Reduce, Reuse, Recycle?

When I was 19, The Earth Day Speical aired. This was a huge deal, back in the dim, dark past, when cable was something only wealthy show-offs had, and children were Dad’s remote control. (“Change it to CBC, would ya?” may perhaps be the nicest thing my father ever said to me.) It had been advertised for weeks, and seemingly every big Hollywood star in existence was in it. (Again: dim, dark past. This was the era when movie stars appearing on television were considered to be slumming it.)

It was no doubt billed as a “television event,” and had what was no doubt billed as a “star-studded cast.” Better Midler played Mother Earth, and Robin Williams was Everyman. I remember watching it with my parents. I don’t recall a lot of specifics from it – just vague memories of Williams’ smarmy characterization, Midler’s face appearing in the sky, and the two of them dropping their characters to speak directly to the audience at the end.

Interestingly, when I searched for clips online, the first one to come up on YouTube featured the only two scenes I remember.

Cheesy as it was, the special had an effect on me. I consider it to be the kick off point of my personal environmental journey. It started the day after the show aired, when my mother and I decided to make reusable shopping bags out of scraps of leftover fabric in her sewing room. Over the 30 years since, from making simple choices like using rags instead of paper towels, to making major investments like installing solar panels on my home, I’ve done my best to consume responsibly. (And yes, I realize that travel is a very environmentally unfriendly activity, and I do a lot of it. That’s one of the things that spurs me to offset as hard as I do.)

But when it comes to The Earth Day Special and life-changes, there’s one thing in particular that stands out. It was the first time I heard the phrase, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” And boy, did I take that one to heart. Especially recycle. I started to recycle like a motherfucker. And when I moved to Nova Scotia, whose recycling program is about a zillion times more comprehensive than Ontario’s, things only got better. So much so that I have my own little recycling centre on my deck.

Seen here, tied down during Hurricane Dorian.

It wasn’t until a couple of years after moving here that I learned any beverage container for which one pays a deposit fee at time of purchase can be turned in at a recycling depot, and half the deposit amount get refunded. For the most part, that means recouping 5ยข apiece. And while I do my best to avoid single-use drinks containers – I buy beer in growlers when available, rarely drink pop, bring water from home in a thermos – they still add up. So I store them in the shed, and a couple of times a year, this happens:

I mean, sure, they’ll sort and count them for you at the recycling depot. But I’m an organizer at heart, and I genuinely look forward to turning the jumbled pile above into this:

And trust me, the recycling depot staff absolutely love you when you hand them a list of what you’ve got.

Especially when you’ve left it a wee mite too long between visits, and you essentially arrive in a clown car.

And the whole process, from deciding it was the day to sort things, to getting back from the depot? Only took 90 minutes. Plus I got $70 for my efforts – some of which went towards opening the first of the cans that will sit nestled in my shed until my next recycling run .

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