Pete Parsons and Danny Everitt were high school sweethearts in Victoria, TX. Life took them on separate paths all around the Lone Star State. Danny became a mighty fine musician. Pete worked in energy conservation, spearheading the State’s energy conservation efforts under Governor Anne Richards. “I found myself in a position of influence and very strident about environmental issues. The older I get, the less strident I am.”
Pete and Danny married – and divorced – other people with some regularity. Through spouses and ex’s the couple stayed in touch. When Pete moved to Houston in 2009 they reconnected; this time for good. Danny is Pete’s husband number six; Pete is Danny’s wife number four: perhaps the most ferocious example I’ve witnessed yet of our tenacious search for love, and how often it sits right under our nose.
Two years ago Pete lost her job. She’s does a bit of contract work and Danny writes songs. They put their stuff in storage, gave up their home, and have become itinerant house sitters, keeping an eye on the ranches and estates of well-connected, well-heeled people Pete’s met along the way. Wherever they stay, Danny takes a photo to document their evolving vacation while Pete takes on a home improvement project. “I always leave it better than I found it.” In between house sitting gigs they live with Danny’s brother Randy in a two-bedroom apartment in The Woodlands.
Randy’s also a songwriter, though a shy one. He gives up his spare room when his brother and sister-in-law come calling, but the benefits more than compensate any inconvenience. Randy enjoys having a regular music partner and a hearty share of Pete’s excellent cooking.
On the night I visited this trio, Danny performed several songs after dinner, including ‘Angel’, which he wrote to Pete for their wedding. He looked right at her and sang direct to both his high school sweetheart and middle-aged wife. “I smell your hair, see your face. You are the angel in my arms.”
At bedtime, Pete scuttled around in pink flannels making sure that everyone had enough pillows and blankets. ‘Danny are you going to be warm enough?” He replied in his deep voice, “As long as you’re next to me, baby doll, I’ll be warm and fine.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“What has shifted for me has been to get involved in dealing with waste as a technological rather than behavioral issue: a single stream waste/recycling system. The objective is to reconstitute a substance – plastic, for example – and make something ‘in kind’ that is the same as what it was originally. The ‘one bin’ thing has turned me on my ear. Reduce, reuse, recycle is so dated. When I worked in the State I refused to use the phrase. Now I don’t say ‘no’ to anything. I say ‘yes.’ I think we should mitigate the damage to our environment, that’s great. But I’m also thinking that technology will overcome more and more of this. I was stuck in gloom and doom for many years, but I don’t go there anymore.
“I really think what is going to help cities is Big Business. We are going to see more public/private partnerships to address failing infrastructure. We have companies out there, like Unilever and Coca-Cola, who are actually doing what government should be doing about policies that conserve our natural resources. They are coming up with ways to do business in a different way so the companies will still be there when the resources change. IBM is working on smart cities to link our public and private transportation systems. The trains, planes and traffic lights will all be coordinated.”
April 14, 2016 Update:
After publishing this post, Pete Parsons provided more details about the ‘One bin’ system, which she did not think was correctly described in the original profile. I am happy to include this more detailed explanation of the system and its benefits. Thanks to Pete for clarifying:
“In terms of recycling, we currently have two ways to do it. The most current and preferred method is called, “Single Stream Recycling”. It is where you take ALL of your recyclables and put them in a waste (recycling) container which obviously is completely separate from the regular trash container. It has been what folks of my ilk have been promoting for years. All recyclables are then sold on the commodities market.
“The new program in Houston I am supporting is called, “One Bin For All”. This is different in that it is taking ALL waste and putting it back into one regular trash container (can). Just like we did 20 years ago. Nothing is separated. Kitty litter, glass bottles, dirty diapers, newspapers, plastics, etc…..everything gets disposed of in “One Bin”.
“This waste is then taken to a facility that has all these special “Willy Wonka” machines which separate out ALL the waste into individual streams…plastic #9 goes with all other plastic #9 products, plastic #3 goes into the plastic #3 stream, organics, paper, glass, etc. All is separated into separate streams on site and a specific on site manufacturer takes a waste stream and produces a product. The waste products are no longer based on a healthy commodities market. They immediately have a home.
“In Houston the group that is setting this system up is a group called, Eco-Hub. Eco-Hub has a partner that has a “Willy Wonka” machine that separates everything and on-site partners that take each individual waste stream and creates a marketable product.
“One big concern enviros are having with this new concept is what happens to contaminated paper. When I refer to contaminated paper, it is paper that has been in contact with organics and no longer viable as paper that can be recycled into products, like cups, napkins, etc, that we use to eat or drink from. Eco Hub has a partner that takes this contaminated paper, creates a “slurry”, spins out the wood fibers (just like it is currently being done) then takes these fibers through an extra step that sterilizes them to an EPA approved standard allowing them to become paper products used for food or beverages. Currently Kraft food is using this this waste stream and creating products they sell to stadiums for food and beverage products.
“Eco Hub claims they can take all but 12% of the waste stream. That waste would be taken to the municipal solid waste landfill for disposal. When you think that the current national recycling rate is only 36%, it is obviously a much preferred method.
“Additionally, the bottom has fallen out of the commodities market in relationship to recycled products. China and India were the primary consumers of US recycled products which they burned and used as fuel. China and India now have enough of a middle class they no longer need our waste.
“This is a relatively new phenomenon and not totally known or understood by most citizens.
“I also want to state that I have always been a strong supporter of “reduce, reuse, recycle”. The truth is, I still am. I just happen to believe this new technology is just a better way to do it. Additional advantages include less truck pollution, less wear and tear on the roads, and other things related to the transportation component of dealing with waste. It will save local governments money which could then be used for educational programs informing citizens on how to REDUCE and REUSE. These two components are still critical components to the equation.
“Personally, I am no longer automatically saying “my way or the highway” (“no”, to new ideas). Instead, I am saying that we should all consider saying “yes”. At a minimum, letting go of “being right” if it is just not getting us there.”