Mar 312015
 
I occasionally catch grief from friends and family not quite on board with my brand of environmentalism.  Now, I’m not out chaining myself to trees marked for lumber, but I do believe a little green goes a long way.  I’m just curious about the resistance.

Some of it is a Texas thing.  In this state of plenty, it’s not easy convincing people there’s even a need for environmental responsibility.  Surely more energy is expended maintaining two trash receptacles than just simply feeding the landfill, right?

I encounter a great deal of cynicism from those fighting recycling imperatives.  “You know they just mix it all together later, right?”  “You’re aware that we export it for homeless six year-olds in the Philippines to sort, right?”

Let’s address those in order.

First, I almost don’t care what professional trash handlers do with my recyclables.  I’m going to do the right thing.  It doesn’t hurt.  It saves me on trash bags.  Where’s the loss on my end?

Second, yes, I’ve read the articles and seen the photos.  I know there’s dirty work involved in recycling, and don’t like every aspect.  Maybe I could do better at public shaming of waste management companies that dump the work off so callously.  Maybe we all could.  But the worst alternative seems to be dumping recyclables into oceanic gyres, and I’m definitely not in favor of that.  And as for the Philippines, they’re getting smart about waste management.

So let’s parse the subject, and tackle the areas for which we’re each best equipped.

One way to at least put a dent into recyclable mismanagement is to “close the loop”.  An absurdly easy method is to attach deposits to materials you’d love to recover.

Take a look at the typical glass bottle.  You’ll see raised lettering calling out the various deposits imposed by various states.  This is simple brilliance: it provides incentive for any citizen to redirect usable waste from landfills or gyres and on to those who see it as raw materials.  We even used to do it in Texas; as children, my brothers and I would scavenge cast-off bottles on our quarter-mile journey to the local store, and upon arrival receive enough coinage to destroy our teeth with candy and soda.

Why did Texas abandon such a great system?  I’d love to know.  And it shouldn’t stop at bottles, anyway.  Tack a waste management surcharge onto every non-biodegradable material and direct the funds as appropriate.

Yeah, I know: I just climbed out of the trash bin and into the ivory tower there.

But there are still other, easy things we can all do to improve the environment that make not just ecological but also economical sense.  Look at our crazy propensity for water-hogging English-style gardens.  We dump tons of time, money and H2O into maintaining the greenery around our homes.  But why are we importing and planting such thirsty varieties?  There are almost always equivalent local plants that can beautify your home while requiring significantly less work and water.  This approach, called xeriscaping, makes sense all the way around.  And a benefit beyond water savings: native plants attract and support native wildlife.

Bottom line, environmental responsibility not only doesn’t have to mean more work, in many ways it can mean much less.  I challenge everyone who’s been skeptical to objectively examine their lifestyle, and I’m betting you’ll find small, easy ways to be environmentally conscious without having to hug any trees.

If you have any questions about these or related subjects, I’m passionate about answering!

Now if I can just convince Amazon to pick up and reuse their empty boxes…

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