In 1989 Carol King released a new album, City Streets. Included in that album is a song, Legacy, which is worth your listen for the few minutes it takes. Until I heard that song the word “legacy” generally meant financial assets to pass on to others, and since I had not nor expected to accumulate anything much in that category, I never thought that much about it. However, the song raises the issue very clearly that we pass on much more to our children and people we love than just money. We pass on values we hold dearly. And we do that by acting while we are alive.
There are so many issues that call for my attention and, of course, it is impossible to be involved in all. Many of my interests relate to how I can help provide a positive influence on issues that affect health. I chose to work on food issues and it was through working with the local food system that I became involved with Zero Waste McMinnville.
Each of us has our concerns, our loves. The first Earth Day event back in 1970 was our teenage/young adult angst at our parents’ generation destroying the physical environment. We fought for reducing toxic emissions into the air, into the water, into the soil. We are still fighting these issues and probably will continue to be a voice calling for remembering we are passing our environment on to our children and grandchildren. We should not think only about what we can “get” from the earth. That legacy should not only be about the money we can make but a balance between “enough” and the needs of future generations to live in a healthy environment.
Zero Waste McMinnville started with a very small dedicated group of people who saw that we CAN have a positive impact on our local physical environment that will have a ripple effect around us and even into the Pacific Ocean basin. Setting a ten-year period, efforts were undertaken to achieve a mission to reduce the amount of trash going to the landfill to under 10% of the total discards from area households, businesses, and industries. Successful diversion happens when people understand that much of what we have been dumping into our “trash” can either be recycled or composted. It requires a massive educational process, overcoming reluctance to change old habits. We are not quite halfway to our 2024 goal but here are some of the projects and activities the group has achieved:
- Diversion of waste at Zero Waste events in McMinnville, including the seasonal downtown farmers’ market, TurkeyRama, the UFO Celebration, 4th of July fireworks, the IPNC annual event held at Linfield, and more has been increasingly successful as vendors serving food learn to offer items made of compostable or recyclable materials and people attending the events are willing to learn the new habit of sorting their garbage into three categories.
- Adoption by the City of McMinnville (joining several other cities in Oregon) of an ordinance to eliminate the distribution of single-use plastic bags at large stores on September 1, 2017, encouraging shoppers to carry in reusable bags for their purchases.
- Introduction of a system to collect kitchen waste from 3rd Street restaurants to turn it into compost. (Recology offers a curbside pick-up from homes and businesses for yard waste and pre-cooked kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps and also sells compost and other garden products from the items collected.)
Other projects that need to be started to address other waste issues in town include:
- Collection of Styrofoam. As we enter the holiday shopping period you will notice how many packages, particularly those with electronics or fragile components, are packaged with Styrofoam. As much as we receive in our households, several businesses in town are major users, forced to send their huge amounts of trash Styrofoam to the landfill. Since it is made of plastics, it will essentially never decay. Zero Waste McMinnville has been establishing relationships with some recyclers in the region and hope to have collection points in place for drop off. Stay tuned.
- Construction debris which includes wood, metal and more also presents problems to solve in terms of collection and then reuse or modification into another product. Stay tuned.
- On a more personal scale, most of us know the frustration of some appliance or other item in our home failing. Perhaps it might be a zipper broken on a pair of jeans, an air mattress that has developed a leak, or a small appliance that no longer runs. We’re hoping to host Fix-It clinics where repairs can be made for a small fee, permitting continued use of the item instead of sending it to the landfill and then the need for a higher expense to replace the item. Stay tuned.
- Similarly, many of us have items in our homes that are just no longer being used. Reducing clutter helps improve the home living environment. We’re considering hosting a Flea Market so sales or exchanges can be made. My trash may indeed be your treasure. Stay tuned.
We need more people to get involved. Seriously. Although there is some strong recognition that this work is of high value, we have a core group of less than 25 active volunteers. Over 150 people are listed as wanting to get involved, but I suppose, like any other worthwhile activity, it really comes down to identifying the task that would be comfortable and of course the time factor.
In the middle of November we are going to have our annual dinner where we present what projects have been successful and information about others that are coming up. We have room for 70 people at this free dinner but it is also a fund raiser. Anything helps but we truly benefit by monthly recurring donations, even if they are not large. Our activities are basically self funded with some help from grants.
If you would like to join us, if you care about helping clean up our own environment, please let me know. We’ll be happy to set a place for you at the table.