponge, greatly reducing runoff and soil erosion), and animal and human health.

The Minars raise their 150 cows on pasture 5 to 6 months out of the year. Letting the animals forage for themselves results in:
1. much healthier animals, who instinctively choose which plants are the most nutritious for them
2. fewer vet bills
3. much lower machinery and fuel costs because you're bringing the cows to the food rather than vice versa
4. tamer animals
5. more nutritious milk, packed with conjugated linoleic acid
6. and a longer lifespan (they have some 15-year-old cows still producing milk vs. in a conventional milking situation the cows are done by age 6)

Also in this type of farming situation, calves stay with Mom for 2 months, getting TLC and learning to graze, vs. a calf in a conventional setting gets some colostrum and then right away is separated from Mom to be raised on a bottle.

The cows are rotated to a different parcel of land, called a paddock, every 12 hours. The weather we've had lately has resulted in lush vegetation growth, so the cows were happily picking their favorite edibles. The cows are averaging 60 to 70 lbs. of grass consumed per day!

In the pasture, manure is spread out over a large area and rapidly decomposes and fertilizes the soil (the dung beetles immediately go to work on fresh grass-fed cow patties because they're not full of antibiotics and pesticides). Contrast that with a factory-farm situation: John told us his cousin, who has 1,100 cows living in close, crowded quarters, has a man working for him whose sole job 8 hours a day is to clear manure with a skidder.

I just had to include this picture because I thought the cow underpass was brilliant. They use this tunnel under the road to move the cows back to the farm to be milked and then out to the pasture again.

And of course being Trashbasher, I collected 3 grocery bags of organics. I was really happy to see the family had set out a bin for plastic bottles. And as a result I found not one bottle in the trash.

Here's what the trash looked like after I took out the food and paper waste (the barrel was nearly full when I started).

Friday, June 25, 2010

Yuban: an environmentally friendly surprise

I really love being pleasantly surprised, and this week's Pleasantly Surprised Trashbasher Award goes to Yuban coffee! Their canister is made from 50 percent recycled materials! And then when I went to their website I discovered Yuban is the world's largest supporter of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee beans! Who knew?? Also, check out their 30 ways to make a difference link.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Exciting composting news in St. Paul's Macalester-Groveland neighborhood

Eureka Recycling unveiled its residential composting project in St. Paul's Macalester-Groveland neighborhood Wednesday. They plan to do this for three months using three collection methods: truck, bicycle and drop-off. And they're dividing the neighborhood into three 200-household chunks, to see who participates and which collection method makes the most sense holistically (people participating, energy used, carbon footprint, economic viability, etc.) Lots more details are here. These photos are from the media event; St. Paul City Council members Pat Harris and Russ Stark, and folks from the Macalester-Groveland Community Council, the Green Institute, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Macalester College, Linden Hills Power & Light and the University of Minnesota attended.

Green cart is for curbside collection, pink bin for drop-off

Turning food scraps into compost (a.k.a. really good dirt)

Prof. Christy Manning, who teaches and studies the psychology of sustainable behavior

Monday, June 21, 2010

Make your next event, big or small, zero-waste

Thanks to Keiko Veasey for telling me about a great resource on Rethink Recycling's website. On the Green Gatherings link, there are lots of helpful tips as well as case studies from people who have written about their events. With the number and variety of tips, you can pick and choose to take small steps or big ones to green your next event.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An experiment in giveaways

I've always given things away for free via Craigslist, but today I decided to try Twin Cities Free Market. So I posted 4 items on Free Market, then just to be sure I posted the same 4 items on Craigslist. Within an hour I'd given away 3 of the 4 things via Craigslist -- and none via Free Market. But I did eventually give away the 4th unclaimed item via Free Market, so that worked out perfectly!

And I'm very excited at the prospect of finding new homes for this stuff -- some of which have been sitting around our house for years!

Just in case you're curious about what I gave away

some ceramic knobs

3 couch cushions filled with goose down

epoxy-covered steel grids from a shelving unit

Friday, June 18, 2010

Nature Valley bike race in Uptown had NO recycling!

At the Nature Valley bike race in Uptown, there were thousands of spectators and racers, hundreds of bottles of water handed out, hundreds of cans sold and not a recycling bin in sight except for what Sarah Sponheim and I set up. Hello, Uptown Business Association, city of Minneapolis and race organizers!! We ended up diverting from the trash:

1 1/2 96-gallon carts of bottles and cans
1 64-gallon cart of organics
lots of cardboard and boxboard
lots of plastic bags and packaging
lots of granola bar wrappers to go to TerraCycle
and just over 200 plastic cups from the Lucia's beer garden, which I'll recycle at either Eastside Food Co-op or the Coon Rapids Recycling Center

(rinsed beer cups air-drying)

Doesn't anyone care except for two Minneapolis greenies who came with their cart, bins, signs and masking tape in tow?

Making signs for Southwest High

Sarah Sponheim, recycling/composting spearhead at Southwest High School in Minneapolis, and I breathed some paint fumes for the benefit of the planet (ironic, isn't it).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rock the Garden's going zero-waste

My friends are going to Rock the Garden on Saturday, so I was checking out the details online, and I saw there's going to be a lot of food and drink for sale, and I of course wondered about composting and recycling. So a smile came to my face when I read this:

Rock the Garden is proud to be a zero-waste event in partnership with Eureka Recycling.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Looks like plastic but isn't

Keep an eye out for containers, cups and lids marked NatureWorks or Ingeo PLA #7 compostable. They look like they're made of plastic, but they're actually plant-based and compostable. Some known users: Mill City Farmer's Market vendors and Lunds for some deli items. If you know of more, please let me know.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Genesis Poly plastics recycler now open for business

Genesis Poly is positioned to make an enormous dent in the amount of plastics -- agricultural, industrial, food, packaging and post-consumer -- that are sent to landfills or incinerators. Check out this list of the types of packaging they accept for recycling!

Shrink wrap
Bubble wrap
DVD / CD cases & towers
Pill bottles
Recycling & garbage bins
Clamshell packaging
Stock trays
Cosmetic / beauty bottles
Chemical containers
Boat and car wrap
Construction film
Cooking oil bottles
Boil in bag pouches
Microwave trays
Margarine tubs
Bags - Shopping, grocery, bread, produce
Beverage bottles
Dairy containers (yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese)
Cheese wrap
Milk jugs

And packaging really represents just a fraction of all the plastics that are typically burned or sent to a landfill. All those Midwest farmers typically can't do anything with their plastics except trash them. But no more! Genesis specializes in recycling manufactured plastics into flakes and pellets that are then used to make new products. Dee DePass wrote an extensive story about the owners of Genesis Poly in the Star Tribune in January, and I learned Thursday at the Association of Recycling Managers workshop that Genesis is now open for business! The Mankato Free Press also wrote a story. Go, Genesis!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Buy some of these! Stick 'em around town!

I went to a workshop of the Association of Recycling Managers yesterday and got a lot of good info. Here's the first bit I'm sharing with you: These Come From Trees stickers help save about a tree's worth of paper every year! One little sticker! The idea is to stick them on paper-towel dispensers, so they remind people to use fewer paper towels. I just ordered 200 of them.

Some other cool facts from their blog:
A single "These Come From Trees" sticker can save around a tree's worth of paper, every year
More than 50,000 stickers distributed since March '07
A typical fast food restaurant with two bathrooms can use up to 2,000 pounds of paper towels a year
The average coffee shop uses 1,000 pounds of paper towels a year
A single tree produces around 100 pounds of paper
Roughly 50,000 fast food restaurants in the U.S.
200,000 gas stations in the U.S.
14,000 McDonalds' in the U.S.
10,000 Starbucks in the U.S.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

This could be MY motto!

Just found this awesome, useful website! Love Food Hate Waste! Check it out!

Tips and recipes to reduce food waste - Love Food Hate Waste

From their website: Every year in the UK we throw away £12 billion worth of food that could have been eaten. Love Food Hate Waste is a campaign from WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) that shows that by doing easy, practical, everyday things in the home we can all waste less food, which ultimately benefits our purses and the environment, too. If we all stopped wasting food that could have been eaten, it would have the same environmental impact as taking 1 in 4 cars off UK roads. has lots of delicious recipes to use up leftovers, handy hints and tips for storing food to make it last longer, a portion calculator to help you cook the right amount, and information on what food date labels mean. There is something for everyone, whether you are a keen cook, or simply want to reduce the amount of food you throw away.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wish we could recycle polystyrene cups, plates, etc. here

Wrote this letter to Dart Container Corporation:

Dear Dart,

I think it's absolutely fantastic that you've opened polystyrene foam
recycling drop-off facilities in the United States and Canada! Please
consider opening one in Minnesota, and all 50 states and Canadian
provinces for that matter. There is a definite need for such
facilities everywhere because so many businesses and consumers use
Dart's products. Please give this some serious consideration as a
product stewardship initiative.

Thank you,

Nancy Lo
Minneapolis MN

and I got a speedy response back saying thanks, but we can't open drop-off sites where we don't have a physical presence because monitoring and collecting the material is too difficult. Oh well, I had to try. I did find out they have 2 portable recycling programs, CARE (Cups Are REcylable) and Recycla-Pak. Some videos are available for watching, too (a little heavy on the self-promotional angle).

Who thinks it's nuts that I'm contemplating driving to Illinois to recycle about 10 garbage bags full of polystyrene foam cups, plates, containers and trays? They're threatening to topple over in the garage.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Totally green, totally adorable and functional

I got the cutest, greenest handmade felted potholders at the Edina Art Fair today. They're made by Fat Tomato Designs, aka Julie Case of Madison, Wis., ENTIRELY out of recycled and/or repurposed materials: wool, liners and even the thread. Julie's husband, Krome, told me how the family scours Goodwill and secondhand stores for the right sweaters. She also sells purses, oven mitts and stockings. If you like what you see, they'll be at the Uptown Art Fair Aug 6-8.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Plastic garden pots recycling

A neighbor asked me about this yesterday, so I thought I'd write a post. Plastic pots, polystyrene trays and hanging pots that you buy plants in can be recycled at many garden centers through the Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association's Garden Plastic Recycling Program. I've noticed that a few places have either dropped out of the program or decided to participate in just the twice-offered collection times, so check the list to make sure the place near you still takes pots. Full details here.