THANK YOU EARTH DAY COLLABORATORS, VOLUNTEERS, ENTERTAINERS, AND SUPPORTERS!
With Earth Day 2022 behind us, my final event in my role as TVCR executive director, I wanted to give a heartfelt thank you to so many individuals and entities who continue to make Teton Valley such a special place to live.
First off, thank yous to all of our non-profit and business partners who made the Earth Day Celebration such a fantastic event. Thank you to our generous business sponsors who provided the funding to bring this event indoors and outo fo the rain/snow – Silver Star Communications and the Bank of Commerce. From the fantastic performers (the Hispanic Resource Center Folkloric Dancers, the Teton Valley Music Alliance Musicians, the THS musicians, and the 4H Cloverbuds) to our food vendor (Captain Ron’s Smokehouse) to all of the fantastic booths (Teton Regional Land Trust, Idaho Cooperative Extension/4H, Teton County Fairgrounds, Idaho DEQ, TVCR, Mountain Roots Education, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Henry’s Fork Wildlife Alliance, PAWS, MD Nursery, RAD Curbside….) to the community clean-ups and service projects. Thank you especially to all of your community members who treat every day as Earth Day, because reducing waste and resource consumption, limiting emissions and reversing climate change benefit us all – even if we have to make some lifestyle changes and sacrifices to preserve our future quality of life.
FAREWELL FROM THE DIRECTOR’S SEAT
And for those of you who may not have been at Earth Day, but have been a supporter or follower of TVCR over the past five years, I can’t thank you enough for being so receptive to the idea of local reuse and reducing waste in creative ways. Our rural community can be a model to all about how rethinking our habits and instituting a few changes has the ripple effect of creating a robust culture of reuse, a sharing economy, and a place where community is more important than “things”. We really do live in a special place and I truly enjoyed being a champion of waste reduction in Teton Valley.
While I have stepped down from the executive director role and left it in the capable hands of our new executive director, Angela Saggiomo, I have not left TVCR nor the wonderful Teton Valley community. I will be staying on as a volunteer, the bookkeeper, and an occasional contractor for TVCR. I will also be working with the Community Resource Center of Teton Valley as their bookkeeper and likely volunteering with their wonderful food rescue program, Food For Good, which makes a huge dent in the food waste headed to the landfill. Waste reduction is rooted deep in the core of my being, so you likely haven’t heard the last of my little voice, which Nan Pugh says still pops in her head whenever she has a recycling or waste question.. “What would Iris say?”
My immediate focus is to spend more time with my kid, our pets, and to repair all of the broken things in our house, our yard, and my body. I’m also going to devote more time to growing, preserving, and cooking my own food, as ironically, my job forced me to use way more pre-packaged snacks than we ever did before. Slowing down and having time to take care of the basics of health, happiness, and enjoying wild places is in my immediate future – hello summer!
THE DRAMAS OF THE PAST FIVE YEARS IN RECYCLING
What a roller coaster of a ride I’ve had in my almost 5 years at the helm of TVCR. When I started in 2017, China had just implemented their “Green Sword” policy eliminating the import of foreign scrap and recycling (aka mixed plastic garbage) and rocking the global recycling industry. Fortunately, living in Teton Valley where our County Solid Waste & Recycling department, under TVCR’s urging, had long ago made the conscious decision to only sell recyclable commodities to domestic, not foreign, end destinations, we had a bit of lag time before all of the large coastal cities flooded the US recycling markets making most recyclables nearly worthless and causing many US communities to stop collecting recyclables at a loss.
Once again, we are fortunate to live in a County that values Waste Diversion and was willing to weather the storm by implementing a small processing fee for recycling drop offs and maintaining recycling of almost all commodities with a viable end destination. While these challenging years did hit the County’s bottom line, we still emerged strong since we are one of the few communities who recognized the value of “source separation” of recycling – while it may be a bit of a pain to put all of those items into different bins, it makes a huge difference in keeping recycling materials clean and recyclable – a hard lesson learned by those cities who co-mingle their recycling in one “single stream” contaminating much of the paper and also leads to really sloppy recycling (aka garbage) – the whole reason China rejected all of that waste in the first place!
Through it all, it has been amazing working with our partners at the Teton County Transfer Station (those great folks who process all of our recycling, compost, and salvage and offer such great diversion programs) and our waste hauler, RAD Curbside (who started as a recycling company and now is the County waste hauler with a passion for diversion opportunities). Together we’ve targeted the biggest waste issues – construction and demolition, food waste, and plastics – and TVCR has had the privilege of being the educator and the incubator of creative reuse ideas. From compost to school education, bike refurbishing to construction waste sorting, TVCR is such a fantastic advocate for creative waste reduction. We love our collaborators and we’ll continue to strive for more and more solutions to the valley’s waste problems.
How great to see so many (~350!) new households using backyard compost bins from TVCR? How cool to see these lovely Trex benches in community spaces from the thousands of pounds of plastic film we’ve diverted from the landfill! How happy we are to know that all of those batteries people were tossing in the trash are now getting recycled because we made it free and convenient with our many business partners. How excited are we that hundreds of bicycles are being saved from the landfill, refurbished, and put into the hands of local kids in need. What rewarding work, indeed!
Please join me in continuing to be a TVCR supporter, a TVCR volunteer, and a TVCR waste avenger! Together we really are making a difference – and it is so great to see. It has been an honor to help steer the boat for a few years!
Iris Saxer, former executive director; forever ally of TVCR