Recycling champion

Rose Brown’s home produces only one-quarter of pound of trash a year

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Print this page by Carlos Santos

Perhaps the most singular symbol of Charlottesville’s green movement is Rose Brown. In a country where the average citizen throws away 4.5 pounds of trash a day, Brown has reduced her annual total to about one-quarter of a pound.

Brown, who lives in the city’s Belmont section, began her super recycling efforts in 2008. At the end of that year she had produced less than eight ounces of garbage that couldn’t be recycled, reused or composted. She calls on people to take on what she dubs the zero-garbage challenge.

Brown said she was motivated to begin recycling when she looked down the sidewalk in front of her house and saw garbage cans “lined up and down the street and I decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore … That’s what made me decide to go all the way to stop throwing things away.”

A city resident since 2003, Brown talks to many groups in the area about her strategy for producing little trash. Her green life includes caring for pets. Brown, 33, has one dog and two cats.  She buys dog food in bulk — thus reducing packaging — and cat food in cans, which can be recycled. The cat litter she buys is biodegradable.

Brown is director of the nonprofit group StreamWatch which monitors streams in the Rivanna watershed. She touts the city’s green leadership. “I think I wouldn’t have had such an easy time doing the zero-garbage challenge in any other place in Virginia.”

Stores in Charlottesville support her bringing in her own bags to carry out food and other items, she says. “And people here understand the mentality and don’t look at me funny.”

The hardest part of her recycling lifestyle, she says, is changing habits. “Changing habits is a lot of work, but I did it as an adventure. I framed it as something I wanted to do for fun,” she says.
So Brown watches what she purchases, buys food in bulk when she can and has rid her house of carpets, vacuum cleaners and even a computer printer — things that will break or wear out and need to be thrown away eventually. 

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