Category Archives: hazardous waste

end semester review: Sustainable Me

This post rounds out the completion of a semester’s project.  To bo honest, participating in a blog has gone completely against my nature: I am a very private person, so much so that I do not even commonly use facebook. I am uncomfortable with the notion that these electronic logs will exist long after we pass away, and that the words and thoughts expressed in them can take on a life of their own.

That being said, particpating in SustainableMe has served a purpose: there is much I have learned from my fellow bloggers about little and big changes one can make in life in an effort to make the world more sustainable.

For me, the has coincided with what we have been learning in tandem with our Merchandising class- my userstanding of the concept of sustianablity has gone from basic to analytical. Initially, the word “sustainability” applied only to the environment, but as we proceeded with our lessons, I cam to understand the economic and social aspects as well.

English: Sustainability chart

English: Sustainability chart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That said, I did not accomplish all I had planned to achieve.  I still have a number of “outstanding” agenda points to take care of, such as:

Dansk: Glødepærer med med forskellige fatninge...

Dansk: Glødepærer med med forskellige fatninger: E10, E14 og E27. De to sidstnævnte er købt i Danmark. E10 er en 40 watts glødepære fra Kina og den er svær at finde i Danmark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1.) Properly dispose of my “hazardous waste” recyclables- I have been hording batteries and light bulbs to take to the Richardson Hazardous Waste Recycling Center, the pile keeps growing, but I simply have not been able to make it out of my routine to take the stuff there. But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel- Finals are almost over! Ya Hoo!

 

 

 

Česky: Pitná voda - kohoutek Español: Agua potable

Česky: Pitná voda – kohoutek Español: Agua potable (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2.) Water Conservation– my guest bathroom faucet has a slight drip, which falls back into the sink. It has been driving me nuts, even more so as we have discusses all the water issues throught this learning, and has become a real point of contention between my spouse and myself (he does not see it as a problem, as the water drips back into the sink basin, and our water bills are low). Again- I will steahily have to attack this issue when the time allows- get a few repairmen in, to evaluate the costs of repair, and get some estimates.  As we learned with many “corporations”, sometimes the only way to sell sustainabity improvements is based on a “cost/benefit” analysis, which is what I am going to have to perform for my very frugal husband!

 

 

I feel particularly proud that this project has moved me into a course fo action: for example, joining my child’s elementary school Green Acres Garden board in an effort to launch their school garden and sustainable food program. This will evolve over time, and as the kids are very young, should have lasting impacts until they reach middle school.  It will also give me the chance to learn how to “operationalize” sustainability in the “public works” realm- dealing with multiple stakeholders: school boards, governance bodies, and small companies from which we will be soliciting support, and families.

Learning by Doing

Learning by Doing (Photo credit: BrianCSmith)

God bless you all and have a wonderful “sustainable” holiday season!

Is dining out unsustainable?

wasted-food-250x166

I feel I am becoming more and more concerned about trash, and have to do penance anytime something is thrown out.

My current “aha” is food waste- and dining out is a big part of it!  As a parent, in the currently unstable economy, most people know that moving to a “home cooked” philosophy makes for the best remedy for better health and nutrition.

Unfortunately, as a student ans stressed out mom, this last month has had me put cooking on the back burner, and instead focus on my studies, and just getting through the day?

But besides nutrition, at what cost is my behavior impacting the environment?

food-waste

According to a study done by the EPA, Food Waste is becoming the #1 material in land fills. http://culture.wnyc.org/npr_articles/2012/nov/27/for-restaurants-food-waste-is-seen-as-low-priority/

“Food waste is huge,” says Schwab, a senior analyst in the waste division at the Environmental Protection Agency. “Food waste is now the No. 1 material that goes into landfills and incinerators.” In a recent interview with NPR, Schwab explained that food waste from restaurants makes up 15 percent of all the food that ends up in landfills. And all that food doesn’t just take up space and attract pests — it’s also changing the climate. “Because it rots so fast, basically it starts to generate methane really quickly,” says Schwab. Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Source: NPR

Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And reducing methane emissions from sources like landfills is one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s biggest priorities in the fight against climate change.

NPR also reports that apx three cents of every dollar consumers spend on food away from home ends up in the trash. And that doesn’t even include the food left on your plate or the slimy lettuce forgotten in the fridge.

In my family, we try to be very aware of what we have in our fridge or pantry- most of my friends are hard up when they come over, just because of our lack of “perceived” options- but that’s only to force us to eat everything we buy, and not waste!

The figures are staggering, and will definitely make you want to thin twice before stopping off at that local fast food joint!

Here’s a few collected on July 13, 2009, by Green Eco Services: http://www.greenecoservices.com/food-waste-in-restaurants/

I Just Gotta Tell Ya

  • A single restaurant disposes of more than 50 tons of organic waste every year.
  • Food waste is 76% organic and can be recycled
  • Meanwhile cost of food has increased 8%
  • 27 percent of all food is thrown out, which works out to a pound of food every day for every American.
  • Full service restaurants waste more food than fast food eateries. Food scraps make up 66 percent of restaurants’ trash, compared to 52 percent at fast food places.

Why don’t restaurants donate food the the needy? It seems they cite liablity and other issues. I wonder if they are just lazy and don’t want to take the time.

But at the restaurant level, what can be done? (Perhaps donation to food banks!)

Earth Talk magazine reported on the issue recently: EarthTalk® E/The Environmental Magazine, http://www.foodreference.com/html/a-restaurant-waste-511.html

Dear EarthTalk: I work at a fast food place and I am appalled by the amount of unpurchased food we throw away. The boss says we can’t give it away for legal reasons. Where can I turn for help on this, so the food could instead go to people in need?
— Ryan Jones, Richland, WA (11/14/2010)

Many restaurants, fast food or otherwise, are hesitant to donate unused food due to concerns about liability if people get sick after eating it—especially because once any such food is out of the restaurant’s hands, who knows how long it might be before it is served again. But whether these restaurants know it or not, they cannot be held liable for food donated to organizations, and sometimes all it might take to change company policy would be a little advocacy from concerned employees.

A 1995 survey found that over 80 percent of food businesses in the U.S. did not donate excess food due to liability concerns. In response, Congress passed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, which releases restaurants and other food organizations from liability associated with the donation of food waste to nonprofits assisting individuals in need. The Act protects donors in all 50 states from civil and criminal liability for good faith donations of “apparently wholesome food”—defined as meeting “all quality and labeling standards imposed by Federal, State and local laws and regulations even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus or other condition.”

Unused or even partially eaten food waste can
also be utilized even if it’s not edible by human standards. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture approves of food businesses giving or selling food
waste to local farmers for use in composting or as animal feed. If such food
contains or has come into contact with meat, it should be boiled for 30 minutes
to reduce the risk of bacterial infections in the animals that eat it. Many
states have complementary laws on the books regulating the donation of food
waste at the local level.

Diverting food waste to feed hungry people or for animal feed or compost is a winning scenario for all concerned parties as it not only provides relief to overburdened landfills but also helps meet social welfare, agricultural and environmental needs. Also, those restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses that donate food will likely reap the additional reward of saving money on their actual waste removal bill as their trash bins and dumpsters won’t be filling up quite so fast.

Get Involved

Feeding America- Feeding America, the nation’s largest charitable hunger relief organization. Feeding America supports a network of 206 food banks in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Before September 2008, Feeding America was named America’s Second Harvest—The Nation’s Food Bank Network. The organization adopted a rebranding effort in order to help better educate and engage the public about our role in the fight against hunger. The new brand will allow them to build the support they need to feed 1 million more people each year, to significantly increase participation in federal nutrition programs, and to inspire the public to take action.

CONTACTS: CalRecycle, http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov; Mama’s Health, http://www.mamashealth.com; North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, http://www.p2pays.org

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881

Bibliography

Barclay, E. (2012, 11 27). For restaurants, food   waste is seen as low priority. Retrieved 12 3, 2012, from NPR:   http://culture.wnyc.org/npr_articles/2012/nov/27/for-restaurants-food-waste-is-seen-as-low-priority/

Cathy. (2009, July 13). Food Waste in Restaurants. Retrieved 12 3, 2012, from Greenecoservices.com: http://www.greenecoservices.com/food-waste-in-restaurants/

 

 

 

Hazardous Waste

Hazardous Waste

Where I live, in Richardson, Texas, they make it extremely easy for residents to participate in recycling.  They offer mixed use recycling (no sorting!), and residents use “blue bags” for recycling item pick up once a week, which the city then takes to a local Materials Recovery Facility for processesing.

The city also offers document shredding and electronics recycling for an additional fee, and sponsors community clean up events.

Accepted Materials in the City of Richardson’s Recycle Program

The items below can all be placed in the blue bags:
Plastics #1-7 (excluding Styrofoam), Aluminum, Tin, Steel, Empty Aerosol Cans, Newspapers, Mixed Paper, Paper Grocery Bags, Magazines, Catalogs, Corrugated Cardboard, Paperboard/Chipboard, Phone Books, Junk Mail, Glass Containers (All Color Glass)

Hazardous Waste Disposal

This is one area which I am sad to say I fall short by my lack of follow through.  The City of Richardson advises some clear warnings about hazardous waste disposal, but when it comes to batteries and old light bulbs, I have been negligent in applying the same standards I have as other sustainability initiatives. One might say that this is definitely my “growth opportunity”.

The City of Richardson advises the following information regarding household hazardous waste:

Image

USE UP ENTIRELY:
Always read labels and follow directions carefully. If you can’t use a product up, try to find a neighbor, friend, or community organization who can.

STORE IN A COOL DRY PLACE:
Between collection events or trips to the recycle center, keep all hazardous products in original containers with lids fastened securely. Do not mix, combine, or consolidate them.

RECYCLE OR TAKE TO COLLECTION SITE:
Never throw hazardous products away with your regular trash. Motor oil, brake and transmission fluid, antifreeze, and car batteries can be recycled at most auto service facilities or auto parts stores.

USE ENVIRONMENTALLY SAFE PRODUCTS:
Use latex paints instead of oil-based paints. Look for products that say: Environmentally safe, Biodegradable, Contains no phosphorus, Non-toxic, Non-corrosive.

DON’T LET PRODUCTS GO TO WASTE:
Buy only what is needed to do the job. Avoid over- purchasing with the thought it can be used later.

DISPOSE OF IT CORRECTLY:
Household chemicals, fluorescent light bulbs, and batteries should be taken the the Home Chemical Collection Center.

You can find our more at: http://www.cor.net/index.aspx?page=1118