Green on the Road

Green on the Road

I’m visiting my mother in a senior living community in western Pennsylvania, and realizing again how easy it is for many of us to live “green” in Austin. I’d like to use this forum to chat about what other parts of the world are doing (well and not-so-well) to be “greener”, how we can learn from them and adopt good practices, and just to share ideas that we’ve picked up in our travels. Let’s not limit it, though… we’ll see what evolves!

I grew up green without realizing it. Long before “recycle, re-purpose, reuse” and all the other current catchy slogans, we simply incorporated systems which today are considered radical and forward-looking. Back then, we called it hand-me-downs, and “don’t throw that out – its still good”. If anyone, usually a family member, could get some use out of anything someone else had outgrown or didn’t need any more, it went to them, not to the dump. We were “freecycling” without realizing it.

My mother has been trying to institute some sort of recycling procedures in her small community for years, and while she isn’t meeting stone walls exactly, it has been very much a challenge.

I think the resistance it falls into several categories. First, of course, is cost. “We just can’t afford the staff/trucks/time… ” Second is what I call the “who-me?” aspect. “Why should I bother with this when it is just a matter of a few plates/napkins/bottles/batteries…”. There’s overall education to be done, and, of course, getting all the different arms of a municipality to work together is always, um, interesting…

Still, she’s making progress slowly. The community has established an “environmental” committee to discuss ideas; committees are always the first step here.

This committee, consisting of community members and representatives from the management, has already instituted a system for managing the piles of used non-rechargeable batteries generated by hearing aids as well as by other technology from TV remotes to solar lights. Their system simply consists of a box in the main hallway where folks can drop their used batteries. Once a month or so a designated volunteer takes the box to the local Batteries+ and drops them off for proper disposal. Easy enough, but someone had to step up and set it up.

They also now recycle newspapers, generating several tons of paper each year. Residents separate their newspapers and bring them to a central dumpster for collection. How easy it is in Austin where everything can go in one big bin to be picked up and dealt with by the city every other week! Oh, my mother sighs, you’re so far ahead of us down there in Austin.

We may look around and think that there’s still too much to be done. Yes, trying to make things better, put more systems in place and keep everyone healthier and happier while cleaning up the mess we’ve made of the earth is a daunting task, but as long as small communities are putting boxes in hallways to collect used batteries, I’m hopeful. Every revolution starts with baby steps…

What have you discovered in your travels or in your homes that works for you? Please share… all of us are curious!

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