Being environmentally friendly does not strictly mean recycling. There are many ways how people can help conserve the environment. Everyday things, such as using a reusable water bottle instead of buying water bottles, is a good way to cut down on plastic waste being produced.
Back home in the United States, recycling is becoming popular in schools. Local school clubs and churches encourage people to recycle by holding recycling drives. In my high school, the class that recycled the most would receive a pizza party. When I was given this topic to write on, I was expecting something similar. The need for recycling is becoming more and more important today as more and more people are purchasing and consuming more products. One way that people are able to cut down on waste is by recycling. As the need to recycle increases, recycling centers are becoming more accessible.
In Oxford, recycling is encouraged and available to the local community. My home-stay has a recycling bin and the family actively recycles. There are even recycling trash bins in town that are for empty bottles and cans. My home-stay mom works in a grocery store, so I was able to ask her a few questions about how stores feel about recycling. She said that some grocery stores charge customers for using plastic bags, and many reward customers who bring their own reusable bags. The customers bringing their own bags are awarded shopping points that will eventually get them discounts at the store. My home-stay mom also said that the grocery stores are required to recycle a certain amount every year. Each store’s recycling is tracked and if the store does not recycle enough in one year, it will be fined.
Grocery stores are also the local recycling centers. While people have their own recycling bins that are collected every week, grocery stores accept bottles and cans that can be turned in for money. Even though grocery stores are making a great effort to encourage other people to recycle, there is still a lot of food packed in plastic. Because Oxford is a busy city, there is a high demand for premade meals that are ready eat on the run. All of these meals are packaged in plastic. Plastic utensils are also offered free of charge when these items are bought. While this custom is very convenient, it creates a lot of plastic packaging waste that is not very good for the environment.
People in Oxford are willing to recycle and it has become a part of their daily routine. I was surprised when I talked to my home-stay sister and her friend, and asked them about recycling at their high school. I was expecting them to say that the students are very motivated to recycle, but it seems that it is not of any particular importance. The girls said that there were recycling bins for cans and bottles, but there are no clubs that promote recycling or any recycling drives. The girls did not seem particularly excited about recycling, but the idea did not annoy them either. I think that my generation has grown up recycling, and it has just become a part of our daily lives. It is important that the young generation continues to be motivated to recycle because the environment is our home and provides many things we need in order to survive.
During my stay here I have noticed many things promoting saving the environment. I think my favorite effort for conserving the environment is the hybrid buses. Instead of using gas guzzling buses, the city uses buses that are run mostly by battery, which is really cool. There is even a sign on the bus that says, “This bus may sound like it shut off, but do not be alarmed, it is just the engine switching to battery.” I drive a Prius at home, which is also run by battery and gas. I remember the first time I drove it. It sounded like it shut off at a red light and I got a little worried, but then I pressed the gas pedal and it drove forward like usual. I think of my car every time the bus “shuts off.” My friends and I were riding in the bus and the bus switched to battery mode. My friend looked at me worried, and I had to look back with a big smile saying that it just switched to battery mode. It is fun to be in the middle of new technology and see the older generations reacting to the changes. It shows me that everything continues to change and there is always something we can do to help the environment we live in.
New buildings are another opportunity to be environmentally friendly. There is a new building for a college under construction on my way to school. On the fence around the construction site there are many different pictures, logos, and designs that encourage people to make good environmental choices, because they are using environmentally friendly materials. Lastly, many people use reusable water bottles. Because people are able to drink the tap water, many people choose to refill their reusable bottles instead of buying disposable plastic water bottles. At the colleges I attend, there is a water cooler in every classroom, and the cafeteria gives students an access to tap water so that they do not need to buy water bottles.
While there have been no brand new environmental laws, residents are required to have a rubbish (regular trash), recycling, and garden waste cans. If residents do not have all three, then they will be fined. Oxford residents are also given the option of a compost bin. Compost is like fertilizer that is made from naturally decomposing food and yard clippings. People, who choose to have a compost bin, will throw any of their left over food and plants into this bin. No paper, plastic, Styrofoam, or cardboard is allowed in this bin. When food and plants decompose, it creates a nutrient-rich soil that is really good for growing plants. Many restaurants and grocery stores participate in this even at home in the United States. Once a month the compost is collected.
My home-stay household does not participate in composting, because it can be inconvenient and a little disgusting. Because the food is sitting around for so long, it attracts animals and many times maggots will appear after awhile, which is normal, just a little gross. It is also a little inconvenient to have to collect and separate the food from the other materials in the trash. I hope that more people will start a routine to accommodate these changes, because composting is really good for the environment and such a good way to recycle solid waste. Overall, I was really excited to see the many ways that this city is environmentally conscious.