Change We Can Believe In


I hate to admit it, but I’m an instant gratification kind of gal. On the rare occasions that I rouse myself to do something positive, I like to be rewarded with the immediate and obvious results of my efforts.

When I clean, I want to see a sparkling and orderly house that smells, however briefly, of Pine Sol and Lemon Pledge. When I diet, I like to see immediate results – either on my scale or on my thighs. But when I recycle, I see”¦absolutely nothing.

There is, of course, the satisfaction of knowing that I am helping the planet – in an amorphous, down-the-road kind of way. But the fact is I will never really know if the mayonnaise jar I rinse out and recycle today will improve the ozone layer tomorrow. I have nothing concrete to show for my efforts and no definitive proof that I am improving the world even a smidgen. For me, recycling has always been the epitome of a delayed gratification task. Until now.

I have found a wonderful new way to recycle, one that lets me do my part for a greener planet while rewarding me with an immediate payoff – literally. I have begun recycling coins – the heavy and unsanitary loose change that weighs down every purse I own and rattles around in my pockets. I am no longer burdened with those funky nickels and dimes that reproduce like rabbits and clutter up my counters in a depressing, down-market display. Coins are everywhere in my house – collecting dust in shoe boxes, carelessly scattered on top of night tables, and stuffed into plastic takeout food containers. My house is an unlikely cross between Chase Manhattan Bank and an episode of “Hoarders.”

But it turns out that the coins you accumulate in your home are not just unattractive, they are bad for the environment, too. It is estimated that nearly 10 billion dollars’ worth of loose change is sitting idle in American homes right now. And every coin sitting in a jar on your dresser is a coin the U.S government feels the need to replace. Minting money is a drain on resources and energy, so putting your loose change back into circulation is, ultimately, an eco-friendly thing to do.

And now, thanks to the Penny Arcade machine at TD Bank, going green is easy – you just toss your unwanted coins into the machine, and accept paper money in return. If you’re not the most pristine of money hoarders, there’s even a reject tray where your non-coin items will be spit out. When my husband and I brought in our last haul, the machine coughed out a bunch of Canadian nickels, a button, a rusted screw and two Advil tablets. We walked away with over $400 in crisp, clean bills, and it was, by far, my favorite recycling experience to date.

I’d like to be the kind of person who’s enthusiastic about recycling – even without a cash incentive. But the reality is, I have a daughter starting college in 11 months, and most American universities charge $40,000 a year.

It’s time to pull apart the couch cushions and look for more change.

Image: tsmall