my girls and i are blessed with the opportunity to spend our summers up at our family cottage. my husband comes for as long as work allows - and my mom joins us when she can. the cottage is located on galiano island, part of the gulf islands, off the west coast of Canada. it is a summer we spend as a tight family unit. a summer without television, reliable cel phone reception, sporadic internet access (only when we go into "town"), and living with the idea of creating as little trash as possible.
galiano island (roughly the size of the island of manhattan, with a permanent population of 1200 people, that blooms in the summer with tourists and cottage dwellers) does not have a landfill. any trash must be taken off island - whether through a service, or (as we do) by your own hand. the first time we visited the island - when my eldest was barely one - we rented a small cottage without laundry facilities, and with no laundromat on the island (water conservation is another big issue here)we were stuck with disposable diapers. i will never forget driving off island with a trash bag of diapers tied to the top of our minivan. (it felt like a drive of shame.) now we have laundry access and work hard not to use anything disposable. cloth napkins, handkerchiefs and rags abound. my diva cup is ready when that time arrives. and the compost pile accepts all of our food waste. (we are lucky there are no real predators on the island, so do not have to concern ourselves with inviting unwelcome visitors with meat scraps.)
what we do produce can usually be recycled and the island's innovative, and extensive recycling facility. GIRR (Galiano Island Recycling Resources) operates as a non-profit and includes the recycling center and a "free store", as well as a rental service for plastic dish and cutlery sets for large scale entertaining. Over 100 tonnes of waste are diverted from off-island landfill by the facility each year. It is reborn as road construction materials, plastics, manufacturing components, tin cans, drink bottles/cans/containers, paper, newspaper and cardboard boxes
knowing what we can recycle guides our shopping as well. milk is purchased in glass bottles. bulk items loaded into paper bags. farm-stands and the saturday farmer's market are frequented. fish is purchased right off the boat.
this year we left with one small shopping bag of trash in the car.
the girls have turned into 3R detectives. they know which plastics can be recycled and which cannot. they know which materials bring the depot money, and which are simply sent off. they love to sort things and navigate the system with ease. it is a skill i believe strongly in, and a big part of developing environmental stewardship.
these are ideals we are trying to bring home to the city - where it is so much easier to not think about it. we are hoping to establish a more extensive recycling program at our neighbourhood school. i wish LA would get on board. i hear my friends tell of exciting advances in other cities, and think of the impact a change in LA waste management would make. hopefully it will happen before my little stewards of change grow up.
does your school have an innovative recycling program? i would love to learn more...