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Get the Holiday Season Off to a Great, Green Start

Posted on November 20, 2014 by | Comments (0)

turkeyLet the countdown begin! For me, the official holiday season kicks off next Thursday with Thanksgiving. In our family it is the official start of holiday decorations, Christmas carols, yummy food, family time, shopping and gift giving. But along with feel-good traditions comes a lot of opportunities for waste – packaging/wrappers, food leftovers, shopping bags, decorations – you name it! In fact during the holidays waste goes up by more than 25 percent! That definitely doesn’t make us feel jolly. But there is still hope for saving the holidays.

Follow these simple Thanksgiving Day tips to lighten the impact of your Turkey Day celebration and get the holiday season off to a great, green start!

  • Perfect Portions – We know it’s tempting, but there’s really no need to overcook. The official party planning rule of thumb is to have a TOTAL of one pound of food for each guest during the main course. Desserts not included. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Americans throw out about 25 percent of the food they purchase. Uneaten food ends up in landfills to the tune of about 36 million tons per year where it then releases a large amount of methane into the air. So trim down food waste, landfill space and air pollution by simply cooking what you’ll actually eat for Thanksgiving.
  • Put Your Bin on Display – Make it easy for your guests to recycle. Place a clearly marked recycling container next to the trash can to capture aluminum cans, wine bottles, plastic soda bottles and other recyclable waste.
  • Ditch Disposal Cookware – Those flimsy aluminum trays may be great for cooking for your large family – but they are awfully wasteful! If your family depends on you to play holiday host/hostess, invest in good quality baking pans that can be reused each holiday. Short on cash? Check out a local secondhand store to find affordable ceramic and glass baking dishes.
  • Can the Grease – Pass the gravy but please keep it out of the drains! You will NOT be thankful for a clogged up drain in the middle of your Thanksgiving celebration. Cooled fats, oils, and grease belong in the trash can while food scraps can go in the trash or a compost bin. Frying a turkey? Find out where to recycle your oil – but never put it down the sink or stormwater drain.
  • Reusable Table Settings – Plates, silverware, napkin, cups – all reusable! Sure, you’ll have to do the dishes after your feast. But is an hour of your time really comparable to the hundreds or thousands of years those disposables will spend decomposing in a landfill? I think not.
  • Decorations Worth Keeping – Ok, so I’m not crafty but everyone needs super cool upcycled decorations in their life! Upcycled decorations reduce waste but also give you a decoration worth keeping around for years to come. Here are some simple ideas from the askHRgreen.org Pinterest page to get started.

Happy Turkey Day – Gobble, Gobble!

Posted in: Fats, oils and grease disposal, Going Green, Holidays

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The Tire Rolls On

Posted on November 18, 2014 by | Comments Off

TiresHow many tires do you think a car uses in its lifetime?  I don’t have the answer for you, I’m just asking (well come on, this isn’t a car blog).  But what I can share with you is a stat from a recent report by the Rubber Manufacturers Association.  According to them, the U.S. generates more than 230 million scrap tires every year.  That’s a lot of tires.

But, good news!  The report also shows that the amount of scrap tire piles in the country are decreasing dramatically.  It’s down to 75 million stockpiled tires from 1 billion in 1990.  And a large part of that is due to the fact that we’re getting smarter with how we reuse our trash!

The top reuse for scrap tires is for tire derived fuel (TDF).  TDF is used by the pulp/paper and cement industries as a supplemental fuel.  Over half of all tire scraps went to this market in 2013. 

The next biggest reuse for tire scraps is ground rubber.  Tires are ground up and turned into athletic fields, playground cover and binding agents for more durable, quieter asphalt road surface.  So smart!

So the next time you’re cursing your tires for not passing inspection, consider what job they might be moving onto next!  And hope that they spend very little time in a trash pile and move quickly onto their second life as fuel or an athletic field. 

Posted in: Reduce reuse and recycle

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Looks Can Be Deceiving

Posted on November 4, 2014 by | Comments Off

IMG_20140928_104907801(1)My favorite weekend activity is going to one of the awesome local parks near my Suffolk home with my husband and daughter. We play on the playground, adventure through the trails looking for frogs and squirrels and often times just enjoy the beauty of the tidal creeks that lead to the Nansemond River. Knowing what I know, it’s sometimes sad to look out on these beautiful creeks and rivers. You see, I know that the beauty we see with our eyes is often deceiving. Waterways don’t always show signs that they are struggling to support healthy populations of fish and crabs. It’s not just headline-grabbing fish kills and algae blooms that indicate an unhealthy waterway. So how do we know if our local waterway is as healthy as it is beautiful? The ‘How’s My Waterway?’ app from EPA is the easiest way for people to connect with the underlying health issues of their local waterways.

IMG_20140928_104907801See this awesome view of the Nansemond River in Suffolk? So beautiful. But what lurks beneath is bacteria and other microbe pollution as well as degraded aquatic life. There’s also a fish consumption advisory and a shellfish harvesting restriction. Not so beautiful, huh?

So what’s your local waterway hiding from you? Find out…then  take action to improve your local water quality!

(1) Use the ‘How’s My Waterway?’ app to learn about water quality near your home.

(2) Learn what causes the water quality problems in your local waterway and do something to help!

  • Too much bacteria? Make sure you and your neighbors clean up pet waste and never feed wildlife like geese and ducks.
  • Not enough dissolved oxygen? Only fertilize after you’ve done an easy and inexpensive soil test which tells you how much fertilizer to put down and keeps excess fertilizer out of waterways.
  • Degraded aquatic habitat from cloudy water? Seed bare spots and plant more plants to help keep dirt in its place and out of waterways.

(3) Last – tell a friend, a coworker or a neighbor! Get others involved and help spread awareness about water quality in your community. By working together to improve local water quality, we can make our rivers and streams as healthy as they are beautiful!

Posted in: Keeping storm drains free, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Outdoor tips, Waterways

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Compost and Mulch, Nature’s Waste to Nature’s Solution

Posted on October 28, 2014 by | Comments Off

Testing soil is easyEvery year, residents and businesses throughout the region celebrate the coming of Fall with the annual ritual of raking leaves. It is also a great time to prune trees and shrubs for winter. But the question that often faces homeowners is: What to do with leaves and yard trimmings? Blowing them into storm drains causes big problems. Leaves and yard trimmings can block storm drains which can lead to street flooding. They also add nutrients to lakes and waterways which can fuel algae growth and weaken marine habitat. The green thing to do is to check with your locality to find out how leaves will be collected (bagging, curbside leaf vacuuming, etc.) and only placing leaves and other yard debris near the curb on the designated pickup day.

If you are a resident of Newport News, you can drop off trimmings and leaves at the Resource Recovery Operations Center located at 550 Atkinson way in Newport News year around. In the fall, the city conducts a neighborhood-by-neighborhood collection of leaves raked to city streets on specific dates and times. Once collected, tree branches are ground into mulch and leaves are ground and placed in wind rows to make compost. These products are ground and processed by a team of experts then made available for sale to the public (residents, non-residents and businesses) to use in their gardens. This diverts significant tonnage of natural debris from local landfills and creates products that help to fortify soil and beautify local homes, parks facilities, municipal properties, schools and commercial properties.

The Newport News mulch product is fine ground to a 1-2 inch size and is free of contaminants. Although it is not colored, it provides a nice natural look and is an effective way to block weeds in gardens and shrubbery beds. It also is very helpful in promoting drought tolerance in gardens and flower beds. The Newport News compost product is screened and cooked (through natural aerobic action) in wind rows for up to nine months. During this time, the natural processes heat up the compost to a temperature high enough to effectively kill off weed seeds. The resulting compost product is certified by the US Compost Council Virginia Tech and Penn State University. It is the favored product used by local master gardeners throughout the Peninsula and Southside. The Compost product is unique in that it provides for:

  • Higher yields with less chemicals (better for plants, wildlife and the Chesapeake Bay)
  • Improves growing conditions by increasing water retention of the mostly clay soil in our region
  • Provides increased drainage into the aquifer by allowing water to pass through the soil, instead of washing off the top of the soil
  • Gets more nutrients to the root zones of plants and grasses with the slow release of the nutrients
  • Is available year around because of the Newport News processing facility
  • More reasonably priced than bagged fertilizer and mulch
  • Locally produced

So for your garden, the Chesapeake Bay and your wallet Mulch, Compost and Earth N Rich Blend are great products. To obtain more information and other services available through the Newport News Recovery Operations Center, please call 757-886-7947.

Blog contributed by Daniel Baxter, askHRgreen.org team member and Business Recycling Coordinator for City of Newport News.

Posted in: Beautification, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Outdoor tips

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How much litter to tolerate? How much beauty do we desire?

Posted on October 24, 2014 by | Comments Off

litterI often wonder about the “tipping point” when people realize they have too much litter around their community to be acceptable or tolerated any further.  Most of us reach that threshold of tolerability at a very early stage, and we work hard every day to keep our homes, streets and communities free of litter. Further, we strive for even greater beauty in the public spaces around us with the goal of creating a place we, and our neighbors, can be proud of and excited about.

litter1Unfortunately, many of us become desensitized over time to the appearance of misplaced solid waste, the modern definition of “litter.”  We silently and resentfully accept more of this, making us numb to the appearance of our community. We also assume that it is not our place to do anything about it. We leave it to others to take care of, or are quick to point fingers at the merchants and companies that produce the packaging that are left on our public right-of-ways.

To address this issue, people throughout Hampton Roads have joined together. Instead of staying frustrated and resigned that there will always be litter, we organize efforts to abate and prevent further littering. We cooperatively and collaboratively work side-by-side to fully understand the source of the litter, invite others to get involved, and develop strategic actions to resolve it for the long term.

litter3This effort takes more than just doing periodic litter pickup events. Cleaning up and keeping places clean is critical, but real change happens when there is a commonly understood and organized process, new partnerships, and investment of resources by citizens, businesses and government.

Many communities have recognized the need for this ongoing effort and have established “Clean Community” organizations. We are fortunate in Hampton Roads to have many such organizations, supported by local government and regionally connected through askHRgreen.org.

Norfolk CleanupBy reaching this page and reading to this point, you are probably already “on board” with these ideas and have a strong interest in creating more vibrant public spaces by preventing litter and investing in community beautification. You then become a change agent for this more positive and sustainable approach and lead your friends and families to join in. You have committed to reject litter and waste in your communities and create clean and appealing public spaces around you.

For more information about how you can support these efforts in your own community, contact your local recycling and beautification program to learn more about your city or county’s clean community programs. For information about how over 600 towns, cities and counties across the country are doing the same, check out Keep America Beautiful’s systematic approach to building vibrant communities.

Next Month: What is up with plastics recycling?

Posted in: Beautification, Don't litter!, Reduce reuse and recycle, Uncategorized

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