The wonderful world of Justice and Mommy aka Mary!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Guilt, Love And Two Little Green Eyes

Today we did a good thing. We put our hearts into recycling; but, let me digress and give you the full story. A few months ago Justice came home from school all a-buzz about recycling, blue bins and yellow bins. Now I have not recycled since I lived in Philadelphia where it was mandatory so I was like “Yea, whatever” as he kept on and on about these bins we had to have.

Every day he came home clamoring about recycling. I became convinced that there was a subservient group of government officials infiltrating his school passing out this labor intensive propaganda. I was a little put off at first, perhaps because deep down there was a growing twinge of embarrassment and guilt snapping at my heart strings. Of course I should be recycling and of course I should want to do it; but, I really didn’t. My life was already so full and so busy as a single mom and part time college student. Did I really have the time to separate the garbage from the recyclables, spend extra time washing said recyclables and drop them into specific bins, only to spend even more time making extra trips to the dumpster area to dispose of everything appropriately? The answer was yes. Yes due to guilt, the love in my heart and two little green eyes staring back at me pleadingly. Yes.

I told Justice to get me the phone number for the recycling people and promised him I would call them and request a blue and yellow bin. The very next day he came home with his agenda and a note from the teacher which included the necessary phone number. That was it. I had to honor my promise. He did his part, now I had to do mine.

I called the number and gave them my address and asked for the bins. Of course it couldn’t be that simple. Lake Park handles it’s own recycling separate from the county. I needed to talk to the more local officials to complete my request. Luckily they called me back the very same day and promised to send a field rep out to asses our location. They needed to see if we had large yellow and blue dumpsters first.

Some time passed and one day a yellow dumpster showed up. It was left in the middle of the property, quite far away from the trash area. I stared at the large yellow eyesore for a few days before another resident or the property manager moved it to the appropriate area. My curiosity had been spiked and one night I decided to check out these recycling containers. As I lifted the lids to each container, I was a bit shocked by what I found. A hodgepodge of garbage nearly congealing with precious recyclables. It was a sad sight to behold.

I did not quite know what to do about what I had seen. The large cans were too big and cumbersome for me to empty into the great metal roll off dumpster and I was pretty sure the town would not pick up mixed containers like this. I decided to keep a watchful eye on the situation for a couple weeks and see what happened. Nothing happened.

Two weeks later, both cans were still filled to the brim with everything they were meant for and everything they were not. It was time to take action. I still didn’t have my small bins to collect the daily plastics, metals and papers and I did not have the room to store them elsewhere, so I was at a standstill.

This week I called the town again. I explained the situation to them and how I thought the neighbors just didn’t know what was supposed to go into the bins. I asked for literature to educate the neighbors and myself, since I was not entirely sure of what could and could not go into each colored bin. They promised to look into the situation and that afternoon I got a call from the driver of the recycling truck. He told me they had not emptied the bins because they had all sorts of unacceptable materials in them. I agreed and asked if they could be emptied so we could start fresh. He agreed to have them emptied, promised to leave small bins for my apartment and literature for the neighbors. It was the perfect solution.

When I came home from work today, there were my bins and literature just as he had promised. The large recycling containers were at the curb waiting to be emptied by the garbage truck the next day. Now it was time for me to do my part. I organized the literature and had a short debriefing session with Justice. I explained how we needed to let our neighbors know what went in each bin so the recycling people would pick them up. I also explained how we would knock on each door and pass the literature out as well as how we would utilize the door hangers for those who were not home. He was excited.

One by one we knocked on our neighbors doors. Some were home and some were not. Many seemed interested in recycling and some looked at us curiously. One woman flat out said she wanted nothing to do with our recycling. It was interesting at the least.

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Justice loved knocking on the doors and begged to be THE ONE who handed the literature to outstretched hands. He felt good about himself and his mother because he knew we were doing a good thing. He knew it was good because of those green propaganda pushing officials at school. It was a good thing.

Yes, it was hot and yes it stole an hour from our day; but, we felt good about what we had done. We were promoting change in our neighborhood. We were trying to make a difference no matter how small or how big. We were trying to recycle.

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Our last mission of the day was to set up a home for our new colored bins. They seemed to occupy an absorbent amount of space in our small galley style kitchen. I looked at the large bins now occupying one quarter of the floor space which were blocking the oven door and for a brief moment I was a bit put off by them. Then, I thought about some of my favorite blogs depicting life in Bundibugyo, Uganda- a place where this is limited electricity, no glass on windows and virtually no running water; then, I smiled. We were lucky to have a kitchen floor, not made of dirt to put our bins on. We were lucky to have a place to live in which our local government not only picks up our garbage, but our recyclable materials as well. We were fortunate. What’s a little lost floor space in relation to fortune?

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posted by Mary Gerber at 7/11/2008

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