Meeka Goes Green

If you missed the super dramatic post ending on Recycling (Germany 1-0 Australia), you can check it out here. If this was a TV series I would now go (in a deep sexy manly voice): “previously on … Svenja talked about her passion for recycling and how she was a bit gobsmacked when she came to Meekatharra and found there was no recycling whatsoever. Then people said that it couldn’t be done and that Meeka was too far away from the city to make recycling worthwhile. And that was all that Svenja needed to get started…”

It all started in the pub (many great ideas do, don’t they?) back in October 2011. The girls from the Community Resource Centre and I were having a casual drink and somehow we got talking about the environment and how we would like to run some projects on environmental sustainability. Between Izzy (German), Jo (English) and Sabrina (Swiss heritage) we came up with some great ideas such as setting up a Community Garden and starting some recycling. Sabrina, another Meeka lady Robyn and I really got stuck into the research, seeing what other towns do, how their projects work, who to talk to, established a lot of the networking and had informal meetings where we jotted down all our ideas. We came up with the name “Meeka Goes Green” because we reckoned it described the idea very well, it sounds kinda cool and it’s shorter than “Meekatharra becoming more environmentally friendly”.

Meekatharra is a very transient town. People come and go which makes it hard to get continuity into projects but it also has the advantage of each new person bringing lots of fresh ideas and invaluable experience with them.

Meeka Goes Green has grown nicely from a three-passionate-women-coming-up-with-millions-of-ideas-not-knowing-where-to-start-group to an incorporated association with a functioning committee, insurance, bank accounts, action plan, future vision and – most importantly – a functioning Recycling Centre that is keeping tons of materials out of our landfill. Woohoo!!

The journey was by no means easy. I remember countless moments of “why the hell am I doing this? Life would be so much easier if I just did my eighty hour fortnight at work, came home and relaxed on the couch, cooked dinner, read a book, watched some telly. Instead I go home and continue working in front of the screen, researching projects, writing agendas and minutes, drafting stupid boring constitutions, chasing emails from the bank and stressing about grant deadlines. No one is making me do this. Why am I doing this?!?!” But at the same time I would have another voice in my head whispering quietly but confidently “because if you didn’t have this, dear Svenja, you would very quickly get bored with a mundane life and start filling it with something that matters to you. You are meant to do this, Svenja. Sorry. Tough. Just go through it.” and somehow I just stuck with it.

Every time a valued committee member announced they’d be leaving town part of me would take a dive into worried-land and would stress whether the whole project would be falling apart now. And then someone new would come along to the meetings and say they’d join and suddenly the world was looking good again.

Every time someone said something negative like “This is not going to work. Kids will break in and smash it. It’s not worth it. Don’t invest your energy. People just don’t care. We tried it before. You shouldn’t have done it this way.” I had to remind myself that they were not actively trying to drag it into the mud and that they probably actually meant well. Nevertheless it drags you down and I would deeply question the projects and whether we should be doing things differently. And then someone would come along and congratulate us on a great idea or on some little progress or just pat me on the back for something I did right and suddenly the world would be already again.

It really taught me to never underestimate the impact words can have on people.

-Be an encourager. The world has plenty of critics already.-

People can make things so difficult, but people are ultimately those that make things happen, too. Without people the Recycling Centre would not be standing today. Meeka Goes Green is very lucky to have an awesome bunch of people from a range of different backgrounds and ages, bringing a wealth of knowledge and perspectives.

Here’s a snapshot of a few of the many weird but wonderful people that make Meeka Goes Green awesome and are actively involved at the moment:

  • Helen the Power House with the fastest mind ever
  • Mitch the Dwarf the community reverend who knows everyone and brings people together (Svenja, no short jokes!!)
  • Tania the Mediator who has a great feel for what’s going on with people
  • James the Man who lifts and moves stuff that others can’t lift or move
  • Sonja the German who mastered the Crusher straight away
  • Adelle, Founder of the I-Hate-Svenja-Club
  • Daryl the Veteran in his 70s who parks his car in the yard and cranks up the radio
  • Katie the Graphic Designer who comes up with eye-catching posters and articles
  • Sophia who happily shares her car and likes to have a crack at reversing the trailer (but only when Luke isn’t watching)
  • Kadi the only born-and-bred-Meekatharrian who at 20 years of age wants to do something for her community
  • Dave the… Dave.
  • Rigby who helps us shovel manure and soil into garden beds
  • Eveanne the Hands on Lady who makes events happen and keeps them ticking along smoothly
  • Ron the school principal’s retired husband who didn’t wait long after moving to town to get involved with  the community
  • Jo the local Animal Rescue Volunteer who not only drops off wheelbarrow loads of kitten milk cartons but also lends a helping hand sorting and crushing it all

And then there’s the faithful community who conscientiously sort their rubbish throughout their week (except for Adelle) and then drop off the recyclables every Saturday morning. The staff from the Royal Mail Hotel who fill a whole car boot with cardboard boxes and cans week after week, the Hospital who drop a whole trailer off (and that despite being inconveniently locked out by us every now and again. Sorry guys, we’re learning :)), Meacho, Bob and Anne from the Commercial Hotel who collect all their cans in bulka bags, Kheann and Dave from the (best ever) coffee van who collect all their milk bottles, and Pete, Sandy, Pete and Shane and staff at the supermarket Farmer Jacks who have so much cardboard they crush it in their own baler and supply us with much needed pallets.

It is this eclectic mix of people that make it all happen and grow and improve the project and further it all along.

If you happen to be in a similar situation at the moment or would like to start some kind of (environmental) community project you may find our project report (pdf) beneficial that we wrote as part of a fantastic $18,000 grant we received from the Waste Authority. It shows how it all began, what went wrong, what went well, what we learned, who helped, what we’d recommend for other similar groups and has a lot of photos of the Recycling project. Check it out and have a scroll through 🙂

Our very first Aluminium Can Bale!

Our very first Aluminium Can Bale!

Collecting old mobile phones and batteries at the Meeka Markets

Collecting old mobile phones and batteries at the Meeka Markets

Just Recycled

The whole project has already taught me so much, not only environmental knowledge but also project management skills, team building and a whole range of life lessons. If you’re bored in life and want to grow and learn I recommend you start some crazy out there project that people think is not going to work and then make it happen. It’s a hell of a ride but, oh, it’s worth it.

I better get up from the computer now, put my water bottle in the recycling box in the laundry and cuddle the dog and the chickens whilst thinking up ideas on where our Meeka Goes Green projects could take this community.

The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams

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