Monday, November 9, 2009

Refill, Re-buy, Recycle

My dad is a bit misguided on the motto, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." He takes pleasure in filling the trash can. He doesn't like different foods touching each other and uses separate plates—normally paper. He rarely separates the two or three paper plates stuck together.

He grabs a stack of napkins for all meals and snacks, even something as dry as pretzels. He needs silverware with his meals, even if it's only a sandwich. He gathers such an abundance of materials that at fast food joints I reiterate, "Dad, please don't get me ketchup, silverware, or napkins—I'll get my own."

He leaves lights on even when he won't re-enter that room until many hours later—to turn them off before going to bed.

He's always bagged his groceries in plastic, but used to grab no fewer than five paper bags on his way out of the supermarket to add to his stockpile. He uses the brown bags to collect the newspaper for recycling each week. I once conservatively estimated he had compiled over 30 years worth of them.

After all his waste, he is surprisingly adept at recycling. He makes sure to recycle all bottles, aluminum, and newspapers. He seems to think that his recyclables compensate for overuse, despite me telling him that only about 35% of recycled materials are reused.

Like all Americans, my carbon footprint is enormous relative to most of the world, but I do my best to reduce it. I bring snacks to work every day in a brown bag. My dad uses about three of these per day, and then throws them away, but I've been using the same one for several months. It now resembles the skin of a 110-year-old woman who's been smoking for 97 of them.

Reused brown paper lunch bag

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According to UNDP, Human Development Report 2007/2008: Fight Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World, the United States is the world's highest per capita emitter of carbon dioxide with over 20 metric tons per person. China—the source of much hostility from conservation groups for overtaking the U.S. as the world's top overall emitter—spews out a mere four metric tons per person.

The greenouse effect aside, there is no debating that pollution effects water, air, ecosystems and human health. Many people think they're entitled to overconsume and waste, and that it is not their responsibility. I urge people to make simple concessions like switching to energy- and fiscally-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.

And when my book comes out, you can purchase it in e-book format if you'd like. Or, just read it over and over again—I'll give you credit for "Reuse."

3 comments:

Lola said...

When is it coming out?

denise said...

Really enjoying reading your blog, you definitely have a way with your words.

denise
Surviving breast cancer...
http://TeamDenise.org

Benjamin Rubenstein said...

That is "hush hush," Lola, though please stay tuned.

Good luck on your fight, Denise.