Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Roots & Wings Zero Waste Manifesto!

We don’t often take the time to ruminate on past events, but Zero Waste Presentation and Potluck on March 16 bears some reflection. It was a small but unusually diverse gathering of two dozen people that showed the chain reaction of doing the right thing and a gathering storm to a more radical zero waste lifestyle.

First the lovely chain reaction. 

MJ Wilson at the 2013
Earth Day Award presentation

MJ Wilson, our presenter, spoke about her work as the Co-Coordinator of Clearwater Festival’s Zero Waste Initiative. It’s a big, radical idea of asking 15,000 festival attendees and dozens of vendors to sort their waste into recyclables, compostables and trash. And it works. 

One of the secrets to its success is the dozens of volunteers posted at the zero waste centers around the park who monitor people at the point of disposal.  

One of these volunteers, Sarah Womer, was so wowed by MJ’s work at Clearwater Festival that she started her own zero waste initiative in Beacon, NY, Zero to Go, and she came to Roots & Wings’ Zero Waste event to meet us.

Check out Sarah’s Zero to Go website and see that she and her team collected 1225 gallons of compost and 5450 gallons of recycling and transported nearly all of it . . . by bike. (!)

The gathering storm towards a more radical zero waste lifestyle.

Most of us know not to purchase water in plastic bottles. And when we host an event, we use service ware that can be washed and used again. But how many of us attend events that offer one time use service ware?

 I’ll use my family’s annual Christmas gathering as an example. Disposable cups, plastic forks, etc each year. It’s a lot of work for my brother and sister-in-law to host this gathering for 30. Is it my business that we’re adding so much to the waste stream? Yes.

Deb, another attendee, suggested we gather our thoughts and distribute them as a kind of Zero Waste Manifesto.

1.  Bring your own: service ware to gatherings where you’re not sure what kind of  situation you’re entering, containers and cups to stores, delis and take-out restaurants.

2.  If you see something say something. Find a way to gently offer to bring reusable service ware to a gathering where you suspect it might not be available.

3.  What do you have to add? Send it to Deb.

And finally, some thoughts from Lakis Polycarpou, who with Elisa Zazzera contributed to the discussion at Zero Waste Potluck and Presentation.

"The problem is the solution" is one of permaculture’s most used guiding principles. When we dismiss something as "waste" it becomes a problem that has to be removed, gotten rid of or eliminated at great expense. We continue recreating the same problems, even if they are in new (recycled) bottles.

With the right approach, everything we used to think of as waste becomes a potential resource -- one that is ideally put to higher use than we found it.

Such a shift requires each of us to stop being passive consumers and become active and productive citizens-stewards. This has deep implications for how we gather in groups. Once we individually and collectively take responsibility for what we use and how we use it, we can no longer go to an "event" as a mere passive spectator--we are required to engage, take responsibility and co-create our experience.

Doing so may at first be uncomfortable, but is our responsibility -- and our birthright.

Oh, and by the way, here is the waste left over from Zero Waste Potluck and Presentation.


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