Why Recycling Matters

Like many of you, I went home for fall break. After getting everything wrapped up on campus, I loaded my car and made the 400-mile journey south to Nebraska. While home, I was able to catch up on lots of rest, enjoy quality time with friends, spend way too much money and hold my cats.  It was really nice to get out of the Concordia bubble for a bit and leave the upcoming papers, exams and projects behind. Fall break is always a great time to catch my breath so I can continue the marathon to the end of the semester.

I spent the first half of break at my mom’s house and then moved to my dad’s place. Dad’s house is located in a brand new development of “villa homes”, where the houses are all identical, painted varying shades of matching earth tones. The residents pay a small fee to the developer who in turn maintains the outside of the houses and comes to mow the lawns and shovel the snow. I suppose it’s a decent trade off: surrender all responsibility for the tedious maintenance aspects of your home for individuality and ambiance. It’s eerie driving through the streets  and seeing the identical homes, each with their perfectly maintained lawns, gray paint and identical shrubs. Sometimes I think it looks like a scene straight out of a horror movie.

My dad’s been living in his new “villa” for about three years, but in all this time there he’s never gotten a recycling bin. His house isn’t in an incorporated area of the city, meaning it doesn’t have all of the same features zoned areas do. One item that isn’t covered is trash removal. When Dad moved in, he naturally chose the easiest and cheapest plan from a private disposal agency. Unfortunately, it is one that doesn’t include recycling.

I cringe every time I visit, seeing his kitchen garbage filled with old newspapers, tin cans and plastic food containers. I’ve told him numerous times it’s worth his money to invest in recycling for a better future. He usually just brushes it off, nodding as he reads the paper. “Sure son, whatever you say…”

We’ve all been in classes where it was discussed. We’ve read the statistics and heard the testimonials about recycling’s benefits for the planet. So, I won’t bore you by rehashing the material. At this point, I’m sure that your opinion on it was formed long ago.

Regardless of where you stand, I ask you one simply thing: think twice before you throw something away.

I understand that we’re all busy. Sometimes it’s just more convenient to toss the newspaper into the trash, or crumple up some junk mail and throw it in with last week’s leftover mac and cheese. At the very least they’re compostable, right? It’s easy to discount these little slip-ups as nothing more than that. After all, what impact could one person have on the environment?

Wrong. In the grand scheme of things, it does matter.

I will always remember two things from elementary school. First was the mind-blowing statistic that recycling one empty pop can will save enough energy to power a 100-watt light bulb for four hours or power a TV set for three.

Second, my third grade teacher shared with us a famous Native American proverb: “Our children don’t inherit the world from us. Rather, we are borrowing it from them.”

Both concepts blew my mind. Naturally, being a child, I didn’t want to wreck the future of humanity because of mindless choices. Why should I be stuck with someone else’s problems because of ignorant thinking and laziness? Who gives us the right to burden future generations through an unsustainable lifestyle? To put it simply, what’s right for the bottom line often isn’t so good in the long-term.

I ask you to consider the same thing when you go to toss a newspaper or plastic bottle in the garbage. Too much is at stake not to do so. It’s also super easy to recycle, especially at places like Concordia.

Before heading back up to school, Dad asked me if there was anything I’d like for Christmas. I’m usually pretty bad about this, asking for dumb but useful things like a new car battery or world peace. Instead, next time he asks I’ll tell him I’d like him to get a recycling bin for Christmas. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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