Think locally, recycle religiously

Lori Brown challenges folks to make the commitment

Lori (left) and her classmates make a statement.

Lori (left) and her classmates make a statement.

Sustainable Space columnists Lori Brown and Greg Kallio are professors in the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management at Chico State University.

Trash avengers
Shoot those who pollute? Seems a bit extreme, but to my seventh-grade class in the early ’70s, protesting was a regular event in the Bay Area. Our science teacher, Mr. Clack (one guess at his nickname), organized an anti-pollution march. The entire class scoured my hometown of Dublin, chanting while picking up trash. We filled an entire corner of our classroom with aluminum cans and took them to a recycling center.

The whole class went on a two-day camping trip with the redemption money. Back then, we didn’t even need permission slips to go on the overnight trip. “Mr. Clack’s taking us camping. Be back Sunday,” I told my mom. Teachers were cool in the ’70s and some were ahead of their time. Mr. Clack taught us the three R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle) long before it became a slogan.

Office vigilance
Times have changed, and so have I, but the importance of the three R’s hasn’t. Reducing, reusing and recycling at work is something everyone can do to make their office a more sustainable space. At a minimum, consider collecting and recycling glass, plastic, metals, office paper, newspaper and cardboard. Provide convenient containers in individual offices for collection. (It’s best to separate paper products from items that may contain liquid.)

Think of the results. Recycling 1 ton of paper prevents the processing of 17 trees and saves 3 cubic yards of landfill space. Recycled aluminum requires only 5 percent of the energy required to produce virgin aluminum from bauxite, its raw material. Land-, water- and air-pollution impacts all can be reduced by diverting waste from landfills. The Christmas season is always followed by the New Year’s resolution. Why not consider adding “become more sustainable at work” to your list?

Speaking of holidays and lists …
With the shopping season upon us, it’s a great time to think about what we choose to purchase and what is available locally. For several years a favorite gift that our children (all adults) look forward to (i.e. expect) has been a canvas shopping bag from S&S Produce filled with all things grown and/or made in and around the Chico area.

It’s easy to find great stuff: Honey, pickled jalapeno olives, dried fruit, nuts, olive oil, mustard, rice and sun-dried tomatoes are just a few of the things we’ve stuffed inside reusable shopping bags. Roll the bag down to make a basket. And when it’s time for the lucky recipients to take their gifts home, the totes have handles and, best of all, no wrapping paper.

I have to give credit to the first local item we used for this tradition: Butte Creek Brewery‘s Christmas Cranberry Ale with an Elfin-looking Santa on the label. Two 20-ounce bottles with a bag of locally roasted almonds was the perfect gift several years ago when we started this tradition. If you’re reading this on Thursday (Dec. 18), you’ve still got a week to gather great, locally crafted gifts. Happy sustainable shopping!