Sunday, November 9, 2008

funky but fascinating...

"Green Team volunteers will assist the Green Festival in maximizing its sustainability goals, by diverting as much waste from the landfill as possible. Volunteers will ensure that attendees deposit their landfill waste/compost/recycling in the proper cans at the Resource Recovery Stations located throughout the event hall. Three bins are included at resource recovery stations (recycling, compost and landfill). Each bin is clearly labeled to ensure proper disposal of items and volunteers further ensure that items are places in the appropriate bins. Volunteers will be expected to educate attendees on the greening efforts at Green Festivals, and will explain to our attendees our use of bioware and why we use it. Some Green Team volunteers will also be in charge of Resource Recovery pickup, and the sorting of recyclable/compostable materials."

speaking of recycling (which i agree, can often seem like a big mystery)... i was at a place last weekend where there was a lot of recycling – or at least a few parts of the whole process – going on. the DC Green Festival!

i volunteered to be on their "Green Team"... the paragraph in fine print above explains what that means. basically, as a Green Team volunteer, you could do one of two things...

first, you could stand by the "resource recovery stations" and help people decide where to place their throwawayables... there's that blessed moment of indecision for many of us (captured beautifully in chip py's photo above) when confronted with 4 labeled containers to choose from, instead of just one big "garbage" bin.

why is this moment so blessed? b/c this front-loading of the proper separation of waste streams (i.e. separating recyclabes at the source, before they're thrown away) makes the rest of the recycling process that much easier. and cleaner...

which brings me to the second job on the Green Tream... the job i choose. separating waste streams (out back) after they've been thrown away... or "sorting," as the Green Fest folks called it. through the trash, basically. what a funky and fascinating process!

it's amazing how much more you learn about an event (or people, in general) from what's coming out as waste... but don't worry, this isn't about scatology. it's about how we collected all the bags from the resource station, took them out back, opened them up and picked out any recyclables (paper, plastic, metal...) or landfill waste from the compostables.

the compost (biodegradable utensils, plates and cups... wet or dirty napkins and paper... food, etc.) was all going to the USDA... even the "greywater" (the extra water, coffee and juice in the containers being recycled) was going to the USDA to sprinkle onto their compost pile.

i was really impressed by how much waste could be diverted – no... recovered resources! – from the landfill pile through the efforts of a few dedicated volunteers, at both the front and back-end of the process. but what really got me thinking was all the food in the compost...

entirely uneaten samosas... half-eaten plates of rice here and there... coffee and juice containers with a little or a lot of liquid left in them... i even found an unopened granola bar in the compost. so is it OK that it's all going to the compost – and right back into the earth – anway? or is this also a waste?

a waste of what?... energy? money? people's good time and effort? or the baraka (the blessing or spiritual sustenance) contained in that food? grown into that food... picked with that food... cooked into it.

al-hamdu liLlah for the food. and for the insight.


Mohamad A. Chakaki said...

just remembered something my mother mentioned to me recently... about a lesson she learned from her grandmother, growing up in syria.

they weren't allowed to waste even a single grain of rice as they were preparing it... if one fell to the floor, they'd have to pick it up and reuse it.

why rice, in particular?

b/c it isn't a crop that grows in syria... so if they threw it out, there was no chance of the seed growing into a plant... and the plant, more seeds... and so on.

food for thought... and here's another post with more on moms and food!

RIma said...

When we where kids, we had to finish every bite on our plate...whatever we didn't finish, we had to eat the next day. Though I really resented this as a kid, I came to appreciate the importance my mom put on minimizing waste, appreciating the food we had, etc...

Also, if we ever dropped bread (similar to the rice I guess),we had to pick it up and kiss it and then press it to our foreheads, asking Allah for forgiveness perhaps at the possibility of wasting food.. not sure why bread in particular?