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Do the right thing with recycling

Fri, Nov 23rd, 2007
Posted in Commentary

Every day we are faced with the same dilemma: to recycle or not to recycle.

My recent trips to the gas station seem to be pressing this issue on my subconscious mind. I reach down to grab the bag of garbage when I eye a plastic pop bottle snuggled amongst the banana peel, fast food wrappers and Kleenexes. My initial inclination is to close the bag and throw it away without any thought. In a few seconds the problem is solved and I can continue down the road in a clutter-free car. Yet there is a quiet voice that nags on my conscience: "You can't toss that in the garbage can. It's plastic. If you throw that plastic bottle in the garbage it will stay in the landfill for a long time, maybe indefinitely. Plastics do not decompose."

One of the best advantages of being an adult is our freedom to make choices. At some point we need to be accountable for the knowledge we possess and the actions we take.

Recently NBC promoted a week called "Green is Universal." A variety of green-themed programs were aimed to entertain, inform and empower Americans to lead greener lives. I commend the effort but I am skeptical of its impact. How many people made a conscious change to their lifestyle as a result of watching a week of "green" programming? Most Americans would agree the health of the environment is important, but we do not do much about it. I am made aware of this at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, as students and adults absent-mindedly throw their plastic bottles in a garbage bin while the recycling bin sits empty nearby.

In Fillmore County we are fortunate to have an active recycling program with both curbside and drop off options. Yet many easily recycled materials are still being thrown away. I can hear my grandpa say, "Do the right thing, even when the right thing is hard to do." Parents attempt to nurture this trait in their children. Teachers applaud students who possess it. Employees value those who demonstrate it. Recycling takes effort and time. It isn't convenient. One must develop it like any positive habit. The formation of a habit, whether positive or negative, starts out as an idea that is acted upon. Only when the action is repeated over and over does it become a habit. Who you become is based on the sum total of the choices you make.

All of this talk about accountability brings me back to that plastic bottle now rolling underneath my car seat. I'd say it is time to find the proper disposal container and continue to strengthen the cord of positive habits.

Cheryl Kroeker is the Adventure Education Coordinator at Eagle Bluff ELC.

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