Thursday, May 5, 2011

But I recycle

Lately around campus I have heard a lot of people claiming they are "green" because they recycle. As glad as I am that instead of reusable materials going to the local dump they are hopefully going to be remade into something new, this still does not address the fact that those materials still need to be created. 

Before I continue let me be perfectly clear, I love recycling and I want everyone to recycle all of the products they can instead of throwing them in the trash. However, I want to highlight the energy it takes to create these products in the first place, to ship them to you, to transport them to a recycling center when you are done, to create a new product, and finally to transport that product to its next life. 

Instead of simply recycling to keep our conscious clear, what if we decreased the amount of materials we use to begin with? Do you really have an idea of the total amount of things you throw away or recycle? I don't.

Interesting news articles, blogs, and documentaries have sprung up in the last few years showing us what it would be like if we kept our trash for a year. This means canceling the garbage service and finding a space in the house or the garage to store your trash for a year. 


Photo Courtesy of Save Your Trash

Don't panic! I am not asking you to do this, just to think about it. Consider where you live as a boat and that whatever you bring on to it stays there for a certain amount of time (a day, a week, a month, a year, ect.). Does this change the way you see all of things you have the luxury of putting on the curb every week? It also highlights the fact that there "is no such thing as away" when you are throwing something out or recycling it. All of these things pile up somewhere, whether it's in your house, a recycling center, or a dump. No matter where it goes, we are still responsible for creating it.

Photo Courtesy of Sustainable Blog

Instead of relying on the fact that you recycle to keep your conscious clear, what if you also added that you use as few resources as possible (whether they are recyclable or not). To do this try to be conscious of every item you use, not just the ones in your home including napkins, disposable or compostable utensils, paper, cardboard, food wrappers, cans, bags, coffee cups... the list of things is endless.

Need some inspiration? Check out No Impact Man and the challenge he set for himself and his family.


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