How Much Does Our Culture Affect Recycling and Frugality?

I lived in Germany for a brief period of time in the early 90s (shortly after the reunification). While I was there, people that I worked with and spent time with gently pointed out that I should not throw away my Coke cans, aluminum foil, paper sacks, or baggies.

Instead, I should recycle the cans, and reuse the remaining items until they could no longer be reused (and then recycle them.) Pop in glass bottles had deposits.

Banks (and what I gathered were the equivalent of savings & loans) gave away cloth bags with slogans on the side like “Der Natur zuliebe!” (which essentially means “For the sake of nature!”)

People regularly brought their own expandable bags to the grocery store. In fact I don’t think the grocery stores even offered paper or plastic sacks.

Have you thought about how much our culture affects things like frugality and environmental awareness?

It’s taken nearly 20 years for businesses here to start doing things like giving away reusable bags. But reuse baggies and foil here (and tell people about it or have them catch you at it) and it’s still a different story.

I’m hoping that one day it will be normal in the U.S. to take care of our resources by using less, reusing, and recycling.


  • I save our aluminum cans and newspapers to eventually drive them to a recycling center. Right now, they are just piles in the garage. I REALLY wish we had a recycling service in our area along with regular trash pickup…I would love to have the service that actually pays you per pound of recycling. I’ve seen it in other parts of our county…

    I reuse my sandwich baggies two or three times…so far, it’s never hurt me any…

    • Our city provides recycling pickup (unsorted even!) in a big barrel and I just love it. Between that and the compost bin we have very little trash.

  • I never really thought about that before….In Wisconsin we all recycled. And they paid if you took it in yourself. I don’t know in Cali does that or not. I usually give my cans to the homeless, they come around to collect them once a week.

  • Lenci, that’s a nice way to recycle :)

  • I moved to Texas (no recycling) for 2 years from Canada (recycling) about 10 years ago. It was PAINFUL for me to throw pop cans,, milk jugs or anything that had a recycling code on it into the garbage. Pretty much everybody but teenagers recycle their pop cans up here. The milk jugs have only been worth a dime for the last year or so.

    We have also only recently had a few stores only provide grocery bags for a nickel apiece. Most people bring their own reusable bags to these stores and they’re starting to bring them into other places as well.

    We run about one garbage bag every 2 weeks for our family of 3 which I feel is fairly decent, particularly compared to our neighbours whom I see with 2 or 3 bags every week. I compost, recycle, drop the good things off at goodwill or freecycle rather than throw them out and just don’t buy that much. It all adds up.

  • jacqjolie, it’s funny how different things are in different places. Glad you’re doing so much in your own household.