Rethinking Recycling

By Deb Wilcoxson, East Grand Rapids Branch 

During the years I lived in Indiana, we made countless trips north on US-131 when visiting family in Grand Rapids. I vividly recall the horror of watching - from the car window - the once scenic farmer’s field at the southern edge of Kent County become an unsightly landfill. 30 years later, it resembles a ski mountain with vent pipes covering tons of toxic waste.

This motivated me all those years ago to begin recycling – a habit I have continued and promoted through the years. But lately, I’ve begun to realize that while recycling is good, REDUCING our CONSUMPTION, and, as a result, our waste is NECESSARY. There simply isn’t a market for all the recyclables collected in the United States.

My baby steps at reducing waste have gotten a bit stronger. I began by always keeping reusable shopping bags with me, and have moved on to using bar shampoo, conditioner, body and dish soap. I love laundry detergent strips and cloth hankies. I try to purchase bulk groceries in my own containers and unwrapped produce when possible. (I admit: there are many times that the convenience of that pre-washed salad in a plastic bag is too tempting to pass up. It’s OK!)

I belong to my neighborhood’s “zero waste” Facebook group (search on Facebook for "Buy Nothing, opens a new window" and your neighborhood to find yours), where we borrow and gift needed items. I’m working to make gift-giving less about stuff and more about making memories. And, of course, borrowing materials from my KDL instead of buying them contributes to achieving my less consumption/less waste goal!

We can all learn from each other. How are YOU trying to reduce consumption and waste? Please share your ideas. I can’t wait to see them!