Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Stop Recycling!?!?

By Marcie Barnes

I was inspired on Earth Day by this post I found while looking around which contains some great ways to have a greener kitchen. I am constantly trying to think of ways to reduce my "carbon footprint" and would love to help those of you out there reading do the same.
Here is a summary of what 7 Steps to a Greener Kitchen tells us to do:


1. Bring your own bags to the grocery store

2. Wean yourself off plastic and packaging (Rather than relying on plastic cling wrap and re-sealable baggies, store food in reusable, lidded containers)
3. Recycle (more on this below)

4. Greener cleaning (Use the natural power of household items like lemon juice and baking soda wherever possible.)
5. Buy environmentally friendly kitchen gadgets (products made of recycled materials)
6. Make it meatless (Raising livestock has a (far) more significant impact on the environment than cultivating plants and grains)
7. Buy local and organic (amen)

So, I like most of what the post has to say, but, like I said, I've been doing a lot of thinking. When I start from the statement that we are in a "race to imminent extinction", - I then begin to ponder what we can do to slow down this race, and fast. I happen to firmly believe that global warming is very real and most definitely being caused by humans, as is the consensus of most scientists today, and there already have been a host of climate-related problems beginning to crop up that you wouldn't normally think of: health-related ones. Then, I did some research on what contributes the most to global warming, and the answer often was meat production (more here) and, well, largely the United States and all it's industrial activity in general. When you look at the figures from a per capita standpoint, the USA really is, well, the butthead of the environmental concerns globally. No wonder a lot of other cultures don't like us so much...

So, it got me thinking - when we recycle, there's usually a big truck that comes to pick up the recyclables, then it's probably sorted and trucked somewhere else, and taken to a recycling plant that uses a lot of water and emits more carbon dioxide into the air. Hm, something seems a little off here…it's been hard to find much data on this "theory" - but I have found plenty of other people (see this for an example) who seem to have the same concerns I do, and it appears that the only thing that should be recycled is metal, possibly also glass. Turns out plastic recycling in particular is complicated, and what you may think you are recycling may end up in the landfill anyway (!).

It seems to me that landfill space is a lot more prevalent than potable water, you can read here about countries that are starting to have major water concerns due to overpopulation. I am starting to think it's better to concentrate on the "reduce and reuse" part of the mantra, and recycle when it makes more sense.

So, thanks to startcooking.com for the great post, all of the items were wonderful tips for being more green in the kitchen and beyond, I'm just not so sure about #3 anymore…I say the mantra should be changed to "Reduce, reuse and recycle metal (maybe glass too)" :)

I think I am going to have a lot less guilt about throwing things in the trash from now on. Unless it's meat. We should be eating as little meat as possible and when we do eat it it should be local, grass-fed and cruelty-free (the way our "old school" farms used to do it). And it just doesn't seem right to throw away up to half of the food we produce - especially when it comes from an animal.

Hm, you know, the dinosaurs were kind enough to leave behind all that fossil fuel for us to use, perhaps we are just contributing (via our landfills) to a future energy source for a future generation to use to power their spaceships…space may very well be the "new frontier" when the Earth becomes uninhabitable. Maybe that sounds crazy. For now, let's try to not to have such a "disposable" disposition.


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Judy said...

I agree with you that the first two "R's" are the more important ones.

We do pretty well at most of this list. I recently bought reusable bags, and *mostly* remember to take them in and use them, we reuse a lot of our packaging (instead of buying plastic baggies, we reuse the ones our tortillas come in, for example), I try to use natural cleaning products (but my husband likes his chemicals), we only cook meat at home a couple times a month. I don't know about #5, but we do buy well-made, high quality kitchen gadgets that we don't have to replace often. I'd love to buy local and organic, but I can't find many places here, and if I'm having to drive a long way for something, doesn't it defeat the purpose?

These are great reminders, and I'm trying to see what else I can do. I just saw a home yogurt maker, and I'm trying to determine if I would come out ahead on money and packaging if I were to do it that way. We've also started our own small garden to raise some veggies ourselves.

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it was gutsy :) and I HEART the tellitlikeitis gusty.


Mike Hicks said...

I read a magazine article that said stated that the act of recycling has the same effect carbon-wise as not driving your car for one day out of the week - in other words a substantial impact. From reading your blog, it sounds like you think global warming is due to automobiles only, when only about 25% of America's greenhouse gases are due to cars. About HALF of the greenhouse gases are generated by powering the electrical grid (your house -including your computer), a far more significant source. The only good thing about this is that its easier to turn off the lights/computer/TV than it is to change the length of your commute to work.
The point it - please recycle, and promote recycling in your community. And turn off the lights.