From recycling correctly to supporting zero waste efforts in the community, learn how you can have a positive impact on the environment
By Amy Cavalier
The Brazilian rainforest is on fire and Iceland is losing ice at an alarming rate. Turn on the news and it may seem like the environment is doomed. But there is hope, and it starts with you.
“Every little bit counts,” said Luann Meyer, a solid waste administrator with Monroe County. “If a single person makes the decision to use less materials or buy less products or recycle the right materials, then less materials will be made and less will be ultimately disposed of. Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”
Here are some tips on becoming an earth hero from area experts who will speak at several upcoming Rochester Minimalists meetings focused on reducing waste. The Rochester Minimalists is a group of individuals looking to explore our relationship with things, evaluate what brings value to our lives, to reduce our environmental footprint and question consumerism.
You can make a difference starting with your recycling bin. One of the biggest recycling mistakes people make is putting things like plastic bags, plastic food wrap, liquid contaminants and other unacceptable items in their bin, according to Meyer. “Wishcycling,” as it’s termed, could cause your recycling to wind up in the landfill or contaminate the stream of acceptable materials.
“Either way, it’s a waste of resources and can ultimately increase the cost of recycling,” said Meyer. “A quality bale of recycling is not just easier to market, but less contamination in the stream decreases the cost of processing at the recycling center.”
On a yearly basis, it is estimated that Monroe County has successfully diverted 40% of the municipal solid waste generated into reuse, recycling or composting, according to Meyer. When it comes to finding a reuse for items, Meyer points to places like Goodwill, Savers, ReHouse Architectural Salvage Store, Restore, Rochester Greenovations, thrift stores and repair stores.
“The main message we always try to tell people is to try to reduce their waste consumption first before reuse or recycling,” said Meyer.
For the most up-to-date information on recycling in Monroe County, a virtual tour of the recycling center and EcoPark, a Recyclopedia and FAQ, visit www.monroecounty.gov/recycling or follow the Monroe County EcoPark on Facebook for tips on reduction, reuse and recycling.
Composting made simple
Adopting a zero waste lifestyle may seem daunting. That’s where businesses like Impact Earth come in. A zero waste consulting firm that specializes in landfill diversion education, training and infrastructure development, Impact Earth assists individuals, school districts, large manufacturers and municipalities with everything from compost hauling to consulting with companies on waste reduction and sustainability.
In the last three years, Impact Earth has diverted just over a half-million pound of waste from the landfill according to Cassidy Putney, director of sustainability and communications.
Easing into the zero waste lifestyle can start with small actions everyday including:
• Replace one item that is disposable with one that is reusable or compostable each month;
• Support restaurants that compost;
• Compost at home in your yard or participate in a composting service;
• Walk, bike or carpool to one event per week;
• Bring a reusable water bottle to work or the gym
“Just by talking about living more sustainably in any social group, you start the conversation and influence others to consider their own behavior and opportunities to make changes to live more sustainable,” said Putney.
Donate and shop locally
Drive by Rochester Greenovation on East Main Street in Rochester and you’ll notice they don’t have a dumpster. That’s because they only generate one bag of trash a week. Quite impressive for a 22,000-square-foot warehouse retail space where you can find or donate pretty much anything you could ever imagine.
“We have saved over 2.5 million objects from the landfill based on our sales alone,” said Rochester Greenovation Executive Director Kimberly Connolly. “That doesn’t count the thousands of items donated to other nonprofits in the area, our free room and our free little library.”
Rochester Greenovation is completely volunteer-operated and run using the proceeds from sales of donated items. Connolly said being an earth hero starts with shopping locally. She recommends checking out the Community Wishbook to see how you can be of assistance to area nonprofits, either by volunteering time or supplies. Something as simple as picking up trash can help.
“Every single person makes choices every day that can help,” she said. “There are more of us out there working to make a positive difference than we realize.”
Learn More About Recycling
The Rochester Minimalists, a group of individuals looking to explore our relationship with things, evaluate what brings value to our lives and reduce our environmental footprint, is sponsoring two seminars about recycling
• Recycle Right
Monroe County Solid Waste Administrator Luann Meyer will discuss the global recycling market crisis, local recycling rules and more from 6 to 8 p.m., Monday, Oct. 7, at Brighton Memorial Library, 2300 Elmwood Ave., Rochester.
• Zero Waste Panel Discussion
A series of panelists will share tips on reducing our environmental footprint, supporting area businesses and organizations focused on sustainability, and zero waste efforts in your community. The event will take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 14, at Brighton Memorial Library, 2300 Elmwood Ave., Rochester.