Another Path Towards Zero Waste – A Glass Blower Leads the Way

Wayne and Miyuki HarjulaWayne Harjula and Miyuki Shinkai have been evolving their glass blowing studio, Mellon Glass, since 1996. By evolving, I mean they have consciously moved away from industry trends by creating hand formed drinking glasses from discarded bottles and jars. These drinking glasses are distinct from a number of perspectives in that they; support community engagement, use materials that would otherwise be crushed or recycled, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create local employment opportunities in a small community.

The evolution of their glass blowing practices were built upon Wayne’s experience growing up in a small scale farm where he learned to be resourceful, reuse or repair things, and be environmentally aware. From this foundation, Wayne has always been concerned about waste and has become very much involved in promoting Zero Waste and developing solutions to move toward a Zero Waste society. Wayne had heard of the “Glass Mountain” and finally got to see it first hand at the Gibsons Resource Recovery Centre located in Gibsons, BC, Canada and owned and operated by Buddy Boyd and Barb Hetherington. Buddy and Barb are leaders in Zero Waste and are board members of Zero Waste Canada. They have cooperated with Wayne in helping him develop his glass prototypes by supplying the bottles and jars for Wayne’s experiments.

Creating drinking glasses from the “Glass Mountain” was not enough for Wayne, as he also wanted to use the seductive medium to constructively engage the community. To do so, Wayne engaged local merchants and individuals to develop distinct glasses with a message that increased awareness of the environment, the community, or anything else of cultural importance in a positively engaging way. For example, one of the first creations was a Zero Waste glass with a picture of a pig. Another more politically oriented series include the words “Delete, delete, delete!” which refers to an extensive series of emails being deleted by the ruling political party in British Columbia (See inserted picture).  Further opportunities to engage people is through local merchants developing their own line of glasses that may reflect the street on which they are located, the town, or any kind of distinct personally derived theme they fancy. Think Knitting or Seed Bombs.

In addition to being able to make large numbers of the same glass themes, Wayne has reduced his greenhouse gas footprint by 95% due to the unique heating process for making his glasses. Of course, as demonstrated by much of the work done by Greenomics, a consultancy in sustainable business practices, a reduction in green house gas emissions correlates directly to reductions in operating costs. Thus, Mellon Glass has reduced its gas bill from approximately $24,000/year down to $1,200/year. Plans are also underway to capture the excess heat used to create the glasses for heating bottle washing water, warming homes, and meeting other energy needs. Zero Waste applies to energy too.

While Wayne explained in his unassuming and humble manner the processes that led to his up-cycled glasses, I realized that what was really being described wasn’t the glasses at all. Rather, it was more an expression to build community, explore and learn together, be respectful of our environment, and  seek greater meaning. In other words, to create an attractive and lifelong alternative to the mainstream consumerism that is alienating and destroying our environment. The glasses are one example of creating something that is functional, captivating, environmentally sensitive, and brings people together.

This is one light toward a better future.

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