By editorial board • 

Group fights the stream of waste, not neighbors

Zero Waste McMinnville could choose to be a group of contentious environmentalists, content with railing about the ravages of climate change and thus ultimately making as many enemies as allies, if not more.

Instead, it has taken a rare tack among the warring tribes of modern civilization. It is fighting climate change without fighting its neighbors. It is accomplishing this feat by focusing on action rather than argument.

Some will disagree. A cynical class of perennial dyspeptics cast anyone with environmental concerns as an annoying do-gooder who has been duped into alarm by 99.9% of the world’s climate scientists.

However, if climate change deniers are spoiling for a fight, they have to look somewhere else. Zero Waste simply declines to contend.

The organization stations volunteers at public events, serving to gently guide people on what should be thrown away, what should be recycled and what should be composted.

Zero Waste leaders successfully pushed for a ban on single-use plastic bags in McMinnville two years before Oregon lawmakers followed suit statewide. The group also brokered a deal last year between the city, garbage collectors and the Agilyx corporation in Tigard to provide Styrofoam recycling.

In 2020, Zero Waste plans to publish a Manual for Elimination and Standardization. The aim is to put the community — literally — on the same page when it comes to how to shrink the local wastestream.

Zero Waste grants to high schools will help students make more environmentally conscious choices as well.

Other efforts include a series of monthly presentations at the McMinnville Public Library and an annual Recycled Arts Festival at Linfield College. They also focus on teaching rather than preaching.

Because of Zero Waste, Flag & Wire and Mac Market now accept HuskeeCups, reusable cups that consumers can use and return to participating businesses in exchange for a freshly washed cup. The concept helps keep paper cups out of the wastestream.

Members have spearheaded the drive for more local businesses to join the 300 locations now accepting the cups. It is yet another simple yet graceful idea that shouldn’t offend anyone’s political sensibilities.

With Olympian leaps of logic, one can argue that minuscule increases in garbage rates for Styrofoam recycling gouge local residents, and that bag bans represent a backdoor to totalitarianism. Heck, some people argue that wind turbines cause cancer.

However, no matter where one falls on the political spectrum, it’s hard not to agree that less waste is a good thing. Most of Zero Waste’s activities essentially consist of setting a positive example and gently urging others to follow.

That attitude should not only be appreciated, but also emulated.

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