Intense Workload at Election Offices | Human Error?

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 21, 2020 by Noreen Wise

According to one recent report, there are roughly 6.5 million registered voters living outside the United States, which means there are many stakeholders who believe in our most basic democratic principle, the right to vote. And it seems that the majority of these living abroad — many whom happen to be employed by the US military and the US State Department — will indeed be following through and voting by mail.

Americans living abroad, have always relied upon the US Postal service to efficiently deliver their ballots. Their reliance on the dedication of US Postal Service employees, who heroically persevere through all types of intense weather situations and perilous global events, have always brought tremendous peace of mind. But this year, the most important presidential election ever, our confidence in the postal service is shaken to the core, as a result of the newly installed Postmaster General, Louis Dejoy.

Over the summer, Dejoy launchd what appears to have been an intentional post office dismantling campaign in an effort to undermine voters who planned on voting by mail, which had the potential of severely impacting the many millions across the continental United States who planned to vote-by-mail during the covid pandemic, but also the potential election-changing 6.5 million who vote from abroad.

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With this as the backdrop in the lead-up to November 3, 2020, it’s completely understandable why so many towns and counties across the country decided to offer early voting in their communities, as well as the mail-in-ballot option for all who submitted a vote-by-mail application, and had it approved.

Because this is a first time crisis — voting during a global pandemic which is being managed by a president who spends every waking moment trying to convince the public it’s no big deal — no town or county, especially those with a majority of registered Democrats, could have predicted, and thus planned for, the volume of citizens who would respond to the opportunity of both main-in-ballots and voting early.

The fact that so many election offices were overwhelmed on such a grand scale should inspire an instant response. However, in order to solve this problem, communities have to first acknowledge the problem exists. Election offices across the country ned more help. If I experienced a one-off malfunction, I can’t help but believe there are many others with similar stories. We have to be our own best advocate.

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I’m covering climate action up in Canada during the pandemic, and learned the hard way that human error can potentially impact election results, unless we are willing to step up and act quickly. Thankfully, there are angels off in the wings, with sharp critical thinking skills, who know how to act swiftly and find a way through, when everything falls apart.

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•I submitted my vote-by-mail application online a few days after Labor Day, following the recommended guidelines of 45 days before election.

•I had the option of selecting between having the ballot emailed to me, or mailed. I obviously selected “email.” What could go wrong with that?

•I expected to receive it the next day, but nothing arrived. The following day, when again there was no email in my inbox, I phoned my local election office. “You must be patient. We’ve received so MANY mail-in-ballot applications.”

•I patiently waited a week, nothing. So I called again. “Please be patient, we’re overwhelmed. Please don’t worry, you’ll definitely receive it.”

•I then waited an entire month. Still nothing. I began to panic, and last week called again. After waiting on hold for an hour, I was informed that my application for mail-in-ballot was denied. “DENIED? Why?” … “We don’t send ballots to PO boxes.” … “But you were supposed to email, not send.” … “Oh, right. I see that now. The employee who was checking the application must have missed that. She made a mistake.” … “What? Can you email it right now?” … “Early voting just started and we’re mobbed. We’ve been working 16 hours per day.” … “But I want to vote too, please email my ballot.”

•To make a log story short, I called back a few hours later. An angel election office employee gave me her personal work number and email, told me to call back if I didn’t receive the ballot by the end of the day. She worked the phones, but would make sure the woman who was emailing ballots, emailed mine. She then followed up through email, as well as called back later that night, after I left a message. She wouldn’t let this go until I confirmed that I’d received my emailed ballot.”

American heroes like this election worker, are ultimately the glue and the backbone of our democracy. Her determined, resourceful ingenuity, enabled one more vote to be cast during this election to save our democracy. M. L. renewed my hope that we’ll succeed with this vital mission. Thank you so much! ✅

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Why is the Sunshine State so Far Behind with Solar?

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

One would think that with all that sunshine Florida would be way out in front on solar power, but no such luck. How can this be with such dire warning threatening the state? Some scientists believe that Miami will be the first US metropolis to become uninhabitable as a result of climate change.

Florida should be sprinting to cut carbon. When homes, towns, and businesses overproduce solar power they can either store the excess in their home batteries or send it back to the grid and get paid (net metering). Why don’t Florida residents want to take advantage of one of their most valuable assets. They can earn an income from their overabundance of this vital natural resource.

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Florida has the third largest population in the US:

  • California – 39.7million
  • Texas – 29.1
  • Florida – 21.6

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Yet, according to vivant.Solar, Florida is ranked #10 in solar power:

  • California – 21,074 MW
  • North Carolina – 4,308 MW
  • Arizona – 3,400 MW
  • Nevada – 2,595 MW
  • New Jersey – 2,595 MW
  • Massachusetts – 2,011 MW
  • Texas – 1,874 MW
  • Utah – 1,599 MW
  • Georgia – 1,566 MW
  • Florida – 1,430 MW 

It’s time to act. Florida’s carbon footprint is ranked #3 in country at 4.5 PPM. Residents have the ability to move the needle by taking advantage of natural resources. There are many state and federal incentives to assist with the transition. Let’s DO THIS!~

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Overhauling the Packaging of Consumer Brands | Circular Economy

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

With the advent of the global circular economy movement, it soon becomes clear just how many everyday items can’t be recycled. It’s quite alarming. We’ll never reach zero waste unless we find innovative solutions to meet this imperative.

Take plastic, for example. The following plastic packaging/ additional items cannot be recycled:

  • plastic single use shopping bags
  • straws
  • plastic film wrap
  • frozen food bags (nearly all vegetables are sold in non-recyclable bags)
  • cereal box liner
  • chip bags
  • granola bar, candy bar and nearly all snack items wrappers
  • six-pack rings
  • plastic hangers
  • any plastic containers that can’t be cleaned, ie toothpaste tubes

Back before I was aware that these particular pieces couldn’t be recycled, it was exciting to end the month with an empty kitchen garbage bin. But now that I’m in the know, and I see the waste stack up, I feel maximum frustration. We have to stop, focus and fix.

Screen Shot 2020-02-13 at 10.09.07 PM.png Thankfully, innovative sustainability companies have done just that. According to Healthy Human, the following are the top sustainable packaging innovations of 2019:

  • Loop, Returnity and Share Pack – companies that enable consumers to conveniently return packaging either by dropping off at targeted locations, or sending back in company provided totes
  • Plant based packaging – plastics made from plants
  • Edible packaging – typically this is seaweed, hopefully they’ll soon find additional alternatives
  • Plantable packaging – contains seeds so the packaging can be planted after use
  • Compostable plastic alternatives
  • Minimal packaging design
  • Upcycled or recycled packaging

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Sustainable packaging solutions are here. All we need now is to grow demand which will come from our consumer decision making. We simply must be motivated to seek these sustainably packaged products out and use our wallets to influence corporations to switch. If we all refuse to buy particular brands because of the packaging, corporations will soon wise up.

We can DO THIS!~

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.GallantLogoNWST-75

Climate Change & Education | US Botanic Garden in DC

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

With Italy’s official announcement at the beginning of the new year, that all schools will now teach sustainability & climate change, many American educators are looking for ways to incorporate climate change lesson plans into their curriculum.

This is a big deal. Education will curb the fears that many young students harbor when they hear repeated warnings about the future. News flashes on phones about apocalyptic wildfires that killed a billion animals, and destroyed thousands of homes, is massively anxiety provoking. Lack of information fuels their concern, and action oriented facts curb it.

With this in mind, it was very exciting to see the impactful event at the US Botanic Garden on Capitol Hill Thursday evening January 30, 2020 for teachers in the Washington DC and outlying suburbs. Interactive tables, featuring climate change lesson plans, were spread throughout the breathtaking flora. Sustainability, the environment and nature were also included. Very inspiring. Nature itself is therapeutic. Studying nature along with climate action will improve the mental health of our youth as we rush to adapt to the crushing reality of the climate crisis.

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Modeling the importance of composting was powerful, especially on Capitol Hill where Mitch McConnell is blocking compositing in the dining halls in the Senate and House office buildings.

The following are several of the innovative lesson plans featured at the event:

  • Renewables and Nonrenewables, Oh My!
  • Waste Less, Recycle More
  • Greenhouse Manual by the US Botanic Garden: “exploring ways to incorporate a greenhouse as a hands-on learning environment for students of all ages.”
  • School Tree Planting Program
  • Native Knowledge, Teaching America’s Whole Story – created by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
  • Living Earth Teach-In: Sustaining our Future through Indigenous Knowledge
  • Air Quality Action Guide
  • What You Should Know About Ground Level Ozone and Particle Pollution
  • An Educators Guide to the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE)
  • Oh, and creating seed pizzas that will make spring planting so much easier (this was amazing)

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© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Let’s Commit to Zero Waste in 2020 | It’s Very Simple

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

Let’s nail the waste scene as soon as possible. It’s not complicated. It just takes focus.

I began 2020 super jazzed to be living a circular economy life. I jumped in running the last three months of 2019, and was pumped to have it nearly perfected by December, which is when I successfully managed a zero waste month. I felt like I’d won an olympic gold medal, not to mention the excitement of having extra money in my pocket the way Wall Street geniuses always do.

Waste is something we can all manage on our own without being forced by laws. We just wake up one morning (tomorrow morning hopefully) and say, “I’m in!” And voila, we’re three quarters of the way there.

A zero waste life is about setting up a defined circular economy zone in our households where we can easily breakdown everything we consume so that it can quickly be turned around for multiple uses. The goal is:

  • Refuse
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle & Upcycle

Refuse is a big deal. We have the power to motivate businesses to do the right thing very effectively by refusing to buy certain products that create waste. For example, back at the beginning of October 2019, I made the decision to never buy ketchup packaged in plastic again. This was very difficult, because Heinz has cornered the market and there were no glass alternatives. I called Heinz, but Heinz refuses to sell ketchup packaged in glass the way they used to. So I made the bold decision to switch to BBQ sauce which is 85% packaged in glass.

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A month later, Red Duck created a brand new product, ketchup in glass. It’s delicious, so much healthier. And it’s organic too. Thank you, Red Duck! A responsive American corporation meeting consumer demand.

Additionally, I now use the recyclable paper towels made from bamboo that can be washed a hundred times. They dry on the counter so quickly. This has dramatically reduced our household waste.

Household kitchens should have multiple bins:

  • Composting for food scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags
  • Paper recycling
  • Plastic recycling
  • Glass recycling or reuse for storage containers, drinking glasses, vases, etc
  • Aluminum recycling

Once this is all set up, you’ll soon find that you have no garbage. It’s startling. On New Years Eve 2019, I lifted the lid and my garbage bin was completely empty.~

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Glass Packaging Will Absolutely Curb Plastic Waste

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

My obsession with glass packaging is based on the fact that we as individuals and families can easily make a difference in curbing plastic waste through our product choices in the grocery store. All that’s required is that we’re more aware of what brands we select and how our selections impact the decision making at each corporation.

First, let’s be clear, there will always be a standard 30% of the public who will never care and will refuse to change their habits, not matter how much proof is provided. So we can’t worry about this. They’ll be forced to adapt when corporations stuck in the past go out of business.

But for the rest of us, the facts are compelling. And if we are to safeguard our children’s futures, it’s imperative that we change our daily and weekly habits appropriately.

  • ST-Saga-CovFrnt-72dpi-300The hotel industry has done a remarkable job of ditching all the tiny plastic bottled of incidentals and switching to giant dispensers in the showers. As soon as Bonvoy Marriott announced their decision, the majority of hotels immediately followed suit. Imagine how quickly the plastic nightmare would end, if Heinz did the same. Condiments and soda are two plastic heavy hitters. Coke has responded. Coke, Sprite and Fanta, along with a handful of other familiar soda brands, are sold in both glass and plastic in super markets. But Heinz refuses to compromise. Ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressing across the board, all Heinz-Kraft products are only sold in plastic.
  • According to Mashed, Heinz sells 650 million (plastic) bottles of ketchup per year, 1,000 bottles per minute. The tip of the Heinz plastic iceberg though may be the 11 billion packets of ketchup that Thrillist asserts Heinz sells per year. If Heinz would simply do what’s best for the public and for the planet, there would be an immediate and dramatic reduction in plastic waste.
  • National Geographic recently stunned the world by announcing that only 9% of plastic is recycled.
  • The majority of spaghetti sauce brands are sold in glass bottles, possibly 95%. BBQ sauce is at nearly 85% sold in glass, with the only two significant plastic holdouts are Heinz and Kraft.

Interestingly, spaghetti sauce sold in glass is priced lower than Heinz Ketchup sold in plastic. What gives? This makes no sense.

There doesn’t appear to be any data supporting Keinz’s stubborn refusal to adapt to the climate crisis. There appears to only be one way left to motivate Heinz to do the right thing… boycott Heinz!

I found organic Red Duck Ketchup, a brand new ketchup that’s positively delicious. I’m on my second bottle, and I love finding a reason to enjoy it every single day.

Boycotts are the American way. They work. Corporations respond to consumer demand that hits them in their wallets. It’s the upside of capitalism.~

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Consumers Profit from Circular Economy

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

Finally, the era of consumer profit has arrived. We’ve certainly earned this ST-Saga-CovFrnt-72dpi-300
unexpected windfall after nearly two centuries of corporate greed destroying our hopes & dreams by restraining our financial ability to achieve them.

Now that our golden opportunity is upon us, let’s try and maximize the amazing possibilities so we can quickly increase our disposable income and apply this boost to health, education and long term goals.

A circular economy is created through the principals of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. This requires a bit of imagination and resourcefulness, key characteristics of the creative, the artists and those with right brain strengths.

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According to the Centre of Expertise on Resources, the tools for succeeding at a “no waste” circular economy are straight forward:

  • Refuse: try to eliminate using our natural resources when there are other alternatives
  • Reduce: lower the need for using natural resources, by reusing products already manufactured
  • Reuse: rayon paper towels can be washed and reused over and over
  • Repair: if the screen breaks on our phones, we simply repair rather than buy a new one
  • Refurbish: improving a product when it ages, ie repainting, polishing, etc
  • Remanufacture: improving an old product and using in a new way (broken outdoor shutters create beautiful indoor wall hangings… ART!)
  • Repurpose: reuse a product for a new purpose without having to change anything about it (glass jars are best example, buy pickles in a glass jar, when done we now have a storage container)
  • Recycle: reusing a products raw materials
  • Recover: use waste to make energy

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photography by AdobeStock

The most useful & effective reusable product that I’ve stumbled upon are rayon paper towels that can be washed, dried & reused indefinitely. They hold up well. I was spending $6 per week on paper towels, and now $0. That’s an easy $312 in my pocket.

We’ve got THIS!

© Copyright 2018 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Climate Change’s Impact on America’s Favorite Pastime | Sports

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

America’s passion for professional sports, particularly baseball, is under severe threat from climate change. So with our favorite pastime now in peril, it becomes a powerful wake up call that should motivate us into quick action. The intense heat during summer months is impacting both the enjoyment and health of fans and players alike. More must be done ASAP.

  • High temperatures have resulted in several ST-Saga-CovFrnt-72dpi-300
    teams reinventing their stadiums. The Miami Marlins, Houston Astros as well as four others are now equipped with air-conditioned stadiums with retractable roofs to ensure the well being of all in attendance.
  • Other teams adapt by changing their playing schedule, going to bat at midnight. This might be enjoyable on a summer Saturday night, but would be a nightmare during the week.
  • Wrigley Field in Chicago was dangerously hot this past July, with the heat index temperature reaching 107 degrees. The stadium set up cooling stations and offered fans free ice backs. Coaches were on a mission to keep the players hydrated. This required a significant amount of work and was clearly a borderline health risk. Hopefully, the powers that be are taking notes and finding a better solution for the future. This wasn’t a one-off but is rather a dire climate emergency that will escalate.
  • In October 2018, not a single American sports stadium made the top 5 sustainable stadiums in the world ranking. (1) Amersterdam ArenA,  Netherlends (2) National Stadium, Taiwan (3) Mineral Stadium, Brazil (4) Fisht Stadium, Russia (5) Khalifa International Stadium, Qatar.
  • However, the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta has deemed itself the “‘most sustainable sports venue in the world.'”
    • 4,000 solar panel
    • 2 millions gallons of stormwater capture
    • Water conservation

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  • The first “Zero Waste Super Bowl” was held in 2019 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota. The mission was to maximize recycling. The success rate reached 90%.
  • Recycling at America’s massive sports complexes must become a VERY big deal if we are to lower the carbon needle. It’s much more simple than most realize. There are now regional composting services that will assist with this. According to the Sloan Blog, Patrick Boyle, the Sloan Director of Corporate Sustainability, lowering waste at stadiums is a matter of limiting choices so that all refreshments are served using compostable plates and cups. This enables all waste to be thrown away in the same bin and picked up by one truck.

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Some sustainability focused stadiums are taking climate action one step further and getting players involved in educating fans on the importance of recycling and sustainability. The Sloan Blog notes that stars are assuring the public that “Ordinary people can make a difference.”

© Copyright 2018 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.
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EV Charging Stations | Let’s GO!

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

It’s alarming to see how far behind the US is with EV charging stations compared to the EU and other countries across the globe. If we’re the largest carbon emitters per capita, we have to become the leader in sustainability initiatives. Over the past decade, the two chief barriers that have kept consumers from transitioning to EVs, have been the range an EV can drive on one battery charge, and the availability of charging stations.

ST-Saga-CovFrnt-72dpi-300The range has increased substantially, with several of the new 2020 EVs reaching as high as 325 miles, and most EV’s hovering in the mid 200’s. With the average drive to work being 25 miles, and with most EV’s being charged at home overnight, the range is really only a concern for trips. A significant advancement has been the amount of time it takes to charge a battery, which is now only 20 minutes. Tech innovators are working on getting that to under 10 minutes in the near future

Most charging is done at home overnight using a regular charge outlet. Charging at home is free, so EV owners love the savings, although they might see a slight increase in their electricity bill. But then again, EV owners tend to use solar panels for their home power. Home solar panels can now store energy in large batteries that can be used to charge the car at no cost. So then, the only remaining obstacle we have to overcome is public charging stations.

Tesla and Ford are taking the bull by the horns and offering free charging station usage to consumers of certain EV models for a specified period of time. Further, Volkswagen’s emission scandal resulted in VW agreeing to spend $2 billion over 10 years building out EV charging station infrastructure in the US, with their first round focusing on 17 metro areas. So there is corporate buy-in, and the number of corporations participating in creative solutions will keep on rising.

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Employers are jumping in and installing charging stations in employee parking lots. They’ve found that the relatively minor expense, affords substantial goodwill that their employees greatly appreciate. The minor issue that still has to be worked out is how to move the car from the spot once it’s fully charged. Stay tuned for the solution.

And then there are the town and state legislative initiatives that are popping up all over the country, particularly in those areas that opted to stay in the Paris Agreement after Trump pulled the US out two years ago.

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According to Smart Cities Dive:

  • Spokane, WA waived $50 permit fees for EV charging Stations and solar panels
  • Berkley, CA passed a law banning natural gas in new “low-rise” residential buildings
  • San Jose, CA passed a new law requiring all new multi-family complexes have 70% EV capable parking spaces
  • Atlanta passed an EV ordinance in 2017, outlining the plan for EV charging stations
  • In Seattle, “Councilmember Mike O’Brien said cities are creating a race to the top with these EV-related laws, and it should push others to do the same or go even further.” Let’s hope so!

Light poles in many cities and towns are now adorned with mini solar panels, a simple solution that’s incredibly cost effective. And now an innovative new idea has reinvented the modern light pole, turning the entire pole into a solar panel through it’s mosaic design. Will there soon be a charging station attached to each pole as well? Fingers crossed. Ingenious ideas to solve critical problems have always been an American strength. It’s time to shift our creativity into overdrive so that we can move a few of these climate action mountains as fast and furious as possible.

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To find public charging stations near you, just CLICK HERE .

© Copyright 2018 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Setting Up Our Home Compost Bins ASAP

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

For the millions of us searching for effective next steps in reducing atmospheric carbon, as well as lowering our personal carbon footprints, having a home compost bin is a significant step forward. The best part, is how easy compost bins are to step up and maintain.

ST-Saga-CovFrnt-72dpi-300According to Exploring Green , Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, 51% of trash is compostable. This food that is thrown away in landfills turns into methane. Methane increases global warming 21 times that of CO2. But when food waste is composted and then layered into the soil, the soil becomes so rich with nutrients that it substantially increases the amount of carbon the soil can sequester, which lowers our atmospheric carbon level, and reduces the global temperature.

Homes, restaurants, and large dining facilities — whether that be school cafeterias, hospital and corporate cafeterias, mall foodcourts, and large banquets and conference centers — should all be tapped into the simple compositing process. Be on the lookout at restaurants in your area. Most healthy and organic venues now have compost bins.

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There are many ways composting space can be set up. It all depends on where you live and whether you’re able to have a larger outdoor bin.

  • In the kitchen, it’s best to have a small bin, with a handled bucket  that can be lifted out of the lidded container.
  • All food scraps we normally stuff into the sink disposal, will instead by placed in the compost bin.
  • The small compost bin should be emptied each night into the larger bin that is either stored in the yard or garage.
  • It’s important that the large bin is ventilated, and turned with a large stick once a week.
  • Air enables the compost to process faster.
  • An official compost bin has a lower hatch close to the ground, that can be opened when the compost is ready, and easily removed to place in soil around the yard.
  • If you live in a condo or apartment and want to keep everything light, you may want to try a small lidded container on your porch or patio that you can empty by layering into a nearby forest floor regularly.

 

Hands emptying a container full of domestic food waste
photography by AdobeStock

Schools Districts have jumped into the act in a big way, transforming the composting process into a learning lab. Many schools share their composting efforts through social media and it’s very exciting to see students energized by being part of this planet saving effort.

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Teachers really enjoy these interactive, climate action learning labs, too. Win/win experiences are positive and invigorating, making learning fun and joyful. What parents doesn’t love that?

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If you don’t have time or yard space to set up and maintain your own compost bin,  a whole new industry is starting to take shape. CompostNow.org is a compositing service for home, office, and restaurants.

  • They provide heavy duty plastic bin.
  • They pick up full bin each service day, and leave an empty one.
  • They track waste & compost creation by the pound.
  • Members earn compost! Very easy and rewarding… literally.

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So, take the leap. It’s super easy and will instantly contribute to carbon reduction!

© Copyright 2018 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.
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