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Berkeley High's Re-Thinking Waste Tour

~Guest post by Zoe Price, a student in Berkeley High's Green Academy.

How much do you know about what you throw away? Where does it go? Could it have been saved? In current times, it has become increasingly important to reduce, sort though, and carefully manage the waste that we produce. It's important to know the full story extending beyond your curbside bins.

Bus tour of the Altamont LandfillBus tour of the Altamont LandfillBay Area Green Tours offers an entire tour to educate you about just this, and does a fantastic job. Last Thursday, I took the tour and had a wonderful time. Each stop was informative and interesting. My favorite stop was the first one, the Altamont Landfill in Livermore, CA. Before the tour, I had not thought much about landfills, and did not think that they had much special design. But they do. Landfills are carefully engineered to make maximum use of the land and air space. They are also designed to protect surrounding the wildlife and environment from contamination by the garbage.

$3,000,000 worth of fences require $500,000 in maintenance each year to reduce the escape of plastic bags from the landfill.$3,000,000 worth of fences require $500,000 in maintenance each year to reduce the escape of plastic bags from the landfill.And the Altamont landfill is special, it is far more advanced than others, and uses a system found nearly nowhere else on the planet at the present moment. It actually captures the methane gas released by the landfill, and uses it to power Waste Management's trucks in Alameda County. When I learned this, I was proud to live in the Bay Area, where we can lead by example to a more sustainable world.

Even with this hope, looking upon the active face of the landfill, you will encounter the somber realization that what we throw away is an enormous problem, and must be changed or stopped as soon as possible.

Back to the Roots uses reclaimed coffee grounds to produce kits for homegrown mushrooms.Back to the Roots uses reclaimed coffee grounds to produce kits for homegrown mushrooms.After the landfill, there were a couple other stops, the next destination being a small, sustainable, and booming business called "Back to the Roots." This company actually collects all of the used coffee grounds from local Peet's coffee shops, and uses them to create an entirely new and unique product. They create kits to grow mushrooms in your home. Growing your own food, sharing it with your family is definitely taking it back to the roots. Employing people locally is also taking it back to the roots. The speaker there was a bright and enthusiastic woman, and you could see in her eyes that she truly believes in what she is doing.

Exploring the East Bay Depot For Creative ReuseExploring the East Bay Depot For Creative ReuseThe last stop of our tour was the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. It is a store that sells anything that might otherwise have been thrown away. When you walk in, it's hard not to think of new ideas for how to use everything. They have buckets of crayons, old posters, leftover fabric, and even jewelry! And here the tour ended with inspiration and the acknowledgment for the need for change. I hope you choose to come on this exciting and interesting tour! It has been my favorite tour so far, and is a fine example of what makes Bay Area Green Tours unique and special.

Download a flyer describing the Bay Area Green Tours program and the Rethinking Waste Field Trip here 2.49 Mb