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Earth Day

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Friday is Earth Day. It’s a good time to consider how to preserve our environment.

Have you ever wondered how long it takes a plastic grocery bag to disintegrate?  The decomposition rate chart presented on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s website ( shows the relative speed of organic and inorganic materials. A banana peel takes 2-5 weeks (put up to three around a rose bush for a healthy fertilizer), a newspaper 3-6 months (shred and add to your compost pile), while a plastic bag will last a decade, a plastic beverage container or tin can a century, an aluminum can 2-5 centuries. To save space for future generations, recycling is the responsible thing to do.

Where can you recycle your disposables?

The state’s recycling website provides very helpful information for hard-to-dispose of items, such as computers and automobile products. Learn how and where to properly dispose of a variety of electronics, including cellphones, used oil, oil filters, antifreeze, and old medications (do not flush them down the toilet).

For more ideas about where to recycle what, visit Earth911 at

Another resource with much potential is Freecycle at This is a network for linking those who have something to dispose of and those who are looking for something, organized by zip code. All items offered must be free.

Read High Tech Trash: digital devices, hidden toxics, and human health by Elizabeth Grossman for an eye-opening explanation of the science, politics, and crimes in the collection of masses of e-waste. She follows the trail of toxins, including lead, mercury, chlorine and flame retardants, from mining and processing through disposal and dumping in India, China and Nigeria, where unprotected workers boil the refuse to retrieve useful fragments.

Humanizing the impact of waste is Paolo Bacigalupi’s award winning novel for teens, Ship Breaker. In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl. This is action-packed and very well-written.

Eminent Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of more than twenty works of nonfiction, has written his first novel, Anthill, about the interdependence of life in our biosphere. Raphael Semmes Cody, a lonely child of contentious parents (gentry v. redneck) in south Alabama, relishes summer freedom in a tract of old-growth longleaf pine forest and savanna on Lake Nokobee. He wanders off to observe salamanders and snakes and becomes enthralled by bugs ("every kid has a bug period" says Wilson. "Mine was especially intense and I never grew out of it."). His fascination becomes a lifelong focus, which guides his direction and purpose in mediating competing interests of environmentalists and business. The novel includes "The Anthill Chronicles", a story within the story, which is a riveting account of three colonies of ants, their wars, destruction, and survival, told from their point of view. The simplicity of this satisfying coming of age tale belies an admirable complexity in its portrayal of the interrelatedness of all life. Anthill bears comparison to Huck Finn and Homer’s Iliad in the recounting of epic journeys and the clash of civilizations. It is also very funny and full of sly observations about the "gray wool of the Confederacy" and "zircons in the rough". Anthill is destined to become a classic.

For more about caring for the Earth, visit or call 988-2541.

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