Friday, October 15, 2010

Recycling: The Learning Curve

Mollie writes:

It's so lovely when you finally have all your little ones in school.  You can escort them out to the bus stop armed with a cup of coffee, and when the bus pulls away with your little angels, you can head back to home energized and caffeinated.  The first day my little ones went to school, together, was a real breakthrough day for me.  I met my friends for lunch and then shopped for books!

Eventually, things settle down and a mom realizes that maybe she should do something constructive with the new time on her hands.  She can volunteer at school, of course, but at some point, the kidlets have to make it on their own.  In the past, I'd organize the holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas) and get stuff in order for winter.  I could do the Christmas shopping in October, wrap presents and prepare Christmas cards in November,  and pretty much coast through December.

I also thought it would be a good time to learn new habits.  One year I took piano lessons, another year I dropped some weight, and yet another year, I decided to improve my recycling program.  I was pretty good at recycling newspaper; there was a collection dumpster at the Elks Lodge.  And with a 2 cent deposit charged to my soda pop purchases, I was truly diligent about redeeming my money when I went to the grocery store.

These days, I'm pretty good about recycling - living on an island opens your eyes when you realize that there's only so much room for garbage.  We send a lot of it off the island, but that's expensive to say the least.  So when we first moved to Whidbey, I got a bin for every possible object to be recycled.  I recycle metals, plastics, cardboard, paper and even yard debris.  On my front porch, with the bistro table and the potted plants, I have my oh-so-elegant worm bin.  If it doesn't contain meat by-products, it gets composted.

But years ago I was more dilettante than diligent.  Wrestling with cardboard, pop bottles, tin cans, etc. just didn't always get done.  So, although I recycled, I was only half committed.

But the kids were taught recycling at school.  They had paper bins, milk carton bins, etc. throughout their schools and my kids recycled a lot better than I did.  Some days they would go off to school and come home with paper they'd made from recycled paper, another day they would come home with a can crusher they'd made in 'shop.'  All in all it was a good experience.

But I have to admit that occasionally, I'd get a little huffy.  One of the boys would ask me why I wasn't recycling all paper, not just news paper, and I'd get testy.  News paper had to be recycled separately because of the newsprint ink, and I just didn't have enough bins to recycle everything.  They'd look at me like I was a condemned woman.

It came to a head one year during "Earth Week" when the boys came home from school taking me to task for not recycling cardboard properly.  Frankly, I'd had it with their non-phosphate laundry soap, their organic vegetables AND their need to keep the world a cleaner place.  So when they bounced off the school bus with their daily recommendations for environmental awareness, I marched them up to their bedrooms.

I'd assembled some bins for them to begin their recycling.  Old tennis shoes in this bin, old homework in that bin, dirty sheets in the hamper and don't even bother me with washing instructions, they could do it themselves.  Little faces fell as they realized that they had to start practicing what they preached to their mom.

They developed realistic expectations.

Today, they both recycle some, but not with the fervor of their mom.  My worm bin is producing copious amounts of compost, my garage is a warehouse of stuff waiting to be taken to the local recycling center, and I have a separate area for things to be taken to Good Cheer (a Whidbey version of Goodwill).  So three cheers to the folks who taught my kids to recycle, their mom and dad!

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