ARGH! The 3Rs and More

Charlene Norman
4 min readJan 8, 2024

Do you remember the early to mid-1990s?

We were forced to get behind Canada’s poorly communicated reduce, reuse, recycle program. We were given no solid personal reason to do so; it was communicated in vagaries about helping the planet and doing better, and the only thing we knew for sure was the deadline to comply. Nevertheless, we did give it a lukewarm try.

I worked in the head office of a multi-national organization. With the benefit of hindsight, most of us were struggling to come to grips with the first impacts of the downsizing movement.

We no longer had a secretary or clerical staff to help us manage the daily administration that went with our jobs. Simultaneously, we struggled to master a whole new suite of just-on-the-market programs that went with the computer revolution. And this was in the days long before automation, productivity, and efficiency were a glint on the horizon.

Frankly, our egos were severely bruised.

Because, despite gobs of education and powerful action-oriented titles, we believed we were wasting our time performing administrative and clerical tasks for which we needed more training, interest, or compensation.

So the day the perky office manager called us into the boardroom to talk about the new 3R program, we collectively looked at each other and said quietly, “Great! Now we get to add garbage sorters to our job description!” It was a rude awakening and an easy one to ignore because the mandate had come from the government through the office manager.

Now, had the mandate come via the president himself …

Not surprisingly, the 3R program never reached the zenith someone in government thought it should.

I am not saying this was everyone’s experience at that time. I am saying it was the experience of everyone I knew in Corporate Canada.

Fast forward some 30-ish years.

Last year, I had a Brit for an Uber driver. It was garbage day in the neighbourhood. He commented on the state of garbage here in this city of 130,000. And then said, “I get disgusted with garbage days here in Niagara. The UK got rid of all these bins 30 YEARS AGO. There are better ways to make a dent in your garbage. Canadians have no idea what recycling is all about.”

If you’ve been with me long, you know I sincerely appreciate and respect all nationalities. (see the third paragraph of this note.) I’ve had the opportunity to visit 30 or maybe 50 countries, speak with people on a deep level and understand what drives us all. From day one, I knew the Europeans were ahead of all of us. And even today, my opinion has not changed.

Europeans are ahead in so many ways, especially compared to North America.

In Europe, I also discovered that millions of people could be happy in small cars.

That small cars could be built for safety and speed and did not pollute nearly as much as the big autos we North Americans almost always orgasm over. Truthfully, I did not understand the full ramifications of cars on the environment then. (I still don’t.)

I want to ask you to listen to the podcast episodes this month.

First up is a fellow who immigrated from India with his family as a child. He was raised and educated here and then, through a series of synchronicities, discovered technology that existed in Italy.

Ultimately, he brought that technology to Canada, built the beginnings of an empire, hired many employees and has never looked back. His objective is zero waste, and he has many ways for businesses to make money from ALL their recycling efforts.

Second up is a fellow from the UK. After decades of searching, finding, and testing, he found two programs for the oil and gas sector (the dreaded fossil fuel industry) that work as advertised. Even better, they can be easily financed by traditional banks, and they, too, help businesses make money from their recycling and regenerative efforts.

As you’ve heard me say repeatedly, if we had known the unintended consequences of our actions over the last 200 years, we’d ask for a do-over. Since a do-over is just a dream, the best thing we can do is a do-better. That do-better MUST be in the highest good for all.

These two guests on the 5Cs podcast do precisely that!

PS … the doors to the 5Cs community are open, and people are joining with me to make a more significant impact in the world. There’s still time to get in at the lowest-ever membership investment.

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Charlene Norman

Inspiring good humans to make a difference for all on Planet Earth. Podcast host, author, and community leader. Fanatical about change for the highest good.