Americans are so distracted by the war...


Americans are so distracted by the war -- and related ecological disasters -- that we're having a hard time staying environmentally active. But we can't afford to waste glass, aluminum or other resources any more now than we could a few months ago.

How can we stay motivated? One way is to use environmental activism as a diversion. This practical, worthwhile and, perhaps more important, fun community project will make recycling and reusing easier for you and your neighbors.

*The project.

Draw a map of places where things can be recycled or reused in your area. This was originally done in Albany, Calif., by a woman who created the map for a graduate geography class. She included recycling centers, secondhand stores, used-book stores, used-record stores, etc. Then the map was adopted by the Albany city government.

*Before you start.

Decide how large an area you want to cover. Your map can cover a whole county, a town or just a neighborhood.

Decide what kind of places you want to include. You can limit the map to "official" recycling centers or be more creative and add places where recycled or secondhand merchandise is sold.

*What you'll need.

A map of the area. Check with your local library or city government for a map you can copy. Many commercially produced maps are copyrighted; you can't photocopy them.

An up-to-date Yellow Pages.

A list of businesses in the area.

*How to do it.

Make a list. Using the Yellow Pages and other resources, compile a list of all the recycling centers and/or secondhand dealers you can find.

Visit stores and recycling facilities. Each establishment on the list should be visited. Purpose: to pinpoint its location, verify that it's reputable and learn basic information, such as what items it accepts, how much it pays, when it's open.

Draw a map. You'll probably need to draw a "mini" map with each visit, then transfer it onto a larger "official" map.

Approach your local Chamber of Commerce, municipal community services department or other civic entity; ask if it will help support costs for the project. The printed map can be given away, sold as part of a community project.

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