I really feel like talking about things, you know those every day things that can sometimes seem worthless, that can make a person feel like a hoarder. I used to say that I’m not a hoarder, that I’m just waiting for a bigger house. In truth, I just feel horrible when I throw something out knowing that it will end up in a landfill adding to all the other unwanted things in an unsuccessful tetris game. But hey, you know what? Someone can see old bicycle chains, but to someone else they stretch into a beautiful chandelier.
Now, is that really being frugal or is it thoughtful and practical?
To many there is only two choices: recycle or landfill, but in truth there is a whole 6 options! There is a whole concept of waste minimization by which waste can be organized into 6 categories with prevention being the most preferable and disposal the least.
Prevention: by far the best option! How can you prevent something as a tiny being on this big dear Earth? First, you can start using reusable bags. This will cause a chain of events that can alter our future forever: the store cashier will not give you a plastic bag, leaving a few more bags at the counter; the manager will put in his order a bit later than usual; the bag manufacturer will lower his supply of bags and purchase less petroleum or natural gas needed to make the bag; the energy market will see less demand for energy and less permits will be given to oil and natural gas drillers because of lower demand. And all “because a little bug went ka-choo!” Other ideas are requesting less packing materials when purchasing items online, use towels or sponges for cleaning, dress your LO in cloth diapers, and definitely think about investing in rechargeable batteries.
Minimization: our second best option, encourages people to optimize their resources by donating things they no longer need or use (have you heard of Freecycle?) or avoiding purchases of novelties. Another way is skipping the middleman – instead of buying toys online that are shipped with unnecessary packaging with tons of packing materials, you can find similar toys available on Freecycle or in your closest thrift shop. Last, but not least is to reduce waste by simply printing documents on double-sided paper. Easy, right?
Reuse: ok, so your wonderful useful toaster that you religiously used for the past 5 years just died on you; you can either buy a new toaster or fix the one you have. Of course the latter is the eco friendly option, but it might cost you more. The corresponding issue with fixing something is that nowadays it is becoming easier and cheaper to just buy something new; but can you guess why that is? Well, it is all because most items are made in China or some other developing country that has unbelievably disproportionate salaries of its “blue-collar” workers compared to the everyday living expenses. If you choose to get something fixed here, in your local repair shop, you will have to consider the fair salary that gets incorporated in the final price of repairing the product.
Recycling: probably the simplest task for a non-environmentalist. The only problem with this one is that many counties, especially rural, recycle only a small percentage of the total waste generated. Many times a person who is eager and determined to recycle something, has to put in extra energy to find out when and where to recycle those special items like plastic bags, unconventional plastics, batteries, mercury thermometers, etc. For all my questions about recycling, I just visit Earth911.com which allows me to find a pick-up center for almost any type of item, even batteries!
Energy Recovery: is something that I wrote about in one of my earlier posts. In that post I discussed the Puente Hills landfill that manufactures energy from the methane gas produced by decomposition. But energy recovery does not have to be so distant as a landfill. You can recover energy by composting in your backyard in late fall after the last harvest, which will fertilize your soil into the next year to yield beautiful nourished crops for you and your family. And you don’t only have to include food waste, but also leaves, paper, and anything else that is fairly quick to biodegrade. Here is a wonderful guide on what you can compost and what effect it will have on the soil.
I really encourage you to read more on this topic, it’s an eye opener.
Disposal: the one method we always should try to avoid. Just think about it, the world population is growing exponentially and more and more countries are developing into first world powers. People are becoming wealthier, spending more on things that they don’t need, and ultimately, generating more waste. Disposal of anything should be a moral issue, especially disposing things that don’t biodegrade like Styrofoam. I guess we can talk about the dangers of these materials in a later topic, but I hope I encouraged you to look at waste management in a totally new light.
The wheels of imagination are turning, people are upcycling, recycling, bicycling. The world is a better place.