Archive | December, 2014

Paper towels absorb more than spills

Without a thought, we grab a handful of paper towels to dry our hands in a public restroom or to clean up a spill in the kitchen and then we toss them in the trash. But what is the environmental cost? A lot of energy and resources go into making paper towels: harvesting the wood, processing it, bleaching it, packaging it, and transporting it — all just to reach the store! However, there is a great way to counter this resource and energy-intensive process: just say no.

papertowels-credit-SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

In the restroom

In the old days, people used to carry cloth handkerchiefs. Today these make great paper towel substitutes. You can purchase handkerchiefs at most department stores, and a good one can last for many years. Keep one in your pocket or purse and use it when wet hands arise. If you’re worried about the dampness affecting other items, you can keep the handkerchief in a Ziploc bag between uses, or lay it out to dry on a desk. Wash handkerchiefs with the rest of your laundry.

In the kitchen

All bath towels must be retired at some point, so why not give those frayed and faded towels a second life in your kitchen? Store them in a kitchen cabinet or drawer, ready to be used the next time Junior spills his milk. Just like the hankies, these towels can go in with your laundry and serve many years as a greener, quicker picker-upper.

If all else fails, compost!

If you do end up using paper towels, they can be disposed of in your compost bin instead of the trash. Find information on composting at home on the MARC website.

For more information on waste reduction and recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-4326.

 

photo credit: SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget via photopin cc
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Put on a sweater!

…and seven more winter actions that help our air quality

By Doug Norsby, Air Quality Planner III

Even though it seems to have taken longer this year, cold weather is moving in and evenings at home are a bit more brisk. It can be tempting to bump the thermostat up a few degrees, but doing so increases energy use, costs money and adds more emissions to our air. Before turning the dial, consider these ideas to make sure your home is winter-ready.

  • Drafty doors can benefit from a few easy fixes. Always close a door tightly — even between short trips to-and-from the car to the house. For especially drafty doors, buy or construct your own draft stopper to prevent that toe-chilling air flow.
  • Lower the thermostat overnight while everyone is sleeping. For periods of more than eight hours, each degree of difference can save 1 percent on your heating bill.

And of course, make your mother proud by putting on a sweater and some cozy socks when you’re feeling chilled. Drink a warm beverage or snuggle up with your favorite pet. You can stay toasty warm without touching that thermostat.

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Creating Connections 2014

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The MARC Solid Waste Management District held its 2014 Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, Dec. 17, at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. Amy Bond, CBRE, spoke about sustainability and recycling programs at the Sprint Campus as well as at Sprint’s nationwide real estate operations. The district also recognized several individuals and organizations that have made notable contributions to regional waste management and recycling efforts. The 2014 Special Recognition Award recipients were:

Individual Supporter — Angie Gehlert, Missouri Recycling Association

The Individual Supporter award recognizes an individual who has made exceptional contributions and commitment to the district’s waste reduction and recycling efforts.

Public Employee — Chris Bussen, Lee’s Summit

The Public Employee award recognizes a public employee who has shown dedication to the development and advancement of waste reduction and recycling through individual achievement and commitment.

Green Event — Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon

The Green Event award recognizes a special event that promotes sustainable practices. Stephanie Lankford with the Kansas City Sports Commission accepted this award.

Waste Industry — The Urban Lumber Company

The Waste Industry award recognizes outstanding waste reduction and recycling efforts for a business in the waste industry. Tim O’Neill accepted this award.

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Real vs. artificial holiday trees: which is the greener choice?

By Matt Riggs, Solid Waste Management District outreach coordinator

christmas-tree-227014_1280Every holiday season we hear the same question: is it better for the environment to buy a real tree or an artificial tree? Currently, of all the American households displaying trees, 80 percent are artificial trees and 20 percent are real.

A recent study — sponsored by the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) and conducted by third-party international research firm PE International — showed that purchasing either a real or artificial tree has a negligible impact on the environment. However, the study found that length of ownership, disposal method and “tree miles” can make a difference on which tree is environmentally preferable.

ACTA encourages consumers to consider five helpful tips when deciding which tree to buy this year:

  • If you buy a real tree, buy from a local farm if possible.
  • Consider “tree miles” — How far the tree had to travel to get to the store or farm, and how far you had to travel to get it.
  • Consider purchasing an artificial tree to minimize your environmental impacts if you have purchased more than nine live trees in the last nine years.
  • If you own an artificial tree, plan to use it for at least six to nine years.  If you replace an artificial tree, donate the old one instead of disposing it.
  • Properly dispose of your natural holiday tree. Find local disposal services at RecycleSpot.org!

Missouri bans the disposal of real holiday trees and greenery, just like it does other yard waste materials, and Kansas discourages the practice. Area communities, businesses and organizations offer a number of ways to recycle those trees instead of trashing them. These services divert materials from landfills while creating resources that can be used for a variety of purposes. For example, trees can be shredded into mulch that is used for trail surfaces, erosion control and landscaping, or left whole to create fish habitats in area lakes.

To ensure a pure recycling stream and protect workers and machinery, it’s very important to remove lights, decorations, plastic bags, stands, metal frames, nails and wire from trees and greenery before recycling them.

For more information on where to donate your artificial tree or recycle your real tree and greenery, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-4326.

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Another quiet ozone season thanks to cool mid-summer temperatures

Ozone Season 2014

By Doug Norsby, Air Quality Planner III

Again this year, a wet spring followed by mild summer weather provided a welcome relief from the high ozone levels seen during 2011 and 2012. The 2014 ozone season began with normal temperatures and rainfall in April and May, followed by above-average rainfall in early June and below-average temperatures in July, resulting in a relatively good ozone season. MARC issued 46 yellow SkyCasts and two orange Ozone Alerts for the Kansas City region’s air quality maintenance area. The low number of yellow and orange SkyCasts was almost identical to last year’s numbers.

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 standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect public health.

At the conclusion of the 2014 season, ozone monitor readings appear to show that the Kansas City region is no longer violating the ozone standard for the first time since 2010. However, federal law requires EPA to periodically review air quality standards to ensure that they provide adequate health and environmental protection, and to update those standards as necessary. EPA is currently in the process of reviewing the ozone standard and is expected to propose a new standard in December. If it is tightened, it is likely that the recent lower readings will still fall in the range that is considered to be unhealthy.

The region continues to employ voluntary strategies to reduce ozone-forming and greenhouse gas emissions, and our participation in the EPA’s Ozone Advance program and implementation of our award-winning Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) both leverage local community actions to reduce potential federally mandated and state-imposed regulations.

For more information, contact the MARC Air Quality program.

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