November 28, 2012 | LXXII, No. 35

Local challenges encourage creative alternatives

In Other Words

After having been in Grand Coulee for almost two years now, one of the biggest changes that I am still trying to adapt to is an unexpected one. It’s not the distance to the nearest big box store or mall, nor is it the weather or the size of the community.

Somewhat surprisingly, it’s the fact that I cannot put out my recycling with the trash.

For much of my youth, many might have labeled me an environmentalist. When I was in high school I organized a grass roots campaign, if it could even be called that, to ask the lunch ladies not to give out the paper bowls with the chicken sandwiches. They already came wrapped in aluminum foil. Why did we also need the paper bowl? I thought it a waste and tried, before the term was coined, to Reduce Our Use.

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is now the accepted slogan for waste reduction. It’s so popular, Jack Johnson has even written a catchy song about it. And for many, this is an edict that ingrains itself into everyday life.

When we moved here and I found out there was no easy way to recycle, I was a little horrified. The young environmentalist in me protested.

The practical side of me understands that the nearest recycling center is too far away to make the business — and that is what recycling is, however noble the cause might be — profitable.

I also understand that space is not a limiting factor like it is in other parts of the country where I have lived. In other parts, burgeoning landfills require citizens to be very conscientious about not only recycling but also the other two sides of it: reducing our use of new products and reusing what we already have.

With every environmentalist cell in me protesting when I throw clearly recyclable material in the trash, I have tried to be creative as to minimizing my footprint in whatever way I can. I even know some in our community who store up their recyclables and haul them to a convenient recycling center in nearby towns. Admirable, and worth the effort, if time and space affords such a system. If not, there are a few alternatives around town worth checking out.

Although my pantry is filled with a plethora of canvas bags, I must confess I use them far less than I ever thought I would and instead opt for the convenience of the grocery store plastic bags. Plastic bags that find their way to the landfill usually also find their way to harming the environment, killing more than 1 million birds each year, to name just one negative impact. Luckily, these plastic bags are easily recycled and are made into excellent re-used products. Our local Safeway has a plastic bag recycle box just inside its front door by the flowers. In my house, the plastic bags build up in my garage to an embarrassing quantity, and a few times a year you will find me carting a gigantic armful of plastic bags to the bin in Safeway. It may take me some time to get there, but my bags get recycled nonetheless, and that’s what matters.

Also at our Safeway, there is a bin for recycling aluminum cans to raise money for the Senior Center. This isn’t quite as simple as throwing them in the green bin and dragging it out to my curb, but at the same time, I like it almost even better. In this case, the money for recycling those cans goes to a local group.

I don’t generally use a lot of plastic or glass bottles, but when I do, I try to find another use for them or change brands if possible. Milk for my daughter comes in compostable cartons and glass jars become excellent alternatives to plastic Tupperware.

In the midst of the waste-producing holiday season, I challenge all of us to find ways to be kinder to the land that nurtures us and to be cognizant of what we throw in our trash cans. Sometimes, a little creativity is all it takes.

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