Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity.- Ralph Bicknese

Mottainai: Waste Nothing, Respect All

Have you ever thought about how much waste you generate on a daily basis? If you’ve spent any time in Japan, you may be more aware of your waste habits. Last December, my sister visited the country and got first-hand experience of this. She was struck by Japan’s lack of public trashcans and surprisingly litter-free streets. Some municipalities have over 44 different garbage categories and people often carry around their trash all day to dispose of it properly at home.

Waste is a serious matter in Japan, guided for centuries by the cultural concept of Mottainai

having respect for the resources around you, to not waste these resources and to use them with a sense of gratitude.”

This way of life and disposal makes sense for an island country with limited landfill space. It’s encouraging that affluent, consumer-based countries have created such dynamic cultural waste norms, especially in light of America’s throw-away habits. For food waste alone, it’s estimated that the U.S. tosses 30-40% of its food produced annually, costing about $165 billion and producing almost 34 million tons of waste. Considering that every ton of food wasted creates 3.8 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the scope of this issue is staggering. What’s more, globally about $1 trillion or one-third of all food produced goes uneaten.

Due to these realities, we conduct an audit to track SPU’s waste contribution. This year with the implementation of a campus-wide compost program, it was a lengthier collection and recording process. Over the course of May, we analyzed about 820 cubic yards or 310,535 lbs. of waste: 26% garbage, 61% recyclables, and 13% compostables.  Continue reading

The Coffee Obsession (Part One)-

It’s no surprise that Seattle is known for coffee. As home of the original Starbucks and a geographic location that can often have dreary weather it makes sense that most Seattleites carry around a hot caffeinated beverage, especially during the winter months. How much damage has this obsession or need done to the environment though?

I was pleasantly surprised to realize though that the paper cups our liquid energy comes in are recyclable, and so are their cozy little jackets that prevent burned hands and their lids. This is not a recent development for Seattle, yet it seems that people often don’t know that empty clean paper cups are recyclable. All it takes is a rinse to keep that cappuccino cup from the garbage. These cups are recyclable in Seattle unlike other places, and as a transplant like many other Seattleites, I didn’t realize it before.

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Tech Tragedies

Have you ever wondered what happens to your old cell phone when you upgrade to a new one, and the store says they can recycle it for you? I definitely have, especially since my two best friends and I have all upgraded to smart phones within the past six months from our old flip and slider phones.  I did some searching to better understand how the complex materials that make up electronics are separated and sorted.Pile of Waste - Electronic Waste Documentation (China: 2007) Continue reading

Surprising Uses for Eggshells

eggsRecently I discussed items to keep away from the trash bin. Add to that list: Eggshells. Why? Because if you get resourceful, you can put those shells to a surprising amount of alternative use. To see eight ways you can re-purpose the remains of your eggly feasting, read on. Continue reading

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Five Items to Keep Out of the Trash

parks trashEven if you’re a recycling and composting expert, you may find yourself wondering about the trashability or recyclability of certain rather ambiguous items. If they’re any of the following five things, the answer is to keep them away from the garbage pile. Continue reading

Greening Your Kitchen

kitchOn average, the kitchen is the most wasteful room in the home. Besides the amount of food that gets discarded, there’s the packaging that accompanies food as well as the paper we throw out as a result of paper towels and napkins. Luckily making the transition to a greener kitchen is a relatively painless one that can take form in a few simple steps. Keep reading if you’re looking to move in such a direction. Continue reading

Learning From Other Countries

earth-158805_640When it comes to Sustainable practices, there is a lot to feel encouraged about here in the U.S. With the city of Seattle being a prime setting, examples of both individuals and institutions that are ramping up their green efforts can be seen all over the place. While negligence is decreasing more and more, the country as a whole is still lagging behind in terms of recycling, with only 32.5% of the total waste in the U.S. being recycled. Several countries around the world have put unique recycling initiatives into motion, and the U.S. could stand to consider the examples below.

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Free Film Screening of “Trashed”

trashed_a_lSeattle Center’s McCaw Hall is putting on a free screening of the documentary “Trashed,” in which actor Jeremy Irons explores (literally) the worldwide conundrum of waste pollution and how it’s affecting some of our most beautiful landscapes. The movie will show on Tuesday, October 29, from 7-8:30 p.m. Continue reading

Electronic Recycling

f3e24db2_resizedforwebWhat’s one of the least-recycled objects in the average household? The Seattle Times states that only 10% of cellphones get recycled nationwide.

It’s understandable; some people keep old phones to use in case their current one gets lost or broken (which is a GREAT idea, speaking as the girl who left her only phone on the metro last month…).

But if old phones are piling up in your desk drawer, it might be time for a visit to a nearby electronics recycling center. Continue reading

SPU Composting Program

Exciting things are happening on campus! This year SPU has incorporated a pilot composting program for students living in campus apartments. At the beginning of this quarter, each apartment was granted a their own personal compost bin along with a sample of compostable bags. The individual bins can be emptied into a larger food/yard waste collection bin next to each building’s exterior garbage and recycle bins. This composting program is a significant step in SPU’s continual commitment to waste reduction and supporting a sustainable campus. Last year’s waste audit was a reflection of the amount of materials that campus apartment residents will be able to divert from the landfill by properly recycling and composting.

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