National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Cover story
Issue Date:  August 15, 2003

Michael Buono
-- P. Lefevere
Businessman in coveralls dives into dumpster

Michael Buono calls himself a “dumpster diver.” He dresses in a business suit and tie to address active and would-be environmentalists. Later he confesses that he also dresses up when he dives into a dumpster at a church or school.

“I slip coveralls over my suit. When they see me in a suit and tie, they pay attention,” he told NCR after presenting a workshop at the New Jersey Catholic Coalition for Environmental Justice conference in Princeton, N.J., recently.

Buono is convinced that parishes, schools, hospitals and small businesses can reduce their waste and cut their costs through use of a waste audit. His New Jersey firm, Environmental Service Management Group, specializes in waste audits.

A waste audit is a procedure that guides an individual or team through a series of steps to provide data on how much and what kind of waste is generated, disposed and recycled, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Energy, which has required audits for state agencies since 1991.

Buono judges a place by its garbage -- churches included. The first rule of waste management is to know what you generate by volume and by weight, because “you’re charged by volume, but haulers pay by weight when they get to the dump. … Churches dispose of paper and plastic but are charged as if they were restaurants,” he said.

Buono presented a case study of a Christian facility in New Jersey that included 52 assisted living units, a 61-bed health care center, 137 single-family homes, a church, a preschool, daycare center and a radio station. The facility was able to cut its waste expense by $450 a month, reduce its waste output by 24 percent, eliminate a service day and trash containers and improve its recycling and sanitary maintenance while building 86 new single-family homes in the community, he said.

Even if parishes and schools may not be in for big savings initially, eco-friendly habits can be inculcated in staff, students and parishioners in ways that will benefit the home and workplace. Buono suggested making announcements about recycling after Mass.

“Parishioners like to know the money they save; children like to hear how many trees they saved” by being environmentally conscientious. “Everyone becomes a stakeholder in the process.”

-- Patricia Lefevere

National Catholic Reporter, August 15, 2003

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