A zero-waste warrior

Southwest resident Nancy Lo honored with Recycler of the Year award

Nancy Lo is the city’s no-impact woman.

She volunteers at zero-waste events all over town, works on recycling issues for Hennepin County and has a blog about her passion called the “Trash Basher.”

Lo even takes on other people’s trash to sort through it and find a way to divert it from the garbage stream. Her basement and garage at her home in the Fulton neighborhood are packed with piles of candy wrappers, chip bags and other junk she plans to recycle.

For her efforts, the Recycling Association of Minnesota recently named her the state’s Recycler of the Year.

In a nominating letter, her colleagues called her a “recycling advocate extraordinaire.”

“Nancy is a powerhouse and a shining example of the dramatic recycling results one person can accomplish through initiative, commitment and the ability to infect others with her concern, enthusiasm and good will,” they wrote.

Lo was nominated for the award by her colleague John Jaimez at Hennepin County Environmental Services, Madalyn Cioci of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Felicity Britton of Linden Hills Power and Light.

Lo’s interest in recycling sparked while she worked as a copy editor at the Star Tribune. She urged newspaper management to add new recycling stations and would often grab items out of the trash that could be recycled.

She later became a Minnesota GreenCorps member for the county’s Environmental Services Department. Her work for the county has involved doing quality control on the city’s dual sort recycling pilot project, creating a video showing how she does organics recycling at home and working on a residential organics drop-off location in Brooklyn Park.

“As a GreenCorps member this year, she taught the experts a thing or two,” her nominators wrote. “She brought reusable plates and utensils from her home to GreenCorps meetings … and she set up recycling collections at the Environmental Services building for all those odd-ball materials, thus increasing recycling at one of the state’s most recycling-conscious offices.”

Lo has also created a new-and-improved recycling program at the veterinary clinic where she volunteers and serves on the Linden Hills Power and Light board of directors. As a board member, she has helped promote the curbside organics recycling program, worked with schools to increase organics recycling and has volunteered as a zero-waste monitor at neighborhood farmers markets, festivals and the Minneapolis YMCA triathlon. At the event in August, she helped dramatically reduce the amount of waste the event typically generates. This year, only 57 pounds of waste made it into the trash — a small amount given the event drew more than 1,000 racers and 300 volunteers.

If that weren’t enough, she has made her home the collection center for recycling materials she ships to Terracyle, a New Jersey-based recycling company that then donates money to charitable causes in exchange for the materials. Lo has raised several hundred dollars for Linden Hill Power & Light as a result of her shipments to the company.

At home, Lo and her husband Dave get by with a small ice cream bucket for a trash can, only tossing medicines that can’t be recycled. In the backyard, they have a large area for composting. They recently offered to compost many of their neighbors Halloween pumpkins.

When asked about her hopes and dreams for recycling in the city, she’d like to see the expansion of organics recycling. Right now, the organics recycling is limited to residents in Linden Hills, East Calhoun and parts of Seward, Longfellow and Howe neighborhoods.

When asked what keeps her motivated, she said it’s the chance to educate and inspire others to get involved.

“The most satisfying part is knowing that I’m helping people reduce waste and recycle more one person at a time,” she said. “I love that one-on-one interaction and when the person’s face brightens and they say, ‘I didn’t know I could recycle that!’ One person does make a difference.”


Check out Nancy Lo’s recycling blog, “The Trash Basher: Making Haste Toward Zero Waste,” at trashbasher.blogspot.com.