Help the Environment…the 4th R!

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle…..these are the 3 R’s we are now familiar with to help out the environment.  After chaperoning a preschool field trip to “The Dump” recently in Johnston, RI (officially known as the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation), I learned that there is a 4th R in the mix now: Rot!   Composting is very important these days, as the RIRRC only has about 25 years left before it runs out of space to store Rhode Islanders’ trash.  We can help add time to that estimate if we focus on doing the 4 R’s faithfully.  There is no plan so far as to what is going to happen once they run out of space.  We will either have to find more space in Rhode Island for more landfills, or we will need to take our trash out-of-state, which will be very costly for us and the State.  The field trip was great, and I think every person from Rhode Island should visit the RIRRC to become more aware of how things are run there and what they need to do to be more environmentally responsible.  The trip consisted of a tour of the center, an answer and question session, a small hands-on museum for kids, and a bus ride through the landfill (all the way up to the top of “Mt. Trashmore” where you can see from Providence to Newport).  The kids had a blast, and they learned so much (although I think the adults learned even more!).  Here is what I learned from the tour:

*  The landfill was established in the early 70s to keep RI trash localized and make the cities cleaner.

*  The landfill ONLY accepts trash from RI, and it is considered a sanitary landfill.

*  The landfill is 250 feet high, and it is almost full and will be capped shortly.

*  The RIRRC is digging a new area for another landfill that should last about 25 years, but that is all the room they have at the RIRRC (after that, who knows????)

*  The RIRRC makes the most money from recycling items (so keep the paper, plastic, and glass coming!!!)

*  Towns in RI get money back each year from recycling.

*  You can personally take hazardous materials (car batteries, motor and cooking oil, tires, etc.) to the RIRRC to be disposed of for a fee.

*  All towns send their trash to the RIRRC landfill except for Tiverton, which has its own landfill.

*  The RIRRC uses gases produced from the trash to create energy for power plants!

 I try to do a pretty good job with reducing, reusing, and recycling, but  know I can always do more.  I have all the trendy bags to take to the grocery store (even the small ones that fit in my purse), but I am not always faithful about using them.  The guilt always sets in when I hear “paper or plastic.”  Ugh!  The answer is neither!!!  I read a book in book club called, “The World Without Us” by, Alan Weisman.  Reading that was a huge wake-up call, especially about plastics and using plastic bags.  Read it if you get time!

Today was a good reminder about being environmentally responsible.  I will be better about using my reusable bags, and I will also start composting (which is something I’ve been meaning to do anyway).  I heard you can get nice compositing boxes at Ocean State Job Lot or Lowes, so I will be checking that out.  I will also be better about putting things into the recycle bins appropriately.  I learned today that the cardboard milk containers I’ve been recycling should go in the BLUE (plastic/metal) bins, not the GREEN (paper) bins!  They actually have thin metal lining in the cardboard.  Whoops!  I also learned that you cannot recycle the cardboard from soda boxes or frozen meals.  They have chemicals in them.  Whoops again!  Lastly, I learned you should not recycle wire hangers, Capri Sun pouches, or ANY plastics labeled 3-7.  Rhode Island currently ONLY takes #1 & #2 plastics, but next year they are hoping to take 3-7.  Keep an eye out for that news!

Off to buy a composting bin for the backyard, and to refill my purse with my reusable bags!  Practice those 4 R’s faithfully!!!  We want Rhode Island (and the Earth) to be a better place and last longer!!!

* How are you with recycling?  What can you do to improve your carbon footprint?  You can calculate you carbon footprint here

 (It’s very scary how big of an impact an average family in the United States has!)

Kristin Wheeler

The New “It” Bag


Like magician’s silk scarves the woman in front of me, began pulling environmentally friendly shopping bags out of her purse.   These were not the boxy earth toned bags I now realized I had left in my car. …again. They were smooth nylon, brightly colored, and geometrically patterned accessories.   They were, dare I say, stylish?  As she rolled her colorful cart away from the grocery checkout, and I sheepishly requested, “paper please”, I pondered the environmentally friendly shopping sack as the new “it” bag.   Sure my shopping bags were practical, but attractive?  Never.   I am a big believer in functional design, and love the idea of taking an item as mundane as the shopping bag, and making it fun.  These days, plastic is passé, and though paper will do, to look like a truly savvy shopper the reusable bag is de-rigueur.    While my ice cream melted holes in my paper bags once home, I raced to my computer to track down some pretty shopping bags of my own.  A couple of the brands I found that make bringing your own grocery bags hip, are baggu and envirosax.  Of course I  purchased my own sleek colorful bags to carry, and though they make me happy, because they are pretty, they really are quite practical. They hold a ton without ripping. They come in tiny pouches or roll up and snap to fit easily in your purse, so I never have an excuse to forget them in the car again. You can throw them in the wash when your super helpful 6 year old grabs the bag with the eggs, and then promptly drops it, and  I have since taken to giving them as gifts to my like-minded environmentally conscientious friends.  This is how my life has changed, where as a working girl in the city, I would have been noticing the shoe trends,  here I am in the burbs, now coveting shopping bags!

Do I just spend too much time in the grocery store? or have you noticed these bags too?

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