Archive for August, 2009

Shawn’s Painting of the Week – 08/23/09

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009
From the RIverside Park in Port Jervis

From the RIverside Park in Port Jervis

A Living Building

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Building in this age requires addressing multiple environmental concerns. For the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, which specializes in holistic living,  those concerns mean designing beyond conventional codes and practices. Omega Institute recently unveiled a “living building,” which filters 5 million gallons of waste water each year through an indoor marsh and outdoor wetlands.

This $3 million project was the brainchild of Omega’s CEO, Skip Backus. Backus’ vision was to replace the center’s aging septic system with something more sustainable while providing an educational model for future projects and the 23,000 visitors to Omega each year. The Omega Center for Sustainable Living was conceived.

The OCSL may be the first green building to achieve the LEED Platinum certification and meet the Living Building Challenge, which is the highest standard possible for building performance. This means that the building provides all of its own electricity and heat through geothermal wells and solar photovoltaic panels. The building is constructed of reused materials and locally sourced concrete without additives.

The heart of the building is a 4,500-square-foot greenhouse containing a water filtration system called the Eco Machine. There is a concrete marsh that is 15 feet deep. Water bubbles through a lush flowering jungle containing plants, snails, microbes, algae and fungi that filter out nutrients, contaminants and organic material. But the process doesn’t start there. It actually begins in one of Omega’s 250 toilets or in a shower, sink or kitchen. A tiny spray of microbes helps to jump-start the composting process when the toilet is flushed.

All wastewater from the bathrooms and kitchens flows into an equalization tank, where solid waste is separated from liquid waste.
The equalization tank also helps to quell surges and spread out the flow evenly over the course of the day to keep from overwhelming the Eco Machine. This tank is an anaerobic environment, where microbes reclaim the water without oxygen.

The wastewater then flows horizontally through gravel and the roots of bulrushes, cattails and other plants that pull nitrogen from the water. Next, the water flows through the living building and the aerated lagoons, where it is cleaned in the constructed ecosystem. The water then is polished in a sand filter. Finally, the water is returned to the hydrologic system through a dispersal field. It also is used to irrigate landscaping and flush toilets.

This living sewer system has the capacity to service a small village at a cost far less than conventional pipe and water treatment sewers. Right now, many municipalities are looking at replacing aging sewer systems. The OCSL is a model for large-scale municipal projects. The Eco Machine mimics nature’s way of handling waste. A similar project could serve a single building, neighborhood or gated community. If we designed all our buildings to produce their own energy and heat, reclaim water and process waste, we could reduce our infrastructure costs — and our taxes — greatly. At the same time, we could conserve and reclaim water, which quickly is becoming our most precious natural resource.

Living buildings represent a human commitment to changing our shortsighted and self-serving way of life to be more in harmony with nature and live more sustainably.

Shawn can be reached at

Stupid is as Stupid Says

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

By Bob Gaydos

 A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to indulge a bit of fatherly pride. (There will be some personal bragging here, but I do have a more universal point if you bear with me.) My oldest son, Max, was among 52 students at Pine Bush High School who participated in a Literacy and Education Academy for four weeks this summer. The focus of the course was diversity. That is, how to teach diversity. The students were taught and, in turn, taught other students the value of tolerance and the benefits of living in a diverse society. This is not your usual high school curriculum.

 I report proudly that Max and the others took to it with enthusiasm and culminated their lesson with a diversity fair which they planned, organized and presented on their own. A true growth experience for all concerned, capped by a ceremony at SUNY New Paltz, which co-sponsored the class and awarded three general education credits for graduates.

 Which brings me to my point. The two teachers assigned to the academy are among the best at Pine Bush and the kind to which most students can relate. They enjoy their work and it shows. I like and respect them both. But at New Paltz, in summing up the class, one of them noted that, in response to a local newspaper story on the diversity fair, a few negative comments had been posted on the online version. Basically, three people too gutless to include their real names on their comments trashed it as a waste of money and an effort to promote homosexuality. The teacher admonished the students not to let these remarks spoil their experience and offered that everyone is entitled to an opinion. And she said, “There is no such thing as a stupid opinion.”

 Sorry, but that is pure nonsense. If 40-plus years in journalism taught me anything, it is that our world is awash in stupid opinions. Today, they are more evident than ever. You can read them anytime on the Internet. And you can hear them daily on talk radio and television. On and on, mindless jabbering about important issues by people with no regard for the facts or, worse, willful disregard for them. And stupid opinions can lead to stupid behavior.

 As Exhibit A, I offer Sarah I-will-exploit-any-member-of- my-family-at-any-time-for-my-personal-gain-and-will-say-anything-I-think-will-make-like-minded-people-too-lazy-to-check-the-facts-agree-with-me-but-I-really-can’t-take-another-year-and-a-half-as-governor-of-Alaska-so-I’m-quitting-the-job-to-which-I-was-elected-so-I-can-make-more-money-offering-my-opinions-on-a-heckuva-lot-of-stuff-I-know-nothing-about Palin.

 You want a stupid opinion? Palin’s allegation that President Obama wants to include a government-run “death panel” as part of the reform of health care not only ignores the facts of the proposed benefit – which said merely that people should have the option to confer with a doctor to make sound end-of-life decisions and that the consultation would be covered by insurance – but conveniently ignores the fact that Palin herself made such a recommendation herself a couple of years ago. And, it goes against everything she has known to be true about her country, of which she is so proud.

 Does she really believe that any American president would ever propose creating something as heinous as “death panels” to decide who lives and dies? Would she ever have the guts to accuse Obama to his face of such a plan? Not likely. Easier to lob Facebook bombs from Alaska.

 This suggests that Palin’s opinion may not have been so much stupid as evil. To make such a charge when you know it not be true is beyond cynical politics. But the people who heard it and repeated it without checking the facts on it were, in fact, spreading a stupid opinion, just like those people who parrot anything Rush Limbaugh says or the folks commenting on the diversity training. The common denominator, obviously, is fear, which is the basis of most stupid opinion. It is easier to believe an outrageous lie sometimes than to struggle to get all the information and resolve an honest difference of opinion. Then, of course, there’s the politics of attacking someone because you don’t like him. Because, maybe, he’s different from you and somehow threatens you, but you just don’t know how.

 The point is that opinions that sound outrageous on their face are probably outrageous beneath their outer shell of anger and bias. Yes, everyone has an opinion. But, while all men and women may be considered to have been created equal, not all opinions are equal. Opinions can be rooted in rumor, fear, twisted facts and, yes, hidden agendas. The “death panel” reports were created by Obama foes who oppose any health care reform, oppose abortion and describe him as an advocate of euthanasia. The New York Times recently identified some of those: The Washington Times, a conservative newspaper which has compared Obama to the Nazis, the conservative American Spectator magazine and former New York lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey, whom I think I am safe in calling a wack job. The Internet bloggers and anonymous e-mailers picked up the undoucmente4d charges charge and ran with them, egged on by insurance companies (who actually do make life-and-death decisions) who stand to see their profits reduced by health care reform.

 These opinions are not equal to those formed after research and thoughtful discussion on the topic. When there is no evidence, no basis in reality, they are downright stupid and ought to be ignored to death, not given equal footing.

 I went looking for some support for my opinion here (even though I felt I was on solid ground) and came across Elsa Scheider’s web site: Elsa’s word story image idea music emporium. In the idea portion of the emporium, the former teacher writes at length about the notion that all ideas are equal (there’s no such thing as a stupid opinion). She says this is absurd. As proof, she writes that she asked a class of students who believed the all-ideas-are-equal argument if they would accept her opinion that all ideas were not equal.


 If they said yes, she asked how could they believe any of their opinions are right or wrong if opposite opinions are equally right or wrong?

 More to the point, she noted that “if all opinions are equal, it follows that the opinion that all opinions are not equal is just as good as the opinion that all opinions are equal. Yes equals no.”

 Most students refused to accept her opinion, instantly making their opinion
irrelevant. And stupid.

Bob can be reached at

A Whiff of Fascism in Warwick

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

By Michael Kaufman

It seems like this year we have been inundated with a plethora of 40th anniversary articles and celebrations, covering everything from the Apollo moon landing to the 1969 Mets to Woodstock. This post might also have been about Woodstock but for something that happened in Warwick Saturday. And to be honest I have to admit I don’t have much to say about Woodstock: My friends and I—having turned on, tuned in, and dropped out from “the Establishment” prior to 1969—elected to pass. We didn’t want to fight the traffic. Besides, we heard it was going to rain.

So my contribution to the anniversary collection is about something far less festive. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the expulsion from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) of Lyndon LaRouche (then known as “Prof. Lyn Marcus”) and his followers. LaRouche had been chair of the radical student organization’s National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC). The expulsion of LaRouche and the NCLC from SDS may be said to mark the beginning of the violent, racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, and homophobic cult that has been in continuous operation under his direction ever since.

Two LaRouche operatives were in Warwick Saturday, where they set up a table in front of the post office, collected signatures on a petition, solicited donations, and distributed a 16-page pamphlet with an article by LaRouche decrying “Obama’s Nazi Health Plan.”

The cover features a doctored photograph that places President Obama beside Adolf Hitler, who smiles at him as a group of admirers look on. A smaller version of the same photo appears on the back cover with the caption, “Obama’s HMO Policy Is Killing Your Grandmother.”

 Among several large posters displayed was one depicting the president sporting a Hitler moustache. A large swastika adorned another. (Some of the same posters have been showing up at town-hall meetings around the country, courtesy of the LaRouche Web site, which encourages viewers to print out copies.)

Sadly, some unsuspecting passersby expressed enthusiastic approval of the display, thanks, in part, to another message prominently expressed, namely, justifiable outrage at the Wall Street bailouts. And in explaining their position on healthcare reform, the two LaRouche supporters portrayed themselves as proponents of a single-payer national health system. Their calm demeanor seemed a far cry from the offensive visual messages and bellicose writing that characterize their literature. The opening sentence of the pamphlet begins with LaRouche’s words, “Since his visit to hug the wicked little Queen in London…” (LaRouche has accused Queen Elizabeth of controlling the international heroin trade.) 

Many Warwick residents objected to the Nazi imagery. “My mother lost most of her family in Auschwitz and barely escaped the gas chambers herself,” said a woman who took part in a hastily organized counter demonstration and asked not to be identified.

“I am offended by the literature portraying President Obama, a black man, as a Nazi and buddy of Hitler. Such propaganda distorts history. Hitler and his regime killed millions in the name of Aryan superiority, and it stands history on its head to insert Obama’s picture into a Nazi rally scene or to compare his health plan to Nazi war crimes or tactics.” The images also drew angry shouts from two African-American men and several other men who appeared stunned when they came upon the scene. 

Nevertheless, a surprising number of motorists honked horns and shouted support as they drove by. And more than a few men and women eagerly made donations and signed petitions. Thus it would be a mistake to dismiss LaRouche and his followers as fringe characters with no chance of achieving success. They have already succeeded in adding to the confusion and hate that already characterizes the raucous national debate over healthcare reform.

“In a democracy based on informed consent, to not understand the nature of the LaRouche phenomenon is a dangerously naive rejection of the lessons of history—because Lyndon LaRouche represents the most recent incarnation of the unique 20th century phenomenon known as totalitarian fascism,” wrote investigative journalists Chip Berlet and Joel Bellman in “Fascism Wrapped in an American Flag,” a three-part report issued by Political Research Associates in 1989.

 “His view of history is paranoid,” they continued. “His economic theories are similar to Italian Fascism. His conspiratorial views are laced with racial and cultural bigotry and a large dose of anti-Jewish hysteria. His zealous storm troopers are motivated by an internal organizational structure that is to politics what the blitzkrieg was to international diplomacy…the totalitarian movement. History teaches us that to ignore or dismiss such a person as an ineffectual crank can have devastating consequences.”

 Michael can be reached at

Health Care: Fear and Confusion

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

By Jeffrey Page

Here’s what I discovered at a packed public meeting on health care reform Monday night in Greenwood Lake.

First off, a large majority of those attending oppose the current proposed changes.

Second, there was a lot of misinformation, some genuine, some for effect. The host, Assemblyman Greg Ball, who wants to unseat Rep. John Hall next year, called for civility but at no time in the first hour did he step in to correct even the most blatant misstatements.

Not long after Ball’s message about civility, a woman brandished a sign declaring: “Pelosi’s doctor should implant a tongue depressor and wire her jaw!!” Which was no less civil than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s idiotic likening of some critics of health care reform to Nazis, a claim that infuriated any fair minded person.

A man said, “I resent the administration’s comparing me to a brown shirt or a Nazi.” This was an artful way of slandering President Obama because neither he nor anyone else in his administration made any such comparison. Pelosi of course is not in the administration.

People sounded angry, confused and scared, but mostly angry especially with Obama. One man unhelpfully called the current proposals an “obamination.”

“Your postal clerk will be your doctor,” another man said.

The words “socialized medicine” were used a lot. A man asked, “What is socialism?” and answered himself that under socialism you must justify the air you breathe. Then he said “socialism is worse then slavery” and quickly backtracked to stick in the disclaimer “as evil as slavery was.” Socialism doesn’t give a damn about people, he said, but at least in slavery the owners were concerned about the health of the owned and thus made sure they were well-fed and clothed.

We were told that “elitists” promoting health care reform want the rest of us to drive around in fuel efficient cars as they travel in SUVs and private jets. The elitists were never identified. Still, there were cheers.

A man said the actress Suzanne Somers was from Canada and can attest to the failings of the Canadian national health system because she and several members of her family have suffered with cancer. But Somers was born and brought up in San Bruno, Calif.

We were informed that government control of health care delivery will allow bureaucrats to kill old people, kill special needs people, kill premature babies, kill the sick.

Then came the line that the government can’t run the DMV but wants to control our health. Health care reform would put clerks and bureaucrats in charge. The DMV may make the final decisions on your health care and it could be a postal clerk who’ll be your doctor, sell you a sheet of stamps, a $25 money order and an appendectomy.

A major fear is the business about “death panels” being spread by Sarah Palin. Hers is the shameless lie that really scares the hell out of some older people: The government will decide when you’ve had enough treatment and pull the plug.

A man who said he suffers with pancreatic cancer, heart disease and diabetes – and who, by the way, says he’s 90 to 95 percent satisfied with his Medicare – said he doesn’t want government involved in his end-of-life decisions.

Some people were concerned that reform will subsidize health insurance for illegal aliens, but Hall says in his web site that the proposals specifically prohibit this.

Several other people called for tort reform but failed to address the question of what happens when they go for a kidney transplant and the surgeon removes the wrong kidney.

Some other things I learned were that a preponderance of the crowd were older people – I’m one of them – with concerns about what will happen to Medicare should health care reform come to pass. Obama puts the cost of reform at $1 trillion over 10 years. Does Medicare funding get reduced to pay for total reform? And if so, what happens to the quality of older people’s health care?

This issue is so complicated, so politically charged and ultimately so important that we have to slow things down. President Obama may want quick Congressional action but he can’t have it. Not when it’s clear that 300 million Americans need more time to understand what reform is about.

Hall wasn’t at Greenwood Lake. It was Ball’s political show.

But if these two guys want to be helpful, it’s time to stop playing to the converted. We need Hall and Ball to talk with each other. A Hall-Ball debate should be in a quiet room. It should be televised. It ought to have no moderator but just two men swearing to stick to the truth.

Jeffrey can be reached at

Layaway is the New Black

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

By Beth Quinn

Those of you under the age of 30 might have never heard the word “layaway” before. It means “pay for something before you bring it home.”

Weird, huh.

Layaway went the way of the dinosaur with the advent of credit cards, but I’ve come to find out that it’s now making a comeback. Our nouveau poverty is making the idea of layaway cool again.

Let me explain how it works. When you want to buy something but don’t have enough money to pay for it, the store helps out by holding your purchase while you gradually pay it off. Once it’s all paid for, you can have it.

I first realized that layaway has now been re-invented when I saw a big banner in the window of Michael’s Appliance Center in Middletown last week:


it said.

“Are you kidding me?” I said to my husband. “They’re offering layaway! I haven’t seen layaway since Playtogs closed.”

More catch-up needed, I think, for those of you under the age of 30 and those who weren’t born here. Playtogs was Middletown’s first discount center, located out on 17M. It’s been closed for years, but that doesn’t mean it’s forgotten.

To this day, when someone asks one of us home-growns for directions, we often begin by saying, “Well, you know where Playtogs used to be, right? So you go past there heading toward Goshen and then you ….”

If the driver seeking directions doesn’t know where Playtogs used to be, oh well. He just has to stay lost, or seek help from someone who also doesn’t know where Playtogs used to be and can give directions from someplace that still exists.

But anyone who ever shopped at Playtogs knows why it comes to mind when you think of the word “layaway.” If you bought something there and couldn’t pay for it all at once, they’d hoist it up to the ceiling where it would endlessly circle the store on revolving racks until you came back with the money to rescue it from retail limbo.

On any given day, you could look up at the ceiling and see hundreds of items hanging on hooks: dresses, tennis rackets, shoes, hair dryers, underwear, jewelry boxes, tires, nighties.

I once had a pair of suede dress boots up there for six weeks. I’d go in once a week to make a payment and wave to them as they swung by. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see them come down once they were all mine, paid for in full.

Layaway gradually went out of style to be replaced by credit cards, instant credit, store credit – buy now, pay later. The fun of anticipation was replaced with the temporary thrill of instant gratification – take home now, no payments for 12 months. The thing’s worn out by the time you have to pony up for it.

But now, layaway is making a comeback. Frank Dragone, sales manager for Michael’s Appliance Center, said they started offering a layaway plan this year for the first time. The store holds your purchase for you until you can pay it off. No fee. No interest.

And the concept is a hit. “A lot of people come in and say, wow, we haven’t seen a layaway sign in years, and they think it’s great,” said Dragone. “Some people are starting to accept the idea that they can’t always have what they want right away.”

He said the store has about a dozen customers gradually paying off layaway items right now. “But others, no,” he said. “They want it now, so they take out a charge card. And of course there are sometimes emergencies. If you need a new washer, well, sometimes that can’t wait.”

Some of the big box stores are offering layaway, too, although sometimes there’s a fee for the service, which is not exactly in the Playtogs spirit. Online stores are starting to catch on, too. There’s now,, – you get the picture.

Layaway gives people a cooling off period to figure out the difference between what they need and what they want. Sometimes, when you walk away from a layaway item, you realize you didn’t need it after all. You can always change your mind if you haven’t already taken something home and folded, spindled, mutilated or otherwise ripped, dented or ruined it before the first payment is even made.

In today’s economy, losers are the ones running up credit cards. The cool kids know that instant gratification just isn’t fashionable anymore. They’re waiting for something until they know they really need it – and they know they can pay for it.

As for those elephant bell bottoms I thought I so desperately needed decades ago, well … I changed my mind after I left the store. I think they were still circling the ceiling years later when Playtogs closed its doors for the last time.

Beth can be reached at

The Travels of Zoe, the Wonder Dog

Monday, August 10th, 2009

By Carrie Jacobson

Chapter 10zoezest1

The story so far: Zoe, a mostly blind lhasa apso, and Kaja, a big red German shepherd/chow, have crossed a bridge over the Delaware to Barryville, on their way to find James Dunning, Zoe’s owner.

Meanwhile, Samantha and Ashton Morrone, a brother and sister who live in Barryville, are finishing a project in their yard on the banks of the river.

The sun is low in the sky and Ashton and Samantha are working on the raft. Right now, it’s more like a raft than a fort, and Ashton’s glad about that, because the raft part is the part that really excites him. Anyone can have a fort, but no one that he knows has ever had a raft.

Oh, sure, the people go by on the river all the time in their rafts and canoes and kayaks, but they don’t count. This raft, he and Samantha made it with their own hands, and their dad has always told them that anything they make with their own hands is five times as good as anything they buy in a store. Even vegetables, Dad says, though as far as Ash can tell, carrots and broccoli both taste bad, and it doesn’t matter whether they come from the garden or the store or the farmer’s market.

The raft is pretty big. Most of it is two doors that washed down the river in the last flood, and then there are logs and branches and pieces of wood. They’ve nailed some of the wood together, and used rope to lash other pieces on. The raft is probably about 10 feet by 6 feet, big enough for both of them to lie down at the same time. They’ve put put a couple logs upright, to sit on, and these they’ve fastened with angle irons that they found in the barn. There’s a crate, too, that they found along the river, and they’ve nailed this into the raft, lined it with a black plastic garbage bad and found a piece of wood to cover it.

On the bank of the Delaware, below their house, they’ve hidden the raft – made it a fort – with walls of reeds and brush. Over the top is a large piece of a blue tarp, another remnant from the river. As the sun drops, Samantha is working to fasten uprights to the log seats and the box. She figures if she can do this, they can use the tarp out on the river, for shade, and also for a sail.

Samantha can hear their mother singing with the radio, in the kitchen of their house. Mosquitoes are coming out now, and it’s starting to get dark. Ashton is up in the barn looking for more nails.

Samantha hears something in the brush. She stops moving and stays still. Very still. She’s hardly breathing, she’s so still.

The noise comes again, closer this time. A scratching, a rustling. Maybe there’s a growl, but maybe not. Maybe it’s nothing. Her mother is singing some silly song from a century ago, when she was a kid, and Ash is looking for nails, and the river is making its regular noises, and this is probably not a bear. But she stays still, anyways.

And then, with a little more rustling, a dog appears. It’s a big dog, a big red dog, with big ears and huge brown eyes. Its long hair is matted in places, and there are brambles and seeds in the red coat, but it’s a pretty dog, such a pretty dog – and Samantha falls in love at that very first moment.

She watches the big red dog, and then she sees there’s another dog, a little dog with a coat of brown and tan and black and white, and the little dog is nosing close to the big dog, following the big dog out of the bushes – and then the little dog runs headlong into a tree, and falls, and tumbles down the slope until she rolls into a pine tree and that stops her. She gets up and shakes herself off, and the big dog walks down the slope – keeping an eye on Sam – and sniffs the little dog, everywhere, and pushes with her nose until the little dog is headed downriver.

“Come here!” Sam calls to them. “Come here, dogs, come here!”

The red dog looks at her, then looks away, but Sam keeps calling. Then she gets an idea. She and Ashton have been hiding food down here for when they take their trip, and Sam crosses the raft, and opens the plastic bag inside the crate, and pulls out a sugar cookie. She breaks it in half and waves it toward the dogs.

“Come here, doggies, come here! Cookies! Cookies”

The big dog looks down the river again, and then turns back toward Sam. The big dog sniffs the air, once, twice, and then nudges the little dog around, and the two of them walk toward the girl.

But what Sam doesn’t know is that the dogs aren’t the only ones watching her.

Carrie can be reached at

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 08/17/09

Monday, August 10th, 2009


Eighty percent of the onions grown in New York state come from the Black Dirt Region. Its 26,000 acres were a flood plain whose soil was enriched by the decay of vegetation over the centuries. In time, immigrants from Poland and other eastern European countries drained the swampy soil and reclaimed it for agriculture.

Plants grow in this soil even in the winter. I made this painting in December; it will be one of the paintings in the show I’m having with George Hayes in September at the Wallkill River School Gallery, Route 17K, Montgomery. For price information, to get on my mailing list, or to find out more about the show, please email me at

Shawn’s Painting of the Week – 08/17/09

Monday, August 10th, 2009
Mist Over Rogowski Farm (Pine Island, NY) by Shawn Dell Joyce

Mist Over Rogowski Farm (Pine Island, NY) by Shawn Dell Joyce

Disposing of the Disposable Mentality

Monday, August 10th, 2009

By Shawn Dell Joyce

“Reduce, reuse and recycle” is the new mantra, but we also must add “rethink” and examine our disposable mentality.

The “disposable mentality” of cheap goods and lots of them has dictated American consumerism for the past 20 years. Consumer goods are produced so cheaply that it is often less expensive to buy new things than have broken things fixed. A prime example: computer printers. Many printers cost less than the ink cartridges they contain. This encourages people to buy new printers instead of replacing the ink cartridges.

As a result, we see office equipment, appliances, televisions, outdated VCRs and other consumer goods dotting the curbsides. These perfectly usable consumer goods clog up our landfills and waste our resources. Some countries are stopping this disposable deluge by requiring that consumer products be designed for reuse and disassembly.

In 2001, Japan’s appliance-recycling law took effect. It prohibits the disposing of major appliances, such as televisions, air conditioners and washing machines. Instead, consumers pay fees to recycling firms to disassemble the products. The result has been consumer pressure on manufacturers to build easily recyclable appliances.

The European Union requires manufacturers to pay for recycling electronic equipment and disposing of toxins. That has slowed the rate of planned obsolescence in consumer goods, such as trendy cell phones that seem to need replacing every year. Some manufacturers, including Nokia, are designing their phones to be easily disassembled and reused.

Some American companies are finding that it is cheaper to accept back used consumer goods and recycle them than to buy raw materials. Airline companies, such as Boeing, are finding that it is cheaper to recycle used jets than to mine as much aluminum as they contain.

Remanufacturing is another industrial trend that is beginning to catch hold in the U.S.
Caterpillar, a heavy-equipment manufacturer, accepts back its spent diesel engines and carefully disassembles each one preserving the parts. The engines are rebuilt, with broken and worn parts replaced. That results in new engines and higher profits for the company.

Some new companies and nonprofits are emerging in the reuse of building materials. As lumber, piping and glass become more expensive, it becomes more profitable to reuse parts of buildings than to demolish whole structures, as was common practice. Habitat for Humanity has set up several “ReStores” around the country, where deconstructed building parts are available at low costs.

Want to change the disposable mindset in your household?

—Don’t buy anything unless you really need it. Can you make do without it? If not, can you find it used at a garage sale, through Craigslist or The Freecycle Network or borrow it from a friend?

—Pre-cycle! Purchase items with the least amount of packaging. Buy items that can be recycled, such as Tom’s toothpaste, the only toothpaste tube that can be recycled.

—Guerilla recycle! Take apart the layers of pet food bags, and discard the plastic inner liners. More than a pound of paper can be recycled from one pet food bag!

—Items in packaging that combines paper with metal or plastic — such as juice boxes, milk cartons, paper bags lined with foil, and Bubble Wrap mailers — are all un-recyclable.

—Ask manufacturers to take back products that are spent. For example, most printer ink cartridges can be returned for a discount; why can’t printers be returned, as well?

Shawn can be reached at