Why we spent the weekend at PLAN's Students for Zero Waste Conference

Aryn and I spent the weekend in Durham, NH at the Post Landfill Action Network’s Students for Zero Waste Conference. While we were there we met and bonded with other waste nerds like ourselves. Although we were there to host a workshop on “Students Starting Up” we learned more about the broad variety of concepts that are encompassed in the zero waste movement than we could have brought ourselves. It was truly a remarkable experience—and something I’d definitely recommend folks looking to learn more about campus zero-waste efforts go to next year. CHEERS to PLAN— we’re looking forward to #SZW2017 in Philadelphia!

Aryn Aiken and Davis Saltonstall at PLAN's Students For Zero Waste Conference #Don'tFeedthefill #sZW2016

Aryn Aiken and Davis Saltonstall at PLAN's Students For Zero Waste Conference #Don'tFeedthefill #sZW2016

For the past two years that I’ve attended the Students for Zero Waste Conference I have admired PLAN for their ability to successfully execute a conference that 1) doesn’t lose touch of radical roots in collective liberation theory and 2) broadly addresses so many different topics in zero waste that it inspires new action. I’ve left the conference, twice now, with a sensation of community and understanding in the fight against an “intentionally linear economic structure” that has emboldened me to pursue my work with greater fervor. And that’s special. I rarely get to talk to so many people that just “get” where I’m coming from in the work that I do.

Day to day, it’s often hard for me to talk to friends about zero-waste work because they get stuck on the superficial assumption that recycling is simply “good,” and that by extension, I’m changing the world somehow. Sure, recycling is generally considered a positive practice, but we should really stop there with the generality. Although I don’t mind being a resource for friends who just want to know whether or not their pizza box is recyclable-- honestly, I’m glad they’re asking— I rarely ever get asked the “why” questions that pulled me into the work in the first place. PLAN has always been able to capture that at their conference for me and I have really appreciated being able to dive into that space with like-minded friends.

PLAN understands that the work we do, digging through garbage, making a tireless effort to reduce the amount of resources that are needlessly destroyed, burned or buried—is an effort to restructure the linear flow of our material economy; that it is a challenge to business as usual, to capitalism itself; and that it’s a recognition of how harmful this philosophical concept of disposal has been to historically marginalized communities around the world.

Especially now, in the wake of our recent presidential election, I want to thank PLAN—again—for creating the space where I can feel that constructive and positive energy. It’s hard not to realize, when geeking out with a fellow conference-goer about the way we input our waste audit data into a spreadsheet, just how special a community was temporarily brought together for a weekend in New Hampshire.