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Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Of all things to write about, I’m very excited about the ‘pay as you throw’ system of garbage collection.  It’s when I noticed how well I was doing with it, lately, that I realized how it can be an excellent way for communities to manage their garbage.

This is how it works in Dubuque.  You pay a monthly fee (under $10 I believe, it is part of the water bill) for garbage pick up. This fee is for one standard sized can.  You can pay extra for a larger can, or if you have the occasional extra garbage, you can buy stickers ($1.25 each) to stick on the handle of another can, or on a bag or larger (within reason) item.

Recycling is free.  There are a lot of items recycled here, we take more plastic than they did in NYC. No matter how much garbage you have to recycle, they will pick it up for free.

They also have yearly yard stickers (that you pay extra for during the spring/summer/fall), or stickers for yard waste.  Some communities have food scrap pickup, but there is a waiting list to get on that.

I come from Brooklyn, where you would have two cans picked up twice a week. Here it is the one can plus recyclables once a week.  I have now managed to consistently stay within my allotment.

In Brooklyn, you got tickets for not putting your recycling where it belonged. Put a soda bottle or box in a trash bag, get a fine.  Here, put that in a trash bag, and waste valuable space.

I never cared much about fines, although I did recycle. I do care about having to run and get stickers if I go over.  I’ve become competent at squishing boxes nicely, and spend more time than I used to contemplating packaging when shopping.  I enjoy my bagged milk, for example.  It takes hardly any space at all, and recyclable!

I know there is a concern about someone using your garbage to throw their extra stuff out.  It has happened, and I’ve seen it happen occasionally. But I am sure there are measures in place to minimize that.  In places that patrol garbage for a can mixed in with paper, they could use those people to fine those who misuse garbage that way. Or roll it out in communities where this is less likely to be a problem.

So, pay as you throw not only has increased my recycling, but it has decreased the amount of packaging I use.  It’s changed the way I think about what I bring into the house.  This is a positive change that is good for me, and my environment.  More communities should look to pay as you throw as a way to increase recycling, and decrease what goes into landfills. The carrot (saving money) works better than the stick (paying fines), I think.

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I say you might as well buy a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.

You get your advice, your platitudes, but you also get clean. Self help books? No practical use, for the most part.

So save your money, save the planet, and buy soap.

I like the peppermint, myself. It’s so tingly!

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Today, I got my first box from Little Tree CSA. For those of you who don’t know, this arrangement means that in exchange for cash monies, every week I get a box, a share from the farm. A box filled with good, yummy things. This box of fresh deliciousness will arrive every Saturday morning at the Dubuque Farmer’s Market until the end of the season (October).

This box contains spinach, lettuce, radish, chicken of the woods mushroom, micro greens, kale, garlic, chives, purplette onions, mint, lemon balm, and wild ginger. I had no idea what they would have this early on, I figured it would be lettuce, radishes, and more radishes. I can’t imagine how much this is going to change over time, because it’s already so much!

What I like about something like this is the way it compels me to eat better, to eat creatively. Organic and localvore issues aside (this fills both roles), what really matters is variety in the diet, to me. If I did not have this box, I would have got the usual produce, half at the supermarket, half at the farmer’s market, half from my own garden. I’d go for the old standbys. Now, microgreens? What will I do with those? How about the kale? I could use more of that green and leafy in my life. Chicken mushrooms? It looks fantastic! Things I would not go out of my way to eat, I will be eating now. Think of how good that is for my diet. Not only does it increase my exposure to healthy food, by granting me access to it, it increases the nutritional value of my diet. You can’t help but ensure a greater variety of nutrients when you have a greater variety of fresh food.

What am I snacking on right now? Microgreens. Until 30 seconds ago, never ate it in my life. Considering that I would normally poke around the kitchen for processed crap, this is a massive improvement. This really ups my veg intake a lot, investing in a CSA like this.

CSAs don’t come cheap, mind you. I’m paying $500, broken up over the months, for the boxes, which is about $25 a week. Well worth it, but there is an upfront cost. However, for fresh, local, organic food, it is a huge savings. I got far more than I would have had I gone and bought each bit individually. Some CSAs offer (or require) some work in exchange for the share, too. It depends on which one you join.

Most of them, like mine, have a newsletter, too. I’ve got recipes that are tailored to what is in this week’s box. And notice how I said “mine” there? It’s how I feel. The CSA concept makes me feel like part of the farm. Like an investor. I mean, that is kind of what it is, but who feels that way when they get stock in a company? Here, I am meeting the people, reading the newsletters, talking to them, getting to know them. It’s something I always loved about the Farmer’s Market, knowing where my food is coming from. But the CSA is even more of a bond, because of the regularity. We’re in this together! They said they were exited giving out the first boxes, and I was excited to get it. MY box, from MY CSA. How often do you think that about what you eat? It’s topped only by eating from my garden.

For information on CSAs, including where to find one near you in the United States, check out this website. It also links to farmer’s markets and other sources of local food.

This is going to be a GREAT summer. I can feel it!

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The mayor is always spouting about how green our city is.  There’s all sorts of little initiatives that they’ve done to make it green, and most seem to be construction related, or dealing with government buildings.

They neglect one of the biggest things that would make a city green.

Public transportation.

Because of school, I REALLY need to do some shopping tomorrow.   The busses? Not running. But then, the buses don’t run early enough for me to go to clinicals, don’t run late enough for people to go out after school, or work (realistically you’re in deep doo-doo after 4pm).  No one can take a bus to church unless they are a Seventh Day Adventist, since they don’t run on Sundays.  They give free rides to the pool but stop running before the pool closes!

Furthermore, the people who need the buses the most, the elderly, the disabled, and kids, are the ones who are getting slighted.  Sometimes the elderly and disabled can get the door to door service, if they pass the application process, but even that is limited, just like the regular service.

The only thing that has decent service is the trolley. The one set up for tourists. Longer hours, more days.

So I am proud of my city for trying to be green, but disappointed that this is one of many ways they neglect the really powerful ways of making an impact for so many.  Coupled with how their traffic lights are timed in dangerous and deadly ways to make it difficult to cross some streets, they’re catering to those driving in private cars.  They should be encouraging people to walk, take public transportation, or ride bikes.  They aren’t doing any of that, sadly.

Let’s hope Dubuque makes an honest commitment to being green, and beefs up its public transit. If they want to continue to draw business here, they’re going to need to understand that businesses care about their workers and need to know their workers can get around. Businesses that are coming from places with adequate public transportation will be disappointed in the wholely inadequate transit we have here.

Yes, I’d love a train to Chicago, which gets so much ink in the Telegraph Herald. That would be great! But maybe the paper should look into how we’re not truly green if we keep ignoring our public transit needs.  They say not enough people ride but who wants to ride if it takes an hour to get to the west end to shop, and then you have to wait up to an hour to go home when you are done?  Or if you know you can’t use it after work?

Mayor Buol? Reevaluate your green pledge.  Do something for the environment, the city, and those who don’t drive.  I know there is a lot of focus on the richer part of town, but I think improved bus service can improve the lives of people all over Dubuque.  Telling people ‘replace one ride a month’ is MEANINGLESS if you can’t back it up with adequate public transportation.

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