2017 Mid-Valley Green Award Nominations Sought Marion County’s Master Recycler Course

It’s time for individuals, businesses, and organizations in the Mid-Willamette Valley to brag.

The Straub Environmental Center, Marion County Public Works -Environmental Services, and Capitol Subaru want to hear tales of waste reduction, resource conservation, and sustainable efforts. It’s time to speak up about the mounds of paper no longer used; energy efficient lights saving thousands of dollars a year; or a teacher who inspired dozens of students this year to bike to school.

“Tales of green do-gooders are ubiquitous in the mid-Willamette Valley,” said Alan Pennington, waste reduction coordinator for Marion County. “Now we just need folks to tell us more.”

These stories will make up the nominations for the seventh annual Mid-Valley Green Awards.

Green Award categories include:

• Recycler of the Year: Both individual and business.

• Sustainable Organization of the Year: Small and large business categories.

• EarthWISE Certified Business of the Year

• Green Product/Service of the Year: Organizations that offer products/services with social, environmental, and economic benefits over traditional alternatives.

• People’s Choice Award: This person is actively engaged in their home, community, or job in ways that personify an environmentally-minded person and inspires others to emulate or learn from them.

Nomination forms and category descriptions are available online at www.midvalleygreenawards.org or you may call Marion County Public Works at (503) 365-3188 to request a copy be mailed to you. Nominations must be received no later than midnight January 17, 2016, to be eligible for consideration.

The 2017 Mid-Valley Green Award recipients will be honored from 6 to 10pm on March 11, 2017, at the Willamette Heritage Center.

For more information, contact Alan Pennington at 503-365-3188 or apennington@co.marion.or.us.

By Jolene Kelley

Everyone in my family has a reusable water bottle. My laptop bag is made from recycled seatbelts. I take reusable cups to my favorite coffee shops and reusable bags when grocery shopping. I love technology and use event tickets that can be scanned from my phone and I can’t think of any bills I don’t receive and pay electronically.

So you see, I thought I was doing pretty well when I signed up for Marion County’s Master Recycler course. I realized how little I knew by the first class and knew I was in over my head when people were excited about visiting a worm farm. I didn’t get it. What the heck does a worm farm have to do with recycling? I soon found out, but more about that later.

For anyone not familiar with Marion County’s Master Recycler course, it is 30 hours of class time and field trips covering the importance of waste reduction and recycling. However, it’s so much more! I’ve met people, instructors and students alike, who are passionate about protecting our environment and using green thinking to make a difference in our community.

Marina showed us how to turn trash into treasure with her creative reuse of soda cans to make fashionable clothing. From Chris I learned more about Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore – a place to donate and purchase used goods for household projects. And from Keith I was inspired to start a Green Team at my workplace and work towards EarthWISE certification for not only the building I work in, but other county facilities.

Nancy showed us how she helped get her workplace EarthWISE certified. They even compost food items from the employee breakroom for a co-worker’s worm farm. Remember, I said we’d get back to the worms. It turns out that worm composting, or vermicomposting, creates a nutrient rich soil while helping to divert certain food waste from the waste stream. Worm composting can range from small home garden use to large industrial operations like the one our class visited. While I’m not sure I’m ready to start a worm farm, I am very willing to try a home composter as well as make better use of my yard debris bin.

My point is that I probably never would have known about worm composting – or that I can reduce household hazardous waste by using baking soda, vinegar, Castile soap, and hydrogen peroxide to clean my house, or that 20 percent of the county’s garbage is made up of food waste, or that “biodegradable” and “compostable” are not interchangeable terms – had I not participated in the Master Recycler course.

I am also more cognizant of what I buy, its packaging, and how I can creatively reuse the things I already have. And while my family already recycles many items, we have yet to compost food. As the holidays approach, I’ll be thinking of creative ways to wrap gifts using paper and items that can be reused or recycled and make gift choices for items that are really wanted and needed. Because most importantly, I’ve learned that being a Master Recycler is only a little bit about recycling – it’s about reducing and reusing first.

I’m looking forward to seeing my classmates at Master Recycler events and other trainings to spread the news about waste reduction and recycling. If you’re interested at all, I encourage you to find out more about the Master Recycler course. It is time well spent. For more information, contact Marion County Environmental Services at (503) 365-3191 or environmentalservices@co.marion.or.us. Tell them Jolene sent you.