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Sustainability

An Effort to Bury a Throwaway Culture One Repair at a Time

Interesting idea from Amsterdam, appearing in the New York Times, May 8, 2012.

By Sally McGrane

“AMSTERDAM – An unemployed man, a retired pharmacist and an upholsterer took their stations, behind tables covered in red gingham. Screwdrivers and sewing machines stood at the ready. Coffee, tea and cookies circulated. Hilij Held, a neighbor, wheeled in a zebra-striped suitcase and extracted a well-used iron. ‘It doesn’t work anymore,’ she said. ‘No steam.’

Ms. Held had come to the right place. At Amsterdam’s first Repair Cafe, an event originally held in a theater’s foyer, then in a rented room in a former hotel and now in a community center a couple times a month, people can bring in whatever they want to have repaired, at no cost, by volunteers who just like to fix things.

Conceived as a way to help people reduce waste, the Repair Cafe concept has taken off since its debut two and a half years ago. The Repair Cafe Foundation has raised about $525,000 through a grant from the Dutch government, support from foundations and small donations, all of which pay for staffing, marketing and even a Repair Cafe bus.

Thirty groups have started Repair Cafes across the Netherlands, where neighbors pool their skills and labor for a few hours a month to mend holey clothing and revivify old coffee makers, broken lamps, vacuum cleaners and toasters, as well as at least one electric organ, a washing machine and an orange juice press.

‘In Europe, we thow out so many things,’ said Martine Postma, a former journalist who came up with the concept after the birth of her second child led her to think more about the environment. ‘It’s a shame, because the things we throw away are usually not that broken. There are more and more people in the world, and we can’t keep handling things the way we do.

‘I had the feeling I wanted to do something, not just write about it,’ she said. But she was troubled by the question: ‘How do you try to do this as a normal person in your daily life?’ Inspired by a design exhibit about the creative, cultural and economic benefits of repairing and recycling, she decided that helping people fix things was a practical way to prevent unnecessary waste.

‘Sustainability discussions are often about ideals, about what could be,’ Ms. Postma said. ‘After a certain number of workshops on how to grow your own mushrooms, people get tired. This is very hands on, very concrete. It’s about doing something together, in the here and now.’

While the Netherlands puts less than 3 percent of its municipal waste into landfills, there is still room for improvement, according to Joop Atsma, the state secretary for infrastructure and the environment.” ….

Read more about this innovative concept of Repair Cafes here.

Do you think a similar concept would work in the U.S., or are we too deeply enmeshed in the ‘Take-Make-Waste’ economy?

News Bit: NIKE, NASA Just Do It, Partner on Waste

By Leon Kaye, TriplePundit.com, April 9, 2012

“Last week NASA and NIKE kicked off ‘LAUNCH: Beyond Waste Challenge’ to find 10 ‘game changing’ innovations that could revamp current waste management systems. The immediate steps are to find new methods to minimize waste or alter it into new products. In the long term, the goal is to have these new waste processing systems aid space travel in the future.

Those interested in participating in the program have until May 15 to submit ideas for the elimination, transformation and mitigation of waste. LAUNCH is also seeking proposals for waste reduction education and financial strategies. This initiative welcomes any innovations that can help with waste diversion or zero-waste strategies that can benefit in households, communities, businesses or industry.

The fundamentals behind LAUNCH are growing concerns over the effects that the world’s increasing population coupled with diminishing resources call for a complete redesign and rethink of how societies approach waste. Current practices from the obvious, incineration and landfill disposal, to even more sustainable processes like recycling and ‘upcycling,’ (which use energy and do not always address consumerism and the accumulation of ‘stuff’) are untenable in the long run.”

To read more about how shoes and rockets work together go HERE.

News Bit: Austin Passes Bag Restriction Law

For those of you who picked up your free usable bag last week at the Union, you’re in good shape if you decide to move to Austin!

“Austin, Texas, has passed a law restricting plastic and paper retail carryout bags. The law, which will take effect March 1, 2013, allows for three options: paper or plastic bag of thicker construction with handles, or reusable linen or woven bags, says Bob Gedert, director of Austin Resource Recovery, in an interview. Because of the replacement options, the city is characterizing it as a bag regulation, not ban.

The new law differs from what Austin City Council proposed in December, which involved a 52-cent interim fee for single-use bags. Gedert says administrative challenges, retail relationship to challenges and being accountable to the public made that “too difficult a path to take.”

Read more about this interesting and controversial step, HERE.

Source:  Waste360.com 

News Bit: Hershey Achieves Zero Waste to Landfill at 3 Plants

The Hershey Co. said three of its manufacturing facilities achieved zero waste-to-landfill (ZWL) status.

The Hershey, PA based candy retailer said in a news release that two plants in Hershey and another in Hazelton, PA, recycle about 90 percent of operational waste generated. The remainder of the waste goes to nearby Pennsylvania waste-to-energy incinerators in Bainbridge and Harrisburg.

“We achieved ZWL at these facilities through a rigorous process of eliminating waste, recycling and convertings waste to energy,” said Terence O’Day, senior vice president of global operations for Hershey.

The company’s Hazleton plant achieved ZWL status this month. Its West Hershey plant became a ZWL facility in October 2011. In addition, an ongoing $200 million to $225 million expansion of the facility is a ZWL project. The company’s Reese plant, located in Hershey, achieved ZWL status in 2010.

Hershey said it aims to continue improving its recycling and energy efficiency progrmas at all of its U.S. facilities.

Source:  waste360.com

SPECIAL NOTE: Hershey Kiss wrappers are recyclable!

Share Your Ideas for Recycling, Reusing, and Reducing!

Do you have any suggestions, practical ideas, creative usage or other ideas on how to reduce your consumption of ‘stuff’, reuse/recycling the ‘stuff’ you do have in new ways rather than throwing it into the trash to go live in a landfill?

Here’s a few things to get you started:

  • Buy a reusable water bottle and refill from the Union’s ‘hydration station’ or any water fountain. Saves money, reduces plastic waste, reduces oil usage  (come to see “Tapped: The Movie” at the EMBI Green Innovations Conference on April 19th – it’s free! – and informative).
  • Make sure you use the duplex setting when you print – save some paper – and be sure to recycle the paper in the proper bin when it’s ready to go.
  • Earn some cash for your old electronics – visit Gazelle.com to see if you can sell them your old iPhone, x-box, or other electronic items.

What are your ideas – do you have one simple idea you can share?