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Brummet, Dave and Lillian

What was the pivotal event that sparked your desire to recycle?

For the past 15 years or so we have recycled anything we could - hampered by the limits of the then new recycling industry. We have been long awaiting the present system that is now in place that makes it very convenient to recycle. As soon as curbside programs started up in our area, we saw the difference in people's willingness to participate. We have always felt the need to convert "waste" into a valuable resource before resigning it to the trash bin or even the recycling bin.

How did your friends, co-workers, and family respond to your drive to recycle?

We saw many who were slow to respond to the new recycling programs, but as the programs grew to include a greater number of resources they became curious. The drive for many began when recycling was seen as the "thing to do". In fact, one recycling facility's organizers claimed that when people saw their neighbors putting out blue boxes the "keep up with the Jones's" kicked in and the city would see an increased volume of recycled items. Today, we see a real need for people to recognize the items that were formally destined for their trash cans as a resource that create jobs. When this happens, the individual feels empowered - as if there is more meaning to their lives and more control over the legacy they leave behind.

How did your local community respond, at first, to the recycling movement?

At first, our region's recycling programs depended on individual and business volunteer efforts. This meant people would have to transport the items to a facility and sort it into the glass, tin, newspaper and cardboard bins themselves. Today, the recycling programs have grown beyond simply paper and glass to include many types of plastics and metals. Most regions now have curbside recycling pick-up days scheduled along with their regular garbage waste collection at no additional cost. This increased visibility and convenience has greatly improved individual contributions. Communities use a variety of collection systems (blue bags or blue and green boxes) and incentive programs (discounts or penalties). Many areas offer different garbage collection service options for those who produce less waste.

I can remember the first Earth day and the initial push to save the Earth, but each year interest seemed to fall away a little more, why do you think this is?

Perhaps there is the illusion that the incentive and passion for the planet has dwindled but that is definitely not the case. Look at the public school programs that teach our children about recycling, waste, manufacturing processes, and global warming... we did not have any of this information in schools before. Take a look around your own community and witness the growing number of groups and individuals participating in clean up events or just picking up garbage during their walks. How many groups and organizations that work to aid the environment are based in your region? One look around the internet will provide information about thousands of groups, organizations and individuals involved in bettering the environment every day - as well as those that host and promote Earth Day events. Also manufactures are now creating earth-friendly products and are using social marketing (a new coined term for doing good things for the community) to survive today's discerning and educated consumer.

Most manufacturers have increased packaging as opposed to decreasing it, how can we demand less packaging?

Actually there are many government programs that penalize abusive manufacturers or reward conscious businesses. In larger centers there are groups and businesses devoted to helping companies become more environmentally aware. Businesses are jumping on this not only because their consumers demand it, but also because in the end they find their efficiency and waste reduction efforts affect their finances in a positive way. Additionally, there are alternative packaging options that are growing in popularity within the business world. As to how to demand less packaging - your choice to not buy a brand that has too much packaging is the most powerful message you can send to a manufacturer.

In your book, Trash Talk, you recycle a variety of items. With the holidays around the corner tell us how we can recycle holiday items, besides the usual ugly sweater.

Rather than being about recycling, per se, Trash Talk is primarily about the reuse of items formally destined for the trash bin; it is also about reducing consumption of wasteful things. When it comes to the holidays, community waste contributions increase by 25%. That is a lot of garbage. Choosing to purchase wrapping and decorations that are recyclable can make a big dent in this problem. Those shiny, metallic ribbons and wrapping papers are not recyclable, so avoid those if you can.

Avoid purchasing new wrapping and decorations by wrapping the gift in a towel, scarf, T-shirt or other decorative item that can become part of the gift. Or use reusable gift bags or boxes, which can be used again and again. These items can be hand made as well.

Saving wrapping and decoration items and reusing them for the following season is also an excellent option. Even in the gift wrapping was torn off in a frenzy, once trimmed, a section can often still be reused. Choosing comic strips from the newspaper, reusing paper that flower bouquets arrive in, using paper bags and even turning potato chip bags inside out (clean, of course) - these can all be seen as gift wrap alternatives.

For more ideas, you'll have to read our book! (ha, ha)

North America makes 50% of the world’s waste according to Trash Talk, as concerned citizens of the Planet Earth. Tell us five things we can do immediately to stop this waste.

If existing recycling programs are utilized to their full potential, individuals may reduce their contributions to the landfill by 30%. That proves that recycling alone can make a huge difference. If the city offers green boxes (recycling organic waste) and yard waste pick-up services, individuals can reduce their contributions by another 30%. Alternatively, people can employ compost bins or worm bins in their yards or balconies to reduce waste.

These three things alone can reduce an individual's contribution by 60%. Two more things that can reduce your personal output is to shop at bulk food stores and shop with reduction of packaging in mind. If there is a great reusable container as a package - buy that brand.

Dave photographs nature, Lillian writes about it in her poetry, together they both write and present waste-saving tips. Do you feel one medium reaches out to more people than another? Which one? Why?

That is a difficult question because each medium reaches a different type of reader. It is true that we both share a love for nature and enjoy having it as an inspiration for our writings. Our website and the tip-of-the-month service we offer on it receives a great deal of attention by Internet users. However our articles reach millions of readers through e-zines, newsletters, newspapers and magazines.

Numerous news and science reports deal with the current and potential damage of greenhouse gases, yet many complain this is a liberal news bias. How do you deal with people’s refusal to deal with the deterioration of the environment?

There is no doubt that our planet has undergone some huge and drastic changes in the past. Science tells us we are in the beginning stages of another change. While there is controversy over the cause of this change, there is no doubt that mankind contributes to it. Science proves this fact. There is also no doubt that we can reduce our contributions dramatically.

One cannot change those who refuse to listen to reason, nor can we open the minds of those who are unable to learn new things. All that people can do is look after our own back yards, live consciously and embrace the opportunity to make a difference, no matter how small, where we can. Individuals can choose to live by example and do our best to explain things in a friendly light-hearted manor when possible. For us, because we are writers, we are able to take this effort one step further by educating with articles, a website and our books.

Many animals are harmed in our excess waste, do you use photographs of distressed wildlife to make your point?

No, we always focus on the positive. There is enough negative information out there and that is actually one of the greatest problems. You see, when people become overwhelmed with negativity they will feel like they can never make a difference as an individual, and will not even try. However, studies show that 60% of us would do more if we knew our efforts produced a real and measurable difference. Readers will find that this is the main focus in our writing.

I can not speak for Canadians, but I noticed in my own rural county that everything from Starbucks cups to bleach bottles are tossed to the side of the road. The very idea of littering horrified me, actually it still does. I followed a man who cleaned out his car as he drove, tossing old McDonalds food containers to newspapers out the window. I wrote down his license number and called the police. They refused to investigate because they didn’t see it happen. The message I received was littering wasn’t a crime, despite the $500 littering fine signs they post everywhere. What can I do to make people care enough not to litter?

Unfortunately, street garbage is responsible for 80% of the trash found in our natural waterways (streams, oceans, lakes, swamps, etc). Wind caused by traffic and nature can carry cups and bags and other common litter a considerable distance. We all walk by this every day but how many of us stop the "tsk-tsking" and actually take the initiative to clean up our own neighborhoods. How many of us pack plastic bags during nature walks and gather this junk?

We, the individuals, can change this.

Can we expect our government to make the needed changes to help the environment? If not, how can we prod them in the right direction?

We feel very strongly that depending on governments and finger-pointing is not the answer. We feel that being proactive is the key and as consumers, we have a loud and effective voice. Businesses are learning that consumers respect and reward those who make the world a better place by preserving an endangered area or species, using sustainable business practices and sponsoring community programs.

However, governments can be "prodded" by letting them know how you feel. This means writing letters and emails, but that is not all... We live in a democratic society - we can use our vote to support those who stand up for what we believe in. Politicians are not stupid, they will do whatever it takes to get our support. But don't stop there. Contact the manufacturers or business owners and let them know how you feel about their products, packaging and business practices. We can use our dollars to influence great changes in the world. Witness the hybrid cars and recycled paper, among other environmentally friendly options... consumers created these changes. Individuals also have the option of reporting those who are breaking existing laws or exposing those who use poor business practices.

The waste reducing tips need to be part of the school curriculum, how can we reach our children?

Many school districts already have these programs in place, and a growing number of institutions are joining. If a school in your area does not have a program in place, consider approaching the teachers or principal to see what can be done about this.

Your book Trash Talk is an absolute treasure trove of ideas of how to reuse anything. How can our readers get a hold of a copy?

Thank you for the complement! The book is sold at most online bookstores across North America and the UK, among other countries, - or it can be ordered in at your local bookstore simply by providing the staff with the following: Trash Talk (ISBN#141372518) by Dave and Lillian Brummet.

Our publisher's bookstore offers a small discount to readers, and their site is www.publishamerica.com. Amazon offers a holiday season discount right now for orders of two books or more - apparently they will pay the shipping. So readers can purchase both of our books and save money!

You have an online site at www.sunshinecable.com/~drumit/, where you allow readers to send their helpful tips on recycling, what was your best tip?

We have had very positive responses to the tip-of-the-month service. The best tip that was used in 2005 was:

Promote reading in your community, reduce clutter around your home and your contribution of waste in the landfill, save a buck or two and benefit a charity while you are at it. Just how are you supposed to do all this?

Management of used books and magazines is a very environmental and community conscious thing for people to participate in. Go through your closets and bookshelves and look for all the used books and magazines that you no longer read. Extending the life of books and magazines is easily accomplished by using packaging tape to secure the binding and edges of the covers. Any library, various shelters for the disadvantaged or abused, hospitals and laundry mats are all places to consider for donating reading materials. Like-new books are appreciated by family centers and literacy groups.

Alternatively, use the key words ‘book donation’ in a search engine to find places to donate to. Here are just a few sites:

http://www.betterworldbooks.com/
http://www.asiahousinternational.org
http://www.sabre.org/books/bookorg/bkdn_toc.htm
http://www.loc.gov/rrr/amed/afs/alc/bkdncte.html
http://www.ala.org – lists contact information for organizations that distribute used books.
http://www.nationalbook.org/bookdonations.html – lists places that accept book donations.

Lillian has a book of poetry called Towards Understanding . What is the main focus of your poems?

This is a collection of 120 non-fiction poems placed in chronological order. The poems tell the story of a girl from a troubled past who grows into herself, and towards understanding of the meaning and value of her life. There are also several poems that embrace the environment, celebrate love and question society as a whole. Dave provided the cover photo image.

Lillian is also a prolific book reviewer. Where can we find your reviews?

I have been writing book reviews for a little more than two years now. I review both privately and for Curled-up (www.curledup.com), Book Ideas (www.bookideas.com) and Poetry In the Park. Projects assigned from the review sites I just mentioned are usually published at that site only. Sometimes authors, publishers or publicists will contact me directly and request a review of their book. These reviews can be posted at the publisher's website, online bookstores, article distributors, Book Ideas, Poetry in the Park and the author's website.

To date, I have reviewed about 300 books or so. I rarely review e-books, manuscripts or galleys. Review copies that I do not wish to keep for myself are always donated to local literacy programs, the women's support center or the mission for the poor. So in a way, reviewing books is also a volunteer effort for the community and acts as a means to promote literacy in our region.

Seed preservation is very important to the two of you. Is the saving of non-hybrid seeds and distribution a response to hybrid seeds that produce sterile seeds?

No, not at all. Seed preservation began with Lillian's mother, Joanne, who has been committed to this project for more than 20 years. Lillian and Dave have now taken on the commitment, as Joanne is no longer young and spry.

There are many reasons to grow uncommon seeds. Genetically modified seeds may contain genes from several plants, other plant species and even completely foreign genes such as pig and fish genes. Non-hybrid plants, also known as "open-pollinated", have flowers that are fertilized by natural means (insect or wind pollination). Occasionally, when seed saving is at its extreme, pollination is done by hand - which ensures pure genetics. Hybrid plants are typically designed for ease of shipping and storage - rather than nutrient content or flavor. Therefore a vegetable that looks fresh on the shelf may actually be under ripe and flavorless. Most damaging is when commercial crops become so limited that very few farmers grow out other varieties. This results in a dangerous loss of genetic diversity in our food supply, and is the reason why government seed banks and seed saving organizations like Seeds of Diversity exist.

There are many benefits to growing open-pollinated crops. Foods that your grandparents, or great-grandparents, can remember from their youth can be quite an experience for the whole family. Seeing the exotic array of colors, shapes and flavors on your kitchen table that can not be found in grocery stores, is a thrill on its own. Going one step farther by saving the seeds and sharing with others is a way gardeners can help preserve genetic diversity. These are the benefits of growing non-hybrid crops.

It’s been fun finding out more about the two of you and your fascinating and environmentally friendly book, Trash Talk. The book so inspired me that I will offer my own Holiday Tip of the Day—buy two copies of Trash Talk, one for yourself and the other for your local library.

Morgan Wyatt
© Feb 2007