I try hard to minimize my carbon footprint (according to the calculator, my footprint is 5.5 tonnes, compared to the US average of 20 tonnes per person, pat pat). The years in Seattle ensured that recycling would always be on my mind, and that city is a wonderful example of what is possible, where there is a constant effort to maximize recycling and reduce waste and consumption.
Anyway, after having moved to Dallas, my efforts to conserve and recycle have run into a number of challenges, and plenty of amusing incidents.
Most of Dallas city itself still doesn't recycle (though there is some recycling in Dallas suburbs). Which means if you want to recycle, you need to collect whatever you can at home, and then drop it off at the nearest recycling center. Luckily for me, I managed to find a recycling center just a couple of miles from home, and started collecting and sorting trash out at home (into the usual, paper, plastic, glass and cans). The problem though lies in taking that trash in a timely manner to the recycling center. More often than not, I end up with a small mountain of recyclable trash, which eventually makes entry into the laundry room impossible. Loading all of that into the car ends up being quite an ordeal. But it’s also led to some embarrassing situations.
On one occasion there I was, standing by the apartment elevator, with two large trash bags and two smaller bags full of cans and bottles, and on my way down, the inevitable happened. One of the bags ripped open and there were cans rolling all over the corridor. As I was chasing down one of the fugitive cans, one of my neighbors stepped forward to help, and with a twinkle in his eye asked me if I was collecting trash for a reason. Perhaps I wanted to sell them on eBay!
On another occasion I had so much trash that the trunk of our little car wouldn’t close (damn those humongous plastic milk containers). As I huffed and puffed under the warm Texas sun, another neighbor who was driving out in his truck took one look at me and said “that’s why you need a truck”, smiled and drove off. On a third occasion, I almost made it to the car intact, when I tripped on the curb by the parking lot and splattered cans and bottles across the lot. But I soldier on.
Grocery stores sometimes provide even more entertainment. I was used to taking a shopping bag to stores in Seattle. Anyway, most stores there give a choice between paper and plastic bags, and also have drop-off points for store plastic bags. But only a few stores in Dallas have drop off points, and none (at least the affordable ones) offer paper bags. So, we try to take shopping baskets with us when we shop, or try to minimize plastic bags. Often when I say I don’t want a bag, the store attendants shrug incredulously but sometimes ask ”no bags?”, as if to ask if we plan to teleport the groceries. But today, when I said we’d like to put stuff in our own shopping basket, the cashier looked at them for the first time and said “Oh sorry, I thought they were your laundry baskets”, and burst out laughing. Clearly, there couldn’t be a funnier sight in town.
The hardest part of living in Dallas though is that the city is not built for people who like to walk. The pavements are bad, most people in their cars don’t notice pedestrians, and pedestrians are a rarity in most streets (bicycles are an even rarer species). I’ve often wanted to walk the 3 miles to work (on days when the weather is reasonable), but the streets aren’t particularly safe after dark, there isn’t any one else walking (except some homeless people), and at every third intersection the pavement disappears into the street.
Living the green life in Dallas sure is challenging. It’s almost as if every possible obstacle has been placed in your way, and it just might be easier for me to train and run next year’s city marathon.
But what’s life, if it isn’t challenging.