Given that I live in the Republic of Cambridge, land of the granola-crunchers, Birkenstock-wearers, and an elected Tree Commissioner, it would be difficult not to be a pro-environmentalist.
I don't hug trees or anything like that, but I did recently buy a pair of Nike Considered shoes—which the company says are designed to reduce waste and consume less energy in the manufacturing process, and they are completely recyclable! And I do try to participate in our city's curbside recycling program. By recycling more than 1.5 tons of paper, newsprint, phone books, and office paper each year, the Massachusetts Recycling Coalition claims that our state cuts down 17 million fewer trees.
But let me tell you about a recent insanity with curbside recycling here. A few weeks ago, my husband and I spent a lovely weekend cleaning out our basement. This activity spawned some severe disagreements about what stuff should actually stay or go, but we still managed to fill up more than 10, contractor-size bags with trash and accumulated a Mount Everest of cardboard.
Curbside recycling rules call for all cardboard to be flattened, cut into pieces of a certain size, and tied in bundles with string. Have you ever wielded a box cutter and slashed at cardboard continuously for hours? Flaming spikes of bamboo inserted under your fingernails would actually be a more preferable form of torture. Finally, hands too weak to maintain a grip on the last box—one of those heavy-gauge cartons like the kind appliances come in—my husband threw down the cutter.
On trash day, we piled up the contractor bags, bundles of cardboard, and the large box at the curb. I was certain that this box, polystyrene packing still glued inside, would be rejected by the recyclers, who can be—what's a polite way to say this?—a tad persnickety.
Much to our dismay, we came home that night to find the Mount Everest of cardboard still piled at the curb, with a large note affixed to its summit. The note read: We have rejected these items because they are improperly prepared for recycling. Yet the one box we knew didn't meet the guidelines was collected—by the trash guys, of course!
I like the idea of saving trees, I really do. But I must confess that those bundles of cardboard wound up getting stuffed into contractor bags and put out (and taken) as trash the next week. That surely sent a few trees to their premature death.
The Massachusetts Recycling Commission says that we throw away 6.8 million tons of solid waste a year in this state. But if they really want people like me to be a little less wasteful, wouldn't it be great if they didn't work so hard to thwart our efforts?
Do you have a crazy story about recycling or the environment? I'd like to hear about it.
To view a picture of the "cardboard Mt. Everest," click here.