Think Global, Act Local, Think Local, Act Global

Pollution, waste, consumeritis. Back to me in my comfortable cocoon. Simpler than it seems. The fickle throw-away world we scrounge around in. Global is not on the other side of this pretty marble we live on, it is walking up our street and ringing our doorbell, nefariously taking possession of our houses. Non-Wasting and recycling is my hobby-horse. I cannot put the “kabosh” on world hunger, or stop the insanity in Syria, but I can live a life where I do not waste and greedily want the new and improved whatever. I am ranting. Sorry. My global-local story.

I used to throw every plate scraping, empty oatmeal box, splayed toothbrush and even plastic in the same garbage bin which inevitably wandered out to the curb and off to the garbage processing plant. The only items not making the cut at my house were car tires, Christmas trees,newspapers and dead batteries. The other stuff?…fair game. I didn’t change my ways until I was witness to an occurrence which STILL leaves me with my mouth open, chin on the pavement.

I live in Luxembourg and the municipality sets up recycling igloos all over the city. There is a container for paper, glass and in some areas yard clippings. There is really no excuse to lag behind the times. Before I changed my ways, I would force myself twice each year to assemble all the old newspapers, no longer used cardboard boxes and glass containers & bottles and zoom over to the recycling center where it took me a good hour to reclaim my car. Over the years I had gotten used to seeing stacks and piles of recyclable junk in my basement. Especially since my ex-husband was everything short of a hoarder. “That’s still good”, “I might need that one day…” Anyway, you dear Reader, get the drift.

IMG_2971

(just an illustration..this stuff has since been recycled!!)

Sorry, I have gotten off track. My moment of shame, the “I-can’t-believe-I am a -polluter-a careless citizen” moment came one Sunday morning at my local recycling point next to the neighborhood soccer field. I drove up and parked my overflowing car next to the paper igloo.

Although it was before 9 am, I did not have the place to myself for long. A 3-ton moving van pulled up and parked next to me. The four men acknowledged my presence with a nod and proceeded to unload an entire kitchen! Yes, a kitchen, cabinets, appliances, the whole shebang! I could not believe my eyes and felt that I had to say something to the driver. I pointed out the sign detailing what one could and could not dispose of. The answer I got floored me. “Lady, it’s Sunday and we don’av time to take our load to the dump. So, mind your own business.” If there was ever a time when I wished I could make a citizen’s arrest it was that Sunday morning! In my city all one has to do is give the Hygiene Department a call and tell them that you need to dispose of a big, cumbersome or heavy object. They tell you to have it out on the curb by 6 am 48 hours later and there you are!

After this incident, I regularly drove by this particular recycling point just to check.The hush of Winter provides the perfect backdrop for  anonymous polluters to do their dirty deeds. I have seen fridges, washing machines, irons, pots & pans, a red vinyl lip-shaped sofa and chair arrangement, bags upon bags of house trash and on one morning, a Sunday, surprising, eh?!, the owner of a restaurant (I recognized him because I used to give him my business!) unloading over twenty little barrels of used cooking oil from his establishment. Again, the city’s help is a simple phone call away. I don’t get this kind of selfish behavior! Enough to make you cuff someone or pull out your hair! Just a thought…..

It has been almost ten years since my conversion. Although I had always been aware of my environment, I did nothing about it. Change has to begin on an individual basis. I was lazy and disorganized. I now recycle just about everything. A corner in my basement hosts a mini recycling center A simple collection of bins which stand ready to be loaded in the trunk twice each month and driven 10 minute to the coolest recycling center in the World. My teenagers now realize that I will begin my trash-can sermon should they even think of chucking a glass jar or plastic bottle into the genuine house trash. They hate it when I preach, so they usually leave the empties scattered on the kitchen counter for me to commend to the basement. Behavior related to teenage selective hearing; material for a future post, or martial law. I do not want to create avoidable refuse. Google a bit to learn how horrible the garbage situation in the Seychelles Islands has become. Scandalous.

This is not only about how to dispose of empty tins cans and plastic water bottles. Mindfulness can be applied to almost every area of one’s earthly existence. If you have still useful,unworn clothing there is a way to pass it on in every community. Some department stores even pay for used clothing by the kilo and give the proceeds to a charity. I recently donated 300 lbs of no longer worn clothing from myself and my kids. It’s great! I now have much more closet space and there is someone out there benefiting from a lot of nice duds. A recent initiative in my area revolved around broken household appliances. Instead of trashing a repairable iron, for example, you could drop by a workshop set up in a vacant grocery store and learn how to make the repair yourself. With with a bit of patience and a soldering iron the job was done…at no cost. We need more of such workshops. It’s also a neat way to meet people and share a cup of coffee and conversation. Let’s all slow down. Pass things on to the next user.

To wrap up, this recycling trauma I experienced has led me to become an active citizen.

I make it a point to attend as many public city hall meetings as possible. You can’t know what you don’t know, right. And I have even taken to letter writing if I have an idea regarding a betterment which could be implemented in my neighborhood.

Not meaning to sound like a “Miss Goody-Two-Shoes”, but if we all take a moment to analyze how and what we throw away, I am sure we could discover areas where we could all make a difference.

You just might save a bit of money while you’re at it. My personal challenge for 2014 is not to buy a single book, magazine, or CD. The alternative is the public library and the lovely prospect of meeting new people, who live in my city. What do you think? It would be interesting to know how other people deal with garbage, recycling, and their own contribution.

So, what do you say?

p.s. Stay tuned for the sequel in a few months and while we are all mindful and on topic:

“Keep Our Planet clean. It’s not Uranus”