October 2015

Reunity Resources: Zero-Waste Solutions

Tejinder Ciano


When I arrived in Santa Fe, a transient/transplant from Los Angeles with a vision of creating sustainable community in my heart, I had many a Santa Fean tell me that this place would either pull me in or spit me out. Six years, two businesses and two children later, I am proud to be a part of the City Different and to participate in the long-term planning and work needed for a truly Sustainable Santa Fe.

I lived in Española for a time and worked on the Seeds of Change farm, then relocated to Santa Fe and began taking courses in sustainability at Santa Fe Community College. In the parking lot on the first day of class, I felt a tug toward biodiesel. I subsequently enrolled in the first biodiesel course, not knowing what a role biodiesel would play in my life henceforth.

Simultaneously, a new job opportunity opened up and I began coordinating the inaugural year of the Santa Fe Alliance’s Farm to Restaurant program, uniting local farmers with local chefs.
The parallels were too strong to not begin offering to collect used cooking oil from the restaurants for biodiesel feedstock.

Shortly after that, I saw the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen in my life, casually shopping at the co-op. When she, without any manipulation on my part, ended up in the same line as me, I seized the moment to ask for her phone number. For some bizarre reason, considering my 8-10 inch beard, she gave it to me. One point for taking decisive action! But, as it turned out, she would be traveling for two months… patience and perseverance.

Two months later we were discussing our dreams for the planet over some locally sourced tapas at La Boca. What kind of decisive action could we take now that would bring us all closer to our dreams? What about an organization that focused on full-circle, closed-loop recycling? What if we could really turn our interests into businesses; what if we could have an impact instead of just a conversation and a dream?

Re-unite. (Unity: to bring together; Re: again) Reunity Resources, the Santa Fe-based social enterprise we founded in 2011 focuses on zero-waste solutions here in northern New Mexico. There is a mass mindset that we can throw things “away,” but…where is that? Where does it go? It must go somewhere. Reunity Resources looks at ways to put our “waste” into a place that adds value to our lives.

One of our programs is a restaurant-grease collection program: we collect used oil from over 120 area restaurants, use a low-energy process to convert it into biodiesel and then redistribute this clean fuel to BioFuel Collective members. The impact of the BioFuel Collective reaches our whole community population: everyone in our community benefits from improved air quality, a water supply that does not get oil contamination, and a secure, localized biodiesel fuel source. The BioFuel Collective reduces our community’s waste stream by 700 tons of CO2 annually, reduces our dependence on foreign oil and creates local jobs. We also educate about and advocate for closed-loop recycling systems and the use of alternative fuels.

Our next big step, the compost program, was another journey of decisive action followed by patience and perseverance. Beginning in January 2013, we approached city solid waste officials to implement a commercial composting program. After 14 months of advocacy, the way opened up. We launched food scraps collections in April 2014, and it is now a smooth, tested operation; we are diverting food waste from the landfill at a rate of approximately one million pounds per year. We have trained over 6,000 students, faculty and staff in 13 public elementary schools in daily cafeteria composting practices. And so it goes, ever forward, one step at a time.
Our work was recognized with 2015 Sustainable Santa Fe Award, a Climate Change Leadership Institute Direct Action Award and a New Mexico Recycling Coalition Public-Private Partnership of the Year Award for our work with city government. I am delighted to serve on the Sustainable Santa Fe Commission, the Climate Action Task Force and the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, advocating for large-scale policy and practice changes, and then bridge the gap to implement them for a long-term sustainable Santa Fe. After all, I am raising my family here.
We provide education, training and collection service to all our partners. If you work with a restaurant, hotel or institution, and you’d like Reunity Resources to consult with you, recycle your grease, compost your food scraps or create a zero-waste event for you, please call 505.629.0836, email juliana@reunityresources.com or visit www.reunityresources.com




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