Over a year ago, the Buddhist Churches of America Social Welfare Committee and the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii Committee on Social Concerns embarked on an inaugural joint project to bring information of a social nature.
The committees decided Earth Day, April 22, would be an excellent time to discuss our impact, both as individuals and temples, on our ever-changing environment.
Rev. Blayne Higa, Kona Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, opened with a call for all of us to remember that we live in this life of delusion, that we need to awaken to the truth of interdependence and how our karmic actions affect us all. Therefore, he said, we need to recommit ourselves to the preservation of this planet that we all share. Our actions matter for they have an impact upon the lives of others and the world in which we live.
Three wonderful speakers, with a passion for preservation of our natural resources, shared their talents and experiences. Koichi Sayano, BCA Social Welfare Committee, presented points of interest with regards to food waste and sustainability.
The United Nations has 17 goals to transform our world, including Zero Hunger and Responsible Consumption and Production. The Hongwanji-ha in Kyoto has endorsed these UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Although we produce enough food to feed everyone, on average we waste 40 percent, or 108 billion pounds of food annually. The consequences are not just wasted resources but also filling of landfills, methane emissions and climate change.
So what can we do to help decrease waste in our landfills? Mindy Jaffe, owner of the Waikiki Worm Company, shared her success with island communities repurposing food waste.
Jaffe has years of experience changing the environment at local schools, not only in introducing large-scale composting and vermicomposting of the schools’ food and paper waste, but also educating the students on its importance.
Realizing staff and students are too busy to run the programs indefinitely, Jaffe worked to set up a crew of paid Resource Recovery Specialists to run the composting programs at each school.
Not only have these programs been successful in diverting waste from the garbage collection, but the programs have also created fundraising projects. Jaffe has led five schools to the zero waste philosophy while creating additional sources of revenue for school programs.
Each year, these schools process 58 tons of food waste, creating 52 cubic yards of compost with a market value of $23,000, 1,960 pounds of vermicast valued at $7,840 and sale of surplus worms generating $20,000.
Trash has decreased by 90 percent, with collection decreased from each day to each week. Jaffe has also designed kits to start home worm composting. Remember, there is no waste in nature, and everything that is discarded has a use for someone else, according to Jaffe.
Ron Hamakawa of the BCA Seattle Betsuin shared their efforts surrounding conservation during the annual Obon Odori as well as other aspects of temple life.
In 2007, the City of Seattle implemented “large event” guidelines for waste, recycling and composting. Beginning in 2008, the Seattle Betsuin adopted a plan in harmony with the Buddhist perspective of interdependence. The infrastructure for composting and recycling involves implementation of composting and recycling bins, proper signage and a great communication strategy.
The initial set up was spearheaded by an Eagle Scout project in 2008 and updated by another in 2015. Not only is the Seattle Betsuin addressing collection, but also specifying that all food containers be compostable or recyclable.
For its efforts, the Seattle Betsuin was awarded the Seafair Community Innovation Award. The Seattle Betsuin focused efforts not only on the consumer side, but also on the preparation process.
The Betsuin is now mindful of the use of PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) contained in seemingly compostable products as PFAS is a non-biodegradable and potentially toxic product. Currently, only seven states currently ban PFAS (California, New York, Maine, Vermont, Washington, Connecticut and Minnesota). Visit the YouTube video link below to view the second life given to old cutting boards.
Rev. Don Castro, BCA Minister Emeritus, founded the EcoSangha program in Seattle, which greatly contributed to the efforts described by Ron Hamakawa.
Rev. Castro shared a story from The Teaching of Buddha in which Ananda received garments which he distributed to the monks. The old garments became bedcovers, the old bedcovers became pillowcases, the old pillowcases became floor covers, the old covers became foot towels, the old towels became floor mops, the old mops were torn into pieces to be mixed with mud to plaster the walls. Mottainai — too good to waste!
Mahalo to the BCA and HHMH teams for a wonderful presentation.