Is It Worth It?

I share a life-lesson each weekday. Today’s lesson is about weighing your options.


Simply by choosing not to have children, Nicole and I have made the best possible choice for the environment and Earth’s future. Even if we choose never to reuse or recycle anything, we are way ahead of the curve of most families. I can basically shower an hour a day, leave lights on all night, and drive a Hummer (I don’t do any of those things) and I would still not be using near the amount of water, electricity, or carbon fuels of the average American.

Besides having no offspring, we eat locally grown food as much as possible, watch excess water use, never leave a light on if we are not in the room, we both drive a Prius and live a vegan minimalist(-ish) lifestyle. In other words, as far as environmental impact and the future of human population is concerned, we are a coupleĀ of the good guys.

We spend quite a bit of time and effort, though, recycling. Plastic, aluminum, and glass go in one bag. Paper goes in another. Trash (mainly from packaging materials from consumer products) goes in a third bag. Having three garbage cans in a small apartment kitchen is, to say the least, ugly and inconvenient. Each week, I run the bags to their respective bins and hope they are dealt with accordingly. We recently learned if a bag has a contaminant in it, in our community, the whole bag is discarded rather than the recyclables being sorted out. Pretty discouraging.

All of this brings me to the question: is it worth it for us to continue sorting our recyclables? I feel blasphemous for even suggesting someone ignore the importance of recycling. Yet, I have always been torn about whose problem it is. There are many environmentally conscious companies who use minimal packaging and earth-friendly materials. Most of my recyclables, however, are from over-packaged plastic blister packs, a never-ending stream of unwanted junk mail, and more unread warranty cards, labels, and user guides than I can count.

I did not ask for any of that material, yet it is my problem and my responsibility to ensure it all somehow has no impact on the environment. How about just not using insane packaging and sending trash in the form of commercials to my house?

If you are childless, vegan, environmentally conscious, and locally supportive, at what point is your effort to reduce your impact to the planet enough? When, if ever, do you get to kick back and say, “All right, I am doing much more than anyone is expecting of me. Maybe it’s time for others to pick up a little slack and time for me to have a little more time in my life for me.”

When does it cost more to be an unsung hero than it does to be a good person, and when does the cost outweigh the benefit? In striving for perfection, when is it okay to settle for “good enough”?

I am debating whether to throw all my trash in one bag and forget about sorting the recyclables. Maybe it is a little thing not worth this much internal debate, but you never know how far the ripples go.