Archive | August, 2013

Harvesters: diminishing hunger and reducing waste

The MARC Solid Waste Management District administers an annual grant program which awards funds to local communities and organizations for waste reduction and recycling-related projects. From time to time, we publish updates about recent grant recipients.

In 2012, the district awarded a grant to Harvesters Community Food Network, which serves a 26-county service area in northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas. The organization is well-known in the Kansas City region as a clearinghouse for collecting and redistributing food and household products. Last year, Harvesters distributed more than 41 million pounds of food and household products to food pantries and soup kitchens to help those in need.

Much of Harvesters’ product comes from generous donations of perishable food from food manufacturers and produce operations. For the most part, this is food doesn’t meet the standards of grocery stores but is still edible. Unfortunately, some of the produce that Harvesters receives is no longer edible and is not for distribution to its network of partner agencies.

Food waste gleeningThe inedible food used to leave the warehouse through the trash, but Harvesters wanted to reduce the environmental impact of its operations. Harvesters successfully applied for a district grant to change how it manages unusable food donations. The grant funds were used to build a concrete pad and gravel drive that allowed for placement of an additional, separate container for discarded food. The funding also purchased roller bins and provided staff training.

Once considered trash, discarded food is now collected and composted by Missouri Organic Recycling. During the first year of operations with its new sorting process, Harvesters diverted more than 600 tons of food to be composted. According to Chief Operating Officer Norm Bowers, the project was successful because Harvesters had the support of its board and staff, and a plan in place to begin diverting produce.

Over the next 10 years, Harvesters projects it will divert more than 4,000 tons of perishables and produce from disposal.

The Solid Waste Management District is proud to support Harvesters in this effort and help the organization reach its goal of a reduced environmental impact.

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Heat and sunlight… but no Ozone Alerts yet?

Summer heat has finally arrived in Kansas City with highs in the mid-to-upper 90s this week and plenty of sunshine to go along with it. When we talk about Ozone Alerts, we talk about the ingredients that lead to high ozone days — heat and sunlight are two big factors — so why haven’t we seen Ozone Alerts this week?

One factor is wind speed. The breezes we’ve had over the past few days have been just enough to keep us solidly in the Yellow Skycast range. Another factor is the pollution blown in from upwind areas. Cities to our south and west aren’t building up high ozone concentrations either, so we’re not seeing a lot of ozone transported our way.

We’re certainly keeping an eye on all of these pieces of the ozone puzzle. If we think there’s cause to issue an Ozone Alert, you can find that information on Twitter or Facebook, via email or from the many media outlets in the Kansas City region that recognize how important sharing air quality information is to their readers, listeners and viewers.

Just as a refresher, the Skycast chart below explains what the colors mean. We normally see lots of yellow days during the summer, but we don’t issue an Ozone Alert until the levels are anticipated to be in the Orange range or higher. So far this year we’ve only issued one Orange Skycast, which — especially when compared to last summer — is incredibly quiet. By this time in 2012 we’d issued more than 30 Ozone Alerts. Kansas City is no stranger to late season spikes in ozone levels, though. In 2011 we issued Ozone Alerts as late as Oct. 5. Even though we are getting to the end of what’s normally seen as the busy time for ozone formation, we’re not out of the woods quite yet.

air_quality_index

 

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Teach a child how to ride a bike for a lifetime of clean air

child-dad-bikeBicycling is a useful life skill, and teaching a child to ride opens the door to a lifetime of exercise and fun. It is also a great opportunity to teach your child how we can all make a difference and help keep our air cleaner.

Learning to ride a bike can be an important milestone in child development. Maggie Preismeyer, education coordinator for BikeWalkKC, says “cycling can help teach children independence and responsibility.” She sees many children learning to ride as early as age four or five.

Prepare a child to ride a bike with these five steps:

  • Find a safe environment. A grassy hill with a shallow slope and plenty of open space is ideal. The hill should be flat enough for the child to stop using only his or her feet, but steep enough to let the bike roll on its own. Grass will pad any falls and help build confidence.
  • Adjust the bike. A lower seat gives children a wider stance, making them feel more secure for the next step. If you can, remove the pedals. This turns the bike into a strider bike which kids as young as 18
    months can begin to ride. Also remove any training wheels, which may not be effective in helping children learn balance.
  • Practice coasting. With a bicycle helmet is securely fastened, let the child coast down from the top of the hill. By picking up his feet on the ride down, he will learn to balance the bike.
  • Practice turning. After your child has mastered coasting, set up some small obstacles and encourage him to maneuver around them. If learning on a bike with brakes on the handlebars, the child can begin practicing stops.
  • Readjust the bike. When your child begins to look ahead rather than at the bike, maneuver well and wear a big smile, he is ready for cycling. Reattach the pedals and raise the seat. If the bicycle has kickback brakes, begin practicing stops.

Learning to ride a bike is just the first step. Be sure to discuss traffic rules and safety with your child before riding on the street, and always wear a helmet! BikeWalkKC offers a number of programs designed to teach safety skills to new riders or for those returning riders who need a refresher course. And don’t forget to tell your child that riding a bike goes a long way toward keeping our air clean.

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Appraisers, Realtors, Builders:
Learn to evaluate green homes!

EWKC event blog artResidential Green Description Made Easy: Tools and Approaches to Valuing Homes with Green Features

August 28, 8:30–4:30 p.m.
Mid-America Regional Council
Board Room,
600 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo.

$40 (Continuing education credits for appraisers pending.)
Lunch will be provided.

Register now!

Residential appraisers, real estate agents, builders, energy analysts and lenders are seeing green construction increase around the country. This seminar will help you understand how high performance, energy-efficient features add value to homes and how to convey that information to potential buyers.

This seminar will focus on the description of green and energy-efficient residential properties, using the Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum, which describes the home features in a way that the lender, underwriter, appraiser, buyer or agent can use to value the property.

Participants will walk through the addendum and learn why it was developed, how to use it and become familiar with resources to complete the details. They will also learn about solar panel valuation challenges, how they impact reporting and ways to find comparable sales.

Instructor Sandra K. Adomatis, SRA, is an active real estate appraiser, instructor, course developer and consultant. She is a frequent national speaker on the topic of green valuation. She wrote the courses “Case Studies in Residential Green Buildings,” “Description of Residential Green Buildings Made Easy,” “Residential and Commercial Valuation of Solar” and spearheaded the development of the “Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum.”

This program was developed by the Appraisal Institute and being underwritten by EnergyWorks KC with funding from a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. For information, contact Roger Kroh at rkroh@marc.org, 816/701-8280.EWKC-event-blog-logos-600w

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MARC annual review now available online

2013-MARC-Annual-ReviewMARC serves as a platform for the region’s citizens and leaders to engage in a broad range of issues. Take a look at MARC’s 2012 Annual Review to see how we are currently helping to create a more vibrant, connected Kansas City region by focusing on:

  • Vibrant places
  • Healthy people and families
  • Quality environment
  • Efficient transportation
  • Prepared communities
  • Effective government
  • A competitive economy
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Creative messaging is an inspiration

In preparation for the Water Quality Education Committee’s fall media campaign, we have been researching a variety of creative ways in which positive environmental messages can be delivered to the public. Our most recent ad campaign included billboards to deliver our message, so we’ve been particularly interested in what others are doing with billboards.

We thought we’d share some of the most innovative billboard ads from around the globe, which not only deliver a clear message, but visually communicate the message to passersby.Photo of Denver Water billboard advertisement

See more examples in this blog post from PGHEnvironmental.

Our advertising budget may not support quite this level of creativity, but we are inspired by what others are doing.

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Solar and wind energy on the rise in the U.S.

energy-flowchartMore solar and wind energy was produced in the U.S. in 2012 than ever before, but there is still a long way to go to before solar and wind become a significant part of the country’s power generation, as this chart recently released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) shows.

Solar energy production in the U.S. increased by 49 percent last year, and wind energy increased by more than 16 percent.

Less coal was used to generate power in 2012, and coal usage may continue to drop as the technology for renewable energy sources becomes less expensive. According to Grist.org, this is also the first year in at least a decade where there has been a measurable decrease in nuclear energy.

Read more on the LLNL website.

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It’s your home, make it safe: a (very) short history of the HHW program

HHW logo w.tagline (horiz)

In 1993, planners in Kansas City, Mo., began to study ways to safely collect and dispose of household hazardous waste (HHW). Two years later, on a June weekend in 1995, nearly 4,300 people waited in long lines to properly dispose of their HHW in the area’s first mobile HHW collection event. This event, hosted by the city of Kansas City and sponsored in part by the MARC Solid Waste Management District (SWMD), demonstrated residents’ concerns about hazardous materials stored in their homes and their commitment to the safe and proper disposal of HHW.

One-third of the people who participated in that first HHW collection event in 1995 were people who lived outside the city limits of Kansas City, which highlighted the need for a regional program. The opening of the Kansas City HHW collection facility in September 1996, as part of the city’s environmental campus, offered the SWMD an opportunity to design a regional collection program. The district formally created the Regional HHW Collection Program in 1997 and offered 18 mobile collection events that year.

In the spring of 1997, the city of Lee’s Summit built the region’s second HHW facility, using funds from the district’s grant program. This facility is located at the Lee’s Summit Resource Recovery Park.

Today, the Regional HHW Collection Program provides residents of participating communities with access to both of the permanent HHW facilities and several mobile collection events held in outlying communities each year. The program is funded by a per capita fee paid annually by each participating city or county. To ensure the success of the program, the district provides grant funds to help meet unanticipated disposal costs and support education and promotional efforts.

Since the program started, more than 6 million pounds of HHW have been collected and safely disposed. More than 90 percent of the HHW material collected is recycled, reused or recovered through waste-to-energy methods.

Visit RecycleSpot.org to learn more about HHW, including facility hours and locations, participating communities, this year’s mobile collection schedule, and materials accepted.

 

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Here comes the sun, and clearer skies.

solar panelsSolar panel installations grew 76 percent in the U.S. from 2011 to 2012, and it’s no mystery why: every hour the sun radiates onto earth enough energy to power the planet for more than a year. Rapidly falling prices, greater gains in efficiency and government tax incentives make using solar power feasible for many in the Kansas City region.

Use solar energy affordably and help keep our skies clear by:

  • Starting a solar cooperative. Home owners can save money on solar panels by purchasing and installing panels in bulk with their neighbors. For those without space for panels, some cooperatives allow participants to purchase panels together off site. See examples of both in DC and Colorado.
  • Exploring solar purchase power agreements. Purchase electricity from a developer who builds, maintains and operates a solar array on your roof. This electricity can be cheaper than current electricity costs, and it won’t run out in the future. For more information, visit the EPA’s website.
  • Using available tax credits. Governments want to reward those who install solar energy systems and fight air pollution. Both Kansas and Missouri have tax breaks for solar installations. See what is available in your state at DSIRE.
  • Cooking with a solar cooker. Using small mirrors, solar cookers can get up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. They work at any outdoor temperature as long as there is sun, and will cook nearly any dish. See solar cooking in action here.

Want more super solar facts? Check out this infographic from Lemon.ly.

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What happens to that old carpet?

Chasing arrows symbol made with carpet dustIn 2012, more than 3.5 billion pounds of old carpet was discarded in the United States. This amount, estimated by the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) in its 2012 annual report, is enough to cover more than 270 square miles. That’s almost 85 percent of the land area in Kansas City, Mo.

While many of the components that make up carpet are recyclable, most old carpet is currently sent to landfills. According to CARE, 8 percent, or 294 million pounds, of discarded carpet was recycled in 2012. Another 2 percent was burned for energy recovery or used as an alternative fuel.

Locally, there are a few options for recycling carpet. Lee’s Summit recently started a pilot program to set aside carpet for recycling, and some carpet installers will take your old carpet to be recycled after they’ve installed your new carpet.

What currently happens to this carpet? Heritage Recycling operates a carpet processing facility here in Kansas City. Used carpet and carpet padding are delivered to the facility and processing begins with plant employees removing contaminants, such as tack strips and trash. Employees then test and sort the carpet using a hand-held analyzer to distinguish one fiber type from another and separate the types that can be recycled —  nylon 6, nylon 6.6, polypropylene  and polyester. Other carpet types, as well as wet carpet, are set aside for disposal. Carpet padding is recycled separately from carpet.

Carpet componentsThe selected carpet passes through a series of mechanical shredders, which systematically break apart the carpet into its fibers and a powdery mix of latex adhesive and limestone filler. Magnets are used to remove metallic items that might be embedded in the carpet, such as nails and box cutter blades. The fibers are baled by type and taken to a processor where they are transformed into pellets. The pellets are ultimately sold to plastic companies that reuse the fiber to create new plastic products.

Learn more about the transformation of discarded carpet in this video about the Heritage Recycling processing plant, produced by Deffenbaugh Industries.

Interested in recycling your old carpet?  Unfortunately, Heritage Recycling does not accept carpet directly from the public. Before you buy new carpet, ask the retailer what their installer will do with your old carpet and choose a company that recycles. If you are a do-it-yourself installer, you can recycle old carpet at the drop-off area at the Lee’s Summit Resource Recovery Park for a  nominal fee ($10 per cubic yard, at the time this post was published).

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