By editorial board • 

Sustainability fair extends beyond ‘recycle’ to ‘rethink’

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

The successful Recycling and Sustainability Fair on Aug. 19 in downtown McMinnville embodied the adage as it offered an enjoyable, enduring lesson in creative, positive ways to dispose of unwanted items without landfilling them.

The fair was more than just another place to buy things. It was a market of ideas: Vendors displayed myriad purposes for things someone either threw away or passed along. It was heartening to see items get at least one more use, one more life, in counterpoint to a throwaway society with toxic effects on surface and groundwater, our rivers and oceans, and the air.

At the fair, artwork as well as functional items filled booths over a two-block stretch. Some early Christmas shopping was going on, from fine art and elegant clothing out of metal, glass, leather and “waste” cloth on down to reused light switch plates and jewelry made from old inner tubes.

Of course, some stuff is just trash. “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor,” Paul Simon sang years ago. Each person’s actions can have an effect on the next person, so any well-intended disposal of materials or objects must be done with that in mind. Just as we are trained to rinse out cans and bottles we recycle, any old clothing or item passed on needs be to its recipient a benefit and not a burden.

“We all have things people need,” Sustainability Fair vendor Jamie Doscher noted, pointing to online “Free” and “Buy Nothing” communities that serve as a kind of two-way street for giving and receiving reusable items. These communities exist in the McMinnville area, and depend on a giving, reciprocal spirit.

“It’s a need and a desire,” Doscher said about making art or functional pieces from items found or discarded.

“It’s a fun way to use something that would have gone to the dump, something people didn’t want. It’s disturbing how much gets thrown away. There are companies that will take these things and turn it into something else. But not all of it, maybe because of the volume or type of material. So if you can turn it into something at least one more time, it’s got at least one more life.”

The work of giving things “one more life” or extending it even further, is what motivates the folks at Sustainable Solutions of Newberg-Dundee, formed 2018.

“With a little bit of rethinking of how you live and how you operate your property, you can do some amazing things that will help the environment,” said member Sue Delventhal.

The small things Sustainable Solutions practices include repurposing or creating durable cloth bags, and creating smaller storage bags, to give away.

Like Zero Waste McMinnville, the bigger picture mission is to “work with partners to find solutions that are sustainable to problems like plastic, repurposing, recycling, and more,” Delventhal said, up to “extensive work with legislative bills and measures, lobbying for bills that help with the environment,” as well as education about composting, pollinators and irrigation-free gardening.

As Erin Andrews of Sustainable Solutions pointed out, “There are little things you can do, like buying a loaf of bread that doesn’t have a second plastic bag, choosing tuna that’s line-caught, little things just every day you can do. I like to talk about backyard composting, taking out lawns and putting in gardens.”

Ramsey McPhillips said the Sustainability Fair was held in part to celebrate the many sustainable local businesses. According to the Zero Waste website, the organization “encourages people to change their thinking about how resources are used and learn to stop sending everything as trash to the landfill or incinerator. ... It guides people to modify their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”

The fair also gave voice to upcoming events such as the free Household Hazardous Waste day in McMinnville on Sept. 23. To sign up, and for a repository of other recycling-related information, visit

Also on the horizon is a hard-to-recycle plastics event from The Plastic Project, part of Zero Waste, happening from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 14 at First Baptist Church, 125 S.E. Cowls, McMinnville. For information, call 503-207-5482 or email

Check with the project for fees and complete information, but plan to recycle No. 3 and No. 4 HDPE plastic and No. 5 and No. 6 plastic, along with straws and utensils, bread bag clips, plastic screw-on caps, tape dispensers and even CD and cassette cases.

Spending an estimated $20 or $30 once a year to keep items such as these out of the landfill is just one reminder of a simple truth: You don’t have to change all your ways overnight to make a difference.

Other tips:

Use fabric shopping bags, even at the hardware store.

Switch to shampoo and conditioner bars, toothpaste tablets, and bamboo toothbrushes.

Buy in bulk when possible, or buy goods packaged in glass, metal or cardboard.

Use glass containers or stainless steel for food storage, instead of plastic.

Use non-plastic refillable water bottles instead of single-use plastic ones.

“Plutonium is forever,” was a catchphrase of the 1970s, but since then we have learned “plastics are forever.” The Plastic Project points out that chemicals leach into containers and then to food, so it is best to avoid items such as disposable cups and plastic lids — for the health of the planet and our bodies.

Another catchphrase, “Reduce, reuse, recycle,” has expanded along with our sensibilities, to include “repair” and “refuse” (as in, say no to plastic wrap) and, mostly, “Rethink.”

These efforts do not always come easily. Take examples from those who live sustainably and incorporate little changes along the way.


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