Dromey Heeter's Down to Earth

A birthday party at a landfill? It'll be fun and earth-friendly

By Susan Dromey Heeter
Down to Earth
November 11. 2013 9:15PM
Trailer-loads of trash are unloaded as huge compactors move in to compress it in this photo from 2000 at the Turnkey Landfill in Rochester. Perhaps lessons learned at Lilly's birthday party there will inspire her and her classmates to encourage habits that will reduce the amount of trash heading to landfills. 8Union Leader File 

Tomorrow is my student Lilly's birthday and her fifth-grade class and I will be going on a field trip to Waste Management's Turnkey Landfill in Rochester. Sounds impressive, eh?

Lilly will turn 11 and we'll bring "Dirt," a concoction of gummy worms and Oreo cookies by which to celebrate her day with her classmates. We'll sing "Happy Birthday" before we go on the tour of the landfills and gain an appreciation of the massive operation that is, indeed, the management of waste. And as we celebrate Lilly and our wonderful outing, we'll learn and practice the myriad of ways to recycle.

I've been on this Waste Management trip a few times and, honestly, I think everyone in New Hampshire ought to visit a landfill at least once in their life. I know the journey, the sights and the smells have changed the way I shop and live dramatically.

Tomorrow, when we celebrate Lilly's birthday, we'll use china cups and real spoons and have zero waste. Every year a colleague and I celebrate our school's volunteers with a breakfast tea. And each year we use the same cups and saucers, purchased from area thrift shops, and have absolutely no trash to take out.

So why not use these same cups for a birthday celebration? They simply have to be washed and put away afterward, and they will not be in that landfill, they will not stay at Waste Management. And, come on — eating "Dirt" out of china cups while on a Waste Management Field trip? Does it get any better? Simply the irony is pure joy.

As some of you know, I love thrift shops and find great satisfaction in someone else's cast-offs. I have no shame at picking up an item or two on the side of the road; in fact, it's something of a challenge.

I also absolutely relish the beauty that is New Hampshire, her amazing skies and trees and landscapes. This is God's country, simply beautiful in all seasons but particularly with the foliage brightening up this November. And I'm grateful that even as we see those wind-strewn plastic bags caught up in the trees of Waste Management, there is still beauty — beauty in both the trees and beauty in the idea that, perhaps, 10- and 11-year-olds may realize that landfills and trash accumulate pretty quickly and that, well, maybe there are ways we don't have to encourage their growth.

As we enter this season of "Gimme Something New!" maybe we can learn to transition to "Gimme Something You Don't Want Anymore!"

Last year, at a craft fair, I had a "Make an Offer Table" and a friend was thrilled when she found my red Brooks Brothers wrap, offered 10 bucks. She wore it the rest of the day. Have I ever missed that wrap? Nope. When I bought it, I'd imagined wrapping myself in it as I took trans-Atlantic flights to Paris. Truth is, I've not been to Paris for a very long time and a red Brooks Brothers wrap is just a bit much for my trans-town trips to Market Basket.

So, if you have an opportunity to see the value in re-using, recycling, re-wearing, no doubt you have made this New Hampshire a far more beautiful state in which to live. I thank you. Lilly thanks you. My fifth-graders thank you. New Hampshire thanks you.

Enjoy a most wonderful November living green and down to earth and, if you get moment, go visit a landfill before Thanksgiving. You may never use foam packaging or a plastic bag again.


Susan Dromey Heeter's "Down to Earth" column appears monthly in the Union Leader's At Home section. Her other monthly column, "Budget Vogue", appears in the Lifestyles section of the New Hampshire Sunday News.

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