Tuesday, November 30, 2010
From Linden Hills Power & Light:
So you finally untangled that clump of holiday lights, plugged them in and ta-da...nothing!
Don't get mad, get even! Replace those frustrating suckers with nice new, energy-efficient LEDs, and kick the old ones to the curb of 43rd and Upton at Bayers Hardware (Minneapolis), where a nice recycling bin stands ready and waiting for them.
Every part including the glass and copper will be recycled. By one estimate, recycling copper takes about 10 percent of the energy it takes to extract it. It's very energy intensive to create new copper, so this is a big deal. According to estimates by the Clean Energy Resource Teams, recycling 50,000 pounds of lights in Minnesota would save about 530,000 kilowatt hours, or about 960,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. That's assuming 20,000 pounds of lights are replaced by LEDs and that homeowners with lights use them for about six hours a day from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Last year Minnesota recycled 100,000 pounds and this year's goal is 200,000 pounds.
For locations all over the state for recycling your lights, click here.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
I recycled my polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) trays in North Carolina. I know it sounds insane, but it's not as crazy as it sounds! Here's why: We were going from Asheboro, N.C., to Greensboro, N.C., which took us right through Randleman, N.C., which is where one of the Dart Container polystyrene drop-off facilities is. So I packed as many trays (uniform shape) into my suitcase and backpack as I could. And recycled them in N.C.! Now if only I could recycle the 13 other bags of cups, plates, trays and clamshells (those take-out containers that open and shut like a clam shell) in our garage...
This place was not easy to find, so this sight was sweet.
My mom gets the honor of recycling the foam trays!
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Kick off your holiday shopping with the Green Gifts Fair on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Midtown Global Market. From the website:
Do It Green! Minnesota offers our annual Green Gifts Fair right before Thanksgiving. The event is meant to introduce green gift options and low impact ideas to celebrate the holidays from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to Kwanzaa to Winter Solstice, New Year's and everything in between! Come begin your holiday celebrations with us on November 20th!
SHOP 70+ local retailers and artists for green, recycled, fair trade and organic gifts. Visit the full list of vendors by clicking the link above in Quick Links.
LEARN about green holiday decorating, wrapping, food & party ideas, and homemade gifts.
EAT lunch or dinner at many of the restaurants at the market and sample low carbon holiday foods with local chef demos.
CELEBRATE the new 2011 Do It Green! Magazine focusing on the last few decades of the environmental movement in MN (great gift idea!).
ATTEND the eco fashion show, low carbon food cook off, or listen to local musicians on our main stage.
REDUCE bring your own cloth shopping bags, reusable coffee mug for $1 coffee at Mapps Coffee & Tea in the market, and silverware and cloth napkins to reduce waste if you eat in the market (they only serve styrofoam and plastic!).
RECYCLE your holiday lights at the fair. For every holiday light string recycled receive one raffle ticket to win $50 in Green Gifts Fair bucks.
COME CAR-LESS Come by bike, bus, walking or carpool and get a gift! Download a Metro Transit Go Green Pass to travel for FREE. Or there is free parking for up to three hours in the parking ramp off of 10th St.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I got to tour the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) this week, and it was fascinating. The amount of trash was staggering, but I'm glad it wasn't going to a landfill and that it was generating energy to heat downtown buildings and put some electricity onto the grid.
Trucks are constantly coming and going, dumping their loads of trash.
The grapple (I call it The Claw) picks up the trash and tosses it like a salad as the operator works to get the right mix of wet and dry for a good burn. Are you seeing this massive amount of trash?!!
The grapple drops giant clawfuls of trash into two big hoppers on the upper right. Trash slowly drops down the chutes into the two burners, which run 24 hours a day 365 days a year (except a few times a year for maintenance).
Look at the size of it.
Sometimes a big hunk of metal like an appliance will get through, and when the operator spots it, he plucks it out of the trash pile.
The plant's processes are constantly monitored with sensors, and deep in the bowels of the facility, Covanta operators go through their paces, using all of their senses (except taste!) to gauge whether things are working right. They can also tell by how the flames look whether things are burning well or not. This was just after our big snow storm Saturday, and as one guy put it, "snow doesn't burn well."
I was mesmerized by the fire.
The control room operator works 12-hour shifts in front of a bank of computer screens, monitoring everything in the building and constantly tweaking the flow of air and steam, rate of combustion, the speed of the trash in the furnace. The HERC produces steam, which drives a turbine to produce electricity. To read more about the process, click here.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I found out today that Dunn Bros Coffee will soon start giving customers a 25-cent discount on their beverages if they bring a reusable mug. The program starts Jan. 1, 2011. It's a significant savings, and I hope it's just the push some people need to start bringing their own mugs. I think it helps to have several, and to keep at least one clean one in your car all the time, ready for that spur-of-the-moment caffeine stop.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Plastic bag recycling seems to be one area in particular of plastics recycling where a lot of people don't realize what types of bags and packaging are recyclable. Besides newspaper and grocery bags, you can recycle cereal and cracker bags, frozen-food bags, zipper-locking bags (cut the zipper part off because it's a different type of plastic). The key is that the bags must be dry and clean. (I think that's why they put frozen-food bags in the 'no' category when they used to be in the 'yes' category -- people were probably putting their wet frozen food bags with bits of onion ring still clinging to the insides into the recycling bin.) Here's a complete list, from the It's In The Bag program:
[Note: All material must be clean and dry]
Plastic grocery bags
Plastic retail bags (remove string ties & rigid plastic handles)
Plastic dry-cleaning bags
Plastic cereal bags (must be dry with ALL food residue removed)
Plastic bread bags (must be dry with ALL rood residue removed)
Plastic produce bags (must be dry with ALL food residue removed)
Plastic wrap from paper products (paper towels, etc.)
Plastic salt bags (remove rigid plastic handles)
Plastic zipper bags (remove top closing mechanism)
Plastic stretch/shrink wrap
6-pack holder rings
Plastic bags with food residue
Frozen food bags
Plastic bags with strings
Plastic soil or mulch bags
Plastic zipper bags with rigid plastic closing mechanism
Plastic bubble wrap
Plastic food containers
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Concerned Mom Tracy asked me to come to Windom Spanish Dual Immersion School this week because even though the school is already collecting organics for composting, she wanted to know about recycling options for all the packaging that food comes in.
Unfortunately I didn't have a lot of suggestions. Some of the wrappers can be sent to TerraCycle for recycling, and the #5 plastics can be brought to Whole Foods to be recycled by Preserve, but most of the plastic wrap and packaging is true trash.
Fruit comes in plastic cups, tortilla chips are packaged in plastic, fork/knife/spoon/napkin are packaged, burrito comes wrapped in plastic, cheese sticks are wrapped in plastic, salad comes in a plastic container with plastic wrap over it, salsa comes in a plastic cup.
Green bins are for organics, red for trash and small buckets are for liquid.
Their organics-recycling coordinator put these stickers on the paper-towel dispensers.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Finally after years and years of asking, they've got printers printing by default on both sides of a piece of paper! Eureka!
Monday, November 8, 2010
(Don't you think the one pumpkin with the x's for eyes looks like he's being forcefed the pumpkin on top of him?)
Cut up 9 pumpkins. I could hear the squirrels overhead, holding a press conference about the new buffet in town. And while I was cutting, a little mole burrowing through the leaves visited me. Wish I'd gotten a picture.
Then the lovely Shannon and her charming brood showed up with 15 more!
Hey look, my SunChips bag is disintegrating. Pretty cool considering our pile doesn't get very hot.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
My brother alerted me to this special batch of ale from Sierra Nevada. This organic, fresh hop Estate Ale is made entirely from hops and barley grown at their property in Chico, CA. All the crops were hand-grown and hand-harvested. Think of all the labor that went into this beer!
Closing the loop on the process, the spent grain, brewer's yeast, hops and trub are fed to dairy cows and beef cattle at CSU Chico. Then the beef is served at their taproom & restaurant at the brewery, along with locally raised veggies.
Check out my brother's review here. And for the full inside scoop on how the beer was made, go to this post at thefullpint.com.
And in looking at their website for info about the ale, I found out Sierra Nevada has done substantial work to be environmentally responsible: solar, fuel cells, recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation and more. Here's just one example:
We have been able to reduce our water usage to almost half of the historical value typically used by breweries in this country.
Sierra Nevada made the commitment several years ago to treat all of our production wastewater to remove this burden from the local municipality. We installed a European-designed, two-step anaerobic and aerobic treatment plant that reprocesses and purifies all of the water produced from our brewing operations.
The methane generated from the anaerobic digestion of the wastewater is captured and used to fuel our boilers. This uses 100% of an energy byproduct as fuel for another process instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. Additionally, water used for truck washing is collected and purified through our own facility.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
As I posted back in August, the YWCA triathlon overwhelmed me, so I was a little nervous about being the point person on the ground. What unexpected glitches would come up? I really wanted RCTA's first attempt at zero waste to be a success, so I tried to trouble-shoot: I brought extra signs, containers, bags, tape. I talked to Jason the day before (up to that point we'd only e-mailed) to ask about containers and volunteers. And I arrived extra early.
Well, I needn't have worried. Jason had made things very simple by purchasing everything compostable: plates, cups, utensils. I set up a couple of stations, talked to the caterers ... and relaxed. This was going to go well. And, it did! I met lots of wonderful people working for a very worthwhile organization, the food catered by Banquetes Tradicionales Mexicanos was delicious, the music was lively, and all went smoothly.
Jason customized this sign, adding pictures of the compostable cups and utensils (center picture and bottom right picture).
Another great touch: Jason's instructions posted for the caterers.
Beverage station with compostable cold cups, hot cups, bowls of sugar and pitchers of creamer (rather than single-serve sugar packets and creamers), and real metal spoons rather than plastic disposables.
The man who made it happen. Jason said to his wife, "It's magic! This is going to be dirt!" He also said his event would be a model for how to go zero-waste, and he was definitely right.