Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Customer Was Wrong

The man in front of me at the supermarket checkout was a big guy wearing a cap displaying a Marine Corps emblem. He was a mature adult – probably in his late sixties. He had two carts filled to the brim with purchases. And he was complaining loudly about all sorts of things.

A quiet middle-aged checkout was trying hard to move him along as she patiently listened to his ranting. Finally, the guy announced he just might have to go back into the Marines to get everybody straightened out. He then held up his very long itemized receipt and said, “And I suppose this will waste another tree you people could have saved.”

The little lady bristled. “Sir,” she said, “now that is just plain wrong. Pulpwood trees are planted to be harvested as crops. I grew up in the U. P., and I know all about that. Now we live on a farm near here. We sell Christmas trees. If nobody buys them, we won’t plant them -- same thing as with pulp trees. You’re not saving any trees by saving that piece of paper.”

The ex-Marine seemed startled. He said, “Oh,” and quietly wheeled his two carts away,

I knew who was right, and it wasn’t him. However, recycling is a good thing to do. It conserves space in landfills and that is important. About 40 percent of household trash is paper or various types of paperboard, so reusing or recycling products made from pulpwood has a positive impact on a real problem. Sandy and I reuse and recycle everything we can, including paper, but not for the wrong reasons.

Recycling promoters just can’t make saving trash space sound as glamorous as “saving” a tree. But does the end justify the means? Must we lie to do good? I think we could make progress, although perhaps more slowly, in improving our environment without misrepresenting the situation.

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