Monday, September 22, 2008

V Is for Victory . . . and Veggies Scraps


My watch read 6:52. Eight more minutes and no sight of my friends yet. I waited outside the front doors. Inside, men in suits and ties swarmed, shuffling paper and toting reusable water bottles.

"You made it!" Another green task force member stopped to thank me for coming. She introduced me to her husband and then they filed inside.

6:56.

Finally, I caught sight of two green book club members walking from the parking lot. One smiled and waved. The butterflies in my stomach stilled. I raised my hand in return.

We shuffled through the doors together. "Are you speaking?" I asked my friend. She glanced around the room and then up a the city emblem on the wall. "Yes," she responded, straightening her shoulders. "I will." We both filled our names and agenda items on a slip of paper and approached the platform. The clerk took our slips and thanked us.

As we turned back to find a seat, I scanned the room. Not recognizing anyone new, we slipped in behind the task force member and her husband.

7:00.

"It is 7 p.m. and the meeting will begin," the clerk announced. "Please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance." I stood hesitantly, feeling like a grade schooler as I laid my right hand over a quickly beating heart.

The door opened and a friend tiptoed in - too late to sign up to speak. She didn't see us and took the first available seat.

The meeting began. Minutes were read. The fire chief stood to speak. "Next agenda item". The police chief approached the podium. Out of the corner of my eye, another friend entered - this time from the left. She grabbed the seat closest to the door. Swiveling, she peered back into the audience until our eyes met. She smiled and waved.

"Agenda item number 7," the mayor announced. A city official launched into an explanation about greenhouse gases and our city's share. Leaning forward, I watched his charts and graphs sift through the projector. We could cut there but perhaps that or that area was beyond the city's control and so it went. Finally, the mayor thanked him for his time and his report. Council members peppered the official with questions and then suddenly it was our turn.

Agenda item number 8. Pick up of residential food scraps for composting. My friend and I shifted in our seats. In front of me, my fellow task force member gathered her stack of petitions. To my left, another friend lifted her chin.

We were ready.

The city manager explained the proposal - weekly pick up of "organics" (food scraps, pizza boxes, soiled food containers, paper towels) for $2 a month. The paper slip I'd handed to the city clerk an hour early appeared in the mayor's hand and he was calling my name and the name of a friend and of the task force member. We rose and lined up behind each other.

I was first to the podium, heart pounding, pushing a smile out as I greeted the council members. This proposal will divert a great amount of waste from the landfill. I told them what they already knew. It is very popular with city residents, I promised. It turns waste into a resource - compost. It helps us live a greener life. It sets our city up as a green leader, I coaxed.

And then I was done.

Returning to my seat, I watched proudly as my cohorts took their turn before the council. Spoke their piece.

The council members buzzed back and forth amongst themselves. One strongly supported the measure. Another thought it was unnecessary. A third was on the fence, he stated, staring out into the audience. He studied the faces of those of us who had stood before him minutes earlier. Finally, the mayor spoke. He believed the city needed to approve the proposal. It is the right time. We must do this to make our city more sustainable.

Then the vote came down. Two in favor. One opposed. The remaining council member - he who had straddled that "fence" - scanned the audience one last time. I felt his eyes on my face. I saw him look to my friend next to me, to friends dotted throughout the room, all nodding their heads vigorously. "Yes."

Yes! It was through. Passed. Approved.

Applause is not permitted at city council meetings but I will admit that a few of us - as our eyes met across the room - put our hands together. More so, we silently pumped fists. Grinned. And flashed V for victory . . . and for veggie scraps.

31 comments:

ruchi aka arduous said...

Congrats!! That's awesome.

innercitygarden said...

Congratulations!

ib mommy said...

Congratulations! My 17 year old daughter will be speaking in front of City Council next week. She is proposing recycling programs for all the schools in our city- I think there are at least 40. She's been collecting plastic bottles and paper from school to give a visual reminder of just how much waste is generated in the school system and she's recruited her friends to sit in the audience to show support.

I hope her presentation goes as well as yours did!

Burbanmom said...

You are so amazing, Michelle!

ib mommy said...

Ack! That would be the School Board, not City Council!

Bobbi said...

Congrats! I wish I could win my county over that easy. We have recycling pick-up in the city limits - but I live one mile out of the city limits and the country refuses to recycle! I'm keeping after them though!

Joyce said...

Good for you! Do have municipal hauling or private hauling?

eco 'burban mom said...

A is for Awesome! B is for Bold! C is for Courageous! Yes, you have all the ABC's it takes to change the world! Great work, GB!

greeen sheeep said...

Congratulations! That is fantastic!

I had my first eco-victory on Friday and can totally relate to that feeling. Did a little victory dance and fist pump in my kitchen. Woo!

Keep it up!

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

You are so brave for being able to get up there and say your piece like that. Congrats!! Score one for sustainability!

Mama said...

Yay! Even in the face of possible failure, we have to keep "doing" and try to affect change. Good job! You are an inspiration!

MamaBird said...

You rock - great account, too! I am so inspired. My city's not even close but maybe if we all attend a few more meetings...

Heather @ SGF said...

That's awesome! Great job!

Lisa Sharp said...

That is wonderful! My town doesn't even have curbside recycling!

Any tips on getting that done? I e-mailed the major because she is a family friend and even a member of the recycling group here in town but she said something about how there isn't money or something but I would even pay a fee for it as I'm sure others would.

Lisa said...

It's so important that we not be intimidated about presenting fresh ideas and projects to our government. To so many people, it seems hokey and somehow vaguely embarrassing to remind ourselves that we ARE the people, that we ARE the system. It's all about speaking up at every turn -- and you've done just that. Kudos on a great accomplishment for your community!

Donna said...

Woo hoo!!! Great job!

Jennifer said...

Congratulations! That is quite an accomplishment.

Melinda said...

Great work, Green Bean. Way to stand up for what you believe in and take your community to another level. Step by step, we'll do it!!

Einat said...

I got goose bumps reading that!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Very cool! Nice work, GB.

Abbie said...

Congratulations! Way to step outside your comfort zone!

I've spoken at a few public meetings, and even if it doesn't go your way, the victory is in speaking your opinion.

And don't fill silly while doing the pledge! I do it every day in school.

Stephanie said...

Congratulations!! I LOVE my county's compost program. I feel so strange without one. Thanks for working to get one in your city, too!

CindyW said...

Amazingly awesome work!!! You totally rock.

Now I can go to my city council and say, "they've done it 10 miles north of us. No more excuses".

BTW, do you know the reason(s) the two opposing council members had? Just want to understand the obstacles that we may face in my little city.

Green Bean said...

Ruchi, Inner City, Heather, Donna, Jennifer, Crunchy & Burbs: Thank you. It was beyond exciting!

IB Mommy: Your daughter is awesome! You must be beyond proud to have a child willing to take action like that at her age! Fingers crossed for her.

Bobbi: Keep up the good fight! This meeting was the culmination in nearly a year's worth of work from some of the task force members. They collected signatures, recruited people to come speak or at least show support. And this is one of the battles we won. There were others we didn't but I think in this area we just need to keep working. Good luck! I hope you can get the county to embrace recycling pick up soon.

Joyce: I'm going to say private hauling. The city contracts with a private company - currently Allied Waste - to haul the garbage, recycling, green waste (plant scraps) and now "organics".

EcoBurbs: That is so nice of you! You forgot N is for Nervous, S is for Scared and T is for too important not to speak up.

Greeen Sheeep: Wahoo! I have to jump over to your blog to see if you share any more about your eco-victory. Doesn't it feel great?

Jennfer @ Veg*n: I will tell you this. I was pretty nervous but I feel like the momentum we have going in this green movement is just to great to stay home right now. :)

Mama: Thank you for the compliment and also for the work YOU are doing on mountaintop removal. It is a tough tough road sometimes but I think we are at least making progress. Keep spreading the word.

MamaBird: Baby steps. I think we can all get there with baby steps.

Lisa Sharp: Money did come up and I will say that the City passing this ordinance will require residents to pay $2.66 a month for food waste pick up. Of course, diverting food waste will make our garbage go down and, as we pay by the can, we'll ultimately pay lower bills. I would say that, to get something green done in your town, find a group of like minded people. Our task force is only 5 folks. Then set up a web site (ours is super simple) or a blog (you know how to do that!) to spread the word and look professional. Come up with some sort of logo or slogan and a name for the group. Ours is the city name followed by Green which I think is pretty typical of green task forces. Start attending city events or festivals with a table and start a list of people interested in becoming members. Gradually, you will grow and you can come up with some initatives. In our group of 5, everyone has their own area of interest - urban canopy, waste reduction, green building, green schools, etc. If you can, have someone send out a monthly newsletter which has helped our group grow. We've had some initiatves fail and others suceed but it is important to keep trying and to pick ones that are less expensive, more doable, maybe something other local cities are doing that yours is not. Start an online petition using your mailing list, go to city council or write a letter to your mayor and council members telling them of our iniative and then get folks to come speak up. You can do it! Here's what Lynn at Organic Mania is doing through her city: http://www.bethesdagreen.org/ Email me at greenbeandreams@gmail.com if you want more information about what my city is doing.

Lisa: What a great point! For some reason, community organizing and involvement at a local governmental level is now viewed as a joke. Far from it! This is where momentum gets started. One city does it, then another and then the state. Cities and states are taking much more action to combat global warming than our federal government. It is so important to speak up! Our voices are much louder, too, at a local level.

Melinda: You know, girl! We can get it done and this night was an exhilerating reminder of that.

Einat: I got goose bumps being there so I'm glad I could convey some of that.

Abbie: Yup - it is a victory just to be heard and, even if you don't win, you know you tried. And I didn't feel silly saying the pledge, just young. It's funny how, as adults, we almost never do that.

Stephanie: Yes, many cities have that around us and I hear it makes a huge difference. Can't wait for ours to kick in and my garbage to go down even more.

Cindy: In all honesty, we were really lucky that a particular city council member - who does not believe in global warming! - was in attendance. (Let's just say that my green moms group has made it our mission for this to be his last term). One council member objected because he and his wife don't generate that much garbage (it's not about him! but the residents of the city!) and because this will happen in 2011 anyway. You guys might be affected by the change in 2011 change which *I think* has to do with us switching over to a different hauler (the one SF uses). The guy who was on the fence didn't want to inflict a 2% garbage rate increase on residents. Of course, that only translated into $2.66 a month AND our total garbage bill will go down because we are billed by the can (size and number). Diverting food waste - which is around 30% of household waste - will decrease the overall garbage costs. Other cities in the area have this. San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland (I think), maybe Cupertino?? You'll want to snoop around about that one.

Abbie said...

I guess I understand what you mean... most of my friends laugh when the subject comes up and I tell them that I say the pledge every day at work. My veteran friends find it to be very respectful to them and to the rest of the people who serve our country.

One thing I do is leave out the "Under God" because, while I don't believe in a god, I do pledge my allegiance to this country. Oh geez, I probably just opened up a whole bag of worms in the comments here... sorry!

kale for sale said...

Great Beans!!! Good job to you and your team of green taskers!

Chile said...

Nice work stepping up to the plate...er, mike. You're a positive force for change, GB!

CindyW said...

"One council member objected because he and his wife don't generate that much garbage (it's not about him! but the residents of the city!)"

This is scary, but I am sure this sort of selfishness extends all the way to federal government, except at that level, people like that council member can cover up the real intentions with a whole lot of trickery.

Mist said...

Is it weird that I actually teared up when I read this post? I'll blame it on the pregnancy hormones! ;)

Now if only I could get my own husband to recycle. THAT would be a victory.

Go Green Bean! Even if your friends weren't there, you know that all of us are behind you.

Lori Ann said...

This is great! Both the victory, and the way you wrote out this story. Thanks for sharing!

Green Bean said...

Thank you, Kale, Chile and Lori!

Mist: Hey, I tear up over everything these days so don't feel bad.

Cindy: It is scary! I think this sort of thing is inevitable in politics. Just this particular council member wasn't savvy enough to not say anything.

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