Going Green: True Tales from Gleaners, Scavengers, and Dumpster Divers

University of Oklahoma Press, 2009

Edited by Laura Pritchett

Brimming with practical and creative ways to think about recycling, this collection invites you to dive in and find your own way of going green.

From my essay, “Throwing Out the Dishwater”:

Once I lived in a one-room log cabin where I pumped my water from a well and heated it on a woodstove. When I was finished washing my dishes, I carried the dishpan outside and tossed the water on the nearby sagebrush. 

It seemed natural to me to return the water to the same ground I pumped it from. The extra “rain” from my dishpan nurtured the patch of sagebrush off my tiny porch, keeping it green and fragrant even in dry years. I was careful not to foul my supply: my disposal site was far from the well itself, and the groundwater deep beneath the surface was buffered by the natural filter of soil atop layers of porous gravel.

Nowadays my house is serviced via pipes from the main under the street. Water appears at the twist of a faucet handle and vanishes in a swirl down the drain, with no effort on my part. Such easy access is a mixed blessing. My valley, along with other areas of the West, is entering its tenth year of drought, despite recent snows. After watching an extraordinary February heat wave suck the snow off the peaks and the moisture from the soil, I grew more and more uneasy. 

Water is a limited commodity here, but you wouldn’t know it by turning on your tap. …