By: Elizabeth Webber Akre
I was in the 10th grade. Yes, that would be approximately 1984. I was giving an oral report in Mrs. Sutton’s science class about recycling. I had done a lot of research. I knew what I was talking about. As I gave my report, I looked out over a sea of blank stares and open mouths. No one knew what on Earth I was talking about.
Oh sure, we knew about taking your glass bottles back to the store so they could be reused. Remember the deposits you used to have to pay on them? We were starting to hear about being able to recycle aluminum cans. But at that time, the only place my sister and I could locate in Columbia to recycle was way over on Fontaine Road. It was a pretty heavy-duty, industrial type recycling company, but they would take our measly trash bags of cans along with the truckloads of metals that were delivered there. Curbside recycling wasn’t even a suggestion at this point. And, the only thing I knew then about plastics was to avoid them. This was my closing line in my report to my dumbfounded classmates: use cloth diapers so our grandchildren aren’t wading around in a sea of dirty Pampers that won’t break down. Crickets and tumbleweeds. But, I got an A. Even being an amateur, thanks to my research, I did know what I was talking about.
Here we are almost 30 years later and thankfully, the concept of recycling and reusing is not only well-known, but has become main stream. My kindergartener was chosen to make the announcement over the loudspeaker for the school’s “No Trash Lunch Week.” The City of Columbia has added cardboard recycling to our curbside program. Now, we need bigger bins. Once upon a time, “plain paper” recycling was hard to come by; now even my church has a blue recycling bin in the vestibule for all the church bulletins after the service.
I want to share a website with you. I discovered this site a year or so ago. It’s called Recyclebank. You earn points by watching (very short) videos about ways to recycle, reduce, reuse and generally “green up” your everyday world. Just today, I learned that 90% of the imported cut flowers come from Latin America. That means, rather than employing our own people to grow flowers and ferns in greenhouses, we are buying them from other countries who then have to load them up on planes and fly them around the world. That’s just crazy. I had no idea. I also learned today that Dasani water bottles contain 30% plant-based material. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but I think it’s cool. As you learn these lessons, you accumulate points. What’s that for, you ask? You can then use them to get really good coupons (like $2 off Kashi!) or free offers, or make donations. For instance, for 250 points, you can donate a tree through American Forests. It’s a cool thing, indeed. Click here to check it out.
Wasn’t it Kermit the Frog who sang “It isn’t easy being green?” Well, it’s getting a lot easier these days, but we still have a long way to go. Check out Recyclebank and see what you can do in your own home to help “Go Green.”