Thursday, November 10, 2011

Waste not, my friends

I hate waste. This includes wasted food (when you order too much and don't bother to take it home or buy more food than you can eat before it spoils), wasted time, and wasted resources.

Right now I'm talking just about the waste that pollutes our planet and gets hauled out to the curb where we want to think it "magically" disappears. This is the wasteful society we've adapted to living in. It's a mind set where people feel entitled to doing things the way they want to and using the products they want to when a simple alternative would be less harsh on the environment. America is in love with her bad habits.

I've lived in a few environmentally-aware communities over the years and have developed habits that now come naturally to me. So natural that when I see other alternate practices I've since turned from, it makes me cringe. Sometimes, it makes me angry.

Here are a few examples.

To me, it just makes sense not to use paper products. I keep drawers of towels and rags on hand for different purposes. When my family wipes our hands, we use a towel. When you make a spill, you grab a rag. When I clean, I use an old t-shirt. Paper towels don't exist in my world. Because they aren't necessary.

I know it's a big step for most moms, but I've transitioned to mostly using cloth diapers and using washable wipes on the baby. I feel better about the decision and don't feel it's any more work, and saves us a lot of money every month. Besides, I never run out!

I don't take shopping bags. One of my good friends gifted me with a purse-size bag full of re-usable shopping bags. The product is genius and always on hand so I don't forget at the check-out line. What I find exceptionally irritating though is when I hand one over to a chashier and she proceeds to THROW AWAY the bag I'd be saving. There are items like meat products that I bag in plastic, or times a plastic bag will make it home with me. These are used as garbage liners, pet waste recepticles, and for dirty diapers on the go.

While I applaud the efforts of so many people who recycle religiously, or not so frequently, recycling just isn't the "end all." It's time to take a closer look at the waste in our lives. Recycling is just a small attempt to solve our waste issue. What we need to evaluate are those tricky little habits of convenience that wreak havoc on our planet and continue to be dumped into our landfills.

That's not to assume I see myself as in any way superior. I certainly still have a lot of things I could do differently.

I love my car just as much as the next person. I don't think twice about hopping behind the wheel for the slightest reason and zipping around town. I'm not ready to give up my daily drives or my SUV that's far from low emissions.

Unlike the neighbors, our house doesn't have solar panels. We don't raise our own chickens. Right now we don't even have a garden. (Yes, these neighbors do have a no emissions vehicle parked out front.)

Despite my non-use of plastic bags and paper towels, there are plenty of other products I toss in the trash.

But I value the thoughtfulness and desire to understand the issue. Being aware of environmental impact is a step forward and allows me to make a conscious decision to cut down on what I can.