I think the last time I experienced this level of tired was possibly after giving birth. I spent the last three days at our local Rotary Auction prep period- that week-long event where, on an annual basis, about half the population of my town delivers their unwanted and grown-out-of goods in the backs of their trucks and cars to be sold in a massive one-day fundraiser for Rotary. But it was worth the exhaustion- not only to help Rotary, which is a wonderful organization that does amazing things for our community and beyond- but also to help keep stuff out of the landfill. Literally. By going through it, intercepting it, sidelining it- by any and all means possible.
Over the last few years, a solid and incredible group of people known as the Green Team has grown up as an active partner to the hundreds of rotary volunteers that help intake, sort, and divvy up the incredible array of goods we get for the auction into more than 30 departments, I am not kidding. The green team are the folks in charge of making sure that things are getting recycled, repurposed and reused to the fullest extent possible. The team:
- works on reducing waste associated with feeding the hundreds of volunteers- this year we borrowed all reusable dishes and silverware from a local school, and composted food waste.
- secures e-waste vendors and makes sure that electronic waste is going to the vendor for recycling, not into the landfill
- runs around getting recyclable paper, cardboard, and metal to their appropriate recycling bins
- manages the Land Of Opportunity (LOO); the area where all unwanted materials that cannot be sold go so that they can be evaluated and repurposed if possible so they do not end up in landfill if it can be avoided; and
- coordinates more than 30 non-profit partners to come at close of sale to collect unsold items, making further savings from the landfill.
This year I was in charge of putting together the post-sale partners, as well as working as part of the green team for the first three days of the collection period. I think we are well on our way, as in previous years, of diverting a significant amount of waste from landfill and from entering the greenhouse gas emissions cycle, at least for a while longer.
Its pretty hard to mentally process the amount of materials- the STUFF that comes in to Rotary Auction. When I think about the fact that we are one relatively small town of about 20,000 people, and what that means in terms of multiplying the amount of stuff that is out there in this country and across the world, its staggering. It really gives me pause to consider the scale at which human beings consume resources and the waste we produce from this consumption. I grant you that ours is a well-off community that probably generates a lot more than its fair share of stuff, particularly compared to many areas across the world; but I still am betting we are a small drop in an ocean of stuff. It is very eye-opening to realize that there is a lot of stuff floating around out there that we could use and reuse, and avoid a lot of wasteful consumption, by frequenting the mall a bit less, and craigslist, freecycle, and auctions like ours a bit more.