Back for the Attack: The Lake Erie Algal Bloom

Photo credit: Toledo Blade, 2017

The Lake Erie algal bloom has often been described as mean, green and obscene. To make matters worse, if you’ve ever experienced an algal bloom in person, you would also know that it stinks… literally.

What gives? What is being done about this yearly outbreak in our Great Lake Erie? The Ohio Sea Grant College Program has been and continues to be one of the key leaders in research, education and outreach on this critical issue. This blog posting will discuss key research initiatives that Ohio Sea Grant is tackling head on with local, state, university and federal partners.

Background Information

Photo credit: Toledo Blade, 2017

A harmful algal bloom (HAB) is any large increased density of algae that is capable of producing toxins. In freshwater, such as Lake Erie, those algae tend to be cyanobacteria — more commonly known as blue-green algae — which grow excessively in warm water with a high phosphorus concentration.

Phosphorus enters the water from agriculture, suburban and urban sources. The likelihood of such runoff is strongly affected by climatic factors including drought, severe weather and temperature.

Much of the harmful algal bloom research seeks to understand both how phosphorus and other elements, such as nitrogen, affect algal blooms and how runoff can be reduced without negative impacts to farming and other industries. Other projects focus on the public health impacts of toxic algal blooms, ranging from drinking water issues to food contamination.

Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative

Photo credit: Toledo Blade, 2017

The Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI), created in the aftermath of the 2014 Toledo water crisis, provides near-term solutions for the full suite of issues surrounding harmful algal blooms. Guided by the technical needs of state agencies at the front lines of the HABs crisis, Ohio universities are the engines for creating new knowledge, new technologies and new approaches to give us both short-term assistance and long-term solutions.

After the Toledo water crisis in August 2014, the Ohio Department of Higher Education (then the Ohio Board of Regents) allocated $2 million to Ohio universities for research to solve the harmful algal bloom problem in Lake Erie. The funding was matched by participating universities for a total of more than $4 million.

Led by representatives from The Ohio State University and The University of Toledo, and managed by Ohio Sea Grant, the initial efforts of the Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI) entailed 18 projects involving researchers from seven Ohio universities and partners as far away as South Dakota and Japan.

The Lake Erie algal bloom research has been broken down into four major categories (please click each link for information on funded research efforts):

  1. Tracking Blooms from the Source
  2. Protecting Public Health
  3. Producing Safe Drinking Water and,
  4. Engaging Stakeholders

The HABRI has launched a new round of agency-directed research every year since 2015, with the first round of projects completed in spring 2017. The Ohio Department of Higher Education has funded all research, with matching funds contributed by participating universities. For the 2018 cohort, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) will provide matching funds for some of the research and monitoring activities undertaken as part of the statewide effort.

The initiative also provides invaluable training for Ohio students, from undergraduate to doctoral candidates, which distinguishes university research from other scientific institutions and gives taxpayers a double return on their investment.

Input from partners such as the OEPA, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Lake Erie Commission ensures that projects complement state agency efforts to protect Ohio’s fresh water and that results address known management needs to ensure sustainable water for future generations.

HABRI used Ohio Sea Grant’s proposal development system to streamline project proposals, project management and public engagement, capitalizing on Sea Grant’s strong reputation among various stakeholder groups including the research community.

For more information, please see Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative Year 2 Report and Executive Summary.

Source: Ohio Sea Grant College Program- Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative

Submitted by: Joe Lucente, Associate Professor, Community Development, OSU Extension and Ohio Sea Grant College Program

Strengthening teamwork and leadership: conference planning-style

When trying something new we’ve not done before, it doesn’t take us long to realize that proficiency requires a dedication to practice and in most cases a good bit of patience. And, you might say that Extension professionals work in teams all the time. It is not often, however, that we work together in national conference planning.

Logo photo courtesy of: ThisisCleveland.com and Larry E. Highbaugh, Jr.

CD professionals have been practicing teamwork and leadership skills around a singular focus since June 2014. That’s when the idea of hosting the annual conference for our professional association, the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (a.k.a. NACDEP), was first shared. After learning of our proposal’s success about 18 months later, even more opportunities to practice really kicked. For example, as a team, we have:

  • Participated in the past three NACDEP conferences like never before (i.e., ‘What does it take to put this on?’)
  • Encouraged colleagues to serve on the national NACDEP board (thank you, Nancy Bowen, treasurer; David Civittolo, president-elect; and Brian Raison, north central representative)
  • Served on a variety of prior NACDEP conference sub-committees
  • Worked together to identify our conference location (Cleveland) and venue (Renaissance Cleveland Hotel – Downtown)
  • Brainstormed and investigated the best things to experience in Cleveland

Exploring a potential conference MLW site: Edgewater Park

With Ohio JCEP’s support, a couple of weeks ago we were able to practice our teamwork and leadership skills in a face-to-face retreat at the conference venue in Cleveland. During this two-day retreat, we:

  • Investigated potential conference mobile learning workshop (MLW) ideas in small groups
  • Explored the conference hotel and surrounding areas
  • Continued our subcommittee work focused on sessions, speakers, sponsorship, publicity, hospitality, MLWs, etc.

This work required our best leadership and teamwork by subcommittee chairs and co-chairs, MLW investigation leaders, and situational leaders too. Even better, we were able to team up with members of the national NACDEP board in this work as they overlapped their annual face-to-face retreat with our conference planning retreat at the 2018 NACDEP Conference venue in Cleveland.

No doubt, there has been much to learn throughout this conference planning process. And when we consciously make the time for it, there is much to learn beyond the ins and outs of how to produce a top-rate NACDEP conference. Every day we have countless opportunities to actively and deliberately practice our skills necessary for working with others. Opportunities to strengthen our skills and build proficiency. The work that lies ahead will require our best teamwork and leadership.

Regardless of the task at hand or the challenge you face, how you go about practicing your skills is up to you.

Let’s ‘suit up!’

Greg Davis is a 2018 NACDEP Conference planning committee co-chair and Extension Assistant Director, Community Development.

Embracing the chaos

Change. In our constantly evolving society, it is impossible to escape it. We see it in constantly shifting political ideologies. We see it in our communities, schools, homes and businesses through technology advancing faster than we ever imagined. We see it within our personal relationships as we move across the lifespan and from one life phase to another. And, we hopefully see it within ourselves when we try to adopt a new habit.

But what happens when the changes are quite drastic, or even worse, could bring about unpredictable results? As a 21 year old college student, I’ve experienced a variety of large scale and small scale changes. For example, the political climate in the U.S. is quite different now than when I was born. On a more personal scale, I left behind a small rural community at 18 and moved to a city with more diversity than I’d encountered in my entire life time. And on an even smaller scale, I’ve seen relationships with friends from home and friends I’ve made here evolve—some got stronger, and some have faded a little.

Yet in spite of all of this change in the world and my life, I have not shied away from the unknown. Sure, there have been moments where I was unsure about what was around the corner. But, if I’ve learned anything in my time at Ohio State, it is this: It is so important to embrace the chaos that change can be. I’ve embraced chaos as president of my sorority, where our organization’s membership has doubled in size in less than 2 years (and is still growing). I’ve embraced chaos after informing my parents (who have lived in my hometown all their lives) that I was considering attending graduate school in another state. And, with aspirations for a career in Extension, I’ve embraced the organized chaos surrounding its efforts to figure out where we will take the organization in the coming years. It’s been organized chaos, but chaos nonetheless.

Through these experiences, I’ve realized that change is a natural part of our lives. Instead of fearing change, I’ve realized how freeing it can be to embrace it. For example, if, while leading my sorority, I’d held tightly to the status quo for fear of change, we’d still be stuck with a variety of outdated policies and procedures.

A little faith can help too. A little faith in the notion that trying something new is worth the effort, even if the results don’t go exactly as we might have anticipated. Although my parents were initially shocked at my idea of moving away, they have begun to warm up to the idea and are now very supportive. Again, we need to “embrace the chaos,” no matter how hard it may seem in its early phases.

As you encounter change in your personal and professional life, I hope that you will resist the tendency to stick to the status quo and allow yourself to have faith it will all work out. Change doesn’t have to be scary—it can actually be very exciting. And for even more excitement, why not consider how you could help someone else embrace their own chaos?

Mariah Stollar is a Student Assistant for the State CD Office. She is a senior at The Ohio State University, majoring in community leadership.

How Economic Developers Engage with Extension

Smith Lever Act of 1914

Credit: www.archivesfoundation.org

Extension has long been an economic development partner involved in a wide range of issues, from water quality and agricultural practices to retail and energy. Since passage of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, Extension has provided outreach and non-formal education to strengthen lives and communities across the country.

Over the last century, Extension has continued its original mission to extend university resources while also adapting to changing times, to address a wide range of challenges and opportunities in both urban and rural areas. Extension can be found in all 50 states, with about 2,900 offices nationwide. In Ohio, over 700 Extension professionals staff offices within all 88 counties, in addition to numerous regional and state offices, that enable this outreach arm of Ohio State University to engage communities, businesses, and organizations of any size and location.

How do local economic development organizations (EDOs) find out about and engage with Extension? Typically, they hear about services and contact Extension directly, or Extension professionals reach out through workshops and forums about their programs and resources. Extension professionals are frequent speakers at a variety of conferences and meetings at the local, state, and national levels. EDOs are also often in contact with Extension professionals as co-members on boards of community and economic development organizations.

Extension has partnered with EDOs in pursuit of just about every imaginable economic development function. In Ohio, Extension was an early adopter of business retention and expansion practices, developing one of the first formal BR&E programs. Since 1986, Ohio State University Extension’s BR&E Program has developed capacity of community leaders via more than 140 programs in 77 Ohio counties, in both urban and suburban areas.

In terms of workforce development, OSU’s STEM Pathways program aims to increase youth curiosity, logical thinking, problem-solving skills, and team communication abilities, to ensure tomorrow’s workforce is highly skilled and globally competitive. Extension professionals teach the STEM program curriculum directly to students and in a train-the-trainer format for the teachers who will then deliver the program.

Energy development, including renewables and shale gas, is a focus area for Extension. New programs have been developed to help businesses and communities assess the costs and benefits of energy development. The commissioners of Wyandot County recently enlisted Extension to conduct a survey of residents and land owners on their feelings toward wind farm development. Survey findings enabled the county commissioners to decide whether wind development was a good fit for the county.

Most of Extension’s work is research-based, involving collecting, compiling, and analyzing original data through surveys, focus groups, and other outreach techniques. For instance, Extension professionals implement a variety of qualitative and quantitative tools to help communities better understand trends and conditions of their local and regional economies.

The Economic Impact Analysis (EIA) and Retail Market Analysis (RMA) programs are good examples of applied research in action. Both programs help communities measure change in their local economies to guide local decision-making. Extension professionals recently completed an EIA project to estimate the impact of tourism generated by the Lakeside Chautauqua in Ottawa County. RMA projects are frequently implemented, usually on the county level, to help inform EDOs about which retail sectors are growing and to identify gaps in the retail market.

Extension professionals and resources are also widely available online. Economic developers can find out more about Extension services on university websites, many of which have extensive links to fact sheets, blogs and social media sites. A somewhat new initiative, “eXtension,” is an internet-based portal with access to specialized information and research on a wide range of topics from land-grant universities across the country.

The pursuit of meaningful and productive partnerships is a core principle of Extension. Extension professionals seek out opportunities to collaborate on mutually beneficial projects and welcome new project ideas from economic developers and others. Economic developers can partner with Extension to leverage a wide range of useful university resources.

Nancy Bowen is an Associate Professor & Extension Field Specialist, Community Economics.

The end of diversity initiatives?

I recently overheard a business person in a leadership position say he was glad that we (referring to a broad collective of business, industry, education, and government organizations) have invested in training and action related to expanding diversity in our workplaces. But, he then said those programs “are kind of all the same” and reasoned that they’re not needed anymore. One could argue that we’ve made great strides in increasing diversity; but I would suggest we have only scratched the surface.

The United States is becoming more diverse every single day (US Census Bureau, 2016). So it’s a valid argument to say our teachers should reflect the look of their classroom students, or the administration (of any given organization) should reflect the composition of its constituents.

But there are much deeper reasons for continuing our quest for diversity. (Our CFAES diversity team outlines numerous examples here.)

Let’s consider problem solving. When faced with a complex issue, would you rather tackle it alone, or pull resources from a number of people who can give perspectives that greatly enhance the number of approaches for solution? The business community has long deployed strategies for looking at problems in diverse ways in order to reach better solutions. It positively impacts their bottom line.

Problem solving is but one example. The principle applies in many, many situations.

So how might we reconsider diversity initiatives? What might we do (personally and collectively) to change our thinking the next time we receive an email announcing another diversity training?

I suggest starting with the iceberg. We have all seen the analogy. Ninety percent of a person’s background, composition, identity, etc. is hidden beneath the water line. We see only 10% on the external surfaces. But here’s the catch:  Even though I KNOW about the iceberg analogy, it doesn’t always come to mind when I’m interacting, or making a decision, or deleting an email. So if we can try being deliberate about remembering the iceberg, it just might help.

You might also endeavor to learn more about yourself. I have taken several of the modules in the free online Harvard Implicit Bias test. They provide hints about our often-unrecognized biases and help us move beyond. They take only 5 or 10 minutes!

Even small steps like these outlined here can make a positive difference. I encourage you to give them a try.

SOURCES:

US Census Bureau. Retrieved 9/13/17 from: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045216

Brian Raison is an Assistant Professor and Field Specialist, Community and Organizational Leadership.

Plastic Cigar Tips: A Growing (and Gross) Problem on Ohio’s Beaches

In a relatively short period of time plastic has become the most common form of garbage found in the Earth’s oceans, lakes, and other waters. Sadly, coastal residents of Great Lakes states have become quite accustomed to seeing plastic. Almost 80% of trash found on beach cleanups in the region in recent years has been identified as plastic 1. This is especially evident along the southern beaches of Lake Erie, where high population and industrial development have contributed to the plastics problem. In Ohio, the most common items found are cigarettes and other smoking related materials, including plastic cigar tips.

In total, cigar tips account for about 14% of all smoking related debris on Ohio beaches 2. These trends are especially noticeable on beaches found near Ohio’s largest coastal city, Cleveland, and its surrounding communities. Given the growing awareness of the issue, and the impact of plastics on beaches throughout the Great Lakes, my colleague with Ohio Sea Grant, Jill Bartolotta, and I convened a focus group to investigate strategies to help address the problem. The group was comprised of individuals with practical knowledge of plastic cigar tip use and disposal issues, including representatives of government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, community groups, and local academic institutions.

The first questions the group discussed centered on the WHAT, WHY, and HOW of the problem. When asked what local residents think about the topic, all agreed that people are well aware and not happy about the abundance of cigar tips found along Lake Erie’s shore. When asked why this matters, group members suggested that it affects the benefits of living in a community, like neighborhood pride and public health, as well as the social, environmental, and financial viability of local neighborhoods. This leads us to the how of the matter. How can decision makers successfully combat the problem of plastic cigar tips?

In order to figure out how to reduce the amount of cigar tips on area beaches, we first asked focus group members what prevents smokers from throwing their tips in the garbage. Responses ranged from ‘not enough smoking disposal receptacles’ to a ‘lack of receptacles in high traffic areas’ and ‘no receptacles specifically for cigar tips.’ Group members also cited social barriers, such as ‘long-term user habits,’ ‘social norms that validate use of cigars,’ and ‘difficulty reaching the population of smokers with proper disposal messaging.’

Ultimately, the group came up with a set of recommendations for helping to reduce plastic cigar tip litter in the area. Some suggestions were obvious, like ‘creating more designated smoking areas with proper disposal receptacles’ and ‘developing education and outreach on public signage.’ Others were more nuanced, like reward programs and mail in rebates, tax increases, deposit programs, and strict age enforcement by vendors. One constant among all ideas was an emphasis on positive messaging. Instead of negative campaigns that instruct people to “quit smoking,” the focus should be on education and community-based solutions. The group suggested educating people about the connection between swimming and drinking water, along with other public health issues. In the end, the most enthusiastic recommendation was to focus on neighborhood beautification and Cleveland pride. As locals will tell you, Cleveland is The Land of Champions! Not an ashtray.


References

  1. Driedger, A.G.J., Durr, H.H., Mitchell, K., and Cappellen, P.V. 2015. “Plastic Debris in the Laurentian Great Lakes: A Review.” Journal of Great Lakes Research. 41 (1): 9-19.
  2. Adopt a Beach Program. 2015. “Litter Report: Raw Data from Great Lakes Beach Cleanups.” Cigar tip percentage calculated by Jill Bartolotta, Ohio Sea Grant College Program and Ohio State University Extension, May 19, 2016.

Scott Hardy is an Extension Educator for the Ohio Sea Grant College Program.

Can Solar Energy Save Money for your Farm or Business? Tips to Separate Fact from Fiction

Advances in technology and policy mandates that require the installation of photovoltaic (PV) solar have contributed to the reduction of system costs. In recent years, both the power and efficiency of solar panels have steadily improved, while the cost of solar panels have dropped dramatically. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the average cost to install a commercial PV solar system in the United States has decreased from $5.23 per watt (DC) in 2009 to $2.13 per watt (DC) in 2016[i]. The declining cost of equipment and installation makes installing a solar system enticing for many agricultural producers, and PV panels are an increasingly common sight on farms across Ohio.

The declining cost of installing a PV solar system is enticing for many agricultural producers. However, while solar may provide an attractive payback on some farms, every farm is unique and evaluating the financial viability of investing in solar requires careful consideration of system design, costs, and modeling assumptions.

Key Steps in Project Evaluation:

  • Plan and prepare – Be curious and careful! Investing in on-farm PV solar requires a significant up-front investment that will involve numerous contracts, spanning decades. It is important to review resources and conduct a detailed project assessment before signing any paperwork.
  • Compare and contrast – Secure three or four project quotes to analyze various proposals and modeling assumptions (e.g., system production, net excess generation, energy escalation, incentives, operations and maintenance costs).
  • Research and review – Understand the equipment and shop around! Just as tractors and agricultural equipment have unique features, not all solar projects are created equal. Investigate your various proposals and identify the key difference between the system design, equipment, and warranties (e.g., type and efficiency of solar panel, string inverters or micro inverters, panel warranty, inverter warranty, installation warranty, ground mount or rooftop design, galvanized or stainless fasteners).
  • Discuss and debate – Review the project proposals with your utility provider and your tax professional to evaluate the project assumptions, contracts, and financial implications and/or benefits.

Extension Resources – Solar Electric Investment Analysis Bulletin Series 

Solar Bulletin SeriesEvaluating the financial investment in solar requires careful consideration of system costs, the value of production, and operation and maintenance costs. Unfortunately, some proposals are hard to understand making it difficult to make fully informed investment decisions. To help simplify the key considerations of evaluating a PV solar project, the University of Wyoming and Ohio State University partnered to develop a bulletin series that clarifies the information and assumptions that are essential to the assessment process. The bulletins listed below, are structured as a six-part series arranged to systematically progress the reader through the project evaluation process.

Part 1: Estimating System Production – Site-specific factors such as shading, orientation, tilt, temperature, and panel degradation can influence the amount of electricity produced by a PV solar system.

Part 2: Assessing System Cost – A better understanding of direct system costs, indirect capital costs, operations and maintenance, and standard assumptions provides a more accurate financial analysis, fostering informed investment decisions.

Part 3: Forecasting the Value of Electricity – To calculate energy savings for a project, one must consider important variables, including the details of the individual rate structure and the assumed energy escalation rate that influence the value of electricity a PV system produces.

Part 4: Understanding Incentives – Despite declining costs for PV solar, there are various federal, state, and local incentives which greatly affect the financial viability of a PV installation.

Part 5: Conducting a Financial Analysis – Understanding the solar resource production, system cost, value of electricity, and available incentives enables a robust financial analysis. Accurately evaluating the viability of a solar project requires understanding financial concepts such as simple payback, net present value, and the levelized cost of energy.

Part 6: PV Solar Example – The National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed the System Advisory Model (SAM) to help developers, installers, and potential system owners estimate the system production and financial impacts of renewable energy projects.

These materials are designed to increase participants’ knowledge of PV solar energy development and the financial considerations to guide informed decision-making with future investments. This six-part bulletin series and additional materials are available for download at: energizeohio.osu.edu/farm-solar-energy-development.

Interested in Learning More?….Join Us at Farm Science Review!

The 2017 Farm Science Review (FSR) will be held September 19-21 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center near London, Ohio. Farm Science Review offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the latest agricultural innovations from experts from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University. The Small Farm Center at the Farm Science Review features 27 educational programs suited to smaller farms, with particular emphasis on alternative enterprises, alternative production systems and alternative marketing strategies.

If you plan to attend the FSR and are interested in additional information on solar energy in agriculture, please join us for the 50-minute presentation titled, Considerations for Investing in Solar Energy for Your Small Farm on Thursday September 21, at 12:00 p.m. at the Small Farms Center Tent located at the corner of Corn Avenue and Beef Street.

For additional information, please click here to review a complete list of educational sessions and demonstrations offered at the 2017 Farm Science Review.

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[i] Fu, R., Chung, D., Lowder, T., Feldman, D., Ardani, K., and Margolis R. (2016).  U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System Cost Benchmark: Q1 2016, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

 

Eric Romich is an Assistant Professor & Extension Field Specialist for Energy Development with OSU Extension.

Rollin’ on the River

Dr. Michael Drake

Ohio State President Michael V. Drake. Photo credit: Kevin Fitzsimons.

A crisp, sunny, blue-sky morning greeted Ohio State President Michael V. Drake, along with Dr. Cathann Kress, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, other OSU staff, students, and guests as they visited southeast Ohio’s Washington County. The group boarded the Valley Gem Sternwheeler, built and operated by a local family to journey the Muskingum River. The fog had lifted to reveal the calm and gently flowing river banked on each side by lush green vegetation. Just over the top of the riverbank, homes could be seen in the City of Marietta. Perhaps with the rhythmic splash of the paddle of the sternwheeler, these passengers could imagine years long ago and the early pioneers who would establish Marietta and Washington County.

The Treaty of Paris greatly opened expansion of territories west of the Appalachian Mountains.  In need of revenue and in payment to Revolutionary War veterans, the lands in the Northwest Territory were established with the passage of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787. Rufus Putnam, who was appointed Chief of Engineers by General George Washington, along with Manasseh Cutler and two other Continental Army officers, formed the Ohio Company of Associates and bought over 1,000,000 acres of land in the Northwest Territory. In 1788, with Putnam as their leader, 48 Revolutionary War veterans settled at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers, founding Marietta as the first organized settlement in the Northwest Territory. In accordance with the terms of the Northwest Ordinance, the settlers began the establishment based on legal basis land ownership, organized government, natural rights and prohibition of slavery. Later, Marietta and surrounding communities would become key locations in the Underground Railroad.

The Northwest Ordinance held language that carried forward the concept of land grants to support education. Arthur St. Clair (first governor of the Northwest Territory) originally chartered the American Western University to be the public university in the settlement (between Chillicothe and Marietta); however, the university never opened under that name. The next charter two years later established the first university in the territory: Ohio University. Rufus Putnam served as a trustee of the university for twenty years. Mr. Putnam also originated Muskingum Academy in 1797, a predecessor to Marietta College.

Just as the Northwest Ordinance presented opportunities for expansion, The Ohio State University offers opportunities for expansion of knowledge, careers, and development of social and economic initiatives. Visiting various areas of our great state gives our students, faculty, and staff a broader understanding of the impacts made by the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Valley Gem Sternwheeler

Valley Gem Sternwheeler. Photo Credit: Kevin Fitzsimons.

Marietta and Washington County, Ohio invite you to visit. Plan a ride on the Valley Gem Sternwheeler and enjoy the many historical sites and scenic beauty of the area. The Columbus Dispatch’s recent article “Marietta preserves its past as Ohio’s oldest city,” describes many visitor attractions. For more visitor information visit: http://mariettaohio.org.

Darlene Lukshin is an OSU Extension Program Specialist (Washington County & Buckeye Hills EERA).

Watch What You Throw Out! The Fundamentals of Recycling

Trash . . . it’s ugly, probably smelly, and something we tend not to think twice about once we set it on the curb or in the dumpster. Did you know the average American generates about 4.4 pounds of waste, per day? Americans produced an estimated 254 million tons of trash in 2013, and of this amount, 87 million tons or 34.3% was recycled or composted. If these numbers are surprising to you, read further to learn how to properly reduce and recycle your waste!

What can you recycle?

  • Aluminum & Steel Cans
  • Paper & Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Glass – Glass makes up 6% of items in the landfill and it takes over 1 million years to decompose
  • Plastic – did you know the average US citizen uses 200 lbs of plastic each year? Of this amount, only 3% is recycled.
  • Electronics & Batteries – for more information research your county’s recycling program or call your local electronic company (Staples, Best Buy).

Remember these tips to be a pro at recycling: lightly wash out bottles or containers, keep the caps of bottles or jars on, and always review what recyclables are collected in your county or you risk your entire bin being dumped in the landfill.

Recyclables are commonly collected in two ways – they are either sorted into their respective materials at site pickup, or all recyclables are thrown together and taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) for sorting. The MRF’s will sort the recyclables by hand and/or machine and then materials are sent off to manufacturers who utilize the recycled items to make new products.

It’s a challenge to understand the importance and impact recycling can have when you don’t see the end result, but it is essential to reducing your carbon footprint and total waste generated. While recycling aids in reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfills, there are two important steps you should take if you are interested in reducing your overall waste generation:

  1. Reduce – For many of us, we have ignored the common conveniences we have, such as plastic bags at the grocery store. Easy fixes like bringing a reusable bag, or even reusing plastic bags, will reduce the amount of unrecyclable material you are already consuming. Also be conscious of putting produce into separate plastic bags; you can always mix produce in one and leave it open for the cashier to weigh separately. Ain’t no shame in this reusable shopping bag game!
  1. Reuse – Repurpose recyclable items such as glass jars for pantry storage, water bottles, or even to plant some herbs!

Make sure to check out your county’s local recycling program for specifics on what can be recycled! And to learn more about plastic pollution and how long it takes for items to decompose, check out fix.com/blog/reduce-plastic-use/.

Sources:

2013 Solid Waste Data – archive.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/web/html/

Recycling Facts and Material Statistics – cuyahogarecycles.org/environment_recycling_facts

“Recycle the possibilities are endless” – threerivers.gov.uk/egcl-page/rubbish-waste-and-recycling

Materials Recovery Center (MRC) –  www3.epa.gov/recyclecity/recovery.htm

Lauren Vargo is a Program Coordinator, CD/ANR (Cuyahoga County & Western Reserve EERA).

How I live with the 7 Habits

Have you ever had a to-do list longer than your grocery list? I know I have. It’s especially hard on those days when you walk into the office and immediately have to pick up the phone that’s been ringing, and fix the error message on the copier as you walk by, and maybe five other things before you even get the chance to get your coat off. Days like these have a tendency of pushing you to your limit, and it’s days like these that leave us emotionally exhausted. So what do we do to live with this?

Success/Stress SignWhat my team did was adopt Franklin Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We spent two days in a training learning about ourselves, our teams, and how to work more effectively with ourselves and each other. We learned in this training the 7 habits we can practice that will lead our lives down a less stressful path while maximizing our productivity. A couple of the habits I use every day are Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, and my team often uses Synergize.

I’m practicing being proactive by keeping my goals in my foresight while focusing on the tasks that will get me there. In my position as a project coordinator, this helps me plot out what my day-to-day tasks will be while still looking ahead to the end goal. This helps me better be able to begin with the end in mind because when I start a task I make sure I know why I’m doing this in the first place. By keeping in mind where I want to be in the future, I’m able to work together with my team day to day and let our vision of the future guide our daily decisions.

My team synergizes by working together on multifaceted projects, each of us bringing something unique to the table. Some of us have more relationship building skills and others are more analytical. We pride ourselves in cultivating these strengths and delegating tasks to the person whom we know will excel in that area. We are better teammates and more effective employees when we are able to do the things we enjoy.

The 7 Habits has, so far, impacted the way I work. I pay more attention to what is necessary compared to what is just a distraction. With the help from my team, we have been able to create processes that eliminate distractions which increase our productivity. With a director who cultivates a culture of efficiency and effectiveness, we are marching into the future with our new habits.

Reference:

Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic ([Rev. Ed.].). New York: Free Press.

Kori Montgomery is an Office Associate at the Alber Enterprise Center located at The Ohio State University at Marion.