Archive | July, 2013

Tap into grant funds, watch your garden grow

The H2O to Grow Coalition — in collaboration with the Unified Government’s Public Works Department and Public Health Department — has $50,000 in grant funds available for Wyandotte County community gardens and urban farms in need of water taps. Small organizations and individuals often lack the resources to install a new water tap, which can cost from $4,000 to $9,000. The coalition and its partners want to increase access to healthy, locally-grown food in Wyandotte County and reduce stormwater run-off by growing food in empty lots.

“Water access is one of the main barriers to gardens and farms growing more food to feed Wyandotte Countians,” said Katherine Kelly of Cultivate Kansas City, an H2O to Grow Coalition member. “With 18,000 Wyandotte County residents living with low access to food, the H2O to Grow Coalition has been looking for creative ways to remove that barrier.”

Learn more on the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., website.

The coalition will host a grant application workshop Thursday, Aug. 1, at 6:30 p.m., at Cross-Lines Annex, 736 Shawnee Ave., Kansas City, Kan. 66105. The application deadline is Aug. 22.

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A fun way to learn about energy

BURN_avatar_01a_800Can learning about energy be entertaining? Definitely, if you visit or tune in to BURN, An Energy Journal.

BURN offers podcasts, radio specials, a blog and an excellent website with informative stories about the U.S. power grid, carbon offsets, gasoline prices in Europe and other topics that affect modern life.

I was recently riveted by BURN’s hour-long radio special, The Switch: America’s Electrical Grid, which explores how the grid works, what happens when it breaks, how it’s fixed and how innovators are working to make it better.

BURN: An Energy Journal is produced by SoundVision Productions and is carried on many National Public Radio stations, including KCUR in the Kansas City area. You can listen to podcasts at

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Don’t start your engine — outfit your bike instead

bike-69078_1280_edit_webSometimes there is nothing more enjoyable than a recreational bike ride on a nice day. However, bikes were invented for utility purposes. Today, more and more people are using bicycles to transport cargo and commute to work. With the right setup, you can bike with everything from groceries to computers, and even extra passengers like children and dogs.

Vehicles emit a higher rate of pollution when warming up as compared to the rest of the trip.  By using a bike for short errands — and therefore reducing the number of vehicle starts — you’ll help improve our air quality.

The easiest way to get your bike cargo-ready is with bags, racks and trailers, which can be mounted on most existing bikes. If you’re transporting a heavy load, you may need a small electric motor installed on your bike to help you up hills. These motors can be installed on nearly any bike, and charge up in just a few hours.

Many major bike manufacturers now sell cargo bikes, some with extended frame bikes that can haul up to 200 lbs. However, since most bikes can be converted into cargo bikes, there’s no need to buy new — a used bike will work just as well. Local bike shops are great places to find used bikes, as well as cargo holders, electric assist motors and bike tools.

If you need any inspiration using your bike for cargo, see how much fun people in this community have using their cargo bikes for school commutes, work trips and everything in between.

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I want to be recycled

“Our trash could go on to live whole new life and serve a valuable purpose, if only more people would give it a chance.”

Can an ordinary plastic bottle aspire to become something bigger? A new public service advertising campaign introduced by the Ad Council and Keep America Beautiful, encourages people to recycle and give their garbage another life. The ad creates an emotional connection to recycling by chronicling the journey of a plastic bottle that has dreams to see the ocean. The bottle realizes that dream by becoming part of a park bench made out of recycled plastic.

Image of a plastic bottle sitting in front of a park bench, from Keep America Beautiful campaign.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recently released figures, just under 35 percent of people across the nation recycle. Keep America Beautiful hopes this ad will inspire those individuals who do not recycle regularly to change their habits.

Visit IWantToBeRecycled to get a behind-the-scenes look at how trash can be transformed through recycling. Visit RecycleSpot to learn more about what you can do locally.

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Celebrating the value of trees

Look outside – do you see a tree or two? In Greater Kansas City, more than 249 million trees provide a wealth of services and benefits. From removing pollution and storing carbon from CO2 emissions (also known as carbon sequestration) to providing shade to lower cooling costs, each tree provides hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in benefits to our region. It would cost tens of billions of dollars to replicate the benefits that our trees and forests provide to us virtually free of charge. In addition to the eco-services they provide, trees are also a natural source of beauty and provide shelter for both people and wildlife.What do trees do for you? Online advertising art.

MARC worked with professionals and scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, Davey Resource Group and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to publish “Assessing Urban Forest Effects and Values: the Greater Kansas City Region,” which takes a scientific approach toward calculating the value of our region’s trees. Some key findings show:

  • Trees remove 37,000 tons of pollution from our region’s air every year.
  • 1 million tons of carbon are stored within our trees each year through carbon sequestration.
  • The region’s 249 million trees save $14 million in energy costs annually.

Young girl holding sapling at City MarketTo draw attention to the findings of the report and help educate the community on the value of trees, MARC has given away more than 300 bur oak saplings and educational materials at area farmers markets. Bur oak trees are native to our region and can grow more than 70 feet tall and live for up to 300 years, all while cleaning our air, cooling our homes, and providing food and shelter to wildlife.
Consider planting a tree in your yard today. For information about proper tree selection and planting, check out Missouri Department of Conservation’s web resources. Visit our website for more information about the MARC’s Regional Forestry Initiative and to read the iTree report.

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Fireworks, AirQ and You


By Luke Pitts

Each year, Americans gather on July 4 to celebrate our nation’s independence and fireworks are one of the most popular ways to celebrate. Americans bought more than 185 million pounds of personal fireworks in 2012.

Beautiful and powerful as they are, fireworks do contribute to air pollution. Smoke from fireworks poses a health risk — particularly for those with asthma — and traces of accelerants and heavy metals used to create colors can stay in the air and water for weeks. You don’t have to cut out fireworks completely to reduce pollution. Watch this short video on what London researchers have learned about the health effects of fireworks and what you can do prevent your exposure.

Fewer fireworks equal less pollution. For a beautiful, healthy Independence Day, try attending a community fireworks display. Many cities and nearby attractions have planned celebrations that are open to the public. See the Kansas City Star’s Fourth of July event list here. Rather than spending money on your own display, pack a picnic and a blanket and go with friends or family to one of these events.

If you do celebrate at home, try exploring alternatives. Biodegradable confetti, glow sticks, glow jewelry and noisemakers can all be fun ways to celebrate our nation’s birthday. You can even create your own laser show and set it to music. There are numerous guides on the Internet and electronic devices that can help. Just pick a playlist and start your spectacle of lights.

Protect yourself, your family and our air quality — and have a great Fourth of July!

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EPA releases new solid waste and recycling numbers

Since 1960, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has collected and reported data on the generation and disposal of waste in the United States. The EPA recently released figures for 2011, revealing long-term trends on what we are recycling and throwing away.

Long-term trends
What do these long-term trends show? In 1960, we generated 88 million tons of waste and recycled 6 percent of it (5.6 million tons). In 2011, we generated about 250 million tons of waste and recycled and composted about 87 million tons of it, for a recycling rate of 35 percent. But while we are recycling more, we are also generating more than we did in 1960.Line Graph showing amounts of waste Generated, Recycled, and Discarded- each in pounds per person. From 1960 - 2011.
How much of this increased generation can be attributed to population growth? If you take population into account, we find that individuals are recycling more and throwing away less than they did in 1960. Solid waste generation peaked in the year 2000.

Recycling in 2011
What are we best at recycling? Almost 84 percent of the 87 million tons we recycled was made up of paper and paperboard, yard trimmings and metals.

The EPA report also includes a breakdown of 2011 recycling rates of various products:

  • Auto batteries were recycled the most frequently, at 96.2 percent
  • Newspapers and mechanical paper made up 72.5 percent
  • Steel cans, 70.6 percent
  • Yard trimmings, 57.3 percent
  • Aluminum cans, 54.5 percent
  • Tires, 44.6 percent
  • Glass containers, 34.2 percent
  • PET bottles and jars, 29.2 percent
  • HDPE bottles, 21.0 percent

Pie Chart depicting the percentages of different materials that make up municipal Solid Waste RecoveryThe EPA estimates that our recycling reduced more than 183 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions (equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from 34 million passenger vehicles) and saved more than 1.1 quadrillion Btu of energy (enough to power 10 million U.S. households for a year).

Discards in 2011
What are we still throwing away? Food waste represents more than 21 percent of our discards (see an earlier blog about reducing your foodprint). After food, plastics weigh in at nearly 18 percent and paper and paperboard still makes up 15 percent.Pie Chart depicting the percentages of different materials that make up total discarded municipal Solid Waste

Learn more
Learn more about what we throw away nationally (fact sheet, full report and infographic) and what you can do to make a difference locally.

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