SHERIDAN — This weekend, dozens of local businesses have teamed up with government and environmental groups to make a push for education to make savvy practices a lifestyle as opposed to a passing trend the week of Earth Day.
The build-up to this weekend’s grand finale Earth Day event began last week and continued this week with two film festivals highlighting pieces that emphasize appreciation and conservation of land, water and resources. Tonight, Davis Gallery and Framing will host the eighth annual Miniature Art and Music Auction from 5-7 p.m. benefitting the Wyoming Wilderness Association.
Saturday at 11 a.m., approximately 40 vendors will set up booths at South Park — or in the Rehabilitation Enterprises of North Eastern Wyoming bus barn if the weather is bad — and engage the public on respective topics related to environmental stewardship and appreciation.
Along with a bingo card that challenges visitors to meaningfully engage information presenters, hands-on workshops will be offered throughout the day.
Organizers have also lined up food and live music in hopes of drawing the community to one of Sheridan’s own natural areas.
Organizer Maria Burke said this is the 10th year the Earth Day Committee has hosted a community Earth Day celebration and attendance has grown steadily to between 200 and 300. She said she’s hoping for an even larger turnout this year.
“A lot of the reasons that people live in Sheridan have to do with the environment,” Burke said, referring to Big and Little Goose creeks and how their state directly affects perception of the community. “Sometimes people take for granted that it’s here, but we want to bring people into that ethos and promote awareness,” she said.
While hundreds of Sheridan County residents will be at South Park on Saturday, many more have quietly revisited their own environmental impact, however it’s expressed — pounds of trash, carbon footprint, waste quota, et cetera.
In a supplementary effort to further the cause of environmental beautification, the city landfill will also accept free drop-offs of residential household waste. Items accepted can include old furniture, yard debris and regular waste, but there will still be a charge to have refrigeration units decommissioned or dispose of tires and batteries. Free drop-offs at the landfill for noncommercial entities will continue through Sunday and will also take place next weekend in conjunction with the annual “Trees for Trash” event, where Sheridanites who surrender trash can receive a free Colorado Blue Spruce tree start from Landon’s Greenhouse and Nursery.
Some of the most publicly visible indicators of Sheridan’s commitment to environmental stewardship are the recycling drop-off points. While some small municipalities are still struggling to have recycling services available, the city of Sheridan collects all types of plastic, glass, metals, cardboard and paperboard. In 2013, commodities processed by the landfill’s recycling center totaled 1,788.2 tons.
City of Sheridan Recycling Coordinator Darla Franklin said the bulk of operations at the recycling center for household items involve sorting and baling items to be shipped to processing plants. Paper and cardboard go to the West Coast to be remilled, glass goes to the Coors plant in Golden, Colo., and aluminum and tin are given to Zowada’s Recycling.
In addition to household items diverted from the landfill, Sheridan’s industrial recycling last year included thousands of tons of asphalt, concrete and green waste. A total of 242 car batteries, 71.6 tons of electronic waste, and more than 800 refrigeration units were also decommissioned locally.
The grand total of outsourced and locally recycled items for last year was 18,474.28 tons.
When discussed in terms of weight, the local recycling effort seems massive, but it still has plenty of room for growth.
In the last 10 years, recycling in Sheridan has increased by 400 percent. A 2012 study that relied on self reporting of 250 residents revealed 77 percent of people say they recycle at least some of the time and about 55 percent of businesses do the same. The demographic most likely to recycle in the home are senior women who earn high incomes. Democrats recycle more than Republicans, and the area formerly known as Ward 1 in Sheridan boasts a slightly higher recycling rate than the other two.
According to the city of Sheridan, Sheridan County citizens throw away 7.64 pounds of garbage per person each day, which is almost double the per capita average nationwide.
While the landfill is estimated to have another 10 years of life left, the growing mountain of refuse begs the question as to how long the present system can continue.
Even with increased social awareness and new societal norms governing how trash is regarded, people in Sheridan have to do more than just want to do the right thing; they have to physically make a trip to the recycling drop-off points, and sometimes, even the landfill. It’s a daily task that easily gets drowned out in the hum of everyday bustle.
The same study emphasizes Sheridan’s recycling program is one that relies heavily on individual discretion and initiative.
The report, available online at the city’s website, states that, “The ‘hassle’ factor is clearly a major separation between recyclers and those who do not recycle.”
While a pilot program has been completed for curbside recycling pickup, Franklin said implementation of any kind of service is still a ways out.
“Curbside is still being considered, but no start-up date has been set,” she said. “There are building and equipment upgrades that need to be completed first before a curbside program can begin in order to handle the increased recycling loads. This would also require City Council approval.”
Whether it’s day-to-day individual actions or a collective community project geared toward environmental awareness, Sheridan is slowly, but surely, doing more and more to be Earth friendly.
If the past 10 years is any indicator of the decade to come, the future is looking less wasteful and more resourceful.