Christopher Gabriel is a multimedia artist who wears the hats of radio talk show host, writer, humorist, voiceover artist and classically trained actor. Christopher is the host of the cleverly named Christopher Gabriel Program in Fargo, ND. You can hear him weekdays, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. CST on 970 WDAY and online at A native of Chicago, Christopher has also lived in Los Angeles, New York City and a few points in between, and is now delighted to call Fargo home. He is also married to a green-living writer (me) and we stay busy raising two budding environmentalists. We recently discussed the pros and cons of Fargo’s curbside recycling program, and what the city could do to make it better for residents like ourselves.
Christopher Gabriel
Fargo, ND, talk show host Christopher Gabriel. Photo courtesy of The Christopher Gabriel Program.
Wendy Gabriel: How do you recycle at home? Do you have curbside service? Christopher Gabriel: Recycling in our house is both routine and often stressful. Routine, in that we have curbside service every two weeks. I would hasten to add I’d welcome curbside service for our favorite sushi, Italian and Chinese restaurants, but it’s baby steps in Fargo. There was a time I viewed recycling much like one views going to the dentist. It was the “Do I have to?” syndrome. But it stemmed from a point of ignorance. I had no understanding of what, exactly, the domino effects would, or could, be by doing my part. Now, I can’t imagine not recycling. The fact that it’s so easy irritates me when I see others ignoring it… the way I once ignored it. The stressful part has everything to do with being married to a wonderful woman who happens to be a green-living writer. At any moment I prepare to throw a box into the garbage, my heart rate increases, my eyes start to blur just a bit… it’s the moment of truth. Is this box recyclable? Ninety-nine percent of the time I choose incorrectly. And, no matter where [Wendy] is, she seems to know the second I’ve erred. She strolls into the recycling/trash area like an Olympic sprinter hearing the starting gun. I get The Look, The Lecture and The… I’ve got nothing else that begins with an “L.” But, I’m getting a lot better. WG: Do you use bins or carts? Is your experience single-stream, or do you have to separate materials? CG: Here in Fargo we use the classic, old school, blue bin. These days, I’d welcome a larger bin. Maybe multiple bins. A cart would be delightful, but I might be getting greedy. Here with our curbside service, we are required to separate materials. I’ve often thought it might be interesting to sneak a few items from one bag into another… slide them in on the bottom… just to see if they really do check. My concern, however, is that someone would alert the television side of WDAY and before I knew what was going on, I’d be the subject of a story: “Local talk host tries to disrupt Fargo recycling system… angers neighbors and workers.” WG: What (if anything) about the recycling process confuses you? CG: Sometimes, I’ll look at two items that appear exactly the same (to me, anyway) and place both in our blue recycling bin. I’ll quickly be informed by Wendy — who, even if she’s out of town, will magically know to call me at that moment — that one is recyclable, the other isn’t. And, she’ll explain why. Why one thing works and another doesn’t still hangs me up a bit. Perhaps I could be better at it by taking 10 additional seconds to look at the box, wrapper, etc. a bit closer to figure it out on my own. WG: What changes would you make to make recycling easier? CG: Is it asking too much for personalized messages on items that are recyclable? I realize using my name might be excessive, but something a bit more obvious like, “YES! THIS IS RECYCLABLE!” would be welcomed by a lot of people. I would also be far more aggressive with companies, stores, restaurants — the more places the message is delivered, the more people will both receive it and, hopefully, jump on board. WG: In your opinion, does your local recycling program encourage citywide recycling? In other words, do you feel your city cares about the program? CG: I do believe Fargo cares about recycling. However, when we arrived here four years ago, I didn’t have the same sense. It’s been told to me forever this region is slow to change, and it is. Folks here, by and large, like to have what I call a resting period: They receive news of something being given consideration to be done differently and they then sit back and rest. They think it over, analyze it, discuss it among friends and then, after a period of time not to exceed 10 months, they move forward. I don’t think that’s an entirely bad way to proceed in many things. As a radio talk show host, I’ve heard or read a lot of things from listeners either on the air or in emails sent to my studio. Many folks who have reached out lump recycling, and those interested in recycling, as “treehuggers” out there on the fringe — nut jobs who are “trying to tell me how to live.” The latter was from an email I received several years ago. But, here’s the thing: With each succeeding year, those kinds of comments have become almost nonexistent, replaced by people interested in creating change. [Those] interested in leaving the planet in better shape than where it’s at now. The word “stewardship” comes to mind. I say on the air all the time that each person has a different threshold of what they feel they can contribute to recycling. It just takes one person making the slightest bit of effort for the collective to create a great deal of change. And, in the end, that can be a great thing.