Recycling plastic is as easy as 1, 2…

By Chad Burden

Plastic is prolific. Science and technology have pushed the plastic envelope to thresholds unimaginable in 1973, the year when the first recyclable plastic (Pepsi) bottle was patented. Unfortunately, plastic is also filling up our landfills simply because people don’t realize that much of it can be recycled. Plastic waste constitutes a significant chunk of the entire municipal solid waste stream. According to the EPA, in 2005, plastics made up 12 percent (29 million tons) of the entire amount of waste generated in the United States.

So which plastics are recyclable? The clue lies with those little numbers with the arrows around them, on the bottom of plastic containers. They're called resin identification codes, and they indicate the type of plastic that an item is made from. The Society of the Plastics Industry introduced its resin coding system in 1988 at the urging of recyclers around the country. These numbers, ranging from 1 to 7, help consumers distinguish between the various plastic containers on the market; and aid companies in sorting materials for recycling. Currently in Tulsa, recycling enthusiasts are restricted to plastic bottles with Resin Code Nos. 1 or 2 because there are no nearby facilities available to process the other types of plastics.

Resin Code No. “1”: PETE or PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate (pronounced “tariff-they-late”), a plastic resin and a form of polyester. PET is the type of plastic labeled with the #1 code on or near the bottom of bottles and containers and is commonly used to package soft drinks, water, juice, peanut butter, salad dressings and oil, cosmetics and household cleaners. So basically, it’s everywhere.

Resin Code No. “2”: High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). Like #1 resins, #2 resins play an integral role in our daily lives and make up bottles for milk, water, juice, cosmetics, shampoo, dish and laundry detergents and household cleaners.

Some communities in Oklahoma and around the U.S. have started collecting plastics 1 through 7 at the curb. These programs lead customers to believe that all the plastics they throw in the recycling bin are being recycled, but that is usually not the case. Typically, the loads are hauled to a separator who removes the valuable 1s and 2s and sells them to a recycling company. The rest of the plastics are taken to a landfill. Under another program, called “All Plastic Bottles,” communities are collecting any kind of plastic bottle at the curb, and pulling out the 1s and 2s for recycling. These newer programs have led to higher volumes of plastic 1s and 2s being collected because customers do not do the separation; they simply throw all of their plastic containers in their recycling bins.

The curbside recycling service in Tulsa is not as easy as these newer programs, but it isn’t rocket science, either. Simply remove the lid or cap, rinse the bottle out with water, and toss it in your recycling bin. The plastic bottles can be mixed with other recyclables; there is no need to sort them before you put the bin at the curb.

If you can count to 2, you’re well on your way to diverting tons of plastic waste away from our landfills. Last year alone, almost 125 tons of plastic were recycled by Tulsa Recycles customers. The plastic was melted and turned into materials used to make many new products, including fiber for polyester carpet; fabric for T-shirts, long underwear, and fiberfill for sleeping bags and winter coats.

Curbside service in Bixby, Broken Arrow, and Owasso is provided by a private hauler. In Tulsa, you can sign up for curbside recycling by calling the City of Tulsa at 596-9777 or visiting www.tulsarecycles.com. Subscribers pay only $2 a month for twice a month pick-up, with the fee added on to their water bill. It’s simple. Recycling plastic is as easy as 1, 2…

Chad Burden, Master Recycler, was in the first class of Tulsa Master Recyclers that graduated in April 2008. The Tulsa Master Recyclers Program is a sponsored by the City of Tulsa. Volunteers are trained to assist in providing information and support to recyclers in the community.

Speaking of plastic

I'm sure by now everyone has heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (www.greatgarbagepatch.org), a stew of floating garbage swimming in the Pacific Ocean between San Francisco and Hawaii. According to an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle last year, the patch, 80 percent of which is comprised of plastic, weighs 3.5 million tons and has grown substanially every decade since the 1950s. Experts assert that there cleaning the garbage out of the ocean is not an option; the only solution is to stop producing so much plastic.

The Chronicle offers these tips for reducing your plastic use:
Limit your use of plastics when possible. Plastic doesn't easily degrade and can kill sea life.
Use a reusable bag when shopping. Throwaway bags can easily blow into the ocean.
Take your trash with you when you leave the beach (or any public area).
Make sure your trash bins are securely closed. Keep all trash in closed bags.

I'd love to hear some other ideas of ways individuals and corporations can reduce their plastic consumption.

For more info on the garbage patch:



Chicks in the City

By Jan C. Baxter
Photos by Irissa Baxter
I live in Tulsa between 71st and 81st and Memorial and Mingo, one of the most built-up and traffic-sodden areas of the city, and I keep chickens. Really. No supermarket eggs for my family. No more confusion between free range, cage free, natural and organic. We will know where our eggs come from, how the hens who laid them lived and what they ate.
I got turned on to “real” eggs by buying from the Oklahoma Food Coop (oklahomafood.coop). They looked and tasted different, rather like the difference between grocery store tomatoes and the Cherokee Purples you grow in your backyard.
I figured, if I can grow Cherokee Purples, freeing us from the grocery store pap they call tomatoes, I can grow eggs. I checked the Tulsa Animal Shelter City Ordinance, which required that I keep my chickens 50 feet from any adjoining residence. Even in the 25-year-old white bread suburbs of southeast Tulsa, a spot in my backyard measured 50 feet from all neighbors. I figured I could bribe them with eggs if necessary. (They already think we’re crazy at my house.) And I’d keep only hens, not loud roosters that would disturb the peace.

Joining the Yahoo group Okie Pioneers gave me access to many “chicken enablers.” A trip through Amazon.com had me ordering books about keeping backyard flocks. Even a magazine serves up information for backyard poultry keepers. Google lead me to Backyard Chickens (backyardchickens.com), My Pet Chicken (mypetchicken.com) and other websites run by chicken addicts. This project began to look possible! Convincing my family was the final step.

And it proved much easier than I thought. By buying two-day-old chicks from a local chicken enabler and fellow addict, I won over the whole household—dogs included. Baby chicks are incredibly cute, have a lovely little peep, and are friendly and curious when handled daily. The kids love putting them on their shoulders and letting them burrow under their hair. Our English Shepherds (farm dogs to the core) immediately adopted them as pack members who deserved protection and lots of licking. Our cats learned quickly that the chicks were under the dogs’ protection. And my teenagers loved them and brought their friends over to see.

We got two Polish chickens (black and white) and named them Emily and Charlotte. (Okay, so I’m an English major. I can’t help it.) Charlotte, alas, got overheated on July Fourth and did not recover. Emily started growing spurs and crowing, but wound up happily renamed Poppy Cock and residing in a petting zoo because of her, uh, his, excessive good looks and personality. Alice Walker turned out to be Alice Cooper instead, and moved to a friend’s farm to pass on his dark brown egg-laying genes to my friend’s flock. (Alice is a Maran—they lay the darkest brown eggs of all.) Nefertiti (an Easter Egger who will lay blue-green eggs) and Maya Angelou (a black sex-linked chick) are chugging along toward hen hood.
But I wanted more than two hens. And I could no longer bear the heartbreak of chicks turning into roosters. You can buy chicks two ways: sexed or unsexed, called a “straight run.” Apparently, the ability to sex chicks at a day old is a highly sought-after skill. Good chicken sexers can make as much as a thousand dollars a day. (I think I’m in the wrong business.) I turned to an online source where I could order fewer than the usual 25 straight run chicks by mail. Amazingly, one of the last things chicks do before they hatch is eat the egg yolk. Thus, they are well nourished and hydrated and can be shipped via mail very safely for the next day or two. Most hatcheries sell 25 chicks at a time, but My Pet Chicken caters to us backyard flock keepers. They will let you order as few as three, and sex them for you.

Picking up a peeping box at the post office on the hottest day of the year was a hoot. We had to open the box at the post office so everybody could see the chicks. I stuck in my finger, and the New Hampshire Red I ordered pecked me. She was immediately named Red Sonya. The Blue Andalusian, who bonded to my daughter and started peeping madly whenever she put her down, was dubbed Andi. Havoc (Silver Wyandotte) was named by my son, leaving the crazy-haired Buff Polish to carry the name of Roxanne (always sung in the manner of the Police song).
So our littlest chicks are growing in their dog-crate brooder, and the older ladies strut around all day in the back yard eating mosquitoes (I hope) and weed seeds. Join us, as we attempt this journey toward egg-sustainability.

And chew on these facts from Mother Earth News (October/November 2007):
Most of the eggs currently sold in supermarkets are nutritionally inferior to eggs produced by hens raised on pasture. That’s the conclusion we have reached following completion of the 2007 Mother Earth News egg testing project. Our testing has found that, compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:
• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E


National Solar Tour

ASES National Solar Tour
October 4th, 10:00am
Sun City Solar Energy, 6709 E. 81st Street, Suite G
Free; http://www.nationalsolartour.org/

Tulsa (Sept. 18) – The public can view Solar Energy Installations in Tulsa during the 2008 National Solar Tour. For home and business owners interested in solar technology, the 13th Annual National Solar Tour on October 4th will provide the opportunity to see commercial and residential solar energy projects across several Tulsa area counties.

The nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) is bringing together more than 5,000 homeowners, public agencies and business people across the U.S. to introduce tens of thousands of citizens to money-saving solar technologies, the largest grassroots solar event in the history of the U.S. The tour includes a brief educational seminar and guided tours.

The ASES National Solar Tour features real-life examples of how folks are using the latest solar technologies to reduce monthly energy bills, reduce harmful carbon emissions, enjoy tax credits, and increase property value.


Go for a Ride

Monday, September 22 @ 6:00 pm.
Hardesty Library

The film highlights the importance of protecting Oklahoma's rail infrastructure and putting it to better use. The film explores the extent to which Oklahoma City 's transportation future is threatened by plans of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) to rip out the 12-track Oklahoma City Union Station railyard as part of the I-40 Crosstown relocation. It details ODOT rerouting plans and compares efforts to fight the destruction of the railyard. It also shows how the facility could be reused as an Oklahoma multi-modal transportation hub. The filmmaker, Don Grissom, was a graduate of Norman High School. He worked in film and video production in Washington, D.C. for 28 years and returned to Norman in 2007 to continue his documentary career. Don completed this film before his recent untimely death. With a discussion to follow in the gallery.

Sponsored by Tulsa Truth http://www.tulsatruth.org/


Save the Date

Thursday, October 9
6pm to 8pm
Bartlesville Public Library, Meeting Room A

What is the future of sustainable design? Architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Sam Mockbee founded design/build schools based on their personal philosophies on architecture that were tied to what we now see as environmentally-sound principles. But what are those schools doing now? Price Tower Arts Center presents a panel discussion including representatives from architecture programs across the U.S. as they discuss new approaches toward sustainable design topics. Panelists include Victory Side, Dean of Taliesin: The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture; Rusty Smith, Rural Studio Coordinator at Auburn University; and Macraw Rood, Chairman of the Board of Yestermorrow Design/Build School. This discussion will be of interest to students looking toward studies in "green" design, architecture firms looking to hire those trained in environmentally friendly design, as well as anyone interested in the future of our built environment.

Tickets for this event will be available from Price Tower Arts Center. For more information, call Price Tower Arts Center at 918-336-4949.


10 Ways to Recycle a Book

By Judy Roberts

Don’t let your treasured volumes waste away sitting unread on a dusty, old shelf. How sad for a great story to be packed away in a box, stashed away in an attic or a dark basement, never to be enjoyed again. Most of us have a few books that we no longer read, have outgrown or don’t plan to read.

The only thing worse than an unloved book in your house, is a good book in the trash. Many, many used books in good condition can be saved from our landfills and given to people who will read and love them.

Here are ten ways to recycle an old book:

1. You can gift a stack to your local library. They’ll pick out the ones they need and the rest they’ll sell at their annual book sale, and you’ll get a tax deduction.

2. You can gift a stack to your local school. School libraries are always in need of books. Books for really young children can be gifted to a nearby daycare.

3. You can give them to your local thrift shop. They’ll resell them.

4. You can take them to a book resale or secondhand store. Some will take vintage books on consignment, and some will give you a credit towards a future purchase. You can even donate your credit to your local school or other group.

5. You can conveniently “leave” them at coffee shops and bus stops. There’s a whole network set up to do that. One is called bookcrossing.com. At bookcrossing.com, you register a book you want to give away, place a sticker on it indicating that you’ve set the book free, and then leave it in a public place such as a coffee shop, bus station or waiting room.

6. There’s an online book sharing program called bookmooch.com. It’s free to register, and then you can give away or exchange your old books for new ones you want to read.

7. There are crafts created with old books. You can make a book-safe to store valuables.

8. You can use a book to prop up a too short table leg

9. Use them as a decorative feature under a lamp.

10. Drop them off at a nursing home, hospital, homeless shelter, or adult literacy program. They’ll be greatly appreciated there.

Mark Twain once said “The main who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” All the more reason to share your good books with someone today.


Back in Green

I dropped the ball on this while scrambling furiously to publish UTW's Guide to Tulsa. My apologies. I'm ready to get back on track. I have one post ready to publish, and I'm hoping that those who committed to writing here will start sending their posts. Otherwise, this is just going to be about how I feel about sustainability issues in Tulsa, and I have a feeling everyone will get bored with that fairly quickly.

I do have two things to note, though. This Thursday, at SpiritBank, is a forum for citizens and city leaders (green and otherwise) to communicate about if and how to make Tulsa a Green City. Pertinent information:

Thursday, September 18th (9-18-08)
SpiritBank Community Room, 1800 S. Baltimore

5:30-7:30 pm
Lights snacks by Cherry Street Coffee House
Parking on 18th street just north of the bank

Interested in Tulsa becoming the next Green City? Should Tulsa’s next comprehensive plan to be sustainable? Let’s Green the (918) together! Mayor Kathy Taylor’s Green Team and Sustainable Tulsa invite you to Greening the (918). Visit with green leaders and concerned citizens as we discuss the sustainability issues ahead of Tulsa and how we can integrate these hopes and plans in the City of Tulsa’s comprehensive plan, PLANiTULSA.

The Issues:
Sustainable Economic Prosperity
Diverse and Healthy Communities
Alternative Transportation
Local Foods
Water Quality
Solid Waste Management
Reduce Poverty
Green Building
Green Energy
Green Space
Ecological Footprint-City Wide
Transparent Communication on Green Issues
For more information visit
www.cityoftulsa.org or www.sustainabletulsa.org.

Also, I received an e-mail from someone from the Tulsa Health Dept. telling me about a series of forums over the next six weeks (one in each Tulsa County zip code) to discuss with citizens ways and opportunities to improve our health. Per Alicia Plati, THD Program Development Coordinator:

Pathways to Health is an opportunity for residents of Tulsa County to participate in the identification of health priorities and the development of strategies toreverse the health status and eliminate health disparities across Tulsa County. We are holding health forums in every zip code over the next six weeks to provide community members the health status of their region in Tulsa County. The goal of the health forums is to identify community activists who are committed to pushing this effort forward and helping to engage the rest of their regional communities. The hardest part of this process is going to be getting the word out to the community that the opportunity to direct healthcare services is in their hands.

The Pathways to Health Partnership that is being formed is comprised of nearly 60 agencies and elected officials. This partnership has agreed to listen to the community priorities and adjust programming and resources to reflect those priorities. If you would like more information regarding this initiative please check out our website: www.tulsa-health.org/community-health/pathways-to-health. Pathways to Health has been in conversation with PLANiTULSA staff from the onset, and we expect that Pathways to Health will offer an important health perspective to the effects our built environment can have on the ability of Tulsans to live healthy and productive lives.

The remaining dates and locations for the forums are:
Thurs., Sept. 18 at Collinsville Library, 7pm
Thurs., Sept. 18 at Kendall-Whittier Library, 7pm
Mon., Sept. 22 at Reed Community Center, 7pm
Tues., Sept. 23 at Owasso Community Center, 7pm
Owen Park Community Center, Wednesday September 24th, 6pm
Fri., Sept. 26 at the Tulsa Health Department, Expo Square, 1pm

Mon., Sept. 29 at Charles Page Library, 7pm

I can't vouch for the forums, but it'll be interesting to hear what is said and see if they're able to bring about any real, productive solutions. I would love to hear from people who attend the forums (the Greening 918 and healthcare forums). What are your opinions of what you've heard? Do you think the people involved in the forums will be proactive enough to encourage and stimulate change and productivity?