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Where to start trying to make a difference

Q: I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada US from Eugene, Oregon two years ago. I am appalled and heart sick that this huge city only recycles 1% the rest goes to landfill.
I have been recycling since the early 70's so I know it can be done, enjoyed and the good feeling that comes from helping save our mother earth. HELP where to start?
I have experience with non-profit as well as grant writing but I need help.

A Thank you for writing. We are continually amazed, but pleased, that our little site is reaching beyond our UK home shores, and are as frustrated as many overseas visitors that we cannot at present afford to enable a zip code system that will allow you to post and search more locally. Still, we hope a lot of what is on our site is of relevance to you still.

Golly, in trying to answer here the question is, likewise, 'where to start?'.
You have posed a pretty huge and broad one there, and from a huge and broad country taboot.
If you have been recycling since the 70's you are waaaaaay ahead of the curve, and indeed ourselves, so maybe WE should be asking YOU for advice, but since you've asked let's try a few cents' (trying to keep in the cultural zone) worth;)
To kick off, our experience with Las Vegas here is pretty much from the movies Bugsy, Casino and the TV series CSI, so the only recycling we do seem to get exposed to from you neighbourhood is not too helpful and a little unpleasant at times. Still, landfills do figure a lot. Actually, there was more than one episode I recall where domestic wheelie bins and dumpsters were very much in evidence (pun intended), so it is sad to hear that they are simply transit points to the landfill rather than recycling points.
The problems 'you' (as in anyone who cares) face are the same as anywhere: money, convenience (which is a polite term for laziness), short-termism, political will & expediency, NIMBYism, did we mention money?, time.... the list is long, and offers reasons if few excuses.
In a world, and even US context, you have a bigger problem than most. This is, if my limited geographical knowledge serves, that Las Vegas is surrounded by an awful lot of space, and not much of it much good for anything other than stunning scenery. Hence it is going to be easier, cheaper and all round the answer to every one of those points raised above to simply truck the waste out and dump it in a hole away from anyone's gaze. Maybe they don't even bother with holes - at least Homer did in an episode of the Simpsons when he was made waste Commissioner, but that typically came back to bite him on the tushie. Sadly the solution Springfield decided on was to move the City from the debris, rather than reduce it or deal with it properly. Satire can be too close to policy sometimes, I fear.
Thing is, with the vast areas you have still out there, is there any chance of responding now, when it has taken us in the UK (probably a fraction of the size of your State) to the point where we have no other options to start trying to address it all? Actually, one terrific wheeze we seem to have hit on is simply sending all our waste to China back in the containers the toys they made for our Christmas were delivered in!
But there are glimmers of hope. The effects of Global Warming (nature or man-made, man-worsened or not debates notwithstanding) are now being registered at political level. And certainly the populations are starting to get a sense of responsibility to future generations.
You have a State just to the left that seems pretty aware, though there may be a slight case of 'we're ok so long as we shove the dross elsewhere' - 'out of sight, in another site', out of mind, if you will.
For what it's worth, I'd suggest that you find a niche, start small, and make sure it is END-BENEFIT DRIVEN. For us that was two out of three. We have found a niche (our focus on the fun and rewards, personally and commercially, of reuse) and we do believe that the incentives are clear and gaining our message ground. But while we did start small, we accelerated very fast and are now struggling to deliver at the rate we would like to whilst funding ourselves. It takes grant bodies and sponsors a while to get on board. So be prepared for the long haul. And have a care about the mentality that is more concerned (sadly, often with fair reason, if only to get the award - we could do with you here to help us) with meeting funders' expectations and not making something work for the people and the planet.
One final thing is to play the system. Drive a spiral of scoring success (no matter how small) and letting the media know. Then use the coverage to drive more success, and so on, upwards. We are not selling napalm here. The media is keen to help because it is A GOOD THING. The secret it to make it interesting, stimulating, entertaining ... AND FUN!
While there is value in activism, there is a lot that can come across as too 'do this... or else'. Or 'we know better... do as we say'. We think getting folk on board because they want to and get a sense of reward both in the home and the community is the way to go.
Hope that helps... a little.
Season's Greetings. And here's to a great 2007 and beyond for a better planet!

Author/Source: Admin

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