by Margie O'Loughlin
I’ve worked as a reporter for the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger and Midway Como Monitor since 2015. I came into the job with a fledgling interest in community activism, a 20+ year career as a photographer, and a life-long love affair with newspapers.
As the years have passed, one topic has grown in importance for me as a reporter. I’m grateful that our new owner/publisher, Tesha Christensen, has let me take ownership of a few pages in each issue of both papers – and dedicate them to environmental stories happening close to home. We’ve dubbed these pages RRR, which stands for Rebuild, Repair, and Recycle, and we hope they’ll keep you informed about ways your neighbors are taking action.
Minnesota is one of the more aggressive states nation-wide in its efforts to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, and many other initiatives. In this time of growing concern over the climate crisis, we want our newspapers to be an intelligent, clear-thinking, and practical resource. Are you trying out a new idea or product in your home that you think our readers might want to hear about? Let us know!
I’ve gone on two public tours recently that have strengthened my commitment to writing about environmental issues: at Eureka Recycling in Northeast Minneapolis, and the Hennepin County Energy Recovery Center in Downtown Minneapolis. Seeing mountains of recyclable materials and waste in these facilities was convicting, to say the least. I stopped thinking in a theoretical way about the amount of waste my own small household produces, and vowed to make better choices for the environment. Both tours are open to the public, with a little advance planning, and are offered free of charge. Check out these websites to learn more or to sign up:
I just completed the Climate Reality Leadership Training held at the Minneapolis Convention Center Aug. 2-4, hosted by founder and former vice president Al Gore. There were 1,400 people in attendance from 32 countries around the world. Participants ranged in age from 13-86, and we’ve now joined the ranks of more than 20,000 trained Climate Reality leaders worldwide.
Within one year of completing the training, graduates are required to perform 10 acts of climate leadership. These acts can be anything from giving a formal presentation, to writing a blog post, to submitting a letter to the editor, to organizing a climate action campaign, to meeting with local community leaders.
My main act of leadership in 2019 will be working as an artist –in-residence at Eureka Recycling this fall. I’m offering a quilting workshop there on Nov. 2, and will create three wall hangings for Eureka’s education space – with the help of 15 community participants. The cost of admission to the workshop is one cotton garment that would otherwise be destined for the trash. We’ll talk about the growing problem of textiles in the waste stream, due to fast fashion (on the production side) and overconsumption (on the consumer side.)
This summer, my husband and I are trying to live plastic free, which has been eye-opening and, in some ways, kind of fun. I’ve discovered the best milk I’ve ever tasted, produced by Autumn Wood Farms of Forest Lake. It’s available in half gallon glass bottles at Oxendale’s Market in East Nokomis, and the Mississippi Market Co-op in St. Paul. My husband came home from PetCo in Highland Park last week, proudly carrying a re-fillable 30-pound plastic pail of cat litter. We’re learning about all kinds of new products, including tooth powder from the bulk bin at Tare Market (to avoid tooth paste packaged in non-recyclable tubes.) Who knew?
If there’s one thing I came away from the Climate Reality training with, it’s this. Dr. Jonathan Doyle, founder and CEO of the non-profit Project Drawdown, said, “We have to solve the climate crisis with our heads and with our hearts. But, especially, we have to solve it with our hands.” I believe there’s a way for every one of us to make a positive contribution to this movement, according to our circumstances.
I look forward to sharing what I learn along the way.
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