Join the plastic-free challenge

Native designed reusable totes can be found at the Tulalip Hibulb Cultural Center Gift Shop. Photo/Mara Hill

Native designed reusable totes can be found at the Tulalip Hibulb Cultural Center Gift Shop.
Photo/Mara Hill

By Mara Hill, Tulalip News

People all over the United States go shopping every day. More often than not, you’ll see consumers walking their cart of groceries to their vehicles, so they can take them home and unload their goods. But what is left after the unpacking? A pile of single-use plastic bags that get shoved under a sink or in a trash can. If you’re one of those people who repurpose plastic bags, that’s a good way to get more use out of them. However, the bags will eventually be thrown away, and more likely be added to the landfill despite your recycling efforts.

Changes can be made to your habits by joining thousands of people from all over the world in the Plastic-Free July challenge. The challenge is to refuse single-use plastic during July. You can choose to challenge yourself all month, or do it for just one day. Any amount of time is a contribution to our planet. Get your friends and family involved. Make it fun by turning it into a competition to see who can go without these items the longest. Find ways that will help the effort to raise awareness and the environment by getting creative and refusing to use or buy plastics. Instead, make a one-time purchase of affordable reusable bags, water bottles, and coffee cups that are sold almost anywhere.

If items in other stores don’t quite suit your taste or style, check out some native-themed items in the gift shop at the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve.

 

Reusable water bottles are a far better option than disposable ones.Photo/Mara Hill

Reusable water bottles are a far better option than disposable ones.
Photo/Mara Hill

The Hibulb Cultural Center Gift Shop offers a nice array of Native designed coffee cups and travel mugs.Photo/Mara HIll

The Hibulb Cultural Center Gift Shop offers a nice array of Native designed coffee cups and travel mugs.
Photo/Mara HIll

 

For more information about the Plastic Free July challenge you can visit www.plasticfreejuly.org

 

 

 

Washington’s Statewide Recycling Rate Dips Below 50%

Washingtonians diverted less trash from landfills in 2013 than in 2012.COURTESY WASH. DEPT OF ECOLOGY

Washingtonians diverted less trash from landfills in 2013 than in 2012.
COURTESY WASH. DEPT OF ECOLOGY

 

By BELLAMY PAILTHORP, KPLU

Washingtonians have lost some bragging rights.

We still recycle at a rate that’s much higher than the national average, but we’re no longer improving on the amount of recyclables we divert from landfills. The statewide rate went down in the most recent data set, to 49 percent in 2013.

The state Department of Ecology was quick to point out that Washington remains a national leader in recycling. Our rate is still well above the nationwide average of 34.5 percent. But we’re backsliding.

“We’ve been above 50 percent for the last two years. And now we’re back down to 49 percent,” said recycling data analyst Dan Weston.

It’s not all bad news, Weston says. We’ve improved our rate of recycling plastics, for example. But rates are falling for commodities that have seen price drops, such as glass and ferrous metals. He thinks dealers may be holding onto them, waiting for prices to rebound. And there’s been less recycling of construction and demolition materials despite a recent increase in new construction.

“We’re not quite recycling those materials at the rate that we had been prior to the recession. And so that’s definitely an area where I think we’ll be seeing a much stronger focus over the next few years,” he said.

Food waste is another area that needs improvement, hence the new ban on compostables in Seattle trash, with fines kicking in this July.

The state has also just started free recycling for fluorescent lightbulbs to keep toxics such as mercury out of the waste stream.

But Weston thinks we’re already capturing most of the low-hanging fruit at this point, so making additional gains will probably require incremental progress in all areas.

“We know how to recycle what we’re currently recycling and we just need to do a little bit more everywhere,” he said. “Making those additional gains is just going to require more work than we’ve been doing in the last few years.”

Seattle To Fine Residents For Not Composting

A vote by the Seattle City Council may put the city more on par with Portland, Oregon, in terms of food waste recycling. | credit: Flickr Photo/Dianne Yee (CC-BY-NC-ND)

A vote by the Seattle City Council may put the city more on par with Portland, Oregon, in terms of food waste recycling. | credit: Flickr Photo/Dianne Yee (CC-BY-NC-ND)

 

By: Kim Malcolm, KUOW

The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a new rule Monday governing what residents put in your garbage bin.

The idea is to increase the amount of food scraps going to compost.

Council member Sally Bagshaw said promoting this practice could reduce up to a third of Seattle’s waste ending up in landfills.

“So if we just get ourselves into the mindset of, Ok, we’re going to recycle our bottles, our papers, our cans, just as we’ve been doing for the past 25 years, and now we’re going to compost the stuff in your kitchen, really easy to reduce the amount of stuff that’s going to a landfill,” she said.

Under the new rule, garbage haulers can ticket bins that contain 10 percent or more of food waste.

Single family households would be fined one dollar on their bi-monthly bill if they exceed that amount.

Owners of multifamily buildings will face a fine of fifty dollars after the third violation.

Bagshaw’s office says the city of Seattle sends 100-thousand tons of garbage to landfills every year.

The new law is aimed at helping Seattle reach its goal of having a recycling rate of 60 percent by 2015. The change is expected to generate an additional 38,000 tons of compost material every year.

San Francisco also has a mandatory composting ordinance.

Collectors will begin tagging garbage bins with warnings Jan. 1. Fines start until July 1.

Seattle Public Utilities asked the council to consider the ordinance because the agency is falling short of its recycling and composting goals. The council vote was 9-to-0. No public hearing was required.

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.

Zero waste policy

By Monica Brown, Tulalip News

Most items can be recycled today and Tulalip’s Solid Waste and Recycling Departments are in the early stages of a long term goal aimed at a zero waste policy. Within the Tulalip Tribes there are 41 buildings, outside of the administration building, that recycle.

Samuel Davis, the coordinator of Tulalip’s Solid Waste and Recycling Department explains that, “It is important to change the mindset of people and the role they can play when it comes to recycling. I really want us all to be stewards of our environment and to look out for the future of our land and our children.”

Currently, the waste disposal budget for Tulalip is $250,000.00 per year and includes all Tulalip Tribal Government entities, along with tribal members that dump at Shelco. “That number is too high so we are trying to find ways, through recycling and other avenues, to lower the amount of waste we send to our land-fills,” Davis states.

While there are multiple locations throughout the admin building to toss recyclables, Davis said they were noticing the bins were not being used as much as they should have been and that a majority of the garbage being hauled out was filled with recyclable items. So, they decided to put a recycling bin at every desk to make it that much simpler for everyone to recycle.

“One of our next steps is to start an educational program on what can be recycled and just how important it is to recycle,” said Davis. Since most items can be recycled, the other issue is the item should be clean when it is tossed into the recycling. The cleaner the container, the more it is worth in the recyclables market. Most recycling facilities sort items by type (paper, plastic, glass, metal) and then by quality. When an item is of poor quality the facility must do more work to get the item in usable shape.

Providing a clean or near clean recyclable item can save money for the city and taxpayers. But, how clean is clean? The container does not need to be squeaky clean, just without food is acceptable. An example would be a finished yogurt cup; the yogurt has been all scooped out and can be tossed in the bin but if you were to lightly rinse out the container that will make it better quality.

The white paper cups provided at the admin building and at nearly every coffee stand are not recyclable. This information had me personally reconsidering what I use to eat my morning oatmeal. The cups have an inner plastic coating that keeps the paper from absorbing liquids but makes the cup very difficult to recycle.  Although the white cups are not recyclable the Styrofoam provided at the admin is. Davis explains, “Styrene foam (Styrofoam) is ground up, compressed and densified into blocks, which are then manufactured into plastic products such as picture frames, TV & computer cases, office equipment and other plastic products. There are only a few companies in the area that do recycle Styrofoam and we are in the process of working with them to get bins for that purpose.”

At the admin, if everyone brought in their own reusable containers, coffee cups and water bottles this would reduce the amount of waste hauled out, which is not only good for the Tribe’s budget but also the environment. Check the Waste Management website at www.wmnorthwest.com for more detailed information about recycling do’s and don’ts.

While most items can be recycled here is a list of items that can’t be recycled: soiled paper, soiled cardboard, wrapping paper, laminated paper, paper covered in foil, frozen-food boxes, blueprints, thermal fax paper, pet food bags and dryer sheets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northwest Teams Lead A Growing ‘Green Sports’ Movement

Cassandra Profita, Earth Fix

Northwest sports teams are leading an effort to use the widespread appeal of basketball, football, baseball and hockey to spread an environmental message.

A group formed by six teams in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., called the Green Sports Alliance set out three years ago to improve the environmental performance of professional sports. The alliance has grown to hundreds of teams across the country that are now competing to see who can be the greenest.
Baseball fields, basketball arenas and football stadiums across the country are installing solar panels and wind turbines. They’re selling local and organic food to their fans, and replacing trash cans with recycling and compost bins.

Supporters of this movement say sports offer a fun, non-political way to promote environmentalism. It saves money, cuts carbon emissions, and the environmental benefits count toward the teams’ record of community service.

Tracking Green Stats

The green sports game isn’t as exciting to watch as a slam dunk, a home run or a touchdown. But it has racked up some impressive stats:

  • The Portland Trail Blazers have cut the carbon emissions at the Moda Center by 50 percent since 2008 and saved $3.3 million in utility costs in five years.
  • The Seattle Seahawks and Sounders installed the largest solar array in the state of Washington at CenturyLink Field in 2011; and
  • The Seattle Mariners raised their recycling rate from 38 percent in 2010 to 90 percent in 2013 and saved $2.2 million in utility costs in seven years.

The teams are tracking their environmental performance with help from the Natural Resource Defense Council and the Environmental Protection Agency. So they know where they stand in the environmental rankings. According to Martin Tull, executive director of the Green Sports Alliance, that has spurred some friendly competition.

“When one facility puts up 3,000 solar panels, the next time an owner is going to build a stadium, he wants to have 3,001,” Tull said. “We try to use that as much as we can to give them little catalyst to have the biggest solar array or to have the least energy used.”

Scott Jenkins, vice president of ballpark operations for the Seattle Mariners, said his team has been trying to match the San Francisco Giants’ recycling rate for years. This year, the Mariners fell a little short once again as the Giants reached a 95 percent recycling rate.

“Every time I think we’re going to catch up to them they raise the bar a little bit more,” Jenkins said.

Tracking environmental performance has also yielded some interesting data. When the Blazers commissioned a study to measure their carbon footprint in 2008, it revealed that 70 percent of the carbon emissions associated with the Moda Center come from fan and employee transportation to and from the arena. Team transportation and business travel, by comparison, only accounted for 4 percent of the team’s carbon emissions.

“That surprised us all,” said Justin Zeulner, sustainability director for the Blazers. “We realized we have to start engaging with our fans and our community to get to our impacts because they’re the ones selecting behavior. They’re the ones that decide: How am I going to get to the game?”

Making it fun

Sports teams aren’t looking to bog people down with environmental doom and gloom. Instead, they say, they try to make the idea of sustainable living fun. One hockey arena, for example, invites fans to shoot aluminum cans into the proper recycling receptacle.

The Mariners introduced two recycling superheroes: Captain Plastic and Kid Compost. They roam the concourse of Safeco Field offering photo ops and recycling and composting assistance. The compost from the games goes to Cedar Grove Composting, which in turn creates bags of Safeco Soil made from compost at its facility. Fans can take that compost home to use in the garden; the team also offers “kitchen catchers” to hold household food scraps.

The Blazers have a living wall that invites fans to high-five a hand print if they support the team’s environmental mission. It also has a chalkboard for people to share how they’re going green in their own lives.

Watch the video:

 

Saving money

Tull says money is another motivation for teams going green – and one the alliance uses to attract new members.

“When we sit down with a new team that we haven’t worked with we ask a very simple question: Would you like to learn how other teams have saved millions through conservation,” he said. “And what do you think they say? They say hell yeah.”

Northwest sports teams are among the first to prove that conservation measures such as replacing light bulbs and reducing water use at event centers have a quick return on investment.

“When you look at your bottom line and say I’m saving $400,000 a year in utilities, I’m saving $200,000 a year on my waste costs, and I’m building brand value and doing what’s right, it really is a no-brainer to get into that area,” said Scott Jenkins, vice president of operations for the Mariners.

Selling environmentalism

For those who are rooting for a cleaner environment, Tull says, sports teams are a great way to sell the idea to a mass market.

“If I talk to a middle school student and say, ‘Did you realize the Portland Trail Blazers cut their energy use in their house by 30 percent?’ It’s a lot more exciting than if we say, ‘Did you realize that this local bank did a retrofit and cut their energy use?’”, said Tull. “Even with the exact same statistics it’s always going to be more exciting if it comes through the lens of sports.”

Allen Hershkowitz, director of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Sports Greening Program, says his environmental group hatched the idea of using sports to sell environmentalism back in 2004.

Sporting events themselves don’t have huge environmental impacts, he says, “however, where the impact of sports is enormous is in its cultural and market influence. The cultural and market influence of sports is almost unparalleled.”

He cites a statistic: 13 percent of Americans follow science while 63 percent follow sports.

“So, if you want to reach Americans, you’ve got to go where they’re at,” he said. “Using the non-political, non-partisan, politically neutral space of basketball, baseball, football, hockey, tennis, soccer to educate people about the need for recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation and safer chemical use. It’s a spectacular platform and at the same time tens of millions of pounds of carbon have been reduced.”

Peter Murchie is an environmental health manger for the EPA in Seattle. He says his agency is hoping that fans will take environmental lessons home with them from the big game. He’s hoping the movement will trickle down to younger sports teams, too.

“Sports translates down into your local communities,” he said. “If you see that the Seattle Seahawks or Portland Trail blazers being green, there’s a chance that your local little league and youth sports will also look at how they can do things in a more sustainable way. That gets an even broader marketplace.”

What about climate change?

So far, sports teams are leading by example and sticking with subtle environmental suggestions. However, this year several league commissioners sent letters to Congress acknowledging the issue of climate change.

The Trail Blazers are the first and only professional sports team to sign a climate declaration. Zeulner says he’s hoping the unifying nature of sports can move people beyond political barriers toward taking action on climate change.

“You can go to a sporting event and be sitting with people who are complete strangers to you, but you’re all focused on that energy of what’s happening on the field – what’s happening on the playing surface,” he said. “You start seeing people high-fiving each other, hugging each other over this thrill of whatever the sport is. The emotion of that sport. These are Republicans and Democrats. They’re different races. Different sexes. It doesn’t matter. Sports gives you that opportunity to strip all those barriers down and realize we actually want the same things.”

The Green Sports Alliance is already expanding into college sports and is now looking at the prospect of including teams across the globe in Europe and South America.