Welcome to our new series - RENEWED WOMEN. Our very own renewed woman, co-founder and co-CEO, Nicole Bassett, interviews some incredible women living the Renewable Life and what that means to them. To get the series started, Nicole talks to the fabulous and visonary Lynn Hoffman from Eureka Recycling.
Do you ever encounter someone in your life who you should have met years before, whose world you orbit for a long time yet never seem to connect? That's my story with Lynn Hoffman. She and I share so much yet we hadn't ever met.
As you will discover, Lynn is as passionate about reducing waste as I am and has dedicated her work to doing just that. In fact, as a sign of our mutual passion, we are excited to announce that we are going to be doing some research together in the next year to better understand textile waste in landfills and the potential to change that reality.
Enjoy getting to know Lynn as much as I have.
What do you do and why? OR What keeps you busy/excited?
I am the co-president of a Zero Waste nonprofit social-enterprise called Eureka Recycling, based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Our mission is to demonstrate that waste is completely preventable. Zero Waste is about so much more than an empty trash can… it presents solutions to issues of climate change, local economic development, racism and environmental justice. Where these movements intersect and we learn from each other so all of our work gets stronger, that’s what keeps me excited (and busy)!
What is your internal monologue when you should recycle something but it is a pain in the ass?
When it’s a pain in the ass to recycle, it re-fuels my fire to work on changing the system. It shouldn’t be a pain in the ass to do the right thing. Being zero waste shouldn’t be a privilege accessible only to people with money and time and the right information. Wasting doesn’t have to be the default option… it’s been designed that way. And it can totally change!
I AM a big believer that all the small decisions matter and add up to big impact. But guilt will take us out. We’re all walking in contradiction when the world we want and need isn’t here yet, and we just have to do our best every day with what we’ve got, and keep working!
What does self-care look like for you? How do you go about caring for the community and the planet?
I’ve certainly learned that there is no caring for the community and planet without prioritizing self-care too. This past year my self-care has looked most like giving myself permission to turn off the news. Turn off my phone. Be present for my family and friends. There are so many issues to track - calling for our action, needing our defense. But we need regeneration so we can continue to bring creativity and energy into not only reacting to problems but proactively creating the future. There is a quote I don’t exactly remember and can’t find right now, but it’s something like “Go outside and sit still for at least 30 minutes every day. When you’re really busy, make it an hour.” Easier said than done, I know, but whenever we feel like we can’t make time for it is usually when we really need to prioritize self-care the most.
What do you hope people say about you?
I hope people say that our team at Eureka are fierce about protecting Zero Waste for the right reasons...because it will make our communities more equitable and our bodies more healthy and our world more beautiful. That we are uncompromising about the things that really matter, and that we know how to listen and adjust to be more inclusive and make the movement stronger. That we work hard on real-world solutions that start where we are without ever losing sight of our vision and values. We won’t be all that all the time (humans!) but that’s what we’re aiming for, so my hope is that the people in our community and others that work with us can see and feel that.
The Renewable Life is our invitation into a different style of living. One with simple habits and practices that center around love, joy, meaning and appreciation. Can you share a behavior that you think we can all benefit from adopting?
The first thing that came to mind is preventing wasted food. Composting is fantastic, but there’s a difference between food waste (banana peel) and wasted food (a container of strawberries you really wanted to eat but got lost in the back of the fridge and went moldy and broke your heart). We don’t buy food with the intention of wasting it but it happens a LOT.
The great thing about preventing wasted food is that it’s easy, you don’t need to buy anything new, it has big environmental impact AND it saves your household money. In fact, Natural Resource Defense Council estimates that the average American household wastes $2,200 worth of food per year! The challenge is just in changing habits, and that only takes practice.
Eureka put together some great tools to help you get started, like a food storage guide and meal planner that are on our website, and there are many other awesome resources out there too. I’ve even seen cookbooks with great recipes for things like carrot-top pesto and other ways to use parts of vegetables we often discard but are delicious! It’s made a big difference in my household in terms of how we shop and store and use the food we buy and grow.
The Renewal Workshop is trying to change the apparel industry. Why is that important to you?
The textiles industry is the second most polluting next to the petroleum industry, and when we look at what’s left in our residential garbage, there are a LOT of textiles. What is harder for us to see is that for every bag of trash we set out for collection, about 71 bags of waste was generated upstream in the mining and manufacturing of those products. I mean, it takes 1,500 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans! Let’s respect the investment of very precious resources and make those jeans last. The Renewal Workshop is making it easier for people to get good quality clothing that has been repaired and reused.
What question do you wish someone asked you?
Instead of asking “Is Zero Waste possible?” (because of course it it), I wish the more common question was “What can we do together to get there?”. As a society we spend a lot of creativity and resources figuring out new things to do with the trash we create…bury it, burn it, create a little energy or fuel from it, etc. However, all of those “solutions” still destroy resources, so we have to go back and extract more, and our linear model of consumption has an inevitable end. How amazing it will be when we refocus our energy to redesign systems and products that truly fit into a circular economy and create no waste or toxicity and address injustice. The people most impacted by waste now are the people most impacted by climate change and by the inequities created by a capitalist model built on slavery, and they should be supported so that they can play a lead role in the solution creation.
It's been 12 years since The Story of Stuff was released and so much has changed in that time. Here are a few changes for good that were driven by the convictions of involved citizens and the demands conscientious consumers.