Elemental Begins: A Recycling Educator’s Manifesto
As we propel Elemental products onto the online consumer scene, I cannot help but think about origins. With Elemental’s launch, the opportunity to experience that thrill of something you know will be transformative and purposeful is renewed.
Unsurprisingly, I am also reminded of my first day of work as a recycling educator at the local MRF (Material Recovery Facility - a recycling center).
During my orientation tour–the sheer size of the operation, the slightly rancid smell of the dumping floor, the busy bee forklifts and wheezing balers, the fact that my new office sat 20 feet away from 20 foot mounds of cardboard and plastic–altogether proved a heady mix. Panicky doubts started to flood me.
Seriously, what the hell was I doing here? Remember that ‘cushy’ classroom I used to complain about? And you know, we kind of just made up this job—teach Trash vs Recyclables, who even does that? How can I impact much of anything in this literal and figurative dump?
My face must have said it all because that’s when Mr. Ronnie, an industry veteran, broke my little reverie with a joke I have never forgotten,
“What brings a nice girl like you to the dark side of the trash heap?”
I laughed, and Ronnie laughed. And I think I was simply grateful to breath a bit easier in this smelly place. I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but something stirred in this moment. Why, you ask, do I endeavor to teach/preach/geek out as Steve always says about recycling? It’s because this simple epiphany struck me square on that filthy dumping floor as we walked on:
Small Choices Add Up.
That day, I realized I was surrounded by tons (literal) of material that would never be condemned to the covered cells of a landfill. Those things we commit to the landfill do not go ‘away’. No, they mummify without air or water to even start the decomposition process. And this tossed rubbish will then remain sealed in the earth like some 5th grade time capsule gone real wrong. An embarrassment of gross riches for our descendants, who are apparently all judgmental archaeologists in my scenario, to dig up.
But these heaps stood as physical declarations of the collective power small habits have. Brick by brick, my Romans! This endeavor was going to mean something. It was invigorating.
After that, I felt confident in my small choice that day—which was to finish the tour, and take the 87 steps back to unpack my office.
The idea that small choices create seismic shifts has been a guiding principle for me as an educator ever since, and certainly serves as a pillar of Elemental’s foundation. From deciding to place waste in a recycling bin over a trash can to securing an acre here or there for preservation to shopping with a keener eye towards what makes ecological AS WELL AS economic sense—it all matters a good deal more than credited.
We know you are making small, purposeful choices daily. Barely feels like a nudge some days, but a change nonetheless in the right direction. So, in purchasing our toilet paper, let me welcome you to the dark side of the trash heap where every bit counts. Who knows what this spark towards sustainability will yield? Either way, you are doing your part to fight the good fight and we are happy to have you in the trenches.
Elemental makes that hardly noticeable gesture towards doing something wonderful for our world easy, and let’s face it—pleasant as our ply.
Incremental shifts begin with you. Elemental is here to help.
Stephanie Roach, Recycling Educator