Happy Earth Day! 2022

“Gratitude is most powerful as a response to the Earth because it provides an opening to reciprocity, to the act of giving back. Reciprocity–returning the gift–is not just good manners; it is how the biophysical world works… Let us live in a way that the Earth will be grateful for us.” – Robin Wall Kimmerer

Today marks the 52th Earth Day. Since the first Earth Day, people have brought attention to environmental problems by picking up trash and marching in support of the Earth. We can still pick up trash that we find on the side of the road and pay special attention to our environment today, but we can also have a much greater positive impact on the planet by our every day actions.

Heading into the spring, summer, and fall seasons of abundance on this Earth Day in 2022, we challenge you to consider: how will you celebrate and give back to our planet this year?

Below are just a few examples of things we can do to celebrate and give back to the planet that provides our food and resources. Spread the word! Even if we all just do one thing, the more people who take a step, the healthier our planet will be and the more it will be able to provide for us and our descendants. 

1. Reduce food waste.

Approximately 30-40% of food in the US is wasted. If it ends up in a landfill, it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. But disposal isn’t the only problem with food waste or even the biggest — when the food isn’t eaten, all of the resources that went into making it — the inputs like fertilizers and water, the micronutrients that were in the soil, the labor, the transportation to the store or restaurant or our plates — are wasted too. 

The best way to help the food waste problem is to prevent food waste in our home kitchens. We can be more intentional about our grocery shopping (planning meals and making lists ahead of time), store our food properly, organize our fridges for optimal food storage, share excess food with friends and neighbors, donate food from our pantries, use substitute ingredients if it’s just for one recipe, and using up our leftovers.

If we do end up with extra food (and we’ll always have things like egg shells, banana peels, onion skins), keeping these items out of the landfill can make a huge impact on the planet. Have chickens, or maybe your neighbors do? They might want your scraps. When we compost, we help return some of the nutrients that went into making the food in the first place, which helps offset some of the loss associated with the food not being eaten by a person or an animal. If you don’t want to compost in your backyard, bring us your food scraps. We’ll turn them into beautiful compost to help return nutrients to the Earth and grow more food for tomorrow.

2. Before you buy new clothes, ask yourself how often you’ll wear it and if you really need it.

The fashion industry is responsible for many environmental problems, from microplastics to pesticide use to massive soil and groundwater pollution to contributing 8-10% of global carbon emissions (more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined), and on top of that so much of what is produced just ends up being thrown away even before it’s sold, or after only a few uses.

If you’re shopping, consider buying from a thrift store or for vintage items. Opt out of the cycle of demand for producers to keep overproducing each season.

If you have old clothes or towels you want to get rid of, check out our **new** and **expanded** guidelines for what textiles we accept at our Johnson and Stowe locations. We partner with the organization Helpsy, which accepts CLEAN, DRY, and ODOR-FREE textiles. Helpsy will either donate them to an organization with the capacity to make sure the clothes are distributed to people in need or will ensure that they are recycled. Depending on the material, your old clothes could get made into rags or stuffing and insulation — this is so much better than ending up in a landfill or, worse, in one of the world’s “Great Fashion Garbage Patches.” Don’t go to Johnson or Stowe? Check out our site for other donation options, or cut the clothes up to use at home as cleaning rags.

3. Dispose of your hazardous waste and special recycling properly.

Keeping hazardous waste out of the landfills and making sure they don’t get mixed in with our blue bin recycling helps keeps toxins out of our air and groundwater, and it also protects waste management staff from exposure to toxins or fires that can start if reactive chemicals are mixed with other materials.

If you find yourself with an item you want to get rid of and it’s not something that you use and dispose of regularly (like an aluminum can or a plastic bag) so you aren’t 100% sure what to do with it, check our A-Z list for instructions on how to properly manage less-common items like batteries, electronics, or personal hygiene and cleaning products. 

And don’t forget to mark your calendars for our household hazardous waste collection events and check our list of acceptable items. By participating in these events, you’re helping to keep toxins out of the environment.

  • Our first one for 2022 is May 6 at Lamoille Union High School (details below).
  • We are planning future events for August 20 in Worcester and September 10 at Lamoille Union High School

4. Want more ideas? See our site for more ideas on how you can help the planet by learning more about waste management topics and reducing waste

low angle view of shoes

Partnerships and Corporate Responsibility Make Textiles Easier to Manage

black gondola shelf

Clothing (aka – Textiles)

Globally, the fashion industry produces 92 million tonnes of waste annually – costing the economy over $400 billion every year.” The waste is largely generated in the production end of the process, but the fast fashion industry creates a lot of casts-offs as well.  This article further explains the problems and solutions of the fashion industry. The Brewing Fashion Waste Issue And What Brands Are Doing About It – Waste Advantage Magazine 

Textiles are a tricky material to manage in this part of Vermont. The LRSWMD has partnered with Helpsy to keep usable clothing in the supply chain.  Our agreement currently allow us to only accept clean, dry, reusable clothing at the Stowe Transfer Station (fees apply, https://lrswmd.org/pricing-guide/).  Clothing needs to be in wearable condition, not something that you discard.  If the items you are looking to get rid of do not meet these criteria, finding ways to repurpose the items as rags or remnants for repairs or projects is the best option. 

However, manufacturers are becoming more cognizant of this problem and are creating takeback programs for some of their labels. Below are some companies and organizations to explore to see if any of them will accept your items.  Thank you so much for putting in the additional effort to minimize the amount of materials heading to Vermont’s only landfill. 

Goodwill Industries International, Inc. – Goodwill Industries International 

Give Back Box

Buy Better, Recycle More – Levi Strauss & Co : Levi Strauss & Co 

The North Face Clothes the Loop | Recycle Unwanted Clothing 

Worn Wear – Used Patagonia Clothing & Gear 

Plato’s Closet (platoscloset.com)

Annual Report Released: Fiscal Year 2021

cardboard bales

Annual Report Released

It was a productive and challenging year at the LRSWMD

The effects of the pandemic persisted into this year; we continued to struggle with staffing and consequent last-minute closures. We acknowledge that these unexpected closures caused our customers to experience inconveniences and sometimes disappointment, but we were grateful for the overwhelming amount of patience and understanding we experienced from our communities. Our priority was and will continue to be the health and safety of all staff and customers. Looking ahead, we will continue to do what we can to keep our facilities open and safe; however, we anticipate unpredictable last-minute closures. We request your continued understanding and patience when these occur. Despite the interruptions, we were able to face a challenging year head on and achieve significant progress at our facilities over the course of the fiscal year. 

With solid waste being deemed an ‘essential service,’ our field staff donned PPE and smiles and continued to be as available as possible to the public. Despite some facility closures, the numbers for the year were inspiring. A 3% decrease in the amount of waste and a 3% increase in the amount of recycling came through our facilities last fiscal year. (See year to year comparisons in the table.) This reduction helps in achieving the requirements of the State Materials Management Plan to “dispose of 25% less waste each Vermonter disposes per year by 2024.” 

Materials collected at all five drop-off facilities

To find out other facts about our progress over the last fiscal year, including: 

  • how we kept 20 tons of hazardous waste on the path for safe and responsible disposal
  • what our balanced budget looked like
  • some of the ways we promoted and shared information with our District members 
  • how many special materials we collected and
  • what happened at Lamoille Soil
  • Click here
FY21 Metrics
What We Did

Date Labeling: How It Relates to Food Waste

Food waste is a wicked problem in the United States. As we embark on the holiday season of overindulgence, it is important to consider this topic. There are so many layers of complexity, waste, confusion and frustration associated with the problem of food waste in this country. Let’s take a little bit of time to try to identify the wickedness of our food waste problem and see if there are ways each of us can contribute thoughtful solutions to mitigate the issue. 

It is a well substantiated fact that 30-40% of the food grown in this country each year is wasted.  It is waste at various steps of the supply chain but the majority of this waste is at the consumer level – that you and me. We cannot deny that 30-40% is an incredibly large amount of food! The next fact that immediately comes to mind after hearing this astronomical percentage of food waste is that in 2020, 38.3 million people lived in food-insecure households. (See the Google resource in the list of resources at the end of this post for help in locating food support.)

The piece of information that logically comes next is the number of resources lost during the growing, preparation and transportation of these wasted crops. “A quarter of the world’s freshwater is used to grow food that will never be eaten.” Here’s another one that always blows my socks off: “Around 1.4 billion hectares of agricultural land is used to produce food that is lost or wasted. That’s 28% of the world’s total agricultural area.” You should check out the Waste Food Statistics website and pick some of your own party facts to share in your social circles. 

fruits and vegetables in the carton box
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Then there is the cost of the actual disposal. When we waste food, it gets expensive! We can waste up to 25% of what we purchase. That’s like buying 4 bags of groceries and leaving one in the shopping cart on your way out. According to savethefood.com, “A 4-person family can lose at least $1500 a year on wasted food” which is a chunk of change wouldn’t you say? Collectively, the U.S. spends over $218 billion dollars a year throwing away uneaten food. 

One identified source of why American’s waste so much food in their households is because of confusion with the date labels found on many food items.  As a matter of fact, the Center for ECO Technology tells us that 20% of household food waste results from this confusion. DYK that product labeling is not regulated or required by law.  Do you know the difference between “Best Before” and “Sell By”? The companies using those labels may not know the difference or meaning either, as it turns out. It’s not to say that there isn’t value in those labels. It’s just to say that they are: confusing, interpreted very differently across varied groups of people, and contribute largely to household food waste generated in this country.  

Using your senses is a good way to clear up the confusion about labeling and can save cents! 

  • If it is smells bad (think old milk), do not eat it. 
  • If it is moldy or slimy, it likely shouldn’t be consumed either. 
  • If it has changed color (grey meat, not brown avocado), be choosey about whether or not to eat it.

Check out this article for more tips and tricks: 5 Ways to Tell If Your Food Has Gone Bad (spoonuniversity.com) 

If you have determined food unable to be eaten, good disposal choices make a difference.  If things have some life left, make something new with them; soup is the ever-forgiving catchall for veggies on their way out. If it’s not fit for human consumption, can your pets or livestock eat it?  Lastly, if it must be disposed of – compost what you can.  Lamoille Soil accepts all foods: moldy, spoiled, expired; we’re not too picky. https://lrswmd.org/lamoille-soil/ 

We don’t do all this research and data collection by ourselves.  If you find the topic of food waste exceptionally captivating, check out any of these resources to fill out the rest of this costly problem story. Please add your own resources in the comments section. 

For Your Deep Dive

Food Waste in America in 2021: Statistics & Facts | RTS 

Find Food Support – Google 

Food Waste | NRDC 

Spoiler Alert: Confusion Over Date Labeling Creates Avoidable Food Waste – Center for EcoTechnology 

Let’s Scrap Food Waste

close up photography of sleeping tabby cat

Lotsa Litter…Kitty Litter That Is

Can I compost kitty litter?

close up photography of sleeping tabby cat

I am oftentimes asked by waste-conscious folks if kitty litter can be composted.

Having never been allowed to have cats growing up (my siblings were severely allergic), I never understood the unique relationship between cats and their humans and the even more complicated relationship between cats and the waste products produced to keep them happy (i.e., the food and litter containers, the used litter, the old litter boxes, and the toys!) However, the questions I have received and the stories that have been shared with me since I have been in the outreach role with the LRSWMD have opened my eyes and piqued my interested in the feline-human partnership. I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of what I have learned over the years.

Wet food cans are recyclable.  Rinse them and put them in the blue bin – as long as they are bigger than 2” on two sides, of course. And most wet food cans are; the label can stay on, too.  If your kitty litter comes in a plastic bucket, take off the handle and that bucket can be recycled.  If you are buying litter in a box or a bag, it needs to go in the trash. If you are looking to get as much use out of that item as possible, put the old litter in the empty box or bag and dispose of them in the trash.

I have come to understand that large amounts of kitty litter are used for just one cat so I am oftentimes asked by waste-conscious folks if kitty litter can be composted. Certain brands of kitty litter lend it to more easily be composted but it requires special attention and consideration if you are going to try to compost kitty litter. “The best choices for compostable cat litters are those made from natural, living sources…. Another good option for an earth-friendly and compostable cat-litter is a commercially produced litter made from pine or cedar.” 

Ultimately, it’s up to your level of comfort on how much of your kitty waste you compost, what process you use to compost it, and how you use the finished compost.  Here are some websites with different perspectives which support keeping the used litter out of the landfill. Please review them before you decide whether or not starting your own kitty litter composting system will work for you. Note: Kitty litter and pet waste is NOT accepted in the Lamoille Soil Organics program at LRSWMD Drop-off locations.

And of course, my most favorite strategy, simply  because it generates no waste at all:

But, remember my comment to start this post – I have never lived with a cat in my life so the reality of this actually being possible is may be overly optimistic. And who wants to find your cat on the toilet during your middle of the night visit?!

Please feel welcome to share your kitty experiences in the comments.