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Waste Not, Want Not

by on September 14, 2015 6:00 AM

As the saying goes “waste not, want not.”

I am a self-admitted conservationist.

I turn out lights when I am not in the room.

I wait until the dishwasher and clothes washer and dryers are full before running them.

We keep our heat low in the winter, don’t have air conditioning in our house and recycle what we can.

We needed new in cartridges for our home printer this weekend. Our printer is fairly new but the scan option has never really worked that well, especially with my PSU laptop. When we got to Wal-Mart, we found out that buying a whole new printer (with the same features as our original printer) was going to be cheaper than buying replacement cartridges. 

In our world of conservation, being aware of our impact on the environment and just common sense does a full printer (with cartridges) being cheaper than just cartridges make any sense?

There is so much more we can be doing to “waste not, want not.”

Several years ago, the powers that be at Penn State decided that we could save a lot of waste by recycling more so they did away with our office garbage cans. I was skeptical. I’m all about making the effort, but seriously? After I get done eating my lunch at my desk, if there are baggies or foil or even food left over, was I really supposed to get up and walk out to the hallway and not only throw the materials in the appropriate bin but also compost what I don’t eat?

Please accept this as my apology for being cynical and for acknowledging that old dogs can learn new tricks.

Using the multiple bins in the hallway that are marked specifically for mixed paper like computer paper and newspapers, plastic, foil and metal, I use a can in my office to make my trips to the hallway easier. Yogurt cups. Plastic spoons. Plastic bottles. Empty snack bags. I also recycle copies, post-it notes that I’m done with, the Daily Collegian and the numerous magazines and mail cards that we get as junk mail.

I am frankly surprised at how little goes into the “Are you sure?” aka the actual trash bin.

Lo and behold, I am finding my new found habits are taking hold at home. My family teases me when they see me breaking down cereal boxes or empty boxes to put out with our weekly recycling. “Mom, you know that those people on those hoarder shows always start with recycling.” Smart Alecks.

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, limiting waste and what we send to the landfill is a good idea. Even better is being able to save some money by limiting our use of our resources.  

With some help from our local officials, there is movement afoot to find savings and to conserve in new areas.

Homeowners and businesses in the Centre Region are asking the University Area Joint Authority (UAJA), the agency that takes care of our wastewater, to bill us based on use like we are billed for our water use. Although I live in Patton Township in a neighborhood with a well and a septic system that we have to manage, our first house in Ferguson Township what we now rent out falls under the jurisdiction of the UAJA. Each quarter we receive a bill for our wastewater use.

Wastewater management outside of the borough (and within the UAJA’s growth boundaries) bills each residence the same – whether you live in a 1800 square foot half of a duplex or in a 5000 square foot home. Regardless of the number of residents in that home (and the number of residents using the shower, toilets, washing machines, etc.), the bill from the UAJA is the same for residence. This system seems to offer no incentive for people to conserve.

So for our rental property in Ferguson Township, if a family with 10 children moved in, I would pay the same for the wastewater bill as I would if a single professional lived in the same space.

Local businesses aren’t metered either. Each year in April, businesses and other commercial entities must send it a report indicating key features of their business (how many employees; how many seats in the restaurant; how many chairs in the beauty salon, etc.). From that, the UAJA determines the bill based on equivalent dwelling unit (EDU). Restaurants with more seats but fewer customers and use could conceivably be billed more than a smaller restaurant with greater use of the system.

There is some buzz going on around town that we should be taking the same caution with our wastewater use (generally linked to our water use). The theory is that based on a metered system we might be conserve more and use less.

Most of us turn off the lights in a room when we leave it to save on our electric bill. We don’t leave the water running when brush our teeth so we can save on water. When use is tied to how much we are charged, many people will make the effort to conserve.  

The system has apparently been working in the State College Borough for several years and the Borough has seen parallel reduction in water and wastewater.

People who are interested in learning more about the proposed change to the billing system for the can contact the University Area Joint Authority. The next UAJA board meeting will be held on Sept. 16 at 4PM at the UAJA offices at 1576 Spring Valley Road off of Shiloh Road in State College.

In the meantime, I have a used printer-scanner-copier that I’m not using. All it needs are new cartridges. Let me know.

Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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