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Eco-Justice Team - Recycling Field Trip

While recent studies estimate that 85% of the world’s population has experienced some effect of climate change, we can see many innovative minds working on the many and varied ways there may be to deal with it.

In Kansas, at the heart of the nation’s farming country, scientists at the nonprofit Land Institute have developed a grain that is fundamentally different from all other wheat humans grow. Kernza (from “kernel” plus “Kansas”) is a domesticated form of wheatgrass that is a perennial. A single seed will grow into a plant that provides grain year after year. Its roots grow deep and store carbon in the soil, and also act to prevent erosion. It can be planted alongside other crops to reduce the need for fertilizer and provide habitat for wildlife. Proponents say that it can potentially transform farming from a cause of environmental degradation into a solution by mimicking the workings of a natural ecosystem. Kernza, of course, has a long road from test farms to the kitchen table, and it is unlikely to make an angel food cake. Modern farming, however, is extremely carbon intensive, while at the same time is threatened by the prolonged droughts and catastrophic floods we have seen. The Land Institute has been working for two decades on Kernza. It is currently found in some cereals, baked goods, and beers. However, these products can be pricey. Let’s hope it won’t be long before we can mix some with our whole wheat or bread flours!

In the meantime, you can find a quick look at your own climate footprint by checking out this website:

Reflections . . from Eco Justice field trip to Construction Junction and Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse

If you didn't make it on the field trip, you missed a really good time! Eight of us from Bower Hill trekked to the East End in September to visit two nonprofit organizations that do a terrific job of diverting re-usable materials from area landfills.

Our first stop was at Construction Junction (CJ). Founded in 1999 by the Pennsylvania Resources Council, CJ collects construction materials from individuals, small companies, government, universities, restaurants, and even churches. More than 75% of the organization's annual budget is raised from the sale of these recycled materials. They recycle metal, doors, furniture, plumbing supplies -- even paint! Looking for a glass doorknob for a wooden door? CJ is your place. TV and movie productions are big purchasers of period material. They are great customers, as they generally donate the items back as they head out of town. Stained glass windows recovered from a Pittsburgh area church were sold to Disney for a film made locally. The tour was fascinating, and it was inspiring to see how much material can be re-purposed.

Next door at the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse (PCCR) we had the opportunity to peruse aisles, shelves and bins of artwork, fabric, old family photos, tiny toys, Legos, vintage board games, decorative containers, wine corks, packing peanuts, glitter, craft kits, jewelry, old media including computer boards, pieces, and wires, and old electric typewriters. All these materials are sorted, organized and priced for individuals to purchase. Artists, crafters, and educators make up a sizable portion of the Center's shoppers. The organization's goal is to make these materials available and accessible, and keep them out of the landfills. PCCR was established 14 years ago and sub-leases space from CJ. As it was described to us, PCCR offers a combination of what you might find at Michael's craft stores, the local Goodwill, your grandparent's attic, and your cousin's art studio!

Perhaps Judy Delestienne said it best as she recounted, "It is so easy and mindless to buy manufactured products for our gratification. At both Construction Junction and the Center for Creative Reuse, we can see collections of what people have cast-off, and thoughtful employees and volunteers doing their best to keep lots of stuff from going into landfills. It made me think about what we believe we have to acquire, framing the idea as needs versus wants. We probably don't need much but our wants can be endless." Well said, Judy!

Our group starts off with our guide at Construction Junction

Need a door?

A new pink toilet perhaps?

A sports bar in Minneapolis called to purchase 100 used trophies. Yes! There is a buyer for everything!

Drawers of framing hardware, glass stones, foam shapes and more

PCCR's collection of reusable items including fabric, DIY craft kits, crayons galore


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