Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Baby G: Motivation for good citizenry!

Back before Baby G was even born I started getting an "itch" to make some changes in our lives. Every time I threw something away that I knew was easily recyclable, I began feeling a twinge of guilt and shame for contributing to the undeniable problem of waste management on our planet. I knew it was time to make a commitment to do the right thing.

Let me back up a bit...

When I went to college (ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!) it was a cultural norm for those living in the Scholarship Halls to recycle. We had a really nice facility set up for ourselves in one of the storage areas and part of living in the halls naturally meant being conscious of how we managed our garbage. As one of the dinner cooks, it was simply part of cooking the meal to rinse out the gigantic #10 cans and put them in the recycling bin. Did you print out a paper and then discover a terrible spelling/grammar error? Put the old version in the recycling bin or re-use it for scratch paper. Done with a shampoo bottle? Rinse it out and march on down to the recycling bins.

Even after college when I got a job up on campus, we still utilized the campus recycling services for used paper, pop bottles, cans, cardboard, etc. All of this is to say, being a good citizen by recycling was not a foreign concept to me AT ALL. Yet, when it came to being a good citizen at home and continuing these principles I was failing big time. Finally, the guilt and shame goaded me into action. I set up a "recycling station" in our garage with big plastic tubs for each of the types of recycling. I began making an effort (and encouraging my hubby to make the effort, too) to start setting aside and sorting all of the things that could be recycled so we could take them to Walmart (clear across town... this fact will resurface later in the story).

We jumped into the recycling game full-force and quickly began realizing how much less trash we were putting by the curb. It was seriously amazing to go from a "several bags per week" household with only two people in it at the time to a "one mostly full bag" household in a matter of no time. I had dual feelings of pride and sadness at this realization. I was proud that we'd made the commitment to quit contributing as much to the problem, but I was sad that it had taken us this long to do so when the results were so instantly obvious. Another added bonus came when I realized the smaller number of trash bags we were using meant I didn't have to buy them as often and those things are pricey! Sweet!

The downside to our new-found adoration of recycling came when it was actually time to move it all out of our garage and take it to Walmart. Ugh. No fun. As it turns out, we usually got a bit lax in our sorting of the recyclables the longer they sat in the garage, and, the higher the piles got. Eventually, before succumbing to taking the whole mess out to Walmart, the piles sort of melded into each other and re-created the trash heap from Fraggle Rock, which roamed our garage at night.

The Trash Heap was still pretty hip, considering.

It never failed that I would have to re-sort the entire batch of recycling before driving CLEAR THE FREAK ACROSS TOWN. The other problem with recycling at Walmart? Sometimes I would show up and they were closed for some unknown reason or the bins were full. Then, I would have to trudge back home ALL THE WAY THE HELL ACROSS TOWN with some or all of my recycling still in my possession. Grr....

Then, we found out we were having our Baby G. Finding out we were going to have a baby resulted in two diametrically opposed (or so it seemed) philosophies on recycling. The first philosophy was, "Damn, we really have to get this recycling thing right because we're going to have a baby and it's important for her to learn early how to recycle so that it is something that is normal for her. It's important to show her how to help take care of the planet so she'll be a good citizen!" The second philosophy was, "How in the hell am I going to do all of the stuff I can barely get done NOW when I have a baby hanging off of me? Screw recycling. Let the trash people deal with all of this mess."

Eventually, I found a happy medium between good citizenry and laziness. I subscribed to curbside recycling with Deffenbaugh! Now, not only do we just throw nearly all of our recycling in one big bin (yay for not sorting!), we also just wheel that bin out to the curb on Wednesdays and my recycling disappears with barely any effort on my part (we will admit to forgetting to wheel the bin out from time to time, though).

We still have to trudge across town to Walmart for glass and plastic bag recycling, but I'm discovering that will probably happen about once every 9 months or so, which is FAR more acceptable to me. I am very pleased we found a work around that took into consideration our need to help teach our child important life lessons and how these important things don't have to be back-breaking and time-consuming to help the planet.

Our next goal as a family is one we've actually been working on for a while but seem to fail miserably when it comes time to implement it. We really really really want to quit using plastic bags when we do our shopping. We have a ton of reusable bags that either get forgotten in the car when we run in to do our shopping, or, we leave them in the garage at home because the last time we used them we didn't put them back in the car. We need to work this out because using reusable materials is another "good citizen" lesson I want to teach Baby G (which is TOTALLY why most of her clothes come from Goodwill and not because we're poor... Yep, not at all).

One thing I love about motherhood is how much better I become by trying to be a good example to my kiddo. I'm not saying I would be some total schmuck without her, but having her around reminds me that doing the right thing is ALWAYS more important than doing the easy thing because those little eyes are watching our every move.

OMG, cutest little eyes EVAR!