The Choice Is Yours….

By Lovetta Dill

About a year ago a friend and I were talking about stuff we couldn’t do anything about, and “wasn’t it a shame”.  She mentioned that she had become involved with an organization called Zero Waste. I had applauded their efforts at events like Turkey Rama and the UFO Festival but knew little about them. In fact, I had always assumed they were part of Recology,  like many people in town.  I never gave it more than an idle observational ‘Hmmm…’   I soon learned this was an independent group of people who just want to do the right thing as my friend explained the group was separate from Recology and suggested I stop at the booth at the Thursday Downtown Farmers’ Market and offer a couple of volunteer hours.

I’ve been recycling, repurposing, and stretching resources for decades (since way back when it was only us fringe nuts that did). But it was always just something I did because doing the next right thing made me feel good. And this seemed like the next right thing.

But commitment is scary, and I’m not a joiner.Image result for commitment is a scary thing

So I put my cynical hopelessness about making a difference and my social anxiety in the back pocket of my jeans and went to check it out.

Volunteering for the market and for special events was easy. It was only a few hours. I determined my schedule. I was enthusiastically taught the parts I didn’t already know and then  I had the opportunity to talk about refuse resource recovery and saving the planet one milk jug at a time, and it left me feeling good.

Image result for volunteering feels good

Source: Thrive Global

It was a personal accomplishment to be able to help individuals sort through the frustrations of the ever-changing landscape of recycling and occasionally see an idea light up their eyes as they figured out how to solve some system challenge in their own home, or discovered that there really is a way to recycle that pesky thing that you hate yourself for using but just can’t do without.  Sometimes it was just an opportunity to share feelings of helplessness and fear about this world which has been so kind to us.

I have risen to a whole new level of conversational competence about things I, as an individual, can do nothing about. I realize some would say I have become a certified fringe nut but I recognize when in a group of like-minded people, it is normalized.

I have come to deeply appreciate the difference a group of dedicated people (not just fringe nuts) can make when they focus on a common goal.

These small accomplishments spurred me to seek out further opportunities to make a contribution. The first actual Zero Waste meeting I attended at the Carnegie Room at the city library was intimidating. Nobody went particularly out of the way to put me at ease. I was, in fact, a little put off by their failure to recognize my genius, and ask how they could best help me to showcase my superior talents.  In other words, they treated me as if I were a person among other persons with a sense of shared purpose and I told myself to get over it. Join in. Add to the effort.grannephew

The Green Schools Committee wanted participants. That seemed like a good fit for me. I have always tried to involve whatever children are around in the specifics of living a lifestyle which leaves a lighter footprint.  So I just said, ‘I will do that.’ What needed to be done revealed itself organically as we went along in the group. At this point we are actively assisting several local schools in developing sustainable systems in their schools with the help of student Green Teams. And there will be more to come. By empowering the upcoming generation it is our hope they will be better prepared to live realistic synchrony with the environment.

It took a while, and some personal growth on my part, but eventually I came to understand that I do have some skills which can help me be useful in a community of other individuals with particular skills of their own, and that in pooling those unique capabilities we become much more than the sum of us as parts of a whole. O. Synergy.

Image result for synergy
Source: Thrive Business Marketing

I seem to have become a joiner, after all, and it is helping me to be a more productive member of the human race. Will I change the world? Meh. Can I/we make a difference? Most certainly.

              In any case, doing the next right thing, because it’s the next right thing,           always makes me feel good.

meeting announcement

 

 

What’s Happening?

There has been a bit of a lull with active Zero Waste McMinnville volunteers as the hectic events season ended with the last Downtown Farmers’ Market.  It gives us all a moment to catch our breaths and regroup. We don’t stop working towards our goal; in fact, the committee work gears up since each of us is not pulled in six different directions any given day.

So, part of what you are reading that that we are always working to get to that goal of 90% of trash diverted from the landfill by 2024.

But more importantly, part of what you are reading here is also a statement of fatigue: we are a small and mighty group but we really would be willing to have more of you join us in chasing the goal. That eases the tasks each one of us handles.

We’ve heard you: you appreciate what we’re doing even as some in town may not agree with all aspects of the decision making. Actually,  agree with us or disagree, the best way to get yourself heard better is to join us. The next meeting will be Monday, November 5th at 5:30 in the Carnegie Room at the Public Library.

Right now there are several committees in active planning.

  • Styrofoam collection: we know you want it. Styrofoam comes into our homes in several ways including the trays under the meat you purchase at the supermarket, many of the take-out containers used at restaurants, and of course, the packing materials in boxes that get mailed to you as well as appliances and furniture you purchase here in town.  While we all get some Styrofoam, we support Recology’s decision not to have a curb-side collection.  It costs them a lot to run pick-up service and in a situation like this, the household volume does not support that level of activity. We believe that establishing a collection area at the Depot would be a good solution. Similar to other items (like cardboard, textiles, books, glass, electronics and more), a collection container for Styrofoam will probably provide you an outlet without much bother. Unfortunately, Recology’s space is tight inside the Depot. For the Styrofoam to be viable to Agilyx (the company that can break it down into its components and then truly make it available for new/recycled Styrofoam to be manufactured), it needs to be protected from the weather. We are asking residents of McMinnville to sign a petition asking the City Council to add a stipulation to the contract with Recology to provide this service.   As a way to demonstrate to Recology that the public wants this service, we are trying to set up a collection day, probably in January  (after all those padded packages arrive as part of holiday shopping). Watch our website calendar as well as announcements on the Facebook page to participate.

 

  • Composting collection: Currently you can use your Yard Waste trash bin to include uncooked fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and a few other raw produce leavings. Do not include egg shells, as they take a bit longer to break down into the good nutritional calcium element and remaining pieces of shell flecks in the compost produced by Greenlands has caused some dissatisfaction.  We encourage you to have a small compost pile in your own yard if you have space, as the nutrients that develop in the rich decayed material will feed your flower and food gardens. More items can be used in a home compost pile as seen in the photo.  Zero Waste has been working towards implementation of a commercial pick up from restaurants, schools, the hospital and nursing homes. Once we implement a pilot program we can work out issues that might hamper curbside collection citywide, so it’s important we work it slowly and carefully.  We could use some help on this committee, with tasks that would include or not include physical effort.

 

  • By both volume (space used) and weight, debris from demolition and construction is the single largest category of trash going to the landfill. It is in the financial interest of anyone paying for trash pickup in McMinnville that we solve this problem!  We appreciate Cellar Ridge Construction  offering to help us explore our options here. This is a perfect example of a type of special expertise that is needed for this task. People with large scale experience knows not only the issues they themselves deal with, the solutions they have developed that may be viable on a larger scale, and the ability to know what the construction industry overall in areas interested in zero waste are doing to address this problem. We need not reinvent the wheel, so to speak, if another location already has developed a solution.  If you have the time and knowledge to lend a hand with this problem, please let us know.  When we have larger committees, each person’s time involvement lessens.  We love our volunteers and do not want them to fatigue out of chasing the mission

 

  • We are planning an Earth Day event that we have great hopes will excite you! We’ve posted  in this blog as well as on Facebook numerous stories about places around the world where amazing useful items and artistic decor are made using items that would otherwise end up in the trash. We hope you will be excited to explore The McMinnville Recycled Arts Festival!!  The committee has been working hard the last few weeks and we will be announcing the when/where/why/who/how information asap!  This will be a juried event which means the artisans who will be participating will have to submit extensive information about their products for us to determine they meet our quality standards. All prices will be offered. This will not be an exclusive event but one where everyone living in the area will enjoy not only the creativity of the artists, but how the usefulness of many of the handcrafted items would fit your own needs.

 

  • Another committee that is approaching the culmination of planning is the Merchant Awards group. We recognize that each of us probably needs to be more mindful of the materials in items we purchase and how we can best use them when we no longer need it. It’s easy for people to be reluctant about the changes they can make and Zero Waste McMinnville wants to recognize the amazing steps some people are taking to minimize their contribution to the landfill. Our first phase of this involves award to shopkeepers, restaurants, and other similar businesses who have met standards we have suggested for best practices.

 

  • There are several more committees and working groups that help Zero Waste McMinnville develop an action plan for reaching the mission. One aspect is working with the youth in town. An active committee is introducing the Green Schools program in city schools. Last year Patton Middle School participated and were amazing creative and excited participants.  Because of the help we provide at area events, we see that overall, the children of this city already are aware that they have a role in helping our environment be healthy.  Kids often show their parents how to sort their trash, for example!  Our intern Maddie is developing ideas of other ways to reach out to the school-age population here.

 

We are not a large group, but we are attracting more people to this way of thinking and many more are volunteering their energy, as they can. We do not abuse our volunteers. We encourage you to find the best fit…there are so many ways…..but not to overdo.  Another way you can join our group is to consider a financial contribution. Our annual Sustaining Circle dinner is scheduled for Friday, November 16th  and we would love for you to be there. This year we are excited to host the event at Youngberg Hill Winery 

Plastic Has Its Place

Before we had plastic products we had nothing. We lived in caves with no clothes and no furniture and our food was…well, we had better eat it all because there was just no way to save it.  Our cell phones were made with rocks and real difficult to carry, especially without pockets.

Okay, you know I’m kidding. But the point is, we did manage before plastic became so much a part of our lives. Now, for anyone younger than 40, this has been ALL your life, but for us gray hairs, we remember when our sandwiches were wrapped with waxed paper and yes, we carried regular plates, silverware and glasses to a picnic.  Life was okay. Maybe some broken earthenware, but hey! There are paper plates now so go use those and start getting used to ….throwing your money away. Because that’s what single use disposable products require. You can spend money….throw what you purchased in the trash, and spend more money again to do it another time.

Image result for melamine platesSometime in the late 50s, early 60s there was a new plastic product called melamine. I think I have some plates….because essentially they are indestructible. And those plates can be carried to a picnic and come home without any concern for breakage.

When we get really thinking about zero waste it is very easy to jump on the bandwagon that every plastic product is bad.  But that is not the case and that is not the point.  Yes, there is toxicity all throughout the mining and refinery stages. There are transportation costs as well, but consider those pretty even when comparing many products unless you live near a green producer who has a bricks and mortar outlet.

Not all plastics should be shunned. For example, kayaks made from plastic last a lonnnnnnnng time. Why not purchase a used plastic kayak if you want?  This does not require any new plastic object to be manufactured and keeps the older one out of the landfill.

How about those sippy cups used by millions of American toddlers?  You can buy some at a fraction of the cost of new at yard sales or on a resale website. Yes, sterilize it…..you should anyway if you bought something new from the store for your baby to use.  Within 3 or 4 days of use a new cup looks well loved.  So, considering the lifespan of a sippy cup, switch your buying to used and relax.

Now, how about plastic straws?  We’re now talking about an item which has for most people a single use. You buy a soda when ordering fast food and there it is. And afterwards, you throw it in the trash because you already know they can not be recycled.

There’s a big push throughout the media for people to stop using plastic straws and this is smart. There are metal straws and also glass straws (made  with tempered glass so they are not easily breakable) that offer straight and bent versions as well as tiny brushes to clean the inside.  These straws easily can be used at home or on the go (refuse that straw at the fast food!!), washed and used again and again.short straw

But there are people who need the bending capability of the plastic straws. I know two adults who have different health conditions that require the use of a straw to drink and because of their posture issues, the bendy part of the plastic straw is priceless to get the drink to them cleanly.  Those people should be able to continue to obtain plastic straws for their use until they can also obtain some that are becoming more readily available that avoid single use plastic also. I would suggest that current plastic straws could be washed to be reused, especially in a home environment.  Image result for handicapped need for bendy plastic straws

For the rest of us, from age one to 91, please use paper or the glass or stainless straws.  But allow those who are not as able to still have their cup and drink it too.

We have to keep an eye on our consumption of single-use plastics. We have to greatly reduce if not completely eliminate them from our lives in order to help manufacturers find new sustainable packaging and objects.  When we make our choices, people WILL start new businesses to meet a new trend.

Perhaps some of you may not know that I am a commercial food processor. I can foods and they go into glass jars. Lids have to be new for a good seal, but the jars themselves can be sanitized and reused as long as the sealing surface is intact without any chips.  My dehydrated products, however, are packaged into plastic zip-locked bags that are rated for 5 years of safe storage. Right now I have not found anything available on the market at any price. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. I will be searching and when I find a substitute that provides safe food storage, I will make the switch.IMG_1464

Each of us needs to think of our own use and find better substitutes to help better steward our planet.

 

The Magic of Second Life

Nope, not talking religion or anything spiritual here. I’m talking about RE-USE.

Re-use is finding another way to use something that no longer serves its original purpose in your life. In our casual life, not caring about how we affect the environment, we might tend to just “throw away” the unneeded item.

But the enlightened individual (okay, maybe there is something involved here that has to come from your heart and core) understands that there is no “away” when we no long want something.

What to do? re-use

Zero Waste McMinnville is going to offer an opportunity for 20 people or groups of people. At our Compostpalooza event on Saturday, June 16th, we will be holding a Second Life Flea Market. For a rental fee of $20, you may set up a table and sell items that are in clean/good/usable condition that you no longer need. You may charge what you want, but you must take any items that do not sell out with you when you leave.

Compostpalooza will be held at the Grange (1700 SW Old Sheridan Rd, McMinnville, OR) with the Second Life Flea Market located inside the lower level. The farmers’ market is located outside at that time of year so there will be lots of people coming to the Grange for the market as well as the Compostpalooza event.

There will be a table and 2 chairs available for each person who wants to grab this opportunity.  Time of the market is 10-2 so set up will start at 9am.

If you are interested in participating, contact me to reserve a spot. Second Life flea market poster

Composting 101: Personal Action

I did it again. Cleaning the refrigerator a few weeks after the family all left following the holiday gathering I discovered several containers of fuzzy stuff. We obviously had prepared too much food, put some in a container in the frig to eat “later” and forgot about it as it got shoved to the back, behind other items. I suspect you know exactly what I mean.  Food waste at home happens.  But with a small change in behavior, it can be reduced.

So now, what to do with that disgusting science experiment. Certainly not edible, at least by me. Should I put it down the disposal, trash it or compost it?

I was surprised to learn that decaying food that has been put in the trash is one of the largest producer of methane at the landfill. Regardless of the cause of climate change, the basic science still exists and each of us can reduce our contribution to the problem. Once you understand the role that methane plays in climate change, you can see why making a very small change in your food trash habits can have a large influence on the health of our planet.methane-cycel

Food waste has become a larger and larger issue in the United States since the 1970s. Not only do we forget about the leftovers in the container in the back of the refrigerator, but our purchasing habits contribute to this issue. Sometimes the opportunity looks great to buy the economy size of some produce, planning to put some away in the freezer for another day. But then we get distracted and within a couple of days that concept is no longer viable, as the produce is limp or spotted or even moldy.

It is an amazing and horrible statistic that 40% of all food purchased in the US ends up as waste.  A couple of minor lifestyle changes can help reduce that.

  • Consider shopping more often than once a week. Many cultures have farmers’ markets that operate throughout the year, permitting the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables in smaller quantities as needed for meal preparation. In those nations, home refrigerators tend to be much smaller than ours.
  • If you want to have the fixings for a salad, think about buying the mixture you want at the store’s salad bar instead of buying individual packages of veggies. You can opt for the specific items you want and the quantity you need.
  • Prepare a shopping list before you head to the market. Better yet, prepare a meal plan and then make up the shopping list. This will help reduce impulse shopping and also eliminate the issue whether you need a specific ingredient or not. (And help your food budget!)  I know I have been guilty of having several containers of yogurt in the frig and not being able to eat it all before the mold starts growing.
  • Recognize when older food is safe to eat and unsafe to eat. The “best by” and “sell by” dates used by food processors is not the day some magical event happens that makes the item turn bad for you. They are the recommended dates for the most flavor and perhaps also the highest nutrition. However, as I had to teach my own kids, the milk is not bad on that date. It is generally good for at least three or four more days. Learn to sniff and yes, sour milk is not pleasant, but throwing good milk away is wasteful.This milk, in my frig still on Jan 13, is still drinkable.
  • Keep a written food waste audit. Write down the food items you end up throwing in the trash for two weeks. This will help you understand that it is not just food you are wasting, but your money.

Another area where considerable food waste happens is at restaurants.  If the plate served to you is too much to eat, ask for a doggie bag.  Make sure to eat it or give it that day to one of our outdoor neighbors.  Restaurants along McMinnville’s 3rd Street are participating in a trash audit which helps them determine how better to presort food waste from recyclables from landfill trash. We’ll talk more about this in another blog.

Finally, when you do realize you have lost the battle of eating the fresh produce before it spoiled, instead of throwing it into your trash, start participating in McMinnville’s Zero Waste program by ordering a compost bin for biweekly pick-up.  Go to the Recology Website (http://recologywesternoregon.com.pages.services/opt-in) to reserve your bins.

This is the result of what a composting program produces, good for your garden! compost-for-your-garden

Getting Older…..But Wise Choices Can Start WAY Younger

On cold damp mornings in our Oregon winter I often am reminded by my aches and pains that I am no longer a spring chicken. The years have taken a toll but also provided a lot of insight that younger, more spry people may not have gained. And yet, I am encouraged by how many young people ARE catching on that changes need to be made. And sometimes, just sometimes, it is a step back that is the wise choice.

We love our technology. Most of us carry our mobile phones with us, feeling naked if we leave them at home. Those of us who remember the original Get Smart shoe phone are amused (and challenged) by the multitude of apps that new cell phone provides. I grab it often to check my email, post an appointment on my calendar, make notations of my driving for work. Sometimes, I even make phone calls.

Technology brings us wondrous advances, but sometimes, it creates a bit of a monster.

My first baby will be celebrating his 33rd birthday this week and would be chagrined to find out I am talking about how I diapered him, but it is time we do that. Not him, specifically (phew!) but the choice made by millions of parents to use disposable diapers presents us with a mountain that will not disappear in our lifetime. Nor in our babies’ lifetime and even their grandchildren’s lifetime.The ease of taking that sodden mess and putting it in the trash has to be balanced with the hassle of washing cotton cloth to use and reuse and reuse again. Long after that baby is toilet trained, those cotton cloths can be used and reused as rags.  And when it is time to retire them, they can be composted, where they will return to the soil.

One of the best gifts I received when my first son was born in 1983 was six months of a diaper service. By that time I saw we could save money by washing them ourselves instead of renewing the service, and so, we used the cotton. Not to say we never used disposables, but they were for car trips and vacations when access to a washing machine was restricted and the aroma was not able to be contained as well.

However, technological advances have offered even more options since my now 22-year-old was born in 1994. Now there are disposable diapers that can be flushed down the toilet and get broken down in wastewater treatment plants with other human waste. There are also compostible diapers but some brands are better than others.  For more info on choices, check out this blog.

And guess what, it basically boils down to cotton is still the best option if you have easy access to laundry facilities.  The cost of clean supplies is less with cotton and the cost to wash them, while considerable, is less than the cost to dispose of flushables or compostibles that have plastic.

That is the personal cost benefit analysis, but when you look at what your community deals with, it becomes more evident that the discussion has to be made that technology is not the winner here.

This is a representative (clean) pile of the disposable diapers one baby will use.  If that doesn’t make an impact on the decision making process for parents who consider themselves to be green, then perhaps the consideration of how long the used diapers will take to decompose may do the trick. 

So, the choice is clear. Can we invite you to join the club? 

Now what do I do with it?

The pause in rain and the appearance of the sun are sure signs that outdoor activities are soon to follow.  Here in McMinnville, for example, the downtown Farmers’ Market begins Thursday May 18. It will have new hours, noon-6:00, that will make it convenient for people to pop over on their lunch hour to shop AND grab lunch. Because of construction on 2nd Street, it will relocate to Cowls between 2nd and 1st and also in the parking lot behind City Hall.

May 18th is also the start of the UFO Fest with the parade on Saturday the 20th at 2pm. On that day alone there will be about 20,000 people in downtown Mac!

And people mean……among other things, trash.  Lots of trash.

Before Zero Waste McMinnville started their effort to help divert garbage from the landfill, that event itself resulted in almost a ton of garbage at the landfill. Two years ago over 60% was diverted and last year over 75% was diverted away from the landfill!

What does that mean? It means that with a bit of help learning what can be recycled and what can be composted, only a small portion of the trash ended up in the landfill! Way to go!!!

We have been using  ClearStream stations on loan from Yamhill County Solid Waste Advisor Sherrie Mathison, and have been using them since 2015. Thanks to Sherrie for her support!   Our new ClearStream recycling stations were purchased with grant funding we received from the CAN’d Aid Foundation through their Crush It Crusade recycling program. Our original equipment, purchased in 2015, was also funded by CAN’D Aid, and we are very grateful for their support of our work.

Picture yourself at the UFO parade.

    

  

 You get something to eat and then look for a place to stash the trash. What goes where?  It’s simple!!
~~
Items that can be recycled go here!
     
 Items that can be composted to help enrich the soil go here!
  
And the rest is trash and ends up in the landfill.
This is great!! Everyone is learning how to reduce their trash and our City will be greener!  We’ll be there to help and if you would like to join the team, we need volunteers for a few hours at each event. Thanks!

Composting 201: Hands-On Fun

Originally published  JUNE 12, 2017 

The time has come to get your hands a bit dirty. Your kids will encourage you and then you will probably discover what so many have before you: there is something very soothing about playing in the garden, growing things.

Compostpalooza is the annual celebration of turning unused portions of uncooked vegetables and fruit and a few other household waste items into a rich food for your garden.

Few things in life can be as rewarding as a free item that gives YOU a benefit.  We at Zero Waste McMinnville want to help you learn about one of the basic tools you have at your disposal.

Right now you might actually be throwing away, those scraps of lettuce and carrots and whatever you have when you make a salad. Those stem ends of tomatoes, of zucchini, of eggplant. The left over coffee grounds. The tea bags or tea leaves. The hair that you find in your brush. The lint in your dryer. compost sign

Time to stop that. First of all, it can be collected curbside by Recology in their Yard waste pick up.  The Greenlands section of Recology makes compost from these scraps and more. Rich compost you can purchase to be delivered to your property for your gardens. DSC_0082

Or, you can make your own.  That’s what we want to help you learn to do.

And there will be a petting zoo also. Have the kids bring you to the Community Gardens site at 325 NE Burnett Road, just off Baker Road at the north end of McMinnville Saturday June 17 from 10am to 2pm. Compstpalooza sign

Curmudgeons Won’t Win

McMinnville’s TurkeyRama is different things for different people. Few current residents and visitors understand that this area once was a center of turkey farms. Hence the name of the street fair. Just know that this is a small town festival done very well. We expect over 20,000 visitors, not bad for a town of 33,000.

For Zero Waste McMinnville TurkeyRama presents a golden opportunity to do a lot of education in a short period of time. Not only do our volunteers set up the waste stations, but many of those collection points have another volunteer stationed there to help people understand how their trash gets sorted into “Recycle”, “Compost” or “Landfill.”

Then there are other volunteers who walk the rounds to the collection bins and collect the bags. They carry them back to a sort station where more volunteers take each bag and sort again if needed and then the items are dumped in a large bin that Recology provides and removes at the end of the festival.Image may contain: one or more people, shoes and outdoor

Meanwhile, Zero Waste McMinnville also has an information booth this year with a goat kid to draw in the two legged kids and their parents. We also have a wheel of fortune to spin to win a small prize. The kids love it and it gives us the opportunity to talk to the adults.   We want people to understand the need to sort at home and we also need more volunteers. We are a small group and mighty, but we need more bodies. This event, for example, needs over 100 volunteers.   We ask people essentially if they can give 3 hours of their time at least once a year. Image may contain: 1 person, sitting

Most people I chatted with on Friday were excited to share how much they were already doing to sort their recyclables from their landfill trash. More shared how they already carry reusable cloth bags to the supermarket, not waiting to the September 1 ban on the plastic bags. Fewer have home composting but several use Recology’s yard debris pick-up to include compostible items.

But one dude was happy to chat with me but told me no way no how was McMinnville going to be able to achieve only 10% of its trash going to the landfill in a few more years. He said people won’t do it. I asked him if he did and he said he did but he said others don’t. Since his wife was smirking a bit, I asked him to tell me what he already does. Turned out, nothing.

So why are people curmudgeons? Why is change, even a SMALL change, so very difficult?

These people are the kind who don’t bother to make their beds in the morning because they are only going to get into it that evening and mess it back up.  They are the ones who mow every two weeks on a Sunday afternoon even if the growth rate on the lawn needs attention sooner. They are the ones who always order the same thing at a restaurant because they know they like it and no need to try other things.

Appealing to curmudgeons that we need to think of our kids and our grandkids and participate NOW to give them a healthy earth does not work. They are here and now and me me me. Image result for curmudgeon

Thank goodness there are few of them and they won’t win.