Category Archives: Waste

Refrigerators that use no electricity will reduce food spoilage in dry lands

A team of researchers that began their work at MIT found a way to restructure an ancient method of food storage into a mobile, modern unit that looks like a big pizza bag and costs USD$25. It can be used by families in hot, arid regions where money and electricity is scarce to keep foods cool so they last weeks rather than days.

How it works is pretty stupendous:

In ancient times food was cooled was achieved by using terra cotta containers buried in sand. These modern Evaptainers use lightweight materials and sit on any above-ground surface, like a table. The containers’ secret sauce is an outside channel into which a liter of water is poured every two days. Slow evaporation produces major cooling in a process quite similar to our bodies’ efficient method of cooling us down through sweat.

Hat tip to Dr. Jonathan Hodges for sharing this excellent find.

Bergen Cty residents can purchase reduced price rain barrels and composters at the BCUA

For the convenience of Bergen County residents the BCUA offers 55 gal. rain barrels at the discounted price of $59 and Earth Machine composting bins for $60. Pick up is by appointment only at the Little Ferry plant at the foot of Mehrhof Road. Schedule your appointment by calling the BCUA Environmental Programs hotline 201-807-5825.

The BCUA accepts only checks or money orders. For more information about this and other community greening programs visit

Protecting old growth forests & reducing livestock will hugely mitigate climate change

Biodiversity Plan & Aichi TargetsI was just reading a fact sheet on the contributions that Aichi (Japan) Biodiversity Targets can make to land-based climate mitigation. My son Ivan Wei brought it back from COP21 – the Paris climate talks that happened in December 2015. It brought out some quite interesting points:

  • Old growth forests provide better greenhouse gas mitigation than newly planted ones. Meaning, let’s take care of our trees.
  • Organic, eco-friendly agriculture is a great way to sequester carbon and get it out of the air, where it causes climate change.
  • 1/3 of food is being lost to spoilage and waste. By sharply reducing food waste, we will reduce the amount of new cropland that gets planted, which will in turn dramatically mitigate climate change.
  • We need to manage livestock growing much better and probably reduce our meat consumption.

The facts are pulled from the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, a multi-country 10 year framework adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Here’s the full Aichi Targets & Biodiversity Plan Synopsis.

People of Flint are being poisoned by City Manager and Michigan’s Gov. Snyder

Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards shows Flint water quality Source: Flint Journal via Michigan Live
Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards shows Flint water quality Source: Flint Journal via Michigan Live
Flint, Michigan has followed in *Detroit’s footsteps, attacking residents’ access to one of the two most important elements required for living: clean water (the other is air). Two city managers appointed by Gov. Snyder colluded to deprive 100,000 people of access to Great Lakes water via the Detroit Water Authority by switching to the Flint River, a salty source which has caused pipe corrosion and has resulted in lead poisoning in young children and health issues across the general population. The Ford factory also soon learned that Flint River water was ruining its equipment:

One of the most telling moments in this saga was when General Motors disconnected from the Flint River because the water was ruining its machinery, leaving some to wonder — if it was doing that to machines, what was it doing to humans?

On the Dr Boyce Watkins show, Roosevelt Mitchell III and Vanessa Lynn discuss the horrific situation Flint is confronting and residents’ hopes that the federal government will step in with a solution to this crisis.

ABC News reported in October 2015

…the Genesee County health department declared a public health emergency, recommending that people not drink the water unless it has been filtered and tested to rule out elevated levels of lead. More steps will be announced Friday.

County Commissioner Brenda Clack told residents that infants and children should not use the water coming from the taps in the city of Flint.

“Individuals who have respiratory conditions should not use the water, pregnant women should not use the water – it’s imperative that they not use the water,” she urged.

However, it is unclear what people were expected to drink and cook with. Early on, FEMA stepped in to provide some bottled water – but only a few thousand liters … General Motors and local non-profits donated to buy filters – but only for 5,000 residents. It remains unclear today how close the city government has come to fulfilling the promise made in October to provide filters for all homes and businesses, and when a source of clean water will be available again.

The Flint Water Board allowed the switch to be made without requiring adequate testing to ensure that residents’ health would not be compromised.

Added later in the day: Detroit Free Press reports that Gov. Snyder, in a move calculated to shift the blame away from himself, called for the resignation of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant, which was tendered today.

*In April 2015, the City of Detroit began shutting off the water for 40% of the city’s residents after giving 10 days’ advance notice.

How CSOs (combined sewer/water systems) work, why they’re bad

USEPA and New Jersey Future
CSOs are Combined Sewer Overflow systems put in place centuries ago when stormwater was considered to be as much a public inconvenience as sewage is – instead of being regarded as the asset it really is. After all, nobody can live without water and for various reasons, we have less clean water today than any other time in history, so there’s a growing awareness of how much we need to treasure and protect our water resources.

In the CSO model, both clean street stormwater and sewage waste are channeled through municipal pipes into the municipal sewage waste treatment facility. That’s a waste of taxpayer funds right out of the box, because there’s no need to treat street water that’s already, just about clean. And even worse, the CSO system becomes a huge public health hazard when there’s a big weather event and CSO-connected sewage plants close off their incoming pipes to avoid becoming overwhelmed and flooding. When this happens, both effluent and water in the municipal pipes are pushed out into nearby natural bodies of water.

This is not only a truly icky phenomenon. It’s also damaging to the waterways’ ecosystems and obviously makes using them for recreation while sewage is present, entirely out of the question.

In a NJ Spotlight Opinion Piece, Daniel J. Van Abs offers a synopsis of the CSO problem:

The Romans developed a technology, now called combined sewers, to move sewage and stormwater off the streets and out of the city. London revived the use of combined sewers in the 1800s. Many cities in this country also built combined sewers from roughly 1860 to the 1920s, including 21 New Jersey municipalities, where they still exist. Initially, the combined sewage and stormwater were discharged directly to rivers, lakes, and bays, getting it out of the city as quickly as possible. Only later was treatment added – sometimes.

H2 Oh No! is a short video about CSOs from the Center for Urban Pedagogy.

Both Rutger’s Water Resources Department in New Jersey and New York’s Riverkeeper recommend on-site treatments to contain stormwater where it falls by sequestering it in the leaves of plants and trees at street height or in green roofs, getting it to percolate into the ground or capturing it in cisterns and rainbarrels for later use.

Here’s a CSO factsheet from Riverkeeper showing on-site treatments effectively provide for stormwater management. This keeps stormwater away from sewage lines and consequently, reduces the incidents of CSO pollution.

ECJ Green Drinks Paterson Area & Brunch for Bees Event – August 2015

Green Drinks 150729

ej green drinks with words, smallABOUT GREEN DRINKS
Green Drinks are gatherings where we discuss Environmental Justice, climate change and sustainable living issues in English and Spanish! A lot of knowledge is shared around the table each month along with tasty food and good conversation. Come spend a couple interesting hours with the friendliest bunch of EJ nuts you’ll ever meet. All are welcome.

Please support our host venue by eating or drinking something while we chat.


  1. Brunch for the Bees – what are we eating and drinking that bees pollinate? And what foods and drink don’t need them?
  2. A company is trying to locate a waste and sewage sludge in Paterson. It needs to be stopped.
  3. The Wei Family is starting up a community garden in Paterson. How can you help?
  4. A collective is forming to buy a Paterson home or property as a community based initiative to Occupy the City.
  5. Pres. Obama’s Clean Power Plan


(More info at
Newark cancelled due to Labor Day 7-9 PM
Hackensack this month on WED 16 SEPT 7-9 PM
Paterson DATE TBA (Check this page)

Kimi Wei, Ivan Gomez Wei, Ari Lopez Wei, Joseph Dunsay and Sally Gellert

Green Drinks NJ Environment & Climate Justice Discussions
Mayor información en español e inglés en
Questions | Preguntas – Kimi 862-203-8814

Peepoople bags turn people waste into valuable fertilizer

peepoople bagsThe production of Peepoople bags is being subsidized by its creator, Anders Wilhelmson, but this brilliant idea could become completely self-funding once it catches on more in developing countries. The bags currently cost users 3.4¢. FastCompany writes:

For less than four cents a bag, Peepoople’s mobile toilet takes dangerous waste and turns it into valuable fertilizer. Peepoople makes bags for going to the toilet, but not any old bags. Inside are chemicals that break down the poo and pee into fertilizer. Peepoople’s bags not only help contain dangerous waste, offering alternative sanitation in slums and refugee camps. They also begin to turn the feces into a positive material that can nourish crops.

The business was started 10 years ago by Anders Wilhelmson, an architect, urban planner, and professor at Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology … (who) started to think of the bag – which he considers a sort of mobile toilet, something akin to what a cell phone is to a landline.

Free EPA webinars on safe chemical waste disposal

Chemical disposalWe should all be aware by now that many of the chemicals we use are poisonous. Bottle labels from pesticides to paint thinners carry skull-and-crossbones and “dispose of properly” warnings. Repair facilities and manufacturing businesses work with many dangerous chemicals that, obviously, need to be discarded after use.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s job is protecting the environment in which we all live, work, and play. This charge includes regulating the manufacture, handling, and disposal of useful but dangerous chemicals. President Clinton’s executive order in 1994 made environmental justice part of the EPA mission. The EPA Web site explains:

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

The EPA is holding two webinars this month on reducing the risks of the use of chemicals that are recognized as having a high impact on environmental justice communities.

You must register to attend EPA webinars. Registrants have the option of just listening in but can also ask a question, share information or make a statement.

Environmental Justice Public Consultation on trichloroethylene (TCE) Webinar
Date: 27 May 2015
Time: 1-2pm EDT

Environmental Justice Public Consultation on paint removers NMP and methylene chloride Webinar
Date: 27 May 2015
Time: 1-2pm EDT

Menstruation Activists spread the word: healthy menstrual products are also eco-friendly

Sustainable CyclesWould you believe there’s something called Menstruation Activism – and that women who promote it via Sustainable Cycles are cycling across the United States to bring awareness to women everywhere about menstruation products that are healthier for us and better for the environment?

The Guardian report on menstruation products shares excellent information on what’s being done around the world to bring this universally taboo subject into the light. It should be easy to discuss and address the health and environmental concerns that are associated with ‘female hygiene’, as it’s a subject that affects 50% of the world’s population directly … and the environmental problems caused by unsustainable products affect everyone.

What a revolutionary idea. I love it!

User friendly food-date labeling system can cut waste

eat or freeze by use by dateTwilight Greenaway writes in Civil Eats about the food waste being caused by a broken US food labeling system that is inconsistent and misunderstood. She examines solutions proposed in The Dating Game, a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. NRDC has already been “getting the word out about food waste” and “confusing expiration dates” for years now.

No matter how many times we’re reminded that 40 percent of the food we produce in the U.S. goes to waste, it still manages to be a pretty shocking number…

According to Dana Gunders, NRDC’s resident food waste expert, the date labeling system in the U.S. is “not a system at all.” Instead, she says: “It’s like the Wild West. Laws vary across states and, for most labels on a vast majority of products, the manufacturers choose whether to have a date at all, which kind to apply, what they interpret that label to mean, and how to determine when to set that date.”

The result? People are throwing away food on those dates because they believe it’s no longer safe to eat — up to 90 percent of us. And, conversely, we might be eating unsafe food because we’re placing more trust in those dates than we should.