Wednesday, 25 September 2013

San francisco success ladder

Curbside Recycling and Composting in San Francisco

There’s a scandal driving curbside recycling and composting initiatives. Did you know the average American citizen produces about 5 pounds of waste each day? That doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider a city the size of San Francisco, with a population of over 814,000 people, the city likely has the capacity to produce over 4,075,000 pounds of trash every day. That would be like throwing away over 1,000 passenger cars every single day. It’s truly a scandalous amount of waste.
But the real scandal is that the average U.S. city only recycles 34% of the waste it produces. Shockingly, some U.S. cities recover far less than the average, with one city sadly cited as recovering as little as 3% of its waste through its recycling efforts. Clearly, this qualifies as a scandal when there are cities proving that successful large scale waste recovery can be done. Let’s examine San Francisco.
Curbside Recycling and Composting in San Francisco

San Francisco’s Curbside Recycling & Composting Program

By having the most aggressive curbside recycling and composting ordinances so far in the U.S., San Francisco is now successfully diverting 80% of the city’s waste from its landfills. And by the year 2020, their goal is to reach a 100% diversion rate.
But just how has San Francisco, with its large size, challenging topography, and complicated socio-economic demographics, managed to achieve a level of success so far above and beyond the national average? And how-on-earth do they have the audacity to even aim for zero waste status in less than 7 years from now? Let’s look at how the program operates today.

A Resident’s Perspective

The San Francisco Department of the Environment (SF Environment) and the San Francisco Department of Public Works has partnered with a company called Recology to handle the city’s waste disposal needs. Any person living in San Francisco would be quite familiar with the three different types of trash bins supplied by Recology; a blue bin for recyclable materials such as paper, plastics, cardboard and glass; a green bin for compostable organic materials such as food scraps and yard waste; and a black bin for non-recyclable and non-compostable waste. Every week, residents of San Francisco are required to sort their trash between these three separate bins. Fines from $100 to $1000 can be issued to those who do not comply.
So far there have been no penalty fees issued. Early in the morning, before the fleet of CNG-fueled, or hybrid diesel-fueled collection trucks come to pick up the trash, the city’s team of “garbage auditors” is deployed on foot; inspecting the bins, and taking note of which residents are not in compliance. Later that evening, another team visits those residents to inform them of their non-compliance and helps answer any questions they may have about the sorting process.
Curbside Recycling and Composting in San Francisco

What About Businesses?

For businesses such as offices and restaurants, the basic concept is the same. Blue bins are for recycling, green bins are for composting and the black bins are for landfill waste. Recology also performs a garbage audit and offers consultation services to help determine a waste management strategy that will best suit each business’ needs.

Altering Behaviors & Challenging Culturally Accepted Norms

It’s no secret that America is one big throw-away society and that most Americans are trained from a very early age to believe that newer is better. The products Americans buy are often intentionally designed for limited use, designed to fail or simply become less desirable over time. This pressures the customer to want to buy again, practically guaranteeing that the company making those products will be able to generate a steady stream of revenue for itself. It’s called planned obsolescence.
Living in a materialistic nation, most Americans don’t pay much attention to the wasteful nature of the products they purchase or throw away. They’re used to the convenience of simply tossing everything into one bin to be hauled away out of sight and out of mind. But participants in recycling and composting programs are required to make a small lifestyle adjustment; that have to think. They have to take a moment to determine the best and most eco-friendly way to dispose or repurpose their no-longer used items. But as we’ve already seen, San Francisco makes it as easy as possible. And for this convenience here, as well as in other cities, there may be some increases, however small, to the rates people pay for their waste management services.

Pay As You Throw

To help address cost concerns, San Francisco has structured its waste management fees to act like an incentive program where increased recycling and composting are rewarded with discounts and cost savings. Essentially, residents and businesses pay only for what they throw away.
In the beginning, people and businesses did not have to pay for the recycling or composting bins, only the waste bins going to the landfills. However, as the city upped its goal to zero waste, it necessitated a slight rate hike to cover increased infrastructure costs. Even so, San Franciscans aren’t paying significantly more or less for their waste disposal needs than neighboring communities that are doing less recycling and composting.
The idea of incentivizing behaviors can also be witnessed in the way the city has ‘banned’ plastic shopping bags. It’s not so much a ban as it is a way to encourage customers to use their own reusable bags. Customers are charged 10 cents for each new checkout bag used during a retail purchase. So, if you need 10 plastic bags full of groceries, it’ll tack on an additional $1 to your grocery bill. They can avoid the charge by bringing their own bag, or not using a bag at all for small purchases. The business keeps the entire checkout bag charge to help offset the costs of replacing plastic bags with compliant checkout bags such as compostable plastic, paper with 40% post-consumer recycled content, and washable, reusable bags designed for at least 125 uses.
And ultimately, San Francisco and other composting cities have found that it is cheaper to compost than dump garbage, because it extends the life of landfills by saving space. Diverting food waste from landfills also reduces carbon emissions and the risk of potential groundwater pollution. Plus, the end product of composting can be reused and resold as fertilizer.
Curbside Recycling and Composting in San Francisco

Learn As You Go

Remember how there weren’t any penalty fees issued to residents found to be in non-compliance? That’s because, instead of slapping wrists and imposing fees, San Francisco is taking the necessary time to ease its citizens into the program, in as friendly and convenient a manner as possible. Home visits, brochures and handouts, signs, billboards, print and TV advertisements all play a crucial role in spreading the word to everyone.
“When we first started outreach for the program,” says Guillermo Rodriguez, spokesperson for SF Environment, “we created multi-lingual composting, recycling, and landfill signs to help people understand which items go where. The initial signs used more words than images. As the program has progressed, we have learned that using images of material that is commonly composted, recycled, and sent to the landfill (rather than words) is more effective.”
As you can see, a great amount of time and resources is being invested in educating San Francisco’s residents and businesses.
In addition, the websites for both Recology and the San Francisco Department of the Environment (SF Environment) provide extensive information in user-friendly formats, making them easy to navigate and enjoyable to learn.
In essence, SF Environment wants citizens to take a closer look at their own garbage and become truly aware of the value of the recoverable materials contained within.

Building on Success: Approaching Zero Waste

With an 80% waste recovery rate, San Francisco has proven that its citizens and businesses are buying in to the curbside recycling and composting program. Just a few years ago, a large portion of the rest of the nation laughed when the city proclaimed that it would achieve a 75% waste recovery rate by the year 2020, but no one is laughing now. And having surpassed its waste recovery goals ten years ahead of schedule, San Francisco is further motivated to pursue its zero waste goals by 2020.
The higher the peak, the tougher the climb…and the final stretch will pose a lot of challenges. But, if San Francisco’s successes, thus far, are any indication of how well they’ll improve into 2020, we wouldn’t want to bet against them.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

segregate your waste

1.Know your waste before - after

Manage Your Waste

if your don't manage your waste

Avoid creating wasteAsk suppliers not to package the goods they provide, where appropriate. Also buy used stuff when you can.
Re-use wasteIf goods have to be packaged, ask the supplier to take back the packaging
Recycle wasteUse packaging and other waste for making new products/materials.
Recover energy from wasteBurn waste in a legal incinerator to generate energy, this is expensive and not always efficient or safe.
Dispose of waste safelyBury waste in a pit or in a landfill

Friday, 9 August 2013

The environmental impacts of cigarette butts

Photo: Let's get serious about cigarette litter - no ifs, ands or butts!
The environmental impacts of cigarette butts are nothing to sneeze at. The toxic butts can be ingested by children and animals, especially birds and marine animals. Tossed cigarette butts are also a major fire risk. (Credit: Len Matthews via Flickr)
By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington, Communications Manager
Not long ago, dining out, going for a drink, working in an office, riding an airplane or intercity bus and going to a movie meant being subjected to second-hand smoke. Cigarette smoking was a fact of life, and smokers were everywhere — indoors and out.

In many countries, including Canada, that's changed. But it wasn't without a fight. Restaurant and bar owners fretted loudly that regulations to limit smoking would destroy their businesses, and tobacco companies lobbied and launched massive PR campaigns to convince people that smoking wasn't harmful, that new laws were an infringement on smokers' rights and that reducing smoking would devastate the economy.

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Through a combination of public education and government regulation, including taxation, profound societal change took place over a relatively short time. In 1965, half of Canadians smoked. By 2011, that had dropped to about 17.3 per cent, or 4.9-million people, with only about 13.8 per cent daily smokers. Unfortunately the downward trend has levelled off in recent years, and tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in Canada, according to researchers at the University of Waterloo. "More than 37,000 Canadians will die prematurely this year due to tobacco use. Each day, 100 Canadians die of a smoking-related illness," the 2013 report, 'Tobacco Use in Canada: Patterns and Trends', says.

With increasing regulation, high cigarette prices driven by "sin taxes" and the current stigma attached to smoking, it's bewildering that people take up the pointless habit in the first place. Smoking prevalence is still highest among young adults, especially those aged 25 to 34, although education is a factor, with smoking rates for university graduates less than half those for people with less education.

I sometimes wonder if it's lack of education that causes many smokers to litter their butts without giving it a second thought. It's astounding how many people who would likely not otherwise drop garbage on the ground see nothing wrong with flicking butts without regard for where they land. It may seem trivial, but it's not.

According to the Surfrider Foundation's Hold on to Your Butt campaign, cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, with 4.95-trillion tossed onto the ground or water every year. The U.S. spends about $11-billion a year on litter clean-up, and 32 per cent of that is butts. They're washed from the streets into storm drains and rivers and eventually to oceans and are the most prevalent type of debris collected in beach clean-ups around the world.

The environmental impacts are nothing to sneeze at, either. Surfrider notes that cigarette butts are made of "cellulose acetate, a non-biodegradable plastic, which can take up to 25 years to decompose." The toxic butts can be ingested by children and animals, especially birds and marine animals. Tossed cigarette butts are also a major fire risk.

Obviously, the best way to reduce cigarette butt pollution is to step up efforts to prevent people from starting smoking and help those who have to quit. But we aren't going to stop everyone from smoking overnight, so we have to find ways to address the litter problem. Again, a combination of public education and regulation will go a long way.

In San Diego, Surfrider installed outdoor ashcans and gave smokers pocket ashtrays. Many places, including Vancouver, have banned smoking on beaches and in parks. Stepping up enforcement of litter laws also helps. Some people even recommend banning filtered cigarettes or at least requiring filters to be biodegradable, arguing they're more of a marketing ploy than a safety feature. In Vancouver and other cities, some people have been pushing for a deposit-and-return system similar to those for bottles and cans.

Besides reducing litter and environmental damage, methods that also increase the price of cigarettes have proven to be effective in reducing smoking rates.

Some consider tobacco a sacred herb. It's used by many indigenous peoples for ceremonial purposes. With widespread use spurred by marketing, it became a costly and unhealthy addiction and a toxic blight on the environment. Smoking trends in countries like Canada show that societal change is possible and — with education and regulation — people will do what's best for themselves and for the world around them.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

First aid for snake bite


First Aid
It is important to remember that snakes do not bite out of whim. They are usually forced to bite. The good news is that venom has evolved as a mechanism to subdue prey and Snakes need to conserve their venom for that purpose. Most snake-bites occur when the snake is accidentally provoked. In some cases (getting more frequent these days), the victim has simply asked for it. If you find yourself in a snake‐bite situation, simple protocol and presence of mind could end up saving the victim’s limb or even life.
First Things NOT to Do:
•Never try to suck out the venom.
•Never make an incision.
•Never go to traditional healers or try home remedies.
•Tie tourniquets or use ice.
•Never clean out or tamper with the site of the bite.
•Never try and catch the snake or kill it.
All the above actions do not work and often cause more damage than good.
Here are things you SHOULD do:
• Make sure the victim and others are a safe distance away from the snake and Try to memorize its appearance .
• STAY CALM and in control.
• Take charge of the situation and reassure the victim.
•Remove Watches, rings, bangles and anything else that will become constrictive if the limb was to swell up.
•Try to immobilize the victim. Never let him/her run and only allow to walk if unavoidable.
•In case of neurological bites (All elapid's and hydrophilic: Cobras, King Cobras, Kraits, Coral snakes and Sea Snakes), pressure immobilization (Sutherland method - with Long crepe or other stretchy bandage (5 - 10 cm wide, several rolls) and splint to be applied immediately to the bitten limb, starting at the digits and working up to the groin or arm pit.
Do NOT waste time with trying to get any elaborate first aid.
•Get to hospital as soon as is safely possible.
•Note the time of the bite and the progression of any visible symptoms.
•Give the doctor a brief and detailed description of the bite and symptoms.
Anti snake venom serum is the only proven cure for venomous snakebites.
snake bite first aid.  poisonous snake bite, venomous snake bite
(A) Apply a broad pressure bandage from below upwards and over the bite site as soon as possible. Do not remove trousers, as this will help the venom to enter into the bloodstream. Keep the bitten limb still. (You can splint the limb)
snake bite first aid.  poisonous snake bite, venomous snake bite
(B) The bandage should be as tight as you would apply to a sprained ankle. The patient should avoid any unnecessary movements.
snake bite first aid.  poisonous snake bite, venomous snake bite
(C) Extend the bandages as high as possible (ideally up to the groin or in the case of arm, up to the armpit).
snake bite first aid.  poisonous snake bite, venomous snake bite - splinter
(D) Apply a splint to leg, immobilizing joints on either side of the bite.
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(E) Bind it firmly to as much of the leg as possible. Walking should be restricted.
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(F) Bites on the hand and forearm : bind to the axilla, use a splint to the elbow and use a sling.
Pressure immobilization (Sutherland method) - courtesy David A. Warrell
Snakebite Prevention
• As always, prevention is better than cure.
• Take care when clearing vegetation, raking dry leaves in your garden.
• Supervise kids in the outdoors, especially in a green neighborhood.
• Use torch/flashlight at night and keep wearing those shoes.
• Check shoes before wearing them.
• Watch your step and see before you sit!
• Keep your backyard free of junk and make sure your solid waste is managed properly. 
• If you see a snake, do nothing. Let it go. 
• Do not try to pick it up or kill it. 
• If a snake has entered your premises, call professional snake rescuers.

Thursday, 4 July 2013



ImageIn the world today, we are brought up on the idea that “growth is good”. We rejoice when we hear that the economy has grown, because it means we’re getting richer as a country and hopefully as individuals. But is this really the case?
The problem with the business-as-usual approach
This business-as-usual approach is based on a belief that economic growth must continue indefinitely in order to support a growing population and push people out of poverty. This seems logical at first glance. However, there is one crucial thing that supporters of the business-as-usual approach are ignoring: the natural environment on which the economy (and society) relies for survival.
Natural resources are being treated as if their supply is endless, and the environment is expected to cope with increasingly large amounts of pollution. But the truth is that many natural resources are limited in supply, such as crude oil and coal. Those that are renewable, such as forests or fish stocks, can only renew themselves at a particular pace. In addition, land, air and water resources can only absorb certain types of pollution, at a particular rate.
Globally, as well as in South Africa, we’re already suffering from resource overshoot. In their Living Planet Report 2010, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) found that we are using the earth’s resources at a rate 50% faster than the earth can produce them, and releasing more carbon dioxide than ecosystems can absorb.
Thus, an economy based on finite resources, and which exceeds the capacity of the environment to renew and restore itself, cannot keep growing indefinitely.
Economic growth: What is it really measuring?
The other concern is that economic growth doesn’t necessarily translate into greater prosperity for a country’s citizens. Firstly, the economic growth figure itself is only a neutral measure of spending. Besides housing and food purchases, for example, it also includes money paid for “negative” services such as cancer treatments or the cleaning up of oil spills. A rising economic growth figure could in fact mean that human health in the country is deteriorating, or pollution is increasing. So, economic growth alone cannot be a measure of increasing prosperity or quality of life.
In addition, economic growth doesn’t necessarily mean that the increased wealth is shared fairly across the population. In fact, the UNDP’s Human Development Report in 2011 noted that income inequality is deteriorating at a country level across much of the world. So the supposed “trickle down” effect of economic growth to the poor is not taking place as predicted.
If not business-as-usual, then what?
Tim Jackson’s book, Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet is a reality check for business-as-usual supporters. No fringe scientist or tie-dyed hippie, Jackson is Economics Commissioner on the Sustainable Development Commission, an independent advisory body to the UK government. He presents a well-argued, lucid case for a sustainable economy, and explains what that would look like and how we could get there. He also skilfully ties this in with the current economic crisis and the problem of debt.
Jackson begins by examining the goal behind the goal, which is not economic growth itself but the prosperity it is supposed to bring. This is something we frequently forget as we conduct business and put all our focus on the bottom line. He looks at the link between wealth and happiness (which is a lot weaker than you might have expected) and why rising incomes are accompanied by an increasing frequency of depression. The factors affecting our perception of the quality of our lives are varied, and surprisingly our financial situation has only a little direct influence when compared to partner and family relationships, for example.
Jackson notes that while growth is unsustainable, de-growth is no more sustainable as it leads to a spiral of recession. A steady state economy needs to be achieved, but how? The author explores the solution of decoupling, which in essence is the decreasing of reliance on natural resources – a strategy of efficiency. While necessary, decoupling may only ever reduce the rate of growth, not eliminate it. Searching for other solutions, Jackson investigates the impact of consumerism, Keynesian economics and the Green New Deal, and ecological macro-economics. Finally he offers a plan to allow society to flourish within ecological limits, and suggests strategies for governance to bring this about. He concludes with chapters on the transition to a sustainable economy, and a vision of lasting prosperity for the world.
Jackson writes clearly and accessibly, without “dumbing down” the content. It is a great and pertinent read in these times, and well worth the space on your Kindle.