Recycle this opinion column

My eternal reward will be a mansion in a redwood tree where I can look down at infidels in red-hot garbage.

John Hoff

There are people who really believe in recycling. And then there are foaming-at-the-mouth religious fanatics like me. I firmly believe my fate in the afterlife will be determined not just by how I treat other people, but also by how much I recycle and inspire others to recycle.

You would think that on a campus where recycling containers are everywhere everybody would recycle. So how is it that people will throw away plastic drink bottles or, heaven forbid, aluminum cans when a recycle container is a mere 6 inches away? What, they couldn’t alter the flight plan of the discarded beverage container by half a foot and make sure it goes in the recycle container instead of the trash can? Somebody like me has to fish their (expletive deleted) bottle out and put it where it belongs when I recycle my own bottles. Could you please put your waste where it belongs instead of wherever it happens to drop, like a critter at the zoo? (If this doesn’t apply to you, rejoice in your purity and read on to learn of your reward in the Hereafter)

The other day I confronted my dear friend Dan about this issue. Dan probably is my best buddy on campus. He hooked me up with a great teaching assistant job. Dan and I do lunch at Village Wok, share ridiculously expensive course packets photocopied on the downlow and exchange information about the health of our little sons. So when that bastard Dan threw away a plastic drink bottle right in front of me, I was like, What’s the deal? And Dan tried to tell me that he didn’t understand the word bottles on the recycle containers means bottles made of plastic.

People who aren’t Dan and believe in recycling do it, I suppose, because it is a social duty that they trudge with a frown to fulfill, or maybe they get a slightly euphoric buzzy feeling of holistic goodness by becoming one with the eternal circle of reusable materials. But for myself, I consider the things I recycle to be offerings to the Earth Goddess. When I say “things I recycle,” I don’t mean waste that I generate myself. Heavens no! Those are things bound to me by karma, stuff I am forced to deal with properly here on earth or I will be confronted with those empty drink bottles and used newspapers in the afterlife. Imagine being given your heavenly mansion and then finding a big burning mountain of trash in the front yard, your neighbors standing on their porch and shaking their heads in disdain as you arrive. That’s just what will happen if you don’t recycle your own garbage, which is bound to you by karma. No, in order to make a proper offering to the Earth Goddess, you have to recycle stuff that belongs to other people, stuff that wasn’t your duty to recycle.

Ah, paper. I think of it as the living tissue of a tree, producing oxygen for me and others to breathe for decades, and by quickly diverting a newspaper from the trash to the recycle bin, I have saved that exact measure of living tree flesh. Beverage containers are even better. The Earth Goddess is thirsty, fainting with thirst. Her eyes search desperately for the sight of clean water to drink. When somebody fails to recycle an Evian bottle, but I intercede, I have made a drink offering to the Earth Goddess. She is grateful and won’t forget my humble deed in the afterlife.

Yes, in the next world, because of my devoted recycling, I will be served by lovely consorts who look like Julia Butterfly Hill, that young woman who sat for two years in a redwood named Luna in order to save the tree. Some people think Julia looks rather average, but when she cleans up and gets the tree bark out of her hair, I think she’s a movie star. Sure, the Earth Goddess probably will make between 60 and 120 heavenly consorts available to me, everyone from Jennifer Love Hewitt to Angelina Jolie, movie star women looking like glossy images in a copy of People magazine (snapped up secondhand and not purchased). My eternal reward will be a mansion high in a redwood tree where I can look down and laugh at infidels forced to clean up mountains of red-hot garbage while I snack on cruelty-free Kentucky Fried Chicken that grows painlessly on Christmas trees. But for an eternal companion in that blissful afterlife, I would choose Julia Butterfly Hill over all those movie star women, honestly.

When Julia Butterfly Hill was fighting to save her beloved redwood tree Luna, she would sit in the tree and write poems. Julia wrote things like, “Believe… that wings of butterflies can create storms on the other side of the world. Imagine… that what we think we know is only scratching the surface of a deeper pool of possibilities.” I have long thought that more people would recycle if the containers made to receive their papers and pop bottles were adorned with images and poems written by somebody like Julia Butterfly Hill. She radiates positive energy, my Julia. She makes me believe there is forgiveness in the afterlife.

Maybe, just maybe, if a person firmly resolves this very moment to trash no more and earnestly endeavor to recycle, you won’t have to face a hellish smoldering mountain of garbage in the afterworld. There may be hope, even for people like Dan.

John Hoff welcomes comments at [email protected]