Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Public feedback sought on 2014-2024 Solid Waste and Materials Management Plan

RALEIGH – The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is inviting the public to provide feedback on the draft 2014-2024 state Solid Waste and Materials Management Plan, which details the status of solid waste management in North Carolina and plans for handling waste in the next decade.

The N.C. Division of Waste Management, the program in DENR that manages solid waste, will host public meetings in Buncombe, Davidson and Lenoir counties to solicit feedback and expand public participation in the development of the plan.

The meetings will be held on the following schedule:

· April 29, 6-7:30 p.m.: DENR Asheville Regional Office, 2090 U.S. Hwy 70, Swannanoa.

· May 6, 6-7:30 p.m.: Davidson County Community College, Davidson Campus, Mary E. Rittling Conference Center 297 DCCC Road, Thomasville.

· May 7, 6-7:30 p.m.: N.C. Global Transpark Training Facility, 3800 Hwy 58 North, Kinston.

The Solid Waste Management Act of 1989 established policies to promote alternatives to disposal of solid waste in landfills and to assist local governments with solid waste management. The state law required DENR to develop a comprehensive solid waste management plan and periodically update the plan with input from local governments, regional planning agencies, industries and the public. The applicable laws are N.C. General Statues 130A-309.06(a)(1) and 130A-309.07.

The current plan assesses the status and progress of solid waste management in North Carolina during the 2003 – 2013 cycle, including disposal rates, facility capacity and siting, sources of discarded material, commodities, recycling infrastructure, and key issues and trends. New objectives and strategies to achieve environmental and economic benefits for the next 10 years are identified in the document. The first plan was adopted in 1990 and updated in 2003. The 2014-2024 plan represents the third iteration of the state plan.

In meeting the participation required by state law, the Division of Waste Management’s solid waste section surveyed more than 1,000 permittees, recyclers, local governments, environmental groups, residents and other stakeholders. The division received more than 400 responses to the survey. The survey results will be presented as an appendix to the plan. When it is ready, the final plan will be published on the division’s solid waste section website,

A public comment period is open until May 9. Comments may be sent to: Ellen Lorscheider, Division of Waste Management, Solid Waste Section, N. C. Department of Environment & Natural Resources, 1646 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1646. You can also send comments by email to:

Additional information on the plan and the public meetings is available at the Division of Waste Management’s solid waste section website at:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

461 Colleges and Universities Nationwide Make a Difference

461 Colleges and Universities Nationwide Recover 89.1 Million Pounds of Organic and Recyclable Materials During RecycleMania

During this 14th annual tournament, updated weekly rankings allowed schools to track their performance in eight categories measuring their recycling rate.

Rutgers University and United States Military Academy (West Point) are just two of the schools topping the rankings of the annual RecycleMania Tournament, which leverages campus spirit to increase recycling and waste reduction at colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada. All told, 461 schools participated this year representing more than 5.3 million students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

Colleges and universities competing in the eight-week competition are ranked according to how much recycling, trash and food waste they collect. Between the early-February kickoff and the tournament’s final day on March 29, participating schools recycled or composted 89.1 million pounds of recyclables and organic materials, preventing the release of 126,597 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E) into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to preventing annual emissions from 24,823 cars.

In addition to Rutgers and West Point, the colleges and universities taking home top prizes include:

•“Grand Champion” (percentage of overall waste that is recycled): Antioch University (93.13%)
•“Per Capita Classic” (total pounds of recyclables per person): Kalamazoo College (48.62 lbs.)
•“Waste Minimization” (least overall waste per person): Valencia College (2.87 lbs.)
Complete results for all 11 categories can be found on, including a breakout that shows how schools performed by athletic conference, institution size, state and other groupings. The national winners of each category are recognized with an award made from recycled materials.

“With the help of millions of students, RecycleMania competitors have recycled and composted over 277,800 tons of material since the competition first started in 2001,” said Stacy Wheeler president of RecycleMania, Inc. “RecycleMania is a powerful tool for colleges and universities to engage students to improve their community environments and the economy through recycling.”

During this 14th annual tournament, updated weekly rankings allowed schools to track their performance in eight categories – measuring their recycling rate; overall recycling by weight; least amount of total waste; and per capita recovery for paper, cardboard, cans and bottles, and food waste. Colleges also participated in special categories targeting electronics, film plastics and waste materials generated at home basketball games.

“RecycleMania is a powerful tool to communicate the recycling message to college students in a way that resonates with their values and experience,” said Jennifer Jehn, president and CEO of Keep America Beautiful, the national nonprofit that manages the competition. “KAB is thrilled to play a role in growing the impact of this program. Congratulations to all the participants for their positive community impact.”

The competition is made possible with the sponsorship support of the American Forest & Paper Association, Alcoa Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company and SCA.

“Programs like those of RecycleMania’s award winners have helped make paper recycling a national success and create products that people use and need in their daily lives,” said Donna Harman, president and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association. “Kudos to all the participating colleges and universities for their efforts to increase recycling.”

“Alcoa and Alcoa Foundation applaud the competitive spirit of all the students and universities that ‘pitched in’ to reduce waste and make a difference on hundreds of campuses,” said Esra Ozer, president, Alcoa Foundation. “This program has highlighted the infinite recyclability of aluminum while encouraging friendly competition. We’re proud to be part of this campus tradition.”

“Congratulations to this year’s RecycleMania winners and to all the participating students for taking action to improve campus recycling rates,” said Alain Robichaud, president of Coca-Cola Recycling. “Coca-Cola supports RecycleMania because it helps remind college students about the importance of recycling through friendly competition – and that can have a positive impact on communities for years to come.”

“The hundreds of schools across North America participating in this year’s ‘mania’ recovered 89.1 million pounds of waste, which is an impressive accomplishment! That’s not the only success to come out of this year’s competition. Each school contributed to raising awareness of the waste we generate and the responsibility we have to take action,” said Joseph Russo, vice president, sales & marketing, AfH Professional Hygiene – North America. “Congratulations to all participants and to the top RecycleMania winners. Way to go!”

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Three R's

The Three R's of the Environment

Every year, Americans throw away 50 billion food and drink cans, 27 billion glass bottles and jars, and 65 million plastic and metal jar and can covers. More than 30% of our waste is packaging materials. Where does it all go? Some 85% of our garbage is sent to a dump, or landfill, where it can take from 100 to 400 years for things like cloth and aluminum to decompose. Glass has been found in perfect condition after 4,000 years in the earth!

We are quickly running out of space. It's time to learn the three R's of the environment: reduce, reuse, recycle. Then practice what you preach: don't buy things you don't need or items that come in wasteful packaging or that cannot be recycled. Reuse and recycle whatever you can.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Decrease in Scrap Tires

America's tire mountains: 90 percent are gone, thanks to recycling programs

Once we had 2 billion tires scattered around the U.S. landscape, but now 90 percent of the piles are gone. Ground rubber from tires is becoming roadways, playground equipment and auto floor mats.

Tires. We don’t think about them all that much unless a) we have a flat; b) we have to buy new ones; or c) the summer tires just aren’t cutting it in the winter, or vice versa. But tires are a big deal in the environment, because we produce — and discard — so many of them. In 2009, the most recent year available, we generated 296 million scrap tires, with passenger cars accounting for 189 million of them.

The good news is that we’re “repurposing” 80 percent of our scrap tires today. Remember the famous tire mountains? Well, they’re mostly gone now. According to Michael Blumenthal, vice president of the Rubber Manufacturers Association, by 1990 some 48 states had scrap tire laws of some kind (after Minnesota became the first to pass a law in 1985). Consider the scope of the problem they were dealing with — an estimated 2 to 3 billion tires that were in stockpiles back then, and only 11 percent of tires were going to end-use markets. Today, 90 percent of the piles have been "abated," says Blumenthal.

By 2011, we were officially down to 76 million stockpiled tires in the U.S., but nobody really knows the exact number. And some of the biggest piles are truly memorable. The world’s largest dump, Tire Mountain in Weld County, Colorado, reportedly had as many as 80 million scrap tires at one time (plus a huge volume of shredded ones). It’s supposedly getting cleaned up now (thanks to a fee that state tire buyers pay), but all sorts of financial shenanigans have been alleged.

The big fear with places like Tire Mountain is that they’ll catch fire. In 1983, a dump with 7 million tires caught fire in Rhinehart, Va., sending a plume of smoke 3,000 feet in the air (and 50 miles long) into three states. It’s now a Superfund site. Scrap tires are also mosquito breeding grounds, and when they’re imported from Japan or China (to make recaps) end up increasing the range of Asian species that carry West Nile and other diseases. Do I have to mention that rats nest in them, too?

But, listen, this is one of the rare environmental success stories. In 2011, 197 million scrap tires were recycled or repurposed, a number that's growing. The biggest category is tire-derived fuel, which accounted for 40 percent of the mix in 2009, but more than 500,000 tons (26.2 percent) became ground rubber and playground walkways, mulch, animal bedding, sports surfacing, molded products and auto parts (such as floor mats). Some is even used in roadmaking as “rubber-enhanced asphalt.” If you’ve been to Phoenix, you’ve likely ridden around on it. And those workers in the photo above are laying a rubber-enhanced road near Fort Bragg in California.

I was recently in Smyrna, Tenn. where I visited the world’s first LEED Gold-certified Firestone store. Managing partner Randy Holden showed off the store’s dedicated parking for hybrids, its solar array (providing 12.5 percent of its electricity), its reflective roof, its low-flow fixtures, and its local drought-resistant plants set in a bed of shredded tire mulch. The flexi-pave sidewalk, which was springy to walk on (and is the grey stuff alongside the building), also used a lot of recycled rubber. I love that old tires go into playground equipment, providing soft landings for kids who fall off jungle gyms. The state of Maryland has nine playgrounds that use rubber tires as a building material. The unique tire-recycling playground below was designed by AnneMarie van Splunter for refugee children in Thailand.

The Massachusetts-based Product Stewardship Institute is working on creative ways to recycle tires. Scott Cassel, PSI's CEO, said that 36 states now collect fees to recycle tires, and Canada also has a program.

Tires are coming out of the environment in many ways. You know how people feel free to dump their used tires in the nearest body of water? Kim Del Castillo, recycling coordinator for Del Rio, Texas (three miles from the Mexican border), helped pull out 802 abandoned tires in a Bridgestone-sponsored event last year, and aims for 1,000 this year.

Jen Holliday of the Chittenden Solid Waste District in Vermont, says the state has 62 known tire piles of more than 100 each — with a cleanup estimated at $1 million or more. “Without funding, many of the piles will not be cleaned up,” she says. “There are limited tire markets in our regions — we don’t have in-state tire processing, and very few civil engineering projects.” Most of the collected tires become tire-derived fuel, which isn’t their highest possible use.

We have good solutions for repurposing tires, they just haven’t achieved liftoff yet. Ideally, we’d want to simply turn them back into tires, and Greer Tidwell, director of environmental management at Bridgestone, tells me that’s starting to happen, albeit slowly. We’re not at slam-dunk stage with old tires, but we’re at least rolling down the road.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

N.C. Zoo achieves a first for outstanding environmental effort

RALEIGH – Staff with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources took time out from Earth Week on Wednesday to celebrate the environmental achievements of one of its own programs, the North Carolina Zoo.

DENR recognized the state zoo as the first state agency to earn recognition as an Environmental Steward, which honors companies and others that demonstrate superior environmental performance beyond regulatory requirements. The zoo is in Asheboro.

“The North Carolina Zoo has proven itself to be a world leader in wildlife conservation and environmental education,” said John Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Skvarla spoke during a ceremony at the zoo Wednesday afternoon. “It makes us all proud that a program in DENR has become the first state agency to earn such an honor. The North Carolina Zoo serves as a model for all agencies seeking environmental excellence.”

An advisory board appointed by the DENR secretary directs the Environmental Steward program and recommended recognizing the state zoo for the honor based on the following facts:
•The zoo’s compliance history and commitment to continual improvement, including a mature environmental management system. This management system establishes a set of processes and practices that enable the North Carolina Zoo to reduce its environmental impacts and increase its operating efficiency.
•The zoo has reduced water usage by 28 percent since 2003, which was used as a baseline year for measuring the zoo’s water conservation efforts.
•The zoo has a strong commitment to educate North Carolina residents and inform conservation efforts worldwide. The zoo reaches about 750,000 visitors each year. The educational programs the zoo participates in include Acres for Atmosphere, Adopt-a-Highway and Polar Bear International. Educational graphics related to environmental topics can be found throughout the park, including biodiesel graphics on the trams and buses.

The state’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative started in 2002. The advisory board that directs the Environmental Steward program is made up of North Carolinians from industry, industry trade groups, environmental and citizen nongovernmental organizations, government, academia and small businesses. The zoo joins only 19 other facilities in North Carolina that have achieved this recognition.

“The zoo is honored to be the first state agency to be recognized as a Steward for excellence in environmental performance,” said Mary Joan Pugh, the zoo’s deputy director. “Attaining Steward status is a culmination of the tireless efforts of the entire zoo staff towards operating in a more environmental sustainable manner and being an example to all. Our mission is to connect people to wildlife and wild places and being a Steward demonstrates our commitment to the environment.”

For more information on the Environmental Steward program, please visit the Environmental Stewardship Initiative website at or contact Angela Barger or Scott Fister with the N.C. Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service at 919-707-8126 or 919-707-8131 or

Friday, April 25, 2014

UPS and Earth Day

In celebration of Earth Day, the UPS store in New Bern is encouraging consumers to help protect the environment by bringing in clean, foam packaging peanuts of all sizes, shapes and colors for reuse, as well as bubble wrap and air-filled pillows. However, molded pieces of foam and cardboard boxes are not able to be reused by the UPS Store. The UPS Store is located at 1822 South Glenburnie Road in New Bern, across from the Main Post Office. They're open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What “Going Green” Means in California

What “Going Green” Means in California

So after deciding that if I am going to write articles about things in our lives that have an environmental impact, I would be a level 7 Paladin hypocrite if I didn’t do something to pitch in myself. So next to my trashcan I put a smaller trash can for “recyclables”, and twice a week I drag it out to the city provided bin behind my house and dump it. I began to feel like I was doing my part. Until last night, that is …

I made my normal trip to the bin at the end of my driveway, when I lifted the recycling bin lid I was greeted by what I can only describe as the largest and angriest possum ever to scuttle the planet. A scream exited my body, that I can’t reproduce if I wanted to, that was somewhere in the pitch range between a 6 year-old girl and some species of tree-dwelling rainforest monkey. I’m pretty sure there was a couple of seconds that only the neighborhood dogs could hear. The bag of glass bottles and cans was wind milled and ejected into the alley as I ran back to the house at a speed that belied my age and size.

The next morning in the safety of the morning sun I found myself somewhat shamefully cleaning up my mess from my minor moment of possum weakness. As I collected the shards of bottles scattered across my driveway, I noticed something I never paid attention to. On the bottom of almost every bottle was raised lettering that said “CA CRV 5 cents”. It never occurred to me that the glass bottles that I was throwing away were worth anything, and apparently they are … In California.

The Three R's

The Three R's of the Environment

Every year, Americans throw away 50 billion food and drink cans, 27 billion glass bottles and jars, and 65 million plastic and metal jar and can covers. More than 30% of our waste is packaging materials. Where does it all go? Some 85% of our garbage is sent to a dump, or landfill, where it can take from 100 to 400 years for things like cloth and aluminum to decompose. Glass has been found in perfect condition after 4,000 years in the earth!

We are quickly running out of space. It's time to learn the three R's of the environment: reduce, reuse, recycle. Then practice what you preach: don't buy things you don't need or items that come in wasteful packaging or that cannot be recycled. Reuse and recycle whatever you can.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kill-A-Watt competition

University of Michigan Residence Halls Compete to Save Energy

Kathryn Sukalich

Students at the University of Michigan recently competed in the campus’s third annual Kill-A-Watt competition, a battle among residence halls to reduce energy consumption.

When students at the University of Michigan team up to reduce energy consumption, there are scholarships, prizes and, of course, bragging rights on the line. It’s all part of the annual Kill-A-Watt competition, tied with the university’s sustainability initiative.

During the month-long contest, student residence halls compete against each other to see who can decrease their energy consumption the most. Winning halls must reduce their energy consumption by at least 10 percent from that same month the previous year, reports The Michigan Daily, and students from the residence hall that saves the most energy are eligible to pursue scholarship opportunities.

Students are also able to win individual prizes during Kill-A-Watt by submitting videos about how they personally save energy. Kill-A-Watt’s website offers a variety of suggestions for how students can reduce energy use, including using power strips for electronics, replacing less-efficient incandescent light bulbs with LEDs and CFLs, and washing only full loads of laundry.

This year, the third year of the competition, winners were announced at a zero-waste, low-energy concert that featured many campus musical groups.

The student organization that runs Kill-A-Watt strives to involve as many students as possible with energy issues and make sustainability relevant for students. Part of the group’s mission is to “start discussions on these topics while reducing energy use for its environmental and financial benefit,” according to their website. Kill-A-Watt is modeled after a similar program at the University of Central Florida, and the competition could likely be replicated at many other schools as well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day everybody!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dell is the Winner

Dell Recyclable Electronics Win 2014 Design for Recycling Award

Haley Shapley 

The Dell Latitude 10 tablet may look like any other tablet, but it has special features you might not even notice until you’re done with it years from now.

Along with the Latitude XPS 10 tablet and Latitude E7240 laptop, the Latitude 10 tablet was designed with recycling in mind, including clear labeling of parts for identification, minimal use of glues and adhesives, and convenient disassembly guides.

That made Dell Inc. the winner of the 2014 Design for Recycling Award, presented annually by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) in recognition of proactive steps made by manufacturers to create products that are designed to be easily recycled down the line.

“As Dell demonstrates, effective recycling begins at the drawing board,” said Robin Wiener, president of ISRI, in a press release. “There were many strong contenders for this year’s award, but Dell’s strong commitment to sustainability, both through its own practices and for those who use its products, rose above the crowd.”

When awarding the Design for Recycling honor, ISRI looks for a product to meet the following requirements:
•Contain the maximum amount of materials that are recyclable
•Be easily recycled through current or newly designed recycling processes and procedures
•Be cost-effective to recycle whereby the cost to recycle does not exceed the value of its recycled materials
•Be free of hazardous materials that are not recyclable or impede the recycling process
•Minimize the time and cost involved to recycle the product
•Reduce the use of raw materials by including recycled materials and/or components
•Have a net gain in the overall recyclability of the product while reducing the overall negative impact on the environment.

Dell’s use of recycled materials, including nearly 8 million pounds of recycled-content plastic in its desktops and monitors, sustainable bamboo and mushrooms for cushion material, and post-harvest wheat waste mixed with recycled-content corrugate for boxes, further adds to the company’s dedication to recycling from the very early stages of product creation.

“Not only do we think of our customers when we design our products, we actively consider the environment at every stage of the product lifecycle,” said Ed Boyd, vice president of Experience Design at Dell, in a press release. “This award validates the hard work and thoughtfulness we put into each and every product design, and we’re excited to continue to push these responsible design principles forward.”

Dell joins a long list of innovative companies in the 25-plus years ISRI has been giving out the award. Recent winners include Cascades Fine Papers Group, Wind Simplicity, Coca-Cola Co. and Hewlett Packard.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

State coastal program awards nearly $600,000

State coastal program awards nearly $600,000 in local government grants for access projects

RALEIGH – The state Division of Coastal Management has awarded nearly $600,000 to eight local governments for projects to improve public access to coastal beaches and waters for the 2013-14 fiscal year, Governor Pat McCrory announced today.

“Local governments continue to show a tremendous interest in providing and improving public access to North Carolina’s beaches and waters,” McCrory said. “I am thrilled that the state is able to help them achieve this goal.”

The division awarded grants to the following local governments:

· Town of Swansboro received $35,250 to install a canoe/kayak launch, gangway, concrete walkway to parking, and a 45-foot boardwalk extension.

· Town of Kitty Hawk received $52,941 for the installation of 16 paved parking spaces and associated improvements at an existing beach access.

· Town of Atlantic Beach received $66,532 to replace and construct an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant walkway and dune crossover.

· City of Washington received $120,000 for the construction of a pier.

· Town of Oriental received $47,250 to construct restrooms at the South Avenue Boat House Project.

· Town of Windsor received $31,500 for the construction of parking, kayak staging and a walkway.

· Town of Topsail Beach received $45,391 to construct an ADA-compliant dune crossover.

· Town of Morehead City received $200,000 for the construction of an open pavilion at an existing waterfront park.

The division’s Public Beach and Coastal Waterfront Access program provides matching funds to local governments in the 20 coastal counties. Governments that receive grants must match them by contributing at least 25 percent toward the project’s cost.

Funding for the grant program comes from the North Carolina General Assembly through the state’s Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. Access projects may include walkways, dune crossovers, restrooms, parking areas, piers and related facilities. Funds also may be used for land acquisition or urban waterfront revitalization. Staff with the state Division of Coastal Management selected the recipients based on criteria set by the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission.

The grant program has provided more than $37 million for more than 300 public waterfront access sites since the program began in 1981.

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Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs - Phone: 919-707-8626 -- 1601 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1601

Jamie Kritzer, Public Information Officer, 919-707-8602,

Saturday, April 19, 2014

People invited to join state environmental agency in celebration of Earth Day

RALEIGH – From the mountains to the coast, people are invited to join staff with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources for celebrations of Earth Day and Earth Week.

Earth Day is April 22, but throughout April DENR staff members will be participating in events aimed at celebrating this special day, which is the world’s annual party to show support for environmental protection and sustainability. Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970. The following is a list of public events in which DENR staff will be participating.

Eastern/coastal North Carolina

April 19, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Staff in the state Division of Marine Fisheries and the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores will participate in the Crystal Coast Earth Day Celebration at the Fort Macon State Park visitor center. Aquarium staff will have traveling touch tanks that put live animals such as sea stars and horseshoe crabs at your fingertips during the event.

April 19, 9 a.m. – noon: Staff in the Division of Coastal Management will participate in a coastal cleanup at the Rachel Carson Reserve in Beaufort. Boat transportation to the reserve and cleanup supplies will be provided. People are required to register for the cleanup to ensure boat space is available. Interested? Please contact Paula Gillikin at the reserve at 252-220-0776. Also, the town of Beaufort will lead a town-side cleanup from the corner of Front and Turner streets, and a paper-shredding event will be held at the First Citizen’s Bank in town.

April 26, noon – 6 p.m.: Staff in the state divisions of Marine Fisheries and Coastal Management, and the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher will be educating people about the fisheries and the coastal environment at the Earth Day Festival at Hugh McRae Park in Wilmington. The event features more than 60 informational booths, a Kid’s EcoZone hosted by aquarium staff, live local music, food and drinks. For more information, contact Natalie Martz at

April 26, 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.: Staff with the Division of Coastal Management will participate in the Bioblitz at the Outer Banks. The event will be at 300 Audubon Drive in Corolla. Join the Pine Island Audubon Center and staff from the N.C. Coastal Reserve for wildlife identification sessions and discovery events. Contact Scott Crocker, the Northern Sites Coastal Reserve manager, at 252-261-8891 for more information.

April 26, 10 a.m.: Join state parks staff and others to clean, prune and add plantings to the historic home site of Civil War General James Johnston Pettigrew at Pettigrew State Park in Creswell. Meet in the gravel parking lot at the end of Magnolia Road. Bring gloves, insect repellent, close-toed shoes and hand tools. Dress for the weather. For information, call 252-797-4475.

April 26, 1-4 p.m.: Staff with the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island will participate in the Earth Fair OBX III at the UNC Coastal Studies Institute, 850 N.C. Hwy. 345 in Wanchese. Aquarium staff will bring Enviroscape, an interactive model that illustrates how water can become polluted when it travels over land, streets, yards and through storm drains. This model will also point out how peoples’ actions can affect the health of our waterways.

Piedmont/central North Carolina

April: Charlotte Air Awareness is coordinating a Race to the Beach contest in which participants are eligible for prizes

based on their use of carpooling, public transit, cycling, walking and other “clean commutes.” The program will have information about the race at Earth Day events in Charlotte, Matthews, Huntersville, Cleveland and other areas. A complete list of events can be found at the NC Air Awareness website,

April 17: Triangle Air Awareness will have an ozone season kickoff luncheon on April 17 at the Research Triangle Park Foundation in Research Triangle Park and an Earth Day event at IBM in the Research Triangle Park. Air Awareness is a cooperative program between the state Division of Air Quality and local air programs in metropolitan areas. It educates and informs people about the causes of air pollution and ways to prevent it. A complete list of events is at:

April 17 & April 24, 5–9 p.m.: Every Thursday in April, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh will host a different conservation-related topic. Come see exhibitors, listen to guest speakers and participate in activities and learn more about ways you can make the Earth a better place. More information can be found at: The events are held in the museum’s Nature Research Center and are free. The April 24

event will feature exhibitors, discussions and activities related to biodiversity and conservation.

April 19, 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.: Join us in Lillington for the Raven Rock Earth Day Celebration at Raven Rock State Park. Visit with exhibitors and learn about air quality, shopping locally, recycling, composting and buying organically-raised food such as eggs and pasture-raised chicken and pork from local farmers.

April 22: Triad Air Awareness will have exhibits at Earth Day fairs at Kernersville, High Point University and Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. Air Awareness is a cooperative program between the state Division of Air Quality and local air programs in metropolitan areas. The program educates and informs people about the causes of air pollution and ways to prevent it. A complete list of events can be found at the NC Air Awareness website,

April 23,3 p.m.: William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh hosts its Junior Ranger Earth Day Celebration.

April 26, 1 p.m.: In celebration of Earth Day, park rangers invite the public to join them at Morrow Mountain State Park in Albemarle to search for butterflies. People should bring binoculars and field guides. Meet at the Bridle Trailhead Parking Lot at 1 p.m. Participation is limited, so please register in advance by calling the park at 704-982-4402.

April 26, 8 a.m. – noon: The N.C. Zoo will participate in the Randolph County Water Quality Task Force’s Electronic Recycling Day at the Randolph Mall in Asheboro. People are urged to bring all electronics such as cell phones. Rigid

plastics, including lawn chairs and coolers, are also welcomed. Members of the Asheboro Police Department and Randolph County Sheriff’s Office will be collecting old, unwanted medicine and prescription pills.

Mountains/western North Carolina

April 26: State parks officials host the following Earth Day events:

· 1 p.m., meet park staff at the Education Center to begin a guided hike along the Balsam Nature Trail in Mount Mitchell State Park in Burnsville. Be sure to wear hiking shoes and be prepared for all types of weather, including wind, rain and snow.

· 11 a.m., planting native trees in New River State Park in Laurel Springs. Bring work gloves and water for drinking. All tools will be provided. Meet at U.S. Hwy. 221 Access Visitor Center.

· 11 a.m., join state parks staff, biologists and other environmental educators at Chimney Rock State Park to learn about the great work being done to protect the landscape in the park. The event is free. Booths will be in the Chimney Rock Village behind the Old Rock Café. Meet at the Riverwalk behind the café.

· 2 p.m., meet at the Cicero Branch parking area in South Mountains State Park in Connelly Springs.There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the grand opening of the Kids in Parks TRACK Trail at South Mountains State Park. The ceremony will be followed by a ranger-led hike and Animal Olympics games. For more information, visit or call 828-433-4772.

DENR staff and many of its environmental companions will be involved in Earth Day events in North Carolina. For a more complete list of what’s happening in your area, check out the calendar of events on the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs’ website at:

# # #

Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs - Phone: 919-707-8626 -- 1601 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1601

Jamie Kritzer, Public Information Officer, 919-707-8602,

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Schedule

Our Administrative offices will be closed today, April 18th for Good Friday. The Tuscarora Landfill, Newport Transfer Station and Grantsboro Transfer Station will operate on their regular schedules.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Good Friday Schedule

Our Administrative offices will be closed tomorrow, April 18th for Good Friday. The Tuscarora Landfill, Newport Transfer Station and Grantsboro Transfer Station will operate on their regular schedules.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Please call us if your organization, class room or other civic groups would like a tour of the Tuscarora Landfill. We are also available to bring our presentation to you.

Call us at 252-633-1564 or e-mail us at

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Green roof-topped development

Green roof-topped development to turn elderly residents into social butterflies

The hills are very much alive — and active — at a mountainous, Bjarke Ingels Group-designed development for residents of a certain age in Hualien, Taiwan.

Given that I’ve taken a gander at the big, small-minded winners in the 2014 Architizer A+ Awards, I figured that it would only be fair to take a quick glimpse at a non-tiny residential project in another one of the awards' “Plus” categories that “explore that link between global issues and the structures that society builds.”

I was immediately drawn to the winners/finalists in the “Architecture +Aging” category as architecture and aging is a topic that I’ve associated with Architizer long before the website’s glitzy award-bestowing days — it's something very much embedded into the DNA of the site. Architizer co-founder Matthias Hollwich was the driving force behind the University of Pennsylvania’s New Aging conference in 2010 and, together with Architizer honcho/HWKN partner Marc Kushner, Hollwich dreamt up BOOM, a totally wild eco-retirement community proposed for outside of Palm Springs — I called it "more South Beach by way of Dubai than Shady Pines" — where keeping busy is the key to health and longevity.

And on the topic of keeping busy, it would appear that — when not designing park-studded “protective ribbons” for Lower Manhattan, LEGO experience centers, or trash-incinerating ski resorts — Danish starchitect/sustainable hedonist Bjarke Ingels and his namesake firm, BIG, have found the time to create a lush, alpine-inspired development (his most peak-heavy yet?) for Hualien County, Taiwan, where residents are encouraged to keep in constant motion by utilizing a meandering public path (complete with a designated speed-walking lane) that weaves throughout the development as a means of encouraging social interaction and physical fitness. And if the weather is ever less than ideal, not to worry — there's always the underground jogging path.

The Hualien Wellness & Residential development seeks to find the perfect balance between nature, health and the built environment. Sloping green roofs provide shade, remove heat, harvest rainwater and produce clean, breathable air, while the proximity to lush vegetation in the apartments creates a stress-relieving environment for residents.

Hualien, situated on the eastern coast of Taiwan, has seen an out flux of young people seeking better job opportunities, but population ageing is prompting a growing demand for a “second home” where retired seniors can enjoy an active lifestyle. The Hualien development places a particular focus on exercise and healthy living, with programs catering to an ageing demographic. The buildings are shaped to encourage the growth of a community that is health-conscious and productive. In addition to designated speed walking paths, a public path wraps around the entire complex and is studded with interesting activities to pique interest and encourage more walking and exercise, such as an observation point, performance stage, shops and restaurants. An underground jogging path can be used during inclement weather and serves as an excellent shortcut to all buildings via an interior route. A medical facility located within the complex ensures that residents have ready access to healthcare services.

The project description goes on to explain that the units within the vegetation-clad development, commissioned by the Taiwan Land Development Corporation, are actually pretty bare bones — just the "basic functions" — as to encourage residents to get outside, exercise, and take advantage of the development's myriad communal amenities — gardens, swimming pools, lounges, kitchens, meditation rooms, and the like — where they can “share and learn from each other" and assist in "building a community." But for evidenced in the project renderings, those who do decide to stay in are rewarding with cuddlin' kittens.

Lots more jaw-dropping renderings and info on the project, also a finalist in the MIPIM Awards, can be found over at Architizer. It's also worth noting that Ingels himself served on the large, "blue-chip cast" of jury members for the 2014 Architizer A+ Awards. And while the Hualien Residences didn't win in the Architecture +Aging category (that honor went to LOFT MNN by C.T. Architects), BIG's design for the Danish Maritime Museum did pick up the jury prize in the Museum category.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fort Macon State Park

Fort Macon State Park is situated at the eastern end of Bogue Banks in Carteret County, North Carolina. This barrier island has become heavily developed in recent years, leaving the park as the only large natural area on the island. Fort Macon offers a wide range of programs: EELE "Barrier Beginnings," Turtle Talk and Fort History. The environmental education program for school groups centers around a curriculum packet called the Environmental Education Learning Experience (EELE). The EELE contains pre-visit, on-site and post-visit activities that focus on the park's unique natural features and are correlated to North Carolina Department of Public Instruction objectives. Contact the park for more information about the park's EELE and other environmental education programs and activities for the general public.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

13 natural remedies for the ant invasion

13 natural remedies for the ant invasion

Ants are making their way into homes this time of year. Thankfully there are natural pest control methods to help you cope with and eliminate the problem. Plus, many of the solutions use what you already have in your cupboard!

Little tiny ants have been spotted in our new home, and many people are suffering the same fate across the country. As much as I love spring, I don't like bugs — especially bugs that can infest a house. Last week I asked for some advice in how to deal with ants naturally as I didn't have time to research it myself since I just moved this weekend. I got such good advice, I had to share it with the readers here at MNN as well.

Some of these measures are deterrents. That is, they deter the ants from coming in your house. This seems to work well for those with a mild problem. Others found that they needed to use a method that kills the whole colony of ants. I've compiled the comments and suggestions by category, allowing you to compare the different methods a little more easily.

1. Lemon juice

Teresa: We just spray around the openings with pure lemon juice … and it always works for us … something about the acid messes up their sense of tracking…

2. Cinnamon

Shayla: We use ground cinnamon around where there are coming it. It works really well.

Peggy: We spray cinnamon essential oil all around the doors, windowsills, floors, etc. keeps them from coming in. I put the sugar water and borax OUTSIDE!

Letia: Another vote for ground cinnamon. Easy to clean up afterwards and worked great for us!!!

Jean: Cinnamon and cloves. Makes your house smell nice and the ants just hate it sprinkled right in their path.

Patricia: We also use cinnamon oil. We draw borders around everything with a Q-tip dipped in it. They won’t cross it.

3. Peppermint

Heather: My mother-in-law has success with peppermint essential oil around windows and doors (any entries). Plus her house then smells awesome.

Julie: Dr. Bonner’s liquid soap in the mint aroma. Mix 1 to 1 with water in a spray bottle. Spray on the ant invasion and watch them suffer.

4. Borax, water and sugar

Kristi: We use borax, sugar, water and a touch of peanut butter. It takes a couple of weeks but really works. We used it last year in our old house and are implementing it again this spring in our new house. Pesky ants! Here is the site where I found the recipe:

Christy: I second Diana’s comment about borax and sugar. I’ve made a thin paste before with water, sugar and borax, then spread it on little pieces of thin cardboard or stiff cardstock and placed them near where it seems they are coming into the house. They’ll eat it and take it back to their colony (just like the Terro liquid you can buy). The paste will dry up in a couple days, so you’ll have to make more. But I think I only had to do it twice before they were gone.

Chookie: What worked for us was a mixture of borax and sugar in water. Several years ago, we lived in a house where there was an ants nest in the walls. Removing it would have meant virtually demolishing the entire front wall of the house (not practical!), so instead, after a year or two of having flying ants swarm into our bedroom every year we decided to go on an ant killing spree. Conventional ant killers didn’t work. Borax and powdered sugar didn’t work. But adding water to the borax and sugar mix to make a thick sugary borax-y syrup DID work…. the worker ants took it back into the nest and it positioned the queen – result = no more flying ants. OK, so borax does need to be kept away from pets and small children, but it is relatively safe beyond that as it is only toxic if you eat it. my solution was to put it somewhere where the kids and the cats would not reach it but the ants could.

BeverlyC: We live in China and had a HORRIBLE ant problem in our house. Tried cinnamon, black pepper, vinegar, etc. etc. We were concerned about the borax because we have guests in and out regularly and the little children are often, well, naughty and undisciplined. When someone suggested Terro liquid ant bait and we found it was just Borax and sugar, we asked someone to bring us some. We could pick the traps up and put them away when company came and put them back out after they left. They worked wonders!!

5. Boiling water and dish soap

Jennie: We make sure all of our food is sealed up. The honey jar is usually the biggest ant magnet, so it gets a thorough washing and then is placed on a small water-filled saucer in the cupboard. We use a spray bottle filled with water and a squirt of liquid dish soap (I use Seventh Generation) to kill any visible ants. I also look around outside to try to find their hill; pouring a kettle of boiling water on it solves the problem.

Christy: I’ve done what Jennie mentioned too – boiling water will destroy an ant colony, or weeds popping up between sidewalk cracks or in mulch. It’s an easy, purely natural way to kill things that we don’t often think about.

6. Diatomaceous earth

Karen: Yes … diatomaceous earth (DE) works well … use food-grade not swimming pool DE. It should be sprinkled around the perimeter of your new home and you can also safely sprinkle it inside where you see them. Do not wet the DE or it will not work. DE isn’t an instant kill but should resolve the problem within a week or so.

Jami: I have a pretty serious any invasion at my house too. When I moved in last April they had already made themselves at home. I did the cinnamon thing last year and worked ok, but they just kept finding new ways in. My ants weren’t attracted to sugary things, but protein, especially the dog food. This year I made some borax cookies and put them in the old fireplace where I noticed the ants returning a week ago. I also sprinkled DE around the perimeter of my kitchen and that seems to have worked better than anything so far for immediate results.

7. Chalk

Natalie: Oh! And they will not cross a line drawn in chalk. I drew a line around my window where they were coming in and it kept them at bay.

Anali: My grandparents had really good results with the line of chalk, they used powder that you can get at home improvement stores. It comes in a squeezey bottle so it’s easy to lay down a line with.

8. Baking soda and powdered sugar

Jennifer: Ants carry an acidic substance with them always for protection. I do a mix of baking soda and powdered sugar in a plastic lid set in strategic places. I think a little volcanic science experiment happens inside their bodies. Over the course of several days, it has made a huge difference.

9. Coffee grounds

Lea: I have had success with used coffee grounds, I did know where their entry was, after putting it in the cracks they never returned. I also do know it doesn’t kill them, it just makes them move homes, (we have put them on beds outside and we just see them pop up a small distance away.

10. Cornmeal

Jill: One more thing to add to this. I saw somewhere to use corn meal. Well, it worked out since some moths got into my cornmeal, and I felt bad wasting it. That’s when I saw the idea and tried it. I sprinkled a little bit just off the back porch. Every day I would check and every day the same trail of ants was still there. Then I forgot about it. My daughter found another ant nest further out in the yard, and it made me remember to check the last trail. It was gone, completely gone. So, I sprinkled it on the new nest, and less than a week later, it is gone. If you google it there are a ton of places where it mentions it. Here’s just one link, and if you scroll to the Tip there is still another idea using molasses. Although if cornmeal will work I think it’s cheaper, and safer around kids and pets.

11. Cream of Wheat

Rebecca: Cream of wheat! They eat it & it expands & they explode! Ha! I used it in my garden for ant problems. Kind of makes you wonder what it does to our insides when we eat it too

12. Vinegar

Kristie: Vinegar! Since we switched to using a vinegar/water solution for mopping the floors and cleaning the counters, our ant problem has vanished.

Mysty: Vinegar is the one sure solution, but you need to pour it where the ants have their nest, not just to where they walk around. If you find their nest just pour about 0.5-1 L of white (cheap) vinegar. I never had ant problems but my grandparents sometimes has as they has a big farm and there is always an ant problem is some corner of the farm.

Cath: We used a mixture of vinegar, washing up liquid (ecover) and peppermint oil last year. Tracked them back to their nest and syringed it into the cracks. They never came back.

13. Equal

Tea Leaf: We killed our ants by mixing Equal packets with apple juice. It is a neurotoxin to the ants. Scary that people put these in their coffee.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

5 ways to reuse a two-liter plastic bottle

5 ways to reuse a two-liter plastic bottle

Nearly everyone has bought a delicious sugary drink in a two-liter bottle at some point. What do you do when the bottle is empty?

By: Eileen Campbell

Recycling plastic is very important, especially now that the effects of climate change can be seen around the country. According to Earth911, only about 27 percent of plastic is recycled in the U.S. When you think about how much we use, it's astounding. However, there are some innovative ways to recycle plastic bottles! Two-liter bottles in particular are versatile. Here some ways you can reuse them in your own back yard!

1. Grow plants

Once you empty and wash a two-liter plastic bottle, it can be used for quite a lot of things. You can actually grow plants in one, if you cut it a certain way and give it the proper drainage. To make a basic plant pot, cut the bottle in half (short-ways, not long-ways), and use the bottom portion to fill with soil. You'll need to poke some holes in the bottom so the plant can drain properly. Using the bottom of the bottle (which is specially shaped to allow it to stand up) keeps the pot secure and unlikely to tip over. You can also make a mini hanging basket out of this sort of pot, if you punch holes in the side to attach a string to hang the pot from. These pots are generally suited for small plants, so they are good for starting plants out (you may have to re-pot them when they get too big). Alternatively, you can also use the bottle for starting seedlings! If you cut the bottle longways, it makes a nice long tray that you can fill with soil and start some baby plants. These will obviously need to be repotted, too, but you can start a lot of seedlings this way.

2. Make a birdfeeder

This is something that is done very often with plastic bottles of this size. If you poke large enough holes for birds to poke their beaks through, and fill the bottle with seeds, it can function as a bird feeder. You also might want to use small pieces of wood dowels to attach near the holes, so the birds have a place to perch. Since these bottles are large, they are better used for larger seeds such as corn, peanuts or sunflower seeds. Small seeds like thistles are likely to just fall out of the holes you make.

3. Give birds a home

Since two-liter bottles are relatively large, they can be used for a birdhouse as well. You should cut one main circular hole in the middle for the birds to enter, and use a similar sort of perch that you would put on a birdfeeder for the outside of the hole. It's also a nice option to fill the birdhouse with material birds might use for a nest. Since the bottle is clear, it's best if you paint the bottle before using it as a birdhouse, so the birds will have privacy and protection. Any color will work, although if you paint the bottle the color of a tree, birds might be more likely to come because it looks more natural. Once the birdhouse is painted and fully assembled, you can tie a string around the top of the bottleneck (make sure the bottle cap is on!), and hang it from a tree branch.

4. Hatch some butterflies

If you cut off the top of a two liter bottle, it can be used for a relatively spacious habitat to grow baby caterpillars. Once you cut off the top, you can cover the place where the top was with a piece of cloth, which will allow any caterpillars you keep inside to breathe. You can raise a number of different types of caterpillars in your caterpillar habitat, depending on where you live. In Illinois, we've been able to raise monarch, swallowtail and painted lady eggs into full grown butterflies. Make sure to feed the caterpillars the leaves they would normally feed on in the wild, and regularly rid the habitat of dead leaves and/or waste. When the caterpillars get large enough that they are about to make their chrysalises, it's helpful to put a few sticks in the habitat, so they have something to hang from. They might hang from the cloth as well, so it's important to make sure the cloth is tight around the top of the enclosure. Use a rubber band to make sure of this. And when the butterflies hatch, you can let them go in the wild!

5. Make a terrarium

I mentioned how to make a terrarium in one of my most recent posts. However, you do not just have to stick to a glass container! You can make a terrarium out of a plastic bottle, too, albeit a small one. As with any terrarium, make sure to put pebbles in the bottom, under the soil, for proper drainage. For a terrarium of this size, moss or small tropical plants might be best. There are many tiny varieties of plants grown just for this purpose, so take a look at your local nursery to see what they have. Once the plants are firmly in the soil, water them, and then close the lid of the bottle. It's as easy as that.

Hopefully, more and more people will recycle plastic. With these sorts of ideas, especially for those of us inclined toward nature, remembering to recycle plastic bottles can even be fun!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Recycling craft: Seed starters

Recycling craft: Seed starters

Raid your recycling bin to create fast and easy seed starters for your garden.

Warmer temperatures and longer days means that it's finally time to start thinking about your summer garden. Planting seeds indoors is a good way to get a jump start on the growing season. And fortunately, you don't need much in the way of supplies to get it going. In fact, you probably have everything you need right in your recycling bin. Here's how it's done:

Metal cans, yogurt containers, water bottles, toilet paper tubes, and egg cartons all make excellent seed starter containers. And the best part is that your kids can lend a hand and decorate their containers. Punch a few small holes in the bottoms of your containers to allow water to drain, decorate the sides with stickers, recycled paper, or paint, fill with soil, plant a few seeds, and watch your bounty grow. Once the seeds have sprouted, gently remove the plants from the containers and plant in the ground.

Need more ideas? Try these tips for organic seed starters that can be buried right with your plants.

Newspaper: Fold it in half lengthwise and roll it around a soda can. Fold the bottom over, fill with soil and plant your seeds.

Egg Shells: Save the shells from your next omelet, gently clean them with mild soap and water and return to the egg carton. Fill each shell with soil and plant your seeds. When it's time to plant, gently crush the egg shell and plant it in the ground with your plant.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Filmmakers stopped from digging through landfill in search of video games

Filmmakers stopped from digging through landfill in search of video games

It's known as the worst video game of all time, but despite toxic conditions, 2 companies want to dig up 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial' Atari games that were dumped in the 1980s.

By: Laura Moss

Environmental regulators rejected a proposal that would allow two companies to excavate a New Mexico landfill to find a collection of what's been called the worst video game of all time.

"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" Atari game cartridges are rumored to have been dumped in the Alamogordo landfill in the 1980s before it closed.

ET Atari video gameFuel Entertainment and LightBox Interactive want to search for the games and record the dig for a documentary to be released by Microsoft for the Xbox One console.

Alamogordo city officials approved the search in June, but environmental regulators rejected the waste excavation plan on Feb. 27.

A 2004 study found elevated levels of "22 compounds of concern" in the landfill, and the New Mexico Environment Department recommended that the EPA investigate further under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act commonly known as Superfund.

LightBox Interactive says the company still plans to film the documentary when the project is approved, but so far no revised waste excavation plan has been submitted.

It's estimated Atari paid $20 million to $25 million to license the 1982 blockbuster's name, and video game developers rushed to complete the project in just six weeks to get it out in time for Christmas.

In the game, players act as the stranded alien and try to collect pieces of a telephone so E.T. can phone home.

Atari made 5 million copies of the game and sold only 1.5 million — not nearly enough to recoup the development cost.

"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" turned out to be a financial drain for Atari.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Waste Disposal and Recycling

Waste Disposal and Recycling

For many years direct recycling by producers of surplus and defective materials constituted the main form of recycling. However, indirect recycling, the recycling of materials after their use by consumers, became the focus of activity in the 1990s. For some time, most solid waste has been deposited in landfills or dumps. Landfills are filling up, however, and disposal of wastes in them has led to environmental problems. Also, government (which had little authority over disposal of wastes until the 1970s) now has extensive regulatory powers.

A growing alternative to such disposal is recycling. Industry has found that when it undertakes serious recycling programs, the savings can sometimes be considerable. In addition to reducing manufacturing and materials costs, such programs can insulate the companies from liability for environmental violations. Agriculture, which is the cause of much environmental degradation, can use organic recycling, or the reuse of manure and crop residues (sometimes called "green manure").

Water, in one sense, is always recycled, inasmuch as there is a finite amount of it available on earth and it constantly moves through its cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. Deliberate programs for recycling water include use of wetlands as areas to filter harmful wastes from the substance, or using partly treated sewage for raising fish. Municipal sewage- and water-treatment plants, of course, are fundamental recycling agents.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

50 ways to reuse your garbage

50 ways to reuse your garbage

By: Melissa Breyer

Ralph Waldo Emerson once described a weed as, “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” Might we not consider garbage in the same way? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, after all. To the non-recycler, an empty bottle is garbage. To the reuse enthusiast, that empty bottle could be a chandelier, a vase, a drinking glass, a candelabra … you get the picture.

In a world being consumed by waste, it’s time to think of our trash in a different light (and save some money while we're at it). The following 50 tips are just a few of the endless ways in which to discover the virtues of garbage.

1. Use a gallon milk jug to water the roots of garden plants without standing there with a hose: Poke small holes in the bottom of the jug and bury it; fill with water for slow and steady irrigation.

2. Place old silica gel packets with personal papers and important documents to protect them from moisture and mildew.

3. Humidity and light are deleterious to printed photos; tackle the moisture part by storing photos with silica get packets.

4. Use old wine corks to create a floating key ring; never worry about your keys sinking while at the beach or lake again.

5. Become a recycling old master, like artist Scott Gundersen, and transform old wine corks into masterpieces.

6. Make a bird feeder out of a 2-liter plastic bottle.

7. Pour used bacon grease into a tuna or cat food can, chill until firm, and wire the can to a tree to give your feathered visitors some food. Bacon grease may be gross to some of us, but it attracts bluebirds, crows, jays, ravens, starlings, woodpeckers and Carolina wrens.

8. Spread out old newspaper beneath a tablecloth to provide further protection against spills.

9. Don’t forget the old trick of using newspaper instead of paper towels to clean windows.

10. Once it's time to retire an old game, use the game board to make coasters.

11. Use old game pieces – Monopoly movers, dice, Scrabble tiles – to make jewelry or to decorate wrapped packages.

12. Place an open jar or bowl of dried, used coffee grounds in your refrigerator or freezer to neutralize odors.

13. Keep a jar of dried, used coffee grounds under the sink and use with dish soap as a scouring agent for cleaning caked-on stubborn food.

14. Mound used coffee grounds in a ring around garden plants to keep ants and slugs away.

15. Keep used tea bags in the refrigerator; in the morning, dampen if needed and put one on each eye to relieve puffiness and refresh sleepy peepers.

16. Dampen cool, used tea bags and place them on insect bites and minor burns; it’s said that the tannins help soothe and reduce inflammation.

17. Pack old newspaper sleeve bags in your purse of backpack for use as emergency galoshes.

18. If you hate the feeling of rubber gloves against your skin, use newspaper sleeve bags to protect your hands while washing dishes.

19. Did your bike inner tube spring a leak? Lucky you! Now you can save the tube and cut it into strips for a bonanza of rubber bands in custom widths.

20. You can also use a bike inner tube to fashion an industrial chic door draft stopper: Cut a length of tube a little longer that the door’s width, fill with sand and seal both ends; block drafts and stay cozy.

21. We are a people of rampant toilet paper use and thus, we are all left with a lot of toilet paper tubes. You can turn those tubes into playthings and nesting materials for your small furry pets.

22. Torn and crumbled toilet paper tubes also make fine packing material.

23. If paper towels are one of your “eco sins” (we all have our indulgences), you can use the cardboard tubes for any number of crafts.

24. Old disposable lighters can be turned into jewelry, toys, and tricky secret compartments in which to store your secret things.

25. Empty pill bottles need not head to the landfill when they can be taming the mess of your junk drawer, tool box, sewing kit, and so forth; they love to contain little things.

26. And speaking of sewing kits and pill bottles, you can put together a teeny one with thread, needles and safety pins, and house it in a pill container.

27. Pill containers can also hold a stash of Band-Aids in your purse for when blisters and paper cuts strike.

28. For little bits of soap that have given up their lather, collect them and put them in a stocking leg to keep by an outdoor faucet, ensuring that you’ll have soap on hand for outside cleanup.

29. Another way to use soap slivers is to wrap a group of them in a washcloth and tie it into a bundle; presto, you have a self-sudsing scrubber.

30. Put old, stained T-shirts to use fighting stains; cut them up and use them for messy spills around the house and in the garage.

31. Cut T-shirts into strips and knit with them; yes, knit.

32. Snagged pantyhose or tights may look unsightly on the legs, but nobody will care when they are being used in the home. For starters, they make great sleeves for posters, wallpaper rolls, wrapping paper and anything else that needs to stay rolled up.

33. Stockings that have passed their prime make great rags for cleaning and dusting.

34. And since over-the-hill pantyhose and tights seem to come in endless supply, they can also be cut and used for ersatz bungee cords, hair bows, sashes and arm warmers.

35. For the super crafty, use your old jeans for any of these cool old jean things.

36. Old sailors know this one: use banana peels to shine your shoes. Rub the inside of the peel on shoes, then buff with a soft cloth.

37. Don’t toss the ends of bread loaves; they deserve love too. Let them dry out and then turn them into breadcrumbs.

38. Use the peels of juiced lemons to make zest and twists, which can be dried or frozen for later use.

39. Use juiced citrus halves sprinkled with salt to clean stainless steel and other metal fixtures.

40. Add a hunk of orange peel to brown sugar to ensure it stays soft; no more trying to fit brown-sugar boulders in a measuring cup.

41. Parmesan cheese rinds may lack nice texture, but they have plenty of taste left and add richness to sauces; put them in soup stocks, minestrone, risotto and pasta sizes while cooking, then remove what’s left at the end.

42. Don’t throw old books away; upcycle them into beautiful handmade journals.

43. Have an ugly sweater that is just too ugly and is calling for the trash? Mittenize it! (That would mean turn it into mittens; see the how-to here.)

44. Another wonderful way to reincarnate a sweater is to unravel the yarn and knit it again; and if you’re not up for the reknitting part, there’s a mom at Reknit who will do the knitting for you.

45. During windy rainstorms the trash cans on city corners overflow with sad, broken umbrellas; all those materials just waiting for the landfill, while there are so many ways to use them. For starters, salvage the cloth and use it for purses, skirts, or best of all, a doggie rain coat.

46. Styrofoam to-go containers can be cleaned, torn up and used as packing peanuts.

47. Use paper egg cartons to start seedlings; since the paper will biodegrade, each cup with its seedling can be dropped right into the soil. Toilet paper tubes can be used in the same way.

48. Little jars can be cleaned and employed in a desk drawer to organize office supplies, a junk drawer for odds and ends, or a dresser drawer for jewelry.

49. Just because you may have gone paperless doesn’t mean you should throw your binder clips away. On the contrary: read 16 clever uses for binder clips.

50. Yes, this may seem random, but here goes: don’t throw away your old garden rake! Remove the head and hang it on the wall for use as a necklace tree, a rustic tie holder, a scarf organizer, a belt holder … the possibilities are many

Monday, April 7, 2014

Make Your Own Toothpaste

How To: Make Your Own Toothpaste from Scratch

Quick Bit from Mary Mazzoni 

Learning to make your own health and beauty products at home carries loads of benefits. You’ll save money, skip the hard-to-recycle packaging and be able to directly control the ingredients your family comes in contact with during their morning routine.

If you’ve never made hygiene products yourself, the concept may sound a little intimidating. But most concoctions only require a few household ingredients and work just as well as your favorite brand. Check out these two simple do-it-yourself toothpaste recipes to get started.

Basic Homemade Toothpaste

Difficulty Level: Easy

You’ll only need four basic ingredients and about five minutes to complete this simple yet effective DIY toothpaste.

Bloggers Matt and Betsy Jabs of DIY Natural say this toothpaste costs less than $1.50 for 5 ounces — a 300 percent cost savings over store-bought toothpastes — and is free of potentially harmful additives and ingredients.

“DIY cleaning and beauty are usually much more simple than a lot of the natural-living websites afford, which is one staple of our approach: make it simple, affordable, and effective!” the couple told us in an email.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Vinegar, baking soda and lemon

Clean Your Whole House with Vinegar, Baking Soda and Lemon

Feature from Kathryn Sukalich 

lemon, vinegar, baking soda, cleaning
can be used for many cleaning tasks around the home.

One way to reduce the number of cleaning products you bring into your home is to clean with products you already have. People have been cleaning with household staples like vinegar, baking soda and lemons (or lemon juice) for a long time, and believe it or not, these items are safe and often effective. If you clean with these items, you may buy less, spend less money and have fewer harsh chemicals to worry about.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

"Butt Bins"

Vancouver Rolls Out Recycling Program for Cigarette Butts

News from Paula Felps  

The “Butt Bins” mounted on light poles throughout Vancouver are part of an innovative recycling program. The city of Vancouver, British Columbia, is taking on the single biggest source of street litter in the world. And it’s ready to kick some serious butt.

In November, the city became the first in North America to initiate a program to recycle cigarette butts. As part of the campaign, they mounted 110 “Butt Bins” on light poles throughout the city to encourage residents and visitors to toss their cigarette butts in the fireproof containers.

With help from TerraCycle Canada, this unique program — called the Cigarette Waste Brigade Program — will not just keep used butts off the streets, but will keep them out of landfills as well. Smokers are being asked to save their cigarette butts at work and at home, then send them in for processing.

TerraCycle already has consumer-based cigarette-butt recycling programs, but this marks the first time it’s been done at a municipal level. TerraCycle provided underwriting for the Butt Bins, asking the city to pay just C$1 per container — which means the entire recycling program is costing the city of Vancouver a mere C$110.

The canisters will be emptied regularly and the collected butts will be sent to TerraCycle’s Canadian depot. The charitable organization United We Can, which works with the poor and unemployed residents in the inner city, is employing people to empty the canisters.

When the butts arrive at TerraCycle, the recycling company will use the cellulose acetate found in cigarette butt filters to make items such as plastic lumber and plastic pallets. The tobacco extracted from the spent butts will be composted.

The company has already collected more than 10,000 pounds of butts. If the experiment in Vancouver is successful, TerraCycle says, it would like to deploy an additional 2,000 butt-collection receptacles

Friday, April 4, 2014

How to Recycle Corks

Sophia Bennett

Recycling and reuse opportunities abound for all of those leftover corks.

Consumers worldwide are expected to drink 34 billion bottles of wine a year by 2015. The U.S. leads the charge, downing about 3 billion bottles annually (France, the world’s top producer, is at number five).

Each of those 34 billion wine bottles is sealed with something. Although screw-top lids are becoming more common, corks are still far and away the leading choice for sealing a bottle of wine (or champagne or craft beer) shut. What are those corks made of? Can they be recycled, and where are the best places to take them? Let us share our top finds.

What are corks made of?
Wine and champagne bottle corks in the U.S. are made of either cork or plastic. The cork ones actually come from a real cork tree. Unlike rubber and sponges, which used to come from natural sources and are now made with synthetic material, your cork begins its life as tree bark (oak tree bark, to be more exact). That bark is harvested, dried, boiled and cut into the tiny stoppers that form a perfect seal on your bottle. Most cork trees are found in Spain and Portugal and can live for up to 300 years. For a fascinating blow-by-blow of how corks are made (with plenty of pictures), check out this website.

Plastic corks are made a couple different ways. One option is to make a continuous piece of cork that is cut into smaller pieces. Another is to make the corks one by one using an injection mold. The final possibility blends bunches of little plastic beads together into corks. As the technology for making synthetic corks continues to improve, plastic corks are beginning to behave more like their plant-based counterparts, allowing the wine to breath and continue to develop even after it is bottled. This video shows one company’s process for making synthetic corks.

How to recycle corks
You are extremely unlikely to find a curbside recycling program that accepts corks, which means you have to work a little harder to find an outlet for them. But, there are several places set up to recycle your corks — as long as they are actually made of cork.

One example is ReCork, which takes your old stoppers, grinds them and puts them back into shoes and other products. The shoes are made by Sole, which started ReCork and has collected more than 47 million corks to date. The company also plants new cork trees — more than 8,000 and counting, according to its website. Although ReCork works mainly with corporate partners, it also partner with nonprofits and other organizations to set up collection centers. Search ReCork’s website to see if there is a collection point at your local recycling center or another nearby location.

Cork ReHarvest, part of the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance, collects corks at grocery stores, wine stores and other locations. It sells the corks to people who reuse them for a variety of products, including paper, fishing bobbers and consumer products. Cork ReHarvest’s mission includes educating people about the importance of preserving cork trees. Check the organization’s website for a list of collection centers.

Ideas for reusing corks

If neither of these options suits you, reuse ideas abound for wine corks. Stitch them together to make trivets or coasters. Attach rows to tables, countertops, picture frames or even a plain board to make your own cork board. Carve designs in the ends and use them as stamps. Work them into jewelry or key chains. Here are a couple resources for reuse ideas: •Addicted2Decorating shares 30 ways to reuse corks.
•The website Wise Bread has 25 ideas for putting corks to good reuse. It also shares a history of cork trees and ideas for additional places to take them to recycle.
•And, of course, there is always Pinterest. This pin board claims to have 1,001 ideas for reusing wine and champagne corks.
Most of these projects work best with nonplastic corks. Saving the corks from red wine will add interest to projects if the wine has added a purple tinge to the ends.

If you are not the crafty type, chances are someone else in your community can put your old corks to good use. Search for a reuse organization that specializes in craft supplies, such as the Reuse Centre in Edmonton, AB, Canada, or Austin Creative Reuse in Austin, TX.

Can I use an old cork to seal a new wine bottle?
The consensus seems to be no. WineMaker magazine shares that cork, being a natural substance, contains microbes that are unpredictable once that original bottle is opened. In addition, if the cork has started to dry out, it will allow air into the bottle. Your best bet for recorking an old bottle is an apparatus intended for that purpose, such as a rubber cork with a vacuum sealer that can create an air-tight seal. Equipment for resealing wine is available at wine shops or kitchen supply stores.

Drought Management Advisory Council annual meeting

WHAT:N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council annual meeting

WHEN:9-11 a.m. April 10

WHERE:Gov. James G. Martin Building, North Carolina State Fairgrounds, 1025 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh

RALEIGH – The N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council will use its annual meeting on April 10 to discuss the dry conditions North Carolina is experiencing and expected impacts in the coming weeks.

Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties are currently experiencing abnormally dry conditions. Abnormally dry is not a drought category. Rather, it is a descriptor of less severe dry conditions, which still requires heightened awareness by water users in the affected counties. The last time any part of the state experienced drought conditions was nearly a year ago on April 23, 2013.

The council will discuss dry conditions in North Carolina as it relates to streams, rivers, lakes, agriculture and wildfire activity, and will also provide North Carolina’s short-term climate outlook. The council is made up of experts on drought, climate, water and forest resources, geology, agriculture and water conservation.

This is the first in-person meeting for the council in 2014. The council is required by Session Law 2008-143 to meet at least once in each calendar year in order to maintain appropriate agency readiness and participation. A subgroup of the drought council conducts a conference call each week to discuss the impact of rainfall and provide recommendations for the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The U.S. Drought Monitor uses the council’s advice to generate a map depicting areas experiencing drought, abnormally dry and normal conditions. The drought map is released every Thursday and posted to the state’s official drought website at

If you have questions about the meeting, please contactBob Stea, chairman of the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council, at 919-707-9035, or

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Composting park proposal keeps NYC's organic waste close to home

Composting park proposal keeps NYC's organic waste close to home

Talk about pulling double-duty: In lieu of being hauled out of state, will organic waste be turned into compost at a network of park-topped artificial islands dotting NYC's waterfront?

As New York City attempts to up its food scrap waste diversion game and align itself with West Coast composting powerhouses like San Francisco and Portland (baby steps folks, baby steps), one architecture firm has proposed a rather intriguing idea on how to accommodate roughly 30 percent of the city’s residential waste stream that’s composed purely of organic waste.

Currently, a majority of the city’s waste — all 14 million tons of it produced annually — is hauled off via truck to out-of state landfills (thanks Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania!) to the tune of $300 million. This is obviously an insane amount of money to dedicate to the unloading of garbage on other states. With PRESENT Architecture’s Green Loop proposal, New York City's organic waste, which, if all goes as planned will be collected via a mandatory residential curbside collection program by 2016, wouldn’t make that greenhouse gas-intensive journey to some far-flung dump. It would stay close to home. Really close to home.

Putting a much-needed dent in New York’s garbage exporting practice while also adding a sizable amount of public green space to all five boroughs, Green Loop would consist of a network of 10 park-topped street-level composting facilities strategically built along the city’s waterfront. Connected to land by both a pedestrian causeway and a roadway that would easily allow trucks to deliver the locally-generated “goods,” these saucer-shaped composting hub park islands would add roughly 125 acres of dedicated park land to the Big Apple — park land that could potentially include community gardens, educational facilities, and, as envisioned by the futurists at PRESENT, cross-country skiing during the winter.

Locating a network of Green Loops along New York City’s 520 miles of waterfront addresses three important planning issues. First, it takes advantage of the City’s existing transportation infrastructure. Trucks deliver waste a short distance to a borough composting hub, with barges and rail transporting finished compost product away.

Next, having a composting hub in each borough addresses 'borough equity' in our waste management. 'Borough Equity' ensures that every borough is responsible for processing its own waste instead of sending the entire city’s trash to one or two over-burdened boroughs. Lastly, location. NYC needs more open space, and as part of its Vision 2020: Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, it's steadily improving public access and developing the waterfront with parks, esplanades and bike paths. A network of Green Loops links into our developing shoreline.

Good stuff. However, aside from the potential odor-related issues — picnic and a game of lawn tennis this weekend out on Rotted Veggie Island, anyone? — I do wonder would become of all that compost churned out at these waterfront facilities. It would be a nutrient-rich commodity, no doubt, but it seems to me that the black gold produced at these large-scale facilities could far outweigh the demand for it. I'm picturing a lot of compost. But in the end, I suppose a localized compost surplus is less disagreeable than spending a couple hundred million dollars per year on carting pizza crusts and wilted lettuce to Pennsylvania

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tin Can “Pizza Garden”

Mary Mazzoni 

Growing your own food is a liberating feat of self-sufficiency. It also helps you save money and shrink the footprint of your nightly meals. If you’re new to gardening or have a small space to work with, growing your own herbs is an easy place to start.

To help you plant your new herb garden in style, check out these 10 awesome ideas made from recycled materials that will work for a windowsill, balcony or backyard.

Tin Can “Pizza Garden”

Themed kitchen gardens are an easy way to start growing ingredients for some of your favorite meals at home. To give it a try, simply choose a theme or recipe you cook often and plan your herb garden accordingly.

Graphics teacher and foodie Vanessa Opera, who operates the blog FoodOpera with her sister Ingrid, chose a “pizza garden” theme and planted herbs like oregano, sage and pizza thyme for use in the tasty Italian favorite.

Made from upcycled milk formula tins, her adorable planters are versatile enough for all types of herbs – meaning all that’s left to do is decide on your garden theme. Choose a general cuisine category, such as an Italian or Mexican theme, or go with something more specific like a fun “salsa garden.” Get creative!

Get step-by-step instructions on how to make these yourself at FoodOpera

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

New Recyclable Fiberboard to Cut Landfill Waste

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New Recyclable Fiberboard to Cut Landfill Waste

News from Kathryn Sukalich 

Researchers at the University of Leicester in the U.K. have developed a type of pressed wood that could lead to more recycling.

If you’ve ever purchased cheap furniture or worked in an office or retail space, chances are you’ve encountered medium-density fiberboard (MDF), an engineered wood product similar to particleboard. MDF is used worldwide in homes and businesses because it is inexpensive to produce, but it also comes with some drawbacks. These boards are made of wood fibers and are held together with adhesives that contain formaldehyde-emitting resins, which may be harmful to human health, according to the EPA. Because of these resins, MDF must be disposed of in landfills or incinerated.

Professor Andrew Abbott of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom recently developed a way to make a recyclable wood product similar to MDF that doesn’t use typical resins. Instead, the boards are held together using starch from sources like potatoes. For his work, Professor Abbott won the Royal Society Brian Mercer Award for Innovation to help turn his findings into a marketable product.

“It is impressive to see someone take a material that is commonplace in all of our homes and solve its key limitations,” Professor Anthony Cheetham, vice president and treasurer of the Royal Society, said in a press release. “Professor Abbott has managed to reinvent MDF, transforming it into a product that has much more relevance in an environmentally conscious society.”

MDF is frequently used in the retail sector in display units and other items made for short-term use. If MDF were manufactured using safe, natural resins, this material could be recycled or composted, according to a statement from the University of Leicester. The U.K. alone produces almost 1 million tons of this material annually, so these innovations could help keep a significant amount of waste out of landfills.

The next step for Professor Abbott’s team is to develop a system for producing this new MDF on a larger scale so industries that regularly use the material can have more eco-friendly options

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