For many years, I worked in the US National Parks. No, I was not a Park Ranger, although many of my friends were. I worked for Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which was, for many years, the largest National Park concessionaire in the US.
Concessionaire, you say. You mean like they sold popcorn and peanuts at concession stands? Well, maybe. But being a concessionaire in the National Parks means running all those operations that the National Park Service [NPS] doesn’t want to operate. You know, the hotels, the restaurants, gas stations, and a lot of the gift shops.
Because we Xanterrans were answerable not only to NPS, but to the public as well, we not only jumped on early to the recycle, reuse, reduce bandwagon, we actually tried very hard to truly ride it. And in most cases, even though we lived in “the middle of nowhere,” we were successful.
So when I moved to Mexico three years ago, I carried that ideal with me. It’s a noble cause which more of us should probably adhere to. But, at least at Lake Chapala, the trash guys, or hombres de basura, are not really ready for that. The local expat population has tried to change things, but it’s not easy. Recycling requires time and money.
While the hombres de basura may have the time to do it, the local governments don’t have the money to pay them to do it. So most of us still just put out our trash the old fashioned way. Everything in the trash can and the trash cans dumped into the truck.
Nonetheless, I noticed that the trash cans weren’t heaped up to overflowing like many US cans are, and I started thinking about the differences between here and there. And one of the things I realized is that, while Mexicans may not be so hot at recycling, they are experts at reusing and/or repurposing!
Given that, at the beginning of this year, I decided to start living more of a Mexican lifestyle. And one of the things that Mexicans do is to purchase their cleaning supplies from from a street vendor or from one of the local “refill” places.
Since I don’t seem to have a street vendor where I live, I found a place just down the street from me where I could get my cleaning supply bottles refilled. So when I’m out of floor cleaner or bleach or shampoo, I take my empty bottles down to my local lady and have them refilled instead of buying more plastic containers thereof.
As you can see, if you don’t have your own bottles or jugs, she can provide them. She primarily uses empty milk and juice jugs since she has a large family and probably has a lot of containers she can reuse.
She has so many things for sale. These are shampoos and conditioners. The first time I went there, she touched my hair and said, basically, “Oh, honey, you really need some of this!”
So, while in Mexico we may not recycle like all you good folks NOB, we certainly do reuse and/or repurpose.
And if you’ve ever thought that it’s hard to get your kids or grandkids to understand why it’s so important to recycle or reuse, maybe you should put a “Super Mario Brothers” game or two in your refill station:
And maybe, just maybe, the kids will “get it,” too!