Provided by Michael Fels with Sebastopol Sunrise Rotary



When Sebastopol Sunrise Rotarian, Patrick Laherty, proposed that our forthcoming fundraiser – the Luck of the Irish Casino Night/Auction, should be a “zero waste” event, we politely mumbled our agreement and returned to a discussion of the proposed dinner menu. But Patrick, a founding member of our Club’s Environmental Sustainability Committee as well as a member of the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group (ESRAG) wasn’t so easily dissuaded.

“I’ll do the research,” he persisted. “I just need you guys to agree to like the idea.”

In theory, the Event Planning Committee did like the idea. Many of them were also members of the Club’s Environmental Sustainability Committee and ESRAG and understood the importance of us doing all we can to reduce the tsunami of non-compostable, unrecyclable radically refuse that daily enters our waste stream.

With the Committee’s full support, Patrick proceeded to sketch out a plan. We would need a hog farmer willing to take leftover food scraps. We would need reusable plates, glasses, water pitchers, cutlery, serving dishes—the whole shebang. We would need volunteers to clear the dinner tables and ensure that every scrap of uneaten food ended up in slop buckets. We would need dishwashers.

His list was long, volunteer-heavy, and expensive! But, Patrick insisted, it’s the right thing. He reminded anyone who doubted him of Rotary’s Four-Way Test of What We Say and Do.

  1. Is it the truth? It certainly is! It’s obvious that the Earth can’t sustain endless abuse.
  2. Is it fair to all concerned? We are all concerned with the future of our home planet – especially for those who survive us. Not carefully stewarding our earth is the ultimate unfairness.
  3. Will it build goodwill and better relationships? Working together for the common good always builds goodwill. Working hand-in-hand with fellow Rotarians and community members is guaranteed to strengthen relationships.
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned? By making a relatively small investment in the future of the Earth, we all benefit. Plus, by demonstrating our commitment to environmental sustainability, we model positive, optimistic attitudes. We show that we can make a difference! And that’s beneficial to us all.

As Patrick’s ideas caught hold, others in the Club grew increasingly interested. Rotarians Marty Webb and John Grech arranged for local Scouts and the Analy Interact Club to help serve and bus dishes – making sure that food scraps got into the pig buckets. Between the Scouts and the Interactors, there were plenty of young people to make light work of the clearing, sorting, and cleaning. Plus, both groups received donations from the RC Sebastopol Sunrise.  Most importantly, these young volunteers saw that there were older, established people in the community who also cared about the future.

Now that the Luck of the Irish fundraiser is (recent) history, Patrick wants to take his idea to the next level and help other District 5130 Rotary Clubs stage their own Zero Waste Events.

“We’ll even loan them our plates, glasses, water pitchers, and cutlery. If that’s not ‘Good for all concerned,’ I don’t know what is!”

To talk with Patrick about how your Club can put on a Zero Waste event, send him an email