Change is happening in the Tahoe/Truckee area. Changes in habits that we have grown accustomed to in the name of convenience. Our busy lifestyles often lead us to lean on the easiest, quickest option (our trash generation rate has increased from 2.68 in 1960 to 4.9 per person in 2018 according to the EPA), but this strategy isn't actually working in our favor in the big picture. Taken a walk lately? How many pieces of trash were there along the way? Probably quite a bit that you may or may not have even noticed, as it seems that we unfortunately are becoming accustomed to seeing trash in our natural environment. This trash is also filling up our landfills (guess where landfills are? In our environment, getting bigger and bigger taking up more space).
So what is being done? Where are changes being made and what are they?
Between the Town of Truckee’s new single-use foodware ordinances and Sierra Watershed Education Partnership’s sustainability club’s implementation of various waste reduction measures in our local schools, changes are being implemented on a community level and throughout our local school district.
The Town of Truckee is working hard to reduce our consumption of single use items that only have a life span of about 15 minutes to 24 hours with town-wide ordinances to reduce this trash. These ordinances have come after implementing working groups and community meetings; educating businesses and the community; and offering grants to businesses to help with any upfront costs.
The new Single-Use Foodware Reduction Ordinances:
Ban on the sale and use of polystyrene (styrofoam) products
Food vendors must charge 25 cents per disposable cup or takeout container
Food vendors must provide reusables for customers dining in
Single-use food items (straws, plastic silverware, condiment packets, etc…) must only be provided upon request
These changes are instrumental in reducing our area’s carbon footprint, as well as improving our local environment. SWEP is excited to be supporting the Town of Truckee in waste reduction efforts in Truckee and the Tahoe region.
On another level, school-wide change has been happening through SWEP’s sustainability clubs’ implementation of THREE new waste prevention actions this school year:
Green Teams and EcoAction Clubs helped implement shareware (reusable dishware) with bowls, cups, plates and silverware for each school for teachers and administrators to use for staff meetings, gatherings and events. This replaces the single-use plastic/paper partyware that has been used in the past. With 10 participating schools that offer many events throughout the year, including bimonthly staff meetings, birthday celebrations, staff meals, etc the amount of waste reduced through using reusable dishware is considerable.
All second grade students in TTUSD received a metal reusable bento box lunch box to be used to pack more sustainable lunches. Bento boxes help reduce lunch garbage by reducing food waste through proper portion control and removes the need for plastic bags and small snack-sized wrappers (TIP: buy in bulk instead individually packaged items to reduce plastic waste).
TTUSD schools will have updated food sharecarts in the lunchroom for students to place unwrapped, unwanted food for other students to take if they would like more food, instead of throwing it away. This option not only reduces food waste going into the landfill which creates the harmful greenhouse gas, methane, but also works to counter the United State’s unfortunate problem of food insecurity, as 44.5 million people are in this category. A problem that also affects our local community– as Sierra Community House is working hard to combat this issue through feeding around 600-650 food insecure households a week.
All of these SWEP supported efforts are in addition to the waste reduction efforts that have been implemented in the last few years which include green waste buckets for food waste in the kitchen and lunchroom to send uneaten food to be composted (food waste when composted releases only a minimal amount methane); using reusable trays and silverware; and using milk dispensers and reusable cups instead of milk cartons.
None of this could have happened without our partners at TTUSD, specifically the custodians and food services staff who do the hard work to keep these systems working every day.
Thank you to our partners, Truckee Tahoe Airport Community Partner, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, Town of Truckee and Keep Truckee Green, Placer County, Vail Resorts Epic Promise & Northstar California Resort, and Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal for supporting waste reduction initiatives in the Tahoe Truckee region.