Saturday, March 31, 2007

A River Reflection

This morning, I trekked over to the Veterans' Memorial Park to participate in the St. Joe River Clean-Up. I was assigned to help clean the riverbank adjacent to the Martin's store on Ireland and Northside. The organizers said that area needed a lot of work.

Given the short distance, I figured I'd walk. As I crossed the bridge towards Martin's, I saw the area I was assigned to--"litter" doesn't even begin to describe the mess I saw. It was an eye-sore. There were people already there picking up trash. In less than 10 minutes, I joined the pack.

At first, I tried to mentally record the trash I was picking. There were lots of candy bar and junk food wrappers, cans, and beer bottles. But it didn't take long before my thoughts lead me elsewhere, back to my childhood. It's probably because the riverbank reminded me of the woods.

When we were kids, my brother and I would always play in the woods. We'd make up games, climb trees, and find unique rocks. And of course, there was that one time when we got lost in the woods. That was my fault--I wanted to explore the section of the woods that was considered "forbidden" to 4- and 5-year olds. I said to my brother, "we'll just trace our steps back; it's easy." Yeah, right. When we retraced our steps, everything looked different. To make matters worse, there was a fork in the woods. Did we come from the left or the right side?

Naturally, with a 50% probability, I chose the wrong side. Within moments, we were climbing up a waterfall! After the waterfall, we encountered quicksand. My brother lost his boot in it. "Come on, we have to leave your boot," I said. We scrambled out of the woods. I saw a road that I knew would lead us home. But, in order to get to the road, we first had to cut through someone's fenced-in barnyard. There were lots of goats and other animals; the only thing I remember was my brother getting chased by a goat. But we made it. We hopped the fence and safely returned home.

Of course, now we were a good 3 hours late getting back home. I wanted to somehow quietly get inside without drawing attention to us. No such luck. My mother locked all the doors. The only thing we could do was knock on the front door. We were in trouble.

When my mother opened the door, a flash of anger swept across her face, but that was quickly replaced by astonishment and concern. We must have looked like two rag-a-muffins. We were filthy, my brother now only had one boot, and we looked pitiful. So instead of getting in trouble, she bathed and fed us.

Ah, what a pleasant memory. I haven't thought about that episode in many years. But, back to the riverbank. I would say there were about 10 people working in the same section. And it was pretty quiet, which is probably another reason why I began daydreaming about my childhood.

But at one point, I observed the progress we had made, and began smiling. The riverbank was looking good. Someone caught me smiling. "It looks good," I said. Another woman piped up, "You know, I thought this was impossible because it was so dirty. But we're all doing a little bit, and it really makes a big difference." Everyone agreed. Yes, this is good.

Afterwards, I walked back across the bridge towards Wiekamp Hall. I stopped midway across the bridge to look back at that area. It did not look the same, not the way I saw it when I first crossed the bridge. It was clean. Each of us filled two bags of trash this morning, and it made a big difference, not in terms of getting points or recording it on my vita (which I'm not going to do). But it made a physical difference that I could see with my own eyes. And I got to think about my brother, whom I miss dearly.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Check this site. The other day when I found the list of sites. The next day I called many numbers. Starting with the South Bend waste, called Lansing Michigan-Envirnomatal Quality Department, berrien county recycle person, Reliable, and the Buchanan Landfill. Found out some information. But I found this site. It looks to good to be true. They say they pick up in 24hr nationwide. And they take all plastics in all shapes, sizes, forms, they take it all. I wish we could see more of these all over the country. They really want to change the problem with plastic waste. I will contact this site and find out more.

Statistical Significance

It has been a while since I have written my thoughts on the blog...I suppose I have spread myself to thin again! :) Reading Elizabeth Royte's "Garbage Land" has been an extremely insightful experience for me, as I'm sure it has been for many. Royte not only enlightens her readers on environmental issues surrounding waste, but also on human behavior. As I continue to read about Royte's journey through garbage land and examine statistics, I find myself wondering whether we effectively apply the knowledge we gain from the statistical data we collect, in general. Perhaps having scientific data isn't enough. Perhaps we are the type of organisms that need to experience the damage we are causing personally before we are able to appreciate its significance. Perhaps nothing is truly real until we have perceived it to be real through our own experiences.

Walking the Walk

So we have been talking about garbage for months now, and in particular the demon plastic bags. I have been spouting off statistics to people from Garbageland and from our blog. "Do you know that we use 380 billion plastic bags a year?" I would blurt out. "Do you know that 95% of magazines are printed on completely virgin paper?" Suffice to say, I have been talking, but until recently I was all talk no action. Tonight, I joined the reusable bag crowd.

I had my tote bags tucked into my regular bag when I went grocery shopping tonight, and I whipped them out at the checkout. I had saved my produce bags from the last time I had gone shopping, and reused them for my onion, bananas, and grapes. I figure reusing my plastic produce bags is better than nothing.

I don't know why it took me so long, but it is oddly satisfying not just to talk the talk, but to walk the walk.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Volunteering/Civic Service

Yesterday I attended a conference hosted by the Young Professionals Network of the Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County and the focus, the focus was on volunteering in the community and all the benefits that are gained by community participation and civic service. The conference, Non-Profits: Their Impact, Your Involvement invited over 30 Non-Profit organizations in the Michianna area to attend. The conference hosted several speakers and emphasized the importance for businesses and their employees to volunteer on a regular basis. Incentives for businesses are the positive impact that businesses have on the community, as well as on the individual that is volunteering. I and another co-worker represented our agency, and were available for questions following the conference. I hope to see some of them come through our doors.
There are many benefits in volunteering for both the non-profit org., and for the individual, there are some studies that link good health and an improved attitude with volunteerism. And let's face it, doing something good or feeling like we've made a difference in someone's day in some small way does make us feel good. And there are so many opportunities to volunteer, some take as little as 30 minutes a week (like reading to a child). South Bend Schools offers this program. I work for a local non-profit organization, and we have a small staff of 6- so our volunteers make all the difference!
In our stats class, we have been asked to volunteer, so I have chosen to help with the Riverbend Math Community Center. I found it odd to have civic service as a class requirement in the beginning of the semester (considering this is a statistics course), but I was still excited to get involved in the community in a new way. This semester, I have really enjoyed my time at the Riverbend Math Center, and I'm getting class points at the same time-awesome! This is great, it gives me a chance to do something different. On my own, I would have never dreamed to volunteer at a math tutoring clinic but, it has been a wonderful experience!
So, while I know how hard it is to find time in our busy lives to volunteer, I think that once you do, you'll continue to find the time!

Gear-up for BagFest!

Folks, I have good news to share with you. We've got lots of cool gear for BagFest! Check out what I ordered (and click on the link to see the product for yourself):

* 250 ACME reuseable bags (in assorted colors, of course!)

* 300 stickers

* 30 t-shirts (for all of my students--because most of my students are female, I ordered a lot of the 'women'-style shirts. Oh, and I ordered four smalls for my petite students!)

So, here's the deal: Everyone who donates their plastic bags at BagFest will receive a free sticker. And folks who donate 50 (or more) bags will also receive a free, reusable bag. Sweet! And so that we're all on the same page, the Data Collectors will give folks their gifts after the data have been entered into the computer.

I'm so excited about getting this gear, I simply couldn't wait til next week to tell you all about it!

P.S. All this great gear was purchased from, who is also supporting our project by having Allison Kozdron, Representative of, speak about the importance of using cloth bags at the panel discussion.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

San Francisco's Plastic Bag Ban

A follow up to an earlier post: Today San Francisco's City Council voted to ban plastic bags that are made from petroleum products. Here is the article:

A Time for Miracles

I read an essay written by Bono, lead singer of U2, yesterday afternoon. His words comforted me. Lately, many people (i.e., students, community members, potential volunteers) have been asking me the same question: "What's in it for me?"

Don't get me wrong: It's a fair question to ask. And to be sure, participating in a community event is a great opportunity for professional and personal growth.

But Bono's words capture the heart of this project. As Bono put it, "Our humanity is diminished when we have no mission bigger than ourselves. [...] We discover who we are in service to one another, not the self."

So, I'd like to thank Bono for his insightful words. If you're interested in reading Bono's essay, click here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I found a great Web site

So I posted some comments on the numbers that are on the plastic containers. In Berrien County, we only recycle the number 1 and 2. Well, I did a search and I found a great website. All I did was type in my zipcode and a list appeared on the recycling in my area. And the best part is there is a list of items that can be recycled. Just click on the item and a list will appear telling you where you can recycle that item. I didn't know that you can reuse the packing peanuts from packages, take them to the UPS stores, to be reused, how wonderful. Or those old VHS tapes; don't throw them away, find a place that will take them, like the recycling for Breast Cencer in California; they will mail you a pre-paid package to mail old cell phones, CD'S, DVD's and tapes. Well, I really wanted to tell you all about this site. It really is easier then we thought about recycling those items that you would throw away. And your household batteries can be taken to some ACE stores and some Radioshacks. This is so great tell all your friends and family. Let's put a stop to throwing away those items that can be used again. Go to Let me know what you find that is interesting to share.

Household Hazardous Waste

In reading one of my student's "Royte Response" commentary, a good question was posed: Where would I find a list of household products that contain hazardous waste?

That question inspired me to find out some answers. In the spirit of sharing information, this is what I learned from the St. Joseph County Solid Waste Management District. We apparently have a household hazardous waste collection facility in our community--fantastic!

Acceptable Items
Waste Oils & Lubricants - engine, gear
Paints & Solvents - paints, stains, finishing oils, thinners
Pesticides/Herbicides-week & grass killer, insect killers, garden chemicals
Poisons-mouse & rat killers, roach & ant killers
Waste Fuels-Charcoal lighter, fuel oil, gasoline
Aerosols-spray paint, insect sprays
Batteries - household
Corrosives-lye, acids, drain killer
Mercury - elemental, thermostats, switches & relays, vapor lamps
Tires *no rims* - St. Joseph County residents only
Corrosives-lye, acids, drain killer

They do accept e-waste, but according to their site, businesses and organizations should call ahead to make arrangements. (It's ok for individuals to bring their e-waste to the site without calling first.)

There's a permanent household-hazardous waste collection facility in Mishawaka:
1105 E. Fifth Street (between Dearborn Crane and Trailmaster).

They're open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30am to 3:30pm.

It's free!!

Well, almost. Here's some "fine-print" information to note: It costs $12 (each) to recycle old computers, TVs, and video-game players. There's no cost to recycle cameras, radios, and cameras. Click here to see the comprehensive e-waste list.

BagFest Poster

I work at IUSB tutoring services. Everybody who saw me putting up the poster around the Administration Building asked me about it! They were very excited and promised to bring their bags to the BagFest. I am also spreading the word in the Hispanic community!
I am going to need more posters…

Recycling Paper

I found these interesting statistics from the EIA (Energy Information Administration) web page. This web page gives information about official energy statistics from the U.S Government. If you want to see more information, go to

In 2003, the paper industry in the U.S. reached its goal to recover 50 percent of all paper.By achieving this goal, 20 million more tons of paper were recovered. The industry has set a new goal of recovering 55 percent of used paper by 2012. Today, more than a third of all the paper recovered in the world is recovered in the U.S. Old corrugated containers (boxes) account for nearly 50 percent of the total paper that is recycled.

Monday, March 26, 2007

BagFest Poster

As you all know, Dr. Verges distributed posters to all of us to post throughout the community. I took one to Harmony Market, which is a health food store in Mishawaka. The girl at the counter said that it was a great idea, and that she was sure that the owner would allow it to be put up. She also said that she would have to tell her friends and parents about BagFest, and even started telling another worker at the store about it. I think BagFest has the potential to be a really big event. So if you go to Harmony Market, keep an eye out for the BagFest poster.

river cleanup

This saturday from 9-1 p.m. is the annual St. Joseph River Cleanup! There's an article about this event posted here:

They recommend you wear some "rubber" boots and bring some gloves. The event is in rain or shine. The above website announces the check in point for at Veterans Memorial Park on Northside Boulevard, just east of the Twyckenham bridge. From there you will be assigned your own personal section of river btw the Logan Street Bridge and Howard Park. The contact phone number is 271-0973.

Our river is described as the biggest resource of our county. It seems like a great way to give back! I hope to see some of my stats pals there. :O)

living without virgin toilet paper...

So, I was thinking about the NY times article question, "what would you be able to live without?"
And I'm thinking I could definitely live w/o virgin toilet paper.

In Garbage Land (Ch 8 Mercury rising), Royte describes that in the virgin paper making industry "25% of a harvested tree goes into a waste pile." Now, mind you I was shocked to hear that the virgin paper industry is the " 3rd largest source of greenhouse gas in the U.S." Furthermore, it was frustrating to hear of the government subsidies given to this industry, which prevents growth in recycled paper industries, and costs us billions a year in tax dollars. However, something more sentimental and closer to my heart is the thought of a tree going down that doesn't have too. We need them to breathe, muey importante! Thinking of Royte's account of an "ancient hardwood forest" going down to make TOILET PAPER is completely appaling to me.

So I hereby swear to never buy virgin toilet paper again.

And I am awed at the thought that choosing and buying something like toilet paper might make such a big difference.

Some thoughts on drinking water and getting the word out

I read someones post the other day highlighting their concerns about the amount of mercury in their drinking water. This made me remember a comment that my mom made to me once when I was thinking about the merits of drinking tap vs bottled water. My mom does a lot of work for the city and works closely with Mayor Steve and I remember her commenting that South Bend Tap water was continually ranked highly in safety and quality and further more that it was one of the things that Steve Luecke was proudest of within his community. Upon further research I the South Bend Water Works Water Quality Report 2005. To view just go to :

Further more, if people are still concerned they should visit the EPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water online at:

The more we dive into this project, the more intrigued I am to discover what the South Bend/Mishawaka community does to promote and endorse recycling efforts. Just like people have commented before, every time something says "recycle" it gets my attention. Just this small introduction to recycling has opened my eyes to the habits or lack of habits within the community. Actually, it's usually a lack of knowledge about what is available that I find is more common. I am always glad to hear about opportunities, such as sending in used ink cartridges and donating used cell phones. What I find to be the problem is finding out about these programs in the first place!! There should be more advertisement about these programs so that people can utilize them and contribute to cleaning up the environment and supporting reusing and recycling. Now the big question on my mind is how to do that without using virgin resources or wasting materials like paper, staples, cardboard, etc. that are usually needed for good advertising!!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Does anyone know of this?

Bill and I were at the post office today. He went in line and I looked around. When I see something that says 'recycle', it gets my attention. So I read it. It was pre-postaged envelopes for recycling your ink cartridges. Just put it back in the packaging when it's empty, put in the envelope, and mail it. How easy is that. It gets mailed to a recycling center in Franklin, Tenn. I was wanting to know if anyone else has seen this, too? Let me know. And what else does this center recycle? I will try to find out.

The coolest pinwheels in town

I was amazed at how much I learned at today's activity, it was really surprisingly amazing. The first child I helped was brilliant with math for his age. It made me jealous, because I remembered how at his age there was no way I was whipping out the numbers like he was. Then he and I encountered the point of long division. I think the last time I did long division was 3rd grade. :) It took me a trial run to remember all the steps. It was really awesome though to help him.

It was almost time to leave about 1:30 when two small families came to see what it was we were doing. I think it was from these two that I learned the most. These families showed me that it was all about opportunities. One of the families was a mother and her son. She said they did not come to this library much but she was excited to learn about the Riverbend Math Activity. She had a lot of questions for me, and my impression was that she came from a background with little opportunities. She kept telling me that her son was really good with his hands and very smart. Sure enough, what took me two times to see to learn how to do it, he mastered it in one. I could tell this was something that she would bring her son to again.

It made me think of a story I had heard on the news the other day. I heard that a lot of libraries were going to be and are closed due to lack of funding. The president of the American Library Association said she could not imagine what lives would be like without libraries. I think its amazing how much of our life is based upon opportunities. It is because of public transportation that the mother and son were able to come to the public library. Luckily, because there are amazing organizations like Riverbend Math that this mother and son were able to participate for free in a family math activity and learn of a lot of other helpful activities that she promised her son they would go to.

Our Bag fest is also an opportunity, I think. It will be able to provide information and experiences for people with a lot and little opportunities in their lives. I think it is events like this that everyone can look forward to, no matter what their background is, and that is what makes it so awesome. I think everyone who attends will leave with an experience and knowledge from opportunities, and that is what it is all about. We are giving an opportunity, and I hope everyone who wants to and can takes advantage of it.

Riverbend Math, Origami

I went downtown to the library to help Amanda for the Riverbend math session. Walking into the building I was nervous that I wouldn't be of much use. I don't trust myself to teach or tutor anyone over the age of 8 in math and I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to help out very well. It turned out to be a great time! I helped teach both kids and adults to create origami pinwheels which was a great project for the kids to work on and a few of the moms got really into it as well!! I had a blast and learned how to make some pretty neat projects..good for any college kid on a budget to know when it comes to having to give presents to other people!!! What was really exciting for me was to see how excited the kids were when they had a complete project! It was a good way to start out my Saturday...yes 11:30 is relatively early on a Saturday morning for me but this began my day on a positive note and I hope to be able to help out again sometime soon.

Mercury - thoughts

On pages 161 and 162 of Royte’s book she talks about how prevalent mercury is in our air and water and the dangers of it. It opened my eyes. I never really thought about it nor did I know how widespread and serious the problem was. Am I drinking it every time I drink water? Our bodies need a lot of water to live and function. What about women who are pregnant? What are they doing to their babies?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Yogurt Lid

I came home from school tonight, grabbed a "cup" of yogurt, and was somewhat amused by what I saw. On the foil-ish lid, in big green font, it said "We're Thinking Green! In the near future we will be removing the plastic lids from our yogurt cups. This environmentally-friendly act will keep over a MILLION POUNDS of extra plastic from entering our ecosystem each and every year!" I thought it was pretty cool to see a manufacturer responding to the consumer demand for more earth friendly products.


I have learnt a lot lately about recycling in this class. I was first excited about Elizabeth's passion on recycling her own trash through composting. This may seem old to post since we read about composting but has still fascinated me. I did composting when I was little with my farming parents on a large scale of course and laughed out at Elizabeth when she had to look for some worms. Hey I had them all over me they were always there, poor things!! I didn't know they were such an important part of composting process. However when all was said and done we could harvest the biggest tomatoes, cabbages and potatoes of all. Elizabeth also talked about recycling tuna cans! oh how funny!who even cares where tuna cans go after eating? Great someone should have known they come back as valves and faucets from another country. And Now shopping bags!!! waaao! I think the reality of the coming bag fest hit me when we held a mini bag fest in class and how we collected 245 bags with only six people in class. I can't wait for the real festival it will be breath-taking to have all those bags. I guess all things can be recycled if we gave them a chance in fact we can recycle ourselves too!!!! How you ask? by recycling all the knowledge we had in this class during the bag fest to help the community know about recycling.`Great!After this class don't stop there go out and do likewise. recycle,recycle,recycle. Good luck.

Colin Beavan's Journey

I'm glad Kim posted Colin Beavan's one-year experiment to reduce waste. I read the NY Times article about his journey and was struck by what I discovered. For example, his family has banned automobiles, magazines, and plastic bags from their daily living. They're now relying on scooters, bikes, and hand-me-downs as part of their daily routine, just to name a few items. (Go online to see what else they've banned from their lifestyle).

In a recent op-ed piece written for the NY Times, Beavan writes about his shame in acknowledging the fact that it's the first time in his life he's made substantial lifestyle changes that align with his beliefs. Now, this is a guy who's written numerous papers against hunting whales in Japan, poaching gorillas in the Congo, and the apartheid in South Africa. Yet, according to Beavan, "I made the mistake of believing that condemning the misdeeds of others somehow made me virtuous" (NYT, March 11, 2007).

So, if you have a moment, I encourage you to read the NY Times article Kim posted (see below). And after you've read the article, I'd like for you to think about this question, which was also posted in the NY Times:

What would you be willing to sacrifice for a more environmentally sound life?

Please feel free to post your thoughts about this question on the blog.

Clean Your Files Day 2007

You can bring your paper to be recycled to Clean Your Files Day on Wednesday, April 18, 2007, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown South Bend. The City of South Bend, Solid Waste Management District of St. Joseph County, and Waste Management, Inc. invite the entire community to participate in order to decrease the amount of paper going to the landfill. For more information, you can call Jennifer Jackson, Communications & Special Projects, at 235-7590.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Year of No Toilet Paper

My husband showed me this article, which I found really interesting and wanted to share it. This writer in New York is writing a book about his family of three living for a year with "eating only food (organically) grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan; (mostly) no shopping for anything except said food; producing no trash (except compost, see above); using no paper; and, most intriguingly, using no carbon-fueled transportation." Some of the stuff that he's doing is kind of extreme, like using no toilet paper, and I wonder how much of it they will keep doing after the one year is up, but I think it's an interesting experiment.

Here is the article link:

And here is his website:

Homework Tutoring with Amanda

Yesterday, I went to the library to help Amanda from the Riverbend Math Community Center with tutoring math. I wasn't sure what to expect (and was pretty nervous about tutoring anyone in math)! But, it was actually a great time. I spent some time with two students, both 7th graders. One student and I worked on adding and subtracting positive and negative integers, the other student and I worked on some geometry. In both instances, it was a great experience because I got to help some kids who were having trouble with math and when I was in middle school I also stuggled a bit with math. It was really nice, I feel the kids and I were able to relate after I explained that I had similiar problems at their age. I remember being that age, and sometimes you think you're the only one having trouble. Something else that was interesting were the two other students both working on probability, and I thought wow, I just learned that in stats recently! We never stop learning at any age so... they learned-I learned, and it was a good time!!!


If you go to, you can watch the video segment from yesterday. It's titled "IUSB's Bagfest is Underway".

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Festival Simulation

Festival simulation was very interesting today. We learned a lot of little, but important things by doing this simulation. I knew team work was important, but today it proved very much so because we could see how chaotic it can be if we are not organized. Few pointers such as good counting technique, putting in account that if one of those who will be counting the bags miscount, then we will not run the risk of counting the whole pile by putting them in different piles. Also possible use of gloves when handling these plastic bags since we do not know where they came from and what they carried before brought to us. The use of disposable gloves can help reduce some contamination, but also we have to remind ourselves the good handwashing techinique for the same reason, since hand washing is the most efficient and easy way of reducing germ spread. Generaly, I thought we did a good job and kind of gave us a picture of the big day to come. I am looking foward to this event.

Class Pile-Up: Lessons Learned II

This afternoon's class was another success! I learned three more practical lessons for the bag pile-up activity:

1. We need an egg timer that needs to be set for every 1/2 hour. The egg timer will be located at one of the data-collection stations, and it will be used as a reminder that the Bag Pitcher Team Leader needs to write the current tally of bags on the board. Because the egg timer will be located at the data-collection station, the Data Collector Team Leader (Ashley Schrock) will be responsible for re-setting the egg timer and alerting the Bag Pitcher Team Leader.

2. The Counters should wear an apron (or perhaps a fanny pack) to hold the slips of paper. They also need to have pens on them. Extra writing utensils will be available at the data-collection stations.

3. The Counters also need to wear latex gloves. I have a very tight budget, but I'll see if I can manage with this expense.

Oh, before I forget: My afternoon class generated 455 bags today (N = 6). Amazing! :0) Folks, I think we're on the right track. I appreciate your suggestions--as you know from today's event, we need to work as a team to make this event a success! Thanks for all your hard work!

Class Pile-Up: Lessons Learned I

This morning was incredible! The morning class simulated the BagFest bag pile-up activity. I'm so glad we did this--there were four practical lessons I learned from today's practice event:

1. Data Collectors will run syntax to calculate the current sum of bag donations every ½ hour. They will write that number down to give to the Bag Pitcher Team Leader. I will have a cheat-sheet for Data Collectors just in case they accidentally close the syntax file or spreadsheet file.

2. Bag pitchers need to have a calculator on them at all times to calculate the bag count every ½ hour. They also need markers to write the tally on the board. Materials will be supplied for BagFest.

3. We need shopping carts for Counters. (Brilliant suggestion, Tori!) The Counters will use the shopping carts as they are counting up the bags. The Bag Pitchers will take the carts and dump the bags into the pile. Bag Pitchers and Counters must be in sync with each other!

4. There will be four data collection stations, and one of those stations will be called the “Express Lane.” The Express Lane will be for folks who have brought 20 bags or fewer to the festival.

And to provide you with a preliminary statistic, my 11 students brought 979 bags to class today! Students: I'm going to compile these data with my afternoon class for our next SPSS session (check the course calendar for that date!).

In the meantime, I can't wait to hear your thoughts about the class pile-up! :0)

Class Pile Up!

Wow! Today was very interesting I thought. One of the most interesting events was going to count bags and finding plastic bag "footballs" Aleja had made! How cool and space conserving! It was also amazing that our small class was able to tally up that large of amount of plastic bags. I can now see how we consume so many bags annually as a country! I think I will be able to see it even more at Bag Fest. I think today was a very effective trial and error run, and it made me more excited for April 14th! I hope Bag Fest will be a great activity for realization and awareness in the community as well.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Garbage $$$ & Energy

Since we started this plastic-bag conservation project, I am noticing more and more things that once seemed minor or uninteresting. I was watching CNN news and during the commercial time, I noticed a picture of waste management, but their message was to inform people about the energy produced from the recycled garbage, and that it contributes significantly in power. Approximately 10 million houses can be powered by this energy for a year. To use this kind of energy serves many purposes, such the land that was going to be used as a landfill, the environment from pollution by incinerators, and also in the long-term, money. I think it cannot be any greener than using energy from our garbage. I believe more people are going to involve themselves once they get the insight of these efforts.

More Recycling

I was in Chicago this afternoon, for some reasons I was more observant than usual, maybe because my fiance was driving. I happened to spot two garbage collector trucks, one following the other, first of all because these two trucks were holding traffic downtown Chicago, but also because of the smoke produced by the two old trucks. Immediately an idea came in my head: Are these recycling trucks or the normal garbage trucks?!?! I asked my fiance if he will shortly follow these trucks because I wanted to see something. He was not pleased because these two trucks were giving off too much smoke; he kindly followed them for a while and I noticed that they were collecting different kinds of recycable trash and I figured to myself that they must be using "dual" method and I realized for sure how polluting this method can be and how much it can increase traffic since they are stopping very frequently. Regardless of the method, I felt excited to see that someone was recycling. I believe with rising awareness there will be more we can give to our environment and future too, in return we can benefit more from our world.

Harry Potter Goes Green

I just saw this headline and thought it was really great news and I wanted to share it. The final Harry Potter book will be printed on a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer waste fiber. Here are the full details:

Get Ready for the Class Pile-Up!

Tomorrow's going to be a big day because my students will bring their plastic bags for the class pile-up. In short, we need to simulate the bag donation activity at BagFest. It's going to take a team effort to tally, record, and pitch the bags into a pile. And to successfully execute this ambitious task at BagFest, we must first practice!

Why are we doing this? That's a question several people have asked me. And it's a good question to ask! Remember that statistic published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)? Well, according to the EPA, the U.S. alone consumes approximately 380 billion plastic bags per year. When I first discovered that statistic, I was amazed--and perplexed--by that number. I couldn't (and I still can't) imagine what a pile of 380 billion plastic bags looks like. And not being able to visually imagine this statistic bothered me for two reasons: (1) it suggested that I wasn't comprehending what that number really means, and (2) there's no personal connection to that statistic.

To make matters worse, here's another related issue: The state of Indiana does not have facilities for plastic-bag recycling, which means that billions of plastic bags are sent to landfills, causing environmental hazards to animals and economic costs to consumers.

So I asked myself this question: Is there a way to think more personally about these 380 billion bags?

And folks, that's the real purpose behind this activity. It's for us to be able to see for ourselves how our puny, little bags add-up to a larger, real-world issue. And hopefully, by pitching our bags into this pile, we'll start to make a personal connection that inspires us to make positive changes in our community.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


What if trashcans were provided around campus for plastic bags? We are already encouraged to recycle paper, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans, so why not plastic bags?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Changing our habits

Flora and Amelia raised some good points in their posts regarding why we don't do more to change our habits and the fact that we often throw recyclable things away because of convenience. I've been thinking a lot about the price that we pay for convenience. I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to convenience. I loved it when those Lysol disinfecting wipes were invented and I use convenience products all the time. My mechanical pencils are going to the landfill when I'm done with them and on and on and on. I personally did not think that this project was going to affect my life as much as it has and I'm sure that others would agree with me when I say that one of the most important issues here for students and for those who come to our Bag Festival is that through awareness of the issues we can all make small changes to our daily habits that add up to big changes. Composting isn't for everyone and I most likely will not give up all my convenience products, but yes, I can reduce the amount of trash I generate by eating less fast food, decreasing the amount of junk mail that I receive, using reusable bags, etc. It's overwhelming if you think about having to change all your habits and your lifestyle, but if we just commit to making one small change at a time, it makes the environment better for everyone.

Friday, March 16, 2007

fast food and poster ideas

This probably seems like a no brainer, but I've been really thinking a lot lately about how much trash is generated from eating fast food. The other day I was eating at Subway with my daughter and even though I've eaten at Subway many times, I was disgusted by the trash. Each time a Subway sandwich is made, the worker puts on a fresh pair of gloves, each sandwich is wrapped in paper and put into a plastic bag, plus the drink containers, and so on. Not to mention all those toys that come in the kids meals that usually end up in the garbage. I ended up bringing the plastic bags home to recycle, but it makes me mad that the restaurants don't have recycling receptacles at the restaurants. (I'm not picking on just Subway; this is true for all fast food restaurants.) So for now, I have sworn off fast food. Not only does it tend to be bad for your health and your budget, but it's bad for the environment too.

On another note, I think it would be a good idea if we had some educational posters at the Bag Fest. One could be for putting some of the garbage statistics on, one could be for ideas on how to make changes in your lifestyle to help the environment, etc. I've been tossing around ideas in my head, but I would like to hear if others are interested in making posters and / or contribute ideas to making them or have suggestions for information to include. Let me know your thoughts. They don't have to be fancy. The main purpose is to present some of the information we all have been collecting and reading about so that visitors to the Bag Fest can get the main ideas of that information.

Another Good Day

Today was my second day to teach the same clients as yesterday how to conserve plastic bags by making useful items. The item we made was again the coasters, these items are getting even better today than yesterday. They are more colorful and attractive. The clients did a better job today and they all seemed to enjoy the art of making these coasters. I was looking on the blog today and I am amazed with the statistics of how much landfill, water and number of trees we can save every year if we just change our living habits. My question is how difficult is this ? Why aren't we doing it? I am all fired up, can we do it?
The sad truth is our mess will impact our children and grand children to come if we do not change. There is an ad on one of the T.V. channels showing an older men jumping from the railway trucks leaving a child to be hit by the train. This ad now strikes hard in my mind--Are we doing the same thing by not changing our lives? Are we taking the easy way out while leaving all the mess to our children and grand children to deal with?
I am convinced that we need some changes, and probably small changes and gradually will make a huge impact. If I make some changes today then my son/daughter will probably benefit and make even bigger changes and the world will be a better place to live.

Free Compost Bin & Lesson: Woo Hoo!

Hey guys, I have great news: Rick Glassman, Environmental Educator of the St. Joseph County Soil and Water Conservation District, will be hosting a free seminar on how to compost. The first 50 folks who attend this seminar will also receive a free compost bin!

So mark your calendar for Wednesday, May 2nd, 7pm-8:30pm.
The location is 5605 US 31 South, Suite 4, South Bend, IN.

Rick suggested that people should call him at (574) 291-744 to RSVP the event. (This will ensure that you'll get that free bin!)

I already told Rick that I'd be there. Free help and a free compost? Count me in! :0) M

Click here to see the flyer for this event.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Plastic Bags on the Move

Today was an interesting day for me. I had an opportunity to teach clients who are mentally challenged from Marshall-Starke Development Center in Plymoth on how to conserve plastic bags by making coasters. It was interesting how these clients were able to catch easily on how to make these beautiful coasters. The plastic bags that seemed worthless and an annoyance to most of us turned to be a valuable treasure. I yet have to discover how many more beautiful crafts could be made from these plastic bags. I appreciate an opportunity to learn and teach someone else how to make these crafts. I still can't believe how colorful these coasters were.

Beautiful Coasters!!!

Beautiful Coasters!!!
Originally uploaded by mverges.
Today, Joyce, Chantelle, and Flora worked with Marshall-Starke Development Center to teach clients how to make crafts from plastic bags.

I was so amazed and impressed by what I saw! I can't wait to hear more about their experience working with these clients.

In the meantime, feel free to visit to see more photos from today's service-learning event.

Some interesting and alarming facts

Here are some interesting facts I found about recycling and energy. I was especially interested in reading about recycling paper after reading Royte's experiences. Reading about recycling, both the pros and con's, and how it can make an impact in the environment one piece of paper at a time, has really made me take action to make a more concerted effort to recycle. I was appalled, looking at my own garbage habits, at the number of recyclables I throw away simply because my apartment complex doesn't pick them up!! I have begun saving all my glass and plastic bottles, my aluminum and tin cat food can's and my scrap paper and newspapers. I give them to my mom once a week and she recycles them for me. Not only has this cut down on the amount of garbage in my house at any given time, I feel better about saving them to give to her, even if it does mean putting them in plastic bags for transport-which I'm sure she's saving for our project.

On that note, I have just this week taken a look at the space between my refrigerator and the wall which is where I stuff all my plastic grocery bags. The space is stuffed full!!! I'm going to have to find some more storage until I can bring them all in to be counted for our mock collection!!! Anyway, hope every one's spring break is good and enjoy these facts. They are a good starting point for further research.

Energy Facts

Recycled aluminum saves 95% energy vs. virgin aluminum; recycling of one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for 3 hours (Reynolds Metal Company)
Recycled aluminum reduces pollution by 95% (Reynolds Metal Co.)
4 lbs. of bauxite are saved for every pound of aluminum recycled (Reynolds Metal Co.)
Enough aluminum is thrown away to rebuild our commercial air fleet 4 times every year.

Recycled glass saves 50% energy vs. virgin glass (Center for Ecological Technology); recycling of one glass container saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for 4 hours (EPA)
Recycled glass generates 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution (NASA)
1 ton of glass made from 50% recycled materials saves 250 lbs. of mining waste (EPA)
Glass can be reused an infinite number of times; over 41 billion glass containers are made each year (EPA)
Recycled paper saves 60% energy vs. virgin paper (Center for Ecological Technology)
Recycled paper generates 95% less air pollution: each ton saves 60 lbs. of air pollution (Center for Ecological Technology)
Recycling of each ton of paper saves 17 trees and 7000 gallons of water (EPA)
Every year enough paper is thrown away to make a 12' wall from New York to California

Plastic milk containers are now only half the weight that they were in 1960 (EPA)
If we recycled every plastic bottle we used, we would keep 2 billion tons of plastic out of landfills (Penn State)
According to the EPA, recycling a pound of PET saves approximately 12,000 BTU's.
We use enough plastic wrap to wrap all of Texas every year (EPA) Source: University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Produced and maintained by the Office of Waste Management
Further Facts
A ton of recycled paper equals or saves 17 trees in paper production.
Production of recycled paper uses 80% less water, 65% less energy and produces 95% less air pollution than virgin paper production.
If offices throughout the country increased the rate of two-sided photocopying from the 1991 figure of 20% to 60%, they could save the equivalent of about 15 million trees." (from Choose to Reuse by Nikki & David Goldbeck, 1995).
Global paper use has grown more than six-fold since 1950. One fifth of all wood harvested in the world ends up in paper. It takes 2 to 3.5 tons of trees to make one ton of paper. Pulp and paper is the 5th largest industrial consumer of energy in the world, using as much power to produce a ton of product as the iron and steel industry. In some countries, including the United States, paper accounts for nearly 40 percent of all municipal solid waste. Making paper uses more water per ton than any other product in the world. Source: The Worldwatch Institute.
Over a ton of resources is saved for every ton of glass recycled -- 1,330 pounds of sand, 433 pounds of soda ash, 433 pounds of limestone, and 151 pounds of feldspar. Also a ton of glass produced from raw materials creates 384 pounds of mining waste. Using 50% recycled glass cuts the waste by 75%.
Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I watched a show today called something like "Weird U.S.: The underground." It was just two guys that traveled around the united states looking at the secret underground worlds that our country was built upon. One of the cities they visited was St. Paul, Minnesota where a vast network of caves used to hide a speak easy during prohibition and an underground hide-out for notorious mobsters. The caves are still a hot spot for those of the night but only the front few rooms. Farther into the caves, they came across rooms off the main passage way and of course they investigated. Well what they found was garbage and the ruins of cities that had been ruined. When the rubble was cleared they had no where to dump it except in the caves where they figured it wouldn't hurt anyone. True we've been dealing with the environmental impact of garbage but what is ironic to me is that long after we are gone and our grand-children are doing their own study of garbage, our left-overs will still remain to tell out story. The footprint of garbage is much larger then I always imagine because it spans space, distance and time.

Lately I've been feeling really discouraged about the waste we generate: both the amount and the environmental impact. I've felt like there isn't any way to stop it; like we've already crossed the line. But for some reason the thought of garbage acting like a time capsule, long after we are gone (while partly gross) made me not so distressed about our garbage. Because not only our garbage but what we are trying to do with it to improve the condition of our earth will also be present for future generations to study and build upon. I know Royte talks about garbage excavators in our book and while I have no desire to actually go and do this I imagine it would be fascinating to see what people have left behind. People that may be long forgotten are still present through their trash. To me that gives garbage a whole new meaning and I just wanted to share that with all of you.

Composting to Paper!

Here are a few of the links that give instructions or tips for composting in smaller spaces. Each site has different ideas, so I think it is a matter of picking what works best for you.

Also pertaining to Chapter 6 in Royte, I really recommend browsing on Marcal ( and Seventh Generation's ( website. Marcal's website has a neat (kids version) layout of the recycling process of paper Royte talks about, while Seventh Generation has some really interesting facts that will help remind or convince us to recycle! Such as...
"You Are Making a Difference™
If every household in the U.S. replaced just one roll of 500 sheet virgin fiber bathroom tissue with 100% recycled ones, we could save:

* 423,900 trees
* 1 million cubic feet of landfill space, equal to 1,600 full garbage trucks
* and 153 million gallons of water, a year’s supply for 1,200 families of four!"


SBT Article

It just occurred to me that some of my friends, family, and readers may have missed reading the plastic-bag article published in the South Bend Tribune. So if you're one of those folks, please click here to read the article we've been talking about on the blog. And feel free to post your comments about the article, too! :0) M

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Well happy spring break everybody! But of course we are all still thinking and dreaming of plastic bags!

When we read Royte's chapter on composting, it made me reflect on my experience with composting, and I wonder if anyone else has similar experiences.

My sister came home with a tub of worms and a Styrofoam cooler. I asked her what in the world she was doing. She responded, “Composting.” After she created her compost she sat it out by our back patio and that was all I noticed it for awhile. It was not until a few hot days went by that I really started to notice the compost. Previous to her compost we would sit out back and eat, but that stopped as soon as the smell became too bad to handle. Meanwhile, about a month had gone by and my sister’s compost seemed pretty successful. I was not too happy about it because at this point I had lost my back patio to it and a kitchen utensil to help aerate it, which never returned, nor did I really want it to. Well one thing that was also convenient about our back patio was we always let the dogs out on it to use the bathroom. The dogs had never touched this horribly smelly Styrofoam food trap until one day when I was getting ready for school. I came down to let them in to find little Styrofoam beads on their fur and terribly smelly food scraps on their faces. They also created a new definition for Dog breath. Of course, conveniently my sister was gone so I was left to pick up the mess. While picking it up, I found beetles, worms, spiders, it was amazing how many critters resided and feasted in my sister’s compost. I picked up a lot that just seemed like smelly dirt and the rest was little scraps. When I told my sister of the dogs feast upon her compost she was really upset, at the time, I was happy to get rid of it.

Now however, I really want to try composting again! I looked up on-line "apartment composting" and there are a lot of really helpful tips and ideas, for anyone else who lives in a smaller space :)
Above of course are my personal composters ;)

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Semi-Related Issue

In our journey to learn more about bag conservation we have been talking about our garbage footprint, everything that goes into making, transporting, and disposing our waste. I was reading an article in Time that also spoke about another footprint. It had to do with eating local food versus eating organic food. One issue discussed was that of the fuel required to transport organic products to certain regions versus buying locally grown food that was fresher because it did not have to travel great distances. Basically, is it better to buy apples from a local orchard, or one that has traveled thousands of miles but is organic?

Of course, this issue has layers of complexity unrelated to just the footprint, but it kind of made me think of toss-away plastic bags versus reusable bags. Reusable bags don't contribute to our garbage footprint until they are no longer functional (rips, holes, etc), while toss-away bags can contribute dramatically to our garbage footprint. Even if we do recycle our plastic bags, they must travel over a thousand miles from Indiana to be recycled. On a large scale this can have massive effects on energy use and emissions into the air. In a similar fashion, organic foods must travel many miles to reach us here in Indiana. Local foods do not have the same ill effects, although many argue the pesticides could.
If you are interested in reading the entire article, it is the cover story of the March 12 edition of Time.

Scrap Metal Recycling

Royte made me chuckle when she said that picturing "Earth Day volunteers picking up tin cans from a field of wildflowers has little to do with the reality of a scrap yard..." (p.146). Of course, I wanted to see this reality for myself, so I went to YouTube and found this video. See it for yourself: I assure you, there's no wildflowers in this scrap yard!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Plastic bags: Boon or bane? (A Response)

An article in the Sunday paper (South Bend Tribune) featured some comments from my Statistics Professor, Michelle Verges. The article was great, it spread awareness of the upcoming event that our class is currently planning and excited for. It's cool to hear that the store Ikea will start charging for bags, and the article compares that to Aldi which I never even considered that as a means of conservation. I shop at Aldi regularly mostly for their good food at low prices, and just purchased my bags not thinking of it as an inconvenience at all but instead as something that comes with getting groceries at an affordable price. I have taken my bags back to Aldi and reused them several times, again not really thinking in terms of conservation but instead as saving money. I liked the fact that this article gears people to realize the savings in both waste and money! This was a point also mentioned by Dr. Verges, and it gets the wheels turning in peoples' mind to get them to realize that there are simple ways to recycle and being more conservative besides the traditional recycling plastic, cans, etc. The bag fest will be an awesome way to make people more aware and conscientious about the decisions they make on a daily basis, like making considerations for something as simple as plastic bag recycling.

Just another cool website!

So I'm really not sure if anyone has posted about it yet, but the website rocks your socks off!!! I read about in it a magazine, decided to visit it, and was actually quite impressed! I found this paticular page,
to be quite interesting. It has a lot of information about our three R's (reduce, reuse, and recycle) as well as some amazing ideas (including some DIY instructions) on what to do with old crap a.k.a potential garbage. A few of my favorites were..

Saturday, March 10, 2007

RiverBend Math

I worked at the library for Amanda for the third time. I did two homework clinics and the Saturday when the kids worked with statistics. I enjoyed it but it was challenging because some of the math concepts I haven’t used for years. But it did help refresh my memory. Helping people like that also helps build confidence. Amanda was real helpful. I had a chance to sit down and talk to her when all the kids had left. She is an interesting and insightful person. If I had time and if it wasn’t so far away from where I live I would really like to continue helping there. On a side note, I’m glad spring break is finally hear. I was hoping to get caught up on some things but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

Friday, March 09, 2007

San Francisco may ban plastic grocery bags

In this morning's South Bend Tribune, on p.A5, there is a small article on this.
You can also read the article at this link, although it's more brief than the Tribune article:,1,6836392.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed

The story says that "the measure would require grocery stores that do more than $2 million in sales a year to offer customers bags made of recyclable paper, plastic that can be turned into compost or study cloth or plastic that can be reused. If approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors next week, the measure would take effect in six months."

This is exciting news!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What does tanning have to do with garbage?

I was able to get Tiki Tan to donate a free month worth of tanning. My idea is that people can put there name in a drawing and we can select one individual for this.
I'm trying to contact other businesses for donations toward our project. Please let me know if anyone would be interested in helping me???

Clothing Outfitter That Recycles

One company that truly amazes myself when it comes to saving the planet from garbage is Patagonia. This company works with products that cause less harm to the environment. In 2005 Patagonia lauched a Common Threads Garment Recycling Program which customers could return their worn out clothes back for recycling. The recycling program uses a fiber-to-fiber recycling system to make new clothes out of old. Their main goal is about the environment and everything they make is safe for the environment. The recycling program means there will be less garments in our landfills and incinerators. We definitely need more companies like Patagonia to save our earth, and for our children and their children.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Trashasaurus Rex?!?

Guess what? This T-Rex was made in Indiana by Marilyn Brackney, an artist and public-school teacher. This T-Rex is made from all sorts of trash, including plastic bags.

To find out more information about this interesting T-Rex, click here.

This T-Rex is another creative example of how we can reuse our trash. There are other artists who use trash as a medium in their work.

I bet this T-Rex would be a hit with the kids!

Monday, March 05, 2007


First I take this opportunity to congratulate Dr. Verges for her tireless work to see we get to have our keynote speaker for the bag fest. I am so excited about it I do not think I have ever met any author of the books I read and never had a reason to until now. I am so eager to see this lady who is so passionate about garbage that has made a whole difference to her life and now mine. Hats off to you Michelle we are right behind you. I am also excited to learn that dealing with garbage can be quite exciting something I have never thought of. I am now more careful with my garbage than ever although reading chapter five of garbage land still left me in a dilemma. I was not sure I would be ready to go through the process of making composts and nurturing them or I would just do it to support Royte with turning our environment into gold with green waste. However, learning that this would help me in a lifetime is worth a task to endure. Statistics have never been this exciting!!!!!!

Sunday, March 04, 2007


I went to the "Candy Sharing Game" on Saturday and wanted to briefly let my classmates know how much of a learning experience it was for me. To be honest, it was a challenge for me to be able to communicate to little kids what we were trying to do. By the end of the day I felt as if I had made a difference in these small children's lives. I highly encourage my classmates to get involved. It's very motivating to see these children be so enthusiastic over concepts that we adults tend to complain about.

And so that was my Saturday. . . :)

Changing Old Habits

Before this project began, I treated grocery shopping like most people. That is, I would make my shopping list (of course, I'd almost always forget to bring my list to the store!), and then shop for groceries.

The thought of bringing reuseable bags to the grocery store never occurred to me.

As a result, I ended up with a slew of plastic bags that I tucked away in my kitchen cabinet (see blog entry on 1/9/07). When this project began in August, I struggled to change my ways. Now I was determined to bring my old plastic bags back to the store. But that good intention was not enough: I still would forget to bring those bags to the store.

This was frustrating for a couple of reasons: 1) I would criticize myself--"How can I direct a project on conserving plastic bags if I'm still consuming more and more bags?," and 2) by nature, I'm forgetful, which is probably why having the good intention to reuse bags was not enough.

I knew I had to change my old ways, but how?

Well, the good news is that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to solve this problem. Perhaps a cognitive psychologist could help me kick this old habit. Thank goodness I'm one of those wacky professionals! :0)

So instead of relying on my faulty memory, I took 2 minutes out of my hectic life to reshuffle my bags from the kitchen cabinet to the trunk of my car. Problem solved: The bags were now readily available when I went grocery shopping. So when I would inevitably forget to bring the bags, I was saved because they were in the trunk.

That really did the trick because I finally started reusing my plastic bags. And once this new habit was established, I tweaked my behavior by purchasing these colorful (and cute!) reuseable bags.

So my frustrations have eased, although I still forget to bring my shopping list to the store! :0)

By the way, if you're interested in sporting these cool bags, let me know because I can get a good deal on them ($4 per bag). And if you want more information about these ECOSILK bags, go to this website:

Experiment Comments

In response to the comments on the Retail Bag experiment:
Unfortunately, due to security reasons, we are required to put as much into the bags as possible. Even if it is one item, for instance, a greeting card, it must be put in a small bag for the guest. This helps the security at our store know who went through the checklanes and who did not. It's basically store policy. If someone is seen walking to the door without a bag with no receipt showing (its often put in the pocket or the purse), then there is a chance that security will be suspicious unless he or she personally saw the guest pay. My little experiment was probably a little biased considering the fact that I try to "conserve" the bags that we give out because I know how much we need to order and how quickly we go through them, so I try and squeeze as much into the bags as possible, however, there are some people out there that are disgusted by that. It seems as if this procedure is a lose-lose situation. Our goal is to make the guest happy, and not ourself. So unfortunately, though it is a good idea, it cannot be completed.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

composting reflections...

I was fascinated by the new-to-me concept of anaerobic food digesters. The thought that our food waste could be turned into a "net energy producer" was exciting to me. As Royte noted, the EPA's assesment that New York alones annual output of more that 7 million tons of food/other organic waste would generate 1.4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. Wow! Not to mention the loss of 1.8 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions that no one would be fondly missing. Though private pickup of compostable food waste was found to be inefficient (though still beneficial) due to the intensive labor load added on waste management workers as well as fuel and environmental costs of incurred in all the "trucking," food waste from "large institutions and processesors" could be efficiently added into an anaerobic food digesting "plant." As Christiansen points out "larger-scale generators" make "collection/transportefficiencies...more significant."

On a more personal composting note I sympathized w/ Royte's personal composting journey a great deal. The comment she made in regards to creating big industrialized anaerobic food digesting plants she says, "The first scenario is about a cycle, the second one is about getting rid of garbage." She relates this to a thought about citizens biking carrot peels to get potting soil in return vs a big insustrial process. This resonated w/ me in that thinking about our planet and realizing how we affect it starts w/ one person doing what they can to make a difference, no matter how small it might seem. A penny saved is a penny earned, and an object recycled contributes to a collective zero waste goal.

And although off topic I must take a moment to say, HURRAY ON THE ROYTE SPEAKING AT OUR BAG FEST!!! Very exciting stuff, thanks for all the hard work on making it happen Michelle!


Friday, March 02, 2007

BagFest Keynote Speaker: Elizabeth Royte

It's official: Elizabeth Royte, author of Garbage Land, will be presenting the keynote address at BagFest! I made the announcement in class on Wednesday, but it's taken me a couple more days to post the news because I simply couldn't believe it! I still have to pinch myself just to know that this is a dream come true! Wow, I'm so shocked and's an honor to have Elizabeth give the keynote address at BagFest. I'm convinced that she's the best person for the job!

To provide you with a bit more information, Garbage Land has been recognized as a New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2005 and a Washington Post Book World Best Books of the Year. In addition, Elizabeth has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Harper's, National Geographic, Outside, The Smithsonian Magazine, and The New Yorker.

I'm so excited to hear her speak at the festival. I hope you are, too!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Experiment Accomplished

I finally had time to do my little experiment at work, and of 40 transactions, I used 91 bags. that averages out to about 2.275 bags per person. Granted, I was on the express lane, but still, that's a lot of bags. The odd thing to think about is, it's not even Christmas time! Can you imagine how many bags that people use at Christmas time? And with the massive amounts of people that shop around then as well. Holy smokes!