January 21, 2013

Trip to Portland makes lasting impression


---- — My husband and I were fortunate enough to spend the holidays in Portland, Ore., with our daughter, son-in-law and 16-month-old grandson. 

As you can imagine, having a toddler, a tree and colorful, wrapped packages together in the same room was quite exciting. The reason I’m sharing this is because my grandson received a truck. I know, what’s the big deal about a toddler receiving a truck to play with, right? The cool thing about this truck is that it’s a “green” recycling truck.

I admit that I have been out of the toy market for a number of years and am amazed at some of the things available for children, but this truck made quite an impression on me. As parents and grandparents, we frequently choose playthings for youngsters that teach as well as entertain. This recycling truck is especially appropriate for my grandson because the City of Portland is very serious about recycling and composting.

The city’s curbside-collection service provides residents with a trash can and a zero-sort recycling can for glass, plastic, aluminum and tin cans, newspapers and cardboard. In addition, they provide a green compost roll cart in which to deposit yard debris and food scraps. The side of the cart reads “Portland Composts!” Interestingly, pickup of the compost cart and recycling can is done weekly, while the trash can is picked up only every other week. The compost items go to a commercial composting facility with specialized processes to quickly break down the organic matter – even meat scraps and bones, items not usually recommended to the home composter. The resulting compost is sold to landscapers, agricultural users and residents.

For the two weeks I was there I found that using this system had the effect of making me more mindful of each item that I needed to dispose of. Here in the North Country, most of us are equally mindful of what we throw away and what we reuse or recycle. We recognize that keeping items out of the landfill benefits us, our families, future generations and the earth itself. Many of us compost our yard waste and food scraps not just because it is an environmentally friendly practice, but because it also results in beautiful and nutritious compost for our gardens at no charge.

There are many ways to compost at home that don’t cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. However, it does take a willingness to make it happen for your household. We would be happy to help you find a method of composting that works for you. We also have problem-solving guides and lists of what you can compost and what to avoid putting in your pile. Why not make it your New Year’s resolution to give composting a try? It’s good for the environment, good for your garden and sets a good example for the children in your life.

Jolene Wallace is the horticulture program assistant for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Contact her at 561-7450 or