Friday, May 30, 2008

Recycling in North Texas

According to the environmental group, Natural Resources Defense Council, in five years recycling could be easier on the budget than throwing things in the landfill. Of course, even right now recycling is cheaper in terms of the cost to our environment, so if you aren't already recycling get a move on!

And please don't use, "my city doesn't pick it up" as an excuse. I have a good friend who lives in an apartment and she was dedicated enough to buy her own bins and then takes them to one of the MANY drop-off points in Denton. They are listed below:

  • Northlakes- Windsor Dr. @ Hinkle Dr.
  • Shady Oaks- Dallas Dr. @ Shady Oaks
  • Piggly Wiggly- 619 Sherman Dr.
  • Cupboard Natural Foods- Congress @ N. Elm St.
  • The Landfill- Mayhill @ Spencer Rd.

And I've seen many places that have paper recycling collection in the parking lot, especially schools.

What can I recycle you ask?

What can't you recycle? If you use your imagination you can reuse or recycle almost anything. If you have kids, they'll use almost anything for art projects. This is a great site to get ideas on how to recycle or reuse items. It's a UK site, but reuse ideas are reuse ideas. The latest is how to use that Aquanet that you no longer need now that you've moved into the 21st century.

In April, the Denton Record Chronicle published a comprehensive article listing tons of places to take those odd things not taken by the city collection. Also, go to Time to Recycle for information about your city's recycling program, they have almost fifty cities/counties listed, so you'll probably be able to find your North Texas city. If your city isn't on there, contact your city or the company that picks up your recycling for more information. That's what I did, emailed Waste Management and got a super-quick response for my request – a complete list of what they do and don't take.

Sam's Club is now giving free shipping to send in electronics. You may even get a free gift card if the item still has value. Although, if you think it might still be valuable, you might Freecycle the item – good karma.

Speaking of good karma, if you have anything that might be of value to someone else's house donate it to the Denton County ReStore! This is run by Habitat for Humanity and the proceeds go to build affordable homes in Denton County for families.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Clothesline Challenge 2008 Progress

So I joined Gift of Green's Clothesline Challenge of 2008 (a couple of days ago actually) and I thought I'd go ahead and give a progress report. We signed up for Advanced, which means we'll try to line dry 90% of our clothes. So far so good, we've done two loads of laundry and both were "line-dried", although some of them ended up drying in the house. Refer to the picture below to see why not everything can go outside.

See, we don't actually have a clothesline, yet, so we just lay everything out on the deck and patio furniture. However, Shinerman is working on a clothesline. A very fancy one with two lines and pulleys. He's very excited. I've included a picture of our progress on that project below. It should be done this weekend. I hope it happens soon because yesterday most of the littlest man's clothes ended up on the ground in the backyard.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My food headache…

And so my headache begins…sitting in an airplane waiting to take off. I hear excerpts from conversations next to me, in front of me and the slamming of overhead bins. I'm trying to concentrate on my book and Pollen's long list of all the ways I eat corn. There's a lot.

Essentially, any food that's processed and packaged has processed corn products. And you thought you only ate corn from a can? Reading Michael Pollen's The Omnivore's Dilemma has made grocery shopping even more of a chore than it already was. Even organic products are offenders. It seems as though nothing is safe from the long golden river of overproduced corn. All this depression and I'm not even halfway through the book. Did you know they are breeding corn that is engineered to produce its own pesticide? I know that many plant species have ways to defeat and ward away pests, but this just isn't the natural thing to do. Also, he talks about how it is not illegal to feed cows to cows, but part of their diet includes fat…in the form of beef tallow from the slaughterhouse they are headed to – because fat is fat (according to the slaughterhouse)! Another thing, poultry and pigs are fed leftovers from these slaughterhouses and then they're leftovers are fed to cows. In my book cows to pigs to cows = cows eating cows.

I'm not saying that corn or corn products are inherently bad, but too much of a good thing is too much. And Pollen also had an entire section about how we're stuffing our cows, poultry, and swine with corn they are not biologically capable of digesting. That's why we get e. coli in our meat supply; cows (who normally have low acidic stomachs) are now full of acid and the e. coli that lives there is used to it and doesn't die when it hits our stomachs. Just one more reason I'm going to go pastured grass-fed meat. There's a local place called Burgundy Beef Pasture, they have a wide range of selections and they deliver to your home or office. The only draw back is the 10lb minimum, but I might have someone who is willing to split it with me. That being said it still isn't cheap, so Shinerman and I have decided that we'll cut back on meat. So my first meatless recipe is cheese manicotti.

Anyone know a good way to cook sweet potatoes and beets? Not necessarily together. Neither of us are fans of the sweet potato, but it came in our co-op food share this week.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Agro-Industrial Complex worse than...

...the Military-Industrial Complex? Hard to say.

I read a report today of a recently concluded study - Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America - by Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (find it here). I do admit that I didn't read the entire 124 page report, but at least a good portion. The study is essentially about the mass production of animals in Industrial Farm Animal Production (IFAP). As I said in a previous post, in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) – large scale IFAPs, hundreds of thousands of animals are kept in a building until they're fat enough to slaughter. Incidentally, if an IFAP is large enough to be a CAFO it can ditch the CAFO designation IF they state "that it does not discharge into navigable waters or directly into waters " ??! So they CAN put it into the ground where it will eventually seep into the GROUNDWATER? And if they're just under the size limit – no worries about where they put the waste? My head just blew up.

Any who… All those animals living in such close quarters pass around disease like mono at a make-out party. These animals are usually a single breed and a single genetic line, meaning if one isn't able to stave off infection it's unlikely his second cousin down in the next cage will be either. This all leads to pathogen transfer, infectious disease transfer, and food-borne infection. The industry uses massive amounts of antibiotics on the animals to treat the diseases and just to 'help them grow' in general, which leads to antimicrobial resistance. We all know that's not good.

And don't forget about those cesspools of shit. "A single hog Industrial Farm Animal Production (IFAP) facility, for example, produces manure in an amount equivalent to the sewage flow of an entire American town. Pound for pound, pigs produce four times the waste of a human. Consequently, a single IFAP housing 5,000 pigs produces the same volume of raw sewage as a town of 20,000…" all this with no sewage treatment plant. The resulting stink is actually making people who live next to these facilities sick; imagine if you had to work there.

And where does it all go? Sometimes the facility sprays the untreated sewage on their own land -at least it's not going in the water. And other times...

In a recent New York Times article about fertilizer shortages, the authors stated that U.S. farmers "have increased the age-old practice of spreading hog manure on fields". The 'age-old practice' they are referring to is from back- in-the-day when farmers used the waste from the 40 or so hogs they raised to add some nutrients back into the land – sounds gross, but a perfectly decent, sustainable practice. Those hogs were likely not sick, fairly free-roaming, and there weren't enough of them to overload the land with too much nitrogen and phosphates. That's not the situation we have today, that hog manure is coming from IFAP cesspools. Is it treated? Who's to say, these IFAPs aren't regulated very well or consistently.

I know it's depressing and I know that not everyone can afford locally produced meat from free-roaming, grass-fed animals. The report gave some very extensive suggestions that basically boil down to what the government, industry leaders, and watch-dog groups need to do. But you can contact your elected representatives, cut back a bit on your meat intake (perhaps forgo the $.98 package of Rodeo hot dogs - I know yummy yummy in your tummy), and when you can, buy responsibly raised meat.