My climate journey started on the first Earth Day in 1971 when we began recycling newspapers and aluminum cans in Philadelphia. From there, my family moved to Urbana, Illinois, a college town, where there was more awareness of environmental concerns. I joined a group called HIPS (Housewives Involved In Pollution Solutions) that was later changed to Households because a male asked to join our group. The focus of the group was mainly recycling, but we also encouraged leaf composting, created a healthy HIPS cookbook, and promoted bicycling for transportation. We even silk-screened “Bike It You’ll Like It” t-shirts for the Earth Day Parade in 1973.

In 1977, we moved to Atlanta because my husband was interested in solar energy as an architect and environmentalist. While he remained focused on solar energy in his career, I continued to focus on recycling. The city did not have a recycling program, so I continued to recycle newspapers and aluminum cans at the DeKalb Farmers Market (DFM). In later years, they expanded their recycling at the market to include paper, cardboard, all metal, and glass.

In 1981, I started attending UUCA, where there were bins in the parking lot for newspapers, cans, and glass. So I continued to recycle there because, at times, it was more convenient than driving to the DFM.

In 1989, I suggested to our daughter, who was 10, to do her science project on recycling by giving six bags to neighbors to collect their cans and newspapers instead of placing them in their weekly garbage collection. Her hypothesis was to see if there would be a reduction in what went to the landfill if newspapers and cans were removed. She took photos of their green full “herby curbies” before they bagged their cans and newspapers and then again when they removed the cans and newspapers to see if there would be less going to the landfill. Her conclusion was it would reduce garbage going to the landfill as it reduced the amount in their green carts by half. We recycled all the bags containing newspapers and cans at the DFM. 

In the 1990s, I continued recycling at the DFM until the city of Atlanta started a recycling curbside pick-up in the blue bins in 2013. In 2015, The Center For Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM) opened at 1110 Hill St. We are fortunate to have this facility in Georgia, founded by Peggy Ratcliffe who started Live Thrive in 2009, then opened CHaRM in 2015.

In 2017, Hoke Kimball and I, along with Carole Galanty, launched the Climate Action Team at UUCA. Recycling became foremost during the demolition of the old church when our climate team had a concern about all the materials in the building and whether or not anything could be recycled or reused. One of our members, Anne Moorman, researched and found a company called Life Cycle Building Center. We contacted them, and they became involved in the demolition process, recycling and reusing some of our building materials. We also salvaged the bricks to be used later at our new church. 

Then the subject of recycling plastics came about with triangle numbers 1-7. CHaRM recycles all plastics if there is a triangle number on the product. On a side note, the first plastic recycling center mill in the world opened in 1972 in Pennsylvania. The fossil fuel (oil) industry wanted to continue to produce plastic, so it pushed the idea that all plastic could be recycled, justifying the reason to keep making it. Then suddenly we were made aware of all the plastic ending up in the ocean and China closing its doors in 2017 to accepting any more of our plastic waste or cardboard. 

In 2022, the message was reduce, reuse, and – when all else fails – recycle. I became disillusioned with the entire process and started seeing articles and hearing people say, “There’s no reason to recycle anything as it’s just going to the landfill.”

It’s now 2024, and, yes, I still recycle because Georgia is a recycling state. As for plastics, I am still participating in the Hefty Orange Bag program where plastics 3-7 are being burned to create aggregate for concrete. My 1’s and 2’s go in my blue bin.

I hope my epitaph reads: “The Recycler”!

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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team is for you because, well, the planet needs your urgent action – and we need each other as we navigate these changing times. Learn all about the group here,  and check out our minutes and take action table, our lending library and the Carbon Offset Fund. You can also request to join the Climate Action Team on Realm. Contact Jon Reese to connect to the CAT and join us for our next Zoom meeting on Monday, March 18, at 7:30 PM using this link.