Archive | November, 2013

A bright idea for Southeast Enterprises

The MARC Solid Waste Management District administers an annual grant program that 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.

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Old strands of holiday lights may not work, but they’re far from worthless. For the second year, Southeast Enterprises will collect unusable or unwanted holiday lights for recycling. Last year, they exceeded their goal of recycling 24,000 pounds of holiday lights. This year’s goal is to exceed 34,000 pounds.

So, what happens to all of those lights? Once collected, Southeast’s employees prepare the lights for recycling by clipping and sorting each component of the light strands: wires, plugs, light receptacles and bulbs. The components are then sent to other organizations for recycling or energy recovery. Every part of the light string is recycled.

snowman trashcanThe program does more than help the environment — it provides jobs, too. To disassemble the lights Southeast Enterprises employs more than 160 Jackson County residents who are intellectually and developmentally disabled.

Collection containers will be placed at more than 165 participating schools, businesses, recycling centers and community organizations. View the map of drop-off locations to find one near you.  They will collect lights until Jan. 26, 2014.

The district is pleased to be part of this effort by providing grant support to Southeast’s 2012-13 and 2013-14 collection programs.

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Bright Lights, Big Savings

neighborhood-light-comparison-600pxMany cities in the MARC region now have brighter streets and lower electric bills. Over the past three years, the Smart Lights for Smart Cities initiative installed more than 5,700 high-efficiency street lights in 25 communities in the area. The project, which ended in October, showcased newly-developed streetlight technology — primarily Light Emitting Diode, or LED, lights — in cities in the metropolitan area with populations of less than 35,000.

After installation, KCP&L and a number of participating cities measured the performance of the new street lights, while MARC’s environmental program staff evaluated the lights for air pollution, greenhouse gas emission and waste disposal, using metrics from the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. The LED street lights demonstrated much lower energy use than conventional high-pressure sodium lights. The city of Pleasant Hill, Mo., calculated an energy savings of 37.7 percent on its new LED lights, as well as an average daily cost savings of 41.8 percent.

MARC used an online forum, town hall meetings in participating communities, and a group discussion with police and public works staff to collect feedback on the lights. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with brighter light, better color and increased safety cited as benefits.

Participating cities included Basehor, Edwardsville, Fairway, Gardner, Lansing, Merriam, Mission, Prairie Village, Roeland Park, Spring Hill, Tonganoxie and Westwood in Kansas and Gladstone, Harrisonville, Kearney, Lawson, Liberty, North Kansas City, Oak Grove, Peculiar, Platte City, Pleasant Hill, Raymore, Raytown and Smithville in Missouri.

Smart Lights for Smart Cities was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation block Grant (EECBG) program.

Read more about Smart Lights and view maps of streetlight locations

Smart Lights for Smart Cities Final Report-

For more information about Smart Lights for Smart Cities, contact Georgia Nesselrode at 816/701-8207.

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2013 Ozone Season Summary: a quiet season thanks to a late spring and summer

AirQ Season Summary GraphThis ozone season, MARC issued 45 yellow SkyCasts and four orange Ozone Alerts for the Kansas City region’s air quality maintenance area. The cool, wet spring and late arrival of summer weather provided a welcome relief from high ozone levels seen over the last two years and contributed to the significantly lower number of yellow and orange SkyCasts.

The SkyCast is issued daily during ozone season (April 1–Oct. 31) and corresponds with the Air Quality Index (AQI), a public information tool that associates colors and health messages with ranges of air pollutant concentrations. This season, only two days exceeded the eight-hour ozone concentration standard of 75 parts-per-billion (ppb) set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect public health.

Over the last five years, with the exception of 2010, the maximum ozone values in the Kansas City region hovered just above the 75 ppb standard (see graph). The next required review of the ozone standard is set for 2013. When the EPA completes its review, the region’s air quality status will likely be reassessed based on data collected during the three most recent ozone seasons — 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Another factor in the reassessment is that the EPA is expected to lower the ozone concentration standard from 75 ppb to somewhere between 60 and 70 ppb. Because of this, we expect our region may soon be designated as “nonattainment,” triggering changes to future regulatory requirements. In anticipation of these changes, the region has updated its award-winning Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) annually and has signed on to the EPA’s Ozone Advance program. These proactive steps will give the region some ability to leverage the CAAP’s voluntary strategies to reduce ozone-forming and greenhouse gas emissions in the Kansas City region and may reduce the need for imposed regulations.

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Would you like a bag for that?

Blue_reusable_shopping_bag-webFor the record, I normally use cloth bags for my shopping trips. But while vacationing with family this summer, I stopped at a chain pharmacy in Boulder, Colo., to pick up a few forgotten essentials. I decided to ask for a plastic bag to round up the apple cores, banana peels and candy wrappers that had accumulated in the car since our last stop. I was stunned when the clerk informed me that a plastic bag to hold my purchases would cost me an extra dime.

Boulder implemented the bag fee in July. The city council adopted the fee back in November 2012, but the city put off implementation for a few months to allow time to develop an education campaign and for stores to prepare.

Boulder is not alone. My limited research shows that:

  • At least 150 cities and counties across the country have implemented either bag fees or outright bans on plastic bags; 85 of these are in California. San Francisco holds the distinction of being the first city in the nation to ban plastics bags with a 2007 ordinance. In 2012, Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation to approve a ban on plastic bags. A quick tally from a number of sources that track bag ban/fee ordinances indicates that about 50 more cities and counties across the nation are considering or drafting ordinances.
  • The movement to regulate plastic bags is not limited to cities and counties. Hawaii was the first state to ban plastic bags in all counties and a handful of states are considering some form of statewide bans or taxes — most recently Pennsylvania, which is considering a statewide 2-cent fee. Several states have plastic bag labeling, recycling or reuse programs.
  • There have even been a few attempts at the federal level. Most recently, on Earth Day 2013, U.S. Rep. James P. Moran of Virginia introduced a bill to create a national 5-cent tax on all disposable plastic or paper bags provided by stores to customers. Revenue generated from the fee would support the nation’s Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Getting back to my Boulder experience: I went ahead and paid for the bag. So, where did my dime go? Boulder retailers get to keep four cents to cover their costs of administering the program. The county recycling center gets less than a penny to cover the costs of retrieving plastic bags from recycling equipment. The city uses the rest of the money collected from the fee to pay for education and outreach about reusable bags and to cover the costs of free bags that it provides. I considered it a small price to pay.

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Winterize your home for big savings

Man Installs InsulationHomeowners can waste hundreds of dollars each year if they haven’t prepared their homes for winter.

Heating accounts for 41 percent of the average Missouri home’s annual energy use, but according to the EPA, you can reduce your energy billby up to 20 percent by making improvements to retain heated air and keep cold air out. (These modifications will also lower cooling costs in the summer!).

To winterize your home, try the following tips.

  • Seal air leaks. Use caulk to seal cracks less than a quarter-inch wide. Leaks are commonly found at the chimney shaft, attic and foundation. For cracks between moving components — such as windows and doors — use weather stripping.
  • Add insulation. Unfinished walls, floors and ceilings can be insulated using easy-to-install blanket insulation. When buying insulation, look for a high R value for greater resistance to heat movement. Learn more about insulating an attic with the professionals from This Old House.
  • Reinforce windows. Installing exterior storm windows can prevent air movement through the window. For windows that are not often opened, taping a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet to the inside of the window is an easy way to reduce drafts and still let in light.
  • Seal ducts. On average, about 20 percent of the air that moves through the ductwork seeps out through leaks in the system. On exposed ducts, tape up leaks with heat-resistant foil tape. Find leaks by running your hand close to the duct while the furnace is running to feel for moving air.
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MARC launches new website

Homepage ScreenshotMARC recently launched a new website at www.marc.org, featuring easy-to-use navigation and landing pages for specific sections of the website.

Many of our web page addresses have changed, and if you have pages on our site bookmarked, those links may no longer work.

Here are links to the main pages in our Environment section:

Our new navigation menus and search feature should make it easy to find what you need, but if not, please don’t hesitate to contact us at marcinfo@marc.org. Let us know what you are looking for and we’ll send you the new link.

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Beyond The Bulb launches new energy calculator

thermostat-for-blogWinter is coming, with its drafts and high heat bills. Saving money on your energy bills doesn’t mean you have to shiver in a cold, dark house! Try the new energy calculator at beyondthebulb.org and learn how to reduce your costs while staying comfortable in your home year round.

Answer a few simple questions and the calculator will estimate how much energy your home uses and advise you how much money you could save on your energy bills — especially if you invest in energy-efficiency improvements.

The Beyond The Bulb website provides information about energy savings, conservation and efficiency investments. The new energy calculator is the latest addition to this interactive site. The website and calculator focus on the types of conservation and energy-efficiency improvements that homeowners and small businesses typically need: lighting, air and duct sealing, insulation, ventilation, furnace efficiency, HVAC and water conservation.

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Celebrate America Recycles Day: give your old stuff a second life

Happy America Recycles Day!

ARD logoMARC’s Solid Waste Management District encourages you to give your old stuff a second life on the 16th annual America Recycles Day (ARD). Held every year on November 15, ARD is a national campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling and buying products made with recycled materials.

In the Kansas City metro area, about 80 percent of the average home’s trash is reusable or recyclable. If you’re like most people, you probably already recycle items such as cans, plastic and paper. But did you know you can also recycle items such as paint, computers, building materials, tires, Styrofoam, carpet, glass bottles and jars, yard waste, compact fluorescent light bulbs and bicycles?

Now that we’ve piqued your curiosity, visit www.RecycleSpot.org where you can:

  • Find these items and many more to recycle or reuse.
  • Choose from several ARD events scheduled throughout the week where you can drop off computers, televisions, sensitive documents for shredding and more.
  • Learn how to buy recycled.
  • Get tools to help promote recycling and reuse in your community.
  • Download a great activity for the kids.

You or your business can also take the America Recycles Day pledge or participate in the ARD Thunderclap to share your love for recycling.

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DOE award will help make solar power more practical, affordable

SRII-purple-webOn Nov. 6, the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge II announced the award of $2.575 million to the Mid-America Regional Council to help make it easier for residents and businesses to use solar energy. The award is one of eight given nationwide, totaling more than $12 million.

This grant will build on the success of the first phase of MARC’s Rooftop Solar Challenge, Solar Ready KC, which helped streamline local government permitting and planning processes, explore financing options and identify best practices in implementing solar energy.

With its second round of Rooftop Solar Challenge awards, the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative supports efforts to cut red tape, reduce “plug-in” costs and make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources. Regionally, Solar Ready II will expand improved permitting processes to more local governments; develop GIS mapping tools to determine which rooftops are most conducive to solar energy; create a certification program for rooftop solar installers; develop market research panels; and expand financing options.

Nationally, MARC will partner with the National Association of Regional Councils to replicate its successful model in nine other regions, working with regional councils representing central New York, northwest Indiana, southwest Florida, and the metro areas of Philadelphia, Phoenix, Dallas, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay and Washington, D.C. Other award partners include the Council of State Governments and Meister Consultants Group, Inc.

For more information, contact Georgia Nesselrode, 816/701-8207.

More information about the Rooftop Solar Challenge projects

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Don’t miss these November events!

Nov. 12–13: Installation and Maintenance of Stormwater Treatment Best Management Practices.

Water Quality LogoThis two-day workshop will demystify the most common components of stormwater treatment best management practices (BMPs). Learn from area experts who have experience designing, installing and maintaining the vegetative components of stormwater treatment BMPs.

The workshop is geared toward landscapers, subcontractors and general contractors currently working with stormwater treatment BMPs or those who would like to gain experience with these systems. Sessions will focus primarily on the most commonly installed practices in the metro area at this time — bioretention, rain gardens and native landscaping.

Learn more

Register now

 

Nov. 19:  Natural Resource Inventory

Be the first to experience new cutting-edge, high-resolution, land-cover data and explore the possibilities.

Local communities across the nation are including natural resource considerations into their planning processes. MARC has assembled the base data essential to integrated environmental planning. This workshop will provide the opportunity to see what new data is available, and how that information may be applied in a variety of contexts to achieve community goals like conserving natural areas, protecting air and water quality, and reducing urban heat islands.

Learn more

Register now

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