Recycling, Re-using, and Reducing
We have one of the most comprehensive residential recycling programs available in the city.
Besides the usual items recycled by the city of Portland, we also recycle shipping boxes and envelopes, bubble wrap, and Styrofoam peanuts (by reuse for packaging); corks (they go to Scrap), batteries (at Ikea), compact fluorescent light bulbs (at Ikea or Home Depot), Styrofoam blocks (a friend of the ecovillage takes it to a facility near where she lives in Tigard that reprocesses it), spectacles and cases (Lyons), and scrap metal.
Of course, our primary emphasis has been on getting residents to eliminate single use items like paper and plastic bags and food packaging. Many residents buy food items in bulk at Peoples or other facilities. Another good approach is to take delivery of fresh prepared food in reusable containers.
Due to these efforts, our landfill use has been reduced by 75% since we started the project.
We recycle 10-15 gallons of urine per week year round to provide precious nitrogen to our gardens, and considerably more in the summer growing season. This has allowed us to be self sufficient in nitrogen, unlike most gardens which need to import this element in the form of manures, meal seeds, guano, etc.
Our composting projects are also unusually comprehensive. Composting is required for all residents. This keeps rotting food out of the garbage stream and recycling dumpsters, greatly increasing overall sanitary hygiene and aesthetics as well as significantly reducing landfill space. Our two compost courtyards have eleven bins each, with each bin about 2 cubic yards capacity. Our every-other-week work parties use very meticulous techniques to achieve hot compost, killing potential pathogens and most weed seeds. We have never had any complaints about odors or appearance of the composting area. The dry stack concrete block construction helps prevent any vermin infestation as it minimizes hiding places.
Our recycling project extends to neighborhood participation: besides several neighbors who bring us their kitchen and yard compostables, we regularly receive deliveries of wood chips and logs from local arborists that we turn into mulch, new soil, compost, and wildlife habitat. Every year our organically tended gardens’ fertility and tilth increases. In this age of world-wide topsoil loss, we continue to created new topsoil in our gardens. In some places our new soil is approaching two feet thick!