Looking back, 2020 was pretty consumed by a focus on the day-to-day juggle required to navigate the complexity of keeping materials moving and our staff and customers safe. With the pandemic, there really hasn’t been much time to pick our heads up out of the weeds (or, more accurately, the stuff in our warehouse!) and look around. But that has shifted in recent weeks as the days slowly lengthen, as vaccines are becoming available, as different conversations and priorities have emerged on the national stage, and as we begin—very cautiously—to consider a post-pandemic world in which the newly elected leader of our country has taken a flurry of dizzying, rapid-fire, sustainability-oriented actions.
So, when, in his first day of office President Biden created the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy and took action to recommit the U.S. to the Paris Climate Agreement, we popped our heads up from the piles of construction lumber and realized we had a lot to learn about what that action means for our world, our country, our state, and for Home ReSource as a community-facing organization putting our shoulder to the wheel of building a sustainable, circular, local economy and a climate-stable future.
The Paris Agreement focuses specifically on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to reduce climate change and create a healthy, livable planet. Recognizing the urgency and enormity of that goal, the many paths to achieve it, and the challenges presented, the Agreement takes some unique approaches that resonated with us in our efforts to reduce waste and help build a more vibrant and sustainable local economy right here in Western Montana. For example:
- Do what you can. Each country contributes where they can and according to their strengths. Big wealthy country? Big reduction commitments!
- Help the underdog. Developed countries lend a hand to developing countries; sharing expertise, knowledge, and resources enables countries with less to do more.
- Grassroots/ground-up works. When the previous federal administration stepped out from the Agreement, local and regional actors across the country stepped in with We Are Still In to continue the work of meeting the U.S.’s Paris Agreement commitments—and to great effect!
- Education and continuous evolution leads to widespread cultural adoption of environmental stewardship. The Agreement is dynamic, emphasizing education, sharing progress, technological innovation, transparency, and continuous evolution, working to make the preservation of our world the status quo. Amazing!
- Instead of chasing perfection, pursue progress!
Could it be that these are some of the key ingredients needed at ALL scales to achieve the societal transformations essential to ensuring the environmental health that all communities depend on? We think so. Here’s why:
It reminds us that what we are doing matters, here and at a global scale, and every scale in between; and that we are truly connected to people and institutions across the globe engaged in creating a better future for us all. Team Planet Earth, here we come!
It means we don’t have to agree on everything, or take the same actions; there is strength in a diversity of approaches. Right here, right now, we can and must understand and leverage the resources and skills that we have. What we can achieve in Missoula is a lot different than what can be done in New York City, where they haul 12,000 tons of garbage out of the city every day and have who-knows-how-many staff working full time on Zero Waste! We all have something to offer, and lots to learn.
It re-emphasizes that we can not move forward without consideration and justice for all people built into the processes and actions that we take. The wealthy (countries, communities, individuals) are far more responsible for waste and emissions than the less affluent (countries, communities and individuals) that often suffer the most from climate impacts.
It reminds us that now is the moment for us to thrive at the scale of our community. Pundits on the topic have claimed (especially after the U.S. pulled out of the Paris agreements) that cities will lead climate transformation—and in many ways they are! There is power on the ground, in the grassroots, at small scales, and here at Home ReSource we are leading in important and recognized ways.
It also means that there will be a lot more support for local actions, that there is space for robust and honest conversations, and that the work that we do here and now will connect a lot faster with the larger-scale work being done at federal and international scales.
It means we need to act! There is a lot of work to do. The issues can be overwhelming, but the steps that move us towards transformation are tangible, do-able and common sense. Even with a lofty goal like reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by nearly one third from 2005 to 2025, composting your food waste, zero-wasting Missoula’s public schools, instigating green services, building a green economy and, and… will help get us there. In fact, Team Planet Earth can’t get there without us!
And it means we keep learning, together. We are peeling back the layers of an onion, and every layer gets us closer to the core. Step by step, through innovation, technology and transparency, we will move with increasing focus, effect, and efficiency into a world of global environmental stewardship — and it starts right here, in our community.
Zero Waste, transforming our relationship with materials, reducing and reusing, building a circular economy that mimics nature’s economy: these are vital, essential, invaluable pathways to halting climate change. We haven’t stopped working on those things, even with our heads in buckets of nails with two layered masks on—and we know you haven’t either.
Now is a great time for each of us to reaffirm our commitment to push for progress (not perfection!), to capitalize on our unique individual strengths and capabilities, to share our expertise and resources, and to innovate and educate into the promise of a vibrant and sustainable tomorrow.