As part of the Solid Waste Services Department’s Zero Waste Strategic Plan to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by 20 percent in 2012 and 90 percent by 2040, a reality-based show, ‘Dare to Go Zero,’ is scheduled to air in late April. The City of Austin currently diverts about 39 percent of waste from area landfills..
The show features families who compete in challenges over a five week period and learn how to reduce the amount of waste they generate. Out of the 52 family applicants, eight were chosen for on-camera auditions and the four family contestants picked for the show were recently introduced by Solid Waste Services.
Senior Public Information Specialist Jennifer Herber said the idea for the show was put into motion in October of 2010. “This has been an exciting program to be a part of and we’ve really been pleased with the public’s response,” she explained. “Because this is a reality-based show, we wanted to show Austin’s true diversity in our family selections. We had a variety of family types, sizes and structures apply and because of the tremendous response, selecting the families was actually a really hard decision.”
Herber also said the selected families were required to meet certain criteria to be chosen for the show. “We wanted different areas of town to be represented. We were also looking for different types of families and different levels of recycling knowledge. We didn’t want only people who were already committed to recycling. We wanted families of all different levels and we achieved that with the four families we chose.”
The lucky families chosen for this unique opportunity were introduced by the Solid Waste Department as follows:
The Barnes family – Joseph and Elisa and their two children Kathy and Konnar. They want to teach their kids to recycle for the benefit of our planet. They also want to learn new ways of reducing waste in their home.
The Johnson/Tompkins family – Cassandra Johnson, Ashley Tompkins and daughter Martaeyah Walker. Cassandra says she wants to participate in this show for her daughter, who cares about the environment, but Cassandra has no idea how or what to recycle.
The Kyle family – Tami and son Triston. Tami applied to be on the show because her teenage son, Triston, has no interest in recycling or reducing waste and thinks recycling is “stupid.”
The Zimmerman/Brian family – Julia Zimmerman and Jason Brian and their son Will. With a new baby and six Chihuahuas the Zimmerman/Brian household produces a lot of waste. Jason is an avid recycler, while Julia is a work in progress.
The shows host Michael Bocanegra is a Solid Waste Services employee who works as an operator in bulk collection and has been with the City for almost five years. Excited about the opportunity to try something new and to meet new people he said his main reason for hosting the show is “because it is a good opportunity to get awareness out about recycling.”
Herber said the primary goal of the show is to further educate an already green and progressive city about recycling properly. “Austinites have been really great about embracing recycling. What we noticed was that while our recycling rates are high and people are participating, we still have pockets of town where people are using their recycling carts as an extra garbage cart or placing items that cannot be recycled in their recycling carts. There are still a lot of questions, so we really want to educate people on what can and can’t be recycled.”
In reference to the city’s Zero Waste Plan of reducing the amount of waste by 90 percent by 2040, Herber said, “When you hear that it sounds like a lofty goal. We wanted to make it more reachable so we initiated a fun and creative reality-based show in an effort to educate the public through these families.”
With filming already underway, The Austin Times recently spoke with members of the Johnson/Tompkins family. Cassandra Johnson said her family’s reason for wanting to participate began with her daughter Martaeyah Walker. “Martaeyah learned a lot about recycling at school so when we saw the casting call we thought it would be a lot of fun and a great learning experience for all of us.” Johnson also said her recycling awareness is already improving and her family is excited about incorporating what they’ve learned into their daily lives at work and school.
The grand prize is a sustainable household package that includes up to $2,000 in energy saving improvements for the winner’s home. Episodes will air on The City of Austin’s Channel 6 and YouTube (www.youtube.com/austintexasgov) beginning in late April. For more information, visit austinrecycles.com.
By Michelle Keller
Austin Times Staff