Water World

My friend John Cassani has an editorial/commentary in today's local newspaper, the News-Press.  John is a friend whom I've known for years, but rarely see face-to-face, because we live 50 miles apart.   The first time we met was at a South Florida Water Management District meeting about nine or 10 years ago, I think, when our estuary was being slammed with discharges of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee; harmful algae blooms abounded as a result.  Since then, we both have been and still are part of a group that receive regular emails on the subject of those awful discharges.
Our back yard in 2013:  Chowder Pond

The subject of John's commentary today is the importance of wetlands in south Florida.  As he explains, "Wetlands are the natural kidneys that filter pollutants from surface runoff. They attenuate flooding and recharge drinking water aquifers, key functions that help protect Florida in more ways than they are generally given credit for. For some, wetlands are looked upon as obstacles to development yet they provide the most cost effective way of filtering pollutants and buffering floods that facilitate sustainable development."

Sanibel Island is a unique barrier island because it has a fresh water slough running through the middle of it, with the associated myriad of wetlands.  It is a barrier island with a bit of the Everglades in the middle of it, in essence.

And Sanibel is part of the coastal estuary that is critical to Florida's environment and therefore its economy.  So we think about water quality -- a lot.  (I'd say we have "water on the brain," but that's a terrible pun, isn't it?)
Same pond, looking the other way, in October 2013.

I was therefore curious about a leaflet that came with the garbage disposal we just bought and installed.  This little leaflet claims that using a garbage disposal is good for the environment, because it keeps waste out of landfills, where that waste would produce significant greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, the leaflet published by the maker of garbage disposals must be biased.  So I checked out this slate.com article on this subject of whether garbage disposals are good or bad for the environment.

The bottom line?  It depends.  One of the important variables is how far your household garbage must be hauled to reach the disposal facility.  From way out here in western Sanibel, our garbage must be hauled over 30 miles.  But much of our garbage goes to a state-of-the-art trash burning power plant (one that is far better than the one we had in Columbus, evidently).  Then the ash is transported to the landfill. I don't know how all of that that factors into the equation.

I do know that in the summer off-season, the trash burning power plant is said to need more garbage to burn to meet the demand for the power it produces.

Many cities like New York and plenty of European metropolises have banned garbage disposals.  But New York removed the ban in 1997.
Night-blooming cereus

Yet we know that too many nutrients in waste water can cause harmful algae blooms.  Those blooms are a real plague when they happen in coastal Florida, and even in central Florida's fresh water bodies.

According to Jon Fisher, a data specialist at The Nature Conservancy, "While it may seem counter-intuitive, the difference between the two options [garbage disposal or landfill] is much smaller than some other choices we make. So first let’s look at two of those bigger choices that are more important than what you do with your scraps: minimize food waste and eat lower on the food chain."

Composting is a good idea; but in the south Florida environment, it is a little problematic due to all of the bugs that we have.  [Note: if you just can't tolerate bugs or alligators at all, please do not move to south Florida.  Instead, select a nice desert somewhere.]  I have, and will continue to, compost our daily coffee grounds, however.

I've found that buying whole chickens and roasting them is a good way for us to minimize some waste.  I save the bones, neck, liver, etc., in a ziploc bag in the freezer until I'm ready to make my own chicken stock -- essential for many sauces.  Cooleys don't waste chicken.

Buying fresh produce in just the quantity needed is another way we minimize waste.  We buy almost no processed foods, with which it is harder to precisely control quantity and with which you're often left with excessive packaging to dispose of or recycle.

But last night, when the garbage disposal was finally installed (after two trips to Bailey's hardware store for appropriate fittings) and the kitchen was cleaned up (two days without an operational kitchen sink is a recipe for a mess), we naturally decided to dine out.

We went to The Sandbar, on West Gulf Drive.  The restaurant was warmly welcoming even if overly air conditioned, and the special of the day, red snapper, was irresistible.  That fish was as good as it possibly could be!  Service was very nice and dignified, too.

Gator in our Chowder Pond, 2011.  Natural tannin causes the tea color water. 
The place was freezing, though. Tom went out to retrieve a jacket from the van, and then I used his extra shirt as a lap robe.  I knew this place was cold, so I'd brought a Chico's jacket that I'd used all summer in Paris, without once zipping it up all the way to the top.  But last night, I zipped it up all the way.

Yes, we're home in the land of air conditioning.  There's no doubt about that! 85 degrees F outside, and inside, we're bundled up in the restaurant booth!


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