Thursday, August 2, 2007

Manage your Recycle-ables!

Since doing the talk about composting with the garden club (see previous post), I thought I would hit on some other, similar topics. The idea here is to do things that are environmentally friendly and at the same time easy and/or fun to do. I think we all have at least a vague idea about doing things that aren't harmful to the environment, and some of us take this to the extreme - I think that as with anything, "if it's a pain in the ass to do, it probably won't get done" (we'll call that John's Postulate of Maximum Resistance - JPMR - basically if it takes a lot of effort you'll never have time to do it). In our household we do the following:

  1. Composting - placing organic materials (i.e. table scraps and lawn clippings) into piles outside to allow them to decompose into dirt (added benefit of making good humus to append the garden and flower beds).
  2. Recycling - collecting materials that are normally thrown in the rubbish bin and allowing Dekalb County to collect them for reprocessing. This has the huge benefit of minimizing what goes into landfills
  3. Rain Barrel - collecting the gutter runoff into a barrel (or barrels) and using the water in flower beds.
  4. Unused item donation - we periodically amass items that are no longer of use and place them into two piles: 1. Yard sale items and 2. Donation items (often the yard sale items turn into donation items if they don't sell). Better items we've been putting on Craigslist for a small recovery on the initial amount spent to purchase - I've also had very good success in getting rid of unwanted items by posting them as "free" on Craislist - it's amazing the number of responses one gets.

When I read back over the list, it seems like a lot of work (back to JPMR!) but it's all about the way you organize yourself and how you approach it from and attitude and mindset. You have to make things easy or John's Postulate will kick in over and over again and you'll never have time to do it. So how do we make it easy?

  1. Composting - there are really two components that come into play here - when you're preparing food it's so much easier to just pitch the scraps into the garbage or garbage disposal - so how do you make this convenient enough that you'll save the scraps? My solution is to keep a small covered bid on the counter next to the sink - it holds about 1/2 gallon of material and has a hinged lid - found it at Big Lots for a couple of dollars. You keep adding stuff to it until it's full and then take it out to the compost pile - I put all vegetable clippings, coffee grounds and filters, and used paper towels (provided they don't have any chemicals in there) - try to keep out stuff that won't break down and no proteins (eggshells are good though).
  2. Recycling - believe it or not, Dekalb actually has one of the better programs in Atlanta - it took them a few years to figure it out, but it's very good and they both recycle more than most programs and they also do much of the sorting. So here, as with composting, you have to make things easy. I keep a small plastic garbage can next to the main garbage can - whenever i finish a bottle I do a quick rinse and add it to the recycling can - do this with any plastic container, newspapers, junk mail and just about anything - you do need to know what they'll take and what they wont - short list is all paper, all cardboard, all glass, all plastic, Styrofoam and metal cans (both aluminum and steel). Once your inside can is full, take it to bins you have outside - you should have at least two, one for paper/cardboard and the other for everything else (glass, metal, plastic). Every week or two, you'll have enough to warrant a pickup, which is on Wednesdays in Northcrest. Dekalb responds to blue bins or bags (you can either buy them from Dekalb or someplace else) - if they see a big blue pile they'll pick it up on recycling day. They further sort things in their processing plant.
  3. Rain Barrel - I've been experimenting with a commercially purchased barrel that's 80 gallons - cost me about $200 shipped to the house. You can actually go on the cheap and pick up one or more of those smurf blue containers that the local bottlers use to transport soda syrup - they're usually only a couple of dollars. You then cut a hole in the top and build an overflow catch-basin on top (the basin should have some rocks on a screen, so the trash gets filtered out - an overflow pipe diverts the water when the container gets full - put this right under your downspout or at the end of your drain tile (connected to your downspout). Place a spigot near the bottom of the barrel and attach a short length of hose to fill watering cans.
  4. Unused Item Donation - we keep adding items we don't want to an area under the stairs - when it gets too full (like you can't put anything else in there) we look it over and decide if it's yards ale or donation time (most items get donated). You want a spot that's out of the way, but still seen regularly - so it's not forgotten. Clothing recycling (especially shoes since they take so long to break down) helps the environment by keeping items out of landfills - if you aren't really using an item it's just taking up space -get rid of it!! Once you have enough items you can call up one of several groups for a free pickup - I generally schedule the pickup and leave the stuff at the end of the carport. It's gone when I get home.

I hope the above will give everyone some ideas on how to make less trash and be greener, environmentally conscious, better neighbors. Nothing I've talked about takes too much effort and the good feeling you get from participating is worth it's weight in gold (it certainly keeps JPMR at bay!). Contact me if you want more information or have additional ideas or comments.

--- John

1 comment:

william Carpenter said...

hi john-- great work! i've admired your neighborhood for a long time. i'd like to advertise in a newsletter because i specialize in mid-century homes and i'm an architect. is this possible?

thanks! bill carpenter faia phd

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