Category Archives: Green

Stories about being … any thing Green.

Recycling In The Days of Old ©

Recycling for Earth Day with Malati Marlene Shinazy

recyclingWhen my oldest kids were in preschool and primary grades, many weekends were spent at the playground, going up and down slides – for hours.  They never missed a weekend.

They also never wanted to miss a periodic family ritual.  We lived in a part of the US that had just begun recycling.  Our recycling center consisted of four giant igloo-type structures placed dead center in a huge empty parking lot.  Two igloos said, “Glass.”  Two igloos said, “Newspapers.”

Going to the recycling center was an enormous undertaking.  We collected newspapers and glass bottles for weeks.  When we finally had sufficient quantity, we loaded all this stuff, two young kids and an infant into the station wagon.  We drove forever because our so-called recycling center was in the light industrial part of the closest Big City (not very close).

What was totally, 100% entertaining, however—and well worth all the effort it took to get there — was to watch my kids conduct the Recycling Ritual.  Those huge igloos were so tall, steps and a platform were built around them so that stalwart recyclers like our family could reach the 7” recycling hole at the top.

So, up my kids went, a glass bottle in each hand.  Then, poised oh so carefully over the 7” hole, they would take turns throwing a bottle, with all their might, into the igloo.  With the loudest, violent detonating blast of glass crashing onto glass, the bottles landed…  The kids would burst into peals of sustained laughter that were almost as loud as the recycling blasts!  It was contagious; even the baby would break into screaming laughter.

  • Bottle In!
  • Crash!
  • Explosion!
  • Three Children Scream With Delight!
  • Second Bottle In!
  • Crash!
  • Explosion!
  • Three Children Scream Even Louder With Delight!

And so it went, for clearly thirty minutes, while their dad and I struggled to stuff weeks’ worth of thick newspapers into itty-bitty igloo holes.

I have to admit, this was indeed an odd pastime for a young family that tried to eschew violence (with obvious varied degrees of success).

Recycling = Violent Explosions + Fun and Laughter

recyclingToday, even in the smallest hamlets, recycling has become quite civilized.  It is now pedestrian – and – thought-free.  Children interface with recycling by spending their weekends going up and down slides in playgrounds made of recycled flip-flops.  We fill up city-issued recycling containers, roll them to the curb and voila, away go the “office paper, newspapers, cardboard, phone books, magazines, aluminum & tin cans, glass & plastic containers (except polystyrene).”

Yes, gone are the days of schlepping station wagons full of a pack-rat’s bounty of newspapers and bottles to remote places to hear young children take primal pleasure in aggressive, and LOUD, planet-saving….  What’s totally perfect, however, is:

This recycling story is now on a Bitchin’ Ol’ Boomer Babe and gets to be recycled – forever.

photos by malati marlene shinazy and shinazy

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Save The Whales – Beyond Darwin ©

By Shinazy

whalesToday is a winter day.  At noon the temperature is minus 20*F (- 20*).  It’s white in every direction; even the water is white, covered in a sheet of ice.  Except for a hole that contains 12 Killer Whales who are trapped, land locked, separated from food and their journey south.  Separated from their life cycle.  This most recent save-an-animal news is happening in an ice field off the coast of Inukjuak, Quebec, where the 1,500 residents plead for the world to help, while their government assesses the situation.  The situation gets colder every day and the hole gets smaller.

Because the Canadian government is not getting involved, the question seems to be, Who Should?  For some folks there’s another question: Should We?

One way to view this Save-The-Whales movement is the Darwin approach:  Survival of the Fittest. “If they got themselves into this situation, they should get themselves out.”  I heard this argument when Humphrey the humpback whale wandered into the San Francisco Bay and was unable to find his way back to the ocean.  After weeks in the bay’s fresh water Humphrey was doomed to never have baby whales.

Yes, this would be one way to handle the situation.

However, we humans, being at the top of the food chain with the biggest ‘hearts’ would not let Humphrey become a Darwin statistic.  The world watched and the locals acted.  After many attempts, using various methods, Humphrey was finally lured out of the bay.  It was our big brain and bigger empathy that decided using humpback whales feeding sounds would get the recuse job done.  And, it did.  Saving Humphrey became a somewhat regular event.  Over the next few years he developed a habit of making a left-hand turn on his way south.  But, we were always there to guide him back.

Several years later, another Humpback became tangled in crab traps off the Farallone Islands, again near San Francisco, California.  This time it was obvious that we, our behavior, was the cause.  This time there was no talk of Darwin.  The course of action was clear:  We were responsible, so we needed to save the whale.

whalesToday, with these 12 stranded whales, we are faced with a situation that is less clear.

Is it our actions, our global behavior resulting from our need to consume, to produce, to industrialize, causing the ice sheets to change?  Or, is this a group of whales with faulty GPS genes?

Do we interfere with the Darwin path or do we attempt to save?  The world continues to watch.

photos by kythpryn and shinazy

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Waste Not, Want Not ©

Malati Marlene Shinazy on Waste

wasteEven as I wrote the title to this story, Waste Not, Want Not, I wasn’t sure what it meant.  It was one of those wise sayings my mother’s generation used in an attempt to control my behavior… I think she meant, “If I eat all of my food (waste not), I’ll never go hungry (want not).”   Sounds good on the surface, but the logic is off.  I digest every morsel I eat; it becomes waste; and then I want more.

In a previous story, Recycling in the Days of Old ©  I wrote about the delight my children took throwing and crashing glass bottles into recycling igloos in the days before curb-side recycling.

These days, we can recycle nearly everything we use.  We just throw the item into the appropriate colored canister if we live in a municipality that has pre-sorted waste.  Or, we throw every darn thing that might be recyclable into a single canister.  The separating of paper from newsprint and glass from plastic occurs somewhere else, by some magic patented separator.

Despite wasting even less than I did before, I still want more, of something else of course, because I am a member of the Tribe of Wanters.

But wait. I may have found a solution for my shame for being a Wanter.  It’s all about balance: Want Less and Waste Less.

I want chocolate, all the time:

  • I want a chocolate mocha for breakfast.
  • I want chocolate fudge after lunch.
  • I want chocolate chip cookies and milk before I go to sleep.

The chocolate itself never goes to waste; it just makes me fat.  If I want to eat a lot then I’d better want to exercise a lot, too – again, balance.  Working out at the gym and yoga recycles the chocolate from my waistline into the great unknown.

But the wrapping?  Mostly, that’s just considered trash.  Although my recycling bin is filled with newspapers and office paper, my trash bin is filled with wrappers that covered some kind of chocolate.

The curbside recycling company wants me to turn my wants into waste.  But my new balanced solution has found an operational component:  Terracyclea company started by a couple of smart college kids, will take those wrappers of wants and turn them into something useful I also want, like park benches.

So I’ve joined 30 million other people who are now recycling all kinds of waste from what we want.  We just print a mailing label and Terrracycle pays for shipping the box of empty wrappers.

I’m a member of these Recycling Brigades:

  • Candy Wrapper Brigade
  • Energy Bar Wrapper Brigade
  • Coffee Bag Brigade

There are a total of 48 Brigades at this writing, including a Paired Shoe Brigade and a Flip-Flop Brigade, for footwear Wanters.

This form of “Waste Not, Want Not” may be unfamiliar to my mother, but 2,421,760,561 items of non-trash converted into $4,457,039 of money for charity would certainly be a program she would want.

photo from 

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Huckster ©

A Story by Will Jones

“Red ripe New Jersey tomatoes,
three pounds for half a dollar!
Sweet corn, sweet corn, ripe peaches and plums!”

The huckster drove down the narrow alley
calling out his summer temptations,
his strong voice echoing and beckoning
in the red brick canyons like a Siren’s song.
The women poured out the basement doors
in their aprons, their hands wet with dishes and wash,
carrying small snap purses with just enough change
to transform another predictable dinner
into a fresh and sumptuous summer feast.

The tanned huckster, flashing his white teeth
and practiced smile, the one the ladies liked,
his fast hands weighing on a hanging scale,
brown bagging in a magic flash like a shell game carny.
As the women retreated, one by one,
back to their day’s work,
his voice drifted and faded
around the next corner, into the next canyon,

“Red ripe New Jersey tomatoes,
Three pounds for half a dollar!
Sweet corn, sweet corn, ripe peaches and plums!

photo by Ajith_chatie

WISDOM Wednesday: “The Great Squirrel Wars”

  This story was written by Malati Marlene Shinazy
This is a true story… I have to tell it. Of course I changed the names — I treasure my friendships, all of them. — ms
“So, you think tree squirrels are beautiful?” exclaimed Jim to Walt and me over coffee. “Well, a bunch of them live in the pine trees in my back yard.”
(As he became more animated, I started to pay attention… this is going to be an interesting story.)
He continues, sputtering, almost in one breath:

“I hate these squirrels! They come scuttling down the utility wires and jump into my trees.  Now these aren’t little trees, they’re 60 feet tall! They’re the most beautiful pine trees in the neighborhood. So yesterday, I went to the sporting goods store and spent $200 on a pellet gun.”

(‘Please, please, NO’, I say to myself… I know where this story is going and I’m not sure I really want to hear the rest of it.)
“Those squirrels. You know what they do, don’t you? They go up into my trees, sit up there, pull off the green pinecones and shred them with their teeth to get to the seeds.”
(Are these the seeds we city folks call pine nuts?  I had to ask him to tell me more.)
“So, they sit up there, these squirrels, shredding the pinecones to get to the seeds, which are inside something that looks like an apple core. Stuff showers off the pinecones onto my driveway, sidewalk and front porch. I’m sweeping two to three times a day.”
“I hate it. I had to buy an extra-heavy duty broom too.”
“Plus, every year, I hire a pruning guy to thin out the trees. I tell him, ‘Don’t come down until you’ve taken off EVERY pinecone!’ This costs me $1500 bucks. … If I skip a year, those squirrels come back, the shredding comes back and the sweeping comes back.”
“Today, I sat out there on a lawn chair in the front yard, waiting for them to be visible up there in those trees.”
(A new image pops into my head. Guerrilla warfare: Man vs. Squirrel.)
“I’m waiting out there with my pellet gun, waiting for them to be visible, which they never are….  They just sit up there yacking at me. I can never see them. They’re up there laughing!”
My other friend, Walt, is now tallying the cost of this battle:
  • Pruning, $1500
  • Heavy-duty broom, $50 plus tax
  • Pellet gun, $200
  • If the police hear:
  • Time in jail
  • Bail to get out of jail
  • Court fees
  • Attorney fee
  • Huge fine
“It’s getting a bit expensive”, he laughs…
(Jim’s account of The Great Squirrel Wars is at once hilariously funny and a tad crazy, I think… I use to rake leaves daily for months every autumn. How can this squirrel stuff be any worse? What’s the big deal? … Although the situation is clearly exasperating for him, he’s enjoying the telling and I’m enjoying his sincere narration.)
(Verbally stumbling with laughter, I naively ask some variation of a line from Mars Attacks!  “So why can’t you all just get along?”)
His response, “Because they don’t sweep and clean up after themselves!”
(I sit there, more than a bit perplexed. I truly have nothing to say… I suddenly realize — I really don’t understand war at all.)

–  –  –  –  –
All of our animal friends remain safe and happy. ~ shinazy (BOBB’s founder)

photo by Gilles Gonthier