|DECEMBER 30, 2011 --
Cannon Grange of Wilton, Connecticut has been nationally recognized as a “2011 WasteWise Partner of the Year” award-winner by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for outstanding achievements in recycling and resource management.
The EPA initiated the WasteWise program in 1995 as a voluntary nationwide partnership program that helps businesses reduce their environmental impact and find cost savings through self-chosen, innovative waste reduction and recycling activities.
Cannon Grange joined the WasteWise effort in April, 2009 in the non-profit category, pledging to find ways to reduce its solid waste. Cannon Grange President Don Offinger explains why the Grange decided to participate in the program. “Nearly all wastes that we generated from our meetings and special events went into the garbage; admittedly doing a rather poor job of ‘blue-box’ recycling.”
According to Offinger, “The EPA WasteWise program requires each of the partners, upon joining, to conduct a baseline audit of any recycling efforts and of course what goes into the trash. This was done, and the baseline results showed that we had some significant opportunities to direct materials towards recycling and change some of our habits and behaviors. The results that followed showed that we really didn’t generate that much trash after all! The idea was pitched at one of our business meetings, and we voted to “go for it” and to start tracking our results.”
Offinger accepted the national award at a recent ceremony held at the Connecticut DEEP Headquarters in Hartford as part of the DEEP’s GreenCircle Awards Ceremony. The EPA award was presented to Cannon Grange by Janet Bowen, New England WasteWise Coordinator from the EPA’s Region 1 Office located in Boston, MA.
To date, there are over 1700 partner organizations participating in the WasteWise program in the United States. Connecticut’s Cannon Grange is the only Grange organization listed as a WasteWise partner, and one of only three New England organizations recognized in 2011. WasteWise incorporates the 3-Rs in the national program: reduce, re-use and recycle.
WasteWise participants are required to report on quantities of materials that have been recycled and re-used, materials that have prevented waste, and that have been purchased containing recycled content.
Upon becoming a WasteWise partner in 2009, Cannon Grange conducted a baseline garbage audit, identifying where opportunities and behavioral changes could be made to direct materials into recycling or reuse programs. At the start of 2009, all wastes were disposed as garbage. However, by the end of 2009 so many materials were consistently directed into recycling, and quantities tracked, that the annual diversion rate rose to 72%. By the end of 2010, the diversion rate increased to 77%.
Recycling is now part of the fabric at Cannon Grange, where typical materials from activities (e.g. dinners, meeting night refreshments, rentals, special events and the annual Agricultural Fair) are separated, weighed, tracked, and recycled. These materials are the typical “blue-box” wastes such as glass, metal and plastic bottles and cans, and cardboard pizza, shipping and packaging boxes. In addition, Cannon Grange purchases materials with recycled content: paper goods for the restrooms, (35% post consumer content), all copy & printer paper and business envelopes (100% recycled content). The annual Fair Book is printed on 100% recycled content paper, as are advertising posters. The wooden signs used by the Grange are recycled from previous projects and are re-painted each year. Cannon Grange stopped purchasing polystyrene cups, paper plates, bowls, and plastic cutlery, instead using china and silverware.
Looking ahead, Offinger is confident that Cannon Grange will continue to find additional opportunities to improve it’s environmental footprint. “We are beginning to explore a very visible program at our annual Agricultural Fair with the use of biodegradable foodservice ware so that we can divert all food-related wastes from that large event into a composting program. We think we can make an impact by partnering with our members, our suppliers, and the attendees and visitors at our Fair. It will be exciting to plan and to watch unfold. I think we can make it happen!”
Cannon Grange No. 152 has been active in the local Wilton community since its founding in 1899. They meet the first and third Thursdays of each month at 7:00 PM, in its historic Grange Hall located at 25 Cannon Road, Wilton. For more information on Cannon Grange, please visit www.CannonGrange.org.