Okay, I admit it. When it comes to recycling, I’m a zealot. I wasn’t always this way. For most of my life I was simply a strong supporter of the practice, content to go along with the commonly held belief that somehow being in favor of recycling was enough, that at some point there’d be enough of us supporters and that things would change to suit our worldview and, next thing you’d know, there’d be, like, recycling containers everywhere. It’s only been a few years since I’ve come to grips with the reality of the situation, including the extent of our waste management problem and the status (or should I say ‘non-status’) of highly obvious solutions. Since that time, I’ve been a woman on fire.
This fervent change is most certainly the result of having organized my very first zero waste event and I take the time to make this disclosure now because I am about to start dispensing advice on how to stage and manage such events and I just want you all to be forewarned: Read on at your own peril, you could very well end up a crazy lady like me, hovering over trash cans and traumatizing well meaning folk who are just doing their best to prevent litter.
But enough of that. . . go get your gloves. Not the wimpy plastic (even though they are #4 and recyclable in our mixed recycling bin but need to be bundled to make sure they get captured) gloves, I’m talking heavy duty gloves that are washable and can be used more than once, and somewhere on the planet are still made from rubber that doesn’t fill the guts of ocean critters with un-digestable plastic.
Are you getting the picture? In the zero waste event game, every last thing that comes to the party (no matter who brought it) gets analyzed and, if necessary, upgraded to become less wasteful. So along with the eco-groovy gloves you will need eco-groovy collection bags and eco-groovy dinnerware and, oh, heck, why not go all out and buy yourself a Tesla (a 200-thousand dollar, ‘eco-groovy as it gets’ all-electric automobile), to drive yourself there? Simple answer. . . because you’re on a budget. And here we run into the number one roadblock on your path to a zero waste event: You and pretty much everyone else you will come in contact with have been programmed to think that the difference between compostable and disposable dinnerware is like the difference between a Honda and a Tesla. Even though the truth is that the difference per plate or fork or cup will amount to roughly 10 cents or less per hipster or Luddite, you will likely have co-organizers who balk at the difference, pretending to object on the grounds of extra expense when they are really just Styrofoam addicts wanting to make sure they don’t miss a chance to get dosed with plastic-infused chili.
Don’t be discouraged; this is where the zealotry comes in. Just fire up your passion and blast through the resistance. Think of the seabirds perishing on the plastic laden beaches of Kure Atoll. Think of the future generations who will look back on you as a hero, and the resistors as, well, just resistors, because truth is most of them prefer a cleaner, greener world, too. . . they just don’t know how to get there without some help.
Next month: Less philosophy, more logistics. Hope you had a Merry (waste-free) Christmas and a Happy New Year.
(Kristine Kubat works for Recycle Hawaii.)