Monday, September 6, 2010

What I've Been Up To, Part I

I've been too busy to take photos of what I've been up to, and that's too bad. I'll have to paint a picture for you using 1,000 words - or maybe fewer, since these days hardly anyone has an attention span that long anymore! Here is the first installment:

Community Environment Days

From my childhood I remember when my mom used to drive to the parking lot adjacent to our local public pool and drop off used batteries, paint cans, and fluorescent light bulbs. Naturally, this occurred on hazardous waste collection days - she wasn't just dumping the junk! While the concept has been around for some time, I was quite impressed with the City of Toronto's Community Environment Days, at which I had the privilege of volunteering a few weeks ago. Ironically, the parking lot area devoted to household waste drop-off was set up in such a way that you could drive along a U-shaped route, pausing at each station to hand over your items with the appropriate department. Why on earth was idling encouraged at an environmental event? I have no idea.

Besides the drive-through setup and resulting unnecessary vehicle emissions, I have to say everything else about the E-Day was satisfactory at worst and excellent at best. First along the route was the electronics station, where "anything with a cord except for air conditioners" was accepted. I saw TVs, computers, printers, telephones, cell phones, cameras, and stereos being dropped off, and their component parts will be reused if still functional or recycled if broken. As my role at the event was to direct residents based on what they had brought, I was standing next to the electronics station toward the start of the route at the two-stroke engine drop-off, which accepted gas or electric lawn mowers, trimmers, leaf blowers, and chainsaws in return for a gift certificate to Canadian Tire! Good deal, I tell you.

Next were Toronto Water and Live Green Toronto booths, where residents could purchase rain barrels, indoor water efficiency kits, backyard composters, green bins, and kitchen containers. The latter two could be taken home for free in exchange for damaged ones. Every resident was also invited to help themselves to a few shovelfuls of leaf compost and take a garden waste bag home for curbside pickup once filled. Other household items in good condition were also being accepted for reuse, and by that I mean things like clothing, eyeglasses, dishes, sports equipment, books, etc. Additionally, art supplies and dress-up clothes were collected for donation to local schools.

Last, but based on the line-up, definitely not least, was the hazardous waste station. I saw the "usuals", like my mom's old batteries, paint, and light bulbs, but was happily surprised that people also knew to bring propane tanks, mercury-containing thermometers, expired medication, cleaning supplies, and motor oil for safe disposal. I think the entire contents of my dad's old garage could have been dropped off at this station!

To sum up my feelings about the Community Environment Day, I'll say this: it offers the second-best solution to one-stop-shopping (besides not doing it in the first place). Everyone seemed so happy to be able to purge carloads of stuff from their homes, and to do so all in one place! Hardly anyone had to go home with items that were not accepted, and the staff on hand were able to direct residents as to where those things would be taken. This was a well-organized event at a location with ample space for all of the stations, cars, cyclists, pedestrians, and pets that showed up. Well done, City of Toronto.
  • Community Environment Days occur all over the place within the city (I believe there is one per ward). To find one in your area (there are two more this year, then the program will run again as of April 2011), check out the schedule
  • To read a full list of what is accepted at the E-Days, check out the details here.
Happy waste diversion!

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