Money for trash and the perks aren’t free

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Compost, Consumption, Environment, Local Government, Oklahoma City, Recycling, Tricia Dameron, Waste Management | Posted on 25-08-2009

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by Tricia Dameron

City living definitely has its perks. One perk I’m enjoying since we moved to inner-OKC a mere three weeks ago has been curbside recycling. What a treat! Previously we lived in an unincorporated area and had to haul our recycling to a drop-off center during Saturday morning errands. Everything had to be sorted and it was common for the dumpsters to be overflowing with recyclables, resulting in us carting our waste back to the house.

Today is trash day in my new neighborhood and as I made my way to the office, I pondered the missing “Little Blues” at many of my neighbors’ curbs. I cannot comprehend why someone would opt out of curbside recycling. Because of my various residences, taking recycling to drop-off centers has always been a highly regarded pain in the butt. Comparatively, curbside recycling is a luxury. As of July 2009 26 percent of OKC trash customers set out their “Little Blue” every week and 52 percent of the same participate in curbside recycling, according to Mark Jordan at Recycle America. Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “What is the difference between set-out rate and participation rate?” I’m not clear on that yet, but check back for more information in the comments.

I wish Oklahoma City had a residential pay-as-you-throw program. I recycle and compost without financial incentive, but it would nice (and logical) to pay less when I use less (landfill space), as it is with gas, electricity, and city water. For $16.23/month, you can fill two 90-gallon “Big Blue” containers per week. A third 90-gallon cart costs an additional $2.76/month. I can request a smaller cart, but I’ll pay the same if I dispose 7 gallons or 180 gallons of waste per week. I wonder if there has been any correlation between pay-as-you-throw programs and multiplying illegal dump sites?

Recycling can also be incentivized by container deposit legislation (also called a “bottle bill”), which requires a refundable deposit on beverage containers. Seven states with bottle bills studied litter rates and found a substantial reduction in beverage container litter. Oklahoma Department of Transportation spends $3.5 million/year cleaning up litter along state highways. A 1998 litter survey found beverage containers to be the fourth highest source of litter in Oklahoma.

Iowa, with land area and population comparable to Oklahoma, enacted a bottle bill in 1978. If Iowa can do it, why can’t Oklahoma? Several attempts to enact a bottle bill have failed in the Oklahoma Legislature. In 2008 a measure creating a task force to simply study container deposit legislation didn’t even get a committee hearing.

Spending taxes to pick up litter will never cure the problem. And burying reusable materials — materials that save money, energy and natural resources — comes straight from pages of “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” by Jared Diamond. Both practices seem antithetical to the fiscally conservative values of the political majority here in Oklahoma.

The Next One in the Nest

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Community, Current Affairs, Local Economy, Local Government, Nancy Love Robertson, Oklahoma City, Public Works, Travel | Posted on 16-05-2009

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by Nancy Love Robertson

I love Oklahoma
City. I really do. I am a life-long resident and have watched our community ebb
and flow over the span of my 53-year lifetime.

In my life, it
seems we’ve ebbed more than we flowed for so long, and I, like many of us,
experienced discomfort when people from other parts of the U.S. would grimace
when I’d tell them where home was.

Today, however,
I sing a different tune. I defend my hometown with the fierceness of a momma
lion. I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past 15 years or so.

As a community,
we invested in ourselves and made the first MAPS happen in 1992. We marveled at
our pretty new ballpark, and applauded when we stepped into the Civic Center,
Downtown Library and Cox Convention Center for the first time. It all looked good
and making progress FELT good.

We the people
stood tall on April 19, 1995 and survived the Oklahoma City bombing with
dignity and compassion. The whole world watched us in awe, and through the
profound sadness of that time, we found our voice as a community with heart.

The momentum of
the 1990s propelled us to further our city’s promise when we took a stand to
advance public education in our city in 2001. We made a down payment toward our
future by telling children in our town that they mattered when we passed MAPS
for KIDS in November of that year. “Good for us,” I thought at the time. “I’m
proud of you, Oklahoma City!”

So, that’s our
community basket of golden eggs we laid over the past 15 years. And, to
paraphrase a Joni Mitchell line from For the Roses, “Who’s to know if the next one in the nest will
glitter for us so?”

Don’t mistake my
question as doubt or as a complaint. That’s not my intention at all. On the
contrary, I have an idea on how we can produce another golden egg that will
sparkle for our city long into the future.

Thankfully,
Oklahoma City as a micro-society is finally beginning the dialogue of what the
pressing environmental issues of the day mean to our way of life. Don’t forget,
we used to pride ourselves on being the largest city, in landmass, in the
United States. Thankfully, Jacksonville, Florida, now owns that dubious
distinction. However, in our quest to “be somebody” back in the 1950s and
1960s, Oklahoma City sold its soul to developers and thus created a scenario
that took decades to create. Now, it will take decades to unwind.

For what it’s
worth, I am throwing my voice behind my fellow Oklahoma Cityans who’ve been
calling us on our BS for the past several years about having one of America’s
most livable cities. They’re correct. If we really want to be a livable city
then where are the sidewalks? Where is the network of running trails and bike
lanes? Nothing spells “l-i-v-a-b-l-e c-i-t-y” more than a community that
encourages walking, running and cycling. 
So, what have we done to put our collective muscle to work on this
issue? First of all, doesn’t it make sense to create a world-class city for the
residents who live and work here before we cast our net to the larger world?

Fortunately,
we’ve been blessed with the hard work of a few. A case in point: Every year,
thousands of us enjoy the fruits of the labor of those dedicated staff members
and volunteers who breathe life into the Lake Hefner Trails. I have personally
logged many hours and miles running or cycling around that lake. And, as a
birder, I truly enjoy the opportunity to connect with nature in such close
proximity to my home.

Or, take the
mountain bike trails at Lake Stanley Draper. In less than half an hour, my
partner, Shelly, and I can be resetting the little computers on our mountain
bikes (one of us captures time, the other distance) at the Draper trail head.
Generous people give their time and sweat equity to creating and maintaining
the patchwork trail system at Draper Lake so folks like Shelly and I can have a
getaway that is restorative far beyond the two hours we spend flying through
the woods, practicing German and playing like two little kids. For those of you
responsible for making that space the oasis that it is, I say, “Thank you.”

I am certain
there are many more examples in our city that illustrate my point. All of them
can inspire us to do more to make our city livable and sustainable. And, these
examples of what could be might be the indicators of the next golden eggs we
produce in our nest.

So, how does a
grassroots initiative get traction in Oklahoma City? In reality, it starts with
civic and business leaders.

Attention please!
Mayor Cornett, take note. Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, tune in and pay
attention. Your constituents might be onto something here.

How marvelous it
would be if the next MAPS project involved a network of sidewalks and
cycling/running trails that would be the envy of forward-thinking cities like
Portland, Oregon? We’ve had MAPS and MAPS for KIDS. How about MAPS for LIFE (Living in
Full Enjoyment)? Like two of the other three MAPS
projects, (MAPS for Millionaires was a step backwards) this MAPS project,
Living in
Full Enjoyment…of our community, of our healthy bodies, of
our scenic beauty (our sunsets have been known to take one’s breath away) and
of each other…has something in it for everyone in our community. I also like
the metaphor of a network or web of life for our city. What a gift to be
connected to people and places, via a bike trail, to parts of town that are off
of our beaten paths. How awesome it would be to figuratively stumble onto a
celebration of a culture that’s different, while running along a trail that
connects one part of town with another.

I like imaging how
this could weave together for the good of our community.

In addition to
promoting recreation, fitness, a sense of community, sustainability and
livability, there’s a pragmatic side to bike lanes, running paths and
sidewalks, and it’s called safety. Here’s what I mean, and it begins with an
image that’s burned into my mind’s eye that I never want to see again. It’s an
image borne from years of unsustainable city planning for our way of life and a
visual that would’ve been less painful to see had there been a sidewalk.

Right before
Christmas, Shelly and I were driving on May Avenue just north of N.W. 63rd.
It was a freezing cold and blustery Saturday afternoon. Against the curb as
close as they could get for safety, was an elderly couple. The man was bundled
up in a wheelchair and he had an oxygen tank in his lap.  Behind him a few paces, was an old
woman in a car coat, clutching her purse and holding onto what was left of her
dignity. In the face of this dangerous situation, both of them appeared stoic.
Shelly and I were stunned at the sight, and I am confident that the other
motorists who saw it were equally as horrified. There was so much traffic,
there wasn’t an opportunity to stop and help them, so we moved our car as far
to the left in our right-hand lane to give them as much room as possible under
the circumstances. Nothing was in the headlines the next day, so I trust they
made it to where they were going.

Now, back to
sidewalks. Is this the image we want to project as a city?  Does the scene I’ve just described
bespeak a community that’s forward-thinking, sustainable, livable?  For those whose jobs it is to bring
commerce and people into our town to expand our tax base, it might be a wise
investment of time to take a look at an initiative that has broad implications
for the common men and women in our city. MAPS for LIFE would not only promote
a healthy lifestyle for our community, therefore enhancing the quality of life
for everyone. It could also say to residents and ultimately the rest of the
country that we are doing our part to be sustainable and leave a smaller
footprint as a city. While this utopian network of sidewalks and trails isn’t
the light rail system many of us dream will someday connect our suburbs with
the city center, it is likely to come into being more quickly and for less money.
Yet the long-term benefits would be far-reaching. 

What about the next
golden egg? MAPS for LIFE could be the next one in our community nest that
could glitter for us so. 

Bob Waldrop Elected Mayor Of OKC

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Bob Waldrop, Energy, Local Government, Local News, Oklahoma City, Peak Oil, Peak Oil Hausfrau, Politics, Transition Town | Posted on 16-02-2009

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by Peak Oil Hausfrau

Featured here is the first post of the Envision 2020 blog,
which imagines the events in Oklahoma City as we transition from the
present, a time of abundant and cheap energy, to the future, a time
of declining and expensive energy…

(OKLAHOMA CITY) Mar. 7, 2014 — Bob Waldrop, local social justice
activist and founder of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, was elected
mayor of Oklahoma City in a landslide election yesterday evening.

"I
am proud my fellow citizens have embraced my platform of 'Local Food,
Energy and Economy,'" Mayor-elect Waldrop told Peak Oil Hausfrau today.
"It shows that our city is ready to tackle the enormous challenges
facing us and take responsibility for our future. When we are willing
to work together, we can create great things as a community."

Opponents
tried to paint Waldrop as a radical, calling him a "sad old Hobbit
hippie," "permaculturist" and "local foodie fanatic." These attacks did
not resonate with a population weary of years of recession and the
lingering effects of the financial crash of 2009. Local groups banded
together in a swell of grassroots support to knock on over 54,000 doors
in a massive volunteer campaign.

First on Waldrop's agenda: Restoring
granaries within city limits. Mayor-elect Waldrop explained, "This step
will provide local food security in the face of another oil shock like
the one of 2011. We will have grain and beans on hand to provide a
two-week basic minimum diet for our most vulnerable citizens. But I
encourage everyone to have three months of their own food storage if at
all possible."

The oil crisis of 2011 laid the foundations for
Mr. Waldrop's campaign of "Local Food, Energy and Economy." While not
entirely unprepared due to the efforts of local group Transition Town OKC,
Oklahoma City nonetheless endured great stress from the effects of the
oil supply crisis. Without constant deliveries of food, grocery shelves
were emptied within three days of the Ras Tanura refinery bombing in
Saudi Arabia on June 14, 2011. Highways and roads became deserted, and
basic city services stopped. Luckily, the crisis lasted only two weeks
before the federal government began rationing gasoline and released oil
from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ensure coal and food
deliveries. Still, the economy was at a standstill, and without regular
paychecks, many people could not even afford to buy the food that was
available.

Leading
citizens, business and spiritual leaders from all walks and parties
endorsed Waldrop, including many that had opposed him in the past.

"After
the Crisis of '11, the Federation of Churches realized that we needed a
city that would prepare for the future of oil depletion, not be stuck
in the past of oil dependence. We decided to mobilize and make sure
that the city had a plan. Our church was very excited to support Bob's
campaign, which had a great, innovative focus on preparedness,
resilience, and localization," said John Franks, minister, Faith and
Hope Community Church.

Mayor-elect Waldrop will celebrate his election with a
"Local Food Extravaganza," and invites all citizens to an open-air
potluck festival downtown to be held directly after his inauguration.
"We look forward to bringing all our citizens back into the democratic
process," he remarked. "My administration will be one of inclusiveness
and responsibility and will offer a new vision for the future–one of
energy efficiency, local food and economy, shared transport and
renewable energy. Our hope is that everyone will participate."

New Law, Good News for Area Pets

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Chelsey Simpson, Current Affairs, Local Government, Local News, Pets, Waste Management | Posted on 19-01-2009

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by Chelsea Simpson

My friend Tracy strikes a pose in front of my swiss chard. She has a new home now, but last summer she and six other dogs were found abandoned at a home. Thanks to irresponsible breeding practices, Tracy is deaf and has vision problems.
Sustainability in Oklahoma City took a small, unexpected step forward last week. As of January 15, the city will pay for the spaying or neutering of any dogs and cats that wind up at the city shelter, even if their owners come to claim them. Previously, owners hoping to take their lost pets home were required to pay a fee to cover the costs associated with caring for the animal at the shelter. But now owners can have that fee waived if they provide proof that their pet has been altered or agree to have it altered at the city’s expense.

Hopefully the fee waiver will result in more owners claiming their pets, which will save the city in boarding and euthanasia costs, and more pets being altered, which will eventually lead to a decrease in the overall population of unwanted pets.

That last point is where sustainability comes in: unwanted pets. According to an article in the Journal Record last month, Oklahoma City euthanized 17,654 dogs and cats last year. That is waste, my friends, at its most grotesque. I fret about throwing away all kinds of things—leftover potatoes, socks with holes, wrinkled printer paper. I also realize that we are a wasteful society, consuming too much on many fronts, but the lives’ of living things? That stretches wastefulness beyond acceptable limits.

Let’s remind ourselves what we are talking about here because I grew up on a farm, and I eat meat. I know the argument, and it goes like this, “Dogs and cats are animals, and just like livestock they are here to be used by humans. If that’s how you feel, then use them—let them warm your lap and welcome your visitors and perform more noble tasks, like search and rescue or bomb sniffing because that’s what they were bred for. There is no need to breed new animals so long as thousands of them are being euthanized. To my knowledge, no one kills cattle just to make room for more cattle; we kill them for a purpose. Their slaughter isn’t simply a matter of convenience.

Yet more dogs and cats continue to be produced because we keep buying them. Then we throw the old ones away. So as we move toward sustainability with our recycled pop cans, hybrid cars and local food, let’s not forget our loyal companions. “Recycle” a pet from the shelter. Avoid creating “new waste” by spaying and neutering. And support new legislation and rules like the one that took effect last week.