Monday, April 26, 2010

What a Waste!

Happy belated Earth Day, folks... but before you throw yourself a party with those reusable party favors and maybe a little biodegradable confetti, take note: there's still a LOT of work to be done to make our world greener.

Take America's waste management systems. On his morning commute, one member of the DinkyGreen Team (okay, okay, it was me) noticed that the village of Glen Ellyn (Village of Volunteers, I've since learned) must have been conducting one of their annual "unlimited trash" pick-ups today, as the typically manicured curbside was crowded with piles of furniture, snowboarding equipment, wood scraps, kids' playthings, screen doors and the like.

Maybe it's my inner pack-rat talking here, but I like sniffing around junk piles for anything still usable (I'm not saying I want to build a house out of old tires and chicken wire, but some people, in their spring cleaning zeal, will throw out lots of stuff that still has some life left in it). So I parked the car, walked the block and rescued a couple spare wood scraps that I can put towards a project around the house (in this case, I'll probably use them to make a nice border around the vegetable garden we're planning this year). Truth be told, I wish I had been able to investigate a bit more, but the garbage trucks were already rolling through the neighborhood, and I didn't want to be late to work, so I didn't come away with much.

Therein lies part of the problem: had I known of Glen Ellyn's trash day in advance, I might have planned to leave the house earlier, scout out some good locations, or maybe even ask my friends and family if they're in need of any particular items and want to get them on the cheap while at the same time preventing the landfills from being piled that much higher.

The other part of the problem as I see it is that too often we prefer the convenience of the curb to taking the extra step and making a drop off at Goodwill, or notifying AmVets, or posting the information on freecycle (if you haven't yet joined your local freecycle community, I strongly recommend doing so).

That's why I'm proposing (and I'm not the first to do so) that so-called "unlimited trash" days be publicized across the greater metro area in which they are to take place. If one man's trash is another man's treasure, we can foster a greener community simply by giving the latter man advance notice of the former's intentions.

Trust me, there are plenty of people out there looking for free stuff at the curb; as a kid I went on many a ride-along with my mom when she "went trashing" during unlimited trash days. And we weren't the only car coasting down the suburban street at 2mph looking for deals; in fact, there were dozens! Those who knew in advance took advantage of it; it stands to reason that if more people know, more people will take advantage...and that in turn has the potential to decrease waste and therefore, the size of your local landfill as well.

Now, I know I'm probably preaching to the proverbial choir, here. If you're reading this you likely already concentrate on reducing, reusing and recycling. Some of you probably practice the three R's until you're green in the face; but our consumer culture and the habits that come with it will never go away completely. That said, the goal here is to motivate the choir to "sing" about being green. How? Attend homeowners' association meetings and help organize community-wide yard sales or swap meets that keep stuff off the curb. Talk to your Village Board and see if you can convince them to place an ad in the paper about their unlimited trash pick-up days (I know they'll probably rail against it with some soliloquy about trash-day traffic or village property or what-not, but) this is a conversation worth having, not just for freebie-hunters like me, but for the sake of the planet. Sound good?

"Do you even bother to compost your own feces?" -Greenzo, 30 Rock

This blog post was typed on a 100% biodegradable keyboard.

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