Sunday, January 10, 2010

David Recycling

In the post entitled "Ask Me," I requested suggestions from you, dear readers, about topics for posts that might interest you, and I mentioned that, given the cruel Illinois winter weather, I might not be out and about much for photos and figured you didn't want pics of "Susan cooking" or "David recycling." But, I bow to your requests, and here, indeed, is "David Recycling."

David and I were both young college students in the sixties, a period of intense, exciting, and exploratory activities, some of which, at this remove, are not clearly remembered :) But, as a result, we have been recycling for more than thirty years, so perhaps that qualifies me to say a few words on the subject. In the photo here, David is recycling junk mail into a container provided by our environmentally responsible municipality (Urbana, Illinois -- a beacon of liberalism and good sense in the midst of the conservative heartland). We pay an annual recycling fee, and they provide the containers and come once a week to empty them.

He also collects cans, bottles, and cardboard at the end of the kitchen counter so that he can move these items to the bins outside the door. Note also in the photo below the metal compost crock for kitchen cuttings -- potato peels, onion skins, broccoli ends, orange peels, and so on. 

There is a composter in the backyard that I didn't photograph because I didn't want to wade out into the frozen snow up to my ankles or more. The composter fills up with the contents of the crock (in a biodegradable, easy-to-dump bag from Gardener's Supply), along with some dried leaves, and out comes crumbly rich soil-like stuff to put on rhododenrons and the like. Black gold of its own sort.

I am a big proponent of environmental concerns: simply put, I like this planet and want it to stay around. I also dislike waste and mess of all types, although, as a once-avid gardener, I do enjoy getting my hands really dirty with honest soil.

Seriously though, there is much to be said for the idea of changing the world a day at a time in your own backyard. So we recycle most of what we can, without being fanatical and obnoxious about it. (As Ben Franklin suggested, we follow the concept of moderation in all things.)

It starts in the purchasing phase, in my opinion. When it makes sense to do so, we purchase some items in bulk and store them in recycled glass jars. This works best for rice and beans and lentils in the jars from Newman's Own pasta sauce (Tomato and Basil, of course) and the best peach slices.

But for items that come already packaged, it's a question of what you buy and how it's packaged that makes a difference. I prefer to use foods that aren't pre-processed as the ingredients for our meals whenever that's feasible. Why? (1) It's cheaper in the long run to make stuff yourself. (2) You have more control over additives that may be bad for your health. (3) You can make things taste better, fresher, and more likely seasoned the way you prefer than if somebody else (i.e., a factory) cooks and stores the food for you. (4) The packaging is usually less intrusive and may even be recyclable itself (although not necessarily easy to open!).We don't use canned food very often, with one major exception: cat food.

I buy organic when the price isn't too much higher, and I try to prepare healthy meals, but we are not fanatic about it, and cookies are always an exception, for example. We live pretty modestly overall, and so we probably aren't "mainstream" Americans [we don't drink beer or pop, have a television, color our hair, wear pantyhose (esp. David), etc.]. We use paper towels for messy clean-ups, but washable cloth towels for hand drying and light jobs. From time to time, we even throw away recyclable containers that are too difficult to clean adequately for recycling without a big hassle. We take the plastic bags from bread and produce to the recycling bin at the grocery store, but we use cloth totes for all of our shopping itself. (Plastic bags are an easy habit to change and not using them as much makes such a difference to birds and water wildlife!)

So, there you have it, dear readers, a few thoughts on a simple, routine everyday household activity -- recycling. Please comment and let me know if you recycle, what your thoughts are on the environment, and what other topics you'd like to see discussed in this blog. Thanks for reading!

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