Sustaining a Green Frisco

Today, one is always caught between providing for those near and dear and being provided what we deserve. Everyone is constantly involved in making ends meet, making businesses and careers successful, teaching young ones the rigor to go through academia and shaping them for the future. We ensure we create a social fabric around us that would cater to these needs and provide us with the avenues to optimize goals we have set for ourselves and our families. In our efforts to achieve these objectives, there is something many take for granted – the environment. It is such a powerful concept to fathom. Will we be able to contribute at our household level to address this issue?

The City of Frisco is front and center with its comprehensive recycling and diversion program. According to a recycling report published by the Texas Campaign for the Environment, Frisco has one of the highest recycling rates at 43 percent of residential neighborhoods. Frisco also mandates construction and demolition recycling. For example, The Star complex touted a diversion rate of 95 percent of construction materials in 2016. This $1.5 billion project highlights the potential and scalability of zero waste construction in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Frisco also took a unique approach to implement comprehensive recycling for commercial business and multi-family complexes by including enclosures for recycling and trash containers. The Frisco Environmental Services Division has unique programs giving residents every opportunity to categorize and discard unwanted items and trash. The periodic “Chunk Your Junk” program has gained considerable attention of residents and businesses alike to ensure proper disposal of recyclable materials. Another unique program available to residents is the Product Exchange Program, where household hazardous waste, products such as fertilizers, weed killers and paint in good or excellent condition, is collected and made available to other residents.

While there are many programs Frisco offers, one has a significant impact on the future — the Recycling in Schools program. Almost half of waste generated at school, by weight, comes from the cafeteria. “Two of my kids go to elementary school, and I could not imagine how many unused items the kids were dropping in the trash,” says Jennifer Melton, who served as a lunch mom at the school. While performing lunch duty, Ms. Melton observed that kids were loading their trays with utensils and would mostly trash them, even when they did not use them. Being an avid proponent of recycling, she saw an opportunity to teach consciousness via action. “If we do not get kids involved, we cannot bring a fundamental change in their behavior,” Ms. Melton says. She teamed up with her son, Tanner, to facilitate a recycling project in the lunch room. Their efforts in working with school officials and making recycling fun for students gained much interest. The Frisco ISD now has a “Green Team” in every school pursuing and promoting recycling efforts to kids of all ages.

Leading an eco-friendly sustainable lifestyle is an individual cause when it comes to households. “‘Reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose and rot to compost’ is the mantra,” says Neeraja Venneti, an active enthusiast of zero waste. Depending solely on recycling costs a lot of money and is time consuming. Instead, one should bring a lifestyle change to handle trash and waste in an efficient manner. Reduce consumption and buy only things that will be efficiently and completely used. Reuse items as much as possible for effective utilization. “The use and throw mentality would only generate more waste,” Ms. Melton says. Instead, one should focus on materials that can be used multiple times in households. 

Recycling is an effort to categorize trash and manage perishables and non-perishables efficiently. Repurposing is an efficient way to use what one would deem as trash to accomplish usability in other forms. For example, plastic milk cartons could be repurposed to be used as containers to hold herb plants and shrubs to bring indoors during winter. 

Rot to compost is an efficient way to use household organic waste as it takes its natural way to be transformed into compost, which can then be used to fertilize backyard plants. “Composting is one of the most effective ways to eliminate usage of chemical fertilizers on plants,” says Sharmila Akula, an avid gardener who is passionate about green living. She shares, “One of the key habits to develop for composting is to segregate organic waste from everything else.” Most composters maintain a distinct container in the kitchen for this purpose. There is an increasing trend of growing herbs and veggie plants in today’s households, as it promotes sustainability and preserves health. 

Today, there are companies that are incentivizing customers for going green. For example, Starbucks™ and Sprouts Farmers Market offer discounts for using customer-brought coffee cups and bags for groceries, and this trend is catching on. Eco-friendly enthusiasts are creating homemade, natural cosmetics and are utilizing a myriad of biodegradable cleaners, soaps, detergents, etc., which are widely available in the market. “From repurposing cooking water to replacing plastic bags with cloth bags, the possibilities are endless for today’s conscious and aware residents,” Mrs. Venneti says. She even created her own veggie shopping bags to avoid using plastic bags provided by stores.

Exploration towards alternative energy sources is another initiative Frisco residents can explore today. “Dependency on traditional energy sources for household and commercial electricity also contributes significantly to the carbon footprint,” says Frisco’s Environmental Education Coordinator Julianah Marie. Solar energy is the untapped natural energy source that residents can utilize to contribute towards an eco-friendly lifestyle. The key benefit of solar energy is the generation of electricity with no air, water or pollution. This makes it a very effective alternative source of eco-friendly energy.

Materials such as plastic, styrofoam, pesticides and packaging materials take more than 400 years to degrade and only a miniscule portion of it gets recycled or repurposed. A recent journal on Science Advances conducted the first global analysis of all plastics ever made and found that 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic becomes waste. This waste eventually ends up in landfills and oceans, plundering the most precious resources — the earth, air and water. 50 percent of steel produced has decades of lifespan, but manufactured plastic becomes trash in less than a year. Moreover, manufacturing these materials utilizes hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which negatively impact the ozone layer, therefore, potentially influencing climate change. 

Human innovation and scientific advances created a slew of materials, which, in the long run, have proved to be detrimental to the environment. As the Atharva Vedic text in Sanskrit, dated 1,000 B.C., quotes, “Mother Earth, may whatever we get from you grow back again quickly, and may we not injure you by our labor.”

April 22 is Earth Day, and there has never been more need to raise awareness, engage the future generation and contribute towards an eco-friendly lifestyle. The onus is upon everyone to take positive action towards conserving natural resources, starting from home! Small changes in our lifestyles can significantly impact the environment and contribute towards the green movement. Let us join hands in putting every effort at home and outside to achieve a clean and green Frisco!

Vikram Venneti is a business leader, technology evangelist, tree hugger and food connoisseur. He loves to run and hike and is a dad with a penchant for writing.

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