Green Living

  • Backyard Composting

    compost bin with vegetable scrapsComposting is nature’s way of recycling materials.  It is the natural breakdown of organic wastes by bacteria, fungi, worms, and other organisms under controlled conditions.  Besides conserving resources and diverting organic material from landfills, backyard composting can save you money.  By diverting your household’s food waste from the garbage, you can reduce the size and cost of your garbage container.

    Recipe for composting:

    Materials & Ingredients Needed:
    Compost container
    Stirring tool: shovel or pitchfork
    Water
    “Brown” compostable materials (see below for list)
    “Green” compostable materials (see below for list)

    Instructions for Successful Composting:

    1. Construct your compost container.  Select a dry, shady spot near a water source to place your compost bin.
    2. Add “green” compostable material.  This includes fruit and vegetable scraps, bread products, grass clippings, plant trimmings and weeds.  These materials are high in carbon.
    3. Add “brown” compostable material.  This includes fallen leaves, straw, sawdust, wood chips, and twigs.  These materials are high in nitrogen.
    4. Mix. Turn the compost with a stirring tool regularly; no more frequently than once a week.  This prevents unpleasant odors and quickens decomposition.  If strong odors occur despite regular turning, add a bulking agent (straw, sawdust or dry leaves).  Add water if pile seems too dry (compost should appear “damp” but not soggy).
    5. Use!  The result of composting is a dark, crumbly, earthy-smelling mixture that can be used as a fertilizer, mulch or in a potting mix.

    Helpful Hints

    • “Brown” compostable materials include fallen leaves, straw, coffee grounds, wood chips, twigs and sawdust.  These materials are high in carbon.
    •  “Green” compostable materials include weeds, grass clippings, plant trimmings and food scraps.  They are high in nitrogen.
    • The ideal ratio for “green” to “brown” material in your bin is generally considered to be a 50/50 mix (1:1 ratio).  However, 1:2 or 2:1 ratios will still allow your pile to compost.  Disproportionate amounts of “green” can lead to strong odors, and too much “brown” will dry out your pile and stop the composting process. 
    • Coffee grounds are high in both carbon and nitrogen, so they are categorized as both green and brown, depending on whom you ask.  Paper coffee filters can also be added to your compost pile.
    • Do not add the following items to compost container: grease, oil, fat, bones, dairy products, meat or pet waste.

    To get your own backyard composting bin:

    Information on building compost containers (Missouri Extension Services).

    The Dakota County Recycling Zonein Eagan sells compost bins.  Their number is: 651-905-4520.

    Check at your local garden center for compost bins.

    Check out a Sustainability Man video about composting:

     

  • Declutter Your Home

    Feel like you just have too much stuff cluttering up your home?  It's easy to accumulate things, but getting organized might seem like an insurmountable task.  Luckily, you have many resources for getting your unwanted things recycled and disposed of properly.

    Tips:

    • donation boxesSet aside a small amount of time to declutter rather than trying to do a marathon session--to avoid getting overwhelmed.  Try a goal of "spend 15 minutes a day sorting my office closet" or "1 hour a week cleaning the garage."
    • Have three boxes: "Keep" "Donate/Disposal" and "Hold".  The "Hold" box is for things you think you want to get rid of, but you aren't sure.  Put the "Hold" box in a storage space (attic, closet or garage), and after 30 days, anything you haven't removed from the box probably isn't something you're actively using--and can be donated or disposed of.
    • Go digital: photos and home videos can be transferred to a digital format to go on your home computer.  Even things like play bills, ticket stubs and letters can be scanned in.
    • Take photos of collections, then move them on.  Collecting things can be fun, but evaluate if an old collection is taking up too much space. If you still have the collection of teddy bears from your childhood, consider taking a photo of the collection to remember it by, then donating the items for the next generation to enjoy.  Or, keep one of your favorites if you think you'd like to display it. 

    Know where to throw--
    resources for disposing of common unwanted items:

     Appliance recycling

    Appliances
    [must be recycled]

    Battery disposal 

    Batteries, such as alkaline, button, rechargable, or car batteries [disposal]

    Building materials

    Building materials, such as doors, cabinets, bathroom fixtures, flooring, etc [reusable] [no longer usable]

     Carpet recycling

    Carpet [recycle] [disposal]

     Clothing reuse

    Clothing [thrift or consign]

     

    Confidential Documents
    [shredding services]

     

    Christmas Lights [recycle]

    electric household item recycling 

    Electric items, such as vaccuums, toasters, hair dryers, etc [recycle]

     Electronics recycling

    Electronics, such as TVs, VCRs, computers, etc [must be recycled]

     furniture disposal

    Furniture
    [in good condition]
    [no longer usable]

    Household goods 

    Household goods, such as kitchenware, decor, etc [donate]

     HHW disposal

    Household hazardous waste, such as paint, cleaners, automotive fluids, etc [special disposal]

     Mattress recycling

    Mattresses
    [in good condition]
    [no longer usable]

    medication disposal 

    Medication [special drop-off at police stations]

     Recyclables

    Recyclables
    [large quantities for drop-off]

     Scrap metal

    Scrap metal, such as metal weight sets, metal lawn furniture, metal car parts, etc [recycle]

     

    Shoes [reusable] [recycle]

     donation boxes

    Toys [reusable]

      

    For more information, or if you are interested in attending a Decluttering Workshop, call 952-895-4515 or email a DVR staff member 

  • Green Cleaners

    Green CleaningAccording to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), of the more than 75,000 registered chemicals, only a fraction has been tested for human health effects.  Improper use and disposal of these chemicals can have a negative effect on our health and the environment.  In the US, we generate 1.6 million tons of harmful household chemicals. The average home can accumulate as much as 300 pounds of household hazardous waste. Check out these tips for reducing the chemicals in your home and for saving money too.

    Green Cleaning Tips

    Read Labels. Reading labels can tell you a lot about the product and its possible health effects.  Watch for signal words like caution, warning, danger, poison, flammable, corrosive, & toxic.

    Use Cleaners Safely.Do not mix cleaners.  Use cleaners for their intended purpose.   Always test a formula first.  Wear gloves while using cleaners. Never mix chlorine with any cleaning agent.

    Dispose of Houshold Hazardous Waste Properly. Keep household hazardous waste out of drains, storm sewers, trash containers, and off of the ground.  Bring it to The Recycling Zone.

    All-Purpose Cleaner Recipes

    Option 1
    4 tablespoons baking soda
    1 quart warm water
    Dissolve baking soda in water. Apply with sponge. Wipe clean.

    Option 2
    1 teaspoon liquid dish soap
    1 quart warm water
    A squeeze of lemon
    Combine ingredients in a small bucket.
    Apply with a sponge or rag. Wipe clean.

    Option 3
    1/8 cup washing soda (or Borax)
    1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
    1/4 cup vinegar
    2 gallons hot water
    Mix ingredients in a pail or bottle.
    Apply with cloth or in spray bottle. Wipe clean. (Apply to floors with a mop.)

    For more recipes, visit the Dakota County webpage on green cleaning recipes.

  • Green Living

    Dakota County Recycling and Disposal Guide tree logoThe decisions we make every day can affect our natural resources and have a major impact on the planet. One way to lessen our impact is to consider the entire lifespan of products, from beginning to the end. Thankfully, Dakota Valley Recycling and Dakota County makes it easy to find proper disposal of our products during the end of life stage. 

    Responsible disposal of household items is necessary for a healthy environment--for clean air, water and land.  Dakota County now offers The Recycling and Disposal Guide, an online tool that helps determine the best way to get rid of your stuff so we can be good stewards of our environment. 

    The Guide includes the following:

    • Information on what can be recycled and how to recycle it
    • What items need to be kept OUT of the garbage because of their effect on our health and the environment
    • Options for reusing or donating

     

    View the Dakota County Green Guide

  • Minnesota Energy Challenge

    The MN Energy Challenge is run by an area nonprofit, Center for Energy and Environment.  The Challenge is a pledge to reduce energy use and save money in your household.  You can learn about the actions that you take, and then choose the ones that work for you.  The web site also features an easy-to-use action guide, an "ask the experts" section, and information on utility rebate programs.  Registration is free for all services.  Most important, however, is the Challenge itself.  Over 26,000 Minnesota households have already pledged to save money and energy!

    Find more information on the MN Energy Challenge web site!

    A few tips from the MN Energy Challenge:

    Biggest bang for your buck:

    • Sign up for your utility company's air conditioning load control program.
    • Insulate your attic.
    • Wash clothes in cold water.
    • Insulate walls.
    • Replace 20+ year old furnaces.

    Fun for families:

    • Ditch the car and walk or bike to get exercise and save energy.

    Lighting:

    • Flip off lights and unplug appliances when not in use.
    • Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL's.
    • Use holiday LED lights for your winter celebrations.
  • Rain Barrels

    water from gutters going into a rain barrelLawn and garden watering make up nearly 40% of total household water use during the summer. A rain barrel collects water and stores it for when you need it most -- during periods of drought -- to water plants, wash your car, or to top a swimming pool. It provides an ample supply of free "soft water" to homeowners, containing no chlorine, lime or calcium making it ideal for gardens, flower pots, and car and window washing.

    Why use a Rain Barrel?

    • Save Water. A rain barrel will save most homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months.
    • Save Money and Energy. Saving water not only helps protect the environment, it saves you money and energy (decreased demand for treated tap water).
    • Divert Water from Water Bodies.Diverting water from storm drains decreases the impact of runoff to streams and lakes.

    Ready-made rain barrels come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  They can be purchased from a number of companies including hardware stores and garden supply stores.

  • Vermicomposting

    worms for vermicompostingVermicomposting is the process of using worms to turn kitchen waste into a black, earthy-smelling, nutrient-rich humus.

    You Need 5 Basic Ingredients to Start Vermicomposting:

    1. A Container. Worm boxes can be purchased or made. Plastic storage containers are convenient and come in a variety of sizes. These containers are easily transported.  Never snap the lid shut tight. The lid should lie loosely on the bin.
    2. Bedding.Use shredded corrugated cardboard, shredded paper like newspaper, or commercial worm bedding which is available in sporting goods stores, but it is also more expensive.
    3. Water. Place the dry, shredded bedding in a large container and add water until it covers the bedding.  Squeeze the water out from the bedding as much as possible. Place the bedding in the bin and fluff. Your bedding needs to remain moist.  Mist if necessary.
    4. Worms. The worms used in vermicomposting are called redworms (Eisenia foetida).  You can order them through lawn and garden catalogs.  Keep the temperature between 55 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
    5. Non-Fatty Kitchen Scraps. Add vegetable & fruit waste, coffee grounds, egg shells, and tea bags.  Start slowly.  Gradually increase the amount of food.  Pull back a small amount of bedding and dump in the scraps. Cover the scraps with bedding.

    The worms will digest the kitchen scraps and bedding faster than any other compost method, passing through the worms' bodies and becoming "castings." In about 3-4 months, the worms will have digested nearly all the garbage and bedding.  The bin will be filled with a rich, black natural fertilizer. Worm castings contain five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus and 11 times more potassium than soil. Remove the castings from time to time.

    For more information go to www.wormlady.com.

Contact Us

13713 Frontier Court
Burnsville, MN 55337-3817
Phone: 952-895-4559

Dakota Valley Recycling

DVR is the partnership recycling department for the Cities of Apple Valley, Burnsville , Eagan and Lakeville that connects residents and businesses to recycling, composting and waste disposal information.