Aug 21, 2019
by Tish Levee
The 2019 North Bay Zero Waste Symposium held July 31st at SOMO Village was the best Zero Waste event I’ve ever attended. This 3rd annual symposium featured Zero Waste Sonoma, formerly the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, and Recology, the waste hauler for most of Sonoma County.
It kicked off with Leslie Lukacs, the recently hired Executive Director of Zero Waste Sonoma, whose resume is truly impressive. After opening the event and giving us a preview of things to come, she introduced the morning Keynote Speaker, Bea Johnson, dubbed by the NY Times as the “Princess of Waste-Free Living,” who lives in Mill Valley. Since 2008, Bea and her family of four, including two teen-age sons, have produced just a pint of trash a year. Yes, that’s right just a pint—she brought it and showed it to us. Her presentation was fascinating and funny!
With her book, The Zero Waste Home (which has been translated into 26 languages), and her blog, https://zerowastehome.com, she launched a worldwide movement. Contrary to what one might think, Bea showed us how becoming zero waste can be stylish, lead to significant health benefits, and save time and money. Her PowerPoint presentation made it clear that she and her family weren’t really missing anything, but instead had a rich, full, but much simpler life than most of us. She estimates they have saved 40% on their budget by living zero waste lifestyle, money the family uses to buy experiences rather than stuff; as she says, “Living less equals living more.”
I had heard of her several years ago and have been intrigued to know how she did it. Now I have the resources to do more to adopt a zero waste lifestyle myself. (To date the best I’ve been able to do is to limit my trash to one paper grocery bag a month, but now I have a lot of ideas for how I can really make a difference.) She uses the 5 R’s I have quoted often: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot—which she emphasized need to be done in that order. The first one, Refuse, is key to the whole program. When we refuse stuff, we don’t have to deal with it. If we are ever going to get a handle on our landfill problem and, especially on our plastic problem, we have to learn how to “Just Say NO” to more stuff.
Her blog is really helpful and includes a free Bulk Food Finder. I thought I knew all the local places for bulk food, but she had one I’d never heard of.
The rest of the day lived up to the expectations set in the opening. A full roster of speakers, with several from Recology, included the closing Keynoter, Michael J. Sangiacomo, Recology’s President and CEO. Most of the speakers were from local groups such as SONOMA Food Runners, Sonoma County Zero Waste Task Force, Zero Waste North Bay Task Force, Oliver’s Market, Sonoma Community Center, Sonoma County Resource Recover, and Wasteless Windsor, as well as CalRecycle and many more, for a total of 30 speakers.
The symposium was held in one room, and all the speakers were presented to us, so we didn’t have to choose between which ones we wanted to hear. I really like that, as I can never decide which speaker to go hears. All of the speakers and their profiles are posted online, as are many of their presentations. Check it out at https://zerowastenorthbay.org. This day was filled with so much useful information and lots of new ideas and intriguing ways to approach zero waste.
I came away with several ideas for a project in which I am intimately involved, making my synagogue, Congregation Beth Ami in Santa Rosa, more sustainable. Since we instituted a comprehensive composting and recycling program last fall, with the help of our Zero Waste Specialist at Recology, Anita Migliore, we have reduced our landfill by one-half, for a savings of nearly $3,000/year AND our combined composting and recycling efforts have reduced greenhouse gas emission the equivalent of taking nearly five cars off the road every month. But the symposium gave me more possibilities for us to get closer to zero waste.
We need to do everything we can to reduce waste. The City of Santa Rosa has been developing a Zero Waste Master Plan; their consulting group shows that overall, we have a diversion rate of 34%—that is 34% of our trash is diverted to composting or recycling. The goal of this report is 75% by 2040. Still not ZERO waste, but a whole lot closer. You can see the whole report of the consulting group at https://srcity.org/DocumentCenter/View/23532/Draft-Zero-Waste-Plan. There is a lot of detail, but it’s very interesting and tells us a lot about where we are and where we need to be.
Thank you Karen Preuss for the photos from zerowastenorthbay.org/2019-zero-waste-symposium
© Tish Levee, 2019
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