Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How to balance the responsible with the reasonable

Have you noticed how conscious kids are about trash these days? When I was a kid, I don’t remember having so much emotion tied up in what I threw out and where it went when I did. When I say, “Honey, could you throw this out for me?” I get a look of horror and when they realize what it’s made of they say, “This actually goes in the recycling” as a response. If something is broken and beyond repair, I have to sneak it into the trash and hope that nobody notices. “I was going to use that for something” is a frequent response when I ask about what I consider rubbish around the house (gum wrappers, cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls).
I’m all for reusing things. It makes me feel good and proud of myself and my family. I love that recycling is the norm now. But I wish there were some guidelines for when it’s okay to let go of something. If I have a project in mind that would require a cereal box, for instance, am I then obligated to keep every cereal box I ever buy? Should I live in guilt for each can or bottle I recycle because I could have reused it in some way? I don’t think so. Such an attitude would lead to burnout, giving up and perhaps a house that looks like an episode of Hoarders.
I think the answer might be to answer the guilt with a question, “Is there anything reasonable I could do to eliminate having to have this packaging in my life?” Maybe I could buy bulk candy to forgo the wrappers. Returnable milk jugs might be an option.
But the key word is reasonable. It might be better to buy eggs from the local farm and carry them home in a basket, but not if you have to drive 100 miles to get there. The very way of our lives would have to change in order to make major changes in our trash generating habits. But this takes time; small step by small step. In the meantime, we need to balance the responsible with the reasonable, looking to a cleaner future as inspiration and working little by little toward the goal.
Do you have any thoughts on how to stay on track with being green and how not to get discouraged? I’d love to hear them.

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