Getting Green: Part One

The National Recycling Coalition says the average American throws away seven and a half pounds of trash every day. It is possible to keep a good portion of that trash out of the landfill – if you recycle.

Around Berrien County, Al Whitfield is well known for his recycling efforts. He says, “I’ve always been one of those environmental nuts as people have said down through the years.”

Nearly every bottle, every newspaper, and every plastic bag is recycled. Al estimates he recycles 80% to 90% of his household garbage, and what does not get sent off for recycling is reused.

Things like zip-lock bags are targeted for multiple uses to help cut down on trash. Al says he will “use the bags literally until they start leaking. My wife, she’ll get behind me sometimes and she’ll get rid of them.”

As a teacher at Buchanan High School, this recycling enthusiast motivates students and staff to save their paper. Whitfield claims that the school has collected as much as two and a half tons of paper in one year. He says, “we’re trying to make a difference. We’re trying to show youngsters that everyone can ‘pitch in.’”

Jill Adams is Berrien County's environmental specialist. She wishes people would be a lot more like Al, but admits for some it is not that easy.

Adams says, “It’s kind of disheartening depending on where you live. For some it's a little bit harder to recycle. Not every place has curbside recycling. Some places have only drop off recycling, but once someone sets their mind to recycling there are easy ways to recycle.”

If you have never recycled, it is simple to get started:

Contact your local waste management agency to find out what kind of recycling program is available in your community.

Start small. Try keeping just one item out of your trash, like newspapers or milk jugs.

Get the kids involved. For example, teach them how to pack a "no-waste lunch.” Make it a challenge for the children to pack the lunch so that there is no waste going into the trash. The trick is to use reusable containers. If there’s a can or a bottle, find a recycling drop off site. You can compost banana peels or apple cores.

As your family learns how to recycle, Al says you can make it a habit, just like exercise. He says, “it's not that difficult. Once you get a pattern established you just realize that rather than throwing it into the wastebasket. Out of sight out of mind. You just simply go ahead and take that extra step and realize you're helping to preserve the earth not only for our youngsters coming along but also for ourselves also.”

One final suggestion: fabric, re-usable grocery bags. One of these bags has the carrying capacity of three to four plastic bags. You can ask your grocery store or your local recycling center about where you can get one.

In part two of “Getting Green,” Tricia Sloma takes us to a local recycling center to look at where your recycled items go.

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