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5 Eco-Friendly Crimes to Try Today

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5 Eco-Friendly Crimes to Try Today

EcoSalon via DivineCaroline

Some people like to push the legal edge when it comes to going green. And some people—for example, those who spin articles into the green web-o-sphere and want to keep doing it—would never advocate that our fellow citizens break the law in any which way or form. (This is us, adjusting our green halos.) But that doesn’t mean we can’t report on the ways in which everyday eco-minded folks are skirting, pushing and downright flouting the laws of the land for Mother Earth.

How do these daring greenies skate the blue line of justice? Public perception of green lawbreakers may be the people who trash Hummers or set fire to housing developments—these are the stories that make headlines and generate name-calling. Then there are the people who take a serving of Mother Earth without a side of eco-terrorism. They are just Joes and Janes who may or may not pick a piece of fallen fruit off a public tree.

1. Guerilla Gardening
Guerilla gardening is the illicit cultivation of public space. It’s a worldwide movement—here’s the web page of guerilla gardeners in London. And yes, it is illegal, since you are tilling the soil of land you do not own. Guerilla gardening guides suggest following these three rules: Use only land that is unused or unwanted, leave the land in better condition than when you found it, and don’t get caught.

We spoke with guerilla gardener Mike Lieberman, who uses his New York City fire escape as a garden. His take on the movement is concise: “I’m not sure why planting something could be considered illegal or be considered harmful. I think that knocking down trees and building up on the land is more dangerous and harmful than guerilla gardening.”

2. Recycling Someone Else’s Trash
I live next door to an elderly woman. I often do it for her. Most of her trash goes out in plastic grocery bags that reveal its contents. So I can see that they are often filled with bits of paper, tin cans, glass bottles, banana peels, coffee grinds, and regular rubbish. So most of the time, I’m picking through her trash to get the glass into the blue bins, the banana peels in the green bins, and the rest of it in the black bins. Usually I end up covered in coffee grounds and residual apple juice. (And yes, it might be time to move.)

I am not the only greenie who has been known to pick a plastic bottle out of a trashcan and place it in the recycling. But am I breaking any laws? Not so, according to my local police. I was advised that once someone discards their trash, it no longer belonged to them. Does this mean that greenies should start raiding neighbor’s trashcans on private property? Not if you want to be arrested for trespassing …

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8:53AM PDT on Mar 28, 2015

thank you for this interesting post

12:31PM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

There are lots of things I'm not good at, but I am a fairly assiduous recycler - although I try to avoid buying too much in the first place. But the people who live in the same shared house as me seem to worry less, or maybe just are more confused about what our council will and won't take. So I tend to sort through their rubbish a bit, and take their discarded clothes to the charity shop etc.

5:41PM PST on Dec 24, 2010


8:09PM PDT on Jul 23, 2010

i pick through trash at work -- recycle the plastic bags and bottles, cans, etc. occasionally will do the same on our block, but get the strangest looks...

8:34PM PDT on Jul 19, 2010

Public urination is not for me, however, I did recently replace my toilets with the newer low-flow type.

6:34PM PDT on Jul 19, 2010

Enjoyed reading this thing I am concerned about here is San Diego...we have come across fruit on trees that is hanging over public land...or acutally on public land...however, we are not so sure sometimes, what they have been sprayed with. So please keep that in mind.

8:59AM PDT on Jul 16, 2010

Hehe, good article!

9:32PM PDT on Jun 29, 2010

Public urination? Probably not for me. However I do believe in not flushing the toilet if you only urinated.

1:21PM PDT on Jun 28, 2010

I say, garden guerrilla-like and recycle other peoples' garbage whenever you can, just as long as you don't step on anyone else's toes. If you do plant tomatoes or beans or whatever, don't be surprised if others harvest for you :-). As to harvesting fruit on public land, make sure you leave some for the birds and squirrels and then, go for it!

10:11PM PDT on Jun 26, 2010

I'd love to steal my neighbors garbage and recycle it for them. I think that by not recycling at least SOME of their waste, they are being totally selfish and irresponsible. -- I think for all those beer bottles going to landfill, it makes me want to puke. If they'd switch to beer in aluminum cans, and least the junk collectors would pick them up and cash them in at the recycling center. In my town, we have to pay $5 for a recycling bin, we need two -- I wonder if I secretly left a recycling bin in their yard, would they use it? Probably not. Too much work.

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