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Couples Recycle More Than Singles

Recycle | Photo: Dano/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Every day, the Internet bombards us with a heaping helping of studies and surveys that are intended to change our worldview. At the very least, they're around to be good conversation-starters. ("Honey, did you see that cats are actually ten times more emotional than dogs? But also are probably dreaming about different ways to murder you in your sleep?") But these Internet-linked studies tend to have a short shelf life. After reading them, maybe chatting about it once, or posting something vapid on your Facebook, the information simply drifts off into the nether regions of your mind and the ether of the web, never to be considered again. Mostly, they're wastes of time, simply because none of us know what to do with the information.

Case in point: This study linked over by The Guardian last week claims that single people are not nearly as good at recycling as couples. The big takeaway stats making the rounds in the blogosphere are that only 65% of people living alone recycle, while 79% of couples do.

(These numbers come from respondents in the U.K., it should be known, so the stats may not be completely the same over here in the States. But it's probably safe to say that you can extrapolate nearly the same range of difference between the recycling habits of singles and coupled-up folks on this side of the pond.)

After looking at that study, readers can take one of many paths. They can simply scoff at it and move on. They can stroke their chin, tell a friend about it, and forget it after a week. Or they can try to play armchair psychologist, figure out the puzzle of why exactly this discrepancy exists, and use that information to institute a positive change. (In this case, getting more single people to recycle.) Taking the third path is what I'm going to do here today, which means, first, I have to find several theories of perhaps why this difference exists in the first place.

Is it that more couples have children, giving them a better sense of the world extending past their lifespan, a greater urge to want the future Earth to be healthy and safe for their offspring? That certainly has to figure in somewhere, but doesn't really help us unless we can get Congress to initiate some kind of "forced child-rearing" law for singles. Moving on!

Is being in a couple some kind of evidence that that person is able to think about the feelings and wishes of someone else more effectively? Making them more likely to consider the greater society as whole rather than simply everyone being on their own? (Clearly, this is a blanket statement, as there are many terrible people in relationships, and plenty of great single folks, but taken across a broad spectrum this could be the case.) Again, that theory might work, but isn't going to help us unless we can pick out the specific single people with tenderness issues and get them to shrinks, post-haste. Next!

Or is it my favorite pet theory: one person in the couple is shaming the other into recycling. In other words, the more responsible half of the couple is constantly getting on the case of the live-for-today-forget-about-tomorrow half, forcing him/her to put those cans and cardboard in different containers than the garbage, to the point where the non-recycler has gotten into the habit of doing so. This, luckily, is something we all can use, single and couples alike.

Live in an apartment building filled with studios? Plant an easy-to-see recycling container by the door, along with maybe with a few signs reminding your neighbors to drop off their cans/bottles/boxes here. At a friend's party and notice people are tossing their empties in with the rest of the trash? Scavenge around for an empty bag, throw a few cans in there, and place it next to the garbage, and bam, you just made a difference. Hell, say that "recycling" is one of your turn-ons on whatever dating website you're using and that can only help get it into the minds of other singles on the web-based prowl. Get the word out. Change the mindset. Shame the non-recyclers!

There. Now that study is usable.

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