Recycling: My Opportunity to Save the Universe

Whenever I'm invited to dinner at someone’s home, I always try to help in the kitchen afterwards. Doing this kind of mitzvah was one of the very first lessons I learned as a child. These days, when I’m in someone else’s kitchen, I usually ask "Do you recycle?" Heaven forbid I throw a can or plastic bag in with the rest of the garbage if my hosts are into recycling.

Rescuing items for reuse may seem like a new idea to young people, but those of us who were around during the war (the big one!) might remember that we recycled lots of things. One kid on our block had a huge ball of string. Another collected every scrap of aluminum foil he could get his hands on and pressed it into a big ball. As I recall, his efforts eventually resulted in a soccer sized sphere that dazzled the eyes. Both my mother and bubbie conscientiously saved any grease that remained after frying potatoes, hamburgers or other scrumptious foods that health conscious folks wouldn’t dream of eating today. So what happened to all those saved items that we were told would help the war effort? That, unfortunately, to this day remains a mystery to me. What could they have done with scraps of string or aluminum? Did our old grease end up being used somehow as ammunition?

At least today, whenever we see something labeled ‘made from recycled paper’, we know that some of our efforts might have gone into making that particular product. This makes me very happy, because, even though others might not care, I like to see evidence that my attempts at saving the universe have produced some tangible results.


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