The NY Times is especially adept at taking precisely 3 people who are inspired by the same idea and crafting a compelling agenda about how everyone is doing that or at least should be doing that. Lately, they have really been going at consumption. I’m not complaining – they usually get me and I feel like the last person in the know. By now anyone who knows someone who knows someone else who reads their RSS feeds from NYtimes.com has read this article – Tammy Stroble and her husband now live in a 400 sq ft apartment. They own 100 things total. TOTAL. Yes, counting their tooth-brush and dog leash. (do they count the dog?)
Couple that with the others articles and people/ blogs I follow like No Impact Man, Michael Pollen, Wasted Food (love this blog), our government and my own father-in-law who is a horticulturist and knowledgeable about all things composting (worms!), it’s hard not to feel like I am doing nothing. Going green is too ubiquitous and turning off lights and cranking down your tap doesn’t scale. It feels good but it doesn’t scale. Few things do. So in terms of scale in my own life, I did take one thing away. Make less trash.
And you know what, that is SO hard. SO SO hard. Even those of us that are passionate about REcycling and REusing don’t do one thing very well – REducing. I often hear the same people who recycle talk about being shopaholics. I’m not being judgy-wudgy. I get it – It’s because these dots don’t connect easily. We don’t connect consumption to going green. We just go buy more eco-friendly bags. We just conscientiously throw our print-outs in the recycle bin. Clearly it starts with buying, accumulating and then burdening the environment with the waste. It still takes energy to recycle, much more than it does to consume. I mean all consumption – food, energy, water, plastic, clothes. There are nuances of course: veggies versus meat, cotton versus nylon but consumption is a leveler. Consumption translates to impact on the environment; there’s no getting away from it.
So for my part I have some very non HD photos of my trash. The picturesque plastic bag holds my food scraps from cooking or leftovers. The 2 Whole Foods paper bags hold all that’s recyclable in my building – plastic, metal, glass and paper. The large trash can is well – empty.
Here’s my goal: Keep the large trash can empty. What goes in there is assumed to be the most impactful – there are a few culprits that are hard to recycle or get rid of (I’m looking at you STYROFOAM). Keep the trash to a minimum. Start composting with the biodegradable stuff (worms! a one year old!). And do a little empirical experiment of my own to see the patterns in my trash which of course will reveal my patterns of consumption. Then it comes to whether I will reveal that to you, or anyone. In some ways, isn’t our trash the most personal of all things? An eye into our life, our habits. You can look into my trash and see how much I cook, how much I order in. My bills and receipts. My birth control or lack thereof. How much I waste, how unsentimental I am and about what. Love letters and shredded pay checks.
This is an experiment in trash talk. Stay Tuned.