Friday, August 29, 2008

At the Curb in Norway

The (other) photo-of-the-day comes from Norway. I am not there... yet. But my contact there seemed to think that I would appreciate a picture of his garbage, set out at the curb. He was right.

Here is what Jostein wrote:

Just a picture from my yard taken this morning, just before the garbage man is coming.
The plastic bag is for plastic.
The green box at left contains paper.
The green box at right contains food waste and residual waste. These fractions are separated at the waste plant.

The streaming sun. The well-contained detritus. The food waste diversion. Oh Norway -- you look lovely.

I have many questions... mostly about how this community commingles food waste and residual waste. Are there no garbage cans? Also, all plastics are bagged together? How much of Norway's waste is landfilled, if any? Looking forward to it.

Thanks, Jostein!

UVM: Davis Student Center

I love it. I got two emails today with pictures of trash cans. I'll post 'em!

The first is from the University of Vermont's new Davis Student Center. UVM jumped through all of the Green Building hoops and got LEED Gold Certification for new construction. Go UVM.

Brooke, who sent the photos of the trash cans, reports, "The small electronics ones are the first that I have seen, especially on a college campus." I agree -- I don't see much e-waste collection in public spaces. As far as signage goes, I like the one that says, "Recycle Your 'Techno Trash' Here." 

Techno trash? Like, glow sticks? (heh)

Thanks for the update from the land of milk and honey (and no billboards)! I heart Vermont.

photos: Brooke Denegre

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hood to Coast

Last weekend I participated in an event called Hood to Coast.  Dubbed "The Mother of All Relays," 12,000 runners cover 197 miles, relay-style, from Mt. Hood to the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, OR.  Jason, my teammate, wrote an excellent description of it here.

Vans were decorated with paint, dolls, banners, and slogans.  Some folks were dressed as superheroes.  Others had glitter.  It was pretty weird to run down a backcountry road at 2am, sleep-deprived and sweaty in the cool night air.  The actual running -- less than 16 miles -- was less grueling than the sitting-stopping-cheering-running-jumping back in the van-sitting-eating cycle.

Overall, I marveled at the logistical backflips that must have occurred to orchestrate the movement of thousands of people and volunteers from the mountain to the sea over 30+ hours.  

Two areas with room for improvement of the event (in my opinion) were the carbon offset options and the waste management of the event.  I snapped these photos of some of the garbage options I noticed.  Mostly, cardboard boxes were provided at the transition areas.  The finish (the photo with the sand) had garbage and the option to recycle plastic bottles.  
A little volunteer action, coupled with some clearstream containers, might help future events.

Go team.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ode to My Recycling Rollcart

"Oh You Sexy Rollcart"

It's 6 a.m., and I awake with a start;
Did I do everything I need to do with my rollcart?

Through the week my apartment neighbors and I all threw in
our commingled paper, metal, and plastic bottles (anything with a neck was a shoe-in).

We also added our plastic tubs; anything greater than 6 ounces;
rinsed, of course, or else the hauler pounces.

We kept the plastic bags out, 'cause they jam up the rollers.
We put our glass on the side, for glass-recycling or the trollers.

Last night, before the pickup, we rolled the bins out to the curb;
gave them a little space between them so the hauler won't be perturbed.

This system seems more efficient 'cause we only put the bin out
when they're full of our recyclables; saves some gas, without a doubt.

Oh you sexy rollcart: you hold it all.
Your contents will neither get wet nor get blown around this Fall.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Materials Recovery Facility

I recently toured Oregon Recycling Systems, a materials recovery facility (mrf) in Portland, OR. There's something inherently cool about heavy machinery that measures its processing capabilities in tons per hour.

Imagine Dr. Seuss getting creative with conveyor belts. There are many kinds of mrf's, and many different ways to process the materials, but basically a pile of commingled recyclables (in Portland we commingle paper, metal, and plastic) is loaded onto a conveyor belt. The belt brings the materials up to a series of spinners, fluffers, screens, and air jets that, more or less, sort the big pile of mixed stuff into other piles of uniform stuff: cardboard, paper, aluminum, plastic, etc. At the end of the line, six people moving extremely quickly do a final hand-sort of the materials. The sorted materials are then baled and sold on the market. (This is a very simplified description of the process).

I am busy getting final details squared away for the Europe portion of my trip. Departure: less than a month. Tick tick.

photos: Bridger Wineman

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Carbon Offsets

So I'm not totally sure I'm sold on this whole carbon offset thing. Overall, it seems like a get-out-of-jail-free card. As far as I can see the rationale is, "I'm gonna do this thing that I know isn't great for the environment... and make up for it by throwing money at these other things that are supposedly good for the environment." Hmmm.

But, just the way source reduction is WAY better than recycling, buying carbon offsets seems like a step in the right direction for me, this year, when I am going to be doing a ton of flying.

I looked at the Grist website (Umbra's column, to be specific) to glean any insight into which company is best. Umbra pointed me in the direction of Tufts Climate Initiative, which evaluated a bunch of different carbon offset programs. Even though they didn't get top ratings, I went with, because they're local to Portland and I know some of the folks that work there (I know, I know, not strong logic, but go figure).

I estimated that I will do 35 hours of flying during the next year. Using the carbon counter, that equates to 8.6 metric tons of CO2, which I offset by donating $103.20. Seems reasonable.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Antarctica Photo

Since I declared my uninhibited interest in detritus, friends have sent me pictures of trash cans from around the world. Or they have sent letters that say, "I saw garbage and thought of you," or something to that effect. Kind of random; kind of great.

I recently received a picture of trash cans in Antarctica! Apparently they have a very thorough system during the "on ice" season (October - February) where the trash crew goes from building to building, collecting the waste and recycling.

Inside scoop: if you receive a love letter in Antarctica and put it in the paper recycling, it's fair game. Even if you tear it up, they'll piece it together (wow, that's a lot of time). "Antarctica: where your reputation has even more fun than you."