My family isn’t big on the whole green thing. You’d think hailing from Massachusetts, we would have taken hints from the neighboring Vermont and New Hampshire lesbians picketing in their Birkenstocks, but, despite the mating calls of naked hippie colonies and the braying of the co-op farms surrounding our borders, my family refuses to recycle because it requires a drive to the town dump a mere 2.7 miles away.
My school recycled. Every so often, a speaker would come and flash a picture of an oil-drenched baby seal choking on a Pepsi bottle cap while the remains of the O-zone layer crashed down on its head. I’d run home to tell my Southern mother about the impending apocalypse, but she just blamed my big, fat liberal public education.
In high school, friends started carrying around Nalgenes and intercepting my aluminum cans from their intended trajectory into the trash. Sometimes, I’d get the fever. I’d set up a recycling center (i.e. a shoebox labeled ‘RECYCLING”) next to my kitchen trash can.
However, my annoyed parents counted on my teenage girl attention span. Lucky for them, my green efforts would wilt come prom season. I went to college able to say that the only contribution I had made to preserving the planet was my preference for dolphin-safe tuna.
At UR, having my roommate berate me when I wasted anything that could be spared the wastebasket made me a slightly less drooly version of a Pavlov dog. Waste: bad! Recycling: good! I stopped thinking of green initiatives as ‘extra” efforts when they were actually things I didn’t need to do. I didn’t need the lights on or my cell charger to be plugged in. I stopped printing out all my readings. I got a thermos. I washed my clothes in the cold cycle. I swapped incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents.
I felt important. ‘Hippies praise me!” I’d think. ‘I’m saving the world!” When my inner sloth would make me hesitate to walk to a recycling bin, I’d bully myself. Was I really so lazy? ‘Besides, walking burns calories,” I’d think. ‘Every step brings you a step closer to Megan Fox’s bod!” On less healthy days, I’d promise myself a Venti Frappuccino if I could make it across the desert of the Pit to recycle that milk bottle.
When summer came, despite the hailstorm of insults from my family lovers of all things bright and non-reusable I kept up my new practices. I took the T to work instead of my car. Though my hopes perked when my father bought a Smart Car, they rescinded when he bought another one ‘for fun.” I rolled my eyes when he chuckled at placing both cars next to our gargantuan SUV.
I admit, though I could have easily put a recycling bin in the kitchen again, I didn’t. Maybe it was old habit but that’s no excuse. So, I’ve decided a dictatorship is the only option. I’m instituting a recycling regime. I’m going to be the pioneer who makes that weekly drive to the dump. By God, I will not live in an o-zone-less world where my skinless children have to play T-ball on boats whilst the Eiffel Tower drifts by because the ice caps have melted.
Maybe I’ll be exiled from Christmas because of this, but it’s a risk I’m going to have to take. Worse comes to worst, at least that will mean less plane exhaust pollution, right?
Schneier is a member of
the class of 2011.