by Richard Perry
She started out three years ago as a part-timer on the Band’s clean-up crew. Today Betty Googoo is leading several progressive initiatives to put her community at the forefront of sustainable environmental leadership.
“I’m learning all the time,” says this mother of four in a recent interview. Her workstation in the Band office is surrounded by posters promoting the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
“Back then I knew nothing about recycling. Everything just went into the trash. So when others asked me about recycling, I went and found the Band manual and said ‘Okay crew, here we go…”
Since that humble beginning, Googoo has been instrumental in getting funding through the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq’s ‘Mi’kmawey Green Communities Program’. The program offers pilot projects and works with communities to become greener, cleaner and more sustainable.
First, a new compost shed was built recently near the Health Centre to convert organics into compost for the community garden.
“This will help us grow vegetables for our own use here on the reserve, or the compost can be used in flower beds,” she says. “Why not do this for ourselves? It just makes sense.”
“Betty was very enthusiastic about the composting initiative,” says Kate Nelson, project manager of the Mi’kmawey Green Communities Program.
“She worked closely with our research and education officers to not only understand the composting process, but also to recommend a site for the compost station. Plus, she is providing leadership helping community members sort plastics, glass, paper and regular garbage. Her enthusiasm is contagious.”
Just across Highway #4, Googoo takes me on a tour of a long-abandoned sawmill. It’s where she hopes the Band will build a modern ‘divert station’ for bulky waste such as old fridges, stoves, tires and hazardous materials. For safety reasons, it would be fenced-in with security cameras. Before that can happen, the huge steel beams, sheet metal and rusted machinery would have to be hauled away and sold for scrap.
Googoo’s plans don’t stop there. She also dreams of the day when Paqtnkek will have its own recycling depot so community members would be responsible for dropping off cans and bottles.
She jokes about the occasional run-in with “a few people who still don’t get it”. It’s one reason why she enjoys hosting community meetings and workshops. She also reaches out to the younger generation by sharing age-appropriate educational materials at the Band’s pre-school.
The Confederacy’s Kate Nelson says Googoo has become a strong advocate for solid waste management at Paqtnkek.
“Betty has a clear vision of how best to deliver these programs to achieve the best possible results for Paqtnkek,” says Nelson. “We are reminded of the concept of Netukulimk – to take only what is needed and waste nothing, to ensure there is something left for the next generation.”
For more information on the Mi’kmawey Green Communities Program, visit http://www.mikmawconservation.ca/mikmawey-green-communities-program/.