Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Long-Term Resolution

A couple weeks ago, I read a thought-provoking article "I Don't Recycle" written by Ronnie Citron-Fink and published by Care2.com. While I don't know the particular "editor of a well-known national magazine" Citron-Fink mentions, I've met many like her and they're represented by every gender, age, and ethnicity. They all have excuses. Some have suggested recycling is low-class or only done by "tree-huggers" – intimating it's unwarranted, merely the product of unreasonable fear. Some cite the loss of coveted space and time, or extraordinary effort, or hindering commitment, or the possibility of dirty hands.

Let's face it; recycling is not sexy, nor fun. It takes room to organize. It takes time. And, there's no direct reimbursement or remuneration for one's effort.

But, why should incentives be required for participation? Recyclables take no more space than the usual garbage, if disposed of regularly. In fact, since many recycled items are broken down, rinsed, flattened and/or folded, those materials take less space and smell better than regular garbage. Once a system is in place in the household, very little extra time is needed to sort and organize waste that would otherwise be sent to a landfill.

I've heard recycling-abstainers say there's "nothing in it" for them. That depends on perspective. In my view, there's tremendous compensation for recycling. Its ultimate value is priceless. The problem is, delayed reward – clearly a death-knell for a modern society hopelessly addicted to instant gratification.

The reward I speak of would be claimed by our children and our children's children. It may yet be possible for them to
live in an untainted environment if efforts are made today. Our pretty blue planet, like any living organism, could survive the overly-exhaustive stressors we place on it, and remain healthy (viable for human occupation) for generations to come. But, all depends on whether humanity deems recycling a worthy enough investment in a future they won't personally see, and whether we then make the time and put in real effort to fully implement this hygienic practice.

This, after all, is what recycling is: global hygiene. Humans no longer drop food peelings on the floor or toss broken dishes in a pile outside the door. As the self-proclaimed intellectual species, we've discovered it can be dangerously unhealthy to live as our cave-dwelling ancestors did, "fouling the nest" with all the waste involved in everyday living. Recycling merely refines discoveries made, over centuries, by people like Louis Pasteur and many others who strove to raise the quality of life for all by teaching simple sanitary routines.

And what could be simpler than rinsing out a soda bottle and then throwing it in a recycling bin instead of the garbage? That nominal effort, alone, could help prevent some of the 2,500,000 plastic bottles Americans use every hour (Recycling Revolution.com, recycling-facts) from ending their days in an already over-taxed landfill or one of many garbage patches floating on the world's oceans.

If you're already a recycler, thank you. You've made a wise and responsible choice, and are doing what you're able to make this world a better place. We can only hope future generations never fully appreciate how dire the situation once was.

If you don't yet recycle, it's time to embrace reality. Recycling is no longer an option. It's necessity. Now is the perfect time for a long-term resolution to contribute some of your own selfless action. Together, we may just enable humanity's survival on this one-in-a-million planet.