Friday, August 24

Want not, Waste much

This summer I have been keeping up my act of at least looking like I care about the environment. I shop with canvas bags, recycle (most of the time), try biking (although not as much these last few weeks), etc. Oh I even keep up the pretense of being an informed, liberal university graduate and buy my Adbusters sometimes. The latest issue I read while on the elliptical machine at the local YMCA and was immediately drawn to an article about learning about environmentalism from our grandparents.

Thinking it was going to be about ways they learned to conserve I was surprised when it actually talked about their no-garbage lifestyle. I had heard about people going through the Great Depression and not wasting, I knew that it was likely a crime to leave food on your plate but I hadn’t quiet considered that an entire generation of people DIDN’T THROW THINGS OUT. This seems like an overstatement but it actually isn’t. They composted, they reused, they grew their own food and they bought good quality things that they took care of and used until they wore out.

This made me think: could I live even a week without generating fodder for our landfill (or even the recycling plant!)? I would have to seriously stop and think before I bought anything or risk being stuck with finding a use for an old chip bag (wash the grease out of the inside and voila! a….uh….new purse? We just don’t have a use for all the packaging out life comes with. If we had to put to use everything we consumed I believe we would consume quite a bit less. More unpackaged veggies and fewer individually wrapped snack cakes. Also, they saved scraps of paper from mail or butcher paper (instead of grocery store plastic and Styrofoam; who wants to write on that?). This seemed like something I could do except, wait, I have no use for those little scraps of paper. I already have an overabundance of scrap paper (old notebooks only partially used, pages and pages of discarded first drafts) that it would just add to the pile. Some things that I can do: stop eating things that come all packaged up! Nalgene, not water bottles (I am so bad for this!). Fewer new clothes (in fact, buy a few very good quality pieces, have them tailored and fixed and wear them forever…).

My hope is that this trip (which is 17 days away) will show me a simpler lifestyle where there is less waste and more respect for the things that we own. I can’t say I envy difficult times but privilege makes me wasteful.

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