Reading, Recycling, and Arugula

There have been a lot of books and articles popping up lately on all kinds of issues that I want to read. I’m keeping a list in hopes I can get to them sometime (without paying for them, of course). Last night I read a few of the shorter items on the list. A CNN article on food waste. And this one, also on CNN. But the one that most captured my attention was this NYT article from last month about whether recycling is actually worthwhile. I wasn’t the only one piqued; the article generated 487 comments.

For me, the crux of the article is this passage:

“I found that all the trash generated by Americans for the next 1,000 years would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the land available for grazing. And that tiny amount of land wouldn’t be lost forever, because landfills are typically covered with grass and converted to parkland, like the Freshkills Park being created on Staten Island.”

Today’s technology allows for landfills that are properly lined and won’t leak into the ground, the author says. Let’s assume that this is a true statement, and that we can, at this moment, truly imagine how much trash we are capable of generating over the next 1,000 years. (I wonder.) And let’s limit the discussion to residential trash, as this article seems to, and exclude industrial and institutional trash producers. I always thought that we were running out of space for trash. I can remember that trash barge from the ’80s, sailing up and down the East Coast and being turned away. Everybody was freaking out about trash for a while there. If it turns out that we have plenty of room to safely store trash after all, a lot of my zeal for recycling goes away.

So are there other reasons to recycle? Yes. “The environmental benefits of recycling come chiefly from reducing the need to manufacture new products — less mining, drilling and logging.” Also, recycling reduces greenhouse gases: “[Recycling] advocates often cite an estimate by the E.P.A. that recycling municipal solid waste in the United States saves the equivalent of 186 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, comparable to removing the emissions of 39 million cars.”

However, according to the article, there are caveats to these benefits. Basically, I suggest you take a moment to read the article, because, assuming its statistics are correct, it exposes some of the realities of recycling and how it is not exactly the cure-all that it has been made out to be.

It is recycling’s holy reputation that is perhaps the biggest problem, according to the article, and I agree.

“… [R]ecycling intuitively appeals to many voters: It makes people feel virtuous, especially affluent people who feel guilty about their enormous environmental footprint. It is less an ethical activity than a religious ritual, like the ones performed by Catholics to obtain indulgences for their sins.”

When I look at my glass, paper, plastic, and aluminum sitting on the curb on Sunday nights — two big cans filled to the brim and numerous stacks of brown bags filled with paper — I feel squeamish sometimes. I wonder how it can be that we leave such a trail, and I wonder if all the items will really get recycled. Isn’t it better to not buy the case of bottled water in the first place, than to buy it (wasting money) and dutifully recycle all the bottles? Has recycling been a Band-Aid that makes us feel OK about wasteful consumption?

I will keep on recycling, but I’m going to try a little harder to not generate these items in the first place.

***

In other news… Baby arugula has been the star of every meal here this week. I bought a bunch at the farmer’s market last Saturday. I made a delectable grilled cheese on Monday night with provolone and asiago cheese, sourdough bread from the farmer’s market, Wegman’s pesto sauce, and the arugula. Seriously, the best sandwich I have made at home ever. (I had bought a bunch of stuff at the farmer’s market and Acme for a little Halloween get-together I had for my family, so I needed to use up what didn’t get eaten.)

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Monday and Tuesday, I had turkey, mayo, provolone, and arugula on onion rolls for lunch.

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I used arugula in a salad on Tuesday night. And last night, I had mushroom ravioli topped with brown butter, Parmesan and arugula. And a glass of wine (have I mentioned the kids were off school yesterday and today?). This was after a failed attempt at homemade Alfredo sauce. Still not sure what went wrong with this recipe. But I’m kind of glad it failed because it was delicious the way I made it.

These were all one-person meals… no one else in this house would touch any of this stuff.

Still have some carrots, apples, Romaine and arugula to eat up or use up somehow, even after giving away some of the greens.

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We had a fairly frugal Halloween. My husband blew some money on spooky animatronic creatures from CVS, but that’s on him. I spent an average of $8 per child for their costumes. I bought just about the right amount of candy. My little get-together was fun and homemade (short ribs in the Crock-Pot again, on rolls, with mashed potatoes, and a delicious pumpkin cake made by my mom).

This week I spent a little time posting some household items on the Facebook yard sale pages and on craigslist, and so far have made $10, which goes right to the “yard sale” savings account. I am investigating Yerdle as well, for selling items, but am not terribly impressed thus far.

I’m watching the silver maples in the back of my yard turn yellow and drop their leaves. It’s November, the season of my older son’s birthday and Thanksgiving.  But first, tomorrow, featuring soccer games at 9 and 10 am, and a birthday party at noon. And I am the snack provider for both games. But it’s the end of soccer, woo!

This was our first trip to the farmer's market all season. The kids got free pumpkins.

This was our first trip to the farmer’s market all season. The kids got free pumpkins.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

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