Sunday, April 24, 2016

TL;DR: Five Themes to Up-cycle from the Green Issue

Posted By on Sun, Apr 24, 2016 at 9:43 AM

click to enlarge green_issue.jpg
Did you throw away too much time this week? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a recycled version of this week's Green Issue, and five reasons why Humboldt County is a great place to go Zero Waste.

Reason #1: We’re Welcoming

Zero Waste, one of the more recent philosophies to come out of the green movement, can be difficult to define. Advocates are currently fighting for a standardization of the term as it relates to companies that might be tempted to “greenwash” their image – 90 percent diversion from landfill or incineration for all non-hazardous waste. It’s an ambitious standard, but some companies, including Hewlett-Packard and Disney, claim to have met it at their corporate headquarters. Of course, that doesn’t mean their products are Zero Waste. Living a no-landfill lifestyle as consumers is a lot more challenging, but there are organizations, businesses and individuals in Humboldt that are happy to help.

Reason #2: We’re Passionate

“Our purchasing habits can yield a greater benefit for the environment than our recycling and compositing habits,” says Margaret Gainer, founder of Zero Waste Humboldt and guest columnist in our green issue. Zero Waste Humboldt recently hosted a workshop on reducing waste at events and has volunteered annually at Arcata’s North Country Fair since 2012. When the fair first started, it sent a Dumpster’s worth of waste to the landfill. But according to Gainer, it only filled half a trash can in 2015.

Reason #3: We’re Innovative

Because Humboldt County doesn’t have a central facility to process plastic recyclables, many end up in the landfill. “First, ask the right question,” says Gainer. “Is there anything I could have done to avoid buying this meaningless plastic doodad in the first place?” One way to avoid unnecessary purchases is to make your own. The folks at SCRAP Humboldt were happy to set an example for us by up-cycling issues of the Journal into artsy hats, bowls and earrings. SCRAP also has lots of donated office and craft supplies so you don't have to buy the whole box when you only need the one envelope.

Reason #4: Did We Mention That We’re Passionate?

The subject of this week’s cover story, “No Crap,” Alec Howard, embraced the Zero Waste lifestyle when he moved to Arcata to attend Humboldt State University last year. Although Arcata, a very bikeable and eco-groovy city, made it easy to convert to a life free of single-use, disposable items, he still struggled to reduce his carbon footprint. For one month he “pushed himself,” using rainwater instead of the fossil-fuel reliant plumbing in his dormitory, swapping toilet paper for moss and charging his phone with a solar panel. He’s eased back a bit since, but still integrates Zero Waste principles into his daily life.

Reason #5: We Know How to Say No

While most people already know about the Three Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – one of the most important tenets of Zero Waste is "Refuse." Howard accomplishes this by gently turning down free samples, business cards and unnecessary pieces of paper. He also waged a less-than-gentle campaign against junk mail in the HSU dorms that led to one chronic offender agreeing to stop mailing offers to students. If you want to follow Howard’s example, here are some common items you can say “no” to, and replace with reusable options: plastic water bottles, disposable coffee cups, grocery bags, disposable diapers, food packaging, straws and cheap, plastic toys and doo-dads.

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