Portland, Oregon’s Recycling Successes

Green Blogger Sean Gettings: Portland’s Recycling Successes

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September 27, 2011

One of America’s greenest cities, Portland continues to innovate in its recycling and waste management practices.

Sean Gettings Green Blogger Sean Gettings: Portlands Recycling SuccessesPortland-based green blogger Sean Gettings

Nestled among towering pine trees and winding rivers is one of America’s most sustainable cities: Portland. Located in the Pacific Northwest, Portland is proud of its amazing public transit, thousands of daily bike commuters and residents who believe in working hard each day to protect the environment.

Situated in the Willamette Valley just 80 miles east of the Pacific Ocean and 50 miles northwest of Mount Hood, Portland is a leader in recycling and green living.

With its ever-continued focus on sustainability, Portland will begin weekly curbside food composting pick-up this fall. Residents will be able to toss all food scraps, including meat, bones, fruits, vegetables and even pizza boxes into curbside roll carts. This will drastically reduce household trash and allow for twice-a-month waste pick-up at the curb.

The City of Portland even loves to green its festivals. The North American Organic Brewers Festival strives to be one of the greenest festivals in America. The annual summer festival features compostable beer cups, plates and cutlery. Attendees are encouraged to arrive to the festival by bike or public transit. All power is sourced from solar or biodiesel and, of course, recycling stations are always nearby.

Portland recycling bin Green Blogger Sean Gettings: Portlands Recycling SuccessesDowntown Portland is home to 175 new recycling bins.

Oregon is home to the first bottle return bill in the nation, enacted in 1971. This summer, the bill was updated to include a return on almost any receptacle that holds liquid. Sports and energy drinks, vitamin water and juice drinks will now have a 5¢ deposit and return. That rate will jump up to 10¢ if the recycling rate drops below 80% two years in a row.

Portland is always looking for ways to recycle more, and recently began installing 175 new recycling containers downtown. These containers are truly “Portland” because they allow for people to pull out recyclable items for deposit, which in turn helps Portland recycling even more. Also, the city has banned all plastic grocery shopping bags, effective at the end of October. Customers will now have the options of using reusable bags or paper bags, which are sustainable and easier to recycle.

Portland is also home to the National Basketball Association’s Trailblazers and the Major League Soccer’s Timbers. Both teams are leaders in recycling efforts for their respective leagues.

The Rose Quarter, home to the Trailblazers, currently is the nation’s “greenest” sports arena, keeping more than 60% of its waste out of landfills. Green Sports Alliance, a nonprofit organization founded by Trailblazers owner Paul Allen, works with professional sports teams across the U.S. to make sports arenas more sustainable.

As well, the Timbers have 90 recycling bins located throughout Jeld-Wen Field. All food scraps are composted on site and cooking oil is recycled.

With stunning views of several Cascade Range peaks and its 14 bridges crossing its two rivers, outdoorsy Portland clearly takes extra pride in “keeping it green.”

Sean Gettings is a stay-at-home dad with two kids, ages 5 and 3. He has worked on many environmental projects, including banning plastic shopping bags in Portland, anointing himself recycling coordinator at his neighborhood elementary school and authoring the “environmental guy” blog. Gettings is an avid cyclist, kayaker and supporter of anything that helps improve the community. Gettings lives in Portland with his wife and two kids. Check out his blog, seangettings.com.

Reducing, Reusing and Recycling with kids

Lead by example. Words to live by especially when you have children. How can my kids help recycle when they can’t even pick up their own toys? Well frankly its pretty easy once you give them the tools to do it. Since we have recycled our whole lives in one way or another, it is normal everyday life to our children. They don’t know any different so to them this is just normal living. But for those who do not recycle and want to start there is no need to freak out. Children are like little sponges and soak up any bit of information thrown at them.
Reducing-As a parent I have done everything I can to reduce the amount of packaging coming into our home. Growing our own garden means we don’t have plastic produce bags floating around. We do not eat prepackaged foods and make everything from scratch so that has helped. When you are shopping look for packaging you can reuse. Large pickle jars can be used for storing flour, salsa jars are perfect for your homemade jelly, and even plastic jars can be Anytime turned into money jars for the kids. If my children want to spend their money or are purchasing gifts I will usually encourage them to think about packaging and seek our earth friendly products. Teach them as you make your decisions and explain everything.
Reusing-Growing up I knew of two different type of stores. Grocery stores were for food and everything else was bought from thrift stores. Buying things from second hand stores is just another form of reusing and recycling. Things were just built better years ago which is why you can find pretty much anything in a thrift store. Since money was tight my mom would fix anything she could before she would buy anything. But if it couldn’t be fixed then my mom would hit the thrift stores and always found what she needed. Handing down clothes, accepting clothes from friends/family and buying from thrift stores is just a great way to reuse. For fun let the kids go through the recycling bin and do crafts. It’s pretty amazing how creative kids can get.
Recycling-One thing we have done for years is to put a paper bag into each room. Under the bathroom cabinet, in a closet, or even just behind the door. Any recyclables can get tossed into there. Just remember when its full it needs to be dumped into the recycling bin and the paper bag can be reused. If there is a bag in each room then there is no excuse for kids to use it. Just about anything can be recycled so research your local recycling center and learn what they accept and don’t accept. And don’t forget that there are many places who recycle things that recycling centers will not. You may have to bring it to them but its a step worth it in the end.
Compost-Yes even composting is a form of recycling! There are several free to make compost options on the internet just google “easy compost”. You can toss pretty much everything into a compost bin except for bones, dairy and weeds. Lint, egg shells, left over food scraps, grass clippings, leaves and even twigs if small enough.
We are able to share a garbage service with our neighbors by following these steps. We never fill our garbage bin and rarely ever fill our recycling bin. Pretty amazing considering 2 families with 4 adults and 6 children are using these. This not only is good for the earth but it saves a good chunk of change each month. So I encourage you to have fun and get creative. But most importantly get the kids involved!

Nancy Baldwin

Companies Go Solar

See that big bright thing in the sky?  It’s the sun and it can provide free, clean energy even on days when you can’t see it because of clouds. Solar panels are slowly becoming more affordable and in some states they have tax credit that makes them nearly free.  Recently, I stopped by Timby’s Dipstrip to learn all about their solar panels sitting on their roof in Portland, Oregon.  Tim Wallace and his wife Debra own a paint stripping company that restores old wood doors, windows and other antiques to they’re original wood finish.  Most people wouldn’t think a paint stripping company would be green but, besides the solar panels, Timby’s Dipstrip works hard to use low odor paint strippers and filters out all chemicals above and beyond what is required by law. Their solar panels can produce 5.9 kilowatt of energy.  Which is more than enough to run three heated tanks for removing old paint and all his other electrical needs.

The cost to install the system was nearly free after the $11,OOO Federal Tax credit, the $19,5OO Oregon State Tax Credit and Energy Trust of Oregon gave $7,500 cash back.  These tax credits and rebates are dollar for dollar making the out of pocket expense less then a $1,OOO.  On a bright sunny day the solar panels can produce almost 6,OOO kilowatt of power.  The energy is then stored for cloudier days when the system doesn’t produce as much.  But, even in Oregon, with our fair share of clouds and rain these solar panels are producing electricity. Currently there are over 700 homes and businesses in the Portland area with solar panels.  Hopefully with improvement in technology and cost, more companies will begin to see the benifits of clean, natural and abundant solar energy.  I will explore residential solar in an upcoming story.

Timby's Dipstrip Photo by Sean Gettings

Buy Local, Eat Fresh

Buying local foods and products are now easier to do and much better for the environment.  Local foods taste better, are not shipped thousands of miles and help keep local farmers in business.  They’re  grown without pesticides, hormones and other chemicals that are needed to keep them fresh.  Most larger, big, box, grocery stores buy produce that were picked 7-14 days ago before reaching the store shelf.  These fruits and vegetables are chosen for their looks to withstand long shipments and not for taste.  Buying local produce means eating fresh fruits and vegetables picked at peak taste and sold with little or no packaging.

Some of the great products that can be bought locally include eggs, cheese, bread, red meat, chicken, beer, wine, fruits, vegetables, ice cream, cereal, and many other products.  Local farmers enjoy meeting the people who purchase what they grow.  Stop by your farmer’s market or local produce stand and say hello to the men and women who grow local fruits and vegetables.  The money you spend with them is more likely to stay in the community which keeps the family farm in business and out of the hands of large developers.  Buying local is not only healthier, but it is also better for the environment, keeps money in the community is a great way to learn how your food is grown and produced.  Shake the hand of your local farmer today.

Photo by Sean Gettings