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Only Equity Can Save Us Now

I first noticed it when I went to do my banking at Actor’s Federal Credit Union, on the 14th floor of the Equity building, a few months ago. A cardboard box, over by the member services station, beneath the community bulletin board. A box designated for the collection of used loose leaf binders, so that they might be recycled. Actors, or at least those fortunate enough to be working on a project, always have a need of binders for their scripts, as well as their audition “book,” so here was a fine way of getting a hold of others’ surplus notebooks for free.

I’ve recently started a massive decluttering campaign in my apartment, as one does when one is in between projects. The first thing to go was a large group of unused binders, and I remembered that cardboard box on the 14th floor of the Equity building. So I put a number of them in the bag one morning, when I was off to do my banking, and looked for the box when I got there. The box was nowhere to be found, and so I asked the folks at the member services station if it had moved, or if they were no longer collecting binders. They told me I should go see the people behind the collection in their offices, one floor below.

I don’t know how many people are aware of the existence of the Broadway Green Alliance; I’d never heard of it before my visit to the 13th floor. It’s a very modest office, a cluttered grey chamber down a cluttered grey passage, well away from the elevators. But when I entered that office, I found myself staring at unimaginable treasure – albeit of a peculiar variety.

For they don’t only collect three-ring binders in this office – and they do collect them, an entire shelf of them. In neat plastic bins, they collect just about everything you can possibly recycle, and many things you probably assume you can’t. Spent toothpaste tubes. Expired Metrocards. Eyeglasses. Used batteries. All the flotsam and detritus actors accumulate while making their rounds, which they usually throw out because they’re not easy to recycle – they can just make a quick stop to the thirteenth floor, and leave it all behind.

In such calamitous times as these, one is liable to have one of two extreme approaches to recycling. One of them is to be maniacally diligent, attempting to recycle every single thing possible, hoarding plastic bottles as they’re accumulated throughout the day just so you can empty out your bulging pockets at the nearest collection point. The other is to become completely cavalier about it and turn your back on the entire concept of recycling; after all, if our corporation and not-actually-elected leaders stymie environmental progress at every turn, and developing nations dump their plastic into their rivers unabated, then your one plastic straw isn’t going to make much difference, and it’s wrong to even focus on it.

I do understand the latter outlook; the problems we’re facing are systemic in nature, and individual behavior ultimately only goes so far in affecting it. The problem with this outlook isn’t that it’s wrong – it’s the toll it takes on the person who espouses it. Bitter nihilism only takes you so far, and you can only sustain it for so long before it eats you away from within. So for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to continue acting as if my tiny efforts at making a difference actually do make some kind of difference.

Equity building, thirteenth floor. You’re welcome to join me.

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