Tell me you’re not addicted to convenience and I’d have to call you a liar.
Our culture LOVES convenience: Clap on Clap Off, drive-thru, timers, DVR. We can’t wait for the next great invention. I wonder why, after a century of popularity, “convenience” hasn’t made our lives more stress free. And then there are the “disposables”: wipes, brooms, contacts, razors, forks, plates, underwear…spouses. Why, the medical industry alone has made disposable a veritable quest. The only thing my doctor touches me with that is reusable is his stethoscope. Even that thingy-majiggy used to check my ears has a disposable liner.
It you’re going to live green you’re going to have to make it convenient because the last thing Mother Nature wants to be is your greatest burden. Since our society has not made environmental living the easier choice that leaves us holding the recycle bag.
Recycling-Easy as 1, 2, 3… and 4?
On a recent survey I was surprised by the number of people who listed “recycling” as the number one thing they could do to improve their lives. Luckily, it’s one of the easiest green habits to pick up.
When I lived in Austin, Texas, recycling was the more expensive, time-consuming choice. This discouraged residents to line the streets with green buckets. Our waste management company was excessively finicky. They would only accept specific plastics and certain colors of glass. The only paper we could recycle was newspaper and office paper. That’s great, unless you enjoy eating. The vast majority of our total waste was paper/plastic food packaging. So I set up a large cardboard box next to the trash in our walk-in pantry. Every week I would load it into the back of my van and drive it to one of the community recycling dumpsters. I admit, as I drove to the bin I’d ask myself, “Is the amount of fuel and personal energy I’m using to recycle this stuff completely obliterating the benefits of doing it?” So I made a conscious (living green requires a bit of that) effort to haul the box only when I was driving in that direction.
If you don’t have a great city recycling program (or no recycling program) you’re going to have to get creative. Decide what you are willing to recycle over time because the goal is to make it habitual. This is not a short term goal. After that, you can establish a system that will require the least amount of energy and effort. Remember that composting your biodegradables on your own is a valid option.
The Art of Recycling
Mother Nature must have taken pity on me; before I knew it we were moving to the San Francisco area. Now California knows the art of recycling. They’ve made it a veritable quest. Our home came with four waste cans, the smallest of which (17 gallons) is for the actual trash. If we had wanted a bigger trash can we had to pay significantly more for it. Recycling is the cheaper option here.
One of the cans is designated for biodegradable waste (grass, weeds, meat, moldy cheese). Another can is for ALL recyclables (all plastic, glass and paper) while the fourth can is for aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and glass bottles. California charges a nickel for every can/bottle which you get back when you return them to a recycling center.
The problem became clear before we had our first moving box unpacked. How were we going to sort our trash without running outside every time to do it? I was unwilling to run my wine bottle out to the recycle can at midnight and my cantaloupe peels to the organic can seven hours later.
We needed four trash cans in our kitchen.
The Set Up
Because most builders are not installing a recycling station in the kitchen we had to construct our own out of the broom cupboard. We put two 13 gallon cans on the bottom, one for the recyclables and one for the actual trash. Then we installed a shelf to hold a smaller box (we bought a cat liter box for its open side) for all the aluminum/plastic/glass. The kitchen compost pail is next to our sink, above the dishwasher for easy plate scraping. It took us (and our guests) less than a day for this system to become mindless; the only way to live green.
Have you come up with a recycling system that works well for you? Did you have to convert a space in your home for a sorting center? We’d love to hear you ideas. Just email Greenpsiration Home publisher, Trish Holder, at email@example.com.
Monica Wilcox blogs regularly for Care2.com, OwningPink.com, and FemCentral.com. Her work has been featured in Parent: Wise Magazine and on McSweeney’s.net. She loves to write about the environment, women’s issues and anything woo-woo. When she’s not hashing over her first novel, she’s raising her kids, snuggling her husband and chasing down the family beagle. You can find more of her work at FemmeTales.com.