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What is Mixed Waste?

  
  
  

Mixed WasteWhen a waste material contains radioactive as well as hazardous components it is considered a mixed waste.  According to the EPA, “mixed-waste can be generated anywhere radioactive materials are used in processes that also involve the use of chemically hazardous materials.”  Generally, however, they come from one of two sources.  The first is low-level mixed-waste which is created by commercial users.  The second is “low-level, high-level, and transuranic mixed-waste generated by the Department of Energy [source],” both are explained in detail below.  Because mixed waste includes both radioactive and hazardous material the treatment and regulation are even more complex than when handling either type of waste individually.

According to the EPA, “most commercially-generated (i.e., non-DOE) mixed waste is classified as low-level mixed waste (LLMW). LLMW is waste that contains low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) and hazardous waste. LLRW is defined as any radioactive waste that is not high-level radioactive waste, spent nuclear fuel, or byproduct material. LLMW is generated commercially in all 50 states at industrial, hospital, and nuclear power plant facilities in a number of processes such as medical diagnostic testing and research, pharmaceutical and biotechnology development, pesticide research, and nuclear power plant operations.”

As mentioned above, the United States Department of Energy produces three different types of mixed waste.  The EPA details the three categories as:

  • “Low-level mixed waste (LLMW) – [this waste type] results from research, development, and production of nuclear weapons. An estimated 226,000 cubic meters (m3) of DOE LLMW will require management over the next 20 years.
  • High-level mixed waste (HLW) - [this waste type] results from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel and irradiated targets from reactors. These wastes often contain highly-corrosive components, organics, or heavy metals that are regulated under RCRA. DOE has about 399,000 m3 of HLW stored in large tanks at four locations across the U.S.
  • Mixed transuranic waste (MTRU) - [this waste type] contains radioactive elements heavier than uranium and a hazardous waste component. MTRU is primarily generated from nuclear weapons fabrication, plutonium bearing reactor fuel fabrication, and spent fuel reprocessing.”

Mixed waste is regulated by both the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Atomic Energy Act (AEA).  Generally the regulatory bodies agree on requirements but if they do not AEA takes precedence.  That said, the Department of Energy is self-regulating with orders applying to both DOE sites and contractors.  These sites must comply with the Federal Facilities Compliance Act (FFCA) which was made into law in 1992.

In 2001, the EPA finalized the mixed waste rule.  This rule, “provides increased flexibility to generators and facilities that manage low-level mixed waste (LLMW) and technologically-enhanced, naturally-occurring, and/or accelerator-produced radioactive material (NARM) containing hazardous waste.”  It also addresses the differences in storage, treatment, and transportation rules between hazardous wastes and mixed wastes.

 

If you would like further information about mixed waste visit the EPA article on the subject, Mixed Wastes.   

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6 Tips for Green Travel

  
  
  

Green TravelLater today I will be hopping on a plane and heading to Boston for the weekend.  I’ve been excited about it all week and as happens often when I overthink things, I decided to learn about how one could make traveling more “green.”  I found that there are actually several terms for the idea including ecotourism, sustainable tourism, and responsible travel.  Wording aside, they boil down to the same basic goal; making travel easier on the planet. 

Since vacations are most often a time to relax I tried to make sure that nothing on this list would be too taxing.  Showing one more time that embracing a “greener” lifestyle does not have to come at the expense of convenience.

1. Book non-stop flights.  If possible, try not to have layovers when you travel by plane.  According to the Travel Channel, “a significant percentage of a plane’s carbon emissions come from takeoff and landing.”  So less layovers means less emissions in the air.

2. Rent a hybrid car.  The upfront cost of hybrid cars can be a deterrent when it comes to buying your own vehicle so use travel as a way to try one out.  Especially if you’re driving to your location this can help cut down on the amount of fuel you’ll use.

3. Stay in a “green” hotel.  When I went to Toronto a few years ago I stayed at a place called The Planet Traveler which boasts being Canada's Greenest Hostel.  So whether you’re on a tight budget or all expenses paid, you can likely find an earth friendly place to stay.  Check out the Green Hotel Association for ideas of places in several different states.

4.  The EPA recommends, “look[ing] for hotel accommodations and tours that carry environmental friendly certifications or memberships in green industry associations - such as Green Seal or Green Leaf…green hotels and tours [help by] reducing energy consumption through fluorescent lighting, instituting recycling programs, conserving water either through installation of energy star products or by asking patrons to reuse towels and by purchasing local organic foods. When hotels and tours meet these standards, they are certified as ‘green.’”

5. Leave the “do not disturb” sign on your door.  Doing so will mean that housekeeping will skip over your room for the day.  That way the sheets and towels you’ve barely used won’t need to be changed and washed unnecessarily.  Some hotels even offer a green incentive program for letting them skip over your room.

6. Live like a local.  To really get a feel for where you are visiting try doing things like the locals do.  Shop at independent stores and markets and take public transportation over renting a car.  You’ll both help cut down your travel footprint and get to experience the location to its fullest. 

And above all, try to remember the old addage, "take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints."  Happy and safe travels to you all. 

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How do you Clean Up an Oil Spill?

  
  
  

Gulf Oil SpillDid you know that in 2013 the world consumed about 90.4 million gallons of oil each day [source]?  Additionally, more than two thirds of the oil that is transported from producer to consumer is done so on supertankers via the sea [source].  That means that annually almost 22 billion gallons of oil could end in a spill.  And that doesn’t even take into account the oil that moves via underwater pipelines, offshore oil drilling rigs, coastal storage facilities, and refineries which also pose a risk.  So with all that potential for danger, I started to wonder what an oil spill actually means for the environment (outside of knowing it’s bad) and how they can be best managed.   

As Josh Clark of HowStuffWorks points out, “it's fortun­ate that oil and water mix like, well, oil and water.”  Because they don’t mix a spill will most always mean that a millimeter or so “slick” of oil will rest on the top of the water.  Occasionally in fresh water heavy crude oil will sink.  Once a spill happens time becomes the most important variable and helps to determine how a spill will be handled.

The EPA breaks oil spill cleanup methods into three different categories; Mechanical containment or recovery, chemical and biological methods, and physical methods. 

Mechanical containment and recovery is the most common method of cleanup.  For example, if cleanup crews can get to the site of the spill within an hour or two (and if waves, weather, and currents have been cooperative) containment and skimming may be used.  In this process large floating booms with skirts extending into the water are used to isolate the spill area and prevent the oil from spreading.  Then the oil can be skimmed from the surface, sucked into tanks, and properly disposed of.  Sorbent materials like peat moss, straw, hay, and sawdust may also be used in the processes to help absorb the oil. 

According to the EPA, “chemical and biological methods can be used in conjunction with mechanical means for containing and cleaning up oil spills. Dispersing agents and gelling agents are most useful in helping to keep oil from reaching shorelines and other sensitive habitats. Biological agents have the potential to assist recovery in sensitive areas such as shorelines, marshes, and wetlands.”   

If a spill is not stopped in time, or if it occurs close to the coast, physical methods will come into play.  These methods are used to clean up shorelines.  While natural processes like evaporation and oxidation will eventually get rid of spilled oil, the time it takes is far too long to allow.  Because of this, “physical methods, such as wiping with sorbent materials, pressure washing, and raking and bulldozing can be used to assist these natural processes [source].”  Biological agents can be used in these cases as well.  For example, “fertilizers like phosphorus and nitrogen are spread over the oil-slicked shoreline to foster the growth of microorganisms, which break down the oil into natural components like fatty acids and carbon dioxide [source].”

The final step is to try to keep wildlife away from the spill area.  This is done by employing things like floating dummies and balloons to frighten animals (and birds in particular) away from the site.  Obviously this is not a foolproof tactic which is why controlling oil spills as soon as possible is vital.

 

If you would like more information about oil spill cleanup we highly recomend reading the sources sited in this post.  The HowStuffWorks article, in particular, offers a great look into the process used for cleanups.   

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How Can I Celebrate Earth Day at Work?

  
  
  

Green WorkDid you know that Earth Day is just 12 days away?  This year will mark the third annual Earth Day celebration at Heritage!  We use the day to do a variety of earth related activities at our locations and to celebrate the earth.  As we have been planning for the big event I started thinking that we should share some ideas with our blog readers so maybe they can have a company Earth Day celebration as well.  So, whether you can take a day or just a few minutes, hopefully some of these ideas will help you to celebrate Earth Day at the office.

1.  Plant flowers or trees around your company campus.  This is a great way to get outside and to beautify the area around your workplace.  Plus if you plant a tree or some perennials the beauty will last for years to come!

2. Clean out old papers from your desk / office.  Try to leave your inner hoarder behind and clear out any papers you no longer need.  Toss them into the recycling bin and you’re ready to go for another year.

3. Adopt a highway.  The Adopt a Highway Corporation lets people or groups sponsor a local highway.  By sponsoring your company ensures that the Adopt A Highway Maintenance Corporation will keep that stretch of road clear of litter.  This means even if you can’t leave work for Earth Day your company can still be doing something to help the earth.

4. Sponsor a local park.  Many parks need people to help fund them and keep them in good shape.  Contact a park in your area to see if they have any projects your company could help with.  At Heritage we have helped with everything from painting of equipment to picking up litter and clearing out weeds.  This is another great way to get outdoors and really appreciate all that our earth has to offer.

5. Clean up litter around your company campus.  Even the most careful companies still end up with litter around the area.  Take some time to go out and walk around where you work and pick up any litter you see.  Big or small, any effort helps.

6. Raise money for a local “green” charity.  If you can’t get out to do green projects at work maybe you can help raise money for a local charity who could.  In Indianapolis we have donated to Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.  If everyone in your workplace donates even $1 it can help!     

7. Set up a carpool day.  Other options would be to walk or ride a bike into work for a day.  According to the EPA, removing 1 passenger vehicle from the road for 1 day can save over 32 pounds of CO2! [source]

Do you have any other ideas for how you could celebrate Earth Day at work?  We’d love to hear them so let us know in the comments section!  We wish you all a happy and helpful earth day! 

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Alternative Treatment for Labpack Wastes

  
  
  

Recently, we’ve been discussing Land Disposal Restrictions.  In particular, we have covered some of the alternative treatment standards which can be applied to certain types of waste.  These alternative treatment standards can be used in place of the preexisting numerical treatment standards for wastes which are not as amendable to typical standards.  So far we have covered the alternative standards for contaminated soils and hazardous waste containing debris.  The final example which we will cover today deals with lab pack wastes.     

Labpack WastesLab pack wastes are treated differently for land disposal because of the way in which they are generated.  According to the EPA, “laboratories commonly generate small volumes of many different listed and characteristic wastes. Rather than manage all these disparate wastes individually, laboratories commonly take advantage of regulatory provisions that allow them to overpack many small containers of hazardous waste into a larger drum. These containers are known as lab packs.”  What this means is that a labpack waste container could contain multiple different kinds of hazardous waste so the EPA needed to determine the best way to treat several different items at the same time.

In order to accomplish this, “ [the] EPA…assigned them an alternative treatment standard, incineration, that allows generators to apply one treatment standard for the entire lab pack rather than applying the treatment standard for each individual waste code contained within the lab pack (§268.42(c)). The primary condition for application of this alternative, however, is that the lab pack may not contain any of the heavy metal-bearing waste codes identified in Part 268, Appendix IV.”

So, by allowing labpack wastes to be disposed of via incineration the EPA made the process of working with hazardous chemicals less cumbersome for laboratories.  These regulations are further addressed in Subpart K of the waste generator regulatory requirements in 40 CFR Part 262.  The formal name of the update is “Alternative Requirements for Hazardous Waste Determination and Accumulation of Unwanted Material for Laboratories Owned by Colleges and Universities and Other Eligible Academic Entities Formally Affiliated with Colleges and Universities.” [source]

According to the EPA, “this alternative set of regulations is specifically tailored to hazardous waste generation patterns in academic laboratories.  It allows flexibility regarding where, at the eligible academic entity, the hazardous waste determination may be made, provided certain provisions are met that are designed to protect human health and the environment.”  You can read more about academic lab regulations here.

 

EPA sited information (unless otherwise noted) for this blog post was gathered from the EPA document, “Introduction to Land Disposal Restrictions.”  As always, this blog post is not intended to be comprehensive and it is always best to check with the EPA and local government for full, up-to-date, rules and regulations. 

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Could Changing Fonts Decrease Your Business Waste?

  
  
  

changing fonts saves moneyI’m sure that many of you have seen the image to the right in the last week.  The story behind it is that a 14 year old student named Suvir Mirchandani, while trying to come up with a way to cut down on the waste produced in his school, ran an experiment to determine the potential cost and ink savings of printing with different fonts.  Afterall, as Mirchandani says, "ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume," so the cost savings of using less ink could really add up! 

To quote CNN who initially ran the story, Mirchandani began by, “collecting random samples of teachers' handouts [and concentrating] on the most commonly used characters (e, t, a, o and r).  First, he charted how often each character was used in four different typefaces: Garamond, Times New Roman, Century Gothic and Comic Sans. Then he measured how much ink was used for each letter, using a commercial tool called APFill® Ink Coverage Software.  Next he enlarged the letters, printed them and cut them out on cardstock paper to weigh them to verify his findings. He did three trials for each letter, graphing the ink usage for each font.  From this analysis, Suvir figured out that by using Garamond with its thinner strokes, his school district could reduce its ink consumption by 24%, and in turn save as much as $21,000 annually.”

Since coming forth with this idea Mirchandani has seen both praise and some doubt.  The bulk of the doubt, however, seems to come from those who would discredit the claim that his idea could save the government millions.  While it’s true that the government’s printing processes differ enough to make Mirchandani’s method less useful, schools and businesses could still benefit greatly from adopting the practice. 

For example, if a company uses a serif font (like Times New Roman) they could save ink costs by switching to a sans serif font like Century Gothic.  That said, if a company decides to make the switch it is important to heed the warning of Thomas Phinney (a blogger with an M.S. in printing) concerning font x-height. 

According to Phinney, “Most scientific studies comparing typefaces first compensate by resizing the fonts to eliminate differences in the lowercase height (called x-​​height by us font geeks). This study failed to do that. As a result, they actually get results that are the exact opposite of other studies. Century Gothic has a very large x-​​height, so printed at the same nominal point size uses more ink than Times. Printed at the same x-​​height (as in other studies), it would use less” [source].  What this means is that if you decided to change to a font like Century Gothic you would want to use a smaller size than the standard 12pt.      

It seems to me that the idea is a good one but still in need of a little work.  On the one hand, saving ink (and possibly paper associated with printing at larger sizes) seems like a great idea.  On the other, do we risk making readability more difficult by doing so?  What do you think, readers?  Have you heard much about this story?  Do you think your business could benefit from changing the standard font you use?  Let us know in the comments section!

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LDR Treatment Standards for Contaminated Debris

  
  
  

Stone DebrisMuch like the treatment standards for contaminated soils, contaminated debris also have alternative treatment standards which can be used in place of the waste code treatment standards.  These alternative treatment standards (for contaminated manufactured items and environmental media of a certain size) can be found in section 268.45.  The EPA created these alternative treatment standards for use with items like bricks, rocks, and industrial equipment because while they can be contaminated with hazardous waste they “may not be amenable to the waste code-specific treatment standards in §268.40” (EPA).

Depending on the type of debris and the waste it is contaminated with, waste handlers can choose from a few different types of treatment technologies.  The EPA divided the different alternative treatment standards into three technological categories:

  • Extraction – Physical, chemical, and thermal forms of extraction.  Examples include abrasive blasting, water washing and spraying, and thermal desorption, among others.
  • Destruction – Includes biological destruction, chemical destruction (such as oxidation or reduction) and thermal destruction such as incineration.
  • Immobilization – Includes microencapsulation and sealing. (source)

When waste handlers use the alternative treatment standards they must be sure that the design and operating requirements set forth in §268.45 are met and that they treat for each hazardous waste contaminate or constituent.  If the waste handler wants to land dispose of the waste they have to make sure that the debris meet the performance standards in Table 1, §268.45.  The EPA provides the following example, “a contaminated boulder that is sandblasted to remove surface contamination must be treated to a ‘clean debris surface’ and at least 0.6 centimeters of the surface layer of the boulder must be removed.”  

After the contaminated debris has been treated “according to the specification of one of these technologies (EPA),” waste handlers may land dispose of it.  If, after treatment via extraction (like sandblasting) or destruction (like incineration), the debris no longer exhibits any hazardous waste characteristic it can be land disposed as nonhazardous or returned to the environment.  If hazardous contaminated debris are treated via immobilization (microencapsulation, for example) the implementing agency must make the determination on whether it can be land disposed as nonhazardous.

 

EPA sited information for this blog post was gathered from the EPA document, “Introduction to Land Disposal Restrictions.”  As always, this blog post is not intended to be comprehensive and it is always best to check with the EPA and local government for full, up-to-date, rules and regulations.  

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What Household Hazardous Wastes are in your Home?

  
  
  

HHW eBookA couple of weeks ago we posted about Green Cleaning Supplies that could be used for spring cleaning.  That made me think of what we can do with some of our chemical cleaning supplies if we no longer need them.  As the weather warms up, you will likely see a household hazardous waste event come to your area.  We’ve posted about HHW’s in the past but it’s always a good idea to get a refresher on valuable knowledge!

The EPA defines a household hazardous waste as, “leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients.”

  • Corrosive materials are any material that can cause skin damage to people or a substance that significantly corrodes metal.  Items like bleach, ammonia, and several household cleaners would fall into this category.
  • Toxic materials are poisonous meaning they can cause illness or death.  Vehicle fluids like antifreeze and gasoline are toxic.
  • Ignitable materials are those items that have the potential to ignite during routine handling due to friction or heat sources, or by contact with other chemicals.  Alcohol containing items are often ignitable.  
  • Reactive materials are those which tend to react spontaneously during routine handling, to react vigorously with air or water, to be unstable to shock or heat, to generate toxic gases, or to explode.  A common reactive combination is that of mixing bleach and ammonia which will expel a toxic gas [source].

Due to the potential dangers of these products, many cities have HHW events to provide a safe place for disposal of unneeded items.  If you are unsure about what items in your home may qualify as household hazardous wastes, we have put together a helpful eBook on the subject.  It details 10 different types of household hazardous wastes and provides information about what they are, why they are dangerous, and what you should do with them.  It also contains lists of items that fall into each of the 10 categories.  If you are interested in this eBook just clock the button below to be taken to the download form.

Download

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Contaminated Soil Treatment Standards

  
  
  

Contaminated SoilLast week we wrote about Universal Treatment Standards, why they were created, and what they aimed to achieve.  Today I’d like to cover a similar topic, treatment standards for contaminated soil.  When hazardous waste sites go through remediation they often generate contaminated soil which must then be handled as a hazardous waste if it contains a listed hazardous waste or exhibits a hazardous waste characteristic.  Because remediation wastes often have uncommon properties or are vast in volume treatment standards had to be reconsidered.  The issue was resolved by designating contaminated soil as a “unique treatability group,” subject to alternate treatment standards (EPA).

It is important to note that as with any hazardous waste, RCRA prohibits land disposal of contaminated soils until they have come to meet LDR standards.  What changed for contaminated soils was the ways in which they could treat the waste to meet the standards.  According to the EPA, “a facility may treat contaminated soil to meet the waste-specific treatment standard in §268.40, (i.e., the same standard the waste would have to meet if it was newly generated rather than found in soil) or to meet the soil-specific standards in §268.49. The soil standards mandate reduction of hazardous constituents by 90 percent, capped at 10 times the UTS. This means that if a 90 percent reduction of a particular constituent would bring the constituent concentration to below 10 times the UTS level, treatment need only achieve the 10 times UTS level. If the 90 percent reduction is higher than 10 times UTS, treatment need only achieve the 90 percent reduction.”

Waste handlers can also treat contaminated soils that exhibit a characteristic of hazardous waste with the standards mentioned above.  If after doing so the soil still exhibits a hazardous waste characteristic, however, it must be disposed of in a Subtitle C Facility.  This can happen because 10 times the universal treatment standard is occasionally still above the hazardous waste characteristic level.  If treatment drops the characteristic level far enough the soil can be disposed of in a Subtitle D facility.  Since soils contaminated with listed wastes (like the listed wastes themselves) will carry that listing forever they must be disposed of in a Subtitle C facility even after meeting LDR treatment standards.

The EPA notes that, “the soil treatment standards are promulgated pursuant to HSWA. Because the soil treatment standards are generally less stringent than current federal requirements, they will not go into effect in authorized states until the states adopt and become authorized for them, even though the soil treatment standards are promulgated pursuant to HSWA.”

“If a state is authorized to implement the LDR treatment standards for any given waste or constituent, and that waste or constituent is contained in contaminated soil that is subject to LDR, then, generally, the more stringent treatment standard for the as-generated industrial waste or constituent applies to contaminated soil until the state adopts and becomes authorized for the soil treatment standards. This would not be the case if the state implements state waiver authorities or other state laws to allow compliance with the soil treatment standards in advance of adoption or authorization. Similarly, if a state has adopted, under state law, an authorization for the requirement, and that waste or constituent is contained in contaminated soil that is subject to LDR, the more stringent state requirement continues to apply until the state adopts, under state law, the soil treatment standards.”

 

All information for this blog post was gathered from the EPA document, “Introduction to Land Disposal Restrictions.”  As always, this blog post is not intended to be comprehensive and it is always best to check with the EPA and local government for full, up-to-date, rules and regulations.  

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Urban Gardening, Have You Tried it?

  
  
  

Somerville Urban Gardening When I graduated from high school and moved to the city for college one of the biggest differences was being able to drive down the road and not see a field.  As many of you probably know, once you get out of the urban parts of Indiana you tend to find yourself surrounded on all sides by fields of varying crops.  At first, I found the change very refreshing.  But after being in the city for so long I now find myself missing some of the aspects of a more agrarian lifestyle.  After doing a little research, however, I learned that there are some great agricultural things you can do in the city and even in an apartment setting. 

The movement is appropriately called Urban Gardening or Urban Farming.  According to the Indy.gov website, “an urban garden is an area used to grow food in an urban setting. This can be accomplished in your own backyard, somewhere in your neighborhood or in a broader context. Urban gardens are distinct from those growing food in a traditional rural farm setting, but offers a way for urban people and neighborhoods to produce a food supply close to home. Many gardens are cropping up in vacant urban lots, at schools, churches and community centers to provide both food and educational opportunities for citizens of all ages.”  So how can you join the ever growing ranks of urban farmers?  Read on for a list of ideas.

1. Join a community garden.  Take a look at your city website or Facebook page.  There is a good chance that there is a community garden you can join.  If there isn’t, maybe you could spearhead one!  Community gardens are great tools for growing food, bringing people together, and teaching others about how food and plants grow.

2. Try container gardening.  This is an especially great idea for those of us who live in an apartment.  Did you know that you can grow a variety of produce in the area you have on your balcony or back porch?  Tomatoes, dwarf citrus trees, strawberries, blueberries, and a variety of herbs can all be grown in containers outside your apartment.

3. Create a garden in your back yard.  If your house in the city has a back yard you are in a great place to plant a garden!  I’ve seen people growing things from tomatoes and carrots to stalks of corn and pumpkins.  Do a little research to see which items to plant together and you could have produce for most of the summer!

4. Find a farmers market.  If you like the idea of urban farming but don’t think you have the green thumb to pull it off you can support those who do by buying your produce from a local farmers market.  Not only will the items probably taste better than those you could buy in a store, you’ll be supporting local farmers and helping to ensure they can keep going into the next year.

5. Spread the word about urban farming.  Let your friends and family know the benefits of urban farming.  It leads to fresher produce, cuts down significantly on transportation needed for delivery of produce, and it provides a fun and educational hobby for others in your city.

So whether you have a green thumb or not, there are a lot of ways you could get involved with urban gardening.  What do you think about growing produce in the city?  Do you think it’s something you’d try?  Maybe you have some tips for beginners! And who knows, maybe you’ll realize you have that green thumb after all.  Let us know in the comments section. 

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