Eco-friendly policies cutting waste at Becketwood
by Iric Nathanson, Becketwood Member (This article first appeared in the Longfellow Messenger)
The large trash barrels are disappearing from Jason Brenny’s kitchen.
There were five when Brenny was hired as the chef at the Becketwood Cooperative two years ago. “Now, there are only two left. Soon, we will be down to just one,” said Brenny who manages dining services for members of the West River Parkway senior co-operative.
Brenny has been able to eliminate the trash containers because almost everything that leaves his kitchen is composted or recycled. Becketwood is ramping up its efforts to combat waste in response to a new set of eco-friendly policies adopted by the cooperative last year.
The policies were incorporated in the Strategic Imperatives, a five year plan intended to guide the operation of the 210 unit housing complex. “Environmental sustainability is important for those of us who live here, and we know it will be important to the baby boomers who will start looking for housing options as they prepare to retire. People will want to live here if they know we are promoting a green ethic” said Carol Mockovak, who helped draft the Imperatives plan and now co-chairs Becketwood’s Environment Committee.
Mockovak explained that the co-op had started promoting eco-friendly practices even before the five-year plan had been adopted. “We were already composting and recycling on an individual basis but we wanted to take that to a new level.”
After considering several options, Becketwood selected a new vendor, Eureka Recycling, that offers composting as well as recycling services. Eureka, a Twin Cities-based non-profit, collects food scraps and other compostable materials, including paper products, and transports them to a local commercial composting facility where they are made into dirt.
Mockovak acknowledged that the new recycling system is somewhat complicated. “There is a learning curve for all us, “she said. “Now, with this new system, we are not able to recycle some the plastic containers that we used to put in the recycling bins. There is a coding system on the containers that tells us whether we can or cannot recycle them, so we are educating people here about using the codes.”
In order to help educate Becketwood members about the new recycling policy, the cooperative put on a “Trashy Art Show” this spring. Jerry Nordstrom, who organized the show, said that the title sparked some interesting conversations in the Becketwood hallways. “It was a show and it was about trash, but was it art? That is a very fluid term,” said Nordstrom, who serves as the co-op’s in-house art curator.
“I knew that a new system for the disposing of things would be complicated, and no list or chart would tell the story graphically enough,” Nordstrom added. “ So, to make things clear, we created a massive display of actual trash. It showed what kinds of things went into which containers. This was set up near where people got their mail, so everyone had whole week to visually learn the system.”
Brenny, who is working with his kitchen staff to implement the new system, stated that Becketwood’s eco-friendly policy is important to him, personally. “I have two small children and I want to leave an environmental legacy for them, “Brenny said. “When I drive up north, with its beautiful lakes and forests, I have to go by one of the landfills. It started out as a hill. Now it is a mountain. We can’t go on filling the landfills. Recycling is something all of us can do to keep the mountain from getting even higher. It can make a real difference.”