Mini Travel Compost Experiment

Last day of a 10-day conference, getting ready to check out of hotel. With my “portable compost collection” setup. This thick foil-lined popcorn bag (yes, I still buy stuff in single-use containers more than I want to) turns out to be a good portable compost collection container. I’ll rinse it out at home and probably be able to reuse it at least a few times. I’ve collected just coffee grounds in that bag. 

In the white plastic bag to the right of the compost bag inthe first photo are fruit scraps from a roommate’s smoothies. Nothing leaked or got smelly during the week. I did grab a handful of fine-crumbled oak-leaf litter from the hotel parking lot at one point in the week and added it to the bag of fruit scraps. And, I let the coffee grounds dry out as much as possible by letting them dry a bit in the reusable filter before dumping them into the big foil-lined popcorn bag. (Second photo just shows my reusable coffee filter and the hand-towel I always bring from home as a general-purpose wipe).

Because all of this was ultra small-scale, it did not attract attention (I did not want to divert anyone’s focus away from their work, or create a nuisance in the room) or get in anyone’s way. Now it all fits into my little vinyl cooler and goes home to my garden! It’s not everything but every little bit helps. In the past, I would have felt compelled to collect every single banana peel etc from everyone, and end up with a big unwieldy mess, or else give up on it entirely, do nothing at all and beat myself up. 

Another happy note, the two main takeout restaurants where I ate during the week, let people bring their own reusable cups & dishes! Seems like a real shift is happening.

Would love to hear what others have devised re. composting, upcycling singke-use containers, or any other zero-waste while away from home. 

Getting Free of Single-Use Plastic

Living without plastic is hard, but people are doing it.

As a fellow member of one of the eco groups I belong to pointed out, “hard” is being a refugee. Hard is having your country torn apart by war. Hard is losing a child. Hard is … well, you get the idea. Minimizing plastic is certainly inconvenient (extremely so in some cases), but really it’s not all that hard, and once you get rolling, the momentum picks up.

Yes it requires effort (in some parts of the world more than others), but every bit of single-use/throwaway plastic we can manage to refuse (or failing that, REUSE or upcycle) makes a difference. And, our efforts WILL shape the consumer environment, social norms, & regulatory landscape.

Tips I find helpful to my efforts to reduce my consumption of single-use plastic are 1) make a fun game of it; 2) don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good; and 3) rather than dwell on the inconvenience of going against the current, focus on the sensory & aesthetic pleasures of using “real” stuff (cloth bags, wooden utensils etc). Also 4) enjoy & take pride in being part of a growing “tribe” of people who really care and are doing something about it. And 5) for some of us, it helps to think of our efforts as a way of atoning for past times of our lives when we might not have used as much care in our daily choices. But if you’re already the type to beat yourself up, go easy on that one or it might backfire. You can also 6) focus on how much you want future generations to be able to experience life on this wonderful planet.

And read the New York Times article linked at the beginning of this post; it’s full of good ideas.

You can also read articles about the country-sized areas of plastic trash floating in the oceans. And the mountain of trash that’s been piling up since China quit being the world’s recycling bin. And see pictures of kids floating on mattresses in a sea of trash.

But, don’t let yourself get too discouraged. Focus on what you can do now. And have fun! It’s the best way of making your actions contagious.

New! Special DEEP GREEN Gift Contest!

New! Spot the identical posts and win a unique DEEP GREEN gift!

Usually, I do not post the same content on both my blog and my DEEP GREEN Facebook page. But from now on, I will occasionally be making identical posts in both places. Be the first to spot an identical post, email me or post in the Facebook comments that you saw it, and you will win a super useful surprise gift. ❤

(Never fear, in true DEEP GREEN fashion the gifts will be ultra-low-footprint and won’t take up space in your house.)

This is my way of showing my heartfelt appreciation to you, my loyal readers who love Mother Earth!

Cities Banning Leaf-Blowers

Washington, DC, has banned leaf-blowers (the gas-powered variety, anyway). In making this move it joins over 100 other cities that have enacted bans.

“The reasons for the ban are: the obsolescence of the technology, which is orders of magnitude more polluting than other machines and engines now in common use; the public-health danger, above all to hired work crews, of both the emissions and the damagingly loud noise from the gas blowers; and the rapid advent of battery-powered alternatives, which are quieter and dramatically less polluting.” 

Good progress! Other reasons to add to the list: the wastefulness of blowing leaves around – waste of labor; also treating leaves as trash instead of a soil-building and plant-feeding resource.

Read the full article here.

The Temptation of the “Magic Bullet”

I have good news for you, and bad news. The bad news is, there is no “magic bullet”; no one thing that we could change that would “fix” our environmental crises. With environmental issues, as with other problems, many of us would love to believe there is one main culprit, and therefore one main solution. So, in the case of the environment: We’d all be fine if everyone would just stop eating meat and go vegan. If everyone would quit having kids. Quit flying in airplanes, or driving cars, and walk or ride bicycles instead. Eat only local and organic food. Stop throwing away so much trash. Stop buying such big houses; stop buying so many things in general.

We each have our “favorite” categories that we point to as the culprits of environmental problems. And most of us, myself included, rationalize the categories where we ourselves have a lot of room for improvement.

Recently I read an article about the futility of just taking aim at the meat industry. According to this article in Business Insider, “Cows are getting a bad rap and it’s time to set the record straight: Giving up meat won’t save the planet”:

“A UN report … claimed livestock was doing more to harm the climate than all modes of transportation combined. The report was proven incorrect and further studies showed that even if Americans eliminated all animal protein from their diets, they would reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by only 2.6%.

“According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the largest sources of US GHG emissions in 2016 were electricity production (28% of total emissions), transportation (28%) and industry (22%). All of agriculture accounted for a total of 9%. All of animal agriculture contributes less than half of this amount, representing 3.9% of total US greenhouse gas emissions.”

I’ve seen similar figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, indicating that there is no one category that’s overwhelmingly dominant. If anything, evidence shows that the meat category is smaller than the other biggies. 

So if the bad news is that there’s no one magic bullet, what’s the good news? The same! The good news is there is no one magic bullet. Which means just pick an area that grabs you, and set out to reduce your footprint. Or set out to reduce your footprint in multiple areas, as you choose. Either way you can’t go wrong. 

On reducing meat intake, my personal take is this. Wildlife habitat disruption is a staggeringly huge problem in the world right now. “Urban sprawl is a problem in the areas where it occurs but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of forest destruction just to produce livestock for pasture,” according to this article on deforestation.

The habitat-destruction crisis, plus the suffering of the animals raised for meat on factory farms, have motivated me to minimize my intake of industrially produced meat and fish. In terms of eco-footprint, however, it seems that cutting out meat is not a magic bullet, any more than any of the other “culprits” are. 

My best advice: Make reductions in all categories you can. Reduce your electricity use as much as you are able (clothes-dryer, central heat & A/C, and water heater are the biggies). Go car-free or at least car-lite. Give up flying, or, if you have to fly or aren’t willing to give it up, buy carbon offsets for your trip. Reduce your consumer purchases by adhering to the habit of “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” Quit buying plastic bags and single-use containers. And yes, reduce your meat and dairy intake. These are all things we can do, and they will all make a difference. A lot of us are already doing these things, and the Riot for Austerity framework (which I talk about extensively in my book and on this blog), as well as the “Zero Waste” concept, are great aids to reduction. The Riot for Austerity Facebook group, and Zero Waste Facebook group (both linked in the sidebar) are a gold-mine of real-life tips and moral support.

And also — unapologetic self-promotion here — I wrote my book DEEP GREEN specifically to provide guidance and moral support to people who care about the environment but are uncertain whether they are making enough of a difference. If you haven’t yet read my book, check it out!

Neighborhood Fruit! Today’s Breakfast

Loquats & mulberries from neighbors’ trees. What, if any, fruit is growing in your neighborhood at this time of year? (I realize this is very early in the season in a lot of places).

The Double Gulp cups are brought by housemates and guests. I save them and reuse them, and encourage guests to reuse them instead of bringing additional new ones.

Recycling Electronics

Recently I had to get a new phone as part of upgrading to a service that (if all goes according to plan) will help me keep better track of my online footprint; allow me to stop paying for more service than I need; and reduce my electricity consumption. In a nutshell, I discontinued my cable internet service and am going with a cellphone plan that offers unlimited data plus a limited amount of hotspot data. The modest 5-gig hotspot suits my needs well, since the main thing I use my laptop for is blogging, and not a lot of high-bandwidth activity such as watching videos and using Facebook (which I use heavily for my work). For higher-bandwidth activities, and in general, for as much online stuff as possible, I prefer to use my phone.

All of that is well and good, and in addition to having just the kind of service I want for about 30% less than I had been paying, I have already noticed about a half-kWh per day reduction in my electricity use. I’m happy!

At the phone service store where I signed up for the plan and got my new phone, they told me I could get cash for my old phone at WalMart. I looked into it, and found out that the program at WalMart is run via a kiosk service called ecoATM. “Sell your old cellphones and electronics for cash,” says the website. “EcoATM helps by providing instant cash for used devices that previously were personal clutter at home. The lifestyle end result is sustainable, simple, uncluttered, and beneficially enhanced.” You can type in the name and model of your phone and find out approximately how much cash you can get for it. They also offer a trade-in option. Along with cellphones they also recycle tablets and MP3 players.

OK, so that’s the cellphone. I also noticed I’ve got a bunch of cables and cords piled up. From where? Who knows. They just seem to show up and multiply. I thought the mysterious set of cables was from my cable internet service, but when I went to turn in my modem and other equipment, they said the cables weren’t theirs.

I have a TV remote also. (That was from a TV I inherited, that I ended up donating to a local veterans’ group because I did not end up using it. But I had forgotten I had the remote! Maybe the mysterious cables were associated with that TV also. Ah, the complexities of modern life!)

Doing a search just now, I found this article on CNET.com, about the best places to recycle old cables and chargers. One place they mention is Best Buy. According to the CNET article, Best Buy is “One of the easiest ways to recycle any old electronics, including cables and chargers… . Every Best Buy location in the US has a kiosk for recycling just inside the door. According to their site, they accept ‘rechargeable batteries, wires, cords, cables and plastic bags,’ as well as a host of electronic devices. Check its website to see if Best Buy will accept what you’re trying to recycle.” I’ve got a Best Buy about 25 minutes by bicycle from my house, and it’s on the same route as the WalMart, so it looks like I’ve got a channel for recycling my mini-stockpile of electronic stuff.

In case you don’t have a Best Buy near you, another option mentioned in the article is a school or Scout troop, which might be able to use your old electronic stuff for science/technology projects.

I’ll let you know of other resources as I find them. May you be free of all those old cables, chargers, and devices that are cluttering up your drawer(s). Someone else can use them, and you can use the space. (At least I know I can!)