Be The Change You Want To See In The World

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Growing up I never thought of my mother as an environmentalist. I just thought she was frugal and smarter than the average bear!  All of my childhood she would remind my siblings and I to turn the light off as we left a room, or to open the curtains to allow sunlight in instead of turning on a light. She would turn the water off while we brushed our teeth and prompt us to close the door so, “we don’t air condition the entire back yard!” She would emphasize the need to keep the car windows up on the interstate, “because it will decrease our gas mileage with the windows down.” She would repurpose items, reuse containers, and when the freezer was starting to get empty she would fill it with water jugs to “make it run more efficiently.”

My mother was not initially driven by a desire to be “green”, but by a desire to save money and energy.  And let me tell you, it is catching! I still hear all of her advice in my head today and I share most of these things with my children as well. The urban dictionary has a great name for this: Accidental environmentalism.

I have taken the principles my mother instilled in me and have adopted additional family actions to be “green.” My family of four, two boys age 10 and almost 6, my husband and I have managed to get down to 1-1.5 bags of household trash a WEEK! Yes a week! Bottom line; If I can find a place where it can be recycled, it is not allowed in the trash. It still blows me away that we have such a small amount of trash, but I am quickly reminded weekly on garbage day, with neighbor’s trashcans overflowing, of all the work that still needs to be done.

When we first started recycling it was not an easy task, so we just collected paper. I placed a paper grocery bag next to our trashcan to help everyone remember. I would remove schoolwork, cracker boxes and toy packages from the trashcan daily, and talk to my boys about the importance of reusing something. I went on the City of Mobile website and found the nearest paper recycling receptacles (one at church…score) and would drop off a trunk full about once a month. This has gotten much easier with the addition of the Mobile County Recycling Center. Digging through the trash was not the highlight of my day, but it has paid off big time! In three months we all had the basics down and the boys started putting things in the right bins on their own. This action alone cut our weekly trash in HALF!

Then we started recycling plastic bags, plastic containers and aluminum cans. In the beginning, I would take the plastic grocery bags to stores that have recycling bins such as Publix and Target. Remembering to place them back in the car was the hardest part. My forgetfulness, or lack of repetition, would lead to taking large bags to the recycle bins at the grocery store and getting quite a few stares in the process. Now we take all of our items to the recycle center once a week as a family and the boys help me sort items into their proper bins. Since the opening of this amazing facility we have added glass, steel cans, and all plastics to the mix.

I am so proud of my husband and boys for putting up with my constant reminders to “put it in the recycle bin”, “that does not go there” and “take it out of the trash please.” We worked through the hard learning phase and recycling is now a simple daily task. My husband even shook out a bread bag the other day and put it with the plastics, I almost cried! Silly…I know!

We still make mistakes and are certainly not perfect, but I am teaching my family habits and values that will last them a lifetime.  Maybe one day they will think back to all the “green” things we have done together, and it will inspire them to make their world a better place. It is best said in one of my favorite quotes, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This is true for our family and it can be for yours too!

Please visit some of these great sites to get your family started!

Mobile County Recycling Center

City of Mobile paper drop off sites

Battery and Light Blub recycling at Lowe’s

Recycling at Target


- Nickelle Stoll, Partnership Coordinator