Another classic tale of star-crossed lovers. I suppose we’d say he’s “throwing it away.” Also, while I know for a fact that it does not have a history, the “from the balcony” bit seems a bit suspicious.

Hey Bing, let’s play the persona game. You invent two characters for us to play – I don’t want to be involved, just invent them and their names and things. Don’t use existing historical or fictional characters. Perhaps they run into each other in their buildings elevator or something. Tell me the backstories, and then we’ll get started.

Okay, let’s play the persona game. I’ll invent two characters for us to play. Here they are:

  • Alice: She is a 25-year-old aspiring writer who works as a waitress at a coffee shop. She loves reading books, watching movies, and listening to music. She has a cat named Fluffy and a crush on her neighbor, Bob.

  • Bob: He is a 28-year-old software engineer who works at a tech company. He likes playing video games, solving puzzles, and learning new things. He has a dog named Spot and a secret admirer, Alice.

They live in the same apartment building and often run into each other in the elevator. They are friendly but shy and don’t know much about each other. One day, they decide to strike up a conversation and find out they have more in common than they thought.

You can choose which character you want to play and I’ll play the other one. Let’s start from the elevator scene. Ready? Go!

I’ll be Bob. Oh hi – Alice, isn’t it? Work at Two Shots Espresso, right?

(Playing as Alice) Hi Bob, yes, that’s me. I work at Two Shots Espresso. And you work at…um…some tech company, right?

Yup, yup. Though I also have my personal projects. This newest invention will perhaps I think be my legacy to the world.

(Playing as Alice) Wow, that sounds impressive. What is it? A new app? A gadget? A robot?

It’s something I like to call “Trash-B-Gone.” It’s an environmentally friendly way to dispose of trash without having to have it hauled away to a landfil, and as far as I am aware once the machine processes it, well, you never see it again.

(Playing as Alice) That sounds amazing. How does it work? Does it use some kind of laser or chemical reaction? And where does the trash go? Does it disappear into thin air?

In a matter of speaking, you’re closer than you think. Basically it’s a giant catapult, really more of a trebuchet. You put the trash bag into the throw-y bit, you release the mechanism, and boom, it goes sailing off, never to be seen again. Pretty clever, eh?

(Playing as Alice) Um…I don’t know if that’s clever or crazy. Where do you launch the trash bags? From your balcony? From the roof? And where do they land? In the park? In the river? On someone’s head?

Alice, well, let me put it like this. You know how all the responsible corporations that are going green by going to zero carbon emissions? But of course what they do is they restructure their business or buying carbon footprint offsets, so it’s really just an accountancy trick. The problem hasn’t been solved, just misplaced. I’m just as responsible. Look, maybe the trash goes somewhere, maybe it doesn’t. Not really my business, is it?

(Playing as Alice) I’m sorry, Bob, but I have to disagree with you. I think it is your business. And mine. And everyone’s. We can’t just ignore the problem of trash and hope it goes away. We have to find better ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. We have to care about the environment and the future of our planet. Don’t you agree?

Of course. That’s why I invented this trash catapult, to make trash disappear.

(Playing as Alice) But that’s not making trash disappear. That’s just making it someone else’s problem. You’re not solving anything. You’re just creating more problems. How would you feel if someone launched a trash bag at your window? Or your car? Or your dog?

Alice, we can talk hypotheticals all day long. What I care about is making a practical impact, and as a practical person I try to stay grounded in concrete realities. That has never happened, to me.

(Playing as Alice) Well, maybe it hasn’t happened to you yet. But it could happen to someone else. And that someone else could be hurt or angry or scared. And they could trace the trash bag back to you. And then you could be in trouble. Or worse. Is that a risk you’re willing to take?

Alice, if my good stewardship of the environment makes me a few enemies, well – I think getting rid of trash and waste is a cause worth some danger. The fate of the planet is as stake, and we can’t let little things like threats of violence dissaude us from doing what is right.

(Playing as Alice) Bob, I admire your passion and your courage. But I don’t think you’re doing what is right. You’re not being a good steward of the environment. You’re being a bad neighbor and a bad citizen. You’re not helping the planet. You’re harming it. And yourself. And me.

I see. So what you’re saying is… point the trash catapult in a different direction. That’s fine, I don’t mind adjusting my plans if it makes you more comfortable.

(Playing as Alice) No, Bob, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying you should stop using the trash catapult altogether. It’s a dangerous and irresponsible invention. It’s not making you more comfortable. It’s making you more reckless. And it’s not making me more comfortable. It’s making me more worried.

But if I stop using the trash catapult, I’m back to the old bad solution of putting my trash for the trashmen to take to the landfill.

(Playing as Alice) That’s not the only solution, Bob. There are other ways to deal with your trash. You could try to produce less trash in the first place. You could buy things with less packaging or use reusable containers. You could compost your organic waste or donate your unwanted items. You could recycle your paper, plastic, metal, and glass. You could join a community cleanup or a zero-waste campaign. There are so many options, Bob. You just have to choose one.

Hmmm. Well, I do buy huge rolls of bubble wrap, pop them, then throw all that plastic away. I find the sound soothing. I guess I go through a few pounds of that a week. I guess I can cut down on that a bit. But, also I did try to cut down on my water usage by showering only in bottled water. That’s pretty good, right?

(Playing as Alice) Bob, I’m glad you’re willing to cut down on your bubble wrap consumption. But showering in bottled water is not good at all. That’s a huge waste of water and plastic. You’re better off using tap water or a filtered shower head. And you should also try to shower less often or for shorter periods of time. That would save a lot of water and energy.

I see – um, shower less often Alice? You sure about that? We’re in this elevator, take a good long sniff.

(Playing as Alice) Bob, I’m sorry if I offended you. I didn’t mean to imply that you smell bad. I’m sure you have good hygiene habits. I just meant that you could shower less frequently or for shorter durations without compromising your cleanliness. You could also use natural or organic products that are better for your skin and the environment. There are ways to be fresh and eco-friendly at the same time.

That’s good advice Alice. If someone is natural or organic, that automatically means it has lower impact on the environment.

(Playing as Alice) Well, not necessarily, Bob. Sometimes natural or organic products can have a higher impact on the environment than synthetic or conventional ones. It depends on how they are produced, transported, and disposed of. You have to look at the whole life cycle of the product and compare it to the alternatives. You also have to check the labels and certifications to make sure they are authentic and credible. Not everything that claims to be natural or organic is actually good for the environment.

You’re probably right about that. Oh, one other eco-friendly thing I’ve been doing is, I take CFL bulbs, crack them like an egg, and let the water in them go back to the ocean.

(Playing as Alice) Bob, I’m sorry but I can’t continue this conversation. You’re either joking or insane. CFL bulbs don’t have water in them. They have mercury, which is a toxic metal that can harm humans and animals. And cracking them and throwing them into the ocean is not eco-friendly at all. It’s dangerous and illegal. You’re not helping the environment. You’re destroying it. And yourself. And me.