I don't know how old I was when I first learned about recycling, maybe 5th grade, but I know I drove my mother crazy collecting paper to be recycled and then how hurt and angry I was when she just threw it away.
I know that when I lived outside of the dorm life (where we had a separate recycling can in our room), that I still recycled, even though it meant driving to the recycling center. And how thrilled I was every time I saw someone else there. I'd walk to the Whole Paycheck to buy my organic produce. I kept searching, in vain, for a farmer's market, though I've heard there's one now.
When I moved to California, it was all so easy. I was composting, both in my yard or by using the city compost. Recycling was a given and we used to complain over the pain that we couldn't recycle our yogurt containers. Our milk came in reusable glass bottles, we shopped weekly at the farmers' market knowing our food was both local and organic. I grew my own lettuces, picked fruit from neighbors' trees.
And then I moved to Moscow. Where recycling is done on a very small scale. We had recycling pick up at our school, but the company just dropped us as we don't have enough volume. We would have more if everyone recycled, but students and teachers alike throw there half full bottles and cans away along with their paper scraps.
I save all my one-sided copies so that I can print on the other side. Sasha, who works in the copy center, once asked me if I wanted a ream of paper, since he noticed I was reusing it. And I explained that I was trying to reduce waste. At my local rynok, I bring my own plastic bags and have had an on going "discussion" with the people who work there about how I do not need new plastic bags and I hate the plastic bags. I bring my own backpack or canvas bag to the grocery store and get looked at funny every time.
I still can't bring myself to throw away bottles or cans (not that I generate them that often because I don't consume that many bottled products), but when I'm done with a bottle of wine, I save the bottle and set it out for the homeless people to recycle. I'm the only teacher who does this, that I've noticed. I would never let my students throw bottles away in my room and they'd always say, "Ms. S, there's nothing you can do, this is Russia." But I still believe it's all about small change. I influence one of them, they influence someone else and so on.
Even my parents, 20 years later, are now recycling. However, I still want to be able to do more and it's some of those thoughts that have me thinking about moving back to the states. It's being inspired by blogs like Crunchy Chicken and Take Back the [Britta] Filter reminding me that I can live in a more sustainable way even from and within Russia. I could also do more than I was in California.