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:
- "Yes, thanks, I'm so glad you asked."
- "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