Saturday, November 17, 2012

Does One Really Matter?


By Autumn Huggins

I know that the idea of one person making a difference to the whole can seem like a matter of idealism, but the truth is, it takes a collection of individuals to make the whole. What is my point? If everyone began to see themselves as a piece of the whole pie, they would see that the impact of one is much more important than we may realize.

 The impact of one person affects the household, the impact of a household impacts a town, the impact of a town impacts the state, the impact of the state impacts the country, and the impact of the country…impacts the world. In recognition of this ripple-effect, we must start looking at our impact on the world, not just our personal impact, but that of our home city, state and country.

In a previous post, I focused more on the individual and ways of implementing changes in an effort to decrease our own impact on the environment. Here, I would like to focus on the efforts of one city.

The city of Portland, Oregon has implemented many steps in the attempt to reduce its own impact on the environment.

According to Residential Solid Waste and Recycling Rate Study, provided by the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability:

The standard level of residential service in the City of Portland was changed on October 31, 2011 from weekly curbside garbage and recycling collection with every-other-week yard debris collection, to every-other-week garbage collection, with weekly curbside collection of recycling and composting. Households can now add their food scraps to their yard debris containers. Customers also have the option of selecting non-curb service, every-four-weeks service, and/or on call service. The City sets a variable rate schedule based on the size and number of containers and the frequency of collection. Rates are lower for smaller volume containers and - for a given container size - for fewer containers. This variable rate structure gives customers an incentive to reduce the volume of solid waste destined for landfills, by generating less solid waste and by recycling more of their solid waste stream.

As of December 2011, 8.1% of Portland residential customers subscribed to 20-gallon minican service. Overall, 81.1% of the City's residential customers subscribed to 20-gallon minican or cart, 32-gallon can, 35-gallon roll cart, recycling-only, composting and recycling -only, on-call, or every-four-weeks service levels. In 2011, the amount of garbage disposed per household was 1199 pounds, compared to 1697 pounds in 1992.

Many of us in Portland may have found this change to our garbage system a nuisance at first, it is clear to see how small changes have big effects!

This is just one change of many we have seen in Oregon as our policies here are becoming an effort to influence other states. Again, it is notable how one can make a difference. One person, one city, one state at a time.

One great tool you can use to identify your own contribution to the environmental crisis is to take a quiz at the website

Next, it may be a good step to understand the impact of your home city and state and how you can make a difference there.

There are also great ideas and resources of information within this blog-spot, offered by the students at Portland State University. This term, we have created a website, in addition to the other wonderful resources previous terms have offered our readers, at

Resources Mentioned:


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