Sunday, April 19, 2009

Recycle Mann: An Undercover LiveBlog Endeavor

Recycling is a hot-button topic in the environmental world. In a culture that values convenience and disposability, many people are not thrilled about putting the effort into recycling their waste. Still, more and more establishments are popping up that encourage their customers to recycle. One such establishment, is Manndible Cafe, a coffee and food provider to hundreds of exhausted, famished students every day. With an emphasis on serving locally grown, organic products, Manndible is an environmentally-minded coffee and goody oasis. As part of their environmental mission, Manndible has extensive waste management facilities with separately labeled beens for trash, recycling, compostables, and paper in two separate locations within their relatively small space. This liveblog is dedicated to finding out whether students at a liberal arts school actually make use of compost and recycling facilities when they are literally right in front of their faces. The customers do not know they are being watched...

4:56 pm - Girl with orange dyed hair actually makes the effort to drop her coffee cup, cap, and napkin in all the appropriate bins. This may not be as revealing as I expected!

4:58 pm - Business is a bit slow so I took a peek in the closest waste drop location and their appears to be some compostable items in the trash can. Gasp!

4:59 pm - Starting to wonder if my time would have been better spent watching the Flyers' playoff hockey game. People are making purchases but not a whole of disposal occurring. Thank goodness for ESPN gamecast!

5:00 pm - It's shocking to think how much waste we create just by "dressing" our coffees.  Sugar packets, stir sticks, cups, caps...It definitely adds up. I'm sizing up the coffee bar to see if people are just throwing their waste blindly or putting remnants in the right place.

5:02 pm - I just watched a girl look at all her options, throw something in the compost bin then throw a recyclable container right in the trash. Much of the plastic here is compostable but even if she got it elsewhere, it is certainly recyclable. It makes you wonder why she took the time to think about it then throw it in the general trash can anyway. 

5:05 pm - Got a bit distracted by a conversation with a friend. I've been scanning though and haven't seen much waste disposal. My friend is self conscious because she knows I am watching her to make sure she throws away her straw wrapper appropriately. 

5:07 pm - The line is building up. This could get interesting...or not.

5:07 - 5:09 pm - I just watched a girl throw all of her compostable items that are markedly not recyclable into the recycling bin. This is so frustrating. At least throw it in the trash if you are going to do it wrong, so that you don't contaminate the recycling bin. What's even more frustrating is that all the signs for each bin clearly show which items belong there. People can be so apathetic. Interestingly, she is now buying more items that she will undoubtedly dispose of incorrectly. Perhaps I should offer recycling reform school?

5:10 pm - Maybe people know I am watching them. This place is unusually empty. It is a Sunday...

5:11 pm - Sitting in a cafe is making me quite hungry but I am trying to limit the carbon footprint of this assignment to just the CO2 I'm breathing out and the energy to power my computer. Therefore, no packaged food for me! A guy noticed me watching him and then proceeded to throw his compostable napkin into the recycling bin. Is he blind? 

5:13 pm - Decidedly, all the workers here think I have a serious staring problem. Oh well. It would add a little excitement if I got kicked out...

5:15 pm - People are really good at blocking where they put their sugar packet refuse. Difficult to say where they are throwing empty packets and stirrers...

5:16 pm - It is nice to see that a good percentage of the customer base at this cafe brings reusable coffee mugs...SUCCESS! I am sitting right next to one waste location and a girl just threw all her waste away correctly. She put trash items into the trash and save her napkin and plate for the compost bin. Some people can read picture signs! Great news!

5:18 pm - More good news. A girl just carried her plate and utensils to the waste location, stopped read all the signs, then deposited them in the compost bin. She returned with a napkin and composted that, as well. This is definitely encouraging. 

5:20 pm - A girl and guy (not friends) simultaneously stood and read the signs at the location nearest me. The guy deposited his collection of trash in each of the appropriate, separate bins and then the girl followed suit. Normally, I would suggest the influence of peer pressure but the girl looked to be considering her waste options before the guy walked up. 

5:21 pm - Girl blows her nose and throws the napkin in the compost bin. I assume snot is compostable. Gross, though.

5:23 pm - It's emptying out in here and I am getting hungry. I think it useful to know that, although there are some oblivious/ignorant people in every bunch, there are an uplifting number of people who are willing to read the signs and dispose of their waste appropriately. It really only takes a few extra seconds to discern where your coffee cup and lid go, and it's nice to see that some people take the extra to second to educate themselves. Especially when the information is directly in front of their faces. Have a nice night and remember your three R's and C (compost). 

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