“What Earth Day means to me” by Christina Stratford

What words come to mind when you think about Earth? Beautiful, luscious…our home.

Yet, there are only some places on our planet that look like what I have just described. If you want to make every place in the world look like this, then Earth Day is for you! On April 22, people from all around the world help out by doing little things in their community to improve the environment. According to Earth Day Network, more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day. Imagine how much garbage is picked up or how much electricity is saved. That is only one day!

Unfortunately, there are some who do not care or just think it is a waste of time and effort. Do those people really care what is going on in their world? Probably not. So there are haters in the world. Do not let that affect what you will do on Earth Day. When you do a small deed, like picking up garbage off the street, you really do help the environment. Imagine if every person picked up one piece of garbage each day. Think of how clean the Earth could be! By the looks of things, this planet is where your children will live and your children’s children. If we can do our part now, we will make a difference for them. This is your chance to show your community that you are passionate about respecting the Earth. If you can convince one person to join in, and that person convinces another and so on, we could make a huge impact in a good way.

Earth is the only planet we call home. If garbage continues to pile up, what are we going to do? This is our planet. This is our home. Consider Earth Day as an opportunity. Pick up that piece of garbage or turn out the lights when you leave a room. We are the only ones who can make the difference. It does not matter how big or small you are, we can make change possible.

Together we can make a difference.

About this guest blogger:

Christina Stratford, Guest Blogger

Christina Stratford, Guest Blogger

Christina Stratford is a Grade 7 student at Sir Ernest MacMillan Public School. She is interested in soccer, basketball, and volleyball. She hopes to one day become a teacher!

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“What Earth Day means to me” by Sam Bisutti

EarthDay2014-MakeItCountApril 22, not only is it my birthday, but it is also the day of an environmental event taking place all over the world. It’s Earth Day, and that means many things to many different people. Let me explain what Earth day means to me, and some ideas on what you can do on Earth Day.

I believe that Earth Day is a day to appreciate the planet that we live on. It’s a day to do something involving the nature around you. One thing you could do is, go on a hike or go to an environmental event. For example, you could see a bird tagging or a presentation on what we need to do to protect this planet. You could simply watch a documentary like Planet Earth or The Inconvenient Truth. Do something that respects this wonderful planet. Perhaps try to find something you can do to improve it. This Earth day is on a Monday, and I’m busy on Mondays. So, if you’re busy like me, just do something the day before, or after.

showerOne thing I know for sure is that I definitely need to cut down on my shower time. So, that is what I will try to do this year. Just one little deed can make a difference. It may not be big, but if everyone on the entire planet did something, it would change the world. Think of it like an environmental New Year’s Resolution.There is always a way to improve. If you think you are doing everything perfectly, the chances are you’re probably wrong. So, learn something new, because you can make a difference!

I hope you all have a wonderful Earth Day.

About this guest blogger:

Sam Bisutti, Guest Blogger

Sam Bisutti, Guest Blogger

Hi, I’m Sam Bisutti. I’m currently in grade 7, and go to Sir Ernest MacMillan Public School in Burlington. I have enjoyed the outdoors, basketball and writing since I was little.

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Playing for the environment this World Theatre Day

A mask used in ancient Greek theatre.

A mask used in ancient Greek theatre.

Live theatre is thriving in Halton! From presenting theatres to community theatre groups, and high school drama clubs to college programs, theatre practioners and audience members have so many options to be thrilled and entertained.

Today, March 27 is World Theatre Day. Let’s look at some ways theatre practioners and companies can embrace environmentally friendly behaviours.

A laundry detergent masked used in Halton Region's school education program.

A laundry detergent masked used in Halton Region’s waste diversion education program.

Theatre has a long tradition of reusing

Think about it – William Shakespeare’s plays are over 400 years old, and they’re still being produced today. Even plays written over 2,400 years ago by Sophocles and Aristophanes are still being performed!

Some theatres will remount a production from one season to a next. Sets, props, costumes, even lighting and sound designs, will go into storage to be reused the following season.

Again, many theatres have great recycling practices.

Sets, props and costumes are often modified to be used in a totally brand new production. They’re disassembled, re-painted, re-sewn, or re-dyed, and made into something brand new.

Theatre has a long practice of taking items and using them in ways that weren’t originally intended by the manufacturer – this is often how designers create the most innovative and memorable sets. Remember that paints, solvents, stains and other chemical products contain hazardous materials. Theatre Ontario’s To Act In Safety program provides great resources of these aspects of hazardous waste handling for theatre companies.

The theatre’s “front of house” is another place where recycling is important. Paper programs can be collected following a performance to be recycled. Ensure all recycling bins in the lobby are properly labelled. During intermission, concession staff can remind audience members to “place empty plastic bottles in the Blue Box.”

By practicing the 3Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle – the theatre community can play a part in conserving resources and protecting the environment.

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Egg-cellent information about recycling

Sunny-side, over easy, scrambled or hard-boiled — who doesn’t love an egg?

Remember, egg shells go in the GreenCart.

See how the paper egg carton is bumpy? That means it's paper that's been recycled many time already. The paper fibres are too small to recycle into anything new. But it will compost really nicely.

See how the paper egg carton is bumpy? That shows it’s paper that’s been recycled many time already. The paper fibres are now too small to recycle again. But those small paper fibres will compost really nicely. So put paper egg cartons in the GreenCart.

Paper egg cartons go in the GreenCart.

Clear plastic egg cartons go in the Blue Box.

Styrofoam egg cartons go in the garbage.

Why not buy fresh eggs at a local farm and reuse an old egg carton?

Empty egg substitute cartons go in the Blue Box. Remember the plastic cap is garbage, but you can leave the plastic spout in the carton.

So get cracking and be an egg-cellent recycler!

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School lunch programs and the packaging waste they create

When I was in elementary school, we’d have hot dog days once every few months. Parents would get together and steam hot dogs in the staff room. The hot dogs came wrapped in a paper napkin, and we had a choice of white or chocolate milk.

Fast forward to today, and elementary students have many more paid-lunch options.

Many schools now have weekly pizza or pita days. There are hot lunch providers like Kidssentials or The Lunch Lady, healthy snack programs like Halton Food For Thought, and milk programs too.

These options provide fundraising revenue for schools, and healthy meals and snacks for students.

A black and clear plastic take out container can go in Halton's Blue Box program.

A black and clear plastic take out container can go in Halton’s Blue Box program.

But they also result in a lot of packaging waste. Cartons, containers, cutlery, baggies, wrappers and uneaten food — this greatly contributes to the amount of waste a school has to manage.

Luckily, a lot of this waste can be recycled and composted:

  • Blue Box recyclingplastic take-out containers, plastic cups, plastic deli trays, plastic milk bottles, plastic smoothie bottles, plastic water bottles, aluminum foil, aluminum trays, milk cartons, pizza boxes
  • GreenCart compostingpaper napkins, paper plates, paper take-out containers, paper pita wrappers, paper pizza trays, pizza box liners, wood cutlery, food waste

Unfortunately, some of the waste has to be sent to landfill:

  • Garbage: plastic film, plastic bags, plastic cutlery, plastic pizza box “savers,” plastic bottle caps, “compostable” plastic cutlery, “compostable” plastic cups, paper/foil composite lids, Styrofoam, wrappers

The easiest solution to reducing the garbage is for schools to mandate what packaging can be used by food providers. For example, schools can request that food providers not use Styrofoam.

School administrators and parent council members can learn more about creating a healthy school nutrition environment.

School lunch programs provide students with nutritious foods that help children and youth excel. With some thought, the waste created by these programs can be effectively managed, helping to better protect our environment.

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Children’s car seats and the 3Rs

Sleeping on the GoHere at Halton Region, we often get asked if children’s car seats can be recycled or reused. This is one item that it is very difficult to apply the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle).

The first R, reduce, cannot be avoided as regulations in Canada require children to be buckled up in the appropriate car seat.

The second R, reuse, is not recommended for several reasons. First of all, children’s car seats sold in Canada have an expiry or useful life date. Over time the materials used to make the car seat could weaken or become damaged from use. Also, a used car seat may not meet the current safety regulations and standards.  This puts you at risk of not being in compliance with current regulations and of your child being injured. As well, it is important to know the history of a car seat if you are not the original owner. If the seat has been in a car crash it may not be safe to use, even if the child was not in the seat at the time.

Carseat-accidentFinally the third R, recycle, has many barriers. Children’s car seats are made from several different materials and parts. It requires much manual labour to disassemble the seats and there are not many markets available to recycle the materials into new items.

At this time, I have only been able to find one company in Canada, located in Calgary, Alberta, that disassembles car seats and sends the separated materials for recycling. The company, Kidseat Recyclers, charges $10 a car seat to make the recycling operation economically possible. They require that all straps and material be removed from the seat before dropping it off. They send the plastic and metal for recycling. They do list a few companies on their website where customers can send the straps and material to be reused.

The Material Recovery Facility (MRF) where Halton Region sends the Blue Box material for recycling is not equipped to handle an item as large as a car seat. MRFs have been designed to process packaging and paper material.

In Halton, children’s car seats can be disposed in your regular garbage if they fit in a garbage bag or can. If not, the car seat can be disposed as bulk waste on your scheduled bulk waste collection day. It is recommended to remove or cut the straps off the seat, remove the padding if possible and place in a separate garbage bag, so that it cannot be picked up off the curb and reused.

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An ode to Nana’s couch

My grandmother recently passed away. She lived a very long life, filled with much love and adventure.

In the past fifteen years or so, she moved from her large single-family home into a seniors’ retirement building, then twice more into smaller, assisted-living facilities.

Each move was a challenge, especially when it came to her belongings. Furniture had to be minimized; collectibles thinned.

After my grandmother passed, we had to clean out her final apartment. We knew which pieces of furniture or nick-knacks her children and grandchildren wanted to take. We knew we wanted to donate her clothes. We knew her bed would have to be thrown away — understandably, most reuse centres are unwilling to accept beds due to potential concerns about bed bugs.

couchNow, my grandmother did have a couch. It was yellow and gold, and covered in images of large pheasants. For most of my life, it sat in her formal living room. It continued with her to each of her apartments. And now it was time to get rid of it.

After 30 odd years of use, moves, encounters with walkers, wheelchairs and wanderers, this couch was slightly worn on the arms, the cushions sagged a bit, and the yellow and gold weren’t as vibrant as they once were.

We took the couch to a reuse centre, hoping to donate it. They were unwilling to take it, saying that the wear and tear would make it unsellable.

And so we had to throw away my grandmother’s couch.

My dad and I lifted that yellow and gold couch over the rails of the waste drop-off centre and heaved the couch into the large garbage dumpster below.

To me, seeing the couch at the bottom of the garbage dumpster was one of the most lump-in-your-throat experiences associated with my grandmother’s passing.

couch2It wasn’t my favourite couch. I didn’t have any particularly strong feelings about it. It wasn’t the orange floral couch we watched movies from. It was formal and stately; not my personal style at all.

But seeing it tossed away was simply sad.

My grandmother cared a lot about the appearance of her belongings. I suspect she would have been appalled to learn her couch was considered garbage.

As we drove away from my grandmother’s old couch, I was reminded of that old phrase “you come into the world with nothing, and you leave with nothing.”

So very true. We spend a lifetime amassing stuff — furniture, clothing, books, odds and ends. But in the end, it all has to go somewhere. Someone will have to move it, store it, reuse it, dispose of it.

Clutter expert Peter Walsh says, “We believe if we let go of the object, we’ll lose the memory.” He goes on to point out, “That person wants you to be happy before they want you to hold on to all of this stuff.”

My grandmother is not a yellow and gold couch. My grandmother was an adventurer, a storyteller. My memories of her mean so much more to me than an old, discarded couch. And those memories are something I won’t ever throw away.

If you’re going through a similar situation, here are some great tips and resources:

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