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Town of Hurley Climate Smart Task Force Updates

People often wonder if recycling is really happening. After taking a tour of the Ulster

County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) last month, it is clear that it is!

The first stop on the tour was the composting area, with steaming piles full of mostly broken down compost. This compost, once finished, can be used in gardens, on lawns, and other locations where a soil amendment is desired.

Composting helps reduce the formation of methane, an important greenhouse gas, and reduces the amount of trash that has to be shipped to a permanent location. Because so much of our landfill is replete with organic material that can be composted, instead of leaching methane, which is such a toxic GHG, this is very significant. Looking ahead, expect to see more information about composting.

Inside the large building there are separate areas for paper recycling, plastics, metals, glass etc. It is well known that aluminum and steel are valuable materials in the recycling stream, but if properly cleaned and sorted, even plastics can be recycled into valuable materials. Clean paper and cardboard are great materials for recycling. Materials that cannot be recylced are being trucked to a landfill near Syracuse, New York. This landfill was scheduled to close in 2025*, and Ulster County is searching for a local alternative, in addition to encouraging zero-waste habits. Not only does our garbage contribute to a massive landfill, a lot of gasoline powered trucks make a long trip back and forth to do so.

"Wishful Recylcing" is something many of us are guilty of. We want to believe that the item we are putting in the recycling bin is recyclable. But, if it isn’t (such as a greasy pizza carton or a light bulb), it becomes a contaminant and makes other items in the recycling stream non-recyclable. If in doubt, put it in the regular trash. The more we can sort the trash, the more we can recycle.

The Town of Hurley Transfer Station is doing a great job of sorting items for recycling, which is picked up by UCRRA. Proper sorting allows for maximum recyling.

Recycling collected by private collectors, however, is sorted at their own sites and may not be as well recycled. - Peter McKnight, Nov 1, 2022

* Read about some of the issues at the upstate Seneca Falls Landfill in this opinion piece.

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Updated: Jan 7

In August we were invited to lead an afternoon learning workshop for Summer Camp at the Hurley Recreation Center. Expanding on the GHG learning activity presented at the Ulster County Fair, Lynne Bailey created a GHG Word Search, activities and additional materials for students of varied ages to work in groups. Each child had their own Word Search and worksheet to work on, and was pinned with one letter: O - N - C - H representing Oxygen, Nitrogen, Carbon and Hydrogen atoms. They got together, arms to shoulders, to form Water Vapor (H2O), Carbon dioxide (CO2) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) molecules.

The main points for all ages were learning 1) the difference between climate and weather (TIME), 2) the nature of a gas, and 3) that greenhouse gases naturally warm the planet. In their groups, campers listed the atoms that formed their gas, noted a property of the gas, and completed a basic worksheet. Older campers had addtional materials to peruse.

There were about 40 campers,

mostly in grades 1-4, and they all got to build their GHG molecules using candy and toothpicks at the end of the session. Kristen Schara was on hand to assist Lynne Bailey with the activities.

We had a great afternoon with the kids and kept them busy and learning the basics, for about an hour and a half. That they had to move around to form groups of atoms took advantage of the outdoor setting, and got them mingling across age groups.

You can find files with the materials created for the activities and a flexible lesson plan that can be used for learners of all ages here:

GHG Sample Lesson Plan

GHG Lesson Materials

Links to Learning about Greenhouse Gases

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I am happy to share with our readers that the Hurley Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory has been completed.

Thanks to the help of Task Force Member Lynne Bailey for guiding me towards accomplishing that goal for the community, and Mike Boms for introducing me to the Climate Smart Community Task Force and giving me the opportunity to expand my knowledge and ability to contribute to the Town on their journey towards receiving Bronze Certification. This study earns Hurley 16 points (10%) towards completing that goal.

Doing this work, I’ve gained a much better understanding of what goes into researching greenhouse gasses. Collecting and documenting data is such a large portion of discovering how we can make changes, and with how we’re treating the environment. I invite you to spend a few minutes reading through the inventory - the appendix in the report explains what is included in each different sector. My hope is for the reader to have a better understanding, too, of just how many and what kinds of greenhouse gasses are emitted into our atmosphere every year.

There are so many sources that produce greenhouse gas emissions, much that many would overlook, including me. But with the right resources, education, and presentation that shares where we are headed environmentally, I can see very clearly that it isn’t just about transportation. Dangerous emissions are everywhere, including in our homes, our food, our clothes, and everything that is a part of the human cycle of production and consumption.

What's next?

The Climate Change problem seems so big - in 2018 alone, global ghg emissions were 48.94BN TCO₂e - but when you look at the pieces manageable solutions appear. Multiple wasy of reducing GHG is the key to that. It sounds daunting, but there's lots of solutions that are happening in our homes and communities, and with businesses large and small, right now. I'm learning tha there's more each of us can do, and I'm reminded that small changes accumulate and grow into big changes.

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