Posts Tagged 'composting'

Thoughtful Thursday: Celebrating America Recycles Day

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November 15th is America Recycles Day!

America Recycles Day

This national celebration gives us the chance to reflect on the wise use of our planet’s resources and reminds us that we need to take greater responsibility for our daily actions and choices.

At the National Aquarium, we’re continually challenging ourselves to improve our efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. It’s especially important to us because the positive results are directly linked to the health of the animals and ecosystems we care about!

Over the last few years, we’ve implemented a composting program for our staff and visitors, improved our single-stream recycling efforts and identified common items that could be recycled through alternative methods (kitchen grease, batteries, corks, shoes, e-waste, etc.). As a result, we sent more than 100 tons of materials to the recycling center and composted more than 22 tons of organic material in 2012 alone!

By simply looking at what we were putting in our trash, we were able to find better ways reduce the amount we sent to the curb each week. Sometimes that meant changing our consumer habits (i.e. buying products with recyclable or less packaging) and sometimes it meant looking at our waste in a new way – as a resource, rather than a nuisance.  For example, empty paper towel tubes can be used as enrichment for our animals, old wet-suits can be made into drink cozies and street banners can be re-purposed into tote bags!

national aquarium banner bags

Limiting the amount of stuff we purchase is important, but it is only part of the answer. As hosts to several clean-up events every year, we see first-hand how destructive it can be when we dispose of our waste improperly. In fact, over the years, we’ve removed more than 660,000 pieces of debris for the small wetland adjacent to Fort McHenry. Close to half of that was made up of plastic bottles. Today, plastic bottles can be recycled into a wide variety of amazing products – including park benches, fleece clothing, construction materials, floating islands, etc. It is our responsibility to extend the life of the products we use through recycling.

The good news is, there are lots of resources out there to make it easier for you. Earth 911 has a great search tool for recycling options in your area. They even have an app for smartphones!

Together, we can work to create healthy communities. Join me (and 47,000 of my friends) and take the pledge to increase your recycling efforts!

Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursdays: Why (and Where) We Compost

Last month, National Aquarium staff visited the Chesapeake Compost Works (CCW) facility located right here in Baltimore. The trip had two main objectives: to learn how composting plants work and to get a better sense of where we were sending tons (yes, TONS) of organic waste from our Baltimore venue every week.

The compost piles at the CCW

The compost piles at the CCW. The steam seen here is heat being released from the bacterial”breakdown” of the organic waste.

As a conservation organization, we’re always looking for ways to minimize the amount of waste we’re putting into the environment.

Three years ago, the Aquarium implemented a composting program in the Harbor Market Kitchen area. The program was later expanded to include visitor areas, waste from the rain forest exhibit and all staff and administrative office areas!

There are labeled compost bins (like this one in our harbor market kitchen) throughout the Aquarium's offices!

There are labeled compost bins (like this one in our harbor market kitchen) throughout the Aquarium!

We’ve been working with the CCW facility for just a few months (they opened in November). Located in Curtis Bay, CCW has 55,000 square feet of space to process local waste. They are currently accepting 60-80 tons of waste a week and converting it all into nutrient-rich soil for local farmers and the community!

In the short time we’ve been composting, the Aquarium has saved close to 40 tons of organic waste from landfills!

Interested in composting your waste? Here’s how to do it!

 

  1. Learn what kind or organic waste CAN be composted! A full list is available here
  2. Start collecting waste materials!
  3. Work with a local organization, like CCW, to have your waste collected. Baltimore and Washington, DC (and most developed areas) have “compost cabs” that will even come to you for collection!
  4. Visit a local compost facility! Not only will you learn more about the process, but you can also purchase nutrient-rich soil for gardening or urban farming projects!

 

Thoughtful Thursdays: Happy America Recycles Day!

We are committed to conservation and we strive to live our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, in everything we do.  Today, on America Recycles Day, we are happy to share with you some of the many ways our dedicated team’s hard work is paying off!

GREEN is in the numbers: 

  • 20.24 tons of organic materials were collected for composting
  • 45.72 tons of single-stream recycling were diverted from landfills
  • 2,135 pounds of technotrash and eCycling were diverted from landfills
  • 3.3 megawatts of electricity were saved thanks to energy efficiency upgrades to the lighting and water pump systems throughout our buildings
ECycled motherboards!

ECycled motherboards!

bird enrichment

Bird enrichment toy made from recycled newspapers!

In addition to our bigger programs, Aquarium staff are always thinking of new ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose materials for our everyday tasks! Our Animal Programs team is especially clever and has made numerous enrichment materials from used items!

  • Paper towel tubes as puzzle feeders for birds
  • Old phone books for our birds to shred
  • Used gift cards to open reptile mouths for medical exams
  • And much more…the list is endless!

Monty likes to hang out in recycled cardboard boxes

We invite you to use today’s celebration to adopt some easy recycling practices:

  • Take the America Recycles Day pledge
    (It’s never too early to get started on those New Year’s resolutions!)
  • Make it a family affair!
    Kick your new pledge into high-gear by sharing your commitment with your family/friends/community.
  • Discover new ways to recycle!
    We are a big fan of TerraCycle’s brigades , who collect previously non-recyclable or hard to recycle waste. Send your hard to recycle items off to TerraCycle and they will appropriately recycle for you!
  • Get crafty!
    Before you throw away that old pair of socks, t-shirt, book, cork, plastic milk jug or plastic water bottle check out these fun DIY crafts. They are easy (and cheap) ways to get a little more life out of these products.

Those are just a few ideas – we’d love to learn some new ones! What are YOUR favorite ways to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and/or Repurpose? 


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