Hannah Huggett’s words fly through the air with the speed of a hummingbird’s wings.
“My goal,” said the high school freshman and this year’s leader of Holland’s Youth Climate Strike, “is to bring recycling to the streets of downtown Holland.”
Hannah Huggett makes things happen. Earlier this year, as an eighth grader, she introduced the idea of recycling to the 2019 Tulip Time organizers.
“I reached out to someone I found on line and was invited to present my idea to the Tulip Time committee. They suggested I start with one event rather than all of Tulip Time. They were concerned people would throw trash into the recycling bins and contaminate everything. They agreed to allow me to place recycling stations at the Tulip Time Run provided I find volunteers to man the stations.”
Hannah not only recruited the volunteers, she also contacted Boxed Water, the sponsor that provided water at the Run, so that the waxed cardboard containers not typically part of the local recycling program, could be picked up and taken to the proper recycling facility.
“I discovered the concerns of the Tulip Time committee were valid. People don’t pay attention when tossing their trash.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, municipal solid waste in landfills is the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States. The more waste in our landfills, the more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. The warmer the atmosphere in the Great Lakes region, the more we will experience frequent and intense rain events, greater risk of crop failures, volatility in lake levels, an increasing number of parasites—including ticks, which can transmit the bacteria causing Lyme, the northern migration of white-footed mice, known carriers of Lyme, and therefore, more Lyme disease.
Learning to minimize waste is a quality of life issue.
And that got me thinking . . . one of my great learnings from life in the corporate world was that incentives drive behavior. Would we behave differently if we were charged per pound of trash? Would we learn to slow down, not multitask as we haphazardly sort between trash and recycling material? Would we find ways to compost our garbage?
I suspect so.
The first step is learning what is recyclable in the community. The second is learning to recycle responsibly. If we can do it at home, we can help Hannah—and young people like Hannah in communities around the world—bring recycling to the streets in our cities. We can help minimize the effects of climate change. Together, we can paint rainbows in darkening skies.
Will you be part of the story?