Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hey, we recycle here, too, you know!

I still remember the horror expressed by an Oregon friend who stayed with me for a few days in Colorado, years ago, on realizing that not everyone there recycled. Oh, a lot of people do, but many seem to feel no shame in seeing what they discard heading for the landfill even when other options are available. As I've written before, folks in Eugene tend to recycle avidly, have banned plastic grocery bags, have a cash-back program on beverage containers, and even recycle fallen leaves on a city-wide basis. Many also compost.

So, before coming to Columbia, I did some research. Was rather relieved to find the city had a growing recycling program. Unfortunately, though, the apartment complex in which we live had cancelled their contract shortly before we moved in (on the grounds that the service they had at that point was so limited, it wasn't worth the cost). Everything went in the big trash compactor around the corner. All those bottles and cans, boxes and paper: off to the dump they go!

Much to our delight, recycling returns to Pineview next week. The new service still doesn't take everything and some cleaning and sorting is required, but it's sounds pretty good, and we're working with a company that has a great story.  (I always like that!)

It was more than eight years ago now that Tomato Palms founder Nancy Ogburn read a newspaper story about a previously homeless man who earned enough money collecting and recycling cans to pay the rent on a small apartment. Hmm. She started collecting cans and recycling them, donating the proceeds to a homeless shelter and taking satisfaction not only in helping, in this way, but also in diverting recyclable materials from the landfill.

Over time people began asking her if she could take other kinds of recyclables. A small business was born, built up by Ogburn and her husband, and added a few part-time employees along the way. Now they're growing throughout the region.

The company make the case that often, if a customer really recycles, what they save on garbage hauling and container fees will more than cover the cost of a recycling service. In 2014, Ogburn was named South Carolina Small Business Person of the Year, and the business has won quite a few other awards. Way to go, Tomato Palms.

I did laugh when I asked the manager of our apartment complex to clarify some of the particulars of the new recycling program. She told me that unlike each house having small plastic bins, we'll be given re-usable plastic bags to fill and empty into a "large" container the size of a wheeled trash bin and kept by the complex's trash compactor. I do hope there's more than one! I bit my tongue before telling her that a typical family in Eugene would generally fill such a vessel every two weeks.

We shall see how much Pineview recycles!

There may be a long way to go, of course. See Trash scorecard: Georgia, South Carolina among 'dirtiest' states (Savannah Morning News, 2014).

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas

This is the first year I haven't blogged about the holidays, particularly that one everyone loves to love but sometimes hates. Yes, Christmas!

I don't think it's too late for a Christmas post. After all, Epiphany is not until tomorrow, right?

Just yesterday we got a big Christmas box in the mail! It was sent by loving relatives some three weeks ago. No, they don't live in another country, just the other side of this one.

Guess their goods don't rank the same speedy delivery that brings us, straight from Seattle in just a few days, anything we order from the mega-purveyer of Christmas (and other) material bliss,

On the other hand, the family sent us home-preserved goods from their farm, chock full of goodness that would be hard to find on Amazon. Well worth the wait!

As I made my Christmas lists and tried to set my holiday expectations somewhere between "merry and bright" and "It's just another day, right?" I realized that this year, I didn't really want anything for Christmas.

Actually, what I really wanted were things I left back in the Northwest. Like the lace ornaments tucked away for safe keeping in my in-laws' attic in Oregon, and the treasured set of Madeleine L'Engle books trusted to Mom in Washington. Neither quite rated space in the car when we came to the South, but I miss them now.

Guess the holidays are bound to bring out my materialism one way or another, eh? Time to celebrate the poetry of limits, the beauty of simplicity, and the power of gratitude! After all, why do we let others convince us we need more stuff? Remember the Wired Magazine article, The Five Best Toys of All Time ("Stick," "Box," "String," "Cardboard Tube," and "Dirt")? 

The up side of being away from family this year was how much simpler it made certain things. No hundreds of miles on the road trying to catch everyone between Christmas and New Year's. Just a half dozen long phone calls to family members and an extra effort to get the Christmas cards out, knowing we're not going to run into those old friends but have to be intentional if we want to keep the relationships alive.

There was still the perennial stress of Christmas shopping, never my favorite. But did I mention We did all our shopping online. Even so, not easy. Marriage brought together Chris's slate of "close" relatives (two kids, two parents, a sibling) and mine (four parents and a sibling), plus one another, for a total of twelve. Still fewer relatives than many have to budget, plan, and shop for, I suppose, but a number daunting enough to make the kind of thoughtfulness and generosity I really want to show at Christmas time rather challenging. Half of them out-do us, usually by a very humbling margin, every single year. I hope I'm the only one keeping score. Maybe next year we'll be able to give more. Or maybe next year I won't mind so much that we're always receiving more than we can give.

Maybe that's appropriate, anyway, on a holiday meant to celebrate the incomparable gift of the Incarnation. The bad news is the good news: you can't measure up, you can't do enough to deserve the good things that come your way. Pride be damned. Ultimately, I suppose it will be.