Greetings world!

Today has been an exciting day! We mapped out the plot for our Victory Garden and began working on the compost construction! Yippee!

First, let me introduce Emily, our fabulous Woodstockian farmer, who is going to be using Dordan’s land to grow organics on next spring. These organics will then be sold to her customers, which consist of local restaurants in Woodstock and our neighboring oasis of Crystal Lake, a.k.a. my hometown!

Strinking a pose!

She is joined by her father and former high school biology school teacher, Phil. As you can see, he’s serious about composting; check out his compost themed-shirt! For those of you who can’t make out the text, I will transcribe, because it tickles my fancy:

Compost

Because a rind is a terrible thing to waste!

Here here, Phil!

Ha!

For those of you unfamiliar with the term and/or demographic—and I myself just discovered such a concept—“locavore” refers to those people who have committed to consuming food grown and harvested within a 100 mile radius of their home. From what I understand, some locavores make the commitment for a month, while others for the rest of their lives. There are locavore communities in San Fran, Boston, NYC, and pretty much any other city where conscious consumers reside. Consider the following definition of “locavores” supplied by good old Wikipedia:

Local food (also regional food or food patriotism) or the local food movement is a “collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies – one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place” and is considered to be a part of the broader sustainability movement. It is part of the concept of local purchasing and local economies, a preference to buy locally produced goods and services. Those who prefer to eat locally grown/produced food sometimes call themselves locavores or localvores.

I don’t know for certain if Woodstock resturants prefer localy sourced organics because it participates in the above ideology or if it is just cheaper and/or better to buy organics from a local supplier as opposed to a national supplier and/or distributor; I can assume, however, that locally produced organics—like those grown in Dordan’s “backyard” next spring—will be free of pesticides and other chemicals and require little energy to transport when compared with those organics shipped in from national/international groweries, insofar as these organics are only traveling to resturants in Woodstock and Crystal Lake. Hurray for sustainability and Dordan being able to particpate in our communitys’ understanding thereof! And who doesn’t like a sun-warmed tomatoe on a late August afternoon?

And for those of you unfamilar with how this all came about (it is not everyday that you hear of a plastic packaging manufaturer who is converting its land into a farm!), let me provide a quick recap:

Emily is best friends with my brother’s and colleauge’s wonderful wife, Karen. Karen introduced Emily to my mother, the wife of Dordan’s CEO Daniel Slavin, as she intended on starting a garden this summer and needed some help with the layout. Emily then explained to my mother that she was in quite the pickle for next year because the land that she is currently using to grow her organics on for her various local customers will not be available next year because it is up for sale. My father and Dordan CEO Daniel Slavin then suggested that Emily come look at the plot Dordan sits on, as it is several acres big, is sheilded from the road, and gets direct sunlight for most of the day. She and her father came to look at our land several weeks ago and finally determined that it would suit their needs for next years’ harvest! And now we are converting Dordan’s “backyard,” or, more approriately, “sideyard,” to a lot for Emily to grow her organics on!

AND, as discussed in a previous post, Emily and Phil have been so generous to help us in the construction of a composter.

Which how-to would you like to hear first: how-to build a composter or how-to start a plot for farming organics? Decisions decisions…

Let us begin with a how-to make a plot for farming organics.

Please note, however, that today is Day 1 of converting the plot into farmable land. Therefore, many further steps must be taken, which of course I will share with you, my packaging and sustainability friends, in real time! By way of introduction, today consisted primarily of measuring the space and staking out the dimensions. Next step is to plow the area and begin working the soil. Details to come!

Day 1 of converting Dordan’s land into a farm suitable for growing organics: Measuring and staking out plot dimensions.

Emily’s current plot is roughly 3/4th an acre; she was hoping to map out a similar space for her plot next year on Dordan’s land.

Here’s Dordan’s sideyard, available for Emily’s farm:

Dordan land available for conversion to farm plot

And to give you some percpective, here is another shot of the land with Dordan to the right.

Available land with Dordan to the right

There are 43,560 square feet in an acre, which means we were looking to achieve a plot size of around 32,670 square feet.  

Emily and Phil began by measuring the desrirable space in Dordan’s sideyard and staking out the dimensions.

The tools needed are measuring tape, wooden stakes, and a heavy-duty hammer.

Imagine the stakes, too!

They decided to begin the plot 15 feet from Dordan’s outer wall (the wall that runs the length of the factory) and 15 feet from the brush that marked the end of our property, giving the plot a width of 45 feet.  

Measuring the width of the plot

By distancing the plot a bit from Dordan and the brush, Emily and Phil maintained that the farm would receive the best sunlight available. Moreover, this 45 foot width is comprised of the most homogenous and flat land available for conversion into a farm, which would make plowing the plot easier come fall. In addition, this placement sheilds the plot from the street and other hooligans, insofar as it is at a lower decline than the street and protected on each side by Dordan itself and the tall and unruly brush.

How Dordan can protect the plot

They then ran the measuring tape perpendicular to the stakes marking the width, until the reached where the land dibits and moves downhill.

Measuring length of plot

A man on a mission!

Where the plot will end due to existing vegetation

This totaled about 210 feel long, bringing the total lot to roughly 9,450 square feet, between 1/5th and 1/4th  an acre.

PISS, it’s not big enough, I thought to myself as I scanned the layout.

“Is it too small,” I asked with a wavering pitch?

“Ah, whatever,” Emily replied, “it will be just fine.”

Phew, I thought to myself. I love people that love the environment!

Let’s back up; I am getting ahead of myself.

The decision to use Dordan’s land did not happen overnight. There were many emails exchanged between myself and Emily as she began considering our offer as a viable business move. Below is a list of issues discussed, which anyone considering converting land into a farm for organics should consult, with Dordan’s answers in bold:

Has the land been sprayed with pesticides or chemicals? If so, when was the last time?

Yes, in the spring of 2010; we spray each spring and fall. Because the land will be converted into a farm beginning this fall, however, Emily has requested that we suspend future plans to spray as it may compromise the integrity of the organics grown in spring 2011.

Is there access to water?

Yes, we have hoses on the side of the building adjacent to the plot. We can also capture the rain collected from our roof via the downspouts in large barrels; because the plot has a gentle downcurve to it, we could use gravity to pull the collected rainwater from the barrels throughout the plot, as a form of elementary irrigation, in concept. How cool is that! (I will be honest, these weren’t all my ideas!).  

Is there access to elecetricity?

Of course, right inside the door adjacent to the outlined plot.

Is there storage space for our tools?

Yes.

Would you consider erecting some type of greenhouse next to the plot? Many types of vegetables require “starting” before spring because they have a longer growing seasons. A greenhouse therefore allows you to start the seedlings in a warm and protected environment and then transfer them to the outdoor plot when the weather beckens it.

We are totally open to looking into mini-greehouses and look forward to your suggestions.

Tune in tomorrow to learn how-to begin construction on a home-made composter. Many pictures to come!

I heart Dordan!

August 5, 2010

Hello world! Again, I apologize for my lack of blogging this week. I just thought I would let the recycling report marinate for a bit…

Anyway, guess what happened yesterday: the Metra train that I take from Chicago to the office everyday HIT and TOTALED a car at the Des Plains stop. It was totally crazy!

Read the press release here:

http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local-beat/Car-Bursts-into-Flames-Driver-Killed-After-Train-Collision-99950479.html.

Ironically, and not to get all metaphysical or anything, but as one soul left this world, another came in. Check out this article about how a pregnant woman gave birth in the traffic caused by the Metra accident:

http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local-beat/baby-delivery-firefighters-birth-train-accident-metra-100021949.html.

Weird bears. And, totally unrelated but worth mentioning, they are filming Transformers literally a block from my house—I got to see the transformer trucks and everything!

Okay, enough personal embellishments for the day.

Actually, I have one more; humor me.

Drum role please…

Yours truly has been nominated for the Executive Committee of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition! If I “win” I get to serve on the Executive Committee for three years and act as a representative for all packaging converter member companies. AWSOME.

After learning of my nomination, I was asked to provide a bio and other information. This is what I wrote:

SPC Executive Committee Nominee Description

Chandler Slavin, Sustainability Coordinator, Dordan Manufacturing Company Inc.

  1. Identify your company in one of these categories: material manufacturer, packaging converter or brand owner/retailer.
    1. Packaging Converter—thermoformer
    2. Brief bio:
      1. Chandler was employed as Dordan’s Sustainability Coordinator in fall 2009. After performing months of research on packaging and environmental issues, Chandler began implementing sustainability initiatives at Dordan and working to attain a more robust environmental vision for plastic packaging. Invited to be the co-lead of Walmart-Canada’s PET Subcommittee of the Material Optimization Committee in winter 2010 due to her work on recycling clamshells, Chandler continues to collaborate with stakeholders to increase the diversion rate of PET packaging. Chandler embraces an integrated approach to sustainability; that is, one of economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Chandler’s environmental sustainability efforts include making Dordan a zero-waste facility. Her social sustainability initiatives include working with District 200 schools to educate students about recycling; she has also arranged for a farmer to use a portion of Dordan’s land in spring 2011 for the production of organics for the Woodstock community in hopes of preserving its longstanding culture of locally-sourced products.
    3. High-resolution photo (at least 30 dpi):
      1. To come.
    4. Why do you want to serve on the SPC Executive Committee?
      1. I want to serve on this Committee because I am passionately dedicated to the goals of the SPC; that is, working to develop a more robust environmental vision for packaging through education, supply-chain collaboration, and industry-led initiatives. I truly admire the SPC’s science-based approach to understanding packaging and sustainability and share their commitment to transparency and their value of a life-cycle based approach to interpreting the “sustainability” of packaging and packaging systems.
    5. What can you contribute to the SPC Executive Committee?
      1. I can contribute my phenomenal project management, technical writing, and database research skills to the SPC if nominated. I am a very clear communicator and my attention to detail is impeccable as is my dedication to organization outstanding. In addition, I have spent months researching all the hot button issues and have a very integrated understanding of the complexities surrounding “sustainable packaging.” I consider myself well versed on issues pertaining to packaging waste management, bio-based resins, life-cycle assessment, sustainable packaging metrics, and more.

Who wouldn’t vote for me with a description like that? Ha! In all seriousness though, I am super excited because I really admire the SPC and would love the opportunity to become more involved with the organization. If any of my diligent followers are members of the SPC, please vote for me. Ha, the campaigning has begun!

Ballots go out after the SPC meeting in Phoenix in September; I will keep you all posted!

Okay, let’s talk sustainability.

I have really great news: the local farmer that grows organics for the Woodstock community has finally committed to using Dordan’s land next summer! I am super excited because the land that Dordan sits on is really nice and not being used to its fullest potential. By donating the use of this land to a local woman who sustains herself on the ability to provide organics to the local community, Dordan can truly begin to understand itself as a socially sustainable company! And it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

AND this wonderful specimen of a farmer is going to help us build a composter! In a previous post I spoke about being confused over what kind of composter to buy because there are sooooo many different types. After speaking with a lot of people, it was explained that the amount of compostable materials generated would determine the type of composter to buy. This suggestion, consequently, provoked me to perform our first waste audit, which was super insightful, but didn’t really provide the concrete data I was looking for in regard to compostable waste generation. Luckily for me this local farmer, who is also a woman (super cool!), said she would help us build one out of old wood pallets, chicken wire, and some good old handy man skills. We are going to begin constructing the composter next week! Don’t worry—I will definitely do a “How-to Build a Composter” post so you can all do the same without having to go through all the confusing research! YAY Dordan!

AND I have started moving forward with District 200 schools in regard to educating students about recycling. Oh as an aside, check out this answer to “frequently asked questions” on a competitor’s website. It is silly; should I send them my white paper? Ha!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is thermoformed plastic packaging recyclable?

Yes, both PVC and PET are recyclable materials. PET can even be deposited in your local curbside refuse container. At Universal Protective Packaging, Inc. (UPPI), we realize that everything we do ultimately has an impact on the environment. As a result, we have a recycling program in place with our primary material supplier in which we grind both PVC and PET scrap and then sell it back to the material supplier through a closed-loop recycling program.

This “answer” makes no reference to post-consumer versus post-industrial, which makes a HUGE different in regard to recycling plastic packaging. They are totally misinforming the reader…yikes!

Anyway, I had a meeting with the assistant of the Superintendent of District 200 on Tuesday and I am going to begin my involvement with them by attending their first Environmental Task Force meeting in September. Members of this Task Force include several principals and other administrative folk who oversea all the sustainability programs implemented at the different schools. I am excited! Here is an email I received today, getting the ball rolling:

Dear Ms. Slavin:

I am the co-chair of District 200’s environmental task force and received your contact information from the assistant of the Superintendent.  I am also an environmental science teacher, chair of the young defenders and green club.  We are planning on organizing an energy contest between the buildings and we thought you might have ideas on how to market the information to each school.  I also would love to talk with you regarding our environmental science program and how you can get involved with some students.  Is it possible to meet some time in the next week? I attached my AP Environmental science curriculum so you can see the topics we cover. 

GROOVY!

I have also been hooked up with the Woodstock Rotary Club, whose members would like me to conduct some recycling seminars at the Woodstock library.

Ahhhhhh what you can accomplish when you offer your services for free!

Well I think I have rambled long enough. I am just happy that this whole social sustainability thing (growing organics, grassroots education efforts, etc.) is taking off. I heart Dordan!

Tootles!