By Bev Schellenberg
In this pro recycling age, it’s easy to feel guilty if you don’t maintain a high standard of green living. Do you rinse out your soup can, pull off the label, and insert it into your handy recycling box? What about the milk carton? Does it get a thorough clean and then get deposited appropriately? Or, like me, do you really, sincerely, honestly, wish that were true in your home, and in goes your soup can and milk container . . . to the garbage can?
Yeah, I know. Garbage ends up in landfills or as burned ash; it doesn’t go ‘away.’
I understand; I just don’t fully live it. Yet.
But before you judge me as a completely ignorant, uncaring consumer, let me point out that I do recycle some things. I used cloth diapers on my children, I use my plastic bags over and over, I give my used clothes to charities, I mend my socks. It’s just that I get overwhelmed with how woefully inadequate my attempts are in the scheme of things, and with the amount of time washing a can takes from my second-by-second-scheduled life.
I don’t know how far to go, or not to go. Let’s begin with something as commonplace as toilet paper. It’s bad, apparently, particularly the fancy, cushiony-soft type made from our old-growth Canadian forests. Even toilet paper made from recycled paper is wasteful. Use leaves, use a bidet, just stop using toilet paper. It’s a simple enough message, but not so simple to apply, or should I say, not apply.
Perhaps it’s easier to contemplate annual recycling opportunities. However, my already angst-ridden, recycling-challenged self is weighed down even more heavily with the remnants of holidays gone by. That good ole Jack-the-Pumpkin shouldn’t get sacrificed to the landfill, for instance. This past Hallowe’en I bought the pumpkin, scooped out the brains, my son sliced in a face, and I dutifully baked and ate the seeds (don’t even get started on the amount of electrical energy the cooking process took). Then, ready to return Jack to the ground, I prepared to bury him in full fanfare in my garbage can. But no: the idea now is to contribute him to the compost bin you have out back, or roll him down a hill or beat him to a pulp and then have someone else compost the remaining mangled mess.
Imagine how I felt as I chopped up my now-rotting pumpkin, threw him in a plastic (yes, plastic) bag, and dropped him in my garbage can. Awful.
The reality is I don’t know what to do anymore. Here come the winter holidays. Call me old-fashioned, but I still like having an authentic tree decked out in my living room. It’s a big deal to pick out the pine tree at the Christmas tree farm, warm my almost white fingers around the complimentary hot chocolate milk cup (yes, they happen to be Styrofoam and I don’t want to talk about it), use my slowly thawing fingers to clumsily grasp the complimentary candy can, take that beauty-of-a-tree home with me and decorate it with my reused lights, decorations, fake snow, and tinsel. But now what? With my heightened guilt/awareness, is it enough to make my annual run to the tree chipping when I say good-bye to my tree? What about the plastic that covers the candy can? I shouldn’t throw it away. And the turkey carcass? How long do turkey carcasses remain in landfills anyhow?
In the past I’ve burned the wrapping paper in my wood-burning fireplace. Now that I’ve moved I don’t think the gas fireplace I have readily burns Christmas wrapping. So what do I use? Newspaper? Yet another gift bag? I happen to like the sound of ripping gift wrap on Christmas morning. The careful, methodical opening of the gift box and folding of the tissue for re-use simply doesn’t work.
I grew up when it was popular to send Christmas cards. Sure, I’ve seen the not-so-lovely centerpieces and placemats made from a quiltwork (or should I say guiltwork) of recycled Christmas cards. I’ve been the recipient of recycled Christmas cards, and with apologies to our wasted trees, I wasn’t impressed. This year my guilt quotient is so high thanks to Hallowe’en that I am committed to sending email cards, but I’m not happy about it. So much for the joy of receiving honest-to-goodness snail mail, slicing open that envelope, reading the oh-so-amusing Christmas letter, and placing the card on the mantle. Now my friends, my family, and I will click on the e-card, listen to the goofy music, read the typed hello, and relegate it to the cyberspace garbage can.
Yes, Mr. Dylan, the times are a-changing, and I’m not thrilled about it. But I’m a-trying. Sort of.