The Post-Landfill Action Network starts a chapter in Philadelphia

Are Zero Waste College Campuses in Our Future?

by Jamie Bogert

Trash. Recycle. Laundry. These are the three options offered at CityCoHo, the largest and only green co-working space in Center City—and the new home to PLAN, the Post-Landfill Action Network.

The laundry bin, located in the common space next to an old red-leather couch you might remember from your friend’s basement growing up, is for towels and other washable items used in the facility in lieu of paper products.

“That’s one of the reasons we opted for this space. It’s got a focus on sustainable practices that we value,” says Faye Christoforo, co-director of PLAN; she also  directs campus coordination for the program. And now, just over six weeks into making the City of Brotherly Love the nonprofit’s second major hub, Christoforo and her team are settling into their green office space and are ready to get to work.

What started at the University of New Hampshire by founder Alex Freid as a program to cultivate, educate and inspire students to lead a zero-waste lifestyle has since spread across the U.S. and Canada with PLAN groups working on 80 campuses, focusing on programs such as move-in/move-out initiatives, waste audits, free and thrift stores, and expanded recycling.

“Any person who has gone to college or lived near a college knows what it looks like during a move-out season,” Christoforo says. Sprawled out on campus streets are heaps of trash, beer-soaked folding tables, reading lamps and stacks of books students weren’t able to sell in time for move-out day.

That’s where PLAN comes in. The staff provides step-by-step advising to set students up with the necessary skills and information to implement zero-waste initiatives on campuses and help divert their waste. 

“We act as kind of a liaison between students and their community who might not know where to find the resources,” says Chris Kane, director of research and resource development. “We want to connect those dots and show them the tangible results of their efforts.”

When Christoforo visited Philly a year ago as a trial run to see if the city would be a good fit, she met with leaders from colleges including Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and others. Now, a year later and with the local chapter’s feet firmly on the city streets, PLAN is connecting with others in the region and laying the foundation for future partnerships and individualized plans.

“We want Philly universities and colleges to know that we’re a resource that is physically here,” Christoforo says. And, right now, PLAN is working to help Drexel get a move-out program off the ground this year.

And while some projects on campuses will take more time than others, PLAN is wasting no time getting its fourth annual Students for Zero Waste conference off and running Nov. 4 at Temple University. More than 500 students, environmental justice activists, business innovators and other leaders in sustainability have attended past conferences.

The conference is, naturally, zero-waste and offers a packed schedule of panel discussions, skills-building workshops and case-study sessions for a deep dive into what students can do on a global scale—as well as right on their own campuses.

While many campuses are working toward a zero-waste goal, there has yet to be a college in the U.S. that can claim a fully zero-waste campus. But many schools are moving ahead with initiatives and action plans, and there are plenty of schools in the region that may gain inspiration from Philadelphia’s new action plan to be a zero-waste city by 2035.

Still, Christoforo, who went to Earlham College in Indiana and has a background in activism—she was involved in her college’s divestment movement—knows that this is no small feat. 

“The problems aren’t addressed as often as they should be,” she says. “So we try to make sure our mission is action-based.”

Some of the action happens in unlikely places. Kane recalls his first dumpster dive after he joined PLAN. They were in New Hampshire, preparing for a staff camping trip. “I remember saying, ‘We should try to make it as zero-waste as possible,’” Kane says. And with a little digging they were able to secure enough food for the entire trip—and then some. 

Dumpster diving 101 might not be part of the extensive panel discussions and manuals offered by PLAN, but organizers will be digging into their work to create a zero-waste future.

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

When your Christmas tree needles begin to fall this year, don’t throw your tree curbside, recycle it. Providing an alternative for trashing dying trees, the Streets Department’s Residential Christmas Tree Recycling Program will recycle it. This year, the program will run from Monday, Jan. 5 through Saturday, Jan. 17. where from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., you can drop off your trees at the Streets Department Sanitation Convenience Centers located at 3033 S. 63rd St., Domino Ln. & Umbria St., State Rd. & Ashburner St. and 2601 W. Glenwood Ave.

This year, the 26-year-old program is adding 23 tree drop-off sites around the city on Saturday, Jan. 10 and Saturday, Jan. 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To find the site closest to you, visit www.philadelphiastreets.com/holiday/2015-christmas-tree-recycling-program.

To ease the recycling process, Streets Commissioner Perri urges everyone to make sure that trees are untied and free of decorations. Greenlimbs and partners will host five Treecycling locations on Jan. 10 at the following locations:

 

  • The Shambles, 2nd & Lombard, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Weccacoe Playground, 400 Catherine Street, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
  • Carpenter Green, 17th & Carpenter, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
  • Whole Foods Market, 909 South Street, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 
  • Whole Foods Market, 20th & Callowhill, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 

Trees aren't the only thing you can recycle this holiday season. Check the Streets Department’s holiday recycle checklist for a guide to what goes in the blue bin after the presents are unwrapped.

Pennsylvania gets tough on electronic waste, Philly wins national recycling award

Image via staples.comMayor Michael Nutter and Governor Tom Corbett may not always see eye-to-eye, but they can agree on one thing: more recycling.

As of January 24, Pennsylvania has implemented provisions for handling electronic waste, which when improperly disposed can leach heavy metals and toxins into our land and water supply. This Governor’s Covered Device Act, a bipartisan effort signed into law over two years ago, most notably bans the disposal of televisions, computers and other common household electronics in state landfills. Electronics manufacturers and municipalities must now provide Pennsylvanians with easily accessible drop-off points for their old electronics and process them in specially certified recycling facilities. Garbage trucks will no longer accept electronic waste.

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Lights, Camera, Action: Revolution Recovery in the Local Limelight

Our previous cover stars Revolution Recovery are now gracing the silver screen in a new documentary by Temple film grad Nicolas Romolini.

The documentary gives a look into Revolution Recovery’s day-to-day operations at their Northeast Philly facility. Romolini talks with founders Avi Golen and Jon Wybar about their work and how they’ve developed a unique recycling system that has revolutionized the way construction “waste” materials are processed.

Romolini had originally learned about Revolution Recovery from Grid’s cover story.  His colleague Gene Smirnov, who shot the photos for the piece, suggested Romolini use the company as the topic for his next project. Having done a variety of past pieces, covering subjects from street artists and musicians to the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America Rally, Romolini felt the company was another great opportunity to look at individuals making a difference on a small level.

For now, the video is up on Vimeo and Romolini’s website and there are plans to show it at upcoming film festivals. To watch Nicolas Romolini’s short documentary or any of his other works, visit his website.

Sustainable 2012: An Eco-Expo to start a green new year

Looking to brush up on eco-friendly practices in the new year? Then join Congregation Beth Or this Sunday, January 22 at their Eco-Expo

A day-long celebration of sustainability, this free, non-religious event features more than 30 environmentally-friendly exhibitors in renewable energy, composting, agriculture, transportation and more. A LEED-certified architect, will be offering green construction and renovation tips at a special “Ask the Architect” booth and there will be activities for kids, like paper-making and seed-planting.

The expo is also hosting various speakers, including the keynote Michel Krancer, Pennsylvania’s secretary for environmental protection, who’ll talk about the controversial natural gas drilling happening in the state.

And don’t forget to bring your alkaline batteries and hard-to-recycle packaging materials, like Styrofoam, for the special recycling collection. 

For a full list of speakers and times, visit here. The Eco-Expo is happening Sunday, January 22, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at Congregation Beth Or (239 Welsh Rd., Maple Glen, Pa.) 

- Anna Louise Neiger

Green Goes Greener: Eagles' tailgaters part of new recycling program

Eagles’ fans may aPhoto via Lot Squadlready bleed green, but now, with a new recycling initiative from Lot Squad LLC, they can tailgate green too. Beginning four hours before the game, fans in South Philly Sports Complex lots managed by Central Parking are handed green bags and recycling information sheets by Lot Squad’s Recycle-A-Lot Team. During tailgating, the team circulates the parking lots, distributing new bags and collecting full ones. The co-mingled bottles, cans, plastic containers and cardboard are then transported to Waste Management’s recycling facility for separation and recycling.

“Each week the process becomes more streamlined and we are able to educate more tailgaters and collect more recyclables,” says Cecil Moore, founding partner of Lot Squad, LLC. “Fans in Philadelphia are focused on doing the right thing.”
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Finally! Philly introduces carton recycling

Photo via Philadelphia GreenworksThe holiday season has a tendency to lead to a little overindulgence - especially in the food department. If you find yourself surrounded by empty cartons of eggnog and wine this holiday, at least you can feel good about what happens to the packaging once you’re done. Mayor Michael A. Nutter and the Philadelphia Streets Department announced this week that Philadelphia will begin offering a carton recycling program. Residents can now toss milk, juice, soup, broth, soy milk, eggnog and wine cartons in recycling bins with their other recyclables. Motivated by a public private partnership with Carton Council, a collaborative of carton manufacturers devoted to reducing waste, the city’s new addition to its recycling program represents a growing trend across the nation. The number of American homes with access to carton recycling has doubled in the last three years--cities in more than 40 states already provide this service. Cartons will be accepted as part of Philadelphia’s recycling program starting today, so now you can ditch the evidence of your eggnog binge in a eco-friendly way.

- Missy Steinberg

When Worlds Collide: Meei-Ling Ng intertwines recyclables with nature in MAAG's premiere exhibit

Photo Credit: Meei-Ling Ng

A thick row of lush golden wheat, grass, and straw, standing roughly six feet high, divides the weathered brick interior of the Mt. Airy Art Garage (MAAG). A gap in the middle serves as the entrance to the gallery’s first installation, “Recapturing Memories”, by art director Meei- Ling Ng. The words “Explore, Laugh, Enjoy” hang on a small easel next to the shrubbery, inviting visitors into Ng’s three-dimensional world where she elegantly blurs the line between organic and manmade.

Wine box chickens with claws of reclaimed electrical wire from construction waste nestle near long blades of grass found on the side of the road. Tiny bugs made of mismatched buttons crawl atop branches salvaged from trees chopped down in Elkins Park. Remnants of recycled materials, such as a Nike swoosh on a cardboard chicken, work to alter viewers' perception of what constitutes art.

“I want to show people that a post-consumer product can also be a piece of beautiful art,” says Ng.

Her vision is all about reworking visitors’ view of nature. By placing organic elements out of their natural context, she hopes to provoke viewers to relate to nature as they once did as children.

“When we are little, we are all connected to nature,” says Ng. “The exhibit is for children, but also the child within us.”

Growing up in Singapore surrounded by animals, Ng quickly developed a fascination with and reverence for nature. Upon moving to Philadelphia 14 years ago to complete her studies in art, Ng remained connected to the outdoors through her organic garden. However, the inspiration for “Recapturing Memories” didn’t strike Ng until she visited what she calls “the jewel of the city,” the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

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Waste Not: Revolution Recovery is blazing a bold new trail through the construction waste disposal business

Revolution recovery’s three-and-a-half-acre lot on Milnor Street in Northeast Philadelphia is a shrine to waste. The space hosts a huge pile of used wood and another of drywall. There are stacks of ceiling tiles and bundles of miscellaneous plastic and cardboard. The back of a truck is filled with rolled-up carpets and a group of boxes hold discarded metal poles. A truck pulls up and adds a load of mixed materials—wood, plastic, concrete and metal—to the mess. It’s like being inside a gigantic, well-organized construction site Dumpster.

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