Saturday, December 27, 2008


We just made it out of Portland before 15 inches of snow and freezing rain shut the city down. Since then, it's been a week of family fun in Todos Santos, Mexico.

Todos Santos is a weird little oasis on the Baja peninsula. English is spoken. You can use US dollars in the stores. In the suburbs where we rented a house, the licence plates are from California, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Sidewalks end in the middle of the street. As far as I can tell it is an adult playground for sun-and-surf seekers.

My nieces and nephew loved catching bugs and making them bug nests. My mother gave the littlest addition, Arden, 4 months, baths in the sink. My sisters and brothers-in-law were on top of all the important things to the little ones: sunblock, food, and play. Gene met the family and everyone really liked him.

Now they have all packed up and gone. Gene has taken his tools and headed south to Antarctica. It's time for me to resume my peripatetic lifestyle and hit the dumpsters. Headed east.

Friday, December 19, 2008

300 Cups of Tea

December is going to be a slow blog month for me.

After wrapping up our time in Europe with an honest 4-bus, 3-train, 2-subway, 2-walk, 15-hour transportation day, Gene and I headed back to Portland, OR to regroup for a week. It has been really nice to catch up with friends and bike around town. Who knew Portland could be so snowy! Five days of snow in six days! Exclamation mark, exclamation mark.

My throat, however, decided to invite some of its own friends over. Whatever is living back there is not a nice house guest -- it scratches, itches, and has made it ridiculously painful to swallow for the last five days. Having gone through gallons of Throat Coat tea, honey, and frozen smoothies, I am going to the naturopath in a few moments. Hopefully she will brew up a concoction that will knock it out of there. At the very least, I'll be on a plane south to Mexico in 24 hours. (Yes, I am that person that makes everyone on the airplane sick. Gagh. Maybe I'll wear a gas mask like the one I saw at the Pollutec Conference, pictured right).

Happy Holly Ho Ho Ho.

Monday, December 8, 2008


The New York Times ran an article today about how prices for recyclables have plummeted in the last few months. Tin, for example, is selling for about $5 per ton compared to $327 earlier in the year. Recycling contractors are stockpiling the goods, waiting for the prices to rise.

This news is crushing. (heh. heh?)

As with this whole economic downturn, the prices will bounce. In the meantime, perhaps the waste management spotlight will shift more towards waste reduction instead of increased recycling.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jina and Lucas: Reporting from Guatamala

My friends, Jina and Lucas, are traveling through Central America for their honeymoon. Since we will be in Central America in a few months, I asked them to keep an eye out for trash leads. In the middle of exploring jungles, reviving Spanish skills, making soup, and battling vomit conditions on harrowing bus rides, Jina wrote me the following email:

Meredith- some quick notes on CA trash. We´re traveling right now with a woman named Liza who did a Spanish school in Xela (Quetzaltenango). She says many of the families there (particularly the Pacaja neighborhood) burn their trash to cook their food. Sounds like an inventive, if horribly unhealthy way of dealing with trash and lack of cooking fuel. Also-- at lake atitilan, there is a town called San Marcos you take a boat to (the hippie place we wrote about in the blog). The main wall coming into town is build from plastic bottles filled with trash, then chicken wire and plaster. Another hostel/restaurant makes cool stained glass windows out of glass bottles. Not sure if this is useful, but you should at least know I´ve got my eyes and ears open for trash spectacules, We just got in to El Salvador last night...

Jina served in Peace Corps Madagascar a few years before me and, among other things, is a rockstar wildlife biologist in Portland, OR (where we connected). Her husband, Lucas, is a rockstar of the pirate variety, and does things with computers. If you want to read a blog that has lovely descriptions, pretty pictures, and is written from the heart (instead of, say, the gutter), check out their "honeyluna" site out here.

I am curious to see the chicken-wire-plastic-bottle-plaster wall. And the stained glass windows. The cooking-over-trash... not so much... but kind of. So yes, it is useful to hear about the things you are seeing. Thanks, Jina!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Oh la la.

Sure, it is home to the Eiffel Tower, amazing museums, chocolate crepe stands on every corner, and little dogs wearing sweaters. But you know the best part of Paris: the trash cans.

The mayor seems to have his political dial tuned to the environmental station. In addition to having a sweet bike system with 20,000 bikes at 1,450 stations throughout the city [with the first 30 minutes free (gratuit!)], Paris currently has an aggressive recycling campaign.

I quite liked the design of these bins in the Luxembourg Gardens. The green is for garbage; the yellow is for recycling (paper, metal, and plastic). Notice the lid on top of the yellow recycling bin: it both prevents the casual toss and also has pictures and arrows. You want to put that in here? You better think twice, monsieur.

In addition, people can see the contents of the bags through the translucent plastic bag. Pictures, arrows, and clear bags. Not rocket science, but effective given the small amount of contamination we saw in 20 containers, all paired with trash cans.

The garbage trucks currently have an ad campaign that reinforces the system that Yellow = Recycling. Here is a picture of one of the trucks.

Here is close-up of the sign on the truck. In the sign, the little paper box is saying, "In the yellow bin, thanks." Here is the website for the garbage in's and out's in Paris.

Ah bon.