I would hope most of your environmental consciences are as strong as mine and you are instinctively thinking “Of course recycling is good for us!” like when I read CBC’s headline “Earth Hour: making a difference?”.
Earth Hour is about bringing attention to a problem and showing politicians that people care. It’s not supposed to solve global warming by turning off lights for an hour a year. Recycling is not supposed to make society into a waste free one. Recycling is supposed to lessen the impact of those processes which we cannot avoid in order that future generations can continue to live on this planet.
I’m not about to tell anyone to go buy a hemp dress or even live without their iphone for a week. All I want from you is that you stop and think about all the problems we are currently covering with bandaids and then pretending they no longer exist.
Yes recycling helps. Using recycled paper helps. Reusing the other side of misprinted copy paper helps. Reducing the size of diagrams in your notes before printing them so you use fewer sheets of paper helps. But none of that negates the waste produced by the factory making those packs of paper.
I’m starting to sound a bit extremist here so let me just regurgitate the argument that started this train of thought.
You go to your favourite coffee shop on the way to work each morning. Your coffee comes with a fancy little java jacket. You read the bold letters proudly proclaiming you saved 70% more cardboard then if you had asked for a second cup because your coffee was too hot to hold and feel good about yourself.
We’ve all done it. I don’t even drink coffee and I’ve done it. I feel better when I’m in Leo’s Lounge on campus and we have java jackets because otherwise people use two cups. It doesn’t save us any money, we pay just as much for a java jacket as we do for a coffee cup, but it makes our conscience feel better.
So you use a java jacket and save some cardboard, only a little bit but enough that if everyone did it even once or twice it would start to make a difference.
But what if you brought in your own cup? All those thermoses used to keep your coffee warm in the winter, what if one day in the summer you brought in one of those?
You’d be saving the 70% of not using a second cup PLUS the 30% of not using a java jacket PLUS the 100% of not using the first cup!
Recycling IS good, we just need to remind ourselves that the problem hasn’t been solved yet, and that’s something I hope you’ll all take a moment to think about.