Mini Rant on the Three R’s

11 May


Out of 350 students, our little Ainsley was chosen to represent LeClaire Elementary Thursday morning at the 16th Annual Earth Flag Celebration Assembly held at SIUE.

Previously, we received a letter from her principal declaring Ainsley a great recycler at school. We recycle at home of course, but we’re not tyrannical or fanatical about it. I decided it had more to do with her all-around awesomeness that deemed her worthy of this honor and not only her ability to sort trash.

Anyway, we were proud.

After enjoying an excellent brunch buffet they began handing out awards for recycling and waste reduction among 60 Madison County schools. On the surface, it’s a worthwhile event. We had fun, ate well, and Ainsley was able to skip half a school day without being sick or without a foot of snow on the ground. But, really, the best way to celebrate environmentalism is to NOT hold an event that includes harming the environment.

We did use real utensils and plates, but the organizers fell short on drink cups–everything was plastic, possibly recyclable, but still. Real mugs would have been much better. And of course, hundreds of cars had to drive and pollute to get to the event, but what are you gonna do?

Here’s an example of an award. The school that collected the most tab tops from soda and beer cans (measured in pounds) won an award. And it was some outrageous number that I don’t remember. By the way, here’s a crazy stat:

“Worldwide production for all beverage cans is approximately 475 billion cans per year worldwide.”

And it was kind of hinted at that schools need to work harder next year to collect even more tab tops. But that left me thinking about the underlying problem that went unmentioned all morning: We need people to reduce their soda, beer and other canned, bottled beverage consumption. It’s like they would be fine with people consuming more unhealthful beverages just to collect more aluminum for recycling. Same goes for plastic bags, six-pack rings, clothes, shoes–everything!

I wanted to grab the microphone and say something like:

Good job Madison County, but next year I want to see much lower numbers. I want kids to be crying because they’re having a hard time finding tabs. Everyone in this room, I want you to spread this message: REDUCE CONSUMPTION. Remember, it’s REDUCE, Reuse, Recycle. REDUCE is the most important of the three R’s.

Anyway, each award offered the opportunity to remind people to consume less, and each time: fail! The wasteful attitude in this country is so ingrained that it just goes without saying. People don’t even think to challenge it. We count the number of shoes collected for this program and celebrate without questioning how so many pair of shoes were collected. Why not mention that we all probably buy more shoes than we need.



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