Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Retired

Greta Thunburg has spoken! And her words have stirred our collective conscience into re-thinking or prioritizing actions concerning our world. As one of the activist slogans reads; “There is No Planet B!” We have to admit it – the current mess happened on our watch. We should have thought of it before. But instead we are leaving it to our children and, even worse, our grandchildren. Unless…

Maybe it’s not too late for us to do something, even something small. As retired folks, we have free time. We can make changes. For example, since moving to the city, Peter and I have developed a passion for riding the subway, leaving our car behind and sitting quietly playing solitaire, occasionally sneaking looks at all the unusual outfits or behaviours nearby. “Holy cow Peter, did you see that?” There are other things we can do too.

As seniors we are all, sooner or later, at that life stage where we want to downsize, get rid of those extra household items and move to a smaller place. We did that last year. At first we had a lot of misconceptions. Surely our kids would want those lovely, gold-rimmed dishes that can’t go in the microwave or dishwasher? How about the stately office furniture, suitable for executives, even though they no longer need large desks because they have only laptop-sized computers?

Eventually. after recovering from all that terrible rejection, we got to work. We found online selling services, furniture banks, metal depots, women’s shelters, little libraries, church bazaars, all waiting for our cast-offs. Although it was an exhausting exercise, almost nothing went to a landfill site. Well, OK, I did throw out a pair of Peter’s ancient running shoes when he wasn’t looking.

And then there’s the garden, which you read about in a recent post. We are still eating cherry tomatoes, even for breakfast, and there is no end in sight. But even Peter the Farmer can’t grow everything in his small city plot. Sometimes I go to the grocery store, but I am determined not to use any plastic bags. In the produce department recently, I put a couple of bananas in my cart, naked. Some oranges too. Then I went to the brussels sprouts bin and put a couple dozen of them in the cart too. Oops – those little green balls rolled through the holes in the cart and onto the floor, and there I was, on my old-lady knees, chasing them under the counters.

Other things in the grocery store come over-wrapped. How about COSTCO with double-wrapped bathroom tissue? Really, are we worried about getting germs on our toilet paper? And toy wrapping is a real problem. Trucks and dolls usually come in hard plastic, so tough that even the best scissors can’t penetrate. Meanwhile the kids are crying out. “Nana can you please open that doll faster? I am Dying to hold her!”

Then what do we do with all this over-wrapping? Does it go into the recycling bin or the garbage? I’m often baffled by the city waste-management charts. For example, why do glass jars go in recycling, but glass drinking glasses go in the garbage? Why do aluminum pie plates go in recycling, but aluminum foil goes in the garbage? Why are we throwing these things out instead of re-using them anyway?

One big topic of concern is water conservation. Even though we live near the Great Lakes, we still read that one day water will be the earth’s most precious commodity. So how can we save some at home? Not running the tap while tooth-brushing is a good one. And brushing, even with less water, is better than what our parents had – dentures! Running the dishwasher and clothes washer only when they’re full is another good idea. Taking showers less often… well maybe that’s one we’re not ready to tackle quite yet!

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? We are used to such a comfortable lifestyle, we hate to give any of it up. Even for our grandchildren.

PS If you have other suggestions on how older people with spare time can help save the planet, please send a comment. I’ll post them on Friday.


3 thoughts on “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Retired

  1. Greta Thunburg’s impact is enormous because she is saying clearly what millions of people are thinking. The scenario pushes towards a doomsday scene. While thumbs twiddle. Youth have every right to be enraged. As am I. And I am no youth.


  2. I,m trying also running around Kingsway streets where kids dump plastic water bottles, soft drink bottles and even beer bottles. They are everywhere and John and I pick them up and put in garbage containers. Our youth cry “save the planet” but don,t practise what they preach. I grew up terrified to litter. Parents of this generation need to be teaching their kids not to litter!


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