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Robin's world

A little R&R

The tsunami of momentum surrounding curbside recycling in Savannah offers an opportunity to mention the other two environmental “R’s” that are often overlooked except around Earth Day.

Reduce and Re-Use are the red-headed step-children of consumer environmentalism, yet they can be as easy, or easier, to implement than their more famous sibling, Recycling.

Things are looking hopeful for curbside recycling, but for right now, local options still fall into two time- or money-consuming categories: take the stuff to a drop off center, or pay someone to pick it up for you. Meanwhile, Reduce and Re-Use offer ways to change life habits in small increments that can add up to a big difference.

Since last summer, my freezer’s contents have expanded from its usual collection of chicken breasts and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream tubs. Next to the Phish Food and Chunky Monkey is a plastic bin holding a frozen mélange of strawberry stems, fermented grapes, and browning remnants of salad mix culled from the drawers of the fridge. Instead of going into the garbage and then to the trash burner, these delights are packed up every few months and presented, gift like, to a friend as an addition to the compost pile in her garden.

This tiny act has proved to be an easy lifestyle change that may not make a big impact on the environment, but it seems to be a step in the right direction, and less of a time-eater than my monthly trips to the recycling center. And what a sight in the freezer!

Orlando Montoya’s blog entry for June 19, titled “Be the Change,” suggests a few easy things he’s doing that fall into the Reduce and Re-Use categories.

Best known as the soothing, objective voice bringing us local news via Georgia Public Broadcasting’s WSVH FM 91, Montoya lists on his blog eleven examples of small lifestyle choices he’s made that slightly reduce his consumption. They’re also changes that he finds easy to do.

“About once a month, we carpool to church with a neighbor,” says Montoya’s blog. “We use cloth towels instead of paper. We bring our own bags to the grocery store.

“About once a week, I take the bus, mainly to go downtown on the weekends if I’m traveling alone.

“I took the bus three days last weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” said Montoya earlier this week, noting that he prefers not to drive if he doesn’t have to, and that CAT transit system travel is best for “when I’m not in a hurry and when I’m not going to be out late.”

On his blog, and in person, Montoya says the most important thing for him is to not feel guilty when he can’t make every possible environmental change, but to focus on the collective impact of everything he’s doing to reduce his impact on the environment.

“The biggest thing isn’t ‘counting kilowatts’ or thinking I’ve failed if I forget the grocery bags...and ask for plastic at the register,” writes Montoya. “It’s merely to think about these things as part of life. Change will only happen if we become it.”

Read Orlando Montoya’s blog at

Dig it: Fun for all at the annual plant swap

In the next ten days, Savannah green thumbs will be doing whatever green thumbs do to prepare for Jane Fishman’s twice yearly garden party known as the Plant Swap. Held in the spring and the fall at Fishman’s Boundary Street garden, the Plant Swap brings together a patchwork quilt of people with the common interest of finding something interesting for their gardens—a plant or two with a history and a successful growing record in our sandy soil and tropical climate.

The premise is simple: bring plants or clippings from your own garden to share, and take home plants or clippings from others that interest you. The person who brought the plant will be right there to tell you whether it needs full sun or extra watering, and how she first dug it up from her best friend’s mother’s garden out on Isle of Hope.

The Plant Swap typically draws about 100 gardeners over three hours, starting at 8 a.m. and wrapping up at 11, presumably so swappers can go home and plant what they’ve just acquired. There’s great coffee, as well as random potluck offerings like scones and fresh fruit.

Gardening is not a passion of mine. Digging in the dirt, trimming shrubs, cutting grass, these are tasks more honestly defined in my lexicon as “yard work,” a necessity of home ownership that I perform as infrequently as possible.

I would never call washing dishes and doing laundry a hobby, nor will I ever refer to gardening as such. But many otherwise sane, smart and fun folks feel differently, and their enthusiasm at the Plant Swap is a joy to be around.

For me, the only challenge at the Plant Swap is convincing well-meaning gardener evangelists that, no, I really don’t want any plants, thanks. I’m just there for the fellowship.

Jane Fishman’s fall Plant Swap is Saturday, September 29, 8 – 11 a.m. at Fishman’s Boundary Street garden located between Chatham Steel and SCAD’s Boundary Hall. The street address? “I said it’s 409 Boundary Street but I made that up,” says Fishman.