When you think about recycling you usually think first about aluminum soda cans, newspapers, glass bottles; that kind of stuff. But then I got to thinking, hey, maybe this could be extended even farther. Let me give you an example. This past winter, we had to put down one of our dogs. She was around 12 years old, a Rottweiler mix named Molly. The most gentlest dog you could ever find. Molly had a mass growing in her stomach and hip dysplasia. One day she fell and couldn’t get up any more. Long story short, Molly is no longer with us. When it came time to think about getting another dog, we did a lot of research and found a breed that we thought would be compatible to our needs and with the dog still part of the family, and then went to a rescue place in Joliet. We found a great dog that was rescued from a pound in Alabama. So now Gracie the Australian Cattle Dog (who is somewhere between 2 and 3 years old) is now a new member of our household. Isn’t that recycling too?
My son, who lives in Los Angeles, visited us for Easter. Now I foolishly assumed that everyone from California was really into recycling and I’m sure many are. I found myself periodically going into our trash and pulling out the plastic, glass and aluminum bottles he routinely threw into it with nary a thought about recycling. When we visit him in California, he is pretty good about separating his trash from his recycling but when he travels (which is often) he also apparently goes on a recycle holiday. I guess it’s time for one of those father son talks, no, not that talk, we had that one many years ago. This one needs to be about all of us doing our recycle part, every day, seven days a week, wherever we are. And if he doesn’t get it, he may be 35 years old but he’s not too old to be taken over my knee and spanked!
Often messages about the environment go like this: 1) “Look at this terrible thing that we are doing to the earth!”, 2) “Feel outraged!”, 3) “Do your duty to stop this evil!” I always have trouble getting from outrage to action. It’s tough to stay worked up all the time.
To explain another way of approaching environmentalism, I want to share a few lines from a poem by Wendell Berry, an essayist and farmer who can get feisty at times. The poem is called “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”. I highly recommend it and all his other work.
The mood of the poem is easy to identify with for me as a resident of Chicago. I do get upset and indignant about all of the ready-made products, the parking lots and cars everywhere, the light pollution and the processed food made of who-knows-what from who-knows-where. We take and take and take and use and use and use.
Berry is angry and can be too. But anger eventually fizzles out. The line I want to share from Berry’s poem comes after his rage has subsided. Instead of despairing, he does a 180 degree turn and says:
“Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.”
It’s beautiful advice. What are the facts? Don’t ignore them. We are abusing our planet. Granted. It’s getting worse. Okay. But it’s still beautiful if you take the time to notice. Really? Yes.
What most motivates me to change my own “green” habits isn’t any speaker or argument but my love for some of the little green spaces near my home in Chicago: River Park along the North Branch where I once saw a Kingfisher, the enveloping shade trees blanketing Argyle Street, even the little patch of green, Gross Park, where I used to hear the soccer games going on until midnight across the street in the summers.
Righteous indignation and anger will only get us so far. That kind of motivation burns too brightly and quickly flames out. What we need is a generation married to the earth. Only love can last a lifetime and it will take us many lifetimes to heal our earth. So, consider all the facts, and do all the right stuff. Follow all of the “green” tips. Be responsible.
BUT don’t forget to walk or bike when travel distances are short not because you’ll save energy, but because you’ll notice your neighborhood. Take a trip to the wilderness if you can. Revel in its goodness. Stroll around your block and get to know your corner of the world better rather than staring at images on a screen. Get intimate with the earth we share so that we’ll love it enough to do right by it. Be joyful! The world is a gift for you.
Thinking back a few years, at a time I was temporarily residing with my parents in Florida, I remember my father confronting me with a request to clean and maintain the solar panels on the roof of their house. I had definitely heard of solar panels before, as an advantageous effort to conserve energy and increase energy efficiency, but never would have guessed that my parents would be proprietors in owning them. At the time, solar power to me resembled a futuristic endeavor of conserving energy that was still light years away. Nevertheless, there they were; occupying one half of the roof as the primary energy source to heat my parents’ pool. I also soon discovered that, not only were my parents utilizing solar power as a heating source, they had also purchased solar-powered, outdoor lights to illuminate the exterior of their house and the pathway leading up to their front door.
Now, having moved back to the Midwest, I realize that solar power might not be the most desirable and effective approach to conserving energy here. However, there are many other ways and sources of energy in which we might find to be beneficial – one of them being wind power. Being located in a close proximity to Lake Michigan, isn’t it possible to successfully utilize the lake effect winds as an alternative energy source? Just think of the possibilities!
James Norris, Lead Custodian
In thinking back to all that may have started me on being more “green” conscious at home I would have to say it all started when a friend brought over a recycling bin that he got from trash picking. It is kind of ironic that a receptacle that is used to prevent items going into the trash was in fact in the trash. Before you jump to any conclusions let me say that simply getting a recycling bin was not all it took for me to start recycling. After my friend gave me the recycling bin the bin sat on my porch for over two months unused. One day during that two month period, my friend came over and asked if I had started using the bin and I told him I hadn’t. He asked, why not? I told him, I don’t know what I can recycle. He then proceeded to tell me examples of items that are recyclable. Now with some knowledge of what I could recycle I still did not begin recycling. It is hard to explain why I was hesitant to do something that is truly beneficial for the planet. Perhaps, I thought it would be too much of a hassle having to use two different receptacles for my trash, or maybe I event felt a little foolish about recycling. In retrospect I admit those two thoughts as well as others prevented me from recycling. On a second occasion when my friend was visiting he asked if I had started recycling and I still told him I had not. Once again he asked, why not? This time I told him I wasn’t sure if I had curb side recycling and the bin I had was not even issued for Waukegan. His response was, put out the bin and see if it gets taken. His suggestion was a simple one, yet one that changed the way I perceive trash from that day forth. Shortly afterwards I took my friends suggestion and placed the bin on the curb, and to my surprise a recycling truck came by and took everything in the bin. I had started recycling at home, and it turned out to be simpler than I had expected. As I mentioned in my previous blog it is small steps that have added up to make me more “green” conscious, and this was the first small step I took at home.
Just a year ago, I never took stock in the idea of “Going Green.” There was nothing in my lifestyle that prompted me to consider “Going Green.” To me the words green, sustainable, and even recycle meant nothing. I was comfortable throwing all my waste in a trash can. I told myself: “I don’t have a recycling bin, so I can’t recycle.” Sometimes I would use a recycling bin at a store I was at, with emphasis on sometimes. Now, the idea of “Going Green” is taking a strong hold of my conscience, and when I look around I think about how much waste can be recycled. When I am at a store I seek out a recycling bin. If the store doesn’t have any recycling bins I wonder: “Why doesn’t this store recycle?” I find myself grimacing when I toss something in a trash can which is a far cry from my mentality a year ago. For me “Going Green” was, is, and will continue to be a process. Like many things in life change starts with a simple step. Whenever, I take on something new I tell myself: “You always got to start somewhere.” Now, in keeping with being “green” I recycle as much as possible and even compost. I wish to use this blog to show the small steps that have added up to make me more “green” conscious.
Last year, when I was thinking about buying a new car, I looked at all my options. When it came down to decision day, I was torn between purchasing a hybrid or a non-hybrid model. The hybrids didn’t have the best looking designs nor did they offer all the options I was looking for but I knew from a green perspective it would be a wise choice. After a short test drive and my mind pretty much made up already, I purchased the Toyota Prius. With its hybrid engine technology, the Prius is one of the most popular environmentally friendly cars. It boasts high fuel economy (I average 48 mpg) and low carbon emissions. The Prius incorporates the world’s first remote air conditioning system that can function on battery power alone. Plus, it incorporates ”regenerative braking” which means that it recoups the energy used during braking, saves it to a storage battery, then uses it later to power the motor whenever the vehicle is using its electric power source. And the best news of all… the EPA gives the carbon footprint of the Prius as 3.7 tons per year, with the range for all vehicles being 3.5 to 16.2. So the next time you’re thinking about purchasing a vehicle, consider a hybrid. It makes me feel good about my contribution to the environment and I know it will make you feel that way too.
As many families do, my family recently migrated south for a week in the sun. This time we headed to the pristine beaches of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Just imagine beautiful white sand, gorgeous sunsets, and clear blue water. There are miles and miles of condominium buildings lining the coast. We stayed at an older condominium building (you get what you pay for!) and were dismayed to find out that there was no on-site recycling. When my husband stopped by the building’s management office he was told the following: “While the City of Myrtle Beach does not provide collection services, condominium residents are welcome to use any of the City’s Convenience Centers for their recycling needs”. Unfortunately, the convenience centers were not that convenient and we ended up throwing recyclables in the trash. It made me wonder though, if this was a common practice for multi-family residences back home in Illinois.
When I returned from vacation, I checked out the SWALCO website. According to its website, “People who live in apartments, condominiums or town-homes should contact their property management or association to establish recycling services.” Unfortunately, I think that this is a missed opportunity. Recycling should be easy. Asking residents or vacationers to drive a recycling facility is not always practical.
Anyways, the trip did make me think of how to be environmentally conscious on a vacation. Here are the tips that I came up with:
- Carry a reusable water bottle with you. This will cut down on convenience purchases and trash.
- Limit meals that involve carry out containers. We grocery shopped once we got to our location and not only saved money but reduced the amount of garbage added to the landfill.
- We had the car’s oil changed before we left, hopefully improving the car’s performance on the road. I was actually surprised at how little gas we used.
- Anytime you see a recycling center use it. Rest stops seemed to frequently have a place to dispose of recyclables.
- Run the air conditioning as needed both in the condo and in the car. We took advantage of the ocean breeze and kept the windows open.
- Use towels wisely. We changed out the towels only once.
With a little planning, it is possible to care for the environment even while you are on vacation.
Want to learn more about cleaning your home with green products? Drop by the library to check out these books that tell you how to make cleaning supplies and choices that are good for your family’s health and the planet.
Easy Green Living: The Ultimate Guide to Simple Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home – by Renee Loux
Green Cleaning for Dummies- by Mary Findley and Linda Formichelli
Naturally Clean: The Seventh Generation Guide to Safe and Healthy, Non-Toxic Cleaning - by Jeffrey Hollender and Geoff Davis
Organic Housekeeping – by Ellen Sandbeck
Like most people, I have reusable bags for grocery shopping. But! I usually forget them at home when I go to the food store. I also wasn’t bringing my bags along when I went to the mall or the thrift store or anywhere else. I had oodles of plastic bags under my kitchen sink, and I never seemed to reuse them at the same pace I was acquiring them. Then someone gave me a compact reusable bag that squishes into a tiny carrying pouch. I use it all the time! The brand I was given is ChicoBag, but there are others and they all work just fine.
I’ve gotten some funny looks when I pull out a bag that fits in the palm of my hand and ask, “Can I use my own bag, please?” They always laugh when I unfold it into a bag that holds a surprising amount. Now that I keep a reusable bag with me all the time, my stash of plastic bags is finally dwindling.