Recycling with your pinkie extended

Tonight I am torn between lovely ladies Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, and Mother Earth, aka Mom, on a question near to my heart. How do we most effectively encourage others to recycle? Edward Hume, author of Garbology, has challenged the etiquette authority's position on proper recycling behavior. Where? On the battlefield of Facebook. Were you expecting t.v. wrestling?

Is it appropriate to root around in others' trash cans to divert recyclable materials from the landfill waste stream? Should you rescue items from your host's party garbage to smuggle home to your own recycling cart discretely or otherwise

Miss Manners' response to a Monkey Wrench recycler includes this gem:

So please do not justify one virtue, recycling, by violating another, namely respecting other people’s privacy. You must come to terms with not being able to police others — although you are most welcome to keep picking up the roadside trash.

When helping the host and hostess tidy up after casual parties I've asked, "Do you have a place where you're collecting the recyclables?" Responses have included good opportunities to lightly explain the ease of recycling without snooping or proselytizing:
  1. "Yes, thanks, I'm so glad you asked."
  2. "Huh?"
  3. "Not tonight, dear, I have a headache."
In preschool education lingo, that's called modeling the desired behavior.
In Twelve Step program lingo that is known as attraction rather than promotion.

The mangled motto is "A teachable moment is worth two liter bottles in the cart".

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


seana graham said...

Living in a very environmentally aware community as I do, I have certainly seen a lot of techniques. And I definitely find that trying to bully people into good behavior is not the answer, as you come across like a petty tyrant, and people will gleefully revert to old ways the minute your back is turned. I think it's fine to talk about your own interest in recycling as much as you want, though, saying why it's important to you, etc.. Some of that kind of stuff rubs off, I think. Of course, you don't want to monopolize the conversation.

Collagemama said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Seana. Recycling bullies won't be any more popular than other bullies!

Kathleen said...

Good, funny advice here. Whew, I've been recycling...my entire life...for the past week. And the garbage guys picked up this morning, alongside the other stuff!

Also, I think Miss Manners and I went to the same college, though not at the same time. And she is way more polite than I am!