Green digest // The Wedge goes to China

The Wedge goes to China

THE WEDGE — When representatives of the Whittier-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) traveled to Beijing, China, in May, they brought a taste of Minneapolis with them.

Lindy Bannister, general manager of The Wedge Community Co-op, joined IATP staff at a conference on Chinese food cooperatives and organics where she shared her experience running the 35-year-old natural foods store. Bannister’s photos, posted at wedge.coop, include shots from a Beijing farmers’ market that is reportedly is the first organic farmers’ market in China.

IATP President Jim Harkness blogged about the two-day conference on the nonprofit’s website, iatp.org, where videos and photos from the trip also are posted. The IATP website is also the place to listen to Bannister talk about the trip on the June 10 podcast of Radio Sustain.

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Tons of recycling

Nearly half of all trash collected in Hennepin County last year was recycled, the county reported in June.

The county reached a 49-percent recycling rate in 2009, keeping more than 117,000 tons of aluminum cans, glass bottles, old newspapers, kitchen scraps and other recyclables out of the landfill. Recycling both conserves landfill space and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, the county reported.

The county calculated the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions achieved by recycling in 2009 was equivalent to keeping 41,300 cars off the road for a year. It saved enough energy to heat, cool and power 20,500 homes for a year.

As good as that sounds, it could be better. On average, county residents are recycling just over half of all waste that could be recycled.

What’s not finding its way into your green bin?

Paper products, probably, based on county research. Remember that you can recycle old phone books, junk mail and magazines along with yesterday’s newspaper.

For more information on county recycling efforts, go to hennepin.us/environment. The “A to Z How-to-Get-Rid-of-It Guide” is a mouthful, but also a good resource to figure out what can be recycled in Hennepin County and how to do it.

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New parents to learn green lessons

New parents attending Early Childhood Family Education, or ECFE, classes in Minneapolis will get lessons on recycling and limiting exposure to toxins in the home thanks to a grant from Hennepin County.

Eight ECFE programs in the county, including two reaching families in Minneapolis, received grants of up to $5,000 to bring the lessons to classrooms during the 2010–2011 school year. The grants funded distribution of a toolkit for ECFE instructors that include lesson plans for teaching about water quality, energy conservation, climate change and other environmental topics.

The lessons outlined in the toolkit tie global environmental issues to household practices, and teach young families how to be better stewards of the environment. One tip: when families choose bulk fresh foods over prepackaged items, for example, they not only cut down on waste but can also make healthier, cheaper meals in many cases.

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Schools collect non-recyclable materials

Southwest-area schools are among many in the county earning cash by sending non-recyclable waste products to a New Jersey company that transforms the trash into new products like kites and backpacks.

TerraCycle partnered with home city brand Malt-O-Meal Cereal Company to collect Malt-O-Meal packaging through “Cereal Bag Brigades” stationed in schools across the country. There are about 1,250 brigades, TerraCycle reported in June.

Schools are paid 2 cents for every bag collected and sent to TerraCycle instead of the landfill.

Burroughs Community School had one of the top-earning brigades in the area, collecting $187.76 for 9,388 pieces of trash. Barton Open School earned $129.34 by sending 6,467 pieces of trash to TerraCycle.

Other participating schools and organizations in the area included the East Calhoun Community Organization environment committee, Lake Harriet Community School, Emerson Spanish Immersion Learning Center and Dunwoody Academy.

On its website, terracycle.net, TerraCycle estimated it had more than 10 million people helping to collect non-recyclable materials. They’ve sent the company more than 1.8 billion individual pieces of trash.

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Proposed watershed rules changes online

The deadline for public comment on two proposed rules changes for the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is July 8.

The rules changes impact property owners living on lakes, streams and wetlands in the watershed district, which includes portions of Minneapolis around Minnehaha Creek and the Chain of Lakes. The rule changes are not retroactive, and will affect homeowners who tear down an existing house to construct a larger house on the same property or property owners who are planning to build a house on vacant property.

The changes are part of an ongoing review of watershed district rules. To read the proposed changes and learn how to submit comments either written or in-person at a public hearing, go to minnehahacreek.org.