DID YOU KNOW?
In the United States, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, which averages to more than 20 pounds of food waste per person per month.[i]
Ninety-seven percent of our food waste goes to landfills. This means that 33 million tons of food goes into landfills each year.[ii]
THAT’S A LOT OF WASTE!!!
There are things that we can do! If you have already been to Pathfinder, you know all about Garbology and how you can do Garbology at home. If you are new to Pathfinder, check out this blog from March 6th to find out all about how Garbology works. Then, you can practice at home and at school before you come up to Pathfinder. Practice will be important because we are starting an awards program for schools that achieve zero waste at meals. In addition to the pride of knowing they are awesome and have zero waste meals, schools can now earn awards for zero waste meals! Schools that have zero waste for three or more meals are awarded the Gold Plate. Schools that have two meals of zero waste are awarded the Silver Plate, and schools that have one meal of zero waste are awarded the Bronze Plate. So start practicing, and get ready to earn your school the Gold Plate award!
During the week of October 3rd through October 10th, 2014, Pathfinder Ranch conducted a waste audit. We collected, sorted, and weighed all of the waste that we produced during that week. We counted all of the waste going to the landfill as well as waste that was being diverted (i.e. sent to other places). The diverted waste included food that went to our compost pile and materials that we took to a recycling center.
We did this audit to look at how well we are practicing the three “R’s”: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. In 2002, Pathfinder did our first waste audit, and found that only 27.6% of the total waste was being diverted to compost or recycling. Since then, we have been doing more and more to reduce how much waste we produce and increase the percent that we divert from landfills. This year, our waste audit showed that we have increased the percent of our waste diverted to 46.6%! This is a fantastic change and we owe a big “Thank You!” to all of our visitors for helping us get to this level.
However, we’re always looking for ways to improve. We want to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills even more. Here’s how you can help us:
So why did we do this?
We wanted to know how big our ecological footprint is. An ecological footprint is how much of an impact we have on our earth’s ecosystems based on the things we do every day. For example, how long of showers you take, the types of food that you eat, how you get to school, how often you buy new things, and how much waste you create, all affect the ecosystems around us. You can take a quiz from Islandwood Outdoor Learning Center, to find out your ecological footprint using this link http://footprint-calculator.islandwood.org/ . You can also complete your own waste audit at school or in your home to see how much waste is being produced and how you can reduce it. Look at Willow’s blog from October 2, 2013 to find out how to complete your own waste audit.
See you down the Trail!
Spring is just around the corner, and like the plants that are being reborn all around Pathfinder, the garden is getting revitalized, too! Spring cleaning has begun and the garden is getting a fresh make-over.
All hands are on deck as Pathfinder gets ready for the warm weather and 50th year celebration in April. Maintenance began a project in the front lobby to try and get some plants growing even earlier than the cold would allow; and it worked! Live in a cold place, or have soil with little to no nutrients? Check out our experimental hydroponics system. Hydroponics doesn’t require soil. Instead, the plants are placed in plastic containers (drill holes through the sides and bottom) that are filled with shredded coconut medium, which absorbs water and nutrients from the water basin that it’s submerged in. We used an old plastic bin, recycled yogurt containers, an aquarium pump, and 6 gallons of purified water. Instead of daily watering, with hydroponics you can simply add 1 gallon of water every two weeks!
Not only can plants grow year round when protected from the elements outside, but you can also save both space and water! In our experiment, the basil is flourishing but our spinach is not. Try it at home and post the results of your own hydroponics system on our Facebook page. We’d sure love to know!
Another project a few Naturalists have been working on is our compost. As the weather gets warmer, and we want to grow many more things than will fit in our hydroponics system, we need soil for our plants to thrive in. As old plant matter breaks down, it creates fertile soil which you can use for planting. This decomposition harnesses the power of the circle of life. Why buy something you normally just throw away each day? Use those food scraps and start your own compost. Your garden will love you for it!
Have you ever composted before? If not, here are a few tips from our resident garden expert, Rain:
1. Dig your compost pile down at least a few inches. This makes the pile easier to turn and keeps heat in. Keeping the pile warmer will produce soil sooner.
2. Cover your compost. Again, this keeps it nice and warm which breaks down material faster. This also helps to keep unwanted critters away.
3. Turn your compost. There are plenty of fun ways to do this, including rolling it around in an old trash can! The reason is simple..all those microbes and other organisms like earthworms that help the food turn to soil need the help of oxygen.
4. Add nearly everything! Add any food waste that comes from plants: bread, veggies, fruit cores and peels, pasta, french fries, coffee grinds, tomato sauce, leaves and twigs, and even old paper, napkins, and tea bags! (Did you know it takes less energy for the paper to break down in the compost than to be recycled into new paper? Plus this added carbon helps the compost to be more nutritious and less smelly!)
New projects are springing forward to make this year’s garden the most beautiful and bountiful yet! We’ve had some amazing 4th-6th grade gardeners already come and help plant many new crops. How about you? This spring you too could revitalize that little plot of green space or an empty windowsill into a lean, mean food producing machine!
Thanks for reading,
Your Pathfinder Ranch Naturalists and Staff
For our schools that have already attended, we know that you love and miss garbology (the study of food waste). For our schools yet to come, we hope you’re getting excited, but why should we keep this important program all to ourselves?! Why not bring Garbology and conservation back to your schools, homes, and local communities?! To help get you started, you should check out this fun website that talks about garbology: http://www.naturebridge.org/garbology.php.
Talk to your family about studying what you throw away each week. Then, you can see if you can reduce the amount of waste going to a landfill by looking at what can be REUSED, COMPOSTED, or RECYCLED. You can find a list of things that can be recycled by looking at your city’s waste and recycling website.
You can bring garbology to your school by encouraging your classmates to look at what they are throwing away at lunch and in the classrooms. Just like at Pathfinder, the waste from your lunches can be sorted into recycling, compost, and trash. If you do not have recycling or composting at your school, you can ask your teachers and your principal to help you start these programs. You can also talk to your school about signing up for a cool program called TerraCycle. TerraCycle is a company that accepts a variety of used school and office items like empty juice pouches, empty Lunchable containers, and even pens so that they can be made into new products. You can sign up for this at http://www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades.html.
Good luck and see you down the trail!
-Pathfinder Ranch Naturalists
“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.” -Tecumseh
Here at Pathfinder ranch everyone is embracing the season of being thankful! The Naturalists are extremely grateful to work with amazing students in such a beautiful place. The Jeffrey pines are smelling as sweet as ever, the the weather has been perfect for our hikes, and the night sky is lit up with constellations like Orion! The Naturalists aren’t the only lucky ones up here on the mountain. Gwar, our ball python is thankful for his heat lamp that keeps him warm during those chilly nights. Our chickens, turkeys, and garden plants are thankful for our compost. The poultry love pecking at the fruits, and the remaining compost turns into nutrient rich soil for our garden!
There are so many things to be thankful for like our families, our friends, and our schools. Many of our students are grateful for nature and what it provides for us. It’s great to be aware and thankful for what we have and it’s even better to give back and take care of the things we are thankful for!
“We need to take care of nature because nature takes care of us!”- Pathfinder Student
How have you shown your appreciation for the things you are thankful for? How will you show your thanks in the future? If you’re thankful for the food you have, try volunteering at your local soup kitchen with a parent, or plant a garden in your backyard. If you’re thankful for your planet, try picking up the trash you see (like Dash 4 Trash) or recycle your old soda cans. If you’re thankful for your friends and family, try doing something nice for them or writing them a kind note!
The Pathfinder Naturalists challenge you to create a change and show your appreciation for the things you have so that others may have a reason to be thankful, too!
Be grateful for what you have and spread thanks wherever you go!
-The very thankful Pathfinder Naturalists
Thanks to Willow for this great blog entry!
Pathfinder Ranch’s Outdoor Education program is back in action! This week, Naturalists welcomed their first school of the season, and they look forward to learning with all of the schools to come.
Here at Pathfinder, we like to do what we can to reduce our impact on the environment. We recycle, pick up litter, measure and reduce our food waste, and try to find creative ways to reuse things. One great way to get ready for a trip to Pathfinder Ranch is to start thinking about how you produce waste. The study of waste is called garbology, and this can start in the classroom with a simple waste audit. In a waste audit, trash from a set period of time is collected, examined, sorted, and classified with the intent of finding ways to reduce the most commonly found sources.
To perform a waste audit, a class should agree on the period of time they want to collect and store their trash. This could be as short as one day or as long as a month! Once all of the trash has been collected, it should be spread out in an open area, such as a basketball court, field, or on a tarp in the middle of the classroom. Students then work to sort items into like piles. These sorting piles can be as broad or as specific as the class wants, but the more specific they are, the easier it will be to find useful results. Classifications, such as items that could be diverted to recycling, items that could be reused, and items that could be replaced with reusable items, can then be applied to further sort the waste.
Once these types of classifications have been made, the class can start thinking of specific steps they want to take to reduce their waste. For example, if students find that most of their waste is in the form of paper, they might decide to have a space to collect paper that be reused for scrap and a space to collect paper that can be recycled. Both of these actions can help a class reduce its impact on the environment.
Good luck, and if you try this out, let us know how it goes!