Moving Piles

07Dec08

A tweet from Rob McNealy this afternoon stuck with me: “Bottom drops out of recycling industry.”  While I am concerned about our planet’s wellbeing, I’ve always been skeptical about the recycling industry in the U.S. I dutifully clean and sort my recyclables, pay a monthly fee to Waste Management for them to pick up the content of my recycling bins, so that they can turn around and sell it for a profit. If that’s not a good example of double-dipping, I don’t know what is. While visiting my parents in Taiwan 2 years ago, I noticed they weren’t sorting their recyclables. I asked if they knew about the various recycling symbols and codes. Yes, they were well aware, but that’s not how it works there. Residential customers are paid an incentive for separating out recyclables and compostables from their trash for the waste collection companies, whose employees are then responsible for sorting recyclables back at the plant. My father casually remarked, “if we started sorting our own recyclables, a lot of people would lose their jobs.” Hmm… but that’s another topic.

The business and politics of the industry aside, recycling really only moves the piles around. We need to work on reducing the amount we add to the piles. I used to make fun of the older women in my family for washing and reusing Ziploc bags and aluminum pie tins. (If you’re Asian, you know what I’m talking about! They probably have drawers full of margarine tubs, too!) Now I realize they’re the ones who truly understand the word “conservation.” I still wonder how my mother, grandmother and aunts have managed to keep such clean and tidy households without paper towels, but I’m changing one small habit at a time. We recently ditched paper napkins in favor of cloth ones in our house. IKEA sells very simple white cloth napkins, $1.99 for a pack of 4. In addition to reducing our dependence on paper products, using cloth napkins has also added an extra touch of warmth to family meals. For me, small changes like this are simple to implement, easy to maintain, and serve as great motivation for bigger changes.

If you have recently made some small changes at home to be more environmentally friendly, please share your idea and experience with me. Thank you!

A very small collection of plastic and aluminum pieces

My small collection of plastic and aluminum pieces

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7 Responses to “Moving Piles”

  1. Yes, I think we lack the cultural prospective on many things in the United States. I think that too many people worry about radically changing their lives to be green, when all it takes are few little things here and there.

    We recently started buying locally grown organic meats and vegetables from local farmers. It is cheaper, tastes better, and save a lot of carbon.

  2. I love this post and feel inspired to try a little harder to be green. To my shame, I bought paper towels last week. I haven’t used them in a couple of months, but I was at Target and they had cute Christmas prints! Sigh…
    I’ve recently discovered bar towels. They are a great combination of a kitchen washcloth and dish towel, very absorbent like a towel but smaller. They wash great and work far better than paper towels. I’m giving up the sponges for the cotton towels.

  3. 3 Cece

    The environment change we’ve made has been to stop buying cases of water bottles. I’ve bought us each our own sports bottle and a Britta to keep in the fridge so no more bottles in the trash from our family! Let me tell you, Lori keeps me on my GO GREEN toes, that’s for sure! lol

  4. Thank you for the tip about the napkins at IKEA! I have been meaning to get some and those sound like good and inexpensive ones.

    We bought some glass containers to replace our disposable plastic containers as they get too grungy to use. I also try to remember to take my reusable bags to the store when I go grocery shopping, but unfortunately I still forget more often than I remember. Also, like Rob, we are trying to buy as much produce as we can locally and we bottle what we can so that we can eat it when it is not in season.

  5. My grandmother owns no tupperware, it was all margarine/sour creams tubs… reuses aluminum pie tins… so maybe it’s generational as well as cultural! She survived the Great Depression of course, and knew what’s its like to not know where the next check is coming from.

  6. Follow me @mister33 !

    Hello!
    If you make the recycling separately, many poor peoples left her jobs in the deponies, but this jobs not healthy and good for the peoples, they make this against hunger and for a little bit better life.
    you can translate my post http://tinyurl.com/auxy54 (its german!) – some from the ingredientiens: ecological food but 8000miles with Truck! ecological-plasic-bag but how much energy? And what car I can drive? work, deffinition. …
    good day!


  1. 1 Environment and nature » Blog Archive » Moving Piles

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