RapidChat: Angela Fox

"Is this recyclable?" is a question we ask ourselves more often than we'd like to admit. Regardless of whether or not the answer is 'yes,' you're already down a path to more sustainable lifestyle. Just as Angela Fox, who's noble purpose began to materialize with these exact thoughts.
"Is this recyclable?" is a question we ask ourselves more often than we'd like to admit. Regardless of whether or not the answer is 'yes,' you're already down a path to a more sustainable lifestyle. This week's Rapid Chat interviews Angela Fox who leads sustainability workshops with Green Michigan.
Rapid Growth: How and when did you first form your relationship with Green Michigan?

Angela Fox: When I owned and ran my store Treehuggers, I met Dan Broersma and Ken Freestone. They started a non-profit called greenmichigan.org and we became fast friends. They have been running Green Michigan since 2011-2012 as a way to get information about sustainability into the community. The idea formed when we all started to become people that everyone came to with questions. When one of us didn't know the answer, we consulted in one another. We just became this source for all things sustainable.

RG: Where did the idea for the sustainability workshops come from?

AF: Originally the workshops were something I did with the store. When I came back to GR full time, it just felt natural that I started with the workshops again. I met with Liz Wonder, the Sustainability Director at Founders Brewing and started to see if we could host them there. For the first six months we did them out of the Centennial Room at Founders. It was cool to pick up where I left off. People were still excited and supportive of the idea, which I like to call a “weird Tuesday night hobby.”

RG: Is there any significance of the venue being a brewery?

AF: Having the sustainability workshops at a brewery makes them a little less scary. A lot of the topics are overwhelming, so the fact that you can have a beer and hang out with other like-minded people is much more welcoming. I think it reaches a demographic that wouldn't find themselves in a library or a more formal education setting.

RG: What are some of the more popular topics of conversation?

AF: Our beekeeping workshop is always really popular. Gardening and composting is typically well attended, as well. We always try to make them more how-to’s and actionable items, so you're able to walk away with stuff to do. That’s the whole point; to make an overwhelming topic more approachable, and allow these individuals to implement that type of sustainability within their world.

RG: When is the next time you will be talking about bees?

AF: We actually just wrapped up on one at end of April; it was a pollinator workshop and therefore a bee-related theme. We discussed the types of trees and plants people can plant in an urban settings to feed our bees, birds, and butterflies. I brought in a professional bee keeper and arborist in; he specializes in bees for pollination. While it wasn't a sales pitch, I wanted people to be able to connect the dots. Again, making things far less difficult for individuals to access.

RG: When did your passion for the environment and sustainability first begin?

AF: It all started with animals. I was one of those kids that swam in my grandma's pool and saved bugs; I probably saved bugs more than I swam. I just have always kind of been this way. I also like to mention that I got this way when I was in my mid-20s because I was doing “it” wrong.

What had happened is that I got a nasty letter from my recycling man stating that “dryer lint isn't recyclable." From that I then wondered what was and wasn't recyclable… and if I had been doing it wrong all along. From there, I started asking myself “what can I do with this lint, then? What can I put in the recycling bin, what can’t I?” and so forth.

I just got to the point that I said to myself, if I have all of these questions, I am sure many others do as well. Which is how I got to starting my own store. I wanted provide people with resources, as well as a source they could trust. There is so much information on the internet these days that contradicts one another. If you are really trying to do right and well… you can easily get sidetracked or overwhelmed and stop all together.

RG: What is your best advice for those who think this type of lifestyle is much too overwhelming to take on?

AF: My best advice is that they need to push through and persevere. It’s about doing a little, bit by bit, and doing the best you can. Bite off one chunk and do the best you can. It’s a process—not an end-all-be-all. Eventually you’ll get to the point where it’s just second nature. I have been able to implement it within my lifestyle to the point that I don't even think about it.

RG: What else can we expect to see from Green Michigan in the future?

AF: In addition to the sustainability workshops, Green Michigan is also in the process of opening a recycling center. My partner Dan has been working at Herman Miller for a really long time, and a lot of his job is to help his suppliers and his company recycle various odds and ends beyond the typical streams. We are trying to make it more accessible to schools and small businesses, and looking to recycle more than what the city can offer.

More of what we've been working on recently is a dismantling operation. For example, one of the things we are going to be recycling is mattresses. Mattresses are made up of a lot of materials, which make it really hard to find someone who is willing to recycle them. They have to physically be taken apart. But we put a plan together and found the equipment; we are going to be one of the first on the west side to offer this service. We will be taking furniture, clothing, and other odds and ends that are traditionally difficult to recycle.

RG: How do you plan to structure this endeavor?

AF: We are going to be operating as a non-profit. We plan to be very transparent about how we are operating our business. From how we are making the money to where it's going, it’s not just large scale organizations that can make it happen. Everyone can recycle the same way.

RG: When can expect to see this new recycling program to launch?

AF: Realistically we are looking to launch this fall. We are looking to finalize a few different pieces. There are large startup costs and we are currently in the final stages of funding. More than that, Green Michigan was formed to help the community with their sustainability goals. If anyone has questions, I suggest they check out the website. If we don't know the answer, we know someone who does. The whole goal is to help people live greener here.

Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.
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