Mid-Fall 2022 * No 14
Our monthly recycling pick-up has moved to Friends Church on Eureka Avenue on the first Saturday of the month. Hope to see you there on December 3.
In this issue:
How to properly prepare cartons for recycling with Sustainable Silverton
Improvements in Plastics Recycling
Impact of Climate Change on Silverton
BRING RECYCLING Field Trip
Solarizing in Silverton - an active Case Study, Part 3: Still seeking solutions
Getting Ready for the Holidays?
Sustainable Silverton is a nonprofit and is accepting donations.
Your donations will be greatly appreciated!
Mail your tax deductible check to:
Sustainable Silverton, 1205 Tenino Dr., Silverton, OR 97381
Or, you can now donate through our website HERE (Paypal)
Your donations help us pay for Constant Contact to send out email newsletters,
print posters, buy necessary things for the farmers market booth and
help us get the word out about our work.
Thanks to our September and October Saturday
Farmers Market Recycling volunteers
Booth Volunteers: Kelley Morehouse, Aline Bouhey, Driver: Laure Bordelon,
Carton Shippers: Meagan Griffin, Kevin Mowrey
Booth Volunteers: GwenEllyn Anderson, Diana Penley, Vere McCarty, Teresa Foster,
Driver: Steve Slemenda,
Carton Shippers: Meagan Griffin, Kevin Mowrey
We can't do this without your help.
Please consider volunteering at the Saturday market. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, attn: Kelley Morehouse, to find out more
See how much fun we're having!
Here's how can you HELP us with Carton Recycling
If you've recently dropped off cartons, we've probably asked you to flatten the cartons more than you have. Here are some photos to help you prepare your cartons for recycling. Tetra Paks are easy to break down. Milk and plant milk cartons take a bit more work. See below for a description on how what to do.
TETRA PAK and juice boxes - wash, dry and unfold the corners
TETRA PAK - Flatten and put the cap on! Voila, it is nearly flat!
MILK/CREAMER carton - UNDO the top of the carton, Flatten the bottom, reat
Reminder - Cartons must be:
* Caps on (if you have them)
* Push straws into the carton (juice boxes)
We will be asking for a donation to cover shipping costs
Climate Change Corner
Impact of Climate Change on Silverton
The climate is changing and grows more unstable each season. We know it will become hotter, but what does that really mean? Is it just the extremes or will there be daily changes? And what can we do about it in our gardens?
Our ability to respond to climate change and have an impact against it seems muted. But if we understand some of the causes of these problems, we learn there are things we can do locally that may have a big impact. Learning about the effects of climate change in the Pacific Northwest educates us to future proof our garden while increasing biodiversity.
Climate change, as it relates to plants and our gardens, has two parts: magnitude, velocity. Magnitude is how much our climate is going to change. Velocity is how quickly it changes.
The magnitude of change Silverton is going to experience before the end of the century is best understood in terms of temperature and the impact temperature has on the lives of future residents. We often hear that temperatures will increase; we’ll have more heat waves, but that isn’t the only way temperatures increase. In fact, while the extremes are bad, it’s the daily increase that cumulatively causes problems.
The Central Willamette Valley currently experiences about 1400 growing degree days (GDD) over the course of a year. Growing degree days are a common way for folks in the biological sciences to understand the cumulative effect of temperature over the course of a year. In this case it is measuring the time during the year when the temperature is above 41F. Silverton will more than double its time above 41F by the end of the century to about 3,100 GDD - 1,700 additional hours above 41F in a year.
There are big implications with this massive increase in temperature – the number of insect generations per year, what kinds of new plant diseases will survive and thrive, what food crops will grow here – which blueberry varieties, and wine grapes will produce. People will run their air conditioner longer and, on more days, and folks without air conditioning will suffer more heat exhaustion. And it means winter will be a lot warmer. That will have some benefits – spending on heating will decrease, though that’ll be offset with spending other times of the year. And the impacts will spread to pollinators and other wildlife as well.
We’ll move from a USDA hardiness zone of a low 8 into the middle of 9 where we can expect just 5 degrees of freezing. As gardeners we might get excited about the possibility of growing more tender plants. But it also poses huge challenges for the rest of life in the Pacific Northwest. The shift in annual temperatures changes where the optimum climate for a plant occurs. The optimum temperature regime for an Oregon white oak native in Silverton won’t be in Silverton any longer, for instance. The place where the best climate occurs for a Silverton-native white oak is shifting northward or up in elevation.
Another way to understand the challenges to the environment and our own towns is through drought. Some areas of the world will see less overall rainfall. Here, however, we might actually see more annual precipitation. But the problem is it will only fall in winter and will fall as rain on the mountains. Our winters will get warmer and shorter; there will be less snowpack. Simultaneously summers get hotter, summer rainfall will also become less frequent. Longer, cumulatively hotter summers lead to greater evaporation from the soil. Plants meanwhile will need more water because it is hotter and the growing season is longer, but there will be less water available to them. We’ll enter into cumulative drought in this situation as temperatures and evaporation both increase and soil moisture decreases. This also increases wildfire danger as forests are both physically drier, more stressed, and hold more dead trees and vegetation.
Drought impact is demonstrated by a worst case model of the last 30 years of the century. In that model 74% of the months in 30 years are severe drought months, around 800 out of 1080 months. There’s not enough rainfall to keep up with climate change. As winter snowpack decreases as temperatures rise, summer runoff and river levels will also decrease. In Silverton that means the Abiqua and Silver Creek will have much reduced flows. We won’t have enough water for agriculture, our gardens, or maybe even to drink.
Once per generation is the only movement plants get. And like you and I, it’s the only time they get to rearrange their genes and make genetic adaptation to their surroundings. Usually seeds just fall and grow, some get moved by the wind or an acorn woodpecker flies an acorn across the valley. About 24 miles of migration over a 100-year period is a normal possibility for trees. But as temperatures increase, the optimum climate for each plant moves northward, or up in elevation.
The savannah Oregon white oaks growing in Silverton live 300 to 400 years. It’s not unreasonable to assume the grandparents of the trees we see today were here nearly 1,000 years ago. The climate these three generations of trees are adapted to in Silverton is assumed to be their climate optimum. Yet with the warming temperatures, the location where that optimum will occur in the future will move north about 310 miles. That distance is equivalent to 1,291 years of migration for trees migrating 24 miles over 100 years. But the velocity of this shift in where climate optimum occurs happens before the end of the current century in 77 years. The velocity of climate change is too fast for plants to keep up.
Climate change will impact our gardens as much as the natural environment, maybe even more. Yes, we will be able to grow plants that are less hardy but as drought becomes severe, cities will limit outdoor water use in the Pacific Northwest, as they are in the Southwest and California. And our population is likely to increase with an influx of climate migration putting further demands on diminishing water supplies. Summer irrigation will become a luxury at first and then a thing of the past. We will have to develop an entirely new gardening style in the Pacific Northwest, one not dependent on summer irrigation. The brown dead stick landscape, the summer-dead lawn, yards covered in bark and gravel – all these are hot, dry, and uninviting. But gardens with tough drought resistant shrubs, trees, and flowers are attractive, cooler, and pleasant all summer long.
There are over 1,600 species of native bees in the Pacific Northwest and California. They contribute an estimated $3 billion in value as pollinators of agricultural crops. Climate change will be hard on these wild insects and other animals too. There are lots of options for wild plants that endure drought and support local pollinators and animal biodiversity. Embracing change might be scary but can also deliver exciting new outcomes in our gardens.
Three Silvertonians toured BRING Recycling in Eugene, a state-of-the-art reuse and recycling center that you’ll want to visit! We were extremely impressed with the work the non-profit organization has done since their inception fifty years ago. The organization was born in 1971 around the time the Oregon Bottle Bill was launched and has grown to a 1.5 million dollar operation.
It will be worth your time to visit BRING in Eugene! (But please consider carpooling there). Their store includes quality paints that have been formulated from paint donations and are sold at discount prices (MetroPaint). They have building materials such as windows, doors; even home furnishings and yard tools. Furthermore, BRING deconstructs buildings rather than demolish them, working with the city and county to avoid filling up the landfills.
BRING purchased its current site in 2007, where it collects, processes and sells its donations. They now have 20 employees while paying a living wage and include health insurance. Moreover, BRING serves as an educational center for conservation and highlights local artists at their store.
They also give back to the community including giving to the unhoused at shelters and have developed educational programs for schools on composting, materials management, climate resiliency, and adapting to climate change.
This fall they gleaned from local farms to create a community apple-cider making event, and have been collaborating for a number of years with environmentally-focused groups on a statewide network. They also collect data, measure success, and are doing research on efficiency and costs for reusing vs. recycling materials, as well as reducing food waste in schools and in the community.
They have used recycled materials to create art on their property! A building that is wrapped with old record albums; a courtyard designed with the tops of toilet tanks; and the Garden of Earthly delights!
Currently, BRING is hoping to mentor other counties into this process including Marion County in 2023. We are very excited to have their support!
Solarizing in Silverton An active Case Study
Part 3: Still Seeking Solutions
By Elyce Hues October 2022
In pursuit of rooftop solar for a 1960’s home nestled within an oak and fir grove, this homeowner goes on a discovery ride.
Last Month, in Solarizing in Silverton...
Julie Williams and Nancy Evenson with Seeds for Sol came out for a visit and wondered at the feasibility of solar panels on the home’s roof; Julie suggested Elyce look into community solar. They also investigated possible causes of the high energy use, but when no clear culprit emerged, Elyce looped her dad in. As usual for her dad, he had excellent insights and suggested that the most likely culprit for the energy drain was the water heater that had last been changed in 1990.
Does solar make sense ANYWHERE on my site?
Julie Williams has seen dozens of solar-install projects, evaluating site conditions and the return on investment (ROI) time period for each home. So after she gazed at my roof with a raised eyebrow and said, “I don’t see how your roof is a candidate for solar, even if you did take down more trees,” I tabeled my $50k solar panel bid from Pure Energy to look into community solar. However, that quickly hit a dead end when I found no community solar available to PGE electricity users. (Good news on that below!)
I went back to the drawing board. An online article described an easy test to gather a rough idea of a site’s solar potential: Stand facing south, arms raised overhead in a “Y” shape. If you see clear sky from arm to arm, you may get enough solar exposure. Roaming my property, I found one 20’x20’ patch of land that passed the “Y” test. By this time, I had also decided to fit out my garage into a livable space. Perhaps this little patch of land could power the radiant floor heating system in the garage space. I called up the other solar installer in town, Earthlight.
“Hey,” I said, “I have this little patch of land...” Merissa pulled up my address in the company’s mapping software.
“I can’t make out anything but trees...,” she began.
“Oh yeah, well, you see,” I interjected, “four of those trees came down in the ice storm of 2021.”
Merissa informed me gently that their mapping software data is current within a week.
“Well, I have this one patch of land...,” I pressed. She offered to bring my case to an engineer on her team, and within a couple days, I was looking at a shade report generated for my property.
“The best you could do would be to harvest solar at 47% of the panels’ capacity,” Merissa said, walking me through the report. “You would be looking at a payback period of 30 years.”
I circled back with Jordan at Pure Energy. In a conference call including Julie and another partner at Pure Energy, Jordan told me that my experience was “a pretty accurate solar journey.” He explained how he had designed the system, sharing differences between the modeling and measurement tools used. Since he had physically come out to my property, he had been able to take actual measurements from my roof using the Helioscope tool, and estimated that their panels on my roof would harvest 80% of the capacity. (This will be the Total Solar Resource Fraction (TSRF) value on your quote.)
“How can a consumer like me make a wise decision in light of such different information from providers?” I asked.
“That,” replied Jordan, “is a great question.”
A Brief Consumer Guide to Purchasing Solar
In the conversation that followed, I gleaned the following tips on how to make a wise purchasing decision when considering solar:
1. Get 4-5 bids if you can.
I was only able to find two companies willing to send someone out to my home. I had selected the one that was a) local, and b) designed a system that may allow me to keep all my trees. Most households seeking solar will have a more amenable site, however, and Jordan said that most potential buyers gather 4-5 bids before making a decision.
2. As you gather each new bid, ask the contractor to review your previous bids. Ask the contractor to walk you through how they compare, considering factors such as what panels will be installed (is the quote for a specific manufacturer and model, or a generic type, i.e., “Tier 1 all-black”?; what type of inverters, i.e., micro-inverters or string-inverters?).
3. Ask for a cash price on each bid. This will allow you to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of the total systems
costs. Note that, even if the financed interest rate seems good and low, a “finance charge” is also added on to the total system cost. This can be substantial.
4. Consider asking for a “production guarantee.”
There is no better security than a guarantee from the company that your system will produce at least the quoted volume of kilowatts.
Additionally, consider whether it makes more sense to first channel your funds and efforts into increased energy efficiency of the home. This will allow you to meet your needs with a smaller solar system. Julie shared that the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act will provide Americans with extensive incentives for a wide array of energy efficiency upgrades and technologies beginning in 2023. You can get information specific to your home at https://www.rewiringamerica.org/app/ira-calculator.
Fellow Sustainable Silverton volunteer, Megan Benedict, and I met with the folks at Oregon Clean Power Cooperative, to ask what it would take to bring a community solar project to Silverton. That effort is now underway. What is clear is that the project will require substantial effort; whether or not it moves forward will most likely come down to volunteer capacity.
(Let us know if you’d like to help!)
We also learned that a new community solar project in Aurora is available for PGE customers to take part in. Head to http://oregoncleanpower.coop/ for more information and to sign up.
In our series’ last installment, we noted the following pro’s of community solar:
● You own the panels and all electricity they generate.
● You can sell the panels back to the solar farm owner at any time.
● You can move, and you don’t leave your panels back at your old house.
● Solar power suddenly becomes viable for renters or homeowners with too much shade.
● For income-qualifying customers, Seeds for Sol may be able to provide grant money for the initial purchase. As with rooftop solar, you pay back the grant out of your savings on your electricity bill.
● Apparently, the rate structure is different for community solar than panels installed on your home. While the owner of a home-installed panel owns every kilowatt that system generates, the owner of a community solar panel receives a per watt credit on the energy generated which is locked in at the time of purchase. So as electricity prices rise, the savings diminish.
If you would like to get involved with bringing community solar to Silverton, please send an email to: email@example.com. With energy prices forecast to keep climbing, securing solar will bring economic relief.
What about the water heater?, you may still be wondering. Well, yes, I did get the water heater changed, along with repiping the majority of my house. It’s too early to be certain if it has made a difference, but learning to read my electricity usage data has been eye-opening. Also, Jordan told me that my electricity usage is not really far from what he normally sees for a house of my size and occupancy. You can learn about your own home’s electricity usage at https://portlandgeneral.com. Once you log in, click on “Track your energy use” in the left side menu. There, you can view your electricity usage by month, day, and right down to the hour.
Getting Ready for the Holidays
Ways to be sustainable
(Thanks to Marion County!)