Monday, September 19, 2005

Going Green

Having spent nearly the last two weeks as a houseguest in another part of our country, I got an up-close-and-personal view of how various people live. For the most part, everyone seems to do the same sort of stuff as us. They deal with the same "kid issues" we do. They follow generally the same routine. They eat the same sort of meals. But there was one GLARING difference that both Mr. Chick and I simply cannot get over: recycling. OK, there is another big difference - pumping your own gas, but that's minor compared to the recycling thing (we're not allowed to pump our own gas in Oregon. It's done for you by a gas station attendant. It's both good and bad.).

Here in Oregon it seems we are WAY more environmentally-friendly than in other parts of the country. It's second nature to me to recycle EVERYTHING I possibly can. The sanitation companies, admittedly, make it very easy to do. Oregon was one of the first states to pass the Bottle Bill, way back when, that essentially charges you a deposit on every beverage can/bottle ($.05 each, generally) and then you take the bottles and cans back to ANY store, not just the one at which you purchased them, and you get the deposit back. It keeps things much cleaner to have this in place. We simply keep a paper grocery bag in our garage and collect the beer and soda cans there and take them to our local grocery store when we've got several bags worth. My first job, in fact, was working in the back of a grocery store doing the bottle returns. A totally nasty job, but it beat babysitting at the time. Now they have the machines you put your cans and bottles into and spits out a receipt for the deposit money that the cashiers redeem. In most of the other states I've visited or lived in, people usually THROW CANS AND BOTTLE AWAY! How can they do this??! Seriously. Mr. Chick and I shuddered each time we had to put a can or bottle in the garbage can. It's just wrong when recycling them is so much easier. At least where we live.

Funny sidenote: my roommate my freshman year in college was a debutante from the Bay Area, CA. They clearly did not recycle cans and bottles in her household growing up - it was a new concept to her when she found herself in the heart of "green" on the UO campus. She quickly latched onto the idea and started recycling. Then she figured out that if you collect OTHER people's cans and bottles and take them back to the nearby grocery, you get some extra $$$ for whatever. The floor above ours in the dorm was a guys floor, and they were slobs, of course, who drank a ton of beer on the weekends (duh!). It was easy to just go up there on a Saturday and get quite a haul of cans to take back. She thought this was fun and easy and mentioned it to her mother. Her mother was APPALLED at the thought of her precious daughter stooping to collecting discarded beer cans for money and promptly sent her $100 in the mail so she woudn't have to continue her "disgusting ways". HA! See? It's all about perception.

Same goes for paper, plastic, glass and tin. Here at our house, we recycle all of those things. Again, the sanitation company makes it easy. We no longer have to sort by material - everything goes in one big container and it gets sorted elsewhere. Except glass - you have to keep the glass separate. Our family generates less garbage than recycling materials. We're set up to have the garbaged collected every other week, and we have the smallest bin you can get. The skinny one. Our recycling bin, also collected twice a month, is the big daddy bin. And we fill it. All the junk mail that comes? Recycled. The plastic containers for yogurt, cottage cheese, margarine, etc? Recycled. The Sunday newspaper? Yep, recycled. Milk jugs? Rinsed and recycled. The paper cardboard boxes that various food items come in (even the box that toothpaste comes in!)? Recycled. Soup cans, wine bottles, you name it, we recycle it. I take stuff out to the recycling bin everyday, but I only take the trash out once a week. Our friends in VA? They have the garbage collected TWICE A WEEK! I can't fathom that.

Why oh why isn't recycling made as easy as it is for me everywhere?? It's just so simple, and it makes so much more sense than throwing absolutely everything away in the trash. I know it's possible to recycle stuff everywhere, but it's not not as accessible as curbside pickup. You have to work a lot harder to recycle in other communities. I think that's a travesty because that becomes a barrier to doing it. Make it hard or difficult, and people won't do it. Sad, but true. We're generally lazy. Recycling should be as simple as taking out the trash. Period.

So maybe, just maybe, you can start to think of ways to make recycling a bigger part of your life. I'm about to put Lauren back in cloth diapers, which is just another way for me to cut down on the garbage I generate (there are several other reasons for switching back to cloth, but this is one). I makes me ill to think about how many of her shitty diapers are filling up landfills and poisoning our Earth. That's how I can make a difference. How can you?

Comments:
Where we live in NC there isn't a recycling program and it drives me NUTS! There is a recycling center on the army base in our town but they only accept limited items, so those we save. It makes me sick to throw so much away, but what can you do? In PA where I'm originally from we recycled everything we could and only ended up with a small bag of actual "trash" about once a month. Amazing.
 
We have a .10 deposit where we live and it seems strange when we visit relatives and they throw their cans & bottles away. I started recycling in college. I volunteered at a recycling center one Saturday a month (requirement for sorority) and was amazed at the amount collected. I sat a brown paper grocery bag under the sink in our dorm suite and got my roommates to throw in their #2's from hair products and contact lens solutions ... we filled the bag about every 2 months. We had curbside recycling at our old house and it made things so easy. We now live in a very rural area and actually have to drive our stuff to a recycle center ... I find myself throwing away more stuff b/c it isn't as convenient to recycle.
 
I *used* to be a MAJOR recycling freak. Then I got lazy. I've been "going off" on DH lately about how much freakin garbage we generate and how we have BAGS to set out on the curb each Monday morning. I **HATE** it.

We have curbside recycling service and you can throw it all in the same bin so why the hell DON'T we do it? Great question.

Thanks, MP. Starting TODAY we are going back to recycling. We don't get $$ for it but we're doing it because it will help EVERYONE in the long run. Thanks for bringing this BACK to my attention!!!

I knew I could rely on my trusty Oregon friend to make me see the light again!
 
We have a recycling bin here (MN) and all cities around here that I know of do as well. It is picked up by a big truck, separate from the garbage truck. We have to separate paper from the other stuff. We recycle cans, bottles, plastic, paper etc. We don't have a deposit here so we don't get paid, but most people do recycle at least some. I hope more states get a recycling program, it really does help.
 
Can you believe they CHARGE you to recycle in Utah? Sad but true. The only free recycling is newspapers. If you want to recycle cans, glass, or plastic, you have to go to a recycling center and pay THEM to take it.

I already pay $22 a month for garbage collection- I refuse to pay another $10 to recycle.

Sad but true.

(For what it's worth, when we lived in Las Vegas, we recycled *everything*... including dog food cans. ICK!)
 
We only have about 2 bags of garbage per week--we really ought to downgrade to the skinny bin and saved $4 a month. My parents' suburb just switched to a no-sort recycling system and gave everyone giant bins--pretty cool. We still have to separate and can't collect anything over #2 plastic. We get about a $7 rebate per month on the garbage bill for recycling. On a larger scale, my city (Minneapolis) collects household parts from homes being renovated or destroyed and resells them. We got an 1890's oak door for $150 and a few other odds and ends to match our 1905 house that way. Cheaper and nicer than buying new.
 
I hate that we don't have better recycling programs here. Some towns don't have them at all! It drives me insane thinking of all the waste.
We recycle everything they take here, but it infuriates me to throw out magazines and cardboard (they don't take). I usually try to find creative ways to reuse them at home- make interesting toys and art projects with the kids.
Anyway, Canada has an AWESOME recycling program. They take everything!
 
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