There was a time when I was really committed, even a little excited, about recycling. I had just moved into my new house from an apartment and for the first time, those orange and green bins were all mine to use. I know it’s a little nerdy, but it happened, and I’m not ashamed of it.
At first I was all about it, making sure to check labels, crush plastic bottles and sort paper from plastics just like I had been taught to do. But then, somewhere along the way and I’m not sure when or why, laziness set in. Suddenly it was an effort to make sure every can and bottle got to the proper bin. The trash can was just so much easier – it was right in my kitchen after all, and the bins were all the way in the garage. When my plastics did make it out there, I was just tossing them toward the bins and wherever they landed, they landed. The same was true with newspapers. If they made it to the garage, “yay” for me, if not, that’s ok. I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about.
I won’t lie, or even try to make excuses for my seemingly inexplicable lack of concern for the environment at the time, even though it was such a small effort on my part to make a change for the better. But that all changed when I took a ride to the Orange County Landfill with a friend of mine to help (well, really to supervise) him throw some debris out from the house he was remodeling. As I helped (watched) him throw away doors, baseboards and other such household goodies, I took a second to survey the land and realize just how tall that garbage mountain was really becoming.
I could see the heavy construction equipment pushing around trash mixed with cans, bottles, plastics and other such recyclables and I thought, “I wonder how much of that is mine?” And that’s when it all came back to me. I’m not a huge environmentalist, maybe I should be, but at that moment I knew I simply wasn’t doing enough to stop the steady growth of the landfill. It was time for a change. It was time for a redemption of sorts.
When I got home, I had renewed vigor and intensity to begin recycling in earnest yet again. I was going to come up with a system, fight my laziness off with a recycled broom and do the easy legwork that I could do to make a difference, however small it might be. Since then, I’ve reduced my garbage output by about 40-50 percent and every day I put something in those bins, I feel a little bit better.
Is it a small victory? Of course – I know I’m not singlehandedly changing the world. But what I am doing is singlehandedly reducing my impact on the environment. I’m taking control of what I can take control of, and that’s empowering, however small the difference may be.
My point is, if each one of us were to really step up what we’re doing to conserve and change, we can make a pretty substantial difference with just about zero effort on our part. I mean, how hard is it to put things in the proper bins (orange for paper, green for aluminum/plastic/everything else, just so you know)? It’s not and that’s what I’m trying to say.
No one has to go out of their way or be a hero or anything, we just have to think and care for a few more steps to the garage and to the curb. That’s My Story and I’m sticking to it.
by Patty Yung