Recently a guest at our home declared to me: ‘you are a true hippie’ after I pointed out the compost bin where he could properly dispose of his used paper & corn dinnerware.
I think Oscar Wilde was onto something when he coined the now famous quote “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Since I can remember I have loved the idea and practice of treading lightly, of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. You could say it’s just my nature -giving back to Mother Earth what was her’s first. It feels like an honorable & authentic duty of mine.
As a fledgling true hippie my twin sister and I co-created a club (that boasted two members) called STEP: Stop The Earth’s Problems. We had secret club meetings in our den beneath the basement stairs where we plotted how we would take on this hefty task. Our first grand scheme was to collect the neighbor’s recyclables and turn them in for profit! The going rate on aluminum cans in 1988 was around $.50/pound -not bad!
This was enough motivation to get my sister and I out pounding on doors & handing out flyers, alerting neighbors to please bag up their used bottles, cans & newspapers for our weekly pickup. Lest I forget to mention -we also offered a prize to the neighbor who could collect the most recyclables in one month. The coveted Best Recycler prize? A handmade puffy painted t-shirt! The winner turned out to be our must-be alcoholic next door neighbor who ceaselessly bagged up shocking amounts of Bud Light cans.
My passion for stopping the earth’s problems did not stop there. In my early adult professional career I was always sure to point out the lack of recycling cans at the office and ensured we could install the blue recycle cans with the circular insignia next to the regular trash. Come on guys -don’t make me be that girl who digs through trash to pull out your used soda cans!
Moving into food service work my head nearly exploded seeing how much food goes into the garbage every single day.
‘Wasted!’ documentary (2017) highlights this staggering statistic: 1/3 of all food produced is never eaten.
I made it my mission to deliver the leftover bread & baked goods to local homeless shelters at the end of my bakery shifts. I would drive 45 miles west to deliver the recently expired goods from my job at the convenience store to the halfway house.
For the last 18 years I have also set up a number of campaigns that redirect recently expired medical supplies from local veterinarians to international animal rescue organizations. At every healthcare job where I’ve been employed, the first committee I sign up for (or create) is the supplies committee. A perfect opportunity to get creative about reusing the incredible amount of medical waste this country produces.
So, what’s all the fuss with Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and is this just some crazy true hippie obsession?
We’ve all seen the horrifying viral video of the ancient sea turtle with a plastic straw jammed up his nose, or the whale who washes up on shore and is found to have a stomach full of plastics, unable to digest any real food and so tragically dies of starvation.
This is not merely a singular problem; this is a problem that belongs to all of humanity.
The fact that we create so much trash it literally has to be shipped out of the country feels akin to a nightmare. There is an island (Great Pacific Garbage Patch) of trash swirling in the Pacific Ocean. It exists primarily due to single use plastic bottles & other non-biodegradable wastes that threatens marine life & the entire food chain in all directions.
These are facts that I cannot just glance over while continuing to live a lifestyle where I toss my convenient single use water & fast food meal wrapper in the garbage a mere 5 minutes after consuming it. I’ve chosen to make this problem my problem by taking small steps everyday that help to solve it.
6 things you can do today to take part in Stopping the Earth’s Problems:
- Stop buying & using single use plastics. Bring your own refillable bottle to work & gatherings. Buy yourself a water filter in place of a case of pre-filled and expensive water bottles.
- Create a compost bin to dispose of leftover trash/yard debris/food. It’s easier than you think: Learn to Compost
- Get creative at your work- there are always ways to be more earth conscious. Talk to your manager about putting in a recycle bin. Opt to transition away from plasticware in the break room!
- Just say ‘No’ to grocery store bags. Keep your reusable bags in the car so they are readily accessible. Or, carry your small grocery load without a bag!
- Buy recycled or reused products. Paper products using post-consumer recycled goods are far more energy efficient to create. Shopping second hand for clothes is cheap, fun & also creates minimal waste.
- Buy less. Less consumption = less waste! Give the minimalist lifestyle a try. There is truth in the adage: the things you own end up owning you.
For all of humanity- young & old, to those that will come after us, and to all of the innocent life that lives downstream from us, let’s make it our mission to Reduce, Reuse & Recycle.
Working to Stop the Earth’s Problems,
*Find out how to join the Plastic Free July challenge!