I want to cluck a bit about our recycle program here in New Bern, NC. Bobbi Waters, many years ago, was instrumental in getting recycling started in New Bern. I remember it well. We were all issued recycle bins. Most folks balked at the thought of separating their trash. So OK, you don’t want to recycle, now you had to buy stickers for regular garbage and recycling was free. That turned a lot of people around. Now they could see the benefit of recycling and the program took off.

This Earth Day weekend, Craven County announced their decision to stop picking up recycling curbside. Really, on Earth Day weekend. That has gone over like a lead balloon. There are people up in arms about it.  I personally know a number of disabled and infirm people who can’t make it to the recycle centers to take their recyclables. They are in a quandary.

Then I learned that China isn’t buying our garbage anymore. Hmmm. Interesting that we aren’t taking care of our own mess. Apparently, we have created so much recycling that it’s not possible to recycle it all. What does that say about how we consume?

We want everything neatly sealed in plastic- food, clothing, practically everything we buy. If it’s not in plastic, it’s in something else. Styrofoam, cans, plastic bottles….

Now that we’re afraid of the water coming out of our taps, many have started to buy water in individual plastic bottles. Think about it. If everyone drinks eight bottles a day times all the people who buy these bottles of water, that’s a massive amount of plastic bottles. Even if they consider buying water in gallons, it’s still a lot of plastic waste. Not to mention that drinking out of plastic is bad for our health because the chemicals the plastic is made of leach out into the water.

What is the solution to the waste problem? How do we consume less recyclable items? We all know about carrying our own shopping bags. That’s a good step. How about buying fresh, whole foods, sold loose and we put the produce, nuts, snacks, grains, etc. in our own containers? Canning jars are a very good option for food storage. Fresh veggies and fruits often fair well without the plastic wrapping. There are reusable produce bags for greens, lettuce, and those things that wilt. Buy a decent water filter, it will pay for itself.

We can compost our paper products. The earth worms will be thrilled to eat them up for us. Cardboard makes a great weed barrier under mulch. Compost vegetable waste as well. If you live in an area where that’s not feasible, worm bins might work. They don’t take up much room and when done properly, don’t smell. You’d have the healthiest houseplants plants around if you water them with worm tea and use the compost in the soil.

There are solutions. Think before you buy something about how it’s packaged and how it could be improved. Let the manufacturer know your ideas and why you want the packaging changed. Be proactive about change.

The Earth supplies us with everything we need to live- water, air, food, water, beauty. What are we doing to protect her, to thank her for her abundance? Think about your role in her health and vitality. What are you doing to protect her natural resources? Do you speak out against things like fracking that destroy the land and poison our water? Do you speak out against clear cutting our National Forests? About the destruction of animal habitats?

Most of what goes on that is destructive to the Earth is rooted in greed. We’re losing our curbside recycling because it isn’t cost effective. What is the cost to the Earth if we don’t recycle, if we don’t take a good look at our own consumerism and find ways to change how and what we buy, if we don’t speak out about injustices to the Earth?

See if you can find a way to be part of the solution. See if you can cut down having to put your garbage out to once a month instead of once a week. Find a good water filter and refill glass or stainless steel bottles vs. buying bottled water in plastic bottles. Buy food from bulk bins when you can, taking your own containers to put it in. Be proactive.

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