The consequences of commodity consumption

Many aspects of our daily lives include the use of a disposable material, whether it is made of plastic, paper or metals. All of these items come from a resource somewhere on earth, and while a zero waste standard is undoubtedly unachievable, reducing their use to attain a higher level of efficiency is crucial. In regards to paper coffee cups, it may be easy to imagine the consequences of using them, like millions of trees cut down and the emission of greenhouse gases. The word “paper” may make seem like less of an impact, but most coffee cups are coated with polyethylene, making composting very uncommon. In a report done by the Alliance for Environmental Innovation (April 2000), they stated, “…the majority of customers take their hot beverages in disposable paper cups lined with polyethylene and topped with a polystyrene lid. In the past, two paper cups were frequently nested together for better insulation”. The fundamental design of the paper coffee cup and Styrofoam cups is the main contributor to these negative impacts, as they’re one-time-use materials.

Single-use products waste the environment, symbolized by this coffee cup disposed of improperly and only after one use.
Photo by: Environmental Action Association

The number of coffee cups used by Americans on a daily basis is very staggering, and with the majority of Americans drinking coffee regularly, the waste adds up at a very tremendous rate. “Over 50 percent of Americans over 18 years of age drink coffee every day. This represents over 150 million daily drinkers. It means that Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day or equivalent to 146 billion cups of coffee per year, making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world” (Environmental Action Association). On top of using 400 million cups for coffee a day, the amount of waste this produces is remarkable, and disposable containers, like coffee cups, make up a significant segment of American trash output. “These disposable containers make up 18 percent of America’s garbage, and beverage cups made of virgin paper or Styrofoam make up a large chunk of that waste”  (Environmental Action Association). That is a very high rate of waste output for a one-time-use disposable commodity. Not only is it unnecessary, but in this country, it has become way too easy to be wasteful.  This rate of consumption is having serious effects on our environment: “Each paper cup manufactured is responsible for 0.24 lbs. of CO2 emissions” (Environmental Action Association). That means that if we throw away just half of the cups we currently consume, there is still going to be 48 million pounds of CO2 emissions delivered by Americans straight into the atmosphere every day. Paper cups also play a small part in deforestation: “…more than 6.5 million trees were cut down in 2006 to create the 16 billion paper cups thrown away” (Tabakin). With this in mind, the solution does not just call for more biodegradable and compost-able containers, but for an elimination of our overall output of waste itself.

Using reusable cups or mugs is the best way to make a difference, and while there still are environmental impacts in their production, over time it is much less wasteful, and can even be cost effective. “A study done by sustainability engineer Pablo Päster found that one stainless steel mug is equivalent to 24 paper cups in terms of material intensity” (Carry Your Cup). The long run is what counts when searching for more efficient material use, and reusing is the most maintainable way to reduce the negative characteristics of using paper cups. Choose to re-use!

Works Cited

“A Report of the Starbucks Coffee Company.” Alliance for Environmental Innovation Joint Task Force.  15 April. 2000. Web. 19 Feb. 2013

“Carry Your Cup.” Get the Facts. 2010. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

“Save a Cup, Save the Earth.” Environmental Action Association. 2011. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

Tabakin, Dudley. “Deforestation and Coffee Cups.” Blogspot.com. 1 Feb 2009. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

Image from: http://www.environmentaa.org/images/image24.jpg

 

By Russell Penasa, Zero Waste Team member

Zero Waste Is a Challenge Faced

I am a member of the Zero Waste Team here at the Environmental Center and I am very excited about the project I’m working on this year! Emma Kurfis, another Zero Waste Team member, and I are working on a Zero Waste Event Service Guide specific to Fort Lewis College. This guide will be available to everyone on campus and hopefully used by all of the event coordinators. We can also directly get involved with event coordinators to tailor the service to their specific event. To gain experience in the event planning process, we are working on several pilot events in which we partner with event coordinators to reduce the amount of waste produced at event. Skyfest is our next big pilot event, taking place on April 7th.

Skyfest music festival at Fort Lewis College

Skyfest is the highlight of the spring semester for many students, with bands from all over the country visiting FLC campus. Skyfest was outdoors in previous years. Photo courtesy of www.fortlewis.edu.

Skyfest is a big music festival put on by Student Union Productions at Fort Lewis each year, with headliner bands Gramatik and Radical Something making appearances at this year’s festival. Local bands will also play at the event. As part of the EC’s zero waste event service, Emma and I are working with the coordinators of Skyfest to reduce waste in as many aspects of the event as possible. This event is our first large pilot event to test out the service and in the organizing we have learned how challenging it can be to make an event less wasteful. There are so many areas to consider when planning a zero waste event, some of which are not in our control, as we are not the coordinators of the event. However, the coordinators are very open to our suggestions, which is awesome! Members of SUP have been supportive of our ideas and came up with a few ideas themselves. One of the main goals of our event servicing is to provide zero waste ideas and ingrain zero waste concepts in the minds of the coordinators, so that eventually event planners may attempt to make events less wasteful on their own.

There are several major aspects of Skyfest where we are working on to reduce the amount of waste produced. The first is trash. Ideally, we would like to have no trash produced at the event but this is highly unrealistic being that we can’t regulate what food or disposable items people bring into the event. However, we will be providing several recycling stations in the event to divert as as many recyclable items from landfills as possible. We are recruiting volunteers to help watch over the stations to ensure everything is recycled properly, as contamination is a huge problem with recycling here at Fort Lewis. This will also be a chance for us to spread some education on recycling to the campus community.

The second aspect of the event we are working with is water. When we first talked to the coordinators, they were going to provide bottled water for guests and the bands. We decided to set up water refilling stations instead. With the help of the Athletic Department, we secured several large water jugs for the event that we will refill throughout the event. Students are not allowed to bring full water bottles into the event but if they bring empty drink containers, they can fill them at the stations. There will also be a jug backstage for the bands. The coordinators of Skyfest are purchasing reusable plastic cups that they will hand out to anyone who does not have a water bottle. The cups can be taken home by guests and used or given back to the Skyfest coordinators to be washed and reused at different events.

At Skyfest, we will have an Environmental Center interactive table to teach people about zero waste, specifically recycling. There will be a game called the “Wheel of Recycling” that guests can take part in. After the event, we plan to measure our results by weighing how much trash and recycling were generated at the event. We can potentially take these statistics every year and compare results, aiming to reduce the amounts annually.

As you can imagine, the process of planning zero waste events can take a lot of time and can be very difficult. This process also involves lots of collaboration with other campus and sometimes community partners, and can also build great connections.

If you would like to volunteer to help with the waste reduction practices at Skyfest, please email one of us (below) or drop by the Environmental Center and sign up. The event is on Sunday, April 7th from noon to 9:30 p.m. in the Whalen Gymnasium. The event is free for students and $15 for community members, with tickets available in the SUP office in the Student Union. Come support Fort Lewis College and the environment!

For more information about the zero waste aspects of the event or the Zero Waste Event Servicing, you can email me (jmsmyke@fortlewis.edu) or Emma Kurfis (emkurfis@fortlewis.edu) or stop by the Environmental Center! For more information about Skyfest, you can visit the SUP office in the Student Union.

By Jessica Smyke

Throwing Away Energy

Confessions of a trash bin.

When you take out your trash, do you think about where it ends up? Most of the waste produced on the Fort Lewis College campus goes to a landfill 45 miles away in San Juan County, NM. Waste-related fees add up to $30,000-$35,000 annually, one of the many reasons why Fort Lewis aims to become a zero-waste campus in the future.

On a larger scale, the United States leads the world in both annual waste production and energy consumption. Combined, these factors present a serious issue for the U.S. What if there was some way to solve both problems in one stroke? What if the trash you put into the dumpster could turn into energy? In fact, it can and some places have been doing it since the 1980’s.

My hometown of Syracuse, NY, has been using waste resources to create energy for the city since 1995. The Waste-to-Energy facility takes in garbage from the surrounding area and burns it, using the heat to make electricity. The process dramatically reduces waste and simultaneously produces energy, conveniently solving both issues at once! Up to 990 tons of waste are burned each day, which generates around 35 megawatts (35,000,000 watts) of energy for the surrounding homes. This saves 7,330,000 barrels of oil annually- powering 380,000 homes throughout the year. This is just one of the reasons Syracuse is called the Emerald City.

So why doesn’t every city have one of these facilities? There are some questionable aspects, including, isn’t burning trash dirty and smelly? Actually, the Waste-to-Energy facility operates very cleanly. All of the fumes and smoke from the burning process are thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned before their release into the atmosphere. Air pollution from the plants is still a concern, however. The ashes leftover after burning still must be put into a landfill (but at a 90% smaller volume than the trash would have taken up previously). These ashes are sometimes considered hazardous waste. Lastly, the plants can consume not all waste products; most hazardous waste cannot be burned. However, the pollution concerns are very small and are greatly outweighed by the benefits.

Over one hundred similar facilities currently exist in the U.S., handling fourteen percent of the total waste produced. None exist in Colorado and Florida has the most, with 11 facilities spread throughout the state.

What if Durango had one of these plants? The FLC campus could produce some of its own energy and fulfill the goal of becoming a zero-waste campus. Although such a facility is a huge investment, it could one day create huge benefits for the city of Durango. With enough support, a Waste-to-Energy facility and a more sustainable community could be in Durango’s future.

Links for more information:

http://www.covantaenergy.com/facilities/facility-by-location/Onondaga.aspx

http://www.wte.org/userfiles/file/ERC_2010_Directory.pdf

Sources:

http://www.covantaenergy.com/facilities/facility-by-location/Onondaga.aspx

http://recycle.fortlewis.edu/RecyclePages/History.htm

http://recoveredenergy.com/d_wte.html

 

By Erica Gilrein

My Zero Waste Inspiration

Bea Johnson never takes out the trash. She is not lazy or a hoarder but rather a pioneer in the field of zero waste living. Bea and her family choose to act and purchase in ways that have as little impact on the environment as possible. Beginning with small changes and gradually implementing larger ones, the Johnson family completely changed their way of life over the course of a few years. Bea only buys clothes second hand and repairs or tailors them when needed, fills a reusable container with homemade toothpowder that she uses on her compostable toothbrush and harnesses solar energy to power her family’s house. Claiming to find ways to reduce waste addicting, Bea and her family say their alternative and revolutionary lifestyle has made them much happier.

Before learning about Bea Johnson and her family, I lived my life similar to how they did before they migrated towards zero waste. I took long showers, I threw out things without a second thought and I didn’t consider how my consumption affected the environment. I believed I maintained an eco-friendly lifestyle because I recycled and used an aluminum water bottle but in actuality, I was nowhere close to living green.  On the fateful day I stumbled across an article on Yahoo about the “zero waste family,” I thought about every aspect of the world in a completely new way.

produce in cloth bags

Using cloth bags to purchase produce from the grocery store is more eco-friendly than using disposable plastic ones and some bags even have nice designs. Photo courtesy of Emma Kurfis.

Bea lives by the phrase: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot. By applying this motto to every aspect of their lives, Bea and her family now only throw away enough trash in one year to fill up a single 1.5 liter Le Parfait jar. Amazing. Fascinated by this and the idea of being so waste-free, I read more of her blog posts and tried to take some of her ideas and use them in my quest to reduce my own carbon footprint. For example, I try to remember my cloth grocery and produce bags every time I go to the store, I typically use the Durango T to get downtown and I take the time to make sure my recyclables are clean and on the list of acceptable items for the city of Durango. It is quite difficult to become completely zero waste as a college student but any small changes can make a big difference, thus I am providing a list of a few tips that are simple and easy to apply to college life.

  • Refuse what you do not need. Refuse buying bottled water if your tap water is clean and safe to drink. Refuse freebie items handed out at fairs, events and even in the student union to avoid creating the demand to make more and accumulating junk you don’t need.
  • Reduce what you do need. Donate rarely used items to local thrift shops or the FLC Free Store to de-clutter your home. The Free Store is open every Thursday in the Student Union from 9-11 a.m.; donations are welcome and appreciated.
  • Reuse by using reusables. Taking your own shopping bags to the grocery store, bringing your own thermos to the coffee shop and using a refillable water bottle all easily prevent a great amount of waste from accumulating in landfills.
  • Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse. With single stream recycling now in Durango, recycling is easier than ever! However, be sure to know how to properly recycle everything because if recycling on campus gets too contaminated, it gets sent to the landfill! The guidelines for Durango recycling can be found here: http://www.durangogov.org/DocumentCenter/View/589 .
  • Rot (compost) the rest. Create a composting system that works for your home and lifestyle. The on-campus dining hall composts food waste but if you live off campus, look into composting your food waste. Composting is made easy here: http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/green-living/how-to-compost-00000000021888/index.html.

For more information on zero waste living and the Johnson family, visit the Zero Waste Home blog at http://www.zerowastehome.blogspot.com.

 

– Emma Kurfis

Reclaimed Art: Toilet paper roll wall art

Wall Art From Toilet Paper Rolls

Wall Art From Toilet Paper Rolls

So much of what we end up throwing out or recycling could become something new. Reclaiming materials before they go to the landfill or even get recycled is a much more eco-friendly alternative. In this post, I’ll be showing you how even toilet paper rolls can turn into something beautiful without that much effort.


How to make wall art from toilet paper rolls

What you will need:

What you will need.

Materials and tools you will need.

  1. Toilet paper rolls (the amount will depend on the size of your piece).
  2. Sharp scissors
  3. Clothes pins
  4. Acrylic paints and a palette to mix them
  5. Paint brushes
  6. Ruler
  7. Pencil (and eraser in case you make a mistake)
  8. While glue

Stage 1: Planning

Step 1

Step 1: Decide on shape and design.

You can work with any number of shapes and your design can be as large as you want (also consider that the more rolls you have, the larger it can be).

For this example, we are going to work with leaf shaped toilet paper rolls and a wreath like design (which is a great eco-friendly holiday season decor piece) shown below.

Design Example

Design Example

Stage 2: Prepping

Step 2.1

Step 2.1: Mark cut measurements.

2.1  Grab the ruler, the pencil, and the toilet paper rolls and make 1 inch markings along the length of the toilet paper roll as shown above. You can vary on the size of your markings, but keep in mind that if they are not deep enough, they may not show as much, and if they are too deep, they may not glue together very well (see side view of finished piece below for an example of the 1-inch depth). You can also play with using different depths, if that’s an effect you’re looking for. In these examples, all pieces are the same size.

Depth view

1-inch depth view.

 

Step 2.2

Step 2.2: Draw cut guides.


2.2
 Next, use your ruler and pencil to draw cut guides to help you cut the toilet paper rolls.

Step 2.3

Step 2.3: Cut toilet paper rolls.

2.3 Next, use the scissors to cut the toilet paper rolls along their markings.

 

Step 2.4

Step 2.4: Paint toilet paper roll parts.

2.4 Next is painting, so pick out your acrylic paint colors and paint brush and go for it. Make sure to coat the toilet paper roll piece well and get every little corner. Let dry a little and check to see if you missed any spots. It should look fully coated when you’re done (see example below). It is also helpful to paint the outside first, set it aside to dry, then paint the inside as well (and don’t forget the edges, as they will show the most in a front view). If you want an iron look (which actually looks really good), use a black with a little brown in it. If you’re going for a holiday look, red and greens work well. You can also play with textures and with mixing colors.

Painted example.

Painted example.

 

Stage 3: Assembling

Step 3.1

Step 3.1: Glue pieces together.

3.1 First: make sure to lay out your design to have a sense of how you want the pieces to connect to each other. Then, grab a section of 2-3 pieces and with a brush, apply a small amount of glue to one of the sides touching each other.

Step 3.2

Step 3.2: Clamp glued pieced with clothes pin.

Clamping view from above.

Clamping view from above.

3.2 Immediately after applying glue, use clothes pins to hold pieces together while glue is drying. Wait at least 5 minutes before releasing “clamp”. Continue to repeat steps 3.1 and 3.2 until you finish assembling your design.


That’s it for today!  I hope you enjoy this post and please share your own tips on how to reclaim materials to give them a new life!

Recycling Trash with Style!

“Miss Understood and Mr Meanor” 1997

“Miss Understood and Mr Meanor” 1997

London based art couple Tim Noble and Sue Webster use a different type of media for their sculpture work,

Dirty White Trash (With Gulls), Tim Noble and Sue Webster, 1998, 2011

"Dirty White Trash (With Gulls)", 1998

a variety of personal garbage and trash collected off of city streets.

The couple created their first “shadow sculpture”, called “Miss Understood and Mr. Meanor” in 1997, and another piece titled, “Dirty White Trash” in 1998, where a pile of trash is assembled so that when a light source is set at the perfect angle, the pile creates a silhouetted image on the background wall. Without the light source, the thoughtfully congregated sculpture looks just like a huge pile of tras

h on the gallery floor, which the artists loved as a statement questioning the definition of real art. The materials include anything from broken glass to used cue tips, all recycled from personal or street found garbage, and even two seagulls from Noble’s father’s old taxidermy collection to create a silhouetted image of the artists sitting back to back enjoying a cigarette and a glass of wine.

Noble and Webster, after receiving great attention with their assemblage sculptures went on to create many more featuring a variety of found and recycled items, scrap metal and even mummified animals. Other artworks that the couple is known for is their painting, ceramic work and large scale light installations that often deal with themes of self-portraits, social connection, pop culture, grunge and rock. Check them out at http://www.timnobleandsuewebster.com/

So next time you feel like you’re in need of some creative release but are lacking the material, go pick up some trash around your street or river and make a sweet sculpture that all your friends will dig! You’ll not only be making wonderful art, you will be playing a part to help clean our beautiful planet! Cheers!

~ Hannah Burleigh

Choose to Reuse: New Reusable To-Go Program in FLC

WANT TO TAKE YOUR LUNCH TO-GO?

HATE THROWING THAT CONTAINER AWAY?

The Environmental Center, Sodexo, and Student Union facilities are piloting a re-usable to-go program in the campus dining hall.  You simply buy a to-go card and then exchange the card every time you go into the dining hall.  When you are done with your container, you can return it for a card at any campus dining locations and then get a CLEAN to-go container the next time you go to lunch.  If the container breaks, you can return it for a new one.  Containers are $5 each and go to support the Environmental Center operations.

Buy them at the Environmental Center or outside of Animas Perks Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11- 1 p.m.

For more information, please contact Hanna Burleigh at Burleigh_h@fortlewis.edu.