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Journals from New Zealand (University of Waikato)

2010-09-10 Reduce Reuse Recycle!

It's obvious that we are the leading cause for our world's depleting natural resources, yet life seems to be carrying on as usual ... but not in New Zealand. Apart from the friendly kiwis, the one thing that caught my attention when I first arrived here was the "green" lifestyle. Upon first arriving on campus, I was greeted with a large bin with compartments for all types and colors of recyclable materials, brown glass, clear glass, green glass, plastic ... you name it, there was a place for it. Surprisingly, it wasn't the only one of its kind; I've come across nearly more recycling bins than I have trash cans. You'd think that without the presence of trashcans every 100 meters, littering would be a big issue, but it doesn't seem to be the case. No trash cans and there's still no littering? Coming from America, I'm amazed! As a teacher, we're taught the importance of teaching our students about environmental sustainability. Yet, what good is it if we don't practice what we preach? In the States, it's common to find students who live a block away from school get dropped off by their parents, the bus system is hardly used for many different reasons, and carpooling is becoming more and more outdated. Many of us are so lazy and accustomed to the easiness of using technology that I'm afraid one day soon, people will use a scooter just to get their mail from the mailbox! However, recycling bottles and cans is becoming increasingly popular, and the amount of redemption centers is increasing. The slogan in Hawaii is "HI5" and people receive five cents for every bottle/can they turn in. The money adds up and it's a good way to make a few dollars. Money is always a good incentive and I'm not sure how many people would actually continue to turn in their "recyclables" if the extrinsic motivation were taken away. But ... if you're going to GIVE people money for doing something good, why not TAKE AWAY money when they do something not so good? Plastic grocery bags are a great contributor to the reduction of our resources, and they're a pretty pointless invention that has the sole purpose of making people's lives easier. That's what is about ... luxury, living an easy life. Well, with luxury comes a price to pay. In the States, upon checking out at a grocery store, you're asked the question, "Paper or plastic?" I've never given much attention to how many plastic grocery bags I have sitting in my cabinet that have never seen the light of day since the time they were brought home. When I came to New Zealand, I wasn't asked that question and I quickly had to realize that I had to pay for a grocery bag if I wanted one. It was a rude awakening at first, but I love the idea. Reusable bags are the new thing and it's awesome! There are so many other "green" ways I've discovered while being here and it's really good to see "sustainability" being put to work. Saving the environment has to start somewhere, and it's definitely happening here!

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