I’m bit tired of people telling me “I LOVE the Earth, I Recycle ALL the time!”
Don’t get me wrong, friends, I love Recycling programs and throwing my excess plastic in the blue bins, too. The fact that Recycling implementation went smoothly in (most) of the United States is a huge marker of positive eco-policy implementation…BUT!! (Yes, there’s a big ol’ BUT)… Recycling covers up a whole array of much more important (easy) things people can do to be eco-conscious.
We all know the whole Reduce, Reuse, Recycle thing (you’re probably a bit tired of hearing it by now). But early into my sustainable-thought processes (literally “Sustainability 101”), one of my professors forced us to recognize that for the whole magical triangle to actually work, people should really be using it in order.
The “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” arrow triangle, while good for labeling and marketing, the arrow triangle imagery makes it easy for consumers to think that one practice (cough, cough…RECYCLING) is just as good as the other.
While this may be unintentional, it’s easy to see how an economy full of consumers who have REDUCED their consumption and are REUSING what they have might not be a very profitable one. This begs the question… Is there a reason for the lack of promotion?
Reducing and Reusing cannot generate any money, but there’s been an entire industry built around Recycling, according to NPR’s Planet Money. Is there a bigger reason besides environmental protection that the U.S. government or economy or industry really wanted us all to collect all of our recyclables? Who generates the profit? (I’m not going to should propaganda on this one, but I’m drawing some distinct connections.)
Awesome, Admirable Alternatives
As opposed to going on a mass Recycling spree in a plight of a sustainable lifestyle, people should really first Reduce the amount of unnecessary purchases they make, forgo their single-use Ziplock bag and paper towel habits in favor of Reusable alternatives, and Recycle items when there is no other alternative.
Yes, it’s fabulous that I recycle my Diet Snapple containers. I wouldn’t want to throw them away! But, my long-run goal is to move to a plastic free alternative that doesn’t require recycling at all.
Ever since I’ve learned the flaw in the system I’ve been making a concerted effort to align my personal sustain-a-efforts in the order above. But, as a person pursuing a literal degree in Sustainability, I recognize that most people don’t have the opportunity or even the resources to think about this. Where’s the education making it clear to the general public that these things need to happen?
If you’re a fellow eco-conscious folk, my recommendation is to do your best. Yes, legislation needs to speed up to match where Earth is at, but people who care are also so important.
SOCIAL change + INSTITUTIONAL change = REVOLUTIONS (big & small)