The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and Chumash Casino Resort has been recognized for their Zero Waste and Recycling efforts. By forming both local and national partnerships and designing innovative programs along with an already extensive inhouse recycling program in 2018, the Chumash Casino Resort was able to divert 2,922,307 pounds of waste, representing over 90% of its overall waste stream, from local landfills, according to the EPA.

EPA regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, Mike Stoker, who works closely with 148 native tribes in ‘Region 9’, expressed his support for the Chumash initiatives at a Nov. 12 recognition event.  “Truly in a county that is so environmentally oriented, [Chumash Tribe] are on the cutting edge, doing what very few companies – large companies – are doing,” Stoker said. “The County of Santa Barbara doesn’t generate the kind of zero waste like the Chumash. What they are doing is a role model for everyone – and what we all should be doing.”

Accepting the award on behalf of the Tribe, Kenneth Kahn, Tribal Chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, explained that protecting the environment has been instilled in all native tribes since the beginning. “We don’t have a word in our language that translates to ‘environmentalist,'” Kahn said. “We have many words that can be attributed to protecting our natural resources, so for us, it’s just a way of life. I always explain to people that tribes are very unique, whether its how we approach community, how we approach business. We are not looking at the next quarter, we’re looking seven generations down the line.”

Recounting that only 35 years ago the reservation was without running water, Kahn says that technology has made things easier but created other challenges with waste. “As a tribe, we’re doing our part to be sustainable and responsible at the same time,” he said. “Really, it’s a tradition that predates me and many of my colleagues. Our ancestors have always had a special relationship to the land and for us to carry on those traditions is extremely important: not only to set the example, but to help educate and embrace that within our community as well.”

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