In Germany we had extensive recycling practices. The infrastructure was so well set up that we, the lazy Americans, actually managed to:
- recycle our paper, regular trash and even compost(!) right in our apartment complex – they had bins for all three!
- recycle our glass into white, clear, green, blue, brown right down the street
- never buy cans (like soda) because they had an extra tax
- use plastic, re-useable carrying containers to bring home our heavy duty 1L water bottles (yum! fizzy water!) which we could “rent” for 2 euros and then return. The heavy duty bottles were then rigorously washed by the company and re-used.
- air-dry all of our clothes since we didn’t own a dryer
- used our own collection of sturdy bags to pack our groceries. Grocery stores charge you for bags in Germany so everyone brings their own.
None of this made us special in Europe, actually, all of these things are totally common practice and definitely expected. In fact, there are fines for people who don’t comply. However, here in Malaysia, I am very sad to report that I haven’t yet figured out how to recycle anything. Anything. It is shockingly easy to start throwing away cans and newspapers in with the trash if that’s all you have. I haven’t used a re-usable grocery bag in 2 years, because they pack your groceries for you in plastic bags. I know I need to make more of an effort myself, but I think there is definitely something to be said for institutionalizing practices at a governmental level.
For example, I just found out today that plastic bags are now banned in San Francisco. Now, this is the kind of thing that needs to start happening all around the world! If we are forced to be environmentally friendly, it might be tough at the beginning, but it will become a routine, just like it was for us in Germany.
What do you do to help the environment? I need some inspiration!