Be a plastic free gift giver this holiday season

If you are planning to give a gift this holiday season while maintaining your plastic free lifestyle, look no further!

Plastic-free gifts

Reusable water bottle or coffee mug: A popular item for everyone these past few years has been reusable water bottles and coffee mugs.  Whether gift one with someone’s favorite sports team logo on it or you choose to create a more unique bottle or mug with the person’s name or a personalized message, you are sure to impress anyone with this gift idea.  Think about all of the plastic water bottles and disposable coffee cups you will be keeping out of our landfills and waterways!

Homemade gift giving:  Get creative! Making a gift for someone can be a fun way to give something straight from the heart.  A letter with a personal message, a hand crafted ornament, or a scarf that you knitted yourself are all great examples of gift you can make at home to cut out the plastic waste associated with buying new from the store.

Books:  Go to your second hand book store and find a book that is a favorite of yours or one that you think gives a meaningful message.  You can even write a note on the inside cover of the book to give an irreplaceable gift. Buying used is a great way to save money and eliminate the demand for unnecessary over production.  Just remember, when at the book store’s register ask for no bag!

Packaging Tips

When it comes time to wrap your gift remember less is better.  If there is a way to reduce the amount of packaging you are using, do it!  Here are a few easy ways to reduce waste when wrapping gifts:

  • Use a gift bag.  These can be reused again and again instead of being torn apart and thrown away as you would with wrapping paper.
  • Skip the tape.  Tape is made of plastic and makes it hard to reuses wrapping paper. A short search online can show you how to fold wrapping paper in a way that will hold it all together, eliminating the need for tape!
  • Ditch the Ribbon.  If you don’t need it, skip it.  Ribbon is often times used to add a little pizzazz to a wrapped gift but is rarely reused.  Ditching the ribbon is a way to keep unneeded waste out of the landfills.
  • Try newspaper.  Using old newspaper that you have finished reading removes the need for store bought wrapping paper completely and can add a creative look to your gift.  Even better, you can recycle your newspaper gift wrap when you are down with it!

What Can You Do To Go Green?

Whether you have a soggy backyard, storm-water in your basement, or just want to take progressive steps towards a sustainable lifestyle, green infrastructure could be right for you.  Green Infrastructure (GI) can come in many forms but the most common types of GI for individual households are rain barrels, rain gardens, and permeable pavements.  Do you want your own GI?  The information below will help you get started.

Rain Barrels

Used to collect rain water from the roof of your home, rain barrels can be a great way to save water and lower your water bill by watering your lawn or garden with a free supply of your own rain water.  These barrels help to reduce the amount of storm water that runs off of your property and overwhelms the sewer system during heavy rains.  By installing a rain barrel you are not just conserving water, you are keeping water out of our sewers and allowing for it to return to the ground.

barrels

The average rain barrel will hold between 45-60 gallons of water and they come in a variety of styles.  You can pick one up at you local hardware store, or search online for rain barrel workshops put on by you local Sierra Club or other non-profit organizations.  These workshops provide you with a step-by-step in person deminstration of how to properly install a rain barrel as well as answers to any questions you might have.  You also get to leave with a rain barrel and everything you need to install it at the end of the workshop!

Rain Gardens

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Installing a rain garden on your property can be a fun weekend project that helps to reduce storm water run off.  Storm water runoff in developed areas contributes greatly to flooding and overwhelming our sewer systems, but it also carries water pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers from some properties into our water ways, containating our clean water.  To reduce the amount of rain water that comes from your property you can install a rain garden and direct your gutter downspout directly into it.  Click here for instructions on how to properly install a rain garden as told by the Rain Garden Network!

Some plant choices native to Ohio that will thrive in your newly established rain garden include:

  • New Englan Aster
  • Switchgrass
  • Blue Flag Iris
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Fox Sedge
  • Cardinal Flower

Permeable Pavements

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If you are looking for a project that has a tremendous impact on reducing storm water runoff, but involves a little more work, permeable pavements might be worth looking into.  Many driveways, patios, and parking lots are made of impermeable materials.  This means that none of the rain water that accumulates on the surface can pass through it and back into our groundwaters.  Instead, rain water that hits impermeable surfaces runs off of the surface while accumulating in volume and causing flooding in the surrounding areas. Replacing an old impermeable surface with a permeable one takes a little more research and planning but can pay off significantly in the long run.  For example, replacing a parking lot with permeable-pavers could save thousands of gallons of water from ending up in our sewer systems during just one rain.

 

Four Easy Ways That YOU Can Reduce Plastic Pollution

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Plastic Pollution is a worldwide problem that could be solved by simply making the right decisions at home.  Half of all plastics produced are single-use items that are thrown out after just one use.  For all of these items there are alternative, reusable items that could both replace them and prevent more harmful plastic waste from making its way into our natural environment.  The problem with single-use plastic items is that we use them, we throw them out, and where they end up does not cross most people’s minds.  Here are some ways that you can help change that way of thinking.

Purchase a Reusable Water Bottle:

Plastic water bottles require vast amounts of fossil fuels to be made, contain chemicals harmful to humans such as BPA, and 6 out of every 7 plastic water bottles used do not ever make it to a recycling center.  The majority of these bottles are instead sent to a landfill where they remain for thousands of years or they make their way to our streams, rivers, and oceans to be where they contribute to the already overwhelming water pollution problem.  By switching to a reusable water bottle, you are keeping plastic out of the places that it does not belong.  Think bottled water is cleaner than what comes out of your facet?  The majority or bottled water is just tap water bottled on someone else’s land and brought to your local grocery store.  Chances are, it is just as clean as what you get at home.

Photo by Kelsey Harrison

Photo by Kelsey Harrison

Ditch the Straw:

Straws are one of those items that seem to make their way into our lives without us even realizing it.  Maybe your server placed one in your drink when you were out to eat, or maybe you grabbed one from the dispenser on a counter top after ordering a drink at a coffee shop without giving it a second thought.  Either way, 500 million straws are used daily in the U.S. and since they can not be recycled, they are making their way into some unwanted places. By simply saying ‘no straw please’ when you are out to eat you can do your part in reducing plastic waste.

straw

Bring Your  Own Bags:

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It is estimated that, worldwide, more than two million plastic bags are consumed and discarded per minute. That is approximately 1.3 trillion plastic bags annually. Both the creation and disposal of single use plastic bags is taking a heavy toll on freshwater and marine environments.  In many places across the U.S. and around the world, cities, states, and even countries have placed regulations on plastic bags such as fees or complete bans.  This is a response to the very apparent issue with single-use plastics.  They are items with short lifespans (from the store to home) and they cannot be recycled.  Next time you are preparing to go to the grocery store make sure that you have you reusable tote bags!

Pack Your Own Dinning Utensils: 

spoons

Forks and knives might not be the first thing that you think of when you think about plastic pollution, but plastic dining utensils have a deep environmental impact.  Convenience is at the top of most  businesses’ and consumer’s reasons for using plastic utensils, but the truth is that they are very inconvenient when it comes to the resources needed to make them. This is because these pieces of cutlery cannot be recycled! That means that everything that was used to create these spoons, forks, knives, etc, is wasted the second that you are done using them to eat. Instead of using plastic utensils try packing your own reusable cutlery form home and simply washing them with your other dishes when you are done.  This way you can avoid adding more waste to our landfills.

Join the Past Plastic movement by taking the pledge here

Stay up-to-date with Cincinnati’s Past Plastic Campaign on Facebook and Twitter !

pastplastic

MSD 2017 Capital and Operating Budget Hearing

Hamilton County has announced public hearings on the rates, operating budget and capital budget. Here are dates and ways to comment:

The Hamilton County Commission has announced that it will conduct public hearings on the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) of Greater Cincinnati’s 2017 – 2021 Capital Improvement Budget, Operating Budget for 2017 and consider a revised rate structure for MSD service charges and surcharges.

The hearings are scheduled for Wednesday December 7, 2016, at 11:30 am and Wednesday December 14, 2016, at 11:30 am, 138 East Court Street, Room 603, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.

Comments can be made at the hearing or in writing to the Clerk of the Board, Jacqueline.Panioto@hamilton-co.org

Commissioners’ emails are dennis.deters@hamilton-co.org, chris.monzel@hamilton-co.org, Todd.Portune@hamilton-co.org

The files which MSD submitted to the county for the budgets and rates are here. The MSD rate study is here: MSDGC-2016-Rate-Study-Draft-Final-Report_30SEP2016.pdf

The county monitor team and MSD have been working on the rates and budgets for almost 3 months now. In September and October 2016, the commissioners passed several resolutions directing MSD and their staff to modify the rate structure or provide the necessary study/data to determine changes like stormwater runoff charges. But most of that work isn’t done and the most recent information is that MSD won’t have the billing system modified even by the end of the first quarter for the simplest changes.

So, we don’t know the how much the budget and rate documents have changed. The first rate increase documents indicated a 5.25 % increase; the rate study says 4.25%. The county might be looking at 4%. Muddying the waters further, the August 28 storm expected to total more than $20 million in damages, due to basement backups and sewer collapses. This impacted the MSD operating budget for 2016, probably reducing the amount of debt service paid. The rate implications of that aren’t clear at all.

So despite the amount of information we have, it isn’t very clear, where this is headed.