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Did you know that Earth Day is Monday, April 22nd and marks the 43rd Earth Day? What are you doing to commemorate it? Each year I try to think of something to do to celebrate the beginnings of our national movement to a better, cleaner environment. I know we all hear that Earth Day is Everyday slogan and it is true. If you are a recycler, make your home more energy efficient, carpool or take mass transit or bike, and generally be a conscious consumer, you are putting this slogan into action. And that is what Earth Day is all about, action.

 

The first Earth Day in 1970 marked the beginning of a national movement to clean up our air and water (Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act), and establish the Endangered Species Act. Demonstrations were occurring all over the nation in response to polluting industries and the state of our natural environment. Public spaces all across the land were full of people who were concerned for the health and well-being of not only the environment, but themselves and future generations.

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Spring is here! Though you wouldn't know it with the near foot of snow we just received yesterday. Regardless, Spring planting, and planning for planting, is upon us. The snow won't last forever so let's talk about a few things that will help our gardens grow.

 

First, before you mulch- compost! Adding good, organic compost to your lawn, flower beds, and garden will jump start the nutrients and help to feed your new plants. I buy compost that is locally made by a food scrap compost program and it works wonders! Apply a generous amount (half and inch to an inch) and turn it into the soil. Then you can go ahead and put mulch down to keep weeds from emerging.

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What is it about recycling that turns some people off and others get really excited about it? I heard a recent report about interviews with several hundred non-recyclers who gave many reasons for not recycling. Some of these were the usual ones that we recyclers hear all the time about it not being convenient, not knowing what the rules are, and not thinking it really does any good.

 

But the most often stated answer was very shocking to me. They most often stated reason was that they didn't like the attitudes of those of us who do recycle. Saying that we act like we are better than them and it makes them want to throw it away instead of recycle just to spite us.

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I am a terrible DIY craft person. I see all of these awesome ideas and pictures of things people turn their old stuff into and think that I can do that, someday. Sometimes I will even gather the things to do the project, but alas, I never get around to doing it. I can't be the only person like this, can I?

 

Because of my greenie nature, I embrace the idea of reuse and turning things into something else. However, I have to wonder when people have time to do these projects. Furthermore, where do they get all of the froo-foo frilly stuff they decorate their projects with? I don't just have things like that around my house. No, I don't have a jar of buttons somewhere, and I don't have scrap ribbons lying around, or pieces of fabric. Do many people have these things or do they specifically go and buy new things to be able to remake something?

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I was sitting in my living room playing with my son and his new toys from Christmas when he stopped paying attention to me and focused intently on his toy. As I watched him, I could see the gears turning in his head as he connected the dots and realized several things the toy could do that he hadn't noticed before. His brow furrowed and he continued to do these new things over and over again. When he was satisfied that he had mastered this, he looked up at me and gave me a huge smile, looking thoroughly pleased at his ability.

 

I looked on with pride and reaffirmed his excitement with a big smile and a "yay!" We continued on with what we were doing.

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Every evening, I set up my coffee pot to brew just enough coffee for my husband and me in the morning. It is much more sustainable and cheaper than buying coffee at a coffee shop every day. This is especially true if I opt for a fancy designer coffee beverage.

 

My routine consists of making and eating dinner, playing with my son, giving him a bath, reading stories, and putting him to bed around 7:30 (or 8 if he pushes it). I then turn to making my lunch for the next day, setting up the coffee for delay brew, dishes and sometimes laundry.

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My Christmas was picturesque this year. We woke up and watched my 18 month old scoot down the stairs. His first exclamation was "wooooow!" The look on his face was priceless, and the kind of thing you will remember forever. This was really the first Christmas where he could open presents by himself and really notice that the living room was full of things for him.

 

Pretty soon, there was a sea of wrapping paper that resembled a very choppy ocean and if not for the movement I probably couldn't tell where my son was. Amidst this I thought to myself, "I wonder how many trees it took to make this wrap?" Though we recycled everything (except the bows and ribbons of course) it still weighed on my mind.

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This past weekend, my husband and I packed up the baby and went to the tree nursery to pick out the perfect tree for our Victorian home. We walked in the semi-heated outdoor tent where we could get the Fraser Fir of our Christmas dreams. The fragrance kind of hits you in the face when you walk in those places don't it? It certainly seemed to impress our 18 month old who proudly proclaimed "woooow" when he saw the trees.

 

We found our tree, paid for it, and went home to set it up. After about 10 minutes of our son being afraid to go near the tree, he then proceeded to bat at it with his plush baseball bat. Apparently it was not cool with him that the tree was set up in his toy area. After that fiasco was over we noticed another pungent smell that hits you in the face.

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Now that the Turkey is eaten, the leftovers gone, and the house guests have vacated the premises, it is time to start your holiday shopping! Did anyone go out on Black Friday? I have to say that I ventured out but not until after 2pm. At that time, the only places that were crowded were places to eat. Everyone had bought their door buster deal items and retreated to one of the many food establishments to re-fuel.

 

As I was shopping the few small businesses I needed a few things from, I noticed that there is a big difference between them and the big box stores. Oddly enough, the difference is in the name of the comparison.

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The biggest eating holiday of the year is upon us. Well, maybe Super Bowl Sunday is bigger, but, nonetheless, Thanksgiving is big. It is big in many ways. Not only do you have to break out the sweatpants to make room for the extra indulgences, but your recycle bins are also likely to be busting at the seams. While you hit the malls and the gym the following day, your recycle bin isn't so lucky.

 

Every day Americans use 100,000,000 steel cans. On Thanksgiving, we are likely to use around 200,000,000. All of those cans that hold our beloved green beans for the green bean casserole, the cranberry sauce, and the pumpkin for the traditional pumpkin pie are all part of this huge increase.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

I recently embarked upon a journey through the brains of 5th graders. As part of an educational segment on the 3 R's and recycling in general it is interesting to see the differences in what kids know and how much or how little they know about certain things. And while this journey took me through weird alternate dimensions, there are some lessons I have taken away from this experience.

 

First, kids know more than you think they do. I was surprised to find out that they pretty much all knew that their trash was taken to landfills. (We don't' have any incinerators in our area) And I was also surprised to find that several knew that landfills produced methane gas. It seems like this topic isn't a very popular one but they did understand, for the most part, how a landfill works. When we got to the recycling part, many did know that you recycle to save resources and that their materials were made into new things.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

They are all over the country. You can even find one right here in Normal, Illinois! Recyclable materials fly off the floor and float along the second story of the building. Materials fly this way and that without any explanation of what is happening. Before you know it, steel cans fly off the belt and disappear into thin air. Not too far from there Aluminum cans are being thrown 3 feet away! In other areas in the building you see bottles flying off and disappearing, and paper falls into a black hole, never to be seen again!

 

Ok, so maybe it isn't haunted but the sorting of the material by sophisticated machinery makes the process feel like there is paranormal influence. Most people would say they have never seen ghostly spirits, much like a material recovery facility. It is an amazing thing to see, and you can catch multiple glimpses of the spirits in action right on YouTube. Did you see anything you may have recently recycled?

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I hear a lot of these myths repeated over and over (because if you say something enough it has to be true, right?), and I wanted to set the record straight.

 

Myth 1: You have to remove the caps from your bottles before you recycle them because the cap and the bottle are different kinds of plastic.

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I would be willing to bet that most people have no idea what actually happens to their recycling once it leaves the curb. Do you know where it goes or how much of an impact you and your community are having on the planet and the economy? What about the kinds of items in our everyday lives that can be and are made out or recycled materials?

 

Even as an avid recycler all of my life, I didn't know the answers to all of these questions up until a few years ago.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Why is it that every time I turn around I am hearing about some chemical they found in the food supply in exorbitant amounts? Not only are they finding it, they are finding it in amounts that are more than likely harmful.

 

Let's take for example the recent findings of Arsenic, the non-organic form, found in rice and rice containing foods. Consumer reports found extremely high levels even in Organic infant rice cereals. Arsenic. A known category 1 carcinogen. Did you know the EPA recommends levels no higher than 5 parts per billion (ppb) in our drinking water? They settled for 10 ppb though since most states wouldn't adopt a level that strict. So, now we see that our foods have levels anywhere from none to over 960ppb. Even my son's infant organic rice cereal was found to have levels between 149ppb and 274ppb. Why?

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

It's hard to believe that there are places in this country with no recycling options available to them. It seems to me that recycling is a basic service. It should exist everywhere, and sometimes it seems like it is everywhere.

 

Open up the newspaper and you read about plastic bag recycling programs, electronics recycling programs coming to your area, Terracycle programs starting up, and of course new curbside recycling programs. Why then, with all of this publicity, are there so many counties and towns without any recycling options?

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Humans have lived on this plant for thousands of years, and for much of it, very harmoniously with the surrounding ecosystems. Wildlife is an important part of our ecosystem and the key to our ability to live on this planet. Still, most people don't understand our dependence on nature and how we affect the balance of these systems.

 

There is a campaign going on right now, and actually has been an ongoing battle for years now, regarding the Safe Chemicals Act before congress. The League of Conservation Voters is running a campaign to try to get congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act which will force chemical companies to provide safety and health information prior to a chemical being released on the market in our everyday products. As it stands right now, the Toxic Substances Control Act doesn't do enough to keep us safe and the EPA doesn't have information it needs to determine if chemicals pose a health risk or not. Thousands of chemicals enter our beauty, hygiene, and everyday cleaning products that are not tested for their health and safety risks.

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I don't think there is a week that goes by that either I or my husband aren't finding money on the ground or something on the curb that someone threw out that has plenty of use and value left in it.

 

I know a lot of people don't think much of dropping a penny and therefore don't bother to pick it up. But, when you find 2 to 10 cents every day it adds up in the piggy bank. What about finding more than that? My husband and I were on a walk and he found a folded up $20 bill on the ground. When I was little I found a folded up $100 bill on the ground in Chicago. This is nothing to scoff at.

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During this summer's extended drought many communities have imposed water use regulations on their residents. Water levels everywhere are down many feet and there are some power plants that have to build a deeper water intake to cool the plants because theirs is now above the current water level. The corn crop has withered to the lowest yield expectations in decades and you could lose a foot in the cracks in the ground.

 

Yet, a report just came out that we are using more water than other years when there wasn't a drought. Why? Are we that concerned about our flowers, gardens, lawns, and trees? Or are we taking more showers because of the hot temperatures and we need to feel cleaner?

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

It seems the fashionable thing to do these days is to repurpose things and create trendy crafts using some old materials. Why? What happened to our throw-away society and single use everything? Are we really changing our ways and recycling and reusing more now than we had been for the last 20 years?

 

No, I don't think this is the case. Consider this: A recent study on the composition of the U.S. landfills conducted by the nonprofit organization, As You Sow, estimates that more than $11.4 billion worth of recyclable packaging is thrown out annually.

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Well-designed programs save money. Communities have many options available to make their programs more cost-effective, including maximizing their recycling rates, implementing pay-as-you-throw programs, and including incentives in waste management contracts that encourage disposal companies to recycle more and dispose of less.

422 S. White Oak Road  •  Normal, IL 61761  •  (309) 452-0064