Waste to wealth requires creative outlet for growth

A million pounds of Cleveland FoodBank food; resilience would notice wasted UPS fixtures

By Gregory Jackson

Groundz, founder

Summit cafe conversation waste to wealth

(Photo: David November, Cuyahoga Community College sustainability manager and attenders at the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit 2014 not only discuss solutions for the year of zero waste, but also how waste can create new jobs and wealth to create resilient communities during Summit café conversations).

This week leaders of sustainability in Cleveland, Ohio and attendees from 24 countries gathered at Cleveland Public Auditorium, to meet for appreciative inquiry for the 6th annual Sustainable Cleveland Summit, featuring the year of zero waste.

Appreciative Inquiry, created by Dr. David Cooperrider, Fairmount Minerals Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is whole-system focused including stakeholders in all sectors of the economy that identifies a business, organization, or region’s strengths and weaknesses.

After being a guest speaker at Beaumont School for 30 students in an economics and entrepreneurship class I noticed inquisitive students and shared my thoughts with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

“Students are amazingly receptive to the idea of sustainability,” he said.

We agreed that students are also expecting a society of sustainable value, with resilient systems to encourage economic growth, green energy, clean water, local foods, and sustainable transportation, zero waste, vibrant green space, vital neighborhoods, and collaborative communities even before tragedy or crises strikes.

For waste to wealth initiatives we discussed the need for sustainable currency, in our café conversation. The common saying, “pay as you throw” highlights the mantra that recycling is free, while trash is not.

Waste to wealth generates income and creates jobs when curbside and concierge hauling either saves money or makes money. However many cities provide “free” waste hauling services that are covered under the homeowner taxes and hides the true cost of waste.

However ever waste type has a market, even the bottoms of shoe’s rubber sole is being made into playground mats by Planet Aid (pdf). Plastic is being converted to make fuel, and creative outlets for growth by UpCycle on St. Clair are repurposing waste into art. There are many other examples of waste being used for creative uses, like the mountain pine beetle infestation pine trees are used for interior designer woodworking.

Another aspect of sustainability that often is overlooked is resilience, sustainability of relationships.

John Cleveland, executive director of Boston Green Ribbon Commission, spoke about coastal city dilemma of sea level rise. In projections of ice melt and sea level rise, Boston, Massachusetts could see 100-year floods every high tide.

“Resiliency standards are needed to be in infrastructure,” he says, “with a trusted network broker to manage relationships.” Boston’s sewer district is ready to handle a 6-inch to 1-foot level of sea rise, but any higher up to a third of Boston could be underwater every high tide.

In our café conversation on resilience the group shared about readiness in the storm, but we should always be ready for life’s daily storms, like food waste.

I shared with the group that Groundz compost farm partners are throwing out local food. In fact, in some cases they have begun building bigger compost piles to compost unsold crops. Cleveland FoodBank also requested the recycling of their food waste, at 1 million pounds of food per year. Another local farm grew 3 tons of cucumbers this year, but most of it needs to be composted since it went unsold.

The group agreed that data coordinating and relational communication is vital for resilience. Imagine if instead Cleveland FoodBank delivered food to the many Churches in Cleveland whose food pantries are empty and locally closer to many food bank customers like Target, Walmart, and others? Or if Groundz coordinated communication with local food availability to our celebrity chefs or Care on the Square, a food ministry for Cleveland’s homeless since 2004 of Cuyahoga Valley Church? Or the case with UPS, the amount of fixtures they throw away, which can help build hundreds of homes with Habitat for Humanity?

While rising sea levels would be crises for all coastal cities, being less wasteful will teach us how to be responsive when storms happen.


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