Saturday, March 21, 2020

Time to Imagine and Create a Better Place

I've been meaning to blog about wildflowers, but got distracted by the Corona Virus and worrying about how will it affect our efforts to make Tucson more sustainable in the face of climate disaster. 

It is disheartening to read about the hoarding of toilet paper and bottled water - because that means more carbon sequestering trees will be cut down and more single-use plastic will end up in our landfills and the ocean. But mostly because it reflects how our consumer society deals with crisis. Instead of pulling together as a community, we are elbowing our neighbor out of the way to grab the last package of toilet paper (making a shortage where there was none.) 

To be more resilient (or even thrive) as climate change progresses, we need to pull our community together and work towards shared goals. Obviously we aren't there yet.  But...what if we think of this first response as a test run that we can learn from?  An opportunity? What if we take advantage of our free time by reading up on sustainable solutions (like rainwater harvesting) or even trying out a more sustainable lifestyle

We finally have time for a leisurely walk, smelling the bountiful wildflowers along the way, or to enjoy being outside tending our yards in this lovely weather. We can finally  take precious time with our kids teaching them how to bake bread or grow their own food in a garden.

The other day Dan and I observed where the rain fell in our yard and adjusted our basins and berms to better direct the water to our native trees. We planted some dill and basil in our kitchen garden. Dan even baked some Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's Day.

A while ago I wrote this poem about a joyful way of living and being. At the time I realized many people are so busy just trying to survive that they don't have the time to enjoy these simple pleasures. But there was a time when only one person in the family had to have a job - so what happened? What if we adjusted our priorities?  What if we were all paid a living wage? What if we reconsidered our consumer lifestyle and spent more time in nature?  Just imagine...

Imagine this place…
Where we live in harmony with nature
Landscaping reflecting the natural beauty of the Sonoran desert
Instead of gravel and cement - agave, mesquite, palo verde flourish
Rainwater washes down roof tops to nourish fruit trees and fill aquifers
When we no longer obstruct the flow but go with it
Rivers surrounded by cottonwood and oak

Imagine this place
Where we live in harmony with others
Nurturing, inspiring the individual gifts everyone has to share
Instead of TV and Youtube - family, neighbors, community connects
Supporting local farmers, artisans, craftsmen, passionate entrepreneurs
When we no longer obstruct the flow but go with it
Talents developed with encouragement and love

Imagine this place
Where we live in harmony with the dirt
Harvesting nourishing heritage crops for everyone to share
Instead of teaching lack and fear - we teach love, justice, environmental respect
Restoring local rivers, aquifers with berms, water barrels, catchment basins
When we no longer obstruct the flow but go with it
Desert crops sprout in the dirt, roots reaching for the

Imagine all the time
Time to live in the present, fully alive
To soak in the brilliance of our sunsets during an evening stroll
To feel the wind in your face as you coast down a hill
Time to take in the fragrance of creosote after the rain
To toast the spectacle of monsoon storms with your love
Time to dig in the garden with your children
To settle back and watch things grow
Time to share your harvest at a neighborhood potluck
 To paint, to read, to bake, to sing, to dance, to play…

Imagine floating on your back, you are part of the flow

Imagine this place

You don't have to go it alone. Join our community on Facebook. 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Steve K Champions Plan to Use Glass that Would Have Ended Up in Our Landfills

While attending a Mayor and City Council meeting in support of green infrastructure funding, I caught the tail end of their discussion on what to do about our threatened recycling program. Apparently, the city is losing $3 million dollars a year. They discussed ways to save money. One way was to cut down pickups to twice a month. (That change has already been implemented.) They also discussed the high cost of storing glass bottles until they can find a buyer. It was suggested that they throw that glass in the landfill!


I couldn't help but blurt out, "No! Find a use for it!" Not exactly council meeting decorum, I know. But there has got to be a purpose for that glass! In Mexico they used to melt down glass bottles to make glassware. A local artist uses colored glass to decorate her cement candle holders. Since we are running out of sand, couldn't we use glass to replace it in cement structures?

When arriving at the Ward 6 Office for our monthly Sustainable Tucson meeting, my husband pointed out the new sidewalk made out of cement with sand from crushed glass!

When I mentioned the sidewalk to our Council Member Steve Kozachik, he gave me an impromptu demonstration of the glass crusher he had used to make the sand for the cement. He insisted that I try it myself. It was pretty fun.

crushing bottles with labels on them
Steve said that even the cement workers who put in the sidewalk thought it was a crazy idea to use sharp glass.  But any concerns were eased when Steve let me feel for myself how soft and fine the glass sand is.

One of the things I love about Steve K is how responsive he is to his constituents. As much as I'd like to think that my outburst inspired Steve, it was really Val Little who approached him with the idea of using the glass to make sand. She had seen it done in other countries during her travels abroad. Steve got right on it. He surfed the web and found a glass crusher for $6,000 then got the go-ahead from city manager Mike Ortega, who agreed to purchase it for a “pilot program.” 

When I asked Steve why he took on this project, he explained, "We're losing over $3M annually in our recycling program. We have to devise some creative new ways to do the whole reduce/reuse/recycle thing. This is just demonstrating that to city staff."

He told Arizona Daily Star, “What I’m doing back in the garage is really, really (low) retail scale to show the environmental services people that you can scale this up and we can do this on a commercial level. We can create our own secondary market and maybe even make a few bucks."  The sand will be used for monsoon sand bags/mortar mix/filling alley potholes/cover at the landfill/trench lining...anything sand is used for.

I was grateful to have a place to bring the kombucha bottles that were piling up on my back porch. I coudn't bring myself to throw them in the trash when they would just end up in the landfill.  So I brought a few with me when I went to the Sustainable Tucson meeting at Ward 6. 

If you were wondering why the Ward 6 garage smells like a brewery, it is because Steve first approached bars on 4th Avenue to supply him with bottles. He is currently arranging for more drop-off locations around town. In the meantime, you can drop them off in the blue bins in the back parking lot of the Ward 6 office anytime you're in the neighborhood or attending a meeting there. No need to take off the labels, but please help Steve out by removing the plastic and metal lids and dumping out any liquid beforehand.  

What's next? Steve has the city setting up multiple drop off sites around town, buying a commercial scale crusher, and letting Republic Services know that we're not doing business as usual in the recycle world any longer.

So drop by the Ward 6 office anytime with your glass bottles and to thank Steve K! 

The Ward 6 Office is located at 3202 E 1st St, Tucson, AZ (behind the Walgreens on Speedway across from the Loft Cinema.) 

UPDATE: Congrats Steve! The plan worked! On Tuesday, Nov. 17, the City of Tucson Mayor and Council voted to remove glass from the residential and commercial blue barrel program and start reusing it. Glass is no longer be accepted in the blue bins, but instead collected at drop-off sites across the city.

Here's a link to the Glass Reuse Plan with details and drop off spots in Tucson.