Environmental Awareness

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The way people in Macedonia dispose of their trash is one of the few things that consistently upsets me about the country. For all that’s wrong in the States re: how many things we dispose of that we could reuse or repurpose, how many products are packaged to excess, we do tend to look down on people who toss potato chip bags out of car windows or drop a styrofoam coffee cup on a sidewalk. In Macedonia, people are far less likely to tote garbage around in their bags or pockets to throw away in a trash can. If you eat a bag of chips while you’re riding in a combi, you throw the bag out the window when you finish. If you buy an ice cream bar, you drop the wrapper while you walk down the street.

My attempts to make change in this region have been pretty slight, though, mostly telling my little sister things like, “The earth is good! We need to clean it! Don’t throw that, give it to me!” When we go to the store she usually gives me her candy wrappers while we walk home, and I put them in one of the buckets we collect trash in.

That said, even “collected garbage” is often burned, either in the town’s garbage dump or by individual families. A few times a week I have to shut my windows because the smell of burning plastic is drifting in from a neighbor’s. What I find interesting about this is that I get upset, very easily, over the lack of environmental awareness in Macedonia, but I’m also sure that the carbon footprint of an individual American is far greater than that of an individual here. It’s just that you can see (and smell) someone burning a pile of garbage far more easily than you can someone keeping their AC set to 65 degrees all summer long.

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