I still remember the feeling I had over 25 years ago, walking out of the grocery store with a wad of cash in my hands from collecting pop cans out of my dad’s junk yard. This moment may have been the impetus to starting my business, but recycling has always played a role in my life: My parents were always telling us to turn off the lights, stop running the water while brushing our teeth, and heading to every garage sale in town (and I mean EVERY garage sale!). It was a way to save money so we could go on family vacations and take part in every sport and club that we wanted to. My passion for the environment, however, really clicked while living abroad in New Zealand. The country’s natural beauty will bring tears to your eyes. I recall the exact moment when I was enjoying the beauty surrounding me, only to look down and see piles of litter. Without thinking, I picked it up. The solution seemed so clear, the problem so easy to fix. Pick it up.
After leaving New Zealand, I relocated to Des Moines. Living in an apartment with no recycling was perplexing. This is a big town, I thought. Does that mean that no apartment tenants in the entire city have access to recycling? It became a topic of conversation at every social gathering, and I quickly learned that I was not the only one disappointed by the lack of options. The city provided curbside recycling to residences, so why not us? I started to get angry, and decided to direct my energy into doing something productive to solve this problem. I took on the fight to create better recycling options for the community, which I was growing to love more and more each day. In 2010, with a small group of motivated "eco-heroes," I started RecycleMe Iowa.
We’ve heard the phrase “reduce, reuse, and recycle” a million times, but how well are we really practicing this? When you start separating your recycling from your trash, you see the difference one individual can make in the world. It’s my favorite conversation to have with a new recycler. It reminds me to keep challenging the waste industry, to make it economically viable so more jobs can be created, and to eliminate landfill-bound items like straws and styrofoam.
It takes time and commitment to form a habit, so I challenge my community, family, and friends to create an Earth Day resolution and make a change. Forgot your reusable bags in your car? Turn around and go get them. Get coffee everyday at your local coffee shop? Start bringing your own cup. See some litter on the ground near a trash or recycling bin? Pick it up and throw it away. There are so many simple solutions that each individual can use to make a real impact. I challenge you all to pick one new habit and stick with it for the full month of April. If you live in an apartment, work at a business, or plan events, get in touch with us at RecycleMe Iowa. We are here to help you live a greener life, and we always love talking trash!
Finally, as Whitney and I talked about in our video (above), we have our 8th birthday party coming up! We hope to clink drinks with you at our open house on Thursday, April 19th at CollaborateDSM (31st and Ingersoll) from 5:30-7:00 pm. Bring your business card for a chance to win prizes, too!
A note from Lucy:
I could not be more proud of my beautiful friend Ciji! She and I have been very close friends since I first moved to Des Moines in 2011. We met at a yoga class and bonded over our passion for sustainability. She's taught me so much about overcoming the challenges that small businesses and grassroots movements face, and has inspired me to make small changes in my own life that add up to major ones. She is always spreading her message with a smile and an open heart, willing to talk to anybody and everybody about the difference that they can make as just one person. Ciji, you are truly one in a million. I'm so proud to call you a friend, and can't wait to start kickin' trash and takin' names with you in April!