A Publication of WTVP

At the beginning of the year, I spend a lot of time cleaning up the office—clearing out overflowing files, deleting ancient email messages and getting rid of the miscellaneous odds and ends that tend to accumulate throughout the year. I’ve replaced old computer monitors— those giant, clunky beasts that take up half of your desktop—with new, sleek flat-screen models and have gone through several boxes of outdated computer accessories that I know I’ll never use again.

Working my way through the clutter, trying to determine exactly how I will get rid of all this unneeded stuff, can be an exercise in frustration. The easiest thing to do would be to simply toss it all into the dumpster out back—yet that option leaves me cold when I consider the bigger picture and my role, however small, in the everyday, routine waste of our disposable culture. While it’s great to set up the new flat-screen monitor, what happens to the old one? Sure, there are businesses that will take and “recycle” your old computer equipment, but does that mandatory first step even begin to address the full scale of the problem?

And all that paper! As a small business owner, I have a lot on my plate already without having to make a trip to some drop-off point across town with a trunkload of paper. Not to mention the used toner cartridges to be boxed up and shipped back.

I watch the conflicts in the Middle East intensify and wonder what would happen if the sheiks really did cut off the oil. Does our energy-starved nation have the money or the political will to spring quickly into action to develop viable alternatives? And what would we do in the meantime?

Green is an old buzzword whose time seems to have come. Nearly every day there is another article in the paper related to the environment—it’s a natural factor in many of the decisions we make today. And it’s an issue which most of us can agree is important. A November article in Recycling Today points to a recent study showing that Democrats and Republicans generally agree on the importance of recycling, if not the specific means to address the problem.

But it’s expensive to be green. And it’s not exactly convenient. Not to mention, it’s practically impossible for those of us who want to do the right thing to determine what the facts really are—some studies even suggest that the total overhead for a separate recycling program outside of the normal trash stream negates much of the program’s intended good.

I look at the controversy over our own landfill expansion and read about the struggles of recycling programs in our community and others and wonder how such seemingly intractable problems will be solved. Would it take a major calamity, God forbid, to move us to swifter action? There seems to be a breakdown in the problem-solving process when we’re told that we’re addicted to oil, but we’re not given real options on how to break that addiction.

It just seems that it should be easier to be “green.” I don’t know what the answers are, but I suspect that the scope of the problem lies far beyond the resources currently available at the community level and cuts right to the overall sustainability of our always-on, 21st century lifestyle.

A recent study conducted in South Carolina estimated the total economic impact of the recycling industry in that state at $6.5 billion. The study suggests that new markets for recyclables are emerging and that recycling is not merely a “feel-good” proposition, but might just be good business, too.

Whether our political leaders step up to the challenge or leave it to the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs, it’s time for some big ideas. These days, when so much of the world around us seems to be broken, it seems to me that it’s time for something to work right. IBI