Monday, July 22, 2013

Stewards of the Earth—Carolyn R. Wilker

At Huron Natural Park
In our local newspaper, the Waterloo Region Record, on Wednesday, July 17, a columnist’s headline read, “We’re not big green bin users.” Jeff Outhit reported that our twin cities of Kitchener-Waterloo were #10 on a list of fourteen cities that run the green bin composting program. I wondered why that rate should be so low.
Our daughter, Laura, lived in Guelph, Ontario, after graduating from college. In Guelph, it’s compulsory to sort the disposables. I’d seen this program going in Nova Scotia when we went to visit our friends. I couldn’t remember which item went in which bin, but our friends had it figured out.
When we first got the blue bin—for recycling glass, metal and paper—we had been putting out a bag or more of garbage each week. When we added the blue bin, our garbage quantity went down consistently to one bag or a bit less.
 We already had a backyard composter and there were limitations on what we could put in it. With the green bin program, we could compost even more waste, things like crackers, bread, meat scraps and chicken bones. With all the other recycling options, our garbage output each week was now only part of a bag.
In a conversation on facebook this week friends said that people didn’t want to deal with the mess of a green bin and that few neighbours put out their green bins on garbage day. Another said she feared flies and other crawly creatures that might make the compost their home, but that has never been a problem for us.
Family members who live in an apartment building say they are not allowed to compost where they live, but they want to be responsible citizens. So we acquired an extra bin and once a week they drop off a bag of compostable material and we put it out at our curb. I learned this week that it’s not necessarily the apartment building owners or even their caretakers who don’t buy into the program, as I thought, but that the region must still develop a plan to include apartment buildings.
If you put compostable materials in the garbage, it can smell there too. Why not use the bin and contain the smelly stuff there, then put it out on garbage day? The bonus is a cleaner world and compost for gardeners to haul away for their gardens and flowerbeds.
This discussion led me to write a letter to the editor of our local newspaper, the Waterloo Region Record. I received a call the same day to verify that I had written the letter, and upon confirmation, learned that my letter would be published.
My letter, published on Saturday, July 20th, is less finger pointing than it is encouragement to give the green bin a try, like developing any new habit.
Children are being taught in school about recycling. There are signs in public places and on the bins on how to handle the varying types of waste. If the children can learn it, surely adults can take it seriously too. 
Garbage and landfill sites are filling up. What then? Truck our garbage somewhere else? Then we pay for fuel to haul it there. It might be that the region can still make the operations more environmentally efficient, such as doing all the recycling nearby.
 By myself, I can do only so much, but together, we can make a difference. We are the stewards of creation, given the responsibility to take care of this planet we call earth. If we work on taking better care of it, perhaps we can leave it in better shape for our next generations.Until then, be good earthkeepers.


Peter Black said...

Carolyn, congratulations on getting your letter and message published in the Record! Good work too, in engaging your family in your practical environmental efforts!
A small rural community I lived in for quite some years lost the fight against having a landfill in the township enlarged 10 times it's original footprint. The majority of the population didn't want it and Council opposed the expansion for 15 years, but the province's Ministry of the Environment finally permitted the company to go ahead with the expansion.

And now 750,000 tons of garbage can be trucked in each year for the next 25 or so years from elsewhere in the province. (It's believed it will be one of the largest landfills in Canada.)

There may be business arguments against it, but wouldn't smaller dumps sited closer to the origin of the waste (read "closer to the consumers' own back yards") be fairer, and perhaps more environmentally sound? That would also reduce the massive diesel consumption and resulting fumes and particulates going into the atmosphere over those hundreds of kilometres of cartage.

Thanks for sparking the occasion for me to vent a little. Keep up the good work.:)

Carolyn R. Wilker said...

You're right, Peter. It doesn't seem very energy efficient to truck garbage elsewhere. I think that's where communities such as Guelph, Ontaio are seeking to reduce the waste, not just divert it somewhere else. They still haven't included apartment dwellers in their compost program but apparently the next budget will consider that next step, according to a networking source.

Thanks for your comment. Rants are okay, and just maybe that could be a topic for you to write on as well.

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