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Street Fair Sustainability

Directional Sign Showing the way to the Sustainability Zone

by, Liz Rutledge

The Park Hill Home Tour and Street Fair just celebrated 41 years of sharing community, entertainment, good food and access to beautiful homes in one of Denver’s Sustainable Neighborhoods.  This well-established event involves people in the neighborhood opening their homes (usually between four and eight homes) as well as a street fair with up to 100 vendors, food trucks, drinks, live entertainment, as well as presentations.  Consequently, the Park Hill Home Tour and Street Fair is the largest fundraiser for the Greater Park Hill Community – an organization that supports the neighborhood through a monthly local newspaper, a food pantry and farmers market as well as many other events and services. 

Mindfulness about Our Community in Action

This year, I partnered with Becky Migas of B. Green Events to manage the sustainability aspects of this event.  It was a beautiful, sunny day…not too hot, not too cold and not a cloud in the sky.  As we set up waste stations around the parkway, 85+ vendors set up their tables and tents.  Bicycle bells chimed and the gentle hum of generators for the food trucks purred.

I have been involved in this event for seven years in various capacities. For example, our home has been on the tour and I have written up descriptions of the homes along with another local writer for years.  But, last year, I was invited to help with the sustainability efforts of the event and help with vendor registrations.  For the first time ever, we added electronics recycling.  It was an experiment and we had great participation, but it cost people money (about 50 cents a pound) and the fundraising aspect wasn’t as successful as we had hoped.  But, this year we had PCs for People accepting electronic donations for little to no cost and the Cherry Creek Rotary Club helped hugely to accept all the PCs, laptops, cables, TVs and more.  Last year, there was also a Sustainability Zone.

In the Zone

This year, in the Sustainability Zone, we had several vendors educating fair-goers about bees with Vine Street Farms, reducing packaging and exploring refill options with Joy Fill, how to get around town without using a car with the Northeast Transportation, getting help tuning and optimizing your bicycle with Bikes Together, how to reduce our harm to the coral reefs with Coral Reef Restoration Panama, and how to live more sustainability and lower our carbon footprint with Sustainable Three and B. Green Events.  We had a “Minute to Bin It” challenge where players had to correctly put the right item in the right bin within 60 seconds, articles about our previous waste diversion projects, like East High School’s After Prom event last spring and guidance on how to reduce waste to the landfill – one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gasses.

10 Factors that made this a Sustainable Event

  1. ALL vendors were required to use certified compostable ware (cups, plates, cutlery, etc)
  2. Vendors had to provide proof that the serving ware was compostable.  And, if it wasn’t, they had to replace the items or leave (thankfully, everyone complied and no one had to leave)
  3. Waste stations were positioned all over the event to make it EASY for attendees to deal with their waste, minimizing contamination and littering
  4. Volunteers were trained to sort, collect, weigh and empty the waste bins into their appropriate wheelie bins (provided by neighbors)
  5. Neighbors provided Recycling, Compost and Landfill bins to minimize cost and eliminate the need for expensive and unsightly roll-away dumpsters
  6. Educational pieces were sprinkled throughout promotional materials (posters, programs and on the web site)
  7. A Sustainability Zone was established and managed providing fun and education for attendees
  8. Electronics recycling was available for little to no charge on the day and volunteers from the Rotary Club managed it so our team could focus on the Sustainability Zone and waste management.
  9. People were encouraged to walk or bike to the event and the homes on the tour (free bicycle parking available at all homes and the street fair)
  10. Denver Water had their truck there to provide water for patrons – either using their own water bottles or compostable cups
Puttin’ it in the correct bin!

Then, the Skies Opened up…

The event was well attended and the weather held out until the very end when we did our waste sorting and weighing (so we can report back to the Greater Park Hill Community and have baseline numbers for future years).  As we were sorting and cleaning up, the skies opened up in a deluge, which made it challenging, but we still think we got accurate numbers.  Once all the numbers were in, we were proud to report an 82% diversion rate!  The next morning all the recycling, compost and trash was collected by Denver Waste Management.  PBS was there the next day filming for a documentary that will air at the end of October/early November.  Neighbors who had donated their bins for the day received their bins back empty (for the most part) AND, best of all, there was NO waste remaining on the parkway (something that neighbors have complained about in the past).

It was a satisfying experiment and provides hope for future events.

It’s the choices we make in our daily lives that can make little shifts in this adventure called climate change.

Denver Water Truck dispensed 94 gallons of water to people in their own reusable bottles or compostable cups diverting ~750 plastic water bottles from the waste stream
Becky Migas of B. Green Events calculated our waste diversion results

Even more ways to Support Sustainability

As we learn and gradually change our habits, we can make a difference in other, more impactful, ways too:

  • Support the bigger players where there is more impact
  • Support businesses and organizations that are focusing on sustainability
  • Donate to non-profits like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, NRDC, and other organizations doing the work.
  • Pressure businesses to move towards more environmentally-friendly ingredients and practices
  • Boycott businesses that are still doing things that damage our environment and our health
  • Sign petitions and lobby

Reading blog posts like this one can help keep you educated.  You can make tweaks in your habits.  But, to make a more effective impact, think bigger and put some of the pressure and responsibility on the companies and organizations that have the power to make big changes towards sustainability.

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Composting – Plain and Simple

by, Liz Rutledge

The official definition of “Composting” sounds, well, pretty gross.

According to Dictionary.com, composting is:

noun

a mixture of various decaying organic substances, as dead leaves or manure, used for fertilizing soil. A composition; compound.

verb (used with object)

to use in compost; make compost of:to compost manure and kitchen scraps.to apply compost to (soil).

verb (used without object)

to make compost:Shredded leaves will compost easily.

But, here’s what I’ll tell you…Mother Nature has her way. Naturally, bio-degradables break down, get eaten, processed and regurgitated as amazingly nutrient-rich stuff.

If you compost, your contribution to the landfill will decrease DRAMATICALLY. And, thanks to city-wide composting programs like the one in Denver, it’s super easy. If you don’t have such services, perhaps you can ask your landlord or apartment complex to set up a small tumbler composter – reducing the impact space-wise and reducing nasty smells, waste to the landfill and more!’

A fellow green thumb contributed this fantastic guide to composting if you want to get started. Check out Kevin Rodrigues’ article on How to make your own Compost.

Raised garden beds recently installed at Newport Street Retreat by Denver Scout Troop 62

This week, Sustainable Three will be setting up composting at Newport Street Retreat in Denver (home of Sustainable Three). Now that they have raised garden beds, thanks to Denver Boy Scout Troop 62, they will have beautiful vegetation growing to help support their Dinner Church on Thursdays. Who knows what this will grow into, but they will need a composting system for peelings, leaves and other garden waste. That will, in turn, become nourishment that will go back into the garden.

Watch for my blog series on composting in the coming weeks!

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CHALLENGE DAY 19

Today’s challenge is about your dishwasher!*

When was the last time you really thought about how your dishes are cleaned by that machine?  It’s not a riveting topic, but have you found yourself mumbling as you unload your dishwasher something like “THAT didn’t come clean” and fling it in the sink for further scrubbing?

HOW we load our dishwasher makes a big difference in how many dishes we can fit in there and how clean they come out upon unloading.  I jam pack my dishwasher and 95% of the time the dishes come out sparkling clean.  My secret?  I read my dishwasher user manual.  Also, you can help your machine do its very best job when you be sure to rinse off STARCH (rice, bread, pasta, etc.), EGG and BIG CHUNKS.  There is no need to obsessively rinse the dishes as that just wastes water and energy.  A quick scrape of the plate or bowl ought to do it.

Which dish-washing detergent you use can make a difference as well.  I recommend using PODS because they are measured doses and therefore less wasteful.

Here are some eco-friendly brands I’ve personally tested that work well:

Trader Joe’s PODS (not the other powder in the green box**)

Ecover Pods

Seventh Generation Pods

Nice! Dishwasher Packs

My favorite web site for evaluating products is ewg.org.  Here are their “A” rated products:

EWG.org’s Web Site for Dishwashing Detergent

Also, doing a regular quick scrub of the filter helps keep trapped bits from clogging up the drain and helps the dishes get cleaner more efficiently.  This is not something you have to do each load (like removing lint from your dryer), but a once monthly clean-up helps.

How you load your dishwasher will depend on your machine; but, generally speaking, drinking glasses, plastic containers and smaller, loose items (like lids, knives, long spoons, etc). do best on the top rack.  Then, plates, bowls, casserole dishes and cutlery do better on the bottom.  Because they get sprayed from both sides, they come cleaner down there.

Rather than just run it, run the hot water in the kitchen sink and turn on the garbage disposal (if you have one) to clear it.  Then, once hot, turn the water and disposer off and then start the dishwasher. This helps use less electricity as the machine doesn’t have to do the initial heating.  (a little trick a plumber taught me after replacing our garbage disposal).  This also clears the line so you don’t end up with gunk in the washer while it’s working on cleaning the dishes.

*If you hand wash dishes

or have already read your dishwasher’s user manual,

this challenge does not apply to you.

Feel free to do one of the Optional Challenges!


For more reading on this, you can read my blog post on the topic here: https://sustainablethree.com/2018/02/15/to-dishwasher-or-not/

Also, it’s a good idea to make sure you are using a high-efficiency dishwasher for energy savings!

Find out if your dishwasher is energy efficient

**Despite their “Next to Godliness” labeling, many of Trader Joe’s cleaning products actually get “D’s” and “F’s” on EWG.org’s web site:

Not so “Godly” Trader Joe’s Cleaners

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CHALLENGE DAY 13

Turn off the Tap!

Thousands of gallons of water are wasted each year because people leave the tap running while doing water-related activities.

The average American household uses 400 gallons of water per day!

Today’s challenge is to turn off the tap while you…

  • Brush your teeth
  • Wash your hands (similar to the combat shower – turn the tap on, get hands wet, turn the tap off, soap up (lathering to the “A,B,C song” if that’s the way you roll), turn the tap back on, rinse, turn the tap off)
  • Washing dishes
  • While shaving
  • While shaving legs in the shower
  • Any time you are not actively using the water

It’s that simple.

Here are some water saving resources:

See Rob’s blog about water-saving sprinklers

https://www.care2.com/greenliving/20-ways-to-conserve-water-at-home.html

https://www.wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve

https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/45-ways-to-conserve-water-in-the-home-and-yard/

https://www.care2.com/greenliving/20-ways-to-conserve-water-at-home.html

And a bunch more resources here:

More resources to help save water…

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CHALLENGE DAY 8

Try a “Combat Shower”!

Showers are typically the third largest water use after toilets and clothes washers. The average American shower uses 17.2 gallons (65.1 liters) and lasts for 8.2 minutes at average flow rate of 2.1 gallons per minute (gpm) (7.9 lpm).

Today’s challenge is to start taking “Combat Showers” when you shower.  Here’s how….

Combat Shower Directions

Get in

Turn on the water

Get wet

Turn off the water

Get soapy – head to toe

Turn on the water

Get rinsed

Turn off the water

Get out

 

“That is all [for today]…DISMISSED!”

Turning off the water while you get soapy (and shave) saves thousands of gallons a year!

If it takes a while for hot water to reach the tap, you can collect the water in a bucket in the shower and then pour it on plants adding to your water saving.

For a more detailed description, look here:

How to Take a Navy Shower

Here are some more ways you can save water in the shower:

Use Water Saving Shower Heads

Calculate Your Water Usage!

 

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Save Water, Time and Money – Part 2

Continuing the exploration of Smart Sprinkler controllers:  The goal is to save water, time and money but not have a dead lawn or landscaping.

There are many Smart Sprinkler controllers, and many definitions of what makes a sprinkler controller ‘smart’.  For instance, simply attaching a moisture sensor or rain sensor may qualify for some definitions of a Smart Sprinkler Controller.  However, I would like to think we can do better than simply attaching static sensors.  Therefore, I will limit my evaluation to those controllers that get weather data wirelessly and allow for control via mobile phone and computer, as well as allow for more intelligent watering by inputting landscaping and/or sprinkler information.  After all, I would like to think that better decision could be made rather than just automating the same binary decision of watering or not watering.  The final requirement is for the smart controller to adhere to the watering limitations of my water provider.  With these in mind, I return to the extensive list of Water Sense Smart Sprinkler Controllers.  Since most, if not all, of these controllers involve using the service associated with the controller (other than RainMachine which has a hybrid option), it seems as though there should be some consideration of the stability of the company.  After all, it would be unfortunate to make the investment in time and money to acquire and setup the controller, only to have it revert back to a normal controller or worse stop working all together due to the company providing the service going out of business.  Several of the companies are private, which limits the amount of due diligence that can be performed, so instead I will use longevity and multiple product offerings as a proxy for stability.  This is, of course, flawed.  But the best that can be done without extensive effort.  This only eliminates one that I thought looked intriguing, Skydrop.

by Rob Rutledge

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