What is the next step after the Co-op? Where do resources go after the Austin Scenic Co-op [Collaboration between Salvage Vanguard and Rude Mechs] can no longer use them? I found inspiration this week from two community service volunteers that were helping me to organize the shed where we house the Austin Scenic Co-op stock. Community service volunteers are court appointed by the city of Austin to complete a certain number of hours with a local non-profit.
This week I worked with two young men to get rid of some of our stock that had not been used since it was donated. Most of these were odd shaped platforms that are very show specific and therefore not used readily by many people. We were hauling these out to the dumpster making way for a new batch of standard 4x8 platforms --by far our most popular item to loan out. To me these old platforms --some of which have not been touched by anyone for three years--were just trash, but the guys that were helping me out asked if they could use some of the lumber. They informed me that they had friends that would break down things like what I was throwing away. If they got the things for free they could turn just enough profit to make it worth their while.
This reminded me of an essay I read recently, "Ecology and Community" by physicist and systems theorist Fritjof Capra. In it he argues that communities should turn to ecosystems to learn how to be sustainable. Capra insists that lessons learned from ecosystems aren’t mere suggestions, but are laws for how communities must organize themselves. The laws of sustainability are "just as stringent as the laws of physics . . . If you go up to a high cliff and step off it, disregarding the laws of gravity, you will surely die. If we live in a community, disregarding the laws of sustainability as a community, we will just as surely die in the long run."
Capra identifies five laws of sustainability: interdependence, recycling, partnership, flexibility, and diversity. I think the most fascinating argument he makes in the article is when he writes, "you can define an ecosystem as a community where there is no waste."
In establishing the Austin Scenic Co-op we have been very concerned with getting donations--making sure people know about us so that they don't throw away set pieces that others could use. We have been working to establish networks to recycle theatre companies' sets and we still have a lot of work to do in this regard. Now that our stock is starting to grow we are encountering a new problem--one that I did not foresee. What is the next step in the network? What do we do with those things that aren't useful anymore to theatre companies?
Now that we have to be more selective about what we can accept and are starting to have to cull some of our less useful stock we need to establish another link in the network. Another level of recycling. I am excited about establishing another partnership one that is interested in using lumber that we cannot. And getting closer to our goal of zero waste.
--Thomas Graves, Austin Scenic Co-Op & Rude Mechs