Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Campus California’s “Books for Schools” program is continuing to distribute children’s books that are donated to our collection boxes to elementary and middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Every day the need for resources at our local schools grows, with budget cuts, it gets harder and harder to keep the standard in education and have enough personnel and resources available for each student. Most recently Burckhalter elementary in Oakland, Stage elementary in Richmond and Friends of the library - a parent group in San Carlos, CA, received several hundred children’s books each.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
On a society geared towards consumption, the amount of waste generated in the United States has been increasing. Between 1960 and 2009 the amount of waste each person creates increased from 2.7 to 4.3 pounds per day*.
Often when considering the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse & Recycle), one might think of reduce as a sacrifice, as abstinence from some “privileges”. We must look Reduce not as a sacrifice, or as lowering our quality of life, but as a change in our everyday habits. When specifically looking at textiles, the amount discarded has nearly doubled in the past 10 years. Yet 85% of all textiles in the US end in the landfills. We can make sure all our clothing is recycled/reused; When we ensure we donate, recycle or simply consume less clothing, we are also reducing the need for cotton production; in that way reducing the amount of pollution of the soil by pesticides, less energy and water used, and more land left for use in agriculture (as an example).
We all share one home, our planet; we must all take part and consider the impact of our actions have for the future.
*Source: EPA – Environmental protection agency
Monday, June 20, 2011
Human race is changing nature on a global scale. How much can we take before nature breaks down, before the world, as we know it, ceases to exist?
Among many challenges we face, from food security, water shortages, preservation of biodiversity, to the CO2 emissions, is the heavy use of pesticides.
Pesticides are a global environmental problem. Approximately 20,000 people die from poisoning every year, ground, surface water and soil contamination and ambient pollution.
The mainstream production of cotton, currently, uses the same weight of pesticides and fertilizers per t-shirt as the weight of the t-shirt itself! (Cotton producers account for 25% of the worlds agricultural insecticides and herbicides) 925 gallons of water are used on the production of one lbs. of cotton!
Organic cotton addresses some of these concerns, but it does not address the excessive use of water.
The average American consumes an average of 70lbs of clothes; household and shoes a year, of those and average of 60lbs per inhabitant are discarded.
Reducing our consumption of cotton products and reusing are a step towards the reduction of the environmental impacts of cotton production today.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
California with its state mandated recycling goals have been in the forefront of the 3R (Reduce-Reuse-Recycle) movement for some time now, with SF Bay Area cities being top achievers in waste diversion most of the time. Paper, plastic, metal, bottles, cans, yard waste and now increasingly most other organics as well are being recycled or composted through curbside pick-up programs. With these largest components of the waste stream covered, municipalities are trying to tackle other materials that the existing programs are not able to handle. Textiles are one of these materials, currently comprising between 3-4% of the landfilled volume in the US, or 10 000 000 tons annually.
Clothing buried in a landfill is a bad thing, we all agree on that. Let’s look at the number one challenge we encounter as we plan to seriously reduce the volume of textiles in the waste stream: textiles need to be in a clean and dry condition in order to be reusable or recyclable. That, as you can imagine is pretty hard to achieve inside an average recycling or garbage cartL. The big machines moving and sorting the recyclables from your blue cart at the local Materials Recovery Facility are not gentle enough for the clothing to be of a much use when it comes out at the end of a sorting line either, not even considering that really tough pieces like jeans often like to wrap themselves around different moving parts and tend to stop the whole sorting line…
The one viable solution so far is to divert textiles from the waste and recyclables streams at the source (or more precisely, by the source – you). There have been for a long time now several different outlets for people to donate unwanted clothing to: thrift stores, churches, donation stations and similar establishments. All of these require you to take a trip somewhere where you would not be going otherwise (except the church, maybe), they have limited opening hours (exactly matching your time of work) and the popular ones tend to be swamped with donations. Most of these places are very much worthy of your support and provide important services to the community with money raised through the sale of donated clothing, however they are not the solution for the larger issue of many millions of tons of textiles generated in the USA every year. Let me repeat: Please support your local charity with clothing donations, they fill an indispensable role in the society and help a lot of people through providing various social services. But do not mistake asking people to drive fairly far and stand in line to donate their unwanted clothing to be the sole environment-friendly answer to the problem of textiles in the waste stream! We need more diversion programs because only about 15% of textiles currently generated in the US are being recycled and this number has not moved in the last 15 years!
What are the other options? Placing the clothing out for curbside pickup is simple and convenient, IF the organization that asked you to do so will actually come by and do the pick-up, AND it’s not raining, AND the scavengers don’t get to the bags first…
Another option is a clothing donation box at your local … grocery store, gas station, supermarket, hair saloon, bank… you name it. Places where people normally go anyway, places where people can go any time, 24/7. Convenience and availability are two key factors in a successful recycling program and Campus California's unattended collection boxes fulfill both of these requirements. There has to be enough boxes in an area so they are easy to find and not far away from where people live or work. A very important factor on the availability side is that the boxes once placed remain on the same location for a long time, often for years. If you don’t have time or forget your bag of clothes at home today, you can bring it tomorrow, or next week.
One of many benefits of having a program capable of diverting large volumes of textiles or other materials from the waste stream is that your garbage collection company will have to pay less money for the disposal of materials they cannot recycle. That in turn translates into lower garbage disposal rates for the average consumer (or at least into not increasing the existing rates).
A little background info: when your local waste management company picks up your garbage, it has a long way to go before it’s laid to rest, so to speak. And there are a number of expenses the operator incurs along the way that will eventually make it into your monthly garbage bill. As strange as that may sound, I don’t believe garbage companies actually like to collect large piles of refuse. Why is that? Because garbage is nothing but expense for them! It costs to collect and truck it to the transfer station and all they can do with it is to ship it to the landfill. And they have to pay the landfill operator to bury it as well! You would think all is well because that is what you are paying them for, to collect your garbage and to get rid of it. Except that your garbage rate alone would not cover the cost of disposal. In fact part of the disposal costs for your refuse is usually covered by the proceeds from the sale of bottles, cans, plastics and other materials in your recycling cart. So the more recyclables and less “garbage”, or “refuse” there is, the better it is for the garbage company, and more importantly for you, the ratepayer as well. (Unfortunately this is not so good for the landfill operator…)