This is the second in a series of blogs highlighting the unique waste-reducing reality TV series produced by this earth-friendly Texas city.
As the capital of Texas, Austin’s population of over 812,000 is diversified, it’s lifestyle eclectic and it’s goals impressive – particularly the green ones.
An avid eco-friendly town long before the term was hip, Austin has big environmental plans for waste reduction: By 2020, 75% and 90% by 2040.
Episode 2 in Dare to Go Zero, introduces the four families pitted against one another for the coveted title of Biggest (Waste) Loser. (Actually that’s my phrase, but quite appropriate).
Informed of their quest, knowledgeable of the rules and armed with a few goodies (like reusable coffee mugs and bags and kitchen compost collectors)
in this episode, the families compete in their first weigh-in (garbage that is) and participate in the first of several grueling challenges:
After I personally watched the video, I contacted Joe Barnes, head honcho for the Blue Team, to get some behind the scenes insights.
Along with his wife Elisa and two children, they started out with 23 pounds of trash at their first weigh-in. With the other teams as low as 7 and as high as 25, they knew they had a chance to win this thing, but had a thing or two to learn about recycling, reducing and re-purposing.
Me: Was everyone on board from the beginning, or did it take some strong encouragement (bribes, etc) to work as a team? 🙂
Joe: For our family, we got on board fast. My wife Elisa told me, once we were picked, “I am not doing this to lose. We are in this to win!” The kids knew mom was in it to win it. They knew I was excited and eager to see just how well we could do and we allowed them to give their input and help out along the way.
Joe also said they had no idea who the other families were, how many members, ages, etc., until the competition was underway.
Joe: All we knew was we had to reduce our waste and do it fast. Never knowing if it was enough that week or what we were going to have to do in the challenges against the other teams. It was tense, we would get done with a weigh in for the week and there was no time to rest. One week goes by fast and we knew the next weigh in could be the last.
Though the contest is officially over, I wondered what Joe and his clan took away from this experience. Are they still on the waste-reducing bandwagon?
Joe confessed, they watch ongoing reruns of the program (I would too if it was me – celebrity-ism only lasts so long), adding that the contest, though over, is still a big part of their lives.
Joe: We do still manage, and have put into place, ways to reduce our household waste. I think it has been over seven weeks now that we have had no paper towels in the house at all. We put the first batch of compost from our home composter on the garden and have filled it up again. Just the other night we had a discussion, or lecture if you would like to call it, about throwing away batteries. I had to explain to my daughter we recycle them. Jokingly telling her she would have known that if she had been following my “trash tweets.”
Me: Any words of wisdom to offer hesitant waste reducers?
Joe: What we did in the competition was extreme and fast. What we have done since is put into place concepts and ideas that are sustainable. The results are fewer and fewer items to dispose of over time, in a easy to do manner: Recycle batteries, light bulbs, plastic and foil, through sources other than the city. Making it a regular habit to avoid using plastic bags at the store. Composting. It all comes together over time and with practice.
Personally I can’t wait to see what happens next – I’m on the edge of my seat in anticipation (really!) See, I decided not to skip ahead to the last episode and see who wins. It would be like reading the last page of a who-done-it when you’ve just cracked open the book.
i do have one last tidbit on this entry. Joe told me that his two-year old son really enjoyed the experience and referred to the other contestants as “trash friends.”
Just think: if everyone reduced their household waste, we could all be trash friends. Something to think about.