when will we learn, when will we change

There are few things to cover today that I have been meaning to talk about!

I recently read this blog on the New York Times website about President Obama’s recent speech to the National Academy of Sciences.

The author of the blog entry makes an interesting point that Obama is encouraging creativity, over consumerism. I think that is an especially important perspective to take on a lot of our problems. People are deathly afraid of changing their lifestyle, but if framed in the light that they can creatively contribute to society, consuming less can make sense while not damaging our very high standard of living.

Which brings me to the Bigger Better Bottle Bill in New York State. (It is almost a reality! It recently passed in Albany.) This bill has been bouncing around for years, and has never had the right amount of momentum to get passed, which is a shame because the Returnable Container Act that is in place is over 25 years old. The update to the Act would allow more types of beverage containers to be redeemed for 5 cents, or more like in Michigan where it is 10 cents.

The redemption rate hovers above 70% in New York state, whereas in Michigan it is 95% or higher. Note that this is not the same as recycling rate, just the redemption of beverage containers that have a deposit on them. (For more info on how deposits work, check out http://www.bottlebill.org/. Also check out a piece I posted earlier on recycling.)

In 1982 when the Returnable Container Act was passed, the majority of beverages were sodas and beer (both being carbonated). Since then, the types of beverages sold have grown exponentially to include juices, sports drinks, and water.

Going back to what President Obama said, we could creatively pass policy that will promote consuming less. We could be actively reforming old and outdated policy that no longer is adequate or effective for today’s society.

While I agree that young people should be encouraged “to be makers of things, no just consumers of things,” I think this motto can be applied much more widely than just in the sciences. Fresh, creative thinking and innovation should be driving forces in every field!


Incubus – Warning

Image credit: Patricia Pooladi, National Academy of Sciences

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6 Responses

  1. chewbear says

    I think that is exactly it. It is hard enough to get people to put things in the correct bins on a college campus! It would be even more difficult to do it city-wide. The general public is not yet at the point where they would do this. I think maybe it would be successful in other areas where the culture is more receptive to recycling. But in NYC, I think it may take a while longer. They do have those receptacle machines sometimes at supermarkets. That is a good start!

    It would also cost more to collect from recycling bins. I am not sure what the state of the NYC budget is, but I imagine that things are a bit tight right now. So maybe with the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, some of the unredeemed deposits can go towards promoting this idea.

  2. Nat says

    As a bit of a tangent related to NYC beverage container redemption, any idea why it’s so hard to find public recycling containers in New York City? It seems that I always have to search far and wide whenever I have a container I want to recycle when I’m out in the city. I feel like public facilities like subway stations, at least, should have these.

    Then again, I suppose New Yorkers are apathetic to the level that recycling containers would be filled up with regular trash on a regular basis.

  3. up in arms | science before breakfast says

    [...] they were working on. (They recently were working on the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, which I posted about yesterday. They finally “won” this campaign after many years of [...]

  4. chewbear says

    It is interesting that you say that, Dori. I actually just read a chapter in Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded that talks about the “green fad.” While it might be true that one person’s action does not help the cause all that much, it seems that all the individual decisions we make for our own needs are in conflict with the decisions and actions we should be taking as a society and a species. We also talked about that a lot in my Biofuels course this past semester. Friedman thinks that while the small actions are important, we need to have a green “revolution” (not a “party,” which is what we have now, with everyone doing their own thing).

    You should read the book! It would be interesting to talk more about this stuff. Thanks for reading my blog!

  5. Dori says

    The thing that makes me sad is when I tell people about trying to use less, make less waste, recycle, etc, they tell me that one person (and even all private citizens as a united group) could not make enough change by their “green” actions. This is truly disappointing since it’s this type of attitude that will certainly never get things moving. I feel like spreading the lifestyle choices will increase understanding and awareness, which will have the effect of influencing policy decisions, creating actual noticeable change in the state of the environment. I’m hopeful the more trendy it becomes to be “green” but it needs to spread beyond NYC as well. Step into the midwest and it’s a whole different story. I hope soon that this GREEN fever will hit the RED states.

  6. Lili says

    Agreed, 100%.