Answers to My Glass Recycling Questions

After my last post about the fact that I can’t put glass in my curbside recycling bin here in Alabama I felt like I still needed more information, so  I wrote an email to the local solid waste authority.  It wasn’t an angry email, I just wanted to know a few things:

1) Why isn’t glass accepted curbside for recycling?
2)  Are there any plans to add it?
3)  Is there anywhere I can drop off my recycling?

The irony of writing this was not lost on me.  In my last job, I would’ve been one of the people that answered such an email.   But I digress.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email back less than 24 hours later with all three of my questions answered.  What I found out was:

1)  Glass isn’t accepted curbside because of safety issues (which I don’t really buy), contamination issues (fair enough) and economics (as I suspected).

2)  No plans to add glass to curbside recycling.  In fact, it hasn’t been recycled curbside here since the mid 90’s.  Bummer.

3)  There is a glass recycling drop-off available 24/7; however, it’s 30 minutes away and not in an area I regularly travel to.   I’m a pretty committed recycler, but I don’t know if I’m that committed.

With that, I felt I was at the end of my quest for information on glass recycling.   Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Minnesota anymore.

No Glass Recycling?

I finally had my first recycling pick up last week after some difficulty getting set up with service at our new home in Alabama.  When the truck pulled up, it idled at the end of my driveway for close to 10 minutes.  I knew I had a lot of stuff out there since I’d been stockpiling my recycling for close to a month, but I didn’t think it would take that long to get it into the truck.

After the truck left, I looked out and saw that one paper bag had been left in my bin.  I thought perhaps I had exceeded the weekly maximum.  What I found was this:

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All glass.  Could it be?  No glass recycling???

I went back and reread the list of acceptable items for recycling and sure enough, glass wasn’t on it.  Given some of the other items on the “yes” list (dry cell batteries! used motor oil!), I must have just assumed glass was part of the mix.

We could recycle glass in Minnesota so this was a pretty disappointing discovery.  It just feels wrong to put glass into the trash.  Especially since it can be recycled an infinite number of times without losing its quality, unlike plastic.

After doing a bit of research, I found that its not uncommon for community curbside recycling programs to not accept glass.  Earth 911 has a fabulous overview of glass recycling, including this explanation for why community recycling programs may not accept glass:

It’s important to think of recycling as a business, because that helps you understand why certain materials are in higher demand. Glass has two things going against it in the recycling game: weight and flexibility.

Glass bottles weigh more than plastic and metal, and heavier products cost more to ship. Plus, you can crush and bale a load of aluminum cans or plastic bottles, which reduces space needed in a truck that would otherwise be filled by air.

These two factors often make it more expensive to transport glass for recycling, resulting in a lower resale value. If your community can’t make a profit collecting glass, that may be why it’s not collected. In some cases, glass is not accepted curbside but you can drop it off for recycling. This is yet another reason to know your local recycling rules.

This gets at the issue of markets in recycling – if there’s not a nearby end market for a product, it’s not cost-effective to recycle.  Glass is particularly at risk for this.  According to the Glass Packaging Institute, even though recycled container glass is in high demand, the end markets are not evenly dispersed geographically.  This makes it difficult for communities in certain parts of the country to cost effectively recycle glass.

Since the glass recycling market isn’t the main factor in deciding where we live and I can’t find any drop-off locations near us, it looks like the garbage is where our glass will be going for the time being. That said, I still flinch a little every time I throw some away.

Organic Food is a Sham…Or is It?

According to the news media and some researchers at Stanford, organic food is a bunch of bunk.  That’s right, you might as well just have thrown away all that money you’ve been spending on organic food.  Shame on you for thinking you were so awesome and superior.  Guess what – you’re not.

Or so they would have you think.

What I gather from reading various articles on the Stanford study is this:

  • Organic food doesn’t have more nutrients than non-organic food
  • Organic food isn’t less likely to be contaminated with bacteria
  • Regular foods have more pesticide residue than organic foods, but that’s okay because they’re at a “safe” levels according to the EPA

Fair enough.  But I’m still not convinced.

I don’t buy organic all the time, and I certainly don’t buy everything organic (I find it hard to believe that organic boxed macaroni and cheese is any better for me than that good old blue box).  But when it comes to things like milk and produce, especially the dirty dozen, I try to buy organic when I can.

Why?  It’s not because I think it’s more nutritious.  And it’s not because I’m worried my family is going to die from salmonella or E. coli.   It’s because I’m not convinced that the pesticide residue, hormones and who-knows-what-else in our food today isn’t going to hurt me or my family.

There’s a lot of information out there both for and against these ideas, but what I know is this.  100 years ago we didn’t have all the crap in our food that’s there today.  We don’t know what it does to our bodies over time.

I know that, in spite of being the healthiest person I know, my mother got diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 52.

I know that my family is the most important thing in the whole world to me and if there’s anything I can do that might make their lives a little bit better and healthier, I will do it.

I know that health is a gift and I intend to do my best to maintain and enjoy the healthy life I’ve been given.

So I’ll continue to buy my organic spinach and milk, knowing that it might be money wasted, but it may also very well be the best money I ever spent.

The Newbie Running Club

In an attempt to further convince myself that I like running and lose the last of the baby weight, I got the “bright” idea a few months ago to sign up for the Medtronic TC 10 Mile race again.   I’m now five weeks into my training program and have been steadily increasing my mileage along the way.

Today my plan called for a 5-mile run, the longest I’ve done yet.   I needed a new route since my old one wasn’t long enough.  After weighing the possibilities I decided that Summit Avenue was my best option even though it meant encountering far more foot traffic than I was used to.
On any given day Summit Avenue is packed with runners, which after my experience today seem to fall into three categories:
  • Pros (a.k.a. Usains and Sanyas):  This is the top tier of runners, those who always seem to be channeling Usain Bolt or Sanya Richards Ross.    They are incredibly lean, dressed in sleek running gear (including obnoxiously bright neon shoes), and clip along like gazelles, their feet barely touching the ground.
  • Faithfuls:  These runners have been around the block a few times (pun intended).  They’re fast, fit and faithful to the sport.  You can tell that they get out and run every single day, rain or shine.
  • Newbies:  The newbies are the bottom of the running food chain.  We run at a pace that many people could probably walk, are loaded down with shiny new running gear such like water belts and heart rate monitors, and generally look like we’re going to fall over at any given moment.
As a newbie, I assumed that all runners acknowledge each other as they pass on the trail – I quickly learned that is not the case.  The Usains and Sanyas breezed by me so quickly and stealthily that there was no chance of interaction.  They probably barely saw me and could have easily mistaken me for a tree in the middle of the sidewalk at the pace they were running.  While the faithfuls were fast, they weren’t so fast that we didn’t have a chance for our eyes to meet.  In most cases they completely ignored me in spite of this, although one did smile at me after the second time we crossed paths.The newbies were another story.  My fellow newbies always acknowledged me, giving me a knowing look or an encouraging smile that said “I know exactly how you feel”.   There seems to be a unspoken language amongst us newbie runners, like we’re all members of a special club.  We’re bonded in some way, plodding along with the hope that maybe one day we can cross that mythical bridge into the land of the faithful.Until then, we keep on keeping on with the knowledge and comfort that there are others out there that are struggling just as much as we are.   And we don’t hesitate to share a smile along the way.

Adventures in Whole Foods: Amaranth

One day while wondering the aisles at my local co-op, I happened to pick up a bag of amaranth.  I had no idea what I was going to do with it at the time, but I’d been wanting to experiment with some different grains for a while so I decided to give it a go.  It then sat in my cupboard for 3 months until I recently found it and thought I should do something with it.

Amaranth looks somewhat similar to quinoa, which I love, so I figured it would be easy to find a use for it.  After doing a bit of research I found that amaranth is not nearly as common in recipes and in fact quite different from quinoa.  It’s very soft when cooked in water, more like porridge than rice.  It can also be  “popped” on the stove and used in a multitude of ways, from cereal to peanut butter cups.

For my first amaranth cooking experience, I decided to pop some of it for cereal.  It sounded simple enough: heat skillet, add a few tablespoons, cover, and heat for 15-20 seconds until the amaranth “pops”.

What ensued was a majorly chaotic cooking fail.  There are no pictures of the first couple batches because I was preoccupied cleaning up the mess I’d made and starting over.  What I learned was:

  • The skillet has to be very, very hot for the amaranth to pop properly.
  • Only cook 1 tablespoon at a time – any more and it will burn
  • Put the lid on right away and keep it on or you will get amaranth all over your stove
  • Do not put burned amaranth directly into your trash can from the skillet or you will melt a hole in your garbage bag and possibly your trash can too.

After learning the above lessons, the third attempt was finally successful.  And my husband took over stove duty, so that probably had something to do with it.

Success!  3rd time’s a charm.

Once popped, I added in some cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, raisins, raw almonds and a splash of skim milk.  The result was absolutely delicious and much healthier than boxed cereal.

Yum!

Will I try amaranth again?  Probably, especially since I still have 3/4 a bag left at home.  In the future I’ll probably pop more than one serving at a time and store it.  I’ve also been eying that peanut butter cup recipe, which may find its way into my kitchen sometime soon!

Walk, Jog, Puke

A few months ago I snagged a book from my mom circa 1978 entitled “Jog, Run, Race“.   Not only is it a nice guide for a beginning runner, it’s entertaining to boot.  The book got my mom into running, a sport she’s been practicing regularly for nearly 30 years.  She says she couldn’t even run around the block when she started, which gave me hope.

The first lesson in the book is “Run, Don’t Read”.  The author advises not to think about it too much or go out and buy a bunch of fancy running gear (apparently new running shoes would only cost you around $45 in the 70’s), but rather just get out and run.  So I did.

I started with a 2 minute walk to warm up and then started jogging.  I had gone maybe 3 blocks when I really started feeling like I was going to die.  My whole body was aching, my lungs were burning and I was feeling slightly sick to my stomach.  Six blocks in I had to take a walking break just so I wouldn’t collapse.

I continued this pattern (walk, jog, feel totally sick, repeat) for about 2 miles.  The entire time all I could think was if I was being chased by a tiger or something and had to run for my life, I would be totally screwed.  That line of thinking might have had something to do with my recent obsession with the Hunger Games trilogy, but you never know when you might have to outrun a wild animal.

After my run I went back to the book for the next lesson, “Look Back”, in which the author basically validated my experience.  The first run will suck and the more it sucks the more you’ll learn from it.  Mission accomplished.

So what did I learn?  1)  I’m horribly out of shape.  This was upsetting and motivating at the same time.  2) A training plan would probably be a good idea, preferably one with a lot of walking to start.  3)  Slow and steady doesn’t puke.  I know I have a long road ahead of me, but I think I’m ready to start.

I “Like” Running

I have tried to become a runner at least three times in the past 10 years.  I’ve run several 5k races and even did the Twin Cities Marathon 10-mile twice.   After my last attempt I finally decided that running was not my sport.  I focused on biking, yoga and using the elliptical machine at the gym, and even those attempts were somewhat half-baked and short lived.

Since Baby G’s arrival, exercise has been put on the back burner and as a result the baby weight is still kind of hanging on 10 months later.  Beyond that, the fact that I don’t get any form of regular exercise is pretty awful from a long-term health standpoint.

Upon finishing grad school in May I decided it was time to finally tackle getting into shape (I don’t say “back” because frankly I don’t think I was that in shape before having Baby G).   Between the demands of motherhood and 9+ hour days at the office I knew I needed something that was flexible, easy and effective.  After weighing all the options, I found myself coming the same conclusion over and over – run.

Despite my intense hatred for running, it has some major benefits that I can’t ignore:

  • I can do it whenever I have time.  There’s no class schedule, no hours of operation – I can get out and run whenever it works for me.
  • Baby G can tag along.  This was a key selling point for me.  G can’t really go to yoga with me (she’s outgrown baby yoga, which we both loved) and the hours for childcare at the gym are limited.  I also get to use our awesome Chariot stroller, which probably gives me some running street-cred right off the bat.
  • It gets me outside.  Being outdoors pretty much feeds my soul, no matter the reason.  Getting outside is definitely more appealing than spending an hour in a stuffy, stinky gym.
  • It’s cheap.  Yoga classes can be $15 or more per class and a gym membership runs around $50/month.  To run, all I need are shoes and some pavement.

Next on the list – a plan for getting started.  I got a fabulous running book from my Mom circa 1978 that is already proving to be both entertaining and informational.  More to come!