Tribal efforts to be more green moving forward

By Danielle Frost

Tribal people think seven generations ahead.

With this in mind, the Tribe’s Nutrition Program has recently started using new recycle bins and compostable silverware for all catering functions going forward.

The new test recycle bins have been placed at the Elders Activity Center during lunchtime to determine the best placement and any additional needs.

Tribal Elder Dorothy Leno cleans food off her plate into a waste and recycling receptacle that is part of the Tribe’s new green policy. The receptacles are going to be used at all Tribal events. (Photo by Michelle Alaimo)

Nutrition Department Manager Kristy Criss-Lawson said that the bins are being used but that some adjustments may be needed. These could include photos and descriptions of recyclable items placed behind the bins, as well as having recycling monitors.

“Right now we are just testing these to see what will work,” Criss-Lawson said. “But we noticed people putting items that should go in the garbage in plastic recycling.”

This can result in the entire contents of the bin being thrown away because of contamination, an issue which has global effects.

China, where the United States sends most of its recycling, notified the World Trade Organization in July 2017 that it planned to ban imports of 24 varieties of solid waste, including certain plastics and unsorted paper. The reason was that large amounts of dirty and hazardous materials are often mixed in, which can lead to environmental pollution, the opposite effect of what recycling promotes.

The Chinese ban also potentially creates its own environmental problems, as more waste will be burned or put into landfills.  

During big events such as Restoration celebrations, powwows and family nights, Criss-Lawson said she is considering hiring someone to stand by the bins and explain what can be recycled and what needs to go into the trash.

The three-way bin has signs for plastic, cans and waste, but doesn’t specify what is OK to recycle.

“The challenge is education and people learning to do it,” Procurement Manager Larry Leith said. “Going green costs money, but it’s worth it. This is just a small step in the process.”

Other energy saving measures the Tribe has put in place include automatic light sensors, environmentally sensitive cleaning products, dishsoaps and recycling containers in employee work areas. Leith said that contributing to the longevity of the planet and conserving resources fits in with the goal of being good stewards of Tribal lands.

“I think it will all pan out,” Criss-Lawson said. “But education is a big piece of this.”

Tribal Council directed staff to purchase the new bins after some members noticed recyclable items being thrown away during highly attended events.

“If we are serious about being good stewards of our Tribal lands, a point we always make publicly, that goes beyond just natural resource management practices,” Tribal Council Vice Chair Chris Mercier said. “It goes to our daily lives, recycling, using less and drawing from sustainable resources. “

Mercier added that there are no reasons why sustainability shouldn’t be incorporated into the Tribe’s daily governance operations.

“We go through a lot of paper, plastic and other materials, all of which can be recycled,” he said. “Do we really want to leave future generations with landfills, when many of them could have been avoided through adopting simple recycling and ‘use less’ policies?”