Kick It OUT of Your Life!!!

Plastic…….that word has become a challenge. Anyone older than 50 can remember things that are commonly plastic now were made from something else when we were young. Paper straws for drinking. Metal lunch boxes. Metal cups for nonbreakable travel. Waxed paper for wrapping a sandwich.  Paper grocery bags used for school book covers. Image result for vintage metal lunch boxes

Then, we felt the joy of how plastic lasted longer and that fascination started taking over. Plastic straws don’t tear. Plastic lunch boxes come in all shapes. Plastic coated paper cups from the coffee kiosk. Plastic wrap keeps a tighter seal. The plastic coated book covers resist spills.

Image result for 1960s plastic lunch box  Image result for plastic lunch boxes vintage

 

 

 

 

And now, after years of comfortable use, we understand that plastics have a pretty large environmental footprint with its petroleum component. We are disappointed that plastic lined paper coffee cups can not be recycled and don’t break down for composting. We understand better that it never decomposes, so when it gets thrown “away”, it lands in the local landfill, with all its attendant environmental issues.  We recognize that paying money to use something only once has a recurring effect on your shopping budget.

And we’ve become wiser. We’ve chosen stainless steel straws that can be cleaned and reused forever or until we misplace them when we move.  That cloth bags come in various shapes and sizes and can carry our food for lunch easily. That beeswax infused food wrappers can keep our sandwich fresh. That there are easy to carry hot beverage containers that can be filled at the coffee shop. That paper grocery bags or newspaper work just fine as school book covers. Image result for eco lunch box

And we’re helping others learn by developing a “Zero Waste carry bag” on the go so we can tell them to “hold the straw” when you get a cold drink, or “fill my cup” when you order a coffee. We have a real squishable shopping bags in a pocket, so I’m not caught without a reusuable bagif I stop at a store.Eco-Cycle logo

eco cycle in Boulder, Colorado has suggests a series of challenges you can do to reduce the amount of plastic that you use. 

Start building (and using!) your own Zero Waste on-the-go kit . Many wasteful plastic items come into our lives when we are on-the-go and it’s hard to avoid them if we’re not prepared with reusable alternatives. Make a kit stocked with reusable options and show disposables who’s boss!
We recommend including the items below in your Zero Waste on-the-go kit, but feel free to pick and choose:
  • Reusable, non-plastic beverage containers—stainless steel coffee mugs, glass or stainless steel water bottles. Mason jars are affordable and work, too!
  • Reusable totes—Keep one in your purse, backpack, car or bike so you always have one on hand.
  • Cotton produce bags—Make your own using old pillow cases, clothes, or scrap fabric. Can’t sew? Eco-Bags and Etsy are great sources for cloth produce bags (we especially like this set with the tare weight marked).
  • Stainless steel food containers for take-out or leftovers.
  • Reusable straws—e.g., Bamboo, steel, or glass (and a straw cleaning brush!)
  • Utensil sets- there are many non-plastic travel utensil sets available, or you can make your own with metal silverware wrapped in cloth napkins. Keep a few in your kit to share!
*Thrift shops are a great place to pick up silverware, cloth napkins, reusable water bottles, and travel coffee mugs for your to-go kit!

We CAN do this!!!  We can reduce our plastic use!!!

Replacing Plastic Challenge

by Beth Rankin

Some of you may know I have a small commercial food processing business, Can-Do Real Food. Working with small farms in and near McMinnville, I capture their surplus produce. These are fruits and vegetables that are first quality but the farmer was unable to sell to her own customers, or second quality “funny” shaped items that have the same nutritional quality but are not desirable to most consumers. Instead of feeding these things to farm animals or throwing them on a compost pile, working with me permits the farmer to receive some financial value for that previously unsold food.  My business is to turn this produce into tasty preserved foods either by canning or dehydrating. This reduces food waste (and now you can see why getting involved with Zero Waste McMinnville was a natural step for my community involvement.)  These preserved offerings also help consumers eat food raised right here, full of flavor because it was harvested when ripe and processed soon after picking.

I use glass, of course, when I can. I often reuse the same jar with a new lid for optimal sealing. Many consumers  have returned jars to me at the farmers’ market, but other people use the jars to hold other items, another kind of reuse.  Glass is a sustainable material because it permits multiple uses.

My dehydrated food, however,  is packaged in plastic that is rated to preserve its dryness for at least five years. I purposely purchased bags with a zip attachment so the bags could be reused, but I suspect most people throw them away when empty. Image may contain: food

And now, aware of how devastating plastics are to our environment, I am searching for alternative packaging materials.  The “Make it, Take it” campaign urges manufacturers to take the responsibility for the end stage of the product packaging. For example, in some nations that have not outright banned styrofoam, the manufacturer has to provide a way for the consumer to return the packaging material back to the factory.  Then the manufacturer is responsible for the way the product is handled after its use.

The concept behind this level of responsibility is that manufacturers will stop using materials which are not easy or inexpensive to enter the waste stream.

circular economy linear take make dispose remanufacture reuse reduce recycle
Source: Returnable Packaging Services

So, I am contacting “green” packaging manufacturers and awaiting information, but the websites I have checked are not yet geared for my market niche.

This is an example of how each of us, aware of our plastic habit, needs to take responsibility to find alternatives.  It is also an example how we should hold manufacturers of all consumer items to be responsible for their packaging choices.

It is easy for some supermarket items. The bulk bins in many of our local grocery stores help us to purchase the amount of the items we need without any commercial packaging.   When I go shopping for food I not only carry my bags for packing the food home, but I also have about 8 mesh bags for produce and bulk food items. I carry the plastic container I used the first time I bought the peanut butter that comes out of the grinder, cleaned of course after all has been eaten.

But still we rely on plastic for liquids and most meats and fish are also wrapped in plastic.  Plastic is popular because it can seal out air, preserving freshness and it also seals in liquid, avoiding wetness and contamination of other items stored nearby.

Green packaging is coming along and can provide similar protections for meat. Be Green Packaging produces trays  for meats and fish molded from plant fiber instead of the typical polystyrene.  They are compostible in 90 days, making it a product that can be handled by industrial composting facilities.

Source: Be Green Packaging containers are designed to compost in 30 to 90 days.

Items like this give me hope that in another few years a product will become available to replace my plastic packaging

Meanwhile, do what you can to avoid using plastics, particularly those that are only good for a single use.   Easy to implement:

  • Use metal or paper straws instead of plastic. When you carry straws with you, refusing plastic straws will become easy.
  • Purchase reusable beeswax infused cotton to wrap sandwiches and partially used vegetables to store in the refrigerator instead of plastic wrap.
  • Carry mesh bags to the supermarket for loose items like bulk bin goods or vegetables instead of using the available one-use plastic bags.
  • Offer your own portable hot cup with lid instead of accepting the plastic lined paper cup from your favorite coffee kiosk.

Finally, if you have a favorite product that is still using packaging that is wasteful, write them to suggest they go green.

 

 

Corena Can and So Can YOU!

By Corena Killian

I am one of those people who, with good intentions and research, will embark on a project only to have it turn out crappy. I am not artsy. I am not creative. I have a hard time keeping green things alive (case in point, my aloe vera plant – one of the easiest house plants to grow and maintain – is dying). So you could have knocked me over with a feather when we went out and dug through our compost pile and found that we had managed to produce, with very little effort or attention at all, a substantial amount of beautiful, glorious, micro-nutrient rich, free-to-us, actual, honest-to-goodness, 100% household-generated compost!!! It may well be the most satisfying personal project I have ever accomplished!Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Satisfying because we used our own food scraps, lawn clippings, fallen leaves, unused cardboard boxes, and kitty litter (we use all-natural pine pellets which break down to sawdust rather than clay; and we scoop and flush the 💩, because that’s not compostable). We supplemented it with llama 💩and straw from a friend. And that is basically it. At times, we had a heaping pile of plant material. But through the fall and winter, that all broke down as we continued to add our veggie and fruit scraps, stale bread, egg shells, spent bones and veggies from multiple batches of chicken stock (great for adding calcium minerals to compost), etc.Image may contain: plant and outdoor

Satisfying because we diverted almost all of our household food waste away from the landfill. Did you know that nearly 25% of landfill material is food waste?!? And that food waste in landfills generates methane – a greenhouse gas 23x more potent than carbon dioxide? And that landfills account for 34% of all methane emissions is the US? This is why I’m doing everything I can to keep my food waste in my own back yard where I can use it to make the planet healthier, not to mention that it will hopefully serve to make our family healthier too with all of the amazing veggies we hope to grow with it!

We’ve already gotten “volunteers“ growing in the compost. Potatoes for sure. But other things too! Garlic, and something from the pumpkin/squash and/or cucumber family – it’s a little too soon to tell, so we’re guessing based on the appearance of the sprouts and the seed shells they sprouted from.

I surprised myself with my absolute giddyness over the phenomenal number of worms thriving in our compost. That is a sure sign that it is healthy and full of micronutrients.

This compost project has left me feeling very empowered! I hope to be sharing with you in a few months how successful our garden is as a result of this effort. Fingers crossed! 🤞

Part of the Community

A small city, like McMinnville, offers its residents a chance to get lost, as it is large enough. It also offers a chance to be part of something, as there are multiple events and activities.

I urge you to join, to be a part of this community. It is a tremendous feeling to be part of an activity from the “inside” or “backstage” crew.

For example, in only a few weeks McMinnville will be rolicking with its annual UFO Festival. As much as I generally try to avoid crowds, this is one event I love to attend. I put on something a bit weird and feel that I can let my inner child out to roam for one afternoon.  DSC_0008

My practical side volunteers with Zero Waste McMinnville. I go early to volunteer, thereby grabbing a parking space pretty close to the action.  The work always stops for the parade, so there is nothing lost in volunteering. What you gain is being an active participant in reducing the amount of trash that goes to the landfill.

At the UFO Festival, at the weekly farmers’ markets, at TurkeyRama and at several more public events that attract residents as well as visitors, there are several kinds of tasks that need volunteers. farmers market as

If you are a people person, we need you to help stand or sit by one of the collection station as a Station Host. This is the place where people (learn to) sort their garbage into “recyclable”, “compostable” or “landfill”. There is a bucket for liquids left in drink containers, and another container for cans and bottles. Most of the time, people appreciate the help learning, especially now that Recology had to adjust what can be taken for recycling.  There are, however, always a few people who just get glee out of purposely doing it wrong. You learn to ignore them.

Two other tasks may be for you if you don’t want to interact with people much.  One is the Runner, who uses a 2-wheel dolly and collects the trash bags and brings them back to the sorting station.

The Sorters, wearing gloves and aprons, actually open all the trash bags and then “super sort”, clearly making sure the right trash goes into the right category. Everything is weighed in order to check how the event is doing each year.

Volunteer shifts are generally 3 hours long and some events need 4 people (Farmers’ Market) and some, like the UFO Festival, TurkeyRama and the Highland Games need over 50 people!

  • If you sit at home feeling blue because you don’t know anyone, join us.
  • If you enjoy doing things with your friends, join us.
  • If you want to go to the event, join us.
  • If you have never been to the event, join us.
  • And, for the Highland Games, if you want to go but don’t want to pay admission, join us.

To join in the fun go to the EVENT SIGN-UP page. The volunteer coordinator will contact you and answer your questions.

Wanted: Photo Journalist

Zero Waste McMinnville now has an Instagram account and needs someone to manage it. If you don;t know what Instagram is, this opportunity might not be for you but that depends on your learning curve for a new app. Scan_20180419

Instagram is a way to communicate with others through photographs and short descriptive captions.

Knowing how to connect with people, especially here in McMinnville, who will enjoy learning about how to be a Zero Waster is important, so knowledge of how to use the software is important. farmers market as

In order to achieve our goal of diverting 90% of the trash away from the landfill by 2024 we MUST reach more people through our marketing efforts.

The ideal person would be someone who is interested in this project, willing to show up at events where Zero Waste is helping sort the trash, and has curiosity to add other photos of interest in this subject. Please contact Beth Rankin at sunbeamtn@yahoo.com or message back.

Summer Intern Wanted!!

by Cole Keener

Are you looking to get more involved in the community? Are you looking for a summer internship here in McMinnville? Do you want to help make McMinnville the first city in Oregon to reduce garbage 90% by 2024? Well, Zero Waste McMinnville is the right choice for you!logo

There is currently an opening as a summer intern at Zero Waste McMinnville that is looking for a dedicated volunteer that will take the non-profit organization to exciting new heights! This unpaid internship opportunity will enhance the student’s project management, administrative and communication skills, which can be utilized in future for-profit or non-profit work experiences. This internship may count for college credit as the university or college allows.

The internship runs from June 1st-August 15th.

The Responsibilities include:

  • Assisting with the marketing team
  • Working on improvements with the current website
  • Attending general meetings every 1st and 2nd Monday of the month
  • Volunteering at events throughout the summer

The Desired Qualifications and Skills include:

Freshmen through Senior undergraduate student, or a recent graduate, with an interest in non-profits.

  • Accuracy and attention to detail is a must!
  • Excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • Ability to work within deadlines and in a professional manner.

Our marketing team has come up with some great ideas for the future of Zero Waste McMinnville and we want an individual that will help build on these ideas put in place.

Being more educated about the environment is so important and it is something we as people take for granted. We at Zero Waste McMinnville put the environment first and are always looking for ways to improve on waste consumption every single day.

As an intern, you will be able to build everlasting connections with dedicated volunteers currently with Zero Waste McMinnville. These volunteers dedicate their time and energy into something they care so deeply about.

Don’t worry about knowing the difference between a compostable and a recyclable…We will teach you more about it!IMG_2155

To apply for the summer intern position, please contact Beth Rankin at 304-654-5634 or email sunbeamtn@yahoo.com

We hope to work with you soon!

 

Your Turn

I just finished reading a novel about World War II which centered on a German woman who was in her early 20s when hell came to her town. It described how she struggled to survive while providing for her infant daughter and actions she took that enabled her and her child to eat while sacrificing some portion of her soul. When the Americans entered the area they rounded up all the townspeople and marched them to Buchenwald, the adjacent concentration camp and put them to work for a day burying the dead.  It put the reality of what had been happening next door in front of their eyes. They could no longer be complacent in the fact that they knew….they knew and they did nothing or very little.

We’re there, people. Not a concentration camp killing people in Yamhill County, but as a society we are doing oh so very little to not kill our oceans and our earth.  Even those of us who have acknowledged the monster feel insignificant against the tide of plastic pollution.

In the novel, the main character had been kicked out of her family home because she had become pregnant with a Jewish lover she tried to hide. He had been discovered and taken away, her father had the typical knee-jerk reaction and so she ran. The local baker took her in and taught her to bake. She discovered the baker was bringing extra bread and hiding it in a tree that the camp inmates could access as they marched back from a day of grueling labor to the camp. When the baker was caught and killed, the woman took over. So, even though she could do little, she did that. Afraid always of being caught, tortured and killed, but she did it.

And so must we. We have to change our ways. We’re not at risk yet….but it’s getting closer.  Check out this video.

I don’t know how to reach the people who are not already enlightened. In a previous chapter of my life when I was learning about how many of the foods people chose to eat can cause life debilitating illness, I became angry and my blogs became preachy. A wise woman I did not know cautioned me not to “yell”. No one will listen if I yell. She became a close and loving friend I will always trust, because that is true.  So I want to raise awareness to those people in our community that already don’t seem to have caught on.

Personally, I am struggling with some  knee and hip problems that keep me from walking our wonderful Oregon beaches. The only one I can access is the drive-down beach at Pacific City at the haystack.  That area is so busy that any trash that washes up gets cleaned up quickly. But the other beaches, I have been told, need regular clean-up.

Dead fish on a beach surrounded by washed up garbage.
Source: greenliving.lovetoknow.com

Now, it is not really littering by beach lovers, although there is a tiny bit of that. What is happening is the normal ocean currents and waves carries plastic trash to our sands.  We don’t know the origin of our beach litter, but we know if there is that much on the sand, it stands to reason that our waters are pretty loaded. We love our fresh seafood here in the Northwest and now many ocean animals are dying not only because they are ingesting plastic trash but because the water quality is being affected.   Check out this video. 

What can we do? We’re 50 miles inland and no one here is dumping their garbage in the water we think. So we may think we are not complicit.

But there is another level. It is the choice of what we purchase and use  in our households, in our workplaces, in our recreation.

If we each reduce our dependence on plastic and ELIMINATE our use of single-use plastic, the manufacturers will begin to feel the reduction of income and make the changes that are needed.

For example, we heard a lot of “About time!” comments when McMinnville instituted the plastic bag ban at store checkouts. We also heard a number of complaints from people who just hate change, any change.  Recently, as more and more cities and countries eliminate plastic bags from use in their area, manufacturers are beginning to explore other ways to provide a similar product made from vegetable matter. Those bags will be able to be composted and so, return nutrients to the soil.

bioplastic-bags-made-from-cassava-and-shrimp-
BIOPLASTIC BAGS FROM CASSAVA AND SHRIMP WASTE Source: https://materia.nl/article/bioplastic-bags-cassava-shrimp/

Part of the reason this message has to get out to everyone is because recycling is no longer the easy answer. American culture is kind of lazy; people do the right thing when it is easy. For that reason we have curbside pickup of mixed recyclables and do not require households to sort into the many categories that would make it easier for Recology to find buyers for the material. Therefore, we have mixed collection and even though people are asked to clean the containers, many people do not. This food waste adds up to contamination levels that has lead the Chinese to refuse our trash.

And really, why should we have it so easy to think our trash disappears and we need not be responsible for it?  This is something people have had to deal with from the very earliest civilizations. Midden piles are an archaeologist’s key to figuring out how people lived in that place and time.

What does your trash say about you and your lifestyle?