Sunday, August 10, 2008

We Hate the Environment Here?

A few years ago for Christmas, Matt and I decided to spend the holiday with my sister in Arizona for the first time since she moved there. Seeing her at the holidays is always nice but doing so in the place she calls home was especially wonderful. All week long, even as the calendar rolled over to January, we commented how odd the weather was, noting the fact that it hit about eighty five on Christmas day. That was particularly strange since generally they are in the sixties. As a lover of all things warm I thought it was great to sit out on the front balcony and get a tan while everyone back home bundled up in winter gear, but at the same time I knew there had to be a reason for the phenomenon.

One evening out at the house of a friend we were all drinking beers and having a great time. I went to bring some empty bottles into the kitchen and aimlessly looked around for the recycling bin. When I did not find one immediately visible I poked my head back in the living room and asked if it was in the garage. My sister looked down at the ground, sighed and said:

Yeah, we hate the environment here. There is no recycling pick up so just throw them away.”

Just throw them away. With a very heavy conscience I had no choice but to do just that.

To those of us who come from an area where recycling can be a regular part of our daily routine, it might seem strange that a city the size of Tucson would not have a pick up. Sadly not having one is more common than having one in many areas of our nation. It got me thinking about how fortunate we are in Boston, and my town in particular, that we have a separate pick up for all recyclables. Just put the blue bin out at the curb every other week and the work is done; easy. Why then do I hear things like:

No I never recycle the cans because the cats get at them in the bins and then I forget to bring the bin out so it is easier to just throw them away.”

Just throw them away. We display blatant disregard for the planet by deliberately ignoring one of the most simple and available solutions to help it by adding to the landfills.

Then we complain about the weather. We marvel over the fact that we have already had two inches of rain in August and it is only one week into the month. We sound shocked as we discuss that in the north east we have already had over double the usual number of thunderstorms in an entire season and the season is only two thirds over. The words “climate change” come flying out of my mouth and we all nod but what are we really doing to help prevent it?

Companies that many of us would have never thought of as being environmentally conscious are starting to see that jumping on this trend is not such a bad idea. Hopefully as more of them move in that direction the trend will turn into the norm. Yes that does mean we all have to keep an extra special eye out for imposters who are just trying to make a quick buck on a product that is not environmentally conscious at all but there are some instances where the positive impact is indisputable.

For example, this morning I read about Ikea beginning manufacture of solar panels and other cleantech products. They plan to work with a limited number of cleantech startups in order to keep costs low and hope to begin distribution of the subsequent technologies into their stores by 2011. Not bad considering there are 283 stores spanning thirty nations worldwide (Nineteen US states have one or more locations and by 2009 they will add the twentieth state to the store locator list). Could Ikea be blazing a path toward a new and even better trend such as the potential to purchase an eco-friendly house and all the green solutions needed to furnish, light and accessorize it in a one stop shopping experience? Do not laugh, they are already providing pre-fab, low cost housing in Sweden and expanding their reach with this product to the United Kingdom. It is just a matter of time before the Boklok reaches the United States and we can surround our assemble-it-yourself furniture with a home of the same persuasion.

I own Ikea furniture, lots of it in fact. My mattress & bed frame, sewing cart, sofa and living room chair, bedroom bureaus and two bookshelves are all from this big box retailer. At the time I purchased all of this (about four years ago), admittedly, the reasons were not so much how environmentally friendly they were but rather the fact that they were right down the street in Long Island and I could acquire modern style furnishings for our tiny apartment and do it on a tight budget. Despite what people might think their furniture is not “disposable”. Just like anything in this world it will last as long as it is properly taken care of. Kind of like the world itself.

Arizona has an Ikea in Tempe. Perhaps once these eco-friendly solutions are distributed world wide Tucson can take advantage of their hot and constant sun and pick up truckloads of the panels to install in as many locations as possible in an effort to harness their resources instead of simply throwing things away.


Bridgete said...

I'm so glad that when I moved I ended up in another green city like Boston. Portland is still greener (it's hard to top all those ex-hippies) but at least I can still recycle and I don't have to drive everywhere. I think I would have died if I had moved to a city where they "hate the environment."

Chris Stone said...

Great post! It is depressing sometimes. I think good cost effective leadership is needed. i.e. a reasonable tax put on products that are recyclable to help fund recycling programs and then requesting all towns over a certain population to have recycling programs. And make toxic lawn care products illegal while giving people an alternative...

just a couple of off the cuff ideas... but relying on people's conscious... I'm not to hopeful there! and waiting until everything gets so expensive that people are doing it for the money... that would mean a lot of very poor people!

But hang in there! I figure you do what you can and say what you think. And maybe enough good sense will prevail in time. The Ikea solar panels sound exciting! I also think cars will change in the near future. Some of those little cars are irresistible.

erinberry said...

Great post - I need to be more conscientious about never throwing away recyclables.

T.Allen-Mercado said...

I'm in AZ, Goodyear actually and we're pretty eco friendly atleast the city of goodyear has a recycling program, an irrigation project and a few electronics recycling drop off centers. You'd also be happy to know that the Tempe Ikea charges for bags as a deterrent, glad I brought my giant reuseable Jo-Ann bag when we visited last week to shop for textiles.

Sahara said...

What a wonderful post, Chucka! We're not very green in our part of the country, I wished we were. I think the key is having the recyclables picked up. People are lazy, and if they have to drive their recyclables somewhere to drop them off, then it's not so doable.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Bridgete I agree, it was hard to see that happen somewhere but it was my ignorance thinking everyone just did the same thing as Boston. They are working on it!

Chris Let's go the other non-recyclables and then people might start to wake up to a new way of thinking! I want a Smart Car :)

erin thanks for stopping by, keep your eye on those bottles & cans!

t.allen yea that is great, it is good to hear when any city/town is making strides. That irrigation program sounds cool, will look into that. Reading all those articles about Ikea it surprised me just how eco friendly they actually are!

sandra yeah I feel the same thing is true. That is how Boston used to be with bottles & cans. I was the only one of all my friends who would bag everything up & drive the couple miles to drop them off. They did bottle deposit return too so I just kept all the money as my "runner" fee.

Sahara said...

Come see what I posted about today. :)

Suldog said...

I'm not a big environmentalist, but Boston (and Watertown, the next-door-neighbor where I live) sure do make it easy to feel at least a bit good about my paltry efforts. All I have to do is throw bottles, cans, jugs, whatever into a bucket and put it all curbside every other week. Not so hard.

jen x said...

I get really spoiled here, too. My building uses a commercial recycling service so we can recycle plastics 1-7, along with all kinds of paper, and the usual glass and metal. The electric co. has a "green power" option, there's excellent public transit -- we haven't even needed a car since the local Community Car keeps a Prius down the block. I forget the rest of the country isn't as lucky!

Chris Stone said...

chucka stone designs said...
Chris Let's go the other non-recyclables and then people might start to wake up to a new way of thinking! I want a Smart Car :)

yep. totally agree about the recycling and those cars are soooo cute!

High Desert Diva said...

I simply do not understand this. People/City/State/Federal governments can be soooo lazy. Why?

Rosebud Collection said...

You are so right..I do think sometimes it is hard for people to change their ways..We have become such a throw away country, it is sad.
I always say, "the smarter we become, the dumber we are"..I don't mean that in a nasty way, but we are losing what is important in our advancement.

David Sullivan said...

I tagged you at my spot!

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Jim I think its great to see that even though you aren't "into it" you still do it. that is what I wish everyone would do because even that little bit helps!

jen x wow, that is fantastic! Thanks for stopping by :)

I know what you mean Charmaine. That creates the pack mentality of follow the leader so we have to break away & just do what needs to be done without the assistance of the gov sometimes!

Rose you make excellent points, I could not agree more and don't see that as a nasty comment at all. Sometimes it is important to actually see ourselves and you hit it spot on. A disposable society indeed of everything to our floor cleaning pads to spouses. "Oh, I can just get a new one" is like the country's motto and then we wonder why the ozone is failing. Every time we get a new one it has to be manufactured somewhere. That also involves a whole slew of other processes that I won't get into just yet, will save that for another blog :)

David I am working like a mad dog & have barely had a second to read blogs but I'll check it out now :)

Julie said...

For as backwards and behind as "The South" and general can be sometimes, I am truly proud of the Charlotte area. We have city pickup that collects just about EVERYTHING: plastics 1-7, junkmail, plastic grocery bags, chipboard... It's fantastic. What is disappointing, though, is how many of my neighbors still don't take advantage of it! I mean, I'll see people put out their recycling bin with a few things in it, sure, but their trash cans are still overflowing. To me, this says one of 2 things: (1) these people are still throwing away a lot of recyclables, and/or (2) they are purchasing an overabundance of convenience items with non-recyclable packaging. Juice boxes, plastic wrap, styrofoam, etc. can add up.

The only recyclable I know of that our city doesn't pick up is corrugated cardboard, which we can take to any of our fire stations.

One thing I need to get better about is composting. Any suggestions on where to start?

PS - because I don't know if/when I'll get to comment on the other posts, I wanted to applaud your recent green artist interviews! I think I'm going to have to get a Dinner Time Windchime... I mean, they're in my back yard essentially, and I wouldn't know about them if not for your article. :)

Judi FitzPatrick said...

Sadly, 4 years later, there is still no pick up of recycling at your sister's apartment complex. Not sure about the rest of Tucson.
I suggest that people who live in areas such as this contact their local government agencies or at the very least the garbage pick-up companies and make their feelings known about how this is affecting our planet. Of course, that assumes there are enough people living in these areas complaining so that the gov. or garbage people would listen.
Meanwhile, I will continue to do my part and promote the positive ideas whenever possible.
I hope Ikea will come up with something simple like a window mounted solar panel that could run a lamp or TV even for a few hours. Every dent will help.
Peace and hugs, Mum

Judi FitzPatrick said...

artjewel - just noticed your composting question. Something as simple as piling up your lawn clippings, raked leaves, and kitchen (vegetable) waste in a corner of your yard is one way to start.

Or, if you have a veggie garden - you can dig holes between the plants and place above items in those holes (not too close to the plants, don't want to disturb the roots.) Cover with the dirt. By next spring you'll have compost already under ground helping next year's garden.

Hope this helps! Peace, Judi

ginger said...

i'm late to the party, but must make a comment.

i'm sorry that you had to be exposed to the harsh reality of people that don't give a damn because the impact hasn't hit them personally enough to care. i don't have a recycling pick up either because much of denver is still in the infant stages of going green, but damnit, i pile my recyclables up and take them to a public recycling bin at my local grocery store.

there's no excuse for not caring enough to do the right thing.

that's good info about ikea, just so you know....the next time you buy beer, unless there's a local green brewery in your area, try the new belgium brewery (they make fat tire and other tasty beers). they're in ft collins, colorado and are a self sustaining company. they have wind power and solar energy and the 10% that doesn't come from that comes from the waste they create from the brewing process. they capture it and turn it into energy. check them out:

ginger said...

i just went back and read my comment and it sounds much more harsh than i meant it....oops. sorry if i hurt any feelings.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

No hurt feelings at all Ginger, I completely agree with everything you said. When we lived at the beach cottage there was no recycling either and we did the same as you by saving, packing it up & bringing it to a recycling center. There is no excuse!

Hey I will definitely try that beer! I'll see if they sell it locally too, thanks for the suggestion :) Maybe I could even interview them for Organic Mechanic on their awesome efforts!