Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ask Prof. Cricket

Today I am visiting my aunt and uncle in Minneapolis. While I was helping my aunt in the kitchen, I found out that they compost their food and yard waste. My uncle showed me his composters which he got for a reduced price from the city. Right now he is mowing his lawn with an electruc mulcher. I took photos of this also and I will post this to the website.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

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Dog's use of the outdoors as a bathroom affects our water

This photo is from DuluthStreams.org

Until recently, the only reason I picked up Prof. Cricket's dog-doo was as a matter of courtesy for my neighbors. I thought it was unsightly, a hazard to people who might accidentally step on it. It wasn't until Marnie Lonsdale a Duluth, Minn city employee and Project Lead, City Administrative Lead, Stormwater Plan Links came to visit my United Methodist Women's circle earlier this year that I realized that dog waste is a health hazard. It gets carried by runoff water into everyone's water supply hurting humans, lakes, rivers and aquatic life.

"But wild animals poop in the woods in nature," you may say. This is true, but we human's have more pet population in a small land area compared to the population of animals in the wild. It is estimated that 40 percent of Americans own a dog. In Duluth it is estimated that 125 dogs live within a square mile.

Your dog's business is everyone's business
I am embarrassed to admit that I never saw the need to pick up dog doo in my own yard if I didn't feel like it. I thought it was my yard and my dog's business was no one else's business. I thought that the rain dissolved it and it "biodegraded" and returned to the land. I was wrong. Bacteria from pet droppings ends up in the water supply.

This spring I was walking Prof. Cricket when I met an elderly couple who were so upset by the the piles of dog doo in front of their house that they had shovels and were flinging the excrement onto the street. This was actually making the situation worse. Cars were driving over the excrement and it was taken by the water of the melting snow straight to the storm sewers and into Lake Superior.

It is important to pick up the dog doo to prevent contamination of water. But if you read Prof. Cricket's previous post about mummifying our garbage in landfills, you might wonder whether or not the dog doo biodegrades even if you use biodegradable bags. Biodegradable material relies on microbial action for degradation. Microbes require moisture, oxygen and elevated temperature for survival. Landfills are designed to exclude moisture and compaction reduces oxygen. A majority of dog waste bags end up in landfills. A brand named Mutt Mitt labels itself "degradable" and says, Mutt Mitts include additional degradants and will degrade even in a landfill.

Flushable bags
Some bags are designed to be flushed down the toliet. I would double check with the city or the person in charge of your spectic system before doing this. Here are some companies that sell flushable bags: The Flushable Bag™ and Handicapped Pets

Dog doo composters
If you live in suburbia you can even purchase an underground doggie doo composter. Check out Doggie Dooley , Pet D Posit or a City Farmer site

Different cities handle this question in other ways. Here are the options in Duluth: • flushed down the toilet (be sure to pick out rocks and sticks first) • put in the trash or • buried in your own yard. If you want to bury pet waste, make sure it is in a hole at least 6 inches deep, away from vegetable gardens and water sources, and in permeable soil (not clay). Do not add it to compost piles.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Yesterday, I brought in my empty Restore dish washing detergent bottle and refilled it. Wow! that was cool. You lift up a plastic window-type thing. Place your bottle down. A metal pipe-type thing comes down and flashes red light on it to read what product is supposed to go in the bottle....then it refills it and prints a dollar off coupon.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Prof. Cricket asks you to BYOB...bring your own bag

"Why do humans use a new bag every time they go grocery shopping? "
Bring your own shopping bag
My friend, Carol, from a suburb in the Washington, DC area wrote me a snail mail letter the other day. She told me four things she is doing to save on consumption and waste. She wrote.
"# 4. This is the hardest: remember to take a shopping bag with you & remember to tell the clerk BEFORE they ring you up that you DO NOT need a bag. This is very hard to remember. I often catch them as they're putting my purchases into t abag but I suspect they just throw away the now mussed up bag!"

In the past few weeks, Rebecca and I certainly have found this to be true in most stores. The clerks and the bag people think you are crazy. The seem to have no idea why a person would bring their own bag.

My husband thinks I spend to much money at our Whole Foods Coop in Duluth. So to placate him. I shopped at the Jubilee on Superior St yesterday afternoon. I tried to stay within my values of avoiding excessive packaging. I grabbed a shopping basket and started in the produce aisle. I picked out three ears of corn still in the husks. I started to grab a plastic bag to place the corn in, but then I figured, "They are already in mother nature's protective coating...Why waste a plastic bag." So I just place them in by hand held basket. Then I saw some melons, thinking they would make a good dessert, I started to grab a package of a one-half musk melon, one-half, cantaloupe and a section of watermelon. As I reached for it I noticed that the melons all rested a black Stryrofoam plate-type (like is used for meat) So I decided to get a cut watermelon wrapped in plastic...No Styrofoam used to hold it up.

As I maneuvered around the store, I noticed many items were packaged with plastic. I wondered what I could get for a treat. I settle on some Eddy's ice-cream which was on sale for only $1.00 a pint. It is packaged in a cardboard container.

I informed the cashier that I had my own mesh bag. I put it right on top of a cardboard box so that the bagger or carrier out person would see. As soon as I saw the bag person I informed him of my own bag. He tried to but my corn-on-the-Cobb, still-in-the-husk in my bag, but it was too awkward.

"I will just stick them in this plastic bag," he said.

"No," I said. Let me bag the items. It's okay. " He seemed relieved and went to help at another checkout counter.

I thought about telling him why I was using my own bag, but I don't think he was in the mood.

Today I went to the Farmer's Market, which is only one-and-one-half block from my house. I again purchased some corn-on-the-cobb still in the husks. Again, the farmer wanted to place the corn in a plastic bag. I moved onto another farmer's booth. This farmer either understood what I was doing, or thought I was eccentric. He let me place them in my own bag. I treated myself by purchasing one single stem of a sunflower.

I was ready to leave when I noticed some young women, I am acquainted with wrapping snapdragon stems in newspaper. "Oh," people who are environmentally friendly. I should reward them." So I went over and purchased a little bouquet from them.

When I mentioned to the vendors that I appreciated their use of the newspaper, one said to me. Did you know 1 million plastic bags are thrown away every minute?" I am not sure where she gets her facts....but Prof. Cricket will look into it.

Ohio DNR Recycling Plastic

Plastic bags are like nuke waste

Are plastic bags sacking the environment? National Geographic

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Monday, August 07, 2006

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Mummifying our trash
Landfills: protection by storage

When we talk about helping the environment often times we speak about recycling instead of “landfilling” our trash or garbage. This July, Rebecca and I started composting our food waste. Composting is a way of recycling nutrients back to the earth.
One of the display items we showed during our Green Team presentations this summer was a food waste collection container loaned by Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) for special occasions like weddings, picnics and graduations. It really isn’t that special. It is just a large plastic garbage can lined with a biodegradable plastic bag. The container is returned to WLSSD and the food scraps are composted.
This project prompted an excellent question for Prof. Cricket from an Iowa woman. She asked, “Why don’t food and yard waste return to the earth in a landfill when they do in a compost pile?”
To understand why landfills don’t compost our waste, Prof. Cricket will give a mini-lesson in the construction of a landfill.
Landfills are actually like condominiums or tombs for our garbage. In the old days we had dumps. Anything and everything was thrown into a pile. Some places burned the garbage and others covered it up.
The problem was that there were no safeguards in place. Poisons could leach out of the dumps and into our water. Dumps were stinky places and often breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects and rodents. Today landfills are constructed. A lengthy process including an environmental impact study in which many experts such as geologists, biologists, social scientists and engineers scrutinize the effect of the landfill on the natural and social environment.
Landfills are lined with clay and plastic to prevent leachate or garbage-juice from leaking out. They are actually designed to slow down decomposition. A series of tubes and pipes are included underneath, through and around the landfill. These pipes collect the leachate to treat it so that it doesn’t containment water. Some of the leachate turns to methane gas and is vented through the pipes.
Each day the garbage at a landfill is covered with soil, which helps prevent odors and pests. This process is repeated until a section or cell is full. One landfill has many cells. When it is full it is capped off with clay and soil. It still needs to be monitored for future years.

Prof. Cricket wonders, “If a steak bone with meat on it is thrown in our kitchen garbage can, then to our alley trash can; picked up by our garbage truck and then transported and dumped into a sanitary landfill, which is later sealed and capped, will there still be meat on the bone 15 years later?”
An Anthropology professor at the University of Arizona, William L. Rathje, conducted several archeological excavations on landfills in Arizona, California and Illinois. This was named, “The Garbage Project.” He said of landfills, “They are vast mummifiers.” His team found readable newspapers, hot-dogs and a T-bone with meat and fat on it.
This archeological projected showed that a well-designed and managed landfill slows biodegration of some organic garbage to a standstill. Some never did start to biodegrade.
According to the EPA Americans throw away 25 percent of the food we prepare. This amounts to 96 million pounds of food waste. It costs us $1 billion.So while today’s landfill is a way to protect our water supply from dangerous pollutants and also prevent disease-carrying vermin. They aren’t a very good way to return organic materials to the earth.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Naomi and Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff speak about what people can do to protect God's earth during a UMW Green Team presentation in Marshalltown, Ia.
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