Monday, January 25, 2010

Treasuring Waste: MIMO & Yogurt Cup Collection

Americans are hooked on garbage, 4.5 pounds of it generated per day per person according to EPA 2008 estimates (pdf). Sadly, 60-85% of that is recyclable! Somehow, our society tolerates throwing away materials that can be reused or regenerated into new products. Garbage is a resource, which does not need to include waste-to-energy power plants. Grass-roots neighborhood level activities can urge the reversing of this trend. For example in SE Como, this neighborhood is trying to reduce the amount of reusable furnishings lost to the trash during college move-out schedules in fall and spring. SECIA has coined this as "MIMO" or move-in/move-out. The organization has a grant from the MPCA to work on a pilot that redistributes usable items left on curbs and alleys. The program will feature a re-use "store" that will be set-up during key weeks when college students are on the move.

Further, in the Midway area of St. Paul, neighbors are setting up yogurt cup collection, another example of reuse! The collected cups will be made into seed starting kits. In both cases, community members are deciding to take the issue of waste into their own hands and find a better solution. Presently this is the answer to institutionalized waste; personal choice and action! Here is the yogurt cup collection announcement:

HMEG Announces a Yogurt Cup Re-Use Collection in the Midway at Shirtz Unlimited on Snelling Avenue. The Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG), in partnership with the Recycling Association of Minnesota (RAM), invites you to recycle your large and small yogurt cups (with lids) to reduce waste! HMEG has arranged a neighborhood drop-off location at Shirtz Unlimited, a locally owned shirt screening business, on Snelling Avenue near the intersection of Minnehaha Avenue. The yogurt cup recycling is sponsored by the Recycling Association of The yogurt cups will be re-used to make seed starter kits for sale to the public. To recycle your yogurt cups and cottage cheese containers bring them to the Shirtz Unlimited store (755 Snelling Ave N, 651-645-3311). The pilot re-use program accepts only CLEAN single serving (6oz) and 32oz containers for recycling. Don't forget the lids! Please, no Yoplait brand or six-pack containers.

HMEG Support Letter for Frogtown Farms

Hamline Midway Environmental Group

c/o Hamline Midway Coalition

Hamline Park Building
1564 Lafond Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55104


Frogtown Gardens

843 Van Buren Ave.
Saint Paul, MN, 55104

Dear Frogtown Farms Developers and Supporters:

The Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) congratulates you on your vision for bringing a sustainable working urban farm to the Frogtown Neighborhood. It would be a cutting edge demonstration of how grassroots residents of inner city neighborhoods could work together to build food equity, vibrant good health and environmental justice.

HMEG supports your efforts and will work with you and other supporters of this plan to see Frogtown Farms become a reality.

The Hamline-Midway
Environmental Group is a interest group of District Council 11. Its mission is to create and nurture a healthy and
sustainable environment in the Hamline-Midway community of St. Paul Minnesota. Members of HMEG worked to support community members who are active in improving the sustainability of the neighborhood. Areas of focus include community gardens, food justice, backyard poultry, rain gardens, rain barrels, local foods, composting, recycling, bike/walk initiatives and urban forestry.

In Solidarity,

The Hamline Midway Environmental Group

To learn more about Frogtown Farm see their website or find them on Facebook

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Earth Friendly Family Travel - Breakfast Milk in the Bud Light cup?

My family took a two day get-away to Duluth last week for some swimming and sight seeing. While its fun to take those trips, we are quite disgusted by the way traveling generates so much waste. Disposable serveware at meals, beverages in disposables, no recycling bins and housekeeping are all culprits in filling up our hotel trash bin.

Earth friendly family travel for us means:
  • Bringing our own water bottles and thermoses so that we do not need to acquire disposable beverage containers.
  • Bringing along a small set of dishes including a cutting board, knife, and small mixing bowl.
  • Collecting all recyclables and toting them home- paper, cans and plastic! It is a bit easier to commingle these while on the road and then sorting them once home.
  • Collecting all compostables and toting them home to the composter- coffee grounds, orange peels and paper with food waste are all examples. Yes, we really do this on car trips. Its not really that big of a deal once you designate a spot for compostables to go. The hotel ice bucket sure works well for this job!
  • Bring along a dishwashing wand and dish soap to clean up our dishes. The kids are sure more eager to help with this job when we are vacationing.
  • Reusing any plastic cups and plates that we do acquire. Who wants their breakfast milk in the Bud Light cup?
  • Bringing along some food. Takeout meals means takeout food packaging. By having sandwich fixings, fruit, a bag of salad and snacks on hand we can make lunches in our room and avoid more packaging while saving some change. A few spare sandwich bags in the suitcases allows us to have the sandwiches with us on the road.
  • Declining housekeeping during our stay. Many hotels are doing this more routinely, even promoting their "eco-business". These claims are often akin to greenwashing considering the rest of their practices are so wasteful (Where are the recycling bins exactly?). But regardless, by declining housekeeping, we minimize the amount of laundering required for our stay along with less garbage bags, plastic cups, shampoo bottles consumed.
  • Bringing our own shampoo and conditioner. There is never enough in the little hotel bottles anyway.
Granted, we buck the disposa-society trend hard, and definitely are not within the norms set by our fellow vacationers. However, the reward of a trashcan NOT filled with clamshells, foodwaste and recyclables is motivating, and allows us to have a more carefree vacation. We are looking for more ideas, please suggest yours!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Christmas Trees and Natural Decor can go to Ramsey County Brush Sites

Smart thinking Ramsey County! There are a few winter dates being made available at the compost sites, just in time to take holiday greenery. Additionally, a handful of sites will be open once per month during the winter season. Details can be found here.

In the Midway, you can bring holiday greenery to Pierce Butler near Vandalia on January 9th (9am-5pm) or 10th (11am-5pm). Please remove wires, ribbon, ornaments, lights, tinsel, tree bags and tree stands prior to drop off. Leaves, branches, natural wreaths and other plant waste are also accepted.

For gardeners, hen keepers, and home composters, this is a valuable back-up to our systems we have at home or if we have a tree come down during the winter.