#93 Stacy Savage Founder & President, Zero Waste Strategies

Stacy Savage was born and raised in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area of Southeast Texas where her parents worked at oil refineries for a collective 75 years. Her personal experience with air pollution and cancers in her family guided her professional career path to empower others to protect the planet.

Stacy has been a Texas “waste nerd” for 17 years starting in 2003 as a grassroots, door-to-door community organizer tackling local landfill expansion issues in Austin. From 2015–2017, Mrs. Savage served as a City Council appointee on the Austin Zero Waste Advisory Commission (ZWAC). Her peers on this Commission elected her as their representative on the Joint Sustainability Committee, allowing her to provide a deeper level of service to the community.

In 2013, she founded Zero Waste Strategies (ZWS), an environmental consultancy specializing in Zero Waste and Circular Economy concepts. ZWS works with leaders in the business, government, and nonprofit sectors who are serious about reducing waste to drive increased profits, deeper customer loyalty, employee empowerment, and a green marketing edge. With 17 years’ experience in Zero Waste policy development, business implementation, and education training, ZWS has adjusted entire corporate and municipal waste protocols for optimization and has empowered thousands of employees through engaging training sessions, ensuring program success.

Bigger Than Us Episode 93

Nexus PMG welcomes you to the Bigger Than Us™ podcast, which we, as energy geeks lovingly refer to as the BTU. Bigger Than Us is a podcast that focuses on ideas that will shape the future of our planet and ultimately, our existence. We will occasionally lean into energy topics because after all, it’s the key to our collective survival, but we’ll also explore other areas that we believe will have an effect that is Bigger Than Us.

This transcription has been lightly edited for readability.

Host Raj Daniels

Stacy, If you were asked to share something interesting about yourself, what would it be?

Stacy Savage 03:06

Well, one thing that most people don’t know about me is that I was a professional dancer and choreographer for about 20 years. I’ve performed in LA and went to global, national, and international competitions with my dance troupe. I was a choreographer for Texas high school drill teams that do the halftime routines at football games and teaching them their competition routines as well. So that was a lot of fun, I got to travel the state and meet all these wonderful young women who were really exploring their passion for dance, tap, ballet, jazz, hip hop, gymnastics, you name it. So that is something that most folks would not know by just looking at me.

Host Raj Daniels 04:07

What was your dance of choice?

Stacy Savage 04:11

I was more in the lyrical jazz style, and then I’d like to change it up a little bit with some hip hop. I’ve got some funky grooves.

Host Raj Daniels 04:23

Before we move on I have to ask you about the Texas Trash Talker?

Stacy Savage 04:28

That moniker I just kind of gave to myself because I’m working on building a brand and a personality around talking about waste issues, and trash is not sexy. It’s not something that people want to talk about. It’s not something that people even want to look at. But it is a key driver for optimization within a business or even in the home where we recreate as well so we are at a point where we absolutely must look at our waste materials and our everyday actions, and cultural habits as well. So the Texas Trash Talker personality, whenever I do videos on Tiktok or whenever I take photos I’ve always got my Texas cowgirl hat on. And Let’s Talk Trash is basically what the platform is, and helping people understand the waste that they produce drives a direct effect to landfills filling up and how we’re just kind of burning and burying jobs whenever it comes to improper handling of material discards.

So if you’re throwing your soda bottle away or you’re throwing your beer can away, we can’t get that back. Not unless there’s some intensive processes there to go back in and dig through a landfill to pull out all the recoverable materials that should have never ended up there in the first place. So how can we help people develop their habits around waste diversion instead of everything going into a hole in the ground?

So regarding landfills, that’s just part of the Let’s Talk Trash platform. Let’s make it fun for folks. And let’s get people energized about switching over their thinking habits about the value of material discards. I think people think of things as waste because they don’t see the inherent value of that particular item as a commodity. They don’t understand the tie into the economic aspect, the job creation aspect, the aspect where we can stabilize local tax bases, where we can make our local tax bases more robust and stable. Helping people understand that there’s the environmental concern, but on the flip side of the coin, the economics of just throwing everything away just doesn’t make sense. How do we get folks to view their material discards differently than how they are viewed right now? Because right now, they’re ending up in landfills and in our oceans, unfortunately.

Host Raj Daniels 07:41

Since you’ve mentioned waste, can you give an overview of Zero Waste Strategies?

Stacy Savage 07:45

Sure. Zero Waste strategies is an environmental consulting firm based here in the Austin, Texas region. We consult businesses and local governments to use waste reduction to drive increased revenue, deeper customer loyalty, employee empowerment, and to drive a green marketing edge. Our client list includes companies like Dell, AT&T, Nestle, Purina, Petcare, and City of Austin Kohler which is the bathroom fixture brand, Unico Properties. We’re able to really help these companies understand where their waste materials are being generated within their business operational structure, see what waste we can reduce, and then adjust their back-end contracts with their trash or recycling haulers, maybe even their compost haulers if they have this program implemented. If not, obviously we would help them implement a compost program if they do have food waste on-site.

It’s a consultancy that works with these businesses and local governments, but we really specialize in zero waste protocols and best practices to drive the circular economy to really get away from the linear economy, extract raw virgin materials, process them, transport them, and then the consumer buys what’s on the shelf, and presented in front of them. That’s very linear because whenever that product is old or obsolete, it typically goes to a landfill. So how do we take both ends of that linear design economy and connect them into a loop and have some materials be feedstock for other types of industries so that they’re not going to waste? Because you put all of this time and effort and energy and money into the extraction process.

Let’s give those materials third, fourth fifth rounds of life, let’s repurpose them or repair them, remanufacture them into other usable products, and keep it back-flowing into the circular economy instead of extraction, transport, consumer purchase in the landfill.

Host Raj Daniels 10:27

I love the idea of repurpose, and you mentioned some pretty well-known names there. Without mentioning any particular client, can you share some interesting experiences or conversations you’ve had with some of your clients?

Stacy Savage 10:40

Yes. One of the biggest problems that through my market research and being able to work directly hand in hand with the key leadership of some of these companies is that a lot of times some of the main issues are being presented with a CEO mandate. It comes from the top down, right? And that worker has to figure out how to implement, but a lot of times there’s really not any funding or enforcement mechanisms in place to make the program work. There’s a lot of time and effort being put into getting these new Zero Waste Systems into place, but if there’s no support or minimal support from leadership then a lot of times workers just don’t take it seriously.

So I’ve had at least two of the companies that I did mention come to me out of panic — “We have to get this program into place by this certain date. It’s a corporate mandate from the CEO. I don’t know where to start.” It’s either they don’t know where to start, or they’re just so overwhelmed with the day to day that no one has time to put a new program into place.

And then the third thing that I find is that they are afraid of messing up the CEO mandate. It’s all on their shoulders, but they don’t have any funding or enforcement. When you roll out these types of programs, and you don’t have the employee buy-in, you’re really just not going to see much success.

So really getting the employee buy-in through making it fun and exciting requires habit change. It requires individual habit change, and it requires corporate culture change. Think about this huge ship that you have to turn around whenever you’re implementing these waste diversion programs. You have to immediately begin with training, and also making it a personnel policy agreement. So when you bring a new person on to staff, they usually have to have signed agreements for working for your company. If you’re not putting into the personnel policy agreement that “I will follow the recycling and compost standards, and that I will do my best to align these policies” then you’re really not going to have that agreement from the get-go.

I think that a key piece that a lot of companies are missing is that they’re not adjusting their personnel policy agreements because that gives management leverage to hold folks accountable for their agreements and actions. So, let’s go back and revisit this, let’s retrain you on this, maybe it needs to be part of the training program upfront because this is going to help reduce contamination in your bins as well. If there’s a certain level of contamination, then your recycling haulers are going to be deemed too contaminated. And all the effort that you put into not only having the been accessible, having your signs up, training, it’s all going to go to waste because if it’s too contaminated because people aren’t sorting properly at the point of separation, then it’s going to be landfilled.

It’s an unfortunate scenario, but recyclers just cannot deal with a certain amount or beyond of contamination in their bins. I would say that those are the top headaches that we like to address for our clients is giving them that launchpad of where to begin. What are the easiest, most accessible kind of bang for buck steps in order to launch that, program and really hold their hand and walk them through it?

I think that a key piece that a lot of companies are missing is that they’re not adjusting their personnel policy agreements because that gives management leverage to hold folks accountable for their agreements and actions.

Unfortunately, during COVID, we’re having to shift from an on-site approach to more of an online training approach for executives, and key decision-makers within a corporate structure.

Host Raj Daniels 15:29

I really like the idea of the launch pad. That personnel policy agreement is an excellent example. Can you share one or two more examples of tactical steps that help lead your clients to success with their Zero Waste Strategies?

Stacy Savage 15:46

Yes. We had a client who has booked us for the last four years in the brutal Texas heat, which we’re not complaining at all, very grateful to have their business. But providing these on-site waste audits where we’re up to our elbows in their trash bags that have been collected overnight by the janitorial crew and put aside for us so that we can go and pick through every single trash bag and recycling bag and really try to audit that waste because they need that information in order to get LEED certification.

And for folks who don’t know, I think back in 2016 LEED standards were built out in a more robust way by including zero waste protocols. So in order to get your strongest LEED certification, there needs to be a zero-waste aspect to your approach in order to get that certification now. Businesses that employ maybe a sustainability director or sustainability engineer, who maybe they graduated 10 years ago, five years ago…they understand the key decision making around energy and water conservation and those protocols. They were not really taught about waste management or how to divert waste, or how to even do waste reduction measures. So now they have to implement that, but they again may not know where to start.

That’s where we would come in to bring our expertise to the table. So this client in downtown Austin needed waste audits. So we’ve, for the past four years, shown them our waste audit measurements, and we’ve shown them year on year improvement. And what that points back to is that they’re doing better at training, they’re doing better at having more accessible bins for people.

Sometimes people can get a bit lazy, and if the recycling bin is 10 feet away, and I’ve got a soda can and the rest of the landfill trash is right next to my desk, well, which one am I going to use? Especially if I’ve got a full plate and I’ve got deadlines…whatever option can save me some time. And so, sometimes we do tend to get a little lazy. If the bins are not as readily accessible as we need them to be to make the proper decision with handling the materials that are in our hands at that point in time.

If you’re not going to measure it, you can’t really calculate it, you can’t really tell the story of what’s happening on-site at your building.

We did these waste audits four years in a row, we’ve been able to show them year on year improvement, we’ve been able to show how their recycling rate has increased. We’ve been able to give them additional suggestions in our reporting. We drafted a 17-page report just on this one facility and showing them that historical data as well really helps them with the charts and the graphs and being able to relay the information to their office space renters. Because the office space renters are the ones who are making the waste. And so really being able to relay the information, showing where they’ve improved and where improvement can happen is a big piece to what we do as well.

If you’re not going to measure it, you can’t really calculate it, you can’t really tell the story of what’s happening on-site at your building. And you can’t really relay the importance of the program and how it empowers the workers on-site. Not only the building management but the clients that rent office spaces there. Really showing them that we are all in this together. This is how we’re going to drive these numbers higher for recycling rates. We need your buy-in, let’s do more training, that kind of thing that really shows them the aspects of improvement in their program and where we need to focus next time or the following budget year, so that reporting was really important for them. It also allowed them to continue their LEED certification as well.

Host Raj Daniels 20:25

Earlier in the conversation, you briefly touched on an online training program. Can you expand on that a little bit?

Stacy Savage 20:34

Yes. Like I said, we have traditionally over the last seven years since our business was founded in 2013….relied on being on-site and really talking to the key stakeholders, the key employees that help run kind of the green programs, talking to the procurement department, the legal department, the finance department, the waste and facilities maintenance department, being able to interview these folks face to face has really been crucial in obtaining their key insights. It’s really been part of our strategy in order to detail what is really happening on site for the upper management who is really asking for these programs to be implemented.

Now that we’re in living in a COVID world we’re having to shift everything to more of an online training platform. And through my market research, I’ve identified six key headaches for all industries across the board. I’ve interviewed my target market, my target kind of clientele, avatar, which is kind of a key decision-maker, also someone who deals with waste contracts for a specific corporation or within a local government and really interviewing them with very detailed, forward-thinking questions and really getting down and psychological about how they view their waste, and where they can really cut back on their waste issues or reducing their waste.

I’ve been able to build out six training modules that have this content in them that come from these key insights that most facilities are having to deal with and may not know where the remedies lie. And so this training program, would be something like a 12-week training program—which we can, obviously speed up a little bit if that’s too long—we can take your hand, walk you through and going online at your own pace, you can review it and then the following week after you’ve watched the training module, the training video you map out your question. You map out things that are specific for your site. And then the week afterward after you’ve done your homework that I give you then you, we go into a kind of a support call. And the support call can last up to two hours if we needed it to, to really address all of your issues regarding what you learned in that training module and how it directly applies to your facility, and go over things that we may not have covered in the training module that you still have questions about and so really make helping you feel very supported and putting together these programs and really come out the hero. Once you’re done with the training program, you’re coming out the hero for your facility where you can help drive increased revenue, you can get your employees engaged and empowered around these issues to make individual habit change once they come back to the office.

Once COVID is at that place where it’s kind of dying down and we’re feeling a lot more safe and we’re getting back to office routines. People need to go back into the office feeling confident that they’re implementing the proper programs for their specific site, and that they understand the strategy strategies and how to get their employees involved and in how to help their employees take ownership of those programs so that they are successful.

That’s a key, higher-level overview of what this training program would look like. It helps these folks who are responsible for putting these programs into place, walk back into the office with confidence to make sure that they are doing it correctly, and doing it correctly for their specific site. Again, every business is different every business waste stream is different. Every business hauler contract looks different. So there’s a lot of specifics that need to be addressed in the support calls that happen after you review the training module and do your homework. We’ll be launching that very soon.

And I’m working with a marketing team so that we can tie it up into a little, a nice little package, put a big red bow on it and say — here, come and get it. We’ve got the information here for you. So that you’re marching into your office with assured confidence that then you’re going to do it right and that you’re going to be the hero of the waste portion of your business. Maybe a little bit down the road, you’re able to save a couple thousand dollars for the bottom line. So that’s what every business likes to hear. Where can we find that cash in your trash?

Host Raj Daniels 25:57

So I like the idea of cash in trash. Without going into too much detail, can you list the six key headaches? Just in case there’s someone listening and has an “aha” moment that you know what — those were one of my headaches and how can I perhaps engage in your program?

Stacy Savage 26:12

Sure. So the six key headache areas that I have found here my market research is one is the lack of employee training and employee engagement, getting their buy in to is really solidifying your business integrity. People want to buy from companies that have integrity and we want to make sure that your sustainability is an integral part of your operations.

Another one would be community involvement regarding local job creation and how do we take what is coming up the backend of our own facility and selling on the commodities market, what is sellable? Like you’re compressed cardboard and metals and that type of thing. But also getting back into the system and creating jobs in the local area.

Another would be reduction versus recycling. And a lot of companies go straight for recycling and that is a cost and they don’t focus on reduction or reduce first. And there are also a lot of other “re’s” in there are ease the three R’s, there’s a lot more in that like remanufacturing, repurpose, and recycling which comes from composting. There’s a lot of more “re’s” that we don’t talk about that are more cost-saving and free. But whenever we get down to the recycling part of it, that’s where you have to start spending money. And so what can we do further upstream to implement all the readings in order to reduce the waste, for it has to even the recycling bin.

And then there’s a lot of headaches around recycling versus landfilling, is it cheaper to landfill than to recycle? That may be and it’s a business decision. But I know in Texas, it’s cheaper to recycle than it is to landfill. So why are we not really pushing that?

And then businesses have an issue with how to tell their story. Green storytelling is really the key for the millennial and zoomer generation Gen Z. They don’t like to be called Gen Z anymore, because these last letter in the alphabet and they don’t want to be the last generation. But if we’re not changing our corporate culture, if we’re not changing our structure, if we’re not changing and optimizing for the next generation, then they’re not going to give you their business. So how do we do our screen storytelling to those generations that are Gonna be your next boom in consumers? How are you going to keep your business relevant for them to purchase your products, it has to have a green story storyline. Just mainly just perceptions around waste, just how people view the materials that are in their hands and not understanding the economic impacts whenever they mishandled them improperly. Right? So, really just bringing about the perception of waste, personal habit change, and corporate culture change. How do we implement that to really drive that green marketing edge, that green storytelling?

Host Raj Daniels 29:39

I appreciate you going through that list, staying on the topic of storytelling — the crux of our conversation is the why behind what you do. So tell me your story. What’s your “why?” Why are you so engaged in zero waste? How did you start and what keeps you going every day?

Stacy Savage 29:57

I grew up in the Southeast Texas region called the Golden Triangle, Beaumont Port Arthur Orange, and it’s maybe 45 minutes away from the Louisiana border. It’s on the Gulf Coast. And Port Arthur is also considered the oil and gas mecca of the country. And Port Arthur is my birthplace. I lived there until I was two, and then my family moved to a neighboring town, but my parents both still worked at the refineries for a collective 75 years minimum. My dad still works at Chevron. My mother worked at Texaco. So these are major plants, and unfortunately, by working there, and not just my parents, my extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins, it’s honestly one of the best paying gigs in town. But also they were complicit in polluting our own community, and I don’t blame them. Because of that it was a more lucrative position to have out of the plant. It was more stable. Everybody had families to raise and put through college. So I definitely don’t blame them.

But it was economics over environment. It was always a “why does it have to be a trade-off?” And it’s not just my own parents complicit — it was my government. Local governments giving these huge tax subsidies to corporations that came in to pollute and pollute historically black and brown communities. So there’s an environmental justice around these issues as well.

We were kind of an apolitical family, didn’t really talk much about politics or human rights or anything, not really an of the current issues of the day. And so I just grew up kind of oblivious. I thought brown hazy skies and rotten egg smells wafting through the air was normal, everybody grew up like that right? I had no idea growing up that it was the actual chemical plants and gas or oil refinery just down the road that was really making our air quality so poor. I just graduated high school, went to college UT Arlington up in the Dallas area moved to Austin after that in like 99, and really just got a job waiting tables. That’s where I got my gift of gab is waiting tables and bartending and customer service.

Those jobs just really helped me with communication and expressing myself as well as being very personable with people from all walks of life. Finally one day I found a job ad in the back of the Austin Chronicle, which is kind of like the free cool paper around here that talks a lot about arts and music and film and current events and social justice and that type of thing. And so I looked at one of the ads, and there was a job placement and it said “get paid to fight the man,” to which I responded “yes! Wait—who’s the man?” Right? I was so oblivious that I was 28 years old at the time where I took this job and I went in for an interview.

They took me out into the field, we went door to door and I fell in love with it. I got to talk to people at their homes, educate them about the environment. Some of the local issues are happening right in their own backyard. Getting them activated and really pulling together the voice of the collective community in order to put pressure on public officials or corporate polluters. So I was really trained to address the issues and we did a lot of protesting. We did a lot of street theater demonstrations. I organized flash mobs within several Walmarts throughout the country. We were organized so thoroughly across Texas, especially in Central Texas that we got Dell on board with supporting legislation that would require electronics manufacturers of computers to take back and responsibly recycle their own equipment for free for consumers statewide. And so that bill passed in 2007, unanimously through the Texas House and Senate. and it was because we had Dell on board I went door to door and I spoke directly to Dell CFO, not knowing who he was after I changed my rap at the door. He said “I’m the CFO for Dell.” I said “nope, didn’t know that, but here’s the letter.”

You know, your letter writing opportunities that were given to all your neighbors to write a letter to Dell they received over 10,000 letters from our campaign saying, why aren’t you taking this stuff back? It’s toxic that doesn’t belong in landfills, and that means the citizen is footing the bill financially.

And so we passed that legislation unanimously. Governor Perry, then Governor Perry signed it into law, and then two years later, we did it again. We got Thompson on board, and Panisse, I believe Panasonic to pass TV recycling legislation in Texas as well. We only got six no votes in the Senate, and we got 12 no votes in the House. And you got to remember we have 181 legislative districts in Texas. And so only 10% of the lawmakers said no, so it was a really big victory. It’s administered through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality which is our state one, or EPA kind of EPA.

And today, over 300 million pounds of electronics have diverted from landfills in Texas. And this stuff has lead mercury, arsenic, it’s really bad for the environment, and it just doesn’t belong there. So this is really what kind of partially in Texas spurred the Cradle to Cradle movement. Because this is extended producer responsibility, it is a key component of zero waste, getting the producers of these products to be responsible for the end of the life of their own products rather than putting the onus on the resident or county landfills or what-not. And, and so, that was a key victory for us.

After that, I was the statewide program director, legislative director, and I really wanted to advance my career but I just didn’t have anywhere to go because the executive director had been there for 20 something years and she wasn’t going anywhere and that was the next level up so there are really kind of hit a ceiling there. I thought “what else can I do?”

So I ran a couple of political campaigns, one for Austin City Council and I ran a Texas House District race, just north of Austin and lady was to say we lost both because it was so completely dismissive. I was with the environmental campaign nonprofit for nine years, we worked with everybody who had buy in. So we were a nonpartisan group, I was used to working with conservatives and ultra-liberals and businesses and local governments. I was used to pulling people together. The political campaigns were so dismissive and based on opposition research and mudslinging and I just, I just left a really bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t have a passion for it. Unfortunately, we lost both races because I honestly just couldn’t do it.

So I was just sitting at a stoplight, ready to turn into my neighborhood. And I was just daydreaming off into the void and it just kind of hit me. All of a sudden I got smacked with reality. I’m like, well, Stacy, you know, all the haulers, you know, the city council, all the council members, you know all their aides. You’ve worked with them for years, you know all the environmental heavy hitters across the state, you know all the community groups, why aren’t you the main hub or resource for zero waste expansion across the city and that’s exactly what I did. I went the next day and, and I purchased my DBA at the county, and we were off to the races. So yeah, it was just that kind of smack in the face, if you will. When I was sitting at a stoplight.

I never saw myself as an entrepreneur. I always saw myself as working for somebody else. I didn’t really have anything passionate about that I could lead on until I found founded Zero Waste Strategies, and I could start working with companies individually. And I started to see them as Joanne in the accounting department, right? It was Becky in the legal department. It was John in the janitorial department, it wasn’t just this huge corporate monster that was pumping out all these pollutants into our community that you know, I had experienced earlier on in life and that I had been trained to really attack the polluters during my nonprofit role.

But what I started to see as a business owner on the other side of the coin is that these companies are run by people who care. People who live in their own cherished communities are part of their involvement in the schools and whatnot, that they’ve got friends and family in the area. It’s not just this nebulous corporate monster. It’s people run these corporations and I know it’s a novel idea, but it was really a big revelation for me as a businesswoman, as a business owner who had to adjust the person in order to address the pollution, right. And so that was, that was the big aha moment for me.

Host Raj Daniels 40:16

So that’s a pretty amazing story. What are some of the valuable lessons that you’ve learned on your journey?

Stacy Savage 40:24

Oh, valuable lessons? Wow, there are a lot. As a business owner, I had to completely switch my thinking. For 15 years I had been in the nonprofit sector or the political sector and let me tell you, nonprofit folks just do not get paid. It’s not a lucrative position. You’re really there because your passion is driving you and you make sacrifices within your own budget within your own life in order to maintain a livable existence on not very much money. And so it was really difficult for me as a business owner to switch my thinking from having that scarcity view of life, living in scarcity of “am I going to be living paycheck to paycheck?” kind of a thing.

In order to switch my thinking over to the thinking of an established businesswoman and getting paid what I am worth because it took me 17 years to build up my expertise. And the vast majority of that expertise was hands-on and providing leadership within our local Austin Community, helping pass local ordinances for business recycling, curbside composting, construction, and demolition, waste debris recycling. These were serving on the local zero waste advisory board, that’s zero waste policy before it gets to the desk of city council. Really having my hands deep into the policy aspect of it as well.

So like I said, hands on experience, it took me 17 years to develop this expertise. Getting paid what I was worth without feeling guilty was a major, major breakthrough for me. Because being the activist mindset, I felt guilty even getting a paycheck because I was so passionate about what I was doing. So, receiving a paycheck based on my consulting business and helping these companies alleviate their headaches around where they’re getting stuck in is they really are so appreciative that I really had to change my mindset around money. That was the biggest thing for me and really charging what I was worth.

Host Raj Daniels 42:55

So I think that leads really nicely into my last question, which is — If you could share some advice or words of wisdom with the audience, what would it be?

Stacy Savage 43:05

Well, for younger folks who may be listening, don’t wait until you are 28 years old like me, to get involved. Things are happening right now. And because of the internet, because of our access to information at our fingertips that we didn’t have back in the 80s and early 90s. Growing up, it was just a different time. Just don’t wait, and know that you can be involved.

Even if you’re not a voting age. You can get involved on campaigns, local campaigns, political campaigns, you can get involved with social media campaigns that where you want to, maybe you can write a letter to the editor or provide your own story and why you support sustainability or why you support children’s rights or why support worker rights or whatever issue is most passionate for you still just start taking avenues or to address those issues that really drive you in different ways. Maybe it’s a podcast, maybe it’s a TikTok video, maybe you start a series or, or something along those lines. Maybe you get involved with the local Facebook group and you start to register voters, whatever you can do in order to get involved. Maybe you go down to city hall or the county commissioners court, and you put in your two cents during the citizens’ communication portion of those meetings.

The youth are really the ones who are driving this conversation. And they are making us as Gen X, Gen Y, boomers, they’re making us better. But the main issues that they’re going to have to deal with it when we’re gone, and they’re going to have to be the ones that that, unfortunately, clean up our mess. Because we didn’t take the time, to really be thoughtful about all the waste created.

They have every right to be involved as early as possible because we’re running out of time. We’re down to that, that decade of catastrophic climate change issues. What’s really helping my call to action is youth involvement. Maybe there’s a local Sunrise Chapter in your area…look to your leaders, with the indigenous communities. Maybe there are some indigenous rights issues that you’re really wanting to get involved in supporting those communities. Maybe it’s water rights, maybe it’s solar energy.

I’m not sure, whatever floats your boat, but people need to try different tactics that that mesh as well. With their capacity, right? And, and also their age of involvement. Finding things that are age-appropriate to get involved in. Different tactics are going to be key, but getting involved as early as possible. Don’t wait like I did. That’s one key thing that I could put out that kind of call to action to the youth.

We should never rely on the youth to push us to be better. We should be better for them, just because they’re the next generation inheriting our problems.

But also we need to be as, as older citizens as older residents, we need to be leading the way as well. We should never rely on the youth to push us to be better. We should be better for them, just because they’re the next generation inheriting our problems. And so what are we doing in order to address those problems before they have to inherit them? And so that comes again, with personal accountability. It comes with corporate culture change. And, it really stems from what we’re leaving behind. What’s your legacy? I really want people to think about what is the legacy?

What am I leaving behind for the next generation?

Zero Waste Strategies: https://0waste.org

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Raj Daniels

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