Posts Tagged: winneshiek county recycling

Read the Winter 2017-18 Inspire(d) Online!

Here’s what’s happening in the Winter 2017-2018 Inspire(d):

Learn to be Koselig This Winter! Stay cozy tips • Norwegian Best Cake recipe • local author interviews • Driftless outdoor fun • Justin Trails • EARL mass transit • & more!

Read the whole thing online here!

A note from Aryn:

My goal with this Inspire(d) is that you feel like you’re sitting down for a cup of coffee with a good friend.

There’s fun conversation, tasty food, and warm fuzzy feelings. In other words, it’s totally koselig.

We said that phrase a lot over the last month here at Inspire(d) HQ. “Oh, there’s a fire in the wood stove! Koselig!” “Smell that cake baking? It’s so koselig!” “Yes, you should light another candle. It will make it even more koselig!”

Koselig (“koos-uh-lee”) is a Norwegian word that loosely translates to cozy. It’s a bit more than that, though, and Sara Friedl Putnam explains it for us, with help from the folks at Vesterheim Museum (they’ve got a koselig exhibit this winter!). Basically, cultivating a koselig lifestyle means seizing any moment that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling – even if you’re heading outside! The koselig fun begins on page 14, and it for sure doesn’t end there. We’ve got an infographic (pg. 23) filled with ideas for getting koselig, so you THRIVE this winter (instead of just survive). We also test drove a recipe for what Norwegian’s call the World’s Best Cake (verden’s beste kake). It was fun to bake…and eat (pg. 26)!

Speaking of cake, make sure to put CAKE BREAK at Vesterheim on your calendar: 3:30 every Wednesday from December-mid April. Yep.

Oh, and again, speaking of cake (yes!), the recipe for that chocolate cake on the cover can be found right here. It’s our go-to birthday cake.

All right. Moving on from cake (fine). Next up: Books! More specifically, local books. We caught up with three folks entrenched in that scene for some fun Q&As: Wisconsin author Kathleen Ernst; Decorah’s own Keith Lesmeister; and Steve Semken, founder of Iowa-based Ice Cube Press. The interviews start on page 32 – check them out, then consider checking out their books for great winter reading.

Next, grab a glue stick because it’s time to make a smiling sun bookmark (pg. 47) to brighten these dark winter days (tutorial here!).

As mentioned, koselig doesn’t mean you just stay inside…you’ve got to get out for fresh air, exercise, and fun, too! Remember: There’s no bad weather, just bad gear! We put together a list of outdoor activities to get you motivated and out the door (pg. 48).

Our Sum of Your Business follows that thought. Justin Trails Resort near Sparta, Wisconsin, loves winter fun. They’ve got snowshoeing, cross country skiing, a sweet snow tube hill, and even rentals for skijoring! Donna Justin took time out of her busy schedule to share some of what she’s learned in the three decades she and her husband have run Justin Trails Resort (pg. 51).

Are bad roads/ your iced up car windows / snowed in driveway keeping you from getting out? Well, you’re in luck! Kristine Jepsen learns – and teaches us – how to ride EARL Public Transit here in Northeast Iowa. Spoiler alert: It’s super easy, and they take you right where you want to go (pg. 56).

We also chatted with recycling guru Terry Buenzow over at Winneshiek County Recycling to get the 411 on what’s recyclable, what’s not, and what we should do with those broken twinkly lights and holiday extras (pg. 64).

And finally, we’ve got yet another great probituary interview – Barb Welgos – to wrap things up (promise that’s not a holiday pun).

Read the whole thing online here!

Keep it koselig this winter, friends. It’s time to thrive! Here’s to an amazing 2018. Let’s do this.

Looking forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols

Tiny Circus!


by Sara Friedl-Putnam • photos courtesy Tiny Circus unless noted

Lights! Camera! Action!


It’s a typical chilly winter day in Northeast Iowa, but there’s some pretty atypical movie magic happening in Decorah ­– even if the trappings of a Hollywood film set are nowhere to be found.

In this case the lights are, well, those of the Depot Outlet on Montgomery Street. The camera is a Canon digital SLR. And the action involves directing a group of lively eighth-graders as they move women’s shirts around a circular display rack, then quickly stop. They do the same thing again…and again…and again ­– which might be a bit boring were it not all part of the fun of something called Tiny Circus.


Before you get ahead of yourself, it’s not actually a tiny circus…well, not exactly. Any elephants would probably be made of paper, tightropes crafted out of string, and big tops hand-drawn. This Tiny Circus is a stop-motion animation film workshop (think “Gumby” or “Wallace and Gromit”), and the young teens at the Depot would be hard pressed to find two more enthusiastic proponents of the technique than facilitators Carlos Ferguson and Katie In.

Formed in 2008, Tiny Circus holds stop-motion animation workshops around the country, traveling in a vintage Airstream trailer rigged with two screens (one five-foot, the other twice that size) for showing the movies it helps groups produce. The troupe also hosts residencies each summer (in Grinnell, Iowa) and winter (in New Orleans) where circus “members” ­– anyone who participates in one of its projects ­– live and work together to produce animated shorts. They’ve made more than 70 such films to date.

KatieCarlosIt all started six years ago with a small group of artists, the Ferguson family farm in Grinnell, and a big dream of creating Tiny Circus. This informal retreat brought artists together to envision a future where they engaged communities through stop-motion animation, creating fanciful, animated “Histories of the World” on almost any topic imaginable.

The fact that they had never made a film using this technique – one that dates back to “The Humpty Dumpty Circus” in 1897 ­– didn’t deter them in the least. (Remember that infinitely cool chess sequence in “Star Wars”? That was stop-motion animation too.) Experimentation produced the group’s first film, “The History of Rain,” as well as a deep conviction that stop-motion animation was the ideal tool for exploring more democratic communication.

In other words, traditional “leader and follower” roles have no part in this circus. “We’re all about breaking down the very meaning of those roles and questioning the hierarchical structures of school, work, and play,” says In. “Every one of our projects is completed by a group, so collaboration is absolutely central to our process.”

How, exactly, does that process work? It starts with unleashing the imagination and brainstorming the topic. Then it’s storyboard time. What will the animation look like? How can sound be used to help convey the story? And what materials will be needed to build the sets and characters? (Colored paper and glue always come in handy!) Shooting inevitably takes the most time. “Every single frame of a stop-motion animation film is a photograph,” explains In, who joined Tiny Circus in 2012. “Objects are moved by hand very slightly before the next photograph is taken, and then when those photographs are put together, they make a movie. It’s really quite magical.”

This magical process has helped young boys and girls in North Carolina convey the (imaginary!) history of vampires. It’s allowed teachers in Iowa to communicate creatively the importance of art education. It’s helped teens in New York explore the hot-button issue of racial profiling in the wake of the Ferguson riots. (In and Ferguson cite that experience as one of the most impactful experiences they have had to date.) And it has provided college students in Tennessee with a less scary way to face their fears.


While that may sound like pretty heavy stuff, Tiny Circus, just like any circus worth its salt, also knows how to have fun. They dance. They play games. And they blast music. Loud.

In other words, says In, “Tiny Circus rocks.”

One glimpse of what’s transpiring at the Depot Outlet more than proves her point. The teens are engaged, inquisitive, and clearly having a blast making a movie. The topic for this one? Reusing and recycling in Winneshiek County.

“All right, we’re ready to take our first shot,” says Ferguson in an assured voice that quickly cuts through the (organized) chaos. “Does everyone have it? Is everyone clear which direction they’re moving the shirts?”

The students respond “yes” in unison, move the shirts ever so slightly in a clockwise motion, and then do the exact same thing several more times.

These newly minted circus members – and, the day before, a class of local fifth-graders ­– orchestrated this scene to give viewers a better sense of the second-hand wares sold by the Depot. They also moved shoes on a rack, books on a shelf, and plates on a table to provide “visual candy” (Ferguson’s words) to the film, which will include audio interviews as well as video of the county recycling plant and landfill.

Nancy Sojka, a retired art educator and current president of the Oneota Film Festival, immediately felt the Tiny Circus magic when she saw the group in action at an Art Educators of Iowa conference in 2013. After approaching In and Ferguson about the possibility of collaborating with folks in Decorah, she got to work contacting organizations that had the resources to make it happen.

The Iowa Arts Council answered the call last November, awarding OFF a $3,350 grant to bring the Tiny Circus to town.

AtTheDepotThe Depot Outlet and Winneshiek County Recycling quickly followed suit, each contributing $1,000 to the project. Their goal? To raise community consciousness about how the two organizations work hand-in-hand to ensure that only items that belong in the county landfill go to the county landfill. A quick glance at the Depot’s diverse wares – need a baby swing, vintage jewelry, or a sturdy chair, anyone? – makes crystal clear that one person’s “trash” could indeed be another’s treasure.

“The Depot is all about reuse, but we are so much more than just a thrift shop,” says Emily Hackman, Depot Outlet manager. “We want to give the community possibilities other than the landfill for discarding items they may no longer want, and hopefully this film will help spread that message.”

Terry Buenzow, who has overseen the county’s recycling operations for well over a decade, shares that hope.

“Everyone has a vested interest in how they dispose of their unwanted personal stuff, and they can often pick a better path for it than the landfill,” he says. “I’ve searched dumpsters from Novia Scotia to Oregon, and I can tell you no one else comes close to the system we have here.”

That kind of teamwork fits perfectly with the mission of Tiny Circus. “This project is ideal for us because there’s such great collaboration already happening between entities here,” says Ferguson. “Our goal is to create art as a community-based endeavor.”

Sojka believes that’s exactly what this troupe achieved during their time in Northeast Iowa. The animated film premieres March 7, 2015, at the Oneota Film Festival. (It will also run before almost every film set at the festival that weekend.) In the interim, Tiny Circus will be hard at work paring the hours of film shot in Decorah down to just three minutes – no tiny feat. “We will have 100 times the material that we will be able to use,” says Ferguson, hinting at the editing work ahead.

After its OFF premiere, the short will join the growing catalog of Tiny Circus films. If the troupe’s previous work is any indication – its videos have tallied more than 100,000 hits on YouTube and garnered countless comments like “rad” and “cool” – the end product promises to delight festival-goers, especially those proud to call this environmentally conscious county home.

“Most children and adults love watching animated films,” Sojka muses with a smile, “but how often do they get to watch one created in their own backyard?”

For more information on Tiny Circus, visit


Sara Friedl-Putnam has been under the “real” big top before and found the Tiny Circus experience just as fun­ – even if there weren’t peanuts and popcorn on hand for consumption at the Depot Outlet.

Sixth-Annual Oneota Film Festival to be held March 6­–8, 2015
Do you dig films?

3ce0a0_86a8da1a33164ee6b8f6c10de7fbddee.jpg_srz_432_432_85_22_0.50_1.20_0Then be sure not to miss the Sixth-Annual Oneota Film Festival (OFF), set to feature a compelling array of notable and award-winning independent films March 6­–8 on the Luther College campus and downtown Decorah, Iowa.

“Expect a fun, engaging event,” says Nancy Sojka, OFF board chair. “This year’s schedule includes 50 independent full-length films and shorts exploring everything from adventure and environmental sustainability to the arts and culture.”

Each set of weekend films will be preceded by the animated short about reusing and recycling created by Tiny Circus and local residents. Other films of local interest include “Our Eagles,” a short about the world-famous Decorah Eagles, and “Seeds of Time,” a full-length documentary that follows agricultural pioneer Cary Fowler, a former board member of the Decorah-based Seed Savers Exchange, as he races against time to protect the future of the world’s food supply.

Since its 2010 inception, OFF has brought together hundreds of film enthusiasts in scenic Northeast Iowa to enjoy award-winning films, converse with filmmakers, and celebrate film as a way to engage and explore some of the most critical issues facing our communities. Attendance at all films is free of charge.

Visit to learn more about the festival and its 2015 lineup.



Repurposeful: Recycling in Winneshiek County


Terry Buenzow

Terry Buenzow


By Aryn Henning Nichols

He’s been called the Willy Wonka of recycling. Terry Buenzow walks around the Winneshiek County Recycling Center pointing at different contraptions that squeeze, shrink, shred, and generally squish all sorts of recyclable materials. With a friendly, teaching sort of voice, he talks over the clang of cans and the whir of forklifts, explaining the path of the cardboard box or number one plastic ­– “You’re wearing number one right there. Polyester!” He names off numbers and details on each item like he’s listing off grandchildren; this guy really loves recycling.

For nearly a decade, Buenzow has been watching the paper/plastic/metal/textile/glass market to analyze what’s going to happen in the recycling world and how to most effectively and efficiently put items we no longer need or want back into use or back on our shelves. Since the Winneshiek County Recycling Center (WCRC) became a public facility on April 1, 2009, interest in the center has increased dramatically. People are stopping out to drop off items, learn a little (or a lot) or to just say hello.

“Our direct traffic out here since April 1 has tripled,” Buenzow says. “A lot of people in this county feel some ownership now. Which is good. That’s the kind of attitude you want in this business.”

Perhaps it’s this attitude that makes the area’s recycling so consistently high quality.

“People in this county are really great about recycling. Things are clean and there is very little public dumping,” Buenzow says. “As far as the recycling jobs in Iowa, I got the best one. This is it. I don’t complain.”

Other counties have a harder time, especially with appliances, and when it’s $15 a pop for disposal, this can really add up. “We are fortunate we don’t have to deal with that very much,” Buenzow says.

That being said, Buenzow has seen some interesting items come into the center over the course of his time there.

“You name it, I’ve seen it in here,” he says.

Barbie dolls?

“Tons of ‘em.” (FYI: you CAN’T recycle Barbie dolls – take them to a second hand store for reuse.)


“I’ve seen a toilet come in here,” Buenzow says. “But they’re hard to fit in the bins anymore ‘cause we made the openings smaller.”

The things they do accept have a varied life. Each state has its own recycling policies, Buezow says, and most centers are county-run. The different materials go to manufacturers across the US and Canada, and it is an ever changing market. The sale of recyclable plastic, for instance, is entirely tied to the natural gas market. The type of paper you’ve got in a bale can more than double its worth. Textiles can go to another country for reuse or cut up to be repurposed. It’s an amazing world of working with what you’ve got – something people seem to be relearning these days.

Luckily, the path can be pretty short for recyclables in Northeast Iowa. There are many manufacturers just a short truck route away. International Paper in Cedar Rapids. the largest cardboard recycling mill in the country, second in the world, is just 90 miles away.

“I’ll have a dedicated semi-load of cardboard in six days, same with paper,” Buenzow says. “Most likely it will go to Cedar Rapids, and it can be there in just a couple of hours.”

Check out Inspire(d)’s illustration of sample paths many of the things you put in those bright blue bins might take. Buenzow says that although people around here are educated about recycling, the center could accept even more materials. He hopes his latest education efforts – like entering the social networking world by putting WCRC on Facebook – will help people learn even more and in turn recycle even more. Check them out to learn more about recycling or how your tax dollars are being spent. Or stop out and say hi. Better yet, volunteer to help and really take ownership of this publicly funded organization.

“It’s great if you want some therapy – just come out and smash or shred stuff,” Buenzow says, (after signing a liability form, of course, he adds). “Junk is fun!”

Aryn Henning Nichols was excited to win the golden ticket and visit Terry Buenzow and the Recycling Factory.

Winneshiek County Recycling Center, 2510 172nd Avenue, Decorah, IA, 52101

Find Winneshiek County Recycling on Facebook – there’s lots more information and even guides on how to prepare your recycled materials!

Below is some information Inspire(d) got on recycling in Winneshiek County while visiting Terry Buenzow.

Cardboard: Most of the WCRC cardboard heads to Cedar Rapids International Paper, the largest cardboard recycling mill in the country. “The cardboard industry thrives on recycled content. The International Paper mill is running totally recycled,” Buenzow says. Do accept: Basic brown corrugated boxes, cereal, cracker and cake boxes, 12-pack cartons and pizza boxes, shoe boxes and mailing tubes. Do not accept: Waxy containers like butter boxes and orange juice cartons. $65/ton

Paper: Paper comes in different grades – office paper, newsprint, mixed waste (the “I can do no wrong” paper) – the price range for paper starts at  $25/ton and runs up to $250/ton (that’s for sorted white, ledger). It might go to some tissue mills in Wisconsin or a newsprint mill in Ontario. “Our first choice is always to make a similar product.”
# 8 News – needs to be 80% newsprint – this is worth around $35 to $40/ton
Office paper – traditionally strong $165/ton at least – pure white $250/ton
And yes, you CAN recycle magazines! If you’ve passed Inspire(d) on and on and on and don’t want to save it for your “collection,” recycle it!
Things you might not know about paper recycling: don’t worry about staples or little plastic windows. Paper plates? Not recyclable, sorry.

Plastic –  #1 & 2 hold the best market value. The price of plastic is tied entirely to the price of natural gas. “Plastics are the most complicated and confusing of all the materials we take. We have to sort the plastics by their number at the recycling center because the different types are not compatible with each other when they are re-melted at a plastic processor.”
#1 – pop bottles, water bottles, etc.– might go to a place like Mowawk Carpets in Georgia Makes good carpet, fabrics, fleece blankets, etc. It’s a very strong plastic. “The power of number 1 plastic is unbelievable.” Over the past six months #1 has been worth from $120 – $175/ton.
#2 – milk jugs – can get 15,000 pounds in one bale. It squishes better. It can be made into pails, toys, car parts, or construction materials. The rest of the numbers (3-7) go into waste reduction bales along with enough 1 and 2 to make them at attractive on the market. The bales are sold to a variety of plastic processors.

Aluminum/Tin/Metal – “Metal items are some of the easiest products to recycle. In fact, almost all of them have some recycled content. The basic tin can may end up being part of a new car or made into a can again. Aluminum beverage cans usually become new beverage cans or foil. Aluminum frying pans and cookie sheets can become about any other aluminum product there is.” Some goes to processor in Eau Clair, WI, to make steel siding – you can buy that siding at Menard’s – and a lot of other metals go to Le Roy Iron.
Do accept: Food cans (the basic “tin” can), beer cans and pop cans, aluminum foil (they have an aluminum foil cubing machine), pie plates and roaster pans, metal cookware, such as frying pans, cookie sheets, sauce pans, etc., decorative canisters and tins, electric motors, electrical cords and wall chargers. Metal prices can range from $30/ton to quite a bit more for

Textiles and shoes: Take your used clothing and shoes to the Depot Outlet in Decorah (or another second hand store in your town). WCRC works closely with the Depot. What they can’t sell goes to WCRC for baling or sorting and selling. Textile bales may go some place like Toronto for resale “What’s not fashionable here might be there.”

Glass: “It’s really hard to work with,” Buenzow says. “That’s why there isn’t a market for it.” It’s not a favorite topic at recycling centers. That being said, you may take glass directly to WCRC. It will be crushed and used for landfill drainage at the Winneshiek County Sanitary Landfill. Best option? Be conscious of glass packaging you do buy. Choose plastic if possible.