recycling bins in a Vancouver, B.C. neighborhoodJust arrived in Vancouver, BC, yesterday for our Alaska cruise. My wife and I were trying to remember back and we couldn’t believe it’s been 12 years since we were last here! It’s always fun to spend some time in the city—especially when you live in a very rural area as we do—and Vancouver is one of my favorites. Very cosmopolitan and international, and one thing I really miss about living in the Northwest is big trees.

It also turns out that Vancouver is quite recycle savvy. One thing I plan to document on this vacation is just how green our travels may or may not be. While I anticipate time spent on a cruise ship to be pretty low on the scale of eco-friendly vacations (how much diesel fuel do you think one of those things burns in seven days? I just may have to find out.), I was pleasantly surprised to see how committed to recycling Vancouver seems to be. From the time we got off the plane until we settled into our hotel room, I was amazed at how ubiquitous recycle bins seem to be. They’re right there next to every trash can, just like they’re supposed to be. Nobody charges for this extra service, and Vancouverites seem to be trusted by their municipality to make the right decisions about exactly what is recyclable and which ones go in which bin. No signs about only this kind of plastic or paper and not that kind. (On a walk through one downtown neighborhood I took the above pic of two large recycle receptacles outside an apartment building with no garbage can in sight.)

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised about recycling being this common-place. No, what is really surprising is how bass-akwards we Americans are about our preference to just throw everything “away” instead of taking the extra time (we’re talking seconds here, folks) to recycling that water bottle, newspaper, paper plate, what-have-you. And here’s a news-flash for you: there is no such place as “away”; it’s gotta go somewhere, and we’re running out of places to send our garbage.

So while you celebrate Independence Day down there in the good ol’ US of A this weekend, with your hot dogs and hamburgers eaten from paper plates and beer drank from glass bottles and aluminum cans, think about what you can do to help create American independence, not from oil but from garbage. Happy 4th!