Not all creative efforts become art. Not all reclaimed items are for visual enjoyment. Some, like the cast iron cookware Julie Wilson is offering, are for use….and a LOT of cooking creativity and enjoyment.
Cast iron has long been a treasured cookware, typically used over time in more rustic environments like cattle drive chuck wagons and at grandma’s house out in the country. But modern cooks everywhere are rediscovering the benefits of cooking in cast iron. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to care for the cast iron and it can rust and become unusable for cooking.
That’s where Julie Wilson and The Department of Work steps in, complete with elbow grease. She refurnishes the cookware she finds at yard sales and thrift stores by scrubbing off the rust and reseasoning the pans so they are ready to go, good as new.
This is another kind of zero waste; one that restores old items to make them usable again. Julie says, “We rescue unloved cast iron cookware. We clean it and reseason it so it can get back to work. 100% sustainable, healthy, and affordable.” And better than that, Julie adds, “Cooking is a creative act of love which makes the kitchen the heart of the home. When food is prepared in cookware, especially cast iron with a history, magic is at work.”
“I grew up recycling before there was even a name for it; it’s just what you did. I learned from my mother and grandparents. I learned to sew by watching my mother which lead to a career as a professional costume technician: From a two dimensional sketch I made three dimensional items of clothing for performers to wear. I specialized in the non-garment items, the fun stuff like armor, jewelry, hats and shoes. So I used my hands and was often given materials of unknown origins to make the desired object. This life took me to Ashland for 12 seasons, 7 years in Seattle at the various performance venues, and almost 3 years in Las Vegas working for Cirque du Soleil.
I returned to my beloved Oregon and in so doing, knew I was retiring from costuming. There are only so many jobs and I was ready for a “big shift”. The shift came when, after vending vintage decor at flea markets, my beloved and I went camping and he realized he needed the activity of slow cooking to keep him busy – I was good with sitting in the sun with a good book. His research into the use and (consequent restoration) of cast iron cookware created an overstock of items that we needed for that next camping trip. So it got sold at the next flea market, and the next one, and the next one…….. His cast iron became the main attraction and I realized that I had just walked through a major door of opportunity.
I am now fully committed to rescuing unloved cast iron. I love that I am offering an affordable, healthy, and sustainable product. I love bringing these pieces back to life and find such joy when a customer finds just the right piece, whether it is adding to their collection or is their very first piece. I have created a vocation where I continue to use my hands, interact with folks who are passionate about cooking, and am always learning about these amazing products from so many different peoples and cultures. I am living the life of a crafts person and hear from customers, “Thank you for doing this!”, when they see the huge variety of rescued cookware. It’s a good life!”
Julie Wilson and The Department of Work is located at Table #26.
When I volunteer at events like the UFO Festival or the downtown farmers’ market I try to chat with people who come over to what I call the “3-holer”, the sort station for recycling, composting and landfill. Some people avoid eye contact and toss whatever into wherever and scurry away……they do not want to really learn, so we use our little grabbers and move their trash into the correct bin.
But here in McMinnville, those kind of people are becoming fewer and fewer and everyone seems to be catching on. Sorting trash is really not rocket science….we each can learn it. Persuasion techniques are needed for some more than for others, eh?
And some people are quite proud of how many years they have been recycling, even before it became so commonplace.
But you know what? We do pretty well here in Mac because our waste hauler, Recology, considers itself a recycling company, not a landfill company, so their business decisions are more sustainable. However, even at the rate we are successfully recycling at this time, all of us are still losing ground over all.
While Recology has not measured what percentage of our total trash is recyclable plastics, a statewide study was done to estimate what our trash includes. In 2012 the trash we all handed over to all our waste haulers included this info: out of all the trash counted, almost 12% of it was plastic and only 3% of that was considered to be recyclable. And most haulers are now carrying recyclables to their landfill. Recology’s request for a rate hike late last year reflected their effort to store our recyclables until they can successfully identify end users.
So, while we all still need to sort our trash and continue to submit recyclables to Recology, we need to shift a bit. I want to really start talking about REFUSING as a way to live more sustainably. Refusing is the act of saying NO to a product, even one you may be very much used to enjoying, because its packaging is wasteful.
REFUSE: Reject the idea of utilizing anything that may cause harm to oneself, someone else or our delicate ecosystem. Refuse to use food items and products that are falsely represented and not certified correctly. Refuse to do what is wrong.
One example that we’ve had to consider in our household relates to coconut oil. Over the past few years studies have shown that it is not the wonderfully “good for you” fat that we were told. Suggestions are being made to convert to palm oil. WHAT????? No way! The issue of where palm oil is in the healthy body scheme of things is not even up for discussion with me because I do know harvesting this product has caused deforestation of huge rain forest acreage and habitat of endangered species such as the orangutan, Borneo elephant and Sumatran tiger. For that reason alone I will chose as an informed consumer and responsible inhabitant of Planet Earth to stop buying prepared cookies and crackers and other packaged foods that use palm oil. I have to be willing to take the time to read labels and then change my habits. (And if I want a cookie, bake it myself!)
What about you? This is a bit harder (but higher in sustainable living) than what I am suggesting if you prefer to take smaller steps to changing old patterns.
For an easier step that can add up to have a large impact, look at the packaging of what you buy. If, for example, you purchase boxed pasta that is the lowest price, usually labeled as a store brand, you will be pleased to know you can save even more money if you bring a reusable bag (you have those already, right?) and buy from the bulk bins. Now, some epicurean experts may have special preferences for a specific brand, but I easily imagine that most of our palates can’t really tell the difference between a premium Italian import and typical dried pasta offerings here. By purchasing from the bulk bin you are REFUSING the cardboard and plastic in the boxed version. One step further would be to write to the food processor and tell them why you will no longer buy their brand.
If each of us begins to take a few minutes a year to communicate with the people who make the packaging choices, the message will be received loudly and clearly. And they will make changes. And that will help us reduce, which is the end goal.
I’m so proud to live in a city that is making great efforts to reduce its trash; to teach and learn about recycling and composting and all that. But we still have a big problem, folks, and it will take more than McMinnville to solve it. However, McMinnville people have to be part of it as well.
The desire for status quo is so strong. People really hate to change habits and that includes corporate America as much or even more than each person who fights issues like a single use bag ban. We Americans have a love affair with oil and plastic. Too many people can’t see what other options can work as well and major manufacturers know what they know and most of the time, want to just continue business as usual.
Let’s start with identifying major players in the plastic pollution world. When people do massive clean-ups along beaches around the world, many inventories are done to identify just what is ending up in the ocean. (This blog is not about addressing the problems of waste management and how trash ends up in the sea. Personal and societal behaviors are a whole other blog subject!)
In a recent inventory of a massive beach clean-up in the Pacific, it became clear that certain brands are packaging their food products in plastic that are showing up in humongous amounts.
It is time for us to tell them to find substitutes. It is time to stop buying those plastic containers and tell them we will go back to their product when they become more sustainable.
Now, some of these corporations have made some changes and a few others have some packaging that is not plastic. McDonald’s, for example, has posted their goals to be implemented by 2030 (WHAT????? 11 years away??? WHY so long?) to become a more sustainable food service company. Most of these deal with sourcing their food from more sustainable farming practices. This year they revamped their packaging, getting away from Styrofoam and also not handing out plastic straws unless requested. Since McDonald’s is global, environmental advocates hope that they will set an example that will be followed by others.
Meanwhile, you have the top users of plastic (Coca-Cola, Pepsico and Nestle) saying they will source all their bottles with recycled plastic by 2025. The problem with sounding green like this is few people realize that less than 10% of all plastic used in the world is actually recycled. That means our appetite for plastic requires more and more NEW plastic to be manufactured.
When we hear that as a nation, the US is no longer dependent on oil from the Middle East, it boggles my mind (perhaps yours also) that our pristine wilderness areas in the West and Alaska are now being sold for mineral rights, including drilling for more oil. The environmental costs will be horrendous as damage is caused that will not be able to be repaired. The loss of pristine ecosystems, the destruction of habitat, is probably the last thing on the mind of people who seek the next corporate profit.
But we, the consumers, are what drives profit. We can affect that NOW. If you buy soda, buy it in glass bottles. In fact, look for glass for packaging where many plastics are now used. Check out GoodGuide to learn how over 75,000 products meet or fail environmental and health standards. Use your buying power to help drive corporations to make healthier decisions for your body and the planet. Please.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!!!
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!
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.
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! 🤞
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.
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.
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?
I went to India a few years ago and saw many wonderful things. But this was not one.
However, China recently decided that the mixture they received from us and other areas throughout North America were too contaminated to be useful to them. In other words, that greasy pizza box, those unwashed cans of baked beans, those paper plates from the picnic with the residual potato salad on it all has added up to undesirable trash.
It is time we realize we haven to stop exporting our garbage to China…or anywhere….and take responsibility for it. So, how do we compare with other nations?
So, how can we here in the United States and more specifically, in McMinnville, improve how we handle our trash?
We have to understand that just because the piece of plastic says it is
Oh sure, there are some items that are recycled from plastic. Some toys, some decking and other outdoor furniture all hold up well. But by and large, we are not addressing the manufacturing market on this issue here in the US.
Other nations are ahead of us. Perhaps it is poverty that drives creativity.
Perhaps there are issues with building codes, but it is amazing to see the way people in Mexico and Central America are developing low cost housing options that use plastic, either melted and formed into interlocking bricks or building a frame with wire to hold soda bottles and then stuccoing the exterior!
When I saw these houses, understanding we have a different climate and building codes, I believe we might have a low cost solution for housing the homeless. We certainly have plenty of plastic.
Another exciting use of plastic is turning it into a paving medium. Whether is it low-tech like this road in India
or this higher-tech version being considered in The Netherlands, perhaps potholes could be a thing of the past.
It appears that we could take advantage of our 50 year dependence on plastic to build a new industry here in the United States that will improve infrastructure issues.
But now, we also need to REDUCE our use of plastics. This will be the significant step to getting this world wide trash problem under control.
The Bible urges us to be good stewards of the earth….to treat it with respect and care as we mine, farm, and build factories; as we live in or near cities with their traffic and congestion and pollution issues. We often can feel overwhelmed when we hear about the ozone layer being affected, by many water sources now full of chemicals.
Whatever denomination of Christianity you may be or if you belong to another religion or do not practice any faith, there is a reason Earth Day was established in 1970 and this April 20th there is just as many reasons, if not more, to be concerned and get involved.
A headstart is offered by the Anglican Church. They are offering ways to reduce your plastic consumption during the 40 days of Lent.
Now, I personally am not Anglican, but I can appreciate the effort to encourage us. All of these are important. Some are easy to implement. Others might be a bit more challenging. But can you imagine how much cleaner this world will become if more of us become better stewards?
Check it out! To read it more clearly go to this link.
We all know Styrofoam…..it’s that hard foam used to insulate things…the inside of our walls and our hot cups for coffee and trays for microwavable food are the most common uses. Styrofoam is a trade name for a petroleum-based plastic named polystyrene. Like Kleenex for facial tissues, Coke for carbonated soft drinks and Xerox for copiers, Styrofoam is the commonly used name, no matter who makes the product.
Like other petroleum based products, Styrofoam causes problems in our environment in all stages: the production, use and disposal. Manufacturing the base chemical polystyrene has many toxic effects on workers, including gastrointestinal effects and irritation of the skin, eyes, and upper respiratory tract. Chronic exposure affects the central nervous system showing symptoms such as depression, headache, fatigue, and weakness, and can cause minor effects on kidney function and blood. Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Then, we use much of it to hold food. When the Styrofoam is warm, chemicals leach out of the food container into the food. This also can result in a number of health risks.
Finally, we toss the container into the trash. Currently, McMinnville has no system to recycle Styrofoam, so it goes to the landfill. Not only does it take up about 25-30% of all landfills, it does not break down, essentially maintaining that mountain of trash for generations or centuries.
Portland has restricted the use of Styrofoam but it obviously is heavily used elsewhere within the metropolitan area. Agilyx, a polystyrene recycling plant in Tigard has developed and is now installing the technology to process waste polystyrene such as packing Styrofoam and other containers. The process will reduce it to its chemical elements so that it can be sold to manufacturers and be used repeatedly.
Recycling polystyrene currently is economically feasible. The process demonstrated to the Zero Waste McMinnville team at the Agilyx facility involves chopping the waste material, cleaning it, drying it, and extruding it with heat to form pellets, which are used in manufacturing of new objects.
Zero Waste McMinnville volunteers are spearheading efforts to find ways to collect polystyrene waste and facilitate local use of a densifier, which presses the material into blocks that then can be shipped to a recycling facility such as Agilyx. Efforts are being made to identify sources for grant money and submit an application for the needed equipment.
Zero Waste McMinnville volunteers are interviewing local merchants to establish the amounts of Styrofoam waste generated and possible collection and storage sites. Our goal is to reduce the amount of polystyrene waste taken to the landfill by 90% by 2024. This means businesses and households will need to take responsibility and take advantage of the developing recycling technology resources.
Alternatives, such as recycled paper, bamboo and corn plastics, are biodegradable when composted and would be diverted from the landfill. Recyclables can be picked up curbside at your homes and businesses. Compostables can be collected as well and break down to add nutrients back into the soil.