Archive for the 'sharing' Category

Texada’s solid waste conundrum

By Tom Read

Texada’s forests, streams and lakes are notably pollution-free, and I hope we keep ‘em that way by dealing responsibly with our solid waste. Here's a 2007 photo I took of Case Lake, which feeds Rumbottle Creek, which in turn empties into the sea at Raven Bay.

Texada’s forests, streams and lakes are notably pollution-free, and I hope we keep ‘em that way by dealing responsibly with our solid waste. Here's a 2007 photo I took of Case Lake, which feeds Rumbottle Creek, which in turn empties into the sea at Raven Bay.

On Monday evening, Linda and I and about 20 other Texadans attended a presentation in Gillies Bay about the future of solid waste in our region. Officially it’s called the draft Powell River Regional District Solid Waste Management Plan and its duration is 2009 to 2019. Now, I know that’s not a sexy topic for many readers, but it has serious implications for Texada Island and the Powell River region. So I hope you’ll bear with me for at least a few paragraphs.

The plan’s goal is “working toward zero waste,” a realistic recognition that eliminating waste is desirable but not easy to achieve. Just so you know what we’re talking about here, the term “solid waste” refers to lots of things, including household garbage and trash, construction debris, all sorts of recyclable materials, and organic matter, especially food waste. In fact, food waste alone accounts for about 30% of our region’s total solid waste, and it is fairly shocking to realize that this is the single largest category of waste that we produce.

The presentation didn’t break out food waste for Texada, but I doubt that the 30% regional figure applies to us. My sense, based on being an active member of the community here for nearly 10 years, is that Texadans do a lot of composting and feeding of kitchen scraps to domestic animals. So I believe that the amount of food waste is less here than in “urban” Powell River. Since the plan’s overall goal is to eliminate waste, and since food waste is the single biggest category of waste in the region, it should come as no surprise that the plan recommends more backyard composting if it can be done without attracting bears (not a Texada problem, since we don’t have bears here), along with possible construction of a centralized $2.6 million composting facility.

Texadans will be expected to help pay for the feasibility study for this regional facility, since it’s claimed that Texada could benefit. How? Well, the consultant on Monday evening proposed that Texada, since it has no bears, might be a good location for the region’s centralized composting facility, “transportation notwithstanding.”

Ah, yes, transportation. Leaving aside the question of whether Texada makes sense as a possible location for a regional composting centre, there’s no denying that our island is quite dependent on ferry transportation for nearly everything, including moving our waste off the island. And that’s where the plan worries me. During the next 10 years, the plan calls for greatly reducing export of waste from the region as a whole, but it assumes that Texada will continue to export its solid waste to Powell River. Given what we’ve heard from Texada’s Ferry Advisory Committee members about potential increases in ferry fares during the next few years, let alone by 2019, we islanders could see a significant increase in our waste disposal costs.  More illegal dumping could be the result.

Ferry fares, and transportation costs in general, tend to parallel the price of oil. It’s way beyond my expertise to forecast the next oil price spike, but I think we’ll need an on-island solution for processing our solid waste sometime in the next 10 years.  Why? Because oil can increase in price much faster than new, strictly regulated solid waste management solutions can be implemented. This poses a conundrum for Texada and likely the region, too.

Fortunately, Texadans have a long history of creative problem-solving. I can envision a cooperative effort whereby Texadans consolidate our transport of solid waste to Powell River, perhaps starting informally among immediate neighbours. Just to be clear, I’m fully aware that Sunshine Disposal runs a reliable and affordable household waste collection service for Texadans who happen to live along its route. But the waste volume any one household can put in the tagged bags is limited, and there are times when a special trip to the Powell River transfer station (aka “the dump”) becomes necessary.

Some of us live off the beaten path altogether, so our only legal choices are to burn our waste or take it to Powell River. I tried burning household waste years ago and found it a smelly, polluting and time-consuming experience, so now we make the dump run to Powell River a couple times a year. There’s no reason islanders couldn’t cut transport costs by coordinating trips with friends and neighbours, which is now easier than before thanks to this website recently created by a Texada community volunteer, Tom Scott. Cooperation builds community and avoids raising our taxes to pay for consultant-driven solutions.

We might also learn something from our neighbour, Lasqueti Island.

Lasqueti already has a landfill exclusively for its local residents. Unfortunately, that landfill wasn’t built to present BC standards, and it might be prohibitively costly for upgrades to conform with provincial regulations. I’m told by our Regional District staff, however, that a new solid waste management plan for Lasqueti is pending but not yet ready for public release. Texada is considerably larger than Lasqueti in population, transportation services and physical size, but we might benefit by observing how our neigbours resolve their waste disposal problem.

The transportation issue remains my overall reservation about the plan, even though as noted above there are potential ways we could cope with it. I’ve also got a few quibbles regarding the plan’s treatment of illegal dumping and its view of glass as mere trash. But on the whole, the proposed plan looks quite positive. I like its emphasis on reducing waste in the first place, especially from over-packaging. In our household we’re already starting to do that by removing excess packaging in the store in Powell River, taking home only the product. Another positive approach is to reuse containers, such as re-filling our pharmaceutical prescriptions in the same bottle (adding a new label each time).  One of the reasons we support Pharmasave in Powell River is because its owner, Wanda, encourages such re-use and recycling wherever possible.

Solid waste is a constant fact of modern life. Thus, the plan’s provision for an ongoing volunteer monitoring committee staffed by a part-time “waste coordinator” will keep this un-sexy but vital topic continuously visible in our region and allow new solutions to be developed more quickly. Maybe it’ll even help solve the Texada solid waste conundrum.

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Info-pollen

By David Parkinson

A bee gathering nectar from the fruit of a young Oregon grape blossom. Hive gets nectar, flower gets pollen, in a nice example of symbiosis.

A bee gathering nectar from the fruit of a young Oregon grape blossom. Hive gets nectar; flower gets pollen: a nice example of symbiosis.

There’s more to life than books, you know,
But not much more.
Oh, there’s more to life than books, you know,
But not much more, not much more.

(The Smiths, 1983)

One of the reasons I started this blog is because I believe that it’s important to exchange information among people who are working together to create social change. I suppose everyone believes that, but I wanted to put my money where my mouth is by starting something that I hoped would evolve into a venue for people to talk about what’s going on in the region, what’s going well and what’s not going so well, and what we hope to do to build on the successes or address the challenges.

Aside from this blog, there are a few local email lists that I’m aware of which people are using to exchange newspaper articles and blog posts, online petitions, and other pieces of information having to do with the environment, politics (local and not-so-local), climate change, resource depletion, spirituality, eco-psychology, and a host of related topics. I know, from trying to keep up with what’s going on out there, that this blizzard of information can be overwhelming. I use Really Simple Syndication (RSS) to track just over three hundred online sources of information: mainly blogs and news sources; I subscribe to probably about thirty or forty listservs or email lists; lately I have started to get turned on to some sources of information via Twitter; and on top of all that, I have people who send me email messages pointing me at things they think I might be interested in. All in all, a hefty dose of news and opinions.

I consider myself near the top end of the scale of ‘info-tolerance’. (Which is not a boast, trust me.) But not everything worth reading or knowing about comes to us through electronic media. I am aware that we are all surrounded by people who have vast amounts of valuable knowledge, experience and wisdom acquired through years of study, work, and practice. Lately, I’ve been thinking of some ways we can share some of the things we know, or know how to do, or the things we want to know more about. Everyone is out there reading and learning about some of the same things, some different things; but what we need are more ways to bring all of this knowledge together.

So here are some ideas I’m throwing out there. If you see something you think is a good project to get started and you’d like to help with it, let me know. If you think of something I’ve missed, let me know.

Community bookshelf

Many of us are avid readers of books having to do with peak oil, climate change, food security, community resilience, environmentalism, and many other topics that could be loosely lumped together under the name ‘sustainability’. Most of the people I know and talk to are always telling me about what they’re reading, what they just read, or what they’re looking forward to reading. And I’m a voracious reader who always has three or four books on the go at a time. And so we end up with these books on our shelves, which seems wasteful since they should be out there circulating in the community. And we end up with all of this knowledge in our heads, which also could be spread around more, if we had more opportunities to pass it on.

So I decided to try out a jazzy little internet tool called ‘LibraryThing‘ to start up a little virtual bookshelf that we can use for exchanging books. This nascent project was inspired by Heinz Becker, who recently gave me a copy of Helena Norberg-Hodges’ Ancient Futures, with the proviso that I pass it on when I finish reading it. (Also, it was partly inspired by a similar community bookshelf at the Freakin’ Coffeeshop in Courtenay, which anyone reading this should absolutely visit next time they find themselves in Courtenay; it’s a five-minute walk from Creekside Commons co-housing project, which is also worth a look-see.)

If you click this link, you can see the books I’ve entered so far.

After I sent out my first email about this community bookshelf project, I heard from two people who have started similar projects in the community for book collections of special interest, so it might be possible to organize a single collection of resources which can be freely borrowed and passed around.

Here are some of the good reasons to set up a community bookshelf:

  • People can borrow these books for a longer time than the public library permits. In the case of reference material, that can be important.
  • We can’t always compel the public library to accept donations or purchase books that we might find worthwhile (especially when they are out of print), nor are they likely to stock multiple copies of the same book. Right now, our public library is so strapped for space that they cannot accept all donated books.
  • A project like this can supplement local work on sustainability and Transition. (See below for some ideas on how this could happen.)
  • We could even generate a small amount of money for worthy local causes, through user fees & fines; the worth local cause could be the purchase of books that people feel are worth owning in the community.

Here’s how you can get involved, if you think this is a worthwhile project:

  • If you have books lying around that you think might be of interest to others around the community, and the books are in some way about developing an appropriate and resilient local economy, preserving the natural environment, producing/preserving food, etc., then let me know. I am happy to physically house (and catalogue and track) any donated books until such time as we can find a better home for them. And I’m sure we can find a better home for them.
  • There will need to be some policies about how we manage donations & borrowing, so it would be nice to have some help working that out.
  • If you’re interested in borrowing one or more of the books listed so far, let me know. Let’s get this ball rolling!

Book reviews

Another way to pass information around, especially when it concerns a book, website, blog, or online article that you have just read and enjoyed, would be to write a review of the book or article. Inasmuch as it bears on the sort of thing we discuss here on Slow Coast, I would be happy to consider publishing it. I have wanted to write reviews of some of the things I’ve been reading since I started this blog, but somehow I always find myself with something more pressing on my mind when I sit down to pound out my weekly post.

If there is something you’re reading that you simply must share with others out there, consider writing a review. And if we had a community bookshelf up and running, then people who want to read what you review could find a copy easily and pass it on to the next in line.

“Slow Readers”

A similar idea, and one which (gasp) would take place in the real world would be a book club devoted to discussion of the books and other things we’re all reading. I’ve never belonged to a book club, because I’m not sure I could stand the regimentation of having a number of people all reading the same thing at the same time. But why not have a book club whose main purpose is just to rave (positively and negatively) about books to like-minded bibliophiles? Why not a monthly book club that consisted of five- or ten-minute presentations from numerous readers about the things they were reading? If something sounds worth reading, according to someone’s report on it, then it you can borrow it from the community bookshelf and read it, then pass it along.

Combine this idea with food, award extra points for especially witty or clever reviews, and this could be the hit of the dreary winter months. I’d love to hear about what other people are reading and enjoying. What a great way to build community and share ideas!

Teach-ins

Kicking it up a notch from the book club would be something like a teach-in, in which one person or a group could take on the task of reading, digesting, and presenting the information from a book, online article, or whatever source of information they thought was worth passing along. I’d be willing to do this, and I have a couple of books in mind which I think should be more widely known. Again, this could be organized as a panel discussion with a theme; several people could take on the task of preparing a presentation on a book, or a chapter, or some aspect of a topic. Kind of like a free community-driven seminar.

The upshot is that we have a variety of tools and techniques available which can be used to spread knowledge, skills, and wisdom around more widely. Some of them are decidedly old-fashioned (e.g., sharing stuff) and some depend more on recent technical innovations (e.g., LibraryThing). But if we put them to good use, we can all teach and learn as much as care to.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

To all lovers of books and libraries and librarians: do not forget that the Powell River Public Library will be holding its second public consultation on the subject of a new library facility for the region. This meeting will be at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, July 7 in the gymnasium at Vancouver Island University in Powell River. Please come out and share your thoughts about whether we need a new library and (if so) what your vision is for the future of our library.


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