Push reel lawnmower: No gas needed

American’s love their cars and on the weekend they love those gas powered, high polluting, lawn mowers.  Nothing makes more noise on a Saturday morning then a gas powered lawn mower which produces the same pollution in a hour as driving a car for 100 miles.  It is estimated that gas lawn mowers produce about 5% of the air pollution in the United States.  New laws put in place in 2007 for small engines should begin to reduce the amount of carbon monoxide being put into the air.

One  solution in my “Green” opinion is an electric lawn mower which works great on small lawns but working with a eletrical chord can be a challenge.  The new battery powered lawn mower is excellent and gets rid of that annoying plugged-in chord.  But, my favorite is the push reel lawnmower which is powered by a good breakfast and some basic arm muscles.  I have had mine for over 5 years and not only does it do a great job mulching and cutting my grass but I can also still hear my kids.  It cuts great,  sharpens itself while the blades spin and is light weight for easy pushing.  It’s made by a German company called Brill and I would highly recommend them.  There are also other great push reel mowers sold at your local home/hardware store.

Just think of the gas, oil and air pollution saved by using a push reel lawn mower and you can still hear the bird sing while you work.

Urban chickens in your neighborhood

Nothing beats waking up on a sunny Oregon summer day and hearing the sounds of chickens clucking and laying fresh eggs.  One would think I lived in rural America but the sounds of these chickens are coming from my urban neighborhood in North Portland, Oregon. Chickens have a way of slowing us down, making us feel connected to what we eat and introducing us to what life on a farm might be like.  Being able to stroll out into a small coop in your own backyard and find farm fresh eggs, which look, taste and are much better for you then store bought eggs shipped hundreds of miles, is something that brings a smile to many people’s faces.   Having urban chickens teaches people how to produce there own food and become a bit less dependent on the local grocery store.

People who start with one or two chickens find themselves with great compost for vegetable gardens,  fruit trees and other plants.  Yes, chicken poop is great for your garden compost pile and can become quite popular with your neighbors once they see the size of your garden.  Unlike cat or dog poop, chicken poop is used as a fertilizer while dog and cat waste ends up in a landfill. Learning how our food reaches the kitchen table is important but is mostly lost in today’s busy rush-around lifestyle.  Wouldn’t it be great to go back to a time when almost everyone had chickens, which in turn are much more friendly to the environment, produce amazing bright orange yokes and make great city pets.  So, if your thinking about being the first on your street to have chickens as pets give it a try.  My guess would be you will make new friends with the neighbors and start a chicken trend on your street. Check to see what the laws are in your hometown but more and more cities are now allowing 3-5 chickens as pets.

Urban chickens in Portland, Oregon

Need a new roof, recycle the old one.

What happens when the roofers show up to tear off that old roof and replace it with new shingles?  Most roofing companies scrape off the old shingles, shovel them into a dumpster and haul them away to very slowly rot in a landfill. Well now a local company in Portland, Oregon is making it a breeze to recycle those oil based roofing shingles.

Northwest Shingle Recyclers and Heritage Environmental Services work with local roofing companies to have a dumpster placed curbside for the shingles to be recycled.  There is a network of companies nationwide affiliated with Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt Shingle Recycling Program to make recycling roofing shingles easy.  Asphalt shingles are made from 30% oil and can be melted down and used to make new asphalt for roads.  So before you replace that old worn out roof on your house or business see if there is a recycling program for those oil based roofing shingles in your area.

Walk, Bike, Bus, Train but don’t drive for one day

 

What would gas prices be if we all took just one day a week and left the car in the driveway? How much cleaner would the air we breath be if just 10% of us for one day rode a bike to work, or took a bus or train?  The answers are open to discussion but I’m confident that gas prices would be lower due to the fact supply would go up and demand down.  I’m lucky to live in a great city, Portland, Oregon that has amazing public transit, hundreds of miles of bike lanes and friendly pedestrian parks which makes it easy to safely walk, bike or use public transit.  But leaving the car at home once a week is something that people everywhere can try.  Even if it’s one day on the weekend or during the work week, why not try walking to the grocery store in your neighborhood, riding a bike to the library, the bank or trying public transit.  Another fun thing is to do all your errands one day of the weekend and the other allow no driving.  Plan activities for that day close to home.

Last year I was able to leave the car in the driveway for 10 straight days during the summer.  Having two kids and being a stay at home parent we did almost everything on the bike.  I have my bike with a tag along for my son and a bike trailer attach at the back for my daughter.  On days when we needed to travel farther we jumped on the bus or took the train.  Walking with both kids in a wagon is also a fun way to get around.  I know this idea of not driving is hard for people in rural parts of the country but carpooling to work or school once a week would also be a great way to leave the car home for a day.

I think the US postal service is close to eliminating Saturday delivery of US mail.  Just think of the savings to the environment with all those postal delivery trucks not being used on Saturdays.  So give it a try.  Leave the car in the driveway just once a week and soon it will be two days and maybe you can even break my 10 day record.

Your comments are always welcome. Thanks for reading.

The way we get around Portland, Oregon with two kids.

 

Portland to Seattle on Amtrak

Seattle, Washington

I wanted to make my trip to Seattle from Portland as green as possible.  I took the bus from our house to Union Station in Portland and then enjoyed the ride on Amtrak Cascades north to Seattle. Amtrak has really joined the green revolution recently with recycling bins in each train car and compostable plates and cups in the dinning car.  Train travel is also better for the environment, much safer then driving and much more social since you have a chance to make new friends.

Seattle always seems to impress me more each time I visit.  Recycling bins are conveniently located on almost every corner.  Bars, pubs and even McDonald’s have recycling and compost bins and the Seattle Mariners baseball stadium Safeco Field composted or recycled just about everything.  I stayed at The HI Seattle which blew me away with it’s efforts towards sustainability. They recycled everything, composted food scrapes, had energy saving bulbs and super low flow toilets.  But it didn’t stop there, they also recycled dead batteries, old cell phones, cameras and even old books.  They encouraged water conservation, limiting electrical usage and using Seattle’s great public transportation.

Seeing what both Seattle and Portland are doing to encourage recycling and making it very easy for the public is something I hope to see in other US cities soon.  There is always more we can do but my friends in the Pacific Northwest seem to leading the way.

Amtrak biodegradable cup made from plants

 

Recycling bins seen all over Seattle

 

 

HomePlate’s Sustainable Fundraiser

My wife is on the board of directors of HomePlate, a non-profit organization providing a warm meal and support systems for homeless youth in Washington County Oregon.  On Saturday August 13, 2011, HomePlate held its first annual FarmPlate fundraiser.

FarmPlate was a “Farm to Plate” fundraiser that brought local farmers and local wineries to a local orchard.  FarmPlate used a donated orchard, donated local organic produce, organic meat, cheeses, beer and wine from the Willamette Valley.  Food was served on washable plates and siverware.  Food scraps were composted.  Water was local Oregon tap water which was poured on request to eliminate wasted, pre-poured drinking water.  Also all metal glass, plastic, paper and cardboard were recycled.  FarmPlate was completely green, local and organic.

HomePlate offers the only drop-in center for homeless youth in Washington County.  They are currently open one day a week but with the success of this fundraiser, they hope to increase services to two and three days a week.  Through generous donations from over 110 guests, FarmPlate increased awareness of the issues of homeless youth in Washington County and it was done with sustainability as a focus.

For more information on HomePlate click HomePlate

Photo by Kirsten B. Carpentier

1-800-Recycling

This week 1-800-Recycling.com  published a story I did on recycling at the tennis court.  I always enjoy reading this site and I was thrilled they asked me if they could use some of my blog posts.  I look forward to working more with 1-800-Recycling in the future.  Enjoy the story below.

!-800-Recycling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Composting food scraps

Our family has two young kids ages 5 and 3, a dog, 2 cats and a half of bag of trash a week.  We recycle almost everything that is plastic, glass, cardboard and paper.  We also have a great composting bin for all our food scraps.  We put all vegetables, fruit, egg shells, and grass clippings into the bin pictured below.  It has a great lid, no odor and with a bit of stirring every few days I have some great compost for our gardens.  The best part is that all these food scraps are not going into a landfill.  It is estimated that the average family in America throws away around 700 lbs of food waste into the trash each year.  My hometown of Portland, Oregon will begin picking up all food scrapes including meats, dairy, breads, cooked food and even pizza boxes on October 31, of this year.  This will allow Portland residents to compost all the items that can’t be composted in backyard bins and reduce garbage pick up to twice a month instead of every week.  Composting is easy, fun and combined with a great recycling program, households can really reduce what ends up in a landfill near you.

Wanted: More Recycling Bins

What if we put a recycling bin next to every trash can in America?  How much more plastic, glass, metal, aluminum and paper would we as a society prevent from ending up in landfills?  A few weeks ago I wrote a story about how I like to pull recyclables out of trash cans in parks, stores and while playing tennis at a local community college.  But what if we took the next step and we  started calling or e-mailing local stores, libraries, parks departments, colleges and universities,  elected officials and other community leaders to encourage more recycling bins in public spaces.  I think if we had a blue recycling bin next to the trash can at our local park or gas station we would see our nationwide recycling rate increase dramatically.  We will always have the people who will never use a recycling bin and will throw everything away but I think if we increase the ease of recycling we will turn more people onto doing the right thing.

The photo below was taken a few days ago at a local park near the tennis court.  I found 14 plastic tennis ball containers, 12 glass bottles, 8 water bottles, 7 sport drink bottles ,5 tennis balls  and 8 beer cans.  These items would have had a long life in a landfill but instead are heading for new lives after being recycled.  So if sticking your hands into the trash doesn’t sound that much fun I say try it anyway or make those calls and send those e-mails to encourage more recycling bins in your community.

Recycling Cop on NBC’s “Grimm”

As my web site states, besides being a stay at home dad and environmental advocate, I also try to work on my “acting career” in my spare time.  Yesterday I was hired to play a cop on NBC’s new drama” Grimm”.  I lucked out and got a early morning call time and was one of the first two extras on the set to play a cop.  I was used in the first scene shot in the hospital so stay tune this fall to see me wearing Portland’s finest uniform.

I did help with recycling while on set for 12 hours and was happy to see the cast and crew using reusable water bottles, lots of recycling bins and real plates and silverware with lunch.  I have been doing “extra work” for several years now and it’s great to see the movie and television industry do more and more to be green.