Green report

Curbside collection of compost under way

The bins are here.

The about 900 Linden Hills residents who signed up to participate in the long-in-development compost pilot program began receiving the 65-gallon green, plastic bins on Sept. 8. Collection began Sept. 15.

According to a newsletter from Linden Hills Power and Light, the nonprofit that helped get the pilot program under way, people have marveled at the size of the bins. Put side-by-side with their regular 94-gallon garbage bins, that’s a lot of space taken up.

But the newsletter advised that compostable items actually make up a large majority of what people throw away. In other words, the compost bins should end up fuller than the trash bins. (People have the option of asking the city to downsize their regular garbage bins, a move that lowers monthly bills by $2.)

Some of the things people can now put in their compost bins are pizza boxes, paper towels, food scraps, coffee grounds, dryer lint and vacuum bags. Non-compostable items include plastic, broken glass, rubber, non-recyclable metal and ceramics. Milk cartons are compostable, while juice boxes — which are lined with foil — are not.

Contrary to past reports, yard waste also can’t be put into the compost bins. That’s something Susan Young, the director of the city’s Solid Waste and Recycling Division, is still working on.

She spearheaded the effort to get a state law changed so that yard waste could be put in the bins. Gov. Tim Pawlenty approved the change back in May, but as Young later discovered, the change only allowed the materials to be combined in a bin.

“I don’t have a place to put it down co-mingled,” she said.

Also, the county — which is looking at this program as a way to study the effectiveness of curbside compost pickup — wants to be able to compare what a program would be like with and without the yard waste combination, Young said.

The program’s arrival in Linden Hills has left some in the area scratching their heads over their trash. Power and Light’s Felicity Britton said she’s heard her fair share of questions from neighbors about what exactly they’re able to put in their new bins. Pet hair? Aerosol canisters? Latex condoms?

“They just need to get their heads around what’s organic or not,” Britton said.

She herself has changed her regular trashcan into a compost can, while she’s using a small box to collect whatever plastics or other non-compost she ends up with. It’s admittedly a bit of a lifestyle overhaul.

“I think this could change the way people buy things,” Britton said. At the grocery store, for example, will people choose plastic- and foam-wrapped meat or instead go for paper-wrapped meat?

For people who remain confused — and to get a chance to give feedback to Young — Power and Light is hosting a forum at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 above Wild Rumpus bookstore, 2720 W. 43rd St., No. 300.

Urban Earth Cooperative celebrates birthday No. 2

Urban Earth Cooperative, 910 W. 36th St., is set to celebrate its second anniversary and cap off a 41-day membership drive.

The co-op launched in Southwest as a business idea among neighbors and became the first of its kind in the city, a cooperatively owned floral and garden store that features mostly locally grown flowers and plants.

The store launched a membership drive Aug. 21 with the goal of recruiting 100 new members by the end of September.

“Our membership drive will help us raise the capital we need to expand our product line, offer more classes on rain harvesting and perennial planting, and upgrade our facilities to be more environmentally friendly,” manager Gay Noble said in a news release announcing the drive.

The co-op also is throwing a birthday celebration from noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 28.

For more information, go to www.urbanearthcoop.org.

EPA sets restrictions on ‘surf and turf’ engines

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set new restrictions on gas-powered machinery.

The regulations, which will take effect in 2010 and 2011, apply to engines used by such tools and vehicles as lawn mowers, weed trimmers and speedboats. These are the first national standards ever set for boats powered by inboard engines and carbon monoxide levels of gasoline-powered engines used in recreational watercraft.

“EPA’s new small-engine standards will allow Americans to cut air pollution as well as grass,” EPA administrator Stephen Johnson said in a news release.

The rule is expected to reduce emissions dramatically, as well as save 190 million gallons of gasoline each year, according to the release.

Gas-powered personal watercraft and inboard and outboard engines will have to comply in 2010. Lawn and garden equipment with engines of 25 horsepower or less will be affected starting in 2011.

Green report

Another green effort for Linden Hills, this one targeting parents

Green might as well be the official color of Linden Hills. The neighborhood already is the home of nonprofit Linden Hills Power and Light, Eric Utne’s first Community Earth Council and a soon-to-launch curbside compost pickup program. Now, its Environment Committee is set to launch a program aimed directly at parents.

Called EcoParents, it’s meant as a sort of book club-style forum, with intimate gatherings at people’s homes to discuss ways to reduce waste and toxicity.

The program is the brainchild of Keiko Veasey, vice president of the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council and the mother of two young children.

“It seemed to me that there are specific challenges and interests facing parents in wading through the myriad of information about environmental issues,” Veasey said, “especially ones that may have a health impact on their children.”

Her inspiration came from a New York Times article highlighting a similar program called the EcoMom Alliance, a much larger nonprofit that focuses on mothers to create a sustainable future. EcoMom has more than 200 chapters worldwide, including one in Edina.

She also knew of Madison, Wis.-based EnAct, which brings teams of people together as a support system for making environmentally friendly lifestyle changes.

“It occurred to me that Linden Hills could be a perfect place to develop a similar system,” Veasey said.

She intends EcoParents to be action-based. The group will meet about once a month to get educated, but individuals should go home afterward and make changes, too. At the same time, Veasey said judgments will be left at the door, that it’ll try to avoid playing on people’s guilt, unlike “too many environmental groups.”

Funding for EcoParents is coming from several sources, including a grant from the Hennepin County Community Partners on Waste Education and Reduction program. The Hendry Family Foundation and the Linden Hills Environment Committee also are chipping in.

That money is meant to get the program started for a year. At the end of the year, Veasey said the goal is to have several of EcoParents’ participants host gatherings in their homes to show non-group members how to make sustainable decisions. She’ll also encourage members to expand waste reduction efforts at next year’s National Night Out.

(Veasey was in charge of having this year’s Linden Hills Neighborhood Festival produce no waste, an effort so successful it was again attempted at last month’s National Night Out.)

While the focus of the group will be — as the program’s name suggests — on parents, everyone with an interest in waste and toxicity reduction will be welcome. And it won’t be restricted to people who live in Linden Hills, as long as the group doesn’t grow so large that intimacy dissipates.

“This aligns well with so many of the things I feel strongly about — family, environment, community, civic engagement,” Veasey said. “As the parents of two young children, this is something I would want to be involved in if it already existed in our neighborhood.”

Green Carpet Film Festival update

The Green Carpet Film Festival has a time, date and place. The celebration of sustainable living will begin at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Edina Cinema, 3911 W. 50th St., Edina.

Contestants have five extra weeks to send in their films — the cutoff date has been moved to Oct. 8 to get schools involved. Here are a few basic rules:

• Submissions should promote the Minnesota Energy Challenge, focus on the benefits of recycling organic material or discuss anaerobic digestion.

• The videos should be between 30 seconds and two minutes in length.

• If the video focuses on the Energy Challenge, use the video to say how much energy you saved.

• Don’t use any copyrighted material.

The films will be judged by WCCO anchors Amelia Santaniello and Frank Vascellaro, explorer/environmentalist Will Steger and Southwest Journal editor Sarah McKenzie. Complete rules and entry forms can be found at lhpowerandlight.com or by calling 285-6557.

 How to become an EcoParent

To learn more about or to join EcoParents, e-mail project manager Keiko Veasey at ecoparents@lindenhills.org, or go to the Linden Hills Environment Committee page at www.lindenhills.org.

A kick-off event for the program will be held from 6:30–8:30 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Linden Hills Park building, 3100 W. 43rd St. Participants will receive a free reusable canvas shopping bag.