Friday, April 15, 2011

These pictures were taken in a different a different school...where there is no policy against candles....

I am going to tell you a story...
Once upon a time (today) was the final DIY bazaar of the semester. it started at 6 and ended at 8. Caitlin was confused and thought it started at 8. So lo and behold, we had tons of cookies and brownies left over. long story short, apparently one batch of the many batches of brownies came out of the oven with a thin layer of oil covering the entire top of it. Here in Juniper we operate on the "waste not, want not" principle, so Mia kindly emptied the oil into a jar and the brownies were fine. Then the jar was left by the sink and forgotten.

Fast forward 6 hours, Caitlin and I are pulling simultaneous all-nighters to finish respective papers and whatnot. We convene in the kitchen to eat everything in sight, and my eyes fall upon the jar of oil which has solidified by this point. We were joking around about how it was probably going to be left there FOREVER (as crap in the Juniper kitchen is wont to do), when i said to Caitlin "let's put a wick in it and light it on fire!!!" so, at 2:30 in the morning, our RA soundly asleep and not enforcing our minor policy infraction, we did just that. I'd heard about tallow candles, which are basically fat with a wick stuck in it, and figured this could be the same concept. Plus, it would smell like brownies. We huddled around our minuscule rebellion candle, half afraid it was going to burst into flames, and watched it actually sputter to life and start to melt a little divot in the tallow/oil substance. it was working!!!

so, I realize that many outsiders see Juniper as kind of weird and gross, saving everything and reusing it past the point of recognition, and yes sometimes this happens... but with this beautiful ingenious idea, our recycling brought a little bit of light (ahhhhh haha) to our night.

P.S. we didn't burn the dorm down!!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Another save-the-day moment

On my way to compost an apple I noticed that I needed to recycle a pack of gum. Seems easy and guiltless right? No...I find this this weird (unnecessary) lining on the inside made of non-recyclable material. Oy...why was that even there? But just like Melia's creative idea of making cough drop paper into cranes, Julia said she would make a crane out of my weird linning...yay! Another plus side: there was a secret last piece of gum in the pack hehe.

The curse of Friday.

Why is it impossible to have fun without filling a garbage can with trash?

This weekend, there was a rather conspicuous waste contributor, which existed under the alias of "THE BASH." No one wants to think about wastefulness in the middle of a dance floor, or at any other fun place, for that matter. What's the number one contributor to weekend waste at Lewis and Clark? Party cups. No doubt. Ok, that might not actually be a fact, but I bet party cups are pretty high up on that list. At "the Bash," I clearly recall grabbing at least three new rigid plastic cups for water throughout the night. At the time, there didn't really seem to be another option, since I was dying, yes dying of thirst, and I just wasn't willing to go out of my way to find a drinking fountain or water bottle. Especially not while the Dancing Hats were playing! (Although in retrospect, "Friday" would have been a great time to go on a water-seeking adventure.) Water is a pretty necessary commodity at a raging event like "the Bash," but a dance party is no place for rational thinking.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Why Birth Control does nothing to control its waste

So, i guess this may be kind of an uncomfortable topic, but I believe I should address it anyway, if briefly. I, like many women I know, take birth control pills, for many reasons, not only having to do with not getting pregnant. Birth control has been proven to reduce ovarian cysts that can lead to cancer, as well as reduce daily irritations such as acne and mood irregularities. Basically, birth control is a very good thing. But NOT for trash-free dorms like Juniper.
First of all, let's consider the packaging the whole set comes in: It's like tin foil, but with a little plasticky substance mixed in, definitely not recyclable.
Then, you open up that package, and find the actual pills. They are contained, individually, in a dispenser made of tinfoil, plastic and cardboard covered in even more plastic. (yes, I took it apart to figure out all these components).
You also get a stupid plastic holder for them that NO ONE ever uses, and a manual! A manual, that's right. In every single package of birth control pills (a prescription sends you three at a time), there is a manual. This manual, while useful for first time users, is unnecessary to be given out in EVERY single package! Seriously! I've never even looked at it once, and yet for every package of pills i open, i have to throw away this giant manual. You may ask why I don't recycle it, and believe me, I WOULD if I could! But the paper has a waxy film ALL over it!
In essence, I cannot give up my birth control pills for this trash-free experiment, for many obvious reasons, but when actually examining all of the crap that comes with them, it makes me feel really guilty. The pills are about half the size of a pencil-tip eraser, and yet they require me to throw away SO much.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Don't RECYCLE it?

As you may or may not be aware, in Portland, all recycling goes in one bin. This is great for getting people to recycle, but sucks for the people who ultimately have to sort through all of our crap. Yes, this is indeed an occupation: recycling sorter. It entails grabbing all the stuff that should not be recycled off a conveyor belt moving 18 mph, according to this article: minimum wage pay (even for Oregon) is certainly not worth the work.

Earlier this semester, I spent a couple hours sorting out the recyclable materials found in various piles of trash gathered around Lewis and Clark. While some of the finds were quite interesting (used hamster shavings? Someone has a secret pet...), you can probably imagine that sorting through trash is not the most pleasant endeavor. Especially knowing that it takes no less time or energy for individuals to throw recyclables in the recycling bin and trash in the trash can. Everyone knows that throwing away recyclable things is a problem, but few people think about the other side of the issue: recycling things that should not be recycled. This causes more work for the sorters, and is ultimately more wasteful than just sending the item to the landfill. Not all that goes into our recycling bins actually gets recycled. It is hard to find actual data for this, but the sorting process is not perfect. Beyond recycling the wrong big things, many of the small papers and other little things we throw in our recycling bins may easily get lost in the sorting process and never get recycled. Think about a sticky-note. As the machines or people sort the recycling as it flies by, they are not likely to stop and sort out a little tiny piece of paper. It may even be stuck to a plastic bottle, which a machine might pass over as not fitting in any category, and trash them both.

There is so much to know about recycling that is not well known, and with a bit of education, the recycling process could be so much more efficient than it already is. Even we, the proud citizens of Juniper, do not really know the first thing about recycling. I think it is important, while we strive to be "waste-free" to remain conscientious about what is actually recyclable, and to avoid thinking or saying (as I have done more than once) "it's probably recyclable," as we toss an unidentifiable object into the recycling bin.


P.S.- If you have heard the rumor that one food-contaminated piece of recycling can contaminate an entire batch, this is generally false. The sorting process can usually take care of this (in Portland, at least), but it is still important to make sure that you are recycling the right items. Also, the little "recycle" stamp does not necessarily mean something is recyclable. So even if you think you know, there's a good chance you don't.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

trashy tampons and polluting pads

Earlier today I got an email from an LC student who's studying abroad in China. She heard about this project and sent me an email with this question:

"What about the gross stuff. (tampons, toilet paper...) Does this count as trash? In China, you can't flush anything so all of that that would be flushed would qualify as trash. What is PEAS' take on this? Also, do you have smokers? How is this issue addressed?"

As for the question about smokers, I'm not sure about that one.

But, regarding the first question... Great timing, because later today I found myself needing to invest in a pack of reusable cloth menstrual pads. A good excuse to finally get around to doing something I'd been saying I would do for a while now. And, believe it or not, they're great. I honestly prefer them to regular pads and tampons.

They're significantly more comfortable and they're really not as gross to deal with as one might think. They came in a pack of three so you can rotate them through washing them and letting them dry. With a 5 year guarantee they're bound to pay for themselves many times over, in addition to eliminating yet another one of my contributions to the waste stream. I consider this one a success.


p.s. for others who are interested in this and other alternatives, check out these links:

cough drops: good for the throat but bad for trash-free dorms

So. i have a cough. What do I do? I drink tea, and suck on delicious echinacea honey cough drops, of course. But wait! As my throat is soothed, my conscience grows heavy as I gaze at the waxy papers that lay scattered across my desk. This is a problem. Seeing as i have a sore throat and these drops help that, they are not a commodity i'd really like to give up...but seriously? Why cant they be packaged in those plain paper wrappers, like some gum is? It would really make things a whole lot simpler.

These first few days of trash-free have been interesting, because mainly my garbage has stayed empty. I've been able to recycle and compost nearly everything I use, because i don't shop for many packaged snacks, and enjoy fruit (biodegradable, yay!). But these pesky cough drops have been a first and a major set back, seeing as there are 20+ in a bag. That's a lot of little garbage scraps!
BUT WAIT, though you may be on the edge of your seats with worry (i sure hope not), but this is the moment when Super-RA Julia swoops in to save the day. In the past Julia has made paper cranes out of the lollypop wrappers in my room, and it dawned on me! Those cranes decorate my room, and are far from trashy, so why not pester Julia into making all my wrappers into cranes?! I didn't expect her to take up the challenge, but lo and behold, i have several crane families taking up residence in my happy, and now fully trash-free, dorm room!