International Recycling Symbol 32px|alt=W3C|li...
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It was a bright sunny morning last week and I ran to our front door to find a package of scrapbooking supplies that I had ordered on our front step. I dug into the parcel admired the sparkly jewels, creamy pearls, glue, and fun pop-up flowers I had ordered from Stampin‘ Up and hastily stuffed  folded-up crunchy brown paper used to pack my box of scrapbooking supplies, into an empty blue-bag. I put the blue bag full of packing paper by our other recycled materials on the back step and promptly forgot about it until my upset dad said to me (later that day) that I should have uncrumpled the packing paper and folded it nicely into the blue bag so other recycled material could have fit in the blue bag with the packing paper. I scoffed inwardly at this and offered to ‘pay’ for the blue bag if it was such a big deal. I had worked in both a university bookstore and an office where a lot of packing paper was hastily stuffed into blue bags without a second thought. What I did not get then and what I still have trouble understanding now was that I was being wasteful. It was not that I used an extra blue bag to put the paper in but that had I folded that paper up – the bag could have potentially held more recyclable material.

Wasteful scenario number two: I had gone through my ottoman full of magazines and decided to get rid of the recent Women’s Health magazines I had received for the last few months as I never really go back to look in these magazines like I do with Style at Home or InStyle. I put the magazines out in the recycling without a second thought – a three-year membership to Women’s Health is only $30.00 so each magazine is only worth less than a dollar anyways. I explained this to my mom who suggested I bring them to the doctor’s office, which has few magazines anyways, when I go for appointments every few months are so. I scoffed at this as there was no way in hell I was going to carry three or four magazines down with me to the doctors on the bus even if other people would enjoy them; again I was being wasteful. I could share my magazine subscriptions with others but I was just to lazy to.

My point is it is hard to recognize when you are being selfish and wasteful because you do not always think about the little ways you could be being helpful and productive. A lot of times we think it takes big ways to make a difference in the world, to make a big presentation at that meeting, to donate money to a worthy cause, to run the marathon, to plan the big party. Often enough, however, it is the little ways we miss that we really can make a difference. Recycling and reusing materials starts by taking time to sort out your recyclables and sort/fold them in away that maybe makes the people working at the recycling place have an easier job. In a big way this recycling leads to a better world. Sharing magazines subscriptions with other people spreads new information to other people and eliminates the production of too many magazines and the elimination of once read magazines. In another way, this makes the world’s environment a better place. Both of these things make me (us) better more thoughtful people.

So next time you think you cannot change people and the environment think of the little ways you can change things. Copy on less photocopy paper, use less disposable plates/cutlery when you go out to eat lunch, take the bus, walk those extra stairs instead of taking the elevator. Help yourself and help other people and I promise if you try, I’ll try to be less wasteful too. What do you think?