Happy Earth Day!

Posted: Apr 22, 2011 1:32 PM
Happy Earth Day! This years theme, according to earthday.org is "A Billion Acts of Green", and everyone is encouraged to do something 'green'.

Instead of reflecting on women and the environment or buying a lightbulb full of mercury (two suggestions from the website), I am going to watch The False Promise of Green Energy, an event hosted yesterday at the Cato Institute. It also seems like a good day to read "I Recycle", a short essay on recycling, written by Don Boudreaux, an economics professor at George Mason University:

Consider a typical day.

After I awaken, I shower and dry myself with a towel that I’ve had for a few years. I use this towel day after day. I don’t discard it after one use. When it gets dirty, I toss it in the washing machine to clean it for further use. I recycle my towel.

Then I brew coffee and fix breakfast. Each day I use the same coffeemaker that I used the day before. I clean it after each use, recycling it for the next time. My wife and I drink the coffee from mugs that have been used many times in the past. (Actually, one set of our coffee mugs was handed down to us after my wife’s parents used them for several years.) We also eat our breakfasts using dishes and utensils that are recycled from countless past uses. After breakfast, we don’t throw our mugs, dishes, and utensils away; instead we put them in the dishwasher to be recycled for yet another use.


Reflecting on the impressive amount of recycling that actually takes place daily casts doubt on the prevailing misperception that people are naturally wasteful and mindlessly irresponsible. In fact, market prices compel us to recycle when recycling is appropriate and to not recycle when recycling is inappropriate.