GIPL Board member and frequent guest blogger, Susan Varlamoff offers her favorite eco-friendly tricks for the holiday season:
Make Natural Decorations: Rather than buying plastic ornaments, wreaths, and decorations shipped from overseas, make your own from pine cones, holly, seashells, river stones, and evergreen branches. Christmas tree lots often will give away branches they’ve trimmed off the bottom of trees. Continue reading
GIPL partner, Roswell Community Masjid, celebrated a Green Field Day on April 28th as a part of their larger Earth Day celebrations. The event was open to the community and promoted sustainability through recycling and providing reusable water bottles. We are grateful for this reflection from RCM member Lubna Merchant:
We have been taught to believe that “If a Muslim plants a tree or sow’s seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him.” (Bukhari) Continue reading
Compost as a Vision of GraceI’m the kind of person who takes pictures of piles of what others call “trash”—used paper plates smeared with BBQ sauce, the green beans some toddler spit out, greasy napkins and the like—and then posts the photos on Facebook (which rarely get any “likes”!).
I see the potential of this so-called trash; indeed, it is like treasure to me when I fast forward in my imagination to the vegetables and flowers that will someday be nourished by it. The photo also documents an act of love and care for God’s creation, and so I think God finds that pile beautiful too. Continue reading
Outdoors was always my favorite place to be when I was growing up. My neighborhood had about 20
kids who played basketball, rode bikes, caught fireflies, climbed trees. We were free to roam without
any worries or restrictions. On Saturdays, I tagged along when my dad got his exercise by walking 4
miles in a large, wooded park. Having grown up on a farm, he was rejuvenated whenever he could get
outdoors. We never thought about “the environment” in those days. Outdoors was just there. Continue reading
An invitation to pursue our green ends through slightly greener means.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye
and pay no attention to the plank in your own?” Luke 6:41
I am standing in line outside the EPA on a weekday morning, waiting with dozens of environmental advocates to go in and testify on behalf of the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution. All down the long line, in almost every hand, is a single-use disposable coffee cup. Inside the hearing room, four earnest EPA employees receive our testimony, from behind a row of plastic water bottles and disposable cups. At a press conference organized that afternoon by a major environmental organization, volunteers pick up box lunches provided by the organization, many with ham and beef sandwiches.
A group of national environmental groups trying to stop the Keystone XL pipeline gathers for a meeting at a table (strewn, again, with disposable cups), and plan a “fly-in” of people from across the country to testify against the pipeline.
There is a row of disposable cups, too, at the opening panel at a state governor’s climate conference, in front of a panel including a climate activist, a scientist, and the governor himself. For lunch, attendees are treated to a lunch including bacon-wrapped meatloaf.
Does any of this matter?
Of course, we know disposable cutlery and bottled water produce garbage and disinvest the public from public water sources. We know eating lower on the food chain reduces our carbon footprint, and that air travel and other fossil-fueled transit is warming the climate.
But our organizations have so much work to do and so few people to do it in such a short time. We just try to get our work done as cheaply and conveniently as possible, and tell ourselves that our organizations’ direct day-to-day contribution to environmental problems is small. Continue reading
Agnes Scott College is a small women’s liberal arts college situated in Decatur, Georgia. The goal of the college is to educate women to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times. One of the challenges of our era is how to deal with climate change, and Agnes Scott College, with the leadership of the Office of Sustainability, has been incorporating sustainability into every facet of the college in order to decrease their impact on the environment.
In 2007, Dr. Elizabeth Kiss, current president of Agnes Scott, signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in a national effort of higher education institutions to address global warming. As one of the first schools to sign onto this commitment, Agnes Scott pledged to become climate neutral by 2037. The goals set out in the Presidents’ Climate Commitment called for an active role in sustainability initiatives, so in 2008, the Office of Sustainability was created to bring about environmental change on the campus through practical sustainability above and beyond the climate commitment. Continue reading
Originally posted on southeastgreen.com.
Written by Beth Bond, former GIPL board member and Managing Partner at Southeast Green
Recently in the Washington Post an article entitled, American recycling is stalling, and the big blue bin is one reason why, appeared stating that basically America had topped their recycling rates and that recycling was on a decline. The article interviewed an executive from Waste Management stating that local governments were going to have to step in and either pay them money to run recycling operations or take over part of the recycling process.
Many experts in the materials handling industry (what the general public calls recycling) are looking to get diversion rates from the landfills up to 60% and the City of Atlanta has stated they are on target to be “Zero Waste” which is a 90% diversion rate. So, why are recycling handlers saying we have tapped out at 36%? What’s the answer to everything? Money. David Steiner, chief executive of Waste Management stated in the article, “We want to help our customers, but we are a for-profit business. We won’t stay in the industry if we can’t make a profit.” Of course the irony is not too far back in the past, large landfill companies like Waste Management were trying to prevent recycling so they could keep tipping fees and more recently put little recyclers out of business as they moved in because they could see profits.
Real sustainability practitioners are visionaries
Calling for local government bailouts or payments is not visionary. As large corporations embrace sustainability, which needs to happen, we are losing a critical part of the sustainability puzzle…the visionaries. Instead of corporations showing up in the national press moaning and groaning about losing money, they should be hiring sustainability visionaries and collaborating with local governments and communities to increase and perfect recycling rates and make it more profitable.
One of the reasons recycling is becoming less profitable is because single stream recycling means more room for error and purchasers of the recovered materials are becoming choosier as communities recycle more. There is still a lot of confusion out there about what can be recycled and what can’t. It is a challenge that can be solved. We just have to work a bit harder as the issue becomes more complicated.
Government has a role in solving the problem
Solving the problem is going to cost money by the government but not nearly as much as it would cost to pay corporations for their losses. Government has a critical role in the process and although many Americans think government can do nothing right, they actually do some things exceptionally well.
So here’s the top 5 list of things that can happen relatively quickly to get America back on track and reach those 60% recycling goals with the help of government and corporations:
- Don’t be dream recyclers – Gloria Hardegree, Executive Director of the Georgia Recycling Coalition presented at the Green Chamber of the South and asked attendees to be conscientious recyclers and not “Dream Recylers”. Americans who do recycle have a tendency to think they should be able to be recycled so let’s pitch it in the recycling bin hoping it will be recycled or making a political statement of this should be recycled. All of us have been guilty. We must stop. Each community has a different recycling program and this is a key area where local governments can help disseminate what they are actually recycling. Yes, it can not be a one time effort, it has to be a prolonged multi-year program but it can be done.
- Incentivize recycled content – There have been many companies and industries who have hopped on the band wagon using recycled content. Coca-Cola, the entire carpet industry mostly thanks to Interface, OKAb shoes made out of recycled plastic right here in Georgia, are the first immediate companies to make the list, but there is still plenty of room for much more. For instance did you know Americans use more toilet paper per year than any other country? Do you know they are clear cutting Indonesian virgin rainforest simply so Americans can have toilet paper? Simple solution, local and state and even the federal government offer incentives to companies willing to create products with a certain amount of recycled content. We are incentivizing companies to reduce electric consumption through energy efficiency programs why not incentivize companies who use up our recyclables?
- Reward innovation – Instead of saying well we’ve always done it this way, why not have a contest with students, college or grade school, to see who can come up with a campaign to do a better job of education? Also, rewarding good ideas from wherever they come from is a great way to solve the challenge instead of local government paying for the problem. Finding ways to make recycled products less expensive is another issue needed to be solved. What if companies who manufacture items got tax credits for using recycled content?
- Educate, educate, educate – You can’t just do one message and think that that’s all it takes. (Yes, this is a bit of a repeat but proves the point that you can’t say it enough.) Communities need constant education on what can and can not be recycled and how to help local governments keep their streams clean and profitable. Recycling can be confusing. What is Number 7 plastic, afterall? So why not create a sticker to put on local municipality’s bins that are large and easy to read to remind people what can by recycled. A simple insert once a year in a utility bill will not do it.
- Create ideas not bills for local government – There are plenty of solutions to solve this problem. Corporations need to get to the table with small business and local governments. There have been zillions of meetings in Atlanta about creating higher recycling rates. There has been little real engagement about implementing the ideas. Local governments need to lead not attend these meetings with a set agenda of actionable targets and get it done.
This issue can be solved but finger pointing and complaining about profits is not going to resolve the issue. If current recycling corporations don’t want to do the job then there are plenty of others who are truly committed to the industry, not just profits, that can solve the problem. Bring on the visionaries.
The Creation Care Commission, a new environmental ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, met at Honey Creek Camp on June 13 to establish programs that reduce and recycle waste and to increase awareness of ways to better care for “this fragile earth, our island home.”
A food waste reduction program will focus on reducing overall food waste at summer camp and composting or recycling as much waste from meals as possible. Food waste will be weighed and tracked after each meal, with incentives offered for reaching certain waste reduction goals. Liquid waste will be recycled to water an existing butterfly garden.
The theme of the food waste program is “Reduce Bad Gas (in the environment),” to emphasize the connection between food waste, greenhouse gases, and climate change. Nearly 20 percent of waste in landfills is food, which creates methane-a potent greenhouse gas-when it breaks down in a landfill,” said Deacon Leeann Culbreath, who organized the work weekend. Methane is 20 times more lethal than carbon dioxide.
A three-compartment compost system was built using recycled wooden pallets. Finished compost will be used to nourish current flower, herb, and butterfly garden beds, and a vegetable garden in the future. The group also donated recycled clothing to be used as rags for daily dorm cleaning, to reduce paper toweling use.
“The waste we create, and what we do with it, affects people, animals, and ecosystems around the world,” Culbreath said. “Loving God’s Creation through simple actions means loving our neighbors near and far, and being a healing force in a suffering world. Reducing waste at Honey Creek also has many economic benefits.”
The compost system still needs to be lined with hardware cloth to help keep critters out and compostables in. If you have materials or labor to donate toward this effort, please email Deacon Leeann Culbreath at email@example.com.
To keep up with the Creation Care Commission’s ongoing work, and to view more photos of the work weekend, visit their Facebook page.
GIPL board member Marti Breen (along with GIPL staff) visited Waste Pro’s American Recycling facility and came away with a greater understanding for the recycling process and helpful tips for how to recycle more effectively and efficiently. Here, Marti shares what she learned.
On Friday, February 13th a group of 20+ adults and kids from All Saints Earth Stewards and GIPL visited Waste Pro’s American Recycling facility on Fulton Industrial Blvd. We went to learn what happens to all the contents we place in our blue herbies—the City of Atlanta has a contract with Waste Pro to process our single stream recycling for secondary uses.
“The average American generates 4.4 pounds of trash per day, adding to the grand total of about 251 million tons of trash the United States accumulates per year. American communities recycled and composted nearly 35% of municipal solid waste in 2012, diverting 87 million tons to recovery according to the U.S. EPA.” —via iwanttoberecycled.org
Did you know there is a link between our faith and our trash? Taking a closer look at the things we throw away can illuminate the need to value material possessions and think about how our “things” affect our lives and all of Creation.
Saturday, November 15 is America Recycles Day. Businesses and individuals all over the country will be taking the pledge to make a concerted effort to recycle more, reducing the waste they send to landfills. And it’s the perfect time for your congregation to do the same.
GIPL’s Waste Wise program helps your congregation rethink its refuse. With our waste audit, we can help identify waste streams and to understand what and how much is being disposed. We can help set up a “Recycle Your Life” event, where you can educate your congregants on the basics of recycling, and provide an opportunity to bring items to be recycled.
Our Waste Wise guide is FREE, and all you have to do is email us and let us know you’d like one. It’s that simple.
Reasons to recycle:
• It conserves natural resources.
Protecting our trees, water, and minerals preserves Creation for future generations.
• It reduces the need for landfills.
When materials are recycled, less waste is sent to disposal facilities.
• It prevents pollution.
The extraction and procession of raw materials produces greenhouse gas emissions, polluting our air.
• It saves energy.
It takes less energy to recycle than to gather and process the raw materials needed to produce new items.
As our Waste Wise guide mentions, Georgia Recycling Coalition is a great place for Georgia residents to find important info, like what you can recycle at the curb, and where to go to recycle the things you can’t.
REduce, REuse, REcycle … and REjoice in the wonderful creation we’ve been given!
Also, REmember: tomorrow in conjunction with America Recycles Day is the Lithonia Farmer’s Market and Recycling Center Launch and the LiveThrive launch of the permanent home of CHaRM—The Center for Hard to Recycle Materials.