Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Feeling Green

Went to the dump today, and please bear with me while I show off a bit.

In these rural parts, there is no municipal trash collection.  There is a private company that picks up trash, but it's very expensive, so most everybody goes to the dump.

Going to the dump is a big deal, which is why we don't do it often.  The nearest dump is over the line in New York.  The New York recycling handbook, which tells you how to classify your household waste,  is six pages long.

There are three categories of glass--clear, green, and brown;  two categories of cans--tin and aluminum;  three kinds of plastic containers;  and no fewer than seven categories of paper:  newspaper, newspaper inserts, magazines, books, office paper, corrugated cardboard, and boxboard.  And then there is sheer "refuse," the dregs of our daily lives, the stuff for which no redeemable use can be found.  

You don't have to pay for recyclables, no matter how many tons you cart to the dump.  But you have to pay for your refuse by affixing $1.50 stamps (which you have to buy at the Town Office) to your  garbage bags.  The dump attendants--surprisingly cheerful,  easygoing men--take a look at your bags and tell you how many stamps to put on each.

On dump day, my husband--who saw Alice's Restaurant at an impressionable age--goes over every single scrap of paper we have generated over the last month and meticulously rips out every allusion to our name, address, and SSN, and assigns each scrap to one of the seven categories.

Meanwhile, I collect the garbage, bottles, cans and plastic and carry them to the garage.  I do not collect the deposit bottles or the plastic bags, which go back to the supermarket on a separate trip.  The black plastic pots that nursery plants come in go back to a nursery that reuses them.

My husband's next job, and one at which he excels, is to compress the refuse bags to their absolute minimum, so that we will incur the smallest possible charge.  Which brings me to today's triumph:  our month's worth of refuse, after compression, filled about half of a tall kitchen garbage bag.

Credit for this goes mostly to the chickens, who consume whatever we don't eat, and to the rural nature of this place, which keeps us close to home and away from stores.

I am usually more than glad to be living in the Green Mountains, but there are some exceptions:  days when it rains on top of snow and then freezes;  days when I have to drive thirty minutes to find a spool of brown thread;  and dump days.  

Thinking about it, though, I realize that these are the very days that keep our mountains green.  The difficult weather keeps the flatlanders away;  the paucity of malls and box stores keeps the landscape bucolic and the traffic light;  and the dump--well, when you have to handle and classify and remove from your house every single piece of waste you have generated you can't help berating yourself for your consuming ways, and vowing to live more greenly.

4 comments :

  1. Love your recycling ethic. We are the same here in Mass. I have a contest with myself to see how long a smallish kitchen trash bag will last before it gets full. I cath my husband throwing in his coffee filters and used Kleenexes which drives me nuts. I throw any grungy paper into our woodstove to use for starting our fires and the coffee filters go into the compost pile. We get tired of driving everywhere to get pretty much anything of quality but I wouldn't trade the quiet nights and lack of traffic for all the Walmarts in the world.

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  2. You're a woman after my own heart, Nedine. And keep saving those coffee grounds. Plants love them!

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  3. I like going to the dump. We go every 2-3 weeks.

    I now officially hate the private service, which has been servicing my neighbors at 4:45 am on Monday mornings. I am really, really angry about this.

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  4. I know I'll be a real adopted Vermonter when I start enjoying the trip to the dump. I'm not there yet, alas.

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