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Let's Get Innovative: How Can Detroit Do More with Less?

Green Living Science
Green Living Science
by Rachel Klegon, Green Living Science

For those of us in the nonprofit sector, we often hear funders say “you need to do more with less.” Translation: We are reducing your funding, but you should keep doing more of the excellent work you do.

This seemingly impossible requirement has created opportunities for organizations to partner in new ways, cut unnecessary funding, and reconsider unsuccessful programming. However, these types of changes have only changed the way organizations look to the public, not in actually changing how we use the resources we have available.

For me, the idea of doing more with less has gone from being an inevitable fate that could get in the way of success to becoming a measurement to determine my success. Since working in partnership with the city of Detroit’s Recycling program, Recycle Here, the concept of doing more with less has taken on a new meaning for me. It is now something very positive and possible.

Now, doing more with less means being able to improve resource efficiency by getting the maximum use out of something before the end of its lifecycle. Or, to put it another way, the ability to use the same resource multiple times for multiple purposes.

This ability to turn trash into treasure isn’t just a problem waiting to be solved by the recycling industry. This is a challenge that needs to be addressed by consumers, producers and innovators. We need consumers to properly dispose of waste, producers in every industry to implement sustainable practices, and innovators creating businesses to find uses for waste that is not currently being recycled.

One of our objectives with Green Living Science is to foster understanding and create new behaviors for individuals that will lead to healthy communities actively practicing the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). We are able to accomplish this by working in Detroit schools with students, who will then pass their values and behaviors to the next generation, and so on.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to remind you that the children are our future. But if we want to have engineers creating reliable and profitable systems for using renewable energy, we need to inspire and educate those future engineers today. And if we want to have households save money and decrease pollution by decreasing the amount of trash being put on the curb, we need to have families who hold reducing, reusing and recycling to a high value, not just as an afterthought.

When I ask myself what it will look like to live in an efficient and effective community, these are some of the questions I try to address:

  • What types of materials are we recycling that we should be repurposing or reusing?
  • How do we reduce consumption while respecting our cultural and economic demands?
  • How do we encourage innovation to increase the number of products being made from recycled material?
  • How do we divert more material from the waste stream so we can use it to make stuff we need?
So my question for you, Detroit, is: How do we get the most use out of our limited resources before throwing them away? And how does Detroit come together to answer these questions for not just ourselves, but the world?

To share your ideas, click here.

Photo courtesy of Green Living Science.

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