Weds Nov 13, 2013

Let's have a party!

Let’s have a party!

(#6) Red Solo Cups are not really recyclable, which is so sad, because the Red Solo Cup song is really fun.  Here’s the “bad boy” version of the song, in case you’ve not seen it:

Now, what we need to do is create a good green cup, and make up a great new song to go with it!

At 22 million views, “red cup living” is culturally drubbing those of us drinking from the “good green cup” — it’s just so much more fun to be naughty than nice! At some point, however, we’ll going to have to learn to be nice to ourselves and to our mother earth.

Yet, I digress from the central topic of green and sustainable field trips in the Saint Louis area.

Here’s a terrific field trip for teens, scouts, and greenies of all ages (except for little kids) — a trip to the recycling facility at Resource Management Company in Earth City.  Ask for Gary Gilliam. 314-770-9898, or send him an email at Gary_g@rmcrecycle.com.  Gary’s happy to offer field trips at any time, as field trips are good for growing the recycle business.  And here’s the really good news, not only is this field trip quite interesting, it’s absolutely free!

Many people are surprised to learn that Saint Louis has one of the most progressive recycling ecosystems in the country, and Gary is one of the “solutionaries” who helped figure out how to do it.

"All Together Now"

“All Together Now”

The short answer to recycling success is the rise of the “single stream” process, which means “throw it all in and let the recycling facility sort it out later”.

Gone are the days of sorting bottles from cans into little blue bins. Volume makes the economics work, and switching from little blue sorting bins to big green carts on wheels brings enough volume into the recycling game to make recycling sustainably profitable.

Less than 30% of Saint Louis households currently recycle their trash, so every field trip to a recycling center builds “customers,” thus bringing all of us, earth’s creatures included, into ever greater stability, success, and sustainability.

The original cave man

The original cave man

Our waste stream is valuable; and Gary is emphatic about it:  “There’s Treasure in Your Trash”!  While it’s important to understand the economics of sustainability from a macro-view, most people on this field trip will want to know exactly what can be recycled, and what cannot.

Here’s a link to the Saint Louis County Health Dept ‘Recycling Becomes Me’ website.  Download it, bookmark it, Facebook it, or pin it so you can find it when you want it, as these reference guides can be surprisingly hard to find.

2013-11-13 Recycling Becomes Me graphic.pdf

http://www.recyclingbecomesme.com/

When it doubt, throw it in.  That’s the beauty of single stream!2013-11-13 Whats in your Trash Infographic

Back to the economics for a minute:  aluminum cans are “infinitely recyclable”, and represent lots of ‘embodied energy’, thus they are the most valuable of recyclables. Metals like aluminum foil and tin cans are the “treasure in the trash”.  Because aluminum cans are made from bauxite, a finite mineral  strip-mined from the earth’s crust, it’s especially important to recycle them always.

After metals, plastic is the second most valuable material for recyclers, especially #1 (PET) and #2 (HDPE), which are recycled into furniture, playgrounds, puff clothing, and carpeting.

Now here’s where things get complicated, because I can’t help throwing children’s health into the economics mix. I think it’s so interesting that the most valuable recyclables, plastic #1 and #2, are also the safest for food. We don’t know much about plastic in our food supply, but what we do know isn’t good.  Of course true blue greenies reading this post will have been drinking from glass or metal containers for years.

Avoid plastic #3 PVC (sometimes called the ‘poison plastic’) as well as #6 and #7.

Back to that naughty red solo cup, which is polystyrene #6, a kind of styrofoam. Styrofoam has been listed by the EPA as a possible human carcinogen, and when it melts into your soup or coffee, you can taste the plastic.

Eco-Mama says: “Don’t drink plastic, kids”!  Try to avoid Styrofoam as graciously as possible so you don’t turn into one of those weird people with all sorts of annoying food rules that are impossible to follow.  Beyond health considerations, styrofoam is not recyclable.

The red solo cups, and other styrofoam pieces, are optically sorted out of the single stream process, and disposed of as true waste. Technically, red solo cups ARE recyclable, but you’ll have to organize your own field trip to find out for sure.

Do NOT throw grocery bags into the single stream receptacle (although the recycle facility will indeed sort them out later.)  Return your grocery bags to your friendly grocery store, or bring your own shopping bags to market, to market, to buy a fat pig.

Here’s a photo of a superior collapsible shopping “bag” you can buy at Schnucks for about $5.  As a bonus, the baggers in the check out line find the boxes much easier to load than bags, and if you keep to your grocery list and within the limits of the box, you will significantly reduce impulse purchases.

A box for your bagger

A box for your bagger

And to help you remember that plastic grocery bags have nowhere to go, here’s an amusing “mockumentary” about what happens to the “majestic plastic bag” as it searches for a home during it’s long lonely life:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLgh9h2ePYw

If you sneak a peak inside your own recycling bin, it comes as no surprise that paper and cardboard comprise the bulk of recycling waste stream by volume;  paper gets bundled and shipped to Iowa or deadheaded to China.  Bring on that dream of a truly paperless society!  Don’t make me upload pictures of clear-cut old growth forests turned into direct mail envelopes.

Enough about what to recycle, here are your tips for hosting a recycle field trip: A group of about 20 – 30 people seems to be the right number for this field trip; a smaller group works just as well.   It might be nice to team up with another organization to maximize numbers and enjoy the synergistic effects.

The first half of the field trip is a lecture by Gary in a nice conference room with video cameras, and the second half is a tour of the plant. Plan on spending about two hours, plus travel time to Earth City. The location is well marked on GPS maps: Resource Management Company; 4375 Ryder Trail North, Earth City, MO; 63045

Again, here’s the contact information for Gary Gilliam: 314-770-9898, Gary_g@rmcrecycle.com.

It’s fun to watch the bulldozers and dumpers come in; count the dumpers and turn it into a math exercise on volume.  Count the number of workmen pulling pieces from the line and make some calculations; labor is a big expense for recycling companies.  On the other hand, it also represents job creation in the new “green economy.”

Study each machine to fully understand its job, and challenge yourself to make a map of the assembly line after you come out.  Notice that the plastic grocery bags that have no place to go.  Look for red solo cups. Ponder the magnitude of our waste stream and wonder where it all comes from and where it all goes. Ask about the odd things that find their way into the recycle center. (hint: lots of eyeglasses and TV remote controls, which get recycled along with the newspapers!)

And for those of you who can’t make it out for a real field trip, here’s a nice arm-chair “film” trip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vf-cOs9JZc4

Again, there is something life-changing about real life experiences as opposed to watching video, so go in person if you can. If you go, be aware there is broken glass everywhere, and that a fine plastic dust fills the air; if you have asthma or are sensitive to respiratory issues, this may not be a good trip for you.  Bring sturdy shoes and maybe a N95 face mask.  The footing is fine, you will be walking on stairs with grates, sometimes covered with broken glass; but this is definitely not a place for high heels or fancy shoes.

I personally would not bring little kids on this field trip, due to the broken glass and air quality conditions.  This is a good tour to do when it’s too hot, or too cold, for comfortable outdoor adventures.  The work area is exposed; it was a cold day when we visited, and we were cold.  If you visit in summer, you will be hot.

I urge you to take a moment after the field trip to reflect on what you’ve learned, integrate it into your learning, and share that with those around you through blogging, Facebook, Instagram, graphic visuals, funny videos, etc.   Let me know if you go, by posting what I forgot to mention in the comment section below, thus helping future adventurers.

I leave you with this green coffee cup video by those smart and funny med students at Washington University:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj-J9aryVTA

 

Postnote 2014:  Want to supercharge your recycling efforts?  Look what IDEO is doing:

http://www.openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/research

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Life Must be Lived as Play

The blooming of the green world is intimately tied to the economy, and as the economy recovers new playgrounds are springing up like dandylions!

Here’s a Green Spiral Map that shows the many great playgrounds around Saint Louis; send an email to GreenSpiralTours@gmail.com if you’d like an email copy of the map which will let you to zoom in for a better look.

Especially if you are involved with a school, it’s extremely important to see  “best practices” before designing your new playground; I recommend taking a large group of PTO families and lots of “stunt kids” out on a bonding bus ride together to test out different playgrounds in real life, long before you begin the playground planning process.

Fortunately we have lots of creative and unique playgrounds in Saint Louis worth visiting, and here I touch on two we have visited through Green Spiral field trips.  On the short list of playgrounds, I would include  “The Awakening” in Chesterfield, the Walter Ambrose Family Center in Webster, Keysor Elementary in Kirkwood, New City School in the CWE, Maplewood-Richmond Heights Public Schools and Citygarden.

Not only do children build their muscles on the playground, they also build their imaginations, and we definitely need lots of kids with powerful imaginations to help solve some of the world’s most vexing problems.  We are moving in the right direction when we build thoughtful playscapes for children which include water, nature, sound, community and lots of positive challenge. The criteria for the Green Spiral Great Playground Map includes “first of kind” playgrounds, play for all abilities including wheelchairs, sense of place and uniqueness.

Pink Ducky Race at Citygarden

2012-09-08 pink ducky raceOur greatest children’s playground is unquestionably the Citygarden, which was not necessarily created to be a children’s playground per se.

Water is life, and an irresistible magnet for children.  To Citygarden’s credit, when all those children spontaneously showed up and jumped into the pools, instead of forbidding the children to touch the water, they hired lifeguards, and let the children play.

In addition, children are allowed to climb on the art sculptures, which is not only unusual, but positively enlightened.   We must offer our best art to our children, as children have big souls to feed, and they feed their souls with their hands, by touching things.

There are numerous areas in the Citygarden specifically designed for younger children, such as the Pinocchio sculpture, the white rabbits, and the hidden musical jump board.  Watch while older kids completely ignore the outdoor video screen, preferring instead to hop in the pop-up spray fountains, race about the garden, climb over the sculptures or dip in the pools, proving without question that water is more powerful than screen-time.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, writes of the many ways we are systematically separating children from nature, and you may be noticing this disturbing trend that increasingly forbids children to touch, crawl, climb, get dirty or certainly destroy things.  Last Child in the Woods started the recent child/nature movement, and is required reading for anyone serious about creating playground habitats for children.

Fortunately for us, through good design and good policy, Citygarden is a “do touch” children’s garden that can withstand the trample of thousands of tiny feet and hands, pointing the way forward in creating playgrounds that include wheels, native plants, creatures, children, dogs, water and a vibrant community life full of all kinds of people.

2009-09 City Garden Bunnies

The Pink Ducky Race during the Pink Flamingo Party every year is a particularly nice time to visit the Citygarden, as it’s thrilling for children to watch their special pink ducky float down the length of the pool, and hopefully win the race.  The Pink Ducky Race is currently scheduled for September 7th, 2013.

There is plenty of available street parking on 10th street near the white rabbits, also conveniently located near the porta-potties.  Bring hand sanitizer, and your dog.

2013-04-12 awakening instagram foot 609kThe Awakening

In Spring 2013 Green Spiral hosted a field trip to explore  “The Awakening” sculpture by J. Seward Johnson in Chesterfield.

Sadly, it was a miserably long cold wet spring and our beautiful April outdoor lunch turned out to be dank, dark, cold and threatening. No one came out to play, and I don’t blame them.

“The Awakening” is a gigantic sculpture of a man erupting from the ground; it is truly remarkable when you happen upon it, and photos can’t quite capture the surprise and magnificence that rise up inside you upon approaching it.  I recommend you experience it for yourself.

What is most remarkable and inspiring about “The Awakening” is Chesterfield’s vision of putting “Art at the Heart of the Parks” and the parks in the center of community.  This is a “do touch” climbable sculpture that figuratively and physically puts children, community and art at the heart of the town center.

There is pent-up demand for destinations that offer nature play, and Citygarden provides economic proof that groups like Green Spiral and others will venture forth to find these destinations, spreading eco-tourism dollars along the way.  The Chesterfield Mall is conveniently located just east of the playground and sculpture.

“The Awakening” sculpture can be hard to find, as it doesn’t yet show up on Google Earth, so I’ve marked it on this Google Green Spiral Playground Map.

Let me know if you can see it:

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=ml

Here’s a link to the Chesterfield Arts page to learn more about the sculpture:

http://www.chesterfieldarts.org/awakening.html

2013-04-12 awakening from afar

These two playgrounds, The Citygarden and The Awakening, are unconventional children’s playgrounds by traditional standards, but they serve as anchor points of best practice, as readily evidenced upon your first visit to either one of these remarkable destinations.

The Green Spiral Map at the top of the page shows a number of other great Saint Louis playgrounds, in existence or under construction, and include Turtle Park, Tilles Park, the Forest Park Inclusion Playground, Zachary’s Playground at Lake Saint Louis, The City Museum, the Tree Top Adventure Playground and Sensory Garden in Shaw Park, New City School, the cutting edge playground at Maplewood Richmond Heights School, the all-abilities, all inclusive school playground at Keysor Elementary School, and the new Walter Ambrose Family Center preschool playground in Webster Groves that spills beautifully down a steep hill.  Many more are being added to the map all the time.

I encourage you to gather a playgroup and check these playgrounds off your list, use it as a curriculum map for the study of outdoor play; and if you are building a new playground, I’d love to see it on the Green Spiral Map one day!

Invite me to talk to your school PTO for free, by sending a note to greenspiraltours@gmail.com, and I’ll come in exchange for selling the maps at $2 each to subsidize the trip.

During Year Two of Green Spiral Tours, families experienced many magical moments, and learned directly from local entrepreneurs, farmers, educators and leaders in the sustainable field, at a wide variety of locations throughout the Saint Louis area.

Experience really is the best teacher!  Plus, bringing friends along is more fun and helps create a vibrant learning community.  At Green Spiral, we especially welcome adventurous families who like to write and photograph, will reflect and debrief online, and will share the learning via social media.

Green Spiral hosted 10 field trips in Year Two, (up two field trips from Year One).

Field Trips Include: 

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Pie Making at BEGIN New Venture Saint Patricks Center

We learned how to make pies with “Pie Oh My!” entrepreneur Jane Callahan, at the BEGIN New Venture “kitchen incubator,” a cutting edge program for local food entrepreneurs, located downtown at the Saint Patrick Center. 

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IMG_2358Bocce Ball, Herbaria and Ravioli Tour of “The Hill”

One mother’s testimonyI’ve lived on The Hill for seven

years and didn’t know all this stuff was here!”

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mail“Living Building” Tour at Tyson Learning Center 

Saint Louis is home to one of the very greenest buildings

in the world, a “Living Building” built by Washington University as a lab

and learning center. We got to see it on a rainy day. Closed to the public.  

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2011-05-20 Loden BradstreetStrawberry Picking at Thies Farms at the Creve Coeur location

Still the best place for u-pick strawberries within easy reach.        

Don’t let your kids grow up without strawberry picking at least once!

The best strategy for organic strawberry picking in Saint Louis is still DIY.

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mailRue Lafayette Cafe and Lafayette Park Pond and Playground

Saint Louis has a rich french heritage and it’s important to know at least a little something about it. Renting sailboats for the Lafayette Park pond and eating chocolate croissants is a nice way to start! This was our third year to Rue Lafayette Cafe on Lafayette Park.

 

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2011-06-09 Earthdance (4)Farm Tour at EarthDance FARMS

One of the primary movers in the Saint Louis food movement, 

EarthDance FARMS hosts regular tours on Sunday afternoons in the summer. 

If you want to explore to the front edge of the food movement, it’s a must visit!

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A river runs through it...Arrowhead Hunting 

The historic drought made this year an excellent year for arrowhead 

hunting, and it’s fascinating to hunt for artifacts from past civilizations,

which may be hiding surprisingly near you!

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Crawdad Fishing 

Missouri is home to the biggest spring fed rivers in the world,

and this makes us a biodiversity hotspot for “crawdads” (crayfish). 

We went to catch a few with very young children in Forest Park.

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Schlafly GardenworksSustainable Sensory Tour of Maplewood

The City of Maplewood is a hotspot for sustainability, 

anchored by the Gardenworks at Schlafly Bottleworks. 

We went to visit the gardens, along with sustainable

chocolate maker Kakao, and two healing arts centers:

The Salt Room and Cheryl’s Herbs. 

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mailMetro Journey to the Whispering Wall at Union Station

Union Station is again in transition, and so the annual

Metro Journey to the Whispering Wall was cancelled this year.

We are holding a bright candle for Union Station and know

that this rich cultural landmark will continue to be part of Saint Louis’ living legacy,

well into the future.