These are mad times, and like escaping your house from a fire, it’s hard to know what’s most important. 

Two years ago my family and I went to Scotland for a vacation. This was an exciting trip as we were taking two West Virginians who have never traveled outside of the USA before. One a teenage boy of 18 and my husband’s mom. 

Even though this trip to a new place was exciting, I knew that they would still experience a bit of culture shock. A seasoned traveler may not understand why American’s would feel culture shock in the UK. To the untrained eye, there is much to absorb and question. 

Rolling my eyes at their laughter towards haggis and black pudding we got along quite well during this trip. Personal note –– I HATE when other cultures are made fun of or laughed at. It’s just rude. It’s okay to enjoy and try and just politely say “no”, but please, do not make fun of them. It’s their culture. You don’t have to become it in your own home. 

Having traveled to Europe and the UK before, I was not as marveled by the electrical outlets in the same way my family was. Actually, I was in awe by the “greenness” of their design. The teens were annoyed that every time they wanted to plug something in they had to also manually turn on that outlet with a switch. 

These outlets would provide the energy that I was searching for to motivate my family into a green-family. This outlet design was incredible. If you wanted electricity and energy then you have to put in a little energy in to make it happen. Think how amazing this is. 

Technically, when we aren’t using our electronics we are supposed to unplug them from the wall. This helps save energy which means your electric bill would lower, even if just a tiny bit. These switches would be our saving grace. No more need to unplug, just switch the outlet off and back on when you need it. 

The concept that I had such trouble wrapping my head around was why was it the UK had this green forethought and American does not? 

How is it that we are the so-called “greatest nation”, yet we are so behind when it comes to environmental care and awareness. America began to disgust me.

At the end of our romantic stay in Aberlour, it was time to toss the rubbish (trash). My American (and environmentally uneducated ––> I don’t directly blame them!) family threw all of their garbage in one bag/bin.

Having grown up in an Italian household I was not new to how the other 1st world countries dealt with trash. They separated it.

Literally any advanced nation does this. Again, what the fuc* America… I thought we were supposed to be great?

While we Americans love to dump all our shit together and say “not my problem”, everyone else makes a tiny effort towards keeping it green. All other advanced nations have anywhere from 3 to 6 bins of trash. Each bin has a purpose. Everyone is smart enough there to use these bins correctly. They have individual bins for:

  • Compost: organic materials such as plate/ cooking scraps,
  • Glass: that super hard material that breaks when you drop it,
  • Aluminum: like your empty cans of cranberry sauce,
  • Paper: tree-made products ranging from the newspaper to cardboard,
  • Recyclable plastics: hard-plastics, not your capris sun bullshi* packaging,
  • Trash: anything else that isn’t mentioned above (thin plastics, styrofoam).

Yes in America we have to MRF system. This is great. You dump all of your recyclables in a bin. Yay. Ideally, this seems like a great solution. MRF is incredibly expensive. Now people have to sort through your unsorted recyclables. This costs extra. The products that arrive at the recycling center become contaminated and glass get broken causing all kinds of problems for the operators.

So assuming you’ve made it this far through the post, you can easily identify these various materials from your garbage. Good for you.

The major difference, the citizens of those countries actually care and are not lazy. American’s are too important to care about their Earth. American’s lives are far busier and more important and it’s below us to take time with our trash. 

Instead, we love the one-bin solution to jam-pack landfills with plastics and materials that may never decompose. We churn up the landfill and years from now our grandchildren will play soccer there. Here’s our sticker of green-ness: “see, we made a recreational place where our trash once was! We are so great!”.

Actually, it’s great we can reuse these spaces. One thing done well.

The point of this rant is not to just bitch about another reason America is lagging behind the other nations, but to tell you what our family did after Scotland.

We swore off plastics. 

Sure, we do our best, and our teenager oddly seems to be attracted to things wrapped in plastic. We are normals people, and we’ve made some changes to how we shop, eat, and deal with our trash.

We all have re-useable water bottles. We buy our milk that’s in the glass container as this gets re-used by the milk company. We limit what we buy from Amazon and search locally for products (This also helps local businesses!!). We purchase our food from a CSA which limits the plastic-wrapped vegetables at the store (I think our CSA uses compostable plastic bags if they use them at all). We purchased compostable garbage bags (cheaper actually than regular ones). We also make our own yogurt (seriously super easy people!)

Again, we aren’t saintly. We aren’t even inconveniencing ourselves with these changes (the teen daughter may think otherwise). 

When we do go to the store we look at all of the products on the shelves. What’s wrapped in plastic, what’s in cardboard, what can we buy in bulk from the local Co-op?

Co-ops used to be hippie grocery stores that smelled like warehouse and patchouli but now probably your fanciest local grocery store. Go to your co-op! You can buy lots of products in bulk, store them in glass or metal canisters or brown bags. I have mason jars and each has a purpose. When they get low they all come to the store with me for a fill-up. 

Yes, keeping the earth clean is hard work. Yes, it takes effort. It takes looking at your lifestyle with a critical eye. It takes small changes and motivation. 

When did American’s become the laziest country? When did this “great nation” become the sloppiest nation? When did our roads of gold change to streets littered with bags and bottles and banana peels?

What can you do? Look around your home. Specifically, go look in your garbage. If there is a “recyclable” symbol on that plastic milk jug, please recycle it. If there are paper and paper products in your garbage, please recycle it. If you’re thinking about buying the bulk size of individually packaged yogurts, maybe just buy the cute ones in the glass. Then use those tiny glasses for a planter, juice cups, vases, whatever! 

It does take some effort and creativity to limit the amount of plastic and unrecyclable materials. When your kids have grandkids I bet they will thank you for being able to breathe fresh air.