Friday, August 31, 2007

Saving the world, one paper at a time

Always having been a bit on the conservative side, and therefore not exactly labeled a passionate environmentalist, some may be surprised to know that I am on a big recycling kick.

I actually have recycled on some level for about 6 years. When I lived in an apartment, it was a pain. I'd save plastic and cans, but I had to pack it up and drive it somewhere to dispose of it. Once I moved into a house, I was thrilled to have the city pick it up every week at my curb. I don't understand why almost nobody on my street takes advantage of this. It's free (well, you pay for it with your taxes or utility bill or something, so take advantage!) and easy. I mean, how much harder is it to put your cans and plastic in a different bin next to your regular kitchen trash? How much harder is it to put your newspapers/junk mail/other paper in a bin, too? If you put all that in the trash can, you'll just have to take out the trash twice as often, so you're not really saving any effort.

At first, it was a battle with Mark. I moved in and bought a small plastic trash can for the kitchen that we could save cans and bottles in. It's no farther to put those items in the bin than in the trash can. He was sort of opposed to recycling because he once saved up a bunch of cans for a long time and had a big cockroach nightmare in the car when he drove them to cash them in for 30 cents or something.

Anyway, I have the bin for plastic and cans and then in the entry way I have a nice little basket magazine rack for newspapers. This was good enough for me for a while, but I was still lazy and threw away things like shampoo bottles and junk mail and other paper.

Then I read a story about how it is cheaper for the city to process recyclables than it is to process garbage. And then I thought about how much trash there is in the world and envisioned having to live in the dumps like people in Mexico when the trash takes over. Only the people in Mexico live in the dumps because they are poor, I think, and not for that reason. Also, I don't suppose garbage will take over the earth in my lifetime. But I decided that probably at least 1/3 of our garbage could be recycled, so I made it a goal to recycle everything I was aware was recyclable. So far, Mark's not really cooperative. I mean, he recycles the newspapers and the cans and bottles, but I still am forced to dig the junk mail out of the trash because he thinks I'm a bit annoying with this whole thing.

Just now, I cleaned the bathroom. While this is a feat unto itself, what I was going to say is that I used real cloths instead of paper towels! Normally, I have a full trash can of paper towels after I clean, but not this time. I'm still weighing whether it's really any better that way because you have to use water and detergents and gas and electricity to wash the cloths, so if you religiously used cloth napkins instead of paper and rags instead of paper towels, are you really saving the earth in the long run? Not sure.

One final thing that bothers me is kitty litter. It's not flushable, and even if you buy the kind that claims to be it can clog your toilets. But I have three boxes and they are not near a toilet anyway. The best I can do is scoop it into old grocery bags, which I guess is at least reusing them, but it seems like they will never decompose and all that nasty poop and litter will just sit there in them for 11,000 years. If anyone has a solution -- biodegradable bags? -- let me know!

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