Minneapolis has developed a reputation over the past decade for being one of the cleaner cities. Having briefly lived in Chicago, I can tell you that it definitely smells better and there are far fewer puddles of mysterious goo outside my front door. However, we seem to have come to a slow point in our efforts towards making the Twin Cities a shining beacon of cleanliness.
We may have great bike paths and expanding public transit routes, but somehow we are still resting at a 24% recycling rate, while the national average is 30%. By comparison, San Francisco touts a 77% diversion rate, something they achieved through a city-wide goal to achieve a zero-waste economy. By redeveloping their waste collection system so that all materials are recycled or composted, the city has accomplished something that we should definitely be able to pull off. The prospect of ditching those smokestacks of burning trash next to our baseball field is enticing enough to at least give it a shot, right?
So why isn’t Minnesota doing this? The simplest answer is that not enough people are getting involved. Sure, individuals on average seem to be enjoying healthier lifestyles, made possible by co-op grocery stores and city-mandated programs like single-sort recycling. These are great examples of how citizens and local politics result in positive change for everyone—by influencing the way businesses operate, people can create a larger change that goes beyond just their front step.
Canvassers frequently encounter households who agree wholeheartedly with what we’re fighting for, and even applaud our efforts as being valiant or amazing, but decline to support the cause beyond a verbal pat on the back. Usually the reason is that they feel the issue is too large for them to make an impact, or that they are simply doing enough in their personal lives to make an impact. What many people don’t realize is that it doesn’t take much to support grassroots organizations, which serve as the rare link between individuals and government action.
There’s a difference between saying you support something and actually supporting it. Educate yourself about the issue (green is good, pollution is bad) so we can keep the ball rolling and take the next steps towards keeping Minnesota green.
Written by: Ali Goldberg, MPIRG Field Organizer