In 1621, pilgrims held the first Thanksgiving, grateful for having been sustained by their new environment and by the neighbors with whom they shared resources. In the same spirit of thankfulness and sharing, two other recent national events provided opportunities to appreciate our environment and share the duties of preserving it. The first was Rideshare Week, and the second was America Recycles Day.

Rideshare Week success should lead to improvement
According to pledges received by the Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC) and Ventura County Air Pollution Control District (VCAPCD) in October, more than 1,000 people shared the rides during Rideshare Week last month. Pledges came from more than 100 businesses and organizations in Ventura County. Twelve local employers hosted worksite events where commuters discovered the potential of using social media to revamp their way to work and learn valuable information about the benefits of ridesharing. And some lucky VC employees won great prizes in the random countywide drawing.

Among the benefits of Rideshare Week is cleaner air. According to the VCAPCD, more than 50 percent of Ventura County’s air pollution is attributed to motor vehicles. By sharing the ride and using social media to coordinate carpools and vanpools, every person can play a valuable role in reducing harmful emissions. The VCAPCD works hard to reduce ozone, particulates and hydrocarbons in our air.

Ridesharing, however, does not have to end with Rideshare Week. VCTC offers a wide variety of free resources, including a customized eRideGuide tailored to your individual commute needs. Visit www.GoVenturaRideshare to explore their environmentally friendly and money-saving tools. For updates and information on local air quality and traffic conditions, be sure to “LIKE” VCTC (GoVentura) and VCAPCD (TheAirZone) on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@GoVentura and @VCAPCD).

Recycling Tips for America Recycles Day
America Recycles Day was Nov. 15, the 17th annual celebration coordinated nationally by Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit organization funded by the US EPA and major corporations. When Keep America Beautiful started America Recycles Day, recycling was less common. Now, in most households, curbside recycling has become as routine as tooth brushing. Just like tooth brushing, however, practices can be improved, and failing to remind and emphasize good technique can lead to negative consequences. Dental hygiene has the advantage of regular reminders coming from scheduled visits to a dentist’s office, accompanied by the threat of pain and expense for non-compliance. Recycling has to instead rely on more abstract incentives, such as concern for the environment, civic duty and peer pressure.
You can probably improve your recycling even if you are already a conscientious recycler. For example, are you already recycling items added last year to most curbside recycling programs in Ventura County? The new items are “gable top containers” (such as milk cartons), aseptic packaging (such as soup in a box), juice boxes and similar “poly coated paper” containers. This new recycling opportunity is funded by the Carton Council, an industry association providing incentives to sorting centers in conjunction with a plan to label their product “recyclable.”

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Best type of recycling: Upcycling
America Recycles Day celebrates recycling, but there are many types of recycling, and it is helpful to be familiar with the best type of recycling. This best type is called “upcycling.” Upcycling is the process of converting discarded materials into items of greater value, usually with a greater environmental benefit than would be derived by simply recycling the product back into an exact copy of its previous incarnation (for example, bottle-to-bottle glass recycling).

Invention of the term “upcycling” is credited to Reiner Pilz, in a 1994 article, but it entered into the lexicon of eco-intellectuals following publication of a book with the name Upcycling, by Gunter Pauli, in 1996 in Germany, and the term became popularized in America by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in 2002, with their book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. These leaders of the recycling movement pointed out how new products can be made from discarded materials in unanticipated ways, reducing energy use and thereby cutting pollution.

The Ventura County Arts Council is currently seeking an upcycler to help them with the discards expected to result from the upcoming “Pianos in Public” program. The council is accepting donated pianos they can provide to “hosts.” People are invited to enjoy the pianos and play the pianos to death. The council is looking for opportunities to resurrect each of these dead pianos. If you have an idea and can pick up one of these pianos for upcycling, contact the Council at with your suggestions.

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The Eye on the Environment column is a public service of the Ventura County Public Works Agency, written by David Goldstein. This week, Paul Putignano, from Moore Associates, provided some of the text regarding Rideshare Week.