Preaching about recycling paid off

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 3, 2006

My family calls me the Recycling Nazi. (I’m also known as the Christmas Nazi, but I’ll save that story for another column.)

I suppose it’s because every time I’m home I harp on everyone about saving cans and bottles. With five kids, plus spouses and countless friends who flow in and out of our house, my mom keeps large quantities of soda and beer in stock.

That adds up to lots of aluminum cans and glass bottles. I freaked out when I saw them all going into the trash. My mom finally got tired of me preaching, so she started recycling.


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It makes me cringe to throw away something that I know can be recycled. Here at the News-Herald, we have lots of newspapers, obviously. Most of our own we save, but others that we receive daily are just thrown away.

Thrown away!

Perfectly recyclable newspaper in the trash, soaking up space in landfills.

Things that I don’t recycle I try to reuse. Plastic grocery bags, for instance, make great lunch boxes for work, trash bags for my small garbage cans in my bathroom and office, and refuse containers when I scoop out my cat’s litter box. Whenever I buy bottled water, I wash and save the bottles to reuse at the gym.

These are simple actions that anyone can take that would go a long way toward helping our environment.

While I’ve always been fairly environmentally conscious (never littered, yelled at people who did), my crusade didn’t really begin until college. I joined a group (granted, at the time it was at the behest of my uncle, who ran the program) called WasteBusters.

It was a new student organization that promoted the “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” mantra across campus.

I had heard that phrase throughout my years in school, but it really grabbed me when I was attending Ohio University. Not only was I in an environmentalist group, but Athens, where OU is located, is basically a hippie haven. So the people and many businesses in the community were pretty big on sustainability and other eco-friendly practices.

As WasteBusters, we had recycling competitions with other schools, encouraged “brownouts” (where people voluntarily turned off lights, appliances, etc., in an effort to conserve energy), encouraged people to buy Energy Star appliances and a number of other awareness activities. Our biggest event was Energy Week.

The week featured seminars about environmentally friendly practices and speakers, such as Julia Butterfly Hill and Joshua Tickell.

Hill spent two years in a 180-foot-tall California Coast Redwood tree to prevent the destruction of the tree and protest clear-cutting practices.

Tickell created the Veggie Van, which runs off biodiesel made from vegetable oil, and drove it across the country in the late ‘90s.

Now I’m not saying that everyone should go out and sit in a tree for the sake of the environment. The idea of using biodiesel is gaining momentum across the country, but recycling is something that everyone can and should be doing right now.

When I lived in Delaware, state officials were just beginning to implement curbside recycling statewide. But at least in the places where it wasn’t offered there were lots of recycling “igloos” (those large plastic containers for aluminum, newspaper print, magazines and junk mail, batteries, plastic grocery bags and different colors of glass.) People were able to drop off their recyclables for free and at their convenience.

Now, granted I’ve only lived in Virginia for about five months, but I have yet to see anything even resembling recycling igloos around here. Wait, let me be more specific. I haven’t seen them in Virginia Beach, where I live, or in the parts of Suffolk I’ve been in since starting at the News-Herald last month.

Between the two of us, my husband and I subscribe to eight magazines and one newspaper. After we read them, they all (except National Geographic and Playboy, which we save) get saved in wicker baskets that, to the untrained eye, look like decorative accents under my coffee and end tables. Once the baskets are overflowing, my husband will hump them off to work where recycling is offered.

Last week Suffolk City Council voted to let interested communities and subdivisions petition city government for curbside recycling.

I think that is a fantastic idea.

Recycling should be embraced by every community all over the country. Curbside just makes it super convenient.

I have friends who live in various towns in Ohio where if they don’t separate recyclables from their trash, it won’t be picked up.

If I had my way, that’s how it would be everywhere.