Zero Waste Vashon draws attention to environmental issues
By Klara Plenk, Reporter
As a community, Vashon is passionate about reducing the impact of waste on the environment. Currently, the island’s means of dealing with solid waste follows the global pattern of overusing resources, increasing its carbon footprint, contribution to greenhouse gas formation, and global warming.
The local conservation non-profit organization Zero Waste Vashon (ZWV) has tasked itself with teaching community members how to help make the island more environmentally friendly.
“In [your] daily habits, [you] can have small impacts on improving the use of the world’s resources,” ZWV board member Nancy O’Connor said.
The organization was created four years ago by community members who recognized a need for a recycling-focused organization on the island; at the time, no island group existed that dealt with the issue of solid waste. It is funded through contributions from individuals, King County, and private grants.
Currently, the group is focused on increasing the separation of organic and non-organic waste. Organic waste makes up about 40 percent of total waste in King County, and if left unseparated from non-organic materials, this waste ends up in landfills and produces harmful emissions as it degrades.
To prevent this from happening on Vashon, ZWV instituted separate organic collections at the island processing station two years ago. This collected waste gets shipped off-island to a composting facility, which does not produce an excessive amount of methane. However, this current system still poses a problem.
“[Shipping] is a huge carbon footprint,” O’Connor said. “[That’s why we] are working hard to get a composting facility here on the island.”
Another main goal of ZWV is to increase awareness of the environmental harm individual actions can cause. The organization believes their mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” encapsulates the easiest ways for an individual to spark change in their community, and they use outlets such as their website, Facebook, the Loop, and various informational events to further educate the island.
ZWV also works to reduce waste by bringing awareness to excessive consumer habits.
“Don’t buy more food than you need,” O’Connor said. “There is a large percentage … of food, that we buy and … throw out. We never eat it.”
The next step is to purchase reusable products and to find new ways to reuse items. To further this goal, ZWV has started a campaign called “Bring Your Own” that encourages the use of reusable products.
ZWV also teaches that what can’t be reused should be recycled. In addition to the recycling education they provide to the public, ZWV is the source of the new curbside recycling system, a program that has increased Vashon’s recycling rate by over 50 percent. However, members still see room for improvement.
“There is ground to be gained in terms of [recycling],” O’Connor said. “75 percent of the trash that we currently send to the landfill could be composed, reused or recycled.”
ZWV hopes to continue promoting individual action in the community.
“I think with so much emphasis on the global warming, sometimes it’s important as an individual to feel like [you] can do something,” O’Connor said.