Thursday, September 15, 2011

Here's a link to a video produced for the Zero Waste Challenge.

Click on the link to go to the video to watch — for some reason Katie's cut off in this one and she already thinks I try to steal the spotlight...


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Boulevard Magazine Article

Check out page 28.

Love the photo!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

We'll miss you, Betty Anne

Taped to our fridge is a 10 dollar bill.

It's an ordinary sample of Canadian currency serving as an extraordinary reminder.

It was given to us by the most self-less, community-minded volunteer we've ever met; a person who has given so much she need never give again.

Yet she gave it us. From her own pocket.

In 2007 when we started this recycling service, we approached the Cowichan Valley Basket Society and asked Betty Anne — the tireless volunteer who for more than two decades has been running the local staple to many down and out people's diets — if we could help out by taking away her recycling.

Betty Anne, who has given and given of herself since 1988 and not asked for a thing in return, was so thankful and supportive she immediately said yes, and made it a habit of making sure she thanked us every Thursday for taking the material.

And on that first Christmas, despite our great protestations, Betty Anne made us leave with a 10 dollar bill from her own pocket to show her gratitude.

It's taped to our fridge — a constant reminder of the deep and pure goodness (nah, Greatness) that exists in people.

If we ever feel as though we have nothing left to give, we can always turn to the $10.

It's Betty Anne's last week of volunteering.

You will be greatly, greatly missed.

Here's a story that ran in the News Leader Pictorial on our hero.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

VOTE for Cowichan Recyclists & show Canada bike-based business works!

A few of our customers (and even some strangers) recently alerted us to a competition to showcase small businesses in Canada.

So, with an audio documentary put together by Recyclist Katie and an array of photos taken duting the past three-and-a-half years, we decided to enter.

The contest is Scotia Bank Small Business — BIG Impact challenge and we think it's a great way to show Canada just what impact bike-based, eco-friendly businesses can have.

So, please, follow this link, check out our submission and VOTE!

You can vote multiple times — please re-use the button...

Cowichan Recyclists has had huge support from the community — let's see if we can get the community some recognition for its recycling commitment.

Thanks, everyone!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Slow and steady wanes the waste...

In the spirit of providing (ahem) objective journalism, we here, at Recyclists' Spin, need to make a clarification.

It's possible that past posts MAY have left readers with the impression that Cowichan Recyclists are the sole people-powered recyclers here in Cowichan.

As you can see by the photo, this is far from being the case.

Two workers in Cowichan Bay — North America's first Cittaslow designated community — are, after building this beautiful public recycling centre, seen pushing and pulling it toward it's final destination.

Now that truly is people-powered, slow-moving, earth-loving dedication.

Last year Cowichan Bay's Maritime Centre, at the behest of the Cowichan Bay Improvement Area board of directors, began making public recycling a reality by building these wooden structures.

We've had the pleasure of emptying the bins, and pedaling the materials back to the recycling yard in Duncan.

All in all, it's a perfect partnership, and an excellent example of when things are slowed down it's easier to spot a good idea.

It looks like people-powered resource recovery is catching on!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Where ya bin? Bin walkin' all over the town...

The first weekend of curbside compost bin delivery went off without a hitch.

(Well, technically if went off WITH a hitch, as we needed a hitch in order to tow the U-haul trailer behind our B-100, veggie-oil burning, earth-lovin' truck. But that, of course, is just stating the obvious. And only someone really, really tired would be obtuse enough to state the obvious. (psst, I mean me. ))


The completely capable, conditioned and courageous compost carter Katie and I took to the streets of Duncan delivering nearly 500 bins in the misty (OK, torrential) rain. And we're almost a third of the way done.

How did we do it, you ask?

The process was as follows.

1) Muster some pluck — eat oatmeal and an energy bar
2) Tip the stacks of bins off the pallets — make sure rain water pooled on the top completely drenches you as you do this.
3) Unload the kitchen catchers — dump the rain water from each one and dry it with a towel...not tedious at all.
4) More pluck mustering
5) Fold a letter from the City, a collection calendar, and sample compostable bags into a neat package — deposit in freshly dried kitchen catcher.
6) Slowly drive around the neighbourhoods of Duncan stopping frequently to unload bins — If bins are stuck together, sit in a puddle with your feet on one bin, knees touching your ears, and firmly grip the other bin with your tender, tender hands. Push, pull, grunt, wheeze and pant until they come apart.
7) Walk each bin to every household — if someone is there, staring through the slightly cracked front door at the poor sucker in the rain, explain why you are trespassing...

Here are some photos to document our first couple days.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Going Green and Growing Green

One of the most enjoyable perks of biking around all day is the time it gives for thinking.

For some reason I was thinking about green funerals and how everyone should just be composted when they are gone.

This little take on Mary Frye's Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep was percolating for a few pedal strokes.


Do not stand at my grave and weep.

I am not there, I’m the compost heap.

I am in the rotting fruit and leaves

I am the earth; do not grieve.

I am the fuel saved from cremation

I am for clean air circulation.

I am organic. I am not embalmed.

I am not destined to grow lawn.

Of vegetables sprouting up in spurts,

I am the nutrient rich dirt.

I am decomposing. I’m going home.

I am the ever bearing loam.

I am nature, carbon clean.

I am giving back. I am going green.

Do not stand graveside, deep in thought.

Just scoop me onto your veggie plot.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Golden Trowel Award — Totally Dig It!

As firm believers in community building, or in this case community growing, we find ourselves spending much of our spare time volunteering.

Part of this is serving on volunteer boards for non-profit organizations to help other passionate community builders shape their dreams into reality.

Right now we are President and Secretary with the Jubilee Community Gardens, which is what this post is about.

The two beautiful people in the picture above are Ken and Rose, two passionate gardeners who have been involved with JCG since it was created.

Despite being two of the more "seasoned" gardeners in the 40+ membership, they are by far the two most active. They can be found at the garden most days during the season, shoveling compost, tending the communal garden and passing on years of invaluable knowledge.

This year we felt it was important their hard work be recognized, so the Golden Trowel Award was created.

They epitomize selfless volunteerism and are the reason why Jubilee Community Garden is a success.

Thanks, Ken and Rose.

Your hard work is inspiring.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Recycling Compact Flourescent Lights

When it comes to green, really, there's Kermit, Oscar, broccoli and you.

Heck, you changed your bulbs, man...

It may have taken 10 years to get those LEDs on the Xmas tree, and the result was less-than-dazzling, but you did it.

You now have glowing, curly, pig-tailed CFLs in every socket.

So, in the spirit of of the Holy Rs and keeping pace in the race to reduce waste, any ideas what you do when these energy-saving light-shedders shed light no more?

Here in Cowichan, you have some options.

Many of the home renovation shops — RONA, Home Hardware, Home Depot — have programs where you can return the bulbs to be recycled. There's no fee but call ahead to make sure they take all sizes.

For the tube fluorescents, try Schnitzer Steel Pacific or Bings Creek Transfer Station.
There's a charge to recycle them, but it's less than the cost of throwing them in the landfill.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The New Stratas Fear: Missing out on Curbside Compost Service

You may have heard that, beginning this March, residents within the bubbling metropolis of Duncan B.C. will be receiving curbside compost pickup service.

Exciting news, to be sure.

Every residential dwelling — a.k.a. single family home — within the city limits will automatically get this privilege.

People living in apartment buildings and strata complexes, however, will not.

It's not because the city has a vendetta against multi-family dwellings. Apartments and stratas are considered commercial properties in the eyes of the tax collectors, so they are excluded from the municipally offered service.

Worry Not, Stratas!

We're here for you.

Cowichan Recyclists offers an extremely cost effective, clean and efficient curbside pickup service for stratas and apartments, too.

Just because the city can't deliver the service to you doesn't mean you can't compost with the rest of them.

Give us a call or e-mail and we can help you move toward zero waste.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bike Maintenance: Maintenant or Mañana?

Bike maintenance is important, no doubt about it.

It's also something I wish I was passionate about.

Turns out I'm not.

I wouldn't go as far as saying wrenching makes me wretch, but it definitely falls prey to the pull of gravity more often than other tasks, sinking to the bottom of the to-do list time and time again.

202 days ago, this beauty nail took its toll on my rear Kevlar tire.

198 days ago, I replaced the tube.

The following 180 days were pure gravy — I'm pretty sure I didn't even put air in the tire.

Then, 18 days ago, the inevitable happened. The 6-month-old tube finally worked its way through the nail-torn hole in the tread, letting loose a depressing sigh as it slowly deflated in front of me.

My solution was obvious — use Katie's old, small, rusted mountain bike instead.

After nearly three weeks of slogging around on knobby tires with my knees hitting my ears, I'd had just about enough. But I didn't actually stop until her rear rack lost a nut and started dragging on the ground, making the bike inoperable.


So here it is, just after 10 p.m. on a Wednesday night, and I've just come in from replacing my tube (which I bent the valve on) and tread (which I'm fairly certain I put on backwards) in the darkness of City Square.

Is procrastination worth it? I dunno.

I'll tell you what I think after spending the next six-months riding on a backwards tire with a bent, slowly leaking valve.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Extra! Extra! 3R's all about it!

I came across this photo today while spending time marveling at how fast time is flying and doing a little relaxing reminiscing.

Maybe it was the fact that this week, Gretz —The Great One — is marking his 50-year milestone. Maybe because he is now officially more than halfway to the revered 99, I meandered through pictures of yore.
Or maybe it was the impending marking of another set goal date. I'd marked February as a time for change and change is rarely tardy.

Whatever the reason, my flighty mind lit upon this picture and made me think, poetic.

I took this photo while working as a reporter/photographer for the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial when photography was my job and recycling was my hobby. I climbed as far as I could into the CVRD multi-bin to capture some diligent eco-warrior recycling my freshly-written prose.

And now, more than five years after snapping the photo, I'm on the outside of the bin looking in.

Recycling is my paid gig. Photography is a dusty hobby. And writing is, as always, somewhere nearby.

Whether you see it in the continuity of the recycling symbol or the idea of art mimicking life mimicking art, it's pretty rare to end up far from where you originally began. But taking that journey is worth it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Duncan Curbside Compost Launch Delayed

Some Duncan folks might think this is rotten news, but when you're dealing with compost, that's bound to happen from time to time.

Duncan's Curbside Compost Pickup program is being delayed by a month.

The key word here is delayed. It is by no means canceled.

The reason? The special-order split-container truck needed to propel the City of Duncan into the neighbourhood of zero-waste is taking its time getting here.

Once the truck arrives, we can begin the program, and work toward reducing each household's waste by 35 per cent on average. Cool!

March 1st is the new start date.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cutting Carbon in Cowichan

Yesterday, with a trailer full of recycling, standing in the cool, cool rain outside Gillingham Cabinets I got to talking with the conscientious company's environmental champion Duncan Wilcock.

He was telling me about some of the straightforward steps the business took to reduce their carbon footprint by more than half.

And it all started with him signing up to take the Carbon Smart program.

With an eye on cutting costs and cutting carbon, the program helps businesses assess their current operations and find environmentally sound solutions to meet some of their diverse needs.

The program is coming to Cowichan!

Cowichan Valley Regional District and Pacific Carbon Trust are bringing the course to the area but businesses have to act fast.

The space is limited to 10.

After speaking with Wilcock, it seems the program has truly catapulted Gillingham Cabinets into a new paradigm — one where environmental benefits are tightly tied to economic benefits.

Register at

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cycling fuel — what goes in your tank?

Yesterday I met up with Recyclist Patrick at the Duncan Garage to have a chat about recycling. He was chowing down on a delicious-looking organic cinnamon bun because he had used up most of his fuel.
And that got me thinking about the best foods to keep a cyclist going.

For the past three-and-a-half years we've been spending large portions of our days in the saddle.

And when you propel yourself around by pedal-power, energy levels are most definitely worth monitoring.

For me, starting the day with a heaping, hot bowl of old fashioned oatmeal topped with a handful of nuts, a couple scoops of hemp protein powder, some banana and some berries and I'm good to go until at least 10 a.m.

Then I tend to keep myself moving with anything I can get my hands on — cookies, cake, chocolate — until noon when I eat a couple of tuna sandwiches.
And, I can tell you, I'm starving again by 2 p.m.

I'd love to know what other all-day cyclists are putting in their tanks in the morning.

Happy riding!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Taking Pause from a Great Idea

We had to break some sad news to a couple who called us to their home today to recycle some of their accumulated garage detritus.

Fortunately, we had only told them the good news minutes before, so their emotional investment was more flash-excitement than deep-rooted ecstasy.

The good news?

Recently the Cowichan Valley Regional District started accepting Styrofoam for recycling at Bings Creek Transfer Station.

The foam is dealt with by a non-profit organization out of Nanaimo with a mobile compacting machine.

The sad news?

It appears the program has been so popular and the response so great, for whatever reason the amount of material is not being dealt with fast enough.

So, at this point the CVRD's bins are chock-o-block full and we were told they are no longer accepting it. At least not right now.

We hope this changes.

The idea is obviously one whose time has come. Hopefully the mobile compactor will come too.

Until then, we can still find a home for your Styrofoam if you'd like it recycled.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Idle Thoughts

When it comes to blogging, sometimes I need a kick in the proverbial tailpipe to get typing.

Today I received more than my fair share of inspiration.

It came in the form of pollution, puffing and wheezing its way out from the ass of an idling diesel crew cab parked at the recycling depot. (Coincidentally, the vehicle was also driven by an ass, which goes to show that nothing escapes the encompassing grip of the circle of life, not even those who are trying to squash it.)

Anyhow, after an energetic, sun-filled day of recycling, Katie and I congregated at Schnitzer Steel Pacific to unload for the final time. Schnitzer Steel provides a place for the public to come and drop their recyclables, mostly without cost.

The public takes advantage of this because, well, frankly, recycling will save the world. At the very least it beats throwing trash in the river.

So there we are, breathing deeply and feeling lively at the end of a healthy day of work, when a massive truck and trailer pulls up. Without shutting off his motor, this guy disappears into the office and doesn't come out for more than 10 minutes.

I'm sure he was having a great time, regaling the staff with stories of how he once was mistaken for a pylon, or how he kept losing to his neighbour's goat at Scrabble.

Us poor suckers in the yard, however, were quietly choking to death on pickup particulate.

When he did emerge from the office, this prince among polluters went about his business of dropping off his recycling. His truck, meanwhile, continued to emit.

Katie and I, meanwhile, continued to gasp for air.

Seriously, I can't fathom the disconnect between recycling and the rest of the environment for some people.

That one idling truck not only canceled out any Mother Nature Brownie points this guy could have earned from doing his own free recycling, I think it ended up costing him about $5 worth of fuel.

City of Duncan has adopted an anti-idling bylaw for their fleet of vehicles and Lake Cowichan is considering it.

Maybe our recycling friend will get the hint when more municipalities get on board.