Karen ponders the possibilities of a new social idea to help the homeless and the environment.
Walking down the street this morning, watching a homeless man rummage through the trash for recyclable bottles and cans, I had a dream. A dream of an organization that helps the homeless while helping the environment. A dream of an organization with a twofold social and environmental conscience.
What if there was an organization that encouraged the way that the homeless scavenge for recyclable goods? Though fueled by economic necessity, their actions nevertheless help the environment and should be encouraged.
This could be done in many ways. Through creating, for example, a one-stop recycling center and soup kitchen where homeless people could bring the cans and bottles that they’ve collected and receive double the normal worth of the returned deposits. And while they’re there, it would be nice if there was a hot meal waiting for them free of charge, as well.
Or what if there was a way for homeless people to borrow small carts so that they didn’t have to carry around all those bottles and cans in bags slung over their backs?
It would also be great if an organization encouraged the homeless to collect recyclable items that currently cannot be returned for a deposit fee – such as paper. By compensating the homeless for recycling such materials, an organization could provide more income for the homeless and ensure that more recyclable items keep going through the cycle.
Watching the homeless man this morning made me think of the Zableen (or, “garbage collectors”) – a community in Cairo that recycles about 80% of the city’s trash in the slums, where they live. The zableen sort through all of the trash by hand, finding a use for every single thing and as a result they have practically no carbon footprint. Proctor & Gamble has gotten involved with the zableen community by setting up a school to teach children how to recycle plastic.
There are already a growing number of farms, shops, and organizations in Israel that combine social and environmental responsibility – such as Shtaim second-hand store, Guy Lougashi, Kishorit Farm, and Shop for Meaning. An organization that helps the homeless and the environment simultaneously seems like another logical possibility.
Has anyone heard of an organization that helps achieve these goals?
Read more about the intersection of social and environmental conscience:
Shtaim: A Second-Hand Store with a Twofold Conscience
Shop for Social Meaning in the Old City of Acco
Kishorit Becomes Organic Utopia for the Mentally Disabled
Guy Lougashi’s Dumpster Diving Designs Inspired by Buttons, Baskets, and Brakes