Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

If I were to make secret confessions, one would be that I really like cokes. That is, sodas, soft drinks, in the South all are known as cokes and the question is, “What kind of coke do you want?” Drinks often come in cans. Recyclable cans.

But I don’t recycle. Environmentally irresponsible of me? Well, let’s take a look at what else we recycle.

We cleaned out the flues yesterday. We heat entirely with wood. Waste wood. Wood that is going to do nothing but rot if we don’t use it – which by the way produces the same waste products environmentally, just a bit more slowly. Fire, rust, rot. We cut it with hand tools. We use the ashes on the garden to increase fertility.

We have a mountain of sawdust that was waste from a local one-man sawmill, and this mountain has increased the fertility of our gardens no end. We also use grass clippings, and while these do involve cutting with fossil fuels, somebody is going to mow those yards anyway, and if anyone but us does it, the clippings are waste instead of mulch. We use some manure from off the farm, another waste product recycled into yet more fertility and while we use the truck to bring it in, we only get it when we are going by the stables for other reasons. Multi-tasking.

In ways our entire house is recycled. The wood (inside and out) is local wood, bought from a local logger, taken to the local sawyer (less than 2 miles up the road), cut (with the sawdust coming to us) into boards, and brought to us. The windows were salvaged from a Ramada Inn in Georgia that was being remodeled. A great deal of the masonry is rock from our creek.

Even our bridge timbers were salvaged when DOT was replacing a bridge.

I personally would even count our old bottom feeder cars as recycled as it takes way more energy to produce a new car than said new car ever saves in petroleum.

How about all the used clothes? Vintage! The feed scoops, water cans, other plastic containers used until they fall apart. The egg cartons. Even the grocery bags have at least two lives and often more.

Somehow I don’t feel irresponsible about the aluminum. Although I may start saving it for Holly Help. There’s always room for improvement.

I used to know someone who is now “coordinating” an anti-logging rally on my home mountain. The mountain I grew up on, I partied on, I found peace on, the mountain that held me safe for years until this mountain could take over. Ah, but when this imported person needed to put a floor in her kitchen, she used GP lumber even though she owns 50 acres of forest. They drive to town many times each week (and live as far out as we do). She farmed her children out at an early age.

And this is the truth: People who want less energy used in the world have to USE LESS ENERGY THEMSELVES; those who want less logging have to use the alternatives. And until they do, they have no credibility. Especially if they are making money off advocating what they are not doing.

We can, if we choose, live in more sustainable ways and yes actually live in A sustainable way. It can be real. But it isn’t progress “To make public protests against an evil, and yet live dependent on and in support of the way of life that is the source of the evil, is an obvious contradiction and a dangerous one,” (as Wendell Berry put it).

And that’s what I see, the hands steady doing what the mouth is preaching against with the belly full and comfortable because of it.

I do have a guiding star: real endeavors create something of value that didn’t exist before, and real endeavors have a REAL risk of failure. One's belly may and may very well not be full at the end of it.

1 comment:

H. Stallard said...

I grew up playing in the creek that ran under that old bridge. Many happy hours were spent on and under the same. I was a little sad to see it go but when I found where it went it was like meeting an old friend. I can’t drive over it without recycling a lot of happy times.

H. Stallard