No, that is not a typo, it’s the direction we all need to go.

As we work to make our future a “Green” one, I often wonder why my Grammy’s dresser was so small? (seems that 4 drawers was more than enough)  Why in her modest rural Pennsylvania house, the Ben Franklin quote,  “everything has a place, everything in its place” wasn’t just a cross-stitched saying on the wall?  Why did the depression era farm girl turned wartime cabby, mother, wife of a cross country trucker and teamster leader, small business owner, and pillar of her community still lived in a house not much larger than my first “real apartment”?  Why did she keep a big enough garden to can for the entire year well into her Sixties?  There are probably a dozen nifty little sayings I heard when visiting over the years, like “Better bellies bust than vittles go to waste”, and “Waste not, want not”.  I’m pretty sure I never heard my grandmother use the words “waste diversion”, “organics”, “re-purpose”, or “environmental stewardship”; probably because it was already her reality.

It is important that we recognize the folks that continue to improve our world by making things work. The following is an excerpt from Northwest’s 2013 State Recycling Award nomination:

 in 2011, Northwest Facility Services was approached by students to address the large amount of food waste being sent to the landfill  [The University Hardscape Team] modified a dumpster and constructed a tipper for the dining staff to [dump into] with scrap metal and salvaged equipment from the University farm.  In order to process the large amounts of food collected[They] recovered and modified/rebuilt an out of service feed wagon to mix and lay out the composting windrows [To turn a] 3 foot tall and 4 foot wide compost windrow our staff was able to build [a turner] by repurposing and modifying an out of service round hay baler.  Since implementing this program Northwest has diverted over 300,000 lbs. of food service organics from the landfill … 

In 2010 the Northwest Missouri State University campus generated 939 tons of solid waste, and was able to divert 185 tons of recyclables or 20%.  In 2011, solid waste actually increased to over 960 tons, but more than 255 tons or 26.5% was diverted, saving $13,400 in tipping fees, and generating $3,500 in program funding In 2012, Northwest reduced its overall waste by  15% to only 911 tons, and was able to divert more than more than 316 tons or 34%.  Tipping fees were reduced $16,621 and the program funding generated reached $12,312 or 39.4% of Northwest’s actual tipping costs.  It is this increased volume and waste management changes that made the incorporation of a baler into our operation a necessity… [In July 2012 Northwest purchased a baler with a matching grant from the State of Missouri Department of Natural Resources through our Regional Solid Waste Management District; and this is how we made that grant work.]

[2013 Busch Systems Recyclers Digest] “ … What Actions Have they Taken to Make it Happen?

In an effort to simplify the recovery process at their campus grounds, the Recycling Team at NWMSU installed their very own materials recovery facility.  Although taking on such an elaborate task is impressive in itself, what is even more extraordinary is the machinery’s design. Every part of its structure was supplied from existing equipment and scrap which their Hardscape and Recycling Team repurposed.  The top hopper made from scrap steel was not only converted from scrap material, it was also designed specifically to fit their mixed recycle bins – what a clever idea! Its platform was modified with chutes for aluminum and milk jugs that are captured in the recycling bins. Mixed plastics, HDPE colored, and glass are all sorted into boxes on the top level. PET is the main focus, but once there is enough alternative recyclables to bale, it’s dumped into the lower hopper that feeds the baler. Both the lower hopper and baler chute were developed from old farm wagon parts and plant signage. They even reused their old emergency call station polls, to create their hopper‘s “legs”. In addition, to reduce the number of cycles required in completing a bale of PET bottles, a shield was fabricated for the baler door, allowing a higher capacity of mixed material to go through…

It is clear that all aspects of this facility involved strategic planning and dedication. It is truly inspiring to see a school that takes action in reducing waste from entering our landfills. Every act makes a difference, and it is refreshing to hear of such success from NWMSU and their recycling team.

I used that quote in the nomination because it really says it all.

“Just make do” is not an admission of defeat, it is a challenge to be met.  Decide to make a difference.