by Diana Siemer
Spring is the time to clean out and clean up. Instead of making it feel like work, discover all the opportunities that lie in your trash and waste. From inexpensive and fun summer projects you can do with your kids to helping the community, environment and even people around the world, make your trash powerful. Here are some spring cleaning steps to take all spring and summer long.
Compost Food Waste
Composting is a fun, educational and inexpensive project to do with your children.
“Composting only improves the soil so we have healthier plants and trees,” says Kathleen Rocco, education specialist at the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District. “It’s a hands-on activity where you can get dirty, learn about the life cycle of things and reduce the amount of waste you are creating.”
The Solid Waste District offers free, family-friendly workshops on composting, in addition to selling composting bins and materials.
Rain is a good thing, except when it overflows our waterways, collecting pollutants on its way. Reducing excess rainwater by using it in your yard can have a major impact on your local environment.
“A rain barrel is a small thing you can do to take some of that rain water out of our system,” says Amy Roskilly, conservation education specialist at the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). What’s more, using rainwater reduces your water bills and helps keep fluoride and chlorine out of the soil because chemicals from our faucet water can kill microbes the soil needs to thrive.
The SWCD holds free workshops on rain barrels and sells 60-gallon food grade barrels and kits at a fraction of retail prices. An upcoming workshop will be held April 9 in Garfield Heights. For more information on rain barrel workshops, as well as other fun workshops on topics such as green cleaning, rain gardens and pollinators, visit cuyahogaswcd.org.
Improving the quality of your space isn’t all work and no play. Making it pretty is just as important as making it clean. Once you get your rain barrel, a fun, affordable project is to make it beautiful.
Local artist Linda Zolten Wood runs the Collinwood Painted Rain Barrel Project in her community and says making them look good inspires others. Her painted rain barrels are on display at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo until May 11.
The exhibit raises awareness of the city’s free rain barrel program, which lets each local community development corporation office give out 20 free barrels on a first-come, first-served basis.
Those who receive a free
barrel can take Wood’s rain barrel painting workshop free of charge. Otherwise, she offers the workshop at a low cost to anyone who
wants to paint his or her barrel. For more information, visit paintedrainbarrel.org.
You’ve probably noticed Planet Aid’s yellow donation boxes around your community.
The group collects used clothing and resells it, using those funds to support projects in developing countries like Mozambique and Malawi.
“We support programs that help out the poorest of the poor, living on less than a dollar a day,” said Patrick Kearney, operations manager at Planet Aid Northern Ohio. “We have food security here. We really don’t know what it’s like to have nothing.”
For example, Farmer’s Clubs teach communities in developing countries sustainable farming skills so they can feed their families and sell the crops to make money to live.
For information on how you can thin your closets and help farmers in Africa at the same time, go to planetaid.org.
Plant a garden
Once you have your water and compost ready to go, use them to make an amazing garden.
If you need help getting started, check out local author and vice president of education at the Cleveland Botanical Garden (cbgarden.org) Renata Brown’s book, “Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play and Enjoy Your Garden.” The book’s step-by-step instructions and pictures will give you projects to do all year round. Each project requires mostly materials you can find around the house, encouraging recycling and reuse, and incorporates science and environmental responsibility lessons so kids are learning while they are having fun.