Sustainable Perspectives

2013ftv_oshry_aleezaLiving in a country such as ours, it is often hard to remember to be thankful for the immense amount of things that we have. We tend to view modern conveniences, such as dishwashers and washing machines, as standard with little thought to what it would be like to do without — until maybe something breaks and we have to go back to the old-fashioned way of doing things.

Recently, I saw a picture posted on Facebook of someone’s feet, tied with twine to empty, flattened plastic bottles with the caption: “Please tell me again how hard your life is.” Perspective. I’ve written about reusing and recycling a few times in this column, but clearly this takes those practices to a completely different level — when it becomes a necessity because there are no other alternatives.

Another humbling yet beautiful story: Over the past year, a video has been circulating of the Recycled Orchestra: Landfill Harmonic. This group hails from a village in Paraguay that literally sits on top of a mountain of garbage. Posts of this video went viral last year, and this group is now performing live, using instruments actually crafted from trash mined from the landfill. The families of the village survive by dumpster diving, recycling whatever they can find in the 1,500 tons of solid waste dumped on site daily. The group’s leader found a way to bring skills and a love for creating music to an otherwise destitute people. He saw value where others saw poverty and waste.

Although we may not find ourselves in the same dire circumstances of having no choice but to reuse and recycle, these stories should give us pause. Where can we create value from what we have otherwise been trained to think is waste? Can we repurpose and reuse and create our own wealth? How can we maximize our resources so that we can provide the essentials for our community? And what — truly — is essential?

Many people and institutions in our community are finding it hard to make ends meet. Perhaps there are several factors at play that all weave into a community’s ability to become and remain sustainable through any hard times we might face.

Sustainability has a ripple effect; best practices can help alleviate and free up other financial resources to help others meet their needs. It leads to greater efficiencies and effectiveness. The value-added component of living and operating sustainably can be exponential when working together with our local organizations and agencies that are also focused on this as a priority.

At the end of this month, we have an unusual occurrence of the first day of Chanukah coinciding with Thanksgiving. The motif of both holidays focuses around giving thanks for the miraculous circumstances that enabled us to survive and sustain ourselves. What greater time to acknowledge how fortunate we are to live in a country and community with so many opportunities and resources and how we have a direct hand in effectively utilizing these resources to ensure that we continue to remain sustainable.

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