Trash Creates Treasure and Savings with Water Smarts

BARRELS OF RAIN: In Cary, Ind. artists face off in a contest for the prettiest rain barrel. Whatever your space, there’s a rain barrel right for you. A few great research resources include and

Growing up, my mother kept the Lord’s Prayer taped inside a cabinet door in our kitchen. These days, I better understand why. Some days, life overwhelms me with the issues I’d like to fix and can’t. So for me, I re-read a quote by Mother Teresa that for years I’ve pushed to better understand and emulate: “We can’t all do great things. But we can all do small things with great love.”

Treasured Trash
In 2010, Tulsa Master Recycler Barbara VanHanken gathered a group of interested recyclers at Joe Momma’s Pizza to finalize her idea of creating recycling efforts directly following the holiday season. She called it, “The 12 Days After Christmas.” Pulling together The M.e.t., Harley Hollan Companies and dozens of Tulsa Master Recyclers Association () volunteers, the group diverted several tons of material from our landfill and into the recycling bin in less than two weeks.

Fast forward to 2014, and this idea is now fully functional under American Waste and Mr. Murph. So much so that Tulsans’ Christmas castoffs created more than two million pounds of recyclables, which generated enough monies that Mr. Murph presented a $10,000 donation to the American Therapeutic Riding Center () in Sand Springs. provides horseback-riding opportunities year round to people with cognitive or emotional challenges. Learn more at

So a big congratulations to you, Tulsans! You took all your holiday waste to one of the 100 Mr. Murph bins around the city and gave us all first-hand proof that our trash truly can become treasure. What a great way to welcome in 2014.

Preparing for Dry Days
This winter we’ve already seen some dramatic weather patterns. Even with the rain, snow and ice, however, we continue to be in a drought situation. According to local experts, our water levels should be around an inch but are actually just above a tenth of an inch. As I gaze out in my backyard, waiting to begin sprouting seeds for my spring garden, I wonder if my own rain barrels will get me through another dry summer.

If you have a little space, this might be a great time to plot out your own system of rainwater harvesting. During the 2009 drought, our little barrel saved our garden but we didn’t have enough to save the decades-old azaleas lining the front of our house.

We live in a great time of posting all our ideas online so pull up and start searching for the best rain barrel for your yard. A few favorites I’ve found include and How-to classes begin in the spring. The Tulsa Garden Center hosts a clinic April 3, while Grogg’s Green Barn hosts a class in May. Keep an eye on The M.e.t. calendar too, at

If you’re considering new landscaping, check out options involving rain gardens, such as the advice found on the University of Rhode Island’s website, This website offers a how-to guide. I also like combining this with Oklahoma native plant listings found at The concept of a rain garden is to either create or use a natural depression in your yard designed to capture and soak up stormwater runoff. Using native, drought-resistant perennials you can reduce your lawn maintenance needs, water needs, yard erosion as well as purifying storm water runoff, which all runs unfiltered into the Arkansas River.

As we continue to work towards a greener economy and environment, what a comfort it is that Tulsans believe in making a better tomorrow today. Post your ideas and thoughts on Twitter @TrashTalkTulsa or on Facebook at Newspapers.

Updated 01-28-2014

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