You know that weird girl you see picking up the trash her friends drop, scowling at the thick packets teachers hand out because of the number of trees destroyed, or picking the recyclables out of the trash and putting them in their proper barrels? That's me. Some of my friends understand, some don't bother trying, and still others think it's fun to see who can be the most wasteful. I've learned to deal with all of them.
I was exposed to the idea of conservation at an early age when my mother was on our local recycling committee. When most kids were home watching cartoons, I spent Saturday mornings at the recycling plant showing Barbie where to put the clear bottles and where to put the icky brown ones.
These days, instead of explaining recycling to Barbie, I explain it to my brother, my friends, my grandmother - anyone who will listen. (Though I am no longer permitted to lecture my grandmother about her habit of rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. I maintain that rinsing is unnecessary, and a waste of water.) The kids I baby-sit often notice my irritation when they put one scribble on a piece of paper, call it art, and ask for a new sheet. Pointing out all the remaining white space as well as the back of the sheet, I realize I might as well be talking to a dog.
The concept of prepackaged anything drives me crazy. I despise Lunchables! Why can't we just put it all in one box? A biodegradable box! One with "Save The Rainforest" stickers instead of Pokemon tattoos!
Of course, I'm not perfect. My showers last 20 minutes on a good day, and when the temperature drops, I am the first to sneak over to the thermostat and raise it. All I ask is that everyone try their best to acknowledge the world we live in. All I ask is that we pick up what we leave behind. All I ask is that we take care of the planet so future generations can enjoy it as much as we have.
So next time you witness me doing my part by picking up what others have thrown on the ground, do not laugh, but join me in the fight to save our planet.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.