BY MADGE MIDGELY
No matter where you live, if you ask the question: "What do we have an abundance of?" trash and castaways will always be an answer.
At one point, Cheyenne had outgrown its landfill, and the city made an agreement to temporarily have the trash shipped to Colorado. This made no sense to me, that
we would ship our trash to a higher population concentration instead of creatively tackling the issue at hand.
|One of the biggest Cheyenne landfill problems: glass.|
Cheyenne has since reclaimed its waste and reopened its landfill to the community.
Cheyenne also has had a recycling program that includes paper and plastics for about 11 years. Glass still goes in the trash.
I know my family has, out of sheer convenience, been guilty of throwing things away that could have been repaired or repurposed. This means other families are doing the same thing. And some of the items we throw in the dump could be repurposed by a creative or resourceful person.
In far more progressive cities, non-profits have started up to tackle the issue of waste. Some include creating a salvage store at the dump, where items that can be repurposed can be claimed for free or for a small fee.
The ReClaim It! program in Portland, Ore., has since 2014 salvaged over 450,000 pounds of items that would otherwise been left to rot in the dump.
Fix-it cafes are popping up all over. These do-it-yourself repair shops employ artistic types and those with mechanical know-how to help everyday people repair broken items in hopes of keeping them out of landfills.
This reminds me that we need to reexamine our perception of "abundance" beyond the temporary boom-and-bust cycles. We have always had trash, and we will continue to make more. As our community continues to grow, it is essential we take this issue into account and find viable long-term solutions.
Habitat for Humanity does a great service with its reclaim store. And our few thrift stores do a great service by providing gently used items for a low price. But we can and should be doing more about our waste by looking at it as a commodity.
A dump reclaim store and a fix-it cafe in the up-and-coming Art District could be a great idea for the intersection of creativity and resourcefulness. There are plenty of artists up-cycling waste, and plenty of Mr. or Ms. Fix It types who would love to show you how to repair that vintage radio or how to build a chicken coop out of reclaimed supplies.
It could be a great place to create an inter-generational dialog as a way to pass on some useful knowledge. These ideas can create meaningful jobs for people who want to save the world but feel overwhelmed with how to help in their own community; specifically, those with a creatively driven spirit.
When we redefine "abundance" beyond thinking it is exclusively good or bad, we can assess what we have and what we can do with it. I understand most people don't want to think about trash, and that is why we dump it in the bin and pay the bill for someone else to take it away. Trash isn't "classy.”
Many parts of the world have trash problems. Locally, we see it in the gutters and caught in the trees.
These ideas won't fix the problem we have with the wind blowing trash
into your yard, but they could help in lowering your trash bill in years to come and eliminating some of the refuse we would prefer to ignore. Again, this is an attempt at creating a closed-cycle system by reducing unnecessary waste. That is an attitude that Cheyenne should adopt multilaterally.
|This Repair Cafe is in New Paltz, N.Y.|
For those people who say "Cheyenne has nothing to do," imagine taking your kid to the reclaim store to find some items. Then you can head over to the fix-it cafe to spend the afternoon making something better than it was when you found it. Or maybe you could create something entirely new from your acquisitions.
Imagine this is what you do with your partner, or family, or friends on Saturday or Tuesday afternoon. Perhaps they have local beer and coffee on tap. Perhaps they have classes on specific projects.
We will always have trash. Things break and need to be fixed. Creatives will always be looking for something to up-cycle. Builders and fixers will always be building and fixing.
We are swimming in abundance that the wind won't blow away. Open your eyes, Cheyenne, and grab hold of these possibilities before some outside developer comes and steals it for themselves. Let's own our city!
If we want these ideas to work for our community, we have to show interest and be willing to get our hands a little dirty.
Madge Midgely is a local writer.