Happy Earth Day, Geeks!

Earth Day logoIt’s Earth Day, my fellow geeks. And while I love my technology, I love my home, too, and Earth Day should be reminder to act respectfully when it comes to our environment and what we are doing to it. It may feel cliche, 40 years after the very first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, to make a big deal about environmental issues, but in the big picture, every little bit helps.

I work on a college campus, which means lots of young people passionate about all kinds of things. The first earth days were often the result of action on college and university campuses, and that hasn’t changed a whole lot. But most communities have some sort of an Earth Day celebration, as well. On our campus, Phi Theta Cappa sorority has put out collection bins for used batteries. How many of us just toss them in the trash when we’re done? And this past weekend, my teenage daughter volunteered for the day at an electronics recycling event where people could bring their old televisions, computers, and other electronics for safe recycling. How many of us just sneak this stuff into the trash?

The truth is, recycling is hard, and requires effort. We have single-stream curb-side recycling where we live, but that just covers plastics, paper, aluminum, and glass. If I want to recycle electronics, I have to load them up in the car and take them to a recycling center that charges me for the privilege of giving them my worn out stuff. Or, I can stockpile it for a year and try to hit an Eco-Recycling day in the spring. Neither choice is really optimal, and I can admit that I, myself, have not waited, but just thrown such things in the trash to get them out of the house. My biggest issue is with CFL bulbs, those curly compact florescent lights. When they break, or die, I have no choice but to throw them in the trash, where their mercury will infect my environment for years to come. There is nowhere in my area to recycle them.

It is daunting to think about the amount of trash that hits our landfills, ends up on the side of the road, or makes its way to the Pool of Plastic in the Pacific Ocean. How many harmful metals and chemicals are leaching into our water supplies through illegal dumping and disposal? But unless recycling becomes as easy as throwing away the trash, there will be no change in our behavior.

But hopefully, every year around this time, people everywhere will consider what they are doing, even if just a little, and try to make some positive changes about disposal of hazardous or recyclable items. One day, one plastic bottle, one battery at a time. Former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin would be proud.

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