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February 28, 2023 Sustainability Lab @ T-REX

Sustainability Lab @ T-REX
Uniting for Climate Action

Tuesday, February 28, 2023
3:30pm-5:00pm Discussion
5:00-6:00pm Networking (in-person only)

Join on Zoom: 
(Zoom link to be posted soon)
Join in Person:
T-REX (911 Washington Avenue, St. Louis, MO)
Sharptooth Boardroom (5th Floor)

The February Lab will be a follow-up discussion to the Midwest Climate Summit, regarding how lessons taken from the summit can be put into action in the St. Louis region. Additional details will be posted here soon. 

(As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we ask that all attendees take appropriate precautions such as getting vaccinated, maintaining social distance, wearing a mask when in proximity to more than three people, and washing your hands or using hand sanitizer frequently.)

Incentives for Energy Efficiency Upgrades

Published by the OneSTL Communications Committee

 

The historic Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), passed in 2022, is the single biggest climate package ever to become law in the United States. Those who will benefit from this law include utilities and electric co-ops who are transitioning from coal and gas to clean energy, cities who wish to become climate resilient, and individuals who are looking for ways to improve energy efficiency, electrify and weatherize their homes, and purchase electric vehicles.


Home energy efficiency, weatherization, and electrification upgrades are good for your pocketbook, but they’re also good for reducing pollution and fighting climate change. Second only to West Virginia, Missouri currently gets the majority of its electricity from coal-fired power plants. By burning coal, these plants produce nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions that exacerbate respiratory problems and carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate chaos. Reducing the amount of energy purchased from utilities reduces the amount of coal needed to power the grid, which results in fewer emissions of these harmful compounds.

 

If you are interested in reducing your monthly utility bills while lowering your carbon emissions, check out this helpful savings calculator from Rewiring America to find out what IRA benefits you might qualify for. To round out your research, Renew Missouri offers a helpful list of energy efficiencey programs offered by Ameren on their MoSaves website.

 

If you are in a low-income household and aim to weatherize, the High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act (HEEHRA) is for you. HEERA covers 100% of electrification projects for low-income households, including up to $1,600 for insulation and air sealing, $1,740 for heat pump water heaters, and up to $8,000 for heat pump HVAC systems.

 

Other tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act include up to $7,500 for new electric vehicles, $4,000 for used electric vehicles, and a 30% tax credit for rooftop solar and batteries.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling to pay utility bills this winter, the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is designed to help. For those in crisis, the Cold Weather Rule prevents utilities from disconnecting customers from their power from November 1 through March 31 when temperatures are forecasted to drop below 32 degrees. Additional bill assistance resources can be found in this list of utility bill assistance programs and agencies, such as Heat Up/Cool Down St. Louis and EnergyCare.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Green Dining Alliance Restaurants Divert 6,000 tons of Waste

Author: Anna Chott, Sustainability Planner at East-West Gateway Council of Governments

 

According to the EPA, methane emissions from landfilled waste were approximately equivalent to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 20.3 million passenger vehicles in 2020. The nonprofit earthday365 claims that its Green Dining Alliance (GDA)-certified restaurants have helped divert over 6,000 tons of waste from landfills in 2022. These restaurants are reducing their waste, reducing litter, and saving money. How exactly are they doing this? And how can your business or your favorite restaurant join the cause? 

To participate in the GDA program, restaurants must stop using Styrofoam (which is very difficult to recycle), implement single-stream recycling, and set waste reduction and diversion goals, among other requirements. In Maplewood, eight GDA-certified restaurants make up the nation’s first Green Dining District. These restaurants have diverted 103 tons of waste from the landfill in 2022 through recycling and composting. 


Living Room Coffee & Kitchen on Sutton Blvd. offers a Coffee Lovers Mug program to reduce the number of disposable cups thrown away. Coffee drinkers can pay a fee at the beginning of the year to receive a durable thermos and refill it for free up to once a day with hot coffee, cold brew, or iced tea. 


Flavor360, located a few blocks from the Green Dining District, uses lids made from 100% post-consumer recycled material for its ready-made meals. The team there uses only recyclable and compostable packaging and utensils, and they offer reusable thermoses for customers. The store minimizes food waste by sourcing local food products and offering seasonal menu items, which have longer shelf lives. They also keep an organized inventory and par list to prevent over-ordering. 


At The Blue Duck, one example of how the bar manager reduces food waste is by “super juicing” lemons and limes to increase the yield of fruit juice by as much as nine times and prolong its shelf life. Reducing food waste decreases the amount spent on  ingredients and also can reduce waste hauling fees, cost savings that can make a big difference for small business owners.

 

Not only does waste contribute to GHG emissions when it goes to the landfill, but it also litters our streets. In what Keep America Beautiful calls “the most comprehensive study of litter in America” in 2020, nine of the top 20 most commonly littered items were food and beverage packaging. Many St. Louis residents are tired of unsightly litter on their streets. Even recyclable and compostable food packaging can become litter, and producing these single-use items requires a significant amount of resources. 


Again, earthday365 has a solution. This year, they launched a Kind Box reusable takeout container program. The Kind Box program allows participants to get takeout orders from The Royale or Crispy Edge in a reusable container for no additional cost. They then return the container to a dropoff location to be washed and reused. Staff at earthday365 hope more GDA restaurants will offer the containers as the program grows. Crispy Edge expects to save approximately $2,000 per year in packaging costs by switching to reusable takeout containers. A similar reusable takeout container program (eco2go) has been in use for nearly 10 years in dining halls at Washington University.


You can start the year off right by making changes to reduce waste at your own business or workplace. If you are not a business owner, you can get your takeout in reusable containers and put your reusable bags and thermos in a place where you will actually remember to use them, like your car. Take a look into your trash can and see if there is any waste you could be recycling, composting, or going without. Let’s make 2023 the year that St. Louisans make progress on our climate goals and reduce the litter on our streets.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Recycling Everything Else

Author: Aaron Young, Sustainability Planning Manager at East-West Gateway Council of Governments

 

Most conversations about recycling involve curbside pick-up or municipal drop-off, which is generally referred to as the single-stream recycling system. That system is designed to get the bulk of recyclable materials from the consumer to the recycling processor. However, many recyclable items do NOT belong in your curbside pick-up bin or municipal/county drop-off site


St. Louis City Recycles maintains a searchable database of recycling sites for almost anything. It’s not always easy, nearby, or free, but there are ways to recycle a majority of household items. And there are recycling locations across the entire St. Louis metropolitan area, including in Missouri and Illinois. 


Browse for your items of interest through the drop-down menus and enter your zip code. And above all else, always remember the order of the three Rs: reduce and reuse before you recycle!

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Did you know plastic bags were invented to save the planet?

Published by the OneSTL Communications Committee

 

Plastic bag PNGThat’s right. Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin invented the plastic grocery bag in 1959 to address rising concerns about paper bag production and deforestation. Plastic is more durable than paper, and a plastic bag could be used over and over again while a paper bag could not. But we don’t reuse plastic bags as they were originally intended.

When interviewed, Sten’s son said, “To my dad, the idea that people would simply throw these away would be bizarre. He always carried [a plastic bag] in his pocket folded up. You know what we’re all being encouraged to do today, which is to take your bags back to the shop, he was doing back in the ’70s and ’80s, just naturally, because, well, why wouldn’t you?”


Reducing single-use plastics is among the top actions we can take to live more sustainably. Plastic products are cheap to make and have a lower carbon footprint than other materials, but they take centuries or more to break down in nature and are increasingly difficult to recycle due to rising contamination rates and mixed chemical makeups. Even when plastics do break down, they create microplastics, the effects of which are still unknown and unstudied.


Plastic bags are created using fossil fuels, and there has been a shift away from sourcing products and fuels from underground. Paper and cotton bags have come back into focus as possible replacements, but this could have potential negative implications, too. Increasing our use of paper bags could lead to deforestation, and some studies have pointed out the large water footprint of cotton or other fabric bags. 


So what’s the answer? Plastic, paper, cotton, or something else? Several studies have measured various impacts of each option, looking at carbon emissions, water footprint, acidification, toxicity to humans, environmental, and other factors. The bottom line is that all materials from which  we produce grocery bags (and all other products) have an environmental cost at some point in their life cycle. Therefore, the most sustainable choice is to reuse whatever you already have and  take care of it so you can continue to reuse it over and over again. 

Find more information at globalrecycle.net or columbia.edu.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2022 Holiday Recycling Information

Holiday Recycling info:

 
 

What Happens to My Recycling?

Check out the Living St. Louis Recycling segment to find out more about how your recycling is sorted, and why it is so important to avoid contamination.