The Green Report

Skip the Straw

Momentum is building with the global movement to ditch plastic drinking straws. In Cleveland, the Skip the Straw campaign is being promoted by the Sustainable Cleveland Plastic Reduction Working Group. Sustainable Cleveland is a 10-year initiative by Mayor Frank Jackson to encourage residents and businesses in Cleveland to be environmentally conscious.

Last month, Melt Bar and Grilled announced that they would be joining the Skip the Straw movement and will not automatically serve a plastic straw with beverages. Melt is committed to do their part to help curb the use of single-use plastics and help Cleveland and Lake Erie's environment. Also this month, Starbucks announced that it would stop using plastic straws by 2020. This is a big deal, and will eliminate more than one billion plastic straws per year from the earth! Hopefully other large food retailers will follow suit, and other local restaurants will follow Melt.

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Volume 10, Issue 14, Posted 9:56 AM, 07.17.2018

Confused about recycling? You're not alone

It seems that most people have good intentions when it comes to recycling, which is wonderful. However, “hopeful recycling” – which means putting an item in your recycling bin and hoping that it will be recycled – can sabotage all of your efforts. One item can contaminate your whole bin, so it is important to learn what you can, and cannot, throw into your recycling bin in Cuyahoga County.

Luckily for us, we have a fabulous resource called the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District. Their website, cuyahogarecycles.org, offers a lot of information about what should be placed into your recycling.

The site even has a “What do I do with?” tool that allows you to enter in an item that you are not sure what to do with, for example “Styrofoam.” When you enter in  "Styrofoam," a couple of choices pop up: “Styrofoam blocks” and “Styrofoam containers.” I chose “containers.” The site then tells you how to deal with this kind of waste.

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Volume 10, Issue 13, Posted 9:21 AM, 07.03.2018

One step at a time

At the end of last year, I joined the board of The Village Project, a small nonprofit in Bay Village whose mission is to bring the community together through a common cause. That cause is making and delivering meals to local families who have a family member fighting cancer.

One of Village Project’s fundraisers is called Project Pedal, in which participants choose from a few different bike routes around Bay Village to ride. The event this year was held at Cahoon Park on Saturday, June 14, as part of Destination Bay, and it was a success!

A few weeks ago I asked the event coordinator if we could talk about ways to reduce waste for Project Pedal. My main goal was to stop the distribution of single-use water bottles, and encourage participants to bring their own and refill at Cahoon.

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Volume 10, Issue 12, Posted 9:20 AM, 06.19.2018

The solution is simple

Plastic pollution in waterways is a huge worldwide problem. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to be larger than the state of Texas and Lake Erie is one of the most polluted Great Lakes in terms of microplastics. The good news? The solution is simple. It’s not easy, but it is simple.  

Everyone, everywhere, can take part in a beach clean-up every single day simply by picking up litter when you see it in your yard, on your street, or anywhere at all. This is not easy, nor is it enjoyable, but this simple activity can and will make an impact on our waterways. Litter on our streets, in our yards, and in our parks easily ends up in the lake through the sewer system or wind blowing it there.

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Volume 10, Issue 11, Posted 10:09 AM, 06.05.2018

Gas versus electric?

As we head into spring and the weather warms, it’s time to start with the yard work again. I want to write about something that quite honestly I had not thought too much about and was surprised by some of the facts I learned.

When it comes to lawn mowers, should you use an electric or gas mower if you want to cut your grass in the most environmentally way possible? Well, the MOST responsible way to cut your grass is to use a push mower, which does not use gas or electricity, just your muscle power. However, this is not realistic for the majority of homeowners with larger yards. If you have a very small yard, however, that may be a good option for you.

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Volume 10, Issue 9, Posted 10:02 AM, 05.01.2018

Green your spring cleaning

When winter is over (will it be over? Ha ha!) do you like to spring clean your home? Many people enjoy clearing stuff out of their home in the spring and giving it a good cleaning before summer arrives. I want to offer suggestions that will help you dispose of unwanted items in an environmentally friendly way. 

The No. 1 thing you should think about when wanting to get rid of things is if they are in good enough condition for donating. Donating used items keeps them out of the landfill, and also helps people with limited means. When looking to get rid of used clothing, toys, furniture, housewares, shoes, books, small appliances, etc., please make sure you donate what you can. There are many services that will come pick up your items from your house, such as AMVETS, Easter Seals and Volunteers of America. It is easy to Google these organizations and check their websites for how to set up a pick-up at your home. Donations are also tax-deductible so keep track of how many bags you are donating and their estimated value.

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Volume 10, Issue 8, Posted 9:49 AM, 04.17.2018

Celebrate Earth Day in Bay by recycling, reusing

Bay Village is celebrating Earth Day on Saturday, April 21, at the Bay Village Police Department. Between 9 a.m. and noon, you will be able to drop off your sensitive documents for shredding, bulk cardboard, and any usable building materials and supplies you may have. There is no limit to the amount of paper you can bring to shred, so please bring it all!

Additionally, Habitat for Humanity will be on location that morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to collect items in good usable condition such as: building supplies, trash containers, furniture, windows, doors, cabinets, light fixtures, sinks, tubs, showers, plumbing/electric/HVAC, lumber, and full rolls of wallpaper. Please do not bring mattresses, paint or clothing. For a full list of what is accepted, please check clevelandhabitat.org/restore/donations.

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Volume 10, Issue 7, Posted 9:40 AM, 04.03.2018

Plastic particles found in bottled water

You may have seen a report the last few weeks in multiple news publications that a recent study of 11 brands of bottled water has revealed that 93 percent of them contain microplastic contamination. The researchers from State University of New York and non-profit journalism organization Orb Media found an average of 10.4 plastic particles per liter of water. Included in the study were common brands such as Aquafina, Dasani, Nestle Pure Life, as well as San Pellegrino.

My hope is that you’ll take the information you read here and tell your family and friends about it. I know you know someone (most likely lots of people) who habitually drink bottled water.

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Volume 10, Issue 6, Posted 10:14 AM, 03.20.2018

Church embraces plastic reduction; Earth Hour 2018

The Church of England this year asked people to give up single-use plastics for Lent. It is remarkable that their entire Lent program was focused on an environmental issue. This request came at a perfect time after the plastics ban China has issued (China is no long accepting plastic recyclables from around the world) and England is seeing a back-up of recyclables, just as the United States is. Additionally, the European Union announced in December targets for waste reduction for member nations, with a focus on plastics.

The Church of England created a calendar for a plastics-free Lent, with each day providing tips about reducing everyday plastics or Bible verses that are environmentally themed. You can find the calendar at churchcare.co.uk/images/Plastic_Free_Lent.pdf. In it are suggestions such as bringing your own water bottle and shopping bags, as well as requesting restaurant take-out (or as they say, “takeaways”) to be packed in a container you bring.

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Volume 10, Issue 5, Posted 9:26 AM, 03.06.2018

Ecotourism in Costa Rica

I am very fortunate to have recently visited Costa Rica. In addition to being a tropical, sunny, beautiful and lush destination to visit from Cleveland in February, Costa Rica was one of the first countries to promote “eco-tourism.” According to the International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of the local people.”

As we got off the plane in San Jose, one of the first signs we saw read, “The earth does not know what to do with plastic.” As we walked further into the airport, there were separate recycling receptacles for plastics, for paper, for glass and aluminum. Furthermore, in 2017, Costa Rica ran entirely on renewable energy for 300 days. Their renewable energy comes from: 78 percent hydropower, 10 percent wind, 10 percent geothermal, and 1 percent solar.  

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Volume 10, Issue 4, Posted 9:44 AM, 02.20.2018

Recycling, recycling everywhere with no place to go

Unfortunately, there is a huge recycling problem in the United States and the world: We have recycling piling and piling up because China has put a ban on buying the world’s plastic and mixed paper recycling.

You probably didn’t know that up until Jan. 1, 2018, China had been purchasing over half of the world’s plastic and paper recycling to process in China. That has all come to a screeching halt, as six months ago they announced a ban on any imported solid waste that had more than a 0.5 percent contamination rate. A 0.5 percent rate is extremely high and pretty much an unattainable standard. Currently, the U.S. achieves a 1.5 percent contamination rate, and would most likely be able to lower it to under 1 percent, but not to 0.5. 

China decided to ban the solid waste coming into the country with higher contamination rates because of the pollution the contamination was causing China. They have committed to “protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health” and focus on recycling their own solid waste, so they have closed the door on the rest of the world.

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Volume 10, Issue 3, Posted 10:03 AM, 02.06.2018

2017: Year in review for Bay Village Green Team

The Bay Village Green Team had a successful 2017. Bay Village Bay Days was a much more environmentally friendly event last year, as the Green Team partnered with Bay Village Kiwanis to reduce landfill waste. Over 1,000 pounds of food was composted during the event, and the 20-yard recycling dumpster was filled to the top with recycling. To put this in perspective, five years ago the event would fill two 30-yard landfill dumpsters; this year one landfill dumpster was used, and it was only 2/3 full.

The Bay Village Green Team also partnered again with BAYarts to reduce waste for their large benefit, Moondance, held annually in September. Moondance strives to be a zero-waste event, with everything composted or recycled. The Green Team provides volunteers for the event to help vendors and guests discard their waste appropriately.

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Volume 10, Issue 1, Posted 9:35 AM, 01.09.2018

A greener you in 2018

I hope you are all enjoying this time of year and spending time with family and friends rather than getting caught up in the frenzy and stress this season can bring. For this issue’s column I want to share with you some simple New Year’s resolution ideas as we head into 2018.

  1. Bring your own. I’ve written this here many times, and I can’t emphasize enough how much cutting single-use plastics out of your life helps the health of the planet. Bring your own coffee mug, water bottle, and shopping bags. These three items alone account for so much trash and waste that end up in our landfills and waterways. Make it your resolution to bring your own – soon it will become a habit!
  2. Reduce energy use. Turn off lights and turn the heat down while you’re not home, and unplug phone/tablet chargers when not in use. Our energy source still largely comes from burning coal in Ohio. Using less energy in your home has a direct impact on carbon dioxide emissions into the environment.
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Volume 9, Issue 24, Posted 10:00 AM, 12.19.2017

Real or fake?

Yes, I’m wondering if you have real or fake ... Christmas trees. This is definitely a topic that causes a lot of confusion, and I get it. Some people think: I’m going to buy an artificial tree so I don’t have to keep cutting down a real one every year. However, this is not the answer, environmentally speaking. The most environmentally friendly way to have a Christmas tree is to buy a real one year after year.

There are many reasons why having a real tree is better for the environment. Most artificial trees are made from toxic, non-recyclable materials, so someday that tree will end up in a landfill. A study found that an artificial tree has three times more impact on climate change than a natural tree.

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Volume 9, Issue 23, Posted 10:34 AM, 12.05.2017

Easy ways to 'green' your holidays

This is a column that I wrote last year around this time, and I’m re-running it with a couple of updates. It’s information that I believe is important to remember this time of year.

It is estimated that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, household waste increases 25 percent. I want to share some easy ways to reduce waste, and help make your holidays earth-friendly!

An easy step to take is to purchase local and/or organic foods when possible. Locally grown and raised food reduces the carbon dioxide emissions from shipping foods to you. Purchasing organic foods reduces the need for pesticides and toxic chemicals, and every time you do this, you “vote” for organic foods with your dollars. These chemicals, when used on conventionally grown items, are not only detrimental to your health, but they enter the soil, which eventually runs off into rivers and lakes. This time of year it is not as easy to find locally raised produce, but it’s still available. I have seen it at both Heinen’s and Whole Foods in recent weeks.

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Volume 9, Issue 22, Posted 9:57 AM, 11.21.2017

Proposed county fee aims to reduce plastic bag pollution

Sunny Simon and Dale Miller, two of Cuyahoga County’s Council members, have introduced legislation that would place a $0.10 fee on each plastic bag used by consumers at stores that are more than 7,000 square feet. The average Cuyahoga County resident (not family, but resident) uses 341 plastic bags a year, with 319 million being used county-wide yearly. Only 10 percent of these are recycled. It is also estimated that each of these 319 million bags being used in Cuyahoga County are used for an average of 12 minutes each.

As I have a written about before, over 5 million pounds of plastic enters Lake Erie every year. The goal of the $0.10 fee per bag is to limit the amount of plastic getting into the lake and polluting our environment. Out of each $0.10 collected, $0.06 would go to a fund that would be used to clean up our waterways. The other $0.04 would be given back to the stores and also used to distribute reusable bags at libraries, senior centers and homeless shelters.

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Volume 9, Issue 21, Posted 9:57 AM, 11.07.2017

Keep your garb out of the garbage

Many people I know think of recycling in terms of plastics, cans, glass, etc. However, we have a global problem with unwanted clothing. According to the EPA, 84 percent of discarded clothing ends up in the landfill. In that last 20 years, Americans have doubled the amount of clothes they trash per year from 7 million tons to 14 million tons, which equates to about 80 pounds per person annually. 

The problem of what to do with unwanted clothing is so large that there is currently no good way to deal with it all. Instead of putting it in your trash, you may think that recycling it is a good idea. There are different ways to do this: you can put it in your Simple Recycle bags and place on the curb in Bay Village and Westlake, or you can bring it to a store with clothing recycling, such as H&M, to discard it.

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Volume 9, Issue 20, Posted 9:52 AM, 10.17.2017

One million per minute

This is a column that appeared in the Observer in the spring of 2016. I’m re-running it because I think it’s an important message that needs to be communicated over and over.

One million per minute is how many plastic bags the world uses. It is estimated that worldwide use of plastic bags is between 500 billion and 1 trillion a year. Furthermore, it is estimated that Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags a year. The average American family brings home 1,500 plastic bags a year.

Not only are plastic bags a nuisance for the environment because they either sit in a landfill for hundreds of years or worse are blown around in our environment, ending up in trees and contaminating our waterways, but at least 12 million barrels of oil are used each year to manufacture those bags. Twelve million barrels of oil. A year. For something that is pretty much unnecessary.

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Volume 9, Issue 19, Posted 10:12 AM, 10.03.2017

The Village Project's Garden Angels

The Village Project in Bay Village is an organization dedicated to feeding people who are battling cancer. The Village Project delivers healthy meals to patients and their families twice a week, and serves the communities of Bay Village, Westlake, Rocky River, Avon and Avon Lake. Meals are delivered to patients’ homes and consist of high quality and nutritional food; they never include processed sugar, white flour or red meat. The mission of the Village Project is to provide support to families while their lives are consumed with fighting cancer, along with providing cancer patients highly nutritional food so that their bodies are as strong as possible to fight the disease.

During the spring, summer and fall months, the Village Project tends to eight plots at the Bay Village Community Garden. The majority of the fresh vegetables used in meals during the summer months come from the garden. The garden leader, who is in charge of the eight plots, is Sherri Reilly. She has been volunteering with the Village Project for six years as garden leader. She coordinates volunteers to help water and harvest the crops. Every Monday and Wednesday, she has a group of children that come to help her and whom she calls her “Garden Angels.”

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Volume 9, Issue 17, Posted 9:45 AM, 09.06.2017

2.4 million per hour

My family and I took a trip to California this summer and one of our stops was the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It is arguably one of the best aquariums in the country, if not the world.

I have been to visit the aquarium a few times, and this past time I was the most impressed. The main reason this was my favorite time is because the Aquarium is constantly giving visitors the message about plastic in the ocean, and how to help. From the staff who work the exhibits to many of the displays, you cannot escape the message that plastic is bad for the ocean, that we are choking our oceans with plastic, and that the only solution is for humans to stop using single-use plastic.

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Volume 9, Issue 16, Posted 10:15 AM, 08.15.2017

Bay Village going 'green' one water bottle at a time

Bay Village got a huge boost for being more “green” when the Bay Village Green Team was awarded a grant from The Bay Village Foundation that helped fund a water bottle refilling station/fountain at Cahoon Memorial Park. The Bay Village Green Team knows how important it is that plastic water bottles are avoided, especially at a park like Cahoon, which is very close to Lake Erie.

The first outdoor water bottle filling station in Bay Village was installed at Cahoon because there are so many people who use the park on a daily basis. Further, there are countless children who use Cahoon Park for sports such as soccer, lacrosse, cross country, and various practices for extra-curricular sports in town. The water bottle filling station features the bottle filler, a drinking fountain, as well as a drinking bowl for dogs.

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Volume 9, Issue 14, Posted 9:57 AM, 07.18.2017

Preserving our biodiversity, one yard at a time

Native plants are defined as those that occur naturally in a region in which they evolved. I have to be honest and admit that I did not know much about this topic – but as I did my research I now realize how important it is that people understand the issue I’m going to write about and how easy it is to help!

Over the past century, urbanization has occurred in the United States: 54 percent of the land in the lower 48 states is made up of cities and suburbs, and 41 percent is made up of agriculture. We, as humans, have taken over 95 percent of nature. Lawns and exotic ornamental plants have taken over ecologically productive land. Lawns cover over 40 million acres in the United States, and over 3,400 species of alien plants have invaded 100 million acres, and that is expected to double in five years.

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Volume 9, Issue 12, Posted 9:21 AM, 06.20.2017

The Cleveland Indians want you!

The Bay Village Green Team has a fabulous opportunity for you and everyone you know. You can sign up to volunteer at any home Tribe game on a Friday or Saturday this summer and through the end of the regular season. You will be a part of the Indians Green Team and will help the Indians recycle more than they usually do.

The only thing you have to do is walk up and down an aisle in between innings; never during active play. You will be given gloves and a bag, and ask people if they have any cans or plastic bottles. I did this during the World Series – it’s super easy, and the fans are generally very thankful for your work. Additionally, all Green Team volunteers will be placed in the lower level, and be able to watch the game from fantastic locations. I was behind home plate during the World Series! That was amazing.

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Volume 9, Issue 11, Posted 10:15 AM, 06.06.2017

Green lawns are not so 'green'

Happy May, everyone! This is a reprise of a column I wrote last year, and I wanted to re-run it because I think the information is so important – now more than ever with the health of our amazing Lake Erie being threatened. Please read it and encourage your friends and family to avoid lawn fertilizers!

Weed-free, lush, green lawns. Many people strive for this; I tell my kids not to play on them. Why? I have many reasons for avoiding “perfect” lawns. Lawn perfection typically comes at a high cost. A cost to Lake Erie, a cost to wild animals and a cost to our health. It is estimated that more than a billion pounds of pesticides and herbicides are used by homeowners in the United States each year.

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Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 9:40 AM, 05.16.2017

Be the change

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This is a motto I try very hard to live by, and to teach my children. I especially take this to heart as I go about my day and see litter on my street, in my neighborhood, and in my city. While I do not want to pick up that litter, I do, because that’s what I want everyone to do. If I don’t do it, why would anyone else?

This column is somewhat of a follow-up to my column in the last issue, about plastics in our rivers, lakes and oceans. Last week, my family and I were fortunate to vacation in Florida. We were on the east coast of Florida, near Delray Beach. This is a wonderful area of Florida if you haven’t been, as there are lots of great restaurants, shopping, ice cream, etc. However, along with great places to frequent comes lots of waste, especially single-use plastic waste.

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Volume 9, Issue 9, Posted 10:00 AM, 05.02.2017

Lake pollution rivals ocean ‘garbage patch'

“We are the problem. The good news is that we are also the solution.” This is a quote from Dr. Sherri Mason, a professor of chemistry at State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia, when speaking about plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Dr. Mason is a leading researcher on this topic, and conducted the first ever plastic pollution survey within the Great Lakes. I was fortunate to attend a presentation by Dr. Mason and afterward participate in a discussion about this topic last week at the Museum of Natural History.

Dr. Mason, along with Marcus Erikson of the 5 Gyres Institute, conducted the first open-water surveys of the Great Lakes in 2012 and 2013. In Lake Superior and Lake Huron, they found 7,000 plastic particles per square kilometer (km2). In Lake Michigan, they found 17,000 plastic particles per km2; in Lake Erie they found 46,000 plastic particle per km2; and the lake with the highest level of plastic particles is Lake Ontario with 230,000 per km2. The flow of the lakes into one another is why Erie and Ontario have become the most polluted; the water from the other lakes flows into Erie and finally into Ontario.

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Volume 9, Issue 8, Posted 9:56 AM, 04.18.2017

Celebrating Earth Day in Bay!

On Earth Day, which is Saturday, April 22, this year, the Bay Village Green Team will be hosting two events in the Bay Village Police Station parking lot: a Habitat for Humanity collection from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., and a shredding day from 9 a.m.-noon.

The Habitat for Humanity ReStore collects new, used and reclaimed building materials, furniture, appliances, landscaping and more. Please bring unwanted appliances (both large and small), plumbing, cabinets, doors, electronics, flooring, windows, furniture, paint, lighting, lumber and tools to the Bay Village Police Station on April 22 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. There are items that are NOT accepted at this drop-off, including clothing, mattresses, hazardous material, torn or heavily damaged furniture, opened paint or unframed glass. For a complete listing of items that are and are not accepted, please visit clevelandhabitat.org/restore/donations.

The Bay Village Green Team is also hosting a shredding day at the same location, between the hours of 9 a.m.-noon. It is free of charge and there is no limit on the amount of boxes of papers you can bring to shred, and it is encouraged that you let your family and friends in neighboring communities, and even local businesses, know about this opportunity. Please make sure there are no binders, metal hanging files or large metal clips in the material. Cardboard is also accepted; it will be taken to a facility for recycling.

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Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:19 AM, 04.04.2017

Composting at home

Have you thought about starting to compost at your house and then you chicken out because you think it will be smelly or gross? If so, that’s what I thought for a long time, until I bit the bullet one day and bought a compost bin for my backyard. For the record, my husband was not thrilled, as he was afraid of the same thing, as well as attracting animals. I’m happy to report that it has been over a year, and we have not had any problems with gross-ness or animals!

When you Google “composting at home” it can be a little overwhelming, as there seem to be a million websites about methods, ratios, etc. Trust me, it is not that complicated; it’s actually quite easy!

I purchased a repurposed food barrel, turned into a compost barrel, from Rain Barrels N’ More in Westlake. I went to the store with the intention of getting a rain barrel, and I walked out with both a rain barrel and compost barrel. To be honest, I was feeling a bit intimidated by the entire thing, however, Ann (the owner) ensured me it’s a simple thing to do.

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Volume 9, Issue 6, Posted 10:11 AM, 03.21.2017

Ohio's energy sources: Petroleum and renewables

This will be my last column in a four-part series about how Ohio generates energy for electricity. First, I want to correct an error in my last column: Ohio gets 14 percent of its power from nuclear energy, not 20 percent. The United States, as a whole, generates about 20 percent of electricity from nuclear power plants.

Second, I have heard from a couple of readers who do not feel I addressed nuclear power's risks enough. Nuclear power, despite not contributing greenhouse gases, remains a very controversial power source. The ongoing controversy has to do with the storage of the highly toxic, radioactive waste that has to be stored indefinitely, as well as potential nuclear accidents as the world has seen at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. As always, I encourage you to do your own research into this matter in order to form your own opinion about whether nuclear power is a viable source of energy for Ohio or not.

Today, I’m going to write about two sources: petroleum and renewables. Ohio gets about 1 percent of its electricity from burning petroleum. Petroleum is a fossil fuel like coal and natural gas, and is not renewable. Another name for petroleum is crude oil, and it is found in underground pools or reservoirs, and in tiny spaces in sedimentary rock. It is clear, green or black, and can have a thin consistency like gasoline or a thick consistency like tar.

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Volume 9, Issue 5, Posted 9:28 AM, 03.07.2017

Ohio's energy sources: Nuclear power

Part three in a series about how Ohio sources its energy for electricity.

In Ohio, about 14 percent of our power comes from nuclear energy. I’m going to try to explain it in simple terms, as researching this topic resulted in a lot of information that is very complicated with nuclear physics (which is not something I am interested in trying to explain in my column!).

Nuclear energy comes from uranium. Uranium is found in geological formations, as well as in sea water. It is the least plentiful mineral, however its radioactivity makes it a plentiful supply of energy. About one pound of uranium is equal to three million pounds of coal in terms of energy production. Uranium is mined, similar to how coal is mined, however it is more hazardous because of the radioactivity. Uranium must be concentrated for it to be mined, and most of the uranium in the U.S. is mined in Wyoming and the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

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Volume 9, Issue 4, Posted 9:52 AM, 02.21.2017

Ohio's energy sources: Natural gas

Part two in a series about how Ohio sources its energy for electricity.

In Ohio, 23 percent of energy for electricity comes from natural gas. Natural gas is non-renewable fossil fuel used as a source of energy for heating, cooking and electricity generation. It is a product of the remains of plants and animals that were alive millions of years ago, thus the reason it is considered a "fossil" fuel. After these plants and animals died, they decayed into thick layers mixed with sand and silt. These layers are buried under layers of silt, sand and rock. Pressure and heat changed some of the remains to coal, some into oil, and some into natural gas.

Most of the gas used as energy in the United States is drawn from wells or extracted in conjunction with crude oil production. Other gas that is trapped in shale requires hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” a relatively newer gas extraction technology. Energy companies drill to reach natural gas trapped far below the earth’s surface. Rock must be broken in order to reach it. Fracking produces cracks in the rock that then releases the flow of natural gas. These wells are drilled vertically hundreds or thousands of feet below the surface of the earth. Additionally, horizontal sections extending thousands of feet may also be included in the wells. To fracture the rock, large quantities of fluids at high pressure are pumped down the well. This fluid consists of water, proppant (solid material such as sand or man-made ceramic), and chemicals that produce fractures in the shale. The gas rises to the top of the well, and is captured.

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Volume 9, Issue 3, Posted 9:53 AM, 02.07.2017

Ohio’s energy sources: Coal mining

Part one in a series about how Ohio sources its energy for electricity.

The United States as a whole generates energy from: coal (33%), natural gas (33%), nuclear (20%), hydropower (6%), other renewables (7%), solar (0.6%), wind (4.7%), and petroleum (1%). Ohio generates energy from four main sources: coal (59%), natural gas (23%), petroleum (1%), and nuclear (14%).

For this column, I’m going to start with coal mining, as the majority of energy in Ohio comes from this source. Coal is a nonrenewable fossil fuel, and it is created from the remains of plants that lived and died about 100 to 400 million years ago. Coal is burned in order to produce heat. The heat converts water into high-pressure steam, which then turns the blades of a turbine that is connected to a generator. The generator spins and converts mechanical energy into electricity. It is estimated that the United States has enough coal reserves to last 285 years.

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Volume 9, Issue 2, Posted 9:39 AM, 01.24.2017

A closer look at the EPA and Cleveland's connection

In my last column, I wrote about the Environmental Protection Agency, its history, and role in our lives today. I have been reading more about the EPA and its history, and wanted to revisit the topic again this week. Think of this a Part 2 of the EPA column. (Part 1 is available at wbvobserver.com/read/columns/the-green-report.)

I want to address Cleveland’s role in the modern environmental movement, including the establishment of the EPA and the Clean Water Act. It’s no coincidence that the first Earth Day was in 1970, the EPA was established in 1970, and the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969. As I wrote before, the modern environmental movement was developing in the early 1960s as the result of many events, mainly Rachel Carson’s book "Silent Spring" in 1962 and other significant environmental problems such as heavy pollution in our nation’s rivers that ran through large cities. ("Silent Spring" is available at the Westlake and Bay Village libraries; a documentary on Carson will air Tuesday, Jan. 24, 8 p.m., on WVIZ/PBS.)

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Volume 9, Issue 1, Posted 10:12 AM, 01.10.2017

What is the EPA?

I thought I would write about the history and purpose of the Environmental Protection Agency. The truth is that I didn’t know much about it, so I thought sharing the information here would be helpful to people who may not understand what the EPA is and what it does.

In a previous column, I wrote about the origins of Earth Day. The first Earth Day was on April 22, 1970. Earth Day helped form the modern idea of environmentalism that we know today. The EPA was born on Dec. 2, 1970. It can be reasoned that these two dates in history were direct reactions to Rachel Carson’s 1962 classic "Silent Spring." Her book informed the public of the widespread poisoning of nature and humans by pesticides, which prompted the public to demand direct government action to protect the environment. Her book provoked politicians to become aware of the political advantages to including environmental issues in their speeches and legislation. Both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson incorporated the issue and President Nixon was also eager to include the environment as one of his issues when he was elected in 1968.

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Volume 8, Issue 24, Posted 10:09 AM, 12.13.2016

Green your holidays

It is estimated that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, household waste increases 25 percent. I want to share some easy ways to reduce waste, and make your holidays more green!

An easy step to take is to purchase local and/or organic foods when possible. Locally grown and raised food reduces the carbon dioxide emissions from shipping foods. Purchasing organic foods reduces the need for pesticides and toxic chemicals. These chemicals, when used on conventionally grown items, are not only detrimental to your health, but they enter the soil, which eventually runs off into rivers and lakes. This time of year it is not as easy to find locally raised produce, but it’s still available. I have seen it both at Heinen’s and Whole Foods in recent weeks. If you are looking for a locally raised turkey to serve at Thanksgiving, you can call and order one in advance at Lake Road Market in Rocky River. They are delicious, and are $3.29/lb.

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Volume 8, Issue 22, Posted 9:46 AM, 11.15.2016

Being green at the World Series

Wow! What a year for Cleveland sports. It’s amazing that the Indians are in the World Series! What an opportunity to showcase our city yet again on the national stage … and have a chance to bring another national championship to our city! Speaking of amazing opportunities, The Bay Village Green Team was asked by the Indians to provide volunteers for the Fall Classic for a recycling initiative from Major League Baseball!

In 2005, MLB was the first professional sports league to partner with the Natural Resources Defense Council to form the “Commissioner’s Initiative on Sustainable Stadium Operations,” now known as “MLB Greening Program.” The Greening Program is an environmental data collection system, which analyzes stadium operations and encourages teams to share information about their environmental efforts and successes.

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Volume 8, Issue 21, Posted 10:04 AM, 11.01.2016

The dangers of deforestation

Deforestation is the clearing of trees, transforming a forest into cleared land. It changes the land into a less bio-diverse ecosystem such as pasture, cropland or plantation. Forests cover over 30 percent of Earth’s land. Rainforests make up 6 to 7 percent of the earth and contain over one half of all plant and animal species in the world. The largest rainforests on earth are: Amazon basin in South America, the Congo River basin in Central Africa, Southeast Asia, New Guinea and Madagascar.

Why are forests and rainforests important? Trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen in return. Twenty percent of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon. Forests help preserve biodiversity, as they are home to over 70 percent of Earth’s plant and animal species. Forests also play an important role in offering watershed protection, preventing soil erosion and mitigating climate change.

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Volume 8, Issue 20, Posted 10:26 AM, 10.18.2016

Time to turn on the tap

Every second of every day, the United States consumes 1,500 bottles of water. Every second. This is happening even though 99.9% of us are living with clean, safe tap water. The demand for bottled water is manufactured by the beverage industry. There is no reason any of us needs to purchase bottled water; bottled water costs between $0.89/gallon to $8.26/gallon. Tap water costs pennies. If you drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day, it will cost you around $0.50 (yes, fifty cents!) a year to do that out of your tap. Drinking the same amount of bottled water will cost you about $1,400 a year.

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Volume 8, Issue 19, Posted 9:01 AM, 10.04.2016

'We are all crew members'

I got my title from a quote in an Omnimax film called “A Beautiful Planet” that was playing at the Great Lakes Science Center this summer. The film is about how the astronauts living at the International Space Station see Earth, and it’s absolutely amazing. During the film, climate change is addressed, and how the space station crew can see the direct effects of climate change on the Earth.

This past July was the hottest month recorded on Earth since record keeping began in 1880. In fact, each month since October 2015 has set a new high for heat for that respective month. For example, August 2016 was the hottest August ever recorded. NASA has warned that warming of recent decades is out of step with any period over the past millennium. There is a 99% chance that 2016 will be the warmest year on record; 2015 beat 2014 for the warmest year and 2016 is on pace to beat 2015.

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Volume 8, Issue 18, Posted 9:52 AM, 09.20.2016

County toolkit helps cities achieve sustainability goals

In February 2015, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish launched a new department: the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability. Michael Foley is the director and Shanelle Smith is the deputy director. The purpose of the department is to promote environmentally responsible practices to businesses, the public, and the 59 communities within Cuyahoga County.

In March 2016, Cuyahoga County’s Department of Sustainability released "Sustainable Cuyahoga: A toolkit of recommended best practices for communities in Cuyahoga County." The toolkit was developed in partnership with the GreenCityBlueLake Institute of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. It outlines best practices from around Northeast Ohio regarding actions communities can take to become more sustainable. The toolkit was developed for public officials to use as a resource to learn about sustainability issues and help local communities take action. The toolkit was also designed with the public in mind; for citizens who would like to help their local governments become more sustainable.

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Volume 8, Issue 16, Posted 9:47 AM, 08.16.2016