As a real estate broker, I spend a lot of time with clients driving around in my car. On more than one occasion some clueless client, unaware of my passion for recycling, has thrown a cigarette or a plastic bottle out the window. Immediate reprisal! Without delay, I pull over to the side of the road, eyeball my passenger, and ask him to retrieve the trash.
Actually, I would love to lay down some rubber and leave the offender holding his discarded water bottle at the curb. Instead, I have made a commitment to start laying down this law wherever I go: Don’t trash Nevada!
I don’t want to see trash on the side of the road. I don’t want to see piles of cigarette butts neatly hidden under innocent plants. I don’t accept the arrogance of people – residents or tourists – who think it’s OK to trash my community, Las Vegas!
Picking up butts, glass and cans is not my job. It is, however, an opportunity for me to address the actions of those who don’t seem to care about our Mohave Desert. Come on, people! It’s 2009 and life here in Las Vegas is changing. The bling-bling isn’t happening anymore – no more big rings and Hummers. We are all retooling our lives and building a new economy. Maybe now we can grow a higher consciousness, too. Maybe we can recycle into a more thoughtful, less wasteful city. Imagine the New Las Vegas: The Luxor light replaced by inner illumination.
We all need to participate in simple ways to make our community better, more balanced and friendlier. For my part, I have made a commitment to:
1. Recycle more conscientiously.
2. Encourage others to start recycling.
3. Ask people to be more responsible with their trash habits.
This is not an intellectual conversation. I just want you to reprogram your brain. Take simple action. When you finish drinking a bottle of water, walk to the nearest recycling bin and toss it in! Cha-ching! Every time you discard a piece of paper, a plastic container, a glass jar or aluminum can, go to the pantry or designated recycle bin and toss it in. Action completed! At the end of the week, when you move the items to their final curbside destination, you will discover something amazing: You will find that 70 percent of your trash is recyclable; only 30 percent is plain old garbage.
Speaking of community changes, Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani has floated a proposal to replace the small red, white and blue recycle bins with a single, larger bin for all recyclables. The resulting “single-stream” recycling service would use trucks equipped with a hydraulic arm to lift and dump the special containers – trucks that might also cut labor costs and worker injury rates. This system has been used successfully for our heavy garbage collection and can be as effective for our recycling pickup. If Las Vegas gets on board, we can have one garbage and one recycling pickup once a week. That’s if we all organize our trash, which gets us back to the “retrain your brain” concept: Take the right action every time you discard something, and – cha-ching!
Surveys show that 95 percent of Americans believe in preserving the environment. Yet how many of us put a process into place for recycling? I’m not talking about those recycle bins sitting empty in your garage. I’m talking about an active process of change when you throw things away. Set up a location for a recycle bag or bin in the kitchen, by the back door, or in the garage. Place all your recyclables in there. The garbage can in the kitchen should receive only garbage, i.e., nonrecyclable waste.
Simple, right? Yet, in Las Vegas, surveys show that only 2 percent of households recycle. The Nevada Legislature set a recycling target of 25 percent back in 1991. That hasn’t happened. We still have our heads buried in the plastic bottles and beer cans. This is simply not acceptable for a global destination of fun, frolic and desert beauty. Besides, other cities are making us look bad. According to Steve Ross, who discussed household recycling in a recent KNPR commentary, the recycling rate is 20 percent in Phoenix, 21 percent in Tucson, and 53 percent in Seattle. We all envision Las Vegas as a unique city of the future. Hip sustainable architecture, trendy restaurants and clubs are fine, but “We the People” still have to make the commitment to recycle at home. We need to support progressive thinking in our own city.
Recycling materials is a practice for the future. Even now, recycled plastic, glass, paper and aluminum are remodeled into an amazing range of new products. Milk jugs can become park benches; peanut butter jars can become hiking shoes and sweatshirts. A medicine bottle can become a landscape border. At the Las Vegas Springs Preserve sustainable products and building materials are incorporated into the campus; in fact, the Springs Preserve Desert Living Center was certified Platinum Green by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program of the U.S. Green Building Council in June 2008. The rammed earth walls, solar array panels, passive cooling and renewable heating are combined with, yes, recycled materials – minimizing new resource demand. Recycled products will create resources for our future and an industry whose time has come. Cha-ching!
Our choice today? Either fill huge landfills in Apex or focus on recycling materials for future household products. This is not a difficult choice. It just requires a commitment and desire to lead Las Vegas into a sustainable future.
The bottle is in your hand. Make the choice to recycle it.