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Talking Trash

September 13, 2010

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 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.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2010 7:02 pm

    Totally get what you say about the NYT and its faux trend stories. There was one a while ago about hugging in high schools and how teachers were in a tizzy over it.

    Looking forward to the trash talk. As for me, I function under the assumption that I’m already not buying what I don’t need. Delusional? Perhaps. But right now, the focus is on how to trash what I need to trash.

    Hi Suj! Not delusional, probably just a better person that I 🙂 The minimalist movement people basically live in 400 sq ft or less and the things they own and more importantly don’t own make me question what “need” really is – even the most basic. It has made me think of the small things (online buying which inevitably comes with too much packaging) to the big things like furniture as we are moving to a new place. It’s surprising how my mind is so convinced of the things it needs that when I question the mundane the result is not what I expected. Right now, my trash is not full but what is in it is embarrassing. Already seeing a pattern!

  2. September 21, 2010 3:59 am

    you know, this is something i want to do and can’t. i spent many months painstakingly separating trash and getting the maids to do it too – only to have the garbage guy promptly empty it all into his bag together. to quote the bean – i gived up.

  3. Banno permalink
    September 29, 2010 2:31 pm

    I separate the trash my end, but yes, the garbage guys mess it up, right outside the door. Less, less, less. It’s hard to do. But worth the effort, I think.

  4. October 13, 2010 6:16 am

    I tried to figure out the trash we generate once but I gave up when I realised how much we put aside for binning later. I don’t mean papers/bills/etc. I’m referring to the sweet wrappers that Vicky seems to collect as a hobby on his table, usually hidden under Important Correspondence and which I usually find when I go on the rampage say once a month. Or the big cardboard boxes toys come in and which are then played with for some weeks before disposal. Or the shoeboxes and plastic packets I collect and reuse and which still seem to accumulate alarmingly until I finally get disgusted and give them away. Stuff like that makes an experiment like yours hard for me to control.

    On the other hand, we seem to get by only with the one dustbin. Maybe because we are busy ignoring all the other things that ought to be binned!


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