Editorial: Two out of three ain’t good

Trent Ernst, Editor


I have a soft spot in my heart for Meatloaf’s seminal Bat Out of Hell album. I know, I know, he should call himself Cheeseloaf, and even producer Todd Rundgren thought the album was a parody when he first heard the songs.

What can I say? I was young and foolish and the album has stuck with me to this day. I still sing along to ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Lights’, and ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad’ is an interesting twist on the classic “I want you, I need you, I love you,” sentiment of the previous generation.

I was thinking about this two out of three concept recently in terms of our approach to the three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), and it struck me that most (not all, but most) are not doing two of these three things.

We’re pretty good at recycling. Yes, it is harder to do now that the recycling is located down at the transfer station. Believe me, I feel your pain.

And while recycling is all well and good, you might notice that it is the third principal in this triptych.

I’m not saying don’t recycle. In fact, after writing this, I am going to have to run all the way down to the transfer station in the middle of winter to do my recycling. For all you cynics, I acknowledge that driving down there in a vehicle to do my recycling has a certain in-built … hypocrisy? Self-defeatedness? Irony? But this is the best we have right now.

And yes, I know that recycling itself is energy intensive, and comes with its own set of problems. With falling commodity prices, recycling programs are often being operated at a loss.

Plastic, for instance, is especially problematic in that it can rarely be used for primary reprocessing. If you toss a newspaper into the recycling bin, there’s a chance it will come back to you as a newspaper. But, say, a plastic can’t be broken down and re-manufactured  back into a plastic bottle. The long, flexible molecules that make plastic so useful break down when exposed to heat and light; the more times it is recycled, the more brittle it becomes. Generally plastic that is recycled goes to make something that typically won’t be recycled, like textiles or plastic lumber. That plastic doesn’t rise from its former life in the same form. It’s like the mythological Phoenix being reborn as a sparrow. It had its day of glory as a spoon or a bottle, and next time, it’s destined for the dump.

Which is why I want to talk to you a little bit about the first two Rs, namely reduce and re-use. We live in a culture bred on convenience, but how inconvenient is it, really, to have a reusable water bottle rather than buying bottled water? (I have two sitting within arm’s reach of me.) Or why is a travel mug such a foreign concept? Yes, you can’t just throw it out the window when you’re done with it. That’s the point.

While recycling has a built in cost, reducing, by its very definition, has none. It involves not spending that money on yet another un-needed and un-necessary thing. The cost of that cup of coffee at the gas station has built into it the cost of the non-reusable cup. Some places even offer a discount for people who show up with their own container.

Re-using, too, cuts down on cost. Why buy something new when you can just re-purpose something old?

That’s one of the great things about the Thrift store, located out in the Baptist Church: new to you clothing for a fraction of the cost. Or the Tumbler Ridge Buy Sell and Giveaway page on Facebook. It’s not all about, say, taking lunch to work in a cottage cheese container, it’s about either using something until it is well and truly dead, or being willing to share something you don’t need with someone who does need it.

Corrections: yes, I know, I said Jordan Wall was the New EDO. Of course I meant to say old EDO. Or maybe new CAO. I’ll figure it out in time. You’re still writing 2015 on your cheques. Don’t judge.