Monday, March 30, 2009

Pickin' Up The Trash

By Chris Olson, Outreach Coordinator

Caroline Bartlett. Her name is probably unfamiliar to most people. I had never heard of her before reading about her this week in Women Pioneers for the Environment, but her efforts in Kalamazoo, Michigan in the early 1900's helped lead to changes in cities around the country. Bartlett's environmental career started after she was ordained as a Unitarian minister. As the leader of a women's study group in her church, she arranged for the group to tour seven local slaughterhouses to learn more about meat inspection. The sanitary conditions the women observed in the slaughterhouses so horrified and appalled them that they took the issue up with city officials and Michigan's Board of Health. After leaders failed to act, Bartlett drafted a bill on meat inspection regulations herself, introduced it to the legislature, and then lobbied for the bill to key elected officials. The bill passed in 1903! From there she went on to become a nationally recognized sanitation expert who, at the request of over sixty cities, performed city-wide inspections and surveys on issues of solid waste collection and disposal practices, the cities' water supplies, and conditions at open markets, grocery stores, public schools, hospitals, and streets and allies. With the help of the Women's Civic Improvement League (which Bartlett created), she designed an new, more effective, and less expensive street-cleaning system for the city of Kalamazoo. Thanks to the leadership of this creation care hero, cities became healthier and cleaner, meat safer to eat, and people around the nation began to recognize the importance of picking up after themselves.

This week the new recycling and composting program goes into effect around Seattle. A tiny, new Food and Yard Waste bin was dropped off at our house a few weeks ago. I have to say I'm kinda in love with it. I'm enrolled in the Master Composter/Soil Builder class with Seattle Tilth and Seattle Public Utilities and in our session last Wednesday we painstakingly picked through a bag of trash and sorted each piece it into the three separate bins: recycling, food and yard waste, and plain old garbage. If you haven't taken a look at what can and what shouldn't be thrown away click on this link to check out a great PDF that lays the new system out for you. The best news is that anything that is food can go in the food and yard waste container. That includes meat and dairy. ALL FOOD! That's fantastic! Consuming less and reducing the amount of trash we each throw away is obviously the best option but making sure that we recycle and compost what we can is equally important in our creation care efforts. My act of love this week is to spend an evening picking up garbage around my neighborhood, throwing away trash and recycling everything else. Hopefully the weather will cooperate when I'm out on my garbage mission channeling the spirit of Caroline Bartlett!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is fabulous. I hope the Unitarian woman locally know about her.