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May 2011

DIY Composting and its Benefits to Nature and You

Last week we talked about how composting and recycling can contribute to a 

substantial reduction in greenhouse emissions. This week, we'll explain how you can make a compost bin in the comfort of your own home or backyard!.


But first, what exactly is composting? Composting is a natural process of recycling grass, leaves, and other yard waste into rich soil. Anything that was once alive will decompose. Compost bins simply accelerate this natural process. When this organic waste re-enters the soil, the cycle of life continues onward. When this material becomes compost it will resemble a dark brown color that smells of a forest floor.


The benefits of composting are many. Here's just a few (not including the greenhouse gas reduction!):


*Composted soil retains water better than regular soil

*Food and yard waste account for 30% of materials found in our waste stream

*Homemade compost reduces costs compared to store purchased compost

*Composted soil produces healthier, more adaptable and nutrient rich plants


So what are you waiting for? Check out this DIY video below to learn how you can make your own compost bin. You will also hear a few more good reasons for tossing that yard and food waste into the garbage can. Talk about saving a few bucks and nature at the same time!

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If you still prefer to utilize a compost bin, many cities within County of San Bernardino sell them to residents at a discounted price. Please contact your local jurisdictions for more information.


How Composting and Recycling can Decrease Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Here's something that might come as a surprise: diverting recyclable and compostable materials from the garbage waste cycle can reduce an enormous amount of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). How much you ask? Well, composting and recycling programs in Oregon, Washington and California alone reduce GHC emissions equivalent to taking a whooping 6.3 million vehicles off of our roads for an entire year.


Shocking right? We thought so too. That's a lot of GHG! The information was found in a fascinating new report by the West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum, an EPA-led partnership with an array of western government entities, called "Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Recycling and Composting".


The study points to four categories that have the greatest potential for reducing GHC emission if they are diverted from the waste stream and composted or recycled accordingly. The four categories are: carpet, core recyclables such as cans, paper and glass, dimensional lumber and food scraps.


Who knew composting and recycling would help reduce some of the very gases that contribute to climate change? The report, while focusing on only three western states, could have a broader impact on communities across the country. The bottom line is simple, the better established recycling and composting programs are, the less GHGs emitted. That's good news for the environment and for the climate that sustains it.


One other thing, it's also super good for the economy. The report indicates that in the three states mentioned previously, composting and recycling only half of the core recyclables and food waste yields about $1.6 billion in annual salaries, $818 million in additional goods and $309 million in sales across the West Coast. That's a lot of green cash for a greener, cleaner environment!


So how does it work you ask? Why would diverting these items from the waste cycle decrease GHG emissions? It's simple, actually. When items like food aren't placed in the landfill, the methane gases they produce are not released into the environment in the same manner. Composting such materials will allow these decomposed foods to be absorbed into nutrient rich soil instead.


The same goes for carpet, the most energy intensive of all the materials discussed in the report. Carpets are made from petroleum and natural gas and require a lot of energy to produce. While recycling carpets used to be technologically challenging, it is becoming much easier to do so and is having a positive impact on the environment in the meantime.

The largest reduction by any one source material can actually happen if communities and industry actively promote the recycling of carpet. And it's the same story for all source materials, be they glass, paper or plastic in makeup.


To learn a bit more about GHG emissions and it impact on our environment, check out this news piece on the EPA's greenhouse gas position:

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Don’t Burn Rubber, Recycle it Instead

Chances are you've been in a car recently. You've likely even been behind the wheel, driven to work or dropped the little ones off at school. Cars, and all of their accessories, are a part of our life for better and for worse. There is little question that automobiles impact our planet, but there are some things we can do to make sure the rubber that meets the road doesn't end up wasting away in our landfills.


That's right, we are talking tires. Every year the United States disposes an average of one tire per person, which equates to approximately 27 million tires per year.  That's a lot of tires and consequently, its also a lot of waste. All these tires take up much needed space in our landfills. Stockpiled tires can easily cause dangerous fires and burn for long periods of time, releasing toxic pollution into the air.


There are a lot of ways tires can be reused and recycled, and around 75% of tires end up being reused in one form or another. Some companies are making shoes, others are producing playground surfaces, floor mats and even office supplies. The list is truly endless, and tires are a great example of how innovation can create great things with old products. Check out the CA Gov's Cal Recycle page for more recycled tire uses. 


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What Do Plastic, Beaches and Art Have in Common?

We’ve all been to the beach and likely seen litter and plastic pieces strewn about. Hopefully most of the pieces and tossed in the recycling bin. Sadly, a lot of plastic in our oceans. The Algalita Foundation, which monitors ocean pollution, estimates that 80% of marine debris comes from humans on land. Of that, 65% comes from consumer used plastics that have been disposed of improperly. Even if you live inland, plastics can make their way to the ocean and into our local waterways. Not all of it is captured before it races out to sea. Once at sea, it can travel hundreds upon hundreds of miles and float around for decades on end.


Some of this plastic returns to shore, but much of it swirls around in what some call the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, which is an area in the North Pacific’s Subtropical Gyre. Essentially this vast area is a plastic soup vortex where debris gets caught and doesn’t leave. That’s a lot of plastic, which can harm and kill aquatic life when they confuse the pieces for food.  Let’s not also ignore that the plastic that makes its way to the shore is a very nasty sight for us beach goers.


In an effort to educate the public about the problem, as well as to visualize how much plastic is actually out there, artists Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang of Northern California have been making art with the plastic they find on their local beach for the past thirty years. While inspiring, their work is also striking in its ability to convey plastic’s real impact on our planet.


Check out Richard and Judith’s work and hear why they continue to produce art with the plastics they collect in the video below.

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