Recycling is so sexy. All the cool kids do it. And we feel good about doing it.
But the other day, when Taylor dropped off a bunch of stuff at the recycling center, the man running the place told him to “re-use first, and then recycle.” I was borderline-indignant. I thought, “Fool, don’t tell me how to use my stuff! Just be glad I’m recycling!”
I remember learning about recycling in elementary school; they taught us the “Three Rs” – reduce, reuse, and recycle.
But I really think that only one of those “R”s is actually practiced with any intentionality in our society at large. Reducing and reusing? – not so sexy.
It’s because our economy is built around consumption, and we think that the more we consume, the stronger our economy becomes. This is a deeply flawed way to think.
In bygone days, our ancestors practiced the other “R”s. Parents told their children (and themselves) “No, we can’t afford that.” And there were no credit cards to make them pretend they could afford it. People re-used things (like dishes, and aluminum foil). These limits on consumption were not generally voluntary – people simply just didn’t have the money to spend the way we do today. Anyways, that kind of thinking is a rare find in our age.
I’m getting to my point.
My point: Some of us think that the things we buy have ethical implications. Cool. But we are sometimes guilty of assuaging a little piece of our recently-honed consumer-conscience, so that we can still buy the crap we want to buy.
For example. Sometimes I buy organic bananas. The “organic” label makes me feel like I’m voting with my purchase – voting against pesticides and for the natural way of things. But lately I’ve been wondering – should I even buy bananas? I mean, why am I not okay with pesticides, but I am okay with my food being grown thousands of miles away and shipped via fossil fuels to my local grocery store? Did I just create an arbitrary standard (“No Pesticides”), and if so, is it worth much of anything?
But I like bananas a lot. And I like recycling. But I don’t really want to have to think about reusing. And reducing seems nice if you’re on a tight budget, but I wonder if I’d stick with that philosophy on a six-figure salary? So I don’t really have a prescription here. I’m just acknowledging that we have a long way to go in digging ourselves out of the hole we’ve dug ourselves into, economically and agriculturally and culturally and spiritually and philosophically. Let’s not drop our shovels.