Standing at the end of the driveway, waiting for the school bus with my kids, we were early enough to see the recycling truck making its way down the street.

“Great – teachable moment!” thinks the Environmental-Professor/Mum. And I begin to link virtues of recycling, the Magic School Bus episode and a low(er) consumption lifestyle. It’s 7:55am and my kids are pumped about recycling, a parenting victory!

Yet just as they were about to applaud Mr. Recycling Guy, he got out of the truck and said “stay in school so you don’t end up like me!”


I’ve been thinking about Mr. Recycling Guy ever since. Was he on to something? He seemed to say that his work was menial and unimportant — a not-so-great job because of insufficient education. Meanwhile, I was telling my kids about the essential service that he and the municipality provides.

Still, what he expressed in one sentence summarizes what I see in the university classes. We’re training students to be environmental policy makers, advocates, assessors etc — transforming young brains into mid- and high(er) level environmental functionaries. We applaud those in government, ENGOS or other impressive designations and a university degree confers legitimacy in conventional environmental discussions.

Yet if environmental problems are to be successfully addressed — here, there and everywhere — it’s also the person driving the recycling truck who also must feel part of bigger process. Mr. Recycling Guy should see himself on the front line of the environmental effort. I’ve seen some progress in my field — the Green Plumbers program is training plumbing professionals in the art and science of water efficiency. And there are more and more educational programs aimed at environmental technicians or project managers that recent university grads are transitioning to. Let’s hope it doesn’t stop there.

Mr. Recycling Guy — if you are reading this — thanks for picking up my paper and empty containers. I’ll try to consume less next week. We’re in this together.