Tag Archives: compost

Austin, Texas, approves plan to become zero waste by 2040

On December 15, 2011, the city council in Austin, Texas, voted unanimously to approve the Zero Waste by 2040 plan. And now the program is starting to take effect.

Starting with the comprehensive master plan (pdf), the executive summary:

Zero Waste is a design principle that goes beyond recycling to focus first on reducing wastes and reusing products and then recycling and composting the rest. Zero Waste works to redesign the system to mimic natural systems, recognizing that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and everything is a resource for something or someone else. Currently, Austin is estimated to lose over $40 million annually by sending materials that could be recycled or reused to area landfills.

Austin’s Zero Waste system will strive to recover that estimated loss and eliminate waste, or get darn close. This Plan defines success as reducing by 20% the per capita solid waste disposed to landfills by 2012, diverting 75% of waste from landfills and incinerators by 2020, and 90% by 2040.

Then, bringing the children into it with a program called Generation Zero.  Offering educational programs at each grade level:

  • Kindergarten – 2nd grade – classroom composting
  • 3rd – 5th – learning about recycling
  • Middle School – learn about landfills and visit a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)
  • High School – history of trash in America

And, my favorite, offering discounts on the utility bill for reducing your trash. If you throw away more you pay more, allowing greener families to save up to $20/month:

  • 24 gallon bin – $13.35
  • 32 gallon bin – $14.60
  • 64 gallon bin – $19.75
  • 96 gallon bin – $33.50

This is exciting to watch Austin transform itself, starting from a very low recycling rate of 38% and moving all the way to zero waste.

 

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Zero waste college football – Ohio State’s 105,000 seat stadium goes zero waste

Ohio Stadium is the largest stadium in the country to attempt zero waste. With 105,000 seats and a massive tailgating section this is a challenge. Their goal is get near-zero waste with 90% of the trash turned into recycling and compost.

The success has been fast and big with a 61% reduction in trash sent to landfills in 2011, the first year of the program. And an incredibly high season average of 75.3% for recycling and compost for an average of 105,231 people.

The best part is how fast this is all moving. When the program began they weren’t sure what they could do, and labelled zero waste as “pretty impossible”. Now, they are hoping for at least one game in the 2012 season with 90% diversion rate, their standard for zero waste.

An incredible achievement that shows zero waste is possible, can happen fast, and without interrupting all the fun.

Learn more:

 

Zero Waste at Ohio Stadium

 

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Zero Waste: shave with an electric razor or a real blade

I’m willing to sacrifice a clean shave for the good of the planet. I have to if I want to be zero waste. All the options on the market involve disposable razors, the kind you throw-out after a week. It’s a minor thing but every bit counts when you’re trying to be zero waste. At a certain point all you have left to cut-out are the little things.

I’ve considered investing in a straight blade, barbershop style. One that I could sharpen myself and get the closest shave of my life. It sounds manly and tough, like teaching myself about knives will earn a boy scout badge. But I grew up in a peace-loving, near-hippy family and so I’m not used to any sort of weapon.

And my first alternative was already lying around in the bathroom – an electric shaver. I cut my hair with it and decided to try a shave with it. It’s not exactly the closest shave but it does the job. And I collect all the shavings for the compost. They disappear immediately in there, not like an ear of corn which take forever to disintegrate.

The only problem with this method is that it uses electricity, but I’m okay with that. I see the world moving towards all-electricity devices running on renewable energy. And since the power company allows me to pay more for renewable energy, it feels ok.

But I still look forward to earning that man badge and become the first person I know to shave with a real blade.

;

Men, have you ever shaved with a real blade?

Ladies, do you have a way to avoid using a disposable razor?

;
;

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Zero Waste: coffee grinds for your garden

The key to being zero waste is finding all the little ways to avoid throwing things out. And sometimes that means taking things in too. Which is exactly what I do with coffee grinds. The little bit I create at home gets added to the garden, but it’s never enough. Every month I make a run to Starbucks for a commercial-size bag of coffee grinds. And that allows me to skip buying fertilizer at the store.

The science behind coffee grinds in the garden is pretty simple. It’s a rich source of nitrogen and minor amounts of other soil nutrients – phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper. The same items you will find in a bag of fertilizer at the store. But do be careful when adding coffee grinds to plants, as it might interfere with growth. It is best to place in the soil – tilling 6-8 inches deep – before or after planting.

And that’s perfect for me. I can avoid throwing away coffee grinds, avoid buying fertilizer at the store, and take in trash from other places. The local coffee shops throw away their grinds unless someone asks for them. And the baristas love handing them over because it means they don’t have to take out the trash.

It’s just one part of zero waste but it shows how easy it can be. Not to mention money saving – no more fertilizer – and helpful for the community. Can you believe I’m reducing the trash that Starbucks creates?

 

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Californians create record-low trash in 2011 – still more than national average

From a high of 6.3 pounds of trash per day in 2005, Californians have lowered their output in 2011 to a record-low of 4.4 pounds/day. Good news for the state with the highest population, and yet compared to the national average – 4.4 pounds – that’s not much of a drop, more like stopping the excess.

But don’t count out Californians yet – the numbers show strong a downward trend that may leave the rest of the country behind. The state diversion rate (recycling, compost) is 65% – among the highest in the country – with plans for 75% by 2020. In comparison, the country is only at 34% – meaning some states must have horribly low rates.

There is also a strong downward trend among Californians and their trash. The drop was 30% – 1.9 pounds – in the last 5 years, while the rest of the country dropped 0.24 pounds in that same time. And the government is hoping to continue this decline – as the economy bounces back – by signing into law AB 341.

Which among many new rules, forces businesses to start recycling – the only sore spot in this story. At work Californians produce 11.3 pounds of trash – much more than at home. This is largely due to workplace practices that don’t promote recycling and state laws that let office buildings avoid recycling. This new law should remedy that.

 

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The world of professional sports is going green

Allen Hershkowitz, from The N.Y. Times, has written up an interesting piece about The Greening of Professional Sports.

Among the many great points he makes, include how every industry will need to participate and public opinion is the most important factor, as well as:

 

Fifteen professional stadiums or arenas have achieved LEED certification for green building design and operations, and 17 have installed on-site solar arrays. Millions of pounds of carbon emissions have been avoided, and millions of pounds of paper products have been shifted toward recycled content or not used at professional sports sites. Recycling and composting programs have been developed or are planned at virtually all professional stadiums and arenas.

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Students create their own composting program in the dorms

Hauling trash-bags full of coffee grounds and kitchen scraps, two three-wheeled rickshaw bicycles raced past campus foot traffic.

The fleet had just finished their first compost pickup.

The owner of the cafe, Devon Jackson-Kali, met the students near the cafe to give them leftover coffee grounds…he also gave them pounds of cabbage heads, carrot peelings, celery and other scraps leftover from his kitchen operations.

Leaders of an undergraduate environmental research team known as Waste Watchers drove the custom-built, electric and pedal-operated bikes – or rickshaws – on an extended campus route for the first time. Using the rickshaws for transport, the team collects and recycles leftover scraps at their own compost site located in Sunset Canyon Recreation Center.

Chloe Green, the Weyburn project coordinator and a graduate student in urban planning, excitedly greeted the team on the street outside her apartment Wednesday.

Green said it felt “unnatural” not to compost at her Weyburn apartment. She grew up composting and said she has since learned the technique through trial and error.

 

More on this – Daily Bruin: Compost crew: Waste Watchers turn trash into fertilizer by properly disposing organic waste

 

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The benefits of raised bed gardening

It’s springtime and I’ll be out doing some planting today. Yesterday, at the farmers market, I picked up four seedlings: Pepper, Heirloom Tomato, Thai Basil, and Mexican Squash.

Before getting started I looked up what a ‘raised bed’ was. I had been hearing a lot about them and was wondering why they’re so popular. Turns out they have several endearing features:

  • Conserve water
  • Extend the planting season
  • Reduce weeds
  • Reduce the need to use poor native soil
  • Higher yields
  • Serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails
  • Can be planted earlier in the season because the soil is warmer when it is above ground level.

Raised bed gardening is a form of gardening in which the soil is formed in 3 – 4 foot wide beds, which can be of any length or shape. The soil is raised above the surrounding soil (approximately 6 inches to waist-high), is sometimes enclosed by a frame generally made of wood, rock, or concrete blocks, and may be enriched with compost.

The vegetable plants are spaced in geometric patterns, much closer together than conventional row gardening. The spacing is such that when the vegetables are fully grown, their leaves just barely touch each other, creating a microclimate in which weed growth is suppressed and moisture is conserved.

Additionally, waist-high raised beds enable the elderly and handicapped to grow vegetables without having to bend-over to tend them.

via Wikipedia

 

// Photo via mccun934

Facebook's new office of endless snacks, cozies, and "hack out" spaces

Facebook’s new campus is up and the employees are moving in. Here are some insights into the goodies they have laid out:

The whole campus is connected through a central courtyard.  Right now it’s still filled with bulldozers and dirt, but when it’s finished, we’ll have two full-service cafes, two coffee shops, on-site doctors, a fitness center, and much more.  And as always, we still offer other perks like free dry cleaning and endless snacks in our micro-kitchens.

There are no private offices or cubicles.  We tore down those unnecessary walls so that everyone could sit out in the open with their teams.  We’ve scattered hundreds of conference rooms and “cozies”—little breakaway spaces filled with couches and brightly colored chairs—throughout the buildings.  As people run into each other in hallways or at the micro-kitchens, it’s important that they can quickly duck away somewhere if they want to chat or hash out ideas.

We’ve always believed in “hacking out” our space—putting up posters and scribbling ideas on the walls—so we lined the hallways with chalkboard paint and put a box of chalk on everyone’s desk.

We’ve sponsored Zimride to come to the wider city of Menlo Park and help their residents find rideshare opportunities, and soon we’ll launch Facebucks, a program that incentivizes employees to get out, enjoy and spend money in downtown Menlo Park.

We’re pursuing a LEED Gold certification—we offer recycling and composting bins everywhere for employees, and we’ve reused as much of the existing structure as possible.  For instance, there isn’t a single new door on the campus—they’ve all been recycled from those used by our predecessors.

We also offer a robust transportation program that provides alternatives to single-car commuting, including free shuttles from the surrounding areas, vanpools, (and) bicycles. Over 47% of our employees use one of these programs.  In fact, even as we grow, we don’t plan to add a single new parking space to the existing campus.

Our New Menlo Park Home

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Facebook’s new office of endless snacks, cozies, and “hack out” spaces

Facebook’s new campus is up and the employees are moving in. Here are some insights into the goodies they have laid out:

The whole campus is connected through a central courtyard.  Right now it’s still filled with bulldozers and dirt, but when it’s finished, we’ll have two full-service cafes, two coffee shops, on-site doctors, a fitness center, and much more.  And as always, we still offer other perks like free dry cleaning and endless snacks in our micro-kitchens.

There are no private offices or cubicles.  We tore down those unnecessary walls so that everyone could sit out in the open with their teams.  We’ve scattered hundreds of conference rooms and “cozies”—little breakaway spaces filled with couches and brightly colored chairs—throughout the buildings.  As people run into each other in hallways or at the micro-kitchens, it’s important that they can quickly duck away somewhere if they want to chat or hash out ideas.

We’ve always believed in “hacking out” our space—putting up posters and scribbling ideas on the walls—so we lined the hallways with chalkboard paint and put a box of chalk on everyone’s desk.

We’ve sponsored Zimride to come to the wider city of Menlo Park and help their residents find rideshare opportunities, and soon we’ll launch Facebucks, a program that incentivizes employees to get out, enjoy and spend money in downtown Menlo Park.

We’re pursuing a LEED Gold certification—we offer recycling and composting bins everywhere for employees, and we’ve reused as much of the existing structure as possible.  For instance, there isn’t a single new door on the campus—they’ve all been recycled from those used by our predecessors.

We also offer a robust transportation program that provides alternatives to single-car commuting, including free shuttles from the surrounding areas, vanpools, (and) bicycles. Over 47% of our employees use one of these programs.  In fact, even as we grow, we don’t plan to add a single new parking space to the existing campus.

Our New Menlo Park Home

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