Rita Hibbard's picture

Seattle Council's vote for a 'Do Not Mail' registry takes a stand for sustainability

Living sustainably means more than recycling. It also means cutting back on all that stuff that lands on those railroad cars that get sent to landfills in central Oregon from Seattle or barged across the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii.

rita_hibbardwebStriking a blow for citizens who want to do their part, the Seattle City Council Thursday passed a resolution urging the Legislature to create a Do Not Mail junk mail registry akin to the Do Not Call registry for home phones. Yes, it will probably take federal action to get results. But it's also true that you have to start somewhere. So take a stand, Seattle!

The resolution would keep catalogs, ads, direct mail and other unwanted solicitations out of your mailbox.It claims the "production, distribution, and disposal of unsolicited direct mail contributes to climate change by producing 51 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually - equivalent to that of 10 million automobiles.

How multimedia reporting can improve my environmental journalism (and yours, too!)

rm iwest mugWow. After a draining but fascinating week at the  Knight Digital Media Center's multimedia journalism boot camp, I'm itching to edit the video for what will be my second InvestigateWest piece.

And you, too, can benefit from the Knight Center's expertise -- whether you're a paid journalist or a citizen who is thinking about committing some journalism to right some wrongs. Much of what I learned, and more, is available on the center's website in the tutorials section. For me, this stuff should prove pivotal.

Our marathon learn-while-you-do sessions, lasting from 9 a.m. at least until 9 p.m. each day, allowed teams of journalists to produce actual multimedia stories. My team* was sent out to profile the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, a non-profit formed by teachers to divert useable materials out of the waste stream. It not only helps teachers and artists find cheap stuff -- it also keeps landfills from filling up so fast.

Our multimedia piece features a video, an audio slideshow, a little game, information on the store and links to more resources on reuse.

 I'm grateful that the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation saw fit to fund this intensive week of learning, which I'll be putting to practical use very soon.

Rita Hibbard's picture

Shrink-wrapped bales of Hawaiian garbage headed for the Columbia River and a landfill near you

What do you think about shrink-wrapped bales of garbage barged from tropical Hawaii across the Pacific down the once-fierce Columbia River to Longview? Just doesn't sound like a good idea, does it?

rita_hibbardwebDon't feel too good about reports that the plan, hatched about six months ago by Seattle-based Hawaiian Waste Systems,  may have hit a snag, reports The Longview Daily News reporter Andre Stepankowsky. It's likely to prove only a temporary delay. Getting an amendment to its federal permit has taken longer than expected, a company official says. The amendment involves a change of plans -- instead of shipping all the way to the Roosevelt Landfill in central Washington, the garbage would be barged to lower Columbia ports, from where it would make the rest of the journey by truck or train, saving time.

Already, 300 tons of Honolulu garbage is stacked up at a port there, shrink-wrapped in tight bales, awaiting transport to the scenic Pacific Northwest. Officials are concerned it may become a health hazard.

The plan has already survived a review by the Department of Agriculture, which found that if the garbage was shrink-wrapped, those pesky nonnative pests couldn't get out. Yeah, I'm sure that's absolutely never gonna happen. The Vancouver Columbian writes:

In 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the company’s original plan to barge the waste directly to Roosevelt.

Garbage, garbage everywhere

Metro Vancouver was planning on dumping more than 660,000 tons of trashannually in a Washington state landfill. But after the provincial government announced plans to outlaw international exporting of garbage, the region is looking for places closer to home to deposit its waste, according to Kelly Sinoski of the Vancouver Sun.

One solution proposed by Environment Minister Barry Penner is to expand the Cache Creek landfillnear Ashcroft instead of shutting it down next year as originally planned. The nearby Nlaka'pamux Nation Tribal Council heavily opposes the suggestion, saying the landfill already pollutes local rivers and affects salmon in particular. An independent study suggests the dump doesn't pose a hazard to humans or wildlife, but the council still would rather shut down the site.

Another possibility would be sending the trash to an incinerator at Gold River on Vancouver Island – a facility that hasn't been approved or built yet.

“It makes sense to deal with our environmental problems here in B.C., rather than exporting our problems to somewhere else,” Penner said. But is depending on potential expansion of an already full landfill to store garbage for the next three to 20 years the solution?