If you have a live Christmas tree, what do you do with it after the holidays are done? The halls are un-decked and the decorations are put away, so what happens to the naked, needle-dropping tree still sitting in the living room?
If you live in the City of Pittsburgh, don’t put your Christmas tree out to the curb. Although in past years Pittsburgh has had a curbside pickup for Christmas tree recycling, they’re not doing it this year. (So, if you put your tree out to the curb, it will just get put in the same garbage truck as everything else and go to the landfill.)
Instead, take your tree to one of the city’s recycling centers. The city accepts yard waste at four different recycling centers where they compost and mulch materials. Here are the details of the 2012 Christmas tree program (pdf) with locations. The Department of Public Works also has more information on yard waste collection. Be aware: if you take a car or SUV, drop-offs are free. But for a pickup or trailer, you pay $20 (or more for large dumptrucks, etc.), and you have to pay by money order (no checks or cash). Which is a real pain, so chop the tree into a couple of pieces, or strap it to the roof of the car.
If you live elsewhere, check with your local government for what to do with your tree. If you live in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Resources Council is a great place for information.
You can always compost the tree yourself, as well, in your own home compost pile. To do this effectively, you’re going to have to chop it up. The easiest way is with a power chipper/shredder, but you could also do it manually with some pruners. Just cut the branches from the trunk and cut or break them into small pieces. (Leave the thick trunk out of the compost and use it for a bonfire in the spring.)
Or, you can use the tree as a wildlife habitat. I’d really only recommend this if you live in a rural area, because in urban areas you might attract wildlife that’s less cuddly and enjoyable (like rats, for example). But you can drag the tree into your yard in a wooded area and let nature take its course. The branches will provide a place for birds or small mammals to shelter, and eventually the tree will compost naturally. (Sometimes trees are also used underwater in ponds to provide similar habitats for small fish.)
Whatever you do, if you choose a live tree, make sure it doesn’t end up in the landfill, so we can have lots of happy holidays to come.
We started “greenSinner” with an idea: we wanted to help people be green, in realistic ways. Most folks want to do what’s right for the environment, but getting there — or even figuring out what the “right” thing is — isn’t always easy. We started with this idea, not really sure what it would become. A blog? Yes, partially. A way of life for us? It already was. Maybe even a vocation? We hope so.
We’ve been quiet here on the blog lately, but if you saw last week’s post (or you’ve been checking us out on Facebook or Twitter), you’ve seen we haven’t been idle. We’ve opened a stall at the Pittsburgh Public Market. We’re building on our love of growing things to bring you flowers, and hopefully a slightly more beautiful world in the process.
Flowers always bring beauty. But many of the cut flowers available here in the United States are shipped from the tropics and treated with lots of chemicals to preserve them, neither of which is very good for our planet. It also limits the selection of flowers available to those that are easy and economical to ship over long distances and retain vase life after they’ve been on a plane or in a truck for a week.
We’ve benefited from a very generous offer by Catherine at Prism Stained Glass in Lawrenceville to use space behind her shop for a production garden, create a display garden on Butler Street, and participate in creating some community garden space.
We’ve been able to forage from our own gardens, those of friends and family, and even folks we’ve met through the Public Market, like Scotty and Brenda at the Berry Patch.
We do hope in the future to have a place to create the greenSinner farm, and we’ve been working with Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority to utilize vacant land in the city.
So it’s very much greenSinner. Green, because we’re growing locally, without chemicals. Sinner because, well, we’re still cutting up flowers, after all. They’re fresher and so should last longer, but they’re only temporary. Still, we think it’s worth it for the beauty they can bring, and if that’s not for you, we have plenty of live plants, too.
When I recently met someone who said to me, “You must be the flower farmer,” I thought, “Yes, I am.” And it felt really good to say so.
I’m trying my best to be as green as possible while remodeling my house. I have used as much salvage goods as possible. I’m on a first name basis with the guys at Construction Junction and try to be the Mayor of the recycling dumpster.
However, what do I do with an old toilet?
Yes, I can donate it for reuse but then I’m encouraging someone to use too much water every time they make sissy. The toilet in question used 3.5 gallons per flush. That’s 2 gallons more then the federaly mandated standard. I’m not the math wiz (pun intended) but that’s a lot of water being wasted.
What to do? I did extensive rearch for options. I came up empty handed.
I can’t break it up to use for flower pot drainage but poo contamination is bad! I don’t need Dateline NBC to be in my backyard with a cotton swab.
While fashion forward, I couldn’t make it work as a head piece.
The only viable option seems to be turning it into a lovely flowerpot but my nebby neighbors might object.
So what did I do? I took it to Construction Junction to be reused. The donation attendant said that they were thinking about no longer accepting high flush toilets. Oh Crap! However, for now, I accepted the tax donation receipt and left my trouble maker behind. Now to deal with the two other water buffalos in my house!
PS. What would you do with an old toilet? I’d love to hear your suggestions.
We’ve got big plans: we’re becoming urban flower farmers and designers.
Why Urban Farming?
Pittsburgh, like lots of industrial cities, has undergone a lot of contraction in the last 30-40 years. It’s done a pretty swell job at reinventing itself focusing around new industries like healthcare and education rather than steel and glass — there’s a reason we keep winning all those “most livable city” awards, after all.
But part of the transition was that Pittsburgh lost a lot of people. It’s now about half the size it once was, and that means a lot of empty space in the city. A compact urban core is great, but realistically, infill of housing can’t fill all that space. So what can we do with it? Some of it will go to parks and other greenspace, which is great. But there’s another greenspace-oriented use that also productively employs land and people: farming.
The local food movement has led to lots of local food options. Having grown up in the country, where you can find farmstands along the road with fresh produce all summer long, we’re in love with that. We subscribe to a CSA, we try to eat seasonal foods for this region of the country, and we grow our own.
But flowers… do you realize that the vast majority of cut flowers sold and delivered in the United States come from places like Ecuador and Colombia? They have perfect flower-growing climates to grow things like roses year-round, and they all get shipped overseas and assembled into the bouquets and arrangements you get from your local flower shop. As a result, they’re also not particularly fresh, and they’re covered with chemical preservatives and fungicides and all sorts of things like that.
We’d like to do our little part to change that. (Plus, Jimmy says he can’t cook, so I have to give him something to do, and flowers are right up his alley.) There’s a growing local flowers movement, and if you look, you can find locally-grown flowers in lots of places. We’ll talk more about this issue in some future posts, but start by simply asking your local florist, or looking for flowers at stores like Whole Foods, which sources locally. You can look for suppliers near you that belong to the American Society of Cut Flower Growers (we’re a member!) and they even have a Buyer’s Guide to help you out. Not only are local flowers better because they don’t have to be shipped as far, but they’re also far fresher, and can often last much longer.
We also think this is a great fit for Pittsburgh in particular, which is turning into a real green city: a LEED-certified convention center, the Fairmont hotel, and lots of other initiatives going on.
What’s greenSinner about this?
Well, local cut flowers are a little bit green, a little bit sin. You do cut them and keep them around for a few weeks, then throw them away, after all. But they provide such beauty to our lives, especially to special days like weddings and parties, we think it’s worth it. But while we’re at it, let’s use flowers from local farms, not from halfway around the world, covered with chemical preservatives.
What Are We Doing?
We’re starting a farm. We’re currently working with the city and the URA to understand the options and secure a place to grow for the long-term (and that’s why we were so interested in the new Pittsburgh agriculture ordinance). In the meantime, we’re doing some guerilla farming: a few plots here and there in our own backyards and those of our friends and neighbors. My position in this enterprise is Farmer-General.
I like Apple products. I own several. But I’m not a raving sycophant — if you love your Windows computer or your Android phone, great. Apple has taken broad steps to eliminating harmful chemicals and other ways to make its products greener. There’s still room for improvement, of course — and Greenpeace does a really nice job of presenting the facts about electronics manufacturers and how sustainable their products and processes are.
The author of the TreeHugger article argues the following:
If there were ever a gadget that emits a haloed “Planned Obsolescence” in bright neon letters, it’s the iPad. …[It] is released such a short time after the first version that all consumers are left with the question, “Apple, why didn’t you just do this with the last version since you obviously could have?”
The author of this article has a conspiracy theory about “planned obsolescence” and electronics, in which Apple changes very little about a product and re-releases it to its legion of zombie-fans who will throw away their current iPad and buy the new one.
Now, I think this idea of “planned obsolescence” is not completely off the mark: plenty of products exhibit its evidence. They’re designed to fall apart or break, be too expensive to repair, and be replaced by something that’s slightly newer and shinier but barely any different. But I think the charge is being unfairly leveled against Apple.
Apple products last a long time for electronics. In my experience, much longer than the competition: I have a 6-year-old Power Mac that is still perfectly functional, and a 4-year-old MacBook Pro that has taken a beating that would have reduced my old Dell laptop to plastic shards (not to mention, it’s still capable of running Apple’s most current operating system, while that Dell would have choked on Windows Vista years ago). Just pick up an iPhone or Mac laptop and compare the solid feel and careful design with cheap, creaky, plasticky products from many other manufacturers and the difference is apparent. And, these products hold their value well: over the years I’ve resold a number of Mac desktops and laptops, and a first-generation iPhone, and every time I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much they’re still worth, and happy that they still function well and can be passed along to someone who will use them.
Of course the greenest products are those that last a long time. When I buy a table or a cabinet, I expect it to last long enough for me to pass down to another generation. But the idea that Apple could “just do this with the last version” shows a willful ignorance of how quickly electronics evolve. I’ve gotten a new iPhone about every 2 years, and a new computer every 3 or 4, for quite a while now. Is that un-green? How long would we expect a phone to last? 5 years? Even that’s ridiculous if you look at how much technology has progressed: 5 years ago, YouTube didn’t exist. Web 2.0 (remember when we used to call it that?) was just taking off. We were still buying CDs for music. Blogs were just beginning to be really influential on the media. Facebook was still only open to students with a college email address. Twitter wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye. Does anybody really think a phone developed in 2005 could keep up with all of that?
As I’ve already pointed out, Apple products hold together and keep their value longer that most electronics, so what’s the bee in the TreeHugger author’s bonnet? I’m willing to wager, it’s because the iPad is the topic du jour and it’s an easy way to get pageviews. Let’s just call this what it is: TreeHugger spinning out some dreck to capitalize on a trending search term.
The details of the City Council meeting today aren’t available yet, but the new zoning ordinance is listed with a status of “Mayor’s Office for Signature”, so it sounds like it’s passed. I heard quite a bit of buzz about this last fall when there was a public hearing (summary from PopCity), but then it sat around in committee for a couple of months undergoing revisions (positive ones!), and now it looks like it will finally pass.
What’s new? Well, in the old zoning ordinance, there was an agricultural use but it was only with an exception from the zoning officials and for properties greater than 5 acres. This clearly didn’t jibe too well with the modern urban farming movement, so some revision was due. You can read the whole thing (warning: Word doc), but my take on it is below.
Farming at home
One of the changes is listing urban agriculture as an “accessory use”. What this means, basically, is that you can use your yard as a farm and sell the things you grow. You can only sell them on-site in non-residential districts (so no farmstand in your yard). (If you’re just gardening for personal, non-commercial use, no worries — you’re already in the clear.)
There are two different designations: with animals, and with no animals.
With no animals appears to be permitted “by right”; that is, you don’t need any special exceptions to do it. (That’s my reading anyway, but it’s a little unclear on this point.) With animals you need to apply for, and it allows the keeping of poultry and bees for properties at least 2000 square feet in size. (That’s pretty reasonable, I think — even my narrow rowhouse lot qualifies.) There are some restrictions about how much space you have to give your hens (no roosters) and where you can site your beehives.
In addition to the “accessory use”, there are also changes to the “primary use” — that is, for lots dedicated to urban agriculture — real urban farms!
You’ll recall that I mentioned above that, for agricultural use, the code used to require at least 5 acres. As a result, to my knowledge there’s only one location in the city that actually qualified under the old ordinance, which is Mildred’s Daughters Urban Farm in Stanton Heights (which has been a farm since 1875).
The new ordinance reduces the minimum size requirement to 3 acres. A 3-acre site within the city is still pretty hard to come by, but more likely doable than 5. This type of use is called Agriculture (General) and permits all kinds of things: growing plants, keeping bees, poultry, and other livestock.
Even better, though, is a new use, Agriculture (Limited) (this one comes in a with beekeeping and without flavor as well). This use allows the same kinds of things but no animals (except bees, again with over 2000 square feet) but otherwise has no minimum size.
OK, so what?
This is really exciting! This not only lets little cottage-industry gardens operate (with the accessory use provisions above) but real, honest-to-goodness urban farms, in the City of Pittsburgh! Locally grown stuff, right in your neighborhood.
OK, and maybe one of the reasons I’m so excited about it (and also one of the reasons we’ve been terrible at blogging for some months now) is that we are working on becoming real, honest-to-goodness urban farmers, in the City of Pittsburgh! Things are still in the works, so I don’t want to spoil anything just now, but details will come as they take shape.