Bryan Mahoney

Bryan Mahoney

The white, discarded barrels at the food-processing plant may have looked like junk. To Justin Okin, they were a means to harvest the sky.

Three of the 60-gallon barrels came home with him one day for less than $10; their previous owner was happy to see them go. With a little MacGyver ingenuity, the plastic canisters were hooked up to a homemade rain collection system, ready to eventually feed Okin's backyard garden.

"It's amazing how the plants respond to water saved from your roof," the Burbank resident said. "There's a noticeable difference. They perk up immediately."

Okin is a first-time homeowner whose goal is to never fill the green bin with waste. He says he has trained himself to ask a simple question when he's at the store or working around the home: "How am I affecting the environment?" And as the answers led to "greener" choices, Okin found himself building a sustainable, close-to-zero-waste lifestyle.

He shared this lifestyle with attendees of Burbank's Earth Day party last year, teaching homeowners how to compost and how to recycle more of what goes into a landfill. Okin and his family are part of a growing number of Burbank homeowners who, with guidance from the Burbank Recycle Center, are finding small ways to re-use the excess junk that adds to the landfill every year.

On April 20, the city will present its annual Earth Day event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Recycle Center, 500 Flower St. It's a combination of eco-festival and educational conference, a day to display what resources are already available that you may not know about.

The event will also feature live bands, food trucks, raffles and kids' games.

About 30 resources from throughout the Valley will have booths at the event for bike maintenance, "re-skilling" (a group that teaches handy things such as baking bread and fixing your own car), climate change (including what specifically will change in the Valley as climate change continues), converting old T-shirts into reusable grocery bags and free paper-shredding and compost.

Tours of the recycle center and its big trucks, which will be held every half hour, are a highlight of the event. The sheer scale of how much we waste is never truly realized until you're standing next to a 20-foot-high pile of trash.

"I learned the trucks that pick up your recycling burn a lot of gas to pick up that green bin with green waste for composting," Okin said. "Once I stopped using my green bin and [started] composted in a meaningful way, it's adding new nutrients to my soil and it saves me a trip."

It takes a conscious decision to start reducing one's environmental impact. The city's upcoming event will help make that decision a little easier.

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BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. He can be reached at818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter: @818NewGuy.