Sarah Goff is a web diva, fashion designer, soon-to-be Gainesville resident, and president of the Trash to Treasure Creative Re-Use Center in Ft. Lauderdale. She’s also one of our volunteers!

She participated in a 26-country synchronized tree planting this summer at the Prairie Creek Preserve along with other NG volunteers, the Alachua Conservation Trust, and EARTH University of Costa Rica. She was generous enough to share a bit of her time and wisdom about creative re-use and carbon neutrality….

Does your work at Trash to Treasure bring up the issue of carbon emissions/footprint explicitly?

Oh yeah, big time. We’re constantly talking and teaching about carbon footprints and carbon emissions. A lot of people don’t think about stuff being a big source of carbon emissions, but it actually is a major source.

According to the EPA, 29% of US green house gas emissions are from our STUFF (extraction or harvest of materials, production, transport of goods, provision of services, and disposal). Let’s all help protect the planet and buy used!

The water usage for production of stuff is alarming as well. We are very much trying to teach people about the larger picture at Trash to Treasure (including rainbarrel-making workshops and also summer workshops with kids that teach them about the environment and sustainability and all the things that we can do in our everyday lives that reduce our carbon footprint and protect the planet).

It isn’t just about saving your scraps for arts and crafts. We use that as a tool to teach about the larger environmental impact of our actions.

I’m looking on your site now and wondering do you have some kind of tip sheet or handout you give to folks that talks about this stuff?

We should do that. Another thing we want to do is a pledge to buy used whenever possible instead of new and then we could explain how that helps.

Why did you volunteer for the tree-planting?

Lots of reasons! I guess the first one is generally about volunteering…why I do it. It’s the Consume Less, Experience More idea.

Our society has gotten into the habit of shopping and buying as a main form of entertainment…but personally I don’t get much from that. I would much rather go do something worthwhile, be out in nature, and meet new people that also care about the same sorts of issues that I care about. It’s a great thing to do when you move to a new place, too…to meet people.

I also think that Neutral Gator is an awesome organization with a unique spin. I’ve had concerns throughout the years with carbon offsets. I’ve read horror stories about large offset companies displacing people off the land they’ve lived on for years so they can plant trees.

Neutral Gator is doing offsets in such a great way and you can actually see it and be a part of it because it’s done locally…and the projects of energy efficiency for local low income neighborhoods is especially awesome.

Not only are you helping your neighbors by lowering their electric bill, you are also reducing carbon emissions…helping people and the environment all at the same time. Plus, what an education to see firsthand that energy efficiency measures can save money.

Do you have any “just getting started” tips for new reusers/repurposers/recyclers?

I guess I would say make it a game. It’s fun to see how much you can reduce your garbage. Find out from your county what can be recycled and of course recycle all that stuff.

Once you start reducing your garbage it makes you think before throwing anything away. Is there another alternative? Can I donate this to a thrift store or a creative reuse store (Tools for Schools in Gainesville) or a preschool for arts and crafts? Can I bring this styrofoam back to Publix to be recycled?

Composting is wonderful too and improves the smell of your garbage! And then of course you can start avoiding excess waste before you bring it home like bring reusable bags instead of taking home plastic ones and choose products with less packaging (buying used eliminates packaging).

I’m not sure if other people will get such a kick out of this game, but I really like it! Trash to Treasure helps a lot, too!

To learn more volunteer opportunities like retrofitting homes and planting trees, please e-mail almah@neutralgator.org. And if you’re down in South Florida, please sure to stop by the Trash to Treasure Creative Re-Use Center!

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