Greening is a process for diverting waste away from the landfill as much as possible and into compost, recycling, and repurposing. You will find Greeners at foot races, concerts, festivals, and other public events. Greening is front-line climate-change pushback.
Approximately 70% of food waste globally goes into our landfills. Organic waste releases methane and other greenhouse gases as it decomposes. When we compost it right, these gases can be converted into biofuel, which can be used to run public buses. This is a double win for the climate. Not only has compost been prevented from releasing methane into the atmosphere, but municipal bus companies don’t have to buy gas from the fossil fuel companies, leaving that gas in the ground where it belongs. We can compost anything that has been alive since the meteor wiped out the dinosaurs. This means food waste, paper, and cardboard. It doesn’t mean diapers, sanitary napkins, or treated wood. Cigarette butts are a huge problem. They can turn methane-heavy compost into landfill. All tobacco products must go into the landfill.
Recycling at public events comes down mostly to plastics. You can also recycle dry cardboard, dry paper, and metals. Recycled plastics comes back as decking, recycling containers, furniture, and other useful objects. Plastic is made from oil. People kill for oil. The more we reuse plastic, the more oil can stay in the ground where it belongs. Don’t recycle little plastic utensils for they get caught up in the machinery at the final stage of recycling and cost the companies thousands of dollars when they have to shut down the machines to remove them. These can be replaced by compostable utensils made from bamboo, corn, and potatoes. Better yet, bring your own utensils. It can become a habit, like bringing your bags with you when you go shopping. Broken glass, jagged metal, treated wood, cigarette butts, diapers, and incandescent light bulbs all go in the landfill. Fluorescent bulbs need to be set aside as toxic waste.
Repurposing gives items a second life. Hangers, clothes, pallets, and Sterno cans can all be repurposed. Sterno fuel is toxic waste and needs to be disposed of as such.
Greeners both sort materials and help celebrants understand what goes where and why. This is called eco-education, the impacts of which are phenomenal and show what humans are capable of with a minimal amount of effort. Here are the results from one event in San Francisco earlier this year. The diversion report showed that out of 1,668 pounds of garbage, 700 pounds were composted, 700 pounds were recycled, 208 pounds were repurposed, and 60 pounds of waste went to the landfill.
In Sonoma County we currently have a deficit in our capacity to be proper earth stewards. Unlike the immediate Bay Area, we have no composting facility. Oakland and San Francisco have laws requiring promoters of large events to Green them. While events here, ranging from the Human Race to the Railroad Square Hootenanny, do employ Greeners, it isn’t required. We need this law so that even events like Iron Man will be required to be part of the solution. With Recology as our waste diversion company, this seems quite possible. We need to eco-educate and divert garbage as one form of climate-change pushback.
Rebel Fagin writes for the Sonoma County Peace Press and the Global Critical Media Literacy Project.