Tag Archives: environmental

The Swarming (of Ladybugs)

Every fall since we’ve been here we have experienced an increase of activity in “lady bugs”.  Early on it was so slight we barely noticed but in recent years it has been increasing in intensity.

Why Do They Bite?

My guess on this is that because all forms of ladybugs feed on aphids and the larval stage of several insects (thus earning them the status of beneficial garden insects) at this time of year these large concentrations of ladybugs cannot find enough to eat and turn to biting other creatures (like me) trying to obtain sustenance.

Actually the American Lady Bird beetle is not known to bite, but the Asian Ladybug does.  It is not toxic,  but not only is the bite painful, some people are allergic to it.

What’s the Difference?

Visually, the two are very similar and the untrained eye may be fooled. Both are similar in size (though the Asian beetles tend to be a bit larger than the American) and shape.  Both can be from yellow to red in color.  Both have black spots.

But there are some consistent differences that make it possible to tell them apart.

  1.  The Asian beetles have variable spots: anywhere from 0 to 20.  The American beetle has 9: 4 on each side and 1 spot just behind it’s head that is centered and bisected by the split in its elytron (wing covers).
  2. The Asian beetle has a black and white “head” with the black part forming an “M” or “W” shape.  The American beetle’s is primarily black.
  3. The Asian beetles are known to bite, the American beetle is not.
  4. The Asian beetle seeks shelter by invading our homes in fall, the American beetle is more reclusive and seeks shelter by clustering in sheltered locations outside.

Why Are Asian Beetles Here?

The Asian ladybugs were brought into the United States by the USDA and Forestry Commission to relieve the hardwood forests of many disease carrying aphids, mites, and scale insects.  But, the Asian species of beetle proved to be hardier and stronger than the American species.  The two compete for the same food sources, and the Asian species carries a parasitic fungus that kills other species of ladybugs.  Now the American Lady Bird Beetle is on the endangered species list as, once again, something imported is killing off the native species.

And from the looks of things lately, they’re gunning for us next!

Froggy Weather

tree frogMy, but it has been froggy weather lately.  That may have something to do with the rain we’ve had all week; lots of rain, consistent puddles, tadpoles = frogs.  Although I think most of those I’ve seen are tree frogs.  I’m sure the ones I’ve heard are tree frogs: their trilling is pretty distinctive.  I don’t know what conditions are favored for these critters to breed.

Kathy caught a young bullfrog the other evening and tried to eat it.  Kathy is a dog; don’t get too freaked out by that statement.  Marie stopped her because she knows some frogs and toads are poisonous.  I don’t think we have those here, but it could give her an upset stomach and cause her to puke up frog bits in our house.  Yech!  I disposed of the dead frog.

Here a Frog, There a Frog

A while back Marie and I made a trip into town.  When we got there Marie noticed that a tree frog and made the trip with us by snugging into the passenger side mirror housing; in the small gap between mirror and housing.  It was just sitting there looking at her.  I can only imagine what it was thinking after that ride!  I hope it likes it’s new home, for it was gone when we came back out to head for home.  But that was just the first of many!  Read More…

Recycling Cardboard

At a recent Keep Cocke County Beautiful board meeting, Director Tim Berkel told us that cardboard recycling is one of the most financially beneficial programs in the waste management arena.  So we thought we’d look at recycling cardboard this month to see how it’s done and what those old boxes become.

Recycling cardboard is so easy to do that it doesn’t make sense that some people won’t do it.  77% of cardboard is recycled, according to the EPA, so these hold outs are a minority!

There are two types of paper product accepted for recycling cardboard: one is the pasteboard used in packaging food and light-weight consumer products.  The other is corrugated cardboard used in shipping containers and packages for larger items like electronics and appliances. 

Preparation for Recycling Cardboard

Continue reading Recycling Cardboard

The Green Thing

green world
via GreenPromise.net

The following tale has made the rounds of the internet in various iterations for quite a while now.  It serves well as a starting point for this discussion:

We Didn’t Have the Green Thing

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older lady that she should bring her own grocery bags, because plastic bags are not good for the environment.

The woman apologized to the young girl and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”
The older lady said that she was right — our generation didn’t have the “green thing” in its day. The older lady went on to explain:  Continue reading The Green Thing

Recycling Water

The historic draught of 2007-2008 opened many people’s eyes to the very real prospect of a fresh water shortage. Until then, most modern-day Americans took it for granted that clean, fresh water was always just a twist of the faucet away; forever available in any quantity we desire. During that time period, many residents, especially in the Southeast, learned the reality that fresh water is not an inexhaustible resource. Since then, more people are looking at fresh water in a new way.

Some people, while not in drought areas, want to decrease their dependence upon a water utility. In both cases collecting and using rain water and some waste water can help them achieve their goals. By recycling the water they have access to they can maximize their use of that water. But this must be done carefully to prevent health and legal problems.

Two types of water can be collected for use: rain water and grey water. Continue reading Recycling Water

Recycling Can Be Rewarding

For many people, knowing that consistently putting recyclable materials into the special bins helps keep the planet healthy, saves room in the land fill, avoids pollution of water, soil and air, reduces manufacturing costs, conserves natural resources, and keeps their city and county taxes lower is all the reward they need. They’re helping to achieve a grand goal. For others, more of an incentive is needed.

Some communities have chosen to take the punitive approach with mandated recycling programs and fines – just like there are fines for littering – for not recycling designated materials. But other communities are taking a more upbeat approach by directly rewarding citizens for their participation. 

Rewards: Not a New Idea

Back in the day, kids earned pocket money by collecting glass pop bottles from their parents, neighbors and from vacant lots and roadsides. These could be taken to a grocery store and turned in to collect a bottle deposit.

Some have suggested a similar program could be implemented for recyclable food and beverage containers today. Most stores have opposed this plan because they don’t want to be saddled with the responsibility of collecting and paying these deposit amounts and they don’t want to have to store the goods that are turned in.

On the flip-side, some stores are working with local waste management companies by installing mini-recycling centers in their parking lots. In most cases there is no financial incentive, but the convenience encourages their customers to participate.

Community-Wide Cash Reward Programs

More and more communities are entering into a partnership between waste management, local businesses and residents. Details vary by program, but in general; customers use a wheely-bin to store all the accepted recyclable materials. These are collected by a special truck. The address’s participation is tracked, and discount coupons to local businesses are earned through their participation. The businesses get to advertise on the program’s web site and generally increase their customer flow because of the program.

Everyone wins: residents get discounts at local businesses, the businesses gain new customers, the waste management companies gain recyclables to sell, the government reduces its waste disposal rates by qualifying for the higher recycling rates, and the landfill reduces the bulk coming into the facility.

For some examples of actual programs and how they operate, browse these links:

Fund Raising Programs

Another way to benefit from recycling to us join one of the programs that pay an organization for specific recyclable items like printer cartridges, cell phones, small electronics items and spent rechargeable batteries.

Details vary by program: items accepted and whether the program will pick-up or you will have to ship the items to them. Many of these provide a pre-paid shipping label.

Schools, churches, youth organizations, sports clubs, bands, and more are all using these programs for their fundraising. In doing so they reap all the benefits of recycling we’ve discussed above. Again: a win-win situation. Just of few of these programs:

Direct Recycling Rewards

If you are nit fund-raising for a group and your community does not offer a rewards program you can always cash in by taking your recyclables to a processor that will pay you for them instead of depositing them in waste management recycling bins. You may need to do some research to find the nearest scrap yard or recycling center. And you may need to drive a ways if you’re rural, which will mean collecting enough to pay the travel expenses or time it with a trip to some other destination in the same area. This is not as convenient as a community program, but can be worthwhile.

What can you do?

If your community does not have a recycling rewards program, you could write to your waste management company and ask about implementing such a program. If enough people inquire, they will consider it. Or talk with your city and county government officials and suggest such a program to them. Again, if enough people show an interest, they will too.

By working together, the whole community can benefit.

Recycling Rubber

Most of the rubber that is recycled comes from automobile and truck tires. The EPA says that over 300 million tires are disposed of in America every year. If they end up in a landfill they cause problems because of their bulk and their void space. The empty area inside can trap and hold methane gas that is supposed to be collected and vented out of the landfill. Air or methane inside causes the tires to “bubble” up through the landfill composition. They can also damage the liners placed in some areas of a landfill to prevent ground water contamination.

Tires that are stockpiled or dumped illegally create an eyesore and a breeding ground for mosquitoes and disease carrying vermin. Tire fires can occur easily: burning for months and creating substantial pollution in the air and ground.

Tires account for most of the rubber available for recycling, but not all of it. Shoes, especially sports shoes, often have rubber soles. Rubber is used in construction materials, floor mats for home, industry and automobiles, and inner tubes for bicycles, trailer tires, hand trucks, wagons, etc.

How is Rubber Recycled?

There are basically three methods of recycling rubber.

Refurbishing

Refurbishing a rubber product, like a tire, is to replace the worn parts with new to make the product useable again. A tire that has worn tread but a good carcass and bead can re re-treaded to make a usable tire at much lower cost. This is a common practice for over-the-road trucks because their tires are quite expensive. Retread tires are exported in bulk to Mexico and other countries where lower cost tire alternatives are in high demand. Some shoes can be re-shod, though most people don’t bother any more.

Grinding

Rubber products can be run through a grinding apparatus that shreds the product into small pieces that will be used as-is for other purposes. When shredding tires, provisions must be made to remove steel and fiberglass from the shredded rubber to eliminate safety hazards to consumers using the shredded rubber product.

Some use a purely mechanical process, some use liquid nitrogen to freeze the rubber to a crystalline state which can be shattered with a hammering device. This generally produces rubber with fewer contaminants to be removed.

Devulcanization

Most rubber products are made using a process called vulcanization which uses heat to rearrange the molecules in the natural rubber to increase its elasticity and durability. Because it is vulcanized, rubber cannot be simply melted down and recast into something else like some plastics, glass, and most metals can. To be used in this manner, the rubber must first be devulcanized: a process that involves very high heat and some highly toxic chemicals. The process is considered so environmentally unfriendly that its use is highly discouraged. Research continues for a means of making rubber reusable in a more responsible way.

What is made from Recycled Rubber?

Recycled rubber can be simply ground up to make products such as rubber mulch for use in gardens and as a loose playground surface instead of pea gravel. Like mulch make from ground wood, the rubber mulch aids in retaining ground moisture, helps prevent weeds, and can be dyed a variety of colors to make it attractive. Rubber mulch does not break down, so it doesn’t have to be replaced, as wood mulch will. Rubber mulch also does not attract termites, ants and bees as wood mulch can. Because it does not break down, rubber mulch will not, however, enrich your soil.

Granulated rubber can be pressed into a variety of shapes to become new products such as parking lot curb blocks.

Granulated rubber can also be processed into flooring tiles, mats and sheets that offer a durable, shock absorbing surface for gymnasiums, health clubs, industrial work stations, and homes.

Rubber is being used increasingly as the surface of running tracks.

Pelletized rubber can also be added to asphalt and used as a road or driveway pavement.

Tires can be used as fuel by burning them in industrial applications and power plants.

Tires can also be directly converted into new products my simply punch-stamping the tread or sidewalls to create shapes used in other ways.

Why Recycle Rubber?

As mentioned above, disposing of tires (legally or illegally) creates a number of environmental issues. Reclaiming and recycling rubber uses less energy than producing new rubber. Additionally, recycling rubber reduces demand for new natural rubber, which helps keep rubber tree plantations from expanding into sensitive tropical ecosystems.

How to Recycle Rubber

These days most tire dealers will accept and recycle your old tires when you buy new ones. There is a small processing fee associated, but it saves you from having to haul them off to a recycler. If you are disposing of old tires, your local county convenience centers generally accept them and will send them off for recycling. Or you can search for local businesses or artists that use old tires by stamping or cutting them into parts for their product. They may even buy them from you!

Some shoe manufacturers are engaging in a shoe take-back program where they offer you a discount on a new pair when you bring back the old ones for recycling.

If you have large rubber items like floor mats, check with your local waste management service. Most will accept these and send them off with the tires to be recycled.

Summary

Recycling rubber products – especially tires – reduces bulk in landfills, reduces potential contamination and damage to landfills. Using recycled rubber reduces the cost and energy consumption of producing products from new rubber and holds down demand for virgin rubber that would endanger rainforest environments.

  • Recycling tires helps eliminate health hazards that come from mosquitoes and vermin that will breed in them.
  • Recycling rubber is convenient.
  • Recycling rubber helps create an array of useful new products.
  • Please, recycle your unwanted rubber products.

References

Recycling Yard Waste Into Something Useful

Unless you rent an apartment, you probably have a yard to maintain. That means grass to mow, bushes and trees to tend, maybe flowers or a vegetable garden to maintain. A yard of any size will produce a fair bit of yard waste. What do you do with all the trimmings, clippings and cuttings?

Municipal Disposal of Yard Waste

If you live in a city, you can probably put your yard waste into special biodegradable bags and the city will pick it up for composting. This may be the easiest solution, but if you are also buying fertilizer for your yard, it’s not the best solution. 

Composting

You can easily compost your yard waste and kitchen scraps (fruit and vegetable) to make a nutrition-rich soil additive to fertilize your plants. And it costs you nothing!

Read the Rest

Recycle into Planters for a Super Summer Spruce-up

As spring swings into summer many are beautifying their yards with flowers. Some can be planted directly in the ground, others – for a variety of reasons – are best in planters. Commercially made pots serve this purpose but so, also, can a variety of other items that would otherwise be considered refuse. Let’s look at a few things that can be re-purposed into unique and decorative planters.

Tires as Planters

Old tires can be used as-is and laid out on the ground or hung on a wall, filled with dirt and planted in or they can be painted, or they can be turned into fancy planters with a little elbow grease and a sharp knife or reciprocating saw.

Planter-Tires-hanging_Pinterest Planter-Tire_Naturalearning_org Planter-Tire Plantercue_net Planter-Tire _elegant_ShoestringPavilion_blogspot_com

Rims can also be used. Line a rim with weed fabric or a fiber hanging planter liner and fill that with soil. They can be used au-natural, painted or covered with a mosaic pattern for a spiffy planter.

Planter-Rim legs_Pinterest Planter-Rim-mosaic_Pinterest

Clothing

Shoes, boots and galoshes are commonly seen repurposed as planters but with a little ingenuity one can use pants as well! How about an old fedora?

Planter-old shoes_lushome_com Planter-old boot_lushome_com Planter-Pants

Furniture

Read the Rest

Advantages of Recycling Aluminum

We see aluminum cans by the thousands.  We may come to think that with so many aluminum cans around, why bother recycling?  But it is this abundance that is a prime reason TO recycle.   We may ask, “Is it worth the bother?”  It is if you have any concern for your surroundings.

Recycling aluminum is so easy that the time needed for an empty beverage can to be recycled, refilled and be back on the store shelf is as little as 60 days!

Because aluminum does not degrade or burn off during recycling, aluminum is infinitely recyclable.  Recycling aluminum saves 90-95 percent of the energy needed to make aluminum from bauxite ore.  Aluminum smelting also produces sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide, two toxic gases that are key elements in smog and acid rain.

It doesn’t matter if you’re making aluminum cans, roof gutters or cookware, it is simply much more energy-efficient to recycle existing aluminum to create the aluminum needed for new products than it is to make aluminum from virgin natural resources.

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