Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Saddle up for the Fulton Fall Festival

Back in May, I blogged about the Fulton Farmers Market and how I hoped they'd start collecting their organics for recycling soon. Looks like that's not in the cards till next year, but at the upcoming Fulton Fall Festival, which this year is going to be side by side with the farmers market on Sept. 10, I'll be making it low-waste as usual (also hoping for less waste than last year), so the market folks said I could collect organics at the market, too, that day. So I'm lining up volunteers and doing the planning for that. As part of my planning, I scoped out the waste situation at the farmers market last Sat. since I hadn't been there for a while. Here was the waste composition:

organics: 41 lbs. (below is the organics in 4 compostable-plastic bags)
trash: 6 lbs.
bottles and cans: 3.5 lbs.

As you can see, the trash is mostly plastic utensils and cups. This was what was left from 4 overflowing trash cans after the organics were picked out.

A nice-sized crowd.

Yummy, beautiful apples!

When you're there for clean-up, you get to witness fun stuff like this Chef Shack Lady belting out "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Borrow the county's portable recycling units

Remember I wrote about Carolyn's new stickers? Well last week these hanging signs arrived, so now the county's portable recycling units (PRUs) are fully outfitted with informational signage. You can borrow them for free to green your event -- 40 recycling and 20 organics PRUs are available. (The organics ones are green, with a slit in the lid rather than holes.)

The bags are clear, so people can easily tell what goes in each container. Make sure you have something to weigh these down if your event takes place on a windy day.

Demos by Marc
and Andy
Shenanigans with Mark and Andy

Friday, August 26, 2011

Before the pilots, the waste sorts

As many of you already know, the city of Mpls is conducting a single-sort recycling pilot program in the Willard-Hay and East Calhoun (ECCO) neighborhoods. Here are some links to news stories: Star Tribune, MPR, the Southwest Journal and the city's website. Those two programs just started, so we did 2 waste sorts to gather baseline data. If you make recycling simpler, will people recycle more? That is the question.

The first sort two weeks ago was Willard-Hay, and it was the worst one I've ever done (my fourth). The smells were overwhelming, and OH THE MAGGOTS. Holy buckets o' maggots. I took no pictures from that sort (uncharacteristic of me, I know), but you don't need pictures, I'm guessing. This was the first time we did a sort using the NetWork for Better Futures (normally we use county staff and volunteers), and those guys did not relish their assignment. Half of them actually left the site after about half an hour. That was a long day.

Last week was the ECCO sort, and that one was a lot better. We had a great crew from the NetWork who just buckled down and did the job. There were also a lot fewer maggots.

Our supervisor, Paul, is on the left. Thanks for helping out, Paul!

This is kind of an intimidating sight: all the garbage carts waiting to be sorted.

Yes, this is all the garbage carts we got through at the end of the day. Lots, huh?

We finished sorting all the garbage carts that day, but not the recycling carts, so on Thursday Andre, Carolyn and I finished that off. Since we sorted the garbage on Tuesday, then left the recycling carts inside the building until Thursday, there were lots and lots of flies once we opened the doors. Andre, having sorted trash and recycling four times in the past two weeks, is quite sick of waste sorts thankyouverymuch. We'll do another sort halfway through the one-year pilot, and then another after the pilot program is over.

You have to really get in there to reach the stuff at the bottom of the cart.

The trash from about 35 recycling carts. People really want to recycle all their plastics.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Car-seat recycling

New at the Coon Rapids Recycling Center is child car seat recycling. $10 per car seat. Here's more info:

The Coon Rapids Recycling Center has paired with the Recycling Association of Minnesota (RAM), Carver County and the Adult Training & Habilitations Center’s (ATHC) Eco-Site to create a solution for safely and securely recycling all old or unwanted child safety seats. This program is the first of its kind in Minnesota. We often get calls from residents who do not want to throw their car seats away, so we decided to do something about it.

All of the materials (plastic, metal, textiles) are recycled. The plastic is recycled in Minneapolis and made into landscape tiles, the straps are reused for purses and other new textile artwork, and the metal is recycled into new metal. Car seats should never be left on the curb to be thrown away because someone could take it and reuse it. This is a bad thing because car seats have an expiration date -- the plastic over time (or in the case of an accident) gets to the point where it is no longer safe to withstand an accident or any trauma and may cause the seat to fail. Children can get injured or killed if people try to reuse car seats or keep them beyond their expiration.

And here are some photos of plastic caps to be recycled by Aveda. I included these just because I think they're cool!

Monday, August 15, 2011


Low-waste efforts at this year's YWCA triathlon at Lake Nokomis went great!!! Here are the numbers!

organics: 536 pounds
cardboard: 104.4 pounds
bottles and cans: 42.1 pounds
non-bottle plastic containers: 19.6 pounds
plastic film/bags: 8 pounds
trash: 57.6 pounds

for a diversion rate of 92 percent!

There were 1,000 racers, 300+ volunteers and hundreds of spectators, and they produced 57 pounds of trash -- mostly plastic Starbucks and Caribou cups, diapers, energy bar wrappers and other plastic food containers. After my efforts at last year's Tri bombed, I was determined to fix things for this year's race. And I'm so happy to say I did!

Lessons learned:
1. Reduce packaging on the front end.
2. Go ahead of time to check out the site. I knew the site from last year, but this year I did partial set-up the day before the race, which helped a ton.
3. Have enough volunteers to man the disposal stations.
4. Move the Parks Department's trash barrels yourself.
5. Rent enough organics carts. This year we rented nine; last year's three weren't anywhere near enough.
6. Tape your signs on the day before because all your containers are covered with dew at 5 a.m.

This post will have a ton of pictures, since I want to acknowledge everyone who played a part in this big effort!
My early morning crew of volunteers. GreenCorps member Will Dolezal provided excellent, knowledgable assistance.

Virginia (who helped me both Sat. and Sun.)

and Kris. Don't they look incredibly cheerful considering they started at 5 a.m.?

Yeah, the beach looks empty now, but ...

here was the scene just before the start.

One important consideration for this year's waste was reducing the amount of packaging for the race food. Last year the sandwich wraps came on plastic trays with plastic lids, and there were hundreds of single-serving chip bags and granola bar wrappers. This year's food-packaging situation was MUCH different. Head food procurer Kelli Klein went the extra mile to get sandwich wraps from D. Brian's on reusable steel trays.

Kelli also did not buy any single-serving packages of food for the race. For budget reasons, she shopped at Costco, which as many of you know is top-heavy in the packaging department. So there really was no way of getting around the plastic containers from Costco.

It was Kelli's idea to do a trail mix-type offering, which was a great way of avoiding single-serving packaging.

Carts Kelli borrowed from D. Brian's to hold the sandwich wraps.

A water station. No plastic water bottles provided to racers.

My late-morning crew of volunteers. Post-race was very busy because everyone was eating and re-fueling.
Here's Will again, still energetic hours after arriving!



Dominic, Nicky and Sofie

The massive food tent

Compostable cups, plates and napkins

My clean-up crew. Josh, in the yellow shirt, was particularly awesome and conscientious. And there's Will in the middle, in it for the long haul! Will volunteered with me from 5 a.m. until 2 p.m.

536 pounds of organics squished into nine 64-gallon carts.

The trash from our 9-hour event.

The key YWCA people without whom the low-waste effort wouldn't've been possible:
Race director Nicole Cueno was the driving force behind the green initiatives. She really wanted to make the race environmentally friendly, and did the legwork that comes with making that happen. Nicole was just fantastic to work with!

Head food procurer Kelli Klein, who was such a great partner in reducing the amount of packaging for this year's race. From Kelli: "I'm a sucker for numbers and scores. I'm already wondering how I can get us to 99% [diversion] next year!"

Volunteer coordinator Sarah Raser, who got me all my volunteers, without whom the effort would've failed!
And Christine Sharpe (in sunglasses), who dove right in just when I needed her and helped me separate organics from trash when 3 unmanned bins were overflowing.

The race bags were 40% post-consumer and 60% pre-consumer recycled polypropylene. Other green initiatives undertaken by the Tri: online-only registrations, information on carpooling, busing and biking to the event on the race's Web page, a bike valet, shoe recycling offered at packet pickup, race shirts made of recycled polyester, and half as many postcards were printed as last year, and those were printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks. I'll be documenting our efforts for FitPlanet's Pledge of Sustainability.