Category Archives: Green Current Events

Pare’s 5th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest – Vote Here

It’s that time of year!  Photo entries for Pare’s 5th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest are posted below.

This year, Earth Day’s challenge is to: Take a stand, so that together we can show the world a new direction. It’s our turn to lead. Our world leaders will follow. The request to redefine what progress looks like prompted our photo contest challenge. Pare staff was invited to submit photos with a short description that demonstrate what progress means to them; how we are leading; and how we can do better.

Please enjoy the following photos, submitted by Pare’s staff, and vote using the poll located at the bottom of this post. The winner of the 2015 Earth Day Photo Contest will win a $25 Gift Certificate to Brigg’s Garden & Home. Voting will close Tuesday, April 28th.

Photo 11. “Synthetic Turf Field, Marshfield”

Is this just a field…???….
This is the reduction of runoff
This is promoting infiltration of stormwater
This is the elimination of the application of pesticides, nutrients, and herbicides
This is the elimination of geese waste
This is stabilization of exposed soil from overuse, which is susceptible to erosion due to wind and runoff
This is a facility that can handle three times the use as the one it replaced, eliminating the need for development elsewhere
Is this just a field…???….
This is progress.

Photo 2
2. “Back to Nature”

The Bartlet Pond Dam, originally constructed in 1814, was a barrier to the natural ecology of the Wekepeke Brook for nearly 200 years. During that time, the presence of the dam resulted in increased water temperatures, lower Dissolved Oxygen, disconnected environments, and other environmental detriments. In 2014, the dam was removed, restoring the area to a natural stream channel and allowing for the natural healing of the ecosystem to begin, which will benefit both the Wekepeke as well as the Nashua River, located shortly downstream. In recognition of this achievement, state and local officials gathered to celebrate the project and other environmental initiatives being supported financially through programs being offered by EOEEA. Attendance at the event demonstrated the state’s commitment and progress in restoring our natural environment; the new growth embodies the power of nature to overcome man’s interference in the cycle of nature.

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3. “Save the Bay Swim”

Earth Day is always a timely reminder about our need to be good stewards to Mother Earth – we only get to enjoy her for a short time (relatively speaking) before making way for the next generations. And where we can, it’s gratifying to see us turn back the clock and create a cleaner and healthier planet than the one that existed when we were born. Narragansett Bay is a good example of this, where the work of the Narragansett Bay Commission and non-profit organizations like Save the Bay have resulted in dramatically cleaner, healthier water. Considering the amount of bay water I swallowed during last summer’s Save the Bay Swim from Newport to Jamestown, I am personally thankful for the efforts of so many good stewards!

Photo 4 4. “Eco-Machine”

During a recent visit to the University of Vermont, I was shown a former students Master’s degree project: the “Eco-Machine”, which is essentially a small wastewater treatment facility containing aquatic life that collects and treats all of the wastewater in a large building located on campus. The buildings wastewater is collected and treated by the Eco-Machine through six primary steps: primary settling, closed aerobic reactors, nutrient uptake through open aquatic vessels, wetlands, bio particulate filtration, and UV disinfection. While the finished water is not intended for drinking, it is reused as all the water for flushing the toilets in the building. It has been reported that the finished water discharged from the Eco-Machine is cleaner than the outflow from Burlington’s sewage treatment plant that discharges into Lake Champlain. The Eco-Machine is an excellent example of redefining what progress looks like – environmentally sustainable, cost effective wastewater treatment system alternatives that provide similar or better treatment efficiency compared to multi-million dollar facilities that consume enormous amounts of energy.

Photo 55. “Tread Lightly”

The tiny Woodland Jumping Mouse can propel itself up to 6 feet in one leap! While these elusive little critters live throughout the northeast, it is rare to ever see one as they silently hop through pine forests, feeding on fungi and insects.

With today’s fast paced lifestyle full of digital distractions, it is more important than ever to lead our children to connect with the natural world. Fostering an appreciation for the diversity, complexity and fragility of our ecosystems will help shape the next generation to live consciously and tread lightly.

Photo 66. “S-s-s-s-s-s-s-springtime buddies”

Our leaders are like the tail of a snake, they don’t always point in the direction of the head, but give them time and they will arrive at the same place. If we show our leaders the way, they may not look like they’re going to in the right direction, but they will eventually get there.

Photo 77. “Solitude”

We lead by example. By following square foot gardening techniques, a relatively small area with not a lot of effort can produce a surprisingly bountiful crop of fresh vegetables. This garden is ready for a spring preparation and can also be a welcome visual addition to the rural scenery.

Photo 88. “Koi Pond”

A backyard koi pond brings nature to the city. The sound of the water filters out the noise pollution of the busy city and provides a relaxing outdoor recreational space.

Photo 99. “Living Machine”

Pictured above is the modern day wastewater treatment plant: the Living Machine. Wastewater is treated through a series of 7 steps (settling, equalization, anoxic tanks, constructed wetlands, aerated lagoons, sand filter, and dispersal field) and without the use of any chemicals. The aerated lagoon phase is pictured in the photo and consists of 4 cells each about 10 feet deep. Wastewater enters the lagoons and is converted to ammonia and other harmless base elements by the plants, fungi, and microorganisms that thrive within the lagoons. Once wastewater passes through the lagoons, it is piped to a sand filter for final particulate removal before being released back into the ground. The Living Machine truly goes back to the basics and treats our “waste” as a precious resource.

Photo 10

10. “Aurora Borealis”

Auroras occur in both hemispheres, and the aurora in the northern hemisphere is called the aurora borealis, or northern lights. The aurora borealis is most often seen during the months of September, October, March, and April.

One myth says that the aurora borealis is telling stories of what happened in the past and what will happen in the future.

Photo 11

11. “Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?”

Every day, more and more people can say that they do. Today, farmer’s markets are an important part of many of our communities, giving us access to healthy, locally grown food and a way of connecting to the farmers and purveyors that produce it. They have even helped solve the problem of “urban food deserts” that plague many of our largest cities, neighborhoods and other areas where people lack reasonable access to fresh healthy food – something most of us take for granted. More information on urban food deserts from the United States Department of Agriculture can be found here.

Photo 12
12. “Living Green”

We can all lead by example and make living green a part of our lives. These good examples will turn into the average way of living. For example, bringing your own bags to the grocery store was pretty much unheard of when I was a child going to the store with my parents. Today I fairly consistently use my own bags and I see a lot of others doing it too. The other day when I forgot my bags at home and went to check out, my child actually noticed the lack of bags and asked, “where are our bags?”. It has become such a normal activity of shopping that even at a young age children pick up on what we do in our life and will make it a part of their normal activities when they grow up. Something that seems like we need to put so much effort into now will become part of our life’s in the future without effort. Every effort we make to lead now results in change for the future.

Photo 1313. “Follow us, together we will lead”

It is through our children and the younger generation that we are being shown the importance of environmental stewardship. Respecting the environment and the planet we live on so that it will be possible for future generations to enjoy life and the wonders that our planet has to give is now at the forefront of the conversation. They are the real leaders of the future.

Please submit your vote below. Thank you!

Could Fungi Save Our Planet?

By Victoria Howland, Civil Engineer at Pare

“Imagine what our planet might look like in a thousand years.”

That is the first question Eben Bayer asked the audience in his 2010 TED talk, “Are mushrooms the new plastic?” My mind immediately jumped to the first scenes of the Disney Pixar movie, Wall-E. In the movie, the robot Wall-E has been placed on an abandoned Planet Earth with the futile task of cleaning-up an insurmountable mountain of trash and waste. While this concept is a bit extreme, the movie sends a clear message: We need to better manage our waste.

Eben Bayer also recognizes the need to find better solutions for our waste. While attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Eben and his classmate Gavin McIntyre invented an alternative use of fungi that produces rigid materials. This material is based on mycelium, which is defined as “the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, threadlike hyphae.” It is a living, growing and self-assembling organism.

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Pictured: Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre

Eben and Gavin’s product, MycoBond, is a mycelium “glue” that converts agriwaste into a foam-like material. This material provides an alternative solution for waste by fitting into nature’s recycling system. With the encouragement of their professor, the two men realized they were on to something and founded their company, Ecovative.

Ecovative initially focused its research on rigid boards for building insulation, and has since expanded into packaging. The manufacturing process for this company lies in the organism. Waste products are molded into a form and injected with the mycelium. Over the next few days, the fungi digests and assembles the waste into biocomposites. The biocomposites can be molded into any form and given various properties, such as being mold resistant, insulating, vapor resistant, etc.

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Eben states that there are three key principles for the success of these new “Mushroom Materials.” The first principle is open feedstocks. This process does not depend on finite resources, such as petroleum, that we so heavily rely on to power our cars and heat our homes. This process relies on local agricultural byproduct, which is naturally occurring and treated as a waste product.

The second key principle of this material is the consumption of far less energy in creating the material. The beauty in the “manufacturing” of this material is that the fungi manufactures itself over time.

The third key principle is the ability to create materials that fit into nature’s recycling system. This product is made from a mixture of agricultural waste and fungi, two naturally occurring materials. At the end of the product use, it can be broken down and recycled into the next usable form without having to go to a recycling/processing facility.

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Ever since the company started, its Mushroom Materials products have been rapidly expanding. Ecovative began using MycoBond to create packaging products for Fortune 500 companies. They have received the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Quality Award, among others. The material is Cradle-to-Cradle Certified Gold, and MycoBond is being used for a wide variety of applications, from building insulation to surfboards. Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre have created an innovative material that transforms the life cycle of a product. If Ecovative is able to replace more plastic products with their biodegradable and environmentally friendly alternative, perhaps Wall-E will have a sequel set on a green and flourishing Planet Earth where his main mission is to harvest more mushrooms.

 

 

Fresh Produce From the Farm to Your Work Desk

By Brandon Blanchard, Senior Project Environmental Engineer at Pare

Recently, several Pare employees enrolled in the Veggie Box program offered by Farm Fresh Rhode Island. Every week, Farm Fresh delivers boxes of fresh, local produce to our Lincoln, RI office and several other locations across the State. Each box includes a variety of fruit, vegetables, and herbs harvested from farms throughout Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.

The contents of the box change with the seasons to ensure that only the freshest produce is selected – you can taste the difference! A box earlier this summer included seasonal greens, such as Swiss chard and arugula, carrots, celery, several ears of corn, and large, juicy blueberries. A weekly newsletter identifies the farm from which each item was harvested and shares several recipe ideas to make using your produce easy.

Veggie Box(Only vegetables harvested at the peak of their freshness make it into the box)

Veggie Box is a great way to support area farms while ensuring that your family gets fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables. Buying from local farmers helps preserve open space and means your food doesn’t travel as far to get to you. Farm Fresh schedules their drop-offs as efficiently as possible to minimize delivery trips throughout the State.

veggie 5Visit the Farm Fresh website or their Veggie Box page to learn more, including ways that you can enroll in the program. There are public drop-off locations all over Rhode Island, including some in your hometown!

Tiny… Bus?

By Victoria Howland, Civil Engineer at Pare

The man with the vision

The man with the vision

As a full-time undergraduate student who understands the cost of education, Jonathan VonReusner took it upon himself to reduce his living costs.  While attending a local private college and living at home, he was also interested in moving out to have his own space.  Needing the ability to get to and from classes while continuing his sustainably-centered upbringing, Jon took the logical route and turned to Craigslist.

The result was a $2500 used bookstore on wheels.  And what might one do with an old, secondhand bus, you might ask?  Why, turn it into an apartment, of course!

With no previous building experience, Jon spent the eight days of his spring break gutting and rebuilding his new space.  He installed new floors and did some woodworking to build shelving, a desk, and create storage compartments.  To maximize the ability of the bus to be self-sustaining, he mounted four solar panels to the roof that can generate 400 Watts.  For those cloudy days, Jon has two 125 Amp-hour batteries so that he won’t be completely off the grid.  Jon also has a propane tank and 10,000 Btu heater for when the temperature drops.with bed inside

The total cost of the project was just under $5600.  Room and board costs for the upcoming school year at the college Jon attends in upstate New York, which includes a mandatory meal plan, are $13,772.  If you consider half that number ($6886) to be solely room costs for living in a college dorm (which isn’t typically more than a couple hundred square feet), Jon has made a solid investment. Jon also considers “with education costs so high, tuition dollars are already paying for a wealth of communal facilities- things from a gym (bathroom and shower) to public transportation via shuttle system if the campus has it.  So for a student, a project like this hardly has to be mobile or have plumbing for it to still save thousands.”

The results of this project have given Jon peace of mind; living at home in a spacious house that had a lot of “stuff,” he never felt like he had complete control over things.  Now that he’s living in 90 square feet, he has had to pare down his belongings to the bare necessities which he says ironically makes him feel like there is more room to breathe.

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looking to front

inside pictures

For more information about this project, you can watch a video put together by Elisa Caffrey and Kristen Dirksen here.

 

The Upcycle Series: Bourbon Barrels

By Tim Thies, Managing Environmental Engineer at Pare

There have been other posts on this blog about recycling, upcycling, and downcycling, each espousing the virtues of re-use.  Whether you’re re-using a product for a higher or better purpose than it was originally intended, or simply trying to salvage a small amount of value out of a product before throwing it away, any type of “cycling” gives new life to a product and ultimately increases the usefulness of the resources and energy that were used to create it.  The more use that we can extract from the resources and energy we spent making a product, the lower the overall impact that product will have on our environment.

I recently learned about an interesting example of recycling that adds real value to a very specific product.  During a recent conversation with my brother-in-law about beer and whiskey (because what else is there to talk about), I learned about the not-so-secret second life of bourbon barrels.  My brother-in-law has a family maple sugar farm (Baker Farm in East Dummerston, VT) where they recently produced a bourbon-flavored maple syrup (which is quite delicious I must say).  He told me that they buy the bourbon barrels from a distillery in Kentucky after they’re used in the bourbon making process.

Bourbon whiskey barrel

While each barrel is carefully crafted out of oak, they’re only used once in the bourbon making process.  In the past, the bourbon barrels were often burned for fuel after their first and only use.  However, some barrels find a second life at the Baker Farm.  After the distiller is done with a barrel, the Baker Farm fills that barrel with maple syrup and lets it age for a year, infusing the syrup with the smoky bourbon flavor that once filled the barrel.

Bourbon whiskey barrel 2

In terms of recycling, this process is great because it doubles the life of each barrel, which means it doubles the usefulness of all the resources and energy that went into making the barrel.  But wait, it gets even better.  After the Baker Farm is done with the barrels, they give them to the Harpoon Brewery in Boston MA and Windsor, VT (www.harpoonbrewery.com), who in turn uses them to make a maple bourbon barrel-aged beer.  Each barrel is now used three times, effectively tripling the usefulness of the resources and energy that went into their original creation.  Amazing!  This conversation with my brother-in-law got me thinking, what else could bourbon barrels be used for?  Well, a quick internet search reveals that bourbon barrels can be used for any number of things, including meat smoking, wine making, and antique-looking hardwood floors, just to name a few.  Apparently I stumbled onto a very poorly kept secret about the second life of bourbon barrels.  I found this cool infographic on tastingtable.com (http://www.tastingtable.com/bourbonbarrels) that shows how barrels from just few bourbon distillers find second, third, and even fourth lives.  So next time you’re drinking bourbon, order a second and rest easy knowing that the barrel that gave birth to your bourbon probably found a second life beyond your favorite distillery.

Bourbon barrel bottle

 

An upcycling experience by one of Pare’s civil engineers, Victoria Howland:

The three R’s, “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle,” is a common phrase coined by the environmental movement. This message encourages us to reduce those things we buy, use and throw away. Recycling promotes the separation of trash materials such as paper, plastic and glass, which can be re-manufactured to provide a new use. Reuse however, combines the principles behind reducing and skips the step of recycling. It involves thinking ahead and outside of the box. While tricky to start, it may be the most rewarding “R” of all.

RRR

“Upcycling” is a glorified term for reuse. How can we alter the function of an object that has already been used for its primary purpose? How can we take a common household item that is taking up space in the house, and prevent it from taking up space in the trash? Can this item surpass its original function? This blog begins a series of upcycling posts, because one of the most helpful contributors to upcycling is sharing ideas!

Herb Gardens

Herb gardening is an easy way to consistently add fresh greens to a meal. Better yet, an indoor herb garden can function as an air purifier! I brought a few seedlings home from the store in an attempt to start my garden, only to realize I had nothing to plant them in. Looking around my kitchen, I noticed a ton of mismatched glassware that I hadn’t used in years. Each was a different shape and size, all holding fond memories from different places, yet taking up space in my cabinet. Cue upcycling idea! I decided to plant my herb garden in my old glassware.

Items you will need:
1. Assorted Glassware
2. Proximity to window or ample sunlight
3. Potting soil
4. Herb seedlings of your choice (or seeds, if you’re feeling patient)
5. Enough flat pebbles/rock/slate to create a thin layer at bottom of glass
6. Newspaper (or any type of barrier used for easy clean-up after potting, especially indoors)

Step-by-Step:
1. Rinse Glassware
2. Add layer of flat pebbles to bottom of glass for drainage
3. Fill glass 3/4 full with potting soil
4. Plant seedlings or sprinkle seeds (check seed package for more detailed planting info)
5. Water (more thoroughly than often)
6. Take pride in your upcycling efforts, and enjoy extra flavorful meals!

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Before

In order to finish the project, I did have to visit my local Savers (a store dedicated to reusing) and purchase two additional glasses for under $2.00. I also needed more potting soil than anticipated.

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Final product

Overall, the final product came together just as I had hoped! In this case, upcycling was a benefit to my cooking, the environment, and don’t forget, my wallet!

Sprouting Boardwalk wins PARE’s 4th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest

“Sprouting Boardwalk” by Shane Driscoll wins the 4th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest. Check out his take on sustainable communities and how his photograph fits this year’s Green Cities theme.

“A sign that creating a sustainable community is easier than you think is observed in Sprouting Boardwalk photographed at Goddard Memorial State Park in Warwick, RI.  Mother Nature leaves hints of innovation throughout our daily lives; it is just a matter of discovering these hidden elements.  An organic planter lines the boardwalk in a decaying wooden structural element filled with wind-blown sand and just the right mixture of light and nutrients to support these budding spires of grass.”

Shane will receive a gift card to Chipotle, consistently regarded as one of the greenest restaurant chains. Not only do they source “food with integrity“, they are constructing new restaurants to USGBC LEED Platinum standards.

You can check out all of the entries here.

Special thanks to all who entered the contest this year. This year’s entrants were:

Photo 1: ”Sprouting Boardwalk” by Shane Driscoll

Photo 2: “Climbing to the Future” by Allen Orsi

Photo 3: “Settling Down in the Suburbs” by Lauren Hastings

Photo 4: “Cape Town” by Victoria Howland

Photo 5: “Piece of Nature” by Jay Gaudette

Photo 6: “High Line” by Brandon Blanchard

Photo 7: “Water Taxi” by Dave Easterbrooks

Photo 8: “Vegetation” by Cari Orsi

Photo 9: “Container Gardening” by Tim Thies

Photo 10: “A Walk on Wood” by Scott Lindgren

 

 

Voting Begins for PARE’s 4th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest

The entries are in for Pare Corporation’s 4th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest!

This year’s theme for Earth Day is Green Cities. We asked Pare employees to submit photographs and a brief summary of why they thought it best represented this theme. Like in year’s past, we received some great entries. Take a look below and choose your favorite!

 

#1 – Sprouting Boardwalk

Entry #1

A sign that creating a sustainable community is easier than you think is observed in “Sprouting Boardwalk” photographed at Goddard Memorial State Park in Warwick, RI.  Mother Nature leaves hints of innovation throughout our daily lives; it is just a matter of discovering these hidden elements.  An organic planter lines the boardwalk in a decaying wooden structural element filled with wind-blown sand and just the right mixture of light and nutrients to support these budding spires of grass.

#2 Climbing to the Future

Entry #2

As host of the 2013 USGBC Green Build Conference, the City of Philadelphia is a leader in the implementation and advancement of “green technology”. This photograph, taken at the foot of the iconic Philadelphia Art Museum steps, embodies the future of green initiative. While our generation has taken the first step to help future generations achieve this monumental design standard, there remains much work ahead to ensure that we as the human race continue to strive to reach our goal of a sustainable future.

 

 

#3 Settling Down in the Suburbs

Entry #3 Settling Down in the Suburbs

A city or town is only truly “green” when all its inhabitants are accounted for! I was lucky enough to witness this pair of Osprey building their nest only a short distance from a busy state highway in a suburb of Providence. Manmade platforms like the one pictured here allow these fish-eating birds of prey to thrive in developed coastal areas.

 

 #4 Cape Town

Entry #4 Cape Town

A city surrounded by mountains.

#5 Piece of Nature

 

Entry #5 Piece of NatureI took this photo in October on a hike in New Hampshire.  It is looking at Mt. Chicora from the middle sister mountain.  Getting people out into beautiful places like this is becoming more and more popular, and each time we bring a little piece of nature back with us that inspires us to make our cities better.

 

#6 High Line

Entry #4

What was once an abandoned elevated freight line is now one of Manhattan’s most loved new attractions: The High Line. Rather than demolishing the historic rail line, the City of New York preserved it, transforming it into a linear park complete with a walking path, landscape areas, food vendors and outdoor art displays. Great Cities like New York embrace their parks and green spaces as important public gathering spots. Green Cities do the same.

 #7 Water Taxi

No. 7 Water Taxi
Our cities and urban centers offer a multitude of opportunities for living, working, and playing. More and more they also offer a multitude of sustainable transportation options, from subways and light rail to zip cars, bike share, and waterborne taxis and ferries.

 

 #8 Vegetation

No. 8 Vegetation

This photo seems to suggest vegetation can grow just about anywhere naturally, city or country.  However, it also reminds us that this is the type of vegetation that we will be left with if we don’t take the time to preserve the natural open spaces of the natural landscapes and provide ample room for other flora to grow and flourish.

#9 Container Gardening

Entry #3

 

Many people think living in a city means you can’t enjoy gardening or growing your own food. Container gardens can allow you to grow your own vegetables in a relatively small footprint, which can make City living both more attractive and more sustainable.

 

 

Celery Haiku

Celery in cups

Grow it on your deck or porch

Ants on a log, yum.

 

#10 A Walk on Wood

 No. 10  A Walk on Wood

In Portland Oregon you will find a unique experience, a wooden sidewalk that spans four downtown blocks connecting Jamison Square Park and Tanner Springs Park in Portland’s Pearl District.  The wooden walkway and parks were planned as a way to reconnect this part of downtown Portland to the Willamette River.  The parks and surrounding area within the Pearl District have many sustainable design elements to enjoy.  Besides utilizing wood as a renewable resource material for the walkway, there is a fountain that simulates a shallow tidal pool, and the recreation of a natural wetland and pond in an urban setting.

I found it to be a very relaxing experience while walking the four blocks as the sound of the wood below your feet seems to transport you out of the urban environment.  I would recommend the journey if you are in Portland.

 

Please vote for your favorite photo/message by sending an email to dpoulos@parecorp.com.  Simply indicate your choice of Photos 1 – 10.

Thanks for participating!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiny Trail: A New American Dream

Have you heard of the Tiny House Movement? Miniature, mobile dwellings are gaining popularity with those who wish to live a more environmentally and socially conscious lifestyle.

tiny-house-movementThe average American house is now over 2,000 square feet in size, but how much of that space is actually needed (or efficiently utilized)? Compact living comes with freedom from the financial burdens associated with the large mortgages and high energy costs of the traditional American home – and oftentimes, the freedom to take your home with you when you wish to relocate.

the-cost-of-buying

My sister Sarah, a Junior studying Architecture and Environmental Studies at Mount Holyoke College, is taking the concept one step further. As part of her Senior thesis project next year, Sarah will construct the “Tiny Trail”, a mobile Tiny House made with 100% locally sourced materials and powered by sustainable and efficient energy sources.

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Elecricity will be provided through rooftop  solar panels, and an efficient propane stove will heat the home for $30/month in the dead of a New England winter.  All building materials will be sourced within 200 miles of the construction site, and each mile will be logged and each material traced to its source. Secondhand or salvaged items will be used wherever possible – including beams from dismantled barns in Central Massachusetts, and a space-saving “Hoosier Cabinet” from the 1920’s, found on Craigslist.

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The Tiny Trail design will be brought to life through a credit course offered to students within the Five Colleges Consortium, calling upon those with the various skills necessary to complete its construction.  The Five Colleges include Mount Holyoke, UMass Amherst, Smith College, Amherst College and Hampshire College.

five

Sarah’s Tiny House will be of the mobile variety, to be constructed on a 20 x 24’ flatbed trailer. Wherever life takes Sarah after her undergraduate studies, Tiny Trail will follow!

PicMonkey Collage

To learn more, visit Tiny Trail WEBSITE You can also follow the progress of Sarah’s design by connecting on Facebook!

Upcycling Vs. Downcycling

Have you ever attended a swanky dinner party and wanted to impress other party-goers with your overall smartness?  Well, I can guarantee that you’ll be the life of the party after dropping these recycling-themed knowledge bombs.

A few terms that get thrown around when speaking about recycling are the processes of “upcycling” and “downcycling”.  Both have vastly different meanings – which I’ll try to explain below.

In general:

Upcycling refers to the reuse of used/old materials to fulfill other purposes.

Downcycling refers to the degradation of materials after recycling process takes place.

Upcycling

I liken upcycling to being crafty and resourceful with everyday trash.  While most people wouldn’t think twice about throwing these things away, some have made it a goal of theirs to be as thrifty as possible.  Upcycling doesn’t require much effort, and if you’re of the crafty persuasion, it might be right up your alley.  Here are a few examples to help get the point across:

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This outdoor stairway was built using tires found during the cleanup of the area.  Rather than bringing in new materials for building the stairs, or paying for the disposal of the tires, they were repurposed for this hiking path.

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This bicycle wheel was on its way to take up space in a landfill when someone decided that it would serve a better purpose holding pots and pans.  This one actually seems to be relatively simple to do, and yields some truly useful results.

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The truck that this tailgate belonged to was probably wrecked, and the tailgate was one of its last salvageable pieces.  It now helps people sit down and relax.  Though it looks more like a piece of artwork than anything, it still seems like a good way to show off the business’s dedication to being environmentally conscious.

Want more ideas?  How about a hundred?

Downcycling

Unlike upcycling, downcycling is actually a negative side effect of the recycling process.  It refers to the number of times a material can be recycled before there’s no life left to it and it MUST be landfilled.  Though it appears that recycling plastics, cardboard, and metals is equally as beneficial to the environment, not all recyclables are created equal.  As a matter of fact, certain materials that you throw into that recycle bin are actually not capable of being recycled the way you’d think.  Plastics, for example, cannot be melted down and reused for the same purposes as their original products, unlike glass or aluminum.  Therefore, these plastics must be ground up and used for fleece clothing or door mats (not for something that you’d eat out of).

The term downcycling refers to the degree of degradation that occurs to the material after being recycled.  Below, I’ve listed the materials that yield the best bang for your buck in terms of recycling (the lowest rate of downcycling is listed first, the highest rate listed last).

1. Aluminum, Steel, and Glass – All those wine bottles, soda cans and steel girders break down very slowly or not at all during the recycling process.  Take every step you can to recycle these materials, since they can be put back to use for the same purposes down the line!

recycled-glass-tile-materials

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2. Paper and Cardboard – This material has around six to twelve downcycles before it must be landfilled.  Because the fibers shorten every time it’s put through the recycling process, the life span of paper degrades rather quickly.

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3. Plastics – The best products that plastics can be directly recycled into are fleece material, carpet, railroad ties, and new products cast specifically as recycled plastic (such as Adirondack chairs).  This means that at most, they have around one to two downcycles before needing to be landfilled.  

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Only a very small percentage of #1 plastic can be recycled and utilized as plastic for bottles and other food-grade plastics.  In addition, it takes significantly more resources to recycle plastic than glass or metals.  It appears that the higher the number on the inside of the recycling symbol (normally #1-7) the more difficult it is to recycle.  In light of this, Rhode Island currently accepts all plastics for recycling, regardless of their numerical designations.

For more information on recyclable materials and their downcycle rates, check out this chart.