I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but quietly – just between you and me – I’m actually super (almost abnormally) passionate about recycling.
It’s not something I actively wear on my sleeve because frankly, it’s not the most sexiest of causes. After all, it usually sees me picking through other people’s garbage, fishing out semi-soiled odds and ends. (I know – total ‘eew’)… I have a sneaking suspicion that’s why you don’t see Bono or Chris Martin getting behind it.
I’m such a nerd about it, I even try to make recycling ‘fun’, thinking that’ll motivate friends/family to get more involved. For example, when we have parties I put out a bin with a sign on it that says, ‘Do it for Michael – Recycle’, complete with a picture of Wacko Jacko doing the moonwalk.
(You want a copy for your own party, right? Never fear, you can download my ‘Do It For Michael’ sign here.)
I think my passion for recycling comes from my love for the environment. When I was younger I read a lot about marine life and was horrified at how if humans weren’t directly hunting and killing whales and dolphins, pollution did a pretty good job of sorting out the rest.
Then, thankfully in the 90s, the ozone debacle and global warming became hot topics (no pun intended) and as a result, people started taking better care of the environment and recycling ramped up. (As you can imagine, my penchant for amateur ‘sign writing’ really took off around this time.) From the get-go, just the idea that my tins of tuna could be taken away, squashed down and used again, totally resonated with me and I’ve had a huge thing about recycling ever since.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a spiel here about why you should recycle, about how only around a mere 10% of our garbage gets recycled, or how poorer nations are paid to take our trash to shove in THEIR landfill – no, I’ll leave it for Google to help you out there *steps down from soapbox*. Instead, this post is actually about why having an impact (no matter how small), is always, ALWAYS worth it.
The Recycling Nazi of 123 Fake Street
My flatmate loves a cheeky red bull and vodka. I don’t begrudge the man that.
However, I DO have a problem when the collateral damage of his Saturday night on the tiles, ends up exclusively in the trash.
I’m getting a bit of a name for myself as a ‘recylcing Nazi’ here at 123 Fake Street (that’s what we call our apartment building because its real name kind of sounds like a joke address). I’ve happily adopted this nickname because it’s my job to come home on a Sunday night and go through my flattie’s weekend’s worth of refuse to pull the cans, glass jars, tzatsiki containers and pizza boxes, then clean them up and then take them out for recycling. As if that’s not enough, I even recycle the cardboard innards of toilet rolls and the cardboard tags of clothes – not to mention the salvaging of recyclables I undertake in my parents’ and relatives’ bins… And if need be (and I’m not proud to admit this) I’ll even hop in the dumpster of our apartment building to grab a bag of recyclables that blatantly shouldn’t be in the general waste.
What’s So Hard About Recycling?
I just DON’T GET why some people don’t recycle – seriously, like what’s so hard about it? When I make a trip to our dumpster in the mood for a little recycling love, I often find people have thrown plastic bags full of bottles, newspapers and big cardboard boxes into the general waste, when the recycling bin is right there next to it! It’s seriously mental. When I see stuff like that, I really wonder what goes through some people’s heads.
I try not to let it get me down though. Instead, I see it as an opportunity to make a difference. I know that every bag of bottles I save from the trash, every Red Bull can I rescue from my flatmate’s bin bags and every tin of tuna that finds a proper home in the yellow lidded bin, is a good many cubic centimetres of landfill that never got the chance to exist – and that’s something.
photo credit: loop_oh
The Reality: Some People Just ‘Don’t Care’
When I ask my flatmate why he doesn’t make an effort to recycle, he says he just doesn’t care – and while personally, I don’t understand how ANYONE can NOT care about the environment, I know that it’s a matter of ‘horses for courses’ and that not everyone’s going to have the same mindset as me – I totally accept that.
However, in spite of (or perhaps because of) that fact, I wanted to do this post – a post specifically for those who DO care about a cause – no matter what it is. A post that says:
Don’t ever let the ones who DON’T share your passion, be a reason for not taking action and making your own, unique impact.
If at times you’re faced with people who make you feel as if your efforts are useless, or, if you’re sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the problem you’re tackling, here are some ways to get some traction again:
Start Small And Locally
At the end of the day, the only person you can ever control is YOU. This means that I try not to worry so much about what other people are doing and just focus on holding myself accountable for recycling whatever I can, wherever I am. I even bring milk cartons back home from the office rather than throw them in the general waste.
Even the most seemingly insignificant things you can do to advance your own personal cause are worthwhile, because over time, they all add up. If you recycle one bottle, if you sponsor one child, if you pick up one piece of rubbish, it’s still one less bottle in landfill, one child that hasn’t gone hungry and one piece of rubbish that won’t clutter up our beautiful landscape. Every single ‘little’ thing ABSOLUTELY makes a difference.
Influence Your Immediate Circle
While initially, my flatmate refused to recycle, I truly believe that him seeing me go through his trash like a bum in stilettos eventually made an impact. He might not yet recycle ALL his own stuff, but at the very least he’ll allow ME to do it for him and at the very best, he seperates out the odd bit of plastic himself. As far as I’m concerned, that’s definitely a step in the right direction. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
…Do What You Can Do Yourself – But Whatever You Do, Don’t Preach
When I used to live at home, I realized that preaching to my parents about recycling was having ZERO effect – no facts or figures seem to get through. No signs by the bin, signs on the fridge or even signs over the sink could prevent piles of carelessly discarded soup cans from languishing in the trash.
Sometimes you have to accept what ‘is’. While this can be hard, I tend to think of it more along the lines of, “Well, that’s the way it is right now. It doesn’t mean it will always be that way.” Then, from that more empowered mindset, you can decide that rather than focusing on what CAN’T be achieved, you can focus on what IS in your power to change.
I accepted that I couldn’t be there picking out every bottle and can from my parents’ bin on a daily basis, but at least when I did drop by, I could take a quick peek and pull out an item or two. Other positive actions I decided to take included doing my flatmate’s recycling on a weekly basis, removing stuff from my friends’ bins and doing a spot of dumpster diving in our apartment building’s refuse area (I know, I know – it’s not exactly chic, but then again, neither is landfill). When I think of how much recycling I’ve saved over the last year alone, the weird looks I’ve received from my fellow building residents are totally worth it.
Grow From One To Two, To A Force To Be Reckoned With.
At times, you might feel like you’re the only person who cares about your cause – that your dream is ‘unrealistic’. Perhaps you’re someone who is driven to end world hunger, or take a stand for world peace. You could be someone who has a passion for speaking up on behalf of those who are persecuted and have no voice. As one person on your own, you might not feel as if your impact could be very powerful.
But what if you start looking for someone else like you? (there’ll always be at least one person out there who’ll share your passion and belief in something that can create better circumstances for the world and humanity). Then there’ll be two of you. From there you can become three, then four and so on…
ONE Is The Magic Number
Everything that has ever changed the history of the world started with one person. Every business, every political party, every revolutionary movement. They all began with one, single person who believed in something enough to make a stand and NOT give up. You can be one of those people too. We all have the opportunity to be ‘the one’ that makes a difference. What’s more, you can start today. What with? – Just ONE simple action.
Personally, I’m heading down to the dumpster ;) … what are YOU going to do today? Share with me below…
“One person can make a difference and every person should try.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy
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