After years at Tracy High, it was moved, for various reasons, to Kimball High. Change is hard, but sometimes necessary for growth. The advantage of change is that it can be the right time to seek new directions, like planning for a zero-waste event.
Within Relay For Life, many question any effort that takes the focus off raising money for the American Cancer Society. But Relay For Life is more than raising money for cancer research. It’s the camaraderie of the community — of Tracy, of caregivers, of survivors, of those who have lost and those that are still fighting.
And Relay For Life is still an event — a 24-hour event — that requires careful planning to pull off, including waste management.
This year, I took on the task of waste management on a committee level to try and improve recycling, with the lofty goal of a zero-waste event. Why? Because I want the legacy of Relay For Life to be how much money it raises and how many lives it touches, not how much waste it generates.
Starting with past years’ experience, along with a planning recycling guide from Komen for a Cure, I mapped out the logistics of trash and recycling. With all the preparation, would you assume everything went smoothly? Not even close. The event chair enlightened me on large-scale event planning: plan for the worst-case scenario.
Despite all the logistical problems, we eventually had a functioning system in place: For every garbage can, there was a recycling tote and recycling bin for bottles and cans.
Even with these stations placed strategically throughout, we did poorly on recycling overall. We generated 1.8 tons of waste.
I attribute this to three things: We didn’t reduce our event materials up front; I ordered the wrong totes; and the need for more signs.
Even with the help of the Earth Club putting sleeves on all the tote lids to read “recycling,” Relay participants didn’t recycle common things like cardboard, Solo cups, Styrofoam, McDonald’s cups, coffee cup lids, donut boxes, and sometimes not even bottles and cans.
I had to Dumpster dive to increase recycling — and I hate Dumpster diving. I believe people should be more conscious when they throw things away. But when the systems in place fail — and I put the systems in place — I take the personal responsibility for fixing the problem.
There were many things that went right. We did, after all, divert almost three-quarter of a ton of garbage and raised $237 from bottle and can redemptions.
But I count the successes from the people who believed in the effort and what it meant for Tracy and Relay, including MariAnn Albright, Renee Besse, Dean Reese, Margaret Lau, Shamini Wadhwani, Tabatha Melin, Jai Miles, Arashpreet Gill, Sussy Serna, Chelsea Fowler, Scott Stortroen, Gary Krebbs, Jennifer Cariglio, Tyler Clary, John, Anthony Danielso, the Lions Club, Boy Scouts, and my team.
Yes, I had a team, which won for best youth team fundraising despite my split focus.
This column is dedicated to Lou George, who lost his fight with cancer on the day of Relay. He started recycling at Relay, and all my past efforts have been to assist him. He had a purposeful way about him, and was driven in his recycling, raising more than $22,000 dollars for Relay For Life. I recognize these are huge shoes to fill.
But he and I always agreed: We can Relay and recycle!
For a change: Recycle when it is easy. Pay attention to the options before you throw something away.
To make a difference: Recycle when it is hard. Take the time to pull off the coffee cup lid. Hold on to the plastic cup until you find a place to recycle it.
To make a stand: Recycle for our health. Everything you recycle can be used as a resource, instead of buried in a landfill leaching chemicals that trigger unhealthy effects like cancer.
• Christina D.B. Frankel has lived in Tracy for more than 20 years and is an architect and mother of three. Her column, Living Green, runs every so often in the Tracy Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.