This weekend, the Chatham County Resource Conservation & Recycling Education Center will be hosting its second annual Phoenix Festival dedicated to sustainability education. While many of us recognize the triangular formation of arrows that decorate curbside recycling bins across the city, Alexia Robinson the Chatham County Resource Conservation Coordinator, says recycling just isn’t enough.
“What we try to do at the Resource Education Center is to promote waste reduction, which really focuses on the reduce and reuse aspect of sustainability more than recycling. A lot of people have this over-reliance on the concept of recycling but, recycling is a business, which means it’s dictated by economies, and markets,” Robinson said.
“Recycling fluctuates and is more out of control than reduction and reuse because we have more control over our consumption habits. We can find better uses for things than throwing them away. It’s really about teaching people how to apply those ideas, and you’ll see a lot of that at the festival.”
“We’re interested in showing how sustainable processes work in a very hands-on and tactile way,” added Robinson, “to show people what happens to their products when they get recycled, but also allowing them to see what they can do with it before they even consider recycling it.”
The festival will feature aluminum and plastic recycling demonstrations, an inflatable obstacle course, and a treasure hunt for recycled materials, as well as an assortment of art vendors displaying work made from re-purposed materials. The festival will also host live music and entertainment by Laiken Love and The Fellowship of Love, Cynergy, and the Odd Lott Comedy Improv Troupe, as well as a selection of local food trucks.
“We’ll also have a 4H club coming, as well as different environmental groups and the Unusual Dress Project,” said Robinson. The Unusual Dress Project, a local outreach program founded in 2018, “essentially takes trash and turns it into couture dresses,” said Robinson, “they make really beautiful stuff, and they put on fashion shows at Earth Day, they’re really impressive.”
While many cities and states across the nation are leading the green sustainability push far ahead of Savannah, Robinson isn’t deterred, “Savannah just got curbside recycling in 2009, in comparison San Francisco has had organic compost pickup since 1980, so it’s always a matter of catch-up for us, but we seem to be getting there. I have hope for us, we just recently started taking Styrofoam for processing, which is really rare, so there’s a lot of things to rejoice about in Savannah, yes the recycling markets are down right now, but if we talk about waste reduction in terms of consumption habits I think we’ll make more of an impact.”
“Eventually we’re going to get the hang of this, I’ve lived in Savannah since before we had curbside recycling, so I see how quickly we’re progressing, we’re not there just yet, but it’s fun to be part of that movement along the way,” she added.
“I just want people to walk away from this reconsidering their consumption habits and thinking about ways to reuse waste items in a creative way, that doesn’t have to be wasteful, and understanding that recycling is only part of the equation.”
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