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A ringside seat at the end of the world: Get your hands dirty

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For those of you have seen a couple of my columns, you might get the impression I’m just sitting around in my ringside seat, passively consuming news stories and grousing about the end of the world (as we know it).

Nay, no.

This year, I volunteered as head of the Trash Committee for my annual neighborhood festival that benefits our community association. It’s a big deal for my sweet little neighborhood: hundreds of people show up, thousands of bucks are generated.

Though we have our political and cultural disagreements, we come together for the larger benefit of the community, which is the way life should be.

So. First thing I did as head of the Trash Committee was to change the name to the Waste Committee. It’s a slight but significant shift in nomenclature.

Trash is one thing. Waste is another.

Nature wastes nothing. Humans on the other hand, seem to waste nearly everything, avoiding opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle.

While we can improve our “green” approach at next year’s festival, we did okay. We collected all plastics, metals, cardboard and paper; we even collected food, especially the corncobs, for composting in our community garden.

Still, there was an awful lot of waste wasted, most of which would have only been recyclable had we used a lot of water to wash the plates, cooking tins, etc…

We even bought so-called “stadium cups” with our festival logo so people could purchase them instead and reuse — instead of filling cup after cup of beer. The beer cups, incidentally, were made of corn stock, and there were water bottles that claimed to be compostable.

Sometimes it seems to me at least some our complex problems could be solved quite simply. When you come to the festival (or wherever you go), make sure you: carpool (or bicycle or use public transportation, etc.) and bring your own plate, cup and cutlery.

Simple, non-partisan, doesn’t hurt anybody; common sense solutions.

Instead of going to the carbon-burning trouble of figuring out how to make a compostable water bottle, how about we get rid of them altogether in lieu of people using their own, reusable water bottles (stainless steel or whatever).

I thought about these ideas a lot as I spent the entire festival, seven hours long, going from trash receptacle to trash receptacle, putting the waste in its appropriate place. There were fifteen recycling stations, with fifteen trashcans beside them. In addition, there were five compost buckets with the sign: “Compost: no meat or dairy.”

Mostly, the recyclable containers were well maintained, in part because the lid openings are round, perfectly-sized for your beer cup or pop can. The trashcans, however, had everything possible inside, including spent corncobs, despite the adjacent placement of clearly labeled compost buckets.

Next year, we’ll get even better at labeling our receptacles; and ideally recycle even more. A zero-waste festival is the eventual goal — for me, at least.

But reaching into the trash and separating it for seven hours… well, you can imagine I had some pretty dark thoughts.

We don’t deserve this planet was the one that most stuck to the ribs of my brain.

As far as we know, this is the sweet spot of the cosmos, and the festival was proof of it. A sunny day, temperature in the ‘70s, folks having a good time … but in just a few generations, through mindless growth, we have burdened this earth beyond its capacity to carry nearly 7 billion people — many of those people trained through consumerism to throw everything away without a thought as to its impact on the planet.

I know it’s true; I had my hands deep in the crap of bad habits.

Jim Poyser watches it all fall apart every day on www.apocadocs.com.

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