I loved living in southern Oregon. The weather was perfect for me, the way of life was slower without seeming backwater (unlike the South), and it symbolized a big tipping point in my career in Web junk. It also started my path towards self-sufficiency, and was a good cultural setting to learn about the three “Rs” of waste reduction: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
As indicated in my article about plastic bags almost a year ago, I like reusing stuff. That’s the easiest way for me to reduce the stuff I toss into a landfill. I keep a lot of the plastic containers that food comes in, try to reuse plastic or paper bags at least once before binning/recycling them, and re-use boxes and shipping components. I’ve stopped using paper towels almost completely in favor of rags.
Most of my “reduce” activities center around water and power consumption. I shave out of a big coffee mug instead of letting the water run the whole time. I use compact fluorescent lamps instead of incandescent bulbs where I can. I microwave my kitchen sponge for two minutes every time I run the dish washer to avoid tossing out a perfectly serviceable sponge and reaching for a new one.
Recycling was a part of the conservation triad that I always refused to participate in. Recycling was a major pain in the ass when I lived in Oregon. I had to separate plastic from paper (subdivided into newsprint, magazines/glossy inserts, and then other paper products), glass had to be divided up into clear and green (they didn’t take brown bottles … or was it green ones? I forget). I had to remove labels from all containers. Cardboard was accepted, but only if it was thickly corrugated. Who has time to wash, sort, and judge all that shit? Plus you had to pay.
So, fuck that. Fast forward almost six years, and the niece is living with me. She looked at all the other conservation shit I was doing around the house. “Why don’t you recycle?” I told her about my Oregon experience. She asked me to check into recycling here, and I did, just to appease her. I was completely surprised.
The Central Virginia Waste Management Authority runs a (free!) curbside recycling program that is dead simple for lazy people like myself. Their rules are simple:
- Wash out your nasty stuff.
- Throw away lids.
- Only recycle plastic items with a 1 or 2 on it. When it doubt, throw it away.
- Huck all your recycleables in one big ass bin. Or more bins, if you need it. No sorting necessary.
- Tote big ass bin(s) to the curb every two weeks.
- Don’t pay anything extra.
Apparently it’s all sorted out at a facility. I couldn’t be happier with the program. My fiscally conservative self is satisfied knowing those people aren’t sucking money out of the welfare system. I am putting less stuff into the garbage bin, even with the niece living here. Double the occupants yet only 2/3rds of my original waste going to the landfill? Score.
Instead of a sorting chore, recycling is a game now. I like filling the recycling bin up with junk mail envelopes and the magazines I’ve finished reading. I enjoy looking at plastic containers to see if I can recycle them or not. I was pleased to put my gigumbo-sized empty detergent bottle in the recycling bin instead of throwing it into the trash.
The moral of the story: check to see what your community does for recycling. You might be surprised at how easy (and effortless) it is.