So my hometown has the most unbelievably amazing rotary auction on, Im going to say, the entire planet. OK, I have no way of knowing that, but I do know that our Rotary Auction is incredibly awesome. For one, it raises a TON of money that Rotary uses for excellent educational and community-based causes. For another, it provides a fabulous opportunity to turn one person’s trash into another person’s treasure- which, in and of itself, is a great, waste reducing, stuff-reducing, and greenhouse gas-reducing endpoint in and of itself.
However, each year, the Rotary also generates a lot of trash. A LOT. Many, many tons of trash. Essentially, the Rotary is the place where everyone in my town takes all the crap they have stored up in their own house that they no longer need or want, in the hopes that it might be crap that someone else needs or wants. And a lot of it is crap that someone else wants; but some of it is, frankly, just crap. You can only imagine: broken furniture, non-functional tools, busted appliances, parts of games, soiled clothing, worn-out sports equipment- yeah, just think of the crap you have in your house, and multiply that by like 10,000. Pretty daunting, huh?
Well, not too daunting for the amazing people at the Rotary, our local volunteer group Zero Waste that is dedicated to reducing the waste generated by our community, and other hardy and waste-reduction-minded volunteers! Over the last few years, these groups and individuals have partnered up to substantially decrease the amount of waste that gets thrown away at the Rotary. How? By being proactive and stepping in to find creative ways to divert, reuse, and sort the myriad of stuff coming in so that it can find its way to an alternative use or recycling endpoint rather than ending up in the dumpsters destined for the landfill.
And it adds up: last year, the rotary recycled 4+ tons more than they had the previous year, and reduced what headed to the landfill by more than a ton! And that, as I have talked about previously, is a positive thing for climate change, as landfills are a big source of greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, no-one wants to end up living with Wall-e, right?
Last year, I had the opportunity to just spend a couple days helping out at what was affectionately dubbed the “Land of Opportunity”- where stuff coming in that wasnt quite right, or complete, or saleable, got sorted out, sometimes put back together (you have no idea how many lego sets and functional toys we were able to recreate out of subsets!) and repurposed. It was a ton of fun and, I will admit, rather addictive, because with each shopping cart coming your way, you never knew what treasures you might find!
So this year, I’m trying to step up my participation and Im jumping on board with the planning group that is preparing to tackle all the myriad of green and waste reduction aspects of our Auction. I attended one of the planning meetings today, and I have to say, the creativity and the commitment of these folks astounds me. Its incredible to realize that in a few short years, there has been a sea change in the way that we are handling so many aspects of the auction: from identifying local farmers who might be able to take the food waste from all the food served to the hundreds of volunteers that help with the week-long collection period, to not buying individual plastic disposable water bottles for said volunteers; to proactively identifying individuals and organizations that want specific items that might not necessarily all sell (yes, the florist will take a couple hundred flower vases; yes, somebody does want all those old lamp parts, etc etc), to coordinating with goodwill to take the tons of clothing that does not sell. Its yet another example of small, local efforts adding up to something quite substantive, and it makes me proud of my community that they are accomplishing so many positive things with this event.
Plus, I am totally psyched to get the annual opportunity to rid my garage of a bunch of crap- er, I mean treasure.