If you live in a city in the U.S., there’s a good chance that recycling is easy and a way of life. Unfortunately, that’s not so in many other parts of the world. I’ve lived in Costa Rica and South Korea, two places where recycling is nearly unheard of. There are some green movements in larger cities, but if you live in a rural area, you’ll likely be the only one rinsing bottles and cans after use.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re still making a difference. Just because you see garbage cans overflowing with newspapers and soda bottles doesn’t mean that your efforts are in vain. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Whether you’re an attorney or a guitar instructor, every little bit of effort you make counts no matter where you live.
Research Your Options
Depending on the country or region where you’re living, there might actually be recycling centers available. These centers are probably very unlike the ones you’re used to. For example, when I was living in Costa Rica, there was one site per month where residents could bring recycling. Sorting was not allowed, and you simply brought recyclable items to a church parking lot for pickup.
Other countries don’t recycle because they use every part of an item purchased. For example, in many countries in Africa, meat is packed in paper that is then used as kindling. If these kinds of practices are being performed, jump on that bandwagon and reduce your own need to seek out a recycling center. After all, there’s more than one way to stay green.
Start Your Own Movement
If you’re up for the task, or the sight of all that trashed plastic gives you a panic attack, you can always lead your own movement. Recycling starts somewhere, and there’s no reason why you can’t spearhead efforts in your new neighborhood. This can mean anything from volunteering at the recycling center yourself to simply offering to be the headquarters for recycling on your street. Remember that the biggest issue here is education.
If you’re living in a country with limited or no recycling programs, there’s a reason. A lack of information and education is often the main reason why recycling programs are lagging behind (or non-existent). Many people also think they don’t have the time or resources available to contribute.
You can help bring people up to speed and address all of these issues.
Remembering the Big Picture
I know just how frustrating it can be to move to a country or area where recycling isn’t present. It’s easy to get discouraged, but it’s essential to pick up the good habits of your new neighborhood and keep practicing existing green habits. One of the best things about living outside your comfort zone is the exchange of information. Your knowledge and commitment to recycling is a great habit to introduce to your new community.
Sustainable living isn’t innate knowledge. It’s a learned activity, and there’s a good chance that you might be thrust into the role of teacher (if you’re interested). Take this responsibility seriously, because you might just be the foundation your community needs to make a change.