What Really Matters
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
What Really Matters7 ways to love Mother Earth.
It was my first trip to Abadiânia, Brazil, and the poverty shocked my sensibilities and eyes. One couple in particular caught my attention. They were young, probably in their early 20s; darkly tanned from a life lived outdoors in the sun; and they stood barefoot but were always smiling. They spent their days pushing a blue wooden cart about five-feet square. It rolled on two old car tires with barely any tread. On top of the wooden frame sat what looked like a square cage of chain link and angle iron, with planks of wood above for a roof.
The couple would ply the roads, picking up plastic bottles and aluminum cans. They’d flatten their finds with their bare feet before tossing them in the cage. In the heat of the day, they’d sleep in the grass on the side of a road, using their cart for shade. At night or when it rained, they would do the same. I observed that they were providing the community with much-needed services—both trash collector and recycler.
It wasn’t until the second or third time I saw them that I noticed the two toddlers playing on the pile of trash in the cage. The little girl was probably two and the boy perhaps four. I couldn’t tell if they were tanned like their parents or just covered in dirt, but I suspect it was a little of both. I was so saddened to see children living a life like that.
The next day I visited a spiritual site in the village and joined hundreds of others lining up. Most of the foreign visitors wore white in respect for the local tradition. As I looked around, I spotted the young couple in line holding their two little ones in their arms. They were wearing the same clothes as the day before, as well as the same beautiful smiles that never seemed to leave their faces. Their entire focus was on their children. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such purposeful focus and attention. The young family was in their own world of kissing, hugging, laughing, and playing. The squeals of delight from the kids were contagious. Everyone around them was smiling with this family.
Materially, they owned hardly anything: an old cart and the clothes on their back. They had no home, no car, and no jobs by our standards. Yet here was a couple completely in love and spending every waking hour loving and playing with their children. They had a rolling playpen for them, and I was learning about what really matters in life for those who aren’t blessed with a “privileged” upbringing.
What really matters to you? According to the EPA, Americans throw out enough garbage every day to fill two football stadiums, yet half of this could be recycled. But recycling is not just about cans and plastic. As we celebrate Earth Day, here are 10 new tips on how you can make your recycling efforts a lot greener:
Shop for Pre-owned Items
An easy way to recycle is to shop for pre-owned items instead of buying new ones. It’s much greener to pick up something on eBay, craigslist, or a secondhand shop. You’ll save money, possibly keep an item out of the landfill, and reduce your use of embodied energy (all of the energy, fuel, and raw materials needed to manufacture and transport goods).
Donate When You Upgrade
When you upgrade to a newer technological gadget or appliance, consider donating your older item. You might want to give it to a family member or friend who could use it. There are also organizations that collect old electronics and resell them.
Charitable Recycling sets up fund-raisers for charities through cell-phone recycling. At www.earth911.org/electronics cell-phone and equipment recycling and reuse programs are searchable by zip code. Also check www.craigslist.org and www.throwplace.com, where you can list and give away items.
CDs and DVDs
According to the Worldwatch Institute, more than 45 tons of used CDs are sent to landfills each month. However, there are much better alternatives to just discarding them. If you’re worried about personal data, you can cut CDs in half with a pair of tin snips before recycling them. At the Website www.discsfordogs.org, you can mail in old CDs and DVDs, and they’ll be resold with 100 percent of the funds going to a local SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
In the U.S., about 400,000 cell phones are replaced every day. Recycling cell phones reduces greenhouse-gas emissions, keeps valuable material out of landfills and incinerators, and ensures that energy-intensive materials are recycled for the highest purpose and reuse. For a list of recycling drop-off locations in communities across the U.S. and Canada for cell phones and batteries, visit www.rbrc.org/call2recycle.
How about receiving cold cash for old electronics? Here are some companies that buy back your old goods and either resell or recycle them:
- www.gazelle.com: Gazelle also lets sellers donate their funds to one of 23 nonprofit causes.
- www.techforward.com: Allows you to lock in a buyback rate in the future for appliances you purchase today.
- www.myboneyard.com Accepts cell phones, laptops, desktop PCs, and flatpanel monitors; and gives Visa gift cards rather than cash.
The World Health Organization estimates that 25 percent of the world’s population needs eyeglasses. You can help by donating glasses you no longer use, which can be reground into a new prescription. This process is offered online at www.ehow.com/how_9169_recycle-eyeglasses.html. For a list of drop-off centers for old eyeglasses, you can call 800-CLEANUP.
One World Running will send still-wearable shoes to athletes in need in Africa, Haiti, and Latin America. Find out more at www.oneworldrunning.com. Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program turns old shoes into playground and athletic flooring. Information is available at www.nikereuseashoe.com