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St. Louis Should Follow Seattle’s Recycling Efforts

October 26, 2012 Environment, Featured 17 Comments

St. Louis needs to look at taking recycling to the next level, the way Seattle has done. Starting earlier this year restaurants in Seattle had to recycle — no more single-use packaging. This means use of items that can be composted.

The City hopes participation of the new ordinance will help prevent 6,000 tons of food service-ware and leftover food from entering landfills.

The compost process at Cedar Grove takes about eight weeks, depending on the time of year. From there, it sits a few weeks to darken before it can be sold as compost for use in gardens and landscaping. (source)

Seattle is the first to do this.

ABOVE: Compost bins replaced trash bins at a Seattle area Taco Time. The tiny black container on top is for hot sauce & ketchup packets which are on the approved discard list.
Photo by Richard Kenney, AIA

Some of you are now upset and having your right to produce waste infringed. As an equal member of society I shouldn’t be burdened by all the waste you produce.  Just look at the amount of stuff you discard at a fast food place that goes into land fills.

From Seattle’s website:

Composting and recycling items that used to be considered waste starts July 1 at Seattle restaurants, coffee shops, food courts, cafeterias and other food service businesses in a major change driven by a new Seattle ordinance.

Customers can now put napkins, paper bags, wooden coffee stir sticks and many types of take-away containers into new in-store compost collection bins. Hot and cold beverage cups and lids will now go into recycling containers instead the trash.

Seattle’s ordinance, which requires all food service businesses to stop throwing away single-use food service ware and packaging, takes effect July 1.

“With our requirement that food service packaging must be compostable or recyclable, Seattle has taken a big step toward a zero waste future,” said City Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “You have to ask yourself why we should make stuff just to throw it away. With compostable and recyclable food containers, we’re closing the loop.”

“For the past year-and-a-half Seattle restaurant businesses and the City of Seattle have collaborated to make the new food packaging requirements work well for the industry, restaurant patrons and the environment,” said Timothy Croll, solid waste director for Seattle Public Utilities. “We hope that customers in coffee shops and quick-serve restaurants will take a moment at the end of their meals to learn the new system. After a few months, we expect it will be routine for everyone.”

“By offering their customers recycling and composting choices, Seattle restaurants will help prevent up to 6,000 tons of food service ware and leftover food from being sent to the landfill every year,” said Croll. “That’s the equivalent of a garbage train more than 100 cars long that will just disappear.”

Taco Time, a northwest chain of 70+ locations, has started implementing these guidelines at locations outside the City of Seattle. National chains that operate in St. Louis & Seattle, like Taco Bell & McDonald’s, must comply.

— Steve Patterson








Missing Planter Reveals Paver Sidewalk Discoloration

September 15, 2012 Downtown, Environment, Featured 4 Comments

Various planters exist along Washington Ave. A rectangular one is common since it doesn’t reduce the sidewalk width the way a round planter would.

ABOVE: Rectangular planter on Washington Ave.

But recently I noticed a number of spots around 13th Street where these planters used to exist.

ABOVE: Space where planter once existed

Amazing how much darker the brick pavers are now some 10 years later. I’ve not (yet) counted how many planters are missing. It’s possible these were moved to other locations.

— Steve Patterson


Reducing Waste…Or Not

September 6, 2012 Environment, Featured 5 Comments

A sign over drinking fountains in a building at Washington University School of Medicine caught my eye last recently.

ABOVE: At first glance a normal looking pair of drinking fountains at the Washington University School of Medicine.
ABOVE: The sign encourages users to refill water bottles, but you probably know how difficult that can be at a drinking fountain
ABOVE: This fountain has an area to make filling bottlers easy. If only more had this feature.
ABOVE: After getting a drink of water I went into the adjacent Barnes & Noble Cafe and ordered spinach & artichoke quiche for there. It was handed to me in a disposable plastic container and directed to the disposable plastic utensils.

I love the idea of encouraging the reuse of  bottles, I do that at home for water to go. Meanwhile the cafe is wasting plastic on customers eating there. Maybe get the cafe a commercial dishwasher?

— Steve Patterson


A Front Yard Vegetable Garden In Ferguson Missouri

In July one modest house in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson got the attention of many:

A Ferguson resident has won a battle with city officials that could be considered a matter of taste.

The resident, Karl Tricamo, had been feuding with the city for months over the vegetable garden he had planted in front of his house in the 300 block of Louisa Avenue.

The city saw the garden as a blot on the landscape and issued Tricamo a citation demanding he uproot the corn, tomatoes, sorghum, peppers and other crops sprouting there and, instead, seed the yard for grass. The garden measures 35 feet by 25 feet. (stltoday.com)

Other resources:

Numerous pictures were circulated on Facebook & Twitter as front yard gardening advocates celebrated this victory. But all the pictures concentrated tightly on the garden, I wanted to understand the context. I went to Google Maps but no streetview was available just an aerial.

The 45 degree view of the house in Ferguson, before the lawn was replaced with the garden. Click image to view in Google Maps.

I knew I wanted to see the garden and street in person but it’s a 12+ mile drive — and I don’t have a car. So I caught a bus at the North Hanley MetroLink station and I was within blocks.

ABOVE: The MetroBus dropped me off at Suburban Ave and S. Clark Ave, this is looking north on Clark
ABOVE: Looking west on Louisa St from Clark., nice but well-maintained homes. No manicured lawns.
ABOVE: Continuing on Louisa looking for the house & garden on the right.
ABOVE: I’m visiting on Monday August 20, 2012. The garden looks good to my eye given how dry it has been and how late in the growing season it is.
ABOVE: Lawn remains between the sidewalk and driveway
ABOVE: Another view

In an older neighborhood with mature trees locations for a vegetable garden are often limited, most vegetables need full sun.  I applaud Tricamo for fighting the City of Ferguson so he could grow food for his family.

— Steve Patterson


Did You ‘Dump the Pump’ Today?

Did you take transit today? Today is National Dump the Pump Day:

On June 21, 2012, American Public Transportation Association (APTA), in partnership with The Sierra Club, The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and public transportation systems across the country will celebrate the 7th Annual National Dump the Pump Day.

In these tough economic times with high gas prices, everyone is looking for a way to save money. National Dump the Pump Day encourages people to ride public transportation (instead of driving) and save money.

Riding public transit is an economical way to save money, particularly when gas prices are high. The latest APTA Transit Savings Report shows that a two person household that downsizes to one car can save – on the average – about $10,000 a year.

It’s been over two months since I sold my car. While there have been a few times I missed the easy mobility the car offers I love the greater financial freedom I have now. We all make trade offs in life, I just decided more money in my pocket was more important to me than 24/7 mobility. I’m still mobile, just on Metro’s schedule.

Most likely you weren’t aware of Dump the Pump Day. Even if you were you’d cite a long list of reasons why transit won’t work for you, why you must have a car. Here are some of the reasons to use transit:

Quick Facts

  • In 2011, Americans took 10.4 billion trips on public transportation.
  • 35 million times each weekday, people board public transportation.
  • Public transportation is a $55 billion industry that employs more than 400,000 people.
  • More than 7,300 organizations provide public transportation in the United States.

Public Transportation Helps People Save Money

  • Using public transportation is the quickest way to beat high gas prices.
  • According to APTA’s Transit Saving Report, a two-person household can save, on the average, more than $10,000 a year by downsizing to one car.
  • Public transportation provides an affordable, and for many, necessary, alternative to driving.

Public Transportation Provides Economic Opportunities

  • Every $1 billion invested in public transportation creates and supports 36,000 jobs.
  • Every $1 invested in public transportation generates approximately $4 in economic returns.
  • Every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation yields $30 million in increased business sales.
  • Every $10 million in operating investment yields $32 million in increased business sales.

Public Transportation Saves Fuel and Reduces Congestion

  • Public transportation has a proven record of reducing congestion.
  • The latest research shows that in 2010, U.S. public transportation use saved 796 million hours in travel time and 303 million gallons of fuel in 439 urban areas.
  • Without public transportation, congestion costs in 2010 would have risen by nearly $17 billion from $101 billion to $118 billion.

Public Transportation Reduces Gasoline Consumption

  • Public transportation use in the United States saves 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually.
  • Households near public transit drive an average of 4,400 fewer miles than households with no access to public transit.

Public Transportation Reduces Carbon Footprint

  • Public transportation use in the United States reduces our nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually. This is equivalent to the emissions resulting from the electricity generated for the use of 4.9 million households or every household in Washington, DC; New York City; Atlanta; Denver; and Los Angeles combined.
  • One person with a 20-mile round trip commute who switches from driving to public transit can reduce his or her daily carbon emissions by 20 pounds, or more than 4,800 pounds in a year.
  • A single commuter switching his or her commute to public transportation can reduce a household’s carbon emissions by 10 percent and up to 30 percent if he or she eliminates a second car.

Public Transportation Enhances Personal Opportunities

  • Public transportation provides personal mobility and freedom for people from every walk of life.
  • Access to public transportation gives people transportation options to commute to work, go to school, visit friends, or travel to a doctor’s office.
  • Public transportation provides access to job opportunities for millions of Americans.
  • 83 percent of older Americans acknowledge public transit provides easy access to things they need in everyday life.

All the above reasons are valid, but it’s the cost savings that did it for me personally. I’m single but for many couples going from two cars to one gives them savings without giving up mobility.

– Steve Patterson