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Monday, July 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 73.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Tell All: Recycling wars
My neighbors chastise me for an overflowing bin

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Dear Tell All: I live on the near east side, which we all know is full of morally superior liberals. I don't exempt myself from this judgment: I can be as disapproving as the next east-sider about others' crimes against progressive thought. But recently I've been in an unaccustomed role -- the victim.

It all starts with a recycling bin. I'm a big believer in recycling and sustainability, of course. Like my neighbors, I strive to reduce my carbon footprint. Unfortunately, you wouldn't know that from the look of my recycling bin on trash day. It's overflowing with paper, cardboard, cans, etc., and the lid is always pushed up at a 45-degree angle. Meanwhile, my neighbors' recycling bins (some of which are even smaller than mine) never seem to be full. The lids are always down flat against the rim on trash day.

I can't completely explain this. True, I get a fair number of deliveries at home for my business, which accounts for a lot of the cardboard. But I only have one child, while the family next to me has three. A family across the street has four. Yet somehow their recycling bins are never as full as mine is.

Who cares, right? Well, I wouldn't, except that I keep getting chastised by these same families. Sometimes it's subtle -- a joke about my bin's perpetually bulging lid. Other times the judgment is more overt. The wife from the family of four once asked me, "How do you manage to use so much stuff in two weeks?"

How am I supposed to respond to such a rude, smug comment? Her obvious message is: "Why don't you care about the Earth as much as I do?"

Waste Not

Dear Waste Not: Guess what? You're being much kinder to the Earth than your neighbors are. You have only one child, while they have three or four. No matter how empty their recycling bins, they're committing an infinitely bigger crime against sustainability in the long run. I wouldn't hesitate to play that card the next time you're called to account for using marginally more cardboard than they do.

Do you have a question about life or love in Madison? Write Tell All, 101 King St., Madison, WI 53703. Or email

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