Recycling ideas

By Josh Albrecht

This past Sunday was Earth Day, and as usual, many campus organizations participated in the observance of this pseudo-holiday.

But Earth Day is more than another holiday that is often forgotten because you don’t receive a present, such as Flag Day. It is a day that can heighten awareness about environmental issues and how they affect us. This is like how Flag Day heightens our awareness of flags and their uses.

In an April 20 Northern Star article, Renee Kopulos, president of the NIU Committee for the Preservation of Wildlife, expressed the importance of Earth Day because it raises concerns about conservation and environmental issues.

“This year, as well as the next four years, will be important for environmental activists because of the White House administration,” she said.

And I couldn’t agree more. After all, part of the reason that I voted for Gore was because I feared Bush’s stance on environmental issues.

However, I don’t think that our current administration is what the environment has to worry about. Rather, the main concern should be our attitude, or lack thereof, toward helping the Earth.

The reason why I say there is a passive attitude toward the environment today is because environmentalism and conservation has lost its ultra-hip vibe.

Being an environmentalist used to be the cool thing to do, and 10 years ago, everyone was doing it. Dateline NBC had a story every week about how we could improve the Earth in our spare time, people put bricks into their toilet’s water tank to preserve water and there were as many Greenpeace shirts as there are retro novelty shirts today.

You weren’t cool unless you were conserving, man. Entire towns jumped on the bandwagon faster than people could say they really don’t watch NBA basketball since Jordan left. These towns implemented recycling programs so complex that you often had to separate different types of plastic into separate bins.

The three “Rs” no longer pertained to just reading, writing and arithmetic, but to reduce, reuse and recycle.

My fourth grade class even dedicated an entire chorus concert to the cause as we rapped (that’s right, I said rapped) about how it was important to turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth to cut down on water use.

I like to think that we made a difference that night. But now, I am not so sure.

It’s true that restaurants don’t use styrofoam containers as much, and there is such a thing as edible packing material for mailing fragile things, but I still can’t help but notice that the whole environmental thing has lost its momentum

People still use enormous amounts of water to clean their cars, to water their lawns or to create another golf course, despite our freshwater levels remaining on a steady decline.

Litter still covers the ground everywhere you look. It is almost impossible to find a place that doesn’t have some type of litter, even the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

And now there is talk about drilling for oil in national parks and in the Great Lakes.

I even find myself throwing away my soup cans sometimes instead of recycling them like I know I should.

But there is hope for the future because of things like Earth Day and The Committee for the Preservation of Wildlife, along with other organizations who still stress environmentalism and conservation even though it may not be as hip as it once was.

Luckily, just as those retro shirts or those 70s style sunglasses came back around, environmentalism likely will be in the spotlight again.

So, environmentalism will have to wait patiently, even though some believe there isn’t much time before it can dominate our culture again. Plus, some headway continues to be made.

Bush actually supports a ban on snowmobiles in national parks. While that might not seem like much, it could help the wildlife in the area and cut down on noise and air pollution.

Yet some of the lessons learned from environmentalism’s popularity have had a lasting effect on me (I still turn off the water while I brush my teeth). This all means that we probably still do things that help save the world, as well as hurt it. I guess that is one of the ironies of life.

Now, how did that rap go again?

Like this:

Re-re-re-recycle, recycle, recycle now.

There’s nothing to it if you just know how.

So tell your momma, your daddy and your sister, too.

Recyclin’ is the thing to do.

That seems pretty hip to me.