#OurCGStories: Jason Weiner

Two girls sit at Common Ground table

#OurCGStories blog series highlights Cleveland Foundation staff who participated in our Common Ground day of community conversation on June 30.  In today’s blog, we hear from Jason Weiner, Donor Relations Officer. On Common Ground day, Jason hosted “Plastic Surgery: Cutting Plastic Out of Your Life” at Distill Table in Lakewood. Here’s what he had to say about Common Ground:

Professional Headshot of Jason WeinerName: Jason Weiner

Common Ground you hosted or attended: Co-Hosted “Plastic Surgery: Cutting Plastic Out of Your Life” at Distill Table in Lakewood. 

Why did you choose to host that Common Ground conversation?

For me, the issue of single-use plastics, their devastating impact on our environment and what to do about it has felt overwhelming at best. Thinking about how our daily life intersects with unnecessary plastic, it’s easy to see how thoughtlessly many of us move through our days without questioning the plastic bag handed to us at the drug store (is it really necessary for that pack of gum or tube of tooth paste?), the straw given to us at the restaurant, or the way we freely reach for the Saran wrap to cover our uneaten portions after dinner on any given night. Our use of plastic is an unquestioned norm, a routine, and many of us simply opt for the ease and familiarity of plastic.

A woman speaks into a microphoneHowever, discussion at home or with friends (often over coffee or a meal!) has helped me to realize that use of single-use plastics is a choice. I can say “no thank you” to that plastic bag – and maybe even bring my own reusable one. I can ‘skip the straw’ when I go out to eat, or better yet, I can buy one made of metal or silicone that I can use for months or maybe years. Realizing that we can, in fact, make choices like this inspired us to want to host this conversation and share strategies for challenging our own assumptions about the necessity of plastic in so many situations. We have come up with solutions in our own home for packing lunches and saving leftovers, so why not share? And we knew that other places in our Lakewood community have prioritized a culture of sustainability over one of disposal, so why not bring us all together to learn?

It’s not likely that my saying “no” to a plastic bag at the drug store will solve the problem, but if many of us understand that we can effect change by adjusting our own behavior and expectations, and if many of us choose to put our disposable dollars towards efforts that prioritize sustainability and the environment, and if many of us consider the positions our elected officials hold on the environment and our relationship to it as consumers, then maybe one day we will solve the problem. But we thought we’d start with a conversation that allowed us to share ideas and strategies that empower us to make changes in our own lives first.

three photos of Common Ground branded materials

a girl blows a bubble with gumWhat’s your favorite memory from the day?

Selfishly, my favorite memory of the day is the fact that it was a family affair. My wife and I planned and coordinated the conversation, and my kids helped out with registration. Perhaps more importantly, having my kids (ages 9 and 11) be exposed to and a part of an intentional and respectful community conversation around a challenging topic helps to establish their own framework and expectations for how to engage with the community in the future.

What are some of the community issues you discussed at your conversation?

Our conversation focused on reducing the use of single-use plastics within our local community, presenting real life examples of strategies we use in our homes, in our institutions (Lakewood Public Library) and in our businesses (restaurants). We also had experts on hand to talk about national initiatives with a local presence (Plastic Free July and Skip the Straw) as well as the status of recycling in Cuyahoga County, including the ban on plastic bags.

A woman speaks into a microphoneIn your opinion, why is Common Ground important for our community?

Common Ground is important for our community because it presents a thoughtful approach to intentional conversation. A Common Ground conversation not only brings people together who otherwise may not ever come together in conversation, but it presents a model of respectful dialog that emphasizes listening, engaging with points of view that may be different from your own, face-to-face discussion, and taking responsibility for the words and ideas you share. These are characteristics that could strengthen any conversation – in your home, at work, among friends and among strangers.

Interested in hosting your own Common Ground conversation, or want to learn more about how you can participate in this annual day of community conversation? Visit www.ClevelandFoundation.org/CommonGround.