Off Brand: Reducing, reusing and forgetting on Whidbey

I reduce, I reuse, and the overstuffed paper bag I keep next to the trash gives the illusion that I regularly recycle. Two out of three ain’t bad.

Even as a vegetarian, I can appreciate the lyrics of the late Meat Loaf. But if he purports that 66% can pass for passion, why not environmentally?

In Mr. Loaf’s idiom, he ostensibly claims that he can’t love you because his energy is limited and can only be allocated toward wanting and needing you but nothing else; hence the pushy reassurance that the romantic ratio he’s offering is acceptable. However, if the criterion expanded, maybe there wouldn’t be such a fuss about Loaf not meeting the requirements of the love trifecta, or, in my case, green living.

There is more to eco-friendliness than the three Rs. According to a page one Google result, there are upwards of 12 conceptually similar R-words that can push the waste management ideology. Who knew that many words existed, let alone for a singular purpose? I admit, some are a stretch (“remember”), but for the most part, I do most of the 12 principles daily. In that set, I’m mere percentage points away from being a whole person.

Despite my attempt to justify my recent recycling delinquencies with fractions and ballads, I’m aware that I should’ve been doing the thing I wasn’t. But just for safety, here’s a comprehensive paragraph of potential excuses:

Based on a Greenpeace finding I heard on NPR, the state of the recycling industry is negligent (most consumer-recycled plastic is ending up in landfills); my apartment complex doesn’t offer a complimentary blue bin (though every other place I’ve lived has had one available); the recycling center where I can drop off stuff for free is too far away (exactly one mile); no one told us about aforementioned recycling center (until yesterday); I’m forgetful (“remember”).

It’s easier to point out a person’s flaws than it is to take into consideration their innumerable achievements. When the elementary school lunch ladies explained the blue bins over rectangular pizzas on styrofoam trays, I understood the importance of recycling every chocolate milk carton from then on.

It wasn’t until a cross-country move that I slipped up on my streak. Every trashed tin can was a visceral gut punch, but I was too bewildered by Washington state’s byzantine recycling regulations to do anything. Before discovering the transfer station almost a year into living here, I tried to make up for my blunders in other ways.

I live well below my means; I don’t eat meat; my leftovers become leftovers; I wash my jeans bi-yearly; I go paperless; I thrift almost everything; and I only drive when I need to.

I’m a good person trying to be better. As Meat Loaf said, “I wish you wouldn’t make me leave here,” but if recycling is a thing I have to abandon my slightly heated apartment to do, I’ll risk the carbon emissions to get me there.

Brandon Berry is a curious newcomer to Whidbey Island who enjoys thinking about doing things rather than doing them. You can reach him at