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What a lend-me-a-plate (LMAP) place setting looks like. (Photo by Sharon Anderson)

WasteNot: Friends, Ashlanders, countrymen: Lend Me A Plate!

We humans enjoy gathering together to celebrate the ups and downs of life. Oftentimes eating is an integral part.

We meet up to toast love, birthdays, new life, death, graduations, retirement, feats and defeats. “Breaking bread” with more people than the number of place settings in the cupboard requires some organization and advanced planning. Some gatherings team up with multiple households to combine resources for enough glasses, plates and utensils for attendees. Sometimes we are requested to provide our own place settings.

There was a time in our not-too-distant past when single-use disposables were not an option. “Durables” in the form of washable and therefore, reusable plates, cups and utensils were the the only choice. Additionally, “away” hasn’t always been as ubiquitous as today’s curbside trash service to expeditiously whisk undesirables from sight (to the landfill).

In the ‘50s, when the era of single-use disposable culture was born, being able to purchase one-time use “stuff” was not only convenient but a “modern” sign of “affluence.” One could proudly purchase this material, use it once and toss. We did, because we could, and at that time it was a novelty “invention.” As you may have noticed, several decades later we find our planet drowning or drowned in this human-created, mega-bazillion volumes of you-know-what.

Planning ahead can eliminate much of most potential trash making. For gatherings and most everything else, an ounce of prevention could be worth several pounds of cure, by practicing avoidance.

Here’s the groovy part: There’s an organization called the Southern Oregon Master Recyclers in Action (SOMRA) and Lend Me A Plate (LMAP) is a project they created. It is comprised of dedicated volunteers who lend out up to 100 place settings (plates, glasses, napkins, utensils, tablecloths) for events with a few months notice. I want to emphasize the affordability of this service and clarify what Ashland and Talent can do to ensure LMAP’s healthy future.

It costs money to purchase these materials and replace them when they break or are lost. The start-up costs for LMAP came from grants and donations from people just like you and me. Unlike how Jackson County Library operates, LMAP does not receive a dime from tax dollars. When we use the wonderful LMAP service, it is incumbent upon us to remunerate the coffers for the next community event. Hands down, borrowing from LMAP is the most economical and environmental responsible choice, second only to having no event.

It is possible to rent event serving items from local businesses too. The cost range at the low end is $475 for 100 place settings. It’s impossible to compete with using disposables provided one overlooks the weight of the waste and the environmental impacts are disregarded. The LMAP service is available and affordable for evehttp://dailytidings.com/lifestyle/wastenotryone in Ashland and Talent. The 100 bucks you’d spend for disposables could instead be donated to LMAP and, in exchange, the borrower gets an attractive set of place settings, tablecloths and napkins.

One of the beautiful aspects of LMAP is that it operates on a sliding scale basis. When you can afford it, making a larger donation helps ensure the future viability of LMAP. This covers the costs for those of us that cannot, but care about not making trash.

The other “priceless” and critical part of the program are the volunteers. Currently, there are a handful of volunteers and this number needs to triple. Please accept this formal invitation to consider joining the LMAP team as a volunteer. Writing a check to support LMAP’s future would also help a lot. The volunteer commitment is one month a year and the new volunteer is paired with an experienced volunteer for “on-the-job” training.

LMAP is a unique and community-minded offering that contributes to a durable future instead of the disposable path we are on. LMAP has gotten its feet off the ground because enough of us are willing to do our part. To really take flight it needs more volunteers and dollars from all of us, depending on our abilities to contribute.

To find out more about LMAP, make a request to borrow for your upcoming event, and/or make a donation, contact www.somra.org. To volunteer, contact Sharon Anderson at 541-535-9055.

Risa Buck has served on the Ashland Conservation Commission and in waste prevention education for more than a dozen years. You may reach her through betling@dailytidings.com. Find past WasteNot columns online at dailytidings.com/lifestyle/wastenot.

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