29 December 2010

Recycling Can Make You a Star

If you remember the last time I worked on the garage attic, I stopped short of filling up the recycling bin with cardboard so there would be space for all of the recyclables I knew we would generate over the two weeks between pickups (including Christmas and all of the boxes, paper, etc. that comes along with it).

Boy did I miscalculate.

By Christmas Eve, the bin was already overflowing, and we still had almost a week until pickup day. As of Saturday, wrapping paper littered the floor by the tree, empty wine glasses lined the kitchen counters in a display of our holiday debauchery (there wasn't much debauchery, really), and boxes were everywhere. The situation got so dire that I even asked a neighbor if we could borrow space in their recycling bin...but after their own Christmas celebration, theirs was already full, too.

And then we remembered that we have an extra recycling bin from the old house that was stashed in the trees at the back of the lot last year before the house was torn down. We hauled it up to the garage, set it next to the other bin, and promptly filled it up, too:

That's 180 gallons of recycling. It's sad to think about the days before recycling...or the people who still haven't gotten on board.

I was unsure whether wrapping paper is recyclable, so I googled it and found that it depends on the area because some recycling facilities can't handle the smaller fibers and/or the metallic parts of wrapping paper. Fortunately, though, when I looked it up on Austin's solid waste services website, I learned that it's no problem to recycle wrapping paper here.

While I was on the city's website, I also found information about a waste-reduction challenge that the city is sponsoring over the next couple of months. Dare to Go Zero is going to take the form of a reality TV show, broadcast locally on the government access channel and online, designed to encourage recycling, composting, etc. It's kind of like The Biggest Loser for garbage -- each participating household "weights in" their garbage at the beginning of the challenge, and the winner is the one with the biggest "waste loss" by the end of the show. Since I'm all about green living and love a challenge (remember our gym's 20-day challenge and the Holidailies 30-day challenge?), I submitted an application. Of course, the format makes it impossible for us to win, as we already reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost, although I'm sure there's still lots we could learn if we were selected to participate. I suspect we won't be chosen -- the website stresses that you don't need recycling experience, which I think means that they want people who don't have any, and our white-bread DINK status hardly fits the diversity of living arrangements they're trying to cast. I think they're really looking for participants with pretty wasteful lifestyles to convert through the show. They have little to gain by encouraging us to be more efficient with our waste. I did point out in my application, though, that selecting us to participate might offer opportunities to highlight other kinds of green living measures (rainwater collection, etc.) that would benefit viewers and the city alike. We'll see what happens in the next few weeks, but we're not holding our breath.

(Austin folks: if you're interested, the deadline to apply for Dare to Go Zero is Friday.)

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