Several years ago, my parents made the understandable decision to spend their winters in sunny Florida. I miss them terribly, but I do get a free vacation every February. The first year I visited them, my parents patiently explained their highly complex automated trash system.
“Trash pickup is twice weekly and recycling is mandatory,” they stressed.
“I am a citizen of the earth. I am all over this recycling stuff,” I declared as I tossed my half empty soda bottle in the trash.
My mother gasped in horror and rescued the future fleece blanket from the trash receptacle and carefully rinsed it before placing it in a mammoth-sized basin in the corner of the kitchen.
“That thing is huge!” I exclaimed.
“We have to recycle everything,” my Mom repeated slowly, as if speaking to someone mentally deficient.
Over the next week, I observed as my parents dutifully washed, rinsed, scraped and folded every piece of plastic, paper, metal and cardboard in their home. I was chastised when I thoughtlessly discarded a yogurt container, an envelope or even a Popsicle stick into the trash barrel. On trash pickup day, my parents hauled enormous bins of recyclable goods and one small trash bag to the curb. They woke my daughter up early to see the engineering marvel that was the automatic trash truck with its magical metal arm that emptied the trash all by itself. I endured it all with good humor. After all, I was only there for a week.
Then, Burlington announced its own plans to automate trash pickup. I was apprehensive. Neighbors predicted trash nightmares.
“You’ll never be able to throw a broom away again!” they moaned.
“How can I possibly fit all my trash into one barrel?” they fretted.
“No more parties,” they whined. “They create too much trash.”
Despite dire warnings, I decided that this was my chance to support a greener lifestyle. With my parents’ unsightly recycling bin in mind, I purchased a large attractive basket to hold my papers and cardboard. ”Think of it as an earth-friendly footstool!” I chirped to my husband.
The new trash barrel arrived in early June. It was truly a thing of beauty, bright blue with nary a grease stain or chocolate smear in sight. I carefully educated my small family about their trash duties and responsibilities.
“Saving paper saves trees!” I reminded my daughter.
However, as the week went on, I discovered that my family may not have been as dedicated to our new greener lifestyle as I was. I scanned the kitchen trash for unauthorized articles. I found a paper cup, a half-finished drawing, and an empty box of dog treats. Outrageous! Then, I caught my nine-year-old attempting to throw away a pudding cup.
“How could you?” I demanded. “Don’t you care about the baby seals?”
“It’s all dirty and yucky,” she replied defensively.
“Life is dirty!” I hollered. ”You want to hear the story of your birth? Now, there’s yucky!” I snapped.
I snatched the offending container from her hands and scrubbed it clean before placing it in the proper receptacle. My better half did not fare much better. He was busted recklessly tossing junk mail into the trash with a shocking disregard for endangered polar bears.
Somehow, we managed to make it through the first week. On the appointed day, I hauled my enormous bins of recyclable goods to the curb. I easily wheeled out “Big Blue” as I fondly dubbed the new barrel. After all, it only had two small plastic bags in it. Naturally, I awakened my daughter early so she could observe the engineering marvel that was the automatic trash truck with its magical metal arm that emptied the trash all by itself.
“I am a citizen of the earth,” I crowed. And I am.