Sunday, April 26, 2020

Recycling and The Environment

Earth day was last week so I've decided to share some thoughts about the environment. I am concerned about the environment but I don't consider myself to be a stereotypical environmentalist. I'm not a fan of  the whole climate change agenda. I acknowledge that the climate is always changing but I think we attribute too much to our ability to control it. I am also turned off by those who are overly political about the environment, especially when there is so much hypocrisy from the very same politicians and celebrities preaching that we need to reduce our carbon footprint.

That being said, I believe we need to be good stewards of our environment. I hate driving behind vehicles that are billowing out smoke from their exhaust or seeing trash on hiking trails or anywhere else for that matter. I like clean air and water as much as anyone else and would prefer to live in a healthy, clean, and beautiful environment. I try to take the simplified mentality of just being responsible enough to clean up after ourselves.

Recycling seems like one common sense approach to the problem. I have always paid a little extra in order to have a separate recycle dumpster. A couple years ago a friend told me he was taking a load of garbage to the dump. While he was unloading it he noticed a recycling garbage truck drive into the same bay and unload plastic, paper, and cardboard into the same landfill with all the other garbage. He said that was the last day he made any attempt to recycle. I hope that was just a fluke incident but it made me wonder how effective some recycling efforts really are once they drive away with your trash.

Some of the countries with the best reputations for recycling include Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Iceland, and South Korea. The United States needs to do much better when it comes to recycling. Side note- The U. S. takes a lot of blame on the world stage when it comes to pollution (especially emissions) but China, India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Russia, Nigeria, and many others are also prolific polluters but for some reason they don't seem to be held accountable by the world for their negligence.

Since I moved to Ghana I have been much more aware and concerned about the environment. The reason for this is because back in the states trash is usually out of sight and out of mind but sanitation services here are limited so many people just make a pile of garbage on their property and light it on fire every so often. Public littering is also very common here. I regularly see adults throw empty containers and bags on the ground while out in public.There are plastic bags, bottles, and packages everywhere. As we've been gardening and landscaping recently, I've been shocked at how much buried garbage we have unearthed in our yard from the prior residents.

A roadside trash pile I encountered in Kenya last month

I have also become more aware of how much unnecessary packaging there is whenever you buy something. This is obvious whenever you buy an appliance or something packed in styrofoam and big boxes, but it's also a problem with smaller purchases too. Whenever I buy a small ice cream treat from a street vendor, they always insist on putting it in a clear plastic bag and then within another little black plastic bag. These are the same bags you see blowing all over the streets and piled up in gutters. I have started the habit of taking my own bags when I buy certain things, especially fruit. I actually prefer using my own bags because unlike the plastic ones, they are strong enough to hold several pineapples or even a watermelon and I can wash them when they get dirty.

In an effort to cut down our trash disposal costs and to keep our dumpster from filling up so quickly I started composting yard waste, organic debris, and food scraps. We then use the composted soil when it's had time to decompose into nice gardening dirt. I know these are just small efforts but I hate contributing to excess trash that has to end up somewhere.

I know the environment can be a volatile subject with many people due to the extremes on each side of the spectrum. Some minimize ore even turn a blind eye to it while others become militant about wanting to outlaw straws. I'm sure there is some common sense middle ground that most people would agree on. Regardless of our political affiliations or your beliefs on the subject, we can all do a better job of cleaning up after ourselves.