Thursday, September 25, 2014

Update saves old treasure in Pineville

Many of us sigh when we see a historic property in our neighborhood being demolished. Others may visit a home that has the charm of a past era and dream of someday finding a special one of their own.
Thomas White has a different story. He renovated a historic home in Pineville's Cone Mills Village and saved a second from demolition. That 1,100-square-foot 1911 house is being featured by Historic Charlotte as part of its Blast from the Past annual fundraising event, on Oct. 15.
A complete update of a historic property, White says, takes vision, a willingness to wrangle through codes and permits, as well as tremendous diligence to manage costs. But these older homes can be worth the effort, if not always a quick return on investment.
“The unexpected result was the appreciation I developed for historical properties,” said White, a land surveyor who is planning a move to a third historic property in Pineville. “We will live in a very unique time capsule. Without that appreciation, you are just living in four walls.”

Learn about other preservation projects nominated this year at

Blast from the Past
The after-work event with entertainment and food by Heist Brewery will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Charlotte Museum of History, 3500 Shamrock Drive. Tickets are $25 online and $35 at the door. Details:

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Monday, September 22, 2014

Be careful: poisonings on the rise

Here's a way to help keep your family safe at home: Be careful what products you bring into the house.
Many of the cans, bottles and bags in your cupboards and closets can lead to poisoning or emergency room visits. It's important to mention this because the number of deaths in North Carolina has more than tripled, from 279 in 1999 to 947 in 2010, according to the Carolinas Poison Center.
More than 80,000 calls were related to animals.
A poison is anything that can cause harm if used improperly. Food, paint and even mothballs can be lethal. (Yes, mothballs. Avoid brands that include naphthalene, which can be absorbed through the skin.) But these are not the biggest problems.
Calls about children ages 5 and younger usually involve cosmetics and personal care products. Pain medicines led to the greatest number of calls. Nearly 50,000 people contacted the state’s poison center in 2010 and 2011.
One of the best ways to lower the risk for poisoning is by choosing products that are nontoxic or less toxic. Use vinegar or baking soda for cleaning instead of household chemicals.
Pay attention to packaging, too. If a potentially toxic product comes in a container that looks similar to a soft drink that you buy, stay clear of it, especially if the liquid inside the container is also the same color. While you’re at it, give a second thought to any cleaning product that resembles a beverage.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How can we get people to recycle more?

There were plenty of interesting comments on the Observer's Facebook page for the story that said Charlotteans toss an estimated 40 million cardboard tubes annually from bathroom tissue rolls.
One commenter suggested reusable tubes that we could use with the new tubeless toilet paper rolls that have hit the market. Great idea, but it turns out our recycling problem is much bigger. I learned that from an email that arrived after last week’s column was published.
Recycling at single-family homes declined locally in 2013 (to about 147 pounds per person annually) compared to 1999 (155 pounds), according to Sustain Charlotte’s 2014 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Sustainability Report Card.
Residents of apartments and condominiums hardly recycle at all, said Shannon Binns, executive director of Sustain Charlotte.
So we’re spending more than $10 million a year to send about 364,000 tons of residential waste to a landfill. “That doesn’t include the much larger costs – collection and transportation,” Binns said.
About half of that waste could be recycled for savings of $29 per ton in landfill fees, Binns said. Recycling the waste could generate almost $20 per ton.
Sustain Charlotte has offered two suggestions for boosting recycling: Make it a requirement and impose fines for those who don’t. Or we could adopt a pay-as-you-throw system. Either would surely be better than throwing money away.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Charlotteans toss out 40 million bathroom tissue tubes yearly

We're pretty disciplined about recycling at my house, but now I realize we've ignored one item. The cardboard tube inside each roll of bathroom tissue gets tossed every time.
That happens in a lot of homes – more than 40 million tubes get tossed every year, according to one estimate. That's just in Charlotte.
The national toll is more than 17 billion tubes yearly, with more than 150 tubes per household being thrown out on average. Imagine the amount of waste we’ve created over 100 years, which is how long the tubes have been around, according to a rep for Scott-brand products, which is now making tubeless rolls.
Yes, that’s how we’ve come by all of this information. The data arrived at my desk with samples of the tubeless swirls. (The centers aren’t open as much as in the picture above.)
It will take time to find out whether consumers see these as an acceptable alternative to what they’re buying now, but it’s a start. The tissue is not made from recycled material, which could make it less appealing in some households. Comments on the Scott website are mixed and it sounds like the paper hangs awkwardly when you reach the end of the roll.
Prices might be a factor. A four-pack of Scott Naturals Tube-Free sells for $2.97 at Walmart stores, according to the rep. She offered a comparison price that was less exacting: $3.40 “average retail price” for Scott Extra Soft, a premium product. Store location unknown.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms