• Posts from Biloxi: Day 5: Thursday, June 21, 2007

    Sunday, June 24, 2007
    News Type

Magic Happens

Biloxi, Miss. –  "Imagine if the world were based on the meeting of real needs rather than profit." This is a comment from Jesse '06, a fellow volunteer, that I wanted to share.

I have to say it: I was genuinely ticked and frustrated at the wasteful consumption that I saw at Hands On headquarters. So Jesse and I and a few others decided to make tonight's monthly dinner of Hands On and community members waste-free. And our effort was a success! I'm sure a few people missed the paper plates, styrofoam bowls, and plastic cups and utensils they were used to having—all of which they throw away afterwards—but for the most part, folks appreciated our efforts to prevent the immediate trashing of 120 sets of "disposable" (a euphemism for wasteful and costly) eating materials.

The city water tower. Photo: Vicki Allen '06

I went to a local thrift store and other chain cheap stores (though not the wal-store) and purchased plates and cups. And after dinner, we put out a bin of hot soapy water to collect the plastic utensils, which can definitely be used again, until they break. In fact, you're probably ingesting many fewer chemicals and bleaches when you use a plastic utentsil that has been washed.

So for our waste-free dinner we used permanent plates and cups, saved and washed the plastic utensils to reuse, recycled drink bottles, and collected food waste in a garbage bin and a compost bin by the Hands On garden.

Why have a waste-free dinner? Lots of reasons: Less trash means fewer landfills, which means more playgrounds. You save trees and other natural resources, and you save money. Composting makes healthy soil for gardens. Conservation is cool. Manufacturing plastic takes a lot of oil and puts lots of chemicals into the air, and the plastic doesn't decompose. Finally, it's a step toward mindful comsumption.

It felt magical to make our waste-free dinner happen!

Another observation from Jesse '06 that I love: "It's really important to be in close relationships with all kinds of people."

Biloxi, Miss. – Is it possible that tomorrow is Friday already? The week has gone by way too fast. I wish we had at least another week here.

Today was gorgeous and, weatherwise, probably my favorite day of the week: clear blue skies, relatively low humidity, and a temperature of, oh, about 100 degrees. 

On top of this I had the pleasure of working at the beautiful John Henry Beck Park. When Hands On began work there a year ago, the large plot, located centrally in East Biloxi, was nothing but dirt, fallen trees, and garbage. Since then, Hands On volunteers have cleared away the rubble, designed an irrigation system, and planted trees, and on August 29, 2006, the one-year anniversary of Katrina, Hands On partnered with KaBoom and the City of Biloxi to add a colorful playground, murals, and a community garden. Hands On's commitment to the park has not wavered. Volunteers continue to design and add new structures, maintain the park grounds, and inspire community involvement.

Our task today was to spread a massive pile of mulch throughout the gardens to help prevent the growth of weeds between the plots. Our team attacked the mulch and finished working just after noon, with only one little disaster: One of our Dartmouth volunteers accidentally ran over a water spigot with a wheelbarrow, breaking off the top of the pipe.

The explosion of water erupting from the ground was like a giant sprinkler and a bunch of us immediately cheered and ran through it. The scene was hilarious and the cold water felt REALLY good! A subsequent realization that the water probably wasn't going to stop on its own inspired our "long-termer" crew leader to call for help, and a short while later, the water main was shut off, crisis averted. 

We just wanted to keep the long-termers on their toes!